After spending a few days in the capital of the Dominican Republic, my class ventured two hours away to Santiago. Within hours of being in this city, I fell in love with it. With endless music and dancing, the city of Santiago never sleeps. I had no expectations of redefining who I was, but this city changed me.
Our first night in the new city was spent in the mountains at an ecotourism site called Jarabacoa. From waterfalls to smokey mountains, the scenery was one that took my breath away many times. At Jarabacoa, we bonded with six of the Universidad ISA students. They taught us Merengue and Bachata. In exchange, we taught them how to line dance and swing dance. These cultural exchanges made me rethink some of our American values and truly opened my eyes to what I was experiencing. Jarabacoa was the highlight of my study abroad trip because I bonded with American and Dominican students, and made some of the best friends.
Another meaningful aspect of my time in Santiago was when we visited a Batey. A Batey Libertad is a rice growing area, where many of the workers live in the community across the street. Eventually, the community converted to sugar cane production that issued work visas for Haitians. These communities are typically poor, and the people often don’t leave the community to seek higher paying work.
From the moment we stepped off the bus, the children welcomed us. They held our hands and would not let go. As we toured their community, I opened my eyes to just how much we have in the United States. We have running water, electricity, and homes with more than one room. However, what we lack is the pure happiness and love for basic things. I noticed that even the company of new people brought an insane amount of happiness to the children we were blessed to meet.
There was one kid in particular that touched my heart. His name was Macero. Macero insisted on braiding my hair and teaching me games, such as handshakes that have corresponding songs. I could see pure joy in his eyes as we interacted. While we Americans may have more luxuries, the Batey community absolutely had more love and fulfillment in their lives because they were not caught up in material items, or living life based on the amount of time you have.
ACES 298: Discovering Systems of the Caribbean taught me more than just agriculture systems. I learned about a different way of life, gained new perspectives and discovered myself. #imagineACES