Seeing as we’re coming up to the end of term (scary, I know) I thought it was about time I wrote another long overdue blog. Once again I’m not entirely sure where to start given how much has happen since my last rare post, but I’ll try to keep it succinct.
School has been pretty crazy over the last few months, with Independence Day celebrations, Dia del Amor, school trips and general Dominican-ness (think everything you don’t expect to happen, happening). Día de la Independencia began slightly crazily with all 500 children in the school coming to me and Rebecca to have their face (and occasionally their entire head) painted like the Dominican flag. Masks and banderas were then distributed, until everyone was decked out from head to toe in red, white, and blue. The whole school then preceded to march around the village, singing and chanting, everyone in very high spirits. This was closely followed by day of love and friendship, and Dominicans being the friendly and loving people they are, this was the perfect day for them. A week filled with friendship bracelets and love-heart crafts in art led up to a valentine’s celebration in school. Everyone arrived wearing red and many hugs and kisses were exchanged. The day finished with a very musical assembly and a secret santa-esque gift exchange between the teachers. The school trip was the most recent excitement, and it consisted of the 8 upper school classes getting up at 4am, piling on to a guagua – three kids to every two seats with extra plastic seats in the aisle – and heading north. The trip was to a cave where we saw some amazing taino cave drawings, followed by a museum, but the real fun was had on the 9 hours of travelling. All ideas of health and safety were entirely abandoned as the children took to the stage (aka the aisle of a moving bus) to show off their moves, from bachata to merengue to some pretty energetic butt shaking. The journey was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and much hilarity ensued when us americanas tried our hand at embracing our inner Latinas!
On the teaching front, my time is now coming to an end (two weeks left until the holidays woo) and I have to say it’s been an experience and a half. On the daily, I simultaneously fight the urge to throw pencils at the kids and smother them in hugs. Teaching has had its ups and downs, from having a ball making and flying kites with the younger ones, to mixing up my Spanish and getting a class of 10 year olds to draw a page full of arses – good one me. I’ve had lessons that have ended with me throwing balloons at a class of fighting 12 year olds, swiftly exiting and locking the door behind me, to a class full of kids chirpily gay gordons-ing around the playground. However frustrating the endless cries of ‘teeeeechaa’ may be, I’m going to (at least occasionally) miss the teaching, and undoubtedly miss the kids and their hilarious individual personalities.
Outside of school it’s been a busy few months too, a particular highlight being a visit from the family. We had a great couple of weeks, starting off by celebrating Dad and Rhonas’ birthdays windsurfing and diving (or in Dad’s case getting sunstroke) on the north coast. We then headed inland to tackle the monster that is Pico Duarte. Sitting at 10,164 feet we knew it would be a challenge, but you know, we’re the MacRaes, it’s nothing we can’t handle… or so we thought. We had chosen to do the express tour which should have been the first warning, but we blithely got up at 5am and set off into the hills. The first 4km were flat, but beyond that all I can say is Pico Duarte killed. Never in my life have walked up such a steep hill for 21 unrelenting kilometres. The morning of day 2, we woke up at 4.30am after a night of temperatures dropping as low as 0°C, and continued on up the beast arriving at the summit in time for sunrise. Watching the sun come up from the highest point in the Caribbean was pretty spectacular, and following that by a snickers bar made the whole thing worth it. After conquering the giant, we then headed south, first to the capital, and then down to Bombita in time for the first day back at school. It was such a laugh having my family in the classroom witnessing the chaos that is artistica – not helped by Dad showing off his basketball skills, Mum’s illegal palm tree drawing (I was so impressed when the first child proudly came up to me with a perfectly drawn tree, but began to smell a rat after the next 4), and Rhona’s helpful tickling of quiet children. It was also lovely introducing them to the Cuevas family, who have taken me in this year, and with whom I have spent hours cooking, chatting, singing, and just generally being one of the family. The Scottish family and the Dominican family thoroughly bonded over a magnificent espaguetis and tostones making session with me having a fab time acting as translator. We then headed to the beach for the last few days so they could get their strength back after two days of crazy in Bombita. Waving goodbye again was odd, but I had such a good time showing them the life that we’ve made here, with our position in the school, all the friends we have, and the new language we speak.
Although we’ve been having a wonderful time we were given some bad news a few weeks ago. Viannelis, the second youngest daughter of the Cuevas family was diagnosed with a brain tumour, along with a heart murmur, sinusitis, and anaemia. This is a very difficult time for the family as the medical bills are ever rising and the hospital is a three hour journey away in the capital. We are currently doing everything we can to help them out and have set up a justgiving page (https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/supportviannelis). We have set the target as £1000, but in reality the amount needed for the studies and operation is much more, so any donation, big or small, would be hugely appreciated. I understand this is a big ask seeing as you all helped me out so much with my fundraising, but this little girl is very close to my heart and deserves all the help and prayers she can get.
It’s amazing how quickly our time here is flying by, and in only 10 weeks I’ll be back at home with my wonderful life here just a memory. I absolutely love the slowed down pace of life here in comparison to the well-oiled, impersonal machine that is Western living, and plan to make the most of every moment over the next two months. Whether that be travelling somewhere new, taking a trip to the beach, searching for mangoes in the countryside, or just sitting in a plastic chair on the street and watching the world go by whilst laughing at jokes in Spanish, I want to do it all. Thank you all once again for helping me to get out here, I’m having such a great experience and learning so much all the time.