Saturday, January 14, 2012


Hola clase!

Hey guys! I just posted a new video for you to check out. I recorded this song and took the pictures you'll see a few days ago in my community, Pedro Sanchez. The Catholic church here celebrates and honors the Virgin Mary with 10 days of parades, carrying her portrait from house to house. The portrait is left in a different house every night and members of the church get together to sing songs, pray, dance and make lots of delicious food. It's chilly here at night, so yesterday they served a spicy hot ginger tea to everyone who came. It was out of this world!

I want you guys to pay attention to the sounds and music that you hear in the recording. You'll hear some special traditional instruments -- the guira, panderos and atabales-- all of which have their roots in Africa. Atabales are big drums, they look like bongos. The panderos is a kind of tambourine. And the guira makes a sound that sounds like maracas. There is a picture of a young boy playing the guira-- he's the one holding a can in one hand and a metal rod in the other. Typically the men play the drums and the women sing and clap. Anyone who wants to can dance. Sometimes they get so worked up that a single song can last for hours! You can just imagine how tired the dancers get after hours of dancing.

We walked from the edge of the town towards the center to the church. Lots of people joined in and pretty soon are little group looked a lot more like a parade! By the time we got to the steps of the church, there were hundreds of people crammed behind, waiting to go inside. It was a very beautiful ceremony with lots of music and smiling faces. I've included a couple pictures of kids your own age so you can see what they look like :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

Hey everybody!

It's great to hear from all of you. I hope that everyone enjoyed a happy and relaxing holiday break. I'm very excited to see that you have so many good questions, so let's jump right in!

Sophie, that's a great question! Many Americans consider joining the Peace Corps, but the application process isn't easy-- or quick. You start by creating an application on the Peace Corps website-- After you answer all of their questions about your past experiences and education, they call you in for an interview to see if you're the right kind of person for the Peace Corps. Living and working in a new culture requires lots of patience, a sense of humor and dedication. If you can prove to them that you've got "the right stuff", they'll accept you! After you undergo a very thorough medical examination, you wait... and wait... and wait... until finally a package comes in the mail with your official invitation to serve! It will tell you about your new country of service and a little bit about what you'll be doing there. So like I said it's not easy or quick. Typically the application process takes an entire year! But if you think you might want to join someday, my advice would be to just keep studying. Almost every single volunteer has graduated from college.

Anushka, how cool that you got to go to Montreal! I've never been. Was it cold when you went? Even though it's January, it's still hot here-- about 80 degrees Fahrenheit! Can you imagine?

If you guys like to visit strange new lands with lots of rivers and mountains, you'll like this photo I took during New Years:

That's a bridge over a rushing mountain river in Jarabacoa, a town located in the center of the country. There it's much cooler-- you'll even find pine trees, just like in the United States! but as you can see... sometimes the bridges aren't so safe. Crossing this one, I stepped on a board that cracked and fell straight down into the river. Yikes! Right? Don't worry though, we take care of ourselves here. :)

The holidays were great, but I'm happy to get back to work. In my next post I'll tell you a little bit about the new and exciting projects I have planned for this year. Until then, keep your questions coming. All the best!


Monday, December 12, 2011

This is Mrs. Donohue's class -we are third graders. Sophie wondered how you join the Peace Corps?
We like to see the view from mountains. Anushka commented on a trip to Montreal where she went up the mountain and used a telescope!

We are very much interested in islands and mountains. We'd like to visit South America, the Amazon River, volcanoes, gysers, forests, a cave in Hawaii. Mrs. Silver -one of our teachers - is going to visit the Dominican Republic this winter. Maybe she'll bring us some pictures.

Now that it's the holidays, do you miss anyone back home?
Mr. Fitzgibbon told us that you are coming home for the holidays. Maybe we will hear from you.
Mrs. Donohue's class

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hi everybody!

It's great to hear from all of you! I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! A big turkey straight out of the oven, the Macy's Day parade, apple cider, pumpkin pie, football, watching the leaves change... how I miss it!

Here in the Dominican Republic, the Peace Corps organized a big Thanksgiving dinner. If you can imagine it, there were over 200 of us packed into a big hotel-restaurant in the capital, Santo Domingo. Some volunteers travelled for over 10 hours just to be there! But it was certainly worth the trip. I felt right at home with my fellow Americans, inhaling as much stuffing and mashed potatoes (with gravy!) as I could. You see, in our communities we eat typical Dominican food. That means we pretty much eat some variation of rice and beans every single day. So to try some classic American foods like pecan pie, mashed potatoes or even just a salad was a real treat!

And of course, we talked about all that we are grateful for. It's not easy to live so far from home, away from friends and family. But I'm thankful that everyone back home is healthy and doing well. Family, by the way, is very important to Dominicans. It's common here in Pedro Sanchez for three or even four generations to live under the same roof, sharing household chores and responsibilities. My Dominican neighbors and friends think I'm crazy to live so far from home, especially since I'm an only child! Maybe they're right. But I still feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to serve overseas in the Peace Corps and to have a family that supports my decision.

Here's a picture of me on the way up to our caves.
You can see my community, Pedro Sanchez, down below!

As you might remember, in my last post I talked a lot about ecotourism. My primary project after all is to help create an ecotourism project in my community that will provide jobs and protect the local environment. But what is ecotourism? In general terms, it's a form of tourism that tries to preserve the environment and improve the lives of local people. Normally when people from other countries visit the Dominican Republic, they visit the beaches and stay in all-inclusive resorts. While those resorts are a lot of fun and the beaches sure are beautiful, if tourists never leave the beaches or their hotels, they never really see all that this country has to offer. Can you imagine if people thought the United States was nothing more than Disney World? Of course it's much more than that, and we want to prove the same point here in the Dominican Republic.

You guys were correct in your last response-- it is very hard to protect natural habitats while making sure that they're open and accessible to visitors. It's a delicate balance, and one we try to achieve by practicing "Leave No Trace" ethics. We teach our guides how to take care of the local environment and then they in turn pass on the same information to visitors and the residents of Pedro Sanchez. "Leave No Trace" means leaving nature just as you found it. We make sure not to leave any garbage behind. We stick to the marked trails. We never take plants, animals or even rocks as souvenirs back with us. And if we find some trash in the woods, we go ahead and clean it up, too!

Ideally, an ecotourism project doesn't just maintain the natural environment; it strives to make it better. So whenever our guides receive a group of tourists, they take out a portion of the money they earn and put it into a community fund. We use that money to pay for volunteer projects that benefit the community. Last time it made possible the installation of public trash cans throughout the town. Imagine, before that people were just throwing their trash on the ground! Next year we hope to use new funds to enable a tree-planting project in the community.

So you see, ecotourism isn't just about having fun and traveling around. It means thinking about the impact your visit has on the natural environment and the local people. If we act responsibly and reward projects that protect the environment and its people by giving them our business, we send a message that it's important to us. That way, the beautiful places that we visit today will still be around for our kids and our grand-kids to enjoy in the future!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

¡Saludos desde la República Dominicana!

Hi everybody!

My name is Daniel Malin and I am currently serving overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer, in a Spanish-speaking country called the Dominican Republic. I have been living in a small farming town called Pedro Sánchez for almost a year, which means that I'm about half-way into my service here. It's been an amazing experience so far and I am very grateful for the opportunity to tell you all about it.

First, a little about myself:

I grew up in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, before going on to get a degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University in Washington, DC. I think that I have always been interested in learning about different countries and experiencing new cultures, so when I found out about the Peace Corps, it seemed like a great idea! The Peace Corps is a program that sends Americans abroad to work in developing countries for a minimum of two years. Right now, all over the world there are thousands of Peace Corps volunteers working in different sectors: like health, education, business, environment, youth development and many more. Here in the Dominican Republic, I work as a Community Economic Development volunteer, which means that I help to create different business opportunities in my community.

I guess you could say I'm lucky, since my main project is to assist in the creation of a community eco-tourism project. I'm helping members of my community design and market their idea, which is to attract tourists and take them to visit nearby caves and waterfalls. When I first found out, I couldn't believe it! Caves and waterfalls? Sounds like fun! In truth, it is a ton of fun. But it also takes a lot of hard work to start a business, as you'll learn in the coming months. In addition to that project, I work with youth, I teach English and business classes and I spend lots and lots of time just hanging out in my community, spending time with different Dominican families.

I can't wait to hear more from you guys the coming weeks! I'll be happy to answer all of your questions :)

- Dan

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hi Dan

Hi Dan, Here at Campbell School we would love to know if you could tell us why you decided to join the Peace Corps?