A machete, a government-issue horse, and a Bible
I was a newly-minted Peace Corps volunteer and ready to change the world through serving others in the Dominican Republic. I had gone through my community-based training for three months along with some very tough moments of loneliness, hunger and self-doubt. However, I had landed in my community of Los Blancos in the South near the Haitian side of the Island. I was ready to get to work.
I lived in a small room, so small that I could barely move in it. I started to settle in, tired from the journey and the anticipation of the next two years of my life in the Peace Corps. I had just lain down for a nap when José, my host brother, woke me up. “Eduardo, tienes que hablar con la comunidad. Están afuera esperandote.” I needed to speak to the community which was outside waiting for me.
I got up and threw on some clothes. What the heck am I going to say? I was super nervous. Would they want to work with me? Would they like me? Could I truly make a difference? What will my first impression be like?
As I walked out the door something hit me. I grabbed my machete and my Bible and went out to greet la gente. I sat down with the various local leaders as they prepared to announce me to the community.
There were probably thirty to forty people there but it seemed like a thousand. After the remarks from the community elders and leaders they called me up to give a speech about all the things we were going to do together.
I stood and held up my Machete in one hand and said, “Estoy aquí para trabajar,” I’m here to work, I said. I grabbed my Bible in the other hand and said “¡Estoy aquí con Dios para servirles!” I’m here with God to serve you! Then I sat my butt down! That was it.
The crowd looked at me as if to say, Is that all this kid is going to say? and then they started to applaud. It had begun. My journey in a different land had started.
I would work and serve them and they would serve me and teach me more about life than I could have ever imagined. I had no idea what I was getting into and would later lose almost fifty pounds, lose friends to disease and see death, hope, and life up close and personal.
I was in the Peace Corps and this was real. I was in for the toughest job I would ever love.