By Bonnie Jackson
After an eventful Saturday evening with multicultural conversation that continued into the night, we woke up excited to venture into un campo local para un almuerzo delicioso y local (a delicious, local lunch) from Freddy, Dominican native and husband to founder Trisha Suriel of the Mariposa Foundation.
First, we were treated to breakfast at Cabarete Coffee Company to help get our intellectual juices flowing. It is a sustainable shop that supports 58, small-plot organic farmers in DR to produce fresh, rich, aromatic coffee. Cabarete Coffee Company uses ingredients produced locally to stimulate the nearby community and protect the environment. For example, they donate uneaten food to families in need and compost to reduce their environmental footprint. The interconnectedness between multicultural goals of the Mariposa Foundation, such as gender and racial equality, and environmental concerns genuinely reflect how many factors affect the positive development of community. Mariposa recognizes this and is making strides working with and learning about the neighborhood.
Then we were off on our journey to el campo. Freddy and his relatives greeted us warmly as they celebrated Dia de Los Padres (Father’s Day). We were able to take a tour of Freddy’s family’s land and learn about many local plantas, árboles, frutas, verduras, y animales (plants, trees, fruits, vegetables and livestock) like the saman and banyan trees! Best of all, we got to interact directly with the environment and sample its nutritious treats, plucking off mango from its branches and observing the local livestock. The best way to learn about a culture is to walk a mile in its shoes, which we did and then some!
On our journey back to his house, we could already smell the aromas of our almuerzo (lunch). We enjoyed frijoles, arroz, pollo y más (beans, rice, chicken) and then were introduced to the production of chocolate caliente (hot chocolate). First, the cacao plant is cut open, then the white seeds are laid out to dry for about a week. After, they are toasted, peeled and pounded into a paste with el pélon. The paste is boiled with canela, azúcar, cloves and bitter orange leaf until prepared. At this point, the house was bustling with bilingual conversations about the US, DR and, most importantly, the children of the house making sure our water bottles were filled. It was wonderful to witness everyone’s ease into laughter, knowledge and caring conversation before expressing appreciation and returning to the hotel.
Once we were back, we discussed how a service-learning project could take root inside our classrooms, with the group collaboratively presenting examples, anecdotes, hopes, fears, questions and solutions. We discussed how could we find a meaningful topic, research effectively, create and design a project and then see it through to fruition and reflection. We discussed weaving different parts of the curriculum into our learning and installing positive research skills, such as persuasive writing, interviewing, persistence, vocabulary, media literacy, critical reflection, analysis or collaboration (decision making, leadership, conflict resolution, sharing, strategizing and delegation of responsibilities etc.)
As it was also Laura’s birthday, we spent some extra time together with the waves as our backdrop, conversing into the night.