The View from My Place: Two years later
Two years may not seem like a long time, but it can be an eternity. For that matter so can one minute sometimes.
I was last in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic two years ago. I wrote a three-part report on how the country had changed over the previous fifteen years since I'd been here. I noticed that the people of Las Terrenas had made great strides in improving their lives.
My Spanish is a hare's breath away from non-existent, but that doesn't stop me from trying to interview just about everyone I meet. I find that if the person I talk to knows about as much English as I do Spanish we can have a conversation. It's pretty remarkable how, with minimal effort, we can communicate with one another if we care enough to try.
Our second day here we walked down to the far end of the beach where no one goes. There we find a "restaurant". Actually, it's a BBQ grill and three picnic tables that could use a little work. There were about eight locals hangin' around chatting it up hoping some customers would show up. Why they would ever think anyone would walk down to this deserted part of the beach is a mystery, but wait they do. They were quite happy to see us.
I meet Raphael who is the brother of Danilo; the guy who owns the place. The restaurant is on land in front of a half-completed, deserted house. I ask how is he allowed to run a restaurant on the beach in front of this guy's house. He tells me that all of the beaches in the country belong to the people 60 meters back from the high tide line. The only exception to this is the beach area in front of a hotel. I suggest that he work hard to ensure that no more hotels be built on the beach.
We enjoy a great meal of freshly caught fish and lobsters. After dinner I attempt to talk with Carlo who speaks no English. By the time we were done he invited me to join him the following day to go spear fishing. He only had one speargun so I held his catch. I've never seen anyone hold their breath so long. We were very far from shore when I decided I should go back or drown. His chain smoking served as no deterrent as he continued to go further out.
A few days later at La Playa de Coton we met three young Dominicans; two of whom were from New York City and had never been to this country. One moved back here two years ago to go into the solar energy business. Within two years he now has solar panels on nearly every cell tower. Soon he will have installations throughout the country. He hopes to be able to eliminate burning oil to produce electricity. Between the wind, hydro and sun he might just accomplish his goal.
One problem here is that the government is quite corrupt. The current president, Danilo Mendina, is working hard to end the corruption and is making a difference. I told my new friend that his country is no different than any other country and showed him the recent news story on the Panama Papers. Corruption can only be curtailed if/when the people rise up against it. We need leaders who are for the people.
Things are changing for the better here. Our housekeeper; one of twelve children who grew up working in the fields, has five kids. They are all very successful. One is in France; one's training to be a lawyer. Now, a grandmother, she is taking courses on-line; something unheard of a couple of years ago.
Communication makes the difference. You can talk to each other if you try. Congress take note. If the seas don't rise this could end up being the best place on earth.
Bob Stannard in a regular Banner columnist who lives in Manchester
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