All students have departed and are on their way home!
Snorkeling – Sosua – Last Day
Today is the last full day that our group spends in the Dominican Republic. We planned to spend the morning snorkeling in Sosua and the afternoon gift-shopping in Cabarete. The bus ride from the compound was unusually silent as many people, myself included fell into a rather reflective and nostalgic mood, thinking back to the people we have gotten to know, the communities we have worked in, the memories we have made, and taking in the natural beauty of the Dominican before we all returned to our respective homes. Upon our arrival in Sosua, we were split into two groups, each of which had the chance to take a 10 minute boat ride to a snorkeling spot. The water in Sosua was much clearer than the other beaches we have visited and was perfect for looking at exotic fishes and coral in shallow water.
After both groups had had a chance to snorkel, everyone headed to the Lazy Dog in Cabarete Beach where people scrambled to find gifts for friends and family back at home. A popular destination was the Friends Cafe, which was known for its smoothies and milkshakes. At 5 o’clock and loaded with trinkets, the group headed back to home base for the last time. Dinner was a hurried affair as mentors briskly ushered people to complete evaluations about their experiences. Finally we all headed down to the beach for a bonfire and were joined by many of the kids that had worked with us at Las Canas.
As I sit here writing this right now, before bed, I know that I am not going to get much sleep tonight. Over the past three weeks, I have formed connections and built friendships stronger than I had previously thought possible with so many of the people in my session. And I am certain that I am speaking for everyone when I say that although we have all come for different reasons, these past three weeks has made a profound impact on us all and as reluctant as we are to say goodbye to our friends here, we also look forward to sharing what we have learned with our loved ones back home. On that note, I would just like to say thank you to everyone in my session, mentors, directors, for making this experience an unforgettable, life-changing one.
Las Canas – Final Presentations
Today we went to our bottle school project Las Canas. Las Canas is a relatively new bottle school project and we set goals in the beginning of this 21 day adventure to finish most of the school. We worked hard and consistently for each of the four times we visited Las Canas, resulting in a beautiful accomplished bottle school, which will be used as a clinic in the community. The kids of the Las Canas community have been involved in building and painting this project and have expressed their excitement towards having a community clinic. Personally, I felt today I accomplished the most out of all the days of Las Canas, smoothing the cement walls which was a rewarding job seeing the hard work we put in come together. Also 3 walls were painted white which looked beautiful and we saw the kids faces light up with joy. Overall it was a great last work day!
After we got back the research groups that presented tonight finished gathering information. As that happened, the three groups that finished presenting last night played kick ball with neighborhood kids that helped us at Las Canas, we won 15 to 11!!!!!. After that, the three groups presented, giving great presentations on major global issues.
Each and everyone of us personally reflected on our trip and thoughts. This made for a great ending of the second to last night!
La Grua – Team presentations
Today we woke up a little earlier than usual to go to La Grua. A new location GLA and 7e are working on to potentially build a bottle school and clinic. We arrived after an hour and a half bus ride at the location and we were split up into two teams. One team was working with our mentor Sara on her water filtration project, helping her arrange and hand out water filters to families in need at the local church in La Grua. The team helped put together the water filters and then the first 50 families came to the church to hear an informational talk on the filters and pick up their own device.
Meanwhile, the other half of the team was working on cleaning up the area by doing a trash pickup. They also took time to interact with the local kids since this is a new community that we are trying to build a relationship with before starting a bottle school project there. We played with the kids and got to know them as well as some of the other locals. After that came lunch time, we ate rice, chicken and fruit at the location and some of us even got an extra surprise on our plate, chicken feet. After lunch we got back on the bus and headed home to complete the research for our projects. The first 3 groups to present tonight researched the issues of undocumented youth in the United States, the Syrian Revolution, and Boko Haram. Each group spent around 20 minutes teaching everyone else about their topics. We were all mesmerized learning about these issues in such depth and every group that presented had clearly put time and effort in to make their projects informative and interesting. They all did a great job! After the presentations it was time for ice cream in celebration of Melanie’s Birthday, yay! Everyone clearly enjoyed the frozen treat and – speaking for myself- it was honestly some of the best ice cream that I have ever had. After a long day of fun and learning it is off to our cozy bug nets until tomorrow when we head, again, to Las Canas. We are all excited to see what else we can learn and experience in our remaining time.
-Melanie & Jeannette
Puerto Plata – Cable Car/Amber Museum
7:00am, Alarms ringing, we shoot out of bed eager to wolf down a hearty breakfast to prepare for a day full of adventure. Our hard work has paid off, and we are in for a treat. Puerto Plata. 1 hour later and we are careening through the countryside and on our way to the Teleferico. This cable car journey is not for the faint of heart. All 36 of us pile into a finely crafted gondola. With a jerk and a bump we begin our ascent to see Puerto Plata’s finest work – a larger than life statue of Christ the Redeemer. As the wind rushes through our hair our only thoughts are of what awaits us at the peak of this mountain. The view is breathtaking. Below us lies the port city, teeming with everyday life.
Look to the west and you see the mountains, look to the east gentle waves lap against sandy shores. One gets lost in the sights, and you realize you are already at the top. Ears popped and legs shaky, the group begins to explore the peak and all it has to offer. Caves, lagoons, and Jesus. What more could we ask for? The hour at the top passes by in a whirlwind of excitement. Wooded trails and unforgiving caves beckon at every corner. We are rounded up at the cable car for a once in a lifetime group picture. Minutes later we are on our way back down the mountainside, an even more breathtaking view.
We hop back on the bus for a quick lunch at a local eatery. Chicken, rice, and beans wait for our hungry mouths. Next stop, the Amber Museum. Let me tell you, none of us will ever look at these specimens the same way again. Puerto Plata’s Amber Museum boasts ten different colors of the finest amber on the island. Its finest piece was of a lizard locked in a droplet of sap, trapped in time forever.
-Michael and MacKenzie
As we arrived in Las Canas, we unloaded all of the tools on to the work site. As soon as everybody got to the bottle school, we started on the cement. We started off slow but soon picked up to maximum speed for progress. We worked on putting the second coat of cement on the wall, concentrating on the craters to even out the faults in our walls.
Everybody worked as a team to get done as much as we could before we ate lunch and refueled on energy. Finally, noon came and lunch was served. We were in for a treat. We had chicken and rice (We never have chicken and rice). After lunch, feeling energized and rejuvenated, we grabbed our shovels and gloves and got to it. We continued working on the bottle school till three o’clock. Dave showed up to determine whether or not we did a satisfying job and he was pleased with our efforts. He decided that we did a good enough job to let us have a free day for ourselves at Cabarete the next day to watch the final World Cup game. Everyone felt super joyful that we worked together to build a school/clinic for kids who need it most.
-Shelby Bond and Genna Fuhrman
Today we woke up extra early at 6 am to head off to Dajabon at the Haitian – Dominican border. We left the home base at 7 am and drove for four hours to arrive at the border at noon. Upon arrival we went to the closest restaurant for a quick lunch and then headed off with the group to the Massacre River that separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic. We learned about the river a few days ago from a documentary that explained that in the 1960’s Dominican dictator, Trujillo, playing upon racism ordered the deaths of thirty thousand Haitians as they fled back towards Haiti. As we walked towards the river, the first thing we noticed was the Haitian children who were bathing in the water that was the site of a massacre 50 years ago. This is the only water they have access to and therefore they cannot choose where they want to bathe, despite the water being one of the most polluted sites in the world. After the river the group split up into smaller groups to head off into the market. In order to not get lost in the sprawling mess, we proceeded in one line, never straying far from the person in front of us.
The sights we saw deplored us. A million Haitians and Dominicans jostled and elbowed each other in a river of people in a struggle to reach their destinations. The Haitians are only allowed into the market twice a week, and they bring just about everything they own that isn’t edible. Clothes, shoes, toys, along with assortments of trinkets are all carted to this market to sell, and the proceeds are almost always used to purchase food to feed their starving country. But this wasn’t the disturbing part; the truly disturbing part about this transaction is where the Haitians get their goods. They come from well-meaning NGO’s and other organizations that send over clothes and shoes as part of their relief effort for the recent earthquake that devastated the country. But when we went to the market, we all saw how Haitian vendors displayed piles upon piles of shoes to sell, shoes that they definitely did not need as much as the food their neighbors sold. This trip to Dajabon was definitely a powerful eye-opener to the truth behind the Haitian situation and the effectiveness of aid distribution.
After another four hour car ride (and thankfully little harassment from Dominican military looking for Haitian stowaways), we returned to home base for a steak dinner, a welcome relief from chicken, beans, and rice. Dinner melted away into free time, and free time quickly became 7:30, when we all gathered to watch three TED Talks. The first was a long one by a person from India who, rejecting his private and elite education, went to work in the poor villages without opportunities to found barefoot schools, which educated women from around the world on solar energy. The other two showcased less lofty goals. One featured a Canadian speaking about how he unwittingly gave a New Brunswick woman the confidence to stay in college by giving the man next to her a lollipop and asking him to “give the beautiful woman next to you a lollipop,” before finally concluding that leadership didn’t need to involve people doing lofty ideals like the Indian school founder, but merely positively affecting somebody else’s life. The last one showcased a viral video of a lone nut dancing, before a few first followers joined him and made his crazy dancing a movement, emphasizing the importance of the early adopters to join in on a lone nut’s good ideas.
-Olivia Mamane and Jeffrey Qiao
Last Day at Caraballo
Today was the groups last day at Caraballo, our biggest bottle group. It was an emotional day for many because of friendships made with some of the children in Caraballo. After a morning of cementing and forming walls from chicken wire and bottles, a delicious lunch was cooked for us while a traditional band played music. The group then took a short walk into the Haitian resettlement village of Ascension.
During the walk we were able to see where the people grow their crops and where they keep their chickens. We were also invited into a woman’s house to see her water filter and clean burning stove. Once in their park we played a game of soccer and played with children that many had built bonds with. In small groups, Some people went into the market and bought hand made bracelets. It was time to say goodbye and we walked back to the bus holding hands with the children. When it was time to let go and some people shed tears. Though we had made the bus ride home many time, this was a particularly difficult and emotional one for many, knowing that for some of the students it would be the last time seeing the children we had grown to love so much.
As we arrived back to home base we had a lot of free time to reflect and relax. Some went to the beach, some stayed and swam in the pool. Following dinner students were given time for research on our human security issue, that was interrupted by a surprise birthday cake for Shelby’s birthday. The lighthearted celebration gave the group a good end to a hard day.
-Daniela Cerda Vega and Taylor Parrella
Caraballo – Cabarete
Today marked day 11 of our 21 day adventure. We hopped on the bus at 8 in the morning-after being awoken by the sound of music (thank you Conor)- and headed off to Caraballo. After arriving in the community we cleaned up trash and rocks from the area inside the school. There was little else to do so many students found themselves bonding with the kids in the community. The children are constantly in the mood for games and entertainment of any form; they love to hold hands and braid hair.
After play time was over we sat ourselves down for a lunch of rice and chicken, as per usual, then it was time to go to Cabarete. The afternoon spent at the Lazy Dog restaurant and beach can be described by one word- relaxing. We ordered our favorite foods, spent time on the beach, played volleyball, and watch Germany smash it in the World Cup (go Germany!!). Soon it was time to depart from our mini paradise and it was back home to the GLA home base.
Once at the home base we, again, enjoyed a lovely meal of rice, beans, and chicken…with a few other dishes on the side. We learned more about human security and the seven elements of human security following dinner. After the short lecture we watched a riveting documentary on the history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Finally it is time for bed. It has been an incredibly relaxing and informative day and we are all excited to continue our adventures for the next 10 days.
-Jeanette Schwalm and Eliott Haddad
Caño Dulce/Las Canas
Today our groups switched activities and half of us went to aquaponics and the other half went to the bottle school in Las Canas. The Aquaponics project we worked on consists of a system of fish tanks connected to a bed of plants and the nutrients circulate and create a sustainable way of growing plants without depleting the soil. We cleared the area of weeds with machetes (which was awesome) and finished digging trenches. After working we were taken on a tour of Cano Dulce where we had to cross a foot-wide bridge over a river made out of wire. In Las Canas, the group continued cementing the walls of the school with the help of local children. After eating lunch all together at Las Canas, we headed back to the compound to work on our research and went to the beach. We didn’t have chicken, rice, and beans for a change but we did have fish, rice, and beans (and french fries). After dinner we had a leadership lesson from Andrea and a very compelling Social Justice speech/activity with Rick.
-Eva Parr and Jonathan Tabet
Day 8 was the first day themed around adventure. We bussed an hour and a half to Dudu, a natrual equilvalent to an amusement park, with a giant zipline running 30 feet above a great blue lagoon, and a pair of natural cliffs about 35 feet high. Many people stepped outside their comfort zone and faced their fears of heights, falling, murky water, and quite randomly, ostriches. After a day of swimming, exploring pitch-black natural caves, plummeting loudly into green waters, and avoiding giant, African, flightless birds, we were all extremely tired. Exhausted, but with many good memories, we returned to home base just in time to welcome the new 10 day group.
After dinner, we moved into a serious discussion about a few short films we watched concerning human security and specifically, the Maldives, eWaste, and problem prioritization. Ready for bed after our long day of adrenaline, adventure, and discussion, the group headed to bed.
-Zhi Yang and Jackson Phillips
This Fourth of July we began our day making the long journey from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata. Along the way, we made a couple of stops during this 5 hour ride. The first stop we made was at a rest stop where students enjoyed delicious ice cream and other treats. At the second stop, we observed the manufacturing process for making water filters and learned how clean water plays a role in human security. 80 percent of illnesses world-wide are caused by contaminated drinking water, and water filters can play a huge role in reducing this number. Dave explained that each water filter costs $45, but can savethe lives of people who do not have access to clean drinking water. However, because most Dominicans cannot afford to pay this price, donating money to distribute these filters is a great fundraising idea.
When we finally returned to Puerto Plata, we immediately ate lunch while Dave lectured us about how cities are different from rural areas, and many of the issues that exist in urban areas. Some of these issues are sanitation and clean drinking water, as well as the climate, which is generally 5 to 10 percent warmer than in rural areas. After lunch, we had free time to go to the beach, swim in the pool, or take a nap in our rooms. During this free time, certain groups were doing research for their culminating projects, which are various modern day events and issues (such as the Syrian Revolution and human trafficking) that incorporate the 7 elements of human security. We concluded our day with a fourth of July celebration which consisted of a bonfire on the beach and music.
-Pierce Cohen & Marissa Garcia
A Great Day
Day Five was primarily characterized by the long bus ride that took us from Puerto Plata to Santo Domingo. During which we sat with our newly formed human security groups. We briefly stopped in Constanza to discuss the pressing issue of dependence on pesticides and herbicides. We were taught that the usage of herbicides and pesticides makes the ground become dependent on these chemicals. We also revisited the concept of resource distribution among the growing population of the island. After we had left the agricultural fields, we stumbled upon a protest regarding the condition of health care and infrastructure. When we finally arrived at the Hostel we found our room arrangements and quickly settled into our comfortable air conditioned rooms. A few minutes later we waked down to a Dominican Chinese restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal. We look forward to the opportunities Santo Domingo has to offer!
By: Charlotte Hunt and Conor Wight
We started in Caraballo working at the bottle school. We continued to create and cement walls, leading to the near completion of one of the rooms. We worked for the first half of the day, finishing our time at Caraballo with a delicious lunch of rice, chicken, and plenty of fruit. From there we travelled to Caberete, where we ate at the Lazy Dog, where we experienced wifi for the first time on this trip! While there we visited the beautiful beach below the restaurant while others explored the local town and visited shops and super markets. While there many of the students enjoyed world cup matches, despite the heartbreak of the USA’s loss.
Once back at the base camp students waited for dinner, passing the time with volleyball, card games and swimming. When the time came the GLA sat down to rice, potato salad, pork, fried eggplant and plenty of fruit. Thirsts created by a days work were promptly quenched with a variety of juices and water. With stomachs satisfied we watched a very interesting, informative documentary on economic security (one of the seven elements of human security, a topic we are studying) called The End of Poverty. This documentary will be discussed over the next couple of days in Santo Domingo, to where we travel to tomorrow. A productive, fun, emotionally devastating day has come to a close and everyone is preparing for bed and the long trip to Santo Domingo to come in the morning.
A Productive Day
Off to a Great Start!
Bienvenidos GLA Participants,
Everybody arrived safe and sound to our beautiful lodge in Playa Las Canas. Our program is off to a great start, after some volleyball challenges, we had an amazing dinner with yummy food aplenty. The orientation provided an overview of all the cool community service projects we’ll be participating here in DR and the leadership activities led us to create community standards, get to know each other and built our GLA community.
Tired but happy we’re going to bed and we can’t wait for the all adventures awaiting in DR.
Almost all students have arrived and are ready for their adventure in the DR! More blogs posts and photos to follow!