Saint Ignatius High School

Dominican Republic Reflection: Nathan Soria '19

Rising senior Nathan Soria '19 participated in the two-week mission trip to the Dominican Republic early this summer. Here he shares one of the daily reflections from his trip journal, where he highlights the people, experiences and lessons of this powerful journey.

Tuesday, Day 9 of the trip

June 12, 2018

Today I woke up really refreshed since I went to bed earlier than usual the night before. To my surprise, my campo family and I have been going to bed pretty late since we always seem to be talking or playing cards. Jacques (Berenger '19) has really helped me with Spanish since we have stayed with the same campo family together. After we got everything ready for the day’s work, Sixta (See-ta) gave us coffee. It was really good as always. Before the trip I thought coffee was terrible, but I guess not in the DR! (Photo: Nathan (left) and Jacques (right) with Sixta).

It still surprises me how loving Sixta is to us. Literally every time we see her she gives us a hug and even calls us her own sons. It also amazes me that even as Jacques and I are complete strangers to Sixta and her family, we have been treated like their family.

After this we went up to breakfast at the main house, which has been about a seven minute walk (uphill) on average. Breakfast was fine. We then split up into groups for work. I was with Patrick, Donny, Jacques, and Ethan. The day before another group worked on the cement which acted like the flooring to the latrine. So, that left us to built the structure to go around it.

There was a really cool guy named Domingo, who was the Dominican that worked with us at the work site. So far throughout the trip, I think we have all been humbled by how good of handymen the Dominicans are compared to us. Even though this is the case, Domingo let us do most of the work and was so patient with us. He even let me climb to the top of the structure on a ladder to hammer in the zinc sheets which would act as the roof of the structure. Looking back he probably let me do it because I was the lightest one present. There had to have been six guys holding up the zinc sheets from below to support my weight as I was hammering. This was a cool experience for me. Also, Domingo let Ethan do all the powersawing which was great because it was way faster than using the saws by hand. Thankfully everything went well with that and we were able to finish it perfectly. Our work group decided that it had to have been the nicest latrine we built the whole trip.

We also worked with a kid named Jimmy (spelled Yimi in Spanish). He was fourteen, and he was really cool. Even though I didn’t know too much Spanish I think that I really connected with him. I hope that I can work with him the next few days we are here at campo.

We finished building it around one and then headed up to lunch. It was the classic rice and beans dish. After lunch we had time for a longer siesta. At this point in the trip everyone was pretty tired, so almost everyone took a nap. Then we got back to work at around four in the afternoon. We split up into the same groups again and this time our group worked on building stairs on the “shortcut” path that connected that lower and upper parts of the campo. Patrick and I worked on this one section while Jacques, Ethan, and Donny worked on another part. Patrick and I had some petty arguments on how to build the stairs and some of the other guys thought it was funny. Surprisingly we didn’t do too bad of a job.

Mercedes happened to be walking down when we were almost done working and she joked that we all have spots in heaven because of our work. This felt good because she was the “leader” of the campo and probably the most respected by everyone there. It was at her house that we had all our meals, reflection, and siestas.

We finished working close to seven, which was late compared to when we finished work the other days. We then had dinner and then did our daily group reflection which was similar to an Ignatian style examen but everyone had to share their thoughts to the whole group. I have really been getting fond of these so far.

After reflection we walked down to our campo family, and at this point it was dark out. The whole family was there which included Sixta, her husband Gollo, her daughter Ines, her son Ambiorix, Ambiorix’s wife Eyelin, Ambiorix and Evelin’s kids (Eyelisa and Adriel), and another one of Sixta’s daughters with her baby. Ambiorix started playing some Dominican Merengue music. We started dancing to it and it was a time I will never forget. It amazes me how happy my family was all the time, and all the Dominicans at campo were for that matter. They were always smiling it seemed.

After we danced and hung out with the family for around two hours Jacques and I went to shower (bucket shower I mean) and got ready for bed. Thankfully, we didn’t find any giant spiders in our room like we did the past few nights. And as I am writing this now I’m in bed under my bug net to protect me from any kind of spider or bug. I am just beginning to realize how much of a different lifestyle the Dominicans live than ours at home. They have definitely inspired me to live a “slower” life when I get back home. They all have so much trust in God that he will provide for them. Because of this they seem to not have any worries even though they are poor in our eyes.

Before this trip I would rightfully think that I don’t need an abundance of money to make me happy. Yet, deep down I thought that my path in life would be me having to work excessively hard, go a well-known college, and then find the highest paying job regardless of how much time I give to others or even myself to relax. This is not to say working hard, and making money are bad by any means, but I think that I had a different perspective before the trip to say the least.

Interacting with the Dominicans has allowed me to be able to see what they do well, and then try to emulate it. Now, I could genuinely say that I just need to enjoy the present moment and slow life down and this will make me truly happy. Right now as I think and write, I am just thankful to be able to experience practically a whole different world and learn from their way of life. The Dominican way of life--slow but happy. I’m really looking forward to having another day tomorrow to be with my campo family and experience such a different lifestyle. I can’t believe that we have only a few days left here!