What’s it like being a kid in Santiago? I sat down with Gabriel, a 16-year-old student and an English-language learner to find out. Read more to meet Gabriel and hear all about his life. How do you think the life of a Dominican kid is different from the life of an American kid?
What is your house like?
According to Gabriel, his house is ugly. It is very small. There is one bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. It gets a bit cramped for Gabriel’s family of three! Gabriel lives in his tiny house with his little brother and his mom.
Gabriel doesn’t eat breakfast, but he has a big, typical Dominican lunch. He eats a plate of rice, beans and meat. The meat is usually chicken. Here in the Dominican Republic, dinner is usually light. . For dinner, Gabriel eats different things. Sometimes, he eats spaghetti, just like many Americans do. Other times, he eats mangú (mahn-GOO), a traditional Dominican dish made out of mashed green plantains.
What chores do you have at home?
Believe it or not, Gabriel does not do any chores! What do you think of that? It’s probably because Gabriel’s little brother does them all. Gabriel’s little brother has to wash dishes and sweep the floor. Gabriel thinks it’s funny, but I bet his little brother would disagree
What jobs do your parents have?
Gabriel lives with his mom who has her own business. She bakes sweet treats such as cookies and brownies and sells them from home. What are some advantages and disadvantages of having your own business? Gabriel’s father lives in the United States. He installs antennas in Mississippi.
What time does school start, and what time do you go home?
Gabriel has a long day of school, much like students in the United States. Classes start at 7:50 AM and end at 3:10 PM. That’s seven hours in school every day! Although classes end at 3:10 PM, Gabriel does not go home until 4:00 PM. That’s because he stays after school with a group of kids to take part in discussions on the Bible.
How do you get to school? Are you allowed to go to school by yourself?
Gabriel takes a concho (CON-chohw), or public car, to school every day. He is allowed to go to school by himself because he is 16 years old.
Gabriel brings his lunch to school every day. He eats a typical Dominican lunch of rice and beans. He likes all types of food and said, “whatever I have at the moment” is his favorite food.
What language do you speak at school? How do you say “Hello”? in your language?
Gabriel speaks Spanish at his school, though he’s been learning English since he was seven years old. He started learning English at a language institute. When he was ten, he started taking English classes in school. Now, he has English class one day a week for 50 minutes. Do you think that’s enough time to learn a foreign language? In addition, he takes English at the language institute where I teach.
“Hola” (OH-lah) means “Hello” in Spanish.
What are some common kids’ names at your school?
Some of the common kids’ names at Gabriel’s school are very different from American names. For example, Gabriel knows a boy named Joan and a girl named Dannahe. Other names are quite similar to names in the United States. Gabriel also knows a boy named Wally and a girl named Mariela.
What subjects do you study in school, and which one is your favorite?
Gabriel goes to a technical school. At a technical school, students study a specific skill so that they can get a job when they graduate. Gabriel studies computer programming and databases at his high school. Those classes are part of the technical curriculum. Gabriel also takes Spanish, English, mathematics, science, history and physical education.
Gabriel likes his computer programming class the best. In that class, he gets to write codes to make computers do different things. He has fun writing the codes. He finds computer programming easy, even though it’s hard for some of his friends.
What is your homework like?
Gabriel has to write computer codes for his homework. One of his programs allows the computer to convert American dollars into Dominican pesos. He also makes a lot of models for homework because he goes to a technical school. In addition to these assignments, he also does reading and writing work at home.
When I asked him how much homework he had every day, he told me, “A lot, a lot, a lot!” He estimates that he has four to five hours of homework every night! He does most of it at home and then finishes it at school.
What do you like to do after school? Do you have a favorite sport or game?
Gabriel loves to dance with his friends after school. He and his friends have a hip-hop crew. They perform at school dances and at local malls. Sometimes he and his friends get paid to dance. He also likes to play volleyball. He is not on a team, but he plays a lot with his friends.
Who is your favorite famous person?
Gabriel’s favorite famous person is Chris Brown, an American musician. Gabriel thinks Chris Brown dances well and makes good music. American music is very popular in the Dominican Republic. What do you think this says about American music and the relationship between the United States and the Dominican Republic?
What kinds of music do you listen to?
Gabriel likes to listen to music from the Dominican Republic, the United States, Mexico and Spain. He likes R&B, rap and ballads. Some of his favorite artists are Porta, Nach, Pxndx, David Guetta and Aviicii.
What would you like to be when you grow up?
Even though Gabriel likes computer programming, he wants to go to medical school one day. He wants to be an eye doctor just like his uncle. How do you think his education now is preparing him to be a doctor?
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Gabriel wants to go to Japan. Japan is a country in Asia made of many small islands. He doesn’t know much about the language, culture, or history of the country. What he does know is that he wants to travel. When he does, he wants to travel far away.
What do you know or think about the United States?
Gabriel described the United States as the place with the “biggest potential” for people. While he has family that lives in the United States, he has never been there. Why do you think it might be difficult to travel to the United States?
Gabriel’s dream is to study to be an eye doctor in the United States.
What questions do you have for kids in the United States?
Do you listen to dembow?
What are some differences between the United States and the Dominican Republic that you have noticed?
For Dominican students, what are some things you miss about the Dominican Republic?