Big exciting things have happened the past few days. Wednesday, Marion (a German girl who seems to have traveled all over the world), Brandon and Kelvin (two guys from Washington D.C.) and I went to Boca Chica, a beautiful beach about a 30 minute ride away from Santo Domingo, in the car that Brandon and Kelvin rented. So we held on to our seat belts as Kelvin bravely drove through the streets where rules do not exist. We made it safely to the beach. The water was as clear as possible, the sand a soft cream color, and not a cloud in sight…but tons of palm trees everywhere. I couldn’t help but just stand there and smile. We grabbed some lawn chairs and ordered some Pina Coladas. There was no hiding the fact that we were American, so we may as well embrace it. The only slight annoyance were all of the vendors who kept coming up to us and asking us to buy things. It also didn’t help that Brandon (king of the island for a day) kept buying things. He was feeling pretty good sitting on a beautiful beach in-between two girls, smoking a cigar and drinking beer… he even got a message! It was quite a funny site. I spent most of the time in the water, which was as relaxing as it gets. I then made friends with a couple of 11 year old Dominican boys. We raced in the water and I practiced my Spanish. They were really cute and one of them kept holding my hand, then when it was time for him to leave he kissed me on the head. They start young here…haha.
Thursday was also a really exciting day! After class the four amigos hit the road headed to the middle of the island to find a waterfall that was supposedly only where locals went. The only problem with going somewhere that only the locals know about is that only they know how to get there. The hour and a half drive through the mountains was gorgeous. I’m a mountain girl at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love a day at the beach, but if I had to choose I would choose the mountains 9/10 of the time. My heart was so happy. After having to stop a few times and finally just having to pay someone on a motorcycle to show us where it was, we arrived. It was about a 15 minute hike to the falls. The hike was amazing. There were some questionable stairs that we had to use, but hey, that’s all part of the experience. There is something about the power of rushing water in nature that commands you to be silent. We stood in awe of this present straight from the hands of the creator. Then we went in! The water was really cold, but well worth it. We climbed around for a bit, smiling and yelling with excitement. There were about four other Dominicans there and some guys around my age who were jumping off different levels of the falls. It was quite impressive. Then we all sat around again. I was thinking of all the different types of people that the waterfall had evangelized to. I imagine it is hard to look at something so pure and simple and powerful and not think about God. Then we ate at a restaurant and headed back to our homes. The whole day I kept telling myself to stop and remember this moment. I would say to myself, “Nicole, you are in the middle of a jungle on an island with 3 people you just met two days ago, Nicole, you are living.” Then I would thank God for everything I saw. It is so easy in life to rush past things that excite you, we are constantly on the move to the next thing. It is so important to take time and enjoy the miracle that is life and all of its beautiful moments.
Friday I slept. I hadn’t been sleeping very well the past couple of nights and had several very full and exciting days in a brand new place. So I thought it was best that I pace myself and rest.”Everything in moderation, including moderation”- Oscar Wilde. I spent most of the day at the house, reading out on the terrace or playing my ukelele to Piki (the family dog) up on the roof. Around 5 I walked to the ocean , which is about 5 minutes from my house. Although, you should know you cannot swim in the ocean near my house because there is trash everywhere along the little bit of shore there is, and the rest of the water line is composed of cliffs. But it is beautiful to sit on a bench and look out to the ocean. Later that night, Marion and I got some beers and sat out on the terrace of our home (she is living in the same house as me). We had a typical girl talk conversation and then decided to go walk around town. I hadn’t been out at night yet because I don’t feel comfortable walking around by myself. The area I live in is safe but I am new to solo travel and I don’t speak much Spanish. Marion is almost fluent and has been traveling alone for years so I felt completely comfortable walking with her. We got some ice-cream and then called it a night.
Saturday I slept in till 8:30! It was a beautiful thing. I slept the whole way through the night. Then I did some laundry and hung it up on the roof to dry. Hanging laundry makes me really happy for some reason. Then I went for a walk. I walked along the coast and then headed up into the colonial district. I stopped and watched some intramural basketball teams playing. Then I bought a newspaper and sat in a park in the middle of town. In this park there are pigeons everywhere, people playing instruments, and crowds gathered around people playing dominoes. Dominoes is apparently a really popular past time here and apparently you can bet on it. The only dominoes I ever played was where you made a pretty picture and then knocked them all down. Again, I was telling myself to take a moment and remember this. To listen to the sounds of the people and the instruments and all the birds and the dogs. Again, I was so thankful for life.
On my walk back I bought two bananas and had a small conversation with the man who sold them to me at the corner store. Now I am sitting on the terrace, feeling the breeze and noticing it looks like its going to rain soon. I am thanking God for these two bananas and this newspaper.
We should not just notice the big things that make us happy, like waterfalls and beaches. We should take time and be grateful for all the small things, like bananas and newspapers. A great life, is a grateful life. You will never meet an unhappy grateful person. Sure, they feel sadness and loneliness and anger and boredom just like the rest of us, but they know that sadness makes you thankful for happiness, loneliness make you appreciate love, anger teaches you to be calm and boredom helps you to notice excitement. The grateful person realizes the process of living a happy and meaningful life. These things I have not learned on my own. God, with patience, has shown me. It is a daily battle for us, or at least for me, to see the good and not get stuck on the bad and to be thankful for all the things in my life, not just the good things.
My friends, I challenge you to spend one day writing down all the little things you are thankful for, all the little things that make you happy. You will see how quickly your page will fill up.
Dios Le Bendiga! (God Bless You)
Do you feel like God is putting something on your heart to write about? Click here to become a guest blogger on our page!