All student have arrived safely and are ready for their program!
Two words come to mind when one thinks of travel, the first being: strangers. The airport is comprised almost solely of strangers. Strangers, who in the case of the twenty students who connected through Miami, became friends. What many, myself included considering I hail from Massachusetts, learned immediately is that the East Coasters are severely outnumbered by the plethora of Californians, including a group of 5 best friends from San Francisco. Regardless of our geological difference, the group clicked easily and friendships melded further on the flight to Puerto Plata. Upon departure from the gate, we were met by a cheerful band of five Dominican locals playing what can only be described as dance-y Latin music.
Music that proved quite calming through an otherwise nerve-wracking experience at Customs. Once we departed Customs, we were met by an eager group of 20 some odd other GLA students, students who by our “fresh off the plane” standards were seasoned Dominican pros, having arrived a couple of hours before us. In lieu of introductions, we just threw ourselves onto the air conditioned haven that was the bus. The 45 minute ride to the home bus provided a shocking look into the economic disparity that plagues the Dominican.
The ride eventually led us down a dirt path that brought us to the home base. The home base proved to be a much more inviting environment than many thought. We dumped our suitcases and headed straight to the beach! The beach was one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen. It certainly helped us work up an appetite for the delicious dinner of rice, beans, salad, vegetables, and chicken that we sucked down.
Post-dinner, we gathered for some icebreakers and then some quality pool time. Soon enough, it was time for bed in our new home with our new roommates in a new country. One thing was certain, we had proven that new didn’t always mean scary or bad.
Julian says hi to his mom.
Christian says hi to Shylo.
Rachel gives a shoutout to her main homie Lauren
Today, we finally learned the true pain of the morning rooster. The brutal bird woke us up bright and early. We hung out in our room until our 830 breakfast which consisted of eggs, bacon, bread, fruit and potatoes. After breakfast we embarked on a journey to work on a bottle school and build a road in a neighborhood known as Las Canas.
Las Canas was a short drive down the road and home to two friendly families. We worked until 12 with few mishaps, save for Jessa losing the bucket in the well and almost having to retrieve it herself. Digging out rocks, weeds, painting, and laying cement proved exhausting work and the pasta lunch was a welcome, but not nearly as welcome as the bus ride to the beach that followed a couple of hours later.
Post beach, many chilled in their room or poolside in anticipation of dinner and later, a leadership exercise. Following that, we received an eloquent lecture from Giorgio on human security that proved eye opening. After, some took another dip in the pool whilst others retired to their room. Closing another great day in the Dominican Republic.
Today’s adventure included the wonderful Carabello. Everyone enjoyed our journey to the friendly community. While half group of the worked on putting cement on a bottle school, the other half went on a tour of the community. It was divided into three sections including: a Haitian section, a Dominican section and an Haitian/Dominican section. Right off the bat the adorable children introduced themselves to us and stayed with us the whole tour. Many kids including myself bonded with the kids and even took pictures with them. After lunch we traveled to Cabarete, a fun beach town. It was there that everyone had the option to order smoothies and enjoy the ocean water. After laying out in the sun for a few hours we left and returned to the home base. From there we learned about human security and had a delicious dinner consisting of rice, watermelon, egg plant parm, carrots, lime juice and pork.
We woke up on morning four, enchanted by the golden glow blanketing the trees surrounding the compound, then promptly preparing for the day’s adventure. Our trip to La Grua, a community an hour and half away from base, began at eight o’clock AM, 45 minutes later it was briefly derailed by a broken down bus. Nevertheless, an hour later, we arrived at La Grua, shovels in hand, ready to mix concrete and stack some bottles. Our project of a bottle school/community center in La Grua was unique to us because it was still at its beginning stages, and therefore we were able to experience the progress that we made throughout the day. The idea behind bottle construction is that it utilizes a cheap resource as insulation, while simultaneously cleaning the streets of this impoverished community. La Grua is split into two different factions, the Dominicans and the Haitians. Both impoverished, but due to a Dominican superiority complex, the Haitians live in a much deeper state of poverty. The land we were working on was on the Dominican side of La Grua, literally higher ground than the Haitian community, a trend seen as well in Caraballo. It was shocking, to see the gap in lifestyle between the two cultures; however, there was no difference between the Dominican and Haitian children when it came to the size of the smiles on their faces as we danced to Merengue, and other various music. After the dancing, and work came to an end, and we had the time to appreciate the progress of the 16 bags of cement mixed and applied, and the multiple sections of walls completed. We hopped on the repaired busses and headed home, reflecting on the impact we had their lives as well as the impacts they had on ours. We were ready to return in two days to finish the work we had undertaken. We’d like to close with an applicable, and favorite quote of ours, “See the good in yourself and feel the power to share it with others.”
– Josh Hampshire and Samantha Anderson
We had a late breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and left for Dudu after a few days of hard work. After an hour drive we got to the eco park. The park consisted of a lagoon with cliffs to jump off of and a zipline that extends across it. The zipline is about 35 feet drop to the water and the cliffs are about a 40 feet drop. At the other side of the park there was another lagoon and a cave to explore. The water was crystal clear and very blue. It was so refreshing! There were also two ostriches to observe.
The more adventurous people jumped off the zipline and cliffs right when we arrived. Others explored the park and hidden caves. A lot of people did everything by the end of the day. People also enjoyed volleyball and soccer matches with some Dominicans and the mentors. Others lounged on the grass and in the hammocks.
We had fried chicken, rice, coleslaw, beans, etc. for lunch at the restaurant. All were disappointed that there wasn’t any ice cream, but some still enjoyed other small snacks. After another drive to the home base we had a nice Mexican Fiesta dinner with burritos, tacos, guacamole, and delicious lemonade. We then had another leadership program where we learned about the power of why we believe in what we believe in. We also enjoyed a documentary about where the world is headed in population and extreme poverty.
It was very nice after the hard work at the bottle schools. It was fun for all with relaxation and adventure in one day. A lot of people were able to test themselves and face their fears!
– Katherine Graham and Adele Hinkle
La Grua Day 2:
Today we ventured across the island to La Grua, a community divided by Haitians and Dominicans. It was one of the worse off communities that we have seen. We continued service from the other day by filling in walls with cement and bottling them up. We got to appreciate the tools we have at home because when we ran out of hammers to use, so ullwe had to hammer in nails with rocks and we saw a really big spider that freaked most of us out but was seen as normal and harmless by the locals. On the community tour the kids differed from caraballo. Even though they had less money they were less dependent on us because we are the only operating NGO in the community. We increased our trust with them by picking up trash in the field and interacting with the kids. It was a wonderful day and we were happy to return home to swim in the ocean. Say Hi to Shylo and Isabel and emma –Christian J Rachel hollas at the crew at Blueberry Manor
Love your bloggers,
Dani and Katya and not Christian
Today we woke up at 7 o’clock and ate bread, fruit, eggs and ham for breakfast. After breakfast we boarded the bus for a two hour drive to Brison Mountain. We hiked two and half miles to the summit in 90 degree weather. We stopped periodically and discussed the difficulties of the locals who have to hike the mountain every day. We learned that every day the children have to hike all the way up and down the mountain to attend school. The school was very small and consisted of eight grade levels who were taught by one teacher. At the top of the mountain we were rewarded by popsicles, a great lunch and a beautiful view. After taking several pictures, we made our way down the mountain. The trail was very rocky so we found ourselves tripping and sliding over all of the rocks. It was pretty funny. The trail was also filled with many animals including chickens, cows, donkeys, dogs and horses. After the hike, we hopped back on the bus. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the overwhelming smell of sweat and lack of air conditioning. When we returned, we spent time at beach and the pool to cool off. Next we ate dinner which included potatoes, chicken, rice, salad, and fruit. We then listened to a talk about national security from Georgio and watched a video about helping others. It was very interesting learning about how your expectations of a community’s needs differ from their actual needs. It’s most important to listen to the community members so know you’re truly helping these individuals. Once we had come together as a group to listen to the talks and discuss our day, we enjoyed some free time. Looking back on today, we realized how difficult the life of a local actually is. I can hardly imagine a life where you have to hike two miles to school and to obtain water for your family every day.
Samantha Anderson & Maddy Krueger7/23/2015
All students have departed and are on their way home!