Platanear (v.) – a Dominican slang word meaning to become “Dominicanized” and accustomed to living in the DR; literally meaning, “to become plantained” (due to the overwhelming quantity of plantains in this country). So this past month has truly been a time of plataneando for us. After the craze of adjusting to a new environment, a new language, and a new way of life, we have finally had the chance to slow down and feel at home. We have been able to focus more on friendships, building relationships with students and teachers, and becoming more comfortable in our roles not just as teachers but also as actual people here in our new environment.We have had the pleasure of attending birthday parties and family gatherings of teachers and some of the older students. Earlier in the month we were invited to celebrate Karen, a 12th grader and student of Sofia’s, 17th birthday. We, along with a great group of the 12th grade girls, made little pizza bread appetizers for everyone to enjoy. We were able to get to know more students, particularly ones that neither of us have a chance to teach day to day. More recently, we were invited to a birthday party for a Nivel Inicial (preschool) teacher and colleague of Haela. This party was a Hawaiian themed pool party throw-down at a “Rancho” in Halto Mayor, a town just over an hour away from La Romana. We took a guagua (bus) to the site and the bus ride was fun in itself. The party hosts handed out pre made snack boxes and soda for everyone and we all sang happy birthday at least two times throughout the ride. The Rancho was beautiful and so were the decorations for the party! The hosts put in so much work to make it special for the birthday girl and for the guests. It was great to get to know all of these teachers outside of the school and spend time being goofy splashing around in the pool and dancing out on the deck.
It is always such a great feeling when students or teachers invite us to events or even just to hang out and chat. We have been accepted and welcomed from the beginning but now we can truly feel the deepening of new relationships and personal connections. We get to know the students and the city so much better when we are invited into homes. For example we were invited to a baby shower for a teacher’s sister this past month and did not really know what to expect. We didn’t know if we would feel awkward or out of place not knowing the family. From the second we arrived we were swept away to meet every relative and dance with every guest. We were treated like family and had a great time. Similarly, we attended a BBQ at a 12th grader, Ezequiel’s, house in Higueral, a town just a few minutes away. Higueral is a farm town and it is much quieter and more tranquilo (that’s calm for all you gringos). Ezequiel is not any of our students and yet he still invited us into his home to hang out with his friends and get to know each other. It was a great day spent with amazing humans and wonderful food (although Sofia and Haela both fell ill that very night with a sneaky Dominican stomach bug that caught them by surprise, but nevertheless it did not ruin the great day!).
Another huge highlight of this month was our first overnight trip out of our new home! We journeyed to Santo Domingo, the capital, where our good friend and sign language interpreter at the school, Jaribel, met us. Jaribel is our adopted mother here (although she is just a few years older than us) because she has taken us under her wing, especially in our time in the capital. Santo Domingo is the largest city in the country and it was very interesting to compare it to La Romana. We visited the Zona Colonial, an area that was the original settlement of the city and the first area discovered and settled by the Western world. The area still has many colonial buildings such as government headquarters and Christopher Columbus’ home. The Zona Colonial is such a beautiful tourist area and it was very nice to have lunch there on a cobblestone street with friends and get to experience a piece of the nation’s historical past.
As a group we have definitely achieved successes in the past month and each little win is a big deal to us! As far as personal achievements go we’re all progressing in our endeavors as well. Marisa is going strong with her sign language classes and now she is able to communicate with the students in the deaf school and the older deaf students in the hearing school too. She is also working hard and making strides with her athletic extracurricular group who will be put to the test this November as the marathon approaches. Sofia is continuing to play volleyball with the students and teachers on weekends, which has led to some great relationships. She is also feeling confident about her students’ work in regards to the upcoming “English Day” event in which they will be reciting information in English to big crowds. Haela has also been working tirelessly to prepare her tiny tots for “English Day”. She wrote a great song for them to sing and they are making huge strides in learning it! She is also really proud of the variety of materials and topics that her natural science students in the deaf school have learned through her creative experiments.
All in all it has been a month of successful plataneando although there are still undoubtedly moments of feeling overwhelmed. We are looking forward to November and December and all of the big events coming up! We have the marathon at the end of the month in which all three of us will be running the 5K with a group of students and then “English Day” in the beginning of December. After that its basically Christmas, wow time is flying by! Until next time friends!