Monday, July 09, 2007

journal excerpt #1 [DR]

Due to some airline drama, I wound up being in the DR a full day before most of my team. Below are some of my reflections from that first afternoon alone in Santo Domingo.

"This afternoon I took a short walk around the area where my hotel is. I saw the palacio nacional, government offices, elegant medians adorned with beautifully landscaped plants and flowers...and as I walked through this high security, wealthy district of Santo Domingo, I was thinking about how despite my sensitivity to poverty and my anger over injustice, I was still able to appreciate the beauty of a well constructed building, a well tended garden, a series of Dominican flags, and a stone monument. I know that some of these 'beautiful' things hide truly ugly realities--the gap between rich and poor, the multi-layered corruption, the colonialism and imperialism that put this entire region at a disadvantage for centuries. Still, my theology is ingrained within me: the Lord truly can make all things new--there IS beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning. And so the beauty I saw today in the streets of the DR--not only in architecture, but in the market, in the artwork, food, sounds, and the people, like the man with a horse and cart full of pineapples--is still beauty worth appreciating.

I wonder if the eye for beauty is a survival instinct when one is surrounded by painful sights and sounds. Perhaps celebrating the beautiful and good in a hard place is the only way to maintain hope and courage.

I feel that my cultural stress here is minimal because I am navigating these two rumbos--privilege and poverty--every day in Managua and in the communities I visit. Rather than feeling "immune", I identify with Paul when he wrote about "becoming all things to all people." So I learn how to walk in the world of cars and air conditioning and fancy restaurants today and how to walk down dirt roads in chinelas, sleep on a sheet covered board, and eat gallo pinto with guajada for breakfast tomorrow.

Neither is entirely comfortable for me, so I find myself "in the middle", in a place somewhere in between gratitude for what I have been given and humility for the areas in which I know I still need to grow."

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