So this post is a little behind on the time scale of our trip. With all the busy plans and rush packing, there wasn’t much time to sit down and really write out how I felt the last week in the Dominican Republic.
So away we go… After our last day of filming, we had a mainly free Saturday. We had class in the morning with Kyle, to learn about the history of the Dominican Republic and the economic status of the DR as well as Haiti. After our class was over, the whole class took a trip to La Sirena, otherwise known as the Dominican Walmart, except this one is 2, count em 1, 2 floors tall! Whoa.
After an overwhelming search for brightly colored skinny jeans and cheesy souvenirs, we all headed back to ILAC on a bus called a Guagua. Can you say “up close and personal?” Never did I know that on this trip I would be sat on by a complete stranger, sharing sweat and the little breeze that was coming through the window. Nine American students entered a 12 passenger van with around 24, on average, people stuffed inside. It was a great experience, I feel like I should have at least gotten the lady’s name that sat on me because usually when you get that close with someone, you at least know their name.
On to a more serious note. The next morning we traveled to Dajabon. A city that is famous for the market it holds twice a week for Haitians to cross the border into the Dominican Republic and buy groceries they will need for the week. With much desperation and desire, thousands of Haitians cross the border, most sprinting, to get as much stuff as they can before the market closes. I got to experience first hand how the exchange at the border goes about. Dr. O’Keefe, Carol, Erin, Rachel B, and I walked onto the bridge and stood on the edge by the railing. We stood for around 20 minutes, people watching. Small men carrying crates that should be led by 2 oxen, women balancing enormous bags on top of their heads, and children running across with no shoes on. As we stood on the bridge, I suddenly had this feeling of embarassment. Why was I standing there watching these people cross the border to get food? What was so entertaining or interesting for me to people watch for 20 minutes? I had a hard time with that as we started our way back to the bus. This feeling of embarassment was present in me most of the trip. I felt like I was invading these people’s space, when all they wanted to do was go about their day. How rude of me.
After we left Dajabon, we drove on an old road that separates Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The poorest of the poor live on this road, and tears began to fill my eyes as we watched the children run after our bus screaming, “Dame algo”, give me something, it was heart breaking. I don’t think it hit most of us until Elfie, our bus driver, stopped to buy some mangos from a boy standing on the side of the road. We all had our windows down because it was so hot, and an old woman, I’ll say she was around 60 or 70, walked straight to the nearest open window and shoved her hand right in the face of Gaby, then Morgan, and finally Tim. All of us felt helpless because there was nothing we could do. How can you not help out a helpless old woman, a grandma who wants nothing more than a few pesos that we were not allowed to give. A little piece of my heart was changed at that moment; it will never be the same again.
The trip to Dajabon was by far the hardest 2 days we spent in the Dominican Republic. I struggled with many emotions and challenges on that trip. It took so much strength not to give everything I had, including the clothes on my back, to the children, mothers, and men with calluses on their hands. Kyle talked to us about being a witness and how a testimony can change the verdict of a case. I have witnessed. Now I am working of my life altering testimony.
With an understanding of sadness,