Time Capsule Letter
“Yo yo yo” (“yo what’s up?”),
Hi Carmen, Clare, Eli, Emma, Genny, Izzy, Juan, Kylee, Lilly, Marcello, Marcus, Merrick, Milan, Sophia (Greco), Sophie, Subha, Varadha, and Yoav (alphabetical order, first name),
Thank you for sharing this 21 day journey in the DR with us. Many memories still live in my mind very vividly: bus rides with Señor Jaime, walking to the chocolate factory, sweating in Caño Dulce with Mongo, eating at Jonny’s house, the eye-opening trip to Dajabon… As you read this, you are most likely back in school. However, please know that we think about you: the impact you had on us, the joint-learning we experienced together, and the fun we had.
Knowing that you left the DR understanding that we came here to learn by experiencing many issues means the world to us. That was the point, and it warms our hearts/gives us hope to know that you did so with such humility, maturity, and respect. We trust that this experience will inform your commitment to be “people of service” in your communities for the rest of your lives. At the same time, you should know that the work you did was and will continue to be impactful. Without the 7e/GLA partnership, it is very unlikely that Mongo would have the house that he now has. Thus, without your desire to learn, to be a part of the solution, that would not have been possible.
In addition to the learning and impact, let’s remember the fun times we shared. Personally, one of my favorite fun moments was running around on the beach in the dark playing cops and robbers as others did yoga & star gazed. Thank you for bringing out my inner little Ricky. What about “shhh/boom/yaaa” or Merrick’s whale impersonation? Those laughs were awesome, thank you for creating those moments with us.
We worked hard, and because we did so as a team, we succeeded. Things were far from perfect, we had many unexpected moments (car stuck in the sand, road to chocolate factory closed, etc.) and because your PMA was strong, everything worked out. I encourage to continue focusing on solutions, as things won’t always work out as planned. It is up to us to decide: what do we do? I invite you to “make the best of what you have with what you’ve got.” Every moment matters, and we get to decide what we focus on. As I reflect on all groups that I’ve worked with, I can’t remember a strong group PMA. Awesome work team.
Remember the Group’s OMG (“One Meaningful Goal”)? You committed yourselves to staying connected and expanding your roles as global citizens. It would be awesome to know how that’s going. What changes have you made?
Thank you for the great memories that we made together.
Tuesday July 9, 2019
Hello families! All students have arrived safely, and everyone is getting settled and getting to know one another here at our beautiful home base lodge! We did orientation and got to greet Juan who arrived a bit later.
All in all it was an awesome first day here in the beautiful Dominican Republic, and we can’t wait for the next 3 weeks!
Stay tuned for more blog posts about our adventures!
(Juan is not pictured due to late arrival).
Thursday July 11, 2019
Yesterday we went to a local community, Cane Dulce and worked on building a bottle house. Some groups mixed concrete, some nailed the wire to the walls and filled them with bottles, and others applied concrete to the walls. We got to interact with the locals and even met the guy who is going to live in the house we were building!
Today we went to a chocolate factory where a Peace Corps Volunteer is actively working. The factory was run by local women and they showed us the chocolate making process. While walking to the factory, we got to see some beautiful scenery and the local people. Also, every authentic meal we have had so far is delicious!
Saturday July 13, 2019
Today we went back to the bottle house today and worked for another 3-4 hours on it. One of the locals also took us on a tour of his bee farm which makes AWESOME honey that we have the opportunity to buy. Later, we went to the beach and first played charades as an icebreaker and then did a trivia game with DR facts. Also, we got to help some locals move their car that was stuck in the sand and it was super cool to see all of the team work with our group and other people who came to assist.
-Juan and Sophie
Monday July 15 through Wednesday July 17, 2019
Santo Domingo Excursion
On Monday, the group packed our bags and left on a 4-5 hr bus ride to the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. We arrived safely at our hostel after a couple short stops for lunch and snacks. The group highly enjoyed the air conditioned rooms and warm showers. When we arrived in Santo Domingo, we visited the historical sites and old town. The group shopped in the colonial zone and ate some delicious pizza for our first meal in the city. The city was full of life, and it was awesome.
Tuesday we visited a US Aid organization that aimed to assist moms of age 11-24 continue schooling. Students took care of children (newborn-4yrs), playgrounds and helped warehouse staff. Afterwords, we stopped for sandwiches and delicious smoothies. From there, we went to the National Park, Tres Ojos. There, we observed the underground lakes and caves. We then returned to the hostel, walked to a traditional dinner, and reflected on our first week.
Today we began our adventure home and readied ourselves for the long bus ride back. On our way home, we stopped at Wine to Water. This is an organization that creates and delivers water filters to communities in need. The students helped make the filters and place them in the kiln. Wine to Water also provided lunch for the group; including rice, beans, veggies and chicken. After buying stickers, hats and shirts, we continued our journey home. We will soon be arriving back at the lodge with lots of souvenirs and great memories of the capital.
Friday July 19, 2019
This morning we had a strong start. One of the leaders of the day gave a little speech encouraging camaraderie. After breakfast we took a two hour bus ride to 27 charcos and people made the time productive by sleeping, reading, or by making friendship bracelets. When we got to 27 charcos, we hiked for about thirty minutes before hitting the first water fall.
In total we jumped or slid off of 5 different waterfalls, varying in height anywhere from 7 to 40 feet high. One had a separate pool area you could swim over to (like a jacuzzi but ICE cold). We were all helping each other climb up into the pool before we slid back down and continued our journey downriver. The very last waterfall was both a slide and a cliff, and it also had a ladder so you could climb back up to go multiple times.
After hiking back to the gear area, we changed, got back into the bus, and were then on our way to lunch. Lunch was great (it even rained!) but after we got back on the bus it wouldn’t start so we had to get out and help push. When it started, almost everyone fell asleep before we got to a more touristy area where we broke off into groups. Some went to a supermarket to get snacks, while others went to a cafe to get smoothies, crepes, and/or brownies. The group that went to the cafe also ended up stopping in at a few shops causing them to be just a little bit late back to the bus.
After arriving back to home base we had some free time until dinner. In our evening activity we continued discussing the positive and negative impacts of voluntourism. We also spilt into groups to create policies on different issues including handouts, religion, opposing beliefs, healthcare, and environmental protection. At the end each group presented their policy along with what they would do in a situation they were given. Overall, the day was so much fun and we also got to learn a little at the end of the day.
Monday July 22, 2019
On Monday we woke up early, and got on the bus at 6 am to drive to Dajabón (locates on the border with Haiti). On the way there we stopped at a Haitian batey. It is a settlement that was originally created for immigrant Haitians who moved to the Dominican Republic to work on sugar cane farms, but after the collapse of the industry, most rely on temporary construction work for their livelihoods. After a long bus ride we arrived in Dajabón.
We visited the Dajabón border market, the biggest market in the Western Hemisphere. It was extremely chaotic, everyone was constantly moving. We got to see the exchange of goods between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and also how people from the two neighboring countries interact with each other. We walked around food and clothing stands.
We learned that a lot of the clothing that was being sold by Haitians was aid received from other countries. Exhausted from the heat and the chaos of the market, we returned to the bus. The journey back was much longer than the one there because of all the checkpoints (where soldiers would sometimes ask people for documentation), but we made it back to the lodge safe and sound.
Thursday July 25, 2019
Last night we spent our evening at the beach playing games. We also had free time where we first continued one of the games, and then broke off into groups to either do yoga or play cops and robbers. Today, we had a late start with breakfast at 9! We spent the morning at the lodge working on our capstones.
For these projects, we split into partners to create a culminating presentation encompassing everything we’ve learned on the trip. We all have different projects, with topics ranging from spreading political awareness to educating young women. We worked on our projects until lunch, and then we left to visit a peace core volunteer based here in the DR. The area Evette (the volunteer) is based in is the area where the Mirabal sisters lived (in case you’ve read In the Time of the Butterflies).
She led us around her community and we stopped in people’s houses to talk to them and ask questions. We also went to see one of the volunteer’s projects which was a women’s group that works as a savings bank for its members, as well as making and selling cleaning solution to the community.
-by Lily and Sophia
It’s us. What’s up fam? We are coming back! On our way to airport with a positive mental attitude and a heavy/happy collective heart.