Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exactly One Week Left!

By: Ioana Pescaru
Ioana has completed three years of her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, French and Media and Communication at Newcastle University in Newcastle, Great Britain. She is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program, and is participating in the 2012 10-week Caribbean Summer Program, with special dates beginning July 1.

Should I be happy or melancholy? Happy, because I am going to finally live my dream and experience all the feelings I have kept inside since my teenage period, or nostalgic, because on the day of my journey to Santo Domingo my exchange student and intern life in Barcelona would be finished!? I cannot even plan and think about my stay in the Dominican Republic in very detail due to the fact that the fast and chaotic rhythm of Barcelona doesn’t give me the time to realize I am about to achieve my goal.

10 weeks. For a normal everyday life this time means almost nothing, it passes by without even noticing, but for a completely different way of living my existence: working with the Chamber of Commerce of a European country on a Caribbean island where I am going to meet a different nation and get to know a new civilization, 10 weeks seem to be a quite long time far away from home and from the people I love. But, this is what I wanted: a new experience, a non-European exciting life in a place where I suppose that traditions still coexist with urban development and personal ascension.

People have started to ask me what I was going to do for the summer. At the beginning I didn’t know if I should say the truth about my trip, or just reply that I was going to spend it with my family in Romania. I think I was afraid of their reactions, of them being envious on me or just of their possible critics regarding the fact that in these times of economic crisis I can afford such a long working-holiday, far away from Europe. I was surprised to see their reactions, surprised by my decision, but at the same time, full of respect and appreciation. This made me feel confident and not regret I chose to spend my money on this experience, which will definitely help me in the future.

Monday, June 25, 2012

One Week, Many Good Experiences!

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.

It is amazing how much I have seen and learned after spending only one week, in Santo Domingo. During the first few days we met our team of volunteers, learned to make “huertos” (small gardens) at the National Botanical Gardens and helped create organic compost at a university in Bonao. With my notebook and camera in hand, we boarded the big, white bus and headed for Cielo, the first community in which we will be working.

Upon our arrival, one woman invited us to eat freshly picked mangoes from her backyard. It was incredible to sink my teeth into the ripe fruit as I looked up into the trees from which it grew. We then headed to the families’ homes to dig our hands into the dirt and transform bare plots of land into beautiful vegetable gardens. Although gardening may not seem to be physically challenging, it takes a lot of strength to use those heavy gardening tools! I can already feel the burn – now all I need is some spinach and I’ll have biceps like Popeye!

Aside from the gardening project, I have been soaking up the culture as much as possible. I wake up each morning to the fruit vendor yelling “AGUACATE” outside my window. It is so cool to buy fresh fruit for morning smoothies by simply walking to meet him downstairs.

I have yet to delve into the public transportation here. From what I have seen, road rules mean nothing! Between the guaguas and carros públicos, chaos fills the streets – but it is very exciting. I will soon pay the very inexpensive fare (about 50 cents) to take an adventure in one of the two.

As for the beaches – let’s just say words wouldn’t do them justice. My fellow CCNY interns and I took a trip to La Romana (a province about 1 hour from Santo Domingo) to spend a day beneath the palm trees on one of the many public beaches. The water was crystal clear and the sand was like white flour beneath your feet. We played water ball with some local kids to work up an appetite and then enjoyed fried fish and fresh shrimp in our beach chairs.

To say the least, this week has been very fulfilling. I am so excited to be working with such unique and wonderful people to make a positive impact within the local communities. The kindness of those that surround me warms my heart and reminds me to seek joy through the simple things in life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A mí me encanta la República Dominicana!

By: Justine Burke

Justine has completed her first year of study at the University of Georgia School of Law and is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program. She is participating in the 2012 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about her, her interest in the Correspondent Program and her career ambitions here.

After my first full day in the Dominican Republic, I already knew I was in love with this country! I have never been anywhere where the people are so vibrant and full of life that it practically oozes out in the streets! During our first few days in the country, we hadn’t yet learned how to use various form of public transportation system, so imagine how much more my love for the country grew when we had finally had our transportation tutorial and I began to explore farther than my immediate surroundings.

On our first full day, we decided to leave our apartment in search of authentic Dominican cuisine and luckily, one of the drivers at the FUNGLODE headquarters offered to drive us to our desired location. However, once we arrived, we found that the restaurant was closed. (Dominicans definitely observe Sunday as the Sabbath more so than Americans generally do, so many stores and restaurants close early, or like the restaurant where we wanted to eat, don't operate at all on Sundays). Since we couldn't go there, the driver offered to drop us off on a main street close to a supermarket to allow us to explore. After about twenty minutes of walking around and asking people where a restaurant that served Dominican food was (not knowing that it’s actually referred to as comida criolla!), we finally found a bar and grill that served sandwiches and other plates. The food that we had was good but I had really been hoping for some pollo asado, arroz con frijoles, or mofongo!

Once we left the restaurant, we walked to a pay phone (yes, a pay phone!) to phone the driver so that he could pick us up since none of us had yet to purchase local phones. Of course being that none of us had used a pay phone in at least 10 years, we somehow messed up the call and lost the coins that we inserted. Luckily, a couple of police officers walked over to us to make small talk and offered us their phone to call the driver. He picked us up shortly and once we returned to the apartment, we threw ourselves on the couches and slept under the breeze from the ceiling fans. Dominican heat is another thing! Being outside makes you sticky from the humidity and the heat itself is draining.

In many ways, from what I have seen so far, the Dominican Republic is very similar to the States. Most of the people have cars, young people hang out together, etc., but I have noticed some key differences. For instance, people are more friendly and willing to talk. Walking down the street, more people will speak to you than you would encounter on any given street in the US. People also tend to hang outside. This means in front of their buildings, on the side of the street, wherever! Hanging out and talking with friends outside just because is something that we definitely don't tend to do as Americans. One of the biggest differences, though, is definitely the way people drive. The traffic lights and dividers in the street seem to be more of a… suggestion of how to drive! However, in all the apparent traffic madness, there are relatively few accidents occur here, so don’t worry, I’m safe!

Lost In Translation

By: Lindsay Tatum
Lindsay has completed her first year of study a
t the University of Georgia School of Law and is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program. She is participating in the 2012 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about her, her interest in the Correspondent Program and her career ambitions here.

Just this past Sunday, my Dominican travel companions, J & A, and I were attempting to find a good place to eat that served native Dominican food. At the time, we did not realize that on the island, Dominicans call their food “comida criolla.” Dominicans believe “Dominican food” to be any restaurant here in the Dominican that serves food! So all afternoon we were walking around in the hot Dominican sun asking everyone we could where we could find a good place to eat Dominican food. We kept getting responses like, “McDonalds is down the street,” and “What about the Wendy's over there?”

(Now I do not know about you, but when I am in another country the last thing I want to eat is some "down home" American food! Thanks! But NO THANKS! I've got enough of that around me back home to last me a lifetime! )

Anywho, the entire time we are trying to find some comida criolla that we are ignorantly calling “Dominican food.” ( our Americanness!!! ) We finally spoke to one of the drivers of the program that is sponsoring our internship here and asked him if he would take us to a place that served authentic Dominican food. His Spanish was really fast and spoken with a strong Dominican accent. We thought we were understanding what the types of restaurants that he was suggesting, so when he would ask us a question we would respond..."Perfect! Sounds good!" (Our pride wouldn't let us admit that we were completely missing some important part of the conversation!)

The driver swerved in and out of the lanes throughout the downtown area and he stopped in front of a big building downtown. He asked us if the place was ok, and confidently we all said... "Sure! It'll be great!" We got out of the car and he told us to call him when we were finished... It was then we realized that we did not have any cell phones! (We were scheduled to purchase and activate them the next day with InteRDom, but we had yet to receive them.) He tried to give us his number, but none of us had anything to write with! We finally got his card and phone number, and as he left we turned around to realize.... He had left us at....


Oh.... the irony.

Although we eventually found something to eat... needless to say... we had quite an adventure!

Monday, June 18, 2012


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.

As weeks have passed by and the cooler months have turned into Dominican summer (the “low season” in the Dominican tourism industry), I have started thinking of the clothing differences I’ve noticed in Punta Cana compared to Santo Domingo (though please keep in mind that my observations are by no means a fair representation, since I work and spend more time in the developed areas, and less in the local communities). In my opinion, the styles of Punta Cana are directly related to the laidback beach culture. I see loose-fitting linens and breezy clothing, with pastel colors and natural-looking beach jewelry preferred. In Santo Domingo, styles are much trendier, colors are more vibrant and clothing tends to be more form-fitting and showing less skin. I imagine the higher temperatures and humidity in Punta Cana may affect the choice of less versus more clothing. However, the Dominican Republic is a Roman Catholic country, and though temperatures are high year-round, it is usually not common to show a lot of skin (no-no’s = short shorts, tanktops, flip flops). But in Punta Cana, an exception exists due to a few reasons. Besides the beach resort culture and the higher temperatures, here we have the foreign influence. Compared to the capital, there are a lot more foreign permanent residents and visitors here from the U.S. and from Europe, and this increases the occurrences of people wearing summer-type clothing like shorts and tanktops.

Punta Cana is a very serene and comfortable place to live. When I visit the capital, I miss the quiet and solitude of my little beach casita. In the capital, I am constantly awoken by the sound of car alarms and beeping whereas in Punta Cana, I may wake to the sound of distant thwacking as the gardeners tend the ever-present coconut trees. However, there is one thing that remains the same between Punta Cana and Santo Domingo: the political advertisements! Ever since I arrived in late December, I have seen political ads for the two main parties’ candidates everywhere I look. I once saw a huge political advertisement imprinted into the side of a large, forested mountain. Political ads also abound on the local radio and on television. There is no escaping them. In the Dominican Republic, it’s usual that two parties hold the vast majority of votes, though there may be a few other candidates who secure 1-2% of the population. During the elections weekend, I was visiting the capital for the experience and when I tried to return to Punta Cana the day after elections, I found all the bus routes to be full. This was because the Dominicans who were registered to vote in Santo Domingo had come for the weekend, voted on Sunday, and then headed back to their homes the next day. However, even this experience was interesting as I was able to eavesdrop on many political conversations and heard political exclamations of random people on the bus!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Santo Domingo, Here I Come!

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.

As I prepare for my month-long adventure to Santo Domingo, I look forward to the people I will meet, the knowledge I will gain and the projects that I will be a part of. The materials and information provided at the orientation session have been a valuable reference in forming my idea of what to expect and how to best prepare. With the patience of my study abroad advisers and the InteRDom team, my countless emails filled with questions were always answered with clarity and kindness.

Traveling abroad brings about feelings of excitement, though I also become more aware of the important things I must do to keep myself healthy and safe. So as not to become overwhelmed in preparation, I created to-do lists to keep me organized. For the months leading up to my departure date, I checked with my doctor about necessary prescriptions, immunizations and other health-related advice he could offer. I looked into travel insurance for my valuables, made a packing list to ensure I wasn’t leaving anything behind and kept open communication with my advisers and the InteRDom team. To say the least, I was so glad to see my to-do lists dwindle away as the days passed.

Now with only 2 days until departure, I can thank my advisers, InteRDom and my to-do lists for helping me prepare for this exciting adventure. I can’t wait to look out the plane window as I arrive to my new home for the next four weeks. Santo Domingo, here I come!