Vignette 2: Reaching Upward

Already our trip to the D.R. seems like years ago. The tulips and blooming cherry blossoms on campus bear little resemblance to the palm trees and coconuts of the far away island nation. Classes are winding down and each of us has settled back into the routine of an American college student: study, eat, exercise, drink, plan for the future.  Our weekly B.A.C.E.S (changed from A.C.E.S.) meetings on Thursday at 5pm is the only time our group is back together, planning and reminiscing about the trip that changed our status from strangers to close friends.

Vignette 2: Reaching Upward

The Cabon school took 15 months of planning, funding, and hard work before its completion in July 2009. The school, located in the community of Cabon, can now hold 100 students in addition to a computer lab, multiple classrooms, two finished floors and bathrooms. The light blue building stands as a beacon of hope for the children who are fortunate enough to enter inside.

Behind the school is a large open field of green grass surrounded on two sides by concrete walls. These walls depict the heartbeat of the community: large murals of old men, children, and rolling hills illuminated by a setting sun. Proferio, the leader of ACES-DR, tells us this area used to be a toxic abandoned site that was recently cleaned up for the school children to play. There are no shortage of traps for children in the DR, physical and otherwise.

Today, the field is covered with boys and young men flying kites high above the green carpet beneath their feet. The kites are ingeniously engineered–supple wooden beams in the shape of a cross, held together by a garbage bag tarp pulled across the frame. The long white tails made of twine or plastic whip and flutter in the breeze. It is the perfect day for flying kites and they skitter above our head, swimming in the cloud-smeared sky. 

One of the kites gets caught in a tree on the opposite side of the road. The boys yank and jerk the string but cannot free it from the gnarled branches. The kite appears to be lost forever, visible yet out of reach. I’m reminded the Cabon school behind me, the only link between a life grounded in poverty and one of endless opportunity. The sky is the limit.

There is commotion as one boy wearing jeans and flip-flops begins to shimmy up the tree. From the ground, we watch in awe as he finds delicate foot holds in the smooth trunk. He climbs effortlessly despite the breeze and thinning branches. I shade my eyes as he continues upward, 40 feet about the ground.

Poised in the crook of the tree, the young man begins to shake the branches on either side of his body. I am certain he will fall but cannot tear my eyes from the limber form silhouetted by the sky. The men on the ground take turns yanking on the thin white line until finally, the kite escapes the tree’s clutches and dances into the open air. I can feel those around me breath a collective sigh of relief.

I believe each of us is born holding a kite, opportunity stretched between thin beams of courage and strength. For some of us, our kites leap instantly into the air and are carried upward toward the sky and the stars, dancing in the warm breeze. For others, the string is twisted, the structure bent and the kite flails before collapsing in a heap of broken dreams and damaged pride. There are trees with sharp branches and sudden squalls that threaten to break the delicate string tied between small fingers.

Don’t give up, little kite. Someday you, too, will soar.

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