Entries in ‘Dominican Republic’ Journal

Dominican Republic Mission Trips to Washington D C Politics – What a Trip

Friday March 6, 2009 at 9:09 PM | 2 Comments

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

As most of you know, I write the What a Trip travel column for the Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun here in the San Francisco Bay area. While I travel frequently, sometimes I like to interview my readers to see how they travel. Recently, I spoke with Padon Sivesind, a high school student who joined a group of teens on a January trip to Washington D. C. to celebrate President Obama's inauguration ceremony. I also caught up with the Breul family, former neighbors, who are currently serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic.

"There were way more people than I thought existed," remarked 16-year-old Padon Sivesind, regarding her recent trip to the inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C.

Sivesind and seven fellow high school students flew to Washington DC with Campolindo history teacher Molly Kerr to witness President Barack Obama be sworn into office.

"When I went to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, it was an international event. People would ask, 'Where are you from?' It was kind of the same thing at the inauguration," added Sivesind, "except D.C. was colder. It was very cold."

Sivesind shared that there were not many people in D.C. when they arrived on Saturday. By the time Tuesday rolled around, every inch of the capital was packed.

"You'd either sit in museums or watch the parade. There was nowhere else to go because the roads were all closed."

Ever the California girl, Sivesind noted that she wore three pair of pants to keep warm. While the temperatures were cold, the enthusiasm in the crowd was hot.

"It made me feel really patriotic," added Sivesind. "Everyone was chanting 'Obama!' It was a cool experience."

Politics to mission trips

John and Sally Breul, along with their three boys, were in the Bay Area to celebrate the holidays. The family has been living in the Dominican Republic (DR) since June 2008. The Breuls are missionaries working for KidsAlive, an organization that helps kids in extreme poverty, many who do not have parents who can care for them.

I asked Sally about the differences between Contra Costa County and the DR. "The driving is loco" in the Dominican, laughed Breul. "They don't have driving school, so the rule is the biggest vehicle wins. Also, drinking and driving is pretty much OK. You see people driving motos, drinking beer or passing a flask back and forth."

Breul remarked that the water is not safe to drink, trash is widespread and the electricity goes out often. However, she noted the people are friendly and would do anything for you. She liked that there are two rivers and four waterfalls within hiking distance of their town.

She acknowledged the difference in American food choices. "If you ask most kids in the DR what their favorite food is, they will say, 'chicken, rice and beans.' This is true because that's all they eat here. It gets a little boring. All the Dominicans told us we were 'gordo' (fat) when we returned," chuckled Breul.

The family plans to return in 2 1/2 years and they are already discovering the benefits of their trip.

"It is very mind-opening to live in another culture and see that there are other ways to live. We don't have a lot of the conveniences, nor variety of food, yet we have made great friends and it has brought our family closer together. It is the way of life in a third-world country." They have also learned Spanish.

Always budget travelers, the Breuls have refined their technique. "We stayed at one place for $12 per night for our entire family, said Breul. "It was clean and without bugs, though I admit I was a little nervous."

Have you stayed or traveled anywhere outside of your comfort zone? Your comments are welcome here.

Exchange Students from Sweden, Caribbean, Denmark, Barcelona and the Dominican Republic- What a Trip

Tuesday May 1, 2007 at 2:02 AM | 0 Comments

The students were on the plane, headed for New York, when Robin Album got the e-mail asking for help. Seems a volunteer had dropped the ball and some teens, including Sweden's Denise Larsson, needed homes. Robin and Jeff had considered hosting an exchange student and now the opportunity was knocking at the front door.

"It's been a great experience for us," notes Robin. "Acalanes has been welcoming to Denise." Their 15-year-old daughter, Micayla Album, will visit and work in Sweden this summer with Denise's family.

Happy Valley's Ann & Peter Appert's daughters have experienced international travel through exchange programs. Grace, an Acalanes junior, spent a month in very rural, poor Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. She was a volunteer doing trail maintenance and rebuilding a playground destroyed by a hurricane. Twin sister Jane lived with a family in Spain for a month studying Spanish. Freshman Caroline visited Denmark when she was eleven with Children's International Summer Villages, CISV, but that's another column in itself.

Dana and Ken Yzurdiaga welcomed a Barcelona teen into their Burton Valley home last summer for a month. They showed him the west coast and then daughter Linda, a Campolindo senior, went to Spain and toured the coast of Brava and Catalonia.

"Because he was a family friend," notes Dana, "it was a different experience than an unknown student. It was a real cultural exchange."

Lafayette's John and Sally Breul and their trio of blonde boys have learned a lot about the civil unrest in war-torn DR Congo since they "adopted" their fourth son in 2004. Campolindo Senior Wilita Sanguma came into the Breul's life in 2001 when John met Mossai Sanguma through his involvement with Moraga Presbyterian Church. The church sponsored Sanguma while he earned his PhD. at Pasadena's Fuller Seminary. Upon Sanguma's graduation his family returned to the Congo, but with the war, there was no school for Wilita to attend. The schools were burned because the youth were supposed to fight, not attend school.

"Living here has been a cornerstone for me," reflects Wilita. In Pasadena he didn't feel safe. "People have respect here," adds Wilita. He feels he's lucky to have his African family and his American family.

"Since Wilita's been with us, our kid's have a sense that the worlds a bigger place," notes Sally Breul.

Student travel isn't the only way to experience another culture. On a recent visit to the Lafayette Health Club, conversations in French could be heard from the tread mill. Native Francophiles Carole Hagglund and Catherine Maiden were discussing Hagglund's role as a community counselor. With her fluent French and as a mother of a teen daughter, Hagglund can relate with the au pairs, as well as represent the Connecticut-based agency, Au Pair in America.

Orinda's Freddy Moran continues to expand her quilting empire and has given new meaning to taking her show on the road. Unless you consider a cruise ship the path less traveled!

"I was teaching quilting on board, but now I'm focusing on the West and East coast,"states Moran. Known for her use of vibrant fabric colors, Moran says the mid West tends to prefer neutral tones such as brown and black. "I don't seem to appeal to the mid West," laughs Moran. She teaches in Maine every year for a week. "I go the first part of October with the Leaf Peepers." She's off to LeConnor, Washington, home of the tulips, for a three month quilt show. LeConnor reminds her of how Sausalito used to look in the 1950's.

Have you experienced travel from a service-oriented perspective? That's our focus next month.