Cigars with Missionaries

 "' Uber is not available in your location'?!  They could drop us off here but not take us back?!" Steve said as the realization that we might be walking in 100% humidity for who knows how long. I fumbled around in my pocket for my iPhone, in hopes that I could push a couple more buttons better than Steve could to get us a ride out of nowhere. We were an hour out of Santo Domingo, which was at this time our desired destination, had little cell reception, and the only structures around us were a small market and a stand full of Dominican souvenirs. Oh and the scariest part? We were out of pesos and traveling solely with plastic and way too much camera equipment. I extended the handle from the rolling Pelican case and started to walk alongside the highway. 

"'Uber is not available in your location'?! They could drop us off here but not take us back?!" Steve said as the realization that we might be walking in 100% humidity for who knows how long. I fumbled around in my pocket for my iPhone, in hopes that I could push a couple more buttons better than Steve could to get us a ride out of nowhere. We were an hour out of Santo Domingo, which was at this time our desired destination, had little cell reception, and the only structures around us were a small market and a stand full of Dominican souvenirs. Oh and the scariest part? We were out of pesos and traveling solely with plastic and way too much camera equipment. I extended the handle from the rolling Pelican case and started to walk alongside the highway. 

 At the end of June, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to shoot some video for my home church and meet with non-profits doing good work where it was heavily needed. This particular work trip was different for many reasons, but mainly because I got to travel with a good friend: my girlfriends father, Steve, is the global outreach pastor at a church back in Santa Clarita, ca. After being around him for the past 6 years, I've learned to love his humor, respect his admiration for classic movie gems (mainly starring Chevy Chase), and gain so much wisdom from his stories. For 5 days we ran around Santiago and Santo Domingo visiting friends in villages, worked on our Spanish, and somewhere near the top of my list, smoked my first cigar with missionaries. 

At the end of June, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to shoot some video for my home church and meet with non-profits doing good work where it was heavily needed. This particular work trip was different for many reasons, but mainly because I got to travel with a good friend: my girlfriends father, Steve, is the global outreach pastor at a church back in Santa Clarita, ca. After being around him for the past 6 years, I've learned to love his humor, respect his admiration for classic movie gems (mainly starring Chevy Chase), and gain so much wisdom from his stories. For 5 days we ran around Santiago and Santo Domingo visiting friends in villages, worked on our Spanish, and somewhere near the top of my list, smoked my first cigar with missionaries. 

 Dominican friends. I was as stoked to meet them as they were to play with my camera. 

Dominican friends. I was as stoked to meet them as they were to play with my camera. 

 Our shirts were instantly soaked the moment we started trucking down the highway.   "Maybe if we walk a little ways we'll be back in the zone for Uber or Lyft to pick us back up. Should only be a ways if they could bring us all the way out here." Almost the second I finished my sentence, 2 loud honks coming from behind us made us whip our heads around to see if we were about to be killed or picked up. The extended van pulled up alongside of us as the host jumped out the side door. He said something in Spanish that was too quick for me to translate.   "A donde vas?"   "Santo Domingo," the driver said, as he waved us in the door like you would see on some cheesy commercial inviting you to come to a resort in Cabo. Steve and I looked at each other, shared some gentle laughs, and boarded this God-given van.

Our shirts were instantly soaked the moment we started trucking down the highway. 

"Maybe if we walk a little ways we'll be back in the zone for Uber or Lyft to pick us back up. Should only be a ways if they could bring us all the way out here." Almost the second I finished my sentence, 2 loud honks coming from behind us made us whip our heads around to see if we were about to be killed or picked up. The extended van pulled up alongside of us as the host jumped out the side door. He said something in Spanish that was too quick for me to translate. 

"A donde vas?" 

"Santo Domingo," the driver said, as he waved us in the door like you would see on some cheesy commercial inviting you to come to a resort in Cabo. Steve and I looked at each other, shared some gentle laughs, and boarded this God-given van.

 Local's choice of transportation.

Local's choice of transportation.

 Even though we boarded a van heading exactly where we needed to go, we still had an issue: cero pesos. And we figured this van didn't accept debit. Soon enough, the host came down the aisle collecting peoples money who had recently boarded. Steve and I were in the last row awaiting to see what would happen. Us and the host didn't have much of a conversation, save for us showing him our cards and saying "no pesos, lo siempre." I tried communicating that we could get off at the next stop, but the Dominican host stared at us without a word for several minutes. He wasn't too happy that these two gringos hopped on his cab and expected a free ride. Eventually he went back to his seat up front. We shrugged and looked out the window for the next hour and a half drive to the capital.

Even though we boarded a van heading exactly where we needed to go, we still had an issue: cero pesos. And we figured this van didn't accept debit. Soon enough, the host came down the aisle collecting peoples money who had recently boarded. Steve and I were in the last row awaiting to see what would happen. Us and the host didn't have much of a conversation, save for us showing him our cards and saying "no pesos, lo siempre." I tried communicating that we could get off at the next stop, but the Dominican host stared at us without a word for several minutes. He wasn't too happy that these two gringos hopped on his cab and expected a free ride. Eventually he went back to his seat up front. We shrugged and looked out the window for the next hour and a half drive to the capital.

 Cerveza. 

Cerveza. 

 A family born and raised in this village on the outskirts of Santiago. A church was planted here by a friend of ours named Felix, and has already done some incredible things.

A family born and raised in this village on the outskirts of Santiago. A church was planted here by a friend of ours named Felix, and has already done some incredible things.

 Cigar factory doorman. I was shocked when he told me he was 41 years old. 

Cigar factory doorman. I was shocked when he told me he was 41 years old. 

 I started to get a bit more nervous when we started to approach the last stop. Our plan was to tell him we had no money and try to say we'd go to an ATM and pay him back, with a generous tip. Before we could even take another stab at our humiliating spanish, the host took us off the bus and told us to follow him. The host wasn't a scary looking guy, but we were in an unfamiliar zone and following a guy we were indebted to. We had no idea where we were going. 

I started to get a bit more nervous when we started to approach the last stop. Our plan was to tell him we had no money and try to say we'd go to an ATM and pay him back, with a generous tip. Before we could even take another stab at our humiliating spanish, the host took us off the bus and told us to follow him. The host wasn't a scary looking guy, but we were in an unfamiliar zone and following a guy we were indebted to. We had no idea where we were going. 

 Many cigars were shared this week. Including my first in which I spewed after when I stood up...

Many cigars were shared this week. Including my first in which I spewed after when I stood up...

 After what seemed to me like a never-ending walk through the slums of Santo Domingo, we were relieved to see that he took us to an international bank, yet he still didn't look too happy. After screwing with the ATM machine and holding up the line, we finally got out 3,000 pesos, although we had no idea what we owed. The host was hard to understand and would usually just stare at us. We handed him 2,000 pesos for the 1.5 hour ride (about 40 US dollars). He took it, shook his head, and finally cracked a smile. He said "No, no, no," virtually returned all of the bills, and only kept about 6 US dollars.

After what seemed to me like a never-ending walk through the slums of Santo Domingo, we were relieved to see that he took us to an international bank, yet he still didn't look too happy. After screwing with the ATM machine and holding up the line, we finally got out 3,000 pesos, although we had no idea what we owed. The host was hard to understand and would usually just stare at us. We handed him 2,000 pesos for the 1.5 hour ride (about 40 US dollars). He took it, shook his head, and finally cracked a smile. He said "No, no, no," virtually returned all of the bills, and only kept about 6 US dollars.

 Not only did my first time in a third world country teach me to never travel with just plastic, but this trip was amazing to hang with kids like these. I could teach them how to click a shutter all day long, even if they swarm and fill my lens with finger prints. For more information on how you can help a rad organization in a place like the DR, check out GO Ministries    here.

Not only did my first time in a third world country teach me to never travel with just plastic, but this trip was amazing to hang with kids like these. I could teach them how to click a shutter all day long, even if they swarm and fill my lens with finger prints. For more information on how you can help a rad organization in a place like the DR, check out GO Ministries here.