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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Interviews With Peace Corps Volunteers Serving in the Dominican Republic (Intermediate)

Currently serving Peace Corps Volunteers in the Dominican Republic describe their lives abroad: locations in which they live, communities in which they serve, and the geography and climate of their country.

Alexandra Fowler
I live in the village of La Pina, in the northwest of the country, in the hills of the central mountain range. I am nine kilometers south of the town of Los Almacigos. It is a 25- to 35-minute motorcycle ride up and down hills on a dirt road. It's a bumpy ride, but it's breathtaking: a view of palms, pines, and rolling hills of farms. Once in town, it's another 15-kilometer ride northeast to the provincial capital of Sabaneta. It takes an hour, on average, in a crowded minivan. Once in Sabaneta, it takes anywhere from four to six hours to get to the capital, Santo Domingo. It's a long but beautiful trip through all parts of the country: mountains, cities, rivers, lush forests and deforested areas, and fields of rice and farms of plantains.
Michele Stora
During my two years of Peace Corps service, I have lived in two different areas of the country. My first year of service was in a village, El Arrozal, in the region of Monte Cristi. Monte Cristi is located on the northwest tip of the island. My first site was in a town called Villa Vasquez, in the community of El Arrozal. Villa Vasquez is located 20 minutes from the town of Monte Cristi. It is a two-hour ride to Santiago, the second capital, and an additional three to Santo Domingo. Traveling from Santo Domingo to Villa Vasquez was a great way to learn about the climate and the landscape. You pass through rice fields, mountainsides, plains, deserts, and various colors of soil—red, brown, black, and white. The area of Villa Vasquez is desert, similar to Arizona, with cacti and few trees. The climate is dry with little to no rain. My current site is Santo Domingo. I live in a town about 45 minutes from the center of Santo Domingo on public buses or cars. The town is not much different from a large town in the United States. There are large buildings 20 stories high, resort hotels, banks, supermarkets, shopping centers, casinos, fast food restaurants, six-island gas stations with food marts, and a lot of traffic. The climate is humid, and there's a variety of trees—from palm trees to fir trees.
Leslie Dominguez
I live about halfway up a mountain in a beautiful valley. The community is in the south-central part of the country. It's about three hours from the capital. For part of the trip to my village, Los Martinez, I get into a big, old Chevrolet along with eight people, or I use our community's truck, if it's a transport day—Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday. Our truck is bright red. It's always full of people sitting on top of sacks of vegetables and usually has chickens tied on the back. On the trip, you see tall, green mountains in the distance. When you reach the bottom of the mountain, you either continue up in the truck or get out of the car and wait for someone with a horse or motorcycle to give you a ride. Our road is really steep and winding. When it rains, it is impassible in a vehicle. But once you reach the top, you can see the ocean. The scenery is amazingly beautiful.
Kristen Caputo
Las Lagunas has a population of about 5,000, and the town is spread out along a rolling plateau. The houses are most densely placed at the entrance of the town. The quality of life worsens as you travel away from the entrance of the town. Most houses are constructed of palm-wood planks with concrete floors. Only the families that live in concrete houses have water running directly to their houses. The majority of houses have outdoor latrines and zinc roofs. The primary source of income is farming. Few farmers are able to produce crops on a large scale. They produce only enough to feed their families. I would say that my town is similar to the majority of villages in the Dominican Republic.
Niki Scott
About 30,000 people live in Hato Del Yaque now, but it wasn't always like this. My community is called a 'government relocation project.' In 1979, there was a large hurricane in the Dominican Republic, and all the people who lived alongside the river in Santiago lost their homes. For the next two years, these people had to live in a school while they got their lives back together. The government tried to help by building a community about 10 kilometers outside Santiago, which is now Hato Del Yaque. The town consists of six long, straight streets of concrete duplex houses. Each side of the duplex is the same. They all have four rooms—two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. There is an outside bathroom with a latrine and septic tank. There are no paved roads or telephones. There is running water, but it is available only every few days for a few hours. When the water comes, we fill our tanks and then use it as needed. There is also electricity, but it usually goes out for at least a few hours every night.
Michele Stora
El Arrozal, my first site, was a small barrio (neighborhood) outside of Villa Vasquez. Fewer than 600 people live there. The barrio has three different housing sectors. The first sector has two-story concrete buildings that contain four three-bedroom apartments each. The apartments are constructed of concrete. They are painted in bright colors—usually blue, green, or pink. They have a closed front balcony, a small kitchen, a living room/dining room, bathroom with modern facilities, and a small utility room off the kitchen. The second sector, behind the first, consists of small two-room wooden houses with dirt floors. Usually one room is used as a bedroom and the other as an all-purpose room. The kitchen is located outside but is connected to the house by a roof. The bathroom is also outside and divided into two separate, sectioned-off areas. One is the latrine and the other is used for bathing. The third sector, where I lived, is made up of concrete-block houses. Corrugated zinc is used for the roofs. The houses have either three or four rooms, a front porch, and concrete floors. The bathrooms are similar to the wooden-house sector. The neighborhood has no running water, but does have electricity. The majority of women are housewives or employees in other people's homes. The majority of men work in the local rice fields. The families who live in the apartments in the first sector are mainly teachers and office workers. My second site, in a town just outside of Santo Domingo, the capital, is very modern and the exact opposite of El Arrozal. The town is similar to many of the larger towns in the country. It has running water, electricity, paved streets, open-air produce markets, pharmacies, corner stores, ice cream shops, hardware stores, and specialty stores. The majority of houses are constructed of concrete.
Darshana Patel
I have the good fortune of living in a rural fishing village off the beautiful Samana Bay. The houses are brightly colored and made of wood or concrete blocks with smooth-finished walls. The population is about 1,500. The main sources of income are fishing and agriculture. The village has lush greenery year-round due to a propensity to rain in the area, and a nice breeze coming off the water. I live in a small, pale-green concrete-block house about 20 yards from the beach. I sometimes worry about hurricanes, as I live along the 'hurricane route' and my house only has a zinc roof. The village is isolated, with access only through a single poorly constructed dirt road.
Mary Bosy
The population of the city of Hato Mayor is between 50,000 and 60,000. In this small city, there is a small concentration of upper- and middle-class Dominicans. The bulk of the population is lower-middle-class and poor. When I first came here, I was surprised at the size of the commercial district. In addition to innumerable corner grocery stores throughout the town, there are blocks of stores of virtually any kind, such as hardware, appliances, travel agencies, clothing, and shoe stores. I can buy the same basic food here as I can in the capital. My house is made of concrete blocks with a zinc roof. It can only be described as small. The total inside, door-to-door measurements are 22 feet by 10 feet, which is divided into a living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen. I have a fully functioning indoor bathroom with a shower. The furnishings are basic and I love it!
Kristen Caputo
The physical geography and climate dominate the lives of the people in my community, because the people are dependent on the land. If there is too much or too little rain, their lives grow very difficult. If it's very hot or raining, people stay home. No work can be done outside when it rains, and children often are kept from school because of the rain. The climate reflects the physical appearance of my community: If the weather has been good, the fields will be filled with healthy crops, the people will be happy, and the grocery store shelves will be brimming with goods. If the weather has been bad, the opposite situation occurs.
Margaret Borelli
The country is very mountainous and varied. I live in the northeast, where it is flat and dry. It usually rains every day from May to January. We have had a dry year this year, to the extent that rivers dried up, but it has started to rain again and the rivers are flowing and clean. The weather is very hot and humid most of the time, with winters a little cooler at night. When it does rain a lot, rivers can flood and lock people in for a week or so.
James Weglarz
I live in a hot place, so rain plays an important role in daily life. It provides drinking water and fills the rivers for washing clothes and bathing. Yet, people won't go out in the rain. Sometimes meetings are called off because of rain, and children are kept home from school. This is particularly true in the countryside.