Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Last thoughts from Luna

I am absolutely certain that what I learned and experienced in the Dominican Republic will change how I live my life. Even today, the very first day back to school, I felt myself shifting my routine - and not just because I had to spend an hour unbraiding my hair. I went to Trader Joe's and spent about twenty or thirty minutes finding organic produce. As I carried the bag of fruits and veggies home, I thought about how to re-work my budget to include more money towards food and less towards materialism. During the trip, we learned a lot about environmentalism and also about how well people can do with less. I expect that shifting my life to fit those values will be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible.

I had trouble picking a favorite photo. There were photos of everyone working together, photos of everyone laughing, photos of the projects we completed, and photos of the people we met. I chose this photo because I feel like it represents the Dominican lifestyle: harmony with nature, few material things, and spectacular surroundings. I hope that our experience helped us understand this lifestyle and that our service helped others live it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Last words from Kyla

This voyage to the Dominican Republic really has changed my life forever. The first thing this trip did was broaden my horizons. Before the trip I had never been out of the United States. It gave me an opportunity to see firsthand how other people lived in a world completely different from mine. It also opened my eyes to a myriad of different things. For example the woman, Maria, who lived in El Barrio seemed to be a very happy woman. Every time I saw her she was smiling, laughing, or playing with her grandchild. Despite the fact that she had a rotting house, no indoor plumbing, and no clean water she found time to smile. She made me realize that material things seriously can't provide happiness. People in America, including myself, worry about the wrong things and those things detain us from true happiness.

This trip made me think my life over and decide that I need to make changes. The first and biggest change I want to work on is saving energy. When you live in a place for a week around many people who don't have energy, you realize how much you waste. I want to and will make my life more sustainable and I'll start by making small changes in my everyday life. My second goal would be to help out more people like Maria, especially children. It warmed my heart to see the locals smile. If I could make them smile all the time I wouldn't complain about anything. I want to make a difference in this harsh world and I'm going to start now.


Callie's final reflection

I just want to start off by saying that this was one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I met so many great and kind people and I would not change it for anything. The trip really allowed me to reflect on the life that I live, how I should appreciate it, and how I can change it. There are so many things in my life that I had never valued until now. They are mostly simple things, like being able to flush my toilet paper or brushing my teeth with the tap, but I never thought anything of them until I didn't have them. Not only did this trip teach me to appreciate the simple things in my life but it also taught me to value the people I surround myself with and focus less on material objects. Most of the people that I encountered were the happiest people I have ever met and had so much but in many places would be seen as people who had so little. They are able to focus more on their friends and families instead of the newest ipod or pair of sneakers. Even though they don't have all the newest material objects they are still able to live happy lives. But I think most importantly I learned about sustainability and how I need to take responsibility for the way I live my life. Before this trip I never saw the connection between the food I eat and the rise in greenhouse gasses or clean water and agriculture. I now understand that everything is connected in so many ways. I know that I cant change my way of living overnight but I am definitely going to try and live more sustainably. I cant wait to go back to the Dominican Republic and also share what I have learned with other people at SLA. 

My favorite photo: This is a picture of a boy named Brailyn. He is fourteen years old but you would never guess that he was because he looks so young. He was malnourished when he was younger which caused his lack in development. He used to live with his grandma and many other kids and would have to live on the floor because he never had a bed. He was recently adopted by the man who drove  our bus in the Dominican Republic. I chose this photo because he just looks so happy. I remember taking the photo just after we had hiked up Brisone. He was laughing and smiling and I asked him why he was laughing so much and he said "because Im happy." I just think that it is amazing how he is able to find such joy in his life. He has been through so much and many people would use that as a handicap but he totally lives his life to the fullest. 

Final thoughts from Uyen

Spring break trip to the Dominican Republic trip with the Global Leadership Adventures was one of the most memorable experiences for me. Being one of the students attending a high tech school and one of the teens that is ignorance to the resources I have access to, this trip brought me to a whole new level of understanding. I started out on this trip as a typical American teenager who I wouldn’t call myself a brat but as a person who take advantage of all the resources that I have access to without acknowledging it. However, during this journey, each and every single person that were a part of the program and the culture of this program had brought a lot of attention to my own knowledge. Not only that the journey open our eyes to a whole new custom and culture, but this journey specifically open my eyes to a whole new understanding of sustainability. The one thing I’d say I got out of this trip is to thankful for what I have and try to maintain what I can. My first goal after this trip is to try to limited my water access. Water is one of the main thing that everyone need access to and because in first world country like America, we are abusing our access to water. Starting from the week after this trip I'm going to start cutting down on leaving water running when not using it and wasting water on unnecessary uses. Also beside trying to change my poor wasting habit, I'm now in the process of being a full vegetarian. I want to dedicate my personal changes to the community and hoping that the small changes I made will help change the world in the run. 

This is my favorite picture, not only because it brings back memory of us working on the house but this picture also show how much we all want to get involve and be a part of a project. The picture simbolizes strength and team work which is a value each and every single person need to have in able to help one another change the world. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last day by Bach

Hello everyone,
It’s Friday, Friday; but no one is excited for the weekend.
Today was the last day of our trip, and the first and only day of chillaxation. Differently from previous service day, we left the hotel at 10:30 in the morning and headed toward Sosua’s beach. After settling down at the beach, Dave told us to be back by 3:00 and gave us some other cautious messages. Some of us scattered all over the place for food and souvenirs, some jumped into the water. Here are photos of Sosua:

We got back to the hotel around 4:00 and were told to pack. However, people went into the water instead and tried to absorb some last moments of island time. Dinner was served three hours later, as usual. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food while filling out the evaluation form about this week experience.

At 8:00 o’clock, our bus schedule to the airport the next day was announced. Not one in 40 of us were looking forward to this moment. Pictures were taken; and contacts were exchanged. The week of hard labor and service tended to create bonds amongst 40 teenage strangers. Right now, games are on, ranging from mafia to group chatting. Everyone is not so excited to know that school is up for next week, but happy that the week was productive. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 6 by Luna

Today was our last day of community service work, and we definitely got a great feeling of accomplishment. We spent a second day in the barrio, putting up the final pieces of the house for the family. I helped to add the last couple of boards to the walls and put together a window. A few of us stayed for an extra hour or so to clean the floor and carry the materials down the hill. Almost all of the people who stayed were SLAers! I love to think that tonight that family will have a stable, secure place to sleep. It’s raining right now, and they are dry.

While we were working on the house, we passed out gift bags to the children. The bags had useful things like hairbrushes, toothbrushes, pencils, and tissues. They also had cute toys like bouncy balls and bubbles. The kids loved it all. Little gifts like that wouldn’t matter much to people who already have lots of stuff, but even just a pack of crayons brought so much joy to the people in the barrio.

Tonight, for our group discussion, we divided up into three groups. Some of us presented on thebarrio, some on Brisón, and some on Ascención. We talked about what was sustainable and what was not sustainable in each of the places. We all agreed that many of these places do not rely on energy, which is good. On the other hand, none of the places had sustainable supplies of food or water. In all of the places, the poorest people are forced to live in the places where food and/or water are the least accessible. They have little ability to be sustainable because of how few tools or natural resources they have. We discussed how more and more people around the world are forced to live in these situations.

We ended our discussion on a bright note: Dave asked people to stand up and say what they are going to change when they get back home. Many people talked about spreading information to their friends and family. People also talked about simply cutting out wasteful practices in their lives, like leaving the water running or buying too much food. One girl said she would convince her friends not to eat from McDonalds, and to instead pack themselves sandwiches or fruit. I said that instead of feeding into consumerism by asking for gifts for my birthday, I’d ask for people to spend money implementing environmentally sustainable practices. I’d been feeling really helpless and angry during a lot of the trip – like no one would ever really hear anything that the documentaries* we watched explain. Hearing everyone discuss what they plan to change was uplifting. We, as humans, really can do this, if everyone thinks like our group has started to think.

*The three documentaries we watched were: The Eleventh Hour, Crude Impact, and Food, Inc. Dave also recommended we watch: Water Wars.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 5 by William (building a home in the barrio)

Our fifth day of service in the Dominican Republic involved delving into the barrio (marginalized neighborhoods in the hills). This section of our service trip provided a more in depth understanding of the socioeconomics status of the local community in which we are living. In order to reach our  workplace, we had to trek up a hill, which was tricky since it rained for the first two hours of our  morning.

During the walk, our boots took on the camouflage of adhering mud and every person’s eyes were open wide taking in the surrounding houses and shops. We noticed that as we journeyed further into the barrio the opulence of the surrounding resort communities disappeared. Once we settled at the top of the hill, the efforts of prior group was humbling. Before us laid the ghostly foundation of what was once a makeshift house. Problems that we had to overcome included rebuilding a days work of support beams that termites destroyed. Today, we learned a few housing design tips that promote the longevity of the house; staggering eight-inch by quarter-inch flat wood as walls will prevent water from entering the home. Collaboratively, during our work day we laughed, used hand gestures and our Spanish vocabularies to communicate to the locals that were working together to build the house. Dave, the head of this GLA program, met the house owners through multiple encounters with their sons. He told us of how he had shared food with them and got to know them; soon after, this project became a reality and not just a conversation topic. Together, we constructed the home. Corrugated sheet metal served as the roof to facility water runoff. The flooring of the house was traditional cement. All of these components were supported by wooden planks. Students and volunteers wielded hammers, saws, and nails in order to meet our goal. It was eye opening to see community members connect with us in the fulfillment of design and construction. Each individual left a nail and a few monkey heads (for those less experienced with hammering) in the Barrio; completely reformed, the house is a representation of the effective efforts that come from unity. Many of us hope to return to this very location when we're older to consider the evolution of the community, the planet Earth and its greatest influence -- humanity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 4 by Callie (Ascensión - Haitian refugee community)

Hello, everyone. Today we went to Ascensión, the Haitian refugee community, again. Our goal was to turn up 3/4 of the dirt in the plot that we had been working on the previous day. Yesterday, after we left the camp, the workers continued working for two hours so most of our work had already been done. Everyone was very willing to chip in and help out with all of the work. It rained last night so the fields were very wet but the Haitian workers created a trench in order to drain out the water. It continued to rain throughout the day but it did not stop the workers from finishing what they had set out to do. They didn’t treat us as foreigners coming into their community; they worked side by side with us and made us feel comfortable.

Once we were done working Pena, a boy who lived on the camp, took us on a tour of the community. We saw the areas in which everyone lived and the systems they used to transport water and food.  Each row of houses had two-three faucets with clean water. Everyone has access to as much water as they want and can even build faucets to go into their houses for cooking and washing. Each household gets a plot of land to plant on were they can grow any crops they want for the community or to sell. Some of the crops they planted included potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, plantains, yams, and yucca. Although the plots are individual everyone helps out and it is kind of like a community garden. At the top of the community there were people that came to build a bathroom for everyone. Some kids from the community went on the tour with us, although they didn’t have shoes they still wanted to show us were they lived. They were so happy to see people help out their community.

Because we finished the work early we went to Playa Sosúa. The water was so pretty. It was like those screen savers you see on the Internet. The water was the clearest blue I have ever seen in my life. It was a little cold and the ocean floor was super rocky but we sill had lots of fun. We were also able to break out GLA diet and buy food and some of the restaurants along the beach. I had some extremely delicious fish at the beach. It was a fresh catch and the whole thing was intact, head included. Lots of kids wanted American food so they got pizza and hamburgers. Ashley and me also got pistachio ice cream.

When we got back to the hotel we went into the beach again. It was around 5 o’clock, which is when the rip tide comes in, and the waves were really big and strong. Señorita Manuel (Melanie) taught us a game were someone screams out a question and everyone has to answer before the wave wipes you out. For dinner we had cheese and potato empanadas, rice and beans, and for dessert we had mango and papaya. After dinner we watched Crude Impact, and talked about the energy crisis-taking place in America and the rest of the world. Today was super fun and exciting and I can't wait till tomorrow to go to the Barrio where we'll be finishing building a home.

 This is me.

Here's Ashley getting pulled out of a swampy ditch she fell in.

Day 3 by Kyla (Ascensión - Haitian refugee community)

Today was our first day in Ascención! Before we could even leave our complex, we were stopped and detained some taxi drivers who wanted our business. They blocked the street and held us up for almost an hour. It was kind of weird. Once we finally got on the bus we rode around for about 40 minutes just trying to get to Ascensión. As we got closer I looked out the window and realized that we were riding through a dried up, old, dead sugar cane field. The sugar cane industry in the DR has recently collapsed due a shift in US trade policy. We road through the field for about 10 minutes, on rocks and little creeks. The place is set far back from the Dominican community as most of the people living there are not recognized as “citizens” of the DR; many have relocated to this location from Haiti. So they have no legal rights or economic freedom.

            When we finally arrived, the kids jumped on the bus and wouldn’t let go until the bus stopped. When we got off the bus people were surrounding the doors, young and old, trying to sell us things. Most of the young kids just wanted to talk or play with us. They were attached from the beginning. They followed us around the whole day, and they were just such beautiful kids.

      I was a part of group 3 and our first rotation assignment was to just play with the kids. Play soccer, talk, and run around, anything! We just had to be engaged with the kids. We played duck, duck, goose, and talked about their families and their lives in Ascención. After about an hour, our next assignment was to clear a plot of land for planting seeds and crops. We were out there working really hard and all of the people in the village were out there helping us! At one point we had an assembly line that we were using to hand off dead weeds and grass. In the beginning it was just the kids from GLA but as the people saw us working they helped. There were 7 year olds in the assembly line having the greatest time helping us out. It was just amazing. The people there are very friendly and eager to help. It was wonderful I loved it. 

            This is a photo of us cleaning up all of the dead weeds that were already turned over.

Excuse my face, but we were working really hard and really fast in the assembly line. Despite that, we got the job done!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 2 by Uyen (Hiking up Brison Mountain)

Today is the first day of actually getting “down to business.” The whole group had to get up by 7:00AM, have breakfast and getting ready to hike up the mountain (Brison.) I was assigned to be in the Energy group, so my job for the day was to explore energy during the hike and try to relate it back into our discussion at the meeting. Right after breakfast we were sent off in a bus with 27 people and started heading down to Brison.

After an hour and a half ride we arrived at the bottom of Brison. Before we actually started to hike, we were waiting for the group to get themselves together. As we starting to hike up the way to get to Brison’s peak, everyone was really energetic. Personally I was really excited to finish the hike, however as we started to hike about 1/3 of the way there the sun came up and it was getting really hot. But along the way we also learned a lot of things about the village. One of the most interesting things I learned during the hike was how the people in the village have to hike about 2-3hours down the river to get water for their family. Normally the kids would be the one to do the water job which is really depressing because they have to waste their time hiking for water instead of being in school or at home helping their family. By the time we go half of the way up the mountain most of the people just wanted to give up and leave, it makes me think about how the people live there have to deal with it everyday because I personally could not take it and wanted to give up.

After reaching the top of the mountain the whole group felt really proud and happy that we successfully finished the hike. The people that live around the mountain were really happy and friendly. Everyone was so welcoming and excited about our visit. It was a great experience and we learned so much just in one day. We are about to have dinner and get ready for tomorrow at Asuncion, stay tuned to see our day at Asuncion camp. 

 Climbing climbing climbing

 Celebrating a view of the ocean and the coast (photo from the top of Brishon mountain)

 Ashley will not be happy about this photo but she'll REALLY be unhappy about...

 ...this one. (Perdóname, Ash.)
 We enjoyed a lunch prepared by a family living at the top of Brison.

Day 1 by Ashley (Arriving to Puerto Plata)

So today was the start of our journey. I say “journey” because it is going to be something different and new for all of us. We had a great flight here, kind of long while you were actually on it, but it was a great view down below. Once we got closer you could actually see all of the Dominican Republic from the window. (Don’t forget to look at the pictures they are really cool.) We arrived at our destination here at about 10:30AM I believe and then went through the airport luggage and all those processes.
Along the way we met up with 9 other students who are from the New York area. Being as social as we are, we made friends and got along very easily (another picture to look at.). After all of the processes and finding everyone’s luggage, we got on the bus that would take us to Puerto Plata. The drive took about 2 hours but it was very beautiful and scenic. Last but not least we got to our place of stay, which may I say is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. Right on the beach and we have our own pool and jacuzzi - it truly is breathtaking.

Today being our first day was kind of a chill day for us. We got to just relax at the pool or beach and talk to one another. After dinner is where our journey started to come into play. We were assigned our groups and projects for the week, sounds like so much fun! I’m in group A, Energy. Our job throughout the trip is to look at how energy is used and how it differs here from home. Our first exploration here is to climb a mountain called Brison. About a one to two hour hike of fun to reach a little village, eat lunch and meet kids who live up there. I can’t wait. Anyway that’s a little bit for today but there will be more tomorrow. Come back to see how our hike goes!!

 bus ride from the airport

 view from our dining hall

 Ashley and Kyla taking a long walk on the beach

Meet our 7 students