Back to Boca Chica I went...It was my 4th visit, the last time I was there was 3yrs ago. It is still the prostitution central of the Dominican Republic. There would appear to be less women soliciting in the evenings, many of the girls are already paired with the tourist of the week. There are more tourist families visiting than in the past, but still a large number of single men (mainly over the age of 55 - I would guess) line the streets, sitting on plastic chairs outside the different resturants smoking and sipping Dominican coffee (a tiny cup of black tar-like liquid for those who have never had the experience). This place is like no other, the locals are sweet, coy, hardened, and embittered, yet hopeful. After many years of tourism, the locals are starting to realize more and more the treasures they have been blessed with...the land, the culture, dignity of being...
I lost one of my street friends - a deaf boy, I say boy, but he really is a young man in his early 20s. He died in what may have been an altercation, the details are sketchy. My other friend is a little person, also deaf, unable to get out as much as she has complications with her GI tract, I never got to connect with her. I am told she is getting the health care she needs though. The barista at the best cappuccino bar (Pequena Suiza) is still there smiling and laughing, doing a great job and reminding me that there really is hope in some of the most unlikely of places, The beggars continue to beg, little boys wanting your food that you just bought, others asking to shine your running shoes, women offering massages, men selling jewelry, cigars, viagra...you know, practical stuff.
The saying, 'the light of God shines in the darkest of places' comes to mind. This place must be pretty brilliant in the spirit, but it is sometimes hard to see beyond the moment. I mean, there is darkness all around, poverty, corruption, abuse...the sun shines and the wind blows regardless, but it is like a deceptive dance that blurs the stark reality that the people here, tourist and local alike, are wearing a veil by choice...and yet, God moves, His Spirit evident in the little things - the prayers by the people for a young woman that hung herself, the generosity of the poor sharing with the poor, the song of simple joy sung by a few as they labour, the helping hand of one to another with no expectation of recourse,...I remember being touched as I heard a song play in the background - You Are My All in All - just in a moment when I was thinking how hopeless society is in general...it was like God was reminding me of what true hope is - Him, not the circumstances surrounding me, just Him. And there He was...in Boca Chica, with me.
It was bittersweet to return, life goes on...people come, people go. Things improve, things remain the same, It has me, once again, thinking about what's important, what I want my impact in this world to be, what I want with this one precious life given me.