Zona Franca and Mangos…?!

27 02 2011

My “Procesos” class has proved to be more interesting than expected. We took a field trip to a “Zona Franca” or Free Zone in Santiago. Free Zones exist around the world and are characterized by special regulations relating to the taxes that multinational companies pay to import and export products produced in factories in these zones. In the Dominican Republic, the factories are owned by Dominicans and employ Dominicans but produce goods for international companies. We visited a factory that produces shoes for Timberland. It was incredibly interesting to tour the factory and talk to the manager and workers. Most of the employees said that they didn’t love their job but they also didn’t hate it. They appreciated the stability and benefits that the employment provided but complained about the repetitive nature of the work. I had imagined an oppressive, hot environment with everyone is isolated sections not able to talk for 8 hours per day. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large open room with music over the speakers and lots of conversations. The building was divided into sections where each part of the shoe-making process took place. We toured through and saw each step, it was very interesting to see a loafer-type shoe made from start to finish. With the visit came a lecture on the economy of the Dominican Republic. It was originally an agriculture-based economy but now it draws the largest incomes from zona francas, tourism, and remissions. It went from a self-sustaining economy producing for Dominicans and exportation to an economy almost completely dependent on foreign money and production for exportation. Interesting to consider if this is the reason for the economic situation that the country now faces.

We took a day trip to Parque Nacional Isabela which was where the first colony in the Americas was built. Unfortunately, when Trujillo was in power he ordered a General to “clean the site up” because a European group of archeologists wanted to come and excavate it. The General interpreted “clean it up” as bulldoze all of the ruins from the original buildings into the ocean! So now, there is not much left but a few foundational pieces and a small museum with some artifacts that were salvaged. We also learned a lot about the history of Columbus’ trips and the information lines up really well with what I’m learning in my Caribbean History class. After the national park, we spent the afternoon on the beach! We visited the first beach that Columbus swam in and then another beach that houses an all-inclusive resort. I have a new rule: I have to spend at least one day per week on the beach. I’ve realized that I won’t get to be on beaches this beautiful for a while, so I need to take advantage while I can!

Playa Grande

Playa Castilla

La Parque Nacional Isabela

My classes are plugging right along. My professor in the medical class is still in awe that I can handle myself. Someone was giving a presentation and he stopped him, asked me to read the slide aloud, and explain what the slide meant. It was about the Hippocratic oath, the part about how doctors should respond to euthanasia. I explained and he was shocked, told me for probably the forth time: “so you can speak Spanish”. Yes, yes I reassured him, I understand everything that’s going on in this class. After class he called me up and told me that anything I needed he would be happy to help. I’m glad I’ve caught his interest because he is going to be a perfect interview subject for my project.

My research is going very very well. I have finished reading the entire social security law (all in Spanish…phew!) and I have it outlined. The next step is to re-outline the parts specific to health in English and define any government organizations in order to really understand the policy and target parts that I want to focus on in my interviews. I have a meeting with my professor this week and will start setting up interviews with doctors, hospital administrators, business owners, and patients. I will eventually post my outline and description of the law but so far what I have found most interesting (and also problematic) is the way in which the Dominican government proposes the financing of this system- they use a mix of public and private funds on a sliding scale based on salary. From what I saw this summer, this mix of funding isn’t working exactly as planned. I’m excited to dive into the interviews!

In other, perhaps less important news, I ate a mango today!! I can’t tell you how much I have been dying to eat a mango and it was absolutely delicious. They really aren’t in season but they are going to start coming out in March. I can’t wait; the mangos in the states just don’t even come close. I spent a wonderful evening with my family at the Centro Español, it really is very nice there. Tomy plays in a softball league so we went to go and watch (and also take advantage of the delicious food that they serve). There is also a gorgeous view from the patio of the restaurant that overlooks Santiago.

The view from the patio in el Centro Español

Mary and Alejandro – que bellos!

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17 03 2011
Dad

I almost have this page memorized. Do you think we may get a March entry before April?

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