The first meeting after the exchange

The first meeting after the exchange was on the 27th september 2019, a little over a month after we landed back in Germany.

We talked about our final impressions of the Dominican Republic, which were mostly positive, and the changes we noticed as we were back in our homeland, such as the way more organized traffic.

We also filled out a form on our knowledge about the environmental change in order to compare it to the one we filled out in the very beginning of our journey, on our first meeting, and to see how our knowledge has changed through the exchange and how it will change in the future.

After that, Anne gave us a piece of paper on which we had to write down what specifically we want to change in the time period between this, and the next get-together. It is easier for you to remember written down things and you actually try to do them if you can see them. The concept is kinda like your resolutions for the new year.

The biggest part of this meeting took up the pre-planning of an event to inform people on how they could change their life-style to decrease their environmental footprint nad also fun activities which include upcycling and other things. We formed teams which are each responsible for organizing an aspect, and also collected our very first ideas for the day.

Of course was the meeting accompanied by cookies, a lots of photos, and fun films from our exchange.

The second meeting of the German group

We met for the second time on a hot day in June. Due to the good weather, we got together in the garden with a lot of bees and wasps.

The summary of the article about the recycling process in the Dominican Republic was presented and the difficulties of shopping with zero waste discussed. The team, who bought the food for the dish we were to cook later this day, shared specifically their experience and what exactly they could not find without packaging (see post ‘Zero Waste Shopping’).

We also calculated our environmental footprint, which is basically a way to determine how many earths we would need if every human in this world lived the same way as you are. It considers for example how many days of the week you are eating meat, how many kms you drive with a car in a week, how often you use your washing machine, if you plug out your devices after charging or using them, or if you turn off the lights when you leave a room. And of course, how often you flew with a plane in the last year.

The most common result in our group was approx. 2 earths, after that 3 earths, which is actually an impossible life-style to maintain if every human would use the same amount of resources as we do. To calculate your own environmental footprint may not be the most accurate way to determine how unsustainable your life-style is, but it sure shows you a shockingly enough result to consider changing your way of living.

After that, we played a little game, where you had to find a person which fulfilled a question on your paper. The aim was to find a person each for all the questions. The questions were asking things such as if you changed their lifestyle to specifically help to stop the climate change, if you plant your own food in the garden, if you choose public transportation over flying in the last months, if you spent time in the nature in the last 2 weeks, or if you re-/posted articles, pictures, or so about the climate change on social media.

It was obvious that many of us grow their own food in their garden, or changed their lifestyle to be more sustainable. But not many of us, actually just one person, have ever posted or re-posted something related to the climate change.

Additionally, our introduction for our guest family were filmed and then, finally, we began with the cooking, the highlight of the day.

We tried to cook traditional dishes of the Dominican Republic to get a foretaste of what we will eat. The main dish contained of rice, beans, peppers and coconut milk. We also made a dessert which was a cocunut and vanilla flavored pudding.

Even though we may not be professional chefs, it was still delicious and we enjoyed the small change in our usual activities.

20/08 – Trip to Santiago

On tuesday we went inland to the town Santiago. There we got to know the first recycling centre „Cilpen Global“ in the dominican republic.

Our guide told us that it takes a lot of time to seperate the different kinds of waste. To reduce this effort and save time at the recycling center, in Santiago there are initiated first projects for waste seperation at the source.

Some kinds of waste like old tires are recycled directly at the recycling center. Other kinds like plastic waste are seperated and packed as cubic figures to be exported in order to recycle them in other countrys.

The recycling centre does not have enough capacity, yet, to process all the waste arising in the dominican republic. Therefore it is planned to be expanded at this place and perspectively also at further places in the country.

19/08 – Trip to Monte Christi

On monday early in the morning we started a day trip to the province Monte Cristi, that is in the very northwestern part of the dominican republic, near the border to Haiti. After we arrived at first we got to know projects on cleaning the nature from plastic waste.

Then we visited an organic and fair traide certified banana plantation. While growing on the plant all fruits are packaged in a protective cover that looks like a plastic bag with small holes. The local farmers told us, that this plantation uses bags made of bio-degradable plastic to reduce plastic waste.

Further plastic packaging is used for protecting the fruits on their way to the consumers, e.g. in the european union. The strict rules for selling fruits lead to the use of much packaging all over the production and transportation process. Optical flaws are not accepted, neigther by laws nor by the consumers.

The day ended up with a beach cleaning and swimming activity at the northern coast and the long journey back to Santo Domingo by bus.

17-18/08 – Trip to Samana

On Saturday we arrived in Samana, after getting out of the bus we waited a short time till everybody was ready. When everybody was ready, we got a tour throw a whale museum by a guide, who was working their voluntarily. He explained a lot about whales, for example their way of hunting or the way of mating. He didn’t stop there, our guide also talked about sea turtles and how they are endangered. In the end he gave us an example, why plastic is so bad for the environment. The example was that sea turtles can get straws stuck in their noses, which causes the sea turtles to suffocate. When the tour was over we went back into the bus and drove off with a lot more knowledge.

When we arrived in Samana in the evening, we had time to check out the beautiful beach. The next day we ate breakfast in the motel and we got ourselves ready for a boat tour. This boat tour took us around the beach and showed us the beautiful nature of the Dominican Republic, we stopped our tour two times, because a guide showed us two different and very beautiful caves and their long history. After this tour we got our stuff together and we drove home to Santo Domingo.

15/08 – Beach cleaning

On our first Thursday in the Dominican Republic, we cleaned a part of the beach behind the “Club de los Profesores de la UASD” and we went to Los Tres Ojos. Our group of 27 people was made up of the teenagers from the “Droste Haus” and the “Cooperativa Herrera” and two members of the “Ministerio de Medio Ambiente”. Together we collected over 50 bags of trash in just two hours on just 35m of beach. To be able to recycle all the trash we gathered, we separated it in three categories by using three different colored trash bags. The green ones were for plastic bottles, the thicker white bags were for glass and the black bags were for everything else. 

After a short set of instructions, we were really motivated to start and return this trash covered beach back to its natural beautiful clean state. So we started by collecting plastic bottles first, because they were lying on top of everything else. Afterwards we collected the glass meanwhile collecting the smaller pieces of broken foam and trash. To protect our hands we used two or three pairs of gloves each. We always kept moving from the big things to the smaller things to get a better overview of how it was going to look.

After bringing all of the trash bags to the street so they could be picked up by the trucks, we had a quick lunch and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea and the now clean beach. 

In the afternoon, we visited Los Tres Ojos National Park, an open air natural cave with three lakes (or three eyes) inside. The tour guide told us that the cave was initially used by the indigenous Taino Indians for religious purposes. 

The first lake we saw is called “Lago de Azufre” or “Sulfur Lake” and there are many Tilapia fish swimming inside. The second Lake is “La Nevera” or “the Refrigerator” and we crossed this lake by using a sort of eco-friendly and sustainable man powered boat that moved by being pulled by the men. Once we crossed this lake we arrived to the next lake that is called “Los Zarmagullones” which is not considered one of the ‘eyes’ since it has an opening to the outside. It was a very beautiful place. The fourth lake we visited was “Lago Las Damas” or “Ladies Lake” which had a lovely aqua blue color. 

Some Tips For Beach cleaning:

  • Separate the kind of waste you collect.
  • Choose your shoes depending on the type of surface you’ll be working on. Don’t wear flip flops. Wear covered shoes, preferably sneakers. 
  • Use sun cream and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water.
  • Buy enough trash bags.
  • Wear light, airy clothes
  • Have fun with it!

14/08 – Natural Historic Museum

Our day started with the meeting at 8 am at the Cooperativa, from there we took a bus to our first activity on that day: The Natural Historic Museum of Santo Domingo. At the museum we went to the differents floors: the 1st floor showed different animals of the ocean, such like whales. After that was finished , we went to the planetarium of the museum. This was the only one in the Dominican Republic and was supported by Japan. The film that was played during the show was in spanish so sadly we couldn´t understand everything. Then after Anne translated what she remembered, we went to see another film. The other film was about, how the world was created and what livings was there before us. On the last floor were some taxidermied animals, but also a living spider and living snakes. Then our tour was finished and we get into the bus.

Our second activity that day was in the old town of Santo Domingo. We visited the „Zona Colonial“, the „Plaza de la Cultura“ and the House of Diego Colon, the son of Cristobal Colon. In the house of Diego Colon we had a guided tour by a german speaking guide. After we left the house we went to get to the bus but it wasn‘t at the meeting point so we ended up in the Chocolate museum and the museum of urban art. Then our bus arrived and drove us back to the cooperativa.