Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I suppose posting two-month-old handwritten journal entries doesn't fully capture the spirit of blogging, but I wanted to post this here nonetheless. It was meaningful to me, and I hope it might be to others. I wrote this while on a bus crossing through rural, poor areas of the Dominican Republic while on vacation in March of this year.

I wonder what it says about the condition of this country that the UNICEF-like ads of a foundation, and the signs identifying towns throughout the campo, bear the name of a rum company. Our guide today said that the campesinos are happy with their lives—that they choose to live this way, the state has given them their land. And while it’s true what he said—that the people aren’t skinny, don’t look malnourished, even in this place where the children run naked and the dogs sleep in the streets—there is something empty, vacant in their eyes. I wonder if it’s the space where hope should dwell… those aspirations of "What I want to be when I grow up" and "oh, the places you will go."

Empty Presidente beer bottles line the now-deserted stand of bananas and coconuts as the sun drops slowly behind the Cordillera Occidental. What are the lingering effects of the Trujillismo [the 30-year dictator’s regime—a dictator put into place by the U.S.], the conquests, the coups... the rum? The last thing this country, or any, needs is the judgmental gaze of an American who doesn’t understand its complexities, and I’m well aware that the sings I see here can’t fully be seen through my eyes--"los ojos de una extranjera."

But my spirit feels something that I can’t help but notice and don’t know what to do with. As an American, it’s impossible not to feel complicit, selfish, "part of the problem" when traveling abroad. I guess it is possible, though not for me, and millions of Americans do it every day, which is why I end up feeling like such a jerk.

So, what to do? Tip well, contribute to the economy through the purchase of my watered down piƱa coladas, and pray? It doesn’t feel enough, and it’s not, but I’m not sure what else to do—besides listen, see, try to understand. And I believe those three are significant. How would it change the world if judgment was replaced with understanding, a desire to help (if not actually the action that does so?) ...

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