Category Archives: Santo Domingo

Still an American in the Dominican

So the guy at the taxi stand asked me when I arrived. “Cual hotel?”  I couldn’t understand why he would ask such a weird question. I had told him my address in Gazcue, and he asked me again, “Cual hotel?” I was perplexed. Then I dove into my library of Spanish nouns, verbs, and growing lexicon of Dominican slang trying to find what he could have meant.

My mind was racing, I was ready and prepared to throw out any number of local qualifiers, the proximity of the Bellas Artes Museo (Beautiful Arts Museum), the intersection of Maximo Gomez y Independencia, my joy at the opening of the new public park close to where I live, which is a great place for families, a haven for surfers, and a safe place to walk around at night.

I was ready for all that, but “Which hotel?” I started going through the conversation in my mind: “I dunno which hotel you mean. Which hotel are you talking about, and why are you talking about a hotel when I told you where I live? Is there something I should know about a hotel? Do they have fresh baked cookies like DoubleTree?”

It makes me laugh because when they think I don’t know Spanish, they act like it, and then I act like it, and because they see that I’m acting like it, then I get confused, and then they’re confused, and then we’re both confused. As a last resort, we both start looking for someone else to translate. Naturally though, that’s just what it is.

I’m still American, they tell me, but it doesn’t feel like it anymore. I guess I just don’t think about when I walk around the city of Santo Domingo, but apparently to everyone else, I’m still a 6’3″ white dude who’s sporting a brownish/blond beard. That’s certainly not the appearance of a Dominican, but to me I’m not phased by it. To me, “that was so last year.” But to them, that is the now, right in front of them, a strange looking dude with light eyes is going to open his mouth and speak something that isn’t Spanish.

I think that’s another small reason why it’s still awesome to be abroad. You’re consistently reminded that the perspective that you walk around with is not the perspective that everyone else has. Maybe, that’s part of the lesson that traveling and being abroad gives you. You start to see your context in the world, and start viewing your perspective as unique. Before you never really questioned what you thought, or what you did, because really, “That’s just what everyone does, right?”

That’s how you had been living, that’s how you had been thinking, and wow, there was a world out there wasn’t there? And now you’re in it, the new world, the world that is new everyday.

So I finally told the taxi driver that I live here and that I was confused at his question, maybe he thought a hotel was a better option than where I was living. We both laughed and I got in the taxi.

The Reality of Something to Write Home About

It’s late in the afternoon on a hot and humid Saturday, and we are hanging out in the patio on the second floor of a tough neighborhood in East Santo Domingo called Villa Duarte. As always, it’s great to see the family I lived with and to wrestle with my Dominican brothers, Josias now five, and Railyn who just turned eight. I can tell the boys are growing up even in the year that I’ve known them. I tell the boys that we should go up to the roof to enjoy the breeze that is making its way through the barrio and as I lean on the iron fence that surrounds the roof and I see a young woman transporting buckets and large bottles of water up to her third floor home, and I know that this is something to write home about.

I suppose that when you recognize something that doesn’t normally appear in your day to day life, this is a pretty good signal that some people back home would be equally interested in what you’re experiencing. However, something was different this time, being in this neighborhood and seeing people labor to carry water up three flights of stairs wasn’t all that unusual anymore, so why exactly was I compelled to describe a situation that had become commonplace to me?

Since I moved back to the DR in early February, I’ve tried to go see this family every couple of weeks and one thing that always sticks out to me when I go back to visit them is that when I pass through the main street entrance sometimes there are small rivers running through the gutters in the neighborhood. I say sometimes, because it’s not always that there are rivers that run when it’s sunny and hot outside.

River gutters mean that the neighborhood has water again, that the government temporarily fixed the problem of water supply, and that the neighborhood can enjoy running water for a few days, or sometimes, just for a day. People are out in the streets filling up buckets, or operating the water pumps to send water up to the roof where they keep large storage tanks filled with water. You can sense the excitement that the water has returned, and well, you can see it as the kids dance in the water in the street. I’ve written about this a bit in a previous post (The four-year-old Gene Kelly), and water in the barrio has been something wild and strange to me, certainly fitting for a blog post to write home about, but now it wasn’t exactly from the angle of a someone who just got off the plane.

Something has changed, the DR feels like home, and every time I sit down to write I feel like I’m writing about something less unusual to the people back home. My day to day reality has certainly shifted, and many of the strange quirky elements of the foreign culture have become real and normal to me. It’s not unusual to see young woman labor up three flights of stairs, it’s not strange, no, this is the reality of life here.

I’m struck by this point in my realization that my processing of information, of sights and sounds and experiences has changed. It’s not as new, and it’s certainly not as jarring and shaking to the senses as the arrival and accustomization period when you move somewhere new.

So as I’m standing there looking out into the barrio, I’ve realized that the “newness” has faded when I see her struggle to get the last bottle of water up the stairs. I lived in this barrio, I know what it’s like, I’ve been without water for a few days, and I’ve lived like the locals lived. I think I’ve recognized that when I chose to write home about things in the past year and a half, it has been with a sense of a badge of achievement, an accomplishment, a wild and new thing conquered and realized in the pursuit of adventure. But now, the novelty has worn off, and a question lingers, was their compassion in my initial observation? Or just something interesting to write home about?

Now, the reality sinks in. I’m starting to see the reality for what it is. The terrible infrastructure that prevents thousands of families from receiving the most basic necessity on a daily basis is a daily struggle, a daily, exhausting labor, a painful reality for this neighborhood and hundreds of thousands throughout the island. No one here writes home about this with the perspective of a traveler or “seeing how the indigenous people live.” It’s not strange for them, no, it’s just a harsh reality; it’s simply a consistent frustration that only occasionally water runs through the gutters signaling the arrival of the opportunity to bring water home to the family. And when it finally arrives, you have to carry it up three flights of stairs for your family, because that’s just what you have to do. It’s nothing special, it just is.

I started carrying my 5 gallon water bottle up the stairs to my apartment to see what it felt like. Three flights is hard, but certainly not something to write home about.

Sign Your Name (April Newsletter)


Aaron Roth – HOPE International – April 2011


April-News-01“I used to think sugar came from a box in the supermarket.” I’ve gotten a lot of laughs with that kind of small talk around the topic of sugar, and in particular with that statement. Usually, the Haitians who have emigrated here for employment and work with the sugar cane everyday laugh when they hear it, and ask what else Americans really think. Here in the Dominican Republic, sugar production is still a major export, and if you explore a little bit beyond the major cities you’ll find enormous sugar cane fields, and the sugar cane communities (“bateys”) of people who work in those fields.

The sky is big and the air is clean. Life is quiet, and a soft breeze sweeps through the fields. There isn’t usually electricity in the communities, and consequently there aren’t any TV’s or radios to create noise. My first experience entering the rural area (campo) was on the back of a motorcycle of a loan officer with HOPE. I felt like I had returned back to Iowa where I was a kid. Next to our house in Iowa there was a dirt road where my brother and I used to ride our bikes. We usually stopped at the cemetery because our mother didn’t want us to go riding off into the sunset. So I never traveled beyond the cemetery to explore the dirt road that kept going on in the distance.

With Francisco, the loan officer of our La Romana office, I felt like I got the chance to see what lay beyond the cemetery. Now I know, and I can tell you, there’s a grove of mangoes (almost ripe for picking), corridors of sugarcane fields separated by tiny dirt roads where men lead their oxen and carts to carry the cut sugar cane to be weighed, and a community of pleasant and amiable Haitians. I thought of the famous quote from Field of Dreams: “Is this Heaven, no it’s Iowa” and I’ll say that the beauty of the sugar cane fields felt a lot like Heaven, and yes, Iowa as well because the 12ft high sugar cane looked a lot like corn to me.

What Does “Tuah Cuah” Mean?

April-News-02Back in February, I know I made the joke that if the “Lord wants me to learn Creole then I’ll do it.” Now it’s looking like I might actually head down that path. The women of the Bank of Esperanza “Fe y Amor” (Faith and Love) of Batey Community #62 graciously accepted the task of teaching a “gringo” his first few words and phrases in Creole.

I’m thinking I may continue the education more seriously, as the feeling of joy I get increases with each smile I see on the faces of our clients. When you know someone’s native language, you can connect with them on a deeper, more personal level and I want to continue that. For now, the conversations are in Spanish, and when someone said the phrase “Tuah Cuah,” I had to ask, “What does that Spanish phrase mean?”

“It’s actually Creole, and it’s, ‘tres cruces’ in Spanish,” Franklin explained to me, “because the client writes three crosses on the loan application form when they don’t know how to write.”

“They don’t know how to write?” I asked. “Yes, we find that a lot here in these batey communities. The women don’t know how to write, yet.” I then watched as three different women signed their loan application forms with their signature: “tuah cuah.”

None of the women make jokes about illiteracy, but add that when someone will be able to write, they can write notes to their children like “Where did you put the dishes when I wasn’t here . . .” I love that. I love the sense of comradery and solidarity between these women. They are accepting and edifying to each other in the process of development of their small businesses, their community, and their families. Still, it’s shocking to me to meet these women who are 30 or 40 years old and don’t know how to write, and their kids do. It’s usually because they missed the education opportunities when they were children that are now available to the young generation. Generally, it’s a little more common to meet an older woman that doesn’t know how to write, and very often it’s difficult to know just how old these women are.

“. . . and How Old Are You?”

April-News-04That afternoon Franklin and I went to visit a group of associates’ homes to verify their places of residence and their businesses. We stopped by the house of one woman in the community, Rosemena, to do the survey of poverty. We usually ask for the national identification card or their passport. Rosemena had neither.

We asked Rosemena, “When were you born?”

She answered, “I don’t know.”

“Do you know how old you are?”

“I think I’m 30.”

“When did you celebrate your birthday?”

“I wanted it to be in early March so I chose, March 6th.”

“Ok, we’ll put your birthday as 3/06/80. Can you sign this form?”

“I don’t know how to write.”

“That’s ok, you can just write ‘tuah cuah’ here.” (Rosemena smiles and signs the form with three crosses.)

Rosemena has three children and she will be using her six-month loan of $75 of HOPE to buy food and drinks to sell in the community. We told her that now since she is a HOPE client, she can come to the literacy classes for free – “You can learn to write your name.” (HOPE, in addition to being a microfinance organization, offers free business, educational, medical and dental services to their clients.) “Yes, that sounds good to me. I want to do that.” she politely smiled as she responded.

Do You Know How to Write Your Name?

April-News-03On our way back to the office, we made a quick stop to visit a group of clients. Francisco likes to check in with his HOPE clients to see how their family and business are doing. We pulled up to a house and a young woman came out, holding her child. “Hi Franklin, how are you!” – she yells. Franklin greeted her and introduces me, “This is my American friend who wants to learn Creole.”

“Oh he does?” (She’s smiling now.)

“Yes, I’d like to learn some Creole.” I say.

“Sit down, I will teach you some.” She goes inside and brings out a wooden chair for me to sit on, and then one for her as well.

“What is your name?” I ask.

“It’s Francisca.” She responds.

April-News-05(I pull out my pad of paper to write her name down so I can remember.)

“Oh, you know how to write!!!” She exclaims.

“Yes, I can write in English, and a little bit in Spanish.”

“Oh, I can speak Spanish well, because with my business I sell in these 3 communities, and I am very good at selling, and making money for my family, but I want to learn to write. I am going to take the writing and reading class that HOPE has.”

I stop for a minute and think that I am going to write about this conversation with Francisca, and that this ability, the ability to convey my thoughts, ideas, and hopes with pen and paper is a rarity and a gift for many people in developing countries like this one. Whenever I want, I can communicate to my friends and family – and she cannot, yet, and marvels at the possibility of this coming soon.

How blessed are we, that we can write our own names. That we can write letters or emails to the people we care about. I never thought that reading and writing were a privilege, but they are. To be able to write to you is a privilege. To receive emails from my family and friends in Broadway, my friends in Richmond, my fellow members at WEPC, and well, anybody from the States, is truly a joy and a blessing. The ability to write is something that Rosemena and Francisca are looking forward to learning, much like the arrival of a birthday and the gifts and celebration it will bring.

Remember when you used to write messages to your parents, and they would put them up on the refrigerator? Or when you’re parents would write you notes in your lunchbox? Imagine the day when these women will be able to write notes to their children, and be able to read what their children write back to them, and you know what – you can smile, because:

that day is coming soon . . .

Blessings to you and your family, in His name,

-Aaron Roth

Skype: aprothwm05


While I’m volunteering down here in the Dominican Republic, I am still finishing the final part of my fundraising through the remainder of the year. Do pray for the work of HOPE and if you feel led to support me financially, you can find that information here.

Online Contributions:

  • Go to and select the “Donate Now” green tab on the right-hand side of the screen (or click this link: “HOPE International – Donate Now”)
  • Under “Allocate your Gift,” find the “Contribution Preference Amount” drop down box
  • Select “Other (please specify below)”
  • *In the box beside “Other Gift Designation”, write “Fellow: Aaron Roth”

Contributions by Mail (send a check):

HOPE International

Joan Bauman, Donor Care Administrator

227 Granite Run Dr. – Suite 250

Lancaster, PA 17601

Please make all checks payable to:

HOPE International and put “Fellow – Donation: Aaron Roth” in the memo line.

According to IRS regulations, all contributions are treated as donations and are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Traveling is the Excavation of Character

Near the office of Esperanza (HOPE’s office here in the DR), a construction crew is finishing the exit ramp of highway overpass. I walk past the crew every day and see the progress they are making. In one area, they are digging heavily into the ground exposing every good and bad thing found below the surface.

I think that’s what traveling is like.

A group of dedicated laborers goes to work unearthing everything you thought you knew about yourself and things you’d prefer to keep hidden. The heavy machinery crew labors throughout the day and late into the night. At times, the sheer force of the demolition leaves you shocked and speechless. You have to call in your advisors (via Skype) and ask them what the heck is going on. Sometimes you feel like the job site changes, even though you know this is the same place being worked on every day. Other times, usually at night, some specialists wake you up with probing questions about which pipes need servicing. Usually, you have to answer them immediately, they can’t wait until tomorrow. (I’ve tried arguing to postpone the meeting, it just doesn’t work.)

All this demolition and excavation is for a good purpose. Everyday you can see things a little more clearly in the sunshine. It’s amazing to hold mysterious, yet familiar objects in your hands and flip them around and see all their facets. Some things you know you need to clean up if you’re going to continue carrying it around on the journey, and other things you know are meant for the junk pile. You realize your pockets are only so big and your back is only so strong, so you must be judicious in what you continue to carry. Airlines at most, only allow two bags, which is never enough space. You’ve really have to decide what baggage you’re going to transport back home.

If you talk with the foreman on the jobsite you’ll get a better understanding of what the new structure is going to look like. I’ve found that I need to check in daily to have a better idea of what’s yet to come. Sometimes it seems like there’s a new set of blueprints every week, but you trust that whatever is going to be built is a whole lot better than what existed before. As far as time and money is concerned, it’s going to take a lot longer than you thought, and cost way more than you anticipated, but it’s all going to be worth it.

Know that someday in the future, you’ll invite your family and friends over, and you’ll sit and have lunch in the plaza in front of the building. You’ll tell them about the hilarious and insightful construction crew made up of international workers who excavated nearly everything underneath, but nevertheless helped you build and improve this marvelous structure that you enjoy today.

And for that, I am grateful for traveling.

(Currently though, I’m in the middle of a construction zone and I’m trying to reduce my velocity. No sense in getting fined for excessive speed, but really, I just want to be able to see what’s being dug up.)

What Are You Running From?

When I was little, I loved to run, just for the sake of running. I think there’s something beautiful about running with reckless abandonment, without worry, and simply for the joy of how the wind rushes past your face as your own energy carries you forward. I used to run with a simple passion: to be in motion. I ran fast because there was nothing to lose, and everything to gain. The faster I ran, the more I felt alive, the more I wanted to keep going, and the energy inside me kept growing, and I was always amazed when I looked back, because I was able to see the great distance I had traveled.

“What Are You Running From?”

Quite a few people have asked me this question over the past year: “What are you running from?”

I think it’s a fair question. Sometimes, when people choose to quit a job, leave the country to travel and start a new chapter of their life, they are trying to escape something.

I never saw this life decision to leave Richmond to travel, learn Spanish, and volunteer in an international organization as an escape. My life in Richmond was good, and God blessed me with an amazing life. I had an apartment with awesome roommates, I played on a successful soccer team, I attended a solid church and had a good community there, and I liked my job and the people I worked with.

The Real Question: “What Are You Running Toward?”

So when people asked me the question, “What are you running from?” I usually responded with “You mean, what am I running toward?”

I think this is an important distinction, and maybe a suggestion on how to handle a major life event, so I’ll say it now: “When you have a good idea of where you’re going, run toward it.”

See, I think that most times when we choose to make a big decision, we kind of creep toward it, unsure of how it’s going to pan out. We’re afraid of how it will change our lives, our friendships, and our comfortable living situation. I think this anxiety comes from a good basis, and it is important to seek advice and wisdom from the good Lord, your friends, your peers, and your family – the kind of people who know you, and can tell you if they think this fits in with what “you” are all about. But once you know where it is you’re going, do you wait for someone to take you, slowly walk toward it, or do you run?

It was a little more than a year ago that I chose to leave Richmond to pursue volunteering opportunities overseas, and almost immediately I felt that I was on the right track. It was as if I was swimming against the current for awhile, and as soon as I started heading in a different direction, everything became easier. I could feel the wind at my back.

I set up the plans to finish my job in July, and to head to Nicaragua to work with my church at an orphanage in Managua, and then onto Spanish school in Guatemala. It all just seemed to fit in place. And here I am in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ready to volunteer with HOPE International.

Run Like There is a Tomorrow

Now that I know where I’m going, I want to run like I used to run, without worry, without pain, just fully and passionately alive and full of joy because I am in motion.

Maybe that’s the final point I want to make,

“When you have a good idea of where you’re going, run toward it and sprint with all that you’ve got inside you. Run without worry, or fear, and run like you’ve got everything to gain.”

It is only with energy, passion, and momentum that helps us get through the transitions in our life, but more importantly, they make the fuel that helps us get to where we’re going. And if we never let ourselves run, how far will we let ourselves go?

More importantly, if we let ourselves run, how far can we go?

Tomorrow is my first day in the office – me voy a correr . . .


This post is dedicated to everyone who’s spurred me to run as far and as fast as I can. (And to you mom & dad, but I don’t have pictures of y’all on Facebook.)

Thank you, I love you all!


Tercer Cielo – Mi Ultimo Dia (English Translation)

Tercer Cielo is a talented music group from the Dominican Republic and lately I’ve been learning to play and sing one of their songs on my guitar. “My Last Day” has a beautiful melody and message, and has some amazing harmonies throughout. I’ve translated the song into an English interpretation below the video. As you know, direct translation never captures the same meaning, so I’ve taken liberties to make it sound like we would say it in English. The Spanish lyrics appear below that section. Que hermosa.

As if it were my last day,
I’m going to live with a sincere love
And show those close to me how much I love them.

As if it were my last day,
I’m going to fight for my dreams,
Living without fear and treasuring every minute.
I’m not going to wait until tomorrow because all I have is the present.

If there wasn’t much time, I would stay and take a moment
To show you that I love you and that I am fully content that I have you.
And if your joy depended on me, I would give everything I can to you to make this day the best day in our life.

If this was my last chance to look at you again,
I would make this moment the most important in your memory,
Because in the times of difficulty and stress of this life, we miss the details we later wish we could remember.
And then regret that we’ve forgotten these experiences, and mourn that we cannot recreate them.

If there wasn’t much time, I would stay and take a moment
To show you that I love you and that I am fully content that I have you.
And if your joy depended on me, I would give everything I can to you,
And make this day the best day in our life.

I would enjoy all that God has given me
friends, family and love,
and I’ll make this day the best of my life.

¿Cuantas palabras en Ingles conoces?

Una comunidad para aprender Ingles y diez otras lenguas.

[Spanish Lyrics]

Como si fuera mi último día,
Voy a vivir en la vida, amando sincero
Mostrando a los míos cuanto los quiero

Como si fuera mi último día
Voy a luchar por mis sueños
Viviendo sin miedo
Y cada minuto, vivirlo intenso.
No voy a esperar hasta mañana, si el presente lo tengo

Como si no hubiese tiempo, Me quedara un momento
Voy a mostrar que te amo, Que estoy contento, que te tengo,
Como si tu alegría depende de mí, voy a darlo todo por ti,
Y voy a hacerte este día el mejor que pueda vivir.

Como si fuera mi último chance para mirarte de nuevo,
Hare del momento, el más importante de tu recuerdo,
En el estrés de la vida, Se nos escapan detalles,
Que luego más adelante lamentamos olvidarse,
A veces se hace difícil o imposible recuperarse,

Como si no hubiese tiempo
Me quedara un momento
Voy a mostrar que te amo
Que estoy contento, que te tengo
Como si tu alegría depende de mí, voy a darlo todo por ti
Y voy a hacerte este día el mejor que pueda vivir.

Disfrutar todo aquello que Dios me brindo
Mis amigos, familia y amor
Y voy a hacer este día el mejor que pueda vivir
Y voy a hacer este día el mejor que pueda vivir.

The Value of a Thing Purchased

“People in my country buy something so that others can see it. People in your country buy something so that others can share it.”

A visiting student here in Santo Domingo made that comment to my Dominican teacher. He was from France, and what he experienced in the Dominican Republic was that very often his host family would buy things that could be enjoyed by others. Everything in the house was well-worn. The plastic chairs on the front patio, the sofa in the living room, the dining table, the dishes – nearly everything in the house had been used by the family, the extended family, the neighbors, the church members. Neighbors would come by to get water when there wasn’t any available in the community because the family put in a cistern so that they could provide more water to the family and to the neighbors.

To see it.


To share it.

I see sharing all the time here. People are so comfortable with other people using their stuff, I often wonder who’s the real owner of any property here in the barrio.

It makes me think about how many shiny things I bought that are still shiny and sitting in my room back home. I never really used it and nobody else did either. Why did I buy it? Good question. Why do we buy things anyway? For others to see it, or for others to share it?

My most valued experiences in Richmond came from when a group of friends and I shared an experience. At times, I felt like I should have purchased an Ford Econoline 350 so I could take more people on trips.

Someday I wanna have a huge house.

I want my house to be easy to get to and have plenty of parking. I want to have a big kitchen with a big island to set tons of food on so when I have parties people can mill around in the middle and talk about sports while dipping tostitos into big bowls of queso. I want to have a big common room with a huge TV and plenty of seating, and one of those old-timey movie popcorn machines that’s always well stocked. I want to have a big porch with a bbq grill and a big outdoor table where I can invite friends and family over and the kids can run around in the backyard, and tackle each other safely in the tall green grass. I want people to feel like they can stop by anytime, and if my friends from the Dominican Republic or anywhere else in the world come to visit they’ll be a big guestroom where they can set down their stuff and stay awhile.

Do I Have Enough Money for Two?

I’m sure you’ve gotten the chain email story about the young boy who sits down at a diner and asks the waitress how much two scoops of ice cream cost. When she replies with the cost, he only buys one scoop, so that he can leave her a tip.

I had an experience this week where I was walking the boys back from school. They wanted to stop into a local “colmado” (tiny store) to buy a “cosita” (a small item). Each boy was given five pesos (15 cents), and they had to be very careful on what they spent their money on, because they usually never get money.

We stepped inside and Josias yelled at the lady behind the counter to get him a piece of candy. She took his five pesos and gave him three back and went to get his candy. He stared at the money in his hand and looked back at her and said “Give me one more!” She dropped the gum into his hand and he handed it to me, and he waited patiently for her to get another piece of gum for him. He was now left with one peso and one piece of gum, he said to me “OK, let’s go Aaron.”

I was a bit shocked, Josias just smiled.

Maybe the best part of this story is that later on that evening when Josias’ gum got stale and he asked me for one more peso so that he could buy another piece of gum for himself. Haha.

The Four Year Old Gene Kelly

My favorite part about not having water in the barrio is that I get to walk through the streets with this guy (pictured right):

A four-year-old Gene Kelly.

I didn’t grow up in a barrio, or anything like a neighborhood like Villa Nuevo Pueblo Duarte in East Santo Domingo. It’s poor, and there isn’t a lot of work for the people who live here. Most people try to avoid areas like these and stick to the beaches.

One night a taxi driver said, “You live here? I hope you don’t think that all of Dominincan Republic is like this.” I said to him, “I like it. There’s a sense of real community that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.”

“You know it’s dangerous though right?” he added.

“Oh I know, but I don’t go walking out at night. I know it’s not safe.”

Well, normally it wouldn’t be safe, but somehow it’s safer with someone like Gene Kelly.

Sometimes when we lose water, we go visit some of the relatives who live nearby. Joseas is always first to grab my hand, and he leads the way.

He dances like everyone’s watching, and sings like they are recording his performance. He pulls me forward like he’s trying to pull a rock, and at other times I have to drag him, half-swinging him from my one arm. He’s either mumbling, or he’s singing, I can’t tell. He doesn’t make any sense, not even in Spanish. But that’s not really important in this situation. We’re out for a stroll aren’t we?

Now he’s definitely singing, singing something. I don’t recognize the song, so I’m pretty sure he’s improvising. He’s got a thousand ideas stored up for nights like these. He’s actually matching the rhythm to the cadence of our walk. He’s encouraging me to join him, but as soon as I do, he switches to a new phrase. I try to get him to jump when we come to a speed bump, but now he’s engrossed in his serenade to the night, to the water that hasn’t come for days. It doesn’t bother him that there’s no water, nor electricity in the barrio. He’s just out for a stroll, singing in the barrio.