Our first day in the Dominican Republic was very exciting! We got a tour of the old colonial city of Santo Domingo first and saw some of the current governmental buildings in it as well.
Our day began with a tour of one of the colonial buildings that Rafael Trujillo ruled during his dictatorship. A few memorable display items were the caskets of the three Mirabal sisters, the Arsenal of weapons Trujillo purchased, and a lit up map of all of Christopher Columbus' routes from Spain to Central America.
After that museum, we walked right next door to the house of Diego Columbus back when he was Dictator of the Dominican Republic. When he ruled, he only stood just over 5 feet so his bed was very low and short. While we toured the colonial city, we saw almost all of the historic gates the city had along their walls of defense. Our tour of the colonial city ended at the main cathedral which is still used for church gatherings every Sunday.
Our next stop after visiting the cathedral was lunch. Our tour guide took us to this great buffet style Dominican restaurant called El Conuco. While we were there, we got to enjoy many great Dominican dishes such as the various seafood options as well as fried plantains, creole rice and many others. The staff was also very lively as they performed different types of Dominican dances while we ate for our entertainment. They were also kind enough to sing Katelyn a special spanish rendition of happy birthday which was fantastic!
Following our great lunch experience, we stopped at the famous Christopher Columbus Lighthouse. The monument was 210m long by 59m wide and there are 157 beams of light that emanate towards the sky from the structure and a rotating beam which can be seen for miles. In total, the Columbus Lighthouse cost $70 million to construct.
The next stop on our very busy first day was the market in the colonial sector. This proved to be a very fun stop because the students in the group that wanted to buy some merchandise were able to test out their bargaining skills with the different vendors. There were many cool paintings and crafts that were handmade and clearly had been worked on very hard.
Finally, we went to FLACSO to meet our host families for the first time. I cannot speak for my fellow students, but I was very nervous about meeting my host family for the very first time. My host mother was very welcoming to me and embraced me as if I was one of her own. I am sure that everyone else had a very similar experience to mine.