Danny Magrans, Spanish Teacher
“Laugh, Think and Cry”
The final days of our trip passed so quickly. Each day was filled with tremendous excursions which included a tour of Santo Domingo’s historical district, the Museum of Resistance, a visit to Christopher’s Columbus’ tomb, and finally a tour of the Chocolate Museum. We learned so many valuable lessons about the Dominican Republic’s past and present social climate. We were able to compare and contrast the similarities and differences of our culture to theirs. We were able to walk the streets where many defining moments were decided. Moments that probably molded our world. As exciting as these excursions were, I wondered if perhaps there would be another opportunity for us to capture. One more opportunity to serve.
The last dinner we shared was at a restaurant called Adrian Tropical. The menu was exciting and filled with so many delicious options. Included in the menu were options for traditional dishes as well as dishes that some of my students were missing from home…..cheeseburgers and fries. The desserts were amazing. The natural fruit juices even better.
At first I worried about the amount of time it would take to serve our group. There were 26 of us and only 1 of them. Unfair odds if you ask me. I wondered if our waitress would be able to handle these odds. While she did receive some help, it wasn’t nearly enough. Towards the end of our two hour meal I paused long enough to sit with some students and ask the waitress some questions. I wanted to get a feel for what it was like to be a part of the working class and young in the DR. I wanted the students who were around me to listen to her responses. Here is what we learned.
The waitress is 21 years old and lives in a single bedroom apartment with her sister who is also a waitress. The rest of her family lives in a village outside of Santo Domingo. She is currently attending a public university where she hopes to become an administrator for the hotel industry. Tourism is huge in the DR and so this makes sense. Attending a public university in the DR is relatively inexpensive but not the living expenses nor the books. The rest of the information she offered is worth sharing. When asked about her work schedule and payment structure this is what she said. She works 77 hours per week and on occasions gets a Saturday off. She earns a monthly salary of 200 dollars. While I do not pretend to be a math wizard I believe this means she earns 65 cents per hour. One may claim that the cost of living is much cheaper in the DR. Perhaps they’re right in some ways but certainly not in all.
I often reflect on my ability to capture the moments that matter most. I’m sure I am like most….too busy to notice if its happening or not. Like a baseball player who at the plate fails more than he succeeds I wondered if the moment we were given to talk to this waitress was an opportunity for us to hit a grand slam. Should I swing or simply watch the opportunity go by? I decided to swing and this is what happened next. I rallied my students for a simple presentation of our waitress’ reality. I asked them to tip a little more than what we normally gave which is a dollar per meal per person. After collecting all the tip money I presented the waitress with 165.00. As expected she was speechless. While she was barely able to mutter a thank you her tears spoke to our hearts.
At this point I felt certain we had completed our purpose. Jim Valvano stated in his last ESPY speech, “There are three things we should do everyday….Laugh, Think and Cry. If we can do all three then we know we lived a full day.” Mission accomplished for the Dominican Republic Crew.
“Whether for a reason, season, or lifetime we are placed in each others’ lives to serve a purpose.” I hope we served our’s well.