Staying with a host family in compo was one of my favorite aspects of our trip to the DR.
Dominican hospitality is remarkable! When we arrived, each family member greeted each of the group with a hug and a kiss as if we had known them our whole lives and were returning home. Lunch, and especially coffee, was given to us and kids played near the house constantly checking on us, as if to make sure we haden’t left yet.
The first afternoon we were supposed to begin working with concrete and my family suggested that we go take a look at it and that if we weren’t interested we should come back for more coffee and sitting–this is when I knew I would like compo! 🙂
Majagual is breath-takingly beautiful. From the front porch of my house you could see layers of lush green mountains all the way to the ocean. The first day it was several hours before some of us even noticed the ocean. We weren’t used to seeing the ocean near mountains and the sea was so blue it melted into the sky.
There are palm trees, a lot of grass, Cocoa and coffee bean trees. Each of the houses on the street are dainty and most are brightly colored with tropical greens and pinks. The homes are very open to visitors as well as fresh air and the chickens that wonder around. The road is horrible. It is dirt with many holes and there seems to be a steep hill upwards and downwards between each house–seriously. By the afternoon I could see how geriatrics must be very healthy here.
The first night Morgan and I went for a walk down the street and several people stopped and again gave us hugs and kisses and asked us how we liked their town. One funny man kept suggesting words like “pure” and “tranquil.” He seemed to have guessed that we were from the city and thought their compo would seem quite to us–which it did! But no one that we spoke to seemed to understand when we stressed how beautiful Majagual was to us. Only a another man we met who had spent some time living in Europe could sympathize and appreciate the unique beauty of Majagual with us. I supposed when you grow up in the most beautiful place in the world it might be hard to imagine that other places were not as beautiful.
My family was so kind! I loved being in the kitchen with the women of the house. I’d often ask how I could help and I would try to sneak in to do a few dishes before they noticed and stopped me. Eventually after bothering them enough to let me help they gave me little jobs and this was the best! I felt like I had gained admission to a secret club of the kitchen. They were so funny in the kitchen: telling jokes and picking on each other and me. Very serious conversations occurred in the kitchen as well. I’m guessing these only happened while I was there because they knew I couldn’t understand a thing! Amazing smells came from that kitchen: I had the honor of stirring a huge vat of chocolate over a fire and squish the plantains between frying rounds (yes, you have to fry them twice!)
In compo I often heard “Mi casa es su casa,” or more lengthy versions of that. I dont speak spanish, but my kitchen companions loved it when I tried to say in spanish, “My house, my kitchen”–Like who would want to be a part of the kitchen? But helping in the kitchen was when I began to understand life in the compo most fully, both the challenges and the community. It is in the kitchen that I decided I am for sure coming back to the DR for the fall semester.
We were only in compo, literally, three days, but somehow I genuinely miss the people I met there. They made me feel so welcome and close to the family. It takes very special people to be so memorable from a two night sleepover.