186 South College

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

Tag: adventure (page 2 of 6)

Meet The Editors: Heather Brody

Getting My Hair Wet in 2016

I loved going to the pool when I was younger. My friends and I would meet up and walk through the locker rooms together, speed-walking to the chairs with the most shade and the best view of the sparkling water. I always liked to cannon-ball right into the pool – it helped me get used to the cold temperature of the water more quickly and start the fun right away.

My friends, on the other hand, would slowly wade into the water, putting their hair in ponytails and buns to avoid getting their hair wet at any cost. I never understood it – why do they care so much about getting their hair wet? I loved how it felt to dunk my head underwater on a hot day and glide across the pool as my hair floated around me. It made me feel like a beautiful mermaid queen, claiming the chlorinated body of water as my own. I felt powerful and free and happy. It never seemed very fun to have to worry about your hair on a hot summer day.

Continue reading

Going Abroad: Exploring a New Place or a Journey Within Myself?

When I first applied to study abroad for winter session 2016, I didn’t really think too hard about it. Going abroad was something everyone seemed to recommend and I figured, ‘why not? – It would be a neat resume builder.’ Throughout the whole process, from applying, to the final pre-trip meeting, it never actually felt like I was going to Fiji. We talked about it all the time, but the reality didn’t sink in until it was the day of departure. Even then, once it was real, I did not expect to come back feeling completely different about the world around me.

I give the power of words a lot of credit, but my trip to Fiji is something I struggle to detail. Secondhand explanations just can’t do it justice. I fell in love with a culture that was just what I needed. I fell in love with the traditional song and dance, with “Fiji Time”, with the complete openness and welcoming nature of the Fijians. Of course it was beautiful, it’s Fiji, but I got so much out of being there besides pretty pictures (especially since my phone was stolen and I lost a good amount of them). Being fully immersed in a way of life so different from my own with a new group of people all unlike me, I learned a lot about who exactly “Maddy Williams” really is.

Fiji in all its natural beauty

Fiji in all its natural beauty


The best way to explain this is with an anecdote: The day I went to swim with sharks. No one else in my group wanted to come with me, but I decided to go forward and do it anyway. I woke up early the morning of to catch a bus traveling a city away. These buses were open to the air with no window panes and full of Fijians staring at me, not used to seeing white tourists take the local transportation. From the next city I took another bus to another city and from there a boat to another island completely. I did my thing, swam with some sharks, and took the return trip all over again. All in the entire trip took all day. I was nervous to take this journey by myself, especially since I don’t even regularly take the buses here on campus. But after it was over? I was so proud of myself for doing something I really wanted to do. I didn’t compromise and miss this once in a lifetime opportunity simply because no one wanted to come. I really came out of my shell, both talking to people on the bus and making friends on the island. I do not regret one second of the excursion.

Now that I am back here on good ole ‘Merican soil, I find myself thinking differently. I miss Fiji and the friends I made there. I think about how my actions and the actions of my country affect the world at large. I feel more mature and sure of myself. Trust me when I say this; studying abroad was one of the best things I have ever done. My experiences will stay with me the rest of my life and it comes highly recommended.

~Madeline Williams

The Shinto Shrines of Japan

During my time in Japan last semester, I visited a large assortment of shrines for the Shinto religion. These shrines are plentiful throughout the country. My first visit was in Akita City, eight miles away from my host university. Then, in Tokyo, I saw Meiji Shine and Yasukuni Shine, the most politically controversial shrine in Japan. I visited the most famous shrines of Kyoto, the spiritual capital of Japan. I even ran into a few smaller shrines, some in the heart of Osaka, others within walking distance of the university.

Fushini Inari Shrine

Fushini Inari Shrine

During my first shrine trip in Akita City, a tour guide demonstrated proper shrine etiquette to some of the other students and me. As it was my first time at a shrine, I was worried that I would fumble a custom, but the two most important -cleaning hands and the praying procedure- were quite simple.

Typically, just past the shrine gate is a pool of water and a ladle. First, you pick up the ladle by the handle with your right hand, fill it up, and pour the water over your left hand, making sure not to get any water back in the pool. You repeat the process for your right hand, then cup one of your hands to pour some water into it. You drink it from your hand, swish it around in your mouth, and then spit to the side. Finally, you tilt the ladle vertically so the water spills down the handle to wash it.

Prayers take place at the shrine itself, where there is an altar with an offering box. Visitors throw coins into the box, bow twice, clap twice, bow once more, and then pray.

One of my favorite parts of visiting shrines was the small houses or stands that sell omamori. Omamori are Japanese “luck charms. Westerners who have heard of omamori tend to think of them as such, but in the context of the Shinto religion, they mean much more on a spiritual level. They are small cloth pouches that are tied together at the top, and hold something inside (usually some wood or tough paper with “lucky” phrases on it). Most shrines sell them, just as many churches sell holy water, but they aren’t meant to be general souvenirs–they should be specific to the person who will carry the omamori. For example, I would get a sick friend an omamori specifically for health, as indicated by the calligraphy on the front of the omamori. (My favorite omamori was in Kyoto at Fushimi Inari shrine, where they had unusual omamori that were shaped like white foxes and orange arches, for which the shrine is famous.)

~Heather McAdams

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 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.

day6imagee1

 

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.

 

day6image3

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.

day6image4

 

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.

 

day6image5day6image8

 

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

~Camille Fontenelle, 2016

 

 

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 186 South College

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Subscribe

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Skip to toolbar