Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Sorry, I know this is a long post, but I have a lot to say that can’t be summarized. Don't feel pressured to read it, but if you are my mom or dad or anyone who really wants to know what it's like for me here, please do. Mom and Dad- this is required reading for you...

Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. I’m emotionally exhausted and drained of tears. When I woke up, I already could feel something strange in the air. I think I need to preface this by saying that after a week of spending 8 hours or more per day with the same 23 kids- the same 23 struggling, illiterate, mistreated kids- I already could write pages about the each of them… I know their strengths and weakness and their hopes and all that. For some of them, my fellow counselor and I are the only people they can trust. I care more than I thought I ever would already, but that has turned out to be a blessing and a curse.

The day was super eerie; it was like the air was heavy with foreshadowing for the afternoon’s event. It started when Donaldo, 14, had to be taken to the hospital because he had a huge, infected, pussy, swollen cut across his foot that his parents refused to do anything about. Then one of my favorite little girls, Soribel, was crying because she had an ear infection and a headache, but we are not allowed to give her any medicine to help her, so I had to just sit there and watch her be in so much pain. Then one of our best students, Michael, was not participating, and when I asked him what was wrong he said all he could see was white. I was like, is it a headache? And he said it wasn’t like a normal headache, he just couldn’t see anything but white splotches. I was so confused and just told him that he still needed to participate. Then one of my 13-year-old girls was crying and wouldn’t tell me what was wrong all morning until I finally got it out of her and found out that she was crying because her boyfriend broke up with her the night before. Her 22-year-old boyfriend. As in for, the boyfriend who tells her lies and essentially sexually abuses her. Then I picked up a notebook of another 13-year-old, Myrlanda, and saw that throughout the past week she’d been writing stuff like, “Mi mundo se acabo,” which means, “my world is ending,” and “No hay destino,” which means, “There is no destiny.” Her entry for the day: “My mom doesn’t want me, she doesn’t love me, and if even my mom doesn’t love me then why should I live?” She is Haitian, and racism is very real here. I am pretty sure her mom is a prostitute and that she tells Myrlanda that she should just keep her mouth shut. Also, child prostitution is a huge part of the tourism here, and I would not be surprised because of some things I’ve noticed if Myrlanda’s mom forced her to be part of that. Then at lunch Norkellys, a 16-year-old girl who is definitely the brightest kid in our class, was sobbing because she failed the state testing. That meant that she would not be able to progress to the next grade. She is 16 and failed the 7th grade test. That is completely normal here, most kids only make it to 8th grade, but many never make it there at all.

Then, what I thought would be the saddest news of the day came. The kid who was only seeing white, Michael, whose dad I’ve met and is totally creepy, and who is one of the most well behaved, thoughtful boys ever, refused to play a game with us. After talking to him for a little while, he pulled me in to tell me a secret. He said, “por lo que me hicieron,” which means, “because of what they did to me.” He wouldn’t say anything else, so I walked him to the office to talk to the director, and when I came back, I saw Michael crying in a chair in the corner and was told that he confessed that his dad had beaten him with a stick. Meaning all he could see was white because he probably got a pretty good blow to the head. So at this point I was just feeling overwhelmed and had to walk out of class a couple times because I was having such a hard time not crying. I felt like there was this heavy weight on my shoulders that I couldn’t do anything about. There aren’t any child protective services or laws or anything that we can do, except for be their friends during the 8 hours we see them each day. But unfortunately that wasn’t the end.

After dinner Lauren and I went to run some errands and when we came back, everyone was sitting in the lobby in a circle and there was a really strange feeling. I sat down and found out they were discussing why Jess and my other friend, Caroline, who is one of my best friends here, were gonna be in shock for a little while: while they were at the beach there was this little girl screaming for someone to help because there were some kids about to drown (Dominican kids often times don’t know how to swim but say that they do) out in the water. I’m not exactly positive about the details because I don’t really want to ask, but Adeline, another one of my friends, swam out to get him. By the time she got to him he was still okay, but she had a windsurfer help with the other who was not breathing when they dragged him in. Caroline ran over and performed CPR on him for 15 minutes, but it was too late. The stupid ambulance came 25 minutes later and left when they saw he was already dead, leaving his body there on the sand. All the people were crowding around reaching at him while jess held them all back. They put a towel over his body and there was nothing else they could do. When I sat down in the circle and heard the story, I turned to my friend Lauren to say, “This is all just too much for me to handle in one day,” but before I could finish the sentence I started sobbing, and didn’t stop. I basically had to run out of the room and go sit on the roof for a couple hours trying to calm myself down and stop thinking about Michael being beaten and my friend performing CPR on a dead little boy for 15 minutes and Maribi having a 22-year-old make her think he loves her, but I ached all over. It was hard to breathe and I actually felt like I was going to throw up. Everyday is so hard and I witness the saddest things, whether it is the Dominican teachers being racist against my kids, or finding out about their home lives, each day is hard in its own way. This is much more than I bargained for, but at least I know I will not leave here the same person I was when I came. I have a lot to learn about life outside my little selfish bubble.


Annie said...


I'm speechless. How do I even begin to find words to even respond to all that?

I guess the best way to say it is that I understand how you feel. I felt the same way for my kids in Thailand. I heard about all the abuse and mistreatement that so many of my students had to go through and I cried too. It seems so unfair: they're just kids and they didn't do anything to deserve such terrible things happening to them and yet, here they are leading lives that even adults aren't emotionally capable of living. Living in Thailand was a total eye-opener and reality check for me: I had no idea such atrocities were happening in the world, let alone to innocent, beautiful children. I don't know if I told you this, but a little after I left the school, one of my 8th grade boy students (who had recently been expelled from my school) raped one of my 9th grade girl students with some of his friends. This girl thought she was pregnant and would have attempted suicide had one of her friends not told the teachers about it. It was one of the saddest things I'd ever heard. I loved both of those kids: how could anything that tragic happen to them? I tell you that story only to let you know that I can relate to how you're feeling. It's so easy to love those kids and I think you are doing the right thing by loving them. They need real love and friendship from you. I think the best thing they can get from you and this experience (by that I mean your living in the DR) is that there is hope in this world for them and that all people aren't full of ugliness and malintent. The hard part is that when you open yourself up to loving them, it is so hard on your heart: you are so vulnerable to so much pain because every time they hurt, you hurt. But I can't think of any other way for you to spend your time there. Give as much of yourself as you can because in the end, you get to go back to your sheltered, American lifestyle and you want to take as much of them back with you as possible. I don't know if that makes any sense.

Tell the kids that they're good and that they're loved and praise them. Let them know real joy and real friendship without any fear of plotting parents or conniving boyfriends getting involved.

All those experiences in one day sounds so overwhelming and I'm so sorry you had to go through all that. Something like that can really make you question your faith and make you feel really alone, but that is what Satan wants. The Savior can be there too and He will be there when you bring Him. You can bring light and joy into the lives of your students just by being you and by having the spirit with you. I feel like some motivational speaker or something and I'm being super cheesy, but I'm just trying to say what I feel and tell you from experience. I have no doubt it's easy to feel hopeless after witnessing all that, but those kids need hope and you can be that beacon when they need it most.

It's good that you had a good cry about it. Sometimes it feels good to weep uncontrollably. It means we're human. It makes me sad and teary reading about it and I don't even know those kids. I will pray for you and for Jess. You hit it right on the head when you said you will come back a changed person. There are things (even more things) that will open your eyes to a whole different way of life and all that stuff will rock the world you now know. I just still can't believe all that stuff! It's so terrible and shocking. I think you are a woman of character and strength and those kids can depend on you. I feel like I have so many stories to tell you when you get back and I will be all ears to hearing your stories and your feelings about all those experiences when you get back. I think you're wonderful, Carly. Don't forget it.

keester said...

Wow Carly... Like Annie, I'm speechless. All I've got to say it I think you're there for a reason right now-- to help those kids realize that they are good and no matter what happens around them, they are still good and they are still loved, even if it's only by you and Heavenly Father. Hang in there girl!!!! Keep up all the good work you're doing there!!!! I'm sure you're working miracles with those kids by being there for them and showing you care. Love you, girl!

Kelsey said...


I think what Annie said was perfect, and I don't feel that my words could even compare to hers. I just want you to know that I am thinking about you (and jess) and that I will be praying for you both. Your experiences are amazing and I can only imagine what hope, beauty, joy and love those children feel when they look into your eyes and have the opportunity to be with you. I am sure it is heartbreaking to hear of the horrible things those children live through each day of their lives. You are an amazing person car, and I know those kids can see it too. I love you. I can't even imagine... my heart hurts for those children. You are amazing.

Lauren Kay said...

Wow Car,

I'm so sorry that you have to deal with that, but even more I hurt for those kids too. No one should have to deal with those issues, whether they're actually experiencing them or if they are in your position. I think you are wonderful. I think you are amazing for giving yourself to the people there. Give Jess my love. I love you Car, you're amazing.


Anonymous said...

Dearest Carly,
My heart is so heavy and full. I am so sad to hear of such meaningless,heartless acts of humanity being given to anyone, much less to children by the people who are supposed to be protecting and loving them. But, remember, they are being blessed by the goodness and light of you and your friends. They will see by your examples of love that the life they know is not the only life there is and that there is hope, and good people in the world.
I am so proud of you for what you are doing and for the heart you so freely give to all those you come in contact with.
Of course, my first instinct is to tell you to get out of there and come home, so that I can protect you from the hurt. But I know that it's not what you would do, but I've said it and it's out there. I just hope that you will continue to grow and learn from all you do and experience and that you use it for more good things to come.
My arms are wrapped around you and my thoughts and prayers for goodness are with you and your friends and for those kids, snd especially for the adults in their lives.
BTW..I love your friends..how blessed you are!

Abbie said...

I adore you more than you know. You are in my every prayer and so are those kids. Keep your eyes bright and full of the light that you so beautifully emanate all the time