Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Today is Tuesday August 5, 2014, and we are enjoying our third day in San Juan de la Maguana! Today was our second day of helping with the children’s camp and I’m finally getting used to things. Although anything with kids can easily transform into organized chaos, today went very smoothly compared to yesterday. Many of the children greeted us with tight and welcoming hugs and attentively listened to and participated in the activities we planned. I’m in the sports section and today we did a variety of things, from volleyball to Duck-Duck-Goose to Simon Says all without any issue.
My ability to speak and understand Spanish is getting better every day. In the beginning, I could hardly understand anything. As days go by, I’m getting better and better and have no problem talking with the kids. They understand that we don’t speak perfect Spanish (usually) and will slow down to explain things. It’s a nice process, and I’m glad that everything I learned is being put to a good use!
After camp, we had our lunch of chicken and beans as usual. The ladies here are very good cooks and everything always tastes very good! After, a teen at the camp I’ve became good friends with named Jamin came by with his motorcycle. These are very common here because of how expensive cars are and since the weather is always so nice. He let me ride it with him, and it was the first time in my life that I ever rode one! We rode through the barrio and saw a lot of the things around us. It was really fun and makes me wish that they were more common in the US. I hope to be able to go on it again with him before I leave!
What was more surprising is that even though he seems a lot older, Yamil is only 15 and already not only drives, but races his motorcycle competitively at speeds over ~120mph. When asked, he said that there is no enforced age to drink or drive. People can do these things whenever they feel comfortable. He also refuses to wear helmets since only “estupido” people and the police wear them and proudly shows the scars he has earned from his competitions.
This speaks to a much larger idea in Dominican culture, which is that they trust their children with a great deal of responsibilities. Broken families are common here since many fathers have to work in the capital and send home money to support the rest. As a result, many kids have no true playtime and instead have to spend much of their time caring for younger members of their family. This is why the playtime we offer in our camp is so necessary for this community.
One of the most important ideas that I’ve come to understand here is that we don’t serve at people–we work with people. The Dominicans are anything but helpless people. They are passion-filled individuals who deeply love the children we work with and only want for them to have a great experience. Our job here may be small, but if us being here makes a better experience for the kids and inspires the teens to get involved in their lives, then to me, our trip is worth it.
In other news, today is Kate’s birthday. The kids all signed a card for her and we had cake and ice cream for lunch to celebrate it! Actually, today all 80 kids sang happy birthday to her. Although she might have been a little embarrassed, to me, it was adorable and a perfect way to celebrate. The teens are planning a surprise party for her tonight with games and food and hopefully she will enjoy it!
On Saturday, August 2nd, we spent nearly the entire day traveling, starting with a 2 a.m. wake-call, meeting at 3 a.m., and getting to the Pittsburgh airport by 4 a.m. for check-in. Our flight departed at 6:20 a.m. and arrived in JFK around 8 a.m., followed by a 6 hour layover for our second flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We arrived in Santo Domingo around 5:30 p.m. and discovered that our luggage did not transfer over to our second flight in JFK. In other words, we were without clothes and other necessities until the next flight arrived from JFK to the DR. Surprisingly, we all remained calm and positive. Following this dilemma, we were greeted and picked up at the airport by some of the Dominican teens. The bus ride from Santo Domingo to San Juan de la Maguana was about 3 hours. We arrived in San Juan around 11 p.m. We were exhausted, to say the least, and could not be more ecstatic to sleep.
On Sunday, August 3rd, was our first day in San Juan de la Maguana. Going into this trip, many of us were overwhelmed, intimidated, and very nervous. Nothing could ease our emotions any better than beginning our day with 8 a.m. mass with the community. As we walked into the church, you could feel the overwhelming energy of happiness and love, as well as never ending smiles, and continuous hugs. Seeing their faces light up with joy was an indescribable feeling. It was amazing to see that even though we are thousands of miles from home with nothing in common with these people except for our faith, and come together to celebrate Christ. During the mass, it was great to see what a true family this community is. For example, during the communal peace, everyone took the time and went out of their way to walk around, hug, and talk with almost every individual in the room. Even during the Lord’s Prayer, the entire room united and held hands. It was an unbelievable experience.
As the rest of the day went on, we were still waiting for our luggage to arrive. In the mean time, lunch was prepared by two of the women who lived in the community. This was our first meal together. I underestimated the thoughtfulness and generosity within the community. I could not have imagined a more perfect first day in San Juan. This community welcomed us with open arms and unconditional love. Being here has not only opened my eyes to a whole new world but has changed my perspective on life. From being here for less than 24 hours, I’ve learned that all you need in life is faith and with that, anything is possible.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:13
So in the afternoons Duq students and Dominican teens would get together and paint a mural based on the stories we read to the kids in the camp. This year'a theme is Dr. Suess. So for our mural we did scenes from "The Cat and the Hat" "One fish, two fish, Red Fish Blue Fish," "Green Eggs and Ham," and "Oh the Places You'll Go". Check out the progression....
Camp continues to go on in an effective organized chaos! While the internet has difficulty uploading longer posts, here are some snapshots of what is going on here at Nuestra Senior de la Esperanza!
Below: bustin some moves to Katy Perry's "Dark Horse"