Rotary Meeting with la Gobernadora de Distrito!
Trip Start Sep 06, 2008
19Trip End Nov 25, 2008
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At the first meeting, I met the president, Cristina Douglas, whom I have come to know very well through the MANY emails back and forth regarding my grant application. We were both so surprised to meet the other...we were both expecting someone much older! She is my age, and has been married for 2 years. She works in the school board office in Consuelo, so she has been very helpful to my acquiring resources to use, etc
So, on Saturday, the president and secretary picked me up in a cab (the first one I have seen), and off we went to San Pedro (15 km away - I might actually run there someday). I was expecting it only to be a large dinner with the other clubs in the region, but I was mistaken - but at first, thought I had completely misunderstood what they had explained to me! Before the dinner, each club met individually with the governor, to discuss the current status of the club, needs, problems, projects, etc. I cannot say what the specifics are, as I wasn't able to follow the whole conversation, but that was the general idea.
After the meeting, we walked over to a restaurant (at this point, I thought it was just the 3 of us grabbing a bite), and when we went in, I finally saw what I was expecting. Banners of all of the clubs in the region, as well as the governor's banners, were hanging, there was a head table with beautiful flowers, and two long tables filled with Rotarians of the various clubs in the region. Being the only white person there, I was hardly inconspicuous, and generated a great deal of inquisitive looks. Some members spoke to me, and I had a hard time understanding them because they all talk SO FAST here!! Apparently, the DR is known among the Latin-American world as the fastest talking country - how lucky for me. Anyway, I sat with the club secretary, who is a really fun and nice woman. She spoke slowly to me and helped me out, and we also had a few laughs when our waiter was completely oblivious to us throughout everyone else's meal (I say everyone else's because he did not take our order, or even bring water, until he was practically jumped by the guy sitting next to us!).
Soon into the gathering, the MC began to talk about me, which sent panic shooting through me...all I could think was "PLEASE don't ask me to speak," because I didn't know that I would have to, and thus, did not have anything prepared. Sure enough, he called on me to get up and present the governor with my club's banner - which would have been fine, except then the club president said a few words and then turned it over to me - and I was FROZEN. I looked at her and said, "what to I say?" She began for me, and said that I would be presenting the banner...and then I managed to blurt out (in HORRIBLE Spanish, because I was so nervous and flustered at this point), " I am very excited to be here with all of you, and am also happy to finally meet the Consuelo club president, Cristina, as well as the governor." However, "governor" in Spanish is "la gobernadora" (she's a woman), and I had a great deal of difficulty getting this word out, and I was sputtering and stumbling over it 4 or 5 times before I could say it properly (at this point, I'm sweating bullets and am completely mortified!). I started to also say that I am happy to present this banner on behalf of my club, but no one heard this, because everyone just started clapping...probably to put themselves (and me) out of their misery of listening to me! The governor also presented me with her banner, and the district pin. Their motto for this year is "make dreams a reality." In the midst of all this, there is the professional photographer snapping away in my face as I am talking, and as we are exchanging banners, etc. By the time I managed to get back to my seat, I wanted to crawl under the table and hide! Had I known that they were expecting me to speak (and in Spanish, no less), I would have written something down beforehand, so that I would have it in my mind and not sound completely horrible...but sadly, I was not given such a chance.
Despite my slight nervous breakdown following the presentation, I did have a really good time, and met some nice people from different areas. The secretary assured me that I wasn't that horrible, and that I was easy to understand...but I am still not convinced! We were also invited to a Rotary party at someone's house that evening, but we (or at least I) didn't go. After the dinner, the governor spoke to me and took some pictures with me, and said that it was nice to meet me and that she hoped I enjoy my time here. I thanked her and told her how honoured I was to be able to meet her - and lucky how the timing of this meeting worked out!
All in all, it was a very good experience, but I hope to get a heads up the next time I have to talk in front of a room full of professional strangers in a foreign language! I am headed to Santo Domingo on the weekend for another meeting...this time about the Rotary Foundation - we will see how it goes!