Clothes Pins and Little White Tiles

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DominoesThe loud smack of the small white tiles hitting the rotted piece of discarded plywood had become a familiar sound. The air had become punctuated with the music of loud, raucous laughter joined with finger pointing, good-hearted teasing, and muttering under the breath. As the children ran around the group, teasing each other and giggling at each other’s antics, the chickens clucked at our feet and the cows munched on the grass fifteen feet from our gathering. Clothes pins hung off of ears and loose arm skin, signifying who was losing the battle. This was an all-in event and it was a part of the late afternoon ritual here in this memorable Dominican village. Yep, it was dominoes – Haitian style.In so many ways time seems to stand still when you are there. Life is at a different pace: food is cooked over an open fire, families sit around and chat, most transportation is by foot, and even water is carried by hand from a distant pump. Neighbours are only a conversation away and the walls of each house are shared, often only with a tin sheet or a cardboard chunk between the two Village Lifefamilies. Any electricity used is tapped into, and cell phones are the only mode of communication, as all incoming calls are free. There are no luxuries such as newspapers, books, or even pencils lying around waiting to be used, there is only survival on so many levels. Most of the people who live in this village in Dominican Republic are Haitian, and of those, most are stateless. They are without citizenship, without protection, without basic rights such as education and health care. Most of them work in the garbage dump 4 kilometers away, working long hard days in the Caribbean sun, providing for their families on less than a dollar a day.If you think about it for a moment, you realize how incredible it is that these people let us into their world. Our Hero Holiday teams work alongside of them, helping to improve their community, helping to build schools for their kids, even helping them to increase their income. It only seemed natural that sooner or later, we would get to be a part of the really important things in life, like dominoes tournaments! Dominoes have been around for almost one thousand years. It is rumoured that they were created by the Chinese, and quickly spread around the world. Dominoes is a fun, challenging game of strategy, and easily accessible to most. It is a great party game, and it is wildly popular among Caribbean and Latin cultures. Our little village was no exception, only the rules here were slightly different: when you lost a round, you were forced to hang a clothespin on your skin somewhere: lips, ears, eyebrows, lower arms, even the skin on your calf was fair game and in order to get rid of the clothespins you had to win a designated number of times in a row.Village LifeAs we sat around on three-legged resin lawn chairs, huddled around old pieces of plywood resting on stumps, leaning into the small amount of shade provided by overhead branches, it was hard to suppress the laughter and giggles amongst ourselves. The game began, and within moments, many of us were covered in clothespins, smiling as we smacked down our domino for the next move against the fierce competition, teasing our opponents and reveling in the incredible gift of camaraderie. Despite all the immense barriers: language, wealth and education, we really were in this together. Sure it looks different in my world than it does in theirs, and of course we need to level the playing field of life on a global scale; but sometimes the best things in life are not only free – they are freely shared. And for those few sweet moments at the end of each work day, we got to sit across from each other and just be simple opponents in a humble little game called dominoes.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) works in Dominican Republic throughout the year and we will be taking teams this Christmas. You can join us! If you would like to find out how to be a part of a Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic or any of the other countries that we work in, please check out Who knows? Maybe you can find your fame in a dominoes tournament after a hard days’ work?

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 11th, 2009