La Madrina

Standard

I arrived back in Bombita after a short break in the UK to visit family, to be met by two very exc ited girls. ¡El bebè llegaba! Their joy was infectious, and with all the excitement of the shepherds running to the stable, I rushed to meet the new member of my dear friends’ family. This is a very materially reduced family, nevertheless, the love that shines from mum, Francia, fills me to overflowing.

Josè Alberto is loved by the whole family. He is the last of 5 children. As I had my first cuddle, Keysi, the elder sister, told me, !Tu eres la madrina! You are the godmother. What a privilege to be invited into this family.krkr

Since all this happened, Alberto is “growing in grace and favour“. It is the culture here for babies’ mothers to stay close by their mothers, and Francia continues to live with her mother while she  nurses the baby.

I have been thinking a great deal about being a godmother, and what that means for both me and Alberto. I have re-visited words of the service of baptism in Common Worship, and asked myself if I am willing to pray for Alberto and help him to be a member of Christ’s church. I love those prayers and the thought of all of us being a family in Christ.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child

My first gift to Alberto, apart from my prayers, was a quilt, my first attempt at patchwork. The family love it, and take turns to lie on it, although Alberto does have first dibs!

krkr

kr

Our Daily Bread

Standard

Danos hoy el pan que necesitamos

I love the Lord’s Prayer. I love being part of a praying community and sharing the words with others, but equally, I love relaxing into those familiar words when I am on my own. Sometimes, when life feels hard and I don’t know how or what to pray, I just recite it over and over again until my mind is full of the goodness and graciousness of  the Creator. It is then that I realise the true sense of what it means to have enough to satisfy not just the body, but the soul.

I have always been a bkrig bread eater. Give me a loaf and a jar of Marmite and I am completely satisfied. It is impossible to buy Marmite here, for that I have to rely on the generosity of friends in the UK and the much welcomed and longed for Mission Flight. Bread comes in many guises. In a bag, from the supermarket it is quite horrid so we have to look to other ways for the staff of life.

Out in Bombita it is possible to buy rubbery white rolls from the colmada. Haitian bread is baked on huge open fires out in the roads, and is always a treat when available. The only problem is that I can only buy that when the bakers have enough money to buy the ingredients. Often I have i left the Mission House with a pan of soup bubbling, only to return empty handed. For this reason i have perfected a fool-proof and quick soda bread.

Mix together half a cup of milk and a good slosh of cider vinegar and set aside for the milk to curdle. In a bowl put four cups of all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons polvo de hornear (baking powder)  and mix. Slowly add the milk mixture. You might have to add a splash more milk to make a managable dough. Bake for about 40 mins until golden and hollow sounding on the bottom. Eat and enjoy with home made soup and toast the left-overs for breakfast.

I use a slight variation on this for delicious flat breads, served with homemade humous, which Teressa  enjoyed with us for supper at the weekend.

kr

krWhen all else fails , there will always be someone calling at the house to sell a type of bread or cake. Yoranny called today to ask if i wanted some spicy maize cake.

Daily bread is very special and a new experience every day.

 

The Knitting project

Standard

All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. (Acts 9:39)

I love the story of Dorcas. How inspirational it is to read about a knitting group right back in the port of Joppa, in the first century. I can imagine her, gathering her yarn and needles and settling down for a session of creativity with other women. I think that women, working together to make clothes and accessories gives them a solidarity, and I believe that the author of Acts thought so too.

DSCF6658

In the 6 months that I have been living in Bombita, I have taught, with varying degrees of success, about 30 girls and women to knit.  We started with a simple purse, and are gradually progressing to more challanging projects. The results have been generally pleasing although in somes cases, I have been reminded of “Cecil’s Singlet”!

It’s fancy where it should be plain.

The spirit if knitting is infectious, and not a day goes by without someone asking me for needles, yarn or to teach them to knit. The group I started in Bombita in Janauary is currently on a break as it got too big for me to manage. We will reconvene in August, when the new school opens and I have a taller to work in.

In addition to teaching, I have been busy knitting hats and baby shoes for the new babies of Bombita. I love visiting the  new-borns to bring a gift, and of course, it is a good chance to practice some converstion.

kr

This week, I am looking forward to meeting up with Agujetas Soliarias in Santo Domingo. This is a group of  women who “donar puntas” by making hats for premature babies and women with cancer.

 

Friends and other strangers

Standard

Tratadlo Como a uno de vosotros; amadlo, pues est como vosotros. Además, tambien fuisties extranjeros en Egipto. Yo soy el Señor vuestros Dios

The bible talks a lot about how we should treat strangers and I would like to think that I have had a special concern for new comers in my neighbourhood. I can’t say that I have been on the doorstep with a cassarole the day they moved in but I look out for them, make a point of smiling, looking for an excuse, albeit tenuous, to speak. I have been living here in Batay Bombita for 5 months and what an eye-opener it has been, not least because I am the stranger here. Everything about me is different from the people I see from day to day. It isn’t just the obvious differences, skin colour and my flat silver-blonde hair, that mark me out, it is the cultural differences, for example how I drink coffee.  Dominicans like a tiny cup of strong black coffee with masses of sugar, whereas I like mine long and milky with no sugar. The cooking of an Easter treat, Habituelas con Dulce in the play ground really emphasised how different life is here.

IMG_20140423_164211

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s word awaits another voice T.S. Eliot.

There is no doubt that the language barrier is the biggest hurdle to fitting in.  Sometimes I find myself surrounded by a series of sounds almost indistinguishable,  the children speak to each other in the hushed tones reserved for the sick and elderly, “Elle no hable Español” In many ways I am grateful to this huge divide, because, as Elliot suggests, new language is the gateway to new ideas, a fresh expression. As I learn to live a different life, why should I not learn this beautiful language? The miracle is that I really am learning it. Yes, I miss many words, but today, as I visited baby Oscar, and his mother told me he had learned to walk, I could congratulate him and laugh with the family as he struggled across the room to grap “un chin” of cake.

See, I am doing a new thing

The prophet Isaiah writes of a desert flourishing as water flows, and I feel as my language flourishes, my relationships grow. Plus, I love the word “corsas” – “things” in English.  I can use it in just about every conversation and, new or old, it always fits!

kr

 

Quote

En verdad is Diego, que est viuda pobre echo más que todo

Lucas 21:3

DSCF6621

I am just back at the Mission House after a cooking lesson with Ana and her family. Their modest home was full of fun this evening as they put on a very raunchy video for us to watch. In room smaller than the main room here in the Mission house, at least 10 children and a baby sat glued to the screen while sundry women stood around, laughing and joking.

Ana had so wanted us to visit. Earlier this week, she introduced me to her mother and on Friday she asked if the family could cook for us. As this family have few resources, she gave me a shopping list; their gift to us was the act of cooking. A wonderful meal of Dominican Espaghetti was produced in one pot over the Haitian charcoal stove. (Note to self: Don’t go visiting in confined spaces with open fires in a long skirt)

This weekend, I have been out in Barahona, preaching for International Women’s day, and this evening I saw the women we salute in action. With so little, Ana’s mother keeps her family spotless and well cared for. Ana talked of how she wants to be a doctor when she is older. At least we know that thanks to COPA she is off to a good start.

Mission House Musings

Gracias Señor

Standard

DSCF6587There is a very telling line in the film “The Descendants”, when the protagonist, Matt King, warns that one should not be taken in by appearance. He says that people in Hawaii may dress like “bums”, but they can be as harsh and cutting as any business suited man. I often think about that here in the Dominican Republic. The sun and palm trees create a facade of beauty, but living here is as hard as living anywhere else in the world. I think that is important to remember. We are here to do job and like any other job, it has its ups and downs, they’re just different. Perhaps a good mantra for life anywhere is:

The fun part doesn’t come later, now is the fun part (Gretchen Rubin)

In other words, take the deeply spiritual ideal of enjoying the “now”. We are just back from a break of less than 24 hours,DSCF6602but it has done me as such good as a fortnight’s holiday. After booking into a beachside B&B, we had  chicken and moros (rice and beans), we relaxed on the beach until returning to the hotel for the supper we cooked of Dominican style spaghetti. Our room was simple, with apple green walls and white sheets. We slept to the sound of the sea and gentle rain. After a breakfast of fresh fruit, coffee and eggs, we beached combed, played with a group of young boys and admired the skill of the local fishermen.  I thought of W.B. Yeats indulging in his vision of paradise in his poem, The Lake Isle of Innesfree and how he promises himself he will always remember that sense of beauty.

While I stand on the road way, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core

Praise the Lord for Dominican time keeping! We arrived at church expecting it to be over but a chance to catch my colleague, Carlos. Instead the service was still in full flow. So this next week brings teaching English in school, the start of a new knitting project as well as continuing with the usual one, a conference to prepare for International Women’s day and a sermon to write for Sunday. As the children say each day at Fila, Gracias Señor! Amen!

DSCF6596

The fruits of the season

Standard

Thou visitest the earth and blessest it, and blessest it.

(Maurice Greene)

As I write, the sugar cane harvest is in full swing. Batay Bombita is surrounded by sugar cane fields and the harvest is a sight to behold.

DSC_0032

Prior to cutting the fields are burnt in preperation for harvesting. With the fields ablaze, the atmosphere becomes ethereal, the green of the fields turns first to red, then gold, with clouds of smoke billowing into the bluest of skies. To stand, watching this spectacle really is to be in the presence of the Creator, who

….Crowns the the year with goodness and gives us the fruits of the earth in their season

Once harvested, the cane is loaded onto the open carts of trains, which travel along the rickerty track to the factory. This is a sight from Casy Jones, for, although not a steam train, there is something beautiful and antiquated about the streams of trucks shunting along. At night, the last truck has a fire at the back and along the wayside, cane is strown, allowing cattle to graze on a sweet treat.

Superficially, this is a land of eternal summer, but after only a few months here, we are getting to grips with the changing seasons. This is particulaly evident in our weekly trips to the market in Barahona. Last week it was rich in herbs. Bunches of lemon grass, tarragon and the ubiquitous corianders were laid out in piles. Grapefruits have come into season, but melons, prolific only a few weeks ago, seem to be no linger avaliable. Bananas, likewise, come and go.

kr

There are many fruits and vegetables, which are unknown both in name and in taste. I have bought and cooked a chayote. This fibrous vegetable is cooked in stews with meat or beans. Almost tastless on is own, it absorbs other flavours, making it a useful additon to the Mission House Kitchen, especially as it always seems to be in season.kr

The last week has been one of the most challanging since we arrived in October. There have been numerous problems with utilities and tempers have run as high as the temperature. Certainly, there have been more then a few tears shed.  This being the case, I have been reminded of another harvest, one that is always in season and ready to nourish even the tiredest of missionaries!

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Mas el fruto del Espiritu es amor, gozo, paz, longanimidad, benignidad, bondad, fidelidad, mansedumbre y dominio propio.