July 9, 2018
SAN PEDRO de MACORIS, D.R. - Ariel Davis and Kyle Decker of DePaul’s track and field team share their thoughts on the first full day of the DePaul Athletics Service Immersion Trip to the Dominican Republic. The team enjoyed a full day that started with Mass, lunch and playtime with the children of the NPH home, backyard excavation then topped off with a game of soccer and a group reflection. The team is fitting in well with the residents and is looking forward to cultural learning, hard work and a sports camp.
Ariel Davis - Track and Field
Coming to the Dominican Republic has already proven itself to be a tremendously humbling experience. From the different environment, climate, language, and practices, I have seen how different life can be from what we have become so accustomed to at home.
As I have had time to meet and interact with the beautiful residents of this community, I couldn’t help but notice how different life is with limited technological use. I spent the afternoon after mass with toddlers and was immediately reminded of how innocent, innovative, and creative children can be. Even with limited resources, these children were impressive in the ways they found to entertain themselves with only a few toys/items and little technology.
Simplicity is truly at the forefront from what I have seen here and that emphasizes to me how heavily we and our upcoming generation need to learn the benefits of detachment. Without the use of social media, which has become a popular way of bringing people together, I was able noticed how sports can be used as a great way to unify people of different backgrounds. Very few of our student-athletes are familiar with the Spanish language and very few of the residents here in the Dominican Republic hold thorough conversations in English. With that being said, I watched today and saw how our relationships with them strengthened just through playing sports.
I realized that sometimes it is not all about what we say, but how we relay a message, whether through a simple conversation or just picking up a soccer ball and enjoying great competition. Sportsmanship and respect say a lot about who a person is, and I felt that both of these qualities on display today from both sides. I am extremely grateful for the experience that I have already gained, and I eagerly look forward to those that come while on this amazing journey.
Kyle Decker - Track and Field
Having not taken Spanish since high school, the language barrier is something that I have especially struggled with during this unique experience. In addition, the Spanish vernacular spoken here is much different than what is taught in the States, so the little Spanish that I did know has been useless so far even if I was ever unable to understand them.
Through this struggle, I am learning and developing ways of communicating beyond speaking. Body language, gestures, and pantomiming have served me well, and I’ve found that these interactions can be more meaningful than verbal communication as they require higher levels of though processing on both sides.
Additionally, I’ve realized that sports provide a universal platform for communication and human connection. While playing soccer with the kids, working as a team and showing sportsmanship were two qualities that required minimal to no verbal conversation. Thus far and moving forward on the immersion trip, it has been humbling to be made aware of my limits in this unique social and cultural context.