Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In the news...

Our DR trip was featured this week in our campus' online newspaper, the Echo. Check it out here!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Perspective...

The reality that we lived down the in DR...

I find it cliche to come back from an experience and say that it changed my life. I feel like my life changes every day with each new experience, and I have come to be more comfortable with this throughout college. My time in the Dominican Republic did more than change my life; it changed my perspective.

Going to the DR was a long time in the making; my group and I had been preparing for almost a full year, so when we arrived, I felt a true sense of relief. I can equate this relief with what all of you college seniors are feeling right now as you firm up your plans for the next four years of your life; it's something that you had to trust would happen, but there may have been times that it seemed out of reach. This is the way I felt about this trip...each meeting would come and go and I would occasionally question my ability to serve others in the DR, I would question the ability of my group to come together for a great week and I would question my intentions. However, when we arrived in the beautiful DR, all of that erased; it was as if we were all starting over.

The service we were doing was fulfilling; building a house surrounded by the members of the community, the recipients of the house and the children who will become the future of el Rifle was more amazing than I expected. However, it wasn't only the actual project that we worked on; we worked on forming relationships with the people of el Rifle, we worked on our perceptions of poverty and service and most incredibly, we lost ourselves, only to find ourselves again in a much bigger, fuller way.

Jason and Erin, the two SMC staff members who accompanied us on our trip, Tom, the community member who came with us, Sarah, our student leader, myself, Bill, Eric, Jess and Siobhan all came together for amazing reflections after our days of service and sorted out all of our feelings. These reflections were an integral part of the trip, and we were all able to sort out the day's events, our own emotions and try to make sense of the whole situation. There is no way that I could convey everything that we uncovered during these reflections, but I can tell you that each and every member of my group gained something incredible from our week together. Being with this group just feels right to me - I actually just got back from our second reunion since we've been back!

My perspective on life changed during this trip. When I left I was worn down by life; doing schoolwork, traveling to my internship, searching for a job and trying to sort out everything that will be changing in the next six weeks was really taking an inward toll on me. However, this experience allowed me to put myself in another existence; an existence of people who admit that they are "poor but happy." I learned that it is not what job I get or where I live or what grades I end up with or if I get recognized at the end of the year for the life that I've led for the past four years that matters, but instead whose life I can touch and how much I allow my own life to be touched that really matters. As Erin said in one of our reflections, "all you can do is love other people." That was a lesson that I needed to learn, and I'm proud to say that my perspective has changed as a result of this trip.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hola Amigos!

So I am going to dedicate several posts to my time in the Dominican Republic, and this one is going to be about what our week consisted of!

We left SMC at 4am on Saturday and traveled to the Burlington airport for a 6am flight. We had smooth travels all the way down to the DR, and arrived to beautiful weather and 80 degree temperatures. We all changed into shorts and had a two hour bus ride to our first stop, San Jose de Ocoa. The bus driver blasted bachata music (try it out on pandora.com...it brings me right back!) and took us through the city of Santo Domingo and through the rural area around Ocoa. Once we arrived in Ocoa, we settled in at the volunteer house, went to church and had our first Dominican meal.

The next day we took a great ride to two different communities that ADESJO (the organization that we were volunteering with) serves and saw completed houses and other projects that previous volunteers had worked on. We learned that we would be serving a community called el Rifle, which was about two hours from Ocoa. We traveled there on Monday and began work on Tuesday. Tuesday through Friday our group worked on building a house for a couple whose home was being threatened by erosion. We worked on the foundation and began building the walls with cinder blocks. Check out the amazing view that we had each day from our work site!

Each day after we finished work, we would have a delicious dinner (usually rice and beans, fresh pineapple and other delicious fruit) and spend time with community members at the community campfire. Despite the fact that we couldn't always communicate with the community members flawlessly, we all made amazing connections with different community members and were completely embraced by everyone in el Rifle. After a very moving goodbye on Friday, we headed back to Ocoa for a final night and then traveled to the beach on Saturday before our flight at 4:20.

Our flight ended up being delayed getting out of the DR, which caused us to miss our flight back to Burlington and forced us to spend the night in a hotel near JFK without any checked bags and only a few hours for sleep. We made the best of the situation, however, and convinced the kitchen (which was closed for the night) to make us salads and sandwiches at 1am and made it back to the airport for our flight in the morning. We got back to a snowstorm in Burlington around 11am on Sunday and finished up an amazing week.

More to come soon....
Front Row: Bill (our only fluent Spanish speaker!) Back Row L-R: Jason (Campus Minister), Jess, Sarah, Johnny (the man whose onion farm we are standing in front of), Erin (Assistant Director of MOVE), Siobhan (also known as Sabrina), me, Eric

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We're home!

Just a quick post to let you know that my group and I returned from the Dominican Republic earlier this morning after an incredible week. I will post more later, but I wanted to put up a few photos and just share the over all awesomeness of this experience. I had the best week of my entire life, and I can't wait to share more...however, we slept very little during the week and also missed our flight last night, meaning that we only slept from 2 am to 6 am...in other words, I'm exhausted and heading to bed. Enjoy the photos and check back for more soon!

Walking up to the work site in el Rifle where we worked on building a house. (I'm on the far right with the red shorts!)

Our group with some of the community members who came out to say goodbye to us when we left. (I'm sitting down on the stairs)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

BEAUTIFUL Day!!

Today is the most beautiful day ever!

That is most certainly an exaggeration, but it is currently 47 degrees out...and after months of frigid temperatures, this feels like heaven! I made a new playlist this morning in honor of my first outdoor walk, which I just got back from. It was great! Campus is really alive today and despite the fact that there is still some dirty snow on the ground and puddles covering most of the sidewalk, everyone is ready to get out and get started on some beautiful weather!

Lots of little things to report today...I am about to start getting ready to go to my friend Sarah's senior art show...she is a double major in art and psychology and has her gallery opening today. I can't wait! Last night was Friday Knight Dry, a campus event with tons of stuff going on. I participated in a scavenger hunt, went to a luau, answered SMC Jeopardy-style questions and listened to our two campus a Capella groups perform, all to earn Monopoly money for an auction at midnight! My sister and I pooled our money together and bid on a gift certificate to Papa Franks (an Italian restaurant just down the street from campus). They had some other pretty amazing prizes...gift certificates, iPods, a Nintendo DS, video games, lava lamps and a bunch of other stuff. It was a fun night!

This week will actually be pretty calm with the exception of my departure for the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC on Saturday!!!! I am beyond excited...we have been planning for the trip for almost a year and I can't wait to go to a place that I've never been before, enjoy the warm weather (80? OK!!) and do some really fulfilling service. I love airports and flying, so I am almost as excited about getting there as actually being there! We are leaving bright and early Saturday (we meet in the MOVE office at 4 am...I might not be as excited at that exact moment...) and return late the following Saturday. I know that it is going to be amazing and I can't wait!

That's all for now, hope you are having weather like we are!
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mardi Gras...

Here's the Mardi Gras video that I promised...enjoy!


video

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rainy Rail Jam

I headed over to the 300's field on Friday night with my friend Meg to watch the annual Rail Jam...it is sponsored by the Ski & Snowboard Club, and features lots of skiers and boarders showing off their tricky moves...I clearly have no idea the logistics of all the fancy stuff they do, but it was pretty cool!

One downside for the Rail Jam (which takes place on an enormous mound of plowed snow from all over campus) was that it was nearly 50 degrees and raining! I was super pumped for the nice weather, but unfortunately got soaked pretty quickly and had to leave after just a few minutes. I did get some video though, so check it out below...it was a little tricky to capture because of the lights shining towards the crowd, but I think you'll get the picture.

video

In other exciting events, this weekend was Burlington's Mardi Gras celebration on Church Street. I LOVE Mardi Gras and have been attending the event since middle school! This year they estimated that over 20,000 people lined Church Street for the parade; Burlington's celebration is the largest Mardi Gras celebration in New England! I'll post a video of the parade as soon as I get it uploaded to my computer. The event truly captures the essence of Burlington...how many other cities could get over 20,000 people out on a day with wind chills of 0 degrees?

I have a busy week ahead of me...less than two weeks until I depart for the Dominican Republic! I'll blog you soon.... :-)