Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

2 posts from March 2015

03/12/2015

Beach Adventures

Originally posted on my blog January 26th. Someday we´ll get you all caught up I promise!!!

This week was more play hard than work hard. There were national holidays Wednesday and today, Monday. But, a little update on the school front, all my classes are set. They are: Advanced Spanish II, Socioeconomic and Political Processes in the Contemporary Dominican Republic, Afrocaribbean Cultures, and Dominican-Haitian Relations, Intro to Singing, Dance for Foreigners, and Theater Arts. Woo! So much fun to be had. And an ultimate frisbee update - I have practice tomorrow!
Well that was my "work" update and it doesn't really sound like work. Well here goes the fun update:
Wednesday a group of exchange students from CIEE and ISA as well as PUCMM students hopped on a couple guaguas and made our way to Playa Alicia. This is close to Playa Sosua but is less populated and has bigger waves. It was a fun day complete with Spikeball, frisbee, and a pair of sunglasses lost to the joys of body surfing.

 
Saturday was a planned CIEE day trip to Playa Ensenada but Brianne had been doing some scheming and the two of us headed North a day early. We left Santiago around nine on a public guagua to La Isabella. From there we took a motoconcho to our hotel - Casa Libre. The journey was relatively easy. Definitely could have been a lot more interesting! We got to Casa Libre and promptly realized we were in paradise. The place consists of three cabins on stilts overlooking the beach. There is greenery everywhere except for a little path that connects the cabins and winds down to the beach. 
View from the room
 
Pathway to the beach
 
Super fancy hotel sign
 
The cabin's porch
 
Once were a bit settled in we made arrangements to get to the manatee reservation. Turns out the best option is to rent a 4x4, a deal which also got us a guide and some side stops to even more remote beaches with coral cliffs that had once been under water. It made for quite the adventure, especially since we were expected to drive, which we did quite capably upon receiving some instruction. 
Here I am enjoying the vistas. 
 
The manatee reservation was cool, quite rustic, but had lots of mangroves and our guide was able to tell us quite a bit about the ecosystem. The manatees showed their noses here and there but were not very photographable. After all this we made our way back to Casa Libre and with a few hours before dinner we went for a sunset walk. It was beautiful!!! 
Dinner was pork tenderloin with a white wine sauce and mozzarella for Brianne and potatoes, broccoli, salad and french bread for me (and Brianne). We were joined for dinner by a Swiss man who had been living in the DR for 11 years, his Ugandan wife, and the man who was currently filming a documentary of the couple. I failed to accurately extract the reason for the documentation. Dinner was a mix of French, German and English, with English being the most successful common denominator. (Breakfast the next morning was enjoyed with a french couple that knew little Spanish and less English, so French became the common denominator for that meal.) Brianne accurately pointed out that it felt a lot more like we were in Europe than the Caribbean. After dinner we headed back to the beach for a late night dip and some stargazing. The water was a tad chilly so I only floated and stargazed for a minute or two, but the view was just as epic lying in the sand. The stars were visible from horizon to horizon as there is very little light pollution. I saw two shooting stars. I had not seen shooting stars since I was on the shore of Flagstaff Lake with my FOP trip freshman year. 
This is the sunset from that night in Maine - remarkably similar, but a lot colder...
 
After our star gazing we went to bed. Breakfast the next morning was eggs, wheat toast, fresh fruit and tea. We went for a post breakfast walk up to the fishing town of Punta Rucia. Then we came back to collect our things before walking the other direction along the beach to Playa Ensenada where the rest of CIEE had arrived. We joined them for the day, shich included lunch at Teo's - typical Dominican fare - yum! And snorkeling at "Paradise Island" which is essentially a sand dune six miles off the coast where you can snorkel. It was nice. Not the most colorful reef, but there were lots pretty fishies. It was a pretty touristy event, but other guests at Casa Libre said it was less crowded other times of the day so that would be something to keep in mind if I were to return. All in all it was fabulous week full of fun in the sun!
 
 

 

03/05/2015

First Excursion for Spring Semester: January 16-17

This is a delayed post from my personal blog! We've got some catching up to do on the CIEE blog so I'd thought with a piece I wrote about the group's excursion to Santo Domingo.

Friday morning the CIEE group left for Santo Domingo. In an unpredictably predictable manner, getting there, in and of itself, was an adventure. One of our two guaguas (buses) broke down about half an hour from our first stop so we all piled into one guagua. It was quite cozy. (AKA 41 of us in a minibus with luggage.) And when I say cozy, I actually mean relatively uncomfortable at many points. (Shoutout to Elainer for letting me sit on her lap. MVP!)

 
Our first stop of the day was at Alta Gracia, a Zona Franca, unlike any other.  Zona Francas (perhaps known in the US/English as Free Ports) are areas with loosened customs and other regulations. There are many in the DR and Haiti as well as around the world. They have a tendency to have horrible conditions and do more harm than good for the economy. They do little to support the local economy because of the emphasis on exportation and the lack of relationship with the communities. Alta Gracia is a Zona Franca with a very different story. Workers get three times the minimum wage, three square meals a day, access to childcare, educational opportunities, and transportation. They can play music while working and take as many bathroom/water breaks as needed. Someone who starts out with a low-level job has the opportunity to move up the ranks, especially if s/he takes advantage of the educational opportunities available. Alta Gracia makes T-shirts and other customizable apparel, which is predominantly sold to colleges and universities in the United States. Here are some photos from our tour/ conversation with the jefas/jefes (bosses).
 
 

 

Pre-Shirts
 
Our second stop of the day was lunch. It was amazing. I had the best eggplant parmesan I have ever had. (They are really good at eggplant here.) I also had three pieces of cake....After lunch we were relieved to learn a second guagua had been acquired and our group bonding could be a little less physical.
 
After that we went to Ingenio Boca de Nigua a former sugar cane plantation. It was really powerful to stand on the same ground as the slaves who were worked to death making sugar did. Ingenio literally means genius. Originally it referred to the machine that pressed sugar (liquid form) from the cane using animal power (mule, horse or slave) but later came to refer to the whole plantation because that one ingenious invention was so integral to the process. Slaves on this type of plantation had a life span of approximately seven years once they stepped into their new world.
 


Below: Here we are looking down on the Ingenio. Slaves fed cane back and forth on the lower level as animals (or slaves) walked in a circle on the upper level generating the power to squeeze the liquid from the cane. Working for hours on end and struck with fatigue, slaves often lost fingers, a hand or even an arm when unable to maintain the focus required to safely do this job. 

 
 
 
This sunken area is the slave yard, where punishment was doled out daily in the mornings. It is a lower level so as to inhibit slaves form running away upon hearing they were to be punished.
 


Here we see where the liquid was heated to its crystallization stage. Slaves below ground were chained up an forced to feed the fire. The intolerable heat necessitated the chains on the slaves with this task. The resulting sugar is what we know as brown sugar. Through the drying process excess molasses would drip off the sugar and be used to feed livestock and slaves. Brown sugar was the final product, which was shipped off to Europe to be treated and become white sugar.

 

This climbable structure was a hell hole of a bunkhouse. Inside, slaves slept in layers on wooden slats in shifts of eight hours, again chained in place to prevent escape.

 
This particular plantation was the site of a failed slave revolt. The attempt, however, is a source of pride for locals and those beyond. At one point Toussaint Louverture, the predominant leader of the Haitian Revolution, stood at this location when France formally handed Haiti over and peace with the Spanish was negotiated. 
 
We piled back into our TWO (phew thank goodness we were back to two) guaguas and headed to Santo Domingo and our hotel. Once we were all checked in and a little bit settled, we went to dinner. On our way to dinner we stopped at a salon. "Sophie, why did you guys stop at a salon???" Well, let me tell you. Because this salon, albeit little, is kind of a big deal. And when I say kind of a big deal I actually mean a really big deal as it represents part of a social and more broadly political movement. "Sophie! I still don't get it. How?" Well, let me tell you. Because it caters to women who wear their hair naturally. You will not get your hair relaxed or straightened our otherwise treated to conform to Eurocentric norms regarding hair. Women come here to embrace their roots (pun intended). This salon is one of three in the country that provide services for natural hair. Miss Rizos (the salon) was a beautiful space with a beautiful story. Several of the chicas in our group went back the next day for an appointment or to purchase amazing Yo <3 Mi Pajón shirts.  
 
That night we were free to do as we pleased and many of us headed out for various amounts of time to practice our merengue, salsa, and bachata skills, but many of us called it quits fairly early because of the promise of the next days adventure (and the threat of the hour at which they began).
 
The next day my body was kind of rejecting the Caribbean, or at least something I'd eaten, so I had to lay low for the morning. I headed out with the group but was not feeling great enough to continue. The group went on a walking tour of the Zona Colonial and Los Tros Ojos. The link at the end of this post has photos taken by Brianne of these adventures. In the afternoon I rejoined the group as we walked around and had lunch before heading back to the guaguas and Santiago. 
 
Hydrating

The trip back to Santiago involved a lot of sleeping, no breakdowns, and a warm greeting from my host family!