Friday, January 31, 2014

Eco-Challenge in the Dominican Republic!

By Lauren Hale

            One of the amazing perks of being a grad student in the School of Architecture here at Southern Illinois University is the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic over spring break!  Last semester, our advisor told us about a trip that one of the professors in our department was organizing and leading; this professor also happens to be the chair of my thesis committee.  His name is Dr. Jon Davey; you will definitely meet him throughout the program here.  He has traveled very extensively himself and has put together a trip that uses our skills as architecture students (but you don’t have to be in architecture to come on this trip).  It is handled through EF tours and works together with the Green Brigade to complete the Eco-Challenge.  There is a group of around 20 students who have signed up to go and we have volunteered to help build a community center in Jarabacoa.  While we are there we will be working directly with the local people who will be using the building once it is done and other guides to help us navigate and get the job done. 
            Spring break is from March 8th to the 16th and we will be there the entire time.  The general schedule is community volunteer work in the morning and fun stuff every afternoon! Some of these activities will be snorkeling, white water rafting, hiking to a waterfall, sand volleyball and a visit to a manatee sanctuary.  And to end the trip we will be spending the last day and evening in Santo Domingo, the capitol city of the Dominican Republic!

            So on top of all the wonderful things I just said about this trip there are a few more perks to choosing to participate…this trip counts as school credit, three credit hours!  The grad program has three credit hours of electives (one class) built in to the spring semester.  This is how I will be spending my three credit hours this semester which means I don’t have another class I have to actively show up to all semester.  It definitely opened up my schedule quite a bit and it has been awesome.   
Here are some traveling tips I found about going to the Dominican Republic:
1.      Everything and everyone runs on Dominican time, which means perpetually about an hour late.
2.      A sanky panky is not someone you want to cozy up to unless you are willing to take this man back to the U.S. because all he is after is your visa and citizenship, not you.  They typically hang out at beaches and romance female tourists.
3.      The rule of thumb for public travel is, you can always fit one more guy in whatever vehicle you happen to be sitting in.  Yes, the roof counts.
4.      While you are still on board the plane that is about to land in the Domincan, you will hear any natives next to you clap when the plane lands safely.  Just join in, it’s basically the law. 
5.       Baseball is the national pastime, and pretty much everyone is good at it. 
6.      Drinking during the day, at night, and on Sunday’s is very accepted, and pretty much required.
7.      Speedos are definitely NOT required beach attire.  Casual dress is pretty much the norm around the island but shorts are disrespectful in church. 
8.      Do not drink the fresh or tap water.  Brush your teeth with bottled water and never have ice in your drinks.
9.      Always get your shots and vaccinations up to date.
10.  Don’t forget your passport and all the important paperwork.
11.  You will have to exchange currency when you arrive but the American dollar gets you very far in the Dominican. 

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