Essay _2 draft 1

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					Karen Else
English 102- 0W1
Essay #2 - Explaining
Draft #1
February 19, 2011



                                The Dominican Republic


       Hispaniola is a Caribbean island in the Greater Antilles that contains two

independent states, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican Republic is the

larger of the two states, occupying the eastern two thirds of Hispaniola.



      In 1492 Christopher Columbus first set foot on land in the New World welcomed

by inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians. Columbus named the island, La Isla

Españiola which eventually became Hispaniola. In 1493 Columbus returned founding

the city of Isabella which was the first Spanish colony in the New World. In 1496

Christopher Columbus’ brother established a settlement called Santo Domingo de

Guzmán which became the capital. Santo Domingo remains the capital today. This is

how the Dominican Republic got its Spanish roots.



      The Taino Indians were enslaved and the population reduced from 400,000 in

the late 1400’s to 6,000 by 1535 due to hunger, disease and mass killings. In 1501

permission was granted to import slaves from Africa and in 1516 the first sugar mill was

started after sugar cane was introduced from the Canary Islands. The importation of

slaves increased for the next 20 years but slavery was much more deeply rooted in the

western third of the island. The Dominican Republic gained its independence in 1844
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from Spanish rule as well as 22 years of Haitian occupation. Although they share an

island disdain between the two states has roots going back hundreds of years and a

vast culture difference exists.



        Several years ago my husband and I decided to sponsor a child through World

Vision, by calling a radio station during a drive for sponsors. We did not specify a

country but hoped for a child from a Middle Eastern country. We were randomly

assigned a young boy from Lebanon named Marc. We hoped this sponsorship would

help break down prejudices against Americans but never considered a visit to Lebanon.

This however is how our relationship with World Vision began.



        Since we have no children of our own and because of the rewarding experience

sponsoring Marc has been, in 2009 we decided to sponsor another child and went on

the World Vision website. We were more deliberate in our selection and decided to pick

a country that was close enough and safe enough to visit. We decided on the

Dominican Republic and chose to sponsor a girl this time. We chose a 6 year old girl

named Jenifer after viewing many profiles of children in need. I was particularly drawn

to Jenifer because there was sadness in her eyes. Could we really make a difference in

this little girl’s life?



        How cool it would be sponsoring in a country where I would actually consider

visiting our child! Within a few months we booked a trip to the Dominican Republic.

Until then we were not aware the Dominican Republic was a popular tourist destination.
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We contacted World Vision about visiting Jenifer, but booked our trip last minute so we

were not sure this could be coordinated. World Vision requires sponsors to get

background checks and once that was completed they began to coordinate our visit.

The staff at World Vision was so accommodating doing everything to make our visit

happen on such short notice.



       Since we did not know where Jenifer’s community was we ended up booking our

stay at a resort in Punta Cana. It was a long distance between Punta Cana and Loma

de Cabrera, Jenifer’s community. World Vision arranged a meeting at their national

office in Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic and

would be Jenifer’s first visit to the big city. They were handling Jenifer’s transportation

about a 5 hour drive to Santo Domingo and only asked us to pay for gas. They

recommended a trusted taxi driver for us to travel the 4 hour trip from Punta Cana. We

asked if we could take Jenifer shopping for things she needed and then go to lunch.

That was all we would have time for because of our lengthy commutes. Everything was

confirmed before we left Chicago. We just needed to contact the taxi driver upon arrival

to confirm.



       Once we arrived in Punta Cana we were welcomed by a warm breeze. What a

treat in December! The airport has open air terminals and visitors are greeted by music

and dancing performed by the locals. We were definitely not in Kansas anymore. The

friendliness of the people struck me. The Dominican Republic is dependent on tourism

and they appreciate the tourists. They get it! Tourism employs countless workers and
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the Dominican’s treat you as a friend rather than a stranger. First impressions are so

important and as soon as I got there I was thinking I will visit again and sponsoring a

child is a great reason to do that.



       After a crazy drive from the airport on bad roads crowded with people and

scooters some with as many as 4 people piled on, we spent 4 days at our resort before

our visit with Jenifer. Those days were spent enjoying the sun, snorkeling on the beach,

and people watching. The food, drinks and entertainment were good at the all inclusive

resort. There was an open air lobby, beautifully decorated that was nice to just hang

out in to read a book or have a drink. There was a gym, spa services, a doctor and

shopping on the premises. You did not have to leave the resort, but a number of tours

were available for safaris, zip-lining, horseback and ATV riding. The entire time we

were surrounded by beautifully unique looking and welcoming Dominicans. We later

learned that 73 percent of Dominican’s are racially mixed which obviously contributed to

the way the people look.



       On day 5 we set out while it was dark at about 5:30 in the morning with our driver

and tour guide, Christian. His English was pretty good and we felt completely at ease

with him. We drove through the neighborhoods where lack of street lights makes it so

much darker than at home. Stray dogs were out and about. You could see a number of

people coming out of the shadows to start the day. It appeared that many people were

laborers because of their casual clothes. It took us about an hour to get through small

villages with colorfully painted homes to the highway because of the poor roads and
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traffic. As we drove we saw the area coming alive. There were people making bakery

deliveries by scooter. There were stands along the roads with large pots cooking over

an open flame. Christian stopped at one of these stands to get what he said was “the

best cup of tea”. There were scores of tiny shacks selling 5 gallon jugs of bottled water,

drinks and snacks. There were small colorful structures housing restaurants scattered

throughout our journey. We saw roadside stands with fresh meat hanging that we found

out is sold fresh that day or salted to preserve for later use. As it got lighter and we got

closer to the highway we saw processing plants for various crops grown such as sugar

cane, rice, coffee, tobacco and cotton. Agriculture and service are other sources of

employment for Dominicans. Children in school uniforms began to appear and would

wave and smile at us.



       When we arrived at the World Vision national office we were brought into a room

where the staff was singing and clapping. The staff was so spirited and at first we

thought this was just to welcome us and was a little over the top but we later learned

that this is how they start their day in worship. I was a bit nervous and wondering where

Jenifer was. After a couple minutes I looked behind me and there she was. The

sadness in her eyes that drew me to her profile was no longer there. We saw complete

joy and a sparkle. We had to work to keep tears of joy from welling up as we realized

this little girl was real… the picture we had on our refrigerator came to life.



       We met for a few minutes with Carolina our visit coordinator and translator,

Jenifer, her Aunt Rosa and the driver from their Area Development Project, Luis. After
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exchanging smiles and hugs we gave Jenifer a few toys and treats she seemed to

enjoy. We asked questions that Carolina translated about school and Jenifer’s favorite

things to do. Although she seemed very shy she put her arm around my waist as we

headed to the car to shop.



      The most surprising thing about shopping was that Jenifer seemed to really only

look at clothing in the department store. We had to urge her to look at the toys. She did

however seem to have a thing for shoes. The more sparkly the shoe, the more her

eyes lit up but she seemed reluctant to put the shoes in her basket. My husband

gestured to her to go ahead and she put the shoes in her basket with a big smile. It was

quite entertaining. He said “I would have bought her a car if she asked for one”. How

can you refuse when we are making her day? Although I read that Dominican children

lack basic school supplies Jenifer did not need anything from this section. Carolina

explained that supplies were one thing our sponsorship provided.



      After shopping we had a little time to visit some spots in Santo Domingo relating

to Christopher Columbus, a very large part of Dominican history. As we drove, Carolina

explained sponsorship allows access to healthcare and nutrition not only for the children

but their families. Our sponsorship helps fund projects like the one that brought an

irrigation system to Jenifer’s community and other endeavors to improve sanitation,

housing and roads. Homes are typically small wooden structures with tin roofs and 3

rooms with living space often extended outside the home. World Vision also has

agricultural programs and farmers are now harvesting rain water and growing plentiful
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crops. Information is provided regarding HIV and AIDS to the community in an area that

has a tragically high rate of death in women of reproductive age. Each sponsor is

helping to restore a community. We are making a difference in Jenifer’s life!



      We thought Jenifer could decide where she wanted to go for lunch. I was

thinking she may pick McDonald’s or something similar but she did not. It then struck

me that she had never been to McDonald’s. Her family was truly poor. The average

income in their area was between $35 and $80 per month. Eating out was not an

option. We went to a local restaurant with good food that was very reasonably priced.

Jenifer got rice and beans with chicken and we had the same. This was a far cry from

chicken nuggets, burgers and fries. I asked what her favorite food was and she said

that was her favorite. Her big treat was a bottle of Coke. I kept catching Jenifer

watching and smiling as my husband asked questions as we dined. We told her we

have her picture on our refrigerator at home and now we were having lunch with her.

This was pretty unbelievable.



      We did not know much about the Dominican Republic, but because of one little

girl with sadness in her eyes, we have since learned a great deal. She is the reason we

enjoyed a wonderful vacation in a beautiful spot, with the friendliest people you could

meet. We were able to share our monetary blessings to provide necessities for her, a

couple toys and sparkly shoes, only at our urging. She was as much of a blessing to us

as we were to her. She was completely unspoiled, a refreshing contrast to many

children and adults I know… myself included.
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                                     Works Cited


Wikipedia "History of the Dominican Republic" Wikipedia URL:
hhtp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Dominican_Republic



Every Culture “Dominican Republic” Every Culture URL:
http://www.everyculture.com/Cr-Ga/Dominican-Republic.html



Time “Haiti and the Dominican Republic: A Tale of Two Countries” Time URL:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1953959,00.html



Worldpress “Anti-Haitian Bias Rooted in Dominican History” Worldpress URL:
http://www.worldpress.org/Americas/2276.cfm



Buzzle “Dominican Republic Facts” Buzzle URL:
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/dominican-republic-facts.html

				
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