More Black Belt Stitching Wizard Stuff

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dominican Experience 2011 - Day One, Feb 18

After last year's Dominican Experience wrapped up I started the process all over again to take another group of grade 11 & 12 students on the experience again this school year.  It was a lot of work, and I've pretty much been at this for two years now.  I must say I was glad the day was finally here!

I was up bright and early on Friday to be at the airport by 6:45am.  The night before one of my biggest fears started to materialize, I was getting a sore throat!  Luckily there was a 24 hour drug store near the airport so I ran in and picked up 2 packs of 24 hour cough and flu medication and 2 bags of Hall's so that I could "be prepared" if I really was getting a cold!

We got lined up with many other travellers and check-in for myself, 2 other adults, and 10 students went smoothly.  WestJet was fantastic, and let all of our 20 slightly overweight hockey bags full of donations slip through without extra charges or re-shuffling.  Security also went smoothly, I had to go through one of those new finagled body scanners.  I don't see what the big deal is about the body scanners, I'd rather go through the inconvenience of a body scan and know that my trip is one more step to being hopefully safer.

As the "sun" came up it was proving that it was going to be yet another dreary day in Ottawa, I was so glad to be leaving the cold, snow, and dreary, dark days behind!  We weren't the only school group on the plane from Ottawa to Toronto, there was another group from my board heading to the D.R. to take part in a different experience program.  I felt sorry for the other passengers, but the kids were pretty darned good.

We flew into Toronto to switch planes to head to the D.R.  There we were joined up by a third school group who were heading down to take part in the same program we were participating in.  The program is run so well that the only time we bumped into the other group was our day at the beach and then we didn't even interact.

A ice bound lake from the air

First sight of the D.R.

As soon as we landed in La Romana, Dominican Republic a cheer went up in the plane!  We were all so happy to finally be there after the year long journey to get to this point.  The kids were all so excited.  Leaving the airport we did have a slight snag with customs when I told them we had some aspirin that we would be leaving behind as a donation, I now know if I go back again, won't be admitting that.  Or at least I should get in touch with the Embassy to find out what's the best way to go about braining donations into the country.

As I stepped out of the airport I was warmly greeted by Mioced!  She was one of our guides last year, it was so good to see her.  I also got to see Beto another guide from last year and Wally who was our bus driver.  I was a little sad to find out we had a completely new team this year, but I very quickly became fond of them!  This year's guides were :

Patricia - I met her last year as she was/is my host Mother's sister, she had a baby shortly after we left last year

Pedro - So full of life!

Ray - the senior guide, and quite serious

For the first few days our driver was Yumbo, we loaded all our bags and ourselves onto his bus and we started the hour long-ish drive into San Pedro de Macoris.  Just like last year, the music and dancing started on the bus.  The Dominicans have such a joy for life!  Its contagious.  Due to the luggage and all the people on the bus, I had to sit up front this year.  At first it made me feel a little left out of all the "action" going on in the back.  However, it gave me a little "me" time after travelling with the kids all day and I realized I was so truly happy to be back in the D.R.  How much I missed the country, the people.  This time there was no sense of culture shock, no sense of doubt but a sense of welcome and belonging.

The traffic is a little... different (crazy) down there!

A sprinkling of rain on the drive

Once we arrived in our Barrio "neighbourhood" we were greeted by Dora who coordinates the families and kids in the barrio.  Soon musical instruments were pulled out and we were treated to Dominican music and dance.

Pedro getting ready to play the drum.

Domincan Dancers in traditional dress

After the dancers, we were all paired off with our Dominican families for the week.  It just amazes me how week after week these special families welcome us into their homes and truly make us part of their families.  They make sure we eat properly every day, get clean water, and not once have we heard a complaint!  I stayed with the same family as I did last year, which was re-assuring.  When I got to my new home for the week I was soon served a fantastic dinner and had a little time to relax.

In the evening we met up again on the roof top of one of the homes in the area for a brief meeting to review the rules (when is there not rules?) what was expected of us during the next day's visit to NPH (the orphanage Nuestos Pequenos Hermanos).

It was a great day!


Alisa said...

Such an awesome thing for you to do, Dani! I am sure that the students find you inspiring!!!

Karen said...

It sounds like an absolutely amazing trip! What an experience to be so closely integrated with the local people of the area!

Christine said...

Sounds wonderful, looking forward to reading more

Lesleyanne said...

Great photos and description. Look forward to hearing more.

Sally said...

It sounds like a fantastic trip Dani. Looking forward to reading your next post :)

Alice said...

Thanks again Dani! I do love reading your DR posts, so pretty and informative.

Carol said...

Thanks for sharing Day 1 of your experience, Dani... Your photos are always wonderful and I felt as if I were right there myself...

Anonymous said...

Amazing, already looking forward to day 2

jane said...

Thanks for sharing your DR experience with us once again Dani, you really bring the whole thing to life, looking forward to Day 2.

Carolyn NC said...

Wonderful pictures - looks awesome!

Karen said...

Great pictures, Dani! Welcome back. :)

Suzanne said...

Great photos and recount of your time, I look forward to more.