When I first decided to go to the Dominican Republic I thought that Cambiando Vidas meant that we were changing lives for the people that lived in the Dominican. I soon came to realize that it applied to everyone that has the opportunity to be on this trip.
The Dominican Republic is a much different place then the life that I live in America. Instead of tollbooths like we have on the highway there were people trying to sell different types of food and trying to wash cars just to get a couple dollars. It was eye opening to see people trying to make a lifestyle by selling and doing different types of things.
On the way to San Juan we stopped at a mango festival. One of the things that stood out to me was the smell. The smell was so refreshing and consisted of the sweet smell of Mangos. There were all sorts of people trying to sell as many of their mangos as they could. They would try and bargain with us and trying to convince everyone that their mangos were the most affordable and tasted the best.
We continued to walk through the festival. This was our first real taste of what the Dominican Republic was like. We then went through a tasting booth that cut the mangos for us where we got to try all different kinds. And mangos don’t all taste the same.
In the Dominican Republic we weren’t allowed to drink from the tap. We couldn’t wash our toothbrushes with the tap water and we were only allowed to us bottled water. This is one of the hardest things to comprehend and a hard habit to change. In America you never have to wonder if you’ll get sick because of the bacteria in the water (at least I don’t where I am from). It is even harder to comprehend the fact that some people in the DR are so poor that they can’t afford bottled water and are used to drinking the water from the tap.
Another part of my everyday life that I definitely take for granted is the bathroom that I am able to use. I don’t know about you, but my toilet flushes. I have never thought that flushing the toilet and being able to flush toilet paper were actions that I would be grateful for but while I was in the DR I began to miss flushing toilets.
At the worksite, the future neighbors of the family that we were building for allowed us to leave our bags in their house and use their bathroom. Their toilet didn’t flush, so I had to learn how to flush the toilet (using water to force the waste down). Graphic, I know, but this some people’s life. Everyday.
I learned that I am so blessed for everything that I have in my life. That little things that I take for granted everyday are a huge privilege for the people that live there. Things like being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, and use faucet water to brush my teeth, and toilets that flush.
The two people that I learned the most from were Jose and Kelvin [a young man who is deaf and mute]:
Kelvin taught me that no matter the hardships that I will face throughout life if I put all that I have something will prevail. I admired Kelvin so much for being so happy and living his life so well through the hard times.
Jose taught me that if you work in order to receive money then you will never be truly happy. You should do something because you want to do it. He also taught me that you should give back to people and help and serve other humans. He also taught a lesson of positivity—that you should make a positive impact no matter where you are or what you are doing. Every small thing that we do helps to make a change and I think that is such an important life lesson because it is so hard to see the point of the small action in the moment but eventually you will see the impact that you had.