Since I last blogged, my life has been full of a bunch of “firsts.” Living here in the Dominican Republic, it seems like almost everyday is a new experience or something I’ve never before been a part of. However, there are a few “firsts” that really stick out in my mind that I’d like to share.
The first first is this past Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving in my life that I have not spent with my family. I’m not going to lie...it wasn’t the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. But it was special in its own way. After sending a tearful email to my family in the States expressing to them how much I am thankful for them and how much I wished I could have been there with them, Chad and I packed up the strawberry pretzel casserole, the corn casserole, and the homemade ice cream machine to head down to Norm’s house for our team’s Thanksgiving celebration. Everybody brought their favorite Thanksgiving dish, and it was quite the feast! After we were all pretty stuffed with turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie, the game playing commenced. Despite my homesickness for my favorite holiday, it really was a happy Thanksgiving, and I’m glad I got to spend it with my family here.
First number two would have to be our first group experience while having school at the same time. A group from Fairfax Church of Christ in Fairfax, Virginia, came down to help us with our annual Magi drops that we do for some of the children in this area. For those of you who don’t know, Magi is a project that provides Christmas gifts to those that would not normally have a Christmas. The group was absolutely phenomenal! Led by one of our advisory board members, Mark Gibson, this group was possibly one of the best we’ve ever had. They were so prepared, so excited, and they even came with Santa Claus! One of their church members, Shack, was a Santa Claus look alike! I’m still not entirely sure that he isn’t the real Santa Claus. In addition to having a phenomenal group, our students blew us away. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of them. At each Magi drop we had a carnival for the kids that came. We partnered up our students with the group members to help run each of the games. Our students were so impressive! They were helpful, encouraging, and formed relationships with the group members as well as with the kids who came to the carnivals. They really were leaders, which is exactly what we’ve been trying to instill in them from the beginning. The first group week/school week all in one was a testament to the fact that our discipling program is working, and I can not express how good it felt to see the results of all of the love and work and energy we have been pouring into these kids the past few months.
Another exciting first was my first birthday here in the Dominican Republic. And surprisingly, it went pretty much like any other birthday I’ve had minus going out to eat at a restaurant to celebrate with friends. Our students sang happy birthday to me in math class, one of our sweet students, Bebo, got me some awesome combs for my hair :), I got cards and gifts from my friends and family in the States, I got some nice little gifts from the team here, and our whole team even got together for a little party/hang out time. It was a good day, and a good start to my 24th year of life.
On a slightly more disgusting and disturbing note, I saw my first rat in person that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was in Chad’s house, and we had seen a few signs of it in the kitchen. However, a few nights ago, I got a real glimpse of the thing. Chad had gone to take a shower while I finished up cooking dinner. When he turned on the hot water heater, the rat jumped out of the hot water heater and into the shower. Chad then proceeded to run out of the bathroom followed by the rat. I jumped on the counter and started screaming/laughing as we watched the rat scurry behind the refrigerator. We thought it stayed there, so Chad went to get Carlos (our brave, strong, not scared of rats Dominican friend) so we could try to catch the rat and get rid of it. I stayed on guard on top of the counter with a broom. However, when Carlos and Chad got back, we couldn’t find the rat. It must have run somewhere else after it went behind the refrigerator. So it’s currently still in the house and I live in a constant state of paranoia anytime I’m over at Chad’s.
As you can see, there are a lot of firsts that happen on a daily basis. We are actually currently in our first final exam week. And we are about to wrap up our first semester at Manna Christian School. Some firsts are exciting. Some are fun. Some are sad. Some make you want to scream. But would I trade this life of constant “first” experiences for a bunch of routine, normal, predictable experiences? Not a chance.