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.