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July 13, 2020

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The barrio clinic . . . and learning how much we take for granted

By Christine L. North

Monday, May 21— Our first day in the field
Today we took the entire group to a barrio clinic in a community called Las Carerras de Sosa.  All of the students –- engineering, nursing, everyone – went along.

I had a great time sharing a bit about the Dominican people and culture.

The reaction of one of our students was especially interesting.  After we set up a clinic at the local elementary school, whose grounds were fairly small, we asked a local woman if we could use a shady area in her yard as a place to entertain the kids so that they would not be trampled by all the people coming and going.  The woman told me that was fine but apologized that her yard was a bit messy.  I told her not to worry.

She nevertheless grabbed her broom, made from tree branches, and began sweeping the area, which was basically nothing but dirt.  Our student exclaimed: "But I don't know why she is sweeping the dirt . . ."  I explained that the woman was honored that we were using her yard and wanted to make it look as nice as it possibly could.  I explained that while, to us, it is "only dirt," to her it is her yard and a place that she is proud of.  The student’s expression changed dramatically at this realization – how much he takes for granted on a daily basis.

We worked till noon and then stopped to eat lunch.  It is mango season here and this community grows TONS of mangoes (I think mangoes are my favorite fruit!).  Some of the local boys climbed trees to get mangoes for us to eat.  They knocked down a bunch and ultimately sent us home with three bags full. What a great treat!

After lunch several students and I walked through the town to catch a glimpse of Dominican life.  They got a chance to see a local Colmado (a type of convenience store) where local folk can pick up necessities.  We asked many questions.  We learned that eggs cost six pesos each or $1.00 per half dozen.  At that price, we understood why Dominicans do not rely on eggs as a food staple.  We got a chance to see the local Yucca crop (a starch root vegetable, unlike the ornamental cactus we know in the U.S.), corn, rice, plantains, mangoes, bananas and guandules.  Guandules are somewhat like a cross between a pea and a Lima bean.  They are actually quite tasty. 

Finally, I took three groups about the community, where students were able to interact with local residents and ask questions.  I loved being able to help them expand their worlds just a little bit.  And mine too!

The photo portrays a group of students who worked in the pharmacy, handing out the medications that our Dominican doctors prescribed to our patients.  It really was a terrific day.  But I think we are all exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep.

Tomorrow, one group of students will go to barrio clinics and another to a school to help teach Dominican teachers Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  We will have about 90 teachers.  I am looking forward to it!