Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Los Saltos de Jimenoa--Uno y Dos

Los Saltos de Jimenoa--Uno y Dos
Darrel L. Hammon

Part of the Spanish class: Elderes Hammon and Larsen, los Haws, los Leavitt, los Rucker, and los Despain
Our Spanish class decided to take a day and go on a field trip to see los Saltos de Jimena Uno y Dos (Jimenoa Waterfalls, One and Two), located near Jarabacoa, a fairly nice city about two hours northwest of Santo Domingo, a bit south of Santiago.

The day dawned beautiful like most days in the DR. We met at the Casa around 7:00 a.m. and left. Those who decided to go: Elder Larsen, los Haws, los Rucker, los Despain, and I. We loaded up into two cars: Hammon and Rucker. 

It took us about 1.5 hours to get to the Jarabacoa turn off. We stopped at the gas station, went to the bathroom, and talked to the security guard about where we were going. He gave us some decent directions and then tried to sell us some real estate. I think if I were going to buy real estate, I would probably buy some up in Jarabacoa. It is just a beautiful place. It’s hard to believe the DR is an island when you drive toward Jarabacoa and beyond. 

We followed the windy road toward Jarabacoa. Soon, we came to the sign that point us in the right direction to go to the Salto de Jimenoa. We drove down this road that had enormous potholes. Thus, we didn’t speed. Rather, we drove rather cautiously, trying to dodge all of the holes and the washed out places. The surroundings were beautiful.

The homes along the way butt right up to the road. Since it was a holiday, many people were just coming out of their homes, setting up their chairs to watch the day go by and the cars shuffle pass. We all commented how close the homes were built by the roads. Soon, we came to the parking lot. Only one car dotted the big lot. We parked under a shade tree, climbed out, and stretched our legs.

We walked toward a little shack, located just to the side of the parking lot. A young woman pointed us down the road to pay. We sauntered down the road and stopped to look out over the small valley. A medium-size nursery lay before us, beautifully marked and green.

Bonifasia Alcántara Varga y Elder Hammon
Soon, we arrived at the gate. There we met Bonifasia Alcántara Varga, an 85-year-old woman who ws waiting for her family. We paid our 50 pesos and headed up, carefully walking across the suspension bridges. They swayed a bit. The hand rails on some of the bridges were a broken and falling off.  When Elder Haws, an engineer, looked at them, he said, “Only a matter of time.” That didn’t make me feel any safer for sure. 

The Salto was pretty. Lots of big boulders shaded other little pools. I suspect when the rains come, these boulders become mere rocks sticking out of the water. The falls wasn’t that high, about 40 meters. There were a couple of spots for good pictures. The problem was the sun. Since it was around 10:00 a.m., the sun shone directly in our eyes as it hovered over the falls, thereby not allowing us to get a really good picture of the falls.

We walked back to the front where we stopped and talked to met Bonifasia Alcántara Varga again. Her family was just coming down the path. We had our picture taken with her. She was so delightful, so positive, so beautiful. I loved her attitude about life and about growing old. You just have to keep going, she said, and she have your family around you. Gotta love that kind of attitude. Then, her daughters came, and we took more pictures.

We alked up to the parking lot and headed to the Salto de Jimenoa Uno. We followed the road into Jarabacoa, always going “derecho” (straight), through town and then out of town about seven kilometers. There was a small sign by a small shack. The road headed down over a cliff, it seemed. We decided not to try it; so, we parked in someone’s driveway, with his permission, of course. 

We paid our 50 pesos instead of the $100 pesos because we live in Santo Domingo, therefore not considered foreigners. Included in the 50 pesos was bottle of water. How wonderful was that? You get to go to see an incredible site for $1.25 and get a water thrown in. Too good! 

We started our way down the path with a guide who told us about some of the trees we saw like limón de vaca, guineo, mango, and others. Then, she pointed down the trail and said, “Allí.” And allí we went. The trail was a bit steeper and longer than we anticipated. Pretty soon Sisters Leavitt and Rucker decided this might not be the best thing for them to do and headed back.

The family along the trail
The rest of us carried on, stopping frequently to rest as we walked down a windy path that was merely a series of switchbacks off a very steep mountainside. In some places, it was quite steep and slippery because of the leaves and the loose rocks. We met a cute little family who had been down in the aqua fria (cold water). Soon, thought, we could hear the falls, crashing down. We peeked through the bushes, and we could see parts of of the Salto.

El Salto de Jimenoa Dos
Finally, we broke into a clearing where huge boulders jutted out from the beach, and there it was, Salto de Jimenoa Uno, crashing down from 70 meters to a beautiful blue pool. Two streams of water fell from the top. The one of the left pasted by a large opening. I wondered if it were a cave. The other stream fell headlong into the pool below. Together they resembled two streams gliding gracefully through the open air until they crashed solidly into the pool below.  I just stood there, admiring the falls and taking lots of pictures. It seemed I couldn’t get enough of this beautiful Salto.

El Salto de Jimena Dos, left side only
According to some of the tourist books, one of the scenes in Jurassic Park was filmed there. I’ll have to go back and look. We spend a bit of time here. I took a lot of pictures from different angles. I marveled at the site. For one thing, I like waterfalls, and this one fascinated me. I would love to be there after a good long rain and see the water come flying over the edge. Apparently, the water comes from a hidden lake above it.

Soon, it was time to leave and climb back up to where we parked the cars. Going up was a little bit more time consuming. But with frequent stops, a few “hey, it’s just around the corner” comments, we made it to the top. We found the two sisters who didn’t go  all the way down with us, sitting beneath one of the mango trees, just having a good time chatting. We talked about the salto and how beautiful it was. Then off we went. 

La Turca
I wanted to stop at the restaurant where ADR took me. I couldn’t find it. We drove around the block a couple of times. Still nothing. So, we headed out. Finally, we were a bit desperate because the nice looking restaurants along the water were jammed packed. We ended up in front of Laturca. No one was there. A nice little lady came out and introduced herself as La Turca. We decided to order the plato del día. While we washed up in their personal home bathrooms, they cooked lunch in their little cocina in the back.

La Turca's family

 The food came quickly—a huge plate of rice for everyone, bowls of habichuelas (beans), a platter or two of chicken, a platter of tostones (deep-fat fried, a big plate of sliced aguacates (avocados), and salad. Of course, the salad was off limits to me. Some had some, but I didn’t want to eat it. It looked absolutely delicious, though. We chomped down on all of the food. It was quite good and plentiful. I think we were all full when we left. I especially like the way they cook the habichuelas in this country.

As we were finishing, la Turca came and sat down and tried to tell us how to make the pan or harina de maiz or called here in the DR Arepa. She gave a little sample. It tastes like a sticky corn bread but definitely not as good as Joanne’s. As we drove through this little village, there we dozens of little stores with the same looking round Arepa. We took pictures of the family, paid, and said good bye. Ten people ate for $1,500 (less than $40). That included a drink and a tour of the house. Just behind the house was a river full of people swimming and lounging in the shade.

We had a delightful day in a beautiful place--Jarabacoa y los Saltos de Jimenoa.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

“Milagros and Rosy”

“Milagros and Rosy”
Elder Darrel L. Hammon

There aren’t many times in one’s life where you feel helpless, perhaps more humble than before. Today was one of those days.

We had the opportunity—privilege is the better word—to visit Milagros, Rosy and part of their family. Amelia Peña, a wonderful woman who helps so many, introduced us a couple of weeks ago. Amelia came to the Area Office looking for help for Rosy, a young woman with diabetes. She was referred to us as Welfare Specialists. I received her number and gave her a call. No one answered the phone; so, I left a message, telling her who we were and what we did. For a few days, I heard nothing. Then, I received a phone call, and she told me who she was and what she did. Basically, she goes to hospitals and different places to see what she can do to help.

We made an appointment to go visit a new family she is trying to help: Milagros, the mother, and Rosy, the daughter. We met in front of La Sirena, the Dominican version of Wal-Mart. Interestingly, part of the top of the building was engulfed in smoke when we arrived; so, we parked in the back and walked to the front where numerous onlookers chattered and pointed at the continuous billowing smoke. In the melee, we found Amelia. Trying to ignore all of the fire trucks that were now piling up, we walked to our car and headed to where Milagros and Rosy lived.

Where Milgros and Rosy are staying while receiving medical treatment
The approach to their road was precarious. Literally, it was a drop off. We inched our little Honda Civic crossways until it dropped cautiously down on to the dirt road below. Crawling our way between small shacks, we drove carefully through gullies full of water, around rocks and other obstacles in the road, passed people just sitting in their chairs. They watched us drive through their neighborhood, probably wondering what a car was doing in this part of the city. Finally, we pulled up to Milagros’ son’s home, parked the car, and then walked down the narrow, short path to their home.

Milagros greeted us as if we were her long-lost children. She was wonderful! A gaggle of children, cousins, nieces, and grandchildren, hovered around her and in the house. She invited us in and pulled out chairs for us to sit on. She told us they were in Santo Domingo for short time, attending to the medical challenges Rosy had. Unfortunately, Rosy was at the doctor’s office for treatment. After a delightful visit, we told her we would be back. I gave her my card so she could call us. 

Two days ago, Rosy called me and told me they were leaving town and would like to meet us. On Friday, we had some time; so, I called Amelia to see if she wanted to go with us. She did. We picked her up at her mother’s home, just a couple of miles from where Rosy and her mother were staying.
When we drove up and pulled into the little walkway, leading to their home. We climbed out and headed down the path. They had done laundry today. Clothes, mostly little pink blouses, hung on ropes, stretching from one side of the path to the other. We had to duck to get into the house. 

the gaggle of girls
Yanaira, the daughter-in-law, greeted us at the door and invited us in. We sat in white plastic chairs and were quickly surrounded by cute little girls, from two-years old to ten. Soon, another daughter arrived, her hair plastered with maroon hair dye. She said she had another hour to go. We talk for a bit before Milagros came into the room. 

Rosy and her mother, Milagros
Milagros had on a black with blue designs; she had dressed up just for us. She looked wonderful. Soon, Rosy came in, dressed in jeans, a bright yellow top with a cute yellow bow in her hair. Walking gingerly, she greeted us like we were her hermanos. She showed us her feet and how they were improving. One of them had one of those diabetic sores similar to the one Heber had for several years. This one was looking good, though. According to Milagros, the doctors said she was improving. Such good news!

We had an incredible visit. We gave each of the women a Book of Mormon with our testimonies and one of my favorite photos of the Santo Domingo Temple. We discussed a bit about the importance of the Book of Mormon. We read together the Book of Mormon promise found in Moroni 10:3-5. They took turns reading. It was wonderful to hear the promise read aloud in their home. 

Milagros' family
Soon, it was time to go. We took pictures, said our sad goodbyes, gave Dominican abrazos, and then waved goodbye.  They then watched us from the doorway, smiling and waving until we passed beyond their vision. What a sight it was to see them there. This little family doesn’t have much, but they have love for others and the willingness to share that love. 

Although I came feeling helpless as to how to help Rosy, you helped me understand how blessed I really am. I came a bit humbled to your home but left feeling I had just been in the court of queens. Thank you, Milagros and Rosy! You truly are examples to us for your commitment and your willingness to try to help each other and others like me.