DOMINICAN REPUBLIC The Sunny Isle People will wave to you when you cross the street, and even if your Spanish is a bit rusty, a warm smile and an “hola” will surely go far. by Meghan O’Sullivan R olling mountains line the horizon. Green, grassy hills gently wind through the village, and palm trees picturesquely perch atop the knolls and fields. Black and white cows and mahogany-colored horses dot the scenery as a party of goats congregates in front of the fence made of cacti. Behind the hills and mountains, the late afternoon sun slowly fades into a deep, purple dusk, and slowly leaves in shadow a one room shed in which glasses and dishes are clinking as a family cleans up the remnants of dinner. Welcome to the Dominican Republic. The first thing you’ll notice after arriving to the DR is how delicious and fresh the food is. Whether it’s homemade yogurt, sour and sweet straight from the farmer, or mangos literally falling down from the trees in the street, produce takes on an entirely new flavor and color in the sunny island. Avocadoes, papayas, pineapples, and mangos are common, but you’ll also likely eat breakfast with yucca, plantains, and ham, as well as potatoes and scrambled eggs with green onion. Rice and beans, or “arroz con frijoles” are another popular dish, eaten for both lunch and dinner. Walking down the street, in a Dominican village, you’ll see animals crossing the road, children slurping on gooey mangos, and families cramped onto a single motorcycle, driving up a dirt hill into the hills. Houses on the side of the road may look more like small huts or sheds to Western eyes. Frequently built straw or tin roofs, homes are small, with dirt floors and typically have no indoor plumbing. 98 The country is poor but welcoming. Outside of a resort or hotel, travelers are struck by the enormous amount of poverty, coupled with overwhelming warmth and friendliness from the locals. People will wave to you when you cross the street, and even if your Spanish is a bit rusty, a warm smile and an “hola” will surely go far. The people in the Dominican Republic are extremely friendly and kind – and the country is very safe. It is not advisable to go anywhere alone after dark, though – as precautions should be taken in any area – but the local community will welcome you with open arms if you show that you are willing to take an interest in their life, and bring a positive spirit with you as a visitor to their beautiful country.