It's been about a week since I first touched down in Santiago. Coming from North Carolina winter, such as it is, to winter in the Caribbean has been a bit of a shock... there's nothing quite like Christmas lights in 85°weather. There have been plenty of other new or surprising things as well– let's take a journey around Santiago to see what we see.
I've always been fascinated by architecture, so half my camera roll wherever I go ends up being photos of buildings I find interesting. It's no different here– Santiago is a city that has been influenced by many different cultures, which is reflected in its façades. Although the island was originally inhabited by various groups of people before being "discovered" by Columbus and named Hispaniola, not much (if any) colonial architecture is preserved. Many prominent or historic buildings are built in the Victorian style, but if you wander the city streets you'll see architecture with Spanish, Asian, and other influences as well. Race and origin are often complicated issues and no less so here, so I think architectural choices can be a really interesting historical reflection of that.
On a more fun note, one thing that just didn't happen to occur to me was that there would be flowers blooming! In January! Nearly every street I've walked down has had flowers growing along parts of it, either from somebody's garden or popping up along the side of the road. In fact, I've already walked into many things (a mango, a tree, a wall...) because I've been busy staring at– erm, appreciating– the pretty posies. They definitely have no shortage of sunlight around here. Similarly, the university (known as PUCMM) where college students are taking classes and where the CIEE offices are located acts as a sort of nature reserve for a variety of plant species. It's very intriguing to see what types of things grow on their own, but it's also fun to see what they take care of there. There's a fun game of trying to guess the name of something in English based on what it's called in Spanish that I've been able to play with the plants, with foods... with a lot of stuff, really.
In addition to the built environment and the natural environment, there is a lot of art around the city. We were able to take a mural tour through a neighborhood called Los Pepines, where we learned that murals here are placed where they're needed. From portraits of musicians singing merengue or jazz to portrayals of the founders of the Dominican Republic to environmental calls to action, it's possible to learn a lot about Santiago from looking a little bit closer at its walls. More than anything else, that's what I've been trying to do in my first week: look around me, be aware of where I am, and try to learn as much as I can from it.
See you around.