All right, you have just opened up this article and are reading the first few words. Congratulations, you are just one of few who are willing to read and understand things that are very different and in fact almost macabre to understand about our current world.
This article is what I will consider the first of many installments to come about my experience living in a country that is considered to be third world: The Dominican Republic. The pictures shown have all been taken by me and are intended not to place a one-sided sense about third world nations in your mind but rather to open your eyes to a side of the third world that you may have never expected.
Going in, I had basically told no one that I was going to the DR to live for a month and work for the people doing research on water quality. I had no idea what to expect, except maybe to see the swollen bellies of malnourished children and the naked sadness that emits from poverty in its most visible form. But, what I found was completely different. I found a way of living and a people that were often blissfully unaware of their condition and, if anything, rather interested in why in the world a bunch of ‘gringos’ were asking to sample their water filters for testing.
The one thing I noticed the most in the DR was the abundance of faith and family that tied each person to a sense of safety and assurance no matter how impoverished their way of living. No matter the type of home I was walking into, the prospect of a seat to be offered to sit down in and an offer of amazingly delicious Dominican coffee was always there. These gestures of kindness were not just offered because the people knew we were Americans, but they were offered because, culturally, the expectation of hospitality and kindness is deeper than the pain of not knowing where your next meal might come from.
The people I was able to meet in the DR were not living with the prospect of a means for an end to their poverty. These people were living in spite of it all in a warm and bright sense of optimism. There is optimism in the third world that I have never found in any other place I have ever been. Yes, there was some pain. Yes, there were tears, but beyond all else there were smiles and hugs and gestures of excitement that overshadowed our common cultural understanding of what poverty really is.