The three-hour bus ride to the airport provided ample opportunity to begin to digest everything that we’ve seen, heard, smelled, touched, experienced and felt over the past two weeks. As things seem to always go, the time has flown by. Reflecting over it though, it is truly amazing the amount of work we managed to accomplish despite the major forces slowing us down. The depth of the relationships we were able to forge despite language and cultural barriers is truly amazing. I have made friends here in the DR that I will certainly never forget.
As the bus waited for us to finish tying up loose ends, Carmen came to the house to bid us adieu and wish us well on our journey home and in our careers as nurses. She asked me when I was going to come back, and I explained (careful not to make promises I couldn’t keep) that Emory’s program is designed to circulate students so that as many as possible have the opportunity to have the same transformative experience as we have been privileged to have. I could tell she tried to keep a smile on her face, but her expression was indescribably bittersweet and made my heart melt. Later, Dhaysi, our new Dominican best friend who I consider a sister figure, asked the same question—when were we going to return. Dodging the question, we said, “When are YOU coming to the states to visit us??” With a touch of lament, she responded that it’s much easier for us to come down here than for her to come to the states.
It’s true. Obtaining an American visa, especially if you’re not among the elite in the DR, is terribly difficult. As we all know, many foreigners arriving with a temporary visa decide to take the opportunity to stay undocumented for a hope of a “better life”. Well, from those few Dominicans that have visited the US that I’ve spoken to, and from my experiences down here, most would not consider American life better at all. Regardless, it serves as an important reminder of the privilege I have for simply being born in my country and the world of opportunity that that provides—literally.