la dia primera de indepencia

I am writing from the Library at the University of Santo Domingo. There is wireless internet here (that is only slightly difficult to access) and air conditioning. I have never appreciated air conditioning as much as I do now. 🙂 It is a welcome break from the heat and humidity, and it is interesting to see the very large amount of students that study and work here.

Jill and I discovered the library yesterday, on what I am calling “la dia primera de indepencia” – or, the first day of independence. I say this because it is the first day that Jill and I ventured out into Santo Domingo on our own and without the supervision or help of our gracious hosts.

I began the day by getting up much earlier than my internal clock liked, had a quick breakfast of cereal* and left the house with Mario and his two daughters. We dropped Susy and Magda off at their respective schools first, and then he drove me into the city and to Jill’s house. As early as it was, I had to ring the doorbell several times in order to wake Jill up so that she could let me in. I like going to Jill’s house in the morning, despite the early time, because I like being able to use her shower. The shower that I have in my bathroom – while I am extremely grateful to have my own bathroom – is smaller than you would ever believe, and if you’ve been keeping up with my earlier blogs, you know some of the difficulties I have had in it. In addition, Mario has not had water at his house for a couple of days, making things that much more difficult. Jill has a very large shower and I was excited to be able to use it.

*(Some of you know about my food issues. If you do not, I have issues with food. It’s not that I am allergic to many things, but that I have an overactive imagination and a very visual mind. That said, I find myself unable to eat certain foods because I imagine other things while I eat them. Cereal (and anything that involved chunks of things in liquid) remind me of vomit. Watermelon reminds me of the inside of baby’s diapers (like when a mother puts her child in the pool in a diaper and it explodes open and the silicone comes out). So I have problems eating these things. Here, however, I have learned to overcome my food associations because I cannot afford to be picky)

I was able to get a shower before Loly came to pick Jill and I up to visit some of the many jewelry supply stores in the city. We went to three total, and were able to browse their inventory, compare prices, gets great ideas as to how to make some different types of jewelry, and get information on the classes that each of the stores offered. The people were generally very helpful and both Jill and I found the trip to be very valuable.

We returned to Jill’s house with plans to make lunch and venture out to the university (with Loly insisting that we call as soon as we arrived safely – my mother will be grateful!) We had a light lunch and called a car (yes, in Spanish, and yes with some confusion as to the actual address that we were at, but it did eventually arrive). Once we got in the car I asked the driver to take us to the library at the University, and off we went. On the way, it began to rain. When it rains in this country, it seems to rain a lot and very quickly – too quickly for the city’s drainage system to keep up with. As we drove through the traffic and the streets, it was not long before they became flooded. The people on the sidewalks began standing on benches, trees, and walls in order to avoid the shin-deep water that covered the streets and sidewalks. Somehow, our cab kept on going, though we crossed a few puddles that were big enough to make us significantly nervous!

We did, eventually, make it to the library, and by the time we arrived, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. The library here is very large, milling with countless numbers of students, and much different from what you may expect. They do not have open stack of books that one can browse or read. Each floor is designated to a certain amount of subject areas. There are three main rooms associated directly with the library on each floor – two that have computer stations, tables, and benches, and one that has shelves of books behind a large counter. In order to view books, you go to the counter and give them whatever information you have – subject matter, title, author – much like a human card catalog – and they bring you the books you need, if they have them, or redirect you to the appropriate floor. In order to take a book back to your study station, you must leave some form of photo id with them. There is no option to take books out of the library.

Jill and I took advantage of being at the library to use the internet (after a visit to tech support for help on getting our laptops to connect to their wireless network) and to see what resources the library had available on prostitution. Many of the books available were very outdated, but, we did have some luck on the fourth floor where graduate thesis work was stored. We were able to view three thesis publications and glean some valuable information and resources.

After this, we left the library and walked out onto the street. By looking at which direction the sun was setting, we were able to figure out which direction the sea was, and therefore, which direction Jill’s house was. We decided to walk down to the ocean to take some pictures – mindful that it was starting to get dark – and then call a car to take us the rest of the way. We made it to the ocean, enjoyed walking through the city, and felt very proud of ourselves for navigating as well as we had. Once at the sea, we stopped at a restaurant called el Charro to eat dinner. We had nachos and fajitas, talked, and relaxed. It was a nice time, and well deserved. From there, Jill called a car and we managed to make it back to her house where I was to wait for Frances and Loly to finish a meeting and pick me up to take me back to Mario’s.

While we waited, Jill and I watched a movie (Memoirs of a Geisha), that we still haven’t finished. Loly and Frances picked me up and drove me back to Mario’s house, where I all but passed out when I hit the bed. It was a good day, and I feel really good about having navigated some of the city alone. It is a significant experience for both Jill and I  – one that was important to have whether it worked out well or not. Luckily for us, it worked out wonderfully.

My time at the library tonight is coming to a close. Jill and I need to make it back to her house and find something to eat for dinner before we venture out onto the streets with Casa Joven to minister to the women on the streets. It should be an amazing night.

Buenas Noches!


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