All students have departed from the DR with a smile of their face and are on their way home!
Service and Adventures!
Today we went to Las Canas for the second time. When we got there, the Dominican kids were already mixing the cement, so we all jumped into work right away. We all split up; some people worked on putting up more chicken wire, others put bottles in the walls, and some put cement on the façade. I did the cement for a while, but then went to hang out with the Dominican kids. They decided to teach us Spanish in exchange for us teaching them English. It was pretty interesting to hear what they can’t pronounce, like sounds “ch” and “t.” After lunch, we went back to work for awhile until it was time to go. Putting up cement is a pain because it just falls through the wall and it felt like we made no progress, but apparently we covered seven walls. After work, we chilled for awhile, and then rejoined with the people who stayed home sick and went to play kickball where the Dominicans kicked our butts 15-11, and we lost our winning title. Then we gave out donations and I noticed the Las Canas kids are much less grabby than the Caraballo kids. After we distributed our gifts, we had a dance party and the Dominicans are crazy good dancers. Overall I really enjoyed spending time with the kids at Las Canas because they were super friendly and helpful and I wish I could go back again someday.
Las Canas – First Day
Throughout the week we have been learning about differences in privilege: How Americans as a whole are on a completely different level of privilege compared to the Dominicans and Haitians. Working on a bottle community building today at Las Canas illustrated this difference. Instead of a more, if you will, “give me money” approach to us, the Dominicans in this community were more apprehensive. After the initial greetings, the kids went off on their own and gave us space while we worked. However, once I brought my camera out to take pictures of the process, interest was sparked. At first the kids tested my Spanish to see if they could have a conversation with me, but I think I passed because we were soon joking about whom was the strongest of them all. Obviously, we had to test this argument with an arm wrestling competition. (The gringos lost) Even with a language barrier, we all connected in some way or another. In one conversation, learned the sixteen year old sister was studying technology because she wanted to be involved in tv production. I also learned that John, pronounced ‘Yon’ can saw a 2 by 4 in three minutes. But most importantly, I learned that regardless of the level of privilege a family or community might have, they can still be happy just by being in each-other’s company, or by being asked a simple question such as, “Are you stronger than your brother?”
-Halle Mackert- Cleveland, Ohio
Already in a good mood from being able to sleep in a little later than usual, Day 5 kicked off to a great start. After the usual breakfast and loud music-filled bus ride, we made it safely to Dudu while also mentally questioning how long that feeling of safety would last upon seeing the zipline. My stomach started churning upon simply seeing the zipline, while other dare devils were already effortlessly lining up to be the first victims. Watching each new set of screams and splashes made my stomach churn even more, but after a few I finally decided to take the plunge (literally). Soaring fourty feet over the lagoon, I felt the wind rush through me and a scream rush out of me. Once I heard the shouts of “Jump, Jump!” from my fellow group members standing on the cliff above, I willed myself to let go. A good three seconds of weightless-feeling freefall was interrupted by the rush of cold water as my body sliced through the water. Though unlucky others suffered from butt bruises, I got off lucky with only a little clanking of my teeth. I couldn’t resist laughing hysterically as I swam out because of the realization of the crazy awesome thing I had just done. As scary as it had been, I ended up doing the zipline again because I craved the heart racing, stomach about to come out of my throat feeling. The zipline was a blast, but what came a second close to that were the beautiful caves on the other side of Dudu. After jumping off of a ten foot (now an absolute piece of cake compared to the zipline drop and thirty foot cliff jumping experience) ledge a couple times, a couple friends and I dared each other to swim into the depths of the dark cave. Too submerged in the beauty of it all, we forgot how scary we thought the big, dark cave was. All that cave swimming called for some hammock lounging and ostrich observing in a nearby area. We were all super bummed when the day at Dudu finally came to an end, but all those adrenaline rushes had worn us out. Don’t let the name fool you, Dudu is definitely one of the most remarkable and fun places I have ever been to and I’m sure many others think the same.
-Senior Mira Laing, Los Angeles, California
A Short But Sweet Update
Today was our 2nd and last day in Caraballo. We wrapped up putting the bottles in the wall as our service project there and almost finished building out a classroom.
The ladies of Ascension continued to braid our hair, and even some of the guys in the group had a few. We also learned how to mix cement today! It was much tougher than we thought, and all of it was done by hand. We finished one entire wall with the cement that we mixed, which was impressive given the strenuous process. During lunch, the Haitians played on drums and other instruments for us. It was really entertaining.
Afterwards, we went to their local market. We were able to buy gifts to bring back home, such as bracelets, paintings, and other local goods. We played a soccer game against their best athletes. We scored the first goal, but lost 5-3 against them. We then went to Cabarete beach, and were able to indulge in virgin Pina Coladas that were made with the pineapples, and of course, milkshakes. We also did a personality quiz, which was surprisingly really accurate and I learned more about myself that I didn’t even consider before.
First Day in Caraballo
Today was our first day in Caraballo. We did many things there that were amazing. We took a tour of the village and learned about the hardships that the people faced on a daily basis. We were able to work on the bottle school all day as well. We were glad that there was a roof on the school, because it was hot! Some of us dug a septic tank with picks and shovels. The rest of us learned how to make a bottle school. It was a really neat process and I’m glad I learned how to do it. I wish we could build one back in the states!
A lot of the local Haitian kids helped us build the school. Some of them were very good at braiding our hair, so we were able to get that done as well. It was nice talking to the people, they all knew at least 2 languages, and I was able to brush up on my Spanish skills. Later we went to the beach to cool off. The water was warmer than what we were used to back home. Then we watched an eye-opening documentary called 11th Hour. I learned a lot from that.
Off to a Great Start!
You can tell how excited everybody is by looking at the size of those smiles. Participants arrived safe and sound, after splashing in the pool and getting to wow at the wonderful lodging they will call home for the next 10 days we are having dinner, followed by orientation and we’ll have the chance to cheer the USA team at the World Cup.