The Human Catastrophe

Carter Balcom

Life as we know it, can be made out to whatever we decide that we want to do, and as long as we have the drive and the motivation then we have the means to make any goal a reality. The college student for example has times in his or her career where they have to make sacrifices to make the grade that they need. If that means spending many nights doing the work they need to complete to achieve the grade they are searching for then that is what is going to happen to get it done. However college students also have the ability to decide for themselves at a young adult age on the agenda for the day and what they are going to do throughout. Being one of the many examples of the expressed freedom that Americans have that many in the world do not possess or do not have the ability to choose for themselves because they are born into a life that has already decided their fate for them. . Many want to believe that they have the right idea in mind when they think about this idea as a reality, but the truth is that there isn’t a person on this Earth that can sit down and say they know how the people of poverty stricken communities feel at the very least until they have experienced it for themselves.

People all over the world get used to a day to day routine which can cause a sort of mental block towards the optimistic thinking of the rest of the world, especially without the option to travel during some free time throughout the year. Traveling gives one the ability to experience a new culture and gain further knowledge of the world around them. To travel to and learn about the history of the country Haiti has brings out some of the strongest emotions that people can experience simply because of what is witnessed through what can be seen throughout the country. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and its people are treated regularly as the lowest forms of people that don’t have a place in society and one of the motivations for this treatment is because it gives the Dominican Republic power over how they live and how they are treated compared to the Dominican Republic’s own population. Haitians are unable to receive Dominican citizenship and if they are born or brought into the Dominican Republic and are abandoned then they are stuck without being able to return to their home or from further moving into the Dominican Republic and are essentially stuck without a define home for them. On the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic there is a town in the mountains known as Teelahre where many people from Haiti travel to at the beginning of the year to go to the markets to collect food, clothes and other objects for themselves such as tobacco, artwork, animals that they can use for their homes whether they are from the town or not. There is no greater moment in a day then when outsiders like Dominicans or people from other countries come to see them such as work groups from the United States. The problem is that very few outsiders have ever embarked on a day trip into this area of Haiti; their story has yet to have been told.

During the time when Trujillo was in power, on the border of the towns Restacion and Teelahre thousands of Haitian people were murdered by the guards watching the country’s borders making sure that no Haitian was getting into the Dominican Republic because of the hatred Trujillo had for the people and after a while it became a sport for Trujillo and his followers to eliminate as many of the Haitians as they could. Today in Teelahre, there are no technically defined roads, the only vehicles that you will see are the small motor bikes that the people after saving up for extensive periods of time. The language that is spoken in Haiti is called Creole which is a mixture of an African and French language which Dominicans consider to be slang or a slur language. The children move around the town working together trying to do anything that they can to collect forms of money so that they can get food and other materials they consider necessary like clothes. Everyone seems to know each other in the community, but it is everyone for themselves, everyone does their part that they need to survive each day. Nobody is happy in this community however because they know the situation they are in is about as bad as it can be for many of them. Many kids that are moving around the community are orphans and the only way to tell if they aren’t orphans is if they are standing with their parents or other family members, and it is these kids who are wondering around town that are often the most excited to see outsiders come and visit. They will be as persistent as they can be to get a couple of pesos from outsiders the moment stepping into the town until the moment leaving back across the border into the Dominican Republic. How does a place on this Earth end up in this situation? Why aren’t their more efforts of action taken to aid these people? Will the situation ever improve? These are questions travelers are left leaving Haiti as they cross the border, and are left with a feeling of helplessness because there is no easy way to react after having an experience such as poverty tourism.

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Evaluating Art and its Cultural Context 

Brenna Pisanelli

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As long as humans have been living on this planet we have also been making art. Our evolving culture has been recorded with smeared natural dyes on cave walls, with chisels on hieroglyphic monuments, with oil paint brushed on canvas, and with photographs and digital records. Art is more than just an expression of human life, it also acts as a record of human lifestyle, culture, and activity. Human history and art history are intertwined disciplines and you can not address one without examining the other.  If Art is History and History is Art then we should question the way that museums are set up and the cultural context in which  artifacts are displayed.

Citizens of the Dominican Republic take a lot of pride in their precolonial history and ancestry of the Taino Native Americans. The Taino’s are decedents of the Arawak people and occupied the island before the Spanish conquest. Upon Spanish arrival their estimated population of the Island was approximately one million people. As the Spanish settled the island the Taino’s succumbed to their violence and new diseases, wiping out a majority of the population and their culture. Today visitors and community members can go to the Museum of the Man in Santa Domingo and observe Taino artifacts as well as visit caves which contain Taino rock paintings.

The Museum has a floor and a half dedicated to the display of Taino artifacts. As a visitor you walk and look at the artifacts through glass cases and read the display tags. This model is how most museums operate, but it is this model that art historians and historians are beginning to have an issue with. The experience for the visitor in this type of setting is educational at best but does not do an accurate job at depicting the cultural and historical connections. Many times artifacts that have religious or ritualistic purposes are taken and stripped of their cultural context to be put into a glass case and look at. For example in the right hand picture above is a Taino idol which would have been used for worship or ritual. This creates a disconnect between the viewer and the object as well as a false understanding of the culture. Many scholars have argued that there is no easy solution to this problem as not all artifacts can be kept in their original locations due to preservation and protection purposes. Though the display of artifacts in the Museum of the Man could be better organized to portray a more relatable experience of Taino life and culture to the viewer.

In almost direct contrast to the Museum of the Man the caves in San Cristobal offer a completely different experience. Here the visitor is viewing Taino art work in the same space where it was created hundreds of years before. By allowing the visitor to occupy the same space as the Taino’s it allows them to fully understand the cultural importance of the paintings to the Taino culture. When I took the left hand photograph shown above, I was inches away from the rock art, shinning my flash light on it just as its artist would have shined their fire on it to revile its beauty. This type of interaction takes one out of the museum and away from the glass boxes, creating an environment where the viewer can take in their complete surroundings and make connections between culture, artwork, and history completing the circle of art as history and history as art.

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Cholera Crisis

Cara James

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“Cholera is here. Right now.” …words pierce the ears of travelers.

Contaminated water trickles through the streets of Tilori. Two shoeless girls hold hands and hop over the streams of water, other little children walk right through it. Vibrio cholera has begun to penetrate through the town, but lack of proper water treatment leaves the village of seventeen thousand Haitians at risk.

Vibrio cholera is a bacteria transmitted by means of fecal/oral contact. In the case of Tilori, water contaminated by fecal matter is the culprit if it is consumed by the villagers. This bacteria can be deadly if symptoms are not kept in check, as diarrhea and vomiting cause extreme dehydration in patients. Hydration salts and ample amounts of clean water treat this disease and can be found relatively inexpensive—hydration salt pills can be purchased at less than a dollar each in the United States. But there are several problems which hinder the treatment of cholera in Tilori: a critical lack of these pills, no money to purchase treatment, and no contact past the Haitian boarder to inquire or attain treatment. News from Haiti, particularly this village, is not heard on an international level because only volunteers from the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) enter this village. The rest of the world has no idea the critical health situations this village has dealt with in the past, is dealing with now, and will deal with in the future.

Tilori’s cholera treatment center stands on the outskirts of town. A non-sterile blood sample room without a door exposes the patient to any villager who cares to watch. A few yards away, a short hall leads to where patients stay and find treatment. Long planks of wood act as the patient’s bed, with a hole cut out from the bottom half of the board for the patient’s diarrhea needs. In the past week, four cases have been seen by just one doctor. One of these cases has resulted in death. In a village of just one doctor, cholera could quickly turn into a death trap. There’s no way to escape the disease because humans need water, but the only water available to these Haitians is contaminated.

As the bus crossed back into the Dominican Republic, border patrol sprayed the tires of the bus to kill any trace of cholera that the bus may have driven through. But strangely enough, Haitian’s are permitted to cross the Dominican boarder if they care to receive treatment in a Dominican clinic. Such a porous border does not guarantee that Dominicans are invincible against the disease.

With seventeen thousand people, one doctor, and lack of treatment, cholera could quickly turn into a death trap for the village of Tilori. It is a saddening, helpless feeling knowing that there isn’t much that can be done to help these people. Change needs to be made so that the world can see what is happening in Haiti. That change needs to begin by building a stable relationships on the island of Hispaniola.

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Living Day by Day 

Brenna Pisanelli

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With famous white sandy beaches, bright blue oceans, and sunshine all the time, the Dominican Republic is a vacationer’s paradise. Though if one ventures as little as ten minutes off the resort they are presented with a very different reality.

Punta Cana is dominated by tourism and therefore the service industry. While tourism provides a boost to the economy it also has negative side effects and service workers are not paid enough to make livable wages. The effect of people not having enough money to survive takes a large toll on their environment and their health.

The Group of Punta Cana is the in charge of the majority of the tourism industry. On their resort they have an ecological foundation which is using methods on the for-front of sustainability both on the land and in the water. With methods sustainable composting soil for golf courses, and an extensive coral restoration project to boost tourism excursions, one would think that the entire island imitated these methods of ecological conservation and protection. Though this is a false reality as sustainable practices cost a lot of money, money that the general public does not have.

Once beyond the white gates of the resorts one is presented with a very different environment. The paved roads turn to dirt covered with trash and raw sewage. How can a population think about sustainability if they are just trying to make it through the day? The answer is they can not without the help of  an outside party. Money is a powerful thing and allows those that have it to address other larger issues such as the state of the environment. Those who don’t have money have to live in the present and they only thing they can concentrate on is obtaining enough money to make it through another day. Those who are higher ups in the Punta Cana group do not have to live day by day such as those who they employ. This issue of environment and the lack of thought or care by the locals is something that the Punta Cana group is beginning to address by implementing programs to begin to educate and change the ideals and behaviors of the community members.

The Group has begun to go out and start building a greater sense of community among the locals and educating them on the negative health and environmental effects of non proper sewage disposal. After getting a group together they worked with several NGO’s and Virginia Tech University to create and install a sustainable sewage system. By making it a community involved process the group achieved several positive outcomes, community building, education on health care and the environment

With famous white sandy beaches, bright blue oceans, and sunshine all the time, the Dominican Republic is a vacationer’s paradise. Though if one ventures as little as ten minutes off the resort they are presented with a very different reality.

Punta Cana is dominated by tourism and therefore the service industry. While tourism provides a boost to the economy it also has negative side effects and service workers are not paid enough to make livable wages. The effect of people not having enough money to survive takes a large toll on their environment and their health.

The Group of Punta Cana is the in charge of the majority of the tourism industry. On their resort they have an ecological foundation which is using methods on the for-front of sustainability both on the land and in the water. With methods sustainable composting soil for golf courses, and an extensive coral restoration project to boost tourism excursions, one would think that the entire island imitated these methods of ecological conservation and protection. Though this is a false reality as sustainable practices cost a lot of money, money that the general public does not have.

Once beyond the white gates of the resorts one is presented with a very different environment. The paved roads turn to dirt covered with trash and raw sewage. How can a population think about sustainability if they are just trying to make it through the day? The answer is they can not without the help of  an outside party. Money is a powerful thing and allows those that have it to address other larger issues such as the state of the environment. Those who don’t have money have to live in the present and they only thing they can concentrate on is obtaining enough money to make it through another day. Those who are higher ups in the Punta Cana group do not have to live day by day such as those who they employ. This issue of environment and the lack of thought or care by the locals is something that the Punta Cana group is beginning to address by implementing programs to begin to educate and change the ideals and behaviors of the community members.

The Group has begun to go out and start building a greater sense of community among the locals and educating them on the negative health and environmental effects of non proper sewage disposal. After getting a group together they worked with several NGO’s and Virginia

Tech University to create and install a sustainable sewage system. By making it a community involved process the group achieved several positive outcomes, community building, education on health care and the environment.

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Becoming a Traveler, Not a Tourist

Caralyn Logan

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Preparation is necessary for a lot of different events: a sports game, an exam, and especially a trip to a foreign country. However, no resource will provide as much necessary information about an unfamiliar topic as the experience will itself. In order to take the step from being a tourist to a traveler this concept must be understood and exercised.

A long day of traveling finally landed us in Punta Cana. The Westin resort unquestionably epitomized the beautiful nature and beaches of the Dominican Republic where many Americans vacation. The food was mouthwatering and the employees were evidently very accustomed to welcoming foreigners, especially Americans.

The first picture captures the initial moment upon arrival. Mouths were left ajar as everyone was speechless when learning that this would be home for the next couple of days. But as beautiful and exquisite as this resort was, enlightenment was about to take place as the adventure to the contrasting view of Punta Cana that resided so close began.

On Sunday, the beginning of the visits to the community began, leading into the indulgence of the history of the island. Although Punta Cana is heavily known for its luxury as a resort location, it was not soon after that the discovery of the differences between a lavish familiarity and a much more complicated life that were merely separated by a short shuttle drive was made.

After walking down the streets of one of the local communities, it became evident that the view was characteristic of what is observed throughout a majority of the country. The second picture exemplifies approximately twenty apartments that were in the process of being built for families. The rooms would be small, but they would be affordable to those in search of renting an affordable home.

In comparison to the streets surrounding the resort, those of the communities were filled heavily with trash and sewage. Despite the chaos of the busy streets, however, smiling children and friendly animals continued to roam. It was very obvious to the community members that the Roger Williams group was comprised of outsiders. Cameras were carried and wide-eye expressions gleamed as they viewed and were exposed an entirely new world. For both the group and for the residents, there was an immediate sense of culture shock.

As an Asian American, it has been imperative and almost innate to be aware of the surrounding lifestyles. Even within the United States, it has been easy to identify the many differences in cultures and the way that people talk to each other and go about their daily lives. After living in a town of 40,000 residents, most of whom are white, this experience brought a much different element to the table. Over the past few years, Habitat for Humanity excursions have outlined some of the various living circumstances that can be observed even in the United States. Growing up it was hard not to wonder how people could live in such different environments than me while living in the same country. Despite what was learned and gathered, however, there was nothing that could have prepared this group as much as actually seeing Punta Cana up close and personal. To see such a drastic change between living conditions in such a short distance was baffling.   Though readings had been completed and stories were told about the culture and lifestyle of many Dominicans, amazement struck everyone. Not only were there trash and sewage adjoining the area, but evident signs of economic oppression surrounded the region as well.

But at what price are these people suffering when just a short drive away others are experiencing a life built from tourism? Punta Cana was no doubt beautiful; in fact, it was absolutely breathtaking. But for a country so poor and so uneducated, is it worth it? Are all of the hours of work and hard labor that are put forth toward managing the grounds of tourist resorts and the maintenance of the beaches more important than providing a sufficient life at best for all of the other families living in poverty? There may never be an answer. Hopefully, one day these beautiful people will experience a sense of equality and can live in a cleaner environment that will help to grant them with a healthier life. These observations, though simple, are what are necessary to take the next step from being a tourist and becoming a traveller.

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Haitian Health Crisis: Problems it creates

Carter Balcom

One of the biggest problems that stands out instantly while walking through the town of Teelahre is the large sanitation problem that exists throughout the community. Another big problem that co-exists with towns like Teelahre is the fact that the government of Haiti has completely turned their backs on them, geves them no support, doesn’t regulate any sort of legal system, basically allowing the community to do as it pleases and how it wants throughout each and every day. Factoring in all of these variables about the communities, it is hard to imagine how societies like this will ever change and the longer that it continues the tougher it will be able to fix because if the people one day fully allow themselves to believe that this state of living is the best it is going to get for them it is going to become a much more difficult place to work with especially for groups like FIMRC or other work programs that work with and support the medical and health programs through different communities that exist around the world. The fact that the sanitation has gotten to the point where it is extremely unhealthy to walk through the water slowly running through the streets displays the catastrophic epidemic occurring in Haiti.

Social structure and enforcement are key positions in community because they decide how people are going to act properly not only for themselves but for others around them in their town and if that does not exist or is not supported than comes the problems that you see in Haiti. The people living in the town of Teelahre experience these problems every day because without a sense of evolvement from the leaders of their communities and country even, leads them little choice in many of the decisions they make. Disease spreads quickly in the community when it is caught by a few people who share everything that they have and are exposed to each other because of the quality of the living conditions. Cholera is a disease that is spread through the constant exposer to fesses and when caught is very contagious and deadly because of the shortage of medicine due to its cost and availability in the area. Another way it is caught is through the sewage water which runs through the streets because there isn’t an existing form of sewage or a way to dispose of garbage or bodily fluids safely creates a dangerous environment for people to live in. With the shortage of doctors, hospitals, and medicine in Haitian communities allows the contagious disease to spread easier without being contained which makes it dangerous for all of the doctors and people working to counter the diseases as well.

There are a lot of smart people in Haitian communities because they know how to survive and live with what they have, and even though their people don’t have big buildings and stronger communities like the Dominican Republic, they represent something much bigger which is a group of people that over the past centuries have been hit with a harsh reality because they know better than most how it feels to be left in the cold so to speak since their government doesn’t give any assistance and has shut them out. Not to mention the amount of Haitians that get pulled into harsh works in sugar cane fields for the Dominican people for example. Haiti today continues to need to support of outside help in rebuilding their communities after the destructive earthquake in 2010, their people need a sense of purpose and belonging given to them again, but like every other major problem, progress doesn’t happen overnight. In a place where there are some many problems in the towns and the communities that the people face, it is hard to know where to begin; whether to support with more food and money, or to start trying to help give advice to reform of a government that can provide and protect for its people. People should be able to think that they can grow from their situation where ever it is instead of worrying about getting robbed of everything they worked for for years and years, or worrying about whether or not they are going to get sick and die from the food or water in their communities because the community doesn’t have the means to take care of itself properly. It is important to for people to support and work for causes like these but it becomes difficult to help a country where its people can’t help each other because they were abandoned by the people who are supposed to take care of them, leaving a public health anomaly and a battle for survival each and every day.

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Olivia Ash

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”-Samuel Johnson

 

Punta Cana is known for its resorts, white sand, tropical temperatures, beautiful views and an amazing vacation hotspot. Resorts provide the ultimate vacation experience. There are private beaches, spa days, extravagant dinners on the beach and tropical drinks at the bar. Some call this paradise. The Dominican Republic is perceived as a paradise, but at what expense for this paradise.

Tourism brings in millions of dollars into the Dominican Republic. This is the main source of income on the island. This creates a monoculture dependent society. Life in the Dominican depends on the travelers passing through “paradise.” If the world economy suffers that is a decrease in tourism, which directly and negatively affects Dominican economy and life.

When vacationing in resorts tourists have to enter through a security checkpoint. There is a physical barrier with an armed guard that needs to be passed through in order to enter. What are these gates trying to keep out? Or are they trying to keep something in?

Not many tourists are given the opportunity to travel outside of the resorts. If they do they are struck with an ugly reality. Citizens are living in poverty. Streets are lined with garbage. Houses look abandoned but full of people and held together with barbed wire and sheets of metal. Stray dogs lay lifeless in the street. Children around running around puddles of sewage that lay dormant in the streets. This is one of the realities of the Punta Cana not the sunshine.

Punta Cana Resort and Club established the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation. This organization is pioneers in sustainable development. The goal of this organization is to implement environmental programs through community development. The ecological foundation is working towards a more sustainable future for the Dominican Republic but what is the motive.

The ecological foundation has a honeybee farm. The tour guide was explaining how this project is saving bees that were going extinct. This is also helping with pollination of plant, which is saving the ecosystem and helping to cross-pollinate with plants. It helps with farming and overall life on the island. After raving about this system he briefly mentions that the beekeepers can harvest the honey and make lots of money for the organic honey. Another project in the foundation is creating nutrient rich topsoil through a system of using worms. The tour guide was again raving about how great this was for the environment and how it helps farms. Then he mentions that this soil is sold for $100 a bag. This ecological foundation is all about capitalism. They are more worried about making money then saving the environment.

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Sara McCombs

Las Cuevas del Pomier in San Cristobal are some of the oldest recorded cave drawings. The caves consist of 55 caves, 35 of which contain ancient cave drawings of the Taino natives. The interior of the caves contain approximately 6,000 drawings, depicting people playing music, animals, praying, as well as day to day activities the indigenous experienced. Huge columns were formed by stalactite, produced from minerals ripping from the ceiling over thousands of years. When flashlights passed over the stalactites, they reflected glittery. But if these rocks were taken out into the daylight, they wouldn’t glimmer in the same way. The energy inside the caves seemed to contain thousands of years of spiritual awakenings and prayer. It quickly became apparent how much the indigenous found the Pomier caves to be a sanctuary, and a place where they would perform rituals. The caves were a place of refuge, the indigenous spending months at a time inside, seeking shelter during the hurricane seasons. They sought the caves to pray for water, and to get guidance from their ancestors. A guide spoke of a common occurrence in the caves: people would have dreams of the caves, and where they needed to go to place offerings. Many who had no contact or awareness of one another placed their offerings in the same location in the caves.

The indigenous obviously connected so greatly with their surroundings, and a power higher than themselves. Upon the arrival of the Spanish to the country, they were stripped of their religious heritage was stripped. The Conquistadors forced Catholicism on the native citizens, making them practice a completely foreign religion. The Dominican Republic as a nation is majority Catholic, but not a practicing religion. They identify as Catholic, and believe deeply in this religion. Although the identification of religion is Catholic, it is much different than a practicing Catholic in the United States. They don’t necessarily attend church every Sunday, or practice the ideals founded in Catholicism.

An interesting combination of indigenous religion and Catholicism can be seen at El Museo del Hombre, the museum of man in Santo Domingo. Mardi Gras, a celebration as the last hurrah before lent and the time of Easter, is well-celebrated in The Dominican. It could be seen that the Dominicans took some of their indigenous past and placed it into their Christian celebrations. They made masks of animals turned satanic, terrifying disguises of cows or chickens with slanting eyes, large horns and jeering smiles, with large cloaks or jumpsuits, concealing the person entirely. The Dominicans created their masks as a way to show their sins; their sins came to life when they celebrated Mardi Gras. The masks had distinct similarities to the drawings inside the caves. The strange stick like figures of the drawings, and protruding faces could be seen taken to life in the masks displayed at the museum of man. I think few realise the distinct probability that Native Tainos were still holding on strongly to their ancestors religion but still placing a Christian spin in their religious practices.

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The Necessity of Water

Victoria Tansey

Water is a necessity; humans can only live a couple days without it. In the United States, we get free water at restaurants, can shower and not have to worry about open cuts or wounds, and can more often than not drink from the tap. Stop and think for a moment about how often you really do use water in your daily life?

It’s a lot. Imagine if you didn’t have access to clean water in your every day life. When traveling to the Dominican Republic, you are told precautionary things like to not shower with your eyes and mouth open and to not brush your teeth with the sink water. You have to actively stop yourself from doing these things because it has become such a routine in our daily lives.

Two thirds of your body is composed of water. Ultimately, your body needs water to survive. Water helps aid food in the digestion process; it moves food throughout the body to prevent constipation and toxic build up. It helps the body sweat out these toxins through perspiration, urination and even bowel movements. Water fills every one of your cells and keeps your organs functioning daily. Water even keeps the skin hydrated, healthy and younger looking.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, states that people have the right to food, water, health care, freedom and many of the other basic human rights that Americans tend to take for granted. However, traveling to the Dominican Republic, clean water is rare in many cases. Signs in resorts in Punta Cana often tell you to be cautious of the water or to not drink it. Complementary water bottles are provided in fancy hotels for foreigners who are traveling. We’re told that we need to keep hydrated because of the hot weather and exhaustion the body gets from perspiration. But what about the rest of the country?

Dominicans are constantly in the heat and not having enough water to keep them hydrated often gets away at their health. They are not aware that their water is often polluted and slowly eating away at them. They develop diseases and numerous sicknesses from their use of it but it is the only recourse that is provided to them. The government does not provide any means of keeping the water clean for households throughout the country. Thus, by not providing the proper sanitation to keep their water clean and drinkable, is the government slowly killing its citizens?

Through my experience in traveling from Santo Domingo to San Cristobal, I saw many Dominicans showering in the street where the polluted water often accumulates due to the massive amounts of trash.

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The above photo depicts a man with all his belongings showering in the street with soap and polluted water. Not only is he drinking this water but he is using it to clean himself. What are the lengths that you would take in order to clean yourself if you knew the water was polluted?

Dominicans can not escape the pollution through the water they use. They can get intestinal parasites, increasing malnutrition, dehydration and other health issues that relate to the poor conditions of water. How long do these diseases need to be around before a change can be made? Water should be a right but in many cases these citizens to not have the basic rights towards gaining water access.

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Tilori Market and Human Emotion

Sara McCombs

The Tilori Market just over the Dominican Haitian border transports you to a remote country seemingly long lost to the rest of the world. Eyes glued to white people touring the market and small living area, small hands offered outwards asking for money, those same small hands seeing jewelry and going to grab it. The raw instinct in these young children to beg, steal, and cheat to find a way to make money hits with an emotion not enough people have experienced. The children were smiling and laughing, but as soon as a camera was pointed to their faces the smiles dropped, and scowls covered their faces. They know their story is tragic, and a photo to show the human catastrophe that is a third world country is more important than most could know. It was made known quickly the village was experiencing a cholera outbreak, and the filthy water running down the hills could have had the bacteria in it. The adults avoided the running water, hopping and jumping over the small rivers careening down the slopes. The small children, however, barefoot, walked through the water without an acknowledgment, not seeming to know the risk.

Human emotion is all-encompassing. No one is immune from feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and empathy surrounding the Tilori Market.. The children running around portrayed an illusion of happiness, laughing, eating, and playing with dirty toys. This was what caught most of the attention, but looking past the small upturned faces were the faces of the struggling adults. The pregnant women carrying large baskets of food, the elderly sharpening machetes to cut the enormous pigs lying cooked on open tables as flies land on the meat meant for consumption. Photographing the children was an easy route, whereas photographing the adults portray to the world that such a problem exists so close to home.

There are no words to describe the emotion experiencing a market place teeming with such poverty. A numb feeling takes over the body as you stroll through, watching the children and families trying to complete their daily routines. You smile as the children play in front of the camera, and try to demonstrate to them that everything is ok, when in your heart of hearts you know that simply is not true. Wanting to hug those sweet children vying for your attention, to show them someone cares. Then realising touching those frail little bodies will put you at risk for contracting a virus. The overwhelming feeling to cry was very close to a possibility, and knowing that painting that smile onto your face for the small children was the only thing keeping tears from falling.

Helplessness. Helplessness is the emotion felt under these circumstances. The want to make a change, to do something that will have a positive outcome immediately. But knowing that there is not a single fucking thing you can do in the moment. This is the feeling that causes a heart to weigh heavy with emotion.

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Olivia Ash

“Traveling is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of the living.” –Miriam Beard

 

I am running down dusty streets with broken flip-flops. It is market day at Tilori and my family has brought our goods to exchange or sell. The sun is beating down on us with relentless power; sweat is poring out of every crevasse it is running down my face and back. My children are ahead of me, jumping through the water running in the streets. This toxic water is leaking out of houses, bathrooms and outhouses. People are running through this poison, splashing it in their shoes and on their legs without a care. Orphans are twisting and maneuvering through the crowd with feces caked to the bottom of their feet.

Orphans line the streets. They greet each visitor with an arm stretched up and open hands. They are asking for money. As you walk through the market the orphans will point and grab at your wrist or hand, they want your wedding ring and are trying to pull it off. Children run by me swatting at my pockets and hands too see if I have money, if my coins jingle they are relentless. These children have nothing. They are dressed in rags. Nothing fits, the clothes are too small or too big, and everything is thread bare and caked with mud. Close to 100 children stay in tiny one roomed schoolhouse. This is essentially a shack that is on the side of a hill surrounded by trash and toilet water.

As I walk down the street I find a spot to set up goods on the street near the hospital. This hospital consists of 2 open wooden buildings. There is no electricity or running water in either. The first building contains a waiting area, maternity ward and a room with hospital beds. The maternity ward consists of a wooden bed with stirrups and a trash bucket at the bottom to catch the baby. In this town of about 2,000 people there are 3 beds and 1 doctor. The second building is predominately for patients with chorea. However, there is one room with a wooden chair designated for taking blood. In the past week there have been 5 cholera patients, 4 survived.

After a long day in the sun, with out water, bartering with other locals it is time to go home. I get a ride in the back of a goat truck. The orphans are swarming the truck. They are surrounding the entrance and hitting the sides, grabbing at anything they can put their hands on. This is their last chance to get necessities. Their cries are ringing through the emptying market and my heart is silently breaking. As the truck leaves Tilori the orphans start to case after the truck, banging the sides with desperation. You can see the urgency and pain in their faces. These kids sprint along the side with us until we get to the border and are stopped by physical barriers.

Tilori. A human catastrophe. But to us this is home.

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