At the end, you get to wear a pretty dress - mine was pink, if I recall correctly - and the bishop comes to your church. You say all of the things you've learned and the bishop smacks you. Or at least that's how the story goes. Our bishop had a pretty strong reputation for smacking. I'm pretty sure that he didn't smack us.
When I arrived to the Dominican Republic ten years and one day ago, I was living in an apartment on the third floor of a church. Like, I had to walk through the sanctuary to get in if I forgot the side key, and even with the side key, I was walking right by the altar to get in. There was nothing, nothing, in my confirmation classes that could prepare me for living and working in the Dominican Republic under the auspices of the church. I had prepared the best I could, but to be completely sincere, the whole experience was a smack in the face. **
I don't mean that to be negative. At least at confirmation we were expecting a slap.
I had no idea what a ride I was in for.
Ten years and one day ago, I arrived to Santiago, eyes wide and wonderous. I had a plan. I had a job. I was here temporarily. Ten months and out. Maybe, just maybe, I'd give it two years. There was a lot of work to be done after all.
Ten months turned into ten years, and here we are.
There have been ups and downs. It's been happy and heartbreakingly lonely. I've been self-employed and have worked for the "most prestigious" university on the island. We've celebrated all of the virgin-protector-saints of the island and American Thanksgiving. We've gained friends and lost friends. I learned how to frieve from afar, and how to mourn up close. I've learned to trust in friends and family and who my friends and family truly are.
One marriage. Three kids. Two dogs and what seems like a million chickens later, I am still here.
Three apartments and one house, two cars (and only one terrible accident), ten years has been, overall, good.
The good has outweighed the bad. The happiness has outweighed the sorrow.
But I've learned that without the bad, there is no appreciation for the good and without the sorrow, happiness is hollow.
I don't know where the next ten years will land me, but I'm thankful for the past ten and hope to learn and grow just as much in the future.
Cheers! Salud! To life! To the island!
** my dear, dear friend, Father Rafael de la Cruz has since been interred in the sanctuary of that church. It's been a few short weeks since his death and I miss him and his presence in my life. Still, I'm not sure how I'd feel living in that apartment with someone buried in the church.
***** a few pictures from my first year in Santiago - top: me and two kids (I think the girl is Rosy) during one of the camps that happened; middle: Noemi and Ruth and their dear parents Jose and Maria threw me a little birthday celebration. It is, to date, one of the best I ever had; last; a mission group from St. Peter's Church in Florida, The three little girls are the children of the priest who were my little lights of joy. Of that group,