I'm very much in a drinking-it-all-in place at the moment. Morgan, a 4th-year medical student from VCU who is my roommate here in Santo Domingo, asked me last night what I think of the DR so far. Honestly, I can't say. I'm in observation mode and haven't really gathered enough data to process it yet.
Yesterday it was past 11pm here (10pm EST) by the time I was able to get online. I had been up since 1:30am EST and while I felt like I should put some observations/thoughts in writing (as David Aday did, kudos to him for staying up to write it), instead I transferred photos to the computer, sent a message to my husband, and crashed around midnight. Reading through the last several entries (Dec 29, 30, and Jan 2) on his blog will give you more context for SOMOS and the work that they do. As I find more back material to read, ask more questions, and listen to the stories the team tells, the history of this effort and the relationship(s) between the team and the community become more and more evident to me. I hope you'll read through it.
Yesterday was mostly travel - Mark and I left Richmond at 1:30 AM in order to arrive at Dulles before 4 AM. Our flight group, which included Dr. Aday (AKA David, AKA "Taco") and W&M class of '11 member Kristine Mosuela, departed at 6 AM for Miami, watched the sun rise from the plane, landed in Miami with enough time to get some breakfast, then left Miami at 9:40ish for the DR. We landed shortly after noon, local time, and after going through customs (first stamp in my first passport, yay!) and retrieving the checked medical supplies, we waited for a couple of bigger groups of students to arrive, then took a bus to our hotel, got into our rooms, went to dinner, then met to discuss Sunday's protocol. Viola, 11+PM.
(Note: time has been scarce and it is now after midnight on the second day, so I will jot some thoughts, publish, and come back to this later.)
* I was almost immediately reminded how bad my Spanish is. Muy mal. Seriously. I cringe every time I have to explain "solamente hablo un poquito de Espanol."
* I was keen to observe the landscape/cityscape between the airport and the hotel, and by chance, there was some confusion related to the directions given to the bus driver, so we saw a fair bit of the East side of the city yesterday, much of which appears to be very blighted. Many buildings near the airport had rebar protruding from the top, as if another floor of the building had been lifted off. David suggested that they hadn't been finished. The idea of so many unfinished buildings (almost every building in that part of town) with what appeared to be functional businesses on their lower stories seems strange to me. I'd like to see more of the city and learn more about its demographics so that I have more context.
* Had an exciting moment during the protocol review in which I realized that what I was witnessing was constructivist education in a young adult setting. The deep respect of the instructors for their pupils, the collaborative approach to both research and praxis, and the sense of agency and ownership that I see in the students is inspiring. Some of the faculty at our preschool/elementary school have already indicated to me that they're interested in hearing about my experiences here, but I had not anticipated that those experiences might directly relate to the teaching and learning philosophies of the school.
* I'm also reminded of how much I love the kinds of discussions William & Mary people have. Almost without exception, W&M students and alums are people who enjoy noticing things and thinking about them from every angle. When I matriculated there in 1993, it was the first time I found myself in an environment in which nobody told me I thought too much or used excessively large words or was weird for being enthusiastic about the pursuit of knowlege (true thing: my freshman roommate has often reminded me of the time I gushed, "fetal pigs are the best thing in the world...next to Dan, of course"). I feel really fortunate to be a part of a community like this.
Much more later, plus photos on flickr.