Over the past two days we have the opportunity to unwind and relax after two hard, productive, and satisfying days of digging trenches and building an aqueduct for a community that truly needed it. The last leg of our time in the Dominican Republic started with a trip to the capital, Santo Domingo. We went on a tour of the colonial district and during the tour we saw the oldest cathedral in the Americas, the homes of the first colonial families, and other historic places. After the tour we were able to sample another important crop of the region, cocoa. We went to a chocolate museum and sampled tasty chocolate, hot chocolate, and chocolate tea.
Many of us finally got the opportunity to grab a few souvenirs at a huge market with a bunch of Dominican souvenir shops. Everyone that owned a little shop wanted you to come in and see what they had to offer. The owners enthusiastically invited us to come into their shop and buy everything they had. After a little haggling, everyone was able to get a souvenir or two.
The night ended with a great dinner and surprise dance performance. There were two professional dancers and they were amazing. They did a lot of impressive dance moves. One move had a dancer dancing and spinning on a bottle while the other turned the dancer around. After the performance was finished the dancers wanted all of us to get up and dance with them, so we all got up into lines and started to follow their lead in a dance. It was very energetic and loud. Overall, it was so much fun because we got to another this side of dominican culture.
Today we traveled to Bayahibe, which is a beach town right on the water. From there we took a catamaran to a beautiful beach where we had a Dominican lunch on Saona Island. While there, we got to see a turtle nursery and learn how they are raised in the nursery. We learned that in nature for every 100 turtle eggs laid only 2-3 survive and grow to become adult turtles. This nursery is designed to help more survive to adulthood. After that we went to another beach on the island to go snorkeling. We were able to see all the different types of coral and fish that are native to this part of the DR. After a relaxing time at the beach we went to an ocean pool which was a short boat ride away. An ocean pool is where you are pretty far from the shore but it is very shallow and there are no waves or anything. It is just like a pool! The day was full of places that were so picturesque and beautiful. We had a great time relaxing and enjoying each other but we are all ready and eager to start preparing to go home.
We ended the night with the rustic ties reflection. During the reflection we all got matching bracelets and had to tie them around the person sitting to our right. Before we could tie the bracelets around the person we had to share something nice and our best memory with them on this trip.
Although Darlington is a small community, I realized that I would not have met some of these people if I hadn’t come on this trip. Also, I knew some people on the trip but I wasn’t very close to them. Now I know them very well. I am glad that I got to spend time with everyone and learn so much about each one of them. I have made some new friendships that I will cherish forever. Forming new friendships is always awesome. To know that we will have this trip to look back on and laugh at the good times that we shared together is something that I will never take for granted.
During the reflection we also shared something we learned from this trip and why we would take it back with us. I said that I learned to work with new people because I was put in a group with none of my close friends. That helped me to reach out, get to know different people, and see that everyone has something special to offer. I also learned to appreciate what I have and not take things for granted. Some of the people in the Bateyes did not even have a concrete floor to live on they just had a dirt floor. There were many other things that stood out to me in the Bateyes but that one was the hardest to see when we arrived. All the people in the Bateyes were so welcoming and always happy even though they had little to nothing. It was so touching to see and made me wish I could be as happy as the people in the Bateyes were with what little they had.
Overall, I am really glad that I got the opportunity to come on this trip because I have seen some things that bring me so much joy and I have formed new friendships that I hope will last for a long time. Also knowing that our efforts brought a village water brings me so much happiness. This trip gave us the opportunity to drastically change the lives of the people in all the communities that were a part of this trip for the better and that truly warms my heart.
- Anne Scott Smith