Time in the Dominican Republic well spent
The Tanner family is back from a year spent in the Dominican Republic. Mark Tanner explains that he served an LDS mission in the Dominican Republic many years ago and he and his wife Nanette thought it would be good for their children to experience life in a foreign country. Several years ago they did just that, taking their six children at the time and moving to the DR for 20 months.
"It was a marvelous experience, both for us and for those children that were old enough to remember. When we took our children then, we lived in a small house in Santo Domingo and drove an old Montero. We tried to live like the natives there. Our children developed in ways we never imagined. This was a good educational opportunity. They picked up Spanish and this experience enriched their lives. We returned home, and over the next years had four more children.These four didn't have the experience of living in the DR like the older children, so we wondered if it was time to go again. MarKette and Drexler really didn't remember ever being in the DR. The younger kids kept asking 'when do we get to do that?' It seemed like there was never a good time to pack up and leave. Nanette had just built the new mortuary, our daughter would graduate from high school soon, and my law practice was doing well, but we knew if we didn't go soon, we wouldn't have the opportunity. We decided to go, we packed up and left again. Cardell Sackett was here to keep the mortuary going and Travis Blackburn helped with the law office.
"Things were somewhat different this time around. The technology had advanced significantly since the first time we were there. Different than our first visit, technology made it so we were constantly connected to home. In a way this was a disadvantage, because it was harder for us and the children to be completely absorbed in the foreign experience. We restricted the amount of web time the kids could have, although our oldest kids did their school classes online, and it was very rigorous. They spent significantly more time "on-line" than the younger ones. We didn't have a TV there which helped too. That was one of the really good things about going. Most of their closest friends were Dominicans. We did Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and were very involved in church activities. There were activities at the Church almost every night. The church building was far nicer than any of the members' homes and they enjoyed being there.
"We lived in Boca Chica this time. It was about 30 miles outside of Santo Domingo, the capital of the DR. We were the only Americans in this town of about 100,000 people. The Dominicans became our family and friends. Another thing that happened was for our children to become each other's best friends. They really had only each other so they became very close, especially our oldest daughter Markette and her next-in-line brother Drexler. She was a senior, he was a freshman. Had they been home, they wouldn't have associated much. As it was, they became best of friends, confidants, and cohorts. It was delightful to watch them interact and have fun together and develop the closeness they now enjoy. We had a large yard at our house, and the kids played outside every day after their studies.
"Our ward was very poor, and yet the members would meet often to do service projects for those even less fortunate. We were very involved in the ward and were also called to work in the temple. We were among the only ward members with computers so we would bring the laptops to church and help the people with family history work. Our son Drexler did his Eagle Scout service project to help organize a relief effort for a local girls orphanage. They gathered clothes, food and other necessities for this facility. He even involved the people of Emery County in this effort. They gathered soap, clothes, linens and other things and sent them with him to present to the orphanage. It was a very worthwhile project.
"We also became tour guides. We invited friends and family members and really anyone who wanted to come down to experience the country to stay with us. We took them to the island's beautiful beaches and other points of interest. There are a number of caves and waterfalls. It is a beautiful country, despite its poverty. I heard somewhere that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and the Dominican Republic is number two. Though the people are poor, they are happy and giving. Many of their homes are barely wooden slat huts, yet they still give to others.It is a testament to me that physical things don't guarantee happiness.
"The LDS church has grown substantially in the DR. In November of 1978, missionaries were sent to the country. Now, 32 years later, there are 125,000 members. There are 15 stakes and a temple. The church has really grown rapidly.
"Baseball is huge in the DR. It's the biggest sport by far. There is soccer and some basketball, but all the kids play baseball. Our kids played right alongside them. The boys were on baseball leagues, and MarKette worked out daily with the Dominican National Women's Softball team. They have a professional league with five teams that play their season after the Major League Baseball season in the United States is over for the year. We attended some of the games. They are fun and inexpensive and enjoy a very loud and raucous crowd. The Dominicans enjoy their baseball.
"In the DR there is a small super-wealthy group of people. There is a slightly larger middle class and a very large, very poor lower class. A typical wage of the lower class is about $200 per month. There are factory workers, agricultural workers and farmers.They grow a lot of sugar cane and fruit plantations. While mechanized construction is growing, there is still much pick and shovel work.
"Despite the low wages and poverty, the cost of living is quite high. Gasoline ran almost $6 per gallon. The only thing cheap there is labor, and yet their money doesn't go as far. There were more than 200 people at church each week and only three cars in the parking lot, one of which was ours.
"I was always enthralled by the ingenuity of the people in the DR. They can fix anything with a screw driver, and they can create so many things with the little they have. They don't need the most modern devices. They make do with what they have.
"The temperature in the DR is usually around 80 degrees with high humidity.
"Our year in the DR went really fast. I'm glad we did it. Now the kids have had the experience and they are better for it. We don't anticipate leaving again, although some day Nanette and I would like to serve missions for the church when our children are grown. Our children recognize what they have in America now, and they are much more appreciative. They know they are really blessed to live in America and enjoy the opportunities we have here to progress and develop our talents.
"The children are glad to be home. They miss the swimming pools and the beach, but they are happy to be back in school and among their friends and family.
"Drexler is a sophomore at Emery High. MarKette was accepted at Brigham Young University, but chose to go to Snow College so she can play on the Snow softball team. She loves softball.
"Brinler is in eighth grade at San Rafael, and Stetler, Kohler and Angelina are at Cottonwood Elementary.
"It's good to be home, but we are thankful our children were able to experience life in another country," said Tanner.
Mark is busy with work at the law office and Nanette is back helping with the funeral home as well as serving on the Emery District School Board and taking care of the five children left at home.