Student Witnesses the Liveliness and Boldness of the Los Cacaos Community
Kyle Walsh is a student enrolled in the Electronics Engineering Technology program at Niagara College. He had participated in an international field study experience In Dominican Republic. Read some of the excerpts from his reflection to see how his experience abroad has helped him become “World Ready”!
In October of 2016 I had the privilege of visiting the Dominican Republic, spending time in both the capital, Santo Domingo, and the small village of Los Cacaos located about two hours away. My time spent in the Dominican provided me with memories that will last a lifetime. Even as I write this reflection three weeks after returning, I can still feel the intensity of the experience continuing to impact me as a person and shape my understanding of the world.
I had travelled only once before, visiting Europe and traveling through Scandinavia for two weeks in the summer of 2015. It was a wonderful experience, but Scandinavia is a part of the world that is arguably even wealthier and better off than Canada. Visiting the Dominican was very different because it’s undoubtedly much poorer than Scandinavia and what I’m accustomed to back home in Canada. In the Dominican, the government is more corrupt, regulations are less stringent, and the social welfare safety net we enjoy in Canada is absent. But at the same time, their society works. People get by despite these omissions. Roads are built, businesses operate, people eat and have families, and life goes on.
I can’t help but point out, however, that there is a liveliness and boldness to the people there that seems lacking in Canada. Perhaps the lack of security or socialised medicine that we enjoy in Canada makes the population less risk averse and more likely to embrace life as it comes. Like the motorcyclists weaving dangerously in between vehicles on the freeway, or the children climbing a tree on a cliff’s edge to collect its fruit, the Dominicans take risks every day that would land a Canadian in prison! In Los Cacaos, the locals were very social and cheerful, often blasting music and racing around on their motorcycles, seemingly full of life and enthusiasm. The children would run up to us and excitedly ask for a footrace in Spanish. The poverty and the lax regulations in the Dominican were as much a culture shock to me as was the spirit and energy of the locals. Some might think that the Dominicans must be despondent and heartbroken because they lack the wealth and prosperity that we so often praise and desire back home – but this could not be further from the truth.
These observations, and my experiences in the Dominican, have made me more world ready because they revealed how different cultures, much like people, possess both good and bad qualities. I have learned to suspend judgment of other cultures and to recognize that the good and the bad are often opposite sides of the same coin. For example, with all our wealth and security here in Canada, have we not lost something in the process of securing all this abundance for ourselves? In gaining security, have we lost some of our capacity for tolerating risk? I can’t say for sure, but it is something that I think about often.
While I originally felt culture shock in the Dominican, returning to Canada I experienced it again.
Maybe our children are too protected from the bumps and scrapes that life is sure to bring? Maybe we’re too insulated from our communities because of our technology? While I originally had criticisms of the Dominican, returning home I found myself critical of Canada in ways I would not have expected. The greatest benefit of my travels was to be able detach from any one cultural perspective and to see the flaws and the strengths of all cultures. I am learning not to be biased towards other societies because of my own ingrained cultural perspective. I am learning to be not just a citizen of Canada, but a citizen of the world.