By: Anna Groesser
Graduate and Gap Year 32-week Program, 2012
You can read about Anna’s internship with Grupo PUNTACANA on the InteRDom website here.
I’m now at the halfway point of my eight-month internship here in Punta Cana and there’s so much to talk about! For starters, I’d like to remark on the friendliness of most every employee I come in contact with on the hotel property. When I leave my casita in the morning and walk to the employee cafeteria, I probably pass on average about ten different employees, and it is extremely odd if even one does not look me in the eye and say hello or good morning. I am wearing my employee badge, so they know I am not a guest, and there is no need to try and impress me, yet they still give a hearty greeting. I am struck by this, even after living here for four months.
Right now, there’s a tranquil, humid rain coming down outside and as I listen to the sound, it reminds me of the current changing seasons. When I arrived, I felt it was quite warm and humid, but it has actually gotten more humid as the months have moved past the winter season. Being from Northern Michigan, I am dreading the hottest months of the year- July and August- but luckily I have AC in my casita as well as the office, so I know it could definitely be worse!
I was thinking I’d mention some things I do for fun, since I haven’t really talked about that. I’ve been here for a few months already and have made a small group of friends who are scattered throughout the Punta Cana region. I have a Dominican friend who works the reservation phone for Tortuga Bay (the luxury boutique hotel here) who I met on the bus going to Santo Domingo one weekend. I also am friends with the two local Peace Corps members who live right in the heart of the nearby Verón community. I’ve got random friends I see at the office during the day, and ones I eat lunch with Monday through Friday, plus the front desk hotel staff who I talk to quite often (as I spend a lot of free time in the lobby, using the wireless Internet). Anyway, for fun, I find myself visiting a nearby theater to catch a recent flick, or spending a weekend afternoon on the beach with a Peace Corps member or two, or organizing a group dinner at a friend’s casita or simply spending time alone, studying Spanish and watching movies on my computer. Sometimes I visit one of the jungle lagoons here for a quick swim, or I meet up with one of the Peace Corps volunteers in Verón (and I can really see how good I have it living at the hotel, since Peace Corps members live at the same income and lifestyle quality level as the locals!) There are a variety of hobbies I can take up here too- I can learn to dive at the dive shop and help them hunt the invasive species Lionfish in the coastal area, I can help at the PUNTACANA Ecology in one of their sustainable resources projects or I can spend a day volunteering at a local orphanage.
As for my work activities, these are just as varied as my free time activities. Specifically, one recent activity was extremely fulfilling- I spent a week with a large group of doctors and medical students and we set up makeshift clinics in the local community, and simply treated people as they came. I did a lot of patient flow management because we had to keep the huge crowd (plus the numerous kids underfoot) from milling about too much, wandering into different sectioned-off areas to curiously watching the examinations! I’ve also been working on the creation of a few different webpages for the PUNTACANA Foundation, and I am learning the public relations-related steps we need to take before these websites can be made official, since it represents the hotel corporation’s image. And just recently, I co-managed a group of VIP tourists from the U.S. for a couple hours. They were interested in seeing the free local clinic and one of the local schools that the PUNTACANA Group created. This was a lot of fun, since it involved my direct supervisor Margarita and I acting as a close-working team during the tour, and we both received a hearty applause at the end as the group thanked us for our leadership that day!
The blog also provides useful information for students and inspires lively debate and increased interest in exchange and the development of Hispaniola.