Today we went to a small community called Cano Dulce, we had 3 jobs one was to help a man named Johnny re-colonize his bee population after local farmers had sprayed pesticides that killed off most of his bees, the other two jobs were based on cementing dirt floors for some of the local families housing in two different places. One of the houses was a 15 minute walk away from the first house. As soon as we walked in to the community I noticed the kids were all doing their own thing without their parents which is odd for young kids to not be with their parents. The people were really sweet and very welcoming in general. They seemed to be accepting of our help and very appreciative. In the community there were a lot differences and few similarities. The biggest difference was the people’s attitudes towards outsiders, in America people stick to what they know when it comes down to social class, race, and wealth but the people of Cano Dulce seemed very open minded to our group and they were really welcoming to us they even helped us work. One similar thing about the community was their ability to be so helpful to us because we were being helpful to them. Today for the first time I appreciated my home.
Today we woke up at 7, and after a quick egg breakfast we drove to Caraballo, a Haitian resettlement village called a batay. The batay is a place where sugar workers used to live and still live now that the production of the sugar cane quickly went away and was replaced by high corn fructose syrup. This batay is surrounded by a desolate representation of its past as we drove through the dead fields of sugar cane and skinny cows roaming. Caraballo was very different from the village we worked at yesterday, and even more different from most of our home cities and towns. Young children ran rampant in little to no clothing, and it became very clear quickly the extreme conditions these families lived in. As soon as we exited the bus, a flood of kids came running, jumping on us and yelling in Haitian creole. It was chaotic to say the least, but we adjusted quickly and learned to banter with them as we painted and patted down cement. When we finished painting the stone bleachers we took a break. After the yummy mangoes and lunch, we had the option of going into the market to visit the locals shops they had been begging us to see. The ones with money learned to haggle with the locals, and most of us walked back to the work site with a child holding each hand and at least one on our back. We finished cementing down the inside of the school, then cleaned up after ourselves. We said a hurried and hectic goodbye, having to pull the kids off our backs as they enthusiastically hugged us adios. We piled into the bus and all fell into a sleepy stupor, processing all the manual labor we’d done and brief friends we’d made.
Today was our first day without service. We went to 27 Charcos which is a system of 27 waterfalls. We were able to visit seven of the waterfalls and they were absolutely beautiful. We got to swim around in the cleanest water that I have ever seen. We were also able to jump and slide off of the waterfalls. I wish we could have done it a hundred more times. After the waterfalls we went to a tourist town named Cabarete. We had a chance to connect with our friends and family back home with wifi (which we were all too excited for…). We swam around in the Cabarete beach, but we all liked the beach at our lodge much better. We then headed for our lodge and swam in our pool. It was a super fun day here in the Dominican Republic!
Today we bussed to a community called La Veredita. There we split into groups and helped the locals with various projects involving construction. One group helped cement the walls of a public meeting place while another dug holes and stacked cinder blocks to build a new bathroom for a household. All of us got involved, communicating with and learning techniques from the locals. After a long day of service, we returned to the lodge, enjoying a relaxing swim in the ocean. It is pretty hot here and we are making sure to drink enough water! Miss everyone back home!
La Veredita, Second Time.
I woke up at 7, as usual. Some people actually woke up earlier to do yoga. In La Veredita, we were originally supposed to finish chipping paint off of the walls, so that cement could be applied more securely. However, plans were changed and we ended up painting the water tank sky blue, which was also an extremely important job. After some time, the ice cream man came (yay!), and we bought ice cream, both for ourselves and for the local economy. In the afternoon, we finished painting the water tank. Once we returned to the lodge, we went to the beach, and I fell asleep behind a palm tree.
Intermission- feel free to grab some refreshments and use the restroom.
Speaking restrooms, our toilet was clogged for a couple of hours, and there was no water!
P.S. The water is back
Hello family and friends! We had another fun filled day of mixing cement! We are slowing getting better and better at the techniques of the rustic art of cementing. However, today the construction of the floors were a little more difficult. We were faced with the challenge of climbing a very narrow, rocky alley while carrying heavy buckets of cement just to reach the targeted housing unit. After many trips up and down the steep alleyway, we finally completed the cementing. Just before we finished, we made a surprising discovery! We found a litter of the cutest puppies! The owner was selling each puppy for only 500 pesos! Our group bought two of the three puppies to take care of and maybe even take home! (ALERT: Don’t worry parents, you were contacted if your child had an interest in keeping the puppies.) Another amazing lunch was served as sat back and relaxed. However, our relaxation ended shortly as we got up to once again…. mix cement. Once finished that ended our time at La Union and on our way home, we stopped to replenish our mind, body and soul with some fresh, delicious groceries like Doritos, ice cream and gummies. So that ended our 6th day in the Dominican Republic and we are still lovin’ it!
Your personal blogger,
– Jack Burns
Today we went to Dudu Lagoon and it was an amazing opportunity to face any fears of heights or jumping. We were able to go on a zipline and plummet 30 feet into the lagoon. We were also able to jump off of a cliff that was about 40 feet. When we got exhausted we were able to eat at a restraunt or play soccer. We also had a fun time throwing each other into the lagoon from the dock. One of the students lost a GoPro in the small lagoon and we spent a few hours searching for it, but working as a team we found it. All in al,l it was a fun day with the group and marks the end of week one.
Today we went to the village La Grua to finish up another bottle school. Some of us mixed cement, others tried to smear it on the walls, and the rest walked around picking up more plastic bottles to fill the walls. As an alumnus of the Dominican Republic Beachside Adventure program, I got to see the progress we are making first hand. Last year, when I first visited the community, I had no idea how severe the conditions were. Sure, I saw the fields covered in a layer of trash, the kids running around with a single article of clothing, and the dilapidated river, but I had no idea how segregated Haitians and Dominicans were, or how bad their water conditions were going to get. This year, I was shocked to see the differences being made. Now the fields are almost completely clean. The bottle school is nearly finished and the people are incredibly grateful, constantly smiling and thanking us. However, certain conditions are getting worse, such as the Haitian water supply and suppression. The river, which was already small but flowing, is now almost completely gone. What makes that even worse is that this small stream is their only water supply, seeing as the Dominican side of the community has completely cut all Haitians off. There are many 7 Elements programs and GLA programs working to improve the situation, and while the current conditions make me feel even more anxious to help, I know that these programs make an incredible difference in these peoples’ lives, even though the progress seems to move so slowly. Revisiting the same communities, or even seeing new ones, is motivating and inspiring. What we’re doing here is awesome, and I’m very proud of the work we are doing. 😀
by: Sofia Cabrera
Today we woke up at the wee hours of 5:30 in the morning just to sit in the car for 5 hours and although that sounds bad, it’s not so bad if your asleep, which was just about everyone but me and the driver Jaime. After the brutal 5 hours of sitting we got to the botanical garden and we did a 3 hour scavenger hunt in the rain which at one point, was torrential. We than went and shopped at this really nice boutique that gave us very nice discounts. We also took a tour of the historical district called El Centro. We ended the night with a nice ice cream and a good rest.
by: Finn Shepard
Today we went to La Veredita, where we cemented the floor of the community building. Mixing cement and carrying water buckets far distances were some of the hard tasks we faced. Amazingly, we were able to finish three fourths of the floor, which was well above our goal. Also, we finished our water tank project. The water tank will supply running water to over a thousand people, which I find absolutely extraordinary. Lea drew a beautiful mural on the water tank that read, “Agua es Vida… Cuidala.” At the end of the night, we went star gazing on the beach. We played games and searched for shooting stars. By the end of the night, we learned that hard work really does pay off and that we really are making a difference, as shown in the results of our projects.
Today we bussed to La Grua for a second visit. We returned to the community center and coated the walls with cement. We also attached wire to the interior, completing the insulation of the building with empty bottles. And, during breaks we had fun laughing with the locals who passionately took part in the project. After a lot of strenuous work, we piled into the bus to go to the home base, enjoying the rest of the day.
Today we went to the Haitian/Dominican border. Along that border is a huge, boisterous market called Dajabon. Despite the long ten hours total of sitting on a hot bus, the experience was completely eye-opening. When we arrived to the market, we were immediately bombarded with hoards of Haitians rushing from shop to shop carrying enormous bundles of goods on their heads. We had to split up into small groups to make our way through the market, and even then it was hard to keep together with all the people running around. Most of the goods being sold were donations, and almost everything seemed to be used. The ambiance was incredibly busy, noisy, and almost animalistic. I mean, we experienced a man being assaulted with a chair as he hopped over the group of maybe ten women selling shoes. Dajabon is an experience that can only really be understood when seen, as it is so completely different from anything we have experienced before, but also an incredibly valuable memory.
– Sofia Cabrera
All students have departed and are on their way home!