Campo Survival Guide

When it comes to “surviving” in the campo, the actual concern of fending for your life is not necessarily the predicament that concerns us. The campo is an incredibly livable and enjoyable place to reside in for 10 days (enough to the point where I didn’t want to come back home on my first trip). Instead, it’s the matter of how to thrive there—how to optimally utilize all resources, build relationships, make the most out of each and every possible circumstance, and comprehensively capture every single aspect of the experience. It’s about knowing when to use the latrine and when not to, how to correspond effectively with the campesinos, and when to wear worker boots vs. rain boots. It’s about knowing that the trip eventually ends, despite how much you don’t want it to, and making sure you’re prepared for the short while you’re there. 

WHAT TO BRING

Before the commencement of the spring and summer trips, future workers are provided with a pretty complete and across-the-board supply list. These necessary resources, which include everything from the most run-for-your-money cot to what kinds of snacks to bring, are extremely vital to the success and enjoyment of the trip, but there are always some things that fail to make it on the list. Derived from the experiences of past workers, this list of “unofficial supplies” is just about as legit as it can get:

  • Head Flashlight: Honestly, the sole purpose of this handy contraption is for when you wake up in the middle of the night with nothing but the light of the moon to guide you to the latrine. Trust me, you’re going to want both your hands free in that situation.
  • Journal or Sketchbook: Documenting your experience in the campo is one of the best things you can do to make sure that the small moments, funny one-liners, and quirky conversation among the children are never forgotten. Make sure to bring your favorite creative outlet with you on the trip, for there is much much much to put on paper (I promise).
  • Rain boots: These multipurpose shoes can sometimes be lifesavers when it comes to the unpredictable (but oftentimes very rainy) climate of the DR. They’re also great for when you’re 8 inches deep in wet concrete and you want to salvage your working boots!
  • Ear Plugs: Without these, it’s pretty certain that you’ll be awoken by either a rooster, a pig, or a mule at some point during the trip. For the amount of space (or lack thereof) that they take up in your bag, they’re definitely worth the $5.
  • Your Favorite Book: Despite the amount of physical work that you’re certainly going to be doing, you’re going to have a lot of downtime during the day. If a mountaintop surrounded by beautiful greenery isn’t perfect reading circumstances, I don’t know what is.
  • Camera or GoPro: It’s already on the list, it’s just here so I can reiterate its importance. Bottom line, bring one!

HOW TO WORK

There are two words that epitomize the work atmosphere in the campo: pico and pala, which are Spanish for “pickax” and “shovel.” These words are spoken at an average rate of seven times per minute, so it is highly recommended that workers acclimate to their constant mentioning, considering they constitute a big portion of the campo vocabulary. Because we are typically not used to extensive manual labor, trenching in the hot sun can take a toll on us. Don’t be afraid to stop and take a break or grab a drink of water! Dominican volunteers oftentimes are more than willing to take our places if we grow tired or are slowing them down, so always make sure to use that to your advantage. The ultimate goal is to effectively and successfully complete the project, and the Dominicans are usually more catered to working in those conditions. Most importantly, remember to occasionally stop and take in the view of people who are working hard at your side, the children playing with a sock ball along the trenching paths, and the breathtaking scenery that stretches all the way to the horizon. The visual experience gained from being high up top a mountain or near a flowing river in a valley is just as rewarding as the disciple and attitude gained from working alongside the campesinos.

HOW TO ACT

Ultimately, it goes without saying that the campo is a very sacred place, filled with people who the BLUE family cherish wholeheartedly. The beauty of the campo should always be reflected in the love that travels among all the people in the town, workers, and campesinos alike. Remember to bring with you a sense of kindness and benevolence that stems from the longing to help. Don’t leave your goodness at home, because ultimately, it is what keeps the workers working, the children smiling, and the water flowing.