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!