Friday, October 22, 2010


Jarabacoa is a wonderful place. I was first in Puerto Plata, a small beach town in the northwestern part of the county for work. I left there at around 5:30am to La Vega to catch the bus to my destination. Well, I got there at 8:00am and the 8:30am bus was already full, the next bus to Jarabacoa would maybe leave at 11:30am if there was a bus available. But do not fear, the motoconchos and local transportation services are here! So that is exactly what I did, I hopped on a motoconcho, he took me to the local bus stop and in less than an hour I was in Jarabacoa.

I didn’t know where I was going to spend the night or where I had to go to experience the outdoorsy adventure that I wanted, all I knew was that Jarabacoa had mountains and rivers. I told the bus driver to drop me off at the center of the town, I figured it would be a good place to start, and no I didn’t have a map of Jarabacoa with me, I did however, have a map of the country, I figured that would be enough.

I decided to walk down to the stop of the original bus that I was going to take; it is a national company so I imagined I could find some kind of information there. I immediately came across two white Americans and said, “I know this may sound really random, but where are you two staying tonight?” They looked at me like I had four heads, but nonetheless they tried to help.  Like good ol’ tourist they took out their Lonely Planet book and showed me where they would spend the night. It was a really pricy hotel. NOTE to self: never ask tourist where they are staying, it is probably way over priced and not really worth the money, but hey I needed to start somewhere.  

I am in the Dominican Republic, so I was sure that a “buscon” (hustler) would appear at any moment, and so in a matter of minutes he did. His name was Antonio and although I knew that he was after my small stash, he was very nice and extremely helpful. This guy got me in contact with this ranch that offered all kinds of nature adventures, got me a local spot to spend the night with a picturesque view for like RD$500 pesos (USD$14), and finally took me to the very cool ranch where I would meet Anthony and Tony. Yes, in one day I met Antonio, Anthony and Tony, I guess we can deduce that this is a popular name up in the mountains of Jarabacoa?

Anthony was the 16 year old in charge of taking me horseback ridding for 2 hours to the Salto de Jimenoa (a small water fall). Yes you read it correctly, a 2 hour horse ride! My butt and back were killing me! It was definitely worth its price of RD$750 pesos (USD$21). Of course what I mean to say is that the horse ride, the yummy buffet lunch, and the access to the pool were all worth that price, I find it hard to put a price on nature, going through a breathtaking greenery to arrive at a waterfall is simply priceless or at least it should be.

Tony was the waiter at the restaurant in the ranch. He was really sweet to me. You see lunch, water, coffee, and tea were all included in the buffet, but you had to pay for other refreshments. I wanted a natural juice and although they didn’t have any, Tony went out of his way to find me some. He came to my table with a glass of “jugo de carambola” or star fruit juice. It was so delicious and something completely new to me. He would come by my table every so often to check up on me and even told me that if I didn’t like what was being offered in the buffet, he would go and get me something else. It began to rain and of course I asked for some hot chocolate, probably some of the best I’ve had in a long time. All in all, my trip was a great one, in less than 24 hours I was able to hike, horseback ride, eat, and just enjoy life. I did this all by myself, but I look forward to sharing Jarabacoa with loved ones and friends.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Grampa Mel!


It's a struggle
Developing Solidarity.
It's a struggle
Being Positive
It's a struggle
Making Common Unity.
It's a struggle
It's a struggle
Because it's slow
But if we Struggle
At developing Solidarity,
Being Positive
Shaping Reality,
Making Common Unity,
We will all Grow
Because to struggle
Is to work for Change,
and Change is the focus of Education,
and Education is the Basis of Knowledge,
and Knowledge is the Basis for Growth
and Growth is the Basis for
Being Positive and Being Positive
is the Basis for Building Solidarity
Building solidarity is a way to shape
Reality and Shaping Reality is Living
and Living is Loving,
So Struggle

Where are you and why?

Where are you and why? I ask myself this question a lot, especially in the past 5 years since I have found myself in many different places. But before I can even answer this question, I get all tied up in the question itself. It is an interesting one in and of itself because the mere fact that I get to ask myself this in the context that I do, places me in a position of privilege. Privilege is something that I struggled with throughout my college career when I became part of a group in society that was treated differently and granted different advantages, but dealing with this had never been so difficult until I came here.

Here of course being the Dominican Republic, the land where I was born and where both of my parents and all of my grandparents came from and the place where I have spent my last year and some change. Dealing with my privilege position here has been hard, frustrating and at times painful. You see I have always identified myself with being oppressed.  Growing up in a low income community, being discriminated against, and later understanding how and why societies perpetuate all of these factors that keep people behind, has allowed me to not only feel marginalized, but most importantly to identify myself with others that are oppressed. Being here has not changed this feeling of fighting for and with the oppressed like I have done throughout my life. But let’s face it, being here as an American, college educated, who speaks 3 languages, who has an American passport that allows me to travel almost anywhere, puts me in a position of power and privilege whether I want to be placed there or not. I hate it. When I place America as an advantage, I do it not because of my feelings about being an American, but because of the esteem and value that Dominicans place on America and everything American—the land of opportunities, where my parents went.

Let me be clear, by privilege I don’t necessarily mean money or physical assets, but other things, some tangible some not.  I have electricity 98% of the time, running water 80% of the time, I can afford certain things that others can’t (simple things like taking a cab a few times a month, or going out for pizza once in while), I get to leave the island and buy things cheaper elsewhere, and I get to leave and come back period.

I will be honest and say that before here I didn’t really take the time to figure out how I would deal with this when I got here. Many times I just feel sorry for myself. Although I haven’t figured out the best way to deal with this, I know that being sorry for myself or for others is not the way. I've worked really hard for everything I have accomplish and there is no need for those feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I completely disagree with the idea of a Meritocracy—you get what you earn so work hard—because I know that it’s not how it works, I am an exception to a rule.  Most people work hard and still find themselves in a bind, with debt, hunger (physically, emotionally and mentally), and with no way out.

I continue to feel oppressed and discriminated against even here, a place where my esthetics are not considered beautiful for reasons that are shared with the majority of the population—skin color, hair type, and other physical characteristics.  This is all way more complicated than what I can actually put into words right now. It’s an ongoing struggle that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time. Who said struggling is a bad thing; through it I am learning things about me that I like and other things that I want change. Although the truth is that I am a human being like everyone else, I feel. Oh yeah, where am I and why?

Friday, October 15, 2010

"...the fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other... Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been throughout the history of this struggle. It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people's ability to think, to want, and to know. Accordingly, these adherents to the people's cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust."
--Paulo Friere