In light of the fact that Jonathan and I have officially been living in the Caribbean for over 10 months now, I've been sort of contemplating the ways in which he and I both have grown. Reflecting on what we've gained from living here (other than the obvious eventual M.D.). Not so much in the "1st world problems vs. 3rd world problems" realm (though that would probably be a good post too...), but more along the lines of the ways we've seen growth in our own lives. So here's a good chunk of my list:
- Being Accepting - He and I have talked a lot lately about how important it is around here to build and maintain good relationships. It's sort of a "pressure cooker" environment around here when it comes to friendships and relationships. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes the situations surrounding growing friendships a bit different. But we've learned to accept peoples' differences and embrace them. Your "fold of friends" doesn't always have to have the same political views, religious affiliations, or even hobbies as you. For us it's always been and continues to be important that we have a diverse group of friends from all walks of life. It definitely keeps things interesting! Here in the Caribbean, we've sort of been forced to step out of our comfort zone in this and I have to say we've been so richly blessed because of it!
- Patience - Yes, God has definitely been teaching us the patience lesson since we've been here. I never really appreciated how you can be in and out of a restaurant in the states in under half an hour if you need to. You never have to worry about the internet going out, the power going down, the water turning brown. You don't have to walk uphill in blazing heat or pouring rain to get home. You don't have to seal up every morsel of food (even while you're still eating it!) to keep the army of sugar ants from claiming it for themselves. But interestingly enough, Jonathan and I are fairly certain that when our paradigm has to shift once again when we move back to the states in a year, we are going to have some serious culture shock! It will only take us 10 minutes to run to the grocery store for milk (which will ALWAYS be there), we can keep our AC on in our house all the time, when we eat at a restaurant EVERYTHING that's on the menu will actually be available, and our iPhones will work (internet and all) EVERYWHERE! Interestingly enough, though, we don't often find ourselves "longing" for those things down here. It's just life...you roll with it! I definitely feel like I'm learning to live with much less than what I thought I could. And I'm no worse off without all of it honestly!
- Beauty - We live in one of the most gorgeous places in the world. As a matter of fact, while I sit here writing this I hear waves crashing on the shore, I hear birds chirping, I see islands in the distance, I smell passion fruit juice, and I feel an amazing ocean breeze (even if it IS 100 degrees outside). I've seen waterfalls that would literally take your breath away. I've seen flowers growing in the wild that people in the states would pay a pretty penny to have a florist arrange. I can swim in the Caribbean Ocean every single day of my life if I want to. The locals here always speak so fondly of the beauty of this island. You'll see them sitting at the picnic tables here just enjoying the sunshine and the ocean breeze. They'll shimmy right up a mango tree for a snack when they want to! So I can't miss out on all this gorgeous place has to offer by being fed up with slow customer service, less than reliable water sources, or the constant sweat and dirt on my skin. If I got caught up in all that, I would miss so much and NOT be better for having lived here in Dominica for a time in my life...
- Time - If you know me and Jonathan, you know if we had it our way we would be attached at the hip all the time. He's my very best friend, my partner in crime, my confidant, my safe place. We laugh so much when we are together. It's just so soothing to be around him. But here in med school, we've had to shift quite a bit by way of time spent together. He's so very purposeful in this which is a HUGE blessing for me, but it's still not nearly as much time as both of us would prefer if it were up to us. So we've learned that when we have the time to spend with each other, we are purposeful in how we spend it too. We try really hard to not give each other the "leftovers" of our day (i.e.-crankiness because the prep school kids were irritating, snappiness because your plans for the day were thwarted, etc.). We make it a point to give each other the best of what we've got for the time we have to spend together. We talk and laugh and play, and even though I miss him often during the day, I really don't feel like I'm missing out on Jonathan. As we continue this journey of becoming a doctor, I know this will change and evolve over the years. But I know that both of us have learned to value time spent together even more than we did before, and for that reason I know that purposeful way that we love each other is not going to change even when things change in his career.
There are so many other things we've learned while living here. Yes, it's a 3rd world country, so there are plenty of "3rd world problems" (that's what the "Only in Dominica" posts are for!). But this experience has definitely been somewhat of a "refining fire" for us. And when the glorious day comes that we get to return to the states for good, I'm sure we will always carry this with us. We're better people for it!
Be Purposeful in How You Love Each Other