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66 posts categorized "Santo Domingo Service"

WEEK 3: SANTO DOMINGO

My favorite excursion from the entire trip, and I feel like everyone can agree with me on this, was when we stayed at Caño Hondo for three days. It was such an amazing experience, and we all had a blast while we were there. 

 

Caño Hondo was basically a hotel built in nature; our hotel rooms were LITERALLY spaces carved inside a mountain. We got to enjoy the natural pools, great food, and wonderful music. It was a way to disconnect from devices and spend quality time with each other. A true bonding experience.

 

We departed from Caño Hondo on Saturday morning to take a beautiful boat ride in which we got a glimpse of the mangroves. We spent over an hour taking in the view of the mountains, and afterwards we arrived at Cayo Levantado. We spent the rest of the day there, where we enjoyed a beach with clear waters and sand that felt nice to the touch. 

 

On Sunday, all of us opted to take an almost 2 hour long hike across a mountain.  There was a lot of slippery terrain which caused a bunch of us to fall into mud. It was a difficult hike, but so incredibly fun. By the end we met the boat crew and took a tour of the mangroves and caves.

 

The whole adventure was so different than anything I have ever experienced in the US. It was super calming and almost therapeutic to be surrounded by so much nature at all times. By the end we all felt tired but somewhat rejuvenated! Our trip to Caño Hondo was surely one to remember, and definitely my favorite excursion.

-Ayan R.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

WEEK 3: SANTO DOMINGO

My favorite excursion from the entire trip, and I feel like everyone can agree with me on this, was when we stayed at Caño Hondo for three days. It was such an amazing experience, and we all had a blast while we were there. 

 

Caño Hondo Vídeo Montage

  Montage

Caño Hondo was basically a hotel built in nature; our hotel rooms were LITERALLY spaces carved inside a mountain. We got to enjoy the natural pools, great food, and wonderful music. It was a way to disconnect from devices and spend quality time with each other. A true bonding experience.

We departed from Caño Hondo on Saturday morning to take a beautiful boat ride in which we got a glimpse of the mangroves. We spent over an hour taking in the view of the mountains, and afterwards we arrived at Cayo Levantado. We spent the rest of the day there, where we enjoyed a beach with clear waters and sand that felt nice to the touch. 

On Sunday, all of us opted to take an almost 2 hour long hike across a mountain.  There was a lot of slippery terrain which caused a bunch of us to fall into mud. It was a difficult hike, but so incredibly fun. By the end we met the boat crew and took a tour of the mangroves and caves.

The whole adventure was so different than anything I have ever experienced in the US. It was super calming and almost therapeutic to be surrounded by so much nature at all times. By the end we all felt tired but somewhat rejuvenated! Our trip to Caño Hondo was surely one to remember, and definitely my favorite excursion.

-Ayan R.
'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

Service Memories in Santo Domingo

As the Santo Domingo Service and Leadership program comes to a close, I asked the kids to share a favorite memory from out time at Nichibosco, the service site where we spent our mornings in the Cristo Rey neighborhood. Here's what they had to say!

Hayden

 

This was my favorite moment because I don't even know these kids that were on me, they weren't in my group, but that just goes to explain how affectionate and loving this culture is. This was just the first piggy back ride of about 100 more that afternoon, and even though I was exhausted, their endless smiles and laughter gave me the energy again to play with them. I will never forget it.


Ayan




My favorite service memory: playing with the kids, especially this one (Andell).  Ayan

Inbar


My favorite part of service was spending so much time playing with the kids. I taught them games and they taught me some too and it was so fun to get to know them all.  (Inbar)




Genny

This is one of my favorite service memories because i only spent one day with this girl and i really bonded with her. It was her first day at NichiBosco and it was really great to watch her blossom as he day went on. At first she was very shy and then by the time i left she was dancing and laying with the other kids. (Genny)

Group service

My favorite memory of this trip was during the second week, when we began to really bond with the children, and the leaders of the group who were closer to our age. the group leaders talked to us about our lives in the US and we asked about theirs, and it was extremely interesting to learn so much about to dominican culture through both the eyes of the younger children, and those with more life experience.

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Overall it was a very rewarding experience for everyone and we are sad to be going home, we'll miss everyone but we are grateful for the time and experiences we've shared and we will carry Santo Domingo  in our hearts and bring all that we've learned back home. 

batey palavé

On Wednesday we did something a little bit different, we went to Batey Palavé! We arrived and did some ice breaker activities with our students and the community members, then split up into 5 different groups. We learned more about the history and realities of this Batey community through a brief tour led by leaders of the community. Batey Palavé originally was established as a community for male Haitian migrant workers in the sugar cane industry. Over time, women arrived and the community developed into the community it is today, a mix of Dominicans and Haitians. After the tour we played different sports with the community and did arts and crafts with the little ones. After lunch we had a blast dancing, and I was thrilled by this extraordinary cultural exchange: after dancing some bachata, merengue and reggeatón, our students played the songs from Don Bosco and taught the members of the Palavé community the dances they learned at our service site. It was amazing!

Listen to Sarah's impressions of our day at Palave:

"The time we spent touring the Haitian community and playing with the kids and leaders was wonderful and different from Cristo Rey. At the Batey, we walked around the neighborhood and the kids and the people looked cheerful and full of energy, and our tour guides greeted and knew everybody we passed by. Dancing with them was also fun and they made me feel like I belonged, like it was home for me as well."

 Thanks for your input, Sarah!

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Ellie playing baseball


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Sophie P helps the kids with a puzzle


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Willoughby at the arts and crafts table


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Lindsey and Annie at the jumprope station


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Hayley, Calista and Alayna at the drawing/coloring table


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On the tour of the community--this is a beautiful mural at the pre-k through 6th grade school


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Gennie sets up her teammates in volleyball

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Dance party!!!!


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Nicole showing off her dance moves :)

 

We wrapped up Wednesday with a stop at the Mercado Modelo for last minute souvenir shopping. Stay tuned for another blog post about our service site wrap/up coming soon!

-Jessica

Week 2: Santo Domingo

The second week has brought new challenges, bonding opportunities, experiences, and more. So much more of the culture has sunken in, and I feel as if it has become a part of me. My experiences at my new home have been phenomenal because of how much love and care im receiving from my Doña. So much of what I'm doing here has become so a part of my routine that I wish I could continue it all when I get back!

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working with the kids

 I will say the structure and routines of my host house is quite different from that of my home in New York City, but it is certainly fun in its own way. Back home, I usually have all three meals together with my family, but that's only the case for lunch here. Lunch, or La Bandera as the locals call it, is the biggest meal of the day and also when the entire family comes together. However, more often than not, breakfast and dinner is eaten separately. I felt disconnected from my host family at first due to this, but after a while I realized that the grand time we all spend together during lunch makes up for it. Other than that, I actually found many similarities between my host family and my actual family, such as how much everyone cares for each other.

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La bandera

My host mom is literally the epitome of optimism, happiness and positivity is always radiating from her. She really loves sharing and taking me to her family run food truck. Her two sons and husband also live at home and I often see them during La Bandera. They're always so interested in my life back home and it's so easy to keep conversations flowing with them. They've all cared for me so much in these past two weeks, I feel like I'm part of their family myself.

I don't have anything too special that I would like to take home from here, as of now, but what I would like to take home is definitely the food. Although it's mostly the same everyday, I enjoy it all so much. Rice and beans, habichuela, mangu, and fried plantations are just some dishes that I loved a lot and hope to bring back home. The food is similar to the type of food I have back at home anyways, so everyone should be able to enjoy it!

My day to day schedule is pretty packed! It usually starts with me waking up past my alarm and rushing out the door after having a quick breakfast at 8:00 in the morning. From there I walk to the CIEE study center from which we all depart on our bus to get to our service site. We work at a school in Don Bosco, where Im engaged with a group of 7 year olds, helping out in the classroom. We usually dance, play games, and do arts and crafts among other things until 12 in the afternoon. Afterwards we get back and I have lunch with my host family until 2 PM. After that, I go back to the study center and we all do some group activities until 5. Class is dismissed then, and we are left to do whatever we want! I usually go to a free Zumba class with a group of friends or Uber to an interesting place to enjoy the night (Uber fares are usually around 2 US Dollars!!).

All in all, the second week has been easier than the first because everything is slowly settling in. I'm getting used to the environment and culture more and more each day and every day brings new and exciting experiences. I'm all buckled and ready for the last week, and I'm hoping to end the program on a positive note!

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playing vitilla
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beach day

-Ayan R.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

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!

 

Intercultural exchange: cooking and dancing

Hola! The past few days have been fun and busy here in Santo Domingo! 

Tonight we have a special story from our guest blogger, Hayden.  She sums up one evening this week when she and her roommate, along with two other students, prepared dinner for their host mom!

Hayden says, "H'Po and I decided to make dinner for our host mom. We made spring rolls along with veggies and meat on rice (a typical Vietnamese dish because H'Po is Vietnamese), and we actually had to go to China Town on Sunday to get some of the ingredients which was another new experience in itself. For the rest of the ingredients like all of the veggies and meat, we went to the International Market here with our host mom. And then as soon as we got done with class, we started cooking. Thank goodness for H'Po because she's the one that really made it happen as she cooked most of it and taught me how along the way. It ended up taking us around 3 hours, and that's with the help of fellow CIEE members, Ayan and Annie! We didn't end up eating until 9 and I'm sure our host mother was starving, but I think the wait was worth it because the food tasted delicious. Not to mention we had a ton of leftovers -- enough to feed us as well as our friends for lunch yesterday. Making a Vietnamese dinner for our Dominican mother was quite the cultural experience, one that will stick with me forever." 

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In addition to our service work this week, we also had a dance class yesterday where we learned dance styles popular and commonly danced here in the Dominican Republic. We learned the steps to bachata and marengue. We also had fun incorporating other styles commonly danced here, like dembow. Beyond the fun of dancing, we had a very animated and talented teacher who brought great energy to the class! 

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Our new dancing skills also come in handy at our service site, where we start each morning dancing with the kids. Many of our students even join their Dominican co-leaders up on stage!

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Yesterday was also Parent Day at the service site. It was so nice to see many of the kids run up to their CIEE leaders telling them to come meet their mom or dad. Here is a photo of the kids, parents and leaders all dancing together! 

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It sure has been a fun week! Tomorrow we are off for our weekend excursion to Caño Hondo. We will have limited access to internet while we are gone. Expect to hear a full update from us again on Sunday or Monday night about how the weekend away went! The schedule includes multiple boat rides and much time in the water. More details at the end of the weekend! 

 

Heather

 

Service and Parque del Este


Saludos! Our second week is off to a strong start. Monday we went to our service site in the morning, where we started off with a presentation about the organization's value of the day: solidaridad. Our students were encouraged to find ways to incorporate solidarity into their morning routine at the service site. Once the presentation was complete we broke off into our small groups. The groups did a variety of activities, all the while gaining more insight into the community we are learning alongside.

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Yesterday afternoon we had another session of the service and leadership curriculum. We engaged in important discussions related to comparing and contrasting values within and across cultures, and how we can be effective intercultural leaders.

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Today was another fun day in Santo Domingo! There was lots of dancing in the morning, followed by small group time. All of our participants have been leaders each and every day, finding creative ways to engage with the kids through mutual cultural exchange. It's been such a joy for us as program leaders to go to each group and see the meaningful relationships that have already formed!

In the afternoon, Spanish class was partly in the classroom and partly at Parque del Este. Students learned how to play dominos and vitilla, a game related to baseball. Check out the photos below!

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Noemi and Nicole doing arts and crafts with their group


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Angela and friends!


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Grant learns a new game!


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Lindsey and Michaela teaching "double-double-this-this"

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Ayan and friends!


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H'Po and Hayley play cat's cradle in their group!

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Learning how to pitch!

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Natalie, Hayley, Alayna and Sophie


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Sarah's turn!


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Sophie, Calista, Noemi and Kerry

Stay tuned for our post from our clase de baile mañana!

- Jessica

Sunday Fun Day!

Sunday was a day to enjoy some free time to explore Santo Domingo and hang out with host families. Here are some highlights!

China town

H'Po and Hayden exploring China Town with their host mom.

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Dessert at Nucciola, the nutella cafe.

 

 

Resort

Resort day with the families Cake

Happy Birthday Caitlyn! Birthday girl

Sweet 16!

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Sarah Maria and the pastry chef at Nucciola

Ruins

Ruins!

Group Bonye

Bonye! Live music and dancing in the plaza.

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Ruins 2
 

 

Week 1: Service in the DR

The first week of my service trip in the Dominican Republic flew right by my eyes, and it's been a wild ride. It's been a week full of emotions, travelling, service, and learning; and it's been tiresome. Nevertheless, the week has been such an amazing experience and a great first impression of the Dominican Republic and what it has to offer!

There was so much culture shock, especially in the first few days when we learned about different aspects of the culture in DR and then seeing them come to life before our eyes. We learned during our orientation just about how personal and open relationships can be between people in the Dominican Republic. From people greeting you with big hugs and kisses rather than simple handshakes, to random people proposing to you on the streets, the relationships are so liberal and it's honestly so surreal to experience. However this has its own problems as there are certain people, typically called “piropos,” in the country that are comfortable enough to go to the extent where they end up catcalling people on the streets. The amount of times my friends have been victimized by this has been astonishing. It goes on to show how drastically different the culture here is, and that's something that surprised me A LOT.

My host mom, the program leaders, and the group are what are making this experience a real deal, and all of them have been so enthusiastic and welcoming to the point where I wasn't scared at all to jump right into the program. On my way to the airport, I was getting really nervous but once I saw and talked to my program leader, Jessica Meza, all the stress had been alleviated. Her warm smile and positive attitude got me really excited to take flight, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Then came my very first interaction I had with a Dominican. That was with my host mom, and of course, she greeted me with a giant hug. She's been speaking to me in Spanish all the time at a very fast pace, seldom saying a word in English, and at first it was difficult to understand. However, I have been catching on and I understand most of what she says now! Hopefully I can understand her fully whenever she talks by the end of the program. And lastly, the group. It has been so awesome for me, and nothing else. Everyone has been so extroverted and kind, it's made making friends all that easier. By the third day, I had already talked to all 29 other students, and I was ecstatic.

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After this week, I was only left with good impressions of this program and what's in store. Everything is very organized and taken care of in an efficient fashion; whenever there's a problem, it takes no time at all to find a solution. The three program leaders have given themselves a very open persona, so it makes talking to them very easy. The activities and trips on this program are so rich and enjoyable such as the field trip to the zoo with the kids and to Saona Island. We’ve had the pleasure of spending our mornings of every weekday doing activities with kids on the poverty line at a school. I've gotten to work with a group of seven year olds, doing things like arts and crafts and sports with them. I have yet to have a formal English class with them.Overall, i'm so satisfied with everything that has happened so far and things should remain the same for the next two weeks, if not get better!

In the end, this program has allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and has given me things that no traditional classroom could. And that's experience. Up until now, my experiences with the Spanish language has just been practicing words, phrases, building sentences, as well as learning some culture. All great things which have given me a strong foundation for understanding the complex language. However, this program has allowed me to actually step into a society that uses Spanish as it's primary mode of communication, as somehow put my skills to use. Now, my skills that I've merely collected from traditional Spanish classes are being put to the test. It's bettering my skills more in such a short time period, since I'm using it more often and listening to others use it as well.

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All in all, the first week being over is a relief. It has really prepared me for what to come, and I can't wait for it all to happen already.

-Ayan R.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!