Indian Land Student Travels Abroad For A Great Cause

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January 3, 2017

Anna’s Adventure

By Discover Indian Land 

January 3, 2017 – 12:36 – Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The atmosphere is filled with the sounds of mopeds whizzing by, dotted by cows roaming the road and truck beds full of vibrant fruit, kissed by warm breezes, and pierced by the thumping of reggaeton music in the distance. As soon as I set foot in the Dominican Republic, I am greeted by its beautiful chaos. I cannot soak up enough of this moment or place. Puerto Plata is not particularly a tourist area, but it is real, authentic, and exactly what I craved.

Our group became fast friends with a taxi driver nicknamed Cheo. He was a small man with a friendly smile. Cheo was eager to show us the beauty of the island and why he was so proud to call this place home. Cheo’s first suggestion was a natural phenomenon called diecisiete duchares, or twenty-seven waterfalls.  Off we went, with my face plastered against the taxi window like a kid in a candy shop. The visit to diecisiete duchares began with us hiking through the rainforest with two local guides. The guides were two of the most entertaining and kind boys, always cracking jokes and helping us with our Spanish. Eventually, we reached the top of the trail at a series of twenty-seven waterfalls on which visitors jump and then slide down (AKA the coolest thing I’ve done to date). Moral of the story: don’t go chasing waterfalls unless you’re in the Dominican Republic. Jump off them!
After I dove off the waterfalls, I dove back into reality. I woke up early the next morning, boarded a bus, and visited one of Puerto Plata’s low-income neighborhoods. Every person I passed greeted me with a wave and smile. Yet, upon closer inspection, I witnessed bare feet and tarp homes behind them. I saw children bathing in a river stained brown from landslides.  People were living among trash. I saw the things I thought only existed in pictures on the Internet, and it shook me to my core. The main reason I was there was to complete one of the three main tasks I was there to do, the first being to lay a concrete floor. The family for which we laid the floor was gracious, grateful, and loving. They greeted us with happy tears and big hugs. We laid their floor, bucket by bucket, and, at the end of the day, they had nowhere to go because their floors were not set yet. Their neighbors took them in instantly, offering them dinner and beds for the night. Family is one of the biggest components of Dominican culture. The common understanding is that everyone is family regardless of blood, background, or beliefs.The next day consisted of the second task, which was helping out at a local school and interacting with the children in another low-income neighborhood, this one called San Marcos. The children latched onto us like barnacles on a boat, longing for friendship and to feel loved.  We played baseball, danced to fun songs, made crafts, and practiced English. The children were on cloud nine as we showed them that Americans had traveled thousands of miles to be with them. Every person shined with joy throughout every minute we were there. The kids taught me that this world just needs a little more love.
The next day, I boarded a bus to complete the third task: working with a women’s jewelry and paper entrepreneurship that provides female human trafficking victims a livelihood to provide for their families. The women sang infectiously joyful tribal songs that put chills on everyone’s arms while they worked. They took me in as a temporary daughter and showed me their process for making the products and the career they’re so extremely proud of. After working, we exchanged phone numbers and hugs, promising each other English and Spanish lessons.

On our very last day, we did something spontaneously wild. We took a road trip with Cheo. We found out about a local secret we just had to visit called Paradise Island. This place was one of the pictures your desktop defaults to, and we had to see it for ourselves. We began our two-hour journey with an hour-and-a-half long car ride through farms and small villages. We eventually arrived in a town called Punta Rucia, where Cheo knew a man with a boat that would take us to the island. Looking back on the situation now, I realize that was pretty risky, but in the moment I was wildly oblivious because of my pure excitement. We traveled on the boat for about 30 minutes until a tiki hut materialized in the distance. As we got closer, we realized the island was a small island, only big enough to hold three 5×5 tiki huts and some snorkeling gear.

 

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