Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 1

Hola from Punta Cana! J

Wow, what a day this was! I could probably narrate a novel of the day’s adventures but I’ll try to keep it more on the brief side. Most of us started the day off with a 7am workout (we are taking a self-motivation class after all) and then met Ben Hulefeld, Logistical Coordinator for the Caribbean Center for Education and Research, to make our way over to our official living headquarters for the trip – The Ecological Foundation. Ben is really something else! The best way we have been able to describe him is authentic – he loves this place, he loves his job, and he wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. We fueled up with a quick breakfast and piled into our van.
A local doctor (middle back) tours our group through a
clinic of which VCOM is a major contributing partner
                  Our short drive was into the city/town of Veron. It’s hard to believe that fifteen minutes inland of the Punta Cana resorts the entire scene changes. We were suddenly surrounded by poverty. The first stop was the public “hospital” of the town, much of which has been constructed by VCOM, where a local doctor gave us a tour of the small building. The clinic sees over 200 patients a day, a devastatingly large portion of those patients being treated for HIV by only one HIV-specialist. The clinic also has a pediatric unit, an ob-gyn area and even a TB room. Their emergency room consists of three medical tables that aren’t separated from each other. Soon they are planning to expand to give the ER its own special area. The clinic is certainly short-staffed and short-supplied, but its expansion in such a short amount of time presents room for hope.
                  Next we visited both a vocational school and a public school and were able to tour some of the classrooms. The students are on summer break, but are preparing for standardized tests coming up next week. A few charming, little girls toured us through the public school classrooms, explaining that the students were grades one through eight and attended school either in the morning or in the afternoon, and that the classes had anywhere from 30 to 70 people. Obviously this is a sad state of affairs in terms of the education here, but I’ll leave that area to discussion for days when we run camps with the kids!
                  We then returned home, where we grabbed lunch and met back with Ben for a tour of the Foundation. The grounds are used for many different things- from worm-composting, to bee-keeping, to farming and even an iguana habitat! The Foundation is a pioneer in sustainable development with so many things to learn and so many practices to study. The rest of the afternoon was left for us to relax and explore a little bit, so we walked to some nearby lagoons and had a blast! The water was so clear and smooth – we all jumped in for a cool, relaxing swim and enjoyed tossing around a football for a while. After, we returned to our area of the beach and some of us jumped in on another game of beach volleyball (and Cara and I thought we could get away!), again meeting some new, friendly faces.
                  To finish the evening, we had dinner at a lovely pizzeria on the hotel grounds (an appreciated upgrade from the cafeteria food) and then concluded with a two hour class session with a discussion on values and personal traits we hope to develop, all the while enjoying the ocean breeze outside. Our group has become so close in our class discussions. It’s really neat to find that so many different types of people have so much in common!
                  I have thoroughly enjoyed this flood of information and scenery we’ve been introduced to today and can’t wait for so much more to come!

                  Hasta luego, Liz Trinchere

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