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What I Learned in Cuba and the Dominican Republic via Fathom...Part 2: Life's Dirty, Get Dirty

The Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic gives you the opportunity to bask in Carnival Corporation's $85 million resort of Amber Cove, explore with traditional cruise excursions, and engage in social impact activities. After spending the previous week exploring Cuba, I thought it was time to give back.

One activity recommended clothes that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty and I spent some time contemplating that morning which clothes would take the fall. The impact activity that day was to make water filters for villagers that didn’t have access to clean water and sickness from contamination was regular if money wasn’t available to buy bottled water. I couldn’t help but drop my head and look down at the 11-year-old hiking pants I chose to wear that probably didn’t even cost me more than $50 back in 2005 and how trivial my contemplation a few hours earlier seemed to be. I had skipped breakfast that day, but had a nice serving of humble pie instead that morning.

The foreman Ramedes who oversees the day-to-day operations was amazing to watch. He was so focused on his craft and the purpose that little things like getting dirty didn’t even cross his mind. You could tell that he was a man of high respect and regard there.

As we started the work of sifting clay and molding the filters, I said to myself…”life’s dirty, get dirty.” From that point on I was more focused on doing a good job and the bigger picture than the heat, my clothes, etc. Towards the end of our work, we were given the opportunity to mold clay on a pottery wheel that Ramedes built. I probably would have turned it down had I not had my new mantra. I even had fun getting dirty per my cover pic. For my first time at a pottery wheel, I even created a pretty good bowl.

The next day we were putting a concrete floor in a home. I woke up that morning ready to get dirty! The owner of the home was a 24-year-old man named Jose with two adorable kids Brittany and Albin. He thanked God for us all being there that day and he oozed genuine appreciation. We found out later that his wife left him with the two kids and his father helped him purchase the home, which is about the size of the kitchen and bathroom in my apartment. The way he held his kids, you knew he was destined to give his kids a good life.

We all worked hard on that 90-plus degree day. I have never sweat so much or drank that much water in my life. My shoulders blades ached for the next three days due to carrying and passing buckets of wet concrete. I have to say though; it was my favorite day of the trip.

On the last day, we went to a kids camp to teach English and play sports. We each partnered with a student and had to teach the ABC’s. My buddy Wilbin was a little apprehensive at first, but once he got the alphabet down he opened up a lot. We definitely had a language barrier as he kept trying to say something to me in Spanish. I flagged down one of the counselors who spoke English to translate and Wilbin was asking, “Are you going to come back tomorrow?” Oh boy did that tug at the heart-strings. During a break we were sitting around and the boy sitting next to us Isaac turned to me and said, “Steph Curry” (the guard for the Golden State Warriors). I replied with, “Ahhh, Basketball!” To which my buddy Wilbin replied, “No, LeBron James.” The Warriors and the Cavs were playing in the NBA finals and both boys seemed to be watching.

We went outside to play a modified version of baseball on a basketball court with rolled-up socks as the ball and our arms as the bat. We all took turns playing and when it was our turn to take a break and sit in the shade, Wilbin and Isaac went over to a hoop and were shooting hoops with one of the rolled-up socks. I could have just stayed in the shade and cooled down, but I went over and shot hoops. Again, I was a sweaty mess, but since we couldn’t communicate well with the spoken word, we connected on the basketball court.

I never thought I’d be doing community service on vacation, but I got so much more out of these experiences than a bus tour of Puerto Plata would have delivered. I hope the Fathom concept works and people will choose to “get dirty” with their vacation time. I’m planning to go back again as I didn’t get to do all of the social impact activities I wanted to do.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of us doing the work because you can’t “get dirty” with a cell phone, tablet, camera, or remote control in your hand. What more could we do in this world if we put the gadgets away…“Life’s dirty, get dirty!”


While I did receive a travel agent discount to familiarize myself with Fathom and their cruise to Cuba, I was never asked or received compensation to write about my experience. The decision was mine to share. Fathom offered all Cuba cruise passengers the opportunity to stay on board for the cruise to the Dominican Republic at a discounted rate and chose to do so to experience both products.

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