Spring 2013, Issue III
Looking back on an excellent semester
The Spring 2013 semester of CIEE's Liberal Arts program in Santo Domingo has ended and most students are back home, hopefully debriefing their experiences with friends and family and handling the sometimes difficult re-adjustment into life back in the U.S. Below, we hope you enjoy a summary of some of our activities and experiences during the second half of the semester. Enjoy!
This semester we had an exceptionally creative group of students, from graphic artists to poets. In our previous newsletter, we shared Kiva's poem, Ode to the Guachiman, and throughout this edition we have some more student poems and artwork to share with you. To start out with, students were asked on their final night of the program to write a six-word short story that describes their experience in Santo Domingo (following the legend of the six word story that Ernest Hemingway supposedly composed). Here are a few samples:
Losing control never felt so good- Faith, Spelman College
I’m no longer afraid of guaguas- Mercedes, University of Missouri
Green plantains bad; ripe plantains good- Faith, Spelman College
Caffeine addict learned to nap instead- Zoe, Clark University
The Adventures of Faith La Negra- Faith, Spelman College
The Dominican Republic wins the 2013 World Baseball Classic
In the United States the general public often dismisses the importance of the World Baseball Classic (and the U.S. team's usually lackluster performance) as an insignificant extension of Spring Training. Those who see the event through a cultural lens often scoff that after the International Olympic Committee eliminated baseball as an Olympic event, the Classis is an attempt by the U.S. baseball industry to develop the game, and profit from it, on their own terms, hiding these intentions behind a rhetoric of internationalization and an all-inclusive pastime.
It was refreshing and exciting to be in Santo Domingo during this year's World Baseball Classic, which was ultimately won by the Dominicans, the only team in the history of the Classic to go undefeated through every round. Here, the politics and second-guessing that have shrouded the event took second stage to the support from Dominican fans, and everywhere our students went during the two weeks of action, they were surrounded by one thing: passion for baseball. Earlier in the semester we had the chance to go to a playoff game of the Dominican Winter League, and there, we saw the Dominican national pastime unfold in a Dominican context. But the World Baseball Classic was different. In the Dominican Republic, it meant more than an opportunity for Dominican players to perform on an international level, because, frankly, they've been doing that, and doing it well, for decades. But when a Domininican becomes a star in the major leagues, or in Japan's Nippon Professional Leauge, or in any other international league, it is rarely on his own terms, and the onus is usually on him to conform to the league's and other players' customs. During the World Baseball Classic, Dominican fans were able to not only watch their countrymen play better than anyone else, they were able to watch their countrymen be Dominican. Players jumped the dugout railing to congratulate a scoring teammate, they celebrated after each hit, they treated each victory as if it had been won in walk-off fashion, and to lighten the mood and make sure everyone was still having fun, their good luck plátano (plantain) made mid-game apperances in the dugout. Most telling, as Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci points out, was the ultimate sporting camaraderie despite their personal celebrations that they exhibited at the end of the Classic, approaching the visitng team's dugout to shake hands and congratulate their Puerto Rican rivals, and act of sportsnamship that has been strangely devoid of professoinal baseball in the United States.
The platano, a staple of the Dominican diet, did have a special power for Dominicans in the World Baseball Classic. Because just as it represents part of the Dominican culinary tradition, during this tournament it also represented the Dominican sporting tradition, not watered down or altered by its manifestation on an international stage, but as Doinicans truly esteem and enjoy the game.
Program excursions and visits
Weekend excursion to Santiago and Jarabacoa
Today, the house where the sisters were living during the final months of their lives, while they plotted against the dictator, serves as a museum to preserve their memory. The museum can be quite shocking when comparing the serenity and beauty of the home and its extensive gardens with the violence and oppression that the sisters endured when they were jailed and ultimately killed. Dedé Mirabal, the only sister who survived, still cares for the museum today, and lives nearby in the house of her and her sisters’ youth. UNESCO has declared November 25, the day the Sisters were assassinated, as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
After traveling to Salcedo to visit the Mirabal Sisters Museum, we continued on to Santiago, the second-largest city in the D.R., where we visited the Centro Leon, one of the most advanced cultural centers and museums in the Caribbean, and had a walking tour of the historic center of Santiago, where students observed the unique architecture of the city; saw incredible views of Santiago from a monument originally dedicated to Trujillo and later re-dedicated to the Heroes of the War of the Restoration, fought from 1863-1865; and roamed through a dynamic old market whose nod towards tradition is challenged more every day by notions of modernity and progress.
In the afternoon we headed up the Central Mountain Range to the mountain town of Jarabacoa, a beautiful and tranquil setting to relax and enjoy the campo lifestyle. We stayed at a small, family-owned eco-lodge where in addition to the delicious country-style food, we enjoyed the crisp mountain air, a bit of swimming and billiards, and some pretty intense dance-offs between students, staff, and the volunteer Dominican support students who accompanied us on the trip (see the video below of Xavier. The following day, we went on a jeep safari ride and did a bit of hiking to visit several of the famous waterfalls in the area, and ended the day with a horseback ride through the mountains before heading back to Santo Domingo.
Daytrip to Elias Piña
In April we visited t he area of Elias Piña, a lively market town on the border between the D.R. and Haiti. Every Friday and Monday, the border is opened to enable the passage back and forth of merchants and buyers. This is not a traditional “market” that many of us may imagine, but rather a place where one can buy and sell items of necessity, including food staples, clothing, shoes, and electro-domestic products. Here, we can see not only the effects of poverty, but also the effects of the developed worlds’ attempts to address this poverty through donations. Clothing that is donated from abroad is often sold by venders; the high-quality rice that is shipped into Haiti as part of relief efforts is exchanged on the Dominican side of the border for higher quantities of lower-quality rice. In essence, during this visit we were able to see how those living in aid-receiving nations have used their ingenuity to leverage these donations into something that allows them to make a better living or provide more for their families, but we were also challenged to think about whether the way that many of us have traditionally viewed helping those in need is done so in a way that is effective and respectful, or if it is done under our own terms and through our own lenses of understanding how the world works.
There are several markets along the Dominican-Haitian border, and they represent a huge share of both countries’ economies. They also illustrate each country’s economic vulnerability as relationships between the two nations, transportation union strikes, or threats of communicable diseases can leave the markets at a standstill. After CIEE Resident Director María Filomena Gonzalez provided a historical and social overview of the market and its importance, students then had free time to roam through the narrow streets flanked by market stalls. Some even found a few items to take back with them. Afterwards, during lunch, everyone got to try chenchen, a corn-based dish unique to the region. During our return to Santo Domingo, we stopped off in the town of Baní to visit the Centro Perelló, a cultural center established by the family of a successful coffee company to provide better access to cultural events and high-quality educational opportunities for the town’s inhabitants, and viewed an artistic exhibit of works inspired by the salt production that has a large stake in sustaining the community.
Here's a piece written by Zoe (Clark University) that takes a deep look at a theme covered thoroughly in our Seminar on Living and Learning in Santo Domingo class: self awareness. In the poem, Zoe wrote about a challenging experience she had with a member of the Red Cross while working on a mapping project at her internship site, challenging herself to interpret the event from the point of view of the Red Cross member:
When she asks me to
share my work with her,
I think of sugar cane
of a people’s rotting teeth
of this decaying barrio
with root canals of garbage
of all these people brushing their teeth behind metal shacks in the dirt
this girl only knows toothpaste in bathrooms
a world where everything has its place
I have spent months
developing a presentation and she asks me to hand it over without a second
as if everything comes this easily
as if the hours I put into my work are equivalent to the exchange of an email address
she came here and listened to me speak and said nothing
yet expects to be a part of this
where people comb through their hair hunting for mosquito corpses
or go scrubbing the backbone of a plate with a mosquitos broken skeleton
where la gente dream on the guagua with the lights out
with electrical wiring dangling from the ceiling getting tangled in their eyelashes
she will be gone in a few weeks leaving only smudges of ink on paper
the word rubia caressed in the mouths of men
she will leave with only post cards of beaches
the memory of the campo on the backs of her eyelids when she sleeps
and we will be left
with floods with shallow graves
with screams from the barrio, gritando ¡Cristo viene!
¡que Dios me protecta!
how can I expect her to
understand this island when the only island she knows is her suburban house
surrounded by an ocean of manicured lawns
when she speaks not in the language that was given to her, but one that was adopted
she is not the first to
speak about development
about the promise of tomorrow
they want us more SUV less carro publico
want us more factories less health codes
want us more work less pay
want us more baseball less literacy
want us more American Dream less explaining its consequence
I looked at her and
tried to smile
was easier than explaining myself
Students this semester completed internship work in neighborhood organizations that serve children who make a living working in the streets; a boarding school with a mostly orphaned student body; an organization working on a project dedicated to changing local laws so that drug users can be given proper medical attention rather than be treated as criminals; a fair-trade clothing factory where employees earn dignified wages and are encouraged to unionize; and Major League Baseball’s Office of the Commissioner in Santo Domingo, where they participated in many facets of the sports development world; just to name a few.
We are constantly evaluating our internship program to make sure that the work placements and experiences of students are positive, provide them with both knowledge and experience, and are in line with their needs in order to leverage their experiences in their quests for a career upon graduating.
And a bit more poetry
Here's a piece written by Laura (Lewis and Clark College) about the intense personal growth that most students experience during their time on the program:
The plane landed and I was an infant, emerging from
the massive metal womb of Delta
Airlines into a
I feasted my eyes on palm trees and surging seas,
let unfamiliar voices and the cyclone of bachata, merengue, and car horns cascade over me
I crawled through constant confusion and wide-eyed awe as novelties surrounded me in a
I was fed and made comfortable, given a bed to rest my spinning head
And I babbled to those around me, stringing together my observations, thinking new
bringing them to life
I was guided into childhood and my Doña walked me to and from school, cautioned me that
it was a big, wide world out there
I learned to be independent, walked alone, grew into a pre-teen
and braved the frenzied landscape of guaguas and públicos
I grew, and I spoke of religion, of politics, of personal goals
I thought of my purpose, here in a world I have
bit by bit
experience by experience
Now I return to the life I have known in the past, and
this world I have grown into will
a memory, etched into my mind,
the shadow of a coming-of-age
in Santo Domingo
A parting comic, paying homage once again to the Almight Power of the Plátano, by Jasmine (Georgetown University)