Today, the second to last day, and possibly the weirdest and most fun of them all. We started off the day with breakfast that came about an hour late, and we were all ravenous until the providers arrived with some delicious fruit and some wonderful American Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops. After a delayed breakfast, most of us toured the market of San Juan, where we had a similar experience to that at the border between Haiti. Different to the market between the DR and Haiti, motorcycles cruised through the narrow passageways of the market, and I felt stressed. We had been warned previously of getting too close to a motorcycle, because we were told the story of one who had rubbed up against one’s muffler and had been burned pretty badly. That thought floated through my mind the entire time we walked, and with all the commotion of people, new smells of fruits and vegetables, and yelling of street vendors trying to sell their products, my stress levels were high. Similar to the market at the border, though, I loved to see all the different products people were selling, and how they were doing it.
Some women sold piles of clothes mountain high, and other women rifled through the piles trying to find an article of clothing that suited their taste. It seemed like a form of thrift shopping, which I’d love to do. Other vendors sold spices and vegetables, which smelled so good I wanted to buy them all and find a recipe to use for each. When we roamed the passageways of the market, fruits and vegetables surrounded us on either side, and each small bundle was stacked so artfully, it made me wish for my camera to take as many pictures as I could to capture its beauty and remember it all. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could capture the market in all its glory in a few pictures, but I wish I had my camera to try.
Once we had finished our market tour, we went on our way back to the hostel, where we had lunch, and then free time later. The reason our second free day was the weirdest and most fun of all, was because of all the activities we fit into our 5.5 hour free time exploring the city. The most memorable moment of the day for me, was spent at the churro stand, where almost every one of us purchased a churro with some kind of filling: chocolate, custard, or jelly, while others purchased multiple churros overflowing with multiple fillings. Side note: today felt like the hottest day we’ve experienced here, so most of us had drank all of our water, were sweating profusely, and were hungry most of the time, after burning all of our calories walking around and sweating. To curb the effects of what felt like heat stroke today, our most reasonable idea seemed to be churros.
We all sat around in a circle, passed around some parts of uneaten churros, and waved to some people who walked down the street. Then, as we were finishing most of our churros, the man who ran the churro shop brought out a speaker the size of a small child, and plugged it in, and the food coma we had from eating multiple churros suddenly disappeared. The man began to play some Spanish language tunes, and two of our group members immediately got up and started dancing wildly. Sitting in a circle with all the new friends I’ve made on this trip (and some who were already friends), was the part of the trip where I’ve felt most connected to everyone. We all casually sat around, like people who have been friends forever, and laughed loudly and admiringly when the people dancing looked foolish. I loved seeing everyone so close, and willing to stand up and be unapologetically weird in their expressive dance moves when the beat of the music moved through them. Some people weren’t dancing at first, including me, but another one of the group members took my hand and lead me into the dance circle. In that moment, I felt wholly included, and I felt like we could all jump around and look silly without giving a single care, because we were all having fun together, and how we looked didn’t matter. Similar to that thought, one thing I’m going to miss especially about this trip, is the feeling of unity we have between ourselves, and the entire community we’ve been immersed in.
On our free days, we’ve been able to actually play the role as a community member, and do some activities they might do on their weekend, or another week day. For example, we went and ate cake at a bakeshop, and we lounged around listening to music at a popular churro stand, and while we walked the streets we got to say “hi” to so many more people. In each of our activities and in greeting complete strangers, I felt so intertwined with the city and people around us, and felt like I’ve become a part of something bigger than my group of friends here, or my friends back home. It’s strange to think that, though, because I didn’t think I’d ever have something larger, or something to fill my insides with something bigger than my family and friends back home. Through teaching English, working in Suarez, just meeting strangers on the street, and being in the city for roughly two weeks, I feel like I’ve been able to become a tiny part of a new community, which is entirely more united, and 100% more caring. Back home, I wouldn’t smile and wave to any stranger I saw on the street, especially ones who sat near me in stores or restaurants. Here though, almost every person I saw here I waved to, and at the churro stand today I said “hi” to so many more people than I ever have or would have in a restaurant or stand back home.
In this revelation, when I go back home, I want to continue spreading the energy of positivity and try to integrate myself more with the community, and I’ll do that by just talking to more people. Honestly, it sounds incredibly simple, but talking to more people is the way that I, and others, can bring ourselves together, and create a stronger sense of community that will build stronger connections with all that surrounds us daily. I can’t wait to see what more I can carry back over from my time here to my time at home, to make life just a little more like the peaceful and overall happier island life here. Thank you for reading.