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Dominican Republic (DR) Chronicles 2019: Food

For my blog readers, my son, Caleb and I are finally on our mission trip in Santiago, DR. We arrived in the middle of the night to the Mission of Hope (MOH) Santiago Campus Sunday morning, June 2. I’ll be blogging about this experience while I can on the trip and for the next several weeks. I’ve shared pictures on my Facebook page, but I really want to unpack this experience through blogging. Update: This is the only blog post I’ve managed to type thus far. I intended to post more, but I think several things are at play: I’ve been more tired than usual, been getting settled into my normal routine, and still mentally and spiritually processing this trip.

This particular post is focused on the food. These almond butter packets I brought have saved me to a point.

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At the time that I posted this, I only had one left. So what have we been eating? Well, we’ve been roughing it, for sure, at least Caleb and I think so. MOH has many interns and most of them appear 19-25ish. They’re pretty thin and may not mind the food. Our mission group has a range of ages. I was worried about what the food would be on because I eat pretty healthy at home. We were allowed to bring our own snacks, so I brought a bunch of healthy items: Kashi cereal & cereal bars, kind bars, pistachios, organic applesauce, dried fruits, green energy packets & electrolytes, organic soups, peanut butter packets. I only ate a fraction of what I brought (electrolytes, pistachios, dried fruits, peanut butter packets) and ended up donating the remainder to the MOH interns and staff.

As a church group, we brought on the flight with us some items from the states since it would be cheaper: Peanut butter, jelly, cereal, powdered milk, condiments, etc. For every meal, there have been ample carbs. For example: white bread for sandwiches & macaroni salad. Dinner usually entailed rice and more bread. Neither Caleb nor I are particularly like sandwiches, but we’ve been making it work. Caleb was really hungry on the second or third day when he realized we would be eating the same foods and he said, “I’m going to have to make this work”. He made a macaroni salad SANDWICH!

Dinners was made by Haitian and Dominican cooks.

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Beef stew with rice/beans and cake

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Stewed chicken and peas with not just white rice, but also graten, which is a delicacy! Strawberry cake on the side.

Each night featured a different meal…all tasty. The pictures do not give the food justice. Although he acknowledged it was good, Caleb wasn’t too impressed because I make Haitian food at home along with many other types of food. I think he thought he was going to eat something he never had previously. I’m thankful that my mom taught me how to cook, even though I vividly remember not wanting to learn. I get to share that part of my heritage with my family.

One of the Haitian cooks has been working with MOH Haiti for a while. Her brother was sponsored by the organizer at our church for some years, then he was sponsored to attend college by someone else. He’s since graduated college. I introduced myself to her as she was serving our food, but hope to have a good conversation with her before I leave. Update: I didn’t get a chance to have a conversation with her with all of our activities. I hope we cross paths again one day….perhaps on another mission trip?

I didn’t eat much breakfast. I embraced my almond butter sandwiches for lunch, but I’ve especially looked forward to dinner. I’m surprised we’ve had fresh salads most evenings. I was told in Haiti there is rarely fresh greens so this is a treat. We’ve also had cake the last 2 nights. Our team lead managed to get us some avocados. They were huge. We also had mangos as there were several mango trees on the property where we stayed. It’s not everyday that I eat fruit that falls off a tree. I do remember growing up in Chicago, my aunt and uncle had a pear tree on their property. The pears never seemed to be ripe, even after they had fallen.

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Avocado

This trip isn’t about me having all the comfortable, familiar foods I want when I want it. It’s about sacrifice and service, so I can deal for a week. Speaking of service, each group was assigned dish duty, which we participated in as a group. Also, Friday was beach day and we got to eat some local food as noted in the cover photo: fried red snapper, rice, beans and plantains (not pictured). It was so good! My impression is that Dominican food is just about the same as Haitian food. Rice and beans, plantains, and protein. More stories to come from this experience.

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Haiti

It was confirmed last night that my trip to Haiti with my son, in less than 2 weeks, has been canceled due to the recent protests and riots regarding gas price increases. I’m very disappointed, to say the least, and mostly feel bad my 17-year son won’t have this experience for now. Of course, our safety is of most concern. Although I was going to commemorate my mom, if she knew of these developments, she too, would discourage us from going. It would also likely bring up sad memories of what it was like for her to grow up in Haiti. I can hear, in her voice, recounts of her experiences with poverty and the corrupt Haitian government. I remember stories about the terrible reign of President Jean Claude Duvalier (aka Papa Doc) and his son, Baby Doc back in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week of what it must be like to live in Haiti as I’ve read several articles and watched a few videos about the protests. In my opinion, there has not been enough media coverage on the events. I suspect the riots have slow downed because I saw through my social media feed, the government was cleaning up some of the damage in Port Au Prince. I suppose what I’m getting at is there was no problem covering the chaos, but will there be as much coverage about the recovery? I can’t deny the Secretary of State Travel Advisory has Haiti on a Level 4 travel ban, the highest, which indicates “no travel” to Haiti. I’ve gleaned from people I know and others how Haiti is viewed. I wonder do people or governments (ours, theirs, others) want Haiti to succeed or do they want to continue to just refer to Haiti as the “poorest country in the Western hemisphere”…who can’t get themselves together. Google Haiti and see what you get. I get the country needs to get themselves out of their situation too. Haiti also happens to be comprised of the only people whose ancestors successfully fought themselves out of slavery and were forced to pay a large sum of money to France for that “freedom”. There’s so much complexity to why it’s poor, how to help, and how to help them help themselves.

I know how I view Haiti- a place that has a resilient, prideful people, the place where my family was born, a place with a rich culture, a place that holds the key to who I am, and a place I must visit. For all the positive reasons I want to visit, it’s the negative reasons about Haiti that prevent us from going to serve them. I also believe that pride is a sickness for the people there. Haitians are a prideful people. I see it in my family (and extended family).

Prior to the most recent riots and protests. I asked my oldest sister if we should plan a trip together to Haiti- the siblings. She indicated I was doing it the best way…through my church. My church, LifeAustin, coordinated the trip through Mission of Hope Haiti (MOH). MOH coordinates trips to Haiti with churches all over. I think there are more protections working through agencies such as this one. MOH informed our church contact they were canceling the next few trips. We don’t know for how long yet. I hope to get more answers on Sunday.

It’s definitely a bummer my son and I aren’t going at this time, but things happened as they should have. In this process, I was reminded that my family and friends will support me no matter what as we received a significant amount in financial donations from them to get us to Haiti. I was reminded, if you ask, you will receive, but again, you have to ask. There was no shame or pride in my game. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to release pride and it’s not easy.

What I ask of you is to pray for Haiti. Educate yourself on the country if you haven’t already. I come from a long line of beautiful, resilient, and strong people. One day, I will see Haiti with my own eyes.

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Faith moves

Ok. Ok. I’ve been slacking on my blog. In all fairness, I’ve had an unusually busy May with two work travel trips, Mother’s day and my birthday. May was also very emotionally draining. May served as a painful reminder that my mom is gone. I felt as though I was grieving all over again during my birthday weekend. Eventually, it passed, but it took its toll. I’m still not getting enough sleep. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up at work. I’ve decreased the duration and intensity of my workouts mostly because of my long work days. However, I did kiss goodbye my love affair with pastries, cookies, and other sweets and stopped eating them cold turkey.

I also made a monumental decision in May that is exciting and daring – my son and I are going on a week long mission trip to Haiti. When I learned our church was planning this for July, I knew I had to go to commemorate my mom, especially since July is the one year anniversary of her passing. Knowing I’m finally going to visit the island where my parents and siblings were born has eased some of my sadness from missing her. The sadness has been replaced with excitement.

Initially, I thought I would go solo, but my son, Caleb, said he wanted to go too, which surprised me…even after he learned what we would be doing. I’m really impressed that he knows the purpose of the trip is to serve and he is still all in. I’ll write more about the trip in later posts. I wasn’t completely sure how we would produce funds for both of us, but I made a faith move. We sent letters to family and friends asking them to donate on our behalf. I knew there was no turning back once I emailed the letters. We’ve already gotten some donations. Caleb is looking for a summer job to help, plus he wants to save for a new laptop.

June came with a lovely visit from my sister early in the month. What’s so sweet is she’s promised to visit us in Austin every year like my mom used to do. My mom has come to Texas more than anyone on either side of our families, which magnifies how much she supported me.

As much as I’d like to maintain some balance in my life, something inevitably comes up that tips the scales, so I have to adjust. For example, after my kids dental appointment this week, we learned one needs braces and the other needs several fillings for all the cavities in his mouth. Really?