Navidad and then JFK

Where am I writing this from you ask? JFK airport. What time is it? (is your follow up questions) 3:28am.


Yesterday, I left my site for Santiago. Boarded a flight at 2pm, and was supposed to be home in Rochester, sleeping in my very own bedroom by 11pm. Instead, thanks to mother nature and her 18 inches of snowstorm, I’m stuck in the airport until 10am. That’s a solid 16 hours in JFK.


Normally, with 16 hours in NYC I’d have found someone to hang out with, grabbed a drink, crashed on a couch and ya. But not during the holiday season, because as everyone I know is a young New Yorker, they’ve all traveled home for the holidays. There are a few, and they graciously offered up beds for me to stay in, but there’s one problem…I’m broke.


This problem is my fault. My emergency credit card recently had to be cancelled due to fraudulent charges, and travel depleted my cash access. I arrived to New York with no Credit Card and a mere $1100pesos ($19…which in NYC doesn’t really count for anything). So I sit in JFK, playing games on my iPod, using my laptop, talking to people on my blackberry yet I can’t actually find the cash to get out of here. It’s a weird thing…


The good thing, though, is that I have entered this experience with a whole new skill set, thanks to the Peace Corps.


#1: Spanish – While trying to navigate my strandedness, I have found that speaking Spanish with employees and fellow travelers invokes a whole new sense of community and support. The two women at the ticket counter and I began bantering in our other language about travel during the holidays, the rough life of a broke traveler and all that jazz. I truly think it was the Spanish interaction, rather than my attempts at charm, that earned me an extra $18 in food vouchers and 5 free drink tickets for my next Delta flight (apologies to all when I arrive home to Rochester at 10am having downed 5 beers).


#2: Generosity – I am traveling home with depleted funds, but rich in gifts. Many of my community members in La Culata sent home gifts for my family for the holidays. A large quantity happen to be homemade candies and sweets. These have proven to be very handy as I hand out Cankina and Orange Candies to people when they do nice things for me. This generally causes them to do MORE nice things for me. I’ve also thrown in a few, “Dios te Bendiga”s (God Bless You). People react quite nicely.


#3: Patience – 16 hours of waiting isn’t preferable, but I am doing it just fine. I have really learned to fill the time with nothing and everything. Turns out all of that ‘Competitive Porch-Sitting’ that I’ve been practicing actually has a real-life purpose and it’s beating JFK-Airport.


#4: No Shame – When I overhear someone complaining about a lack of iPod Charger, when a woman is lost, when a little kid is scared about traveling alone, I’ve lost all “verguenza” about butting my little nose into the conversation and offering help/support. This, combined with a little generosity (and sometimes Spanish) makes my wait a whole like easier. It was this way that I met a nice young woman traveling from Brazil for the first time in her life, to Columbus, OH of all places (where I spent 4 years of my life) and was able to give advice on life there. This is how I met a cool Dominican guy who lives in New Jersey and is a Police Officer there, but also has a house in Bonao, Dominican Republic (new friend to visit when I go home!). The list goes on.


So moral of the story, no one really wants to spend 16 hours stuck in the airport, but it’s a whole lot easier if you’ve spent the last nearly year and a half doing the whole Peace Corps Thing.



In other new, NAVIDAD!



While many volunteers take advantage of the Month of December, affectionately known as Navidad down here in the DR, to travel home to the states and spend time with family, I stayed here. Since my family is Jewish, I wasn’t gonna get anything special for Christmas, so I figured I would double dip. I’d stay with my Dominican Family for Christmas and then visit my American Family for New Years. Best and Worst decision ever.


Best: It is really great to spend a month of light work-load (most meetings get canceled), having all of the college kids and distant family come back to the campo for a few weeks, and to eat lots of delicious food. Mantula, Juan de Dios, Yanelys and I spent the whole day of Christmas Eve cooking and drinking home-made corn wine. By the end of the day I was pretty tipsy off of that wine and ready to eat an AMAZING meal. We had a cabbage salad, potato salad, pasta salad, arepas with yucca leaves, stewed chicken, fried chicken, broiled pork, pork lasagna, real bread (not the $3RD colmado kind) and I’m probably forgetting something else. The meal was amazing, and I was still full the next morning from it.


Worst: Navidad is a time of heavily increased drinking, which is fine when I’m with my family or some of my closer young friends down here. It’s really not enjoyable when I’m with people who don’t limit their alcohol intake, which is a major problem in the DR. The day of Christmas is either extremely religious or extremely drunk in La Culata. I found myself by the end of the day feeling rather trapped as I sat in my house packing for my trip home and avoiding human contact. Why? My options were: Join the intense chanting and praying at the evangelical church for 8 hours OR join the intense drinking and inappropriateness happening outside of the Colmado starting at 10am. My choice was literally to stay in my house and greet the occasional visitor. It really wasn’t all that enjoyable.


But it happened. I’m glad I stayed through Christmas in La Culata, but now it’s time to focus on what delicious foods I’m going to eat in the States and which Yoga classes I will attend.


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