There was a lot of fun to be had this weekend, I spent my weekend with Yosefa the veteran volunteer in his town of Bahoruco. The focus of his assigment is economic development (versus my environmental/conservation development), that means he is starting up a couple businesses in the town that can bring in revenue for the local economy. One of his projects is starting up a school supply store for the students in the town, another is starting up a ecotourism site that revolves around the mining and production of larimar, which can only be found in a 2 sq Km chunk of land just north of town.
The town of Bahoruco was awesome; it was sort of like Santa Cruz, California only with Dominicans and the Caribbean instead of hippies and the Pacific Ocean. The house Yosefa was renting in town had a back door that opened up to the beach, which meant swimming and surfing could happen whenever (I put a couple pictures on Picassa). The front door of the house opened up to the street, which led up the hill to the mountains. On Saturday we got a chance to go up to the cloud forest at the top of the mountain (it actually translates to fog forest, I think. Nublina=fog, nubes=clouds, they’re pretty close). There was a camp up there where the volunteers were looking to have a camp for Dominican youth to teach about improving communication, cultural diversity and HIV/AIDS prevention. The scenery was beautiful (also some picassa pics), it reminded me a lot of Oregon and our mountains, especially because I saw my first pine trees, sword ferns and evening below 50 degrees F. There were some college student volunteers up there to do trail restoration, they were from Dayton, Ohio and were Catholic Maryists (service oriented?).
I also got to live the life of a millionaire for three hours on Friday when we went to the hotel at the top of one of the hills above town. I learned what an “infinity pool” is and I got a free drink AND the guy brought me a towel when I got out of the pool. . . seriously millionaire status (Casa Bonita is really only $130 US for anybody that’s in the neighborhood this fall/Winter). On a side note, my friend Blake has a girlfriend (Jess) who knows everybody and their mother… so believe it or not I ran into a friend of hers… and her mother at the Hotel. It was pretty silly, and good to get to talk about Portland for a little bit.
Later that day we hiked up a river that goes through town, we saw a lot of burns on the hills which Dominicans use to clear forests for growing coffee, cacao and a couple other cash crops. This is a big “no-no” for the environment, especially because the south has such a dry climate (which is bad for crops and good for forest fires), nonetheless, there was a burn on just about every hill we passed. After hiking a ways we found a good spot on the river and took a swim, it wasn’t long until about 15 kids from the town showed up and were doing backflips of the rocks on the sides of the river.
The other big events were seeing the mine and 10 minutes of a gallero, The cave was scenic and just a little bit dangerous. The workers would climb down a 45 or 50 ft. mine shaft on wooden pegs with a pic-axe and a shovel, then hoist the laramar up in a bucket. As for the Gallero (a cock fight in English, don’t judge, it’s a huge part of the culture here), people were definitely into it. It was kind of like Mad Max beyond the Thunderdome only with chickens. People where hanging on the chain link cage and throwing tons of dinero down on the winner, supposedly the victor is paid an average of 3,000-5,000 in DR $. . . to give a perspective, a good house in that town has a monthly rent of 1500. We didn’t stay too long, just long enough to get a bite of the winner… ok, that’s not funny.