……Reflections……

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Sometimes I look at my life and I just can’t believe where I am and how I got here.  For those of you who know me, it is no secret that I tend to be a ‘glass half empty’ type of gal.  I loved to read the year book and dream of being in an exciting land trekking through rivers and villages to preach, having that one experience where  the person you walked 100 miles to meet tells you they have been praying for the truth.  However when it came down to it, it turned out that my fear would not allow me to even work toward such a goal.  To be honest, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the support from my parents and congregation and a dear friend of mine with her zealous, energizer-bunny, optimistic personality.  She motivated me to make this goal and gave me the confidence that if I had the right motives and had a little faith, Jehovah would help me reach it.  And he has, every step of the way.  I am so thankful to my parents for sticking with me and helping me stick with my goal.

It is so funny how we say “Trust in Jehovah” so easily and just as easily forget to do it.  There is always a point where we feel it is time to take the control back, as if we gave Jehovah the chance to take care of us but he didn’t come through.  There have been so many times since the beginning of this whole adventure where this is exactly what I did.  However, with good council from trusted friends I would again ‘throw my burden on Jehovah’ and then watch in amazement how everything got worked out.

Case and point: Finding a roommate.  The beginning of this year I started to think of looking for a bigger place and maybe a roommate once the lease expired at my studio.  I have found it a bit of a struggle not being able to invite people over to my place because it is just so awkward to invite people to hang out in what is essentially my bedroom…I know people say it is no big deal, but I just feel way to uncomfortable, not to mention that I have only one chair and very few dishes.  So I thought it would be good to actually have a front room.  I started to ask if anyone was looking for a roommate and scouting out all the apartments.  But nothing was coming through, and I started to get a little stressed and discouraged.

Last week I happened to be on the English side of town and I decided to call every rent sign and find my new place that day.  I was praying the whole walk around town, saying that if I get a good deal that feels right on the English side I would move to the English congregation and wait to joint the sign.  (I had a small overwhelming meltdown where I thought there was no way I could join the ASL)  Well after 2 1/2 hours of walking around town I had nothing.  And I took that to mean that I was just supposed to renew my lease at the studio and stay there for another year.  I was a little unhappy with that outcome, but I decided I couldn’t wait for Jehovah any longer, it was time to make a decision.

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Monica and my new roomie, Dana

Of course I still kept it in my prayers, and a few days later I received an email from Dana, a sister from the ASL (she is the one who would accompany me to Clara Luz when I was commissioned to go by Big T) She mentioned that she was without a roommate and asked if I was still interested…..WAS I??? I went out in service with her this morning (Yay first day of track work!) and then she showed me the apartment.  It is a little far off from town, but that complex is beautiful and very safe, and it just felt right!  We get on great together and we will both be in the ASL so that’s a plus! It just goes to show we are expected to make ourselves available, put forth our best effort, but then we need to wait on Jehovah and he will always come through!

7 days to go!  I am so excited!  Today there are two sisters from NY coming to serve here for a year and they will be renting out my studio while I am in the states.   So I will stay at the Bells for next week and then CALI HERE I COME!  Alright, so this means for all of you out there interested in serving here there are many places to stay.  My studio will be open.  $150.00 includes a fully furnished studio, water, electricity, and even cable! The 2 bedroom next door to me will be open soon too.  It’s not furnished but it is a decent size. It is just under $300.00 including utilities.  My landlady also just built another studio downstairs, fully furnished, for about $175.00 .  And don’t forget if you are interested in staying just for a short time that both Marty and The Bells offer a Bed & Bath for $10 per person per night.

Well life is going pretty good right now, I must say.  I thank Jehovah for all these blessings and I am truly in debt to all who have made my adventure as wonderful as it is.  So, without further delay, on with the pictures!

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Awww!! English Congregation, you guys are all so cool!
(left to right: Jessica, Hanna, Rachel, Sarah, Madison with her dad behind, Janet, Amber, Brandon, Adela, Alexis and Esmirna)

Alexis and Janet wanted to stop by the Orphanage before they went back to California to say good bye to the kids they grew attached to.  It was a little sad to see them say good bye, they are such good kids.

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Watching the videos for kids in Spanish on Jw.org

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Yanira looking beautiful

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Yes, super adorable…..but all trouble.

 

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This came out strange…anyways
(Left to right: Esmalin, Me, Alexis, Yordaliza, Janet, Yizel, Yanira and Esteban.)

Picture Time!

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Hello all! 3 weeks to go! I am actually getting really excited to go back to Cali, I can’t believe how fast this month is going by!  Well here are some pictures to keep y’alls interested.  Enjoy!

Special day English

Special day English

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Surprise shot at the English Congregation Gathering

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Crazy Faces (Me, Catherine and Esmirna)

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Arrived at the study tonight and we were waiting for Teresa….had fun with the camera…

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Oh dear…someone gave me a baby…Don’t they know that isn’t a good idea…

waahh! baby

Yep…ok there’s why….

jorge

Jorge knows it is best to be afraid of me…

Nichole n Esa n baby head

Me and Nichole and Leah’s head

Sisters

sisters

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Sunset from the roof

I Am Too Legit To Quit!!

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So this is how it feels to be a resident of the Dominican Republic.  Before I was un-legit.  I just had a piece of paper I carried around that said my paper work to become a legal resident was in order.  But now, now I have not one but TWO identification cards with my face on them!  How legit is that?

If you recall I had started my residency process within a few days of arriving in the country.  I just received the email stating my residency was ready about 2 weeks ago.  My appointment was for today at 10:30 a.m. in the capital.  That means the 7:00 a.m. bus from Cariribe Tours in Santiago.  Everything was going smoothly until I was about 2 minutes from the station in Santo Domingo and I looked in my purse only to find my passport was no where to be found…That was the one document I was required to bring and where was it?  Not with me, nope.  It was laying on my bed all the way back in Santiago.  I was starting to seriously panic.  When I called the Holt and Abreu Lawyers office they said it was required, but that they would see what they could do.  I was pretty convinced that I had just taken a 3 hour bus ride for kicks and would be going home empty handed.

I called the recommended taxi driver who happened to be a brother to pick me up from Caribe Tours.  As I was waiting for the taxi I noticed a couple dressed very nicely.  When I looked closer I saw the man had a Spanish tract in his front pocket.  He noticed the Watchtower I was holding and so we introduced ourselves.  They were originally from Oregon, but they have been in the country for about a year now and were on their way to the same place to collect their residency as well.

When the taxi arrived we learned there was a fourth, and she soon arrived.  Jill from Texas, just starting her process.  When we arrived at the office we were greeted with a whole group of needgreaters completing their residency process!  It was very stressful having to to this whole process, but it was made so much more enjoyable with my brothers and sisters.  It was an all day process so we were able to share all of our stories with each other.  “Where you from?”. “Where are you serving?”, “How long have you been here?”, “What language?”, etc.  It was such an encouraging, wonderful experience and I am so grateful to Jehovah for blessing me with such privileges.

The Immigration accepted the copy of my passport, (another thing to thank Jehovah for) and now I have a residency card and my very own cedula!  I am sooooo legit I can’t stand it!  I can go set up a cell phone…ON MY OWN!! This is awesome.  I am happy that it is all taken care of and I don’t have to worry about it again until next February.

And now, some pictures for your viewing pleasure!  Thanks for the emails, I love hearing from you guys!  Keep ‘m coming!

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We did evening witnessing yesterday. (left to right: Nicky, Armando and Cesar)

 

 

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Armando, Nicky and his mom Joesfina

 

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awww,, they picked up a lil homeless girl there on the left…OH!….that’s me..

 

 

 

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Nancy! One of the lovely sisters I met today.

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The top one is the Residency, and the bottom is the Cedula. Whoop!

I feel…I think I may be homesick…or maybe its just a parasite….

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31 DAYS!!!  Today is the first day of the count down.  I have been so busy lately that I haven’t been paying attention to the date.  I have started working  for a second English teaching company, this one out of Moscow.  There is a lot more work involved with this company, but it is better pay.  Also, Teresa had corrective eye surgery done and so I took some of her studies for a couple weeks.  That is an incredibly easy sentence to type, but I can’t even convey how much work it involved.  When you do not have a car it is difficult to get to studies, and they are never close to each other.  Even with the conchos, there is a lot of walking involved.  And not to brag or anything, but it is still incredibly hot here.  Not as bad as the summer,but we went to the beach the other day and it was LOVELY! So taking these studies has been a nice taste of what my new focus will be starting May, once I move to the ASL.  I am looking forward to starting my own studies!

Now that Teresa is back and on here way to recovery she has taken back her studies and I’ve had time to take a breath.  So it would seem logical that this is the perfect time for my laptop to die.  Dead, as in super dead, as in ‘No soup for you!’ dead.  I mean, it really isn’t surprising, since I use it everyday for hours on end, either studying, teaching, blogging, etc.  But I was still completely shocked when it decided to pack up.  What had happened was I had just finished working all day teaching my classes and decided to look up a recipe for dinner.  I went into the kitchen and I heard it go ”etetetehh, sszzzweerrrrmmp!”…..I tried to turn it on…nada.  I probably sat and stared at it for a good hour before it really sunk in.  My whole life, just gone.  I had classes starting the next morning at 7 and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what a dead laptop meant for me.  So I finally snapped out of it enough to do what I always do in times of crisis: GO TO THE BELLS!!!  They helped me stay calm and made sure that I was able to make my classes, and then Gladys (probably the most awesome sister in the whole world) let me borrow her laptop.  I went today to have it checked out, and I was told, “No sirve” because it was just old….I think it may have been a little too technical for me….But I was able to get an enclosure for the hard drive, so at least I still have all my files.

On a lighter note, I gave my first talk last night!!! Whooo, I was soooo nervous.  but it went smooth, thank you Jehovah!  I had written the talk in English, then my house holder, Yasmeli, translated it for me.  Everyone was well impressed! It was a pretty exciting night because it was also announced that the congregation would be moving to the Villa Olympica Kingdom Hall because we were just too big for the current one.  It is very crowded, sometimes the chairs are so close together its difficult to stand for the song!  The first meeting at the new hall will be March 7th, so I will be able to go before my trip home.  They are also hoping to start a group in the Campo.  So some will be moving out to support that.  It is just constantly moving forward here!  If you have had a chance to read some of Aaron’s blog you can see the progress in the English, which is just awe inspiring.

Lately I have been making a special effort to improve the focus of my prayers, ever since the last assembly.  I have decided to make a list of the specific things that I am concerned about, what I think I need, and certain qualities I would like to improve upon.  In less than a month I have been able to check off:

-A second job (and it pays more!)

-Equipment for teaching in ASL

-More studies in the ministry

-Cutting out unnecessary stress

Everything that I am putting into prayer is being met with an answer.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this, its just wow!  Jehovah is awesome!  Also, when I receive an answer, even if it is not the one I was hoping for, it is so much easier to accept because I know that I have been praying about it and this is what Jehovah has provided.  Even with the dead laptop I feel I am being blessed.  How many people would lend their laptop to you in an instant for as long as you needed?  If I didn’t have Jehovah’s organization I would be so lost!

Well, with all of this action over here I almost forgot that I will be in California IN 31 DAYS!!!!  I have started a list of things I need to bring back with me, now added to that list is a Laptop.  Along with multi-vitamins, GSE, curtains, Hairspray, body wash, shoes (I’ve had to throw away 3 pairs already!) and a hot shower.  Oh, I guess I can’t bring the last one back with me….

I have been living in this country for almost 10 months, and I can’t say that I have felt homesick.  There have been times that I get overwhelmed with the language barrier, and I wish I could just walk into a store and communicate exactly what I want instead of causing a big scene because the American accidentally ordered a pig head instead of a ham and cheese sandwich.  And sometimes I wish the phrase “let’s go on some studies” would mean, “let’s hop in an air conditioned car and drive to a study” instead of “let’s walk for 20 years and then hop in a smelly, dirty, hot concho with 12 other people and then try to crawl out gracefully in a skirt.”  But these times are few and far between, and I can honestly say that all of it is worth it.  I am thankful to all those here who have made it possible for me to have such wonderful experiences.   It is heartwarming to watch the truth of Jesus’ words in Mark 10:29, 30 come to life for me.  Even though I am thousands of miles away from my family it is as if I stepped right into another one here.  It truly is a blessing to be part of this international brotherhood.

So thank you Jehovah!  He is seriously working overtime for me it seems, I am overwhelmed with all of the blessings!  Like one brother said, if you stay at Jehovah’s table, you can’t run from a blessing!

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Out in the Campo on a Study

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Teresa and Yoanna

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The DVD player given to me by an amazing couple! I am soooo grateful!

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Can you believe we are swimming in the ocean in JANUARY!!!!

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Me, Nikaury and Yasmeli at meeting

Thank you for your emails! I love hearing from the friends and I always reply, so keep them up!  I am looking forward to seeing everyone back home!  31 DAYS TO GO!!

Dinosaurs! RAAWWRRR!!

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DINOSAURS!! The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Jarabacoa is Jurassic Park and Dinosaurs. In fact,  The waterfall Salto Jimenoa Uno was used in a scene of the movie.  With absolutely breathtaking views of giant green mountains and magnificent waterfalls, it is no wonder that this is my favorite place on the whole Island.  When I first visited the Dominican Republic last year we stayed in Jarabacoa for the first 5 days, and I remember how sad I was to say goodbye.

It is no surprise that Jarabacoa has become a tourist hot spot; there is so much to do!  Horseback riding, hiking, river rafting, paragliding and loads more.  Yesterday I was able to go and visit for the first time since last year.  Isabel and Bella took their guests who are staying with them, Michelle and Maurice up to visit a sister there, and they stayed the night on Sunday. Then Marty, Aaron, Graham and I headed up early Monday morning to meet them for lunch.  It was a bit of a kufuffle getting there since you first have to get a bus to La Vega and then from there you take another bus to Jarabacoa, but we made it just the same.  To give you guys and idea of what travel costs here, I had to take a concho from my house to the guagua station: 20 pesos. Then the bus to La Vega: 80 pesos.  From La Vega to Jarabaco: 90 pesos.  moto concho to the sister’s house: 25 pesos.  So the trip up the only cost $5.30 usd!

For a late lunch we went up the mountain to Jamaca de Dios, a fancy restaurant with a amazing view.  Graham and Aaron thought that they would take motos all the way up the side of the mountain.  So we sent them off and followed in the car.  However, once we arrived at the entrance to the mountain, there the boys were, slightly dejected: no motos allowed.  So we cram them in the car with us and attempt to chug up the mountain.  When the car made a funny noise and stopped, I took that as a sign that we needed to get out before we ended up rolling back down.  So Laurine ( a super sweet sister from Santa Barbara, CA visiting her Aunt Jovita who lives here) and I made the trek up the mountain with the boys.  It was definitely worth the effort, the view was breathtaking.  As we were enjoying our meal we could see Para-gliders launching off the mountains and some even coming quite close to us!  Also, it was actually cold up in the mountains, in fact they had to light their deck heaters for us.

It was a great day.  Unfortunately the ASL group there has been struggling because there isn’t as much need, otherwise I would seriously think about moving.  I hitched a ride back with the Bells and played the Jurassic Park theme for the rest of the day.  Check out these awesome pictures!

Laurine, me and the boys (I was uncomfortable with the invasion of personal space)

Laurine, me and the boys (I was uncomfortable with the invasion of personal space)

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Graham lookin pretty conspicuous....

Graham lookin pretty conspicuous….

Trust Aaron to capture the worst face I pull all day.

Trust Aaron to capture the worst face I pull all day.

Laurine has an AMAZING instant camera

Laurine has an AMAZING instant camera

Needgreaters UNITE!

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GO GO GO!!!! Oh my I have been on the go for weeks now!  My trip to Samana was wonderful and I really was happy to see my friend Lauren Rodriguez and meet all the friends there.  That Friday I headed back down to the Capital to meet up with Teresa, Marty, Alexis and Janet.  Once with Teresa the hurricane began!  We traveled to Higuey, Bavaro and La Romana.  The family Marty and I stayed with we lovely.  They also had this AMAZING Rottweiler named Nixon   He chilled up on the roof and even let me up there to ‘snuggle’ with him!  The beach was beautiful, the best yet.  Sunday on the way home we stopped at Ikea and ran around like rats in a maze.  It was a good trip, but I was happy to get home to my own bed.

January 1st was La Zurza’s pioneer meeting.  It was very encouraging.  We had it at an elder’s house and then after had a delicious lunch.  I can’t believe its 2013!  Who thought I would make it??  Well I am looking forward to an amazing year; we’ll see what Jehovah has in store for me.

Friday was the English Annual Pioneer Meeting! Lauren, her roommate Bailey, and a young sister in the ASL named Lala all came from Samana and stayed with me for the weekend.  They came on Thursday so we could go to the pioneer meeting in Villa Gonzalez.  The meeting was wonderful!  There were so many good points.  The nice thing about going to the English is that most who serve in the English are needgreaters, so they present specific points directed to ‘self-sustaining missionaries’.

And can I just say that the Dominican Branch just knows how to do it.  They respond to all emails in about 3-4 days and they take such good care of us needgreaters.  There is so much work to be done in this country, in every language!  They are begging ‘the master of the harvest to send out workers’ and when you come they view you as an answer to a prayer.  (Luke 10:2)   So!! If anyone reading this has ever desired to expand their ministry, please please write the Dominican branch and see what you can do!  They need help in Spanish, English, Chinese, Russian, Italian, ASL, and Creole.  Legally, your tourist visa ($20) will allow you to stay in the country for 1 month.  You can renew it for a second month once here if you want.  But please, make it a matter of prayer, and if you make yourself available you can be sure Jehovah will bless you.

The assembly, Safeguard Your Mind was just amazing.  I feel encouraged and rejuvenated to put even more into my ministry here and to take full advantage of this wonderful privilege. They read a letter from the branch addressed to all needgreaters expressing their appreciation and love for us which brought a tear to everyone’s eyes.  The Needs of the Circuit focused on everyone making sure to take the time to encourage young ones in the congregations.  Many congregations are made up of those who are relatively new to the truth, and so a special effort is needed to continue to encourage and help the younger ones to progress.  I am so excited to put all of the points into practice!  So again, another faith-strengthening assembly provided by our loving Father Jehovah.  I am so grateful.

After the Assembly I was invited to attend Brother and Sister Thrasher’s Big Bash.  What a privilege.  There were about 50-60 brothers and sisters there from all over, all of them needgreaters.  After we associated and ate a delicious meal, they interviewed different ones and it was just so very encouraging.  Jehovah has taken such good care of me, but its moments like those that truly make you step back and really see what He has provided.  Where else would you find such an international brotherhood made up of  the truest kind of Love?  Only in Jehovah’s organization, and I feel so blessed to be included in it.

There is a lot happening this year.  I get to visit California March 12th for nearly 3 weeks.  I will get to be home for the Memorial and for the Circuit Assembly! I’m so very excited.  I am hoping to stay about a week in New York on the way back here so I can visit the Bethel for the very first time!  I can’t wait!  Also, when I moved here I told myself I would stay in the Spanish congregation for 1 year, and then after I would decide where I wanted to serve.  I have decided to serve in the ASL group here in Santiago.  My year in Spanish will end in April.  So starting May, I will officially be in the ASL group!!!

Also, my lease for my studio is ending in April and, after lots of prayer, I am fairly certain I would like to move into a 2-bedroom and have a roommate.  Living on my own has been wonderful and horrible all at the same time.  I have learned so much about myself and I feel that it has forced me to rely upon Jehovah more than ever, so I am grateful for the experience.  However, I think it’s time for me to have a roommate and to have an apartment I do not feel embarrassed about inviting people over to.  So!  If anyone is interested in serving here, let me know!  Even if just for a month or two, I’m open for opportunities.  I’ll continue to pray about it and let Jehovah direct matters, but like I said, this year is all about changes!  I’m looking in the area closer to the English hall, because if I feel like adding in an English meeting, I don’t want it to be too much of a hassle.  Plus, being closer to the English congregation is great association, they have a wonderful congregation.

So that is all I have for now, thanks for your comments and emails!  2 more months to go and I’ll be back in the USofA! It will be nice to see everyone, I do miss y’all loads!

Back in Samana

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I love how I am always surprised when things don’t go as planned.  You would think calling for the bus times would be a simple task, but it really isn’t, at least not for Esalena.  After getting hung up on twice because the woman “no hablo Ingles” though I was speaking to her in Spanish, I got a little peeved.  When I finally got through to some one who spoke English, it wasn’t much better.  By the third question I got told “Oh my God, so long with the questions!”  Ya, well it would be all worth it at least if the the information I was  given was correct.  Wah, wah….

So there was a big group from the  English congregation going to the Capital to do a tour of Bethel.  I wanted to go with them since in order to get to Samana, you have to first go to the Capital and then catch a bus from there.  I figured that since I was in the area it would be a nice treat.  It turns out the bus was full, so I was going to have to meet up with them after taking Carribe Tours, the public bus.  I would have to take the 6 am bus because the Bethel tour was at 9:30 am.  But the Bells and I got invited to Marty’s for dinner, and I was going to take advantage of Marty’s beautiful full oven to bake some goodies for my trip.  We ended up staying really late singing Kingdom Melodies in all different languages, and enjoying the good company.

So, needless to say, I did not wake up at 5 am the next morning.  But it was ok, I decided that I would skip the Bethel tour, and just get to Samana earlier.  I was told the bus to Samana left at 12 pm, turns out no…not until 2:30… I arrived at 10:30, so I had a lot of free time on my hands.   I decided to try and catch the Bethel tour, but by the time I got there they were just finishing up. I got to hear a few words from Jose Pena, a wonderfully encouraging brother who is in charge of all the needgreating work in the country.  He urged everyone to make an appointment to come and talk with him if there was anything they wanted to discuss.  Any difficulties  and struggles he said he would love to make time to help in any way possible.  The branch really appreciates the needgreaters, and they take good care of us!

Jose Pena with the group

Jose Pena with the group

Afterwards, the group was going to the Mall next door to have lunch, so I tagged a long.  It was good to see everyone having a good time.  I had a little look around the mall but by that time it was time to go to back to Carribe Tours to catch my bus. 4 hours later and I’m in Samana and it’s GLORIOUS!!! It brought back so many memories, and it was beautiful as ever.  It is the cruise season, so they had all the booths up and it was all very festive.  I hopped on a moto with my suitcase and headed up to Lauren’s.

The view from Lauren's patio.

The view from Lauren’s patio.

 

Glorious weather for December!

Glorious weather for December!

Her roommate, Bailey is engaged to a brother I had met during my trip to Samana last year, Lovesky. (pronounced lo-ve-ski)  The three of us, Lauren, Bailey and I are all very similar.  They are both in the ASL too, so it has been fun.  Today we went out and did a few studies…easier said than done.  Samana is all hills, super steep hills.  I nearly died today, no joke.   But I love the ASL ministry here! Amazing people.

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Lauren’s neighbors are a family recently moved here from Canada.  We met three of the brothers when we went to Holly’s house for the ASL class.  It was Christmas day, so no one else showed up for the class.  We sat and talked instead.  The twins are hilarious and they are learning Spanish and ASL!  Smart kids.

Zavie, Cazzy and Dante

Zavie, Cazzy and Dante

 

Last night we were starving because everything was closed for Christmas.  But around 7 pm things started opening up again.  Turns out that Christmas day is when everyone comes out in their new fancy clothes, all done up to the 9’s hanging out on the Malecon aka Boardwalk.  Larren, Bailey, Lovesky and I all went out for pizza.  We had a good time.  The Christmas decorations here could give Martha Stewart a run for her money!

 

A roasting pig made of bottles and trash.

A roasting pig made of bottles and trash.

 

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A Christmas tree made of bottles.

Well I work all day tomorrow, but I get to go to the ASL meeting, so I am excited.  I gotta go now because its BEACH TIME!!! YAY!!!  I’ll be sure to post those pix with my next entry.  Also, I love all the emails, keep ’em coming!