We are so excited to begin this journey with you all! Here is additional information on our itinerary, as well as the theme, or Focus of Inquiry, of our trip. Please feel free reach out to Katie and Kelly, Chelsea and Julio, or Liz and Simon if you have further questions.
Focus of Inquiry
The Focus of Inquiry (FOI) of this course is the living diversity of the Caribbean and especially of the Dominican Republic today. By exploring the history, culture, and ecosystems of the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean at large, students develop a foundation for their immersion and primary study of how conservation and development strategies initiated by local community leaders incorporate expressions of culture and national identity towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
We will explore this FOI through the lens of three diverse communities that represent distinct facets of the Dominican Republic’s cultural and natural landscape: 1) Finca La Protectora, 2) Santiago, and 3) COOPRESCA in La Caleta.
1. Finca La Protectora, El Ranchete (6/26-6/29)
Arriving at night into Santiago, the heart of the Dominican Republic and the second largest city in the country, we shuttle downtown to Hotel Colonial for our first night breathing the humid tropical air of la República Dominicana. In the morning, after our daily check-in, we board a private shuttle out to Finca la Protectora, nested in the verdant rolling Cordillera Septentrional in the northwest of the country. We’ll be hosted in beautiful rustic cabins constructed from locally harvested wood and canas de palma. Each cabin contains a private bath, comfortable beds, and mosquito netting, as well as breathtaking views of the valley below. Amidst the myriad crops of fruit trees and vegetables that provide 90% of our sustenance, this working farm and eco-tourism center offers fertile ground for an inspiring, relaxed, and nurturing space for our program orientation and our first community-based service work. Orientation-phase includes important course framing, group dynamics work, aligning expectations and goals, and introductions to the main themes of our program.
While on the farm, we have the opportunity to tour the grounds with local farmers to learn more about culture and agriculture in the DR, including common crops and local gastronomy. We’ll make it to the crest of a nearby mountain to explore local geography with views of the entire north valley, and north coast, before descending to learn more about the harvesting of cacao and processing of chocolate. In the days that follow, we’ll get involved in service work related to agro-ecology, both on the farm, and in a neighboring community.
Finca la Protectora also sits 45-minutes from one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. On a day- excursion, we’ll depart the farm to mingle with local families as the sounds of bachata and merengue float through the air. The calm waters here invite kids of all ages to swim, relax, and snorkel amongst the beautiful coral near “Cayo Arena,” a small island just offshore. On our way back to the farm, we might choose to visit the mangrove forests where fresh water rivers meet the ocean and foster a brackish florescence of life.
2. Santiago (6/30-7/2)
Returning to the cultural center of the DR, Santiago, we settle into Hotel Colonial for a few nights to immerse in the urban rhythm of bachata and merengue, and the complex history of this island nation. We explore the streets of Santiago, getting to know our environs, including parks, shops and other points of interest. We’ll take time to explore the city at large, getting to know the history, context, and diverse neighborhoods.
During our time in Santiago we especially turn our focus to an in-depth exploration of local rhythms and steps with our hosts at the Centro Cultural de Santiago, where we can try our hands at playing some local instruments as we learn about the origins and history of Dominican music and dance. Students will connect with a local language school to engage in dynamic classes on Dominican cuisine and expressions as well as spend a little time each day focusing on español dominicano, sharing with local youth artisans, musicians, and dancers from the neighborhood, all the while learning to appreciate the profound importance of music and dance in their lives.
3. La Caleta and Santo Domingo (7/3-7/5)
Bidding farewell to our community hosts in Santiago, we make our way down the south coast to La Caleta. Here we are hosted by the Cooperativa de Pesca y Prestadores de Servicios Turísticos de La Caleta (COOPRESCA). This community-based organization is supported by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARENA) as well as Reef Check Dominican Republic to develop a public-private partnerships to establish a community based marine resource management, sustainable fishing, and ecotourism program. The program is designed to restore reef health and increase economic benefits to traditional fishermen and residents of La Caleta. Staying with the women who are involved in marine ecosystem restoration and eco-tourism, we’ll have opportunities to snorkel and learn more about the local fishing practices and conservation efforts. Hosted by pioneering community activists focused on conservation and sustainable tourism, we’ll also take time to explore the iconic and colonial downtown of the capital city of Santo Domingo, as well as find quiet spaces to reflect on our journey, bring closure to the experience, and prepare for the return home. On our final day, we’ll head to Santo Domingo International Airport to fly home.