As more and more time passes since last summer, I realize how much my experience working in the Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways had an effect on me. I learned so much about another country, and Rustic Pathways’s connections as a travel / community service / adventure company really helped to facilitate the cultural immersion that I experienced and then which I in turn facilitated for the students on the programs.
Here are even more things that I realize I miss!
1) My braids
I miss these! I should start wearing these to work. I got my braids done at Playa Juan Dolío along with all the girls in my group. I think it was about a dollar per braid. Having ignored the braiding ladies two times prior at Juan Dolío, my third time bringing a group to the beach led me to finally cave in. Feeling adventurous, we all pawed through the selection of colored beads. I kept my braids in for about a month, but they still looked pretty good and could have stayed in longer. Juan Dolío is less than an hour away from Santo Domingo towards the east. Another twenty minutes east is San Pedro de Macorís where I spent the majority of the summer, as it is a town with a high concentration of batey communities where we did our service work.
One night for dinner we went to a restaurant that had been recommended to us in downtown San Pedro de Macorís. This was my first tamale experience. I hope it will not be the last! I had a beef tamale drenched in hot sauce; otherwise Dominican food is virtually spice-less apart from the garlic they like so much. There were other options like chicken or vegetable tamale for the vegetarians of our group.
See? Everyone loved their tamales.
3) Dominos & Cililio
I had never really played Dominos before going to the DR. Apart from baseball, it’s the national game. Cililio (pictured below in the middle) taught our group how to play at the base house. He is Dominican of Haitian descent and has lived in bateyes his whole life. He is the caretaker / gardener / groundskeeper at last summer’s base house. I got to talk to Cililio every morning after breakfast waiting for the kids to get ready; then we would talk on the steps before dinner every night, debating whether it was hotter outside with the “breeze” or inside with no breeze. It was usually a moot point.
4) That horse I annoyed for a half hour, and my first limoncillo experience:
After brief observation on one particularly sunny afternoon, I noticed that this horse would stomp his front left foot, shake his glorious flaxen mane, and then snort air loudly out of his nostrils whenever a human would stand very close directly in front of his pink nose and exhale loudly. After making friends with the owner and the various other friends in the riding party, I achieved the same result, giggling with glee.
It proved to be tiring work, so one of the friends presented the group’s cache of limoncillos for refreshment. This was in fact the first time I ever had one. You use your teeth to crack through the surprisingly easy peel, you eat the pulp and spit out the seed.
The day was so perfectly sunny, the palm trees so palmy, the colors so Dominicanly vivid, the limoncillo so tangy, and the horse so entertaining, that I will never forget this exact point in time. Obviously time moves slowly in the DR. Clearly I embraced this phenomenon wholeheartedly.