The sun’s beams turned the rain from the day before into bursts of steam on the mountainside. Dressed in pants and t-shirts we walked sideways down the steps etched in clay, placing one foot in front of the other until finding the path to lead us upwards into the rain forest.
“I feel like a walking sweat ball,” I said.
“I’ve never sweat so much. There are actually salt stains on my clothes,” said Jeff. We laughed as I brushed off loose hairs stuck to the front of my face.
While working, this guy’s mother and grandmother came walking past. We soon found out they lived just beyond the tree line. No wonder they were in such good shape! Can you imagine hiking up a mountain to get to your house every day? So impressive.
We all have a specific job from measuring, to transporting trees, staking, to planting. The sun beats down on our backs as we work in an area that has been clear cut. We take breaks under shade trees found around the edges of the planting area and sip bottled water hauled up on shoulders in coolers. We sit on palm branches snacking on local fruits of oranges and bananas.
They warned us in the handouts about putting on bug repellent. Being a Minnesota girl, I thought I would see what kind of mosquitoes I needed to ward off before I applied anything. I saw the swarms gather above our heads, but never saw one touch my skin. It wasn’t until I returned to the ship that I noticed over 30 welts on my arms. I soon found out that the mosquitoes had left me alone, but the tropical black flies had enjoyed a snack. The crazy thing is I never saw one.
Looking out over the mountainside to see the 280 trees we had planted in one morning gave me a feeling of accomplishment. I felt connected to the earth and now shared a story with the other volunteers.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing to come back to this very spot in fifteen years and see the Cedar trees we planted,” said a volunteer. I imagined a forest brimming with life.
Another volunteer shared their grandfather’s saying that a tree would keep alive the memory of the one’s you love. To plant a tree in honor of someone else allowed their legacy to live on.
Reforestation Work With Fathom Cruise in the Dominican Republic
Watch my experience with the volunteers of Fathom in the rainforest. Do you see any of those black flies? So mysterious.
Lunch after Reforestation and the Bus Ride
We were treated with a delicious lunch of authentic cuisine. I admired the pride in the chef’s eyes, it was a beautiful circle of us gifting the people of the island and in return them gifting us with nourishment.
On the bus ride home I sat with Dainin, we shared our thoughts about the experience and then realized that after drinking four bottles of water, we both forgot to use the restroom at lunch. It was about an hour ride home on the road of potholes.
I became anxious, and soon word was out that I needed a bathroom. The whole bus pulled over on the curbside next to a restaurant. Dainin passed on going with me, but encouraged me to go.
I walked up the aisle of the bus with hopes that if I walked fast enough no one would get a look at my face.
The impact guide apologized for holding my hand. It was really the only way to navigate the flood of chaos coming at us on the road of scooters, cars, buses, and trucks. We ran to the middle, held up, and ran to the shoulder. He asked the waitress in Spanish if I could please use the bathroom, that we were working with the local government on a forestry project. She smiled and led the way.
I was taught you never touch the toilet. You squat or you form a toilet paper cover. With the pressure of the bus all waiting for me I chose the latter and when I stood up, the paper landed square in the bowl. “Crap!” The sewer system can’t handle paper. It has to go in a garbage pail next to the toilet. Without another thought I reached in the bowl and fished out my mistake while repressing thoughts of what I had just touched.
I ran to the sink and scrubbed a layer of my skin off. Walked out the door and had my hand held across the street as the bus watched the commotion. Coming up the steps I looked into the eyes of my fellow passengers and said, “Lo siento” (I am sorry). I was met with cheers and clapping as I took my red face back to the seat.
“Why didn’t you come with me?” I asked Dainin.
“I could never do something so embarrassing,” he said.
The impact guide answered a call on his walkie talkie. “Yes, sorry we are late. We had to bring a woman to the bathroom.”
Eventually word got out… it was Jema.