Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Working With the People
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!