The Price of Paradise
The Price of Paradise
To many people, the Dominican Republic is seen as a place of paradise; essentially it is a tourist destination to those who want to take part in “a luxurious island life”. Punta Cana attracts millions of people every year to its exotic beaches and white sands. Its lined with shopping malls, expensive restaurants, banks and clinics that make it the biggest tourist destination on the island. In 2013, a record of 4.3 million foreigners came to Punta Cana to experience paradise. However, what is the price of paradise and is this a complete view of the eastern region? No. The tourism business in Punta Cana depicts a picture of what they want their tourists yet is there another reality?
As soon as one steps of the resort, the idea of paradise is something extremely hard to comprehend. Punta Cana is not a representation of how most Dominicans on the island live. Outside the Republic of Punta Cana, as it basically acts as its own entity, lies the town of Veron which is similar to the urban poor area that much of the country depicts. As you travel further into the country, it is easy to spot numerous public health issues that tend to leave people thinking how these two different areas can coincide next to each other. Many of the streets are lined with trash and sewage that leaves its inhabitants with poor water and diseases. The wealth that the country gets from these tourists should ultimately benefit the nation, but the money does not go towards changing the rest of the country. The piles of trash remain endless just like the numerous problems that the country faces. There is no trash system put in place that helps the country eliminate waste. This causes numerous problems with pollution and sewage. Many of the hotels even dump their waste into the ocean that many of its Dominican citizen’s use as their luxurious beach. In reality, about one in three Dominicans remain in poverty and have no where near the life that many of the tourists see when they come to the island.
The photograph above depicts one of the numerous streets lined with waste. This is typical to see as one travels through the country. However, what is unique about this photo is the words honesty and humanity that stand above the waste. Although the area of Punta Cana is a tourist destination how honest of a picture does it paint about the rest of the country? None. And how can such a wealthy area leave the rest of the country like this? The definition of humanity often is synonymous with compassion and dealing with humans collectively; but the island is much divided in the sense that they do not collaborate with one another to chance cities like the one above. How can people visit the area of Punta Cana and not know that things like this is waiting right outside the gates? If hotels did some things to make certain changes in eliminating waste and working towards a better country then there may be a change in behavior all over.
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.”-Will Rogers
Raw meat bakes in the sun. Hundreds of people pass through the market, transferring whatever is on their hands to a family’s meal. Motorcycles speed by through the streets, kicking up the dust from the streets, which is essentially dried sewage. This toxic dust is getting in the meat. Unwashed, unsanitary machetes are used to cut up different parts of the raw pig. The machete is being passed around from hand to hand further transferring bacteria.
Tilori does not have running water or electricity. Families use outhouses to go to the bathroom. There is no plumbing system in affect; this lack of filtration causes the human excrement to run into the streets. The people walking through the streets step into this fecal matter tracking it wherever they go. With no running water or sanitation individual will track this into his or her homes. This bacterium will get into their beds, kitchen and food. The lack of resources available causes every aspect of life to be affected.
Cholera is a bacterium. Cholera is spread through fecal oral transmission. This means transferred through contact of fecal matter that is orally ingested. Cholera was brought to Haiti in 2010 after an earthquake by the Peace Corps associated with the United Nations. Since this first introduction, this illness has taken Haiti by storm, rapidly spreading and taking lives. In an undeveloped country with no services or aid cholera is still a major issue that is taking lives 6 years later.
Due to the way of life in Tilori cholera is running rapid. Fecal matter is uncontrollably running into the streets. It is getting tracked and transferred onto people, homes and food. It is everywhere. Once it is in a home there is no way to clean in addition to the fact that individuals don’t have the access to resources to solve these issues.
Once a person is diagnosed with Cholera they are sent to the town hospital. There is a separate building for individuals suffering from cholera. The hospital consists of wooden beds with a hole in the middle. This hole is used for the side effects cholera. Individual would have extreme diarrhea and uncontrollably vomit, this set up provides a space for an individual to do this with out having to move. In the past week Tilori has had 5 cases of cholera with 4 surviving. The treatment of cholera is hydration. However, as stated before there is no running water in the town and the river where individuals get water from is where the sewage runs into. This hospital has the bare minimum of supplies. There is supposed to be a shipment of supplies every 6 months however, often times this town is “accidently forgotten.” Additionally, no services are provided. A family has to provide anything they need such as food, water, bedding and some medications.
Cholera continues to be a reoccurring issue spread through the country leaving people lifeless. Is there a way to break this tragic cycle?
The first concern upon acknowledging third world countries is the community’s physical health, and ensuring that by all means necessary epidemics and contagious diseases are being limited. But an issue that needs to be addressed more in depth is the mental health of the community. Yes, containing any diseases that may spread rapidly and wipe out the community are very important, but just simply viewing the faces and body language of the people suffering in these communities speaks worlds as to how they feel emotionally. Slumped shoulders, the person seemingly just folding inward upon themselves seeking comfort, a hand resting on a person’s forehead, a child crossing their arms, each hand cupping the opposite elbow or shoulders, begging for a pacifying embrace shows what a poor state the person is mentally.
Coming from a very privileged lens, it seems unimaginable to continue day after day living in such dire circumstances. Yet somehow, everyday these people continue forward with their lives. The effect of these lifestyles must wreak havoc on a person’s mental state. Depression and anxiety seem to exude off the people in waves. Depressed that they are struggling to maintain living and sustaining their family. Anxiety as to where the next meal or dollar is coming from, anything to help those they care most about. The number of undiagnosed cases of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and a slew of other mental disorders must simply be enormous. There is no care provided to ensure that a person is mentally healthy. Just by entering into the community caused my own anxiety to jump through the roof, the sheer number of people, disease, sounds and images were extremely over stimulating. Living daily in a community with so much constant activity must cause high anxiety for an individual, which can lead to physical ailments as well, like high blood pressure.
The adults seemed most greatly effected emotionally. Faces lined from years of frowning, few smiles were expressed upon 20 white Americans arriving to the Tilori market. The children seemed extremely enthused and entertained by the fact that such foreign looking people had arrived to their community, pointing and giggling, smiles hidden behind dirty fingers. The younger children, babies to about three years old, seemed the most depressed, not understanding the need to beg the white people for money or to steal. Their huge eyes turned upwards gave the impression as if they were asking, “How is this my life?” Young children, barely able to hold an infant, were holding their younger siblings, the infants seeming only seconds away from sliding out of the fragile arms they were supported in. These infants were nothing like ones from home, who smile and gurgle, enthused by the positive attention received from those around them. The babies at the Tilori market seemed so painfully tired, leading them into a lifetime of more anguish.
Despite the sadness weighing heavily upon the community and the children, there was still an expression of thanks. Children who attended the school designated for orphans, sang proudly, “Thank you, Jesus, for the life I have been given.” The smiles expressed on those many small faces gives hope that maybe the mental health of the community will remain intact.
Why has Haiti been forgotten?
Where has the world gone? Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but for many this fact is a secret. Commercials promote impoverished nations in Africa and Asia, but while they need to help too Haiti is just a country of complete chaos. The government is absent so outside groups have taken the lead. While foreigners feel compelled to step in and overhaul further damage could be perpetuated. The most successful way to help a country is to teach them how to be sufficient without outside help. The worst thing for a country is to have its hand held and then dropped. Tilori, Haiti is the most forgotten place in the world. The 17,000 people that inhabit this community live in complete squealer. Food is scavenged for and water is nonexistent. While this community lives in a state of constant life or death just fifteen minutes down the road is the Dominican town of Restauracion. For Dominicans Haiti is on a separate island. The divide is much greater than just the border.
Professor Alejandro Esteban, of PUCMM university, stated that the biggest problem between Haitians and Dominicans is that they do not understand each other’s realities For Haitians, crossing the border into the Dominican Republic is the most promising means of survival, but even then they have to live in fear that they could be deported at any moment.
Statelessness is a phenomenon that has become a large problem in the Dominican after there was a constitutional change in 2010. The divide between Haitians and Dominicans did not just begin during this time though. In 1844 the Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti. “Those slaves” had ruled the Dominicans for 22 years and even today this independence is the only one acknowledged among Dominicans. The divide was further expanded during the reign of Trujillo from 1937-1961. There is so much focus on the differences between Dominicans and Haitians that the real issues have been ignored.
Why do they, meaning the Haitians, need to come to the Dominican Republic? Orphans walk around the community with no clothes and through sewage. Adults lay in the hot sun plagued by diseases we may not even know exist because no one comes here. No one wants to see a human live in such a state never mind a whole country. There is a social distance to Haiti’s problems, and this allows for governments and the world to turn a blind eye. The least that can be done is to provide a face and a story. By doing this it makes it harder for people to turn away. The Haitian earthquake occurred six years and the world paid attention, but now as Haiti is a country of complete devastation we have forgotten. Do not forget about Haiti for they need the world to turn back around to refocus their systems and mindset.
Home Away From Home
The mornings commence with the clucking of the chickens that surround the town. The air is cold, and as the sun begins to rise the fog slowly clears away to reveal the silhouette of the mountains in the distance. The other townspeople start awakening, beginning with their daily routines that have developed into habits over the course of their time here. This is Restauración, the home away from home.
In this small home, a woman begins her day by preparing meals for all of the guests. She and the others who live there help to wash the dishes, cook the food, and provide everyone with whatever they need to feel satisfied. They work hard every day to serve their visitors and to make a living for their family. But their job does not end with breakfast. Throughout the rest of the day, they will ensure that they have enough food to plan for both lunch and dinner as well. This is their daily routine.
As the sun rises into the sky and the air becomes hot, even during the winter season, the town becomes more active. Trucks drive by to deliver produce and the meat is prepared and cooked over a fire for the day’s meals. Animals, from dogs to cats, chickens, and goats, roam the streets near their homes. Children peak their heads out of their doors to watch those walking by while the adults hang out in small groups. They are all tremendously friendly, constantly saying hello and waving enthusiastically to anyone within close proximity and welcoming any newcomers to their town.
When the day turns into night, it appears as though everyone begins to emerge from his or her homes. Men, women, and children are in the town’s stores and the music fills the streets. After dinnertime, which is much later and lighter here in the Dominican, people are wondering the town looking to find where everyone is gathered. Many of the street vendors become a popular spot for the locals, where they can purchase fried chicken and an assortment of their other staple foods. There is a disco club right on the main street, where most of the young adults gather to hang out and socialize with one another at night. The streets are safe to walk around, even at night, and the food is delectable. Restauración has such a strong sense of community, even between the Dominicans and Haitians. After visiting the Tilori market yesterday, it is evident that the town’s residents are much happier, despite the mere twenty-minute drive that separates the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Unlike in the market, any sense of helplessness is far less obvious. The people here are proud to be doing what they do from day to day and they are exuberant with their work. They set an example of a community that is strongly engaged with one another and demonstrate that even when conditions are not optimal, happiness can still be found within them.
The night grows colder as the heat from the day dissipates. The music continues to vibrate throughout the town into the early morning. After the music stops for the night, there is only a brief amount of time with silence. The fog begins to roll in over the mountains and soon after, a new day begins. Life in Restauración lacks the need for stress and worry, even among the workers. The air is calming and the sounds, though constant for most of the days, diminish any worries and help to establish peace. For the next week, this will be everyone’s home away from home.
San Cristobal, Dominican Republic is the home of the Pomier Caves, which is a series of 55 caves that contain ancient rock art created by the Taino. Within the caves the Taino would sit in silence in the pitch black caves to pray to their gods and ancestors. It was said that they would receive symbolic dreams that would lure them to specific destinations within the caves to place their offerings to the gods, and when they arrived there were already various Taino people at the said destination making the same offerings. Therefore, the Taino felt as though a greater power was communicating with them through their subconscious.
I was given the opportunity to adventure into the caves and sit in absolute silence and darkness as the Taino did, and come in touch with the ancient energy. Energy can be transferred and received through a practice called ‘Reiki’ that allows individuals to activate natural healing and restore emotional and physical well-being. As a Reiki Master Teacher and Practitioner myself, I was able to come in touch with and channel the energy of the Taino people as well as their ancestors. As I called in the assistance of the Ascended Masters of Consciousness and eased myself into a state of serene meditation, I was able to contact a greater, primitive energy. This energy came from the ancestors of the Taino people with great force, passing through my body like a flash flood. When I placed my hands on my lower thigh, energy shot through my hands to my feet, causing severe muscle spasms within my knees and leaving my entire body tingling. I offered my acknowledgement and respect to the Taino people, causing the energy to intensify. My heart began to beat out of my chest, yet I remained entirely tranquil. As I directed the energy justly, I sent my gratitude and surrendered my ego to the greater gods. Suddenly, the flashlights turn on, the darkness vanishes, and the silence is broken. All of my muscles loosen and my heart returns to its standard regimen. The ancient energy has passed.
Within the caves, crystal-like formations have formed along the rock walls. Compellingly enough, crystals have high frequencies and energy fields that can be used to raise one’s personal vibration as well as align their chakras (the centers of spiritual power in the human body) and vitalize their spiritual healing journey. These raising vibrations allow individuals to come in contact with beings from other dimensions and spirits from higher realms. Therefore, it is my belief that the Taino people were able to sense those energy fields and as a result used the caves as their place of prayer.
There was a point in time when the Pomier Caves were at risk for being destroyed. The mining of limestones threatened the existence of the caves, causing the people to rally protests in order to end this terrible act. Citizens sat in the caves and declared that they would not move, so if the miners were going to blow up the caves they would have to blow them up too. As a result, with evidence from Archeologists, the importance of preserving the caves was enforced and the government proclaimed the Pomier Caves as protected areas. Now, individuals all over the world have the opportunity to endure the spirtuous energy of the Taino and their ancestors.
In 2010, Haiti was struck with an earth quake that destroyed the country. Thousands lost their homes, their belongings, family members, and their own lives. With the earth quake taking its toll on the country, over 10,000 non-profit organizations stepped in to help the country that was in dire need. Along with the peace keepers and the aid workers, they brought along something that they could never imagine.. Nor did they think that it could eliminate almost an entire population. This was cholera.
A UN aid worker who came to Haiti to help brought along with them this horrible illness that would then transcend through the population. Choleras symptoms include severe dehydration that results in endless vomiting and diarrhea. If left untreated, it can lead to death, something that happened to many of those affected. A major part of this issue is that cholera is easily treated; simply with hydration through water and hydration salts. The salts are also very affordable for different hospitals and clinics. But the reason this killed and effected so many is due to the specific target that cholera has.
During the original outbreak and the continuous cycle of it, cholera seems to attack those of poor conditions and poverty. It only makes sense as to why so many of the people affected by the earth quake were then further infected by cholera. A lot of different factors also play into this too. After the disaster struck, a lot of families were displaced and forced to live where ever they could find a place to rest their heads. These areas that they found were often ridden with their own public health crises. These included a lack of sanitation, water, and sewage systems. Due to this, people had to resort to going to the bathroom in the streets that would then cause their waste to be flowing around the streets and easily touching the different people who lived in the area. Also, the lack of sanitation played into that issue. As people were going to the bathroom, not only did they not have a way to clean up behind themselves in the form of a latrine, but they had no way to sanitize their hands. Without that, the fecal matter that was on their hands was then transferred from person to person through contact, food preparation, and daily interaction. These two major issues helped cholera, which is a fecal oral transmission, spread throughout the community.
As people began to get sick from cholera, they initially did not know what it was. Not knowing what it was, there was no sure way for them to cure it so a lot of people began to die from it. The cure for cholera consists of a basic hydration salts and hydration itself that could help the patient receive a full recovery. But in an area where there is no clean water for the people to drink and no hospital or clinic that has the knowledge to do so, there was no way to help them. The cholera plague began to sweep the country. Thousands were effected as the death toll rose all throughout Haiti.
The cholera plague who has effected so many continues to plague Haiti. Though there has been education on how to cure the illness and how to prevent it and numbers have been decreased, the lack of sanitation in places such as Tilori has entirely prevented the extinction of it. Children play in the sewage, everyone goes to the bathroom in the street, and then they use their hands that is covered in excrement to eat. A simple illness is destroying a country, a country that is witnessing a human catastrophe, as the government sits back and does nothing. How do we get them to take notice? Their people are dying from illnesses that are easily curable. How far will this need to go until someone takes notice?
Each and every human being on this planet looks at the world from a different lens. Depending on who you ask, the experience will be different because everyone observes the world from various angles. Therefore, it is essential to reflect and share interpretations in order to gain perspective.
When a group is traveling in a developing nation, each person is going to have a different mindset and hold a certain viewpoint about their surroundings. These emotions could involve feelings of nervousness, vulnerability, ignorance, empathy, or even fervor. What is important is how that individual acknowledges and acts upon those emotions.
Photographers are taught to show respect and authority by the way they frame a picture. In order to do so, the photographer must adjust their body position to either be above, below or parallel to their subject. For example, if a privileged, uninformed American is taking a photograph of a homeless man sitting on the street, they may take the photograph from a standing position looking down at him which represents power over the subject. Whereas, if a privileged, educated American also took a picture of the homeless man, they may get down on the same level or get below that man in order to represent their reverence. As a result, the entire essence of the photograph is altered.
Those who are knowledgeable travelers tend to represent their experience through their photographs as well as the way they behave in unfamiliar situations. For example, traveling takes a toll on the human body and may cause temporary changes in the digestive system. An experienced traveler would know this information and therefore pack an adequate first-aid kit as well as eat proper, safe foods while in foreign countries. Whereas, an unexperienced traveler might get ill from something that they ate. Also, an unexperienced traveler may feel uncomfortable or in danger. Homesickness is very common in those who do not travel often for an extended amount of time. Thus, experienced travelers serve as helpful guides that are able to offer their perspective in order to promote reassurance and ease.
Individuals utilize their own schemas that they have developed and project them onto their experiences. As a result, people take on different lenses that will decipher what they learn and what they take away from their trip. It is essential to remain present throughout your travels. One must appreciate where they are in every given moment rather than focus on what they are excited for. If you are constantly looking forward to what is to come, you will not be grateful for the now. Therefore, always be aware of your surroundings and take it all in. Look with your eyes rather than a camera lens as well, and solely capture images that hold a significance.
Pico Iyer says, “We travel, initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.” Meaning, you must be openminded because traveling will alter your lenses as well as offer you a different, finer perspective on life.