Lucy Miquel ’20 and Emma Earls ’20 reflect on the “amazing” and “unique” opportunity of building a house, while learning about a new culture and making new friends.
How many times do we get to do this in our lives? This is what I asked myself as I stood, handing concrete buckets up to a mason in the 95 degree Dominican heat. I took a second and looked around the bustling work site. There were people passing buckets to each other, carrying wood panels, sifting dirt, and even some women were passing out juice to the very sweaty and very overheated workers. I saw laughter between the Dominicans and the Deerfield students. I saw local kids, as small as 4, trying to help us out by picking up shovels that were much too heavy for them. I saw the older men helping those same little kids. I saw me in an assembly line, working with solely locals. How comfortable I felt in that moment when we didn’t speak each other’s language, yet our connection was so evident.
At lunch, the kids from Deerfield and the local kids all sat together, eating from the same pot. The conversation was so effortless, nothing particularly complicated, but we were all enjoying each other’s company. We were making gestures to the kids and they to us to attempt to communicate, but none of that mattered because we understood each other on a more personal level than what was actually being received or lost in gestures. There’s something to be said for human connection without words. There was a mutual respect between our two completely different cultures all thanks to the same dedication to improving someone else’s life through our actions to build this house. We all could relate to one another, without verbal language, with no barrier whatsoever. How many times do we get to experience anything so unique in a lifetime, is the question I’m asking myself now as I sit back and reflect on my day.
We took a ride in the back of a pickup truck this afternoon. Six of us packed into the truck bed, cross-legged on top of stacks of wood we were clearing away; none of us knew where we were taking the wood, but we were all happy to go along for the ride. We loaded the wood and ourselves in, and one of the workers started the engine. The back of the truck was the perfect vantage point to see the landscape sweeping by.
Sometime between looking out towards the mountains and waving to the locals, I came to a realization of sorts. I’d known logically that this experience was once-in-a-lifetime, that it was going to be incredibly influential to me as a person, that it was going to change the way I looked at the world, but even though I knew all that logically, it hadn’t truly clicked yet. Looking out at the village, though, I realized how incredible of an opportunity this trip has been. I’m in a foreign country, completely immersed in its culture and lifestyle. I’m getting to know a great group of people, most of whom I’d barely talked to before we came here. I’m actually making a difference, an important one, to this community.
Moments like hoisting yet another bucket of concrete towards the workers on the roof, eating the fresh mangoes we picked off a neighbor’s tree, and this pick-up truck ride are the things that have made me realize that this trip, and the service we’re doing on it, are going to change the way I look at the world. I’m already so grateful that I was lucky enough to get this opportunity, and I know that I will remember it for the rest of my life. This afternoon, the reality of this trip finally set in. So, from the back of a pickup truck, I realized exactly why I had come on this trip and exactly how life-changing it was going to be.
Click here for more pictures of the house build.