November & December

And just like that, we are halfway through the year here. It’s hard to believe that it was only a few short months ago that we were first starting this journey here in the DR. It feels like a lifetime ago, and like it was just yesterday, all at the same time. The months of November and December really seemed to fly by since we had so many exciting things happening in such a short amount of time.
These past few months we spent a lot of time with other teachers and students, immersing ourselves more fully in our world here. Early in November we went to a baseball game of the local team, The Toros, with our supervisor and some friends from school. Sadly, the toros had a pretty rough night. It’s safe to say that none of us are good luck charms, but it was a really fun evening regardless. We also got the chance to hang out with some other volunteers from the U.S. who are working in La Romana as well. They were nice enough to reach out and invite us to there house for an election viewing party. It was really cool to meet new people from outside the school and PBO bubble.

Later in the month we decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner, with another one of the teachers from the Hogar, Lisa, at her house. We made up a grocery list, went on a couple of big shopping trips, and invited a whole bunch of friends from the school to come to this little event of ours. The Friday after Thanksgiving we went to Lisa’s house to help her finish making the food for dinner. We made tons of different dishes from potatoes, to beans, to pie. And yes, we did have turkey! Tons of people ended up coming for what turned out to be a really fun night. It was definitely nice to get a little taste of home too.

We also had our first visitors from the U.S. come to experience what life is like in the DR for us. At the beginning of November Sofia’s boyfriend, Patrick, came down for a few days, and at the beginning of December my (Marisa) friend, Sarah, visited. It was really special to be able to share our experiences here with friends from home. The general consensus from our visitors seemed to be that life at the school is pretty crazy but also pretty awesome. A fair assessment, I’d say.
November and December were also big months for events at the school. In the span of a few weeks we had “Sport Day,” where the kids got to compete in different athletic events against one another, “Music Day,” and, of course, “English Day.” After spending all of November working tirelessly with our students to prepare for English Day, the event itself was a huge hit. Some of Haela’s preschoolers and some of my first graders sang a song, my second and third graders did mini presentations, and Sofia’s students showed off how much English they have learned in longer presentations. It was easy to see how much time and effort everyone had put in to making the event so amazing—from the songs and dances in the openings, to the dioramas of each country’s monuments, to the presentations themselves.

Another big event that happened in late November was the marathon fundraiser for the school. On the morning of November 27th we were up bright and early, at 3:30 in the morning, to head over to Casa de Campo to help prepare for the race. My students started showing up around 6:00 and we all helped them get their bibs and trackers on. Running the 5K was really neat because we got to see different parts of Casa de Campo, and it was a beautiful morning. After the race all of the students were clearly so proud of themselves, and were excited to have made such an accomplishment. It was amazing to see how far they had all come in such a short period of time. After the race and English Day, things really started to speed by. The weekend before the end of classes and the start of final exams and evaluations, we took a day trip to Isla Saona, an island right off the coast of the Dominican Republic. We got to swim in a natural pool and see some starfish, then relax on the beach and have a great lunch, before taking a catamaran ride back home. It was a great way to recharge after the craziness of the race and English Day, and get ready to finish out the semester strong.
The last couple weeks were busy with exams, and evaluations, and grading, and end of semester activities, but once it was all finished we got to celebrate. After the last day of exams we got to attend a long day of Christmas parties. In the morning, the kids from the preschool and primary school got to celebrate the end of the year with a little show, a lot of cake and treats, and christmas presents. They were all so excited to be receiving something for christmas, it was so heartwarming to see. After the little kids had their party, the older kids came in for their own. It was a day filled with a lot of fun and a lot of food and treats. A few days later we got to attend the quinceañera of one of Sofia’s students, so we get to celebrate even more.
All in all, the last month and a half were pretty great—crazy busy, but pretty great. Now we’re all pretty excited to be spending a few weeks at home with our families to rest and recharge for the second half of the school year. Can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us next.

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