The highlight of the week was our visit to inspect the water system the church is funding in the small communities of Dos Palmas-Tres Bocas. We passed a portion of the town where a lot of people were gathered. Daniel Saboe our Peace Corps volunteer working on the water project told us it was sort of like a “wake” to celebrate the passing of an important member of the community. A lot of people were gathered in the house and under a tarp with food, dominoes and just a lot of people coming and going.
We did a little research when we came back and discovered the Dominican tradition of “Nine-Nights”. Quoting from Wikipedia:
Nine-Nights also known as "Dead Yard" is a funerary tradition practiced in the Caribbean (primarily Grenada, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic). It is an extended wake that lasts for several days, with roots in African tradition. During this time, friends and family come together to the home of the deceased. They share their condolences and memories while singing hymns and eating food together. In the old days, the nights were calm and reserved for the most part - but that tradition has changed with the times. Today, these gatherings resemble parties much more than they resemble wakes (though this is not true for all “nine-nights”).
Nine-Nights are no longer a time to mourn but a time to celebrate since the loved one is no longer suffering in life. When friends come they do not come with just condolences they come with food, drink and music; this is after all a celebration. True to its name this celebration lasts nine nights and days with the ninth and final night being the night before the church service. On the ninth night the family prepares the food for all who come. As tradition has it, on the ninth night it is believed that the spirit of the deceased passes through the party gathering food and saying goodbye before continuing on to its resting place. Out of all the nights this night is the most revered since it is the end of the celebration. Stories about the deceased and the fondest memories are shared, along with prayers. Games, such as Dominos, are played as well as singing hymns, which is also done on the other nights as well.
In order for the deceased to move on there is a process that must happen. First, there is the "seeing". This is when someone looks at a doorway and sees the spirit. They then tell someone and that person tells someone and so on. The leader of the ceremony greets the spirit and then the night song begins. This is a song played for the spirit while he or she is told stories by the elders. (Daniel said it is not uncommon for someone to fall to the floor overpowered with the spirit). Traditionally on the ninth night of the deceased's death their bed and mattress are turned up against the wall, in order to encourage the spirit to leave the house and enter the grave. Then the leader of the ceremony uses a piece of white chalk to draw a cross over the exit that the spirit used to leave, allowing the spirit to never return.
The unusual scene is the only excuse Wallace can give for driving the truck into a deep hole. The front right side of the truck dropped into the hole up to the running boards. We thought for sure there was no way we would escape it without having broken a brake line or tie rod. But a bunch of men lifted the front of the truck as we backed out and we were happy to discover we had only suffered dents in the running board and front grill work.
On the way home we felt protected again. As we were passing a large truck on the highway loaded sky high with junk metal, there was a sudden loud explosion that rocked our truck. One of their tires blew out. We felt lucky to get past him without incident. No-one, cars and trucks alike, change a tire regardless of how bald the tire is. They get every last wear out of a tire to the bitter end. A common sight is to see truck with paper thin bald tires supporting a heavy load. A blowout just means you got your money’s worth! The truck below is not the truck but one we passed the same day with bald tires.
Piedra Blanca (white stone), is the name of a town we passed through to get to Dos Palmas.
The following are some pictures we took during our visit. The landscape is absolutely precious.
We continued to work hard this week trying to close out projects and button things up for those who follow us. Unfortunately, none of you volunteered to take our place so we do not have replacements. The following picture shows the participants of the Spanish class Wallace teaches each week. This has been one of Wallace’s favorite activities even though he did it for selfish reasons, because the teacher always learns more than the students.