Farewell, Dominican Republic!
By Guest Contributor on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) board member Sharon Keld (Morocco 2006-08,
Peace Corps Response Philippines 2009-10, Peace Corps Response Armenia 2011) is currently in the Dominican Republic, serving as the NPCA’s host for the our Next Step Travel trip. While there, she’ll serve as a resource about the NPCA and also provide photos and updates on this trip that takes participants beyond the usual tourist destinations.
On Thursday we boarded the bus for Santo Domingo, the capital. While on the bus, we talked about other issues facing of the Dominican Republic. The island is at the intersection of the North American and Caribbean plates; our bus ride coincided with the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. The major fault runs right through Port-au-Prince, but the Dominican Republic experiences earthquakes as well. Another big issue is hurricanes — there have been two devastating ones in the past 25 years, and Sandy came through as the October trip was on the way here.
We arrived in the in the Gazcue neighborhood of the capital, for a visit to the Peace Corps headquarters, and a visit with Art Flanagan, the Country Director, and Alberto Rodriguez, the Association Peace Corps Director (APCD) for Environment. They provided a development overview of the Dominican Republic as well as the initiatives that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) are involved in.
Art said that what distinguishes this country from others he has served in is the schizophrenia — there is some obvious and ostentatious wealth, and some incredible poverty. The need for education and for giving opportunities to youth is, in his opinion, the key to the future. Alberto and former APCD for Appropriate Technologies Tim McFarren joined us for lunch.
And then we checked into our Gazcue hotel and walked around the old city. Santo Domingo is the first European city in the Western Hemisphere. Founded in 1496 by the brother of Christopher Columbus, it has the oldest cathedral and the oldest fort in the New World, and the Zona Colonial is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We saw those, the house in which Christopher Columbus and several Spanish conquistadors stayed, the pantheon of heroes, the house of Diego Columbus, the old gate, the first market, the ruins of the first hospital, the ruins of the Franciscan monastery, the old walls and more. After a final dinner together, a small group went out again that evening, seeing the Presidential Palace and viewing the monuments, which are floodlit at night.
Some of the group left on Friday for early flights home; the rest of us rode the bus through the heart of the country and over the mountains back to Cabarete, where we had a final beach afternoon, a final chance for shopping (our group gravitated towards two places: Cabarete Coffee Company, which produces fair-trade coffee and chocolate, and Laurel Eastman Kites, which makes and sells Kiters 4 Communities bags, made out of recycled kite material — a portion of the proceeds from our purchases goes to Mariposa DR Foundation and other causes here on the island), and some rest. A slide show of photographs from the week provided a nice wrap-up, and we had a final dinner of rice, beans and chicken. Afterwards, for some, ice cream and/or a rum punch under the stars was a perfect ending.
> > See more photos from this Dominican Republic Next Step Travel trip HERE.
Learn how you can join future Next Step Travel programs in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala: travel.peacecorpsconnect.org.