A sea of sugarcane

Posted by Paul Field on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The sugarcane plantations surrounding La Romana remind me a lot of the American heartland--but while Nebraska is covered in corn stalks, La Romana is a sea of sugarcane (if you've never seen sugarcane, it looks, in fact, pretty similar to sweet corn). The cane fields extend for miles, with some mountains in the distance, and they're punctuated here and there by a dirt road, some train tracks, or a rough steel water tower on concrete struts. Occasionally, one might see the plantation workers driving huge ox-drawn carts full of cut cane to the tracks, where they will wait for a train car to fill. The workers live on nearby  bateyes, but these are pretty often tucked away in the surrounding sugarcane, so these carts give the impression of emerging at random from the fields and then disappearing.


All of us were transfixed by sights like these as we rode through the countryside this morning. After waking around 6am and eating a hearty meal of oatmeal, bacon, sausage, and fruit, we boarded a rickety school bus and drove an hour and a half to the batey of Santa Rosa. By the time we had driven the maze of dirt roads leading to Santa Rosa, we were all glad that our translator, Ariel, and our bus driver, Emilio, would be staying with us throughout our stay--none of us (except Brian, maybe) would have been able to find our way out again!


We were all impressed by the resilience of the batey workers and their families. The conditions in the little town were quite different from what even the least fortunate of us were used to at home. The workers’ small, cinder block homes were just a few dozen square feet, and most had only leaky tin roofs to keep out the occasional torrential rainstorm. The only running water came from a single faucet connected to the aforementioned steel-drum water towers, but this water is unreliable and often unsafe. Consequently, most of the families we met had a small in-home water purification system to supply clean water. 


And these water purifiers were what brought us out to the bateyes today. With the guidance of our translator (a member of El Bueno Samaritano, the humanitarian organization that provides the batey workers with these water filters) we performed some routine checks on the filters, and repaired a few that had become damaged or clogged. Tomorrow, we will graduate to installing some of the 20 new water purifiers that our trip has helped to buy. 


While half of our group checked filters, the other half engaged with the charming and lively children of the batey. As our bus drove in, a group of children spontaneously broke into dance, and ran to meet us as we disembarked. True to the stories we had been told, the children of Santa Rosa love visitors, and a group of two dozen or so followed us everywhere. The wide eyes of the kids when we showed them some of the small things we had brought them--baseballs, gum, candy, and hairbands--instantly made our many months of work and planning worth it. Ernie joined a few children in a game of catch. I was delighted to learn that snapping and armpit farts have considerable appeal. And Jurnee, Emily, and Jamee each rolled around the batey with a coterie of girls.


After several hours in Santa Rosa, we returned to the mission, ate a delicious meal of pork, rice, and beans, and then played a rowdy game of basketball with some locals. We all look forward to a day of hard, rewarding work tomorrow. 


--Max 



blog comments powered by Disqus
 

A sea of sugarcane

Posted by Paul Field on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The sugarcane plantations surrounding La Romana remind me a lot of the American heartland--but while Nebraska is covered in corn stalks, La Romana is a sea of sugarcane (if you've never seen sugarcane, it looks, in fact, pretty similar to sweet corn). The cane fields extend for miles, with some mountains in the distance, and they're punctuated here and there by a dirt road, some train tracks, or a rough steel water tower on concrete struts. Occasionally, one might see the plantation workers driving huge ox-drawn carts full of cut cane to the tracks, where they will wait for a train car to fill. The workers live on nearby  bateyes, but these are pretty often tucked away in the surrounding sugarcane, so these carts give the impression of emerging at random from the fields and then disappearing.


All of us were transfixed by sights like these as we rode through the countryside this morning. After waking around 6am and eating a hearty meal of oatmeal, bacon, sausage, and fruit, we boarded a rickety school bus and drove an hour and a half to the batey of Santa Rosa. By the time we had driven the maze of dirt roads leading to Santa Rosa, we were all glad that our translator, Ariel, and our bus driver, Emilio, would be staying with us throughout our stay--none of us (except Brian, maybe) would have been able to find our way out again!


We were all impressed by the resilience of the batey workers and their families. The conditions in the little town were quite different from what even the least fortunate of us were used to at home. The workers’ small, cinder block homes were just a few dozen square feet, and most had only leaky tin roofs to keep out the occasional torrential rainstorm. The only running water came from a single faucet connected to the aforementioned steel-drum water towers, but this water is unreliable and often unsafe. Consequently, most of the families we met had a small in-home water purification system to supply clean water. 


And these water purifiers were what brought us out to the bateyes today. With the guidance of our translator (a member of El Bueno Samaritano, the humanitarian organization that provides the batey workers with these water filters) we performed some routine checks on the filters, and repaired a few that had become damaged or clogged. Tomorrow, we will graduate to installing some of the 20 new water purifiers that our trip has helped to buy. 


While half of our group checked filters, the other half engaged with the charming and lively children of the batey. As our bus drove in, a group of children spontaneously broke into dance, and ran to meet us as we disembarked. True to the stories we had been told, the children of Santa Rosa love visitors, and a group of two dozen or so followed us everywhere. The wide eyes of the kids when we showed them some of the small things we had brought them--baseballs, gum, candy, and hairbands--instantly made our many months of work and planning worth it. Ernie joined a few children in a game of catch. I was delighted to learn that snapping and armpit farts have considerable appeal. And Jurnee, Emily, and Jamee each rolled around the batey with a coterie of girls.


After several hours in Santa Rosa, we returned to the mission, ate a delicious meal of pork, rice, and beans, and then played a rowdy game of basketball with some locals. We all look forward to a day of hard, rewarding work tomorrow. 


--Max 



blog comments powered by Disqus

Ah, the good ol' days in the Portland airport. Here, Marie and Page share their excitement. Here in the D.R., they continue to be excited. They are wonderful people.

About Me


I'm a teacher at the REAL school on Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Maine. The REAL school is an alternative school working with at risk youth and dedicated to the philosophy that learning happens best when doing. Service learning is a large part of what we do with local, national as well as international service trips happening on an on-going basis.

Blog Archive

 
Make a Free Website with Yola.