Christmas Week in the Republica Dominicana

The night Maya and I, and seven others in my family, arrived to Republica Dominicana, my brother Seppi asked for our attention. As he stood behind two rocking chairs on the porch, he lifted his hands. Now, before I continue, let me tell you one thing about Seppi. He lives for humor. Even on the grimmest of topics, Seppi thinks quick on his feet and finds a way to lighten the mood. With this ability, Seppi humorously signed a modified phrase known to have been said by Brett Kavanaugh.

I like beer. You like beer? Girls like beer. Boys like beer. Yes, we drank beer. I still like beer. We drink beer.

Another thing to know about Seppi is that he has not acquired the ability to communicate in sign language until this fall. While Seppi was signing, Maya and I were taken by such sweet surprise. Seppi continued.

I have been taking an American Sign Language beginners course at WPSD (Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf).

By then, rosy-cheeked, I was struck in a trance of… relief. I didn’t pay attention to his signing anymore because I was overwhelmed with emotion. My brother, who was my closest companion growing up, was communicating in a language that has become central to my life as a Deaf individual. Better yet, he was signing in a language that is native to my fiance. Having once known just a few words in sign language, Seppi is now able to communicate on his own with Maya, meeting her where she is at by using her language.

With the way Seppi kicked off our international vacation, I definitely couldn’t wait for the week together to commence.

Our vacation was no resort, blue-beach, Punta Cana-y like. We were luckier than that. My brother-in-law, Tony, is from Republica Dominicana. After years of dreaming, Tony’s wish became true. The Grugan entourage along with two spouses traveled to his family’s batey. A batey is an area of clustered residential buildings on a plantation. For one week, Tony’s father’s family hosted us. If you want to know what generosity really means then you should meet Papito’s family. They gave up their beds. They shared their only bathroom. They ate in the kitchen so we could sit around the dinner table. They sat on their beds or in the streets so we could have the rocking chairs on the porch. They cooked all meals from morning, noon, to even sometimes a 9pm dinner. They don’t have much but they do with what they have. And even when they have even less than what they normally have, they gave that up so we could be with them. I’ll let some photos show the essence of this vacation.

Highlight from our week’s stay: Tony was able to bring his mother to the embassy in the Republica Dominicana to request for a passport. This passport would allow for Tony’s mother to travel more freely between Haiti (where she currently lives) and the Republica Dominicana (where family/resources/access is more readily available). She was approved!

Maria & Tony

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