Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Did You Start Planning for this?

 

 

Well, I believe everyone's steps will be a bit different when planning and setting goals to live abroad. 
 
For "ME", it was easier to plan by envisioning my future. To plan from THE FINISH LINE and work my way backwards.   In other words, I asked myself WHERE do I want to see myself in 18 months.  Primarily as it pertains to living abroad in the Dominican Republic, volunteering, earning income\starting up a business   Then,  I asked myself this same question for 12 months, in order to build a milestone on my progress.   Once I wrote down the answers to the question above, I took it one step at a time:

 

 

STEP  ONE:   Create a Budget Plan

 

Back to the "Finish Line" view point;   I was able to calculate expenses and identify my personal goals.  Some of the primary monthly expenses were covered in my previous blog (Just Do It Already) and I recap them below.  As such, I calculated the following for my overall expenses:

 

  • Apartment Rent (Furnished & All Bills paid apartment that includes Wi-Fi).  Since I didn't have the luxury of seeing the apartments 1st hand, I had to rely on the on-line reviews, phone calls and recommendations. If the apartment DOESN'T include utilities, then I will need to allot for this on  a separate expense line.
 
  • Extra Spending $$ (bus\taxis laundry, activities, dining-out etc..)

  • Tithes\Donations
 
  • Cell Phone plan (I decided to remain with my carrier Verizon, since they work perfectly fine in the DR). My contract has ended &  I will switch my plan to their prepaid  "no contract" plan ($45\month).

  • Calling card minutes  & extra SIM card.

  • Immigration Attorney Fees.

  • TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language certification) + School and Hotel fees.

  • Airline Tickets To Peru and Dominican Republic.

  • Round trip Airline tickets to/from Home.

  • Spanish School while in The DR.

  • Hotel and\or Homestay during weeks at Spanish School.

  • Passport Renewal.

  • Travel\Health Insurance

  • Misc. PRE Visa paperwork\shipping etc... 
(I've had to pay for 4 documents to be Apostilled at $15 each, I Paid $30 for 2 2X2 phoots from the Post office, FedEx fees and 2 books of stamps for mailing other item and $85 for a Live FBI scan)

  • Groceries

 

STEP TWO:  Research Visas

 

I started with researching the immigration\visa process first.  Most countries will only allow you to "VISIT" their country for 30-90 days as a tourist. Anything past that will require you to have some type of visa.  The other option is to perform "Visa Runs" which can get old.  Visa Runs are when you simply cross the border into a bordering country (like Haiti) and come back to have your passport re-stamped for an additional 30-60 days.  This is performed a lot with expats in Thailand.  But I don't want to travel to Haiti every 60 days just to renew my visa.  That's too much work and it can be stressful if you're not "in the know" with the Haitians. Although I'm sure I'll make many Haitian friends, I still don't want to deal with the bureaucracy.   So with that said,  I initially thought to myself "Hmmm, I think I'll start off with a Student Visa" since I want to attend school and learn Spanish upon arriving in the Dominican Republic.  However, after reviewing all visa types, I soon realized that I should go for the Resident Visa based upon the fact that I plan I on making this my home for the long haul

 

When I first started researching the possibility of living abroad in the DR, this website (DREscapes) was IMMENSELY HELPFUL! I reached out to the site owner and we eventually spoke on the phone. I have plans on meeting him for the 1st time in May of 2015. During that meeting, my husband will be joining me!  After we spoke over the phone he eventually got me in touch with an  Dominican Republic immigration attorney.  I'm on the fence as it pertains to how I feel about my attorney at the moment.  Primarily because the communication and lack of response at times are pretty spotty (this is typical when doing business in the Dominican Republic, I know this). Anyhow, So I can't really give a fair overview of what I think of the firm yet until I've finalize my entire process early next year.  At that time, I will be able to spill all the tea.   

 

 

STEP THREE: Review your plan & tweak accordingly

 

I printed out a 1 page calendar of Year 2015 & 2014.  As well as a monthly 2015 calendar.  I chose to keep it on paper as oppose to my cell phone because I needed to touch, feel and see my year at a view everyday.  I needed to take a pencil and jot down my dates of milestone such as:  when will I buy my airline tickets, when will I contact the attorney, when will I buy health insurance etc..  It helped me to see which dates I'll have the money to pay for my TEFL certification, purchase airline tickets and put a deposit down for the Apartment.  Seeing it printed out on paper help me to assess timelines such as when to call the attorney and when to schedule the 2nd part of the visa process.  If you're like me, it needs to be laid out in front of you in order to see the overall picture. It helped me to lay out my expenses on the table in order to assess my funds...loooong before my initial departure.  I'll admit, there were several times I had to rearrange things due to unforeseen  financial incidents, but that was okay.  I just had to tighten my budget that much more tighter as it got closer to the end of 2014.  I gave everyone in my family  a heads up that Christmas gifts this year will NOT be overly extravagant...I'm on a budget! 

 

STEP FOUR: Start calling around & emailing

 

At this stage, I had to add the international plan to my Verizon cell plan.  It was only $5 more a month. It allowed me to call over to the Dominican Republic and actually chat with folks ie... apartment owners, businesses & schools in order to further my research and investigation. Now is the time to start finding out where you'd like to stay. Call realtors and apartment owners, visit TripAdvisor.com to get an unbiased opinion on the rentals and neighborhoods.  However, please remember that YOU CAN'T rely on everything that you READ on TripAdvisor or even blogs such as mine. Everyone's taste is not like yours, have an open mind, do your own research and PLEASE DON'T BE A FOLLOWER of the fear-mongers!!!  Also, If you'll be attending school there, have your list of questions ready and contact them.  After several months of narrowing down my school options, I decided to go with a school in Santiago. I was REALLY close to going with one in Santo Domingo in the Zona Colonial area, but opted against it due to the fact that it will be too touristy.  Being an African American, I want to blend in with the locals as much as possible and I don't think I'll have a problem with that based upon my looks. As such, I want to learn Spanish AWAY from other Americans and foreigners.   I spoke with their overseas director at the school in Santiago and opted to go with the Homestay program they offer where I'll get 3 meals a day w/ a private bedroom and Wi-Fi!!  Santiago has FAR LESS tourist than in Santo Domingo. Don't forget to Shop around for an attorney too.

 

The steps above focus on an personal move to the DR at a high level overview.   If you intend on building a business, of course the steps are entirely different, but they still focuses on the same principal.  I'm sure I'm missing some things and will have to update this later, but All comments are welcomed!

 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Seven Myths about Living in the Dominican Republic

I found this interesting! What do you think? 

 
 
 

Debunking Seven Myths about Living in the Dominican Republic 

by Ginnie Bedggood 

Each year more and more foreigners move to the Dominican Republic, lured by the tropical climate, inexpensive property (if you know where to look), high rates of return on investments and a very reasonable cost of living compared to Europe and the United Kingdom and, in some respects, the US also. After 13 years of living here I have noticed that some of the more recent arrivals are different in both calibre, adjustability and simpatico with the locals, from those already living here when I became an expat. A small amount of research has shown that newer arrivals probably could be described as 'followers' rather than 'pioneers' and many arrive with false assumptions and a set of myths internalised which do not assist in a happy transition. These brief thoughts are penned with the aim of easing the passage of future groups of arrivals.  

Myth No. 1: I don't need to learn Spanish  
Wrong! Whilst many Dominicans working in tourist areas speak English, those away from these areas do not. Your Spanish need not be fluent, but making the effort goes a huge way to engender acceptance by the indigenous population. In any event, foreigners who do not speak any Spanish get charged 'gringo' prices and could find themselves at the wrong end of the odd scam or two because they do not understand what is going on around them (scams frequently operated by other gringos, I might point out, as well as street wise Dominicans.  

Myth No. 2: The safest place to live is in a gated community with other expats and lots of security guards  
 
Again, wrong. The Dominican Republic is not like some of the more dangerous parts of the Middle East. Yes, there is crime here, but where in the world is there not? Gated communities full of other expats signify to burglars houses with good 'pickings'. Security guards are usually paid a pittance and are unlikely to risk life and limb if armed burglars appear. Some of the security guards may even be part of the problem, providing the burglars with information about residents' movements. In 13 years here we have never found it necessary to live in a gated community and we certainly would never live surrounded by expats. We take normal precautions similar to those which our Dominican neighbours take and all we have 'lost' in 13 years is one Dominican flag and the soft top to a jeep, both from outside the house, not inside.  

Myth No. 3: Driving in the Dominican Republic is a risky business  
True. Just how risky depends a lot on you. If you have eyes everywhere and are good at predicting others' actions and drive firmly and confidently, the risks are markedly decreased. There is no 'road rage' here, just carelessness and failure to signal. Traffic lights are a relatively new phenomenon of about four years back in Puerto Plata where I live and some inhabitants are clearly still adjusting!  

Myth No. 4: Medical care is primitive  
Whilst this would be true of public hospitals it is not true of private clinics and expats will be using the latter. Public hospitals are severely under-resourced. The doctors are willing and in most cases able but just do not possess the most basic of items. Operations in public hospitals have been known to be completed by the light from a surgeon's cellphone when the power goes off or the back up generator runs out of fuel. The Dominican Republic is, after all, a developing country.  

Myth No. 5: There are power problems  
No myth, this one is absolutely correct. However, most expats will obtain either inverters or generators or both so blackouts affect them far less than poorer sectors of the community.  

Myth No. 6: The 'natives' are always happy  
No, they are not, but they are an uncomplaining race of people and tend to 'get on' with life. Also they would not want to upset you by appearing miserable, so on goes the beaming smile. There is both poverty and hunger here, so of course people are unhappy at times. But you have to prove your worth by staying for the long haul and having a warm and understanding nature before they will share these concerns with you. This is because many expats prefer to 'look the other way' and not see these issues. If you are one of these, please do not move here.  

Myth No. 7 : Nothing ever happens when it should  
Well, yes and no. If you were expecting something to be done today and it is not, you will be told 'Manana'. From this you may mistakenly believe it will be done tomorrow. 'Manana' does not necessarily mean tomorrow. Sometimes it means 'never' but Dominicans would not want to upset you by telling you this. The only way around this one is to learn to ask the right questions  
I could, of course, write an entire article on each one of these but perhaps it is best to stop whilst one is ahead! You can and will adjust to these differences. It helps if you view them as differences and not the 'right' way and the 'wrong' way. There is no need for a 'them' and 'us' attitude in the Dominican Republic, so if you feel you already have one, please deposit it at the airport - preferably Miami!  
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

My 1st Apartment

 

As I mentioned in my previous blog "Why I chose the DR", I mentioned that I would be volunteering with Project Esparanza.  When I decided to fully move to the DR, I investigated several places to stay. 

 

 My first apartment will be temporary until I can find something permanent while I  get settled in and start checking out the surrounding areas. I chose a small apartment in the town of Munoz which is where the community resides that I'll be working in. I'm happy to say that I've paid for my 1st month's rent already...exciting!  There were times, I was really really close to putting a deposit down on some VERY nice modern style apartments and condos, but I didn't.  Again, This mission is not about me...its not about that.  This will not be a 5 star vacation.  I know this going in. As such, I decided to go with SUNCAMPDR.  Visit them at www.suncampdr.org  when you can. Diane owns these eclectic apartments and she is the founder of the Suncamp.ORG which offers Volunteer vacations that I find to be on the "up & up". Her and I have chatted via SKYPE and numerous emails.  I can't wait to meet her in person.  Check out her youtube videos too on her website. I simply can't wait!!  She knows Caitlin, as they both serve the same community which is why I chose her apartments...it's near the schools that Project Esparanza serve...the schools I'll be working in.  

 

 

Again check them out when you can. The prices are well worth the experience. However, to see the  pictures of each of their apartments you'll have to go to www.suncamp.com NOT .org. 

 

 I'll be staying in Apartment C4. Here are pictures : https://picasaweb.google.com/105121144366667890308/ApartmentOneBedroomC4SunsetDreamSunCampDR?noredirect=1#  

 

JUST DO IT ALREADY!

If you are struggling with moving abroad due to the million and one excuses that's floating around in your brain, on why you SHOULD'NT, then I know exactly how you feel. Here's my story on the battles I fought with inside my head: 

 

In February 2014, I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was going to move abroad and that I wanted to make that happen by Feb 2015. Once my mind is set on something...it's set.  I just didn't know where to begin!!! I spent at least 2 months going back & forth with small battles in my head over this topic. I initially thought that the first thing that I needed to do was to research which countries I might enjoy living in. Not the case, this is where my indecisiveness started along with all the questions in my head that I needed to find answers to. 

 

  

My young adult daughter whom I feel is WISE, WELL BEYOND her years, has an old soul and is very mature for her age!  She was the only one that I "initially" really ran a lot of all my ideas across, primarily because I wanted to use her reaction(s) as a basis of what my other family members will say when I told them.  Well after about a month of tossing ideas to her, she may have gotten irritated with me and finally said "Mama, I'm going to tell you what you've always told me...."Stop talking about it and JUST DO IT".  And she was correct.  Before I began telling my close friends and family of my plans, I needed to have a solid plan.  Like with ANY project I've worked on in my career, a project plan is needed and it needs to be carefully planned out. It needs to have timelines, tasks, a projected budget and all the milestones to identify that I'm meeting my goal as scheduled.  

 

 I finally sat down in May and planned out my finances. I had to identify how much money will I need to have put aside in order to live at least 12-18 months in another country. I first and foremost wanted to ensure I had enough funds to live off of, IF I no longer had any income coming in. The cost of living in the Dominican Republic is amazingly low compared to The US.  My monthly cost of living budget includes the following: 

  • Rent (400\month) 

  • Utilities 

  • Cell phone bill\ calling cards 

  • Groceries 

  • Tithes  

  •  Misc. funds (bus\taxi fare, extra curricular activities\outings, household items etc...) 

 

And then I've allotted for yearly expenses: 

  • Health Insurance 

  • Airline tickets to fly back home 

  • Visa renewals  \ Attorney fees

 

After printing out my budget plan, tweaking it several times, I then sat down with my husband FIRST and went over everything financially. I usually don't look forward to his opinions, but above anything else, His opinion, thoughts and emotional support will be my major lifeline in this mission. I value them dearly.  HE IS MY LOVER'S ROCK! 

 

The next conversation I would have was going to be with my mom.  My mom, whom by all accounts, is a true ANGEL. She's my cheerleader!  She whole heartily supports me and had given me recommendations on the steps I should take along the way.  I was truly quite surprise!  However, as the time draws nearer she's getting more nervous than I am.    Of all the people, her feelings  towards my mission touches my soul the most! Yes, she's tried to discourage me from going SEVERAL SEVERAL times, but in her heart of hearts she knows I'll be fine. 

 

UPDATE: TODAY (11/14/14), I bought my airline tickets to Peru and The Dominican Republic.  I have so much anxiety right now!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why Are You Doing This & Why The DR??

Why I chose the Dominican Republic:  

 

 

I looked into Thailand, Peru and Jamaica. Now I could overly exaggerate by saying that I chose the DR because it's warm, it's beautiful and the people are more friendlier than ANY place I've ever been.  I could also tell you that it has history, amazing architecture and furthermore it shares its island with Haiti, a country in its own right that's full of rich ethnic culture and some of the  nicest souls on this side of heaven. But that's not why I ultimately chose  The Dominican Republic. The primary reason is because the NEED there has touched my spirit far more than any place I've ever been.  

Anyone that knows me, knows that I consider Jamaica my 2nd home.  My husband and I travel there each year. I'm a true J'American at heart.  For years, I've always said that I wanted to retire there some day.  I love the people and the island.  As such, I started researching different property on the far West side of the island as well as in the city of Sav-la-Mar.  I know the west side of that island like the back of my hand :-) and recently fell in love with the south coast of the island during our visit in 2013.  

 

I had a couple of business ideas that I thought would do good in Jamaica, so I wanted to start researching the areas above that I had in mind.   I spent weeks researching on the Internet.  I researched owning Property vs. leasing (commercially and home)  as well as business venture opportunities.  As I began looking into what it would take to buy land and\or real estate along with opening up a business in Jamaica, I started to see a lot of Pros and Cons.  All the CONS on acquiring personal real estate outweighed the positive PROs of opening up a business there.  Which really makes sense. In other words, it is easier and better to OWN a BUSINESS versus the hard process of BUYING\Owning a place to stay.  The country survives from the funds of tourism and businesses that are owned by foreigners.  The country has TRULY improved by leaps and bounds in opening the doorway to Expat entrepreneurs.  From my research,  Jamaica has made the paperwork/red tape process for business owners much more easier (as oppose to previous years).  However, Jamaica is still behind the times on the real estate process of acquiring true ownership of property.  Even after someone has fully paid for their land, it can take several long months, if not YEARS, for you to even see your deed, due to their lack of administrative processing and work flow.  From what I gather, even if you've retained the services of a Real Estate Attorney, this doesn't guarantee that the process will go any faster.  Bear in mind it's still ALWAYS a good idea to have an attorney, considering that there seems to be a lot of "loop holes" and fine print in finalizing the purchasing process of buying property...not to mention that some parts of their process are sketchy at best....which can lead to miscommunication and fraudulent activity.  Nonetheless, setting up a business and owning a home in Jamaica is POSSIBLE if you're well prepared and have an attorney. With that being said, I got a bit discourage after a couple of months of "thinking things through".  I started to think that maybe I should just stay put for now and reassess these plans for later in my life.  In the meanwhile, I  began to plan my next Caribbean trip for the summer.  

 

But for some reason, EVERY NIGHT while I was laying in the bed  (as well as constantly during my work day) I couldn't shake this feeling that I needed to start preparing my mindset for a move...a change.  I got burned out on trying to think of ways to make Jamaica my 2nd home. Ways of building a foundation there.  It was tiring.  When I get fed up with my thoughts, I ended up saying "LORD, if it's in your will, it will be done". I let go and let GOD handle it at that point.   At that very moment, when I spoke those words, I no longer yearned to live in Jamaica. I immediately no longer desired to seek a place that (what I thought) fulfilled "my" longest desires.  At that very moment, for some reason, the FIRST thing that popped up in my head was the first sentence in the book "The Purpose Driven Life".  The 1st sentence of Day One in that book reads: "IT's NOT ABOUT YOU".   I don't know WHY that popped up in my head at that moment, but it did!  Oh Well.  

 

 

The next day, the thoughts of Jamaica and finding a way to live abroad seemed to fade like a distant childhood memory.  But for some odd reason, the sentence from that book kept popping up in my head throughout my work day..."It's NOT ABOUT YOU...It's Not about you." Why was it that I couldn’t seem to get THIS QUOTE out of me head.  Anyway, When I went home that evening, I pick up that book and decided to take it to work... I wanted to re-read chapter ONE in my spare time.  I keep a bible at my desk and used it as reference.  Before I started to read it, I said a quick prayer, asking for guidance and understanding in a way that makes sense to me.  I'm the type of person, that if you can't break it down to me on a level of my understanding then I'll miss the point.  Which is why I love referencing The Good News Translation Bible.  I just don't get "Thou , Art, Beget, and other biblical references.  I'm the type of person that needs to have the knowledge broken down...point blank.  The Good News translation bible is more of a modern bible and it does that for me...without all the old biblical jargon I don't understand.  Anyway, where was I...Oh yeah,  When I begin to reread chapter One of The Purpose Drive Life, I found myself relating this to my dream of moving abroad which eventually led me to a part of the book that states "If GOD is not in your plan, your plan will fail".  I had an AH-HA moment.   Now, if you're not a religious person, OR if you are a person that doesn't have FAITH in a higher divine entity, then what I'm about say won't make sense...that's okay, I'm cool with that. Once you have been made aware of something (good, bad or indifferent), you are then held accountable for the actions that follow or may be held to a higher standard of values because YOU NOW KNOW.  

 

 

A couple of months had passed, it was April and I was celebrating my birthday with my twin sister at  my favorite boutique spa hotel . My husband and I had also just paid for our upcoming 2nd trip for the year and I couldn't wait for July to get here so that we can head back to Jamaica.   For my birthday, my husband paid for 2 separate suites at the hotel.  My twin sister and I had invited our best friends, our sister-in-law and our mother.  We spent all day Saturday getting massages, having Korean baths, pampering ourselves and just having fun.  Since this was done on a Saturday, we wouldn't be making it to church the next morning.  So My mom and sister decided that we should have a prayer and bible study session prior to checking out on Sunday morning.  My mom has a PHD in Theology and is truly the cornerstone of why my faith in GOD is so strong. I myself hadn't been to church is MONTHS and was cool with their idea. 

 

That Sunday morning in April, I firmly believe that my thoughts had been ordered. Unbeknownst to me, the next steps of my life were being ordered.  My best friend Kim said a scripture that I've heard many times before, but never really paid any attention to it.  She was speaking to the group and I honestly don't remember what she was saying, EXCEPT I VIVIDLY heard and remember her saying these words to this day: "To whom much is given, Much is required (Luke 12:48)."  Again, I've heard this many times in my life, but for some reason THIS TIME, I really heard it.  It was like GOD was whispering in my ear saying "and THIS is why it's not about you".  This scripture means that we are held responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we use these well to glorify God and benefit others. If not, then you will continuously run into road blocks on whatever path you're on, while trying to reach your goal.   

 

It had been a couple of months since I had pondered moving abroad and it really wasn't on my mind as much.   But at that very moment, on THAT Sunday morning, everything was crystal clear.  Without a shadow of a doubt, my mission had been ordered. To this day, my best friend doesn't know that her words were the answer to part of the questions that kept me up at night. Thanks Kim! Love you Girl!  

 

  With that said, I'm guilty of staying in the 5 star hotels and flying first class when traveling.  I'm guilty of being shuffled around on the overprice excursion trips to do activities that I've done before.  I'm guilty of coming back home from the trip just to eagerly plan for the next one. We always ended up spending anywhere from 3 to 6 THOUSANDS of dollars on a piece of serenity that only lasted a week or so...just to end up back in the rat race of Corporate America upon our return.  Yes memories were built, friendships were made, but beside boosting that countries economy with our vacation funds, how else did I give back? Hmmm, well, I did give really large tips during my entire trip...does that count? LOL.  Looking back on hindsight I can't help but think "Why did I still feel empty upon returning? Did I miss being a blessing to someone?" I go through the pictures and videos that I took and quickly highlight the ones of us on the beach, on a boat, at the restaurant, horseback riding etc...and quickly ignore the ones that show a society at it's lowest.  It was as if I wanted people to see memories of the peaceful and serene parts of the island along with the fun we were having.  However, the ones with the goats on the side of the road or the kids running in the unpaved streets with no shoes, the pictures that show the true daily life of a typical 3rd world poverty were far and few in-between. I learned a long time ago, that whenever you stop thinking about YOURself and YOUR problems long enough to start focusing on helping others, then you'll soon realize that the problems you were worried about are no longer problems.  It's funny how that works.  It works because it's a part of the cycle of life.  If you have FAITH that GOD will work your problem out and you continue to glorify his name during the GOOD and the BAD, you'll see blessings that you thought could never be obtained. Unbeknownst to you while you were blessing someone, a blessing was being made in your favor!  Jesus can work it out baby, I KNOW!

 

 I began to pray for guidance and direction...EVERYDAY!   What was HIS purpose for me?  Lord, OK, I get it, but what in the world are you wanting me to do?  How do you want me give back?  I already tithe faithfully...alright, I'll admit,  it's done on-line via automatic deductions from my checking account, but HEY, I still give my 10% and give to charities I believe in as well.  Lord,  I've been known to give strangers rides in the dead heat of a 100 degree Texas weather and buy  groceries for family members in need.  I give many homeless people money when I see them...what else is it that you'd like for me to do Lord?   Teach.   HUH, I don't get it...say what now?  I heard the word TEACH in the back of my mind. I thought to myself, "teach what? Teach who?"   I'm not a teacher and never had a desire to teach these bad a** kids now-a-days.  Most have no respect for their elders or authority and most schools have metal detector to ensure that the kids are NOT bringing guns.  Our school system (especially in Texas) is so jacked up. Okay, I Just had to vent a moment.  By this time, I was mentally drained and left it alone.  I thought my mind was simply playing tricks on  me and I left it alone.  But HE didn't.     

 

 Over the next few weeks I didn't sleep well. My husband can attest to that. I tossed and turned all throughout the night and laid in bed staring at the ceiling fan above.  He'd asked me if I was okay, and I'd lied to him by saying that my leg or back was just aching...I'm sorry to wake you.  I didn't want to wake him up with any pillow talk when he had to be at work in 3 hours. However, some evenings before going to bed, we would chat about the thoughts that were keeping me up at night. Our conversations were comforting.  I soon found myself pondering the idea of doing a mini volunteer vacation in a 3rd world country.  I starting looking into various sites that specialize in this.  I was actually quite disgusted by most of the "Volun-tourism" trips I saw on-line because they simply EXPLOITED the schools and communities for funds.  Some of the" so called" donation sites are nothing more than a cash cow business for the rich to off-set their taxes for the year.  Some are disguised quite well, until you start to research the board members, website sponsors etc...But as I started looking at some of them in several different countries,  I noticed that each 3rd world country has several to choose from. There are 2 in the Dominican Republic that remained in my top search and investigation.  These were the two that seemed to be LEGIT and REALLY honest about helping the community without over exploitation.  After further thought, I narrowed it down to just 1. It was Project Esparanza. I read every blog Caitlin (the founder) had on her website, I scoured the website, read all the stories and watched all the videos.  I was moved.  We began to email each other back and forth and eventually set up some time to chat via Skype.  She had a solace, yet bubbly personality. She founded Project Esparanza after visiting the Dominican Republic during college (Virginia Tech). She was moved by what she saw in the Haitian communities of the DR and did something about it.  She still lives there today.  After our conversations and the information that I read from her website, I knew that this is where I wanted to "volunteer" for a vacation.  Little did I know, that GOD was simply planting a seed in my head.   He wasn't finished with the conversion that HE and I had started several weeks prior.   

    

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Are you crazy or just inconsiderate?

Say What?!

Did you say "Move to another country".  Are you crazy or just inconsiderate?? 

 

Now grant it, No one has flat out asked me this question….yet.  Which I'm really quite surprised considering that some of the people I've told are VERY OUTSPOKEN…especially my Mama {: = /  and daughter. 

 

When I first told them and my husband of my plans, I tested the waters earlier in the year with subtle conversations  like : 

"Ya know, I'm ready to start making my plans to move abroad", weeks later I'd slightly reword the statement by saying  

 "Ya know, I'm looking into going overseas, changing my career…possibly obtaining a teaching certification", then finally 

"Ya know, I'm going to Peru to obtain my certification and then I'm going to spend a year in either Thailand, Mexico or the Dominican Republic to teach English as a foreign language".  

Now keep in mind, during  these conversations, the listener's response was: 

1st: "Hmm…ok…sounds like a good idea" 

2nd: "Sounds like fun, you should do what you love as long as you have a plan!" 

3rd: "I'm worried, do you even know anything about Peru or these other countries…they can be dangerous...have you done your research? And How are you going to support yourself while you still have financial responsibilities here? 

 

All the questions that followed were basically asking me (IN A VERY NON-CHALANT WAY) if I was crazy or just inconsiderate. 

 

 At this very moment A LOT of relatives are in complete denial including my best friend, Kim and my sister-in-law, Val.  I have less than 60 days to depart and they still don't believe I'm leaving. 

 

Well, I'm sure a Medical Doctor would agree with me that I'm Not crazy. Additionally, the simple fact remains, I'm going to initially move to the Dominican Republic for a mission to assist in building up a community and teaching others a new skill\language...so that HARDLY constitutes a personality trait of "being inconsiderate".  That is my purpose. That is my mission.