March 10, 2014

a 60 year old man in a graphic tee & red pants

normal - [nor-mal]
spanish for "normal".

What is normal anyway?

I'm realizing more and more throughout my time here that there are some things that I've forgotten aren't normal.
Like seeing 60 year old men hanging out at a corner store wearing an Aeropostale graphic tee and bright red pants.

Wait, what? Yeah, that's not normal.
Or is it?

I'm no longer sure. After living in the Dominican Republic for nearly four years, I feel like my barometer of normality is off. I find myself not even thinking twice about things that would turn heads for a regular Chicago suburbanite and good Midwestern girl.

This horse is being towed by a man on a motorcycle
on the shoulder of a major highway.

- There are more motorcycles than cars.
- Traffic lights and laws seem to just be suggestions.
- In our little town there are often horses on the streets and motorcycles on the sidewalks.
- The back of a motorcycle can carry anything from a hundred loaves of bread to a washing machine.

There are palm trees everywhere.
And I don't even notice anymore. Yes, this might be normal for some of those southern states, but this girl is used to snow banks and pine trees during the winter months. Now, I see palm trees everywhere I look, and when I think about, that's just strange.

- 60 year old men who wear Aeropostale graphic tees and bright red pants.Yes, this happens. All of the time. And not just red pants either- purple, yellow, green, royal blue… you name it, they wear it.
- Wearing jeans in 95 degree weather (and feeling super chilly when it's 70 degrees out).
- High heels: whenever women get dressed up, high heels are a must. (A little difficult for this girl who has worn high heels 3 times in her life!)

Around the house.
- Turning on the stove or oven by turning on the gas and lighting a match (no electric starters here, folks).
- Flipping a switch to turn on the hot water heater before hopping into the shower.
- No power for the majority of the work day, most of the time. The city power goes out about 3-5 days per week for about 4-7 hours a day. 

I think this might be one of the biggest ones. Right now, if I really listen, I can hear the following sounds:
- roosters crowing
- dogs barking
- loud motorcycles on the street
- the neighbors blaring Latin music
- men working: yelling at one another in Spanish and the clunking of machinery
But again, I hardly notice it anymore. If you've ever talked with me on Skype, you know what I mean. My mom is constantly pointing out the squawking chickens, noisy neighborhood kids, the never-ceasing barking of dogs, and I just smile and say, "oh, really? I hadn't noticed."

And there's so, so much more. 
What's your normal?
Or even better, where are you seeing a new normal in your life?

(written by Emily)

December 10, 2013

bright orange extension cords & the Advent season

luz - [looz]
spanish for "light".

The bright orange extension cord strung between Sara's house and ours.

So, our good friend Sara moved in next door last week, and we love it. Pictured above, you can see our house (on the left) and her house (on the right); there's about six feet between the two. There has already been a number of conversations between our guest bedroom and Sara's kitchen windows, and talk of a tin-can phone.

As you can also see pictured above, we lent Sara a bit of electricity last week. The electric company was being a bit slow and difficult (not that surprising), and so, we threw an extension cord from one window to another, and there was light in Sara's apartment.

Here in the DR, light- electricity- isn't one of those 'for-sure' things that you can count on. It can go out at any moment, with no warning, and with no clue as to when it will come back. You can flip a switch, open the refrigerator, turn on your water heater (you have to turn them on and wait 20 minutes to take a hot shower), and not know if the light will go on, the food will be cooling or the water will start to warm. It's just one of those things that happens when you live in a developing country.

The common Dominican thing to say when the electricity goes out is “se fue la luz” which literally translates to “the light left”. And when it comes back on Dominicans exclaim “llegó la luz” or “the light arrived”. I’ve been in Dominican neighborhoods that erupt into applause when the electricity comes back on.

Light. It’s something so simple and yet it has the power to change so much. I never realized how much I depend on electricity until one night about 6 months into living in the DR, the lights went out in my apartment at 7:00pm. My computer was dead so I couldn’t work or watch a movie. It was so dark that the candle I lit didn’t even give enough light to read by. I didn’t know what to do, so I simply climbed in bed and waited in anticipation for the electricity to come back on. It wasn’t until the middle of the night, when I was fast asleep, that every single light in my apartment turned back on. You never know when those lights are going to show up.

The apostle John writes in his gospel:
    “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the
      world.” (John 1.9)

The advent season is the beginning of the Church's calendar year. It begins the fourth Sunday before December 25 and ends on Christmas day. Advent is a time about waiting, hoping, preparing, coming. It's about an excitement building in anticipation of the Word becoming flesh; of a baby being born; of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ; of what we've all been waiting for.

During this season we wait for this Light, the Light that is going to show up soon. We wait in anticipation and hope for the lights to come back on. We hope that we won't need that extension cord draped between our houses anymore. We prepare for the day when the true Light will come into this world again. We wait and we hope.

We wait to say in excitement and with applause:
¡Llegó la luz!
The electricity has been turned on so we can take down the bright orange extension cord.
The true Light has come into this world!

This post is based on a blog post from my advent series two years ago. With a few additions.
(Written by Emily)

December 2, 2013

being revolutionary: servant leadership.

doulos - δοῦλος - [doo'-los]
Greek for "servant".
in spanish:
sirviente - [seer-ve-en’-tay]

Part of Doulos' beautiful campus. Brad's classroom is in the building on the left.

A little over a week ago Brad and I were at a gathering of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members at Doulos Discovery School (where Brad is the high school math teacher and where part of our Young Life ministry is), and these are some things we overheard:

"Cuando entramos la puerta de Doulos, 
no importa la raza, ni color, ni idioma, ni estatus social; somos una familia."
"When we enter the gate at Doulos, 
it doesn't matter our race, color, language, social status; we are family."
 - a mother of 4 Doulos students

"We are the only school where we have to beg the children to go home; 
to tell them: vayan a su casa." 
- the principal of Doulos

"It's not just a school; it's a counter-cultural movement."

"The effects of what happens here will ripple through eternity."

This place is truly special. It has its faults- of course- but I believe that Doulos really is doing incredible things to change this community. Their vision is to "educate and equip servant leaders through Christian discipleship and expeditionary learning to impact the Dominican Republic". This is where "doulos" comes in: servant leaders; leaders who serve others instead of themselves: what a revolutionary thought. It's such a blessing to witness and to be a part of.

Check out the video below to hear about the educational systems, government and culture of the Dominican Republic and how Doulos is working to make a difference in this country. (It's beautifully illustrated by one of Doulos' students!)

(written by Emily)