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2 posts from November 2012



Constanza is a valley in the middle of a very mountainous region in the Dominican Republic. CIEE had our first whole-group excursion to Constanza, leaving early Friday morning and returning Sunday afternoon. Constanza is unique because it has a cooler climate and has really fertile land. These two characteristics make the valley home to lots of farming and one of the only places in the country where cooler climate crops can grow. We stayed in villas with beautiful mountain views and our hotel had a playground, zip line, and horses. On the first day, we had a choice of going on a hike or going to flower greenhouses. DSCN3464I went to the greenhouses and we got to see the process of growing flowers that are put into bouquets and sold at stores. We saw how they dye the flowers different colors, the planting process and lots of different flowers! The company also has a huge greenhouse where they grow green tomatoes. After we finished our tour, we took our bus to the ruins of Trujillo's (dictator of the country from 1930-1961) private hotel. After his assassination in 1961 the place was completely trashed but still stands today. DSCN3480 We went to dinner at a restaurant after and then got spend the rest of the evening relaxing at the hotel. Saturday, we took off early for Aguas Blancas, the tallest waterfall on the island of Hispaniola. It was an hour and a half, extremely bumpy ride up the mountain in "safari" trucks. We finally made it near the base of the fall and we hiked up to the top and saw the pool where the falls start. After, we hiked back down, and had the opportunity to swim at the base. As it turns out...the water is FREEZING. I was really brave and put my whole foot in! A bunch of people jumped off the rocks and swam (quickly!) at the base. Our tour guide was climbing up the falls and standing on the rocks where the water was coming down. Pretty impressive. The way back down the mountain was even worse in the trucks than the way up. We were all sitting on these benches and gravity made things fun on the way down (think the scrambler ride at carnivals when someone gets squished against the side). Everyone was exhausted by the time we got to lunch. After returning to the hotel and napping we had a barbeque and bonfire. Sunday morning was a free morning for visiting the market, mountain biking, zip lining, or relaxing at the hotel. I went zip lining and walked around the grounds of the hotel before we had lunch and boarded the buses for the 2-3 hour trip back to Santiago. All in all it was a great trip and a very welcome break from the heat of the city.





Rural Work Retreat #1


This weekend we got the opportunity to go on an optional work weekend in the countryside.  Community Service was one of the reasons I came to the Dominican Republic, so I was eager to sign up for the trip to the nearby town of La Solapa.  I was a little nervous because I knew we would be staying in very "humble" homes and I had no idea what kind of work we would be doing.  We ended up working with Peace Corps volunteers to create a water aqueduct that would be a CLEAN source of water for the community.

485754_10151398204139867_2062465202_nDay 1: We arrived on Friday and got assigned to a temporary host family that we would stay with for the weekend.  After getting settled, we made the 10 minute hike to our work-site that was situated, essentially, in the middle of the woods.  The Peace Corps volunteers showed us a natural watershed from the mountain that was depositing a small stream of water.  While it looked like nothing, this small source of water was completely pure and not contaminated by rain water because it was coming directly from the earth.  After viewing our site, we took a tour of the rest of the town.  My favorite part was our impromptu fruit tour guide, Felix, who pointed out the different fruit trees (with samples of course) and gave constant quizzes to help us remember the names.  One of the coolest parts was seeing a cocoa pod picked right from the tree.  Hopefully the picture (credit to Ms. Alex Hall) helps in the description, but after the cocoa pod is opened, there are cocoa beans that are covered in a white coating.  The white coating can be eaten and is very sweet.  Inside the white part is the cocoa bean (which is very bitter) and is roasted to make chocolate.  After we finished our tour and ate dinner with the community.

Day 2: The work began.  So to make this natural water springs into a water source, we used rocks to protect the stream of water, and then filled concrete over the rocks so that rain water couldn't get in.  The engineer of the project (Peace Corp volunteer) built a box at the end of DSCN3355the concrete where the water could be caught and funneled through a pipe.  Basically, this will eventually become the water source for the community and SOMEDAY the families will be able to use the water in their homes.  We moved rocks, carried rocks up the mountain, moved more rocks, mixed concrete by hand and moved said concrete bucket by bucket to fill in the rocks.  It was a lot of work, but we were able to finish the project in just a day! We even found time to eat lunch, hold puppies that were so little they couldn't open their eyes, and have someone feed us Pringles when our hands were too dirty.  We were very eager to get cleaned up after our messy day and enjoyed a nice dinner with the community again.  Some even got to witness the "cleaning of the chicken" that would become our lunch the next day (I respectfully chose to pass on that activity). We spent the evening relaxing with the community (in the dark since the power goes out each evening) and playing dominos (VERY popular in the DR) and cards.

All in all, it was an amazing experience to be able to work with the community on a project that will eventually change their lives.  It was awesome to learn about the Peace Corps and all of their great work in the country as well as have the opportunity to see how people live in places away from the city.


Photos by Alexandra Hall, Ryan Bowen, and myself