Before my trip to the Dominican Republic, I considered myself useless and was ignorant to the world from its problems to its beauty. I believed the world was a gloomy place full of poverty, war and despair, and not one little act of selflessness or philanthropy could change things for the better. I did indeed have a very pessimistic view on the world, being a high school student from a small suburban town in New York. In my school, you’re social status depends your achievements, whether you have a full ride to play soccer at some well-known school or if you were offered myriad scholarships to top schools in the country starting sophomore year, and you’re identified by your SAT and AP exam scores.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Until I stepped off the plane onto Dominican soil I never realized that there is so much more to life than grades and what others think about you. I began a journal every night to document everything; what I felt to even how many bug bites I got! By writing I could process my thoughts and realizations. Also by doing so, I could share my story with the world in the future and although my effort was miniscule to making the world a better place I learned that little by little, or as Dominicans say, “poco a poco,” I was making a difference. Below I have typed up some small excerpts from my diary to share my life-changing story.
… Anyways, can I just admit that I really miss the air conditioning provided on the plane? We arrived in the D.R. around 5 pm and I already have 5 bug bites and needed to shower from sweat… Are you kidding me, there are roosters screeching at midnight right now. Well, despite the fact that roosters usually crow to wake people up, I think I might hit the hay (…or should I say hit the moldy bunk bed covered by a pale pinked mosquito net). I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into, but I hope things progress! Buenas noches.
…After ciesta, which is a Spanish cultural time for napping, we practiced a tradition of the Outeach360 program where you parade around with instruments and scream, “iCAMPAMENTO!” which tells the children in town that there will be fun camp during the week. It was all of us volunteers walking through the outskirts, and the further you went, the more impoverished it was. Pigs and stray dogs walked the streets freely and children playing in the dirt roads barefoot with raggedy clothes. Some of the kids even joined us and say along to the music of our instruments singing, “We are the students, We love English, We love Campamento!” I never realized how I take my education for granted. I complain about learning, while they plead for it.
I’m on the plane back to JFK and I’m so sad it’s over… I can’t even describe how amazing this trip was and how happy the people of this town are despite how little they have… I worry so much about grades, status and college and there really is no point in going insane about it…. These past days have been wonderful and I have learned that what’s truly important is that you remain a grateful, selfless individual and that there is much more to life than competition and grades. Imade a difference this week, and despite how small it was, I guess all I have to say is poco a poco! Dominican Republic changed me forever…
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