Today we returned to the school in Cocos de Abajo to work on the recycled bottle building. I felt we had a much better work attitude today because we had gotten a good work flow going and we were learning more about the project. I noticed students recognizing faces among the children and making new friends. We took a break before lunch to experience a local men’s softball game, which was many students’ favorite experience for the day; this made me happy as the group morale for the rest of the day was at a definite high and I hope to only get higher as we continue the trip.
July 24, 2017
Today we traveled to the Jimaní market, a market on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Although we had an earlier wakeup than usual, it was worth the extra effort. Our expectations were set very low by Ben and the other mentors (as it’s not a typical market), so I was shocked by how good the chicken was at the market and how crowded it was. The market was a mix of vendors from the Dominican and Haiti.
July 24, 2017
Unaware of what day of the week were in, we decided that it was Tuesday. LOL. Martin woke everyone up 10 minutes earlier so we could all be on schedule, which was a success.The 45-minute drive to Los Patos Water Pumping Station was a relaxing one. When we arrived, we faced the challenge of painting the back of a water station, which was hard to reach because it was literally on top of a river. But the challenge was defeated with great perseverance and teamwork and we finished just on time.
We got to sleep in this morning after a long day at the beach yesterday. We left home base and arrived at the town of Barahona with a short drive. Immediately, we split into mentor groups and started our scavenger hunts! The tasks included somebody getting a manicure, a typical Dominican haircut, taking a picture with a person on a motorcycle, and trying new flavors of cream soda. The best part to the scavenger hunt was probably watching 2 people get designs in their hair, and getting our nails done for $1(50 pesos!) Afterwards, the 3 groups met up for lunch at Pala Pizza for some delicious square cut pizza!
After taking notes and learning about the new project, it was suppa time! For dinner we had a vibrant pink beet salad, a banana bread pudding, with some rice and chicken. It was delicious! After dinner we separated into mentor groups, and discussed last night’s journal prompt and today’s adventures. Then, we finally got to go swimming! It was a long hot day and I can safely say that everyone was excited!
On this day of Building a Sustainable World, we went back to our main project at Cocos de Abajo. Today we split into two groups in order to create and place the smooth cement on top of the already placed rough cement. With the help of the maestro, Jose Luis, we were able to cover three of the walls with the smooth cement. This was exhausting work for everyone, but we all kept our heads up and the negativity down.
After we all finished the cementing, we engaged in a dance class with members of the community. We learned how to perform the Dominican cultural dances of Bachata and Dembo. This was extremely fun even after the hard day’s work because we were able to relax and learn a new way to express ourselves. Once we got back to home base and after dinner, we had a seminar on the economic security in the DR in comparison to economic security in the US. Lastly we had our mentor groups to reflect on the events of the day between each other. Today was a challenging day, but it was still a productive and fun one.
Today, we traveled to the only active wind farm in the Dominican Republic in Los Cocos. We learned about sustainable energy (or lack thereof) in the Dominican Republic, and how unrealistic it is for the DR to become solely dependent on renewable energy. After the information session given to us by an engineer working at the plant, we went to a lookout at the farm and took some group photos!
Once we admired the breathtaking view of the sea, palm trees and dozens of wind turbines, we ate lunch at a nearby salty river. At the stunning location we went in for a dip in the river. Next, to cool off, we went swimming in the ocean by our home base. After dinner, we watched a video discussing the economic disparity in the United States and tied it back to the global economic climate.
Today we went back to our main project at Cocos de Abajo. We finished up putting cement on the walls and started painting. The inside is basically completely done! Everyone was really working well together. Whenever anyone asked someone to trade in (mixing cement is incredibly tiring) someone would step up and help.
We got a late start today with breakfast at 8:30 instead of the usual 8 am. The first main activity we had for today was visiting a marmalade factory run by a women’s cooperative. There the president, Maira, taught us about how the co-op was founded, how it is run, and how they make their marmalade. Afterwards, we got the chance to put labels onto the finished jars of marmalade and buy a few jars. After that, some locals took us on a community tour where they showed us fruit trees in people’s yards, a technology center, and a local clinic.
Today we embarked on our adventure to Cachote, a cloud forest community in the mountains. We traveled up the mountain on benches in the backs of pickup trucks. As we made our way up the mountain we could immediately feel the change in temperature; the air was cold and fresh. We stopped along the way to enjoy the many views that the journey had to offer. We saw coffee and cocoa trees as well as spectacular views of the abundant forest.
Upon arrival we began collecting firewood and settling into our cabins. A community leader welcomed us and shared his knowledge on ecotourism and the local community. We then hiked down to the worksite where we completed an unfinished water tank and began building a new one. After work we did a leadership activity in which, with restricted communication, we led blindfolded students through an obstacle course with the objective of retrieving a bucket. Then we relaxed by the campfire, sang, learned more about each other, and bonded.
Hola parents of DR BSW students!
Today was the second night students spent in Cachote, an eco-tourism community. After breakfast, two human knot games were played as students competed against each other in a race to untangle themselves.
Today was our final day in Cachote! This morning, about half the group chose to hike down the mountain to a waterfall while the rest decided to stay and finish working on the water tanks. The hike took about 3 hours in total – the climb down was very steep, but the waterfall below was breathtaking. Some students decided to climb further up the falls – the water was very refreshing and was especially nice after the long hike down. Walking back up the mountain was more challenging, but the view from the trails made it all worth it!
We had some free time before dinner – everyone was so happy to finally take a shower. After a nice dinner – we had cheeseburgers – we were given time to work more on our capstone projects and took a group photo of some palm trees on home base. Tomorrow we are heading back to finish the school in Cocos De Abajo– everyone is so excited to get back to work!
Today we returned to Cocos de Abajo, working on the final touches of the schoolroom. We finished up the smooth cement and painted the inner and outer walls.
After we ate, we had a discussion comparing the 7 elements of human security in two communities in which we have done service and our home communities. We finished up the conversations in our mentor groups to wrap up the night. We are looking forward to visiting the Hatian Dominican Center tomorrow.
Today we went to the Haitain Dominican Center, a center meant to aid Haitain migrants who have recently crossed the Dominican border. The center provides aid to the Haitian migrants in the form of food, shelter, and legal counsel.
Today was a great day! We started out by going to Cocos de Abajo and finishing up the cafeteria/community room, our main project. We finished off the floor with cement and painted both the inside and outside. Afterwards, the community showed their appreciation by making us pastelón de yuca, a traditional lasagna-like dish made with chicken, yuca, and cheese (as well as a vegetarian version). It was a very bittersweet moment because although we all felt very accomplished and proud of our hard work being finished, it meant we had to say goodbye to all of our friends, young and old.
Later we had our daily mentor groups, a personal highlight of my day every day. We’re looking forward to our last day of service tomorrow, where we’ll be painting the Los Patos water tank.
Today was our last service day in the GLA program. We painted a water storage tank in Los Patos to help prevent rust and corrosion. We had to paint high up and we only had one ladder, so it took a lot of collaboration and innovation to reach the trickiest bits. People sat on shoulders and balanced on cement blocks and ladders and stood on tip toes and generally made a huge mess. (The paint must go up, but gravity brings it back down at the messy speed of 9.8 meters per second.)