Class Journal from 1st UVM Service-Learning Trip to Batey Libertad

January 25, 2005 at 4:51 pm 1 comment

Twelve undergraduate students participated in the January 2005 class at Batey Libertad. During our two week trip, each student wrote the class journal entry for a day, reading and recounting the days events the following evening. Below you can read about our visit to Batey Libertad — as well as our time in Santiago, Puerto Plata, Jarabacoa, and Santo Domingo — through the eyes of students from the University of Vermont.

January 4, 2005
by Seth Hermans

While taking a part in this experience it can sometimes be most helpful to see where my existence is and where it will go. The struggle to do good work and be present not just physically but mentally must be overcome in order to have the best result. This begs the question, “How do you be here now and use the emotions that a foreign and sometimes uncomfortable situation creates in order to fuel you and not deplete you?”

One tool that I have looked to to answer this question is the story of the monomyth. The complete notion that the monomyth proposes is the idea that all of life’s stories, fact or fiction, follow a similar cycle that is able to be mapped out and understood in a tangible way.

The story starts with the call into the unknown, which is termed the abyss. The call can come in many ways. In most instances the hero-to-be is drafted into a mission, goes out of curiosity, or accidentally stumbles into it. For each person in this class the reasons may be different. For Jeff who began the journey of working at the Batey, he went to play soccer and returned 4 years later with all of us. He could not have known that the seed that he planted would be watered and cared for by so many hands from the batey to across the US and grown into a project that has helped so many people and will help so many more.

This really describes the reason for the monomyth. It shows that there are infinite possibilities that come with all the risks and uneasy circumstances of leaving what you know most.

As we continue the story throughout this day, and throughout all of our tomorrows we can look at this cycle to find our spot and understand where we can go. For myself it has helped me to stay in the moment, and get up even if I have cuts and bruises.

All right, lets go on, our hero who is anyone of us and also all of us is called into the adventure for reasons, which I have previously explained. He or she begins the journey almost always with a guide. The guide could take many different forms. For us the guides have been our friends and teachers, Jeff, John, Oriana, Jon, and Pat.

The first day of our trip was really the point at which we crossed the threshold into the abyss. Physically as soon as we got off the plane, life was different. First in the morning, we took on the challenge of becoming comfortable and familiar with each other as we played HIV/AIDS education games on the rooftop of our Santiago home, “The Colonial”. We next visited the mall where I searched for stamps as little Jon busted moves to Brittany Spears. Later Rachel introduced the group to the Cubanio sandwich. After lunch Big Jon learned how to order a taxi in Spanish.

On our way to play soccer Kari played her soccer ball like a bongo and we all found out that leaving the volume control up to our bus driver will lead to hearing loss, even if we love listening to Willy Nelson sing reggae.

At dinner that night several of us greeted the Cervesa Presidente with kisses and smiles as Cowboys served our food with guns and Lassos. The Gua Gua challenge was also born with the first correct answer being “profile” and continued with trivia about “33”.

Although the first day officially ended at midnight, it appeared much longer for anyone who could not sleep like a rock. Late in the evening a fire station alarm was sounded and left us wondering if the entire city was burning as the alarm stayed on until the next morning.

No matter when the first day ended for you, the journey goes on. Although I do not know how or when it will end, the story will include these parts in this order.

  • First, we had the call where we left home and had a guide at our side.
  • We have arrived in the abyss which if full of uncertainties and opportunities.
  • It is in the abyss where our struggle begins. We will always meet the challenges, which we have to overcome. Our guide will prepare us for this match but it is only ourselves who can take part in it.
  • This is the point where we fight the dragon and with persistence win the battle. At this time something always dies. For anyone of us it could be a view which we thought was true and we found out was not, or it could be a side to our self that we could not figure out how to understand.
  • As soon as this happens we find what we have started the journey to attain, even if we did not know what it was in the beginning.
  • We then make our way with our grail to the place, which we initially left. The grail could be medicine, a soccer ball, dinner, or the willingness to invite others to join in the journey. Whatever form this bounty comes in, it is always good and shared with the people, which you care deeply about.

This cycle repeats itself at all points in time and creates cycles inside cycles and journeys inside journeys. Even if every step is not what you had expected and you are feeling lost, the end results are always better then if you had never left at all.

January 5, 2005
by Ali Beddoe

Missing

January 6, 2005
by Alissa Matthews

The morning started out normal, all of us slowly waking up and assembling ourselves at the tables for breakfast. Lazaro tried his very best to serve our every request and did a great job keeping us all happy as usual. Ramon showed up early with a big smile and obviously had thought ahead and brought us a few bags full of bananas, a very nice gesture which would save time and hassle on the morning trip. Everyone finished up their meal and we all packed into the gua-gua to head on our second trip to Batey Libertad. We made another quick stop at the supermarket to pick up bread. Over a half hour and at least four bags of groceries later we were back on our way. Everyone seemed content on the ride, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one questioning what it would be like to return, not being able to imagine a greater feeling than the greeting we received at the batey the previous trip.

As the twenty-two of us hopped off the bus the kids we had met the first day were eagerly awaiting us. I found it much easier to take in the sights and sounds this time as I walked down the pathway. Two dogs were feasting on the cow a woman had been busily butchering the day before, a group was gathered talking and laughing seemingly enjoying the nice day, and at the front doorway of their homes women were working hard scrubbing clothes and washing vegetables. Everyone mingled for awhile and then we presented what we had brought to the community. The committee received our gifts to them with great gratitude and it was nice to know it would all be distributed on an as needed basis.

Next we learned two new grassroots activities. The excitement and energy from our group is an amazing thing. It has definitely been very beneficial to have a group that works so well together. After learning the games came the task of gathering the soccer teams and community members so we could transfer our knowledge to them. It was a pleasant surprise to see how many girls were able to participate, even if a few of them had to run in and out between chores. Although the frustration of the language barrier was difficult to ignore, the girls showed interest and curiosity in the information we had to share with them.

As our discussions ended and we started to talk about other possible activities the girls excitement grew and before we knew it we became the audience to a lively Haitian dance. I admit our group could have been better prepared, but considering the time constraints and other outside factors the point of the activities was proven to have been conveyed successfully time and time again.

The human interactions were unlike any other experiences most of us had ever had.

January 7, 2005
by Henry Melcher

On the same road we traveled the prior two mornings, packed shoulder to shoulder, backpacks in back, we turned off the Beleaguer highway, headed to Puerto Plata. Our bus driver, one mode Ramon, was undeterred by the unkempt roads, passing trucks uphill despite the flashing headlights of many an oncoming pickup or two-man motorcycle. Narrow passes turned into rolling hills, turned into an exhaust filled city, turned into resort-nation. Elizabeth put it best, when pulling into the gated community past armed guards, that she could no longer decipher whether we were in the Dominican Republic or Florida.

And it’s not to say that I wouldn’t have loved rooming with Pat and Naweza, but from the start, something was a little off. It was almost as if the disposable blue bracelets transported us to a place later described as the Matrix, the Twilight Zone; an alternate universe completely. A long way from the Batey, the hardened and stringy physiques of lives lived in the moment were nowhere to be found. The sight of men whose bellies were as shiny and large as their speedos were small was both startling and humorous. After a quick group change in one of our only rooms available, we were on our way to the beach.

It didn’t take long for an intense game of beach soccer to develop, which only made the clear blue ocean water all the more enjoyable afterwards. Motivated by ourselves, and the general inactivity of the sunbathing patrons we shared the all-inclusive with, the afternoon was spent running from one activity to the next. Our trip to the riflery range proved big Seth the group’s best marksman, and the time spent playing “butts up,” by anyone brave enough to offer their behind as a target for the mighty strike of many a college level soccer player, left its participants with sore backsides and bare feet alike.

However, this glorious afternoon was only a precursor to a night that can only be described as completely awesome. After a satisfying and more elegant dinner, the group made its way to the beach for our nightly discussion. A mellow beginning to our chat, everyone had the chance to speak about whatever it was that was on their minds, about the day, which by time’s definition was almost done, but really, was just beginning.

It was probably around ten when the book talk ended, which left an hour to fill before the magnificence that was the disco. From the minute we arrived, the dance floor was happening. And even when it got lonely, and Kari was the only soul with enough heart to attempt the impossible latin rhythms, it was definitely still happening. Soon the 15’ x 15’ floor that was once dominated by only us trying our hardest was shared with many types: whether it was a pair of 14 year olds dancing merengue more fluently and beautifully than I’ve ever seen, or a couple of older women who were way too uncoordinated and excited about the hot new dance moves they had just learned, or taught one another through painful trial and error, the disco por la playa was the spot to be. And in the true spirit of class participation, big Jon Erickson threw down right along side his students, and if ever a professor could receive a grade, this dude would get nothing less than an A.

It was the seemingly most unpredictable of events that pulled together the sentiments of the group. What better to illustrate the stark contrast between the Batey and the beach, resort reality and reality, than the shirtless, pale white torsos of the boys in the group; dancing wildly into the darkness of the Dominican night.

January 8, 2005
by Rachel Bertsch

We started off the morning watching a film titled Pandemic. It was a film that followed the lives of several people living with AIDS. The film tracked different people from different countries and showed how drastically AIDS can affect your life. We saw how a women in Africa found out she had contracted AIDS from her husband because he had been cheating on her. We had to see the pain and hurt in her eyes when she found out she was going to die as a result from her husband’s unfaithfulness. The part that struck me the hardest was how the woman couldn’t really get angry or voice her anger towards her husband. She just had to keep living her life with him knowing he gave her a terminally ill disease. We also got to follow the life of a Thai family and saw how AIDS can tear a family apart. In this woman’s story once she contracted AIDS she felt like she could no longer go home because her family was afraid of what others would think. It broke my heart to think how lonely and sad this Thai girl must have been. She discovered she was going to die and had no one to comfort or console her. When her family finally decided to forgive her she only got a few months to spend with them before she passed on. We also got to see another family where AIDS brought them closer together. For this family in Brazil AIDS was a way for the family to accept their son’s homosexuality and it brought them all closer together. The whole family had a common goal and that was to keep their son or brother alive.

After the movie we got free time to spend relaxing and thinking. I spent my free time lying on the beach and thinking about the movie. I thought about all the people that AIDS affects. Not just the people carrying the disease but all their friends and family. I thought about how there is still so few woman’s rights in a lot of countries and how awful it is that women don’t have more say or control as to what happens in their own lives.

In the late afternoon we learned another grassroots soccer game. It was the final game that consisted of AIDS trivia and soccer skills. Every one of these games amazes me more and more. I always walk away learning something and am amazed of how we went about learning it. I also enjoy the games because it is a time when we as a group get together and have fun.

After the game we had our usual dinner and discussion and then it was time for bed. We had another long and exciting day at the Batey to look forward to.

January 9, 2005
by Nick Bewley

“Why today? Why God? Why today?” cried John “Nooch” Antonucci, rousing me from a deep morning slumber with his pitiful childlike moaning. I jumped up hoping to find out the matter, only to discover Nooch’s body curled tightly into a ball, him rocking back and forth with his deep sobbing. Feeling that I’d find no answers with this sorrowful shell of a man, I stepped outside of my hotel room. Immediately, I was greeted by the forlorn faces of my fellow comrades. Rain crashed onto the pavement behind them, as the torrential downpour that had dominated the night thundered on in the early morn. Herein lay the source of my colleagues’ torment. Today, Sunday, was the day that everyone had been looking forward to since we arrived in the Dominican Republic, a day that we had envisioned as a day of outdoor excitement, culminating in a massive soccer tournament at Batey Libertad. The rain, however, provided an ominous obstacle, promising to transform the Batey’s dirt soccer field into a muddy quagmire. The soccer tournament, given such circumstances, would be impossible.

Now I understood the grim atmosphere that permeated our entourage, for the hopes and dreams that provided the crux of our experience were being washed away in the ensuing storm. Tired, haggard, and broken, our entourage stumbled to go eat our plastic production-line breakfast at the all-inclusive Occidental Hotel, a prominent resort in the tourist paradise that is . . . Puerto Plata. After stomaching our meal, we piled into the gua-gua-mobile and began our journey to the Batey. As we passed through the gates of the resort, returning once again to reality, the sky cleared and the sun warmed our countenances. Our bus moved and shook through the beautiful rolling hills of the Dominican Republic’s rural hinterland, dancing in tandem with the deep bass and funky rhythms of reggae’s Eek-a-Mouse. Happiness started to light the eyes of our crew. “It will be a good day” I thought to myself, a smile creasing my face.

We pulled up to the Batey to find the men’s soccer team already underway in the first game of the day’s soccer extravaganza. Our prior fears, it turns out, were entirely unfounded. The soccer pitch was a thing of beauty, for the thunderstorm from the night before had completely missed the Batey. The gods, it seems, had smiled upon us, allowing our day of festivities to continue.

The guys from our crew hurried to throw on their soccer attire, racing to get onto the field and aid the Batey in their quest for victory. The entirety of the skin color spectrum was represented by the players on the field, as people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds put aside their differences, united by their mutual love for the game of soccer. All of the teams possessed a great amount of skill, and the games were close and fierce. In the end, however, the teams of Batey Libertad emerged as the ultimate victors, crushing their Dominican challengers under the spiked boot of Batey soccer. At the end of the final match, the spectators from the community stormed the field, joyous shouts raining from their proud lips. The players passed around the coveted first place trophy, smiles stretching from ear to ear. It was a great day for Batey Libertad, for their soccer teams—organizations that bring strength, respect, and solidarity—proved that they are among the best in the Dominican Republic.

The day’s excitement, however, did not end with the final soccer match. Later in the evening, the Voodoo priest Caco held a ceremony in our honor, ingesting razor blades and glass bottles to protect us in our future journeys. Our group watched in awe as he stepped around a six-sided star, performing a deadly dance with a flaming torch. The ground shook as he pounded it with his heels, eyes filled with the rage of demonic possession. After the ceremony was finished, he brought us to his sacred sanctuary and answered our questions about his mysterious practices. We left, amazed and exhausted from the day’s events, and found our ways back to the homes on the Batey in which we would spend the night. As I walked up to my host family’s door, Fernardo, my host father, opened the door to his home and welcomed me with open arms. I plomped my tired body onto the comfortable bed that was provided to me, dozing off to sleep under the canopy of a mosquito net. I slept soundly, knowing that I’d remember this day for the rest of my life.

January 10, 2005
by Aly Fox

My how things have changed since last Monday. Just one week ago I was waking up in my home, driving to the airport and eagerly awaiting arriving in the Dominican Republic. Today however marked the one-week point in the trip. The day started out quite interestingly. I woke up between Ali and Alissa, two people I hadn’t even known a week ago, under a large pink mosquito net to the sound of chickens dancing on a tin roof of the home of a sweet older Spanish speaking family at Batey Libertad. It was very interesting waking up there. The sounds of chickens and children laughing are much better to wake up to than the annoying beeping of alarm clocks! After the initial bout of “where am I’? passed, Ali and I packed up and had literally the sweetest tea ever with the woman of the house. She spoke in Spanish and I was speaking English, and while I didn’t really understand it was pleasant. We then headed back to Papito’s house, the hot spot at Batey Libertad, to get organized and hang out with some cool little kids.

After singing “Happy Birthday” in Spanish to the Oriannas, we piled on the ol’ Gua Gua. As usual, it was a process that involved sneaking on so the child who was gripping your hand wouldn’t climb in after you. Doing that, however, I got pretty sad, realizing we had just one more day at Batey Libertad; just one more day having many conversations that I didn’t understand but loving every minute of it, one more day with an amazing group of people, one more day in a world entirely different but entirely eye opening and wonderful. But that sadness lasted for a fleeting instant, because then I saw the smiles of those kids, waving madly and yelling and I smiled right back and waved, so happy that we did have one more whole day here.

The ride back was fun, as usual. The madness that is the “Gua Gua Challenge” took over this particular trip, the tests of random knowledge took over the back of the bus, and as we learned that horses can’t vomit and the speed of maximum human velocity was 186 mph, we pulled into a Dominoes. That struck me as funny, but the pizza was pretty good. It just got me thinking about how different our lives were from those on the Batey. After leaving Dominoes we arrived at the Hotel Colonial, our home away from home. And this time it really felt like home. The shower was just as I expected, that is, wonderful. I think we can say as a collective that it was the best shower ever. Napping was nice too. After a rousing discussion and the initial discussion concerning the framework of our presentation, who should pull up but the UVM music class, proving just how small the world is. Dinner was perhaps the best dinner yet. Sitting around the tables in Lazaro’s dining room, eating the familiar staples of rice and beans, and passing around the plates of eggplants and beets, it felt just like a huge family dinner. Kicking back with Presidente’s after dinner seemed only fitting. Laying down in my bed that night I smiled myself to sleep, so much has happened in a week, more than I imagined. And though technically this was the beginning of the end of our trip, we still had so much to look forward to, and that’s a fact I was grateful for.

January 11, 2005
by Naweza Muderhwa

Today I realized that to enjoy a new experience it is necessary to go into the situation without any reservations. Being in the mountains really helped me with putting things into perspective to why I came here. The smell of the air, the colors of the leaves and just watching people interact with each other brought memories of the times I spent driving through the countryside in Burkina Faso. In addition, it also reminded me of the sense of togetherness at the batey. The first time I went to the batey I was just an African girl who lives in the United States but now not only am I a friend to many people at the batey, I am also leaving as a god mother. The kind of connection I made at the batey is something that is rare to find especially in a situation where you do not really know anyone. Hiking was a great experience but I would not tell my friends because they will come up with jokes about me going hiking.

Later at night we went to the circus, which was also a new experience for me. There were many enjoyable shows such as the dogs, the birds, the clowns and the tigers. Even though they were all enjoyable, the show with the tigers made me worry about my safety. As I was watching the show I kept thinking of the numerous times I have been asked by people if I had owned a pet tiger when I lived in Africa. I kept laughing about all the questions I have been asked and at the same time I was hoping that nobody in the group would ask me the same question. So to anyone who is wondering if I owned a pet tiger the answer is no, today was my first encounter with tigers. During the show I kept thinking the poor trainer was going to be eaten by the end of the show. And my mind started running wild as I was plotting different exit options in case the tigers got out of the cage. After I carefully thought about different ways to avoid being eaten by tigers the only thing I could come up with was to play dead. My idea might not sound smart but I do not think tigers like to eat old meat. If I am not mistaken I think they like to kill their meat first before they eat it.

Today was a good day because I got to experience two things that I would have never done on my own and I also got to laugh at myself, which is always a good thing when experiencing new things.

January 12, 2005
by Seth Matlick

After a solid night’s sleep of dreams consisting of a kinky contortionist and temperamental tigers, we boarded the gua-gua for our last day at Batey Libertad. During a routine stop at the supermarket, Big(ger) Seth booted El Sexo numero dos onto the roof of a neighboring warehouse while attempting to keep our juggling session alive. Dishearten, the group gave up hope on our beloved companion and started to make way back towards the bus. But there was a scoff heard from amongst our crowd. Silas, climber of trees, leaper of fences, doer of the near impossible, was in disbelief of how quickly we were prepared to abandon one of our own. A few minor obstacles proved no challenge to Sy as with monkey-like gracefulness he shimmied up a palm tree, scaled a barbed-wire fence, and daringly rescued the 23rd member of our posse. With renewed high spirits we hopped back onto the gua-gua ready as ever to get down and dirty with our family at the batey.

But this wasn’t the end of the hijinx. Lil’ Jon and Silas, our resident film crew, thought a solid shot of people working the rice fields, where many of the men from the batey are employed, would be crucial for the video presentation that was still in the works. So Ramon pulled over and they got right to work. Barefoot, they hopped over trench and fence alike and booked it out into the fields. Without knowing a lick of Spanish between the two of them and armed with only a camcorder and confidence they managed to get their shot and headed back the way they came. What the people in the field thought those two were doing is unknown to us but I think it is safe to say that bizarre encounter was discussed that night at the dinner tables of the men in the shot.

A little behind schedule we finally arrived to a warm greeting that all of us have come to expect and quickly dove right in. The guys got in one last game of soccer, which was more informal then some past games, playing with younger and older team members alike. Both of our groups also had the pleasure to one last meeting with the boy’s and girl’s teams we had built such wonderful relationships with over the past week. With a final and true to form chaotic round of ‘Juggle My Life’ under our belts and a last in depth conversation about safe sex practices, HIV and AIDS, and any other general questions and concerns these youth might have, we were done with the teaching portion of our class at Batey Libertad.

While taking a quick lunch break consisting of the ever-popular menu of PB & J, bananas, and avocados, we were notified our presence was needed promptly next door. The half time show the girl’s team had put together for the soccer tournament had not been performed last Sunday as planned but as the saying goes the show must go on and we were to be their private audience. As we watched on I started thinking that for a program promoting sexual education and awareness that emphasizes that sex is a choice and not a requirement, the spectacle being presented before us by these young ladies was highly ironic. The provocative dance routines we saw by eight and eighteen year olds alike were executed with a high level of skill and grace and were enjoyed by all, including Jefe’s parents and sister who we all had the pleasure of meeting that day.

Once the show was done and praise was given to those who had shaken it as only a true Haitian can, it was it was off to the church for one last group hurrah with the community we had grown so close to in such a short period of time. Yanlico had picked out a passage from the bible to read to us to express his feelings of joy and appreciation for the work we had done and the bonds we had created, which was so poignantly summarized into English for the rest of us.

The next act to follow was something you truly had to hear and see to believe. Los Hermanos, the community’s pop stars, gave us a show I will never forget. This batey boy band serenaded a church full of the community’s and our members with songs in Kreyol about what I’m not too sure, but if one thing is for sure, the crowd was loving it. This concert was followed up by a delicious snack of meat and cheese cubes on toothpicks and a rainbow of different soft drinks. During one last performance by the band, where starting with Nooch, we all one by one got up from the pews and joined Los Hermanos in some kind of Haitian line dance. At the end the laughter and singing was mixed with an assortment of emotions for me that ranged from blessed and gleeful to sadness and sorrow. Using the little Spanish I had been able to remember from freshman year of high school, I tried to explain to my new friends that I will return next year and hopefully have a better grasp and vocabulary of Espanol so we could hold a real conversation.

All goodbyes said and done, I was, as I’m sure all of us were, all hugged out and emotionally and physically drained. As one-mode Ramon took us home one last time from what has felt like the longest game of charades ever, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the friends made and the lives we affected. The characters we left behind, such as Chucky, the Booger Brothers, and of course, my favorite, Johnny No-pants, left me slightly upset yet at the same time very excited because A) I couldn’t wait to get some well deserved rest, but mainly B) because I know I will get to see them all again one day.

After a five minute ice cold shower and rest at Lazaro’s we were back on the gua-gua on our way to an Aguilas’ home game. It was nine innings of Dominican beisbol mayhem for our emotionally spent group where we witnessed such sights as a man in a yellow jumpsuit and a bad wig shake his ass and hump chairs, and spandex sporting cheerleaders shake their asses and hump the air. We also had the pleasure of seeing the Oakland A’s own Miguel Tejada, appropriately nick-named “Gua-Gua”, play and help the Aguilas to their victory. Dominican’s truly appreciate a home run like none other but unfortunately lacked the same zest for the ‘wave’ our crew was doing. By far Ramon had the best time there as you could tell by his huge smile as he drove our exhausted troupe home for a well needed sleep.

January 13, 2005
by Silas Hagerty

Like free candy at the batey, the knee buckling, sweat inducing, mystery bug, spread like wildfire. Amy was the first to drop. Absent from Lazaro’s daily ham and eggs party, we all began to wonder, will Amy make it? And then, who’s next?

For the next few hours we shuffled around the hotel in preparation for our journey to the country’s capital Santo Domingo. One by one we piled into our dolphin sporting gwa-gwa officially now known as “La Chiva” or the goat. Amy sat in the front next to the bug’s subsequent victim…..Oriana.

While Bouncing along bumpy highways we experienced the bold task of making lunch on the gwa-gwa. Nooch handed out the bread and we all passed around our daily intakes of avocado and peanut butter. In the middle of my meal Seth Herman turned to me wide eyed, “Do you realize what we just did?” I looked up at Ramón in the captain’s chair and saw him pass a smile to big Jon. “We just dodged those pot holes by driving on the sidewalk.” Everyday Ramón sets the bar even higher. From kissing cashiers at shopping plazas to joking with passing friends out the drivers-side window, Ramón continues to impress us all. As big Jon put it in Spanish, “Eres El Hombre” in English “You’re the man.”

After driving through the palm tree mountains of central Dominican Republic, we are soon transformed back in time through the colonial streets of Santo Domingo. Old men play checkers on the sidewalks while music pours out of open aired liquor shops.

Our accommodation in this fine city, well this is where Betty and Charles come in. Betty, a native to Tennessee, appears rather unbalanced on her feet as she welcomes us into her art filled palace. She informs us that the ladies will be staying with her and that the gentle men will be headed down the road with Charles. As I walk away from the girls Charles, a husky Dominican himself, informs me that I’m in good hands. “You guys like barbeques and beers?” Charles asks. The group responds positively and the 7-hour grilling session shifts into motion. With weak embers hard at work under Charles’ grill, we all begin to prepare our projects for the Batey Relief Alliance. And every hour Charles releases two lightly cooked hot dogs from the grill. Aside from the duration of the event, Charles’ cooking is very excellent. We enjoy fresh vegetables under the Dominican sky and laugh over ice cold Presidentes.

Settled in comfortable patio chairs we all agree that an amazing documentary could be make on Dominican Hotel Owners, the first three candidates for the film, Betty, Charles and of course Lazaro.

Kicking back our feet, we wrap up the evening with the digital projector lighting up Charles’ courtyard. In rehearsal for our final presentation, the group’s objectives and experiences from the entire trip fuse together on the ancient Spanish brickwork.

Following the presentation, we all head back to our little glorious rooms each accompanied with unique paintings on the wall. And before our heads laid to a final rest, one last scream could be heard from the BUG within Pat.

January 14, 2005
by Andrew D’Aversa

We woke up in Charlies Hostel. The paintings of Dominican landscapes and people gave a more authentic feeling to the place. Then, a quick walk to Betty’s for breakfast consisting of eggs, bread and tart orange juice. We then packed ourselves into two beat up Mitsubishi box vans for our drive to the Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) to present what we have done over the past two weeks. Our drive was fairly quick but not due to the drivers handling skills which were barely comparable with Ramon’s on point aggressive style. Our arrival at the supermarket marked the beginning of our wild goose chase looking for the BRAs office. I guess the taxi drivers both misplacing the directions didn’t help fasten the search but it wasn’t a big deal. A half hour to forty five minutes later we finally found the place.

We first listened to the few members of the BRA panel speak about how they interact with bateyes and some of the past and current projects they are working on. The work they do with their mobile health clinic, and HIV education seems very impactful. Although there’s only so much an under funded organization that depends partially on US bills for resources can do. The poor social well being of the hundreds of bateyes is surely an indication of how much the government is interested in helping out the BRA’s cause.

Our presentation followed theirs brilliantly. The introduction speakers set a great tone mentioning overall goals for our class and the grassroots soccer program. The short film that followed looked great and was well accepted by the panel members which were evident in their smiles. The narratives built on the quality of the film with everyone coming off very well spoken, speaking on truly meaningful personal accounts they had with grassroots games and the children. The BRA asked Jeff how and when they could start implementing the grassroots curriculum in other bateyes showing how effective our presentation was. After the presentation we walked to a lovely plaza and enjoyed some greasy fast food and sandwiches.

The rest of the day we set aside for blowing a lot of money at the market on paintings, wooden sculptures and any other touristy stuff we found nice. Bartering with the merchants was a new experience for some of us which were obvious in the price we paid for our first paintings. Nonetheless, everyone walked out with some sweet paintings for the fundraiser and a great relief that shopping was over.

Betty’s five star dinner recommendation seemed like a good choice. The pasta was tasty and the drinks were outrageously expensive. It was nice to eat at such a classy joint as the opportunity to do so is quite rare among college students.

The Cubanian restaurant provided some quick and friendly service at the bar along with some high energy Cuban music that everyone out of their seats dancing. It actually was a nice place with interesting paintings upstairs and a relaxed atmosphere.

Jon thought it would be a good idea to relocate to somewhere a bit more happening and we eagerly agreed. The first club we tried we apparently looked too casual so we moved on to another. The next club was almost secretly located giving it an exclusive feeling. Inside was a techno fest with a swing, bean bags and very well dressed Dominicans. The wall sit started the dance party in a slow manner but eventually gave way to some heavy dancing.

The end of the night was a short walk to the girls place were we separated and went to Charlies house. A few of us were fortunate enough to have a provocative chat with Charlie were we learned of his intimidating methods of conducting business. A humorous way to end a really fun day.

January 15, 2005

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Entry filed under: Batey Libertad, Uncategorized.

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