Today was our first official fun day! We started off the morning by waking up at 7:00 am to a delicious breakfast of eggs with vegetables, bread, and the hot chocolate that everyone enjoys. We then split up into two groups and loaded up into two Safari trucks, which was definitely a different and more fun experience than the guagua (bus) that we’re used to. The safari trucks had an open air bed with two long benches facing each other so we were able to sit side by side facing each other. In addition, there was a tarp tied above to block out the sun.
Our first destination was the famous statue of El Divino Nino, which is located on top of a hill in Constanza. Most of us enjoyed the rocky ride up, although some of us experienced a little motion sickness. The view at the top was breathtaking, we could see the whole town of Constanza and the beautiful mountains and forests surrounding it. The statue itself was huge and placed on top of a big block, its arms outstretched to the people arriving. Our marvelous site coordinator, Yohanny, shared with us the story of the man who built the statue. He had cancer and multiple treatments, his hope to live gradually deteriorated until he had a dream where his deceased mother told him to pray to the Divino Nino for He had the power to heal him. He then prayed and prayed and he started recovering. It was truly an amazing and inspirational tale. Yohanny also shared her personal stories about several miracles the Divino Nino had granted for her. After enjoying the view and taking pictures, some of us bought candles and lit them in order to make a wish as well as a promise to el Divino Nino. The people of Constanza are very religious and this can be seen by the amount of candles, pictures and small offerings in the prayer room. As a Christian, the place felt very powerful for me and I am in awe by the amount of faith people have.
We then hiked down the hill, talking and laughing despite experiencing a few trips and slips. We went back to the hotel to have lunch and change for the river, and soon after boarded the safari trucks again. At the river, we had ropes to act as borders to prevent us from going in the deep and dangerous areas. It was a very pretty spot with a mini waterfall and clean running water. The water was crystal clear and pretty cold. We all had a fun time splashing and swimming around, playing mini water polo, and resting on top of the rocks. Our GG leader, Christina, even saved Toni’s slippers when they washed downstream. It was a great time for us to bond and share a lot of laughs. I was definitely proud of my peers for getting out of their comfort zone and getting in the water when not all of them initially planned to. The ride back was full of energy. It also started raining and since the safari trucks were open air we were all pretty much drenched, but I think it was easy to ignore since we were singing various songs at the top of our lungs from One Direction to Feliz Navidad, which earned us even more stares from the locals.
After showering and drying off we had our CAP seminar. We decided on the project we want to do and split up into different committees to ensure the efficiency of this project. After dinner, we had an amazing speaker. He talked about immigration but unfortunately, he cannot come tomorrow for immigration day. Our leader for tomorrow, Alex, promised three sit-ups for every question we asked, but even without the motivation, we would have asked a lot of questions because he was definitely one of, if not the most interesting, inspiring, and engaging speakers we have had. He shared with us his story of moving from Haiti to the D.R. to find a better life and learn about more cultures. He went from being a motoconcho driver (motorcycle taxi) to working in agriculture to a bookstore, which he currently enjoys. He also spoke Spanish, French Creole, French, and some English. We had a lot of questions for him and it was fun switching from English, Spanish, and French. It was a great way of introducing the topic of immigration and how difficult it is which we will go into more detail tomorrow. We definitely learned a lot about the complications regarding immigration, the benefits, and even the issue concerning the tension between Dominicans and Haitians. Afterwards, we had our nightly meeting and immediately after we all went straight to bed with a greater appreciation of the beauties Constanza has to offer as well as the importance of having and working for our personal goals.
Being El Lider Del Dia was fun today because the group was excited and engaged about the activities our Global Glimpse leaders, program coordinator, and site manager planned for us. I learned that I’m not always comfortable putting myself in the position of being a leader just because I don’t want to come off as bossy, but leadership is really about helping and guiding rather than ordering and dictating. Everyone in this group definitely has the attributes to be a strong leader and they have helped me develop my leadership skills as well.