Jackie Morrissey ’20 shares first impressions of the DR and a warm welcome from the community.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I applied for the DR trip, but it wasn’t quite this. Through the four hour drive from the airport to San Juan, almost everyone fell asleep, except me. Somehow, though, I was never bored even with nothing to do. The roads here are their own form of entertainment. Life in the Dominican Republic is far different than life in the US.
For one, the people here seem to have no fear when they drive. In each town, there were people standing in the road trying to sell us fruit and other goods from outside the bus. One boy even climbed into the bus to sell us pineapples while we were stopped (we did buy a few.) None of the people on the side of the road even flinched when the van drove inches away from them. It was like they had total trust that everyone would go past them without hitting them. More different still was the motorcycles. On all of the roads, everyone drove their motorcycles squeezed in between the cars. Most of them didn’t even wear helmets.
However, though I was initially confused and a little worried about what my experience on the work site would be like with the differences in culture, that all changed once we started working. Before we arrived to the build site, there were already people from the community gathered there to work on the house. Even the kids from the town were helping to carry cinder blocks and mortar to the masons. Everyone was extremely kind and helpful.
Once, when I was carrying a piece of wood and I slipped and fell in the mud, several people around me put down what they were doing to ask if I was okay and to help me up. For lunch, several women from the community cooked food for everyone. It was almost 100 degrees outside in the afternoon, but all of them worked hard over the fires to make sure everyone would have food to eat.
However, what was interesting about their helpfulness and generosity is that it’s taken as a given. When you need something, someone always seems to be there to help. They never expect you to thank them, and they probably won’t say thank you when you return the favor. But you can tell that everyone in the community is working hard to help their friends and neighbors in any way they can. Kindness here is very straightforward, and it is always both given and received. There is something special about this that made me feel like I was among friends and family, though I hardly knew most of these people and we couldn’t always understand each other.