Si Dios Quiere
Margaret O’Connor, originally from Rhode Island, recently made Monte Cristi her home for four months as part of a gap year. She will attend Elon University next fall. This is her story:
Living in Monte Cristi, a city near the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic for four months, a common phrase I would hear is “Si Dios quiere” which translates to “If God’s willing.” I would say, “Hasta manaña!” to the staff at our site. They would reply “Si Dios quiere.” I once asked a group of fans if the baseball game I was at would take place again next week, to which they responded, “Si Dios quiere.”
Initially I was puzzled. However, two weeks in, I began to understand its significance to the country. From the first day I began working in the Dominican until I departed, I led a very similar routine. This mindset would transform how I experienced that regimen, and changed the way I went about and viewed each day.
When exiting my home to start my daily teaching routine, the street looks as it always does: one-room homes with their doors wide open (hoping for airflow).Bachata music is in the air. Some homes separate the bedroom from the kitchen using a sheet, some have thick walls, others allow the rooms to remain as one. The paint on eight of the ten houses I pass is a pale reminder of a once-neon paint job.
My route is a mere five-minute walk, but in that time a town’s life is laid bare. Motorcycles pass by frequently, with drivers ranging from a nine-year-old alone to one carrying a mother with three children and another adult to hold the additional newborn baby. The most common was the 20-year-old male zooming by on the strip of pavement slicing along the primarily dirt road.
When I finally reach the school, I am greeted by the school doorman-gardener-security guard wearing his “uniform” baseball cap that says “NYPD.” Dominican teachers are unlikely to abide by the exact times on the given class day schedule, and students may take off for, or return from, a 3 month “vacation” one day, having not informed anyone of their plans. That day might be one of the many days one of the families invite me into their homes for dinner, when they do not have the sufficient funds, or food supplies to feed an extra person.
This all reflects “Si Dios quiere.” For them, everything is temporary. Despite how little they have, despite obstacles I’ve never fathomed, they engage life with a joy and sense of fulfillment that left me in awe.
Just one week into my time amongst my new family this attitude enabled me to grasp the fact that I had a short four months to make a large impact on this community and these children’s education. Discomforts like mosquito bites, sunburns, and cold showers faded in their significance. I began to understand they were all temporary. The focus instead was on the parts of my time there I would be sad to leave behind. Knowing that in the U.S. I won’t be able to grab fresh tropical fruit off a tree in my backyard, or enjoy the 85 degree weather each day. One of the most difficult aspects to part with was the inspiring courage of children to dream of lives light years away from the ones their parents lead.
I knew that my trip would have as much of an impact on me as it would the children I taught. But I never would have predicted that one of the most significant experiences I would walk away with is the feel of that town, of embracing the present.