Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Trip to Bonao

October 3, 2005

So, there I was, a foreigner from the Bronx, heading to el campo. We loaded onto a guagua (bus) early Sunday morning for our journey up north to Bonao. Danielle, another Fulbright scholar, and I were the only Americans (US) in our group. We traveled with students from Movimiento Sin Aula, a section of la Escuela de Formación Socioeconómica y Cultural, where I am taking the "Ser Mujer Hoy" class.

On our way to Bonao, I gazed out the bus’ window the same way I used to glue my face to the train’s glass to see whatever there was to see in New York City’s subway tunnels as a child. Instead of rat-infested tracks and graffiti-covered walls, I saw lush, green mountains that reminded me of the mountains I miss seeing in Vermont. I am simply fascinated by the tranquility and the simplicity of rural life—both of which are non-existent in the hustle of city life.

When we finally reached the town of Bonao, we drove pass colmados, corner stores where people gather at plastic tables to chat and to drink Presidente beer. Bachata music resonated in the air while people swayed their heads to the music’s rhythms. Elderly women and men sat in front of one-room wooden houses that looked as old as the people who sat in front of them.

Then, all you could hear of the once-loud bachata music was a low hum. The paved roads turned into dirt paths, and green fields were now all that I could see. The guagua’s engine roared as it worked its way up the unpaved path. Suddenly, we stopped and unloaded where what seemed to me to be the middle of nowhere.

A man, wearing rubber boots, passed by on his horse, as we struggled to walk along the uneven, clay path en route to our destination. There was a steep hill that we struggled to descend. A few yards after the hill, we reached a stream that we had to cross to continue our journey. We waited in a queue to take off our shoes and socks. The water was cold but refreshing. I walked across the flowing brook carefully and slowly, partly because the rocks were slippery and unsteady and partly because I hate the feeling of anything under my bare feet.

A few yards later, after having had put on our socks and shoes, we were at our final destination. A guard dog greeted us with his hostile bark. We waited outside the make-shift gate of the blue house until the dog realized we were no threat. There was a young boy up in the guava tree which reminded me of summers in Antigua when Dana and I would climb the tree behind Grandma Vi’s house even though we were not supposed to.

After resting for some time, the group gathered in a semi-circle, and Ingrid, one of the leaders, introduced us to several families who live in the area. These families are part of a campesino group, fighting for the right to health and educational services. When we finished with introductions, we gathered into a circle, and Julio led a meditation session. Just being in the country is relaxing in itself, and the meditation was the icing on the cake.

Soon, it was time for lunch. We ate tasty rice and chicken that one of the women from the farm prepared for us over. When I entered into the kitchen to pile my plate with food, I realized that there was no stove in there. She had cooked a meal for twenty over wood. The food was delicious and tasted as though she had prepared each plate individually for each person.

We decided to go see the waterfall after lunch, which was not too far from where we were. The village’s water supply comes from the waterfall, and I realized afterwards that I drank this same water during lunch and am still not sick. After crossing two more water streams, we made it to the waterfall, and it was beautiful. The mosquito bites that I had acquired along the way were well worth it. Unfortunately, the unexpected rain shortened our trip. The clay roads were harder to travel while wet, but we made it back to the bus anyway.

On our way home, I stared out the bus as intently as I had done on my way to Bonao. I reflected on how difficult it would be to live in a place like that—a place with such challenging paths to travel and with no near-by hospital or schools. There seems to be nothing up there in the mountains where these people live; yet, they manage each day and make the best of their situation. Although they do not have many of the luxuries others have, they have the honor of knowing nature well and of understanding that humanity is not separate from and dominate over nature—something we need to realize before there is nothing left for us to enjoy.


Blogger big c said...

i love reading your blog.
i love the way you write, painting pictures for all who are lucky enough to read along.
i love the way you're thinking about so many important things, and that you share those thoughts with us.
i agree with you on so many things.
i admire you so much for what you're doing and for what you want to accomplish.
i can't wait to learn from you after you finish this time.
and i hope that, in the mean time, you stay happy, healthy, inspired...and that you know how much we all love you.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

dena your site is the bomb...
i love it, it is like reading a novel. i havent been doing any work because your adventures are so intriguing! keep it up and I know by the end of the year, both you and your readers including myself will have learned soo much.
You should write a book!


4:07 PM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

Reading about my country through your blog brings back childhood memories when I would go to my cousins houses and play in the mud or do crazy stuff like climb the "forbidden" trees. I'm glad my sis is doing amazing! and ignoring the hisses of the, what I like to call, "walking dogs." hehe..Spain in some ways reminds me of the Dominican Republic. For example; I went to Valencia this past weekend and as soon as I stepped out of the bus I felt the humidity in the air just like in D.R. and then the clean beaches there, AMAZING! Well I think I am rambling on too much...hehe..Maybe i'll see you online some time..LOVE YA and Miss ya...

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice blog, interesting perspective and well written too.

Congratulations - from a former resident of Gazcue.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Now there's a Middlebury education for you...Who needs to go to DR when you have someone paint it so vividly? Miss you Dena!

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last one is Carmen by the way :)

3:07 PM  

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