Study Abroad in
In the guagua ride to Pedro Garcia, I was pretty nervous. Not that I’m a diva or anything, but Ryan had bought shovels, pickaxes, machetes (that’s right, machetes) to take with us, and I had used zero percent of that equipment before. (Mentira, obviously I’ve used a shovel. But you know what I mean.) And to add to that, we were staying with host families for the two nights we’d be there; as if the first time meeting a host family wasn’t enough, right?! But let me tell you, those host families cooked good food. So A+ decision.
The goal of the weekend was to construct a mirador, or look-out point, along the newly constructed tourist route somewhere on the way to Puerto Plata (I’m not good with directions). When we arrived, the site did have the most beautiful view, but it was completely overgrown, with uneven ground and trash everywhere. We worked for 3 hours on Friday (the first day) to strip bark with machetes, pick up trash, and begin leveling the area. By the end of those 3 hours, I already had blisters from using the machete (but how many people from New Hampshire can say that?!). We returned to our host families houses exhausted. I watched a Scooby-Doo episode with my host brother (globalization, amiright?), and then watched the other host brothers (who were like 14 years old) try to teach the Peace Corps volunteers and Marvin how to impressively use a whip. (Key words: try to. Sorry, Marv.)
The next day we worked for the. whole. day, blisters and all. We leveled the ground, built a railing, felled palm trees, and built a retaining wall out of recycled tires, rocks and palm. I used a pickax to chop down hills, a rake to level the ground, a machete to cut the grass and strip bark, and a shovel and wheelbarrow to move the dirt. It looked awesome at the end of the day, but we still had work to do, and we were all getting on each other’s nerves. We were hot, hungry, thirsty, sweaty, sunburned, and SORE (did I mention the machete blisters?). But when we returned to our houses, there was a party going on at the colmado! Domino tournament, and bachata/merengue in the street under the stars.
Our trip to the campo was incredible. I’ve never been so sore for so long in my life, with blisters in the most inconvenient places (couldn’t hold a pen for a while), but it was one of the most rewarding experiences this semester. Seeing a wild piece of land turn into a professional-looking lookout point, and being one of the ones who actually did it, was amazing. And we were able to enjoy ourselves as night with the local people, practicing our Spanish, dancing, and experiencing Dominican life in the campo—which is something very different from what we get in Santiago.
(Shameless plug: If you want more personal insight on my experience in the DR, head to divingonetoeatatime.wordpress.com )