my cousin's wedding, hurricane Matthew, and adventures with my mamma
01.08.2016 - 19.10.2016 20 °C
After a couple of months back in the Dominican with Billy, trying to keep the hostel running through low season, times were getting a bit tough.
No seriously, I spent some time making art to get rid of the boredom as lazy days at the beach were becoming far and few due to heavy rain fall and I was homesick and getting frustrated with the endless threats of hurricanes due to an extremely hot summer.
I even spent 9 hours getting my hair done one day, which turned out even better than I imagined!
and looked even cooler when the braids came out
We spent nights dancing, even if it often meant a wet moto ride back in the rain!
Billy was awesome as always, and he took me on a few adventures away from the rainy north coast to make me smile. One of my favourite days was when we traveled all the way to Montaña Redonda in Miches where we climbed a huge mountain to swing out over the edge, with the beautiful Caribbean sea spread out beneath us.
The mountain had lots of cool props and places to chill and hang out, so we had fun with those while our dog Jaxon ran around enjoying the fresh air.
We spent time in the capital city with Billy's family, on one occasion in particular we were able to celebrate a very important day for Billy's family when his mother graduated as a nurse. There are not many women left in our world like Billy's mother Luisa. Every single day she cooks for the entire family - not just the immediate, but all of those who live in her household so they can be close to the university where they study. She feeds the local homeless daily, our favourite story is of the local homeless man who she bought a watch, a bowl, and a fork. Everyday at 12pm he knows he is welcome to come up to the house with his bowl and fork for a big plate of food.-I watched in amusement the day he came a little early and she chased him away, yelling he has his watch and knows he cant turn up until 12 when it's ready! Luisa grew up in a sugar cane community and worked hard to give everything to her children, she sacrificed so much so that her children could have a good education and grow up in a safe neighbourhood. She moved away from the only home she ever knew to the big city when Billy was 8, so the family could work for the missionaries who visited to help struggling Dominican communities. Luisa never gave up her dream to one day be a nurse, and she taught herself to read and write when she was in her late 40's. Once her own children were old enough and settled, she enrolled in her studies to become a nurse - and in 2016 she became a qualified nurse. I feel honoured to have had the great privilege of attending the graduation of such a kind, caring, and inspirational woman.
It wasn't long before heavy rain became storms, and the streets and newspapers were filled with the rumours of a huge hurricane coming our way. Hurricane Matthew was his name, and we all felt it couldn't be so bad because Hurricane Lisa closed the country for hardly a reason. But Hurricane Matthew was no joke, and we weren't even in it's direct path. The other side of the island, Haiti, received the direct hit while we were thrashed with heavy winds and lots of rain. I worried as I was due to fly to visit my family in the USA. Everyone assured me I would be fine and the hurricane would fizzle out - but sadly the hurricane only got worse and I was told my second flight wouldn't make it due to the airport closing in Miami. I decided to fly to Miami as I knew I would have more luck with rescheduling one flight rather than two, and so I was put on a rather bumpy flight as we flew as far west as we could to outrun the hurricane. I will never forget staring east out of that tiny plane window and watching as the blackened sky lit up with distant lightening. In all my years of flying, I have never seen anything like it. Flying through and around a hurricane is certainly an adrenaline hit! On landing in Miami, I found my way to my hotel where I was told not to go out on the street as the hurricane was due to hit Miami! I couldn't believe I was to experience the same hurricane for the 3rd time! The hotel staff felt so sorry for me, and after speaking with my very worried father in New Zealand, they upgraded me to their executive suite where I filled it with groceries and back up water to get through my two night layover. Thankfully the direct hit Miami was dreading, never came. Instead of waking to destruction and devastation, Miami was met with a sunny day - perfect for an adventure!
I took a taxi to Wynwood Walls where I wandered around and saw the street art that covered 2 large blocks. I tried to find some action in the city, but it was a ghost town despite the sunshine. Everyone had fled the city due to the hurricane. It was impossible even to find a taxi or a bus. I found myself walking through streets and parks, the city center, alongside the marina - all with never seeing another person. It was so strange. I found a couple of shops that were open, but they weren't the kind of shops where I wanted to linger. I walked for nearly 7 hours that day - desperately trying to find a taxi or a bus. I found a security guard who pointed me towards a skytrain where I was able to get to the airport to then take the free airport shuttle back to the hotel. It was a weird city, possibly stranger because it was so deserted. I found myself relying on those living on the street to point me in the right direction, noticing too that I was always drawn to those who spoke spanish to help me rather than the rough looking miami locals. I didn't leave my hotel room again until it was time to fly to Michigan!
Landing in Michigan, far from the storm, and feeling safe in the first world surrounded by my family was a wonderful feeling - despite the shock of arriving to full blown Autumn - about the temperature of New Zealand winter! I was instantly bundled into large jackets, scarves, boots and a hat - and was ready for some adventures in North America. It was my 5th time back to the states in 2 years, but only my second time with my family. I was so grateful to my mother who had bought me a flight up to spend time with her and my grandma for my cousin Jess's wesdding.
On one of the days, Mum and I carved pumpkins! We found a house selling pumpkins, and we picked the ones we wanted. Neither of us had ever done it before, but thankfully Grandma gave us all the tricks of the trade. We even roasted the seeds and snacked on those for days!
The wedding was beautiful and it was an honour to be part of it. Jess looked radiant on her special day, and it was wonderful to get to know her (now) husband a little better. The weekend at the hotel with all of the family was filled with love and laugher as always, and these are the memories I always hold so close to me.
After the wedding, I spent a few more days with Mamma before she left for New Zealand. We headed out one day to see Big Red.
Another day, Grandma, Mum and I went up to Uncle Dave and Aunt Danelle's church to surprise Mario - Billy's friend and old boss from our church in the Domincan Republic! We couldn't believe he was presenting there while I was in Michigan, I don't think he could believe it either. Bizzy came up to visit too and there were some of Billy's missionaries there too, long time friends of my aunt and uncle! Talk about small world and it felt strange to be with people in Michigan, who I had only ever known in the context of the Caribbean! But wow, it was lovely.
I then had an extra week with my Grandma which was amazing. She was in the midst of packing to move to her new home, so I threw myself into organising, cleaning, tidying and packing. It was such a special time, and Grandma and I made sure we got to have plenty of adventures - taco tuesday, shopping, breakfast at Jackies, checking out her new home, and she even bundled me into the car to go on a surprise outing (giant ice creams at Captain Sundae!)...
I felt so blessed having this time with my Grandma. Packing up her home was such a cool thing to be part of because as we discovered things she always told me a good little story to go along with it. We played Grandpa's favourite music and talked about their travels around the world. I felt like I got to know her even more during this time of change and growth for her, and felt privileged to share this time with her. She talked about her mission trip to Haiti, and she gave advice to me for living a whole and healthy life with Billy. Leaving Grandma was hard, it was also a strange feeling to be leaving her home too . Knowing I would no longer having Grandma's house to stay in, the mechanical beds to play in, or my favourite couch to snuggle up on after a day of flying to get to her was a really weird thought. But of course I am happy to know she now has a wonderful new home right in the heart of Holland, Mi.
I left Grandma as I boarded an early morning train to Chicago for my flight back to the Dominican Republic. I was nervous to get back as I had heard the rain was still pouring, and that many streets had begun to flood. But I guess that is a story for another day...