Though Cucuyo did not put on a program this year, Cucuyo volunteers Bianca and Laura traveled to Dominican Republic to visit with all of our Dominican participants in Bonao.

Part One: Los Frios

My boyfriend/husband Byron owns a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic, specifically in Los Frios, the community where he served as a Peace Corp Volunteer many years ago. I had been before but it’s the kind of place where it just gets sweeter with every visit. From the capital, I and a dear friend Bianca met up with Byron and grabbed a 6:30 a.m. three hour Caribe Tours bus to San Juan de la Maguana. There, over huevo frito and yuca, we caught up with San Juan resident Carmela which is always fun because she’s a perfect specimen of what it means to straddle cultures. Carmela’s mother is a conference interpreter turned cake-maker who I had the honor of conversing/throwing millions of questions at during my last trip to the DR. And her father is a Dominican from Puerto Plata. She is adamantly Dominican.

When we arrived to the market at 11:30 to catch the next leg of our transport, the camion—which usually leaves at 12—had already left. So Bianca and I wandered off to buy mangos and guineo while we waited for plan B to make it’s way to us.

Plan B was a guagua (small bus in DR Spanish) to Arroyo Cano where we waited on a corner for 4 slow hours to creep by. During that time we peered at a newborn and mused over the life of the 17-year-old mute new mom. We ate tostones with agrio. We talked about the new president and found out we were sitting in his hometown. We watched motor bikes hum by. We got up and walked to the corner when we couldn’t sit any longer. We watched time elapse.

The camion arrived and we climbed into it’s open bed, strapped our bags to the back of the cab and settled into our favorite grip and riding stance. It would be a two hour ride with about fifteen other nice folks up the mountain and through the potholes thanks the Japanese’s ingenuity. The new mom and baby sat in the cab in the front.

That evening we arrived to Los Frios, where the sun is the main source of light, and the most important innovation in most people’s lifetime was the coming of the aqueduct and running water. It’s easy to walk slow in Los Frios. Working comes naturally and not working does too. We spent two days up in a place where the clouds are as likely to be above you as below.

Finca La Paz’s Farm Manager Antonio taken by Byron Holcomb

As an interpreter, Los Frios is a gold mine. Los Frios is a day in day out vocabulary workshop in campo-speak and other strange-isms. A everyday interaction between two Los Frieños would go something like this:

Middle-aged incredibly strong man 1: Homb’e, ¿cómo tu ‘ta?
Middle-aged man 2 in rocking chair: Entre lo’ do’
1: Ha visto mi montura hoy?
2: No lo he vido hoy
1: Hay que dir pa’ el conuco de mi compai

First one to decipher that gets a free gallon of aceite and an 125-pound sack of arroz.

Part Two: Cucuyo & Bonao

Cucuyo is the youth cultural exchange through the arts non-profit that I direct. It’s entirely volunteer run (including me as well) and it operates in the summer. This year we didn’t do any full out programs because of how much was going on in my life—job change, wedding, moving apartments, looking at master’s degrees, etc. We did however want to go visit and do some planning for the future. Continuity is important to me and I also wanted to see if I could tease out the current needs and desires of the Dominican youth that participate with us.

In addition to our aim to have some conversations about the future, Board Member and last year’s Documentarian and Interpreter Bianca made plans to put on a brief three-day workshop on leadership and effective community activism—one of her specialties she’s been developing during this past year with her work at Sustainable Food Center in Austin, TX. This she delivered with beautiful competence complete with an ice cream party and certificates for the 22 youth who participated. The youth latched on to the material easily and honored us with their openness and willingness to share the collective pains in their community.

Community Activism workshop in La Ceiba taken by Bianca Bidiuc

So, while no less important than our previous years’ operations, the workload was significantly less. This left us with significant time to do the hardest work of all—not working.

In the space between running and rest is where all the magic happens.  I always knew this on some level, but this year’s gift was that this teaching crystallized into a precious clarity. As I slowed down to meet all of our Dominican friends in their space, in their context, the rate at which our gnarled connection became muscled and tight accelerated. From there, it loosened into an easy swing. There was where Bianca and I found a vision for a simpler, cleanly-structured, repeatable, sustainable program based on workload sharing and the principle of doing a few things well rather than many mediocre things.

More details on our newest ideas to come. And in honor of this year’s experience, they will be released at a Dominican pace.

Bonao is my community. It’s yours too. If Cucuyo pretends to achieve anything, it would be a shot at providing an experiential opportunity in interconnectedness. It’s amongst the unfamiliar that all the familiarities stand up and shout their names.