The following post is picture-heavy, depicting two very different but equally significant events. But before I describe them, here’s your last chance to donate to the construction of our basketball/volleyball court project – gracias!
This first series was taken on April 18th, the Friday of Easter weekend. Here during Semana Santa or Holy Week, people don’t go to work (or church really for that matter) but rather spend most of their time bathing in plastic pools and eating habichuelas con dulce (literally, sweet beans). Maybe I’ve been living on this island too long, but I’m actually a big fan of this culinary curiosity. Doñas cook beans (typically kidney beans but my favorite version is made with black beans) until soft, then they blend them up, adding cinnamon, malagueta, chunks of sweet potato or squash, raisins, and loads of sugar and evaporated milk. Served hot or cold and typically topped with wafer-like cookies, habichuelas con dulce are the symbol of Semana Santa in the Domincan Republic, sin duda.
The second event is something that over 40 other people and I have been looking forward to since October – the Chicas Brillantes graduation! All of my Chicas dressed in their best clothes to celebrate their obtained knowledge and completion of the course. The girls had decorated the church festively, and given that all the participants were able to invite their mothers, there were nearly 100 people in attendance. I explained to the moms some of the topics we’d covered throughout the course – beauty, self-esteem, nutrition, anatomy, goal-setting, education, gender roles, etc. – and thanked them for motivating/allowing their girls to attend. We had a guest speaker lead an empowering dinámica about confronting an all-too-common problem here in the DR – violence against women. The girls performed various skits that stressed the importance of education and respectful behavior, and like most of our reuniones, there was plenty of singing, dancing, and giggling. 43 chicas, ranging from 5 to 17 years old, received a diploma and goody bag for demonstrating an acceptable attendance record, regular participation in meetings, and enhanced skills and knowledge. We closed the ceremony in the way that any event in this country is expected to finish – with a bountiful brindis. Every participant brought food to share, giving way to a spread that even the doñas were impressed with – espaghettis (we made over 15 pounds of it!), empanadas, ham and cheese, bread, coleslaw, soda, and cake.
All in all, it was an enjoyably interactive graduation. The mothers left full, enlightened, and giggly, and the chicas were proud to have put on such a successful and educational event for their moms to experience. I look forward to continue meeting with the girls, mentoring them on whichever topics contribute to their knowledge, promise, and undeniable brilliance.