Sorry for the delay, it’s been a bit. After such intensive traveling, it almost feels like home just coming back to the Foundation. I’ve been taking fewer pictures and feel like there is less excitement to blog about. Until recently that is.
New week, new professor, old routine. With both a new round of med students and Dale Wimberley flying in Saturday night, there was new company this week all around, and good company at that! Our new professor is great, and having Carrie nearby is always a good thing.
Monday through Friday was class time. With two class periods a day, we still found time for beaching and scuba as well. Our new class, Globalization of the Caribbean, is also faring well. A sociology course, Dale’s lectures mostly included analyses of cultural trends noted both in human patterns and their economic and political effects. Following every night with a movie, we’ve spent most of our time with Dale, consistently being humbled. From learning about sweatshops to realizing our unintentional support, it has been a rough week for us (North) American students residing in a developing country. While it was mostly informative the first four days, a field trip Friday put everything into a tangible perspective.
As the Haitians are of the darkest color (and poorer country) and therefore less of a person by DR standards, the darker your skin, the closer your are to a Haitian. Many leaders (Trujillo most recently) have emphasized the importance of light skin, and thus the island has adapted strong racism and discrimination toward the darker-skinned people. Many of the dark victims become forced, economically if not physically, into bateyes; the communities in which sugarcane workers reside. One of the most brutal jobs, sugarcane harvesting is a violent task with long hours and little benefits, if any. The owners of these factories employ the dark-skinned because of cheap, abusable labor. It is a universal theme, reapplied by way of sugar. Friday, we saw this first hand. Not that the poverty level was anything intensely traumatizing, but it left a heavy mark nonetheless. While the families we met shared their grief, triumphs, and experiences, the stories alone were not the only trigger to our sympathetic overload. Who are we here? How can we find a place to inhabit in this world, when we are from the complete opposite end of the spectrum? As we explored the bateyes with deep, personal interactions, we struggled to place ourselves among the environment. However light our skin may be, and regardless of our income, we are really and truly all just humans. We relate on a humane level because we are the same species, and can connect through heart if not language. But emotional reactions aside, Friday was spent interpreting a culture unlike any other, and as we went to sleep on the resort that night we were exhausted from the heat and poverty, heat and poverty.
The next morning, I embraced life in the best way I know. I went surfing. Carrie and I dipped, and left for Macao for the morning. Although it involved some stressful organizing, when we were in the water surrounded by waves, nothing else mattered. It never does. I had found my roots again, and am yet again radiating gratitude for everything that became possible this semester. The guys at the shop we rented boards from were great, they found the unusual balance (for a Dominican) in being friendly, while not creepy. Helpful, friendly, and polite, we got a great price for an awesome morning. And two tickets to a crazy dance party.
And I have since revamped my definition of crazy. “Big” is a small word, that just seems to fit perfectly. Our surfer friends told us about the event, and hooked us up with free tickets. It is essentially a huge beach party with some electronic and house music that can shake your bones. And it did, all too literally. It was a night of bright lights, lots of dancing, and a lot of awe. As I’m writing this, I am still exhausted by attempting to recall any details. Yet it was the sheer volume of sound an excitement that inhibit my memory, rather than any alcohol. It’s probably a good thing to experience such an intense sensory overload periodically, but I think I may have quenched that urge for quite a while. Que noche!
In sum, a calming week concluded with an emotional and physical overdose. Or perhaps simply a heaping dose. From experiencing tight-knit Dominican culture to the ultimate international dance explosion, I feel like I’ve seen more edges of humanity in the last couple days than I could have imagined. Lots learned and much appreciated. Enjoy the snow, and I’ll load up on some vitamin D on your behalves. More pictures to come, limited resources at the moment. Love and miss you all!