How “developed” is a “Developing Country”?

I have not written in quite some time! I have been on a hiatus that required much thought, reflection, and of course adventure. After the devastating election and political insanity that ensued, I had to take a break from the internet and do some re-evaluation, myself. In the meantime, we have made many important decisions about your future! But more on that another time!

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I was recently inspired to write this post by my brother-in-law, Mikey. I have received a lot of questions and comments about the Dominican Republic being a “developing country” and what that means for us. First, I will refer to it as a developing country which many people have likened to meaning 2nd or 3rd world. None of these terms are really a great way of describing countries and the labels themselves are based in political history rather than a real look at the economic and social systems within the country. For more on this, click here.

One thing people are always interested in seeing (and subsequently shocked by) is where we get our food. Many think of loud, colorful city markets with vendors and stands overflowing with fruit and other odds and ends. I have found in several of the countries we have travelled to is that imagery is not entirely false, however, it does not tell the whole story. I mean, almost ALL countries have something of the like– think of your Saturday morning farmer’s market. However, most of the developing countries I’ve visited are far more advanced than one would be led to believe.

Having travelled so far and wide most of my life, I had absolutely no expectations about what we were walking into when we showed up here with our four suitcases and two pets.

Introducing, La Sirena, probably the place I dislike most in the world, but has been a God-send for the cravings we have of home. This large Dominican franchise has every food you can imagine, including a huge variety of American fare. I had culture-shock walking in here for the first time!

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SOOOOOO embarrassing, but you get the point!

LOL– that is the picture I sent to my friend so that she could prove to my former DR students that I was living here now. They didn’t believe me when I told them I was coming here. They all said “WHY would you go there, willingly???” That in itself should give you an idea of the duality of safety and economic stability that exists in this country. Anyway, back to the task at hand.

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I could not believe the variety of food, drink, and merchandise that existed in this supermarket a mere four blocks from our house. This place is insane. While one would think it stands in direct competition with the street vendors, you’d be surprised.

The fruit, meat, and veggie section are CRAZY! Anything I want and in any quantity. However, we have found that when buying produce from a conglomerate like this, they are often lacking in flavor and freshness. If you want FRESH, you have to hit a street vendor, plus it is nice to give to small local business.

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You can’t get a better dragonfruit than the guy on the corner!

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(Not my picture, borrowed from here)

These guys are either on carts or have permanent stands set up. Whether in a barrio, on the beach, or in a bustling wealthy city neighborhood, these guys brave the heat to sell the sweetest, freshest, lush fruits and vegetables! It’s funny because in my neighborhood it is not unusual to see a Range Rover pulled up to one of these guys ordering massive avocados or drinking straight from the coconut. Wealth doesn’t always turn its nose at the “real” Dominican.

Check out the view from my classroom window… sorry about the smudge, I really am too lazy to get a better shot!

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We literally live in a metropolis.That plaza across the street sells designer bikinis from Spain that retail on average about $350. Who can afford that?? Well, turns out some Dominicans can! Also in that plaza is a nail salon, hair salon, two restaurants, a UPS, and a jewelry store. Some of my 8th grade students walk across the street from that gray building where they live every Saturday to get their hair blown out and nails done. I get invited frequently because the divide between student and teacher here is very blurry; but, I haven’t acclimated enough to cross that line yet, though.

Now check out this shot from a barrio, thank you to my favorite Instagram account right now Everydaydr.

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This Dominican family in Province Independencia are shelling pigeon peas on a Saturday morning together. There is a lot that can be said about what wealth really means in this country, and maybe I will get into that in my next blog post.

So, how “developing” is a “developing country”? I don’t really even know how one could answer that. In any given moment I can have the most succulent avocado I’ve ever eaten in my life that is naturally and without GMOs the size of my head while also getting my toenails  done at a 24/7 Botox Salon. My internet sucks most of the time, but last night I got 3 pizzas, two beers, and a 5-gal bottle of water delivered to my apartment from 3 different places without having to lift a finger. We lost water two days ago to our apartment, but then I used an app to get a taxi to cart the three of us all over the city without ever having to use Spanish. So you tell me.

I think that more than anything else it is important to note that places can’t REALLY be labeled one way or another. We know this (or should) about people and stereotyping. There is no one way to paint this place. It is the best of both worlds. I love this country, I love these people, and I love this life.

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Until next time, Jersey.

xo SBV

 

 

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