JJ in Dominican Republic

JJ, who is majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and math in Dedman College, is traveling to the Dominican Republic in summer 2010. There, he will be living with a host family, volunteering in a health clinic and doing other mission work in San Pedro with an organization called Esperanza International.

Ups and downs

Jon2.jpg So this week got off to a pretty rocky start, with my work in the physical therapy unit. It was very busy and crowded, and many people were trying to get me here and there and doing this and that in a language which I still speak and understand at a very basic level. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through, but after a great rest of the week, I am getting more and more comfortable living in a developing country. (In photo: In the field with a sugar cane worker)

I got a chance to see many AIDS patients and try to get more of an insight into what it is to live with this disease in a country that tends to be very discriminatory against it. We see some people who are doing much better with it, but others who feel as though they almost have nothing left to live for, which makes it very hard trying to instill hope in them.

I think I have gained a lot from seeing those patients alone, and it’s just one more thing that makes me appreciate the life I have been given and the opportunities that are so available.

Jon3.jpg On a much lighter note, I got the chance to go out into one of the surrounding towns and help a mission group that was visiting from Virginia paint a small school, which was an extension off a church that this same group built last year. I really enjoyed a chance to go out into the community and see the joy that so many Dominicans have despite having so few possessions – but they do have their families and love for each other. (In photo: With my painting helpers)

Jonathan1.jpg To cap off the week, a volunteer who is working through the same organization, Esperanze International, but living in a different part of the country had her parents come into town. She invited me to stay at a resort and get a taste of air-conditioning and more American food, and it was cherished greatly. We experienced some of the crystal clear water of a part of the Caribbean that hasn’t been affected by the oil spill with some snorkeling and a lot of beach time! (In photo, taken with my underwater camera: snorkeling!)

I’m looking forward to this coming week, when I will be doing some home visits with the medical teams to treat patients who are too sick or don’t have the money to pay for the 40 peso bus ride (about a dollar) to the clinic. I am expecting that to tug on the heart quite a bit, but rewarding at the same time to see the care these doctors, nurses and “Health Promotors” have for the people of their country – something I certainly hope to bring back with me to the States.

Hopefully I will have a lot to report on this week to give you students of SMU more of a look at life down here in the Dominican Republic!

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Week one: a roller coaster

So I had quite the journey from DFW down here to the Dominican Republic, but after some delayed flights and miscommunications with my driver down here in the Dominican, I finally made it to Santo Domingo, where I stayed the first night and went through orientation the following day.

I was then taxied out to San Pedro de Macoris, where I have been doing my work with Esperanza International as a volunteer in their clinic. Thus far, the experience has been far different than what I imagined. The city is about at the economic level I expected, but it is much more crowded and busy than I ever could have thought. But it has been a pretty incredible experience even already just getting to see how the Dominicans in this part of the country go about their daily lives and make ends meet.

I started in the clinic this past Thursday (the 8th) and the first day was a bit rocky, but I quickly found and met a few other Americans who were in the clinic permanently as missionaries and have kind of taken me under their wing.

On Friday I got to observe the doctor seeing patients, and the different illnesses and cases I have seen are completely unlike what we would see in America with the health care we have, it defintely tugs at the heart. But in saying this, I must also say how inspiring it is to already see the different ways they deal with being a developing country and can use their limited resources to still treat and combat different ailments.

On a different note, my living situation has been a little jumbled. I thought I was going to be staying with a host family the entire time, but it turns out I am staying in a dorm above a church for the first part of my stay, and I will eat dinner with the family every evening until I move in with them on August 8 because they are already housing another intern with Esepranza, who is working in the microfinance department.

Living in the dorm has been nice because they also house other groups on missions from the States and there was a group from North Carolina, and any interaction with other Americans has been GREAT in my first week! My Spanish is defintely at a beginner level, but I am picking it up quickly, and though I can’t really speak it much better, I am able to understand more and more each day.

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