The end of my freshmen year ended with the worst sunburn I've ever gotten. But I suppose it was a good way to end the year - at the beach with friends. My sister Cat came to visit me for a week and a half, and, even though she got a reality check of what living in L.A. is really like - mainly traffic - it was still a great time together. She got to meet my friends, we saw Pirates 4 at midnight together, and we got beach time. Unfortunately, for most of the time she was there, I had to study and prepare for finals, so she had many solo adventures - including meeting the Season 10 American Idol finalists and some of the past winners (including Carrie Underwood and Kris Allen). Yes, I was jealous.
Summer has been wonderful, hot, long, bittersweet, itchy, and a time of growth. The day after I got home from the 3-day trip home, I went to my aunt's house where I've been living during the weeks so I can babysit during the day here in Atlanta. I started my job with a half-peeling, half-swollen face (that sunburn...). I warned them ahead of time because I didn't want to scare the kids on my first day (ages 8 and 6, girl and boy). Thankfully, I didn't and they've actually been pretty great kids to babysit, though a bit spoiled at times. I did that for three weeks, going home on the weekends, and then I had a few days at home before I left for the Dominican Republic.
Throughout those three weeks, I'd been reading old letters that my grandmother had written to her mom and sister throughout her life. I didn't have time to finish them all before my trip (and I still haven't finished), but I did learn a lot about my grandmother through them. For instance, she had a lot of boyfriends. (So did my mother, but the trend apparently stopped with me and my sisters ;) ) I also realized what a brave woman she was. She graduated from Moody Bible Institute, spent a year in Belgium as a single missionary learning French, then was a missionary in Congo before she met my grandfather (who was a widower with three small children), married him and instantly became a mother of those girls, then moved to the Dominican Republic to be a missionary and learn Spanish.
Once in the D.R., the first week and a half I spent with just my mom in the capital city, Santo Domingo. We stayed with a friend of hers who had the cutest little cocker spaniel that I fell in love with. We arrived on a Wednesday; Thursday morning we left for a campground in a city called Maímon, where we went with the team four years ago. This time my mom spoke at a women's conference there until Saturday. I attended the meetings, tried to understand as much Spanish as I could, and ate very delicious food. I also interviewed a few older ladies that went to the early churches that my grandfather started. I enjoyed talking to them and learning about my grandfather - especially one lady who became a Christian because of Grandpa and had five children who grew up in the Lord because of that and her children now have children that have grown up in a strong, Christian home. It was very cool to see that influence and to hear these ladies talk about how much my grandfather influenced their lives.
We left the camp on Saturday and went back to Santo Domingo, staying with my mom's friend. We spent some time with my aunt and cousin that live in the capital on Saturday and Sunday, as well as attending my mom's friend's church. Spanish church services are fun, even though I can't understand much of the sermon. Monday, I spent the morning/afternoon chilling and relaxing at the house, while it poured and flooded outside (they don't have any drainage system) and my mom worked with another friend to prepare for a teacher's conference she was teaching at the next week. Monday night, we had dinner with some of my mom's friends and more people who knew my grandparents. I was able to interview all of them; it was my favorite interview to do because their ideas bounced off each other and they shared many interesting and funny stories. I learned how strict my grandmother was and how much of a jokester my grandfather was (I know where Cat gets it from now).
Tuesday, we drove 2 hours west and visited two cities - La Romana (where my mom was born) and San Pedro. I saw a few of the church/schools that my grandparents started and interviewed the pastors. I also enjoyed good food and delicious fruit drinks (the cherry and passion fruit drinks were my favorite!).
Wednesday, we drove 2 hours east and visited another two cities - Azua (I kept wanting to say Azusa, as in APU) and San Cristobal, where I saw more church/schools and interviewed more pastors. The pastor of the Azua church/school cried when I interviewed him as he remembered my grandfather. He told me that Grandpa treated him as a son and that when he and his family found out that he had died, his children cried in their rooms because it was like their grandfather had died. That was very touching; I'd never really known how much my grandfather had influenced people.
Thursday, Mom and I took a trip to the beach! I got my hair braided (it makes it easier to handle in the heat and cold showers!), enjoyed the cool, clear Caribbean Sea, and suntanned for a little bit. Unfortunately, then it started raining, so we had to leave the beach early. But it was still a fun day!
Friday, we visited the Compassion Headquarters of the Dominican Republic. I had never known this before, but my grandmother was the director there for almost ten years; when she started, they only had 3 orphanages; when she finished, they had 60! She was quite amazing.
Saturday, we went to the airport to pick up the team from church and headed four hours north on a bus to Puerto Plata. We stayed with different members of the church there; my mom and I stayed with the pastor and his wife (the sister of the lady we stayed with in Santo Domingo), good friends of my mom and a family I've known my whole life. It was good seeing them again.
Monday, we prepared for the VBS we were going to do all week and we also did cleaning and painting around their newly cemented basketball court. We handed out invitations to the VBS on Monday as well.
Tuesday-Friday we spent mornings cleaning and painting and the afternoons working the VBS. The kids are absolutely adorable! They love talking to you, even though they know you can't understand them, and taking pictures with you. On Wednesday morn, instead of working, we got to go up a mountain in a cable car. It had the prettiest views! Mountains on one side, the ocean on the other. Throughout the week, we also were put into groups with the Dominican teens from their youth group and had to perform with them Friday night. My group did a choreographed dance thing - it was a lot of fun, especially trying to communicate! I felt that I got a lot better at my Spanish the second week, when I didn't have my mother translator with me all the time ;)
Saturday was beach day! We went to Sosua, a beach that my family has always loved because of its veryyyy clear and warm water (the Atlantic Ocean). It was super fun and we got to do some shopping; but sadly, once again it rained. Except it didn't just rained. It poured, while we were shopping. And they don't have good drainage systems. The shops were outside shops, basically right on the beach, so there were literally little rivers going from the shops to the ocean, and as we ran from shop to shop, sometimes your leg would disappear up to your calf in the water. It was quite an adventure!
Sunday, we went to church and then drove four hours back to Santo Domingo. We were originally not going to do this until Monday (the day our flight left), but there was a nationwide strike planned for that day and it would be very dangerous to drive on the road that long (people would put spikes and smoking tires in the road to keep you from driving and working). So we were able to stay at a guest house of SCORE International (a place for baseball players) so there were many baseball fields around us. Then Monday, we left and God kept us safe from any riots or anything and got us to the airport safely. We flew home and the adventure ended. It was the weirdest feeling for me, coming home. I wasn't homesick, yet I didn't necessarily desire to stay longer in the D.R. I wasn't anxious to get home; it was just what I was supposed to do next so I was doing it. I realized that I was becoming disassociated with my home, which makes me sad. Living at college for a year and then living with my aunt most of the summer has made me not be homesick for my home all the time. I know it's a part of growing up, but it's weird and I don't really like it.
I had the rest of the week off from babysitting, which was nice because I got to process everything from the trip and unwind, and also help my mom clean the house. I learned a lot about my grandparents that I never knew - my grandmother died before my mom was even married and Grandpa lived in Michigan so I only saw him two or three times a year and he died when I was 12. My grandparents live on through many people's memories, and through those memories, I got to get to know my grandparents. It was a little difficult trying to compare what I read in my grandmother's letters to people's memories because I only got to the 1950s in her letters and most people were remembering things from the 70s and 80s. But I'm hoping to continue reading them and be able to have faces to put with names. I also got to get to know some of the young people in the youth group at my church now and that was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed hanging out with them; it was a new experience for me to be the older one on the mission trip.
Liz came home from China the Saturday after we got back. It was the first time my whole family had been together in 13 months, so it was a wonderful time. It's weird how some things never change, even if all the circumstances have changed. Family time was great, but I had to go back to my aunt's house in Atlanta Sunday night to start babysitting again Monday.
This past weekend, we had two family reunions, due to the fact that Liz is home. They were fun, as they always are! (And they always have good food - the desserts for the two days were banana pudding, delicious chocolate cake, and Oreo cheesecake.)
Babysitting is still going well. I got to go to Six Flags with the kids last week, and today I took them to the Atlanta Zoo - I'd never been before and it was really cool! We're going to go to the Aquarium next week, so having trips during the day makes my job very nice and fun.
Next week is my last week babysitting and then next weekend, we go up to Ohio for Kylee's wedding (Liz is the maid-of-honor). Liz leaves Thursday for Ohio, so I'm not seeing her again til the wedding. Then the day after the wedding, she heads back to China for another year. It'll be weird saying bye to her again after such a short time with her. But next summer, she'll be able to come home the whole summer.
The week after the wedding, I'll get to stay home, visit friends, and do a lot of reading for school! Then I head back to Biola on August 14 for Torrientation and I am ready to go back! Granted, I do have to do that reading and finish preparing the meal plan for Torrientation, but I miss all my friends (I've only really talked to three of them this summer) and I miss the community. And the no-rain. It hasn't quit raining since I was in the D.R. and I'm getting tired of it. And I don't tire of rain easily. Anyways, this has been long enough, and I'm tired and have to get up at 6 in the morning. So I think this is a good overview of how my summer's been going :)
"It's gonna be a long hot summer. We should be together."
- Long Hot Summer, Keith Urban