Today was Immigration Day. We woke up at 5:00 am to our longest day yet. We had a self-serve breakfast with toast and bananas, and after our mental warm-up, we headed onto the bus for a 1 1/2 hour ride to the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The bus ride brought a rollercoaster of hilarious jokes–the people who sat at the back of the bus bonded over music and jokes while the people in the front went straight to sleep.
The first thing we did was meet our speakers–they explained the purpose of the border and answered any questions that we had concerning tolerance (where anyone can pass through on Mondays and Fridays without having to show paperwork). We asked border security guards questions about their jobs. When we walked through the market and saw people selling items and carrying bags of merchandise, we started to see the struggles of the people, Dominicans and Haitians. Children were selling water, and people approached us in search of having an opportunity to sell their goods. According to our PCs, This was just scratching the surface. People in these markets rely on consumers for their daily income. We can’t personally imagine how we would feel if we were on their shoes.
After the market, we went back to the community center to talk to the locals and eat lunch. The locals explained the relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, allowing us to understand why there are tensions in the first place. In the morning, during our mental warm-up, what stood out to me was that there are binational markets at the border even though the two nations have some level of resentment towards each other. This Q&A session allowed us to get a better idea of current events and how Haitians who are stripped of their citizenship in the Dominican Republic feel.
Lunch was delicious. We watched as a catering truck drove into the yard and the people in the truck started coming out with trays of food. We had rice, vegetables, baked chicken, and a fruit salad. Our stomachs were content with joy. After lunch, we thanked our speakers and left to head back to the accommodations.
By now we were exhausted but we still had to tutor the kids. We were motivated by our students and tried our best to teach them with all of our energy. Today was the start of our second week of tutoring and a few of us got new students. Classes have been going well so far–we enjoy working with our teaching partners and watching the kids slowly grasp the concepts that are taught.
After tutoring at the school, we came back to the accommodations to lesson prep and eat dinner. We were able to choose our own dinner tonight and we chose pasta. Then we had a nightly meeting where we talked about what we saw today and how it made us feel.
Overall, today was a really long day, but we all learned about where our identities come from. We’ve come to realize that the world isn’t perfect, but with each person who is willing to open their minds to other cultures, we move one step closer to understanding each other. That’s a start 🙂