Lynn-Ann (Gruss) Steel

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Steel (Gruss) Lynn-Ann
The Dominican Republic
Rio Limpio and Dajabon
Community Agriculture and High School English teacher

We began our training in Costa Rica for 3 months because they didn't have a facility in the D.R. That was a bonus! After training we flew to the DR where I lived with my husband Joe in Rio Limpio first, dubbed the most beautiful site on the island (and also the most removed) with the best view (mountains and jungle) from our out-house. We were approached by the Jesuit fathers from the Colegio Agricola San Ignacio de Loyola in Dajabon (where we later moved) to teach English and Math so the high school agronomy students could translate seed packages, fertilizer etc from the States. Joe's secondary project was building a community house to be used as a school as well with funding from USAID. My secondary projects included LORENA stove building and running a young girls group who did community outreach. We climbed Pico Duarte for New Years Eve/Day with a bunch of other volunteers. We spent the night chasing rats off our sleeping bags and singing the Adams Family and Gilligan's Island. We learned the merengue and attended a Fernando Villalona concert in Dajabon. I got amoebic dysentery once and Joe found out he reacted to mangoes when he got "mango lips". It was a 10 hour bus ride from our site to the "Capitai". Sosua was the place to go for yogurt, oysters on the beach and cheeses and hams that transplanted Germans cultivated from the old country. Sosua was a tiny town with a handful of pensiones and one eatery: the American bar where you could get a hamburger. Dajabon had only dirt roads, no telephones and cold running water, one bank (Scotia), one tiny movie house, a few colmados and two restaurants and a tiny airport!Our neighbors gave us a great despidida upon leaving where we ate goat and danced until la madrugada. We, (like many of us I'm sure), came away feeling as though we got more out of our experience then we could possibly give. I'd do it all over again!

Upon returning to the States we vowed to make our way back overseas.While working toward this goal,I taught elementary school and Joe worked toward a career in Information Technology. Ten years later we moved with our daughter to Switzerland where Joe worked for a wall street investment firm. He became a vice president and helped to computerize their private bank in Zurich. Joe sadly and unexpectedly passed away in Switzerland at which point I returned to the States. Once settled I earned my Master's Degree in Environmental Education. I have since remarried and teach environmental courses at the state colleges as well as work on conservation issues in our local parks. As an avid mountain biker I see erosion and carrying capacity limits stretched first hand. The DEP and local ecology groups are working to support our efforts. Our daughter is in college and talks of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer herself. I have taken her to the Dominican Republic several years ago. Little has changed, until you visit the smaller pueblos. They have become quite built, in part to accommodate tourism. And cell phones are ubiquitous, often worn on lanyards around the neck. The Dominicans are as friendly, helpful and welcoming as I remember 25 years ago. It's a beautiful country that I will always hold special to me.