Month Marker One, Down.

I’ve been talking about posting this post for way too long, so here goes. While I have already talked to a lot of people and given abbreviated stories, I have slightly less motivation this week but will continue nonetheless. Writing is healthy. Pictures are fun. And I’m sure there’s a way I could conclude “priceless” and have a new Visa slogan.

Following the batey trip and surfing adventures, we embarked on the second trip inland. This time, we left once the sun had come up, and it made a world of difference.  The coffee addicts got their coffee, I had some new books, and everyone was much more content this round.  The first stop was the sugar factory. The next step after harvesting in the cane fields, which we had conveniently witnessed a few days earlier.  Personally, I was most fascinated by this factory. Perhaps because it was the only place where we had actually seen the full start to finish process. Inside, it was clear that the employers were not so big on the whole “workers rights” thing, and the facility probably wouldn’t pass for “clean” anywhere else in North America.  Yet the process of creating refined sugar from cane was incredible, and a tremendous amount of work.  One of the most distinct aspects was the refined sugar itself.  By the time raw cane sugar is produced, 98% of the impurities have been removed. To get to the refined white sugar, with 99% of the impurities removed (one silly percent), the crystals must pass through an additional corner of the building. There are hundreds of machines that are put to work on that final percent, using manpower, money, and producing additional contamination, all for that one percent that gives people the white grains that they feel so much more comfortable using.  Humans are so interesting in their ways, our ways.  I also took lots of footage that I would love to compile into a documentary. Actually, I was declaring that I would learn how to operate some movie software just to create this film, so be watching out for it in the next few years. Maybe I’ll have a debut party.

After the factory, we drove to Santo Domingo and checked into our  hotel, spent some time walking around the city, and eating Italian for dinner. Pleasantly uneventful, we had a lot of fun just relaxing this trip. Not as intense as the last, but tiring nonetheless. Tuesday’s factory tours took place at a macadamia nut processing plant and a Hanes factory. Both were making incredible strides toward sustainable production, with heavy emphasis on environmental impacts.  It was comforting to see the effort, but I had a hard time tearing apart from the idea that a business is a business, and money always seems to triumph all.  Of course there is progress that needs to be applauded, but I realized that a career centered around selling products to make a maximum profit is probably not in my future. And I feel pretty good about that.

That night we returned to the old fave, Rannnnchhooooo Wendy. She filled us with delicious food, and we met some British companions who were new to the concept of S’mores. Needless to say we remedied that situation real quick.  A short time later we took off for the fourth factory, Conacado Cacao.  Ac cacao, we saw all of the steps that took the raw cacao seeds and got them ready to ship to the chocolate factories.  While they did not produce the chocolate there (and therefore did not have samples), we saw all the steps that go into the preparation. 

Now, yesterday was our one month anniversary together. All was good, we pretty much got along fine, but one day later it hit the fan. The next morning it seemed like everyone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and it was not pleasant. While some people were angry with reasoning, others were snappy just because, and then some people got angry because everyone else was being so angry. Ah, a slow simmer later we seemed to get it together a bit but whew, it was exhausting to push through.

By this point, my roomie was experiencing stomach issues, round two. We were back at the same hotel as the first night, but the two of us stayed inside. When evening rolled around, we had dinner with an organization for different labor unions. It was a much bigger occasion than we were prepped for, but it was so interesting.  Each of the people that attended the dinner had played a role in beginning a labor union for their particular company. Incredible people.

Final day was a tour of a factory called Altagracia.  This factory specialized in actually respecting the workers, paying a living wage while making an effort to create an enjoyable workplace.  They’re still getting on their feet as a company, but the consideration they put into their business is remarkable, especially by comparison.

Due to increasing fatigue, we cut a few things out of the trip here and headed home.  Home to the resort, of course.  It was an odd trip in the sense that we were not as packed with activities, but the gravity and nature of the things we did do were exhausting. Upon returning, our next professor had arrived and the excitement built up again.  Tropical Ornithology begins tomorrow, and I’m sure there will be lots of exciting pictures to come. But no really. Going to try to live up to that promise this time. Anyways, I hear Blacksburg weather is being pretty standard (ranging from 65F to freezing in a day), and VB could be better. (Also heard about the whale sightings, and the beached one, what is going on ??) BUT, nonetheless I hope you’re finding the sunshine and enjoying the bit of daylight that comes around.

Caribbean Love,




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