Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wednesday January 30th:
Day 5 in DR, Day 1 of Rotary

I left Constanza this morning at 9am, where I have been staying, since Saturday, with a University friend from England who now lives in DR and whom I haven't seen for over 30 years.

Constanza is in the mountains in central DR and few tourists go there. It is the market garden for DR, growing all kinds of crops such as lettuce, cabbage, beans, potatoes, bananas, guava, oranges and the largest carrots I have ever seen. Constanza is at 4,000 feet, in a fertile bowl surrounded by mountains, some up to 7,000 feet high.

By 1:30pm, I have returned my rental SUV to the airport agency and have met with Dr Bob in the airport terminal. With him is Daniel, a Domincano who works at the Good Samaritan Hospital in La Romana and is in charge if the water filter project, and Wendell who is from Florida and has been working with Dr Bob on water projects for 10 years. We wait until 2:30pm for other team members who are arriving from Rhode Island and Louisiana.

The drive from the airport in Santo Domingo to La Romana is pretty, along the edge of the Caribbean for some of the way, where blowholes are spouting plumes of spray driven by the surf underneath the coral ledges. It's about a 1.5 hour drive to La Romana, and Dr Bob is talking the whole time. Always interesting, and often amusing.

La Romana is the centre for processing sugar cane, and just about the whole eastern end of DR is owned by Central, a sugar cane company founded by a Dominacano-Cuban who is now a billionaire. I learn that the name La Romana comes from the weigh scales where the sugar cane is weighed as it comes in from the fields on trucks before being processed: The brand name of the scales was Romana, and the truck drivers would say, "I'm going to the Romana", meaning...I'm going to the scales.

The group this year, the third year for this kind of Rotary working visit, is 21 members. Most are Rotarians but not all: The others are folks who have worked in DR before with Dr Bob on medical teams or with church groups. Bob has arranged through the local Rotarians to put us up in private villas that are part of the enormous resort called Casa de Campo. It is, apparently, the largest resort in the Caribbean. The villas each have many bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, are fully-equipped, each villa having its own pool, and Dr Bob has arranged for Dominicanos to staff each villa just for us.

3 villas have been secured for us, but we will eat together in one of the villas. The last 6 members, coming from Houlton, have not arrived yet, and those that have arrived got together at 6pm so that Dr Bob could give us an overview of the coming week. We had supper together at 7pm, provided for us by the Dominicano staff, and most have now gone to bed. I'm sitting out on patio by the pool as I write this, in the dark except for the mood lighting around the pool. Breakfast is at 7am, and our first work day begins at 8am, so I'm off to bed myself now.

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