Lots of people ask about the living conditions here in the DR, and especially at the place where we stay for the week, called The Guesthouse. So, here’s a little summary…
The guesthouse is located in San Juan de la Maguana, a city with a population of about 150,000 in the South West section of the Dominican Republic. We are about a 3-3.5 hour drive from the capital city of Santo Domingo.
Electricity is sketchy here. It tends to be “on” for 4 hours and “off” for 4 hours every day until 11pm, when it’s off for sure! The guesthouse has a generator, so most of the time, it’s fairly comfortable, but is not air-conditioned.
As you may know, water here is an issue. This week is was a bigger issue than usual. Normally, you can take a military shower (get wet, water off, soap/lather up, water on, rinse off… done). This week, the city turned the water off, so it was “bucket showers” all around. Strangely, not as bad as it sounds. You pretty much sweat 24/7 here anyway, so what the heck!
They feed us breakfast and supper at the guesthouse every day. We pack our lunches in coolers and take them out to our work areas. We always have a rice and bean dish, meat, salad, fresh fruit and dessert at supper time. The food is very good, and if you’re hungry, it’s your own fault!
They do our laundry for us. You throw your dirty stuff on the laundry room floor and they wash it each morning. When you return from your work day, you go to the courtyard cabana and look through the piles of folded items for your own stuff. This might seem like a luxury, but keep in mind, that the large suitcases are reserved for donated and medical items. We have to bring a weeks worth of our own stuff in a carry-on. It helps to have the ability to re-use your clothes.
We are housed in shared rooms, with between 3-9 twin beds. We have tiny fans next to our beds, which run on electricity (until it goes off at 11pm). We also have a ceiling fan, one bathroom per bedroom and lukewarm water most of the time.
There is a big room that is used for all meals and socialization. There is Wi-Fi access here, and a lot of people sit here in the evenings and catch up on their photos and facebooking. Right behind the guesthouse is the Clinica Christiana, where they do surgeries with a local surgeon as well as visiting surgery teams. Right outside the 14ft high wall surrounding the compound, you’ll find 1-3 random cows grazing, as well as up to 4 sheep (which are used in the creation of augers for growing lab cultures).
The American and Dominican staff working here in the Dominican Republic are totally awesome! They provide security, structure and direction, plan and organize our barrio visits and transportation, feed us, make sure we see our sponsor children, keep us focused on the reasons we’re here and offer their generous praise and friendship to all.
One of the most interesting things about being immersed in the Dominican culture involves the animals and the traffic. Driving laws/rules are merely suggestions here. Passing happens haphazardly… it’s not rare to see 3 vehicles abreast going down the road in different directions. Horn honking is common and can have many different meanings. It’s not uncommon to go around the curve in a road and come upon any number or variety of animals in your lane, including cows/steers, sheep, goats, pigs or horses.
Most of the roosters here seem to have some form of dementia… or at least a serious “time-telling” deficit. They start crowing at the most random times. The first few mornings, it was around 3:30 am. This morning, the crowing didn’t start until much later, and seemed to be coming from farther away. Maybe the close rooster was yesterday’s supper!
Dogs roam freely all over this area. They may or may not belong to someone, but they sure don’t look well-fed. Neutering and spaying is unheard of, so litters happen as often as nature allows. With all the inter-breeding, most of the dogs take on the same look. In fact, it seems like we saw the exact same one dog everywhere we went this week!