little maddie’s Goes to Dominican Republic

6 1/2 hour drive from Blacksburg to Alexandria (thanks to 4 consecutive accidents on I-81). 4 1/2 hour megabus ride from Washington DC to New York City. Walk + metro ride (about 1 hour in total) to JFK airport. 4 hour flight from JFK to Santiago. 1 1/2 hour drive from Santiago to Puerto Plata. Ah, and we’re finally here. Multiply this by 2…there and back. You can understand why I’m exhausted.

Sorry I haven’t been on here in a while y’all, but as you can see read, I spent my spring break in la República Dominicana on a service trip with Project Esperanza. We arrived in Puerto Plata around 4:30 AM. We stayed in a hostel that also houses the Project Esperanza art shop where jewelry, craft, and art are sold. Instead of selling typical tourist merchandise that doesn’t benefit local small businesses or those in poverty, this art shop sells goods made by parents of students in the grassroots schools and locals living in the slums. We had two bedrooms and one bathroom for nine people. Needless to say, we were a little cramped. Going to third world countries always opens my eyes to the fact that not everybody has the privileges and luxuries that I do. Once we walked through the batey (the slums where most of the Haitian sugar cane workers live), we realized how grateful we were to even have our 1-inch-thick mattresses and running water.

The batey

After a meeting at noon with Caitlin, the VT alum who started the organization, we headed to the beach…just two blocks away from our hostel. Little did we know that we had to walk 20 minutes before we got to a beach that wasn’t completely covered in trash. It was so sad to think that the locals just walk along the Malecon (boardwalk) and threw their trash over the railings and on to the shore. However, once we finally got to the clean beach, it was beautiful – and totally worth the 20 minute walk.

If you look closely enough, you can see all of the "basura" or trash lining the beach.

Every day Monday through Friday (except Wednesday…will be discussed later in the post) we volunteered at the grassroots schools from 9-12 and then from 2-5. We lead the students in activities like making hand cut out wreaths in conjunction with a local elementary school in Blacksburg, and making paper plate tambourines. We also taught them different body parts in english so we could teach them the Hokie Pokie (Go Tech)! Since they had to learn a little bit of our language, they decided to teach us a Haitian song in Creole. Long story short, I knew the first four lines and then said “watermelon” for everything else (Hayley and all those in Mr. Logan’s chorus class…you know what I’m talking about). They also loved playing with our hair. And I wasn’t opposed to it.

As stated above, Wednesday was a special day. We visited my now favorite place in the world – 27 charcos (27 waterfalls). Like I told my family and friends, I feel like I’ve done some pretty cool things, but this was by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done. We hiked for 45 minutes up to the top of the mountain and to the highest waterfall. Some of the waterfalls you could jump off, but some had natural slides that you could literally slide down like you were at Ocean Breeze (my VB folk know what I’m talking about). So cool. You would just swim or walk to the next waterfall – depending on the depth of the water. I can’t describe it anymore because it won’t do this place any justice, but I will say this…I asked our tour guide if all of the “slides” and the waterfalls were natural or man-made. He replied with “No, Dios le dio este lugar maravilloso para mí y mi país para que todos disfruten.” This translates into “No, God gave this wonderful place to me and my country so that everyone can enjoy it.”

look at the middle top!

Since this is a food blog, I guess I’ll mention our amazing cook we had for the whole week! Her name was Isna and she loved to share food. Everyday, Isna made us, along with Caitlin and the kids, lunch and dinner (and sometimes we’d even get lucky and get breakfast). We ate rice for every single meal. This is the reason why when we were on our multiple forms of transportation on the way home, and were talking about what the first thing we wanted to eat was when we got back to the U.S., the answer was unanimous: “NOT RICE.” However, we were always grateful of everything she made and everything was delicious. My favorite thing she made had to be her salad dressing. I put it on top of everything. I also was very proud after eating one meal of hers because…well…it was an entire fish. Those of you who know me know that I am just now coming around to the idea of eating seafood. My fear of eating fish and all other sea creatures probably came about because my Dad used to trick my sister and I into eating fish (we always thought it was chicken). He wouldn’t tell us it was fish until after we were done eating. Then we were really angry. Now I’m 20 years old and am just now getting over it. Thanks Dad!

best salad dressing in the world

My other favorite trip was another foodie’s favorite. Can you say MANGO TREE?! I can! Even though it wasn’t ours and we had to hop two fences/walls to get to it, the fact that it was illegal outweighed the fact that it was AWESOME! And there aren’t many rules (at least they aren’t enforced) in the Dominican Republic, so I was just trying to immerse myself in the culture :).

^ Keeping with the theme of trees…this is me climbing a coconut tree!

I still want to put a recipe on here, even though I don’t have pictures for it! It’s Isna’s salad dressing! I’ll give approximate measurements for each of the ingredients, but I haven’t made this dressing before. Since I ate it every day for a week, hopefully this will be okay 🙂

Isna’s Green Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I know it’s a lot, but it’s so good)
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup water
  • S & P

Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Yep, that’s about it. 


love, maddie


5 thoughts on “little maddie’s Goes to Dominican Republic

  1. Wow Maddie!! What an awesome way to spend your break. My favorite picture is you, close up and all smiles, holding the little baby. You’ve always had a thing for dark skinned babies! The waterfalls look crazy cool and I love what the local said about it (and that you could translate it)! As for the fish, they look almost too colorful to be REAL! And she cooked all of that on a 2 plate burner!?! I had a single plate like that in college (yes, “back in the day” we were allowed to have one in our dorm) and I could barely do a grilled cheese on it, and would have NEVER thought to throw an entire fish on it. That ladder you are climbing looks like something from your dad’s day…after all, he’s much older than I am! 😉

    Glad you are home and gelling better~ love, laurie
    p.s. Did you notice that you and the cook are dressed similar? haha

    1. Haha you’re right I have always loved dark skinned babies. And you should have seen what these women could cook in the batey in one little pot over burning coal! About the ladder…I didn’t get higher than the picture shows 😉

  2. What an amazing opportunity for a very special young lady! I’m proud of you for being able to thrive in some situations that many of our society would deem unliveable. Hope your fear of spiders is conquered! Looking foward to delicious seafood dishes in Italy soon! Love you & so very proud. Have fun with your lovely sister Morgan this weekend!

  3. The pics are amazing and so are you. People like you make the world a better place. Re me “tricking” you and Morgan, you both watched me cleaning the rockfish (striped bass) that day and I made sure that yall were on your second helpings before asking how you liked the “chicken”. And now, your both practically gourmet chefs! God Bless our girls and have a safe and fun weekend.

  4. I loved hearing about your adventures and the fact that you were spending your spring break serving others. I know you make God smile! That fish in the bowl certainly didn’t look like the food I am accustomed to seeing on this blog. Thanks for being the “hands and feet”.

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