In spite hours of contemplation, research, and packing, I found myself nervous for this trip. I feel that the best way to reflect upon the lessons I learned throughout my time in the Dominican Republic would be to create a list that, retrospectively, I would have liked to refer to. So here it is.
If you are considering taking a service trip of any nature, no matter the organization it’s through or the location to which you intend to travel, I can guarantee you will not regret it. That being said, you may find yourself entirely unprepared for this experience.
So in an attempt to ease your mind, here are a few things you should know:
- Please be sure to review travel regulations. I had some items removed from my carryon at the airport which caused me an emotional breakdown over sunscreen- case in point, don’t be me.
- If you by chance, happen to be a sort of obsessive germaphobe, this might be relevant; get used to physical contact by strangers. Within the first day of my trip, I had one child climb up on my left arm while three more clung to my right hand. I also managed to slip and fall into the mud within 15 minutes of entering my first Bateye. You may run out of hand sanitizer, this is far from the end of the world- you will survive and probably become better off for it (excessively dumping alcohol on your skin isn’t healthy, no matter how germ free you may feel).
- You may question the safety of everything from water drinkability to bunk bed stability. There is no need to do this, you’ll find that you are not alone and everyone is watching out for you- honestly, looking back, half the concerns that crossed my mind were extreme over reactions.
- If your typical activity level is in a range barely above zero, you will certainly sweat more than you may have ever in your life. This is unavoidable, skipping an application of sunscreen will not help the situation, it will only burn you.
- Do not think you can survive on a box of granola bars, you are going to have to eat the food provided eventually, and it’s really not bad at all so begin with it.
- Be prepared to fall in love with the people. Remember point number two, how I mentioned falling in the mud? Well it was within my first half hour of entering that Bateye that I discovered just how considerate and kind the people were. A young boy took me by the hand and brought me over to his sister, a girl about 16, to allow her to help me in cleaning the dirt off my leg and arm- I tried to express my gratitude to his sister but I’m fairly certain my attempted Spanish only served to entertain her; regardless, their actions were unexpected and appreciated. Aside from that, there were a number of children at the Joe Hartman School who seemed to find me each time I was there, they taught me a few games and even helped me communicate with them through correcting my Spanish- it wasn’t long before I looked forward to seeing them there.
- On the subject of children correcting your Spanish: you will discover that taking a language all throughout high school has made you nowhere near proficient in it, you’ll likely struggle to hold a conversation with an 8 year old. Fortunately, google translate works without wifi- use it, the kids will probably adore you for actually talking with them.
- You will want to come back (whether or not you realistically can). After a trip, you will know exactly what to bring, you’ve already connected with the people, and you should be fairly confident in your ability to survive 10 days without constant wifi or air-conditioning. There’s virtually no reason not to come back, or at least engage in something similar.
- Whether or not you outwardly acknowledge it, your perspective will change once you’ve arrived home. Things that once seemed extremely frustrating become minuscule pains. Many of your friends probably won’t be able to understand why you can no longer deal with their trivial complaints, and your family may express concern over the sudden lack of yours.
- No matter how cliché you thought it was, you’ll understand that someone is always happier with less- you’ll never appreciate all you have more.