We have had a lot of guests lately. During each visit, we ask each of them to write a guest post for our blog when they get back to the states. Below is the post from our friends, Chris and Ashlie Brown, who spent their honeymoon pouring into our sweet little community. Thanks, Chris and Ashlie!!!
As we woke up at 3AM to make sure we had everything, kissed and said our “see ya soons” to the pups and made our way to the airport, we were overwhelmed with excitement as we were preparing to descend into a 3rd world country to help others and see friends. We made it to the airport 2hrs early just to make sure that all our donations that we had effortlessly received from some amazing donors were able to make the flight with us. We had made such a simple request, via Facebook, for any softball/baseball equipment that friends and family were willing to part from so that we could donate them to the village and children of La Represa. After 2months of receiving donations we found ourselves parking on our driveway B/c our garage was over abundantly filled with cleats, bats, helmets, jerseys, gloves and balls that would not allow us to park in our 2car garage. Man, we felt blessed by our friends!
Thanks to the airport skycap we were able to get our entire luggage on the plane. We were allowed (1) bag under and (1) bag on top with no charge but we had so much to take that we were going to need the “at the most” luggage acceptance that Delta would allow which was (2) bags under and (1) on tops. That is where First United Methodist Church came in. Because of their generosity they allowed us to take a total of (6) bags between Chris and me. They paid for the extra luggage, the luggage was checked and we were on our way….here is where the story truly starts!
We arrived in Atlanta, we waited, we went through customs and we caught our final flight to Santo Doming. We arrived in Santo Domingo and we went through luggage, and we turn the corner to see those Lovely Ludlams who welcome us with hugs and smiles. I don’t think Chris and I realized at this point that our lives would be truly changes. We ate a pizza covered in corn and shared our short and effortless travels. We load into the Korean truck which also pairs as the village ambulance (I will get into that later) and we head to La Represa, aka District 12. We drive the coast and see the amazing beautiful water and landscape…STILL WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE IN STORE. We drive through the crazy Capitol and down landscaped filled highways until we turn off to the right to gravel road. The smell was a little unsettling at first but after a while it becomes a norm. We again take another sharp right and coast down this long hill, avoid hitting other vehicle, and make our way down the winding roads until we come upon free range cattle and dirt road. We go through the town and over a bridge and down the road and we are home!
We get out of the vehicle only to be greeted by complete adolescent strangers with smiles on their faces and our hearts melt. We bring the luggage into this beautiful dwelling we call our home for a week….now what do we do? That thought only lasted a moment because it was like we were in a family setting. Tamara, Mo, Lauren and Lexie made us feel at home. We ate and talked and caught up on the months we had been apart. At this part I was a bit worried for my husband as he did not understand Spanish or grow up in Southern California like I did where Spanish is our 2nd language. He had a little anxiety but that was soon omitted the next morning on a bike ride, thanks to Mo, through the village. He was so shocked that though a language barrier was present that everyone in the village would still speak to him in Spanish, with a smile on their faces and a hug at hand. Who are these people? They aren’t like people back home. They welcome strangers into their homes as if you are family, the children take your hand and want to practice their new english with you…I don’t think we are in the US anymore Toto!
In the week that we spent in the village we experienced so much. We witness so much while we were there that I feel a list form may be needed to share just a 10th of what we saw…
*What we Americanos call housewives and the DR call “Lovers of the Home” tend to their little ones in the morning, and then shoosh them out of the house until dusk or dinner time. Yep, children still play outside all day.
*Carpenters in the shape of little boys manufacture their own means of entertainment, with what we know of as toys, with just a plastic bottle, tire and a stick.
*Tween boys who mocked the game of marbles with rocks that lined their roads.
*Men leaving the village to travel to the Capitol to work through the week only to travel back home Friday or Saturday to be with their families until they had to leave again.
*Free range horses, pigs, chickens, cattle, goats (that was our wake~up call every morning) and that pesky rooster that coincidently sounds as if it shouts, “Put Your Pants On” roam the open land.
*Love and compassion and respect in every age, sex and stature from everyone for everyone.
*No hate or evil will towards anyone by everyone
*A faith in God that is so strong and a lack of faith that is being built everyday by The Ludlams and Pastor Thomas and his wife, Sonja
*Pedestrians who walk with machetes openly down the road with the intent to cut down brush and not to use maliciously.
*Patience with the natives when speaking to either my husband who didn’t understand a lick of Spanish other than “si” or the universal work “No” or with myself where my Spanish was rusty when it came time to verbalize in Spanish what I was talking about.
*The way a group of women who have one priority in the village, to the home, came together to form a softball team with a little help from donations and a curiosity.
*The neighbors…Alexandria who cooks with love and you taste it in her food to her husband who has mastered the straight blade that my husband was NOT sure about and now misses so much to the daughter who is well mannered and beautiful to the son who is an amazing kid and equally amazing ball player. Chris can’t stop talking about how he misses seeing Jeffrey at the back door asking him to throw with him and to teach him to throw a knuckle ball.
*That even if the women of La Represa lost to the ladies of La Cuchilla…twice and by a lot…could still hug and laugh and joke after the game instead of throw a fit and stop off mad. AND that the towns shut down so they could cheer both ladies’ teams on…how cool is that!!
*The act of sharing brand new gloves and bats with strangers KNOWING they were going to return when the Americanos (my husband and I) feared they would be stolen B/c they are new and we are used to that in the States.
INSERT: This reminds me of the blog Tamara posted about the “missing laundry” that was in fact not missing at all but was folded neatly in the washer thanks to the neighbors who saw the rain coming and the dry laundry hanging…she spoke about condemning before believing….GUILTY! But after being with these amazing people of the DR…well, Chris and I have taken a vow to TRY and believe in others before condemning.
*A group of boys who play American’s Past Time Sport so effortlessly and compassionately. They practice everyday to perfect their passion. The coolest moment with these gentlemen were when they received their jerseys and the amount of joy they had as they politely said please and thank you and then as we were leaving they all ran from the far end of the field all the way to us to say thank you and good~bye as we were leaving that day. I was so caught off guard with great emotion to receive such a heartfelt thanks and safe travels.
*The respect and cherished loved for the elders like Ramon and Amelia who, by far are amazing abuelos and can sing like song birds! Once you meet them you are forever in love with their love for each other and life…and coffee, haha!!!
*A man who is liked by many in the States but treasured by all (except for those pesky motorcycle cops in the Capitol, haha) in the village. A foundation for his family and a rock for the village. His watch-less tanned hands help the village and his Spanish translating ability help the Americanos. His “without thinking” ability to help with the sick and his coffee and breakfast making skills did NOT go unnoticed! Mo, thank you for helping Chris communicate and sharing your family and time with us.
*A woman who homeschools her children, who washes and line dries the laundry, who helps with accommodating the school of La Respesa with her knowledge in teaching, guiding abilities, and teaches her daughters every day to get out and experience the events that cross their paths. Who falls down during a softball game and, while laughter erupts, gets up and curtsies to the laughter to show her daughters to brush off the hurt or possible embarrassment and roll with the punches. Not to mention she is one heck of a pitcher! Tamara, thank you for your words and insight during our girl time!!
*An almost 14yr old (at the time of visit) Americana whose curiosity for softball grew into a full time position on the La Represa Lions. And even thought she was heckled in the beginning and hurt by her insecurity to fail…she didn’t give up and is growing EVERY DAY as a Lady Lion…we are so proud of you Lauren!
Not to mention she is one amazing translator!
*A young lady Americana who sees no embarrassment or obstacle she can’t climb, no cup song she can’t tackle or slithery snake she can’t imitate..whose comments are hilarious and off the wall and whose heart is still so pure at her tween age. We are so proud of Lexie and her accomplishments in the DR.
The Ludlams shared their world with us for a week and we could not have been more blessed. We look back now and think how a honeymoon cruise or resort trip would NOT have been a ¼ as cool and memorable as our DR trip was. Don’t get me wrong…we were able, thanks to our donations from our wedding reception, to go to the resort for a couple days and bring the Ludlams with us…but Chris and I would have been fine to spend the last couple of days in the village. We knew that the resort would be a great break for our host family and it was a honeymoon~like experience for us. We enjoyed our honeymoon with family time at the pool, during meals and snorkeling the Caribbean. We had a blast and are soooo blessed! Thank you Maurice, Tamara, Lauren and Lexie for opening your home, opening your hearts, and sharing your thoughts and stories with us! We have been forever changed for the better! We even fiddle around with the idea of becoming DR residence…Oh, and you will hear us say on a weekly basis, “Well, that would have NEVER happened in the DR!”
I leave this blog with a passage I was reminded of by a friend that reminds me of our experience, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses (Proverbs 28:27 NIV). We, Chris and I, were the poor and the DR and the Ludlam’s welcomed and loved us eyes wide open and for that…we are FOREVER grateful to you all!
Hope to see you all soon!!!!
Chris and Ashlie