I have to say the last few weeks have been some of the craziest in my life. After a week of intensive packing and slightly tearful goodbyes (thank you Cara and Isla), I set off on the biggest, scariest and most exciting journey of my life.
I met up with two of my Project Trust buddies at London Heathrow, and after a long and mildly traumatic journey (avoid Miami airport at all costs) we arrived in Santo Domingo airport at 3.30am to a toasty 29 degrees. A manic drive to the hotel ensued and we got our first taste of Dominican roads. Although it was the middle of the night, motorbikes piled high with people and goods swerved haphazardly in and out of cars for whom lanes don’t seem to be a thing. Upon arriving at the hotel we pretty much fell asleep instantly and didn’t wake up until late in the morning. The next day, Teresa, one of our hosts, took us out for a traditional Dominican breakfast and a quick look around the ‘zona colonial’ of the capital city. We then hopped on a gua-gua, a type of bus thing, and headed off a few hours down the road to Barahona where we met Bob, our other host, and Nico another COPA volunteer. For those of you who don’t know, COPA is a Methodist organisation which runs the schools that we are working in.
I left Chynah and Alisha in Barahona and set off to Bombita. I have to say, driving into the village was mildly terrifying. It’s a crazy feeling seeing somewhere for the first time knowing it’s going to be your home for the year. Add to that the fact that absolutely everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the new person in town, nerves were beginning to mount.
I quickly realised that the nerves were unnecessary, and the next two weeks were a blur of lesson planning, observing teachers, visiting new places, learning how to cook, meeting people, taking a couple of classes, and getting to know our new home!
Since getting here, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the people. Everyone I have met so far has been lovely and incredibly welcoming, and I keep finding myself being taken on a quick stop tour of the village meeting endless family members as everyone here appears to be related to everyone. Despite my mostly made up (but improving!) Spanish, we’re getting into the Dominican way of life and spend evenings cooking up Dominican spaghetti with our friends, or simply sitting out in the street for a chat. Everything is just so relaxed and laid back here, I can’t say I’m having much trouble adapting to the new pace of life!
Aside from socialising, I have started teaching! Before coming, I thought I was going to be teaching English, but it turns out I’m actually teaching art. As a result of a politically troubled past, what this country lacks is creative thinkers and people who can come up with new and innovative solutions to problems. As a result of this, art is a required subject in schools, but unfortunately there is a huge lack off art teachers as, until recently, creativity wasn’t encouraged. On top of teaching art, I’m currently talking to a few people about starting out of school English classes and I gave my first violin lesson the other day!
The school day here starts with ‘fila’ at 7.45. All the children line up in their classes and ‘la bandera’, which is the flag, is raised whilst the children sing the national anthem with great gusto. The children then go off to their classes and the day begins. So far, due to typical Dominican lack of organisation, I have only had a few classes. These have ranged from quiet colouring in, to complete chaos with pencils flying around the classroom and not a single child sitting down. Regardless, all the kids are really very sweet and super keen to please and I can’t wait to get to know them better and really get into teaching.
I realise this is quite a long and rambling blog post, but I just have so many things I want to say I barely know where to start. I suspect only my parents will read this far, but I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped my get out here, I’m already having a wonderful time!
P.s. Sorry about the lack of photos, the internet here is not good enough to upload them, but I’ll try putting some on Facebook when I’m somewhere with stronger internet.