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.   



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