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Sarah sums up our weekend away!

This weekend, we headed out to the ecological lodge of Paraiso Caño Hondo located at the foot of the National Park Los Haitises in Sabana de La Mar and 160 kilometers from Santo Domingo! We took a three hour bus ride to the beautiful eco lodge with naturally formed pools and wooden hotel rooms. Everyone had around 4 roommates and spacious rooms with two floors and balconies. We all tried ziplining across the property, which was extremely thrilling and fun! Swimming in the freshwater pools was the best part of the lodge and everybody made the most of it. The water was really cold and refreshing, and there were slides and various floating toys to play around with. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day buffet-style with delicious Dominican food, which varied from oatmeal with hot chocolate to omelettes made in front of you. We made sure to play icebreaker games, where we bonded and found out more about each other.

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Sarah and Ellie 

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Ziplining at Caño Hondo
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Last group ready to zipline!

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Icebreaker activities! 

On our second day, we sailed to the beautiful island of Cayo Levantado in the bay of Samaná, also sometimes known as "Bacardi Island". We ate lunch, shopped in the tourist markets, played beach volleyball on the soft, white sand and swam in the beautiful waters. Some of us used our Spanish and haggling skills to nab some handmade bracelets, t-shirts, and various other souvenirs. As someone who doesn't speak Spanish, I have more difficulty haggling in the Dominican Republic, but fortunately most of the shopkeepers on Cayo Levantado had already learned English to make selling goods to tourists easier. Others bought virgin piña coladas, laid on lounge chairs to tan, and tested out their volleyball skills on the sand. We left around 4 and sailed back to Caño Hondo, taking a small truck to drive all the way back to the lodge. Even after swimming for hours, many of us still wanted to swim in Caño Hondo's pools. The third and last day, we set out on a grueling two-hour hike in which everybody's endurance was tested. We got muddy on the slippery trails, dodged poisonous plants and trekked to the lagoon. We tried cacao beans and starfruit for the first time and took a boat ride to a cave to look at ancient wall paintings.

Photos from Cayo Levantado!

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Photos below of today's hike, tasting cacao and starfruit, and cave paintings!
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After eating dinner on the second day, we had a campfire right next to one of the pools and brought out the marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolates for making smores. For me, it was quite the experience because I had never gone to a campfire to tell spooky stories and roast marshmallows before. In our group, we have a diverse set of people who have had many different experiences and there were definitely people for whom this wasn't their first time, but it was certainly a unique experience and gave us the chance to bond even more. After the campfire, the program leaders sat us down in a circle to play Rose, Thorn and Bud. This was an activity in which every person stated their "Rose" (favorite moment or feeling of this trip), "Thorn" (least favorite moment or feeling of this trip) and "Bud" (moment we're most looking forward to). Everybody's responses varied from talking about our service experience with the kids at Nichibosco to mosquitoes and language barriers. As people revealed their feelings, I noticed that many of us considered meeting each other and spending so much time together as their roses, but I felt differently about that. After spending two weeks with amazing people from all different kinds of backgrounds, I realized that our time was soon coming to a close and that I began to view our happy moments differently. Every time I laughed with someone or bonded with others, I would feel a sense of sadness at knowing that they lived much too far away for me to easily see them again after we leave Santo Domingo for our homes. I told everybody that this was my real thorn, my worst part about this trip. As I said this, many people expressed that they felt the same way and some began to even cry, including me. Although I hadn't been emotional about homesickness or our trip so far, everything came rushing out so fast once we all realized only a week was left. We talked about keeping touch after the trip, and Jessica and a few others told me to make the most of the rest of what's left instead of dwelling too much on how little time is left. I think everybody that night went to bed reflecting on how sad it would be to finally separate at the end after having all these amazing, unique experiences with each other. Although every single day was action-packed and felt so long, the time passed quickly before I knew it. As I shared happy moments with others and learned more about everyone, I started to feel like I didn't even have enough time with everybody else. Sharing our differences in slang and lifestyles and laughing together about silly things has been my Rose of this trip, and I'll miss every single one of the wonderful people I've met.

Thanks Sarah for sharing! We are looking forward to our last week here in Santo Domingo!

 

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