The Dominicans have a wonderful sense of humor. I remember going up to a cave where Esteban used wads of gray, curling Spanish moss to transform himself into an old man with a mop of hair and full beard. Another time, we couldn’t help smiling as about ten Dominicans became laughing backseat drivers on a bus ride as they encouraged the driver to pass every slow vehicle on the road.
The Dominicans are also generous. The host families really do act as if I am part of the family, and the daughter, Marisol, managed to demand more piggy-back rides than my little sister at home does. The people give us what they can out of their poverty. On the worksite, a mother and her four children would laboriously tramp from some unseen dwelling several times a day to bring us strong coffee and more than sufficient amounts of yucca, rice, and beans. These people hardly have houses, and yet they want to give to us.
Finally, the Dominicans have a child-like enthusiasm unlike anything habitually seen in the US. This manifests itself in adults wandering around for hours blowing a horn because it’s fun; but it also is apparent in their joyful participation in the Mass. Five or six of them are louder than a whole American congregation. Immersing myself in a new culture is always an enlightening experience if I am willing to shed American prejudices. The Dominicans remind me to be relaxed, generous, and joyful—valuable additions to my American work-ethic, comparative wealth, and focused ambition.