El Verano

So, we have now been in country almost 7 months now, and in site 4+. We spent all summer preparing a community diagnostic, figuring out what is going on in our town and meeting people. We spent many days compartiring (sharing, chatting) with the community members. Everyday was spent sweating, and all of July we worked in the first DREAM Project camp in our site.

The DREAM Project is starting to work in our site. They had their first camp in our community with 55 kids from the public school, where we are working. For four weeks, the kiddos came from 8:00 to noon to focus on math and reading. We had nine Dominican teachers, three in each class, and then for an hour each day six kids would work with each teachers. Pretty great teacher-student ratio, eh? The kids also had Deportes para la Vida everyday, which is a sports program with related health topics built into the classes.

Our role in the camp? Help out where needed. We spent our days planning lessons and activities to share with the teachers, dealing with behaviors, or working one on one with students who needed an extra boost. It was a great way for the students and parents to get used to seeing us everyday, and start building confianza (trust) with us.

The highlights? We took the kiddos on a couple of field trips. The first one was to the airport. The airport on the north coast is within walking distance from our community (hint, hint). Many of the students had never been to the airport before, although many people in our community work there. It is a more prestigious job, though. Two favorite parts of the day: seeing the kids go on an escalator for the first time and while eating our snack outside, having one of our students ride up on a horse. When we asked him where the horse came from and were explaining to him that this wasn’t a great idea (although trying to hold back laughter) his response was that he asked the owner for permission first. Makes sense in an 11 year-olds mind I guess.

The second trip we took was to the mountain in Puerto Plata. We took the kids to the teleférico (cable car). Many of them (nor the teachers) had never been up the mountain. We spent a morning walking through the trails and looking at the views.

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Justin and María Elena, the camp directors from the states with all of the kiddos.

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Some of the kiddos on top of the mountain.

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A group of girls showing their community map that they created; a diagnostic activity Keegan and I did with the students to learn more about their views about the community(ies), and what is important to them.

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Movie Club with Ivan Herrera (well-known from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations DR episode).

Once camp wrapped up, Keegan and I went to the capital for a week for our 3-month (3-months in our site) training. We shared our diagnostic information with all of the other education volunteers, and heard about their sites. Everyone brought along a project partner, or key member of their community, to help share the information. We learned more specifics and did some planning for the school year. It was definitely quite interesting with the meshing of cultures. The best part? The talent show. Skits ranged from one Dominican giving a speech about education while imitating Dominican presidents with volunteers clapping behind him, a duo singing a song from a musical, to a skit on a Dominican tale, with having a female volunteer not finishing the skit because she thought it was sexist, to cross-dressing and dembow to Amara la Negra (google it).

It was a relief to get back to site and really start working, since the school year started the following Monday. Or did it? More to come…

Les extrañamos,
Cait

P.S. If you have questions or topics you would like to hear more about, like our weekend routine of snorkeling (have you ever seen squid??), let us know! =]

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We live next to the beach.

Hi All,

It’s been quite some time since we’ve written. I’ll bring you up to speed quickly.

First, we finished our community based training in Monte Plata. Between the 19 of us, we worked in 5 different schools.
Here’s what we did:
-Gave three presentations in Spanish, one a quick community diagnostic, the second to teachers about classroom management, and another about a literacy activity for a fair (more on this in a bit).
-Worked with kids in a school, helping teach the alphabet and other strategies for reading and writing.
-Completed an “Improving Schools Community” Project where we painted some murals at the school where we were working.
-Put on a literacy fair for community kids. Between the 19 volunteers we had 8 stations set up and had about 500 kids show up in about a two hour time frame.
-Learned about education in the DR (ranked roughly 130 out of 132 countries… which is why we are here), classroom management, teaching literacy, working with teachers/parents, etc.
-Had 3 hours of Spanish everyday.

CBT Training ended last Saturday and we all headed back to the capital. On Monday we were given our site placements. Keegan and I will be living outside of a community named Sosua, Puerto Plata. Our community has roughly 10,000 people, and only one primary school. The community is relatively new (20 years) and was started as public housing… it’s kind of like the projects of Sosua (but very safe, don’t worry). Sosua is a tourist spot, but if you come visit us in this part of the country we’d suggest heading to Puerto Plata or Cabarete instead.

Our job assignment is to work on literacy in the public school with 1st-4th graders. We will also be partnering with the DREAM Project (dominicandream.org), a non-profit organization based out of Cabarete. Part of our jobs will be helping train teachers in the community. We have an amazing opportunity to not only be working with the Peace Corps, but gaining experience from those at DREAM as well.

We got to our community on Tuesday, and have been hanging out and getting to know the place. We’ve been making many rounds through the community so people start to see us and recognize us. Pretty soon people will notice that we’ve been here for a while and start asking who we are and what we’re doing. This is how it all starts for us.

We head back to the capital on Sunday and swear in as REAL volunteers on Wednesday, the 15th. That means that we get bank accounts and start actually earning money. =] It has been a long road of training, but we are excited to get situated in our community and start working (did I mention the beach is only a kilometer away??).

We miss you all like crazy, and will try to keep you all updated as best as we can. We are pretty busy and have a job that we need to do well, though, before writing blog posts. Always feel free to email us. We have consistent internet now (and hot, running water!!!) so email will be a great way to stay in contact. If you would like our phone numbers, email us! Or just come visit. =]

Other fun facts:
We eat rice everyday.
We’ve gotten 4 packages so far (Thanks J&J, mom&dad, T&K, H&D).
We’ve tried probably at least 10 new fruits.
Everyday has been 80 degrees or warmer.
One person in our training group has already gotten Dengue.
We’ve both lost weight, but our new host mom is determined that I gain ten pounds and Keegan gain twenty by the time we move out in August.
Mangos and Avocados are wayyyy better here.
We’re entering the rainy season, which means every afternoon we get an hour or two of rain.
We’ve started reading the local newspaper to work on our Spanish.
We drink freshly squeezed juice everyday (lime, cherry, tamarind, guayaba, mango, papaya, etc.).
We now run almost everyday.

Love you all. Let us know if you have any questions!
Cait

P.S. Check out the new link “We Could Use…” if you feel like sending us some goodies!

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Me at the literacy fair, before the rush of kids.
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Keegan doing what he does best: magic.
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Me helping paint at the school.

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Yay! We graduated from CBT!