Random photos

Here’s a gallery full of miscellaneous photos I’ve taken during our trip. Enjoy!

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Friday, January 10: a movie day

Friday, January 10: a movie day

Friday January 10, or our last full friday here in the Dominican… We had had a usual class schedule but instead of having our culture class, we all watched the movie Pelotero. The movie was about two local baseball players from the D.R. trying to make it to the big leagues. Everybody seemed to enjoy it. After the movie, some people went home and got ready for the night, and met at the Parque Independencia to set out for a night of fun!!!

January 5: Project Clean Water and Las Ruinas

So Sunday, January 5th, was our second and final day in Moca for Project Clean Water. After a delicious breakfast (I can’t get over how fresh the food is here — wow!), Rad showed me his latest creation: a smokeless cooker. It looks like an upside-down petunia planter, like one I’d expect to see in my mom’s garden, and it functions somewhat like a chiminea. There’s a special holder inside to hold the wood, and the flames seep through the tiny holes drilled into it. The ashes simply fall below into the bottom of the cooker.

It’s smokeless functionality is very important, Rad told me. In the rural and impoverished areas of the Dominican Republic, many people still cook over open flame, which fills their homes with thick, black smoke and causes many respiratory health issues. It’s a big problem, because most people in these parts — if not all — don’t have health insurance and can’t afford medical care. Rad explained that his cooker is specially designed to burn the wood more efficiently, thus eliminating all smoke. With a smile, he revealed that charity organizations have been distributing his smokeless cookers to Haitian relief workers. He demonstrated his cooker using pine, which still produced a little bit of smoke due to its high oil content, but added that both the locals and the relief workers typically use sugar cane, which produces no smoke at all in his cooker. It was really cool to learn that Rad’s passion for ceramics and giving back to his community goes beyond water filters. Not only is he a ceramics master, he’s an amazing person, through-and-through.

Afterward, we departed to distribute 25 more water filtration pots to a nearby village. Rad taught the townspeople about water contamination and even demonstrated step-by-step how to properly clean and maintain the filters. After the presentation, everyone was assigned a water filter. FilterPur collects names and phone numbers so that they can remind people when to clean their filters — how cool is that? Then, to thank us for bringing the water filters to her community, the village elder sang us a beautiful mariachi song. I loved it!! I’ve never received such a wonderful thank-you before — it was absolutely the greatest thing ever!! I ran up to her and told her how much I love mariachi, and she sang us two more, including my favorite mariachi song, “Malegueña Salerosa.”  I wish I could have gotten that one on video, too, but it’s okay; I’ll remember that one for forever. We said our goodbyes, then headed back to FilterPur to pack up, give hugs all around, and go back home to Santo Domingo for a much-needed shower and nap before going to las ruinas later that evening.

So here’s the thing about las ruinas – for some reason, I assumed that we were going to go on a spooky evening tour of some breath-taking, centuries-old ruins, and I was stoked. But, you know what they say about making assumptions… So, we arrived at las ruinas, and yes, there were centuries-old ruins, and yes, they were breath-taking, but they were far from spooky: the place was jam-packed with people, and loud merengue and bachata music seemed to rumble the cobblestone street while bright, colorful strobe lights danced off the stone walls of an old, crumbling cathedral. Apparently, every Sunday night there are concerts at the ruins! Then somebody put a piña colada in my hand and I thought to myself, “Well, its not what I expected, but this is pretty awesome, too!” We had a blast drinking piña coladas and rum punch while listening to a real live merengue band. My friend Matt tried to teach me how to dance bachata — I still don’t think I’m too good at it, but it was fun anyway! I’m sure that if we all didn’t have class early in the morning, we’d have stayed all night, haha!

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Amber and Chocolate :)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Week 2 is almost finished! Today we had class from the usual 9 to 4, with the usual honking and music in the background playing outside in the every day DR culture. Today we went to visit two different places. First we visited the Amber museum. This was so cool! We went in to find some of the most beautiful pieces of amber ever made. We were given a tour, and watched a short documentary on where amber comes from. Did you know insects help create this beautiful material?! It was very interesting and they were selling pieces of amber jewelry there as well.

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The next place we visited was the chocolate museum. It was interesting to see the different kinds of chocolate they had there, along with being able to taste test them :)

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Other than that, most of the days we have soaking up the sun during our breaks. The school has beautiful back yard that the students love to hang out in!

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I can’t believe the trip is going by so fast!

More photos from the service learning weekend

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getting into out bunk beds and setting up the mosquito netsImage

 

view of the valley

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They really work

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putting everyone to work

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Everyone made a filter, EXCEPT Kate.  Can you guess why? Image

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the seal of quality

 

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The finishing touches

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Everyone helped, except?  but in her defense they are pretty Nails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching in the DR

Teaching the the DR has some similarities to teaching at SHU. first is the crowded classroom. this classroom is about the size of a small bedroom, which snuggly fits 11 students and two professors. (and students complain about Maura 236 being crowded).  

 

one of the nice things about the DR is we can always take class outside.   (I can’t say that sad that I missed minus 20 degree temps. )   

 

And sticking with the crowded theme,  Everyone is crammed into a mini-van for ‘experiential learning’. Not learning to sit on top of each other but a  trip to the market or museum, which always involves eating out at a beautiful restaurant.  

Saludos,  John

 

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Salsa/Bachata Dance Class!

 

 

 

 

Today was an awesome day! After our cultural classes, we went to a dance studio close to our school to take a dance class of Bachata and Salsa. We met our instructors, who were super upbeat and positive. They made us excited to start the class with fast paced warm ups. The class was awesome and the teachers were super hands on and started slow for us. They showed us basic salsa steps and worked them into a basic salsa partner step. We performed the step at the end of class and had set it up so that everyone could have a chance to perform! After learning the salsa step, we learned a little bit of the Bachata. The Bachata is much slower and more romantic than the Salsa dance. The Bachata is much easier than Salsa, but is still a lot of fun to learn! We took some pictures and goofed around a little bit after the class and Luís had brought us some snacks and water which were refreshing after dancing in the hot and sweaty dance studio for so long. After everyone was off the dance floor, the teachers performed their own salsa dance for us which was very advanced and beautiful! Although the step we learned wasn’t exactly as advanced as theirs, we still had a great time learning what we did! Even the most simple salsa steps are pretty difficult but everyone was a great sport and pulled it off really well! After the dance class, we returned back to the school to return home after a very long day of learning. Here is a picture of us after our experiences from our class!                                                                                                                                                  IMG_4320

 

Monday, January 6: Dia de Los Reyes

Today was Dia de Los Reyes, the day of Three Kings, or Epiphany in the Dominican Republic. It is celebrated in honor of the three kings who visited baby Jesus. It is believed that if the children behave well, the three kings reward them with gifts during the Epiphany. The Epiphany is a national holiday for the Dominicans, and the last day of Navidad. In spite of the national holiday, our Instituto Intercultural del Caribe remained open and we had our normal classes.

Following our schedule, we began the day with our Spanish classes. To honor as well as appreciate the time and effort our teachers from the Institute were committing, our professors bought gifts for the teachers. We gifted our teacher, Mily, with a candle adorned in a beautiful case. After our three hours long class, we went out for almorzar.

Clase de Español con Maestra Mily

Clase de Español con Maestra Mily

We divided into two groups for lunch: one headed to Wendy’s for some comfort American food, while another group went to the supermarket La Sirena for some Dominican food. The lunch was lovely with some great discussions about the American education system and high school culture.

Almorzar

Almorzar

Discussion during the lunch

Discussion during the lunch

After lunch, we were especially advised by our professors to rest and not go out for the night.

Our Professors during the Culture Class

Our Professors during the Culture Class

As per the advise, we caught up on our assignments and readings. After a wonderful service weekend, Monday for us was more studying and relaxing.

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Day at the market and city tour.

Recap of friday January 3:

Trip to the Mercado was great. It was the first thing we did that day. Luís was a fantastic and explained a lot about the unique cultural items. There were many stones that are only found on this island that are used in jewelry. The paintings where really unique and had Spanish, Native and African influences. The most interesting thing was the faceless doll in my opinion because it is done to show that skin tone is not important in Spanish culture. Bartering was a great was to practice Spanish as well as get a better price on what you wanted to buy.

Tour of the colonial district was great our tour guide was really helpful. We also had a great visitor who added entertainment….. Learning the history of the city was really neat. Later that night we had dinner in the same area for Livias birthday. The restaurant was fantastic and the view of the city was so nice. It was also great to get out at night and see what Dominican night life was like.

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Janurary Fourth: Clean Water Project

Saturday our group of students broke out from our usual Santo Domingo lifestyle and traveled to the town of Móca to full fill our clean water service project. Let’s just say it was life changing. We were to all meet at the school at 7am to travel about two hours where we met Christina (a correspondent living in Jarrabocoa for a year) in a town called La Vega. Here she showed us the way to the water filtration factory where the pots are made. 

Once we arrived at the factory we settled into our dorms and become acquainted with Christina, her friend Gini, and Rad. Rad is an amazing person, but more on him later. After the greetings we started our tour of the factory (pictures below) where they make the water filtration pots. First we were shown the materials that go into the pots which consist of clay, sawdust, and silver colouring which make the perfect pot for filtering 99.99% of bacteria and diseases out of their water. Next, we were shown the machine that the clay and sawdust are mixed in and the process of how the pots are molded. We each got to make our own pots as well. Once molded the pots are smoothed and stamped with a leaf symbol and a unique number. After they are done, they are set to dry, fired, and ready to be tested. The pots are tested for cracks, water flow, and cleanliness. Then they are ready to be distributed!

Now on to Rad. Rad owns the land the factory is on and the one responsible for this awesome project. He and his family live in a house right next to the factory and they are wonderful. His wife made us lunch and provided us with a snack for the day and his children assisted us into the town of Móca to distribute the pots. Rad came up with this project after he suffered from the symptoms of not having clean drinking water, at one point he was on the brink of death. Coming from a family that was very involved in ceramics, Rad came up with these water filters. With the help of his partner Lisa, he has not only changed his life but the life of neighbours, friends, and others in the communities around him.

After the factory tour and lunch, we all loaded onto the bus and traveled a short distance to the small town. Here the townspeople who wanted to purchase filters met in a small church where they received a short presentation on how the filters work, how they are cleaned, and how much they cost. The biggest emphasise of this presentation was that originally it would cost the families 2,000 pesos ($47) but with the money we raised it would only cost them 300 pesos ($7). Now, as a group of students we assumed that the pots were given out to families for free, but this is not the case. Rad and his team had done follow up research that showed that less than 40% of families who received filters for free used them. This is due to the value of the pots, the families who saved their money and paid for the filters valued the pots more than those who were just given to them. A surprising but very true fact.

The families were very grateful for the donations and once the presentation commenced the students paired up and assisted each person to their house with their new pots. Many of us sat down and met the families and reiterated how to clean their new filter to make sure they receive the most pure water possible. The water sources in this town are primary from the rain, gutters, or small streams. It was enjoyable and humbling to get to know these families on our own personal level.

Of course, after we distributed the pots and said goodbye to our families, we went to the local calmado (corner market) to have a beer and celebrate  the success of the distribution. Some families even joined us to get to know us more. After a while we said our goodbyes and left to return back to the factory. Naps, conversations, and more exploration were amongst the few activities that occurred between the distribution and our SHU family dinner in Santiago.

Unfortunately up until this point of the day Debra wasn’t present because she had to see a student who wasn’t feeling well off back to USA. But, during the day we got ahold of Debra and she took a bus all the way to Santiago to meet us for dinner at Tablón Latino around 8pm. We can all honestly say the distribution wasn’t the same without her, but we were glad she could be reunited with us once again! Dinner lasted about 3 hours, typical of the Latin American culture, and then we went to a bar in the city. Santiago is the second largest city in the Dominican Republic and like most cities it culturally necessary to be dressed appropriately when going out. Unfortunately many of us weren’t wearing heels and a dress or a button down shirt and loafers so we almost didn’t get into the bar. However, Rad’s children assisted us in getting in and we had a great time. The day ended around 1am and it was defiantly full of happiness, celebration, and fulfilment.

 

 

 

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