Autumn in the Tropics
My apologies for neglecting to blog for almost a month now! Time flies when you are having fun but time also flies when you are used to having a drastic change in seasonal weather but the 95-degree-sunny-days continue through October and into November. Although I miss the festive feeling of autumn in New England, especially Halloween, I cannot complain seeing as I have enjoyed the beach almost every weekend since I’ve arrived here in August. However, my friends and I we could not resist the erge to carve a pumkin. We could't find find any pumpkins to carve on the island so we make do with local fruit and in honor of Halloween we carved a watermelon which we called a "wumpkin".
One of the many things that never ceases to amaze me during my time here are the sunsets. Although my pictures may seem beautiful they do not adequately capture the cotton candy skies that drape over the ocean like a comforter gently tucking the waves into bed. My eyes have feasted on more candy here than any trick-or-treated will encounter during their lifetime. I have caught myself taking the beauty of this island for granted a few times. The spontaneity of life here continues to remind me that each moment is precious and that I need to take advantage of every moment.
Most of the themes I have focused on in my blog have been light hearted and focus on my adventures around the island. Although my time to explore and see new sights and different parts of the island has opened my eyes to so many things, I truly think the time I have spent in Santiago de los Caballeros has been where I have grown most.
Studying abroad in a “developing country” has its perks for American students whose spending money goes a lot father here than in the States. The types of activities I get to indulge in on the island are things that I would not be able to afford back home. Getting to experience the life of luxury in Dominican Republic has been a dream but also a wakeup call.
Studying International Development and Social Change at Clark has drawn my attention to the unsettling inequalities around the world. My time abroad has truly put me face to face with that inequality, an uncomfortable yet absolutely necessary experience. Before my time abroad I was aware that life was unfair, I was aware that I was privileged, but I never knew to what extent or truly saw what that meant.
I attend university with some of the wealthiest students in the Dominican Republic where dressing to impress is more or less the dress code. However, outside the gates campus and less than a 5 minute walk down the street is a barrio, a neighborhood that many people in the US would refer to as a slum. An institute of higher education is practically beside a neighborhood whose population often lacks the opportunity to finish elementary school. Many wealthy neighborhoods abut extremely poor neighborhoods which creates striking visual that highlights what inequality truly means. My reflections have yielded frustration for a corrupt system, shame for the privileges granted to me, gratitude for my opportunities, and passion to combat the inequalities I see in my lifetime.
Another eye-opening experience has been attending a history class taught with a Caribbean point of view. As a US citizen, our history classes in grade school never taught us about the puppet governments and dictators we have supported in Latin America or the Caribbean. I think we often learn to look at our country through rose-tinted glasses. There are many things I am so grateful for and there are many opportunities that I may not have had if it wasn’t for my nationality however, I have learned that, in order to become a global citizen, you have to reexamine yourself through many different lenses.
One of the beauties of Santiago is that it is not a huge tourist destination. Apart from the other international students, you don’t see many foreigners walking around the city. For me this has been a wonderful way to be surrounded by Dominican culture but it also makes me stick out like a sore thumb. Trying to blend in and have an “authentic” experience has proven to be more of a challenge than I anticipated; however, I have accepted the challenge.
I am glad to learn that my cross-cultural experience has been something that I have reflected on profoundly during my time here and has helped me grow a lot as a person. Recognizing white privilege and the opportunities granted to me for being born with US citizenship have been humbling, hard to stomach, but ultimately crucial to my growth here. I encourage everyone who reads this to take a minute to appreciate all that you have and all that you bring to this world. Never forget how many places an open mind allows you to travel and how far reflections can lead you down the path to becoming a more global citizen.