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Saludos a todos!! Hello!

What an exciting experience we have been having here in the beautiful Hispaniola island! The students got settled in well during the first week here as they met their host families, the school where we take classes and the community where we have our summer camp for the children here. Our orientation the first day was in a beautiful quiet setting in the mountains alongside a river. As the week went on the students took a tour of the city of Santiago. We were able to look at many historical buildings and sites and to get a quick taste of the life here in Santiago. 
We have already had various trips and excursions and projects going on! We visited the museum of Centro Leon which has many wonderful exhibits about the nature here in the Dominican Republic and the complex history of the people, culture and heritages. The students had some great questions and observations of the artwork and seemed to really enjoy the artistic portrayal of the history and culture of the country. The students also had a chance to get in touch with the art here by learning how to make their own bracelets and collage artwork made of a soft wood material which was a fun relaxing afternoon. 
In order to understand the current state of the country and its people, as is true anywhere, it is crucial to study and seek to understand the history. The Mirabal sisters were the face and leaders of the revolution against the tyrannical dictator Trujillo who ruled with complete control for 31 years. We watched the movie In the time of the Butterflies to help give context about this era of the country and the sacrifice of the sisters and many more to bring down this tyrannical regime. The next day we took a trip to visit their house and help make the history something tangible. 
The students have been doing a wonderful job working with the children from the Santa Maria school in their summer camp. The students worked in groups to set up their schedule for the camp and what activities they want to do with the children. We have been doing art projects, sports and many different games that the students are leading. 
As the students have been trying to get used to the strong sun, heat and humidity we had a nice afternoon trip to the town of Puerto Playa where we saw another one of the country's strategic forts and enjoyed the water, cool breeze and a delicious ice cream. :)
As we come to the half way point of our time here in the DR we are in a strong rhythm and have so much still to do!! As we continue with our summer camp with the children we also have dance classes, Spanish classes, cooking classes, beach excursions and adventures, a visit o one of the largest markets here, a baseball game, a waterfall and river adventures......... lots to do!! 
My hope for the students as we finish the time here is that they will continue to immerse themselves in the culture here. That they won't be on their phone or talking with people back in the states. My hope is that they will continue to push themselves into a discomfort zone. To play dominoes with Dominicans and Haitians or order a coconut in the street even though they might not be fluent in Spanish. As we travel throughout the country I hope the students carefully observe the world around them. We are fish swimming in new waters and I hope they are soaking up everything and learning to think critically about the world around us. I hope they go back to the US with a new global perspective of how people live in another part of the world and can critically think about how we live our lives. I hope this trip and all the many experiences we are having will be transformative for the students and help them grow into the responsible active global citizens that I see them becoming. 
Stay Tuned!!  :)
Peace, Love and Service. 
Happy Blessings. 
~Douglas Pentland~