Que Bonita Es Esta Vida

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
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39
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Trip End Apr 06, 2008


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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hello Friends and Family!
  Well, I realize that it has been a shamefully long time since I blogged.  So much has happened recently, I have hardly had time to process it all, let alone write about it on the internet.  I will do my best to bring everyone up to speed.
  The first bit of news is that I got my official COS (close of service) date set at April 6, 2008!!  That means that in four and a half short weeks, I will be packing up my suitcases, saying my goodbyes, and getting on a plane and heading back to the US of A.  It's hard to believe that my time here is almost up.  I have mixed emotions about it all . . . excitement about seeing friends and family, anxiousness about "what comes next," and sadness to leave this place that, although crazy at times, has been home to me for two years.  I have been talking about my departure with people in my community and we have already had some emotional moments, so I am trying to just enjoy my last few weeks here without focusing too much on the sadness of leaving.  It is bittersweet.  Peace Corps gives you a place in the world, a clear idea of what you should be doing with your life, and pretty soon I won't have that anymore and I will be all on my own.  It is exciting, but scary too.   I am in the process of interviewing for the graduate programs that I applied to and I should hear a final word from them by late March/early April.  I am also contemplating going to med school and looking into pre-med prep programs for people who already have bachelor's degrees. 
  Med school???  Random, I know.  It has to do with the craziness of the last month and a half.  In late January, early February, I was able to participate in a MACLA (Medical Aid to the Children of Latin America) medical mission and it was an amazing experience.  A group of plastic surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc comes down every year to do free surgeries on things like cleft lip and palate, burn scars, and deformities of the hands and ears.  They use Peace Corps volunteers as translators, and we got to help at every stage of the process.  On the first day, there were over 1,000 people lined up outside of the hospital to see a doctor and to find out if they qualified for surgery.  Of those, 400 made it past the original screening and eventually they selected 200 for surgery.  They did the surgeries over the course of two weeks, and I was there for the first of the two.  I got to be in the OR for two days and I saw some really amazing/fascinating/horrfying things.  Some of it was uplifting - like kids who had lived with cleft lips and palates for years and were able to have them corrected in a matter of hours.  Some of it was deeply sad - people who had terrible scarring from acid or electrical burns.  It really shocked me that simple procedures that would be corrected early on in the US are left undone for years and years here because people simply do not have the resources to get the treatment they need.  It was inspiring to see the doctors and nurses, who pay their own way and take their own vacation time, provide such loving care and treat all of the patients with such dignity and concern.
  Aside from hanging out in the OR, I also had my COS (close of serivce) conference in late January and made a quick trip to the beach with Paula in February.  I am finishing up my projects in my site.  In the next few weeks we will complete stove numbers 37-45 and be done with it!!  I also had 15 more water filters delivered, which we are going to install for a total of 45.  I am happy with how all of the work is turning out and I feel good about leaving on such a positive note.  I have been cleaning, packing, organizing, and getting rid of the things that won't be going home with me - stained clothes, musty sheets, etc.  I am making reservations to send Stella home about a week before I go.  She has no idea what she is in for in the US!!  I am also planning my despedida (going away party) for the last weekend in March and planning to spend Semana Santa (Holy Week) hanging out with my host family and other community members. 
  So, to explain the title of this blog . . . there is a bachata song that has the line "que bonita es esta vida" or "how beautiful is this life" that I have been hearing a lot lately.  It puts a smile on my face because it sums up how crazy and beautiful this experience has been.  It has been a roller coaster at times, both professionally and personally, but I am so very glad that I came, I stayed, I made friends and gained a new Dominican family, I learned Spanish, I worked hard and I played hard, I laughed, I cried, and through it all I managed to learn, grow, and (I hope) become a better person.   I see life with different eyes now.  I know the meaning of poverty and I am more committed than ever to using my skills and talents to make the world a healthier and better place to live.  I learned that development work is HARD AS HELL and that there are no easy answers.  I learned that you absolutely cannot and should not judge a person by the amount of money they have (or don't have), the house they live in, or the clothes they wear.  I have been blessed beyond reason by all of the people who have welcomed me without reservation into their hearts and their homes.  I have learned so much more than I have taught.  Most of all, I have been able to see the beauty of a different kind of life, and I hope with all of my heart that I can handle whatever difficulties life may throw my way with the same grace, good nature, and dignity that I have witnessed so many days and in so many ways during my two years here in the Dominican Republic.  I am still me, but I feel different inside. 
  I will try to post again a time or two before I leave and when I get home.  I hope this finds you all well, and I will see you on the other side!!!

Love
Margaret
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Comments

dinarda
dinarda on

Thanks
Margaret,

I came accross your blog last year while looking for pictures of Santo Domingo and ever since I've been reading about your adventures. I just wanted to say THANK YOU so much for the wonderful job that you and people like you do to help the poor in my country.

I grew up in a very poor 'barrio' of la capital (Buenos Aires) and there was a vocational school called 'OSCUS: Obra Social y Cultural Sopena', they used to have volunteers from the Peace Corps to teach us English every Saturday. You can't imagine the inmense effect those early English lesson had in my life. I am sure that the work you did in the country side would have the same effect on many lives. Once again thank you.

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