Today was immigration day and we learned about the border situation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We woke up at 6:30, ate breakfast, and took a one-hour ride on the gua-gua (bus) to the border. We were accompanied by RFJS, a bi-national organization which serves as a watchdog over the border to ensure safety and fair treatment of everyone near the border, regardless of their citizenship. We had the opportunity to go up to the Haitian border as well as the border market which opens up twice a week (Mondays and Fridays, 6am-6pm). We also went to the liseo (school) which is located very close to the border. This school has students from both the DR and Haiti, meaning that many students speak different languages, including Spanish, French, and Creole. After leaving the school, we returned back to San Juan de la Maguana for lunch, free time, English lessons, and dinner. During free time, a few of us, including Urbe and Leonel, went back to the park where we had been working on our CAP. Due to the heavy rain and time constraints, we as a group will not be able to finish the painted mural. We explained why we would be needing their help to finish the project, and the local community accepted it very positively.
What surprised us the most today was the border market, which can be very crowded and chaotic. Today, it was fairly empty (by their standards), however, it was still difficult to move through the crowds as a group. The market was somewhat similar to a giant flea market, with items like linens, cosmetics, school supplies, and handbags. In order to stick together throughout the crowded market, we kept together in two lines for most of the day. As the leaders of the day, we were very pleased that this system worked out.
At the school today, we learned about how teachers near the border have to cope with students who speak different languages. Since many Haitians and Dominicans don’t speak the same language, the teachers try very hard to communicate with everyone. Since the school is technically on Dominican soil, all lessons are required to be taught in Spanish. When necessary, the school will bring in translators to facilitate communication using French or Creole. Some teachers are actually bilingual and are able to teach using both languages when necessary. This was inspiring because these teachers put in extra time and patience to teach students who would not otherwise be able to get a quality education due to language barriers.
As the leaders of the day, we found it difficult to keep the group focused at times. This made the day a little bit stressful for us. However, the organized lines made it easy to keep track of everybody. We realized the importance of large groups paying attention at all times. Facilitating teamwork helped a lot throughout the day, such as helping each other carry the large water bottles, etc. We realized that as leaders, we need to have some more confidence in ourselves and take initiative in situations where it is needed. We need to use our voices more at times to make sure that everyone gets the message clearly.
In conclusion, we found this experience (being leaders of the day) to be very helpful for realizing our strengths and weaknesses as leaders. We have learned so much today, and feel that today was one of the most important, influential days of our trip here in the DR.
We look forward to our trip to the beach tomorrow!!!
-Christine and Ani
PS- We were not able to take photos today. Sorry!