By: Amber Brookmire
Amber is a graduating senior at the City College of New York, majoring in Anthropology and Jewish Studies. She is participating in the 2012 CCNY-InteRDom Service Learning Program, and will serve as the InteRDom Correspondent in the CUNY system. To read more about Amber and her participation in the Correspondent program, see her profile here.
We have continued our gardening project this week in Bayona, an urban community neighboring Cielo. Most families do not have a space with soil to begin a garden, so we have shifted our approach to accommodate their situation. Rather than planting directly into the ground as we did in Cielo, we have created raised boxes within which a vegetable garden can successfully grow. Upon completion of our first box, one of the beneficiaries was so thrilled that she wrote her name on the side to claim it as her own!
Although we are no longer digging in the ground, we must use our strength to carry the heavy boxes and 150 lb. bags of soil to rooftops and back patios. So far, we have completed 9 gardens in Bayona. Only 16 left until we reach our expected goal!
Aside from the gardening project, I have been enjoying the beauty of island as much as possible. On our first InteRDom excursion we headed north to Santiago, the second largest city. We had an excellent tour of Central Leon, a cultural center in Santiago where we learned all about the country from its beginnings through present day. We then headed to visit Reyna’s (the InteRDom Internship Coordinator’s) parents’ home. Her father showed us how to chop down a plantain tree and uproot cassava – two main staples in Dominican cuisine.
Our second InteRDom excursion was to La Cueva de Maravillas. As we ventured deep into the cave I could feel the temperature drop in the darkness that surrounded me. Motion-sensor lights lit the way as walked through to see the naturally formed stalagmites. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was hard to imagine how something so beautiful was naturally formed below the earth’s surface. The tour guide pointed out the various cave paintings created by the Tainos, wonderfully preserved in this cave of wonders!
My personal exploration finally came to a full circle when CV (a CCNY intern) and I decided it was time to test out the chaotic public transportation! We headed toward the busy street of Máximo Gomez with no prior knowledge on how to get around. Within minutes we were squeezing into the back seat of a carro publico with two other passengers, on our way to La Zona Colonial! Despite the discomfort with no air conditioning and little space, it was exciting to finally understand how everyone moves about this city without emptying their pockets (only RD $25 for a ride!).
The carro público left us at el Conde – a pedestrian street lined with vendors, shops and restaurants. I soon realized this would be the place to buy souvenirs (and practice my bargaining skills!). Once we worked up an appetite, we hopped in a guagua and headed toward Barra Payan – a 24-hour spot famous for their sandwiches and fresh juices. I ordered one of the combo meals, complete with a sandwich, fresh juice and to my surprise, a KitKat bar! As I enter my last week in this exciting country, I look forward to reaching our gardening goals and making more memories with my wonderful new group of friends. The adventure doesn’t end here…
The blog also provides useful information for students and inspires lively debate and increased interest in exchange and the development of Hispaniola.