Day 17: Our last day of service

It was our last day at Centro Educativo Cuestra Barrosa school. We had two activities with our buddies today. One group was going to plaster posters onto walls outside. The other group would stay in the classroom to make photo frames. Each of us took a poster and stuck them outside each store. It was a pleasure to see our posters outside on the street. The local people were happy and open to having our posters in their community. Then we went to make our own photo frames. We made the frames for our buddies. They also made one for us. We then played some sports games such as volleyball later on while the other group danced bachata. We had a good time playing and dancing with our buddies. Finally, it was time for us to leave. We felt sad to say goodbye to our buddies.

Then we had a quick lunch because we were going to do horseback riding. Like the rafting, we had to be taken to the riding place by a jeep. The road is not flat and we felt scared to drive on such a steap road. It was my second time to ride a horse. We rode by ourselves, but there was a guide behind us to protect us. The horses were obedient and safe so that we didn’t have to worry about falling down from the horses even though we don’t know how to ride. It’s interesting to enjoy the view of nature on the horseback. Then we visited the beach. It is actually our first time walking on the beach since we came to DR. We also tried coconut water and sugarcane.
It was a sad day because we said goodbye with our buddies. However, it was also a great day to make my dream to ride a horse on my own!
-Rachel Tao

Day 16: Friendships & Bracelets

We started the day with finishing up the posters from yesterday. Then, three different groups went for different activities. While switching around, all the teams could go through painting, making friendship bracelets and exchanging cultures. Group A, which I was in, taught how to say certain colors in Korean, Mandarin and English.
Each of the students also had a chance to take photos with partners in front of the mural. The photos will be printed and be distributed to the local and us Ross students tomorrow, so that everyone will have a memory to keep.
When all the activities were done, Ross students decided to stay longer with the local kids than to leave right away. The only bad news of the day is that tomorrow is our last day at the school, and saying goodbye will be the hardest thing ever.
-Isoo Chang
When we got in the school we started a project about how can we protect our earth. From this project we could learn that we shouldn’t throw away the trash on the street and we need to use water bottle again many times.
After the project we had class about sharing our culture. I taught students numbers in Japanese. When I said the numbers in Japanese using pronunciation on blackboard     they said the numbers out loud after me. I was so glad because they were trying hard to practice the numbers and my partner remembered the numbers.
Next, we painted the mural about protecting the environment. We each painted 5 words about environment in each of our country’s languages. The painting will teach people to protect our earth. The painting will also show the friendship between the buddies and Ross students because we painted it together.
We also made friendship bracelets with our partners. The last time I made bracelets was when I was in elementary school. So I was kind forgot how to make it. But we could have fun time with our partners. After making we have changed the blesslet each other.
Tomorrow is the last day in the school. So we will miss our partners. And we hope that we can keep in touch by using Facebook or SMS.
-Hitomi Irie

Day 15: Intercambio!

Today we went to school and arrived at 9. We divided into 3 groups and began diffrent works with our own buddies. In my group, we started sharing our cultures from each country, an activity we called “Intercambio.”

We formed groups with people from the same countries, then we discussed what to share for a moment and went to the classroom. It was not easy to come out with an interesting, fun thing which represents typical Korean culture. We also wanted them to remember what we were trying to show them and to understand us. 

They looked pretty young, so when their teacher talked to them they paid attention really well and seemed to have interest in us. Isoo and I went first to introduce about Korean bowing and basic greetings. We explained why we bow and to who, with different hand shapes. Girls put their right hands on top and boys put their left hands on top, and set up the scene. Hence, we pretended that she is older than me and we are in a formal situation. 

Fortunately, they gave us enough energy to us to respond and follow us, we could finish culture exchanging successfully and fun. Due to the rain, we finished up our schedule earlier than the other days. So we just brainstormed the idea for posters related to the environment.

-Yoora Song

Day 14: Dancing, painting and hiking!

Today, we went to the DREAM Project school again.
In the morning, we played some games at the very beginning. Then we divided into 3 groups. Our group’s task was to dance Merengue and Bachata, but I did not know how to dance whatsoever, so I just watched our teammates dancing. One of the other groups was supposed to dance, too, and another one was painting the bottles we planned to use for the mural.
Later, we switched work. Our group went to paint, and other groups went to dance. After that, some of the students went to clean the bottles, and some of them went to cut off the bottom of the bottles. These days, our morning activities are much more relaxing and fun.
-Jerry Peng
After lunch, we all gathered onto the bus to head to a hiking trail in Los Brazos. The hiking trail was located behind the house of one of the teachers who worked at the DREAM Project. The trail led us to a spectacular view where we could see the Rio Yasica and many other surrounding towns in the Dominican Republic.
As we began our walk to the top of the trail we passed many interesting plants that are indigenous to this area; one of them being my favorite, the mango tree. We also saw multiple horses and a donkey too! On our way back down from the trail we passed a few cows and bulls as well. However, one of the bulls acted a little peculiar because he was protecting the females from us. Apparently the farmer put him there to mate with the other cows. Aside from the eery glares that he gave us, we managed to pass by him just fine and a lot of us got good pictures of him too!
Once the hike was over the teachers treated us to ice cream at this delicious cafe inside the grocery store on our way back to the hotel. Many of us got two to three scoops of ice cream and each bite was more delicious than the last! One thing that I didn’t expect to be as good it is, is Dominican ice cream and believe it or not, the pizza here is delicious as well!
-Ella Gatfield


Day 13: Our first day with DREAM Project

Today was our first day working in Sosúa. We arrived at a school that’s associated with the Dream Project for a cultural exchange and community service experience. Upon our arrival, we were introduced to John who is in charge of the project and the kids at the school. We played games with them for an icebreaker activity and we were separated into three groups and buddied up with the kids. We left the campus and wandered around the neighborhood for a scavenger hunt. We went to a river, a supermarket, a barber’s shop, a lottery station, a farm and a church and met different people. It was amazing getting to know the local kids and communicating with the people in the neighborhood. The local neighborhood was small but harmonious. Everybody knows everybody and they were very welcoming.

-Victoria Hu

After the ice breaker with local students, we started our community service with the local students. We searched and gathered plastic bottles along the road, at school, and everywhere we could see. The garbage system is unsustainable in the Dominican Republic, trash was all over the town.

After that, we had lunch, and after lunch we needed to separate the bottles that we picked up. We will need to use the nicer looking bottles for our mural project. We will work with a local artist to create a mural from the recycled bottles. After we finished separating and cleaning the bottles, we needed to start thinking about what design we will draw for the mural project. Everyone created their ow  idea that included their own culture and the culture of Dominican Republic, combined with theme of environmental sustainability.

After we said goodbye to our buddies, we came back to the hotel, where we brainstormed ideas for fun activities we can do to have a cultural exchange with the local students.

-Maple Sun

Day 12: Excursions in Santiago

Today is the 9th day of our trip, and we finished the first part of it, which is working on the environmental school. We went to another city, which is called Santiago. We went to a ceramic doll factory first, and most of the workers in the factory were females. First of all, people in the factory showed us a doll without face, and explained that all of the dolls in the factory do not have faces because the Dominican Republic is a country of many different cultures and races, so there is not just one face for their people.

Secondly, the workers showed us the process of making the dolls and other ceramics. They mixed up water and two types of clays together, and then put the mixture into different shapes of models. Finally, the workers put the mixture into an oven, and the temperature of it is about nine hundred degrees centigrade. The brick that dried from the oven are much lighter than the normal brick. By the way, the tour guide told us that using the oven is bad for our health.
Later on, we went to a historical museum, and we had lunch there. The guide introduced the Taino culture to us; such as their tools, decorations, and funeral traditions. There was also a modern art gallery in the museum, the meaning of some of the works in it were hard to figure out, but they were still very interesting.
Later on, we went to a farm. There were many kinds of animal there, such as dogs, goats, hens, and horses. There were lots of kinds of trees and plants there as well, such as banana trees, red fruits trees, and cocoa trees. The cocoa fruits were interesting, the guide told us to suck them, instead of chewing them. People in the farm were very welcoming and kind, and the children there were also very cute because they dropped the red fruits off the trees and gave them to us.
Finally, we headed to our new hotel, which is very pretty, and faces the sea.
-Connie Zhu

Day 11: Our last day in the environmental school

Today was the last day in the environmental school. We woke up and had breakfast at 7:30, as usual, and set off at 8:20. When we arrived at the campus, we were directed to the “dry forest” and we spent the whole morning working there. Basically our job was to plant aloe plants in the garden which was outlined by many rocks. First, we used shovels to dig holes in order to allow the aloe to survive and grow. Then we planted the aloe. Finally, we poured some sands around the aloes we planted before. We also planted other plants around the dry forest, and stained the wood entry way to the new dry forest.
Since today was the last day for us in the environmental school, the local students held a bonfire party for us. We came back to the campus, after dinner, at 7:30 P.M. We danced around the bonfire, ate cakes and drank sodas. We kept dancing and chatting until 9 o’clock. We thanked the local students and said farewell to them.
-Harold Sun

Day 10: Working in the nursery and visiting Salto de Jimenoa

We were working in the nursery today to help with a big project that they were working on, to plant tree seedlings. Our group (with Megan, the EF Tour Guide) was weeding, which is a really simple job. Basically, we were just took away the weeds in the nursery and throw them away.
We also helped to load a truck that will transport 12,500 plants to Haiti, because after the earthquake, a lot of its forests have been destroyed. It was really hot today, therefore I got all sweaty when I was working. But, I was very happy since I knew that we can help out Haiti, and it is a good opportunity for us to experience life in the Dominican Republic.

-Victoria Li

In the afternoon, the first thing we did after lunch was to clean all the dirt off the tree growing tubes. Everybody worked really hard and the weather was very hot and humid. Since we were exposed to the sunlight, some of us even got tan. Some tubes were extremely difficult to clean because the dirt inside was so hard, so we had to squeeze it then hit it on the hard surface.

Around 3:00pm we started hiking. First, we split into groups of four and we headed to the waterfall, which was the destination of the hiking. At the beginning everybody was excited because there was a suspension bridge, which could only bear five people a time. It was interesting that some of us began shaking the bridge when we were at the middle of it. However, after 10 minutes, everyone was shocked because we realized that we already arrived at the waterfall and there was no trail anymore. It was a kind of disappointing since our expectation of the hiking was 2 hours. Although, the hiking was not as long as we expected, the view of the waterfall, Salto de Jimenoa, was gorgeous and everyone took a lot of photos.

Eventually we went back to have dinner. Unlike other days, we sat in different seats so that we could talk and know more about the people we were not familiar with. We learned new things about each other and made the our group more united. All the things we did were joyful, although it was hot and tiring.

-Jack Li

Day 9: Defining another trail

After breakfast, we went to working on a trail at the Environmental School. We transported the plants and helped to dig holes plant them. It is really good to work in the nature. We also painted a lot of wood for the benches and entryways we created.
We took a snack break in the middle of the working, which was made by local women hired by the tour company, EF. After we finished our work for the day, we went outside to eat pizza, which was really good and different from the traditional Dominican food of the previous days’ dinners.
During the community service, our teachers played music to keep us entertained. We all worked happily and we enjoyed our working time; this is something new for us, and we experienced many new things, we felt appreciative when we actually helped someone else to do something.
-Elizabeth Guo

Day 8: Clearing a trail through the woods

Today we got up at 7:30, ate breakfast and went to the environmental school ready to work as usual. Today we are not working in the campus that has greenhouse and mural. Our job is to build a trail at the second campus where we have our lunch everyday.

At the beginning, we were divided into groups of four. One of the group was cleaning the plants with the rakes along the way so that we can make the space for the trail. That sounds really easy, but there were many roots in the way that were hard to rake, and it was also dangerous when others walked over them. So there were four people who used the special axes to dig the tree stumps and roots out of the way. Two groups had to work together to make the path clean and flat.  For the places that were hard to walk through, the other group was assigned to build a bridge on the path. They cut the trees into pieces with a hammer, put them on the branches, then press the nail into the wood.

In the end, everyone was exhausted.  Even though we were working in the forest and it is not as hot as working outside, clearing the path and building bridges are challenging tasks. We worked longer than last few days, and that made us more tired, however, it is a great experience to do these things we have never done before.
-Katerina Ding

Day 7: Painting murals and white water rafting!

Today was the fourth day of our Field Academy trip in Dominican Republic. After a great breakfast in the hotel, we headed to the environmental school as usual at 8:30 am. Since we worked so hard in the Green House the day before, our new goal for today was to help the students finish the murals. They had already painted simple sketches on five walls and our task was to paint those sketches with different color of paint. We were split into five groups with one local student for each group and they were giving us advice and guidance to choose the color and paint the wall. There were beautiful patterns on the wall such as butterflies and parrots. We also tried their special local snacks and drinks during the break. After a long morning working on the mural, we finally made some masterpieces, even though it had not been finished completely. Every one became artists this morning and we painted very carefully. It was a great experience for us to communicate with the local students here and it was a great opportunity for us to practice Spanish with them and they took this opportunity to practice their English with us as well.

-Doris Zhu

After lunch today we all got on the bus and headed over to the Rancho Baiguate to go white water rafting. Once we got the helmets, life jackets, and wet suits we drove about twenty minutes to the river. We learned all the commands and safety rules and were on our way down the river. It was so much fun. Everyone on my raft was constant smiling and laughing. Harold did fall out of the boat on the first rapid but no one else fell out after. However, there were a few close calls for everyone on my raft. It was just such an amazing, beautiful experience. I would definitely go again. After such a long first day of community service yesterday it was nice to relax a bit and experience a different side of the Dominican Republic. Can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for us!

-Kendall Scala


Day 6: Our first day of work

Today at the Environmental School, we were divided into 3 different groups, and each group had its respective task, in relation to the school environment. The first group worked in the green house, readying soil for peppers, the second worked to loosen the soil around a lettuce garden, and the third group prepared the soil in the potato garden by removing weeds.

After we had our lunch, we came back to the school to continue the job, finishing it. Right after that we had a interactive volleyball game with the students of the local school. We had our traditional Dominican dinner at the school as well. At night, we relaxed at the hotel.

-Franco Ribeiro and Jonathan He