Our International Block class is made up of 17 Grade 11 students. Along with teacher Rachael Weening and 5 chaperones, they will spend the next two months living, learning, working, and serving in the Dominican Republic. At the same time, they'll earn four high school credits.
Soon you'll be able to read about their adventures and experiences on the class blog. In the meantime, here are some highlights from their first few days there, written by Ms. Weening:
We have safely arrived. We flew to a new airport this year and flew direct. It was simple, seamless and uneventful. This morning's send-off was lovely because WestJet employees are fabulous, chaperones filled in gaps and colleagues lent willing hands.
After a 3 hour bus ride from the airport to the base, we unloaded the bus and sat straight down to dinner: the classic first meal of spaghetti, rice, beans and fried chicken.
In the classroom before we left, this group was tame. To quote Brian (a chap), "all it takes is being here to release the inner Dominican". The bus ride began with call and response camp songs and after dinner resulted in laughter from those who volunteered for dishes and the rest were all involved in various games around the table.
The joyous journey has begun.
It is currently 1:00 on Monday afternoon and all of the students were just released to go “outside the base” for the first time since arrival. They were put in groups of 3 or 4 and were sent on an impossible photo scavenger hunt; it is impossible because there are more items than they can dream of finding in their three hour excursion.
There are items with Spanish words, they need to find a Dominican York, a pool (rare here), people playing soccer and will receive bonus points if they have Dominicans in their pictures (among other things). We will see them when they return to the base at 4:30.
Today is “La Dia de Patria” – the day of the Fathers/Independence Day. I was hoping there would be parades and fanfare but this morning, amidst the startling quiet, I realized all of the festivities happened on Friday. Although this is a great challenge for me, they don’t know what they’re missing.
I am used to arriving to excruciating heat, smog, horns, people, people, people, noise and food options. None of that existed. Harry made it clear the week before we left that the moment he was most looking forward to was exiting the plane into crazy heat. I made it clear that the temperature change was significant; it is hot here. However, landing in Samana (on the north coast) was not dramatic at all, but Harry was still pumped for the moment regardless of temperature. The airport is surrounded by green: lush, green loveliness. Other than the airport there is little that represents civilization. We waited for about half an hour before our bus came. A big, nice bus pulled in and Brian and I looked at each other and both said, “that bus is too nice. It better not be our bus. The kids need to be stretched”. Alas, it was our bus. We told the students they should open the tinted windows and enjoy the views and so we turned off the A/C. After a three hour ride we made it to Santo Domingo and sat down to rice, brown beans and sauce, spaghetti and Coke. There were rave reviews on the food by, I think, all students. There was plenty of food and many scarfed it down. After dinner Chelsea and Laura (no surprise here! :D) volunteered to do dishes. They had a blast figuring out how to do dishes DR style, getting to know our cooks Maria and Magaly and working on their Spanish.
There were a number of students who are surprised by how easily they have adjusted, how easily this place is referred to as “home”. This may be difficult for parents to read but I urge you to choose you to see this as a good thing. Many students thought the adjustment to living here would be more difficult then it has turned out to be. Many are surprised at how comfortable they are here and how quickly that happened. “I surprised myself at how much I enjoy being here, at how well I’ve adjusted”. The group has done well at being chill, doing things together and creating fun. Hopefully, students will find some Independence Day celebrations but, if not, they’ll all be back at 4:30 with a hefty number of stories. Max (our usual missionary host) arrives from Ontario tomorrow. We’re pretty pumped. The chair at the head of the table is empty and waiting for the fearless leader.
On behalf of the group,