Arrival Day Into Our New Journey.
Today was our first day arriving in the Dominican Republic. After a long day of connecting flights and travelling, all 15 of us GLA members arrived at the Indalo lodge which lies outside Puerto Plata. Some of us bussed 45 minutes and others bussed 2 hours from the airports and settled into our bungalows. Each of us divided into groups of 4 to 5 as we claimed rooms and beds. After depositing our luggage, we quickly slipped into bathing suits and headed towards the beach! The water was warm and the waves were big. Afterwards, we got ready for dinner, a delicious buffet of rice, beans, stewed chicken, vegetables and an assortment of fruit which everyone needed after such a long day. Then we convened and discussed the upcoming weeks that we have to look forward to. We got to meet our counselors and program directors who reviewed the itinerary for the next 21 days. We did a few bonding exercises centered around finding common ground between the many members of the group from all over the world. After the long day of travel, we are all excited and eager to begin the next three weeks and take on the adventures of tomorrow. And there are spiders….. big spiders. More to come on that in upcoming blogs…..
– Emily Crist and Emma Young
Today we went to a village called Joba Arriba. We helped begin a project to help rebuild the local water tank for the local community. As of right now the community does not have any water. During our process we helped by clearing the surrounding debris that was interfering with the construction process. We used the debris to help build a road in order for vehicles to access the water tank in a more convenient way. We helped build a base for a column using rebar, nails, and wires. The process of cutting the wire was very difficult and it took a lot of time. We were hoping for power tools but the community only had small hand saws to cut the thick metal rebar. The day was very hot and everybody was experiencing something new. The labor work was much more intense than expected. The local people helped us to rebuild and gave us good advice to learn techniques much better. After the hard afternoon of work we went to the beach and had some time to rest. We had a great dinner; after dinner we had had a Human Security discussion led by Giorgio. Afterwards we had a leadership activity that helped us understand our values and how we go about them every day.
– Daniela and Allyn
Joba Arriba II
Today started out very similarly to yesterday. Waking up we were greeted by the smell of bacon wafting across from the kitchen. After a delicious breakfast, we headed out to Joba Arriba to continue working on the water tank. We continued to remove rocks from the inside of the tank by filling buckets, raising them, and emptying them outside the wall. Inside the sauna-like tank, the temperature sky-rocketed and had a lack of cooling ocean breezes. Additionally, many members of our group had fun throwing rocks, mixing cement, and hauling water. After the cement was mixed, along with the help of locals, we helped to pour cement to form a support column which will stabilize the roof to ensure that a massive roof failure does not happen again. Then we drove back to the lodge and many members went down to the beach to spend an hour sunbathing, bodysurfing, and just having fun in the bathtub-like water. After returning to a wonderful meal of lasagna and other assorted pasta, Sarah led a discussion about leadership and Georgio led a discussion on environmental security. We all soon passed out while a couple of mentors and students stayed to get RIPPED, by doing an ab work out.
– Des and Alex, the only guys in the group.
We woke up to the fresh tropical air of the Republica Dominicana. Eager to engender our first adventure in this foreign land, our faces were bright as the sun that shined upon us. We hopped onto the bus, our souls leaping with joy, after enjoying a nutritious breakfast of fresh fruits, eggs, and French toast. My heart trembled as the feeling of joy shook me to my core- a feeling some describe as “excitement”. After a short two hour bus ride we arrived to our destination- 27 charcos (waterfalls) in Damajuaga. After providing us with lifejackets and helmets, Omega, Pablo, and Robert led us through the mountains to twelve of the twenty-seven cascading waterfalls. Everyone in our group enjoyed sliding and jumping down each of the waterfalls, and we were discouraged when we reached the final waterfall. Smiles were the only thing that you could see on our faces. We enjoyed a delicious meal after our adventure, and afterwards we headed to the beautiful town of Cabarete. This surf town offered local stores and a beautiful beach where we got to spend over two hours in bliss (aka free wifi). The cultural difference was prevalent in this town as many of the locals approached us, offering illusive jewels and “organic” chocolate. We haggled as best as we could and returned back to the home base for a awesome meal.
– Alexandrea and Chaney
It’s Emma Scott’s birthday today!!!! Happy Birthday Emma!!
Today we ventured to La Veredita, about two miles away from our first workplace. We are tasked with rebuilding the community center, which will serve as a monthly medical center and a meeting place for the local community. Today, we started by digging a trench with picas (pickaxe) and shovels that will provide a base for the walls of a new room to the center, also some members of the group worked on digging a latrine in the back of the center. Frustrations ensued as there were cultural differences and difficulties coordinating on measurements to use for the second part of the building, but eventually there was a compromise and we were able to continue the project. It was an especially hot day today, but thankfully a family living near the site where we were working greeted us with fresh passion fruit juice and hot coffee. After our nutritious lunch which we ate in the same family’s beautiful home, we returned to work for another few hours. After a long day of working we returned back to our home base and enjoyed some free time and a delicious tex mex meal. Stomachs full, we entered into a talk with our leader Giorgio about food insecurity throughout the world. After a leadership discussion our day ended and we are happy.
– Alexandrea and Chaney
Today was the second day that we worked in the community of La Veredita. We were mentally preparing for the hardest part of the project which consisted of mixing cement and adding it to the base of the rebar in which we carried down on a slanted, bumpy, and muddy hill. During the process, we connected to a wonderful family and they brought us refreshments and coffee during the whole work experience. They successfully looked after us and offered their help if needed. The Don or “the man of the house” took the time to explain to our director about what he did for a living. The man kindly explained to Giorgio that he owned one hundred tareas; one tarea consists of thirty-three cacao trees. Since one tarea earns 150 US dollars per year, this man lives a very wealthy lifestyle compared to many locals in the Dominican that are lucky to even afford one tarea. This shows that those who own one tarea depend on 150 dollar profit for a single year. Through helping out with the community of La Veredita , we gained a new perspective of how much the value of just one hundred and fifty dollars in the Dominican compared to one fifty in America. To us one hundred dollars could be a daily grocery shopping trip to Safeway! But to many Dominicans, it is a very low amount in which they depend not only for themselves, but also for their family in one whole year!
Tomorrow we are very excited to visit the batey of La Union where we will help layout cement flooring for Hatian families. This is really educational to intertwine service learning projects to human security.
– Emily and Daniella
Today we traveled to a new village called La Union. This batey is comprised of Dominican citizens as well as illegal Haitian immigrants. They live in impoverished conditions where many have floors without cement. This leaves them susceptible to many diseases as dirty, “black” water will soak into the dirt floors where many walk barefoot. We toured the local village and saw firsthand the cultural and economic division between Dominicans and Haitians. Dominicans lived on the outskirts or front of the village and their houses were much nicer and well furnished. As you traveled up and into the rest of the community, however, you saw the conditions progressively worsen. Some houses had no access to fresh air, wind, or sunlight and heat and bugs were issues for them. Our main project for today was working to install cement floors in some of the homes. We noticed differences in the process of cementing from what we had done in previous days. Haitians were more methodical in their process: we strained the sand before mixing it with cement to avoid big rocks, and there was a special process they used to mix the cement with water to avoid leakage and waste. As we hauled buckets of cement and sand up to the houses, we were surrounded and helped by many local children. We played and held and talked to them for hours. They were so happy and precious and even made Giorgio smile J The little boys loved helping us shovel and the little girls braided our hair as we took water breaks. At the end of the work day, we drove to a grocery store (AC, finally!!) and indulged in many sweets that we have been deprived of recently. Coming back to the home lodge, we took a trip to the beach and returned to a dinner of chicken, rice, potatoes, mango and salad. We learned about health security as an essential aspect to human security and discussed health issues that affect our world. Today was another adventurous day and we are so excited for Dudu Lagoon tomorrow!
– Emma Young and Allyn Anness
After three long days of sweaty, strenuous work, we were able to have a fun day. We took a two-hour bus ride to Dudu Blue Lagoon. There, we had the option to jump off a 25 ft. zip line and a 30 ft. cliff into the lagoon, and also swim in natural caves. The beach volleyball court was a fun activity for many of us. Those who didn’t play cheered on the rest as we challenged a group of 6 locals– and might we add, we kicked their butts. Many of enjoyed relaxing in the sun and working on our tan. After dinner we learned about the concern of over using prescription drugs, in the process of learning about human security. Many turned in for the day earlier than usual, while the rest played the nightly card games.
-Jordyn and Cady
Today we ventured to the beautiful terrain that is Joba Arriba. Our third trip to this area proved to be entertaining as we were able to complete a cement floor for a house in the community. Without cement trucks, we had to mix cement the old fashion way… shovel, sand, and cement bags. We got a special authorization from the environmental committee in the town to take sand from the local river. We were blessed with clouds hanging over our heads, which protected us from the harsh UV rays of the sun. After long hours of sweat, blood, and tears we earned a delicious lunch of burritos, which made our day.
We all worked hard today and we finished our project early, heading back to the home base to do leadership activities on the low ropes course. We learned the power of teamwork and the need to ask for help with different activities, and we all took away new life skills. Our leaders then graced us with some extra free time to settle into the Dominican atmosphere as we have an early morning the next day as we head to Santo Domingo and Jarabacoa. Our next days will be filled with adventure, self-discovery, and cultural immersion
-Lauren and Alexandrea
Today we woke up at the incredibly early hour of 5 am. Luckily, we all got to catch up on our sleep on the three hour bus ride to the city of Jarabacoa. Once here, we hiked to a beautiful waterfall that was in the movie Jurassic Park. Some of the more adventurous members of our group then went and rock climbed through the river around to another part of the waterfall to go swimming and play on a beach.
After a lunch of chicken sandwiches, we went to a local ecology university and took a tour with local students learning English. They had all kinds of plants from pears, to cactus, to floating gardens. Then, after cultural discussion, we went outside to spend a couple of hours playing basketball, volleyball, and soccer. We then went to our hostel and helped the mentors cook a delicious dinner of grilled vegetables and chicken, while Giorgio made an incredible garlic pasta. After dinner, we had time to relax, listen to music and settle into our new surroundings.
The past few days were filled with adventure, cultural learning, and new experiences. As we hopped onto the bus to start our mini-vacation our hearts pulsated with excitement. We started our journey with a three hour bus ride to a waterfall in Jarabacoa. Although a cloudy day, our excitement was not diminished as we took in the beautiful Dominican scenery. We all took in the image of cascading waterfalls and gushing streams. Some got to swim in this paradise while others hiked the large rocks in the area, leading to a cliff overlooking a massive waterfall. After this exciting journey we ventured to a university dedicated to the study of the environment and natural resources. The students at this school treated us with a tour of their biologically diverse campus, their faces lighting up as they spoke about the many types of flora and fauna situated at their school. After the tour we exchanged our experiences that we had while doing this cultural exchange. We then headed over to their athletic courts to play volleyball and basketball with the student- only losing by a little bit. Following this experience we headed over to a very nice hostel, and the night that ensued included dancing, cooking an Italian dinner, and sharing our experiences about the day.
The next day we woke up to the beautiful scenery of the mountains across from where we were staying. We enjoyed our first breakfast of cereal and milk, which fueled us for the rest of the day. Departing from the hostel, we headed towards the capital of Santo Domingo. A contrast from the greenery we lived in the past days, we were all astonished by the massive industrialization in the city- even recognizing brands commonly seen in the United States. We visited the beautiful botanical gardens located in the city, seeing plants endemic to the Dominican and a picturesque Japanese garden. Later in the evening we enjoyed our first trip to a Dominican restaurant, eating a true Dominican meal of chicken, rice, and beans. After dinner we got to walk around the old colonial town, shopping, bargaining, and even indulging in ice cream. We went back to our beautiful hotel hearts pounding, eyes glimmering, and souls shining. In the morning we took a trip to the natural history museum in the city, and then headed back home to the lodge, satisfied with the trip’s experiences.
Chaney and Alexandrea
Today we went to a new community called Caraballo. We started out the day by touring the community and learning about how they are forced to cook using illegal, homemade charcoal inside of their already sweltering houses. It takes the people approximately 3-4 days to make a single bag of the charcoal which they sell for 50 pesos (or approximately $1.13). We then saw the river that is used for bathing, cleaning, and more. The water was green and at a standstill, which is definitely NOT sanitary. We then began working on the largest bottle structure in the world. It was nearly complete, all we were doing was smearing concrete on the walls and digging a latrine. After lunch, we went to a local market where we were swarmed by store owners trying to sell us a variety of crafts such as bracelets, necklaces and paintings. We then went to the air-conditioned supermarket to restock on a variety of foods and ice creams before listening to an incredibly interesting lecture on economic security from Giorgio, partially focused on the income inequality of the world. One fact that stood out was how only 300 people around the world own the same amount as the poorest 3,000,000,000 people in the world. We then listened to another inspiring Ted Talk before relaxing and going to bed. Goodnight.
– Alex and Matty
Today we visited a batey in the town of La Grua. We started off the day by walking through the Haitian part of the community while collecting littered plastic bottles for the walls of the bottle school clinic. While walking, we were joined by many children who were eager to help us pick up the bottles. Despite the language barrier, as a group we had managed to fill up ten trash bags full of bottles within an hour. Throughout the community we observed that the kids lacked clothes and shoes, and the families did not have the basic necessities to keep their homes and surroundings clean and sanitary. After collecting the bottles, we went to work on the existing structure of the school, which was built on the Dominican side of the batey. We walked along side the little Haitian kids that helped carry the many bags of plastic bottles. This community was so divided between the Haitians and Dominicans that we had to cross a road to get to the Dominican side from the Haitian side. Different groups took turns stuffing walls with bottles, digging a latrine, and leveling the uneven floor. After playing a highly competitive and confusing game called “Signs” during lunch, we worked for additional two hours, continuing to improve the school. This was the third batey we have gone to in the past two weeks, and it still provided a completely unique eye opening experience for us. Today introduced a lot of new issues for us all to think about, and we hope to continue to have more experiences like this one in the remainder of the trip.
-Carly Anderson and Emma Scott
Today we went to Sousa to snorkel after a long cramped bus ride. We arrived and were carried via dingy to a larger boat. We traveled for 30 minutes to the reef and put on the snorkeling gear to look at the fish and coral reef habitat. It was nice to see first hand the environmental component of the oceans. It was very sunny and very sad to see how the coral reef has disappeared and died. A friend threw up on the boat because it was kind of turbulent, but he was ok. We spent our last few minutes looking at the view. We then went back to town to eat PIZZA. Yes, pizza. We were excited. After pizza we had free time to roam around town with our friends. Many returned with Hawaiian shirts, corn rows, necklaces. Others played football with locals. Our ride back to the lodge was pretty hot in the bus and we were happy to get back to take a shower and get our clean laundry from the line. We discussed the last element of 7 elements: Political Security. Afterwards, we were able to talk to a few interns from Indiana of University who are studying how the 7 elements affect various communities in the DR.
– Emma and Allyn
Our Second Day in La Union.
Today we went to La Union for the second time and it was almost as good as the first. On the way there our front tire blew and we got to see how fast the local men fixed tires, which was not so fast because we had to take a Guaga (local taxi bus) to our worksite. We had the opportunity to help a local family with a cement floor. We are becoming experts at mixing cement. Many buckets of sand and cement were carried up and down a steep hill because there was a slight miscommunication amongst the workers, but we were in high spirits and were happy to help anyway we can. Some of us (Alex) played some soccer with the locals and some of us (Alex) showed them some American soccer skills. It was about a 45 minute bus ride and we are pretty tired. Tomorrow we are going to the border of Haiti to a market named Dajabon Market. This will be a 4 hour bus ride there. Thankfully, we have music and wonderful (Liv, Crys, Shay, and Sarah) to keep us occupied during our bus rides. Some of us are home sick and miss you guys.
– Alex and Cady
4 hour bus ride there. 4 hour bus ride back. It was long, hot, and windy, but it was worth it. We had the chance to see a new world, a foreign world, a world that seemed chaotic and different than what we are used to. There has been a lot of political and social stuff happening here in the DR and we were not sure how this trip would be. The market was filled with cheaper electronics, knock off shoes and second hand clothing from the US. We were able to see first hand how the 7 elements intertwine and how life is for the Haitian People. It was a long day drive and we are happy that we were able to see this new world.
It was Emma Young’s birthday today, one of our awesome friends here. We were able to spend her birthday hiking up to do a restoration project. Half of the group built a greenhouse from scratch and the other half packed seeds into plastic bags next to a pig farm so you can image the awful smell. After our community service work we jumped into a water fall and had fun. It was a good day. The rain fell on us as we walked back to the van. Thunder and lightening too! We were pretty happy to help with reforestation.