Semana 1/2

17 01 2011

After running from a late arrival in the Miami airport to my flight to Santiago, I found myself seated next to another girl in my program. Actually, there were about 5 Americans (all girls) clustered together on the plane. We chatted for basically the entire 2 hours of the flight about how excited we all were, what things would be like, and I answered any questions that they had the best that I could. When I arrived the country seemed to be just as I had left it. I was welcomed with a huge heat wave as I made my way down the escalator to the ground floor to collect my luggage. We met some of the CIEE staff who took us to the university to meet our host families. As soon as I got off of the bus, my family ran up to me and we exchanged huge hugs. We went home and I spent the night chatting with them and unpacking my bags. The next day we had Day 1 of orientation at La Vega, it was almost exactly like the orientation that I received this summer, but it was really nice to get to know the other girls in my program.

The week that followed was more meetings, charlas, tours, and other orientation-type things. Nothing was really too new for me but it was good to get adjusted to being in the country again. I also absolutely adore the girls in my program, there is not a single boy, and it’s actually a lot of fun! It’s a very dynamic group with a variety of interests and they are all very eager to explore which is wonderful. We already have a full month of excursions planned!

This semester will be different from my summer experience in that everyone has different schedules because they can chose which classes they would like to take. So it’s a little harder to all be together but we make the effort to go out and do things as a group on weekends. I really enjoy my classes so far- I am taking Spanish (I was placed in the most advanced level so we have a sociolinguistic component to the class), Socioeconomic and Political Status of Contemporary Dominican Republic, Caribbean History, and History and Anthropology of Medicine. I am going to get started on my independent research this coming week- I can’t wait! I’ve started chatting to people about the insurance situation and I think I am going to have a lot of learn and explore.

I spent my first weekend with my family in Jarbaracoa, which is in the mountains about an hour away from Santiago. We rented a house and camped out on the surrounding grounds. The mountains have their own beauty that is very captivating. The air was fresh and the views were gorgeous. We took a few tours around the community and visited two resorts that I think I might have to re-visit to stay for a weekend! We spent the days playing Poker and Pictionary, and of course, eating. This weekend away was wonderful practice for my Spanish- I can understand everything so much better than I could when I had first arrived back in May. There was definitely still an adjustment period to begin thinking in Spanish again. I think at this point my brain had made the transition and I’ve found it hard to speak English, it usually comes out as Spanglish!

My first week of classes was definitely a success- first of all, I found all of the classrooms without any problems and I understood everything that was going on. I have one of the best schedules in terms of class meeting times. I don’t have class until 4pm on Mondays and I finish with class for the weekend at 9am on Thursday. I have lots of time to invest in my independent study and further exploration of the country and culture. I don’t think I’m going to have a favorite class because all of my classes have dynamic professors. My professor for History and Anthropology of Medicine is quite a character. He is a practicing gastroenterologist and kept the class laughing for the entire two hours! (I was pretty proud of myself for catching the majority of the jokes). I am the only American in a class of about 50. Along with the Dominicans there are about six Haitians. It is a course that is mandatory for all of the students studying medicine so I think I am really going to enjoy it and I look forward to getting to know my classmates. My Spanish class is so wonderful because it’s going to be more challenging with the sociolinguistic focus. I am also the only non-heritage speaker with the exception of a girl who spent last semester here as well, so I have my work cut out for me, but the professor is very enthusiastic and more like another mother- I know I am going to learn a lot!

I spent this past weekend in Cabarete, which is a beach on the Northern coast of the country. It’s mainly a surfing town, so there are lots of tourists but the beach is beautiful and the night life is one of a kind. There were a total of 12 of us who went, and it was really a ton of fun getting to know the girls and also spending time with Dominican friends. It’s nice to be back in the city and my schedule is finally getting solidified to the point where I can schedule in time to go for a run or grab a coffee with friends and still play with my brothers! (Who are, by the way, incredibly adorable and have grown up so much in just 6 months. Alejandro is learning English so occasionally we will practice but they are still my most devoted Spanish professors and don’t hesitate to correct me 🙂 ).

I can’t put into words how it feels to be here again. Walking around campus the other day I felt as though I had never left. Driving along the highways, I see the same poverty, the same food, and the same joyful music and dancing. I am meeting more and more people as my language skills continue to improve and I am still searching for what exactly is so contagious about this country.

Check out the pictures below to see everywhere I’ve been in just 2 weeks!

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2 responses

17 01 2011
Jack Biondo

You sound so alive and excited to continue your DR adventure. Always in my prayers. Love – Dad

30 01 2011

How exciting to have 2 granddaugters out of the country writing their very own blogs! I look forward to each installment I get from you and Juliana. With such vivid descriptions of your suroundings and activities I feel like I am there with you! I still miss you though! Keep up the good work. Pictures are great!

Te quiero–MIMI

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