Category Archives: Travel

Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic

Two and a half hours from Santiago, Dominican Republic lies a dusty, enchanting town known as Monte Cristi. Here, there is a population of 3,000 people who live in sweltering heat. Here, the roads are mostly gravel with broken slabs of road, and the people will fit a family of four on a moped, and it’s completely normal. Here, in Monte Cristi–or “mountain of Christ” as Columbus called it, due to the fact that the town looked similar to the one Christ was crucified on–I spent one week teaching English to children through an organization known as Outreach360.

Outreach360 is an organization located in two countries: the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The goal of Outreach360 is to teach English to individuals, mostly children, in underdeveloped areas–and I spent my time in the Dominican.

From the moment my group (5 other ladies from my cohort) arrived at the Manolo Tavarez Center which would be “home” for a week, we were immersed in the sweltering hot culture that is Monte Cristi. Monday through Thursday we taught at one of the schools Outreach360 works with, and during the evening we participated in many different activities, including visiting Monte Cristi’s salt flats, learning the merengue and bachata. Every night we were sung to sleep by the sounds of endless roosters, mopeds speeding down a dusty road, and music blasting from vans with ridiculous sound systems. Showers were cold and asked to be kept as short as possible, and we were asked to be in dress code at all times except for when we were asleep. On Friday, instead of going to school to teach, we (during my stay, there was a high school group from Cape Cod as well as an individual from Boston) went to Dajabon, a Dominican/Haitian market place where prejudices can be put aside long enough for people to make a living, and El Morro, Monte Cristi’s loveliest beach.

We did so much more in one small week that I am at a loss for words to describe it all. I went into this trip with an arrogant mindset–I have worked with Spanish speaking children and I am used to hot weather. Even so, nothing I have ever done in my entire life would have prepared me for the Dominican Republic. I am thankful for my experience here, and thankful for the school project that made me immerse myself in a culture I might have never experienced otherwise.

A paragraph doesn’t quite cover all that I’ve done and all that I’ve seen in Monte Cristi, nor will an entire blog post. As much as I want to, I don’t think I can articulate the beauty of all that I am honored to have been immersed in. Instead, what I can do for you is offer you some highlights from the DR in the form of words and pictures.


A far away view of Monte Cristi nestled against the Atlantic. 


A pier overlooking the Atlantic ocean at sunrise. It has been on my bucket list for quite some time to see the sun rise on the east. 


The streets of Monte Cristi looked like this. It really puts life into perspective. Be blessed by how much you have. 

What made the DR so special weren’t the breathtaking views and the way a cool breeze lifted your hair during merciless heat, even if those moments were beautiful. No, what makes the Dominican so beautiful and special are its people. Here in Monte Cristi, a quiet, off-the-beaten path, and what seems like a forgotten town, live 3000 individuals. These 3000 individuals live in what can be considered a “developing country”. They have very little, and of the little they have, the quality can often be questionable. Yet, I have never seen a child smile so big or a person so warm-hearted and inviting in spite of what many would consider “poverty”. I have never felt so much love and authenticity in any city I have ever had the privilege of visiting. 


At El Morro beach. (I am convinced there is not a good picture of me during this week…and that’s okay.)

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Filed under College Years, Culture, Post Grad, Travel

Change vs Structure

I find in recent days I am a fan of change.

In most cases, I need structure.  For other Meyers-Briggs nerds, I am an INFJ. I was fairly moderate on all, except my “J” which was high. I need closure and structure and concrete plans. Even so, within the lines of my well-defined system I attempt to create in my day-to-day/5-year-planned life, I find myself fidgeting for something new and unexplored. I cannot remain in one place for too long. I cannot watch the same things happen over and over. I need change.

Well, since my last post, a lot of change has happened:

I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Psychology.

I went to Europe (Italy and Austria).

I moved into a new apartment with a friend.

I started a new job which I really like.

BIG CHANGES in a span of a single month!

In the next few months I will start Grad School–which will be hell. I’ll probably want to die every day as I will also be working a full-time job that takes all of my energy (if you think of me, pray for me!).

As I find myself yearning for more change and more chances to see the unknown, I will always love my structure.

As I need to stretch my wings and fly to new places, I’ll always come back to my nest and read a good book, or another addicting show.

As I start  new academic program, I will still be studying the same subject (counseling psychology).

As I live in a new place, I know I will never be in a place without some large body of water near me.

So, I raise a toast to structure and change.

A toast to another new life adventure.

A toast to the next step.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

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Filed under College Years, Personal, Post Grad, Travel

Summer Salutations

Somewhere along the Californian Coast

Somewhere along the Californian Coast

 

I am once again home in San Diego and will be here until the end of July until I journey back to Washington (for my senior year–finally!!) for my good friends’ wedding and Res Life training.  Instead of driving straight home on the I-5–my good friends from San Diego flew up a few days before I had to move to drive down with me–we took the scenic route which included the 1 and the 101.

On this route, you are on the edge of the world with the Pacific Ocean at your side, and it is absolutely breath-taking. While my friend drove and I stared out the window with wanderlust humming through my veins, I wanted the moment to stand still as I stared at giant boulders unbending to the crashing forces of light and dark blue waves.  At one point in which our car stopped to enjoy the beauty amidst sweet smelling trees and salty breezes I found myself holding back tears at the sheer magnificent beauty of God’s creation. I know I have a tendency to be a bit emotional, but being moved by something so beautiful as this in nature is a first for me. So I did what any other person of my generation would do–I took a picture of that wondrous beauty on my crappy phone.  While my photo is pretty decent, it doesn’t do the ocean and the trees and the blue sky justice.

I wanted to capture the beauty and the moment in all of its essence–and I tried–but I knew it was an impossible dream, much like a moment standing still.

All of this to say that it reminded me of my year at school.  There were moments that I wanted to last forever. There were times that I tried to capture a specific time with my crappy phone, and while it did a decent job, it was one of those moments that can remain mostly in one’s memory.

I have been incredibly blessed this year with wonderful roommates, a great job, and beautiful memories.  Even so, not everything was fluffy, glittery, and bright.

My relationship with God waned and for a long while I didn’t believe I could smile for real again.  While those cobwebs still linger in my heart, I am still confident of the goodness of the Lord.

With the end of my school year begins a new cycle.  The scenery is different, but it is just as beautiful. I intend to make the most of my last summer vacation.

 

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Filed under Christian Blog, College Years, Travel

Solo Road Trip….with tips!

Somewhere in Oregon

As most of the people reading this know (because most of my readers are friends and family), I recently embarked on a 16-hour-straight journey from San Diego, California to Salem, Oregon. Alone. Eeeek!

When most people found out I was taking this journey on my own, they were concerned for me, frightened for me, and tried to talk me out of it. While they all meant well, I knew that I could do it.

Yet the week before I left, I started getting nervous and even asked a few random people to take the journey with me, but they couldn’t find a way back to California, or they started school, so that left me no choice: it was time for my first solo road trip.

While it was a good experience, it was also one I don’t want to do again any time in the next month or two.

If there’s any college kid out there, or a person with a severe case of wanderlust and are debating on taking a solo road trip, or are having doubts, I’m here to encourage you. YOU CAN DO IT! Here are a couple things that really helped me along the way:

1. When you’re driving

  • Pack your car the night before, and if possible, make sure you can still see with your rear view mirror.
  • GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE!!!!!!! I cannot stress this point enough. I woke up at 3 AM for my journey, so I attempted to hit the sack around 8 p.m. so I could catch a few good z’s.
  • Know the directions to where you’re going. I’ve been to Salem before, and my destination was right off the I-5, so it was an easy drive, but just in case, I used a GPS which brought me comfort. Know how to get to where you’re going via GPS, or smartphone.
  • Be cautious. Remember you aren’t racing anyone. Everything you learned in driving school, however long ago that may have been, is necessary. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep alert.
  • Keep alert!!!! The first 4 hours of my drive were the worst. I left San Diego around 3:40 am, and I was tired even as I headed out. At some point during those first 4 hours I thought I couldn’t do it. I thought I would fall asleep at the wheel. So after my first stop, I was able to take a break and instantly I was refreshed.
  • Know when to stop. Frequently check how much gas you have, decide whether or not to hold your bladder any longer, decide whether or not you’re tired. Don’t take chances.
  • Bring good music. Seriously, don’t under estimate the power of music, also, DON’T BE AFRAID TO BLAST IT LOUD! You’re on a solo road-trip! Roll down your window, crank up the radio and BELT. YOUR. HEART. OUT. It’ll keep you awake and IT’S FUN!

2. When you’ve stopped for gas/rest/etc.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Asses your area when you’ve stopped for rest/gas. You’re on your own so you need to be aware of yourself, especially if you’re a girl. I cannot stress that enough. Please, please, please, be careful.
  • Walk around and stretch for at least 5 minutes. You’ve been crammed in your car all day, take a breather!
  • Tell someone where you are. Every time I stopped I updated my twitter and/or I called my mom, or one of my sisters to give a general guess of where I was.

3. Have fun, bro (or sis)!!

  • You’re on a solo road trip, friend! Have fun! Be silly (yet cautious), sing loud music terribly, talk to yourself, enjoy the scenery. I swear that at some points of my trip, I had the biggest smile of my face for no reason at all except for the sheer enjoyment of traveling and pride in myself knowing that I am a capable, independent woman…who can drive 16 hours straight.

A solo road trip is a great experience that I encourage everyone to go on. I loved every minute of it, even when I was tired. It was great “alone time” and great “God time”. It gave me time to think and pray and reflect. It was wonderful.

Thank you again to everyone who prayed for me, I’m sure that in those moments where I felt like I couldn’t go on, your prayers kept me safe the entire way. Thank you. :) I love you!

In Christ,

Serena

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