Monday, February 3, 2014

Day Two--By Jared

Saturday, February 1 This morning, we got up bright and early to get ready for the meal packing event at the Hard Rock Hotel.

 Most of us felt much better after getting some sleep after our long day of travel and work. Some of us did not sleep quite as well because of the wonderful Dominican music that played throughout the night, but we all were up, packed, and ready for breakfast at 7! Breakfast was really delicious - it was a Dominican style breakfast, with eggs, corn cakes, cheeses, meats, bread, and fruit. We arrived at the meal packing event slightly after 8, and split into 4 teams. Each team covered a section of the conference room, helping the volunteers as needed with any issues that arose during the event. Though it was early, many of the volunteers seemed engaged in the meal packing event - several of the volunteers had their children with them volunteering as well. The volunteers packed almost 100,000 boxes in less than two hours.

 After the meal packing, we stayed for a few hours helping to clean up, then went to a nearby food court to have lunch. The food was DELICIOUS! Most of us had meat, rice and beans, and a salad option, along with fresh juices, etc. Punta Cana is predominantly a resort town. You can tell that most of the infrastructure, shops, and overall persona of the town is geared towards tourism. Interestingly, there is a rather sizable Russian population that lives in Punta Cana year round. Our drive to Santo Domingo took around 3 hours, on a road that seems to have been built just to transport people between Santo Domingo (the capital city) and Punta Cana. The drive followed the coastline of the island for the most part, but we got to see a lot of the countryside and several large farms. Sugar Cane is, several hundred years later, the main agricultural product. And as history dictates, most of the sugar cane goes to the production of rum. Most people in the campo [country] work in the farms. Hours are long, work is hard. The countryside is mostly flat, except for a few river valleys. People in the smaller towns were a little brazen by American standards when it came to crossing a four-lane highway during heavy traffic. Being a pedestrian in this country requires a fair amount of guts, gusto, and glory. Santo Domingo is a lot like other cities in the Caribbean and Central America. Lots of traffic, and super-luxurious malls, car dealerships (there's a Bentley dealership right next to the Porsche dealership, which is right next to the Lamborghini dealership) that are immediately, and almost violently contrasted against urban slums with many roadside stalls selling fruits, vegetables, and other basic necessities. There are just as many glamorous boutiques like Michael Kors as there are people laying out sheets on the sidewalk right next to oncoming traffic to sell you a toothbrush. As we learn more about Santo Domingo, we will get the opportunity to see the strikingly different sides of urban poverty versus rural poverty. Our first site visit Monday will be to Jackie's House, which is an orphanage about 45 minutes north of Santa Domingo. In the meantime, we look forward to settling in, beginning to understand important aspects of our evaluation process, and meeting with our team leads at CitiHope/Sanar Una Nacion. The heavy lifting, the important work, begins Monday.

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