Monday, November 10, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The following is a summary of the 25 months that I spent in the Dominican Republic.
The day that I arrived in the DR (July 31, 2006) was the day that we received Ian, an 11 pound, 18 month old baby boy. Ian stayed with me, Jennie, and Alexia in the Makarios house (in Puerto Plata) for a total of two months. We took turns taking care of Ian, even when necessary taking him with us into the villages while teaching class. Ian was adopted by a Haitian couple in September 2006, and lives with them in Haiti. I have not seen him since.
I taught two classes in the village of Chichigua. Chichigua is a very small, all-Haitian village, built right in the thick of sugar cane fields. I used their church building in this isolated area to teach my classes. The youngest student was Guillermo, a chubby 2 year old boy (turning 3), and my oldest student was Monis, an illiterate 17 year old girl.
The other village I taught in was Pancho Mateo, a much larger village across the river from the small town Monte Llano. The village is made up of both Haitians and Dominicans. I taught 4 classes, with students age ranging from 2-20 years. The classes I taught daily in both villages consisted of math, reading, writing, and Bible. During this time a Haitian woman named Cristina became my teacher's aide, helping me teach and control the chaos of the classroom.
In October 2006, we started a food program in my classes. It began with a glass of milk and a hard boiled egg, and the following year grew to milk, a hard boiled egg, a piece of bread, a banana, and a vitamin.
Jennie, Alexia, and I lived together in the Makarios team house, and along with Jennie's husband Miguel, made up the entire staff in country. Alexia taught English and literacy classes to adults in Chichigua and Pancho Mateo, and Jennie oversaw all the administration and finances of the organization. In January 2007, Jennie and Miguel were married and moved into an apartment in Monte Llano.
Groups and interns are a big part of the DR. They plan and implement activities and programs during their stay and help lessen the ratio of kids to adults. They also do a great job loving on all of the kids. It does make it pretty tight living quarters though. Pictured on the roof with me and Alexia are all the summer staff and interns. As you can see, it was a big jump in number of people at the house. We sure did have a blast!
During the first year, Alexia and I drove a standard pathfinder to class, (that is when it wasn't in the shop). I would drop her off in one village and then continue on to the next with all the school materials and items for the food program. By te second year, the car was no longer around, so I walked and took public transportation.
During the summer of 2007 (and into the fall), a school was built. This meant that I would no longer be traveling back and forth between villages with all the school supplies, but that the students would come here. The school was built just across the river from Pancho Mateo, in the town of Monte Llano. (The neighborhood within the town is called El Tamarindo). Therefore, those students living in Pancho Mateo walked to school. The students from Chichigua were picked up in a van each day and taken to and from school. We also welcomed new students, those living in the neighborhood were the school had been built (El Tamarindo).
A new school year brought a new staff. At the end of the summer Alexia moved back to the states, and Robin, Weston, Kate, Cara, and Elizabeth came down. The first few weeks were a bit chaotic, but soon after everything got the hang of it. We began a before school program in the morning, a preschool at midday, and an after school program in the afternoon. Kate taught the youngest class in the morning and afternoon, and Cristina taught the middle aged students. Together they taught one of the preschool classes. I taught the oldest class in the morning and afternoons and Weston taught all P.E. classes, together we taught the other preschool class. Robin oversaw all things taking place in the school, and Cara and Elizabeth helped out wherever needed as interns. The kids each day would line up outside for songs before class started.
During this school year the food program developed to hot meals for our preschoolers (including rice, beans and chicken, spaghetti, and mangu with salami). We also hired a Dominican woman to do the cooking!!
In December of 2007, Robin, Cara, and I moved out of the Makarios house and into an apartment in Monte Llano. It was a perfect move as people coming to the country continually increased, as did our desire for a place we could call our own. The apartment in Monte Llano was such a great move. We had some personal space, and were also plugged in even more so to Dominican life since being located walking distance to the school. Monte Llano is located between the Puerto Plata and Sosua.
In January of 2008, Garrett and Anne Boon moved down to oversee pretty much everything in the DR- from well being of staff, to groups, building projects, and finances. Throughout the spring many others came down, including Kara and Laurin.
The remainder of the year was a great time of growth, development, and love. These images are a few glimpses in one day in the life...
In August 2008, we had a graduation ceremony for all of my students older than twelve. It was so great to spend the past two years with most of these kids and to look back and see how they have grown. It also brought great closure to the 25 months I spent in the DR.
Here is a group shot just days before flying out of the country at our apartment in Mone Llano.
Monday, October 20, 2008
A couple of days after Mexico, I spent a long weekend in Philadelphia and Boston with a few friends. Laurin, Hayley, and I flew to Philly and met up with Kara. We then drove to Boston and spent the weekend there visiting Emily. All five of us at one point were in the DR together working. Pictured above is me and Laurin and below is Kara and Hayley.
I loved Boston so much, I had never been there before and we picked the absolute perfect time to go. All the trees were changing, so we saw these vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow.
This weekend was also that of Texas-OU game, so I had to sport my colors walking around Boston. We actually went to a pub to watch the game, oh so exciting!! For two years I have been removed from Texas football, though I haven't been to a game since college, it is so good to be back!
We saw these Obama and McCain assortments at a chocolate shop. They even had a tally going of how many of each one had been sold.
I had originally planned to stay the whole week, but had to cut the trip short for a job interview in Houston.
After 2 hours of public transportation, we met with Mexican men and women interested in improving the education of children in the surrounding area. They shared about the struggles they face teaching children who come from backgrounds of extreme poverty and for some, many types of abuse. I was able to share with them the struggles I had teaching children with similar backgrounds. They were able to see that they were not alone, and that others could relate to them. After establishing the connection that we had, we were able to effectively communicate with each other and share ideas of how to teach and methods to use. We saw their program, and I was very impressed with how well and effectively they taught and how well behaved their students were.
The following day we continued to meet with them, and gave them ideas they can use in the classroom. With the ideas we gave them along with some materials to use in the classroom, I am completely confident that their already well established program will continue to flourish.
Overall it was a great week. In addition to real quality time with these teachers, I was able to spend great quality time with friends. It was SO wonderful seeing and spending time with them. The day before we flew out we had the opportunity to hike the pyramids of Teotihuacan, lots of steps but well worth the view from up top!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Passion International has been on a world tour, holding conferences in cities heavily populated with college students. They will be in Mexico City the first weekend in October. Passion has implemented a program called "Do Something Now," in effort to bring immediate help to the city where they are located. While in Mexico City, they are teaming up with a local church who are trying to improve the education of children in their surrounding area. They have an educational program that currently has children come every Saturday, but would like to extend their program to five days a week and develop the material that they teach, if given the resources and opportunity.
Passion International has asked Makarios to come and help. Though I am currently no longer working for Makarios, there were no returning teachers for this fiscal year (staff yes, teachers no). Therefore, I decided to team up with current Makarios staff to help develop this school program in Mexico.
I realize that me teaching Haitian and Dominicans is completely different from Mexicans teaching fellow Mexicans, but feel that sharing the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the past two years will be extremely beneficial.
I fly out Wednesday, October 1 and will spend one week with some of my close friends and former co-workers that remain Makarios staff in the Dominican Republic, as well as three others flying out of Texas, including Sharla, the Makarios director. We will be able to participate in part of the conference put on by Passion International over the weekend, in addition to the "Do Something Now" campaign for Mexico City.
I am very excited about this opportunity to share what I have learned (what has essentially been my life over the past two years), see dear friends, and experience Mexico City. I return October 7th, and will share the experience once I am back!
Monday, September 22, 2008
The power went out at the airport. Of course. We were sitting in the dark and in the heat waiting for our flight in the Puerto Plata airport. What a way to leave the country. So Dominican.
Weston's thoughts of this last DR moment are pretty much summed up by his facial expression.
Weston lived with Luz and her family in Monte Llano. She threw a going away party for Weston and the other three of us that were leaving. It was really great to spend time with all of our friends at the same place and time. We had a really wonderful time hanging out and talking about some of the things from our time here. The whole night was very Dominican, the video below shows you just a bit of that.
Back row: Kate, Paul (summer intern), Garrett, Weston, Jonathan (working construction with Garrett through December)
Middle: Megan (Laurin's friend), Anne, Ashley (new teacher for this school year), Sharla (just flew into the country), Jennie, Rachel (non Makarios, runs an Art Coop that employs Haitian women)
Front: Cristina, her husband Claudio, me, Laurin, Robin
(missing: Cara, who was visiting family, we missed her)