In January, I figured out a new mantra while in the DR: nothing is linear. Why does the bus arrive between 30 minutes before to one hour after the expected time? Why did lunch take 2 hours? Why do I get pulled from clinic to deal with the press? Why do 3 cars try to fit into 2 lanes? Because nothing is linear. Things get done here, but it never seems to follow the path we might expect in the US: a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty is par for the course, and I am always reminded that I need to be flexible and adaptable.

Yesterday I left the school with two students at 8:30 in the morning, as clinic was getting started, to run a couple of housecalls. It has been rainy these past few days, but it wasn’t raining as we left and we figured we would be quick and be back in an hour or so. The rain picked up as we got into the community and we sheltered in a home for about 30 minutes. In this house, we were offered cups of hot chocloate as the family ate breakfast, even as we intruded.

We moved on to our first patient, Dona Teya. While at her house, the rain resumed. The road outside flooded, and the water rose to within a few inches of her threshold. The rain continued for nearly four hours, pouring down and easing up, and the water levels rose and fell. We were advised by a passerby that the drainage ditch that separates the community of Esfuerzo from the rest of Paraiso had flooded out of it’s banks, and we would need to wait until the level dropped before crossing back.

So, we passed the time with Teya and Clara. We played dominoes, and learned that if you are an American playing dominoes for the first time against a 70-year old Dominican woman, you probably will lose…badly. Sitting in Teya’s house, made of wood with a corrugated tin roof, we listened to the roar of the rain and watched the water as we played dominoes on a piece of cardboard perched on our laps. Clara made lunch, and made us plates of boiled yucca and bananas with fried sausage…even though she and Teya would be considered extremely poor by most measures. We were welcomed as friends, and in both houses the generosity and welcome was humbling.

The rain eventually slacked off, and we were able to walk out to the higher ground of the community. We went to look at the flood water, and the three of us were amazed: the entire valley separating Esfuerzo from the rest of Paraiso was flooded to the level of a man’s chest. (I will add pictures once I get back stateside)

It was clear we were not going anywhere anytime soon. I called up to the school to check-in and to let the team know what was happening. Radha and the group had things under control: they had continued the model of using student pairs to facilitate patient care, and were keeping up the pace.

By 5 pm, the water had started receding slowly but was still knee high. However, it was getting late and there was a chance of more rain later, and we began to make plans to walk out. Just then, two young men from the community offered to carry the students out across the water, and we were ready to go. The water reached to just above my knees at it’s deepest, nearly three hours after the rain had finally tapered off.

A one hour house all had turned into a nine hour experience. Nothing is linear. But we saw the hospitality and generosity of the community’s residents. Despite the unpredictability of life in the DR, many of the people we have worked with will go out of their way to help out and to make you welcome. It is an incredible, chaotic, unpredictable, but often friendly place, and the long-term relationships with the people and the community are incredibly rewarding.

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