For our Santiago Service and Leadership blog, two students will be writing about what we did that day, something cultural that they learned, what they are noticing about the Dominican Republic, etc. Here are entries from Kelly and Claire!!
Today we woke up early and had breakfast. Here in Reparto Universitario in Doña Ilda's apartment, we had pancakes and juice. With every meal we have different fruit juices. It's very different than the United States. I think we try a new type of juice almost every day. There are also different types of fruit. We have mangos in the United States, but they're very expensive, and I don't eat them very much. Two days ago I had the honor of trying papaya for the very first a time. Definitely the highlight of my trip. I can't wait to find papaya when I get home. For Christmas I'm going to ask for a papaya tree. I may need a greenhouse to grow it, but that's okay. It'll be worth it. Whatever it takes. Today was the first day we got to work with the NGOs. I'm in group A, so we got to go to Niños con una Esperanza. I had a great time working with the youngins. We played board games and made arts and crafts. Some children went up to me because they wanted to practice their English. I was very confused during the first game I played with some of the older kids because they kept saying the Spanish word for kill, and I thought that I was misunderstanding them, but it turns out it was part of the game. For lunch we had leftover omelets, eggs, and left over pasta. I love all the food here especially the papaya. After lunch was Spanish class. I'm excited to get better at Spanish. Being here in Santiago has inspired me to want to become fluent in Spanish and eat more papaya. We just got back from Spanish class and my host mother gave us cake and pineapple. I can't wait for tomorrow. I'm so glad I got this wonderful opportunity. Thanks CIEE and thanks to my wonderful family. Shoutout to my sister Rachel, my brother Jack, my father Joe, my mother Betsy, the dog Stella, my other dog penny, my cat Chloe, my cat Abby, and the final cat Oreo. I would also like to thank my guinea pigs Biscuit and Montesquieu for their unyielding support. I couldn't have done it without you!
I think one of my favorite things we have done so far is go to the batey. A batey is a Haitian community that was formed when the Dominican Republic got workers from Haiti to work in the sugar cane plantations. The workers brought their wives from Haiti and started a community. The community faces many problems such as low income ($5 a day) and unemployment because many of the sugar cane plantations are closing. However when arrived you could not tell from the up beat spirits of the people, especially the younger generations. As we sat in the sports play ground area a small group of kids formed, pointing at us and giggling as we learned about the history of their community and were introduced to a group of teenage boys who went by the name of Street Boys. As soon as we stood up the children rushed forward and grabbed some of our hands as we walked through the community. It was not a fancy community but the people were out and enjoying themselves, some of them bathing, and most said hello as we passed by. While walking we attracted more and more children until they almost outnumbered us. Most of them asked for our "celulares" (phones) for "juegos" (games) which they loved. We watched a performance by the Street Boys which was very entertaining and actually extremely good. It was definitely better than any rapping that boys from my school do! A couple of us got to participate and we sang the chorus to Justin Bieber's "Sorry" while they rapped the verses. It was hot and we were all sweaty and gross but we were all having a ton of fun. We finished the day with a game of basketball, for those of us who could play, and some time with the little kids, for those of who couldn't play. I met a little lady of two years old who had golden heels and was all made up. She was super shy and she didn't talk but we had a lot of fun on the play ground and watching the basketball game. It was hard to say goodbye to all the kids and all the friends we had made but the day was so meaningful and fun and an eye opening experience to begin our Dominican Republic trip.