Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Time: Better Late With a Treasure?

By Sarah Fiske
InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

It’s almost time for me to go back home, and unlike with many things here, that can’t happen late.

I got an email kindly reminding me I was due (overdue) for writing a blog post and my first thought was, “let me see how quickly I can write this thing.” It is crunch time in my second internship - a research project on CAFTA-DR (DR, Central American, US Free Trade Agreement), and I feel like I am just getting my footing on it. I chuckled at my thought because I’m never able to write these things quickly, but also because here [in the DR] things just don’t happen quickly. It’s a cultural thing and I’m catching the bug. So, I thought I’d write a little post about time.

In the last blog I talked about culture and stereotypes, and emphasized underlying similarities. Keeping within that framework, I do want to talk about one difference. Let me also add: I know I am talking in generalities. I know these aren’t true for everyone. I don’t mean this to be offensive towards either culture, but to be a critical thinking exercise about culture and stereotypes, and our tendencies to be either blindly close-minded or blindly open-minded. That being said, everyone knows the stereotypes about Latin Americans and time. On time is 10 minutes late, at least - and it is mostly true. It is also often considered a negative side of Latin culture, and for this blog and my experience, specifically Dominican culture.

I can get caught in this fast-paced New England mindset sometimes where everything is go, go, go. Before I finish one thing I am already planning on how I’ll get to the next thing; at home [in Rhode Island] I often pack a day more full than my average week here in DR. I don’t hesitate to eat on the go, and sometimes run from one place to another. Here, things don’t work like that. In fact, I rarely see anyone seemingly in a hurry, except maybe to the corner store ("colmado") to grab an item while cooking. People stop and chat from place to place, and I’ve sat behind so many non-aggressive drivers allowing cars to cut them off through multiple light cycles (though they are quick to honk at a green light). Obviously there are exceptions, but overall the pace of life is just slower here.

Honestly, it can drive me crazy, but frustration doesn’t solve any problems so I choose to just accept it. That’s one step in the right direction, but I can go further. Rather than simply not being bothered by the different flow of time here, I need to learn how to appreciate it. Cultures evolve for reasons. Dominicans weren’t thrown into this cultural view of time and said “these are the rules, do your best.” No, these norms evolved based on the ideals, values and interests of the people in the nation. So, what were these values? What interests does it serve?

There are many answers to that question – and this is an oversimplification of one key factor, but I think it has key truth.

To answer this, I thought about what a successful day for me would look like in the stereotypical cultural frameworks. In the US cultural mindset I might say, “I hurried to work this morning so I could manage to squeeze in a short lunch date. After work I went to a class at the gym where in 30 minutes I sweat more than most people in a week (thanks Crossfit, for your short, but killer workouts) and, even with a grocery run, I made it home with enough time to change, toss a load of laundry in to the wash, and grab my crock pot dinner to eat in the car on the way to my church group.” My successful day is action packed, a little rushed and schedule-oriented, but accomplishes tangible objectives.

A stereotypical successful day for me in the Dominican cultural framework might look a little different. I might say, “I got off to a slower start at work because my coworker was having some difficult situations at home; we got to talking and I offered her some advice and encouragement. Later, I had some extra time for lunch and enjoyed a big meal with my coworkers. After work I stopped in to visit my aunt and she made me fresh fruit juice and a small soup for dinner; two hours later I left with mangos for my mom and plantains for me. I finished the day meeting a few friends for a jog in the park.” My ideal day is relationship oriented and has enough room to allow time to flow more freely, but has little I can check off the to-do list.
If you search google images for "businessman running" you'll find countless images, clip arts, vector images etc. It's prolific. And you see it in the US. Check out any downtown on a weekday and you'll see men and women glancing at their watches as they run or power walk from one meeting to the next. Here, you don't often see that. Photo: Iain Gillespie, Sydney Morning Herald
Two guys playing dominos - a common pass time here. There is a lot more just spending time with people. Photo from World Race Blog
So, back to the question: how does Dominican culture, relating to time, serve the Dominican people? How is this pace good? How do I appreciate it? Simple, this view on time allows people to build deep relationships with their friends, coworkers and family. The flexibility with time often says you are more important than my next plan – or than me making a next plan. This aspect of Dominican culture is a treasure. When I navigate this culture with this mindset I can still be critical in my view on time, but recognize the treasure that is the other side of the coin.

So what is the take home? We live in an increasingly globalized world; one where many countries, especially developing countries, are criticized for certain aspects of their culture like time. I’ve met a lot of Dominicans who talk about this negative side of their culture but not about where it comes from. My message is: Know the nature of the problem. Dominicans, treasure your culture and the way people are cared for. Understand that is a big factor in the time “problem”. Be critical, but think critically both of others and yourself. I don’t encourage stagnancy, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can’t have it all; what do you want as your treasure?

Lastly, your challenge: Do the same thing for US culture. Select a “negative” and see what the complimentary positives or treasures are. I’d do it, but this blog post is probably already past our short, instant gratification period aka: American culture’s current attention span, hint hint ;).

And lastly just for fun a few of my pictures:
"Stand up" paddle boarding (the waves made the stand up part harder) in Cabarete
The Presidential Palace in Santo Domingo with storm clouds in the background
Mate - an Argentine tea tradition - in the park with other interns

Friday, July 25, 2014

All Americans Drive Hummers and All Dominicans Dance Bachata: Thoughts on Culture and Stereotypes


By Sarah Fiske
InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

The other day I did an interview about my internship for InteRDom and one of the questions I was asked was “What makes the DR unique?” Having been to many places (in North America, Central America, Europe, Africa and Asia), I thought I was well equipped to answer the question, but the more I think about the more I realize it is a very difficult question.

Yesterday, "mi suegra" (useful Spanish word for significant other’s mother) and I were talking about food and she started talking about Russian salad. Russian salads are common here. You can get them at the “Chinese” restaurant to go with your plantains and wontons, they are traditional around Christmas, at buffets, and large events like pot-lucks. But, I have yet to encounter any Russians here.

This got me thinking about culture and the nuances of culture. I would have never imagined Russian salads to be a traditional food in the Caribbean, but we live in a globalized world. Russian salad has become a part of the Dominican culture. We often limit culture with our stereotypes – the Dominican Republic culture is vibrant and colorful – filled with dancing and coconuts, rum and beaches. They love family and fun, and time is a fluid concept – often now is more important than later (in less politically correct terms, people are always late). US culture is fast paced – filled with fast food and fast schedules and peanut butter. Customer service is good. It is work oriented and independent (in less politically correct terms, people are self centered).

Sometimes I find we get so caught up in judging differences that we don’t recognize our shared values as people. For example, in the US we may judge the Caribbean culture for apparently being less work oriented – maybe we wonder “don’t they want to keep climbing the ladder to make a better life for their families?” But here, in the DR, someone might wonder “everyone spends too much time at work in the US, aren’t they neglecting their families?” Both people are trying to care for their families – a core value common to all people. So, the answer to the question of what makes the DR unique is this: expressions.

Here, people more often express their love in plantains more than peanut butter and jelly, people usually choose to dance salsa instead of swing, people often care for people in time rather than material, and kindness is to care about people’s lives not to keep a professional distance. It is a vibrant and fun. These differences are good, they make the world colorful, fun to discover and they teach us a lot.

Let me quickly say what I am not saying here. I am not saying we need to move from one end of a spectrum to another. If we tend to disregard immediately differences as bad I am not advocating for immediately accepting them as good. We need to take a balanced approach and be aware of our cultural biases as we critically consider other cultures. Judging things is okay – in fact it is a critical and necessary survival skill that we employ everyday (I shouldn’t walk alone here at night, I should talk to this person about this matter, I’ll ask the cop for directions, not the drunk etc.); the problem is blindly judging.

At the end of the day, there are two points that have been reinforced for me here. First, we need to look below the surface. Often we find common values underlie the superficial actions. For example, the young American woman with her baby in the DR might be criticized for taking the child out in the midday heat, but the young Dominican woman in the US would be criticized for taking her child out late after then sun has set and the heat has died down. Culture is more nuanced than we realize, and sweeping judgments of people and cultures are dangerous assumptions. Secondly, we need to appreciate other cultures and not fear them. We live in a globalized world today and we can either embrace and benefit from it like Dominicans have embraced and benefited from Russian salad, or we can reject them entirely and miss out on many potentially enriching lessons and benefits.

In 1926, Ruyard Kippling wrote this poem. I think it still applies today.

"We and They"
By Ruyard Kippling

Father and Mother, and Me,
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While We live over the way,
But-would you believe it? --They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn-handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
Are horrified out of Their lives;
While they who live up a tree,
And feast on grubs and clay,
(Isn't it scandalous? ) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun.
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-.
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood,
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!

Do you have any “we’s and they’s”? I know I have some. Sometimes I can think I’m immune to making negative cultural judgments or assumptions because I have traveled a lot or because most of my friends are international. How naïve of me! I often find myself thinking that I have better ideas, or ways – not only culturally but also personally. I rewrote two stanzas here that could apply to me.

We eat organic peanut butter
On whole, seven grain bread,
While they who get their nutrients from the tree
Think we’re wrong in the head?

We like our lives efficient,
We keep our schedules tight.
They may view our lives deficient
For working on our computers all night

Your homework: Write your stanzas.

Here are two cultural collages I put together of things that people who are foreigners may think about of US and Dominican cultures.  Just a visual aid to think about cultures, perceptions.  Chances are if you are American you don't own a hummer, always eat bacon and McDonalds and likely don't ride in rodeos, but I bet you have had Thanksgiving dinner and watched a football game. Similarly most Dominicans don't go to traditional dance shows for their entertainment or decorate their house with these street paintings, but I bet most have seen a baseball game and have had sugarcane juice.  I hope you find this discussion on culture interesting as I did. Remember to think critically and appreciate both your own culture and others.
US Culture Collage: All images free domain
Dominican Culture Collage: I took these images from the Ministry of Tourism site and are free domain images.
Until next time,

Sarah


Thursday, July 17, 2014

1000 Words


By Sarah Fiske
InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

To mark my somewhere-near halfway I thought I’d just give a little photo summary of my time here so far. These pictures are a combination of my phone photos as well as some I’ve found online.

First, the view from the airplane: foggy, I could see the air was thick, the heavy clouds cast shadows on the deep green fields speckled with dots that up close must have been pieces of life: small towns, occasional roads and farm equipment. The occasional baseball diamond assured me I was landing in the right place.
As we got closer to the city I was able to catch a glimpse of the ocean – a rich turquoise for deep waters and a bright aqua closer to shore.
As the ocean transitioned, so did the land. The airport is on the outskirts of the city and I watched the landscape transition from the small houses and yards hidden behind the line of street side businesses to the crowded poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city to a bustling metropolitan zone with city traffic and city buildings. Most of the people with the equipment and talent to capture the city skyline have it copyrighted, but scan through google images and you’ll see.

Since arriving I have gotten to explore different parts of the country from beautiful beaches to the rooftop water pipes.

The Colonial Zone is a beautiful area full of the rich, wonderful and tragic history of the city with the distinguished claim of being the oldest city the Europeans established in the Western hemisphere. Here is a fortress that stood guard over the city wall and river – the original wall was established in 1496 and rebuilt after a hurricane in 1502.


Modern life here is a bustling and I’ve gotten to enjoy everything from shopping in the market to the free zumba class everyday in the park to watching the World Cup at the mall.




















I have enjoyed the food – I mentioned before. I also enjoyed my 25th birthday celebration here complete with paella and a delicious almond cake. 
Paella
Almond cake

And kittens. There are 5 of them: Bones, the runt of the liter and my favorite; Spiderman because he likes to cling upside down to his box; Favorite, the only one who resembles Momma; Chicken who scrambles to hiding with any loud sound and one more, a voracious little thing, who has yet to be named.




I’ll leave it at this for now. Hope you enjoy this glimpse into life here.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Surprising Lessons from Chinese Trade Policy

By Sarah Fiske
InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here

At some point in my day, I had this brilliant idea for a blog post… but it has disappeared into the abyss of lost thoughts, forgotten vocabulary words and disconnected streets that takes up most of my brain come evening. So, given that, you’re stuck with reading about work. I’ll try to make it worth your time though.

Here is a “selfie” of me at work… and for fun, I’ll share the story that goes with it. The other day I had two awkward moments. The first was on the way to work when I tried to pay the share car driver with a quarter instead of 25 pesos! The second was shortly after I arrived at work - and I was caught taking this selfie. Gringo (gringa) level: fannypack.


Anyway, on the computer screen behind me in this picture is a 200+ page document on Chinese trade and investment policy… in Spanish. So if anyone is looking to practice having a Spanish conversation about capital account outflows to Hong Kong, I’m your girl. I tried discussing it with my taxi driver on the way back for practice, but I don’t think he was too interested. Just kidding, we actually talked about the World Cup.

To state the obvious, I’ll share why I’m reading Chinese trade policy in the Dominican Republic ;). I’m working at the Ministry of External Relations (MIREX) in the trade negotiations unit here. I’m working on projects with the World Trade Organization’s trade policy reviews now. The second aspect of my internship is to work on a research project on CAFTA-DR, the Central American, US, Dominican Republic free trade agreement. 

MIREX - Photo credit: Diario Libre

So that is work in a nutshell; I’ll spare you the nitty gritty, but instead share something important I learned at work that I think is relevant to anyone reading this. This is something I learned about myself, and I think it is something that at some point every one of us comes face to face with.

I am a very verbal person. I’m good at speaking and have always had a good vocabulary and been able to articulate my thoughts and points well for people. I consider interviewing to be one of my greatest skills because of this. I’ve always known I had this strength, but what I didn’t realize was how tied in with it my confidence is. At work I have my verbal skills taken away from me. I have to communicate things in a language where I lack the power and precision of words in my native language. I lack the vocabulary to choose carefully what I say; I lack the grammar structure to ensure the subtleties of my speech are there. My handle on the language goes from being as smooth as Messi’s ball handling skills (okay, that is exaggeration, but you get the picture) in English, to that of a small child trying to kick a big ball. I trip, fall, kick in the wrong direction or score in the wrong goal. And with my language handling skills I felt my confidence evaporate.

Often we think of confidence and pride as going hand in hand, but I learned in this case how incredibly important it is to extricate them. My confidence was an important tool that I needed to get through each day in the workplace, but my pride was getting in the way. My pride made me sit quietly at my desk hesitant to ask questions or make friends. Only when I humbled myself could I enjoy confidence and a lack of fear making my work day so much better. At its root, confidence comes from my identity, not from my achievements. It took humility, my setting aside my fear of failure and my desire to look good, in order to act in true confidence.

Thanks for reading this blog. Feel free to comment, question or suggest a topic you’d like to know about.

Later, gators.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Dominican Nom Noms!

By Sarah Fiske
InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems the most unusual thing triggers a long buried memory.

For me, the trigger was trying to describe the fruit here. And, the memory was a children’s book: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear. I think the title sufficiently tells the plot, but what I remembered is in this story; the Big Hungry Bear smells this strawberry from miles away.

I believe this story is actually an allegory. The authors were clearly relaying their experience with Caribbean fruit! The bear is the gringo, the strawberry is pineapple, passion fruit or mango and the great lengths the bear goes to steal the strawberry and the great lengths the mouse goes to protect it are symbolize just how good the fruit is.

In Spanish I’ve discovered they use a variety of words to describe eating or tasting their food: “Saborear”, “degustar”, “probar”, “catar” and “paladear” are just five and they all translate to “to taste” or “savor” in English, but in Spanish they are more subtle. And, here, more words are useful because there are more flavors to taste. Here I’ll share a little about my food experience here.

I’m staying with a lady who as far as I can tell is the best cook on the island. She also happens to be my boyfriend’s mother… which means I really have to work to impress him with my cooking skills.

Speaking of impressive cooking skills, here is a little anecdote of my first try at cooking on my own here:

Shortly after I arrived here, I wanted to cook something for dinner – try and carry a little of my weight (and maybe try and make a good impression on the BF’s family too). Of course Dominicans are known for their great hospitality so it took some convincing to let the guest do work in the kitchen. I was going to make a wild rice, salad and bake some chicken… and I was going to show them that I could cook!

You know that pride cometh before the fall.

I put the chicken in the toaster oven at 350 for about 25min, just like I would at home. When the timer went off I took it out and cut into a piece of chicken: cooked but still juicy. Perfect, I thought. I’ll show them some good, healthy American cooking (since we aren’t exactly known for our healthy eating in the US). Everything was ready so I set the table and we ate.

And we cut into the chicken… and it was juicy, and it wasn’t overcooked. But the juice was a little on the red side and it was undercooked!

Thankfully and not surprisingly, my boyfriend’s family was kind to me. And since then I have gotten cooking lessons from his mom, whom like I said, as far as I can tell, is the best cook on the island.

Here are a few pictures of traditional Dominican food I’ve been having here:

Life’s short so let’s start with dessert:
“Majarete”, a sweet but not too sweet corn pudding. It is good! Again, photo is compliments of my favorite food blog: dominicancooking.com.


In the DR they have a huge variety of starchy vegetables. Here are a few:

"Yuca" here. I really like it plain boiled with some onions on top.



This is fried plantain, "tostones', a bit healthier than fries anyway. Plantain is common here and can be eaten fried like this, baked, boiled, pureed, etc.



And here is a DR sweet potato: Unfortunately the picture isn’t from my favorite food blog so it isn’t quite as good…





So there you have it: a little picture of some Dominican food. Take a look at Dominicancooking.com for some great pictures and recipes. And stay tuned! Next time I promise I’ll post my own pictures.

Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems the most unusual thing triggers a long buried memory.







Thursday, June 19, 2014

Running


By: Sarah Fiske
InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

I seem to be encountering a lot of running here. Today it was running to work after I took the wrong share taxi! Sometimes it is a few miles in the park, but what I want to talk about is metaphorical.  

Let me explain: I am not a runner.  I can run, but it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t feel pretty (see the picture below from a 5k I ran/walked).  But, running makes the perfect analogy for speaking a foreign language. In my race, the first few miles weren’t too bad. But, it grew harder until eventually I felt like I was inhaling fire and pushing my legs through daggers. It took every ounce of self discipline (or insanity) I could muster to keep going.  I finished, but I was spent. Much like a car sputtering out of gas, my quads kept misfiring causing my knees to buckle as I stumbled to the car.  I was dehydrated, disoriented and dizzy.  All of this, I expected as I hadn’t trained to run this race.  I was a D1 rower, but had been off from an injury for a while so I had some physical stamina, but mostly just mental toughness that I knew would get me through.

Now, speaking Spanish every day feels like this run. I’ve been here two weeks and been at work for 4 days. Every day I start fresh and energized (for the most part) but every day I know the miles of trying to catch the right car to work, read the technical WTO trade policy reports, listen in on meetings, understand the quick-speaking lady I’m staying with, and just live day to day stretch before me like that long road on my 10 mile race.  But, I also know that with each passing mile, I get stronger.  I may feel weaker in the moment, but as days and weeks pass the Spanish becomes easier, just like the running.

And, like my 10 mile race, which was along beautiful ocean side bluffs in Rhode Island, the setting for my daily runs is beautiful.  Each day I am encountering wonderful people, places and experiences.  Let me finish with a story of two juxtaposing events that show the challenges and beauty of being here. Just the other day, I was tired from a long day and a long walk in heels, and I was leaving a meeting early to head home. I had a few minutes to kill since no one was there.  I stopped to get a bottle of water in a little restaurant on the way and thought I’d sit in the park and drink it.  I walked in and it was a little chaotic in the place.  There were a lot of people, no power, and the employees were running around trying to get the generator going.  Someone shouted something to me quickly from across the noisy room that I didn’t understand.  I asked her to repeat herself, but she decided I didn’t speak Spanish and promised to find me an English speaking employee. In Spanish, I insisted it was fine; I just wanted water.  She wasn’t convinced and found a guy to help me. I told him I wanted water, and he kept asking me “Alaska?”  Little did I know, “Alaska” is a brand of water here; you can probably see how that got confusing fast.  

I left with my bottle of water and headed out.  I was tired and a bit discouraged by my language struggle there.  It was humid outside and so I thought I’d take a peek into the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña) instead of sitting in the park.  I had in mind to go in and see what it was and head back out.  The library employees had something else in mind.  They offered me a tour and a kind and knowledgeable woman came, introduced herself and gave me a tour.  The library was cool and quiet and she spoke slowly and clearly about the history of the building as well as their plans for the future.  She introduced me to the library director who had been to Rhode Island and we had a great talk about RI, authors, economic development, culture, food, etc. I was able to talk with them no problem in Spanish and they even encouraged me by telling me my accent was good and I spoke well.  It was like a wonderful cool downhill at the end of my Spanish run that day.  I exchanged contact information and was invited to come over any time and say hello and have coffee.  I left with a smile, a list of good local establishments and cultural sites to visit and a place I know I can come back to and enjoy a peaceful place to work or a good conversation.

If I’ve learned one thing here, it is that it is the little things that count.  It was a little thing that had me discouraged that day, and a little thing that encouraged me and really made my day.

I’m enjoying this run. I am staying with a wonderful family in a beautiful setting. I am taking in the vivid sounds and sights, appreciating the challenges and taking advantage of the downhill stretches.  

Stay tuned and maybe next time I’ll tell you about my DR birthday, kittens and the fruit you can smell a mile away.

For teasers, here’s a haiku:

Caribbean Fruit

Taste the bright vivid colors

My mouth can’t forget 
Had some fun taking some goofy pictures when walking 5k.
The National Library opened in 1971 and in 1989 they added the public library as well. The beautiful marble building was recently renovated.
Here you can see the newly renovated work stations in progress. The inside still looks like this; it is operating provisionally in small rooms on the first floor while the rest of the building is being finished.  It is bright, cool and peaceful inside and from the upper levels you can see the ocean.





Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Introduction

By: Sarah Fiske

InteRDom Correspondent, Sarah, has recently completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She is participating in the 2014 10-week InteRDom Summer Program. You can read more about Sarah and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

Hey guys,

Since this is my first blog post on here, I’ll introduce myself quickly. I’m Sarah. I’m from Rhode Island (10 points for every northeast word you catch in my posts). I finished my bachelor’s degree where I studied Political Science and I’m going to start my master’s degree in International Development and Economics in the fall. I want to work in economic development.

Today, I think I’ll answer a few FAQ’s:

Where are you going again?

The Dominican Republic – I’ll be in the capital city, Santo Domingo. It shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

What language do they speak there? Do you know it?

They speak Spanish. Though like English, different countries and regions have a few unique words. I learned two recently: “menudo” and “concón.” The first is a common Spanish word but in the DR it is used to mean several things. This context was change (coins). Concón is a Caribbean colloquial word for the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pot (yum!). I do speak a bit more Spanish than those two words. Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be speaking a lot of Spanish!

What will you be doing there?

Ask me that in a few weeks! I’ll be eating, sleeping and working for sure and I have an idea of what those activities will look like, but I’ll give you more details than you ever wanted to know in a few weeks.

What do they eat there?

Food. Again, this is something I’ll address more with time, but I expect to be eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, rice, beans, chicken, plantain and other root vegetables like yuca and malanga… and cake! I’ve heard such good things about Dominican cake! I try not to have too many expectations when I travel; I prefer to get there and absorb and enjoy the experiences as they come, but I do have high expectations for this Dominican cake (bizcocho dominicano).

That’s it for the FAQ’s for now, but keep the questions coming. I’m happy to answer them!

I leave in three days, so next time you hear from me I will be in the DR! I’m wicked excited (10 points if you caught that!).

So you can get some perspective of where I am: The DR is in yellow and I'll be in Santo Domingo, the capital city indicated with the star icon. 

Here is a photo of concón from one of my favorite food blogs. Photo credit: dominicancooking.com