Dominican Republic #5: Making Strong Connections

Maddie Bialek ’23 and Kevin Gonzalez ’24, reflect on the lessons learned when stepping out of your comfort zone.

Maddie: Today after we finished working, we climbed up on the wood supports for a picture together. Without really knowing what we were doing, some of the other workers jumped up with us to get in the picture. Everyone was laughing and calling out for the other workers to join in! Even though most of us can’t communicate effectively with each other, and some of us can’t even pronounce the other’s names, in the photo we looked like a team. When everyone drinks juice together during a break or poses in a photo like today, it shows me that it’s possible to create a strong connection with others despite barriers like language or different cultures.

Another way we have connected with the locals on our trip is through humor. Today, one of the masons tapped me on the shoulder so I would turn around, but he moved away so there was no one there. It’s a simple trick, but my uncle does that to me all the time! Jokes can be universal too, and I’ve felt like I could connect with some of the women and children on the work site just by smiling or laughing. The mason still got me three times today, but on our way out I remembered to turn the opposite direction. We both laughed and waved goodbye. Maybe I’ll be able to trick him tomorrow!

Kevin: Today was a lovely, beautiful, and sunny day. We were able to get out more from our comfort zone and being able to have more conversations with the community. Seeing Ryan talk truly made my day as he doesn’t have lots of experience in speaking Spanish but he tried his best and he was able to get to know Jeffrey more. Comparing Ryan from yesterday, the first day on the site and meeting the community, he truly changed and began to speak more and ask fewer questions of how to say this word, and he just went for it and let the words flow out. I am very proud of him. As I am a Spanish speaker I was able to translate yesterday in an ice cream place called Helados bon, and it went great. But today we again had ice cream and I said to myself, “I am going to let the kids order by themselves” and I was very proud that they were able to manage their way to order ice cream. What we learned from this is that we should just go for it and try your best and everything is going to be fine.