fathom Journey, Day 4 - Dominican Republic

Wednesday was my day for RePapel, a women's cooperative enterprise recycling paper, which is turned in to stationery, greeting cards, etc.  RePapel naw has 4 locations around the island, starting from one in Santo Domingo back in 1999 or so.  They are tyring to open them in strategic locations around the country, so that women who are in need of employment can stay close to their children rather than commute for hours.  Important in a country where gender roles (and the idea that women first and foremost are responsible for child-rearing) are still pretty sharply defined.  Welcome to the U.S., circa 1940.

Upon arrival we were introduced to the women who work there.  They all gave their story, briefly.  I noted a couple of them, single mothers, talking around the basic issue no one wants to really talk about, which is that Puerto Plata is a sex tourism capital, and that many of these women, if not for RePapel and similar enterprises would have no other choice than prostitution.  I have to say, as a libertarian, I am not in the belief that prostitution should necesarily be illegal...when a woman chooses it.  But, as in many impoverished countries, in the DR there is an element of coercion, or maybe duress is a better word.  Women are denied the education to hold down good jobs, there are few jobs available, and there is no social safety net for women whose husbands die or leave them, etc.  "Sell yourself or starve" is not really a choice.  So, if nothing else, the idea that fathom and IDDI and RePapel might save a woman from that choice makes my day of paper making, hot glue burns and needle stick injuries worth it.
The first part of the day was spent learning and doing the entire process, from shredding waste paper (seperating out the clean white from printed), to blending it in to a pulp, dipping screened trays in to the pulp (with a little jute fiber added to strengthen the paper), draining them, rolling the resultant paper to get most of the water out, and then drying the sheets before cutting.  Personally I loved making paper.  I might try it at home.  The other part of the day...not my thing.  The women also do a variety of artsy-craftsy things like making bead jewelry, coasters and candles...all of which required me to either burn, cut or stick myself with sewing needles.  But paper making?  Cool.  No sharps, no hots.
The whole day was fun though, as it's a very casual atmosphere, with ladies randomly breaking in to song and eager to show the old white guy how to get a giant thread through the eye of a tiny needle.
After we finished that up, and got back to the ship, I decided it was time for an adventure.  So I walked out to the main highway, thinking to catch a bus in to Puerto Plata.  Amber Cove is what it is, and not my kind of place.  Just too artificial.  Anyway, on my way to the bus stop, I was accosted by a moto-taxi driver.  There had been much discussion of how crazy the Dominicans drive/ride.  So, HELL YES!!!  I hopped on back and, for $25 got a ride and a guide for the next few hours.  He took me to La Fortaleza (the fort protecting Spanish ships in the harbor back in the 16th century.  Then along the Malecon to a seafood restaurant right where the local fishermen keep their boats on the beach.  I enjoyed a fried Dorado with red beans and rice, and some interesting local company...including a German and Canadian couple who met here 35 years ago, married and have been here ever since.  They were a hoot.  Then over to a cigar store to buy some handmade cigars, and finally to the Church of San Felipe.  The current structure is relatively new, but there has been a church on that site since 1612.  Earthquakes and storms have destroyed 3, and the current one was built just in the last century.
So, after that little sojourn it was back to the ship to do some laundry (I am consuming clothes at a terrifying rate doing hard work in hot humid weather), eating again, trying to get a decent wifi connection (the ships wifi has issues.  It's sporadically fine, followed by inexplicable death-to-all-connection episodes).  Finally, around 5 I decided to rest for a few minutes before getting ready for dinner at 7.  I woke up at 7:30.
So, I didn't make it to dinner til about 8:15ish.  Which was actually a great boon.  When I entered the Ocean Grill, I saw one of my co-workers the last two days dining alone.  The lovely Gretchen from San Francisco.  She was just starting her appetizer and invited me over to join her.  So we ate, exchanged life stories, talked Cuban politics and Dominican economics and travel and Design Thinking.  She is actually one of the people who put together the Curiousity Advantage workshop I enjoyed so much.  For dinner I started with the Ananas (Shrimp/pineapple/avocado with a rum sauce), moved to the black bean soup and, as I had promised Emil and myself...the Chivo Guisado (stewed goat).  Gretchen had the lobster.  I am saving that for the last night, as it does look delish.
I am not a big fan of goat, having only ever had it spit-roasted Texas/Mexico style.  In a guisado it's a whole different animal, so to speak.  The spices, the marinating all day, etc, takes the edge off the gamy/oily thing I didn't like about goat meat.  And for desert, she had the bread pudding while I had the rice pudding.  Both looked great, mine tasted great. ;)
After dinner, I thought to write for a while, but got frustrated trying to upload stuff, so about 10pm  i went up on deck for a smoke break and walked in to a party.  Some of the folks that were supposed to be leaving to go home had a flight cancellation and came back, quite a few of the Impact Guides seemed to be up and partying.  And a poker game was happening in one corner.  Somehow my quick smoked turned in to 2.5 hours, and at some time after midnight I finally made it back home to more frustration with wifi, when I finally gave up and went to bed, as my alarm was set for 6am.  Again.
Tomorrw I'll be putting a concrete floor in some family's home.  Which sounds like exactly what I was looking for when I booked this interesting journey.
So, HASTA MANANA mi amigos!

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