Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Au Revoir Dominican Republic

By: Giselle Deñó
InteRDom Correspondent, Giselle, has completed the first year of her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Sciences Po, Reims, France. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Dominican International Student Program. You can read more about Giselle and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

In all seriousness, the Dominican Republic is the most beautiful country in the world. I may be completely biased but the atmosphere here is so full of life everywhere you go and the ecosystems you encounter are so diverse that I believe there is space for every inhabitant of the planet in this little island. 

My family and I set sail on a short four-day trip towards the South after I had found the way in which to ask, in the most diplomatic matter possible, for two days off of work. My boss joked and said: “Well Giselle, if you leave us, I’ll make sure someone fires you”; of course he said this just before wishing me a good experience. After checking that off my list with a huge sigh of relief, I was ready to embark on the search of new wonders and secrets that had been kept from me all the years of my life I’ve lived in the Dominican Republic. The South was the unknown to me; I had just the impressions of whatever similarity it would have with Haiti because of its proximity. 

I fought with my elder sister for the car seat next to the window which I successfully won, and sat there astounded by the mountains formed like perfect triangles, the patient cattle that crossed the highway, the acres of plantations belonging to hardworking Dominicans and some of the scenery that resembled the Wild Wild West I had seen so often in American movies. We crossed Baní, famous for its mangoes, and Azua, a key point for agriculture in our country before arriving to where we would be staying, Barahona, at an equidistance of other cities we desired to visit. We woke up everyday anxious for the things we were about to discover. The road took us places we didn’t even plan for but that we welcomed gladly as nature’s way of embracing the presence of city dwellers in the rural side of the country. We had the privilege of visiting the Oviedo Lagoon, Los Cocos Wind Farm, and “Eagles Bay” or Bahía de las Águilas in our tour through earth, wind and fire. In the next days, the quest went so far as the Enriquillo Lake, to witness the very talked-about growth it has been suffering these past years. From lakes and lagoons to beautiful and rocky baths, and of course, the pescado frito that could not be skipped; enjoying every second of it because the final countdown of my return to France was automatically triggered in my mind. 

That bittersweet feeling of coming back, having an amazing experience at the House of Representatives, visiting places I knew and loved, discovering new ones and having at the end to acknowledge the fact that this is not my permanent home anymore. This summer has overcome the past ones and my expectations; I’ll be forever thankful for the people that made it happen and were part of it. Needless to mention my team at the House of Representatives, the same people that surprised me last Friday with cake and a delicious pizza. I looked into their eyes and I saw genuine care for me, a reciprocity that had been forming during the months we spent together. As I hugged all of them goodbye, I knew I had a second family I could come back home to. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Flying by the seat of your pants

By: Ikenna Okoro
InteRDom Correspondent, Ikenna, has recently completed his undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Miami, Florida and is participating in the 2013 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about Ikenna and his participation in the Correspondent Program here

Flying by the seat of your pants. Although I just learned this saying, it’s seemed to define my trip to the DR and a great theme for my last blog post. For instance, I heard about InteRDom in an elevator and just went with it. I didn’t learn until recently it would be the deciding factor for me getting cleared for my first job in Miami. On a day off from work, I tried to get a meeting with the minister of public health, Dr. Freddy Hidalgo Nunez (He’s a boss). Although unsuccessful, I traveled all around the Ministry of Public Health talking to people and asking questions. I ended up leaving with new insight to the health care system here, contacts, and a bunch of brochures. Finally, after buying a pack of dried mangos from an organic store in Agora mall here in Santo Domingo and tasting that they were the best tasting thing ever to be heat sealed; I called a number on the back of the package. After talking to the lady on the other end and explaining my fandom she arranged a ride for me to visit their factory in Baní. So, one Saturday morning I got to learn about my beloved favorite fruit and talk to a CEO about his company and industry. 

Maybe the Dominican Republic air and wind are more suitable for flying by the seat of your pants? That’s just a theory, but it does seem fitting that great things can happen when you see an opportunity and just go for it. 

FYI, the phrase originated 75 years ago on my birthday, when a pilot flew from New York to Ireland instead of California!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Looking Back

By: Kim Sanchez
InteRDom Correspondent, Kim, has completed three years of her Bachelor's degree in Film and Video at the Visual Arts College at the University of Toledo in Ohio. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Caribbean Summer Program. You can read more about Kim and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

I can't believe how fast these two months have passed. Looking back, I can't believe how far I've come since the first day. I've made a lot of great friends here and many memories that I will never forget. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to come here and work with this program. I have learned a lot and produced a lot of works that I am proud to add to my portfolio.

Here are some examples of work for my internship:

(1) Colonial Zone Video
(2) FUNGLODE Gallery
(3) Marketing Photos
(3) Marketing Photos
(4) UNIBE Video

(5) Student of the Week - InteRDom
During my stay in the DR, I have been taking every opportunity to explore, meet people, and be involved in film! For example, I made a lot of friends in the One Race Film Foundation, a filmmaking course partnered with FUNGLODE. I was welcomed onto film sets, and assisted with editing.

(6) One Race Film Foundation @ Film Festival After Party

I've done a lot of creative photography. As well as made numerous travelogue videos. This is very good practice for me, because I would like to be a travel photographer for a living.

(7) Creative Photo
(8) Travel Photo



I have access to a lot of equipment, facilities, and advising through my internship. I was able to produce a demo reel, which is a collection of my work that I can show potential clients and future employers. I also produced a demo reel for Ariginalshoot, a local independent production company.

(9) Demo Reel Link

I have had many opportunities to independently explore other cultural activities. For example, I was invited to record a capoeira class at the Center of Brazilian Culture.

 (10) Capoeira Class

There is a big interest in independent film here in DR. I have been networking with a lot of photographers, filmmakers, and artists around the city who are excited to collaborate and create. For example, I have just finished shooting a music video for a choreographer I met at UNIBE. I also met a director who recruited me as Director of Photography in a short film, called Cruzando La Linea.
(11) Screenshot - Music Video
(12) Screenshot - Music Video 2
(13) Cruzando la Linea - On Set
(14) Cruzando la Linea - Crew




(15) Cruzando la Linea - Screenshot


I have built a lot of confidence during my internship here. I can feel that I am different now than when I first arrived.

I am so excited to return and start applying my experience in my videography.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


By: Giselle Deñó
InteRDom Correspondent, Giselle, has completed the first year of her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Sciences Po, Reims, France. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Dominican International Student Program. You can read more about Giselle and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

Two and a half months into my stay in the Dominican Republic and I still have not eaten sancocho. It was an aberration to everything I stood for, to my “Dominicanness.” I had had it in mind since I set foot in this country, but the odds were against me; every time I held a chance to enjoy this delicious dish, something got in the way. My colleagues had to pay for the effects that the lack of sancocho had on me; the side effects are very serious, almost lethal. I spent the whole week telling anyone who had ears to hear me that I needed, not even wanted, sancocho in my system.

Regardless of this condition, the week went off great. I experienced some relapses every now and then but in general everything went very smooth. I worked on some amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, with which we are in search of more effective penitentiary and judicial procedures that would be tougher against criminality in our country. The subject of criminality and violence is one that is very close to every Dominican’s heart due to its degree and reach, but also our fervent desire to see it get better. It is a subject that should be addressed for countless reasons, but opening tourism that is so much restricted and overly dependent of all-inclusive hotels is perhaps one of the most important. There is so much to see and experience on this little Caribbean island and that is why leaving without eating a sancocho distraught me. 

Besides my usual work, a couple of things happened off-schedule. Kim came to visit me at the House of Representatives for an interview about my internship. We had a pleasant talk and I felt happy to show her what I have been working on and so that she too could be as amazed as I was the first time coming here. I don’t believe law is her cup of tea but she had fun filming around the building. One day this week I was also invited to visit another department, PNUD, Spanish abbreviation for the Development Program of the United Nations. I conversed with the director and got a chance to meet her intern, a very nice Italian girl that has grown a liking for the country. One of the thoughts that crossed my mind while I was with her is that I bet she had already enjoyed a nice and steamy sancocho and what a disgrace that me, a Dominican, had not. The impossibility of such thing remaining at that state was assured this weekend when my grandmother, who had just arrived from New York, cooked this typical dish at my request. Nothing like cucina della nonna. Now I can finally resume with my work in peace and my colleagues are let off the hook with my constant mention of this famous sancocho.
Photo by: http://carlosprieto.net/?s=sancocho+de+pocho

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My boss is in a good mood

InteRDom Correspondent, Giselle, has completed the first year of her Bachelor’s degree in
By: Giselle Deñó
Political Science at Sciences Po, Reims, France. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Dominican International Student Program. You can read more about Giselle and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

“¡Levanten campamento!” shouts Mr. Ortiz as he comes storming out of his office with suitcase in hand and switching the lights off. Malge, Domingo and I are immediately possessed by a secret smile. That is our boss’s way of giving us the green light to go home and for the first three days of the week, it was an identical scenario. We were dismissed awfully early and the workload we had on our desks went from very little to none. I even took the freedom to draw on a bunch of yellow post-its; scribbles keep my mind going as everything else outside follows a slow pace. No sessions at the Congress, only a few files coming in the department to be revised, less reporters and people roaming around the hallways; there was a sense of stillness, in which I felt completely at peace. Our boss cracked jokes, he was seen around more and he replaced his usual motivational speeches for random, impersonal small talk. In this abnormal situation we stayed at ease because we knew that it consisted in a false calm before the storm. I marked my words.

Thursday arrived and there it was, waiting for us, a pile of manila folders on top of the secretary’s desk. And there he was, he knew it all along; the chief director came in laughing as he saw our future together with what seemed like a thousand documents. Something told me that I was not going to hear the pleasant phrase I had heard very early the former three days until at least sunset. My predictions did not fail me once again, but there was an unexpected twist to the story. Our boss happily announced to us that we had to prepare a presentation on a specific subject, which he gave us, to present the next day in front of all of the lawyers in the other legal departments of the House of Representatives. No smile from our part this time, but he was still in a good mood. To heal our wounds he bought us pizza and as we struggled to juggle between turning the huge pile into a smaller one and writing an essay-type of discourse about a subject that was, at least to me, completely unknown, we fed our minds and body with cheese, ham, tomato sauce and a lot of carbohydrates. On top of which we had a restraining order that kept us from reaching even 10 meters away from the door until our job was done. 

With barely any sleep, we came like zombies next day to work. Our boss greeted us and the first thing I noticed is that he was no longer in a good mood. He had revised our work for the meeting we were scheduled to have in an hour and decided to change his mind regarding our respective speeches. Even though we were kind of disappointed not to reach the level he was requiring from us, we had been relieved from our duties and I could go back to the state of peace of mind from the beginning of the week. The meeting went great. The idea behind it was to share the common problems we saw in all files and set homologous criteria to face them. Ideas clashed, and interpretations of laws and the Constitution, led to some very heated arguments. I kept quiet and watched as lawyers defended their position. I was glad to finally hear some soundtrack after a couple of days in complete silence. Because the reunion went so well, our boss, who had led the conversation, was in a good mood again. He even announced a paella day for the following week. Storms are not so bad after all. 

Photo Credit:  ©iStockphoto.com/VallarieE

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Weekend Getaway

By: Carlos Gonzalez
InteRDom Correspondent, Carlos, has completed three years of his Bachelor's degree in Political Science at St. Peter's University in New Jersey. He is participating in the 2013 10-week Caribbean Summer Program. You can read more about Carlos and his participation in the Correspondent Program here.

Whenever I plan a weekend trip to disappear from all the craziness at home, I usually carefully plan-out where I’m staying, where I’m going and when. This time, I didn’t make any plans. In fact, another intern thought it would be a great idea to go to the 27 waterfalls (or charcos) as a weekend trip. I had no idea what this was going to be like, since the intern (Krysta) had planned out every detail without my help. 

Once we got to Cabarete I immediately noticed all the European tourists. I am genuinely surprised by the amount of Europeans that come to the Dominican Republic as tourists and workers. This includes, Italians, French, British and Spaniards. Before I came to the country, I was not expecting as many Europeans. 

We arrived at our hostel, which had a cabin-like ambience, and the workers were extremely friendly. In the hostel we encountered people from all over the world, enjoying the fruits of the Dominican Republic. That same day we laid at the beach for the rest of the afternoon, were the three of us got to relax and enjoy the sun, ocean, and the scenic view of Cabarete beach. The next morning we woke up early to travel to the 27 charcos, which took around an hour and a half.

At the waterfalls, we hiked up around thirty minutes to the 12th waterfall, where Alex (another intern) and I jumped off the cliff and into the water. It wasn’t easy to get over how high we jumped. The tour guides were pushing us to jump, telling us that there is nothing to fear and that it’s safe. Alex jumped first, and then I jumped. The feeling of jumping as high as the 12th waterfall was exhilarating. The rest of the waterfalls were smaller than the 12th, yet still fun. It was nice to have the scariest one as the icebreaker for the rest of the waterfalls.

The ride back to Santo Domingo was uneventful. All I could think about was going back to Cabarete laying at the beach and enjoying the waterfalls. I suppose next time I shouldn’t plan a getaway weekend.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Office work, oh no.

By: Giselle Deñó
InteRDom Correspondent, Giselle, has completed the first year of her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Sciences Po, Reims, France. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Dominican International Student Program. You can read more about Giselle and her participation in the Correspondent Program here. 

The Dominican Republic has two legislative sessions, one that begins February 27th and another one scheduled for August 16th. Well, this week Congress was wrapping up every little piece of legislature they had on the table before the end of the first legislative session of 2013. Every deputy had a say, some were fighting with their claws out to get their initiatives to be passed, others were vehemently refuting their counterparts’ ideas, and it was, pardon the expression, hell at the office. We received files after files, transcripts after transcripts, proceedings, letters, contracts; you name it. You know the phrase: “History is being made”? This week, that was EXACTLY IT. The House of Representatives passed a Wage Regulation Bill, which is intended to make public administration more equitable and fair; amendments to the criminal code, which makes law harsher for juvenile offenders; a convention with important Dominican universities for internships in different areas of the House of Representatives, something that was never done before; and a couple of other transcendental pieces of legislation that I’m not going to bore you with.

Dominican Congress
Photo Credit: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/21581233
The action was happening not only at the Chamber but also at our office, and with me personally as well. I finally made peace with technology, as I had to make extensive use of it. Coffee and I became best friends, even if we had more or less a rocky relationship before. The suit and formal attire came natural to me as I got dressed in the morning. Yes, office work, what I had dreaded so much as a child, had now become my daily routine. It is not so bad after all. I love what I’m doing, and sadly but true, my dreams and aspirations all point out to plenty of administrative work carried out mainly in an office. The dichotomy comes from my love of nature, my love of being outdoors. How can I reconcile these two very distinct worlds? Perhaps too early to have the answer but this week in my internship made this disjunctive even clearer than it was before. I’m coping pretty well with office work, no complaints. I must admit I do have some sporadic and sudden allergic reaction to the white walls in which I start singing and just goofing around with my colleagues. Malge and Domingo (both in the picture) have are now very close to me and have become the necessary balance to my office work. We have lunch together at the building’s cafeteria, our safe haven. We cross the street to buy empanadas at a stand of “frituras” in between one file and the next. Most of all, they are my law teachers every time I’m stuck and do not know what to do.

My internship has permitted me to take a quick glance at a possible future for me and if it involves office work, then so be it. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Time has flown by and the end is near

By: Alexandria Rogers
InteRDom Correspondent, Alexandria, has completed three years of her Bachelor's degree in Sports Administration and Spanish at the University of Miami, Florida. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Caribbean Summer Program. You can read more about Alexandria and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

With a little less than two weeks left in the country, I cannot believe my time here has gone by so quickly! While I am excited to see my friends and family again in the US, I cannot help but feel sad to have to leave the friends that I have met here, socially and at work, and this beautiful country that has been my home for the past 10 weeks. It feels like just yesterday I landed and was full of excitement on the way to my new apartment. Now, I am trying to take advantage of the time I have left and experience more.

This past weekend, two friends and I ventured to Cabarete and Imbert. We took Caribe Tours, the Dominican version of the US Megabus, which was a pretty relaxing long ride. Cabarete is a small ocean town on the north side of the country. The beach there is lined with restaurants and as you look out into the ocean you can see the many kite and wind surfers. We also stayed at a cute local hostel for only $20 (breakfast and dinner included). I will never forget Cabarete because it was the place where I took my first ride on a motoconcho*! Riding a motoconcho in “el campo” (definitely not in the city) was one of the last things on my to-do list, and I was so excited that I got to ride one! My friends were telling me that as they passed me by, all they saw was a big smile on my face. After staying the night in Cabarete, it was now time to go to Imbert.

Imbert is a mountain town in the north of the country. We traveled for about an hour in a guagua that was meant for 12 passengers but at one point, there were definitely 25 people inside! Once we arrived in Imbert, we then went to 27 charcos, which is an adventure tour that has 27 waterfalls and people are guided through them. After getting our life vests and helmets, my friends and I were introduced to our 17 year old tour guide. He guided us through the forest and after eating mangos and an hour of walking we arrived at our first waterfall. You could either slide down or jump off a pretty steep cliff, and even though I do not like heights, I decided to jump. I was so scared but I was so happy I did it. My friends and I completed the 12 waterfall tour and it was definitely an experience that other people should do! After our lunch buffet at 27 charcos, it was then time to head back to Imbert…which means…motoconcho time! I loved riding through the countryside!

As we arrived in Puerto Plata to return home, our weekend getaway came to an end.

*Neither the InteRDom program nor its parents institutions, GFDD and FUNGLODE, promote the use of motor-taxis or "motoconchos" as a form of transportation. Students are informed as to the risks of riding these vehicles both before departure and during their orientation to the program, and understand that in riding them they are doing so at their own risk.*

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Accidental Adventures and Other Impromptu Fun

By: Kim Sanchez
InteRDom Correspondent, Kim, has completed three years of her Bachelor's degree in Film and Video at the Visual Arts College at the University of Toledo in Ohio. She is participating in the 2013 10-week Caribbean Summer Program. You can read more about Kim and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

Two weeks ago, Ikenna and I took a spur-of-the-moment excursion to Los Tres Ojos, a beautiful cave with three underground lakes. There, we practiced our photography skills and took some cool long exposures in the dark. Next, we bartered for some cool gifts for our families. Then, I called a taxi to bring us to our final destination, Agora Mall. After waiting some time without any sign of the cab, a man on a motorbike* offered us a ride. After some "serious contemplation" of the inherent risks of the situation, Ikenna and I shrugged our shoulders and excitedly mounted the bike. Zooming down the street was thrilling! We dodged traffic a little too close for comfort, especially for Ikenna and his long legs that were sticking out. To sum up my feelings about the experience, I am currently searching online for motorbikes to purchase in Toledo… I'm so glad our taxi never came!

On the 10th, I was lucky enough to enjoy my birthday in the DR. I'm sure others were annoyed that I invited Hurricane Chantal to my party, but I was ecstatic to finally have an excuse to stay in my pajamas and watch movies ALL DAY.
Later that week, our group had plans to watch a play. Although I wanted to go, I wasn't feeling well and at the last minute I decided to stay in. Next thing I know, Ines is calling me…
"Kim!! You need to come downstairs. Loriel needs to talk to us, I think we're in trouble."

 And me, recollecting of all the mischief we have got into so far, anxiously entered the room.
To my sweet surprise, I found Loriel waiting with a cake to celebrate mine and Ikenna's birthdays! The InteRDom staff is so thoughtful. Who knew that cake was the perfect remedy and I could attend the play after all.

Last weekend was super crazy. We all went out to celebrate Ikenna's and we had a lot of fun, consequently, I could barely get myself out of bed early the next morning for our InteRDom excursion to Cuevas de las Maravillas, a super cool cave with preserved Taino drawings.

I slept the entire way, the type of sleep that feels like time traveling. But I was wide awake as soon as I discovered how magnificent the cave was. It felt holy, like a great cathedral. Next stop was Altos de Chavon, the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. I took tons of photos and I think I will try and take a course there some day. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at La Cantina. I ordered a chicken crepe - a dish I loved so much, I went home and recreated it.

Immediately after returning from our day trip, Ines and I quickly changed and headed to Estadio Olímpico for the Telemicro Concert featuring Daddy Yankee, the love of my life. I was in the right place at the right time and scored free VIP passes at work - which I was super stoked about. We had some trouble at the gate bringing our purses in. So we threw them into a tree and then joined the giant mass of dancing people. It was crazy, I had the best time. Fortunately, our purses remained untouched in the tree.

Ines and I returned from the concert at 4am. We had heard that a tour group was on their way to Bahia de las Aguilas at 5am. So we had just enough time to shower, eat, and meet up with them. Since we had not slept in two days, we passed out hard on the bus… more "time traveler’s sleep". It was cute, Ines and I took turns waking one another after falling asleep in a super uncomfortable position on the bus. I had no idea that we would be so close to Haiti. We stopped by the border, and I purchased some Barbancourt rum! Finally, we arrived at the restaurant, enjoyed a lovely buffet, and then hopped on a boat ride to the beach. The water felt wonderful, and it was SO WORTH the exhaustion of two days without sleep!

I've had so many adventures in such a short amount of time. My favorite part is that most of those experiences were impromptu, and required me to just go with the flow and see where it took me. If I have learned anything about traveling abroad, it is that you have to have an open mind. The best experiences happen when you least expect it, so take every opportunity to encounter something new. 

*Neither the InteRDom program nor its parent institutions, GFDD and FUNGLODE, promote the use of motor-taxis or "motoconchos" as a form of transportation. Students are informed as to the risks of riding these vehicles both before departure and during their orientation to the program, and understand that in riding them they are doing so at their own risk.*