Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to begin....

Three incredible weeks in the Dominican Republic...I haven't blogged about it because I have not quite figured out how to sum it all up in a blog post! In lieu of, here is a short reflection piece I wrote, and some more pictures, of course!

As the airplane soared through the darkness towards Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, I wondered where the city was, where the lights were. Though I had signed up for the volunteer trip and read about the Dominican Republic for months, my sixteen year-old self had no conception of the all-encompassing nature of poverty; the city was below, but the electricity was out for the night. Later, as our bus hurtled through hazy dawn in the countryside, my eyes drank in every detail, every mango stand, every machete-wielding sugar cane worker, and every stray dog. I returned the next year, to repeat the experience, and in 2009 I returned a third time, as an adult chaperone on the same trip for high school students. These trips changed my worldview, shaped my values, and gave me a new perspective of the world, and my role in it.

For the first time, I stepped out of middle class America and into poverty, with the goal of building houses and helping rural people. I gave up the comforts of home: showers, plumbing, air conditioning, cars, a house full of gadgets, and days packed with activities and obligations. I stayed with a local family, ate what they ate, bathed in the local swimming hole, abandoned my reliance on cell phone and internet access, and adopted a slower pace of life. The family I stayed with and friends I made in the Dominican Republic taught me more and gave me more than I could have ever hoped to give to the people I had come to help. My family and friends in the Dominican Republic are poor by American standards—spotty electricity, occasional running water, no cars, and few material possessions. Yet, they give with open hearts. They give time and energy: a helping hand, a cup of coffee, an able body to help a neighbor dig a hole, or a couple hours playing cards with the grandmother next door.

In the town of La Desucbierta, you cannot stop by someone’s house without drinking a coffee or lemonade, being offered a banana or mango, or even being served a full meal. As I opened up to the Dominican way of life, I felt my heart and my mind expanding and growing as I adapted. When given an invitation to do something new or go somewhere, I replied “yes” instead of responding with the usual barrage of detail-oriented questions Americans ask. I extended my hand, hugging an elderly woman in the mountains of Haiti with an infection in her leg, speaking with my heart when I lacked the words to communicate. I abandoned American fear of making mistakes, and learned to dance the Bachata with the family who owned the local corner store. By adapting to the conditions and customs in the Dominican Republic, I opened myself up to an enriching cross-cultural exchange that has contributed to my development as a person, and certainly fueled my desire to continue to work to change lives.

Renovated house, featuring windows, doors, and floors!

Me and David, a child from an orphanage in Neyba. We did arts and crafts with the kids from the orphanage. It was so amazing to see....they definitely do not get to play with markers and construction paper all too often. Excuse the taken by a 6 year old!

Signing our lovely latrine. After the cement dries, a corrugated metal house-like structure goes on top.

Adorable kids at a swimming hole near Los Rios.

Wendi, a third generation servant who received a scholarship to attend university, studying by generator lamp-light. No computers, all paper! She is studying to be an elementary school teacher.


Stacy said...

Thanks so much for sharing. And thanks for the good you did.

Pitty said...