The Carribean’s Hottest Spot: A Q&A about Life in the Dominican Republic


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ISA Program Manager Paula Howell weighs in about her recent visit to ISA’s newest site in Latin America, Santo Domingo.  Here are 5 questions we posed to learn more about her trip.

1. How was the food, and what was your favorite dish?

Dominican food was incredible. Eating was by far one of the best experiences I had during my trip, and most importantly, mealtimes were never rushed. My favorites were the basic staples of arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans) and I could eat a million tostones (fried and flattened green plantains). Lucky for me, I could find these two dishes almost at any eatery in the country!

2. Did you pick up a favorite Dominican word or expression?

Of all of the words that I learned, the Dominican word for ‘trash can’ was the coolest word I picked up. Don’t ask ‘where is the basura?’ here; instead, be sure to ask ‘where is the zafacon?’. Believe me, this was a useful word to know and the etymology is what made all the more interesting.

When the US moved into the Dominican Republic in the early 1900′s, many new words were introduced into the Dominican vocabulary.  Garbage trucks with the label ‘Safety Can’ on the side inspired this new word, zafacon, as many Dominicans pronounced  the English ‘Safety Can’ in their own unique way. Hence- zafacon!

3. What is the top place or landmark a visitor to Santo Domingo should see?

Hands-down a visitor to Santo Domingo must see the Zona Colonial, a historical district or zone within the city. At the center of the Zona sits the oldest cathedral in the Americas. Not too far off near the banks of the Ozama river stands the house that Christopher Columbus built for his son. The Zona is not only filled with history, but is a laid back place for visitors to go for lunch, shopping and evening drinks or music. I stayed in this zone during my time in Santo Domingo and I definitely consider it a must-do!

4. Best view?

“From the 10th floor of the main building at ISA’s host university, Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE), you can catch an amazing view of the ocean. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend time between classes than soaking up the sun while gazing out at the pristine green-blue Caribbean water as it lazily laps ashore.”

5. What is your favorite aspect of Dominican culture?

“The biggest thing that I believe makes Dominican culture so beautiful is the people. I even now have 3 new Dominican ‘Mothers’ who took me in during my travels and welcomed me into their homes! This is a country of people who truly take the time to invest and spend time with those around them.”

The deadline to apply for ISA‘s Santo Domingo‘s Spanish Language, Health & Caribbean Studies Summer 2 program is March 25th! Contact Maddi Reising, Site Specialist for Dominican Republic programs, with any questions about DR programs.