Hola a todos! Before we begin telling you about today’s adventures, we want to let you know that we are having an amazing time here in the Dominican Republic. Every day we do something different, which always keeps us busy and engaged. Today, we, Fabiola and Adrian, were los Líderes del Día. The theme of the day today was Living Like a Local and we were particularly excited about this day for various reasons. First of all, we consider ourselves to be very intrigued by the local people of the Dominican Republic, so we saw today as an opportunity to get to know the people of this area on a more personal level. Additionally, because we are both native Spanish speakers, we were very excited to be able to utilize our strong skills with the language and improve them even more by being able to talk with the people of the community. Also, it is very satisfying to be able to translate for our non-Spanish speaking colleagues.
The first thing we did today as líderes del día was wake up our colleagues at 7:00 am. Unfortunately not all of the people in the group were not feeling well. Consequently, two of our colleagues decided to stay behind at CONAMUCA. Once the rest of us were on the bus, as Líderes del Día, we made sure to deliver any reminders as to what would happen once we got to Los Francos, the rural community that we would be visiting. The bus rides to anywhere we go are extremely amusing and interesting since our bus driver and friend, Giovanny, always makes sure to keep us entertained by playing his Dominican “fire mixtape” very loudly, which often catches the locals’ attention. Once we arrived at Los Francos, we were all very excited to meet our host Maria because we had heard wonderful things about her before going. When we got off the bus to meet Maria and other members of the community, we were very happy and excited because, indeed, she greeted us very wonderfully and treated us with much love, which we instantly appreciated.
Our first impression of the community was that Los Francos was a very rural area in which the houses of people living there were very small and often poorly built. We noticed that only some of the roads were paved and it was somewhat difficult to walk on those roads that were not paved, especially under the harsh heat. After observing our surroundings, we were told to split up into our self-reflection groups to go to different homes in the community and help around the place as needed. Both of us happened to already be in the same group, so the rest of the members, Theo, Keya, and Kim joined us. Our “host mom” was a very nice lady named Angela, and she welcomed us into her home. Because she had already finished her chores earlier in the day and had not exactly prepared tasks for us to do, our leadership coach, Elias, suggested that we go fetch water from the river about 20 minutes away. Angela handed each one of us a “small” (to us, as beginners, they looked quite big!) container to carry the water in to bring it back to the house. Two adorable little girls joined us on our adventure to fetch water, and off we went. For the first 10 minutes of the walk, the road was easy on us and we were excited to finally see the river. However, at one point from there, the paved roads disappeared and instead we had to walk on a very rocky surface which would gradually become more and more steep to the point where we had to be really careful going down. One of the girls that joined us was not even wearing shoes, but she insisted that she was okay and that she had done it many times in the past. From this moment we began to realize the challenges that locals in this communities are faced with.
When we reached the river, it was very surprising to us to see that the water was very muddy and did not look very safe to use around the house for cleaning. Angela told us that this water would be used for showers and doing the dishes, but we still felt uneasy about the safety standards of this water. She and Elias helped us fill up our containers with water from the river and back up we went. At first sight the containers did not look very heavy, but considering the heat around us and the lack of uniformity of the road, the challenge of carrying this water considerably grew. Each one of us carried one of the containers and we walked up uphill for a while. We had to make multiple stops under whatever shade we could find because it was extremely tiring. Once again, the realization that locals often had to make this trip multiple times a day hit us very hard. With this experience we got to understand how hard locals had to work simply to have water in their homes to perform basic household tasks. It was easier to carry the water once we reached the paved roads, and we walked until we reached Angela’s house. We put down our water containers in the kitchen area and we were invited to sit outside under a tree’s shade, which compensated for the heat surrounding us. Angela then began to tell us about her life, family, and studies. It was very intriguing to see how she handled an entire life in a community in which basic needs were not always met. She told us about her four children and how they were doing in school, but most interestingly, she shared her own academic story. She told us that in the past she had gone to school but had left it for some time after getting married. When she decided to return, she often faced criticism because people around her believed that she was too old to be “wasting” her time in school and that instead she should stay home and care for her family and her house. Instead of following this advice, she continued with her studies until she earned two diplomas on different fields. She told us this story with pride and determination because she believes that education is everything. She then encouraged us to continue with our studies and never think that we can’t do something because everything is possible.
After spending some more time with Angela, it was time to head over to Maria’s house, the place where lunch would be served. We waited for all the groups to get there and more and more children began to appear, which made us very happy. Once everyone was sitting in a circle (including the kids!), we all began to play a game. It was very amusing and satisfying to see all the children sitting around and having fun without expensive toys and electronic devices. That is proof that the little things are what really matter. Not too long after that it was time for lunch, and as leaders of the day, we had to make sure that everyone received a plate of food before we could get one for ourselves. Maria and other women of the community were so kind to cook such a delicious dish of rice, beans, and salami for lunch. After that, as leaders of the day once again, we presented Maria with some donations that we collected for the children of the community and a Global Glimpse t-shirt. She looked very grateful and happy to have us there, and that was very touching to all of us. After that, our site manager, Jatnna, suggested that we do some face painting for the children. The children were very excited to get their face painted by us, and that was extremely heart-warming because I would have never thought that this community would be so happy to have us there. All of us had a great time overall and it was very hard to have to go and leave everybody after spending such a fun time at Los Francos. On the bus ride back home, we reflected on what we had seen and how we are so lucky to have what we have in our homes back in the States. Even if the people of the community did not live in the best conditions, we saw how little material possessions matter. They live happily with all of their family nearby, and it made us realize that we should all think in a similar manner instead of relying on the luxurious aspects of life. We hope to be able to return to Los Francos one day because we are sure that we would feel welcomed.
After coming home, we had some self-reflection time with our groups regarding our visit to this rural community. We talked for a while and we learned that we all had similar feelings about the day’s experience. For example, we all noticed that the people in Los Francos were content and satisfied with what they possessed, and that brought a feeling of humbleness. Later in the day we had an academic seminar on politics to prepare for the next day’s activity, which was to go to the Dominican Congress in Santo Domingo. We are also looking forward to that!
If whoever is reading this got to this point, we thank you for reading our blog! This trip has been fantastic and very special to us. We have learned so much and we will continue to do so in the days to come!
Fabiola and Adrian