I just returned from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from a 5 day sabbatical at an all inclusive resort. Five long glorious days of laying on the beach, laying poolside and eating as many calories as possible. ( Because calories don't count on vacation, right? ) Two days into the vacation I contracted a bacterial infection from the local water and was incredibly sick. (Like not enough energy to stand up and throw up the sprite that I just drank... that's right... re-read that and take it in.) It was pretty pathetic. I threw up 9 times in one day and was so dehydrated and drained that I developed a cold. Yay... Winning.. Not. Despite my illnesses, I really enjoyed the trip. The beaches were beautiful and relaxing. It was nice to be away from email notifications, voice mails and late night working hours for a few days.
Going to a country like the Dominican can really open your eyes. We were chatting with some folks who explained to us just how poor the country is. The resort workers are considered the wealthy- all while making a whopping $200 a month for over 60 hours of work a week. And this is considered wealthy. Most of them are born and die on the island. The opportunities for work are so slim that it makes it difficult for them to acquire enough money to leave the country or get citizenship elsewhere.
Driving the streets of Punta Cana was upsetting. Everywhere you look there are people standing along the streets...doing nothing. There aren't many nice homes or businesses or places for activities. Anyone could easily tell that this country is a very poor country with very limited opportunity. (And crappy Mexican food... which is a huge thing for me.)
As I sat in the Punta Cana airport waiting on our plane to arrive, frustrated from a spiral of non-English speaking people instructing me through customs, I listened to a lady on the intercom speaking Spanish....giving some kind of information about a flight... I was clueless.... and incredibly humbled and thankful that I was born into such an amazing country. Like anyone else, I have my complaints about the United States, government, etc.... but those are minor complaints. We are so blessed to live in this country and have the freedoms that we do.
When the plane landed in Charlotte, NC I went to the nearest American restaurant and ordered a big fat cheeseburger, fries and some southern sweet tea.... I may have even sang some Lee Greenwood just because I was feeling patriotic. If there was an american flag t-shirt with some eagles on it in that moment, I would have bought it... I'm just saying..
Needless to say, I am proud to be an American. I am thankful for my family, my freedoms, my job and my God. I'm also thankful to be feeling a little better.
Until next time... :)