Hello parents, concerned friends, glimpsers who are looking back at the blogs, and anybody else!

My name is Willy and I am today’s El Lider Del Dia. Today, Day #9 of our adventure in the Dominican Republic, is Politics Day. Our question of the day was, “How do Dominican politics affect the everyday Dominican?” It’s tough to summarize Dominican politics: we know that Dominican Republic ranks extremely poorly in the categories of wastefulness of public spending and favoritism among political officials.

We woke up at 7:00 AM, dressed professionally, and prepared for a breakfast in the bus. Our breakfast consisted of mashed plantains, onion-garnished salami, and the fruits of papaya and pineapple. We boarded onto the bus and departed to the capital city of Santo Domingo. Along the way, we picked up Braulio, a Dominican English teacher and partner to our organization. We arrived at our destination, the House of Congress, an hour early. The building was very grand and well maintained; I took note that the bushes were being trimmed and that the attire of the staff was very formal.

Our tour guide warmly welcomed us and deputized us as elected officials for a day, the equivalent of the House of Representatives in the United States (as opposed to the Senate). Our first stop in the tour was a mural that depicted the creation of the Dominican Constitution, which has been reformed over a staggering 40 times. Our tour guide spent a lot of time on that mural; it captured significant parts of the Dominican Republic’s history and culture. Some elements that were featured in the mural included the Eiffel tower, the Roman Coliseum, the house where the constitution was created in San Cristobal, the Ten Commandments, and invisible lady-spirit figures.

Next, we were given the privilege to walk up what the tour guide described as the red carpet due to the fact that extremely important Dominican political figures once crossed it. Once upstairs, we were allowed to sit in the assembly hall in which the country’s two legislative branches would convene at. Those chairs were really nice, and everybody on this trip could agree that this building was the nicest that we have seen in the country. The air conditioning was also top-notch. Anyways, at the assembly hall, our tour guide explained to us the crests of the many provinces in the Dominican Republic and some historic and religious figures that influenced the country. At this point, we were given the opportunity to ask questions to the tour guide.

After, we were allowed to visit the Senate section of the building. We saw many gorgeous paintings of former presidents of the Senate and the tour guide explained to us how the Senators functioned. Later, we were allowed to visit the representatives section of the building, and again, we saw many nice portraits; this time, of the former presidents of the representatives. Since we were representatives for a day, we were allowed to enter the hall in which they convened, which was fully furnished with Dell laptops, fancy microphones, fingerprint scanners, and buttons to vote. Here, the tour guide explained to us the mechanics behind this political system. Then, we were once again given the opportunity to throw questions at our tour guide. Our questions were very challenging and it was very difficult to get straight answers. After the tour ended, the staff members gave us a box of treats and we went back to CONAMUCA.

For the remainder of the day, we had a seminar to discuss the upcoming CAP project and did another round of English tutoring.

If I had summarize my reflection on today’s activities, I’d have to say the following:

-We learned mostly about the legislative branch of the Dominican Government and about how it operates. But outside of the tour, we learned how the some of the government’s practices don’t benefit the people.
-I was surprised at how comprehensive the tour was. I was half-surprised at how the fact that our tour guide could not answer some of our challenging questions (though we understood that the tour guide was not an elected official, we wanted to hear from someone accountable on what needs to happen to improve the government).
-I really appreciated how respectful the group was not only to me, but also to the tour guide and the building. However, at the same time, I was proud of how the group courageously rose above to challenge the tour guide by asking difficult, important, and hard-hitting questions.
-I have to say that the tour guide was very inspirational. He had a very inspiring story of how he came from rags to riches; he was abandoned by his parents and orphaned, but despite all of that, he persisted through his childhood struggles to get to where he is now.
-Being El Lider del Dia was really, really fun. I could do it again in a heartbeat. Being the leader of this amazing group was not only a fantastic opportunity to hone in my leadership skills, but it was also a time to develop my inter-personal skills.
-I always thought that I can lead from the back or by example, but I learned that I am also more than capable of leading from the front.