Posted by: Lydia | June 25, 2011

Scenes from the Northwest

I haven’t written much about our work or life in the Peace Corps lately for several reasons. Our new job, while fascinating to me as a political science major and former employee at the U.S. Senate, does not translate very well into the narrative format necessary for an interesting blog. What little we discover and experience in our new roles as the most underpaid diplomats and mediators in the world that would make for an exciting read would also get us swiftly blacklisted if posted in a public forum.

That being said, I didn’t get this rocking farmer’s tan sitting inside and writing emails to development agencies and government ministries all day. Matt and I have recently been spending a lot of time out in the field with the Ministry of Environment getting intimately acquainted with the unending vortex of weird that is the far northwest coast of the DR.

Today’s excursion to the port city of Manzanillo was a particularly surreal delight. The purpose of our trip was ostensibly to help clear a plot of land of its trash and shrubbery to make room for a new park near the port. As with any journey planned and led by a Dominican, however, at least half the time was spent having coffee with people and eating lunch, something I’ve particularly come to love especially when it is 100° outside. While enjoying coffee, juice and spongecake in the home of a local and well-respected, wealthy, and educated older woman (who also happens to be an naturalized American citizen), we somehow got onto the topic of how much money the American government spent on the war in Afghanistan. “It was a terrible waste,” she said, “but you know there is a group of people in this world who want war to continue so they can keep making money off of it… you know, rich people, Jews…..” It was at this point that I noticed the disturbing quantity of Scientology books and pamphlets in her beautifully decorated home, definitely a first for me in this country. The rest of the day, though free of anti-Semitism and cult religions, was nonetheless a strange and good time best expressed through photos:

Dominican waste management. Ya tu sabes.

Cargo containers in the port of Manzanillo. United Fruit and Dole once used this port to export to the United States during their stint in the Dominican Republic.

Matt and I have an unhealthy love of cargo ships.

Scenic Manzanillo port.

Goats trimming the baseball field.

The Naval Academy doing a beach cleanup. We chilled with their commanding officers for a while and talked about our projects. One of them had lived in the States and studied at the U.S. Naval Academy… in fact I rarely meet an officer with any significant rank here who hasn’t either studied or worked with the U.S. military on some occasion.

Some beaches have palm trees, others have container ships.

Later that day we got a “tour” of a ship-breaking yard.

Some of the best creative spelling I’ve seen to date. Translates as: Whatever that returns here will be imprisioned we are watching.

Abandoned tropical fish store. Please do not buy tropical fish, they are stolen from reefs and you are contributing to the destruction of fragile ecosystems when you buy them.



  1. Sis, I had no idea about the tropical fish. There are no breeding programs?

  2. The Marine Aquarium Council certifies tropical fish sellers in sustainable practices, and they state that “An ethically structured aquarium industry provides financial incentive for villages to protect their local reefs,” which I agree with. However, one would need to be extremely thorough in one’s research before buying any tropical fish to make sure it was sustainably harvested, as regulations against reef fishing are either nonexistent or not enforced in many (if not most) countries in the latitudes where tropical fish grow.

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