I arrived in Oregon on June 19th. To get here I took four airplanes. It was my first time on an airplane, and I was both excited and nervous. My first impression of Eugene was pretty good. Bern Johnson, Executive Director of ELAW, picked me up from the airport and was very friendly.  The next day, the ELAW staff welcomed me in the office and I met ELAW Fellow Imrich Vozár from Slovakia. I began to feel more comfortable. Now I feel at home.

Maria with Aleah (center) and Imrich (right)

My first week in Eugene was difficult. Eugene is very different from the Dominican Republic and the language is not the same. Luckily, ELAW introduced me to the Summer Intern, Aleah Jaeger, who helped me acclimate to Eugene and find my way to the University, the supermarket, and the ELAW house.

I am very happy to be studying English at the University of Oregon. The AEI program is really good and the teachers are excellent. In addition to building my English skills, I am learning about different countries and cultures. My classmates come from around the world and I have met students from China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan.

Maria and Imrich at BRING Recycling in Eugene, OR

From the beginning, I could tell that Oregon is a green state.  I love the forest and the environment here, the city is clean and the people are conscious of the environment. Early in my stay, I visited NextStep Recycling and BRING Recycling and was amazed at the job that these organizations are doing.  I wish that we used the 3 R’s in the Dominican Republic -reduce, reuse and recycle- but know that this may be difficult. To use the 3R’s we would need the support of politicians in the Dominican Republic.  Then we would need to learn how protect the environment and how to educate citizens about ways they can become involved.

With the exception of a water law and a forest law, which we don’t have, we have many laws to protect the environment in the Dominican Republic. But economic interests often get in the way and many citizens are either unwilling to protect their rights or unaware of them, which presents a big barrier to protecting the environment. I know that the organization where I work, INSAPROMA (Instituto de Abogados para la Proteccion del Medio Ambiente), sometimes has a hard time gaining public support for environmental projects, but we continue to try. We are doing the best we can for the Dominican Republic and I love my job.

Maria at work with INSAPROMA

The knowledge that I’m gaining at ELAW is invaluable. When I return to the Dominican Republic, I will use this knowledge to help INSAPROMA do a better job protecting the environment. Maybe we can’t change the minds of our politicians, but we will continue defending our environment in court. We will also continue teaching community members about the environmental laws we have, because each time one Dominican changes his behavior and becomes environmental friendly we take one step in the right direction.

I want to thank everyone at ELAW for helping me learn and for making me feel at home. Also many thanks to Laurie Prosser and Xialoi Jiang, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American English Institute for supporting my fellowship.

Maria Rosario Mayi
ELAW Fellow