This column returns this week, as I return from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It was my first time to visit both countries, and is always the case, it was very rewarding.
While in the Dominican Republic, I was a part of a group of 20 people that conducted medical clinics in small villages around the north side of the island. Our group included 10 medical students from four universities in the United States. We held eight clinics in four days and serviced over 500 patients.
Ironically, while we were in the Dominican Republic, The University of Tulsa women’s basketball team was also in the country, playing exhibition games, conducting youth basketball clinics and doing some humanitarian work with Samaritan’s Feet. The TU team was on the south side of the island, and our paths didn’t cross.
Following five days in the D.R., I flew with a ministry friend, Victor Cruz, to Puerto Rico, where we had the opportunity to minister in three church services.
While in these two countries, we drove by several sports facilities, mostly baseball stadiums, and I couldn’t help but think about how many Dominican and Puerto Rican baseball players must have played in these towns before making it in the United States. So many came from poverty, before the wealth of Major League Baseball changed their lives, and the lives of many of their family members.
Ivan Rodriguez has been retired from MLB for five years, but his photo is still on an advertisement three stories tall on the side of a building in San Juan, P.R. If the Puerto Rican populous is proud of him now, I can’t imagine what it will be like when he likely gets voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this winter.
Although we were busy most days, we did get a chance to watch a little bit of the Summer Olympics while in Puerto Rico. Most of what I saw was the prime time coverage, which featured a lot of the swimming events. However, Puerto Rico was abuzz over the tennis competition, as their native daughter Monica Puig was advancing in the competition. Puig ended up winning the first gold medal for Puerto Rico in the women’s single tennis competition. Interestingly, Cruz’s cousin Erika Barquero, who we gave a ride to and from tennis practice one day, is a member of the P.R. Under-16 tennis team and has trained with Puig. She was pretty pumped about Puig’s success.
One treat I would have liked to enjoy while in Puerto Rico would have been having the opportunity to watch a professional baseball game there. However, Puerto Rico is host to one of the MLB Winter Leagues, Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, which plays its season from the end of October to the middle of January.
We did drive by three of the four winter league stadiums; Roberto Clemente Stadium in Carolina, Estadio Isidoro “El Cholo” García in Mayaguez, and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.
A couple of things that I noticed while traveling, that you may label as “pet peeves” of mine, were the neck pillow and overhead storage bins.
I use an inflatable neck pillow, so I can deflate it and pack it easily in my carry-on. Neck pillows are not designed to be clothing accessories. Don’t walk through an airport with your neck pillow around your neck. It’s just not cool.
Also, don’t put your carry-on bag in an overhead bin ten rows in front of where you’re seated, that’s just unfair to the people seated in that area who then don’t have room for their luggage.
Finally, a big no-no is putting your carry-on in a bin behind where you are seated. There’s nothing worse then someone trying to go against the flow of the crowd trying to get off an airplane, to retrieve a bag five rows back.
Just some friendly advice from a frequent traveler.