186 South College

grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Month: June 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Memories of NSO

For the University of Delaware, summer means its time for a new freshmen class to populate campus, a campus they’ll be able to call their own for the first time. It is time for New Student Orientation, popularly known as, “NSO.”

 

 

NSO is a day that is as nerve-wracking as it is exhilarating, a time when your excitement for college is only matched by anxiousness about whatever the year might bring. You probably changed your outfit for three times and still aren’t completely satisfied with the final decision, (or maybe that’s just me). You smile for your ID picture and hope desperately that an image you’ll carry with you these next few years isn’t a complete disaster. You listen to each presentation with painstaking focus but still don’t feel like you totally get it.

 

However, it is also a day when you are in awe of the Orientation Leaders having so much energy so early in the morning. It is also a day when your stress about picking classes is significantly lessened after a one-on-one session with an adviser. It is also a day when you look at the students and setting around you and realize with growing eagerness that this place is beginning to feel like home

 

I remember NSO, and all these aspects, vividly. But something I don’t always appreciate now that I’m on the other side is just how intimidating that day was as a rising freshman. That day symbolized beginning the transition from high school to college, the first step on a bridge to university life. I often forget that that step was little short of terrifying to me.

 

Instead, I look at the Class of 2018 with envy, for they are making a transition that in hindsight, appears perfectly manageable. The reality that awaits them is college, an enriching and invigorating reality I have come to know and love. This reality isn’t frightening anymore- it’s fun. Additionally, they will have mentors and professional assistants helping them along they way as they make the adjustment. The transition that looked like a long and rickety rope bridge to me as a rising freshmen, I regard now as a mere hop from one side of the road to the other.

 

 

I am preoccupied now with another transition that looms ahead of me. It is the change from university life to “real life.” My entry into this real world is what intimidates me now, for this transition is surely more difficult, surely more worthy of nervous anticipation than the one between high school and college.

 

 

But is it, though?

 

 

It is easy to look back at NSO, recognize how well everything turned out and how smoothly everything went, and say that transition wasn’t a big deal. It’s easy to belittle the transitions of the past and tell yourself that the one right ahead of you, that’s the one you need to worry about. Easy to say, easy to believe, but it’s not the truth.

 

 

The fact is, that transition was scary. But I was prepared for it, more prepared then I realized, and just as prepared as I will be when it comes time to graduate college. Watching the Class of 2018 go through NSO each day is a good reminder of that. If they are as half as nervous as I was, they’re awfully nervous. They’re also going to be just as okay I was, just as okay as my Class of 2016 will be as we go off into the world at the end of these 4 years.

 

 

To me, NSO is many things, but most of all, it is a poignant representation of transition. It is a picture of one of many changes we have to undergo as human beings, and it is a reminder of how worthwhile and manageable those changes turn out to be. Class of 2018, (and every class that comes after you), you guys are going to be just fine.

~Victoria Snare

Some members of the Class of 2018 gather for a group shot with their Orientation Leader!

Some members of the Class of 2018 gather for a group shot with their Orientation Leader!

 

My Summer To-Do List

Happy Summer, Blue Hens!

Many of us are spending our summer days in vastly different ways. Some of us are working away at a job or internship, while others are jet setting around the world on vacation. Still others, like a good majority of college students, are probably exhausting their parents’ Netflix accounts.

During our summer break, it is very easy for us to get lackadaisical and waste away our days without doing anything productive. My friend tweeted just the other day that one of the ways she keeps track of what day it is during the summer is through her Instagram feed; if she sees a lot of pictures of guys, she knows it is Monday (thanks to #ManCrushMonday) and if there are a lot of old pictures, it is obviously Thursday, for #ThrowbackThursday. I could not help but laugh at how sad, yet true, this tweet was for many of us on summer break.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I love my downtime. I look forward to when I can catch up with my good friends Olivia Benson and Elliott Stabler of SVU while snuggling with my dog. However, I also love to be productive. The greatest feeling in the world is when I can cross items off my to-do list. During the school year, I have so many to-do lists to help me get everything done and stay focused.  For the first time ever, I decided to integrate a to-do list for my summer this year. The items on this list are more goal-oriented; they are things that I hope I can do this summer, ranging from practical to crazy. Below are just some of the ones that I hope I can accomplish this summer to make it a successful and memorable one:

The Future-Oriented:

-Update LinkedIn profile

-Look into creating personal website

-Network and make contacts at work events

The Enjoyable:

-Catch up on House of Cards, True Detective, and/or Chuck

-Cry while watching The Fault in our Stars in theaters

-Have fun and try to remember dances on stage at dance recital

Hannah on stage at her dance recital

Hannah on stage at her dance recital 

The Hopeful:

-Visit New York City and/or Washington, D.C

-Get tickets to see The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

-Complete internship by learning a lot, but still having an enjoyable experience

I could go on and on with other goals on my to-do list. However, summer still is a time to have fun and relax before school starts back up. So this last item is probably the most important part of my to-do list that I hope to accomplish and one I hope you try and achieve, too:

-Try to find the happiest moment that perfectly sums up the summer break

I may or may not have already found that one moment. Regardless, I am still going to try and remember to have fun and enjoy my summer as much as I can to make sure I have that one pinnacle moment when school rolls back around in late August.

With that being said, I hope all you Blue Hens enjoy the rest of your summers as well and get ready for another exciting year to start!

~Hannah Tattersall

Day 8: Santo Domingo

Here it is, the final day of the trip! Most of the day was spent touring around and shopping around the touristy El Conde, the pedestrian-only street lined by shops and more cheap canvas paintings than you can count.

 

We started the day by heading past the Puerta del Conde, the location where Francisco del Rosario Sánchez supposedly declared independence from Haitian occupation in 1844. We then walked down El Conde (which was much busier than last night, as expected) to the Catedral Primada de America, which directly translates to First Cathedral of America. Unfortunately, the cathedral wasn’t open yet, so we headed over to a nice little art shop with all sorts of metallurgy, tile paintings, canvas work, and more. I picked up a nice tile painting of a typical Dominican man riding an overloaded motorcycle.

Puerta del Conde

Puerta del Conde

After picking up some artwork to take home, we walked over to the Fortaleza Ozama, a very typical 16th century fortress which guards the mouth of the Ozama River to the Caribbean Sea. It is a small, tall, and sturdy castle which has been occupied by seven different countries and most recently served as a prison until opened to tourists in the late 20th century. While there wasn’t anything inside the castle, we got some beautiful group pictures with the Dominican Flag on top of the castle.

 

Fortaleza Ozama

Fortaleza Ozama

 Walking further along Calle las Damas, America’s oldest paved street, we took a tour of Museo de Las Casas Reales, an administrative building which served as a government office from the time of Spanish colonization until the 1970s. We had a very good Spanish tour-guide who called us out on our exhaustion, but cracked a few jokes to keep the tour fun. As we were looking at a map of Christopher Columbus’s voyages, he joked that Columbus always stopped in the Canary Islands to visit his girlfriend there. Later in a room with old medical equipment, he told us that any volunteers could have a free enema from their ancient device. For me, highlights of the museum included Trujillo’s weapon collection, which included strange combinations like a pistol-sabre and a crossbow-rifle. The ballroom was also a very beautiful and impressive room, decorated with large paintings and large glass chandeliers.

Las Casas Reales ballroom

Las Casas Reales ballroom

 We took a break to grab lunch at a very Caribbean buffet-style restaurant. Like many of our dining experiences this week, we were one of the only groups in the restaurant at 1:00. I’m not sure if this is because we were late to lunch, the restaurant isn’t popular, or both, but it’s never a bad thing to have the place to ourselves. I ate yellow rice, Dominican spaghetti, salad, and some small cake cubes. We had a cat sleeping above our heads, and until it moved in its sleep, we thought it was dead, which didn’t help our appetites. It must be a heavy sleeper, because it didn’t react when Camilo touched the tail. I also captured a significant amount of blackmail pictures on the camera, which can always come in handy.

Dominican spaghetti!

Dominican spaghetti!

 

After lunch, we stopped by a specialty chocolate store, but very few people walked away with any chocolate because of the expensive prices that come with nice chocolate. The group split a little at this point, with a few people heading back to the art store while everyone else visited the Catedral Primada. After the girls with short skirts and Camilo covered their knees with blankets, we absorbed the atmosphere, both the Gothic and Baroque architecture and the very crisp and refreshing temperature, thanks to some great air-conditioning.

 Catedral Primada

Catedral Primada

 And then the shopping commenced. I think most everyone had their share of bargaining: Nick replaced his pair of sunglasses he gave away, Kisha picked up two canvasses and some bracelets with Alex, I got an artsy wooden plate, Juli found a nice sombrero, and more. Kisha demonstrated her experience and persuasion by bargaining from 500 pesos per canvas down to 550 pesos for two. Obviously they start their prices high in order to make a large profit on unaware tourists, but cutting the asking price by almost half isn’t easy by anyone’s standards. I talked with Kisha after this feat and asked her about the morality and necessity of bargaining with these merchants. Is it morally right and is it financially worthwhile to negotiate over 50 pesos, a little over 1 USD? Is it healthy for their economy to bargain with them? These kinds of questions are difficult to answer, but between the two of us, we agreed that these “tourist” goods are likely obtained in bulk for a very cheap price, so even after being bargained down, they’re still making a large profit. The system is difficult to understand because it’s so much more difficult than our own; bargaining is very rarely a part of the American consumer market, where prices and profit margins are generally non-negotiable. In the Dominican Republic, bargaining is a perfectly normal part of street selling. Our presence and willingness to buy is what allows the tourism industry to thrive; individual negotiations play a small role from the grand perspective.

 

Kisha and Alex negotiating

Kisha and Alex negotiating

 Perspective is a very important concept for being internationally-aware, and enhancing our awareness was a large part of this trip. We dedicated much more time on this trip towards learning about and understanding the economic climate, Haitian relations, and educational system than we did directly assisting Yspaniola because our attitudes and awareness of the situation in the Dominican Republic is much more important than any number of flashcards we could have created in that time. There are many distinct levels of economic status on the island of  Hispaniola, and it’s often shocking to compare them amongst themselves and then to our American lifestyle.

Let me break it down with a simple example: showers. On the Haitian side of the border in Dajabon, we saw children bathing in an unclean river. In Batey Libertad, almost everyone bathes by pouring buckets of water over their heads after the water is pumped down from the mountains. In the city of Santo Domingo, they shower in low-pressure cold or lukewarm water, if the water is turned on that day. Even in the Santo Domingo airport, there are no water fountains because the tap water is never safe to drink. To us, access to clean tap water is an assumed amenity, but for the Batey, any kind of running water would drastically improve their quality of life. We were not only humbled by our quality of life, but even embarrassed at how little we think about how much water we actually use and how much less the people of Hispaniola have, just a few hours from anywhere in the United States. For every day we wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast, and head to class or work, they go through the same process at basically the same time, but in very different conditions. Our lives are more connected and similar than we would think, yet a few miles of ocean separate our two worlds. It’s mind-boggling to think that, during any given evening, there are people in the Batey sitting without electricity and without running water, playing cards by candlelight where I once sat. For me, the people of the Batey will always be a reminder that it’s possible to live a happy and fulfilling lifestyle with or without wealth; it all depends on your mindset and willingness to be happy.

~Tim West, 2016

 

Day 7: The Transition, Batey Libertad, Santo Domingo

We kicked off our last day in the Batey with a visit with Caco Pelau, the local vodou priest.  We walked into the place of worship, where the walls were covered with murals of Catholic saints and there were offerings to the spirits.  Caco Pelau really emphasized the relationship between Christianity and vodou; in places like the DR and Haiti they are not two separate religions, but are practiced concurrently.  He emphasized that both religions have the same God and that in vodou, Catholic saints have spirits behind them that act as intermediaries between worshippers and the holy entity.  We learned that the impression of vodou as simply magic used to harm your enemies is entirely false and unfair.  The minority that practice vodou with bad intentions are deeply rejected by most priests and followers. It was a fascinating cultural experience and really brought to light the misconceptions of vodou that the media perpetuates.

 

 

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After lunch, we met in the calle principal to say goodbye to our new friends and host families.  Four of the volunteers were to come with us to the capital, so it was time to say goodbye to all the others. Despite the language barriers and the fact that we had only met 4 days before, we had become close to the volunteers, local children, and our host families, so saying goodbye was very hard.  This whole week, I have been struck by the strong sense of community in the Batey and how easy it has been to form friendships across languages and cultures.  The hardest part for me was saying goodbye to Francis, my host mom’s nephew who had become like a little brother to Danielle and me in our short week in the Batey.

 

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Driving into Santo Domingo felt very strange, like we were entering a whole different world.  It was obviously much more touristy than Santiago, Dajabón, and the Batey! The traffic and city sounds made me miss the relative quiet of the Batey (besides the crowing of roosters… I definitely didn’t miss that!).  Even though my hotel room didn’t have any light bulbs, the fact that it had running water made it feel almost luxurious.  We had an amazing dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront and spent the evening exploring the Zona Colonial.  It was sad to think that the next day would be the last of the trip, but we were excited to explore Santo Domingo in the daylight!

~Sarah Mottram, 2016

 

Day 6: Batey Libertad

Alarm went off at 6:30am this morning, waking me up to our last official day in Batey Libertad. I don’t want to think about. Thankfully, there is plenty to do. Waking up at 6:30 is not as exhausting as it sounds—at least, not as exhausting as it would sound to my pre-trip self!

 

Breakfast was simple bread rolls and avena (a sweet drink that is kind of like oatmeal in a cup). It might not sound like much, but it was plenty food to fill our bellies. Probably because we are up so early, mornings are spent journaling and/or reading and playing with Dawenza our “host niece” or whatever little kid stops by.

 

Our first activity of the day was to talk with Pepito.  Pepito is the unofficial leader of the Batey. His family has lived there from the time it was called San Rafael. He spent a few minutes of the morning telling us all about the history of the Batey and how it has developed over the course of time.

 

 As Pepito spoke, I grew to understand the importance of the readings we had done before traveling. The batey started out being a place for Haitian migrant workers to live during planting and harvesting season, when they travelled into the Dominican Republic to work for the sugar cane companies. Over time, it became a place for people to live instead of only for temporary lodging, that is when the name changed from San Rafael to Batey Libertad. Without having the context of the readings beforehand, I think Pepito’s story would have been harder for me to understand.

 

 It is interesting to think about how much the Batey has changed. While by American standards the Batey may be terribly impoverished, there has been improvement over time. As Pepito described it, I began to feel renewed appreciation for the people who lived there and the place they called home. Whereas before, people would have had to carry water from a distance, there are now standing pipes where people can get water two times a week. It is limited to those times because the water has to be accessed by a gasoline pump that the community pays to operate. Also, most of the original barracks where people used to live are gone, replaced by block (concrete brick) homes.

 

 Still, despite the improvements, there is still so much more that can and should be done. Originally, the sugar companies were in charge of maintaining the bateys, but when the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic collapsed under pressure from US competitors, so did the supervising body for many bateys. Even now, the government has not stepped in to replace the sugar companies and has not been supportive of the communities efforts to improve the conditions in Batey Libertad. In fact, it took four years for the government to run water pipes the 2 kilometers from Esperanza to the Batey. Even with this improvement, the water pipes still sit across the road, unconnected to the Batey water system; leaving the community to rely on the gasoline pump. It is a situation that smarts with the discrimination faced by people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. That is why, when Pepito explained that many in Batey Libertad want to change the name to just Libertad, I wanted to clap my hands in agreement.

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After meeting with Pepito, we had the opportunity to buy some of the merchandise made in the batey. The students sold bracelets that they made with plastic straps and yarn. They also sold a CD put together by Felix and Wilson. The women, including Nick and Tim Dagastino’s host mom, TiMami, sold candles and purses that they had made. All of the money that they made either went toward the Batey women’s fund or to pay for school expenses. I bought two bracelets , a purse and the CD (which I can’t wait to take advantage of!). Looking at all the merchandise, I was once again impressed with the industriousness of the people that live in the batey as I have been so many times on this trip.

 

After lunch of arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) Juli and I joined the others to continue doing resource development. Kisha and I were assigned to contact paper word cards for the students. It is much harder than it sounds, but it was so worth it, and we were never lacking for willing helpers! The Batey kids were always up for a craft.

 

We were also able to read with the children in during reading hour in the (El Centro de Aprendizaje) Learning Center’s library. As an elementary education major, it was fun to interact with the kids in an education setting. The skills of the children run the gamut from way below age-appropriate reading level to above reading level. I began to look at the work that Yspaniola was doing in the learning center in a new light. In an education system as broken and dysfunctional as the Dominican Republic’s, it is reassuring to know that there are programs in place to enrich the kids’ education. Learning is something that is dear to my heart and I feel both sad and happy at once thinking about the children I met. I am glad they have the center, but sadden by the obstacles they have to overcome to receive quality education.

 

 

On another note, the English exchange was a lot of fun. I got to speak in English, Spanish and Creole. Amy, one of the Yspaniola interns, facilitated the whole exercise. We had about a short amount of time with each person, which was split between languages. If we were exchanging Creole and English, for example, some time was spent on each language. We each had a list of questions that we could ask like, what is your name? how many brothers and sisters do you have? Etc. After each interaction we would rotate tables until we made it all the way around the circle of tables.

 

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At the end, Nick, both Tims and I all engaged in an impromptu Creole-Spanish exchange with some of the girls in the batey. It was so much fun!

 

 Finally, after dinner, we enjoyed our despedida (going away party)! The night opened with a traditional Haitian Folk play. Although it was performed in Haitian Creole with Rosa’s help, I was able to piece together to story.

 

It was a simple tale about a young woman who, on advice of her friend, acquired many suitors. Each came to her promising money—although some, like the poor farmer, clearly did not have any. Now she did not really want to marry these men so she told them all to come at four for her decision. Being faithful suitors, they all arrived at four only to be cast out of the house by the young woman’s irate father. It was a hysterical rendition of the tale complete with outrageous costumes and a final dance.

 

Right afterwards, we gave out the shirts to the Yspaniola volunteers.

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Then it was time for our own dance party in front of the Learning Center. It was so much fun! Emilio (one of my host brothers) did much of the music selection and as a result we ended up dancing the night away in 3 languages!

 

I also learned how to dance Bachata! It is surprisingly simple but nonetheless enjoyable. At the end, we all went out on the Play (open field in the Batey) and continued talking and laughing until our tired bodies forced us to bed. It was a wonderful night to end on.

 

I’ll never forget talking and laughing under the stars, distinguishing each other by voices alone at times, relishing every minute and not even caring if the Spanish wasn’t quite right. I will never forget it, and I will miss it when I think of it. I will miss the Play too, and the Learning Center. I will miss it all, but mostly, I will miss the people here.

 

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Batey Libertad. There is no place like it in the whole world.

~Camille Fontenelle, 2016

 

 

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