For the last two months every day after lunch, the only quiet time of the day, my mom and aunt have sat at the kitchen table with a notebook crunching numbers. Adding. Subtracting. Calling me in to do some high power multiplication on my cell phone calculator. They were planning for the annual resort get away. This was the 3rd getaway they were planning. They called the resort once weekly to verify costs, to adjust the amount of rooms reserved, to call just to call because it felt official. As the date approached everything fell together. The final count was 20 adults and 23 children.
On the day we all crammed into a gua gua with no air conditioning and made our way up to Puerto Plata. The trip was not that far but it took us a few hours due to the road situation here in the RD. We sang, sweat, dreamt out loud of all the food we were going to eat. All was well.
Once we arrived I checked in and went straight to the beach with my little brother. We took some pictures by the water, ate some pizza, and then hopped in the pool. Later that night there was karaoke. I sang my classic California Love by 2pac and Dre. It was a hit and made my family and fellow Maoeños proud to be seen with me. After, we hit the discoteca. We got our boogie on to Merengue, techno, and Reggaeton. Out of nowhere we hear a named being called over the speakers. They are calling out for the wife of my uncle. We left to see what was going on.
Outside we see my uncle with his fists clenched and squared up with a security guard wearing the goofiest smile on his face. It was clear that he was in bad shape. We were thinking he had simply drank too much. The thing with All-Inclusive resorts is that people can drink free all day. He was unable to walk very well and didn't know where his room was located. We brought him up to the room where my mom, dad, and brothers were staying. Once in the room he kept trying to leave but he was unable to stand on his own. He was falling all over place and knocking things over. His sisters bathed him twice since people here believe that cold water takes away the affect of alcohol. After 3 hours of trying to get him to calm down it becomes clear that he has not only consumed alcohol but also some sort of drug. Most likely cocaine which is sold and very available in our neighborhood.
We finally were able to get in contact with his wife and get him to his room. Once in his room his sister is encouraging him to go ahead and just get some sleep. His wife is sitting down at a table outside of the bed room with their 2 year old son who has a fever. I am standing by the door on the other side of the table she is at. The uncle comes up to his wife and says "damn it why don’t you ever listen to me?! Damn it!" As he finishes his words he raises his hand as if to hit her. I shouted "NO"! and he lowered his hand. He paced back an forth and then comes up to her and says the same thing. This time I see in his eyes and body language he is going to hit her. As he swung on her I got in the way and pushed him to the wall. He gets up and rushes me. Not wanting to use my fists or hurt him I put him in a head lock and held his arms to prevent him from hitting me. I worked him into the bed room and threw him on the bed. Once on the bed I was on top of him holding him by his wrists. I kept repeating “I don’t want to fight! No more violence! Lets drops this!” He tells me “ok” and I release him. As I back up he throws a hay maker at me. I was able to side step it and throw/ push him to the ground. While he was down I tried getting his wife, 2 daughters, son and my aunt out of the room. While they are leaving he picks up a baby crib and tries throwing it at me. At this point since everyone is out of the room I leave as well. While all of this went down his 2 daughters were on the bed watching. It is painful knowing that. Once outside 5 security guards swarm the scene. I leave. My heart was pumping and I felt like an animal.
I had to go back and explain what happened to Security. They were going to take him to jail but his wife pleaded that they let him stay. She explained that he gets like this when he drinks and will be fine in the morning. He apologized to me. The next day he apologized to me again. A man abused his wife and then apologized to me.
We get back to Mao and I begin to feel paranoid about if I am safe or not. People were saying it was cool and treating it as if nothing had happened. The uncle was acting fine towards me. But I couldn’t help but feel things would/ could escalate. This man got into a knife fight on Christmas Eve and lost. Now he isn’t seen with out his knife or machete. When intoxicated his desire to reclaim his masculinity is amplified. I can’t take a risk like that. Further, the truth is this was not an isolated event. I had been living in a place where abuse is normal. Hitting children is discipline. Women fight instead of talk. Men fight with guns, machetes, knifes, and fists. Once a week I went to bed to gun shots. I heard neighbors fighting. Saw men bleeding from machete wounds. In a place where male dominance is forged through physical violence, how can I ever feel safe knowing I emasculated (not my intention) a man in front of his family? The truth is once I decided to step in between a mans fist and his wife's face, I decided to come home because my beloved community was no longer safe.
The problem was I had no way to express what happened to Peace Corps. In IST we had a bystander training that said we were to never get involved in things like this. According to the Peace Corps I was to watch a man hit his wife and then go call security or the police. I had no trust in Peace Corps to hear what happened and support me. I feared telling PC would get me separated administratively (fired) so I said nothing. Without a reason, a site change was off the table. In addition, I don’t know if I would be willing to change communities. With so much connection in Mao moving seemed unappealing. I had more loyalty to my family and community members than I did to Peace Corps programs so the idea of moving sites seemed silly.
Not the way I imagined ending my service.
Peace to all until next time.