Sunday, December 30, 2012

121231 The Site and Sounds of the DR

                                 Map showing where we traveled this week
      Report from Wallace:
We all went to the same places, but each of us had our own personal experiences this week.  It was a whirlwind of traveling and activities.  We are exhausted, but happy to have spent this time together.  We drove through or visited at least 30 different cities, visited two different potential humanitarian projects, and gave Wesley and Sheredith the experience of a lifetime.  They handled the cultural shock pretty well.  It was a delightful time with them, but I will let them tell their own story.

Any of the rest of the family who want to visit us are welcome!


Wesley’s Report:
This was an extremely tiring week in the DR. There was a lot that was seen and heard while on the run through this crazy little Island.

The first thing that really stood out to me was how the people were driving everywhere. They were crazy! What made it even better was the fact that dad was driving just like them! I really got a kick out of it. He would creep out into the street into on-coming traffic to the screams of Sher in the back seat. Mom didn’t complain very often about this she mostly yelped at on-coming buses or cars that would constantly slide over (called “squeeze” equivalent to using the blinker) into our lane while coming toward us. I am really happy that I survived this trip in one piece.

            The beaches were just like a paradise vacation. The palm trees and pleasant breeze allowed for me to have a perfect vacation experience on a beach. We went to look for shells and fish but there weren’t too many shells or fish to see. We did see a few and it still was a fun experience.

Everyone here in the DR is always trying to find ways to get a buck off of you. I noticed a bunch of seats at the beach but as soon as you would sit down on one someone would run up to you and say it would cost five American Dollars to reserve two of them. It is funny honestly because people would hold traffic for you to back out and you would think they were just being courteous until they come up to your door and ask for some money. There is almost not an hour when we were walking around that someone wouldn’t come and ask for a couple of bucks.

            Overall this was an amazing experience! I got to see a completely different culture in a completely different place. I am glad I had this opportunity. This would not be a great place to go to if you don’t have a translator, like dad, to lead you around. Without translation taking place every day there is no way that we could have possibly seen half of what we did, let alone get anywhere.
-          Wesley

Sheredith’s Report:
Well, Wesley said most of it, but I’ll add a few things that we did.  The cities are crazy here.  The front doors of the houses are right up on the street; motorcycles and cars are zooming in, out, and around the streets.  The cities are noisy with traffic, booming speakers, and people shouting; but you don’t hear sirens of ambulances or police cars (probably because the police don’t have cars and never chasing criminals or speeders).  If there are traffic laws, nobody obeys them.  When you come to a red light, wait for a little while; if you are tired of waiting—just drive on through! 

Some other things we got to see were a Cacao Farm, Haitises National park, and Jarabacoa.  At the Cacao Plantation (cocoa farms), a member gave us a tour and showed us the trees and how chocolate is made from the cocoa bean. 

The Haitises National park was interesting.  We took a boat ride to the park where they first showed us a group of tall, tiny islands,  These islands were the nesting grounds for pelicans and some other special type of bird that was unique to the area (I didn’t quite catch it in SpanishJ).  Apparently the birds only nest on these specific islands, and nowhere else in the DR.  Then they drove us over to the “caves”.  I say “caves” because they were more like holes in rocks with graffiti on the walls (that they claim are ancient petroglyphs left by the Taiano Indians).  They would take thousands of tourists to these “caves” to talk about the history of the island. However after the caves they took us to a beautiful island beach and feed us lunch.
 Jarabacoa is a beautiful back country with lush, green rolling hills.  In this area of the island, I saw quite a few large homes and resorts. 

We had a little time to relax.  Dad taught us how to play Dominican dominoes. 

We stayed at this resort in Jarabacoa for $70/night/room
While in Jarabacoa, we visited the “Salto de Jimenoa Dos” which is waterfall.  The hike to the falls took us across suspension bridges to a platform to view the falls.

That is the week in a nut shell.  I think Mom and Dad will need a month to recover from our adventures.  If you plan to come to the DR, stick with the tourist.  Stay at a resort and ride a tourist bus.  Never think you can get around the island on your own!  You may go insane, get lost, and most assuredly get in a few accidents!
Report from Edith:
From the two previous descriptions of our week traveling around the Island you can tell that we have had a truly Dominican experience this week.  Being a tourist is slightly different from being a missionary.  As a missionary you concentrate on the needs of others, as a tourist you concentrate on your own needs and sight seeing adventures.   We actually got a feel for both this week.
Sunday, Dec. 23rd we visited the hospital in Consuelo.  This small public hospital has SO many needs.  They do not have a lot of equipment, but they do have some basic medications and caring doctors and nurses.  If the hospital needs another type of medication, they ask the patient to go find it at a pharmacy.  It was a holiday when we visited.  All the patients were sent home for Christmas!  Families care for the sick during holidays.  The emergency room was open, but only one person was allowed a bed in the hospital with a family member there to care for them.  As we walked in the doors for our guided tour, Sheredith commented that it looked like a condemned building!
(A typical room 15 x 20 has 8 beds, no individual privacy, a common bathroom where the toilets don’t have lids, the plumbing doesn’t work and there may or may not be toilet paper and paper towels.  Each patient must bring his/her own bedding and pillows.)

On Saturday, Dec. 29th we visited the small community of Las Cuevas as part of a humanitarian request.  It is next door to the Bonao Girl’s Camp.  This little community has a river that is threatening to destroy several homes as it is changing its course with each new rainstorm.  They were appealing to us for blocks and cement to keep the river from eating away any more of the earth as it erodes.  Is it really possible to change the course of this river?  What do we do for a community that builds right on the edge of a river bank?  This is a difficult situation.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

All I want for Christmas is -----

“Every child makes a wish for Christmas.  What are you wishing for?  Parents do everything they can to make every Christmas the best ever.  I think about Christmas every time I see a little Dominican boy flying his kite.

Every homemade kite I have seen so far is made with 3 little sticks and a plastic bag.  Just because I think I know how to make a better kite, do you think I should stop these little boys in what they are doing and show them how to make a better kite?  If you ask me for something this Christmas I might just send you in the mail a plastic bag, 20’ of twine and 3 little sticks.  Remember what Christmas is all about.”  Wallace

This sow was the epitome of relaxation!  It is also kind of how we felt after this week was over---totally exhausted.
After working on this water project for months, we successfully obtained an appointment with the head of INAPA to discuss the water situation in Azua.  Here we are receiving our T-shirts as honorary members of the water committee.  We were standing in the parking lot gathering our thoughts about the meeting before we went up to the appointment.  Wallace suggested we all pray.  He said the prayer, the meeting was miraculous and these good people who had travel a long distance to get to the meeting were very pleased and felt they had been blessed by the Lord.  We are hopeful they will get the water they need before we finish our mission.  That will take a miracle, but we do believe in miracles.  Please remember Azua people in your prayers.

Pozo Prieto is a small community of about 30 families in the mountains not far from Puerto Plata.  They have no running water in their community at all.  All water must be hauled and is usually hauled in 5 gallon buckets by the women on their heads.  When they can afford to buy potable water they can, but it is difficult to get it home following the trail over the river and up steep slopes.  They usually drink water from the river which is contaminated with parasites, amoebas, and disease.  We had to cross the river to get to the community.
The pictures below were taken during our visit.  The two women carrying buckets on their head were demonstrating their daily task, 2 to 3 times a day going up this steep hill.  We tried walking a short distance up the trail, but it was so slippery from a recent rain we didn’t make it very far.  They carry 60 lbs on their head up to 3 times a day for a distance of 1.5 kilometers! 
Pozo Prieto is truly a very needy community.  This project seems to meet perfectly the desire of all to help our fellow men.  The Peace Corps volunteer, Simona, has been living for a few months with one of the lady’s you see carrying a bucket on her head.  Simona is helping the community to organize their efforts and to design the system. 
We look forward to being part of this water project!

Which one of these guys is more stubborn--the one on the left or the one on the right?

Wallace talked over the water situation with the burro.  The burro said he was tired of hauling stuff for everyone.  He would rather be like the pig.  (Do you think the burro knows what awaits the pig?)
This is a picture of Simona, the Peace Corps  volunteer who lives in the community, is helping them organize and is designing the water system.  She is a graduate mechanical engineer.
We visited the little town of La Solapa with Peace Corps to discuss the possibility of assisting with a water project.  This is the water committee standing in front of their community center and then walking to see the “Toma”

We finally met a Dominican Horse with a name.  Meet “Segferino” the horse!
This is one of the members of the water committee.  BIG curlers is common though the women are pretty shy about it.
Edith refuses to get any closer than this to a moto.
Peace Corps volunteers:  Elena, Jim and Simona.  Elena is helping the community with the water system.  Jim is teaching the community how to get better yields on their crops.
We met with the Branch President of Nizao and 8 families to discuss the food project.  Afterwards we walked to the home of 4 members to see their projects.  This is just a sample of what we saw.

Can you see the confusion on this ladies face?  We don’t think we have figured out how to simplify things yet!
Saturday we drove to Nizao again to visit with the Branch Pres of the Don Gregorio branch and 2 families to start the food project.  Here are few pictures.

Typical house in poor sector.
We ended the week by going to the Consuelo branch and helping with their Primary Program.  During church the first youth ever to receive his Duty to God Medallion was presented.  After church we ate dinner at a member’s home.

These guys were practicing their music next door while we had dinner.  Their music was really LOUD!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


This week was the week to advance our Food Initiatives.  Mesopotamia is actually the name of a branch of the church located in San Juan de la Maguana, a 3 to 4 hour drive (depending how early you leave to miss the mess in Santo Domingo).  We actually started them on the path to prepare a food project proposal 2 months ago, but they have been floundering and getting discouraged.  It is mostly our fault because we were struggling with understanding how to implement a food project.  We have come a long ways in our methods, presentation and processes. 
We visited with the Branch President and the heads of 3 different families to review the food project again with them.  We are excited about the possibilities and the direction we are going.  The following shows how one family is already enthused and has started a few little boxes on their roof.  The home belongs to Simon Ramirez, standing in the picture.  He is a member of the church who will also service as the expert in gardens.

The next picture is of the Marcilino Apio family who have cleared a spot for the construction of their 40 laying hen project.  Each member is required to make a major investment in their own project.  We believe what will happen, each member will find a way to build their own chicken coop which will save the church a lot of money and help the member take responsibility for their project.

This family has an irrigation ditch running right through their lot that will provide an abundance of water for the chicken coop.
The next picture is of a sister in the branch who got excited and has already built her own little garden which seems to be doing very well.  She was really excited about it.  She is even trying to grow some vegetables in an old tub.  Unfortunately, she is using soil directly in the tub that is getting really compacted.  She needs a little help from the church for fertilizer and soil amendments.  Again she has made a major contribution.  We feel a project with her will be successful.

The above picture is of Noel De los Santos and his son standing in front of a chicken coop he built after he heard about the project.  He built the project using materials he found lying around that didn’t cost him anything and a little bit of cash outlay from his own pocket.  He is a perfect example that our concept of having the members make a major investment in money, time and energy is key to making the food projects successful.  We have no doubt he will be successful.  He needs help from the church buying chickens to get him started.  Every project will include discussions on ways to make the project sustainable.  They will need to sale eggs and save money for the day when they need more chickens.
We took the following pictures as we were walking through Noel’s neighborhood.  It is a good example of how most people live.

The following pictures were taken during our introduction of the food project with two different branches located in the little town of Nizao about 1.5 hours west of Santo Domingo.
Elder’s Quorum President, Wallace, Branch Pres. Aguino, Branch Secretary
Pres. Aguino has been unemployeed for 3 months.  He is pretty typical of the members in a country with about a 40% unemployment rate and a 60% underemployed rate.  A food project with his family would bless their lives greatly and gives us a lot of satisfaction.  It is a difficult tedious process, but we are determined they get trained, plan and design their project, get cost estimates from vendors, build their project and show how it will be sustainable.  We are determined we will not be the ones who purchase, haul and help build anything. Training includes financial concept and getting a 3 month supply of the food they eat every day (mostly rice, beans, salt).
This picture was taken during our introduction of the food project with the Don Gregorio branch presidency also located in Nizao.  Pres. Ortiz is standing on the right.  They are excited to get started.  We are scheduled to go visit 3 families in each branch this coming week to talk to them about the project and take pictures of them and the location where they want the project to be.
We attended a Christmas program prepared by the children of the San Joaquin School at which we also formerly close the humanitarian project we had with the school.  The project included the construction of a block wall, purchase of a battery-backup, locks, a pump and a new flag for the school.
They asked Wallace to say a few words at the program.  He surprised everyone by presenting them a brand new Dominican Republic Flag and started to sing to them their own National Anthem.  That was a big surprise which they really liked.  Fortunately they all enthusiastically joined in before Wallace ran out of the few words of the hymn he had learned by memory!
It is difficult to describe the conditions under which the teachers teach and the students endure in a little way overcrowded school, with no AC, no water and just recently, no bathrooms.
These pictures were taken in the only place the kids have to play or hold programs.

It was another great week.  We are happy and feel so blessed to be here.  We should probably do a better job telling about the real lessons we are learning about faith, hope and charity because we have grown a great deal since coming here.  We thank each of you for your faith and prayers.