In late July of 2009, my family decided it would be a great experience if we went on vacation to Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. We had been hearing non-stop from a countless number of people who had gone there that it was one of the greatest vacations they had experienced. So on July 24, 2009, we had our bags packed and at around 9:30 in the morning, we were headed off to Punta Cana from the Philadelphia International Airport. After being excited for weeks on end, I knew this was going to be one of the greatest vacations of my 15 year old life.
After we landed, the airport workers wheeled over a flight of stairs so the passengers could safely get off the airplane. This, to me, was so cool because it was so simple and something I had never expected. Not long after that, we found a van driver with a sign that said "Grand Paradise Bavaro", the name of the resort we were staying at. We loaded our bags into the back and prepared ourselves for the thirty minute car ride to the beach. Until this point, I was ready to have one of the greatest vacations ever. However, as we were driving through the villages and towns of Punta Cana, I saw something I had never seen before. I was exposed to more poverty than I have ever seen in one place. I saw towns made of run down homes and little shacks and more vendors on the streets than in all of New York City. By the time we got to the resort, I was so shocked at what I had just seen that I was unsure of how the rest of my week was going to turn out. I spent the first two or three days of my vacation worrying about the poverty I had seen and how awful it really was, because being a middle class kid from suburban Pennsylvania, I had never seen anything like it before.
However, after we spent about half of our vacation, I started to notice something. Even though these natives had next to nothing and were working their hardest each and every day, they were still happy. I thought to myself, "How can someone with so little be so happy?" Then I realized that the people of the Dominican Republic had the strongest sense of community I had ever seen. The people of the Dominican Republic were there for each other and were there for the people on vacation. They would go out of your way to make you feel at home and make sure you had all of the accomodations. Every day on the resort, they put together games and trips around the island. And they did this because to them, you were family. Punta Cana was one big community, where everyone watched out for anyone and would do anything. This made me realize that even if someone had so little, they could still be happy because they had each other and that is all that really counts. As long as you have people that love you and you are happy, there is nothing else you could possibly want from life.
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