The first thing that I observed upon awakening was that I had. So far, so good! I scrutinized the side of my hand in the dim morning light and noted that the bites from last night were neither swollen nor continuing to burn, although they were still sensitive to pressure. Apparently my guess that they were particularly painful mosquito bites had been correct.
After a breakfast of cereal, we went to the church in Esperanza. Usually, their men and women meet separately for Sunday School, so I listened as well as I could over the clamor of traffic and the barrier of language to the lesson taught by Virginia, Pastor Jose’s wife. She speaks more clearly than many other Dominicans; I was able to understand the main point – that while God does forgive sin there may still be consequences – and two examples that she gave, the death of David and Bathsheba’s son and the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years.
I can’t follow Pastor Jose nearly as well. With nobody translating his message that morning, my mind wandered off the island and slipped into the morning service at Highlands. I wondered if the rest of the missions team had arrived safely and were there; I wondered what Pastor Chris was preaching about; I wondered at how readily I had taken worship, teaching, and fellowship in my own language for granted.
After a lunch of delicious leftovers, we began packing for our stay in Constanza in the mountains. I went to check on the laundry that Celia had moved into the sun a bit earlier and realized that it had just started to rain again! I hollered for help, and we all frantically grabbed, yanked, and flung into a laundry basket whatever we could get our hands on. Once inside, we began sorting. Dry clothes went into suitcases, wet clothes that could stay went back on the lines on the covered porch, and wet clothes that we would need went into a trash bag and joined the rest of the luggage coming with us.
I could almost hear the car groaning by the time it reluctantly pulled away from the house. Jared and Ben sat in the front, Celia, Arianna, Harmony, Jessica, and I rode in the back, and the combined necessities of seven people – one still in diapers – stuffed the trunk and spilled over into the seating area. Somehow, I had gotten the idea that the ride to the cabin we would be staying in would take about 2 hours. During those 2 hours, rain and fog obscured the sunset as well as the road as we climbed higher and higher into the mountain ranges of the interior. For part of the time, the route twisted left, right, left, right, left, right, with rapid and relentless monotony. Jared and Celia wondered aloud if we were going to be able to make it up the steep driveway to the cabin in the rain. And after 2 hours, periodic recognition of landmarks prompted repeated reevaluations of the time remaining to be a discouraging “just another 30 minutes or so.”
We stopped in Constanza to buy pizza to take to the cabin for dinner. The tangy, meaty odor emanating from the white cardboard boxes in my lap and filling the dark interior of the vehicle failed to awaken my appetite as Jared eased the car through a narrow dirt alleyway between buildings and began the intimidating ascent up the side of the mountain. We soon reached a section of the path where our forward momentum lurched, hovered, and reversed as the front tires spun uselessly. Jared backed the car up and tried again, with the same result. He backed up again, and the guys leaned close to the windshield, trying to see the terrain ahead in the glow of the headlights through the persistent drizzle. We tried approaching the problem area at different angles, and eventually the tires found sufficient traction to haul the vehicle upwards and around a curve. As we continued on, my stomach only knotted tighter; the “bad” part of the driveway still lay ahead!
Sure enough, we promptly found ourselves in the exact same scenario, only at a higher altitude and a steeper angle. We rushed forward repeatedly, only to hear the engine roar in futility and feel the vehicle shake in frustration. Each time that we slid backwards, I could sense the ceaseless pull of gravity threatening to lure the mass of the overloaded vehicle into free fall back down the mountain and over the side of the road. The blackness beyond the edge gave no indication whether the drop would be 2 feet or 200. I prayed that the brakes would hold.
Jared and Ben got out to examine the ground more closely in hopes of identifying the problem and a way around it. The possibility of having to walk the remainder of the way to the cabin began to materialize in the conversation like a menacing phantom. When I asked how long they thought it would take, the answer echoed back from the not-so-distant past: “just another 30 minutes or so.” On foot. Uphill. In the dark. With our luggage. At high altitude. In the rain. Dear God, please…
The guys came up with a plan for another driving attempt. Although it didn’t work on the first try, the additional distance achieved and the minimal slipping that occurred were promising. Finally, finally, finally we made it the rest of the way up the slope to the foot of the cabin. Jared and Ben dashed up and down a flight of steps from the car to the living room to bring in the bags. After a hasty tour of the interior, the consensus was to eat dinner before doing or deciding anything else.
As Ben and Jessica joined the Duncans to explore the Dominican version of pizza, I slipped into one of the side rooms. I had officially reached the limits of my emotional endurance; I sat down on one of the beds, doubled over, and cried. When I rejoined the others a few minutes later, dear Celia was on the verge of tears herself, aware that something was bothering me but not knowing for sure what it was or how to fix it. She assured me that when I saw the view in the morning, the ordeal of getting there would seem well worth it. I sent her a wobbly smile of gratitude and reached for a plate.
Ben and I had watched the workers in the restaurant make our pizzas. They start with pre-baked crusts; add sauce, cheese, and the toppings of your choice (ham and pepperoni, in our case); and heat the whole thing in an oven until the cheese melts. The result isn’t bad, but if someone ever invested to open a Dominos there, he would make a killing!
When it came time to pick our rooms, Ben chose one on the top floor with a view overlooking Constanza in the valley below. Even in my exhausted emotional state, the beauty of the ragged carpet of shining lights spread over the floor of the night held me captive at the window and whispered hopeful promises for tomorrow. We went to bed early, but the rhythmic pinging on the metal roof and the moaning hiss of wind writhing through the trees kept me awake for quite awhile.