I've completely neglected blogging for the last month, as you can all see. The last time I posted, I was 9 days away from leaving the Dominican Republic. A lot happened in those 9 days: I had to say goodbye to all of my students, friends and Dominican family. The closer we got to our leaving day, the quieter, more withdrawn and depressed our mom became. She sobbed herself to sleep the night before we left. Our last meal together, though tasty, was very hard to enjoy - we were all dreading the goodbye. When Josh came to pick us up, our mom made it very clear to him that she didn't appreciate his visit. After a lot of hugs and tears, we made it out the door. I have to say, our ride back to the base was the most depressing ride of my life. I had really been looking forward to going home where I would be able to see my family and speak my language and eat my food. But I guess I had never really considered how hard it would be to leave my Dominican families, the culture I had grown to appreciate and love more than I knew, the language that forced me to analyze every word, the worship songs that allowed me to look at God from a different perspective.
Luckily for all of us depressed students, Josh & Vicki were one step ahead of us. They helped us process and relax by taking us to a resort for the weekend. It was a wonderful time. Not so much because of the beach, pools, and endless food, although that was cool too; more so because we were able to spend so much time together again as a group. It was also a good way to ease back into American culture since most of the people there were wealthy Americans. It was a bit strange at first to see so many white faces and hear so much English, but it didn't take too long to get comfortable.
Upon returning to the base, we spent a day debriefing by discussing our semester and thinking through the stories we would want to share with our families when we got home. One night, we had our very own Midnight Breakfast (a Bethel tradition each semester before finals - students dress up and the professors serve breakfast at midnight). We played games, dressed up, ate awesome waffles that Vicki made, and ended the evening by writing notes of encouragement/appreciation to each other. Our last day, while exchanging pictures, we managed to spread a virus to all of our computers. We spent most of the afternoon running scans and downloading antivirus programs. That evening, we went to a little restaurant and had ribs while watching a slideshow Brent put together for us. The next morning, bright and early, we loaded our bags into the trailer and headed to the airport. It took quite a while to get all of our paperwork filled out, our price for overstaying our VISAS negotiated (we were technically in the DR illegally for three months), our bags weighed and checked and our last goodbyes said. Our flights were pretty uneventful. The blast of cold air that greeted us as we stepped off the plane in Chicago let us know that the next three months of our lives were going to be very, very cold. Peter surprised me by riding the Bethel bus to the airport. He hid in the back of the bus until we had been driving for about five minutes. It was a very pleasant surprise :)
Coming back to Bethel and seeing all of my friends again was also wonderful, but not as wonderful as being home and spending time with my family. I played more rounds of Dutch Blitz in the two and a half weeks I was home than I think I have in my entire life (that may be a slight exaggeration, but it was a lot!). I spent the first week at home, enjoying doing nothing. I made my family Dominican spaghetti and tostones, which they really enjoyed. My brothers were thrilled with their machetes that I brought back for them (7 in two suitcases - I'm surprised I didn't get stopped at customs). I was able to go to both of Peter's family Christmas gatherings. We had a little gingerbread house making competition between the two of us at one of them; I'm pretty sure his L-shaped house beat my one room shack, but mine had more candy on it! He was also able to go to my two family Christmas gatherings, which was pretty cool. We spent New Year's Eve at my house. Our evening consisted of eating food and playing poker. At least I watched the ball drop this year. Before heading back to college, I made beans & rice and a Dominican potato salad for my family. Most of them seemed to enjoy it :)
And now, here I am, back at Bethel. I've had two days of classes thus far. I think I'm really going to enjoy this semester, even though I'm going to be super busy. I'm getting out of my comfort zone and taking percussion ensemble and downhill skiing this semester. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy percussion, but after going to rehearsal on Thursday, I think I can safely say it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm just hoping downhill skiing will be the same. I turned in my student teaching application today. I can't believe I'm already to that point! It's kind of scary to be thinking of that step in my life already, but it's approaching quickly. I requested to be in a South Bend school, but I won't know where I'm placed for quite a while. I will be playing for the Spring Musical again this year, which airs the last week of February. Practices start next week. I found out today during choir that we will be singing at Woodburn Missionary on March 21st! I'm pretty pumped about that since I know a lot of people who go there and it's so close to my house. One other thing that I'm pretty excited about is that I have a least one person from our DR group in each of my classes :D I'll be working for the Beacon again this semester. We will be switching to an online edition shortly, which I think will make things easier as far as formatting goes. Plus, I can work from my room!