An Absence of Words But No Shortage of Feelings/Thoughts: A Mission to Cevicos in the Republica Dominicana

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Karen Gross
4 min readMay 22, 2024
Karen Gross, Cevicos Series 1 (May 2024)

I just returned from an eight day medical mission to Cevicos in the Dominican Republic run by the Holy Family Mission (based in Rockport and Gloucester, MA). Since my return several days ago, a number of my friends have asked when I am writing about the experience. They are surprised I have not written yet. And, I promised my fellow missionaries that I would write about the experience. Friends and family know I write all the time; I have written literally hundreds upon hundred of blog posts and articles over the past decade. I usually write with ease and speed.

But, here’s the problem: I am at a loss for suitable ways to express myself. I am not at a loss for thoughts and emotions. I have an abundance of these. I have many things to share, including those that impact our life here in the US. But, I cannot seem to write.

Part of the problem is that I haven’t processed this Mission experience; I need to do that to write well. An added part of the problem is that I have too many words to write. Also, part of the problem is that I spent large portions of my time speaking in Spanish and now English doesn’t seem to flow. Another part of the problem is that I had little alone time in Cevicos; I slept in a room with 7 other women and was working hard. I’m not complaining about that at all (in fact the whole notion of how much we complain about nothing in the US is something noteworthy), but I am observing that I need time alone to process an experience this profound.

Here’s what this means: I have thoughts and feelings about over 800 people we served. I have thoughts and feelings about their needs, their problems, their concerns, their amazing temperaments. I have plentiful thoughts and feelings about the Island’s corruption and its beauty and its destruction. I cannot stop sensing the sadness and the scarcity. I have lots to say about the the Mission teamwork (with both Americans and Dominicans), the food prepared for us, the social gatherings, the religious poignancy. There is much to say about illness and pharmaceuticals and access to care. I have much to share about the absence of water and electricity and sanitation. I have stories about comradery, the family dynamics and social structure. I have lots to reflect upon concerning the plentiful human touch, the heat, the sun, the smiles, the laughter, the friendships. There’s much to add about social justice. Words like trust, hope and creativity have new robust meanings to share. Million of things.

So, I began this post (initially written by my cat sitting on my computer as a show of glee that I am back) with the symbol of infinity. That is how I feel: an infinite number of reactions/feelings and as of yet, no order, no complete understanding, no way to describe adequately what is in my heart and my mind and my body. And, I want to write about it all when I can share the fulsomeness of what I have seen, heard, felt and tasted. Infinite experiences within a week that need to be shared — as soon as I can do them justice.

The second image above is something I drew while in Cevicos. I was and still am thinking in shapes and colors. Some of my thoughts and feelings are cabined in squares in my head — locked cabinets where I placed them as the experiences unfolded. There was not time in the moment for processing. Distancing is beneficial to be sure as well.

But, make no mistake about this: there was a vibrancy to this Mission in many dimensions. And, I hope some of that is captured in this image. There was more than color; there was life and vitality in a place so poor that folks did not have drinking water (actually any water) for three months. Ask yourself: how can there be such vibrancy when there is so little? The answer to that question is worthy of its own blog post.

So, know that I will blog. I just need some time. And I will welcome your thoughts and responses. This I do know even now: I have been profoundly impacted by this Mission to Cevicos in positive ways that will reveal themselves I am sure in every aspect of my being — my writing, my art, my relationships. my friendships, my teaching, my scholarship, my choices, my sense of personal completeness.

Please have patience (not one of my strong suits). There will be more to write and say and share. In the meanwhile, know that it is not the absence of thoughts and feelings that is hampering me; it is their abundance, their omnipresence, their power that delays me.

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Karen Gross

Author, Educator, Artist & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor