I live in a place where people of all ages, many with missing limbs, knock on your car window while you're waiting at a traffic light to beg for money. A place where young children walk into the coffee shop where I work to ask for a glass of water because the 12 pm sun beating down on them in the streets is dehydrating.
A place where its too dangerous to walk outside due to robbery at gunpoint. I live in a place where I only feel safe if I wear my purse across my body. A place where poverty is a 5 minute drive from my home.
A place where a slightly fancy dinner for one equates to the biweekly salary of a person earning minimum wage (the majority of the population). A place where the majority of the population cant afford to step inside a movie theater.
I live in a place where electricity is VERY expensive, yet its a miracle to have 24 hours of continuous electricity, or nonstop running water in many places for that matter. A place where gas is VERY expensive, and where its common to see five people riding on one moped at the same time, because its more affordable and safer than the "public transportation."
A place where there are drive-thru alcohol bars, so that you can actually drink your rum and coke in a styrofoam cup while driving.
A place where many traffic lights don't work, where there is no regard for rules of the road, and where the abundance and depth of the potholes are enough to cause accidents but more commonly to destroy your overpriced, imported vehicle (they have been enough to turn me off to driving completely).
I live in a place where only 4% of the population has an education, and its not college level that I'm talking about. A place where a couple of the people in my own company can barely right their first name down on paper when I ask them to sign their paycheck. I live in a place where the middle class must send their children to private schools (which don't guarantee a good education) and struggle to pay the yearly tuition fees which start from the age of kindergarden.
I live in a place where its normal for men to carry guns around for their own personal protection and where most security guards stand outside stores with rifles. I live in a place where many people fear the police rather than feel safe if approached by an officer.
So, how do I deal? At first I felt fear when grown men would continuously tap on my passenger side car window to ask for money; the 90 second traffic lights felt like an eternity. When I eventually got past the fear, it became easy for me to feel annoyed. Annoyed that people would press their faces against my window to stare at me through the tinted glass, or drop their wet, soapy sponge on our windshield to try and clean it without permission (to make about 30 cents).
I won't say that "annoyance" has become a default feeling for the poverty I see day after day, but it makes me wonder, has living in the DR hardened me? What happened to empathy? Have I actually adjusted to the things I witness every day? Is "adjustment" the same thing as "acceptance"?
I don't know how to answer these questions, but I do know that living here has changed me. And if one thing is for sure, it is that it has made me more grateful for the life I lead, more grateful than ever before.
I sound generic, but if you are able to read this post, know how lucky you are. Lucky that you are able to read, lucky that you have access to a computer, and lucky that you have hobbies that enable you to learn and grow as a person. Its easy to hear, but harder to process. Process it and be thankful this November, the US' month of gratitude!