SDQ to ATL

Tonight (Sunday) was our last night in the Dominican Republic. After camp on Friday, we headed to Punta Rucia for an off-the grid experience that included snorkeling through a reef on Saturday. After lunch, we made it safely to Santo Domingo for the rest of the weekend. Our hotel, Casa Sánchez, is absolutely quaint and beautiful. We are right in the heart of the Zona Colonial, within walking distance to the oldest cathedral in the New World, the resting place of Christopher Columbus, and old forts and castles that line the cobblestone roads. We had a walking tour of the city from our guide, Madame Hermosillo. After that, within a small area, students could enter museums, barter with market vendors for souvenirs, and buy lunch. Lunch was followed by a workshop at the chocolate factory. We learned the history of cacao and the steps it takes to make chocolate. Everyone donned a chef’s hat and apron and made their own sweets to take home. The final event was a lovely meal at Pasatiempo di Santo Domingo, a quaint restaurant tucked away on a side street. Mr. Pope led an emotional time for reflections, where each student looked at the experience as a whole, and talked about it in front of the group.

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The chaperones (Mrs. Hermosillo, Mr. Pope, Ms. Powell, and Mrs. Jiménez) were absolutely amazed at the insight that our students had. The thoughts and comments reflected a maturity beyond their years. These 16 rising freshman have so much to offer and exceeded our expectations in every way. There were those who tried new activities and learned that physically and mentally, they are much more capable of what they previously thought. Some tried out the world language they study at Pace, only to find out that they could also pick up phrases in an additional one. Others worked tirelessly at camp in tough conditions, learning new skills along the way. As a group, we learned that our culture is special, but not necessarily better than any other. We learned that it’s ok to not feel comfortable, and in fact, that is how you can really grow as a person. We learned that by focusing so much on “stuff” maybe isn’t allowing us to be our best selves. We learned that while technology is wonderful in many ways, a real face-to-face conversation can be the biggest gift of all. We also learned that the world is full of problems and challenges, but possibly we can be ones who will make a difference.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” – M. Scott Peck

Thank you! ¡Gracias! ¡Merci! ¡Mesi anpil!

~Maryann Powell, Pete Pope, (Jose Bien-Amié), Edna-May Hermosillo, Holly Jiménez

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Last day of camp/Punta Rucia

Friday was our last day at camp. It was a special day that began with songs at morning circle. The two smallest groups went to different classrooms for games, more songs, and activities and the older campers took a vocabulary quiz on all the words we have learned this week. After that, it took us three guagua buses to take the entire camp, plus 10 teachers, and our 16 Pace students to go to the beach. We had a lovely morning splashing in the waves, playing fútbol in the sand, and running around. Lunch was on the beach for the campers until we took them back to school. It was a sad goodbye, with tears shed on both sides.

After camp, we ordered pizzas to eat on the bus and headed a few hours west to Punta Rucia. We stayed one night in this fairly remote beach town. The beach has the softest sand, interesting shells, and beautiful clear water. This morning (Saturday), we will take a boat to Cayo Arena for snorkeling. Then we head to Santo Domingo for two nights!

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Thursday – Camp Day 4

Today was our last “academic” day at camp, as Friday will mostly be spent at the beach! Our 16 troopers were back at it- giving horse rides during recess, making wax string creations in Art, playing BINGO in active games, and singing songs. The campers brought extra energy to camp today, but the Pace students were as flexible and fun as they have been all week. After camp, we took the buddies to Costambar Beach. Time to relax and play in clear water with sand, sun, and mountains in the background was perfect. Andrew and Olando, two kindred spirits, spent an hour throwing a baseball back and forth. A huge group of Pace and Project Esperanza kids played a volleyball game in the water, as others buried each other in the sand or looked for shells together. We are looking forward taking the ENTIRE camp to a different beach tomorrow for a celebration of our week together.

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Wednesday – Camp Day 3

Today we are really getting into the rhythm of camp. And speaking of rhythms, we all had an hour dance lesson last night learning merengue, bachata, and salsa. It was really fun, especially for Grace and Alexandra. We put our new skills to test during the “dance party” session during Songs class at camp! Arts & Crafts was busy with mask making, and Active games had a great game of vocabulary flyswatter, followed by soccer in the gym area. And Andrew, Ross, and Ben were busy giving caballo rides starting about 30 seconds after we arrived in the morning. Alexandra also started a pretty cool volleyball game with her buddy Miguelina during recess.

Camp during Day 3

Camp during Day 3

After camp today, we did the same activities as Monday. We are in two groups, so we switched and did opposite activities today. Madame H and Mr. Pope did the cable car/fort/ice cream trip and Sra. Jiménez and Ms. Powell participated in the cooking class and scavenger hunt through a neighborhood where many of our students live. The cooking class was fun. An older Haitian woman patiently explained all of the ingredients to our students and the buddies. We got to make sike sou bon bon, which is a very typical donut-type cake in Haiti. In groups of five the kids mixed, then kneaded the masa (dough), until they were fried in oil. We all got to take a bag of the tasty treats with us! The scavenger hunt was interesting, as the homes in the neighborhood we saw are much different than in Atlanta. It opened our students eyes to how people live in a different place.

Cooking class and neighborhood visit

Cooking class and neighborhood visit

The day ended with a quick trip to a local beach, with a swim in beautiful, blue water.