As I packed my bags for my QU301 trip to Dominican Republic, I was entirely unaware of the incredible adventure to come. Sure, I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and traveled to 7 other countries during that period; however, even with those experiences under my belt, I could have never imagined the impact this place would leave on me.
Everything was a beautiful in its own way: La Romana, Casa Pastoral, Batey La Papita, Batey 50, the churches, the caña, the landscape, the animals; however, what I value most are the people I met along the way. Throughout my 9 days in this extraordinary place, I was able to develop many relationships with the people. Whether my encounters with a person were short, only lasting for a few moments, or were long, lasting for multiple hours per day, each one was unique in its own way. Regardless of the evident inability to hold deep and concise conversations due to the language barrier, I was able to connect with people in a variety of different fashions. These connections gave me a better understanding of who these people really were, what they felt, and what they believed.
One person that I connected with the first time that we arrived at Batey 50 was a young boy named Christopher. Christopher is 5 years old and grabbed me immediately as I stepped off the bus the first day. Me being unable to speak his language and him being unable to speak mine, we hung out and communicated through a mixture of facial expressions, laughs, and hand gestures. We even created a game that we both understood, which was composed of him jumping up and latching onto me with his legs, in order for him to pump out some sit-ups, while hanging upside down. The entire first day was filled with uncontrollable laughter and by the end of the trip, we had spent most of every day in Batey 50 together. We played on my phone together, listened to music together, and went on trips through the Batey together as he introduced me to his entire extended family. With little to no full sentences formed, other than teaching each other our own native languages, Chris and I developed a strong bond that will last a lifetime. Leaving him on the last day was difficult, but after a super strong hug and one last go at our handshake, I loaded the bus and he watched as we drove away. This was the moment when I realized how close I had become with someone that I had barely spoken to. All of my experiences from the trip were put into perspective and I realized how strong a bond with someone could be, even when there is little to no dialogue.
Other than Christopher, I grew close to a handful of other great people: Heriberto, Ashley, Ghanzi, Crystal just to name a few; each met using a unique form of communication. To this end, communication now holds a different understanding for me. Communication isn’t necessarily the action of speaking verbally to get your point across. Rather, communication encompasses every way that living beings interact with one other in order to understand each other. I am so grateful for getting the opportunity to learn this in such a unique environment and I look forward to returning to the Dominican Republic in the future to continue developing relationships with such great people. See you soon amigos!