Greetings from the Dominican Republic!
Over the next seven days, we will be working at a a public hospital and conducting home visits to help support healthcare in this country.After a three hour flight, we were warmly greeted at the baggage claim by our hostess, Rosa, and her friends and family. Rosa is a nursing professor at the local university. They grabbed us for hugs as if we were long lost family. We took a two hour bus ride from the airport in Santo Domingo, to San Francisco de Macoris, our home for the next week.
San Francisco de Macoris is a city in the north central area of the country, and is the capital of the Duarte province. With a population of roughly 250,000, it is a mid-sized city surrounded by agricultural land and tree-covered mountains.
During our bus ride, we began to get acquainted with the area. The Dominican Republic is a very physically intimate culture, and unfortunately this same closeness extends to driving—vehicles tailgate each other in ways that would cause white knuckles in even the most daring of Atlantan drivers. Traffic light signals are taken as suggestions, and pedestrians stroll around moving traffic to get around. Since motorcycles are more affordable than cars,they are ubiquitous throughout the area. Very few people wear helmets when riding them, and two, three, or even four people pile onto the bikes at once. Because of this, motor vehicle collision injuries are incredibly common.
Unvaccinated, unsterilized dogs roam the streets in packs. Although people in this country produce just as much or even less garbage than we do, sanitation infrastructure is somewhat underdeveloped. Bags of garbage are piled up on sides of the street. The streets are framed by a hodgepodge of apartments, shacks, and single-family homes stacked on top each other. Brown-outs and black outs are common, and much of the rural area does not have access to running water.
But this country has an incredible sense of community. People sit on porches and in the streets to speak with each other. Multiple generations often live in one home. People hold conversations in close proximity to each other, and touch each others’ hands and hair while they speak. They are also delightfully, vividly LOUD. As I am writing this from the balcony, people on the streets below are blaring music on boom boxes, holding entire conversations by shouting and singing, mopeds are revving, drivers are honking their horns at each other, and half a dozen dogs are yapping at everyone who passes them. Even though people living in this country face tremendous social issues and profound poverty, they have a beautiful country and an infectious sense of conviviality and excitement. We can’t wait to learn more about this culture and try to help out where we can.