Things have been CRAZY here. CRAZY.
We have 19 teams coming through our UMVIM program this month (AHHH!) and right now we're in the middle of it. There have been teams and out and going all over Haiti. It's been fun but... crazy.
Anyway, in the midst of this, we had to take 3 days off to travel to the Dominican Republic. Actually, we could have traveled anywhere, but we absolutely had to leave the country in order to actually leave the country in the long run. You're not allowed to be in Haiti for more than 3 months without leaving so we left before Mike's time here would "expire."
So we took a bus to Santo Domingo.
BEST IDEA EVER.
I mean, it was a little strange getting there. It's basically an 8 hour drive to get there and you stop 3 times in the middle of it to do all the documentation of leaving Haiti and going into the Dominican. What was especially weird about this, though, was that the "stewardess" on the bus actually held our passports for us and did not let us keep them. It made us quite uneasy at first, but once we realized it was all part of the system, we were a bit more relaxed - although it still felt strange for someone we didn't know to be controlling our passports...
Once we arrived in the Dominican, though, it felt like a whole new world.
No earthquake destruction, poverty was a lot less obvious, the cities had actually been planned and laid out in a logical, grid-like manner, and (once you get to the bigger cities anyway) they had American chain restaurants! Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Baskin Robbins - oh my!
When we reached Santo Domingo, we hopped in a cab and arrived at our hotel. We stayed in a 16th century building. It was the coolest thing EVER. Here's the link to our hotel.
The next day was our big sight-seeing day. I was so glad that we ended up taking one full day in Santo Domingo. We desperately needed a break and it was the perfect way to "get away" and be around something different. When you live here, you don't realize just how much seeing destruction and poverty everywhere really starts to affect your emotional health until you leave it. Just the change in scenery was de-stressing. Again, a MUCH needed break.
As part of our sight-seeing, though, we explored the walking street. I ended up buying a painting (that was much more than I really wanted to spend) and it's AMAZING. I've always wanted to be one of those ladies that has a house with all kinds of unique pieces of art around it, and this is the perfect beginning. I love it.
Then we explored some other parts of town and hired a guide to show us all the historical sites in the afternoon. I didn't realize how important Santo Domingo's history was/is to the western hemisphere - but apparently it's quite important. Columbus landed there and began to colonize it but never actually lived there himself. However, he built a mansion there (with the intention to live in, but again - never ended up living in) which his son eventually lived in. It's a beautiful house.
Besides that, shortly after Columbus first arrived, the first church built in the western hemisphere was built there. In fact, it still stands today. It's also (as expected) beautiful.
Last night, though, as our final "hurrah" we decided to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe in Santo Domingo. It was a slice of heaven and it took us "home" for a short while. It really was the perfect ending to a perfect day and a perfect mini-vacation.
I plan to post pictures of the short event tomorrow. I have a ton of photos so get excited.
Anyway, tomorrow we hit the ground running and the pace will keep up for the next 2-3 weeks. Although it may be stressful at times, it is so cool to see all the dedicated, spirit-filled folks who come through here and to see how much work is done for God's glory. I am constantly in awe and so grateful for the opportunity to participate in God's great plan for Haiti.
Love to all,