My GBL 101 class my first semester of Agnes Scott consisted entirely of the Dominican Republic’s history, society, politics, and current events. We mostly focused on their ongoing relationship and conflicts with Haiti, and the country’s healthcare system since our class was led and taught by public health professor. Being from a hispanic country as well, most of the “shocking” events having to do with politics, society, corruption, economics, and more, did not surprise me much in comparison to my classmates. While I did learn a few new things about the DR in particular, it was nice to see my classmates learn and have their eyes open to just a little part of the world outside of the United States. It was as if they gained the two-sided perspective that I had grown up with while growing up in the United States but having my Argentinian language and culture at home.
Having learned as much as possible, the weeks leading up to the trip were buzzing with excitement. We flew from Hartsfield Jackson to the dreaded Miami airport before flying to Santo Domingo. We were greeted
by our Peacework ambassador who surprised us by giving us water in bags since the local water isn’t potable. We traveled by bus to our hostel in the center of the city were we spend the following 2-3 days getting to do a little bit of tourism and embrace the Dominican culture and food especially.
The second half of the week, we travelled across the country to a smaller city called Puerto Plata. Here, we stayed in an Ecolodge at the top of a rocky mountain. I had never been so glad to have dramamine on hand. The view from this ecolodge over the luscious forest of the Dominican were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The photo doesn’t do it justice but it can give you an idea.
Aside from exploring the beauty that the DR has to offer, we dove deeper into its society by visiting a woman’s health clinic and a Haitian community. In the woman’s health clinic we were able to see what resources are available to mothers and their children, sex workers, and also homosexual individuals. Being a predominantly traditional and Catholic-affiliated country, a lot of healthcare and resources are denied to these people. While the woman who ran the clinic could speak a little bit of Spanish, some of the medical terms can easily get lost as most are not cognates to English words. Fortunately, my experience shadowing the Spanish translator at a hospital for the entirety of the previous summer came into good use and I was able to translate most of the lady’s presentation. This was a very interesting presentation that allowed us students, used to the healthcare system in the United States to reflect on their experiences and compare the differences in society.
When we went to visit the local Haitian community, the main focus of going there was not to act as missionaries or have a superior “God-saving complex” to us. This is a focus I appreciated greatly that our class professor and Agnes Scott emphasize while teaching us to become global citizens and not tourists. Our purpose in visiting the community was to learn about the conflict between Haitian citizens in the Dominican Republic. Many Haitians face the same problem that immigrants to the United States face. They were brought over to another country at a very young age and grew up there without any knowledge or connections to their “native” country. The Dominican Republic’s government began to deny citizenship to those in this situation and even deporting them back across the border. These communities have helped many Haitians in this situation thanks to non-profit organizations and health workers that are like ambassadors between the community and the Dominican government to make sure that people continue to receive basic and necessary resources for living. To make our visit somewhat beneficial to the community, the students that were bilingual in Spanish or French assisted the health worker by going from house to house, more realistically, from shack to shack, and inquiring about the number of children in that household below the age of 12. This allowed for the health worker to have a census of the children population that would be needing vaccinations.
We played soccer with the children, we thanked and paid the mothers of the village who fed us, we shopped at the community’s artist’s home, and we even helped the educators teach the children how to make recyclable trash cans from used water bottles and barbed wire.
It was honestly very mind-opening. Even for me, someone who thinks they have seen it all of poverty, third-world countries, discrimination, racism, and more. However, it never ends, and there will always be an abundance of it in this world for a while. The thing that surprised us all the most, that even in the conditions that these people live in, who know the status of their lives depends on the country’s daily decision to send them past a river, still wake up every day with a smile on their faces and count their blessings for their health and the family that surrounds them.
SUMMIT Learning Outcomes associated with this reflection:
- 1. Identify, explain, and analyze global themes, process and systems
- 2. Demonstrate knowledge and skills essential for global engagement
- 3. Critically examine the relationship between dominant and marginalized cultures, subcultures or groups
- 4. Communicate effectively through writing and speaking, especially across cultural or linguistic differences