Hi everyone, my name is Ayah El-fahmawi and I was granted the privilege of being El Lider del Dia today, politics day. Politics is the final academic theme that we will be exploring during our stay in Bonao, and we are finding that it plays an integral role in the day to day lives of Dominican citizens. We began this day with an early 7:00 AM wake-up call, dressed in our most professional attire despite the heat that seems to persist even through pouring rain. After breakfast, we engaged in a seminar to prepare for our meeting with the Governor of the Mon Senor province, Nicolas Restituyo and the minister of youth. We visited them in the government buildings housed right in Bonao, not too far from the Fundacion and La Parque Duarte. We were scheduled to meet first with the Governor and were directed into a large, stark room with a podium in the front and chairs facing it. There, we were greeting by a stylish and charismatic young man who we soon found out to be the Minister of Youth himself. He cracked jokes and offered us some beverages while we waited for the Governor’s busy schedule to clear up for our meeting. We were then welcomed upstairs into the Governor’s refreshingly air conditioned office for a stimulating discussion. Governor Restituyo was extraordinarily hospitable and seemed so genuinely glad to have us with him which effectively broke the ice for some questioning.
We were curious to find out what being a Governor in the D.R. entails and how he came into office. The DR is divided into 31 provinces and a national capitol district, each with its governing powers. Governors and ministers are appointed by the president while mayors and senators are elected. The president also determines how long of a term each official will serve, a fact which has effects that became even more evident through the Governor’s responses to many of our questions. Drawing on background information from our Global Business and Aid and Development, many of us were curious to find out the Governor’s stance on Falcondo, a Canadian mining company in Bonao. Falcondo’s presence in the DR is controversial to say the least among the public because while many rely on it for employment, others fear its effects on the environment and the resources in the region. The Governor’s responses left me mildly disappointed, however, because he managed to avoid ever giving his personal opinion. He consistently stated that he is simply a representative for the president, meaning that he takes whatever the president’s stance on the matter is. This lead us to ask just what the president’s stance was, which is not to be announced for another week after congress makes decisions regarding the legality of Falcondo mining in mountain ranges that may become national parks. Governor Restituyo’s adamance about following the president also led us to ask him where his loyalties would lie if the president’s opinion ever conflicted with the people in the Monsenor Nouel province (this would be a rare occurrence because of the president’s extremely high rates of satisfaction). He responded again by saying that he represents the president and would follow what the president deems is necessary and correct. While this strategy has had success as of late as evidenced by the emphasis placed on literacy and education in the country and the growth of the economy, it is slightly disconcerting because it shows the wide reach that the president holds over the nation’s government. This could be problematic if the DR was put under ruling powers that did not fight for the people’s desires.
Luckily, that does not seem to be the case in the DR or in Bonao as the Governor explained his main priorities to be decreasing poverty, increasing development, and expanding their already significant strides in the growth of literacy of the nation. His passion and devotion to his people and his country are extremely admirable and can be sensed through every word he spoke. When presenting him with a certificate of recognition from Global Glimpse, I was particularly touched by his sentimental response as tears were very literally brought to his eyes and he pulled out a napkin to wipe them from his eyes.
The same hospitality was shared when we traveled to the Minister of Youth’s office across the plaza. He kept our discussion lively and informative, telling us that the ministry of youth is mainly focused on keeping the youth informed about the dangers of drugs, teenage pregnancies, and granting scholarships to students that show significant potential in high school. We left our busy hosts with high spirits and packed into Dominican cabs to return to the Fundacion where we participated in a self reflection seminar and enjoyed an hour of free time before preparing for our English classes. What began a relaxing time became one of the most intense games of Dominican dominoes that I have ever witnessed, complete with the smacking of domino pieces and shouting about counting bits. This managed to mellow out into a diligent class planning session, but not one that would prepare for the rowdy classes ahead of us. I guess American students and Dominican students are more similar than we thought. Now we are winding down after a busy, but satisfying day realizing that we only have six ahead of us. It is a frightening, but exciting thought to know that this incredible experience is winding to a close. I don’t think that I’m quite ready to let this country go, so I guess its time to savor every moment. Its safe to say that we all miss our families dearly and are definitely excited to share these stories in person. With much love, good night!