Scooters, Mangu, and Following Jesus

stock-footage-dominican-republic-flag-waving-grunge-lookHi Friends,

It has truly been heart-wrenching the last few weeks to see all the updates from the United States reporting what a brutal winter it has been this year. We continue to struggle here, daily, with blue skies and 70 degree weather. On a couple of mornings temps have plummeted to the high 60’s so we feel your pain. ¬†Although it’s tough, we are finding a way to move forward ūüôā

So after 7 months of living in the Dominican Republic, we’d like to take this opportunity to share a few things we’ve learned about our new quirky home. The DR is a beautiful country, but it is different. Our family continues to learn just how different it is on a daily basis. Here are just a few examples in no specific order:

Scooters are versatile: They¬†could¬†quite possibly be the most versatile vehicle on the planet. It turns out you can use them to transport (I assure you this is only a partial list and represents a small fraction of what we’ve seen them used for): entire families, appliances, rebar (more specifically, bundles of 15 foot sections), other scooters, lumber, livestock, etc. Impressive little machines they are.

Pace of traffic: Island time is a real thing. Things move slower here and it seems that, in general, people are less concerned with schedules and meeting times. However, you would never guess this based on the pace of traffic. Everyone on the road seems to be at least 30 minutes late for the most important meeting of their life-lights flashing, horns blaring, accelerators to the floor. I find this quite freeing as I’ve always thought this to be the proper way to drive.

Google Maps: Cannot be trusted here, but it will not tell you this. It may get you close enough to your destination to see it from an¬†adjacent mountain while traversing a road that, more appropriately, can only be described as an aspiring trail. This will¬†require you to ask directions from a group of people who are¬†wondering why a family¬†of Americanos are so far off the beaten path and who will disagree on the correct way to your destination, but who call a friend that shows up on¬†(you guessed it) a scooter to show you the way. Well, it may not always result exactly like this, but this is one “possible” outcome.

Mangu power: The plantain is a magical fruit. There is no limit to what this thing can be used for. Imagine the scene from Forest Gump where his fellow soldier describes the long list of shrimp dishes. It’s like that,¬†multiplied by¬†10. Mangu is one of those dishes and is a mainstay to tables all over this country.

Fruit in general: Speaking of fruit, there are endless types here growing on trees all over the place. Apparently if it’s hanging on a tree: it is edible, it is fair game, and it has some miraculous cure for something specific. You can make juice from all of them and the tastes range from “glorious” to “Lord please deactivate my taste buds now!”

Shopping: You can buy most anything you need while waiting at¬†a traffic light. For example: cell phone chargers (for every possible phone ever made), cell phone covers, CDs, windshield wipers, bubble blowers, flowers, chicken, energy drinks, popsicles, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fruit, vegetables, ironing boards…well you get the idea. Make sure you negotiate and close the sale quickly as you do NOT want to be the one holding up traffic when the light turns green.

Vehicular Occupancy Capacity: Question¬†– how many people do you think a 15 passenger van will transport? I know the question seems to answer itself, but that is where you’re wrong. You see, when a manufacturer lists the suggested passenger count of a vehicle it demonstrates just how little they know about their product. From what I’ve seen, a so-called 15 passenger van can hold at least 25 people. Also,¬†contrary to what you might think, not everyone is required to ride on the inside. In fact, you can get 5 or 6 passengers placed comfortably on the exterior. In addition, you can easily fit 6 12″ woofers in the trunk of a Toyota Corolla. The lid is not going to close but this allows the sound to travel more freely so that it can be heard by those in Cuba.

Radio Volume: Electronics companies could save a ton of money by foregoing the volume control¬†feature¬†on any device that plays music and intended to be sold in the Dominican Republic. Just hard wire the device to the loudest setting and send it on it’s way because all the space between “off” and “max volume” is never going to be explored. Dominican music is fantastic and the people that live here know that. So, logically, if the music is great and everyone is in agreement why on Earth would you bother to play at a lower volume. Crank it up so that everyone, and I mean everyone, can enjoy it!

Obviously this month’s post is a little more lighthearted than ones in the past, and this is completely intentional. If we’ve learned anything during our last few months here it is that sometimes you have to step back, take a breath, and just observe everything that God has placed in your life. We’ve had our share of challenges. God has stretched us, pulled us out of comfort zones, and has shown that the more we lean on Him the better off we are. Moving to a new country, learning a new language and culture is one of the most humbling things I’ve ever experienced. Just when I think I’m beginning¬†to figure it out I’m proven wrong, but guess what? The One that brought me here does have it figured out. My responsibility in this is described in Matthew 16:24 –¬†Then Jesus said to his disciples,¬†‚ÄúIf any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.¬†Thank God I don’t have to know what’s ahead, I just have to walk, daily, with the one who does. Along the way I will continue to enjoy and embrace the many idiosyncracies¬†of this new country he has brought us to.¬†


Nick Hartsfield