But we’re still keeping up. I’m still keeping up. Hanging onto the “no regrets” mantra, hopefully it still works when I get back to the states. While we haven’t really left Punta Cana in the last three weeks, we’ve definitely had some exciting experiences. And as of recently, some sort of cold has decided to enter my body in perfect timing with our trip. Today we leave for Puerto Plata, where we spend three nights, then finish the trip in the capital, Santo Domingo. Anyways, I’ll post some pictures for now and hopefully come back to write about them later. Send healthy vibes my way please! I’m really excited for this trip and this class, and really bummed that my immune system picked now to cave. But here are some things we’ve done in the last couple weeks that are photo- and later, story- worthy. Hope it suffices and apologies for the delay!
And a wonderful trip it was, and a short cold it came to be. Here’s a few comments about the previous week, and lots more excitement soon to follow:)
So we got scuba certified, again. While we got the paperwork done the week before and were all set up to help out the marine biologist with her coral restoration, things went awry. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. As we’ve been waiting for ideal conditions all week, it wasn’t until they arrived that the dive shop owner decided we probably weren’t quite ready and should go do another practice dive first. Although I am not one to complain about an extra free dive, it was a bit tedious. It even turned out to be a five-minute dive due to the lack of visibility, so we proceeded to ignore whatever reasoning the extra dive was implemented with in the first place and head out to the reefs the next day. And it was SO COOL. We were doing work this time around, so it was less focus on equipment and style and more attention directed toward the tasks at hand. It was a two-tank dive, which kept us underwater for about three hours in the end (“we” being the three biologists, my roommate, and I). While Roomie and I were quick to boast that we were underwater for way longer than anybody else had been yet, it was ultimately a sweet time. The aim of the project was to survey plots of the seafloor, analyzing the coral and fish species, and then to begin reconstructing artificial trellis- style reef structures. Measuring corals with tape and a meterstick, and manually attaching corals to the wire frame with twist ties was intense work, but it felt so good to be helping people out and making a diference while underwater (and cue Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea” to begin on my iTunes shuffle list). I also decided that underwater therapy should be a thing. When your in your own world, unable to rely on speech for communication, your body is focusing on breathing through this device. Your only option is to remain calm, so that’s what you do (ideally). In addition, you’re in a naturally beautiful, mysterious, powerful body of sea that is generally uncivilized by man. It’s like you’re in the wild, but you’re simply a witness. When your only option is to move in slow motion, calm breaths, and just watch all of the life around you, I think it’s hard to not appreciate the entire world and all of the life and capability within it. Anyway, that’s the basis for my scuba-therapy idea. If it sounds marketable to you, we can talk business later.
But first, let me get back to Carnival.
Our ornithology professors got us those masks. In addition to many other treats. I think the Punta Cana students are essentially their children, and we were spoiled as such :) Oh right. Carnival. So it’s essential a huge parade that strolls through the Dominican Republic, with big stops in each city. Carrie saw the La Vega stop (supposedly the wildest one), but it finally made it’s way to Punta Cana. We headed out mid afternoon, and the Tech kids were a bit overwhelmed. It was a lot, and it was hot, and there was almost too much excitement. So we grabbed a cafe in the bagel shop, and headed into the crowd a bit more leisurely. Somewhere after this time, I ended up separated from the students and united with the med-student/peace corps volunteers/ slightly older bunch of our group and ended up hanging out in the apartment for a lot of the parade. While I would have liked to see more of the costumes and dancing, I was a bit anxious so hanging out was probably a better thing for me at the time. After a few hours, the entire group of us found each other in time for the dance party to take over. The streets where the dancers paraded were now open for everyone to part on. Which we proceeded to do for the rest of the night. As Carrie’s last night here, it was full of bright colors and dancing, and I wouldn’t feel wrong saying that those might be her two favorite things. For me though, the best part was having everybody together all at once having fun. Our whole VT group was healthy and happy, and we were completely integrated with the med students, peace corps volunteers, dive instructors, and miscellaneous friends. Not only did it give me a chance to hang out with my friends and my soul-sister, but it was just a huge, whole, fun time. It would have been perfect, had I not woken up at dawn realizing that I had a bird test to study for, and turn in by noon. Oh the problems of a study abroad student. With a minor headache, and probably some anxiety about the rest of the morning, I made my way out of Carrie’s apartment and back to the Foundation, where I live. My classmates had also awoken to the unfortunate epiphany, and it seemed to be a group- struggle to remember everything we’d learned while being still being groggy, to say the least. But as always, what needed to get done did, and as soon as it did the rest of the day brightened up like the sky after a storm. Goodbye professors, Goodbye Carrie, hope you feel the Punta Cana love even back in the states <3
In the meantime…
I spent the next couple weeks teaching sex-ed to the public school in Veron. Following one of the Peace Corps volunteers, my roomie and I acted out (notice the sweater-baby I have in my shirt?) pregnancy trimesters, and planned out some family planning. Teaching such standard things in a developing country however, proved quite the experience. These kids are much more familiar with teen pregnancies than anyone in my sixth grade class were, and their questions came from a different vernacular entirely. From busting myths about what you can and can’t do on your period (swim, go to school, brush your hair) to what is and isn’t effective birth control (multiple condoms, pinkie promises, age) I think it probably gave us as much insight as it gave them. On a personal level, as a student looking further into the realms of international health from a career stance, I feel that I may be doing this form of education much more in the near future. A crucial, but common stepping stone on the path to global health and awareness, sex-ed is in enormous demand. As experience for myself as well as the students, it has been a lot of fun hanging out with the kids, speaking Spanish, and simply spending time in the city away from the resort. Service learning is finally taking a bigger stance in our beach worlds.
So the few weeks here have been relatively calm, but enjoyable and productive nonetheless. While leaving the “bubble” is always refreshing, the fact that we have a comfortable spot to hang out and study when we’re not on road trips living out of a van is great. Being close to the beach is a blessing, and having everything available that we do, while still privileged with personal time and space has been great. I’ll share stories from the past few days soon, but goodnight for now, and smile today :)