“Dominican Republic, you haven’t seen the last of me”

Taylor Graham
Major: Advertising and Promotion
Business and Culture in the Dominican Republic
Summer I, 2017

 

I have spent a large amount of time trying to figure how to start my final blog post. I must admit, I’m having a hard time being home. I didn’t experience   the whole culture shock thing while I was actually in the Dominican Republic. It hit me when I got home. I have had the hardest time communicating my experience abroad with my friends and family. I was only gone for 2 weeks, but I have felt very distant since I got home. I’m fully aware that it is 100% me too. It’s hard to explain everything I experienced. The only people who really understand are the people who were on the trip with me. There is a quote from Lin Yutang that perfectly describes everything I am feeling. It states, “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” This quote is 100% true. I did not realize how big of an impact this trip had on me until I got home. And yet, home still feels so unfamiliar to me.

Since I have been home I have noticed so many differences between America and the Dominican Republic. There are experiences I had that made me appreciate America and there are experiences that made me cringe at the very thought of America.

  • Traffic – I won’t lie, driving in the Dominican Republic is scary. The roads are kind of a free for all. Traffic lights are optional, pedestrians do not have the right of way, I don’t think I saw a single speed limit sign, people will make right handed turns from the far left lane, and motorcycles will weave in an out of lanes. I would never want to drive there in my lifetime. I am very appreciative of our bus driver because he kept us safe out there on the roads. If you think Chicago or Detroit traffic is bad – think again.
  • Most people are bilingual – While I was studying at UNIBE I was amazed by the number of bilingual students. Almost every student I talked to spoke both English and Spanish fluently. Some even knew French. I was absolutely amazed by how many languages people could speak on a fluent level. In America, I can only name one person I know that speaks multiple languages. I personally think that speaks volumes.
  • Political talk – Dominicans are very well educated on politics. They are not just up-to-date on their own political environment. They are up-to-date on world politics. Some Americans aren’t even up-to-date on our own politics, let alone the rest of the world’s politics. Dominicans do not shy away from political talk. Politics is a topic I feel most people in America avoid because it gets heated very quickly. So many Dominicans genuinely wanted to know my stance on Donald Trump as our President. They never judged my opinion either. They were very open to all opinions on politics.
  • Dominican Time – This was a concept that took some adjusting to at the beginning of the trip. I am a Type-A personality. I always show up early, I follow deadlines strictly, I am extremely organized and detail-oriented, and the thought of being late gives me anxiety. Dominicans are not like this. They take their sweet time. It is perfectly normal for people to show up 45 minutes to an hour late for anything. Dominicans take an extremely long time to eat. It can be anywhere from a 2.5-3 hour process. In America, I can be in and out of a restaurant in 45 minutes. Another difference I saw was that night life in the Dominican doesn’t start until about midnight, where in America is starts around 10 PM. The concept of Dominican Time has actually helped me to relax a little. I don’t always have to be in such a rush and go go go all the time. Take time to value your family and friends. You don’t always have to be working.
  • Water – Dominican water is not safe to drink under any circumstance. It will make you sick. There aren’t fancy water purifiers or Brita filters to purify the water. You can’t even boil the water first to make it safe. I drank nothing but bottled water for the 2 weeks that I was there. I used to complain about Kalamazoo water because I thought it tasted weird. I will never complain about the water here again because at least I can purify my water here. The Dominican Republic made me appreciate the simple gift of clean water.
  • A different type of poverty – One of the activities we did in the Dominican was a service project where we painted murals for a school with the children. This specific school was in one of the poorest parts of the Dominican. Seriously, Las Malvinas made Detroit look well-off. I think this is the part of the trip that had the biggest impact on me. I worked with children who were happier with absolutely nothing than most Americans who have everything. I connected with children who did not even speak the same language as me more than I have connected with some of the people I used to go to high school with. I cringe at the thought of Americans joking about things like their iPhone screen cracking as a “first world problem”. Never again will I complain about things like that because after this experience, how could I?

I am so thankful for my experience abroad. I got to try new foods, experience a different culture, learn how they advertise and market in the Caribbean, listen to new music, learn to dance, snorkel, hike, visit historical sites, and make lifelong friendships with extraordinary people. It also made me appreciate things that I have taken for granted my entire life. This whole experience has bettered me as a person. I am more culturally aware. I may have also given myself a bad case of wanderlust. There is a whole world out there that I am dying to explore, and this trip was just the beginning. Dominican Republic, you haven’t seen the last of me. I will be back.

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