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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 (Advanced)

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.

Niki Scott
I live in the town of Hato Del Yaque, just outside of Santiago, which is the second largest city in the country. It's in the middle of the country, so there are a lot of people who have never even seen the beach. Although the beach is only a couple of hours away, most people don't have money to travel for pleasure. To get to my town from Santo Domingo, the capital, I can catch a bus that goes straight to Santiago along a four-lane highway. The ride takes about two hours, and the scenery is varied. There are lots of hills covered with palm trees and even some pine trees between big green rice fields. When I arrive in Santiago, I have to catch a public car. These cars run a specific route like a bus, and stop so people can get off and on. The big difference is it's a car—three people in front (including the driver) and four in the back. At the bridge, I catch a minivan to my town. We have to wait until the van fills up before we go. 'Full' is about 25 people, so it's very crowded. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to get from the bridge to my house. The road passes through city neighborhoods and rice and pineapple fields.
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.
Kristen Caputo
I live in the town of Las Lagunas. It is located in the southwest of the country. It is the closest town to Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Dominican Republic. My town sits on a plateau about 3,000 feet high. The geography is rough. It is forested but not densely. The main tree is pine. On public transportation, it takes between four and six hours to get from Las Lagunas to Santo Domingo. From the capital to my place, one takes a bus going to Azua. Once in Azua, you take another bus to Padre las Casas. Then you take a truck up the mountain to my site. Once you leave the capital and begin to travel west, the landscape is flat and supports either mesquite or cactus, or it's flat farm land. In the far distance, you can see many mountain ranges. Once through Azua, you begin to climb in elevation and the vegetation grows greener. Population density is highest in the major cities.
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. Once you reach the top, you can see the ocean. The scenery is amazingly beautiful.
Mary Bosy
My town, Hato Mayor, is located 65 miles northeast of the capital city, Santo Domingo, almost midway between the Caribbean Sea to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Hato Mayor is really a small city with a population of between 50,000 and 60,000. Physically, Hato Mayor is not very attractive, but the surrounding countryside is lovely. This is cattle and citrus fruit country, and even with the erratic rainfall of the past few years, the hills and trees and pastures are green and lush. Travel between Hato Mayor and Santo Domingo takes about two and a half hours on a small commercial bus. Along the way, you see sugarcane fields and various beach resorts on the Caribbean. Traffic becomes more congested as you head into Santo Domingo.
Juvy Bertoldo
I live in Los Campachos. It has a population of about 2,000 people. Closer to the town of Moca, there are nice looking concrete houses with spacious yards, but also poorer looking wooden shacks. The primary source of income is agriculture (plantains, yucca, and bananas) and raising animals (pigs, chickens, and goats). I hear roosters before the crack of dawn and horses' hooves in the early morning, carrying food for the animals. People work very hard and get up before the sun rises to begin their daily chores.
Niki Scott
I live in Los Campachos. It has a population of about 2,000 people. Closer to the town of Moca, there are nice looking concrete houses with spacious yards, but also poorer looking wooden shacks. The primary source of income is agriculture (plantains, yucca, and bananas) and raising animals (pigs, chickens, and goats). I hear roosters before the crack of dawn and horses' hooves in the early morning, carrying food for the animals. People work very hard and get up before the sun rises to begin their daily chores.
Alexandra Fowler
La Pina is a small village whose inhabitants are mainly farmers. Of course, there are teachers and store owners, but most men spend their days on the hillsides planting and harvesting sugar cane, yucca, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, rice, and plantains. The women spend most of the day cooking and cleaning. They sweep and mop their houses, wash their clothes by hand, and cook over a wood- or propane-fueled earth stove. The kitchen is almost always a detached structure. The houses are most often made of wood. My little cottage is a pine house with a zinc roof that reaches unbelievably high temperatures in the summer.
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.
Michele Stora
The climate here is fairly regular all year round. The average temperature is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be as hot as 100 degrees during the summer and as cold as 65 degrees during the winter. It rains more during hurricane season (July to November). Certain areas of the country have different climate norms. Some areas are very dry and require lifestyles suitable to lack of water. Other areas get so much rain that schools and stores close due to road conditions. It is cooler at higher elevations in the mountainous regions. The people most affected by the climate are those in agricultural communities, who depend upon rain for harvesting and planting.
Mary Bosy
From April to October, the Dominican Republic has temperatures in the 90s with comparable humidity. Everyone, regardless of nationality, complains of the heat, particularly when coupled with a power outage, making electric fans useless. If at all possible, walking is discouraged between noon and 4 p.m. Personally, I avoid bus travel during this same time period, simply because the excessive heat becomes so uncomfortable for me in the overcrowded bus.
Siobhan Foley
The Dominican Republic is fairly mountainous, and there are several different climates. In the northwest, where I live, it is quite dry. As you go farther north, you find cactus forests and desert. In the central area, the land is flat and has become the largest, most productive farming area. The southeast is much more humid and lush. The intense heat slows life down here. People move at a more leisurely pace. There is a large migration to the major cities from the countryside. People move to find jobs and food, because the mountains that they have farmed for so long are no longer producing, due to deforestation. Soil erosion is taking its toll.