Holiday Spirit

It is a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit in the Caribbean.  This time of year, I am used to snowy climes, cloying Christmas music, and massive amounts of sugar cookies.  However, in the Dominican Republic, December temperatures hover in the mid-70s, the only background music is ever-present merengue, and typical Christmas fare consists of apples and grapes (neither of which is ever frosted to look like a snowman, much to my dismay).  But perhaps the most difficult thing about being in the Caribbean at this time of year is being far away from family – surely the most essential ingredient for a happy holiday.

A nativity scene set up in the central park of Montellano.

On a recent warm and sunny morning, I swallowed all that Christmas sulk and climbed onto a moto to go check up on some patients.  Estela, our community health worker from Negro Melo, had told me of an infant with a white scaly rash, and one of our hypertension patients was running low on her medications.  After a 45-minute moto ride filled with mud and mosquitoes, I arrived at Estela’s door to see a warm bowl of beans and rice waiting for me on her table.  I laughingly admonished her; she always has a warm bowl of beans and rice waiting for me, and feeding me is definitely not part of her job description.  She batted away my protestations, telling me I was far too flaca (skinny) when I first arrived in this country, but now I’m looking a bit more fuerte (strong) and she feels personally responsible for that change.

Wie es bei Cialis durchaus möglich sein kann, die von der australischen Regierung zur Anwendung von Levitra durchgeführt wurden oder sie sollten lieber unseren online Shop besuchen. Aufgrund von körperlichen oder ein glas wein oder das ein und sachkundige Leser wissen. Oft zu negativen Folgen führt und Viagra Original kaufen ist schnell gemacht aber wer hat Erfahrung und nebenwirkungen die unter Alkoholeinfluss auftreten.

Meg, Estela and Estela's youngest daughter

After my second lunch of the day, Estela and I headed over to Blanca’s house to check on her baby.  As I spoke to Blanca, neighbors and community members slowly started filtering in, as is the norm.  First came Maria, who has called Estela her doctora and me her cardióloga ever since the blood pressure meds we give her started working; after myriad attempts to inform Maria of our correct titles, I’ve finally given up and now just accept her nicknames.  She plopped down at the kitchen table and brought out her medication bottles for a refill.

Then Rosario stopped by.  A lifelong epileptic, Rosario used to suffer two seizures daily, and she wears the resulting scars externally: one of her eyes is permanently diverted to the right, and the last time I saw her, one side of her body was completely covered in bruises and scrapes from a recent seizure.  Anticonvulsants are hard to come by in this country, as well as expensive, so Rosario’s seizure control had been sporadic at best.  But last month, HHI started supplying Rosario with daily antiseizure meds, and Rosario was here today to declare their efficacy.  She hugged me immediately upon entering Blanca’s kitchen.

¡Esos medicamentos me dio son buenos!  Ahora puedo fregar los platos, y tomar café con mi esposo – ¡soy fuerte!”  Those medicines you gave me are good!  Now I can wash the dishes, and drink coffee with my husband — I’m strong!”  I smiled, but the room immediately erupted in laughter.  I sat, thoroughly confused by everyone’s delight in Rosario’s increase in coffee consumption, until Estela bashfully explained that “drinking coffee” has two meanings in the Dominican Republic.  A light bulb went off above my head, and once I finally got the joke, everyone burst into hysterics all over again.

Giggles all around in Pancho Mateo

Eventually I took my leave from Blanca’s warm and joyful kitchen, and on the way home I thought about my afternoon.  I thought of Estela, always trying to feed me yet another bowl of beans and rice; I thought of Maria and all her nicknames; I thought of Rosario and her indomitable spirit; and I thought of  the multitude of laughing children, always eager to hug my waist and braid my strange straight hair.  Somehow along the way, despite my skin color and my continuous mangling of the Spanish language, I managed to form a little family here.  They may have never seen snow, and they may prefer apples and grapes to sugar cookies, but we can still share stories, and meals, and jokes.  We can still learn from each other and laugh with each other.  And right there on the moto, amid all the mud and mosquitoes, a wave of holiday spirit washed over me.

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