Dee Jay In…The US???

Greetings to all my beloved blog followers! Sorry that I’ve been MIA. I realized that I left my DR blog hanging. So, I’m coming through with one last post to bring it to a close, especially since I’ve returned to the states. I went back to see when my last post was, thinking it was some time last spring. But no, the last post was a whole year ago, in December. So, I have to start from there. It will be quite a bit to read, but bear with me  🙂 By that time (in December 2015), I had already been living in Santo Domingo for a couple months. I was working as a 3rd grade teacher and the work was…well, it was going. I mean, the work I was doing wasn’t hard at all, I just didn’t like the long hours I worked. I was also living in an apartment, rooming with 2 other people. The roommates were decent and the apartment had everything I needed, but at the end of the day I just wanted to be alone. &Since I was still living really far from work, my 2 hour commutes sucked. I was really unhappy with both my living and working situations. I just wasn’t adjusting to either as well as I thought I would. But I figured that I just needed a break. &The holiday break couldn’t have come at a better time. I spent most of it as I did in the previous 2 years: back in San Pedro de Macorís at Escuela Hogar Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). This is the most festive time of the year there and there’s a ton of activities going on, so NPH is where I wanted to be.

Coming back to NPH was like taking a breath of fresh air. Seeing my girls and the rest of the NPH family had me in high spirits, it just felt so good to be back. That September when I left NPH, my Santa Ana girls were left without a volunteer for that year. So, I gladly jumped back into “volunteer” mode for them while I was there for the holiday. We ate lunch and dinner together, and took random breaks to prepare snacks such as yaniqueques. We watched movies and American TV shows dubbed in Spanish, and did girly stuff like braiding hair and polishing nails. They gave me the tea on all the drama in the season’s hottest telenovela. I helped them create a baile and put the finishing touches on their piñata for the annual competitions between the houses. The rest of the time was spent outside taking walks around the park and laying in the shade. We caught up, we cracked jokes, and we got mad at each other. Just like old times.

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Me & the girls, December 2015

Meanwhile, everyday in the 12 days leading up to Christmas 2015, everyone participated in the traditional mañanitas. This year the mañanitas were being done in the late afternoon instead of at dawn. My girls had mixed feelings about that: some would rather wake up early than have an interruption in whatever they were doing in the afternoon. On Christmas Eve, the home had its La Noche Buena dinner in the multiuso, and then followed it up with the dance competition and party. My Santa Ana girls placed, making it to the final that would take place on New Year’s Eve. On Christmas day, I presented my girls with their gifts: personalized photo collages. Let me tell you, it took me a while to weed through the 5,000 plus photos that I had taken since June 2013. After separating the pictures of my 20 girls, I was finally able to get started with the individual collages. &Since I didn’t have much energy for anything outside of my long work hours, the whole process took weeks to complete. But I got it done in time for Christmas, and the girls loved their collages! They enjoyed seeing the photos of all of our past birthday celebrations, graduations, slumber and house parties, beach trips, and chill Saturdays. They loved seeing how they’ve changed over the years. I was glad that I was able to leave them with those recuerdos of our time spent together at NPH.

After Christmas I headed up to Bayacanes with my friend, Anike. Bayacanes is a small village outside of La Vega, located right in the heart of the DR. We spent a few days of peace and relax at the Eco Aldea Casa Verde hostel. Then, all roads led up north to Cabarete, where we linked up with more friends to bring in the New Year, 2016. As usual, I had a really good time there and met some pretty cool new people. Cabarete never disappoints.

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Bayacanes

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Eco Aldea Casa Verde Hostel

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Cabarete!

One thing I wanted to do in this New Year (2016) was to get back to doing more socially, traveling more around DR, and visit most, if not all, of the places left on my DR bucket list. Back in February, I visited the Los Haitises National Park with a tour group. There, we learned about the native history of the park. We traveled by boat through mangroves and got up close with various species of flora and fauna. We were even able to enter a few caves with pictographs believed to be left by (or even pre-date) the Taino natives. To end the trip, we went to Paraiso Caño Hondo, where we swam in the crystal clear waters of natural limestone pools.

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Los Haitises

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🙂

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Canio Hondo

Back in March I visited Punta Cana with my Mom and her friend. Although this was my umpteenth time in Punta Cana, there was one thing that made this trip distinct: I went snorkeling! Those who know me best know that I don’t do deep waters. But I did it anyway. My Mom did, too! It was really awesome seeing the reefs and all kinds of sea creatures. Not to mention, taking a break from the city life to relax at a resort was more than needed.

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Me & MommaBear

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Later in March, I met up with a few NPH volunteers to spend the weekend in the salt mining town of Las Salinas. For the most part we relaxed, listened to music, and read. We checked out the salt mining area and passed a few hours at a small isolated beach called El Derrumbao. El Derrumbao’s waters were very calm and there wasn’t a person in sight. There’s nothing like having an entire beach to yourself!

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Playa El Derrumbao with Sarah, Laretia, and Randy

Where I wanted to visit the most was the Montecristi province in the northwest corner of the DR. I was finally able to go there in April with a tour group. From Santo Domingo it took us a little over 4 hours to arrive there. Since it was a two-day (one night) trip we had to pack in a lot: traversing through mangroves, visiting the museum of Máximo Gómez and José Martí, climbing El Morro and going to its beach, driving to a salt mining area, boat tripping to Isla Cabra, and ending the trip with a stopover in the border-town of Dajabón. A tight schedule, but we stuck to it and even squeezed in a couple of other stops. The weather on these days could not have been better, the places we visited were breathtaking, and the group I went with meshed really well.

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Montecristi

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Museo de Gomez y Marti

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Isla Cabra

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Dajabon

In May, Miche, my friend and fellow New Yorker, made her very first international trip to visit me in the DR. With her fresh off the plane we hit the road and traveled up to Bayacanes. I enjoyed my time so much at the Eco Aldea Casa Verde hostel when I was there (in December 2015) that I had to go back again. &It was also the perfect opportunity for Miche to experience a side of DR that many tourists don’t: it’s countryside. After a weekend of swimming in rivers, jam sessions, chilling in hammocks, and experiencing the beauties of nature, we headed back to Santo Domingo. While I worked, Miche made her way around the city and even traveled around the DR with new local friends. At night we hung out in Zona Colonial, frequenting Kalenda (a vegan restaurant). One of the best nights during her trip was when we linked up with a group of my friends to pre-party for Barbarella, an electro-music concert. The night was amazing to say the least and our squad had a great time! Days later, Tianna, another one of my friends, visited. After spending almost a year in Spain, she had returned to DR to soak up the sun and celebrate her birthday. It was great having both of these girls around!

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With Miche in Santo Domingo

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Bayacanes with Miche and Marcelo

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Barbarella 2016

In June, I took a weekend solo trip to the beach town of Macao, located on the eastern coast. I stayed at the Macao Beach Hostel. &Since I was feeling adventurous I rented a tent and slept outside. What I discovered is that one can’t chill in tents during the day, because under the Sun it acts like an oven. It wasn’t a big deal, because I found other shady areas to hang out and read under. I also realized that the nighttime noises of nature kinda creeped me out. But, still, I slept soundly. I liked the location of this hostel and that the area was very peaceful. I felt very comfortable there and the staff was very welcoming. The owner even invited me out to see his band’s show and party one night.

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Outside of my trips around DR and visits from friends, I made many visits back to NPH for visitor/sponsor days, graduations, and beach trips. I enjoyed going back to the campo and seeing my NPH family.

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My many visits back to the home

Also, my living and working situations had finally turned for the better. Over the spring I left my job at the school to pursue a position developing educational content for iBooks. This presented me with the opportunity to work remotely, with a flexible schedule, and earn almost double in salary (all of which allowed me to complete my DR bucket list travels). Another thing that excited me about the gig was that I’d be working with two ex-volunteers from NPH, Fabiola and Guillermo. I had also moved out of the apartment I was sharing and into a small studio. My new spot was closer to public transport, grocery stores, and, most importantly, it was 20 walking minutes from my new job. Charged with new energy, I led a pretty active summer. I began exercising and doing yoga, and I had changed my eating habits. I took up Hip Hop dance classes and participated in weekly pickup games of volleyball on the malecón. I met new people via social groups such as Couchsurfing, Internations, and MeetUp; and I even reconnected with old friends. Summer was great!

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More Cabarete trips, Hip Hop dance classes, and MeetUp groups

This past September, it became official that I had less than 5 weeks left in DR. At work, I was slowly but surely wrapping up things, trying my best to finish my last iBook. I dedicated a lot time to getting out with friends, searching online for jobs in my city, and finding new homes for things that wouldn’t fit into my 2 suitcases and 1 large backpack. One thing I had to do was to go back to NPH and do something for a few of my girls. On my last Saturday in the DR I headed to the home and picked up 4 of the girls. I hadn’t had a real plan of what we’d do, I originally wanted to have a full beach day at Playa Juan Dolio, but there had been a weather warning in effect due to Hurricane Matthew. It was very cloudy but it wasn’t raining, so we headed to the beach anyway; not to swim, but to just go. We went to a restaurant to have a few sodas and snacks, and then we walked along the shore to take too many group photos and selfies. After about an hour or so we headed back to San Pedro to have a late lunch at Paco Taco. After lunch, we craved something sweet, so we walked to the malecón and stuffed our faces with ice cream. Nearing 4pm, it was time to take them back to the home. It was a sad moment of course, but they know that I’ll be visiting again. I definitely will be, and I’ll be bringing a lot of people with me! We all found solace knowing that in the meantime we could keep in contact via email and messages relayed through volunteers.

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My Girls!

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Cloudy skies and rough waters thanks to Hurricane Matthew

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Mis locas!

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In early October, I moved back to the USA. But before going home, I went to New York City to visit my friends Miche and Tarez (both of whom have come to visit me in DR), and then I headed to DC to see Hannah, who I volunteered with at NPH. Five days later, I was back in my town. These last 3.5 years have been incredible. I’ve experienced a LOT in DR! I met so many people, locals and foreigners, close friends and acquaintances that I’ll never forget. I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve discovered a lot about myself, too; things that I need to work on, things that I’m capable of, and goals that I’d like to achieve. I’m thankful for having that opportunity to travel to DR and volunteer at NPH and I highly encourage others to get out and travel (or volunteer) as well. Do it before life gets in the way. A big shout out to all of you who have been following this blog (even when I go MIA) and those that have reached out and checked on me via emails, letters, carepackages, and visits. I thank you all.

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Mural in the Las Americas Airport, sending me a friendly reminder before I boarded my plane.

 &Now…I’m back. It took a while to get settled in at home with finding a good job and I’m still working on building up a routine. I won’t lie: I do miss life in the DR, especially at this time of the year. Winter in Western NY is nothing to play with! But, my skin is thickening up and keeping me warm, and my biceps get stronger with each day I have to shovel snow. Still, I can’t say that I’m home “for good”, rather “for an indefinite amount of time”.

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Can’t stay home for good when places like this exist.

But for now, I’m planning my next move, networking and building steps towards a career, and figuring out what’s right for me. Wish me luck with all of that!

DeeJay ❤

Goodbye & Hi

It’s been a whole 6 months since my last update! Sorry y’all. I’m still here in the DR. A lot has gone on. In Mid-June, we had our 8th and 12th grade graduations. This was a really big class of students. I was proud to see a few of my recently graduated 8th graders going up to receive their diplomas. They started the new school year with a new uniform: white button-up shirts and navy slacks worn by the high-schoolers!

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I went home at the end of June for about a week and a half. I had some vacation time left so I figured I’d go home. I spent the 4th of July there, and was able to get super full off the holiday Soul food that I always miss so much. For the first time in almost 3 years I saw my Grandmother, who was up visiting from Florida. We had some interesting and entertaining conversations. I loved hanging out with her and really enjoyed our time together. She taught me how to make a Red Velvet Cake from scratch. I burnt it just a little, HaHa but it was still pretty good. It felt sooo good being back in my hometown and being able to catch up with my family and a few friends.

Airport Shenanigans

Airport Shenanigans

Things I missed: Granma, Wegmans, & BBQ

Things I missed: Granma, Wegmans, & BBQ

After making it back from NY, I ran over to see my Santa Ana girls. They always ask about my family so I wanted to give them a few updates. Upon arriving, I found out that at 5am the next morning they, and the Santa Rosa house, would be traveling up to Samaná to spend the weekend with an NPH tía (what we call the caregivers). They invited me to come too, but I was reluctant. I was running only on about 1 hour of sleep and the last thing I wanted to do was have to set my alarm clock to get up early the next morning. On top of that I still had to unpack and wash clothes…and sleep! But, I realized that if I didn’t go with my girls up to Samaná, I’d be bored for that weekend because they weren’t at NPH. So, at the crack of dawn the next day, I boarded the NPH guagua and made the 3 hour trip up to Samaná. The tía lived out in the countryside, the air was fresh, and there were hiking trails that led to beautiful look-out views of the Samaná Bay. It was very tranquilo! We took the kids to the beach and to a river to cool down. My girls enjoyed talking walks to pick mangoes and other fruit from trees. I had a good time and I know my girls did too. It was nice to take a road trip with them.

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Mid-August, after celebrating Padre Wasson Day and after a fun summer of vacations, internships, and camps, everyone was back to work! At this point the university kids were back working hard in their majors, the recent high school graduates had begun their Year of Service in various areas of NPH, and the high school and elementary school students were continuing to work hard to get good grades. Not to mention that our new group of volunteers had settled into their roles, growing more and more accustomed to NPH life and Dominican culture.

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Padre Wasson Day: after-mass fun!

Sibling Bonding on Padre Wasson Day

Sibling Bonding on Padre Wasson Day

First Week of School! All 3 of the NPH DR School uniforms!

First Week of School! All 3 of the NPH DR School uniforms!

At the end of August, I had a resort weekend with two of the best girls I’ve met in DR: Tianna and Jessica. It was our last “turn-up” weekend as a unit in DR. These two would both be moving away to cities in Spain for school and work. Tianna found a good Groupon deal for our resort and I cannot remember the name of it but it was really nice there. I couldn’t complain about the food or service of the staff there. The first day there we didn’t have a beach day because we arrived right in the middle of tropical storm Erika, so entering the ocean was prohibited. We were able to relax though, and eat (a lot). We later went to see some of the shows that the resort put on. That night we were actually able to hop in the pool because the rain had stopped entirely. The next morning we were able to have our beach day! Erika was gone and the sun was shining! We all had a good time together. I’m happy that I was able to spend that rainy weekend with them. I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else.

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The month of September was pretty stressful for me. Since coming back from my vacation I had made the choice that I would stay in the DR longer with hopes to find work. I had been living in the countryside of San Pedro for over 2 years at this point, so I really wanted to find another job in a city, preferably Santo Domingo. I spent the month of August trying to perfect my resume. I was lucky to have 3 friends who were former human resource majors/managers to look it over. I hadn’t updated my resume in almost 3 years and I had a lot to change! So, fast forward a little, I had finalized my resume but then realized that I had to translate it to Spanish. That took up more time, but I got the job done. In September, I had emailed my resume to at least 10 different organizations. My friend referred me to two schools that I ended up having interviews with. One was for a substitute teacher position, and the other was for a 3rd grade teaching position. Both interviews went well. One was in English and the other was in Spanish. I ended up being hired for both positions! So, at the end of September (after 2 years, 4 months, and 15 days) I officially finished up my service as an NPH volunteer. I felt good, my time with NPH has had many highs, not too many lows; I’ve gone through many phases here and learned so much about myself. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Ever. I remember telling myself that I wouldn’t even apply to be a volunteer with NPH because 1 year is too much time to commit to. But here I am, over 2 years and counting. Looking back, my experience as a volunteer has been incredibly fulfilling. I really wish more people took time out while they’re young to travel and/or volunteer. I wasn’t as sad to leave NPH because I knew that I’d be coming back to visit, so for that moment I said, “Hasta pronto”.

So, I had accepted the position as the 3rd grade teacher because it offered more stability. I’m teaching at a really small private elementary school. There are about 80 children that go here. It goes from nursery school up to 5th grade. The majority of the students are in 2nd grade and below. My class has only 4 students. I teach basic subjects (in English), and they have a local teacher that comes in to teach them (in Spanish) about Dominican History, Spanish Language, Gym, Music, and Computer. My kids are fun too. I’m happy to be there to help them improve their English. They are all really smart, energetic and have strong personalities. We have our days, but they are still the coolest kids in the school if you ask me.

My Students

My Students

Things at the school are going…okay, overall. I mean, since starting I’ve had a lot to adjust to and am still struggling to adjust to certain things. Before even starting at the school I was stressed out after accepting the job offer because I had no idea where I would live. I had about 10 days before my first day of work to find a crib in Santo Domingo. This proved to be difficult while I was still working and living in San Pedro. Luckily, I was able to crash at a friend’s house in Santo Domingo until I was able to get on my feet and find my own spot. I planned to only stay about a week, two weeks tops, which should’ve been more than enough time to find my own spot. But it took me longer because I had absolutely NO time to do any “go-sees” during the day. For my first 3 weeks I was working from 7:30 am until 6pm, Monday through Friday. I did NOT see the sun during the day since my classroom doesn’t have a window to the outside. It was dark when I arrived to work and dark when I left. I had not been getting a lot of sleep at night, I had to figure out public transport, and every day was just a constant learning experience in this new teacher role and in life post-NPH. On top of that I was worried because I still hadn’t found another place to live. I was completely spent every day while at work, simply exhausted, sometimes falling asleep in class. At 2pm I had an hour break, I used that time to eat and sleep. After work every day I’d get stuck in the same damned traffic jam, making a 30-minute commute turn into almost 2 hours. Life was grand. -_- Finally after a month, I found a new spot to move into. It’s in my budget and has everything I need. I’m also now only working until about 4:15pm, which means I don’t get trapped in the late-afternoon traffic! Woot Woot! This, plus everything else I’ve gone through since moving to Santo Domingo, has been a real-deal roller-coaster learning experience.

So it’s obvious that I needed a break, right? Back in November I decided to take a day trip to Isla Saona. I hadn’t gone to the beach in almost 3 months! I had wanted to go to Saona for a long time. I found a good price with a tour group, it was pretty cool! We took a catamaran over to the island. During the trip over there were drinks, people dancing and relaxing, and the sun was shining high. It was a beautiful day. But a short one, and I still need another break, HaHa!

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Although it’s been almost 3 months post-NPH, I’ve been able to go back to visit a few times for Visitor’s Day and for the annual Quinceañera party. It always feels good to go back and see my group of teenage girls. They always have millions of questions for me: “How long are you here?” “Where do you live?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Will you be here for la noche buena?” “How’s your Mom?” “When are your friends coming to visit?” Question after question after question. I have one who is 16; she’s like a nagging little sister. She’s so sweet and funny, and loves to bother me! When I visit she lets me know upfront that she has to REALLY bother me to make up for missed time. Another one in particular, also 16, has been like a friend to me, she’s the little sister I never had but always wanted. She’s been so cool since the day I was assigned to the Santa Ana house. She’s really the bomb dot com. I’m always happy to go back to NPH to catch up with her and take turns trying to beat each other’s score in Subway Surf.

Visitors' Day

Visitors’ Day

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Quinceañeras y Dieciochos

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2 of my favorite girls!

2 of my favorite girls!

It feels good to be back in the countryside with them. It’s weird, I find myself missing my life in the campo. When I was living there, I couldn’t wait to go “turn up” and explore cities. Sometimes I was sad to have to go back to work. Now that I’m in the city, I find myself wanting some countryside tranquility. Who would’ve thought? I miss seeing the sun rise/set without the view being interrupted by tall buildings. At night, it was fun going up to the roof and looking up and identifying a few constellations, spotting shooting stars, and getting perfect views of the moon. When it rained, it was perfect. It was quiet out there: no noisy horns, no loud music from cars, no nothing. It was peaceful. I am officially on vacation and, needless to say; the places I’m planning to visit are in the countryside or low-populated beaches. Hopefully I’ll get to go explore. Vamos a ver.

-DeeJay ❤

One thing’s for sure, two things-for certain.

Back in early May, I took a day trip with some friends to visit the Baní Dunes. From Santo Domingo it should take about an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes, to arrive there. But, with public transport (we took a taxi and 2 guaguas) it took us about 2.5 hours to get there. I got no sleep the night before and was knocked out for most of the bus trip there.

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We arrived at the park around 4:30pm. It was really beautiful; we were surrounded by miles and miles of sand. I saw a lot of cactus plants. For a moment I forgot that I was in DR! You know when most people think of DR they think of beaches and palm trees. But the DR has many other wonders that make you feel as if you were somewhere else. From the entrance, it took us about 15 minutes to walk through the sand and arrive at the beach. Even the beach was different. I expected to see white sand and seashells, but the sand was actually a dark gray and had many colorful pebbles and small rocks scattered around. It was really cool; none of us could resist picking up a few to save as souvenirs.

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I ended up taking another nap at the beach while a couple of the girls went to walk the shore. We started heading out around 6:15pm, and we arrived at the park’s door only to see it shut with a chain and deadbolt lock. The door guy didn’t realize that we were still in the park, but he opened it and let us out. Then, after about 30 minutes of waiting on the side of the road for a guagua going back to Baní, we realized that we had actually missed the last guagua. So we hitched a ride to Baní, and from there we took a guagua back to Santo Domingo.

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We need a ride!

One weekend while walking with through the colonial zone with Anike, we decided to go see the statue of Antonio de Montesinos. He was a friar from Spain who lived on the island of Hispaniola (here where DR and Haiti sits) and a huge supporter of the indigenous Taino people. Back in the early 1500s, he delivered a harsh sermon to colonists in DR who were enslaving these natives. His sermon has become known as the first cry for social justice in the Americas.

Random visit to see the statue of Antonio de Montesinos. He was a friar from Spain who, in the early 1500s, delievered a scathing sermon to colonists in DR who were enslaving the natives.

This statue is huge, shows Montesino calling out into the Caribbean Sea. It was donated by Mexico in 1982

Under the statue is an engraved quote from his sermon

Under the statue is an engraved quote from his sermon, says “Tell me, with what right and by which justice do you hold these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude? Are they not human beings? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not obliged to love them as you love yourselves?”

The sponsorship department that I’m now working in part-time, threw its annual party to celebrate all the sponsors and donors of the DR home: Fiesta del Día de los Padrinos. Last year the turnout was really low, this year our numbers were doubled! Overall it was so much better than last year’s celebration.

Me and the best temporary assistant signing in donors/sponsors!

Me and my assistants for the day, signing in donors/sponsors!

This year all of the kids houses were asked to present something to their sponsors. It could be a dance, singing a song, reading a poem, anything. My Santa Ana girls wanted to do a dance. I taught them a routine and after a few weeks of practice they did a really good job on their performance. The other houses did really well, too, some did dances and the others read poems. After the performances, we all ate lunch together in the multiuse building. Afterwards, there was music and games in the park, and later the celebration came to an end.

A few children with their sponsors (we call them Godparents)

A few children with their sponsors (we call them Godparents)

Performances from a few houses.

Performances from a few houses.

And my Santa Ana girls!

And my Santa Ana girls!

Mis bailarinas!

Mis bailarinas!

I’ve been spending more time with my Santa Ana girls. Now that school is out I can catch up with them during the day when I’m on my work breaks, whereas before I had to wait until 4pm to see them. A couple of weeks ago I took them on a trip to the beach. I had not had a beach or pool day with them since October! I figured it would be a fun thing to do with them to celebrate the end of the school year. Relaxing at the beach was the best way. A few days later after the beach trip, I did a raffle for my girls. I gave away about 60 articles of clothing, accessories, makeup, and jewelry. My closet is lighter, which means that when I leave my suitcases will be lighter too.

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After the beach trip I took a trip with them to Batey Quisequeya to visit the home for senior citizens. My girls hung out with them and washed their feet. I remember doing that last year during Easter with a different group of children. I felt proud to see them do something so selfless for others, even if it was just giving a basic pedicure. At the end they sung a few songs, drank some malta morena, and ate cookies together. Afterwards, we went mango-picking! It was good day.

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I recently organized a kickball game of my girls vs. Casa San Esteban (our house for our oldest girls). The boys always have soccer and basketball games so I wanted to create some friendly competition amongst the girls. In the days leading up to the game my Santa Ana girls were motivated, they were sure that this would be an easy win for them. Game day arrives and San Esteban is up to kick first. They score 10 runs before getting 2 outs. I still had hope for my girls…until our first 3 up to kicked were all called “out”. We played for a half hour; the final score was 18-6, San Esteban. HaHa Needless to say my girls want a rematch.

Kickball!

Kickball!

The most recent outing I went to with my girls and all of the rest of the NPHDR kids was a trip to the National Theater in Santo Domingo. 200 tickets were bought for the children, caregivers, volunteers, and visitors to see the Peter Pan musical. I am not a fan of musicals, but this one was really good, I loved it. It was a great experience for our kids; they were able to see a cast of teens and younger children their age performing on stage.

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In the last few months I haven’t been traveling too far or to new cities. A lot of my recent weekends off have been spent in Santo Domingo. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the capital. But I’m realizing that I’ve only checked off half of the things on my DR bucket list. I don’t have much time left here, so now I must dedicate my remaining off weekends to exploration. During my last off weekend I spent a day up in the small town of Miches.

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To arrive there I took an hour guagua from San Pedro to El Seibo, then from El Seibo I took another hour guagua through the mountains to arrive in Miches, on the southern coast of Samaná Bay. There wasn’t much going on in the city of Miches in general, I really went just went there to catch the beach vibes. I stayed at a hotel called Coco Loco Beach Club. It was really nice, and right in front of the beach. The staff there was really nice and helpful. It had an onsite restaurant and the food and drinks were really cheap. I really liked it here, I was able to just relax, and that’s all I wanted to do.

CocoLoco Beach Club

CocoLoco Beach Club

They make "free continental breakfast" look so fancy :D

They make “free continental breakfast” look so fancy 😀

Playa Arriba at Sunrise and Midday

Playa Arriba at Sunrise and Midday

Random pics from the ride back...

Random pics from the ride back…

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My girls

Mis hermanitas

One thing’s for sure and two things-for certain: June 9th, 2015 marked TWO years of living here in the DR! I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my life here: everything that I have accomplished here and the many friendships that I’ve made. I reminisced on many events from my first few months and felt all nostalgic from looking through photos. I could sense these memories as if they occurred just yesterday. I am still very grateful to have been given this opportunity to give back at NPH and to have met an awesome group of teenage girls that I now call my little sisters. Outside of NPH, I feel blessed to have met many interesting individuals who have become great friends to me; they are always there to offer perspective and never-ending goodtimes. Through them I’ve learned a lot about not only others, but also myself. Cheers to 2 years!

-DeeJay ❤

Somethin’ like chocolate, starfish, and cropped tops.

                April was a pretty busy month for me and my department here at NPH. Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT a teacher, nor do I work in the school. I’ve been here in the main office working as the assistant to the Sponsorship Coordinator  for almost 2 years and, more recently, I have taken on a position as the Projects Coordinator. A few weeks ago my department hosted the NPH International Sponsorship Meeting. We invited all the sponsorship coordinators and assistants from other NPH homes and fundraising offices to come spend a week here at our home in the DR. The countries that were represented were: USA, DR, Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Canada, Bolivia, and Peru. It was really fun. I really enjoyed my week with all of them! On the first Saturday of meetings Daniela, the Sponsorship Coordinator for DR, and I took them all out for a mini tour of San Pedro de Macorís. We went to Macorix Cigar factory and then we had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Robby Mar. Later we went to take a walk on the malecón before heading back to catch mass at the home.

At the Macorix Cigar factory!

At the Macorix Cigar factory learning to roll a few… 😉

The following Sunday we took a day trip to the capital, Santo Domingo. There we started off with a tour of Parque Los Tres Ojos, a limestone cave with 3 underground lakes.  We had a fun guide who explained many interesting things about the cave and about the Taino natives who inhabited that area back in the day. After passing by 3 lagoons of the cave (called Aguas Azufradas, La Nevera, and Las Damas) and taking a boat at to the other side of the cave, we arrived to an open air area but were still below ground level. We crossed a short bridge over a small stream filled with Tilapia fish and quicksand, and then arrived at a lake called Zaramagullones. It was huge!  From there we went back into the cave, took the boat back to the other side, and headed back up/out of the cave. The temperature was really cool down there but the humidity was high. Definitely worth it though.

Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos

Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos

After Parque Tres Ojos we headed towards Zona Colonial, where we would eat lunch. We found a restaurant down in front of Parque Colon and afterwards we went to Choco Museo, a chocolate museum. I took a quick detour to get some ice cream from Bon and met back up with them at the museum where some of the staff were giving merengue lessons to a few of our sponsorship coordinators. We were also able to try samples of a few things made from cacao leaves and chocolate. After that we walked to Plaza España and then drove from there to Santo Domingo’s malecón. We arrived back in San Pedro around 10pm, it was a long day!

In Zona Colonial at the Chocolate Museum!

In Zona Colonial at the Chocolate Museum!

xD

xD

Monday through Thursday we had our formal meetings that started at 8:30am and ended around 5pm, of course with breaks in between. We talked about different ways to improve correspondence between the homes and fundraising offices, as well as our annual Christmas card and child photos projects. Some themes were pretty boring for me. On the flip side, I work in the home so it was interesting to see how things work in the fundraising offices. Overall, the best part was meeting and networking with people from other countries. They were all really cool and just down to earth. On the last Thursday afternoon we went to the beach and had dinner there. Later that night a few of us went out for drinks and dancing at the malecón here in San Pedro.

Daily Meetings, Eeek! No mas!...and where's the "H" at the end of my name? :)

Long daily meetings, Eeek! No mas!…and where’s the “H” at the end of my name? 🙂

Earth Day Parade and Mass with my Sponsorship people

Earth Day Parade and Mass with my Sponsorship people

Beachy afternoon and the last dinner with everyone! It was a great week!

Beachy afternoon and the last dinner with everyone! It was a great week!

International Sponsorship Coordinators and Assistants, NPH RD National Director, and a few pequeños

Here we are: International Sponsorship Coordinators and Assistants, the NPH RD National Director, and a few pequeños

On Friday I joined Claudio and Ana (coordinators from the USA fundraising office), and Vera and Priscilla (coordinators from the Mexico home) on a little trip to spend an overnight with them at the Bavaro Princess resort in Punta Cana. It was a perfect way to end the week: unlimited food, unlimited drinks, and relaxing.

This place was  beautiful!

This place was beautiful!

:D

😀

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Now, other happenings since the last post…

In Punta Cana checking out a few lagoons with my friend, Tina!

At the end of March I went to visit my friend Tina in Punta Cana. Checked out a few freshwater lagoons!

Soy yo

😀

Many smiling faces at the church in La Cerveceria

During Semana Santa I was part of another “Proyecto: Compartir”. This time I was able to go with NPH to donate food to a few families in the La Cerveceria neighborhood of San Pedro.

All the kids recieved a small toy!

&All the kids recieved a small toy!

During Semana Santa Daniela and I had talk with all the kids to explain to them them how our department works, how to improve the quality of the letters they write for their sponsors. I translate letters, and since our talks with the kids I've seen an improvement in the writing. Many of the children keep the letters they recieve in a folder but most of these folders are broken. So, at the end of each talk we gave them all a new plastic folder.

Also during Semana Santa Daniela and I gave presentations to all the kids to explain to them them how our department works and how to improve the quality of the letters they write for their sponsors. They learned a lot about how the process works and the time needed to send/recieve correspondences to/from the fundraising offices and sponsors. I translate letters, and I’m happy to say that since our talks with the kids I’ve seen an improvement in the writing! Many of the children keep the letters they recieve in a folder but most of these folders are broken. So, at the end of each talk we gave them all a new plastic folder.

Me and my Santa Ana Boos! I love these girls!

I love these girls! Daniela and I with my Santa Ana Booskies after chatting with them about the Sponsorship Dept! I love these girls!

A few days off during Semana Santa (Holy Week) spent at the beach with a few of my favorite people!

Those days off during Semana Santa (Holy Week) were well spent at the beach with a few of my favorite people!

At the end of April the NPH school held a career expo for the kids to introduce them to other professions. Many of the kids, especially the boys, want to become a pro sports player. This was a great way to get them exploring and considering other career paths.  Photos: A few of our highschoolers who are studying Hotel/Tourism;; Our landscapers and farmers;; Plumbing;; Law

At the end of April the NPH school held a career expo for the kids to introduce them to other professions. Many of the kids, especially the boys, want to become a pro-sports player. This was a great way to get them exploring and considering other career paths, not just the ones shown at the expo. In these photos are: a few of our highschoolers who are studying Hotel/Restaurant, our landscapers/farmers, a former plumber, the NPHDR lawyer.

More from our career expo: Doctors/Nurses;; Teaching;; Consecrated Life;; Therapist. Others professionals were: Accounting, Marketing, Carpentry, and Psychology

More from our career expo: Doctors/Nurses, teachers, sisters who practice the consecrated life, and a speech therapist. Others professions present were: an acountant, a marketer, a carpenter, and a  psychologist.

Spent another Family/Visitors' Day with the kids.

Spent another Family/Visitors’ Day with the kids.

A quick get-away with the vols: Deep sea diving with turtles...not really, but close enough!

A quick get-away with the vols: Deep sea diving with turtles and whales…not really, but close enough!

Starfish and Sharks

Starfish and Sharks

Hannah (future medic) and Anike (from Nigeria) have found their soul fish!

Hannah (future medic) and Anike (from Nigeria) have found their soul fish!

My soul fish! It's kinda ugly...but whatever :D

My soul fish! It’s kinda ugly…but whatever 😀

 

-DeeJay ❤

Month Twenty One

Time is passing by so quickly, seems like just yesterday I was landing at the Las Americas airport for the first time. Now I’m coming up on TWO years living here! Wow! Anyway, since my last post not much has gone on. A few weeks after my birthday I was able to celebrate that of my friend, Jessica. We, plus 3 friends, took a trip to north coast to spend the weekend in Cabarete. I hadn’t been there in over a year, so it was nice being back there and feeling that warm beach town vibe again. Our road trip was fun! We went off the beaten track and took a more mountainous route there, driving through a few towns like Moca and Jamao Al Norte. It took us about 3 and half hours to arrive to the Laguna Park hostel. This place is really cool, has lots of space to hang out, and has a pool! I remember staying here for a few days back in June 2013, right before I started at NPH.

Laguna Park Hostel

Laguna Park Hostel

That afternoon we went to the beach, ate lunch and then went back to the hostel to relax a little. Later that night went back to the beach had a nice dinner out on the sand for Jessica’s birthday. A small band showed up out of nowhere and sung her few birthday bachata/merengue songs, it was really cool. The heavy rain killed our flow, though! We had to move into the restaurant and were stuck there for what seemed like 2 hours. But, we were in no rush, honestly we just hoped for it to clear up enough for us to walk to a bar, at least. And it did, we ended up at one bar, called Ojos, where we spent the rest of the night.

Happy Birthday, Jessica!

Happy Birthday, Jessica!

The next day started pretty late, we packed all of our things and then we headed over to Playa Encuentro to see the finals of a surfing competition. I hadn’t seen any live surfing since wayyy back in 2012, when I was living in El Salvador. And, for me, it’s always awesome (not to mention, inspirational) to see these guys and girls riding the waves, something that I could never do. After taking in the last bit of sun, we headed back down to Santo Domingo.

Beach Shenanigans

Beach Shenanigans

Surf's Up?

Surf’s Up?

On February 13th, I threw my Santa Ana girls a pre-Valentine’s Day party to one the home would throw the next night. I don’t throw parties for them often, so when I do I like to really make it a party. There was a dress code of anything Red, Pink, White, or Purple.  We played a few group games, relay races, drank soda, and ate cake, pizza, and popcorn. I like to make sure they enjoy themselves. In the meantime while I was preparing food/games, they kept themselves busy while dancing to the music on my IPod. I didn’t have time to add Dominican music to my playlist but they loved listening to my American Pop/Hip-Hop music. We had a good time!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 7:30 am, Valentine’s Day morning, we had our first Caminata de Alberto at NPH DR. Emily (a fellow volunteer) organized this 5 kilometer walk/run in memory of Alberto Joseph, a child from the NPH Haiti home. Alberto had come to stay at the NPH DR home in order to receive cancer therapies before losing his battle with cancer in 2010. The purpose of the run was to raise awareness about cancer, and many children, adults, employees, and friends of NPH DR participated! It was a success! All the donations and proceeds went toward our the Santa Maria house that we have at NPH DR, this is where all they Haitian children and their caregivers stay while they receive their therapies.

The Run!

The Run!

Cheering on our Santa Ana girls who participated in the run...

Cheering on our Santa Ana girls who participated in the run…

A few weeks ago I went on vacation! YES, again. I was blessed to have my 2 closest friends, Ashley and Patricia, come to visit me. Of course we had a ball, cracked jokes, reminisced on old times, and caught up on life. They were able to visit NPH, meet my crazy Santa Ana girls, and catch a glimpse of how I live here. My first few days of vacay were spent with Ash, time being divided between San Pedro, Santo Domingo, and La Vega, and Juan Dolio beach. In the capital we stayed at one of the hostels I frequent, called Island Backpackers, we did some shopping, sightseeing, and bar hopping. That first Sunday we met up with my friends, Jessica and Tee, for a quick trip up to the Carnaval in La Vega.  Last year, I went with my Ma and a group of friends, so I had already knew what to expect. Each city has a main character seen at Carnaval, in La Vega there are the Diablo Cojuelos. Each Diablo Cojuelo carries a whip with a vejiga on the end, and they use it to whip Carnaval-goers. Apparently you’re cleansed of sins and negative energies when you are hit by a vejiga.

Carnaval Vegano '15

Carnaval Vegano ’15

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Sooo…I warned them to watch their back. But, still, it wasn’t enough. We had a good time…well, I did. Even though we all walked away with a few bruises on our butts. We arrived back in the capital pretty late and were beyond exhausted. After a fun weekend, Ash and I spent a few days of beach relaxation at Hotel Fior Di Loto in Juan Dolio.

At Fior Di Loto

At Fior Di Loto

Days later we picked up Pat from the airport and headed back to the capital to celebrate Dominican Independence Day. On what seemed like the hottest day, the parade took place at the malecon in Santo Domingo, and it was pretty cool. Participating in the parade were many men and women of the Dominican army/marines/air force, national/tourist police, emergency road/medical service responders, and other service jobs. There were a ton of people there watching from the sidelines.

Views from the parade

Views from the parade

DR Independence Day!

DR Independence Day!

That Saturday we went to the beach again, it was only right since my friends were going back to Snowy NY the next day. Then Sunday afternoon we walked back to the malecon to check out the Carnaval of Santo Domingo. It was okay, but I think we were all pretty tired out from the previous few days. Later on that night, Pat and Ash had to head to the airport. It was refreshing to have people around who come from where I come from, who understand my sense of humor, who talk how I talk, you know, people who I have a deep familiarity with. Living in another country is nice and it’s exciting to build these new connections with new people, but it’s NOTHING like that “home-y” feeling of being with my peoples. I miss that. Can y’all come back to me?! Please?

Now, a few random photos over the last few months!

Bracelet making and crazy faces with kids!

Bracelet making and crazy faces!

Boca Chica Beach Day with Tee and Logan

Boca Chica Beach Day with Tee and Logan

And also, learn about NPH Youth Development

-DeeJay ❤

“All I want for my birthdaaay is a…”

But first, it’s “winter” and a very festive (not to mention, busy) time here at NPH. Mid-December I was able to participate in the Proyecto Compartir, again. Last year we did it during December and also during Easter. I was hoping to go visit Quisqueya, which I visited a few times, but this time they chose to donate to the 4 nearby bateys. This time, I went with a few kids, volunteers, and other NPH workers to visit Ramon Santana. Outside of this city are the Atitlano Uno and Atitlano Dos bateyes. When given the choice on which one to stay for the morning I chose Atitlano Dos, remembering that last year the view up there was beautiful. Just to refresh, the entire month of December leading up to Christmas Day, the kids gave up a food item per meal. Our lunches usually have rice, salad, beans/corn, and some meat. So, each day only 3 out of the 4 foods are prepared for them. This was done in order to provide a donation of food to 50 families in these two bateyes, and to even more families in other bateyes on another donation day. We arrived at the community church around 9am, after dropping off the first group in Atitlano Uno. We unpacked what was left on Big Blue (our truck) and got things set up while we waited for families to arrive. Once all were there we introduced ourselves, but I think that they know our organization pretty well by now. Our oldest kids took the children outside to run a few games with them, and to pass out popcorn, candy, and oranges. Inside, the heads of the families received the donations.

Batey Atitlano II

Bringing in the donations at Batey Atitlano II

One of our oldest pequeños helping out

One of our oldest pequeños helping out

Inside and outside views of the church.

Inside and outside views of the church.

Getting ready to leave Atitlano...

Getting ready to leave Atitlano…

With the arrival of the holiday season comes mañanitas. This year we began on Tuesday, December 16th, the caroling started around 5:30am. So, every morning until Christmas, a group begins to sing outside of one of our houses. That house comes outside, adding more people to the choir, and then they all go to the second house, they come out (adding more to the choir) and so on and so forth until we arrive at the last house (18 houses are involved). The last house (which changes each day) is the house that dresses up as Joseph, Mary, a few shepherds, a cow, a sheep, a donkey, a star, and an angel. Each day another character is added; on the first day the only characters were Mary and the Angel who came to tell her that she would give birth to Jesus. The next day Joseph was added. I thought that for my second time around it would be easier to get up for these. But…nah, it wasn’t. I actually I skipped out on a few mornings. I just wasn’t about it.

Us as shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the angel, a cow, a donkey, the star, and a sheep.

Us (up at the crack of dawn) as: shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the angel, a cow, a donkey, the star, and a sheep.

This year’s Fiesta de la Buena Noche was pretty fun. My girls’ house, Santa Ana, was ready! We had our performance ready for that night’s competitions. We did a merengue number to “Feliz Navidad” by Johnny Ventura. It was something we had just started to practice days before but we lucked out and made it into the second round, which would take place on New Year’s Eve. The volunteers did a dance mix, our dance this year was so much better than last year! We had so much fun and the kids liked to see us make a fool of ourselves.

Here’s our video if you’d like to see…

On Christmas Day, we had the piñata competitions. My Santa Ana girls weren’t motivated to make a cool piñata, and were only concerned about the candy that would be inside. I was told, “DeeJay, even if we do lose, we still win”…Way to look on the bright side, girls.

Here are piñatas we made with each of our houses. Mine is the carved X-Mas tree hanging up on the left. The multi-colored star is that of the San Antonio house, it was HUGE and very creative!

Here are piñatas we made with each of our houses. Mine is the carved X-Mas tree hanging up on the left. The multi-colored star is that of the San Antonio house, it was HUGE and very creative!

My buddy, CJ, and I trying to re-create a photo we took last year. Last year's on the left, this year is on the right. He's grown a lot in a year!

CJ and I trying to re-create a photo we took last year. Last year’s on the left, this year is on the right. He’s grown a lot in a year!

The day after Christmas I had made a song-mix and had memorized a few routines from Youtube to teach my girls. We had practiced every night until NYE. I have 16 girls, only 9 danced in the competition on Christmas Eve, so I only opened up the second routine to those girls who danced in the first half of the competition. In those days, we practiced almost 2 hours every night. Unfortunately, over the course of those few days, I had to cut a few girls from the squad for: fighting, not coming to practice, and being a distraction at practice. YES…it got that real, but they were only cut from the dancing part (booted to the background) and would still be on stage. On the first night I even told them to not start if they would quit if it got tough. I was tough on them in the beginning, but it was only because we had a 5 days to make it close to perfect. I needed them to focus! I’d come back home at night and tell my housemates about how the practices went, and they’d tell me that I was like one of those women from that “Dance Moms” show…I saw myself as more of a head-cheerleader. Sometimes my girls need an extra kick! We finally performed our routine and we felt really good about it. We had a lot of fun and the crowd even gave us the loudest applause out of all the other routines…but the judges thought otherwise. We didn’t place. BOOOOO! My girls had worked really hard on that. No one else could believe it either.

A few pics from the competition

A few pics from the competition: Santa Lucia, Santa Clara, San Pascual, Santo Domingo, and San Miguel

My girls' house, Santa Ana (that's me in the red shirt)

My girls’ house, Santa Ana (that’s me in the red shirt)

Here’s our video if you’d like to take a peek…

After the competition we had our big bonfire. Unlike last year, we didn’t get rained out, the kids were able to roast all of the marshmallows, and we actually had a countdown into the New Year. It was great. The first morning of the year I did a whole lot of nothing. I didn’t leave the house until about 11am, walking out the door I see a few of the younger boys trying to grow a bigger fire from the little flames that were left from the night before. I watched them for a minute to make sure they didn’t set themselves on fire. Then I went and hung out with my Santa Ana girls.

Bonfire!

Bonfire!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Fuego!

Fuego!

It’s my birthday, I deserve to be greedy, huh?” I wasn’t though, HaHa On January 17th, 2015, I officially reached my “late 20s”. Where has the time gone? I remember all the age milestones I hit in one decade: 15, 16, 18, 21, and 25. Once I turn 30, the milestones will only come every 10 years…Let’s not talk about it anymore. My birthday weekend this year was well spent with great company. On Friday I went to Santo Domingo for a night out with some friends. We brought in my special day at one of my favorite bars in the colonial zone, Onno’s. I had a really good time with them and ended my night well.

Good time at Onno's

A good time at Onno’s some of my friends

On Saturday afternoon, before heading to Bayahibe Beach we made a pit-stop in Boca Chica for lunch: fried fish and tostones! We arrived at Bayahibe around 5pm and hung out at the beach for a couple of hours. Later we had some pizza for dinner and went out to one of the bars at the beach. Sunday morning we went to visit the Bayahibe part of the Parque Nacional del Este. There we hiked to the Chicho II cave. Inside the cave there’s a freshwater natural swimming pool, so we were able to hop in and take a swim. Afterwards, we headed back to town, had a late lunch, and then we left Bayahibe. It was a really nice weekend. I’m thankful for all that were with me on my special day and for all the birthday wishes I recieved.

Bayahibe

Bayahibe with some faves from the DR, France, Australia, and Haiti

In Parque Nacional del Este

In Parque Nacional del Este

En la cueva

En la cueva

Just like last year I took vacation around my birthday, so afterwards I made sure to celebrate with one of my girls who also had a birthday while I was gone. This is us trying to light 14 candles for her and 26 candles for me. No one got burned too bad haha HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!

Just like last year I took vacation around my birthday, so afterwards I made sure to celebrate with one of my girls who also had a birthday while I was gone. This is us trying to light 14 candles for her and 26 candles for me. No one got burned too bad haha HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!

 Here’s a few more random photos from a couple of outings over these past few months…

Earlier this month I went to a Skateboard/Longboard competition in Santo Domingo with my friend, Rafael. It was pretty cool!

Earlier this month I went to a Skateboard/Longboard competition in Santo Domingo with my friend, Rafael. It was pretty cool!

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Beachin’ it with the kids to end last year and open the new one!

 

-DeeJay ❤

“…Sweet, sweet, sweet November…”

Come see me!

Last month we had another Family & Visitors day. It went really well. It seemed like a lot more people were able to visit the kids this time around. I enjoyed this day a lot and spent quite a bit of time outside hanging with the kids and meeting some of their families. To start of the day, I ran a Jumbo Jenga game with Emily. The kids who participated were really into it. I believe we played about 4 or 5 rounds. It was really fun. This time I wasn’t on face painting duty! Our Art Therapist, Anike, and a few others were all over that! They did really good jobs! Hannah, the volunteer coordinator, was on Trampoline duty. That’s a task in itself because all kids LOVE to jump on the trampoline. So much that sometimes you can’t get them off of it. There were other volunteers who were in charge of potato sack races and other activities. From about 10am until 3pm I was outside with the kids. I was really tired after that; the sun really had exhausted me. So I came back and chilled at home until going back out to have dinner with my girls.

Facepainting!

Facepainting!

Jumbo Jenga

Jumbo Jenga, Trampoline, &…I’m not sure what the other game was, but it really involved TEAMWORK

Other activities

Other activities

Sponsors, friends, and grandparents...

Sponsors, friends, and grandparents…

Siblings!

Siblings! They look sooo much like twins!

 Hallow-bacoa  

So I’ve wanted to go up to visit Jarabacoa for a while now. I finally had the opportunity to do so with the rest of my housemates on October 31st. We left San Pedro around 11:30am and made it to Jarabacoa around 4pm. So yeah, it took us almost all day and it’s not even that far. On a good day it should take us about 2.5 hours. The thing is that it took us like an hour or so to make through Santo Domingo, traffic really set us back. But we made it nevertheless. Since we’re a big group we decided to have a Halloween party at the hostel we rented out for the weekend. Why not? So we headed into town, bought some food, drinks and whatever else we needed for our party. Spotify, a faithful friend of ours, was the Deejay for the night. Our DIY costumes consisted of a Greek goddess, a cheetah, a “trust-fund” baby, a couple of butterflies, a minion, and a baseball coach, amongst others. We had a good time and decided to take the party to the streets of Jarabacoa. Still in our costumes, we showed up to one of the local bars and…no one else had on costumes. HaHa But it was all good. We danced and had a good time.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

The next day a local guide, named David, took us to see these waterfalls. He wouldn’t tell us the name of the falls, said that it was a secret. We were somewhere near the town of Constanza, though. Once we made it to the park we hiked for about 10 minutes before arriving at the waterfalls. It was cold so I didn’t get in the water. 3 of the volunteers continued through the water and followed David to the other side of the natural pool to climb up the water fall. Once up, they’d all do a 30 foot jump back into the water. Crazyyy! But we all had a good time. We were up there for a couple hours and then headed back to the hostel. We rested for what remained of the afternoon, and later some of us headed back out to enjoy our last night in Jarabacoa.

Just a view...

Just a view…

Hiking...

Hiking…

Dodging cows

…& Dodging cows

The falls

The falls.

Wanted to take this puppy home. Don't we look good together? I even gave him a name, "Morenito" :)

Wanted to steal this puppy from the hostel and take him back with me. Don’t we look good together? I even gave him a name, “Morenito” 🙂

 ¿Pero…como se dice, “headache”?

Towards the end of October I was asked to translate in a free clinic ran by 2 Finnish doctors who were visiting the DR. I figured that (after translating hundreds of letters in the Sponsorship office) doing a live translation would be a breeze…but even if it was difficult, it would still get me out of the office for the day. WOOT WOOT! On the first day, with a Spanish-English dictionary in my hand, I met up with the 2 doctors, Elina and Noora. There were also 2 nurses from Chicago who came to assist. From San Pedro we drove to Luz Maria, a barrio located on the east side of Santo Domingo. We arrived at the local clinic around 8:30am. We unpacked the car and carried many antibiotics, creams, vitamins, other prescriptions and doctors’ tools inside. I was surprised that there were already 30 patients waiting to be seen by the doctors.

A look inside

A look inside

That day I worked alongside Dr. Elina. We were able to see 25 patients and combine that with the 26 patients Dr. Noora was able to see = 51 in one day! Most patients complained of pain, a few had fungal infections. I remember that there was a 16 year old girl, really sweet, who really needed glasses but her mother couldn’t afford to pay for a $5USD consultation at the ophthalmologist. Also memorable was this family of 6: a mother, a set of triplets, a baby, and an older son who was about 13 years old. Dr. Elina noticed a heart problem in the oldest son, one that (without surgery) wouldn’t allow him to live past his 30s. The mother had known about it but couldn’t afford to visit a cardiologist. The doctors had one last stop to make in Santa Fe (a barrio in San Pedro), after spending a long day in Luz Maria. In Santa Fe lived a woman and her daughter who had some disease that made her lower leg and foot swell. There was an open sore on the monther’s ankle that was about 7 inches in diameter. I had never seen something like this in real life. Santa Fe is a very poor neighborhood and that woman would never be able to afford getting that taken care of. She felt really embarrassed by her condition, that she had let it go on for who knows how long. The doctors couldn’t do much for the woman that afternoon, besides cleaning her wound and giving her new bandages; believing that the only thing that would help her is that she gets admitted to a hospital quickly and/or get surgery to remove that part of her leg. Thankfully, these three cases, amongst a few others, are being follow-upped on.

In Luz Maria

In Luz Maria! Bottom picture is that of me, the doctors/nurses, and that family of 6

(THE NEXT PIC IS KINDA GRAPHIC!)

(THE NEXT PIC IS KINDA GRAPHIC!)

(THE NEXT PIC IS KINDA GRAPHIC!)

In Santa Fe: The picture on the lower right is that of the mother, the other two are is that of the daughter (her's isn't as bad as her mother's)

In Santa Fe: The picture on the lower right is that of the mother, the other two pics are that of the daughter (her’s isn’t as bad as her mother’s)

Before I was even able to explain to each patient that I was only there to translate, they were already whipping out body parts and showing me all kinds of scars, sores, and bruises, thinking that I was a doctor. In that one day of translating for Elina, I had seen many things that I cannot “un-see”. HaHa But besides all of that, I saw some of the cutest children and thankfully most of them only had them had the sniffles.

The patient with the most patience. How cute is she?

The patient with the most patience. How cute is she?

A few days later I was reunited with Elina and Noora. Emily and I helped them translate at a clinic in Santa Fe and also here at NPH. They were doing basic check-ups of the children from the surrounding bateys that attend the NPH school. They also had 2 charlas, one with all the caregivers about HIV and another with our teenage girls about sex. Both translated by Pilar, our physical therapist from Colombia, and went really well.

The Team getting things done at NPH

The Team getting things done at NPH

Elina and Noora were very friendly, and just so down to earth that I forgot they were doctors. I learned a lot from them and was glad that I could be of assistance to them while they helped others. I am very grateful for that experience. And I know who to call if I ever end up in Finland.

Noches de Actividad

So…getting my girls (ages 12-15) to do anything with me after 6pm on a weeknight has proven to be difficult. But, I get it, they’re at THAT age. And since they’re now in school from 8am-4pm (it used to be 8-1pm), I don’t spend as much time with them. Unless it’s a movie, it’s impossible to get them ALL to do something with me at the same time. They don’t seem to be motivated, especially when En Otra Piel and Siempre Tuya: Acapulco are on the television. So, I’ve began “Activity Nights”. A few nights per week I have 4-5 of them volunteer to participate in whatever activity I planned that night. They won’t know what the activity is until we actually do it. Some are fun (like jewelry making) and some are not as fun (like 500 piece puzzles). They get a point for every activity they do with me, and once they hit 4 points they can do a cooking/baking activity (these girls love to eat/cook). I actually started off these activity nights with a baking activity. So these first 3 girls got a freebie. We made a no-bake Oreo Cheesecake. It was really good.

Oreo Cheesecake!

Oreo Cheesecake!

I’ve done puzzles, made bracelets, and had photo-shoots with my girls. It’s going really good so far, and I’m going to keep it going; just to see how it is after a few months. Right now, I’m planning a few more activity nights where we make house decorations for Christmas. I’ll also be teaching them some cool Origami folds and other random things. If you have any ideas on things that I can do with my girls, like: DIY projects, cooking (preferably no-bake), exercise, etc, please send me a message or make a comment on this post.

Padrino Meet-Up

A couple of weeks ago my department hosted it first social for local sponsors of our NPH kids. The event was held in a room at Cava Alta, a wine lounge in Santo Domingo. We had about 60 sponsors and supporters attend. It was good to have them all meet each other and get to know more about our sponsorship program. They were able to see a video that documented the beginnings of the DR home and also a few “before & after” photos of children. Three of our university students also attended the meet-up. They shared a few words about what the sponsorship program means to them and what it was like growing up at the home. It was a nice event and I’m definitely looking forward to the next one.

A few photo stands of local (Dominican or living in the DR) sponsors;; Kieran and 3 of our university students;; My supervisor, Daniela, and I

A few photo stands of local (Dominican or living in the DR) sponsors;; Kieran and 3 of our university students;; My supervisor, Daniela, and I

Cava Alta;; Bathroom selfie with Emily;; a few words from the Directive Board

Cava Alta;; Bathroom selfie with Emily;; a few words from the Directive Board

 Santiago: Part Tres

The day after the sponsors’ meet-up, I headed up to visit the city of Santiago a third time. Anike, came with me. There we went to see “Crisis de un comediante”, a show of my friend, Israel. It was pretty good. The next day we did some walking around Santiago and also saw a documentary called, “Blanco”. It followed the lives of a few albino Dominicans living in the town of Constanza. I really liked it, it had humor and you felt like you really got to know each one of the individuals. The next day we headed back down to Santo Domingo to hang out with a few friends and go out. It was a fun weekend.

Quick Santiago trip

Quick Santiago trip

¡Ay, mi madre!

For the second time this year my Ma has come to visit me here in DR. It was a very short trip but she was able to spend a lot more time here at NPH with me and my Santa Ana girls. She was also here for our annual Quinceañera/Dieciocho party. This year there were 6 girls that turned 15. 5 of them were girls from my house, so I really felt like a proud big sister. They were just beautiful. I’m glad my Ma was able to see them and experience one of the bigger NPH events.

Las Quinces y Los Dieciochos

Las Quinces y Los Dieciochos

Me with some of my faves!

"Bailandooo"

“Bailandooo”

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While she was here she was also able to spend a lot of time with one of the girls she sponsors here. Before she had come I was thinking of something we could do with the girls. Once per week they have spaghetti for dinner and I never eat it, but I always tell them about how good my Ma’s spaghetti is. I figured it would be nice for them to actually try it while she was here. So I chose 3 girls to help her cut the red and green peppers, season/fry the ground beef, and boil the pasta. They were perfect sous-chefs and the entire house loved the spaghetti! No one had any food left on their plate. It was fun spending that night cooking and joking with them. They were really happy to be spending time with and getting to know my Ma.

As my girls would say, "Eh-spagettee".

As my girls would say, “Eh-spagettee”.

“Thanks for the memories…”

Most of the volunteers I work with are American. We’re here in DR, so this month we’ve missed out on a Thanksgiving with our families back home. This is my second one in a row. So like last year we decided again to have our own Thanksgiving dinner, this time hosted at our house. It was cool to have the other volunteers/coworkers from other countries share this day with us and to show them what it’s like to celebrate Thanksgiving. They were able to see how much cooking preparation goes into it and learn more about the history of the day itself. This year the dinner was pot-luck style, everyone made/brought something to contribute. I made banana pudding. It wasn’t how my GranMa or Ma would make it, but…it was decent. I mean, no one got sick from eating it, HaHa. We had a lot of food, drinks, and desserts. Oh, and of course, a turkey. Spending a second Thanksgiving here wasn’t too bad, but I’m definitely craving some the Soul food from back home.

Only a few pictures before being destracted by the food. But the top 2 photos are preps of my banana pudding and Anike's German dish that I can't pronounce.

I took only a few pictures before being distracted by the food. But the top 2 photos are preps of my banana pudding and Anike’s German dish that I can’t pronounce.

"Black Friday"? Meh, we had no time to wait in lines...too busy relaxing at the beach...

Didn’t spend any money on “Black Friday”, instead we spent time relaxing at the beach. 😛

-DeeJay ❤

Annnnnd I’m back!

I’ve already been back for 2 months, and I originally planned to do a new post at the beginning of September. But here I am, it’s almost November, and I’m just now making the first post. It’s not even that I’ve been super busy, it’s just that I procrastinate. Anyway, here it goes:

¡Pal Sur!

After spending the summer in NY, I returned to the DR in mid-August. My first Friday back I took a weekend road trip to the south with my friend, Lety, to visit the Bahia de las Aguilas. It’s about a 6 hour drive east of Santo Domingo, so we drove to Barahona and spent the night there to give us a break from being in the car. The next morning we met up with 3 more friends in town and continued on towards the Bahia. We made a few pit stops on the way there, but around 1pm we finally arrived! It’s a beautiful beach and it was worth the tiring drive to get there. The water was really calm and refreshing; I could even see little fishes swimming around my feet! It felt good to spend that afternoon relaxing over a few drinks with new (and old) friends. Afterwards, we ate dinner at the park, watched the sun set, and then headed towards the town of Pedernales, where we’d stay for the night.

Roadtriiip!!! & YES, those are limoncillos, I def missed these while being back in the states!

Roadtriiip!!! & YES, those are limoncillos, I def missed these while being back in the states!

Almost there!

Almost there!

YES!

YES!

Had a blast with these guys!

Had a blast with these guys!

The next day we visited the Haitian-Dominican border town of Anses-A-Pîtres. It was about a 5 minute drive from where we were, so we decided “Why not visit Haiti?” It was really simple to cross the border, actually it was the easiest/fastest of any border crossing (by land) that I’ve ever done. They didn’t even ask for passports. Accompanied by a “tour guide”, we walked across a bridge and BOOM, we were in Haiti. The “tour guide” took us to this little corner store where we tried out some “Prestige”, a Haitian beer. It was pretty good and cheap. We spent the next half-hour or so chatting with the locals that were nearby, we took a few pics, and then we were on our way back over to the Dominican side. We left around 1pm and, with a few more pit stops in between, we finally made it back into the capital around 9pm. It was a long Sunday, an even longer weekend, but I still had enough energy to go out with another friend that night. That Monday morning, I was on my way back to NPH. Well…I was supposed to be, but my transport was pretty late (just like when I left NPH to come home this summer) but even more late. Just my luck HaHa But it was the perfect welcoming weekend back in the DR.

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Haiti!

 NPH

This second year at NPH is going well. Coming back, the main change I noticed was that I now shared a house with 7 new faces. This past summer 3 of the volunteers that I spent most of my 1st year with went home: Kat (volunteer/visitor coordinator), Dorte (art therapist), and Diana (nurse). While I was back in NY, we gained a team of occupational, physical, and hydro therapists who are helping out in our San Marcos house (children with special needs). We also have a volunteer coordinator, a visitor coordinator, a projects manager, and an art therapist, all of whom are new. Everything with the new group is going well, more or less, but there are things to adjust to.

I was really excited to be reunited with my group of Santa Ana girls that I’d been working with for the first year. They were pretty excited to see me, too. I often think about how a year ago they were teasing me about my accent, my fashion-sense (or lack thereof), and pretty much anything under the sun. The only difference between a year ago and now is that now I’m laughing with them. I’ve learned my “best” comebacks and boches from spending time with these girls, so every now and then I use these against them when they are “roasting” me. It’s all love though, and they know it HaHa! I have a few new girls who have moved-in from a younger house and a few that had moved-out to an older house. But, that’s really the only change. They still watch telenovelas after dinner (but what else is new?). The popular one they watch now is called En Otra Piel, and I’m not sure exactly what’s going on in this telenovela. Honestly, I’m waiting for the next series to start so I can start from the 1st episode with them…I have a lot more girls who are approaching me for help with their English homework and I’m always happy to help them. Go figure, it’s easier than that Math homework they bring home.

Random photo: Shopping trips & free donuts!

Random photo: Shopping trips & free donuts!

In the Sponsorship office things are flowing smoothly. It’s easier because I already know how to do most things, I understand my job and what it entails. I know exactly what I am supposed to do and I’m more relaxed because of that. We just sent off about 1500 Holiday cards to all of the local and international sponsors. This year we got it all done in about 2 weeks which was great compared to the month or so it took us to get it done last year. At the end of every month we still take the birthday kids to Campo Azul and into town to do some shopping. Last month’s trip was pretty fun because we took not only the birthday kids, but also my Santa Ana girls (for winning the Christmas card designing contest for the girls’ side). It was fun to get away with them and their caregiver. We ate cake, hamburgers, French fries, and drank soda; & we enjoyed the pools and danced to a lot of Dominican music.

The kids LOVE Campo Azul!

The kids LOVE Campo Azul!

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 Back in Samaná

Around mid-September I took a trip up north with Emily. We visited Cayo Levantado with a tour group from the capital called Best Vacations Tours & Travel. We left the capital on a Sunday around 6:45 AM. We ate breakfast at a food spot along the way and made in into the city of Samaná around 9:30 AM, where we took a short walk around Pueblo Principe and over the Cayacoa Bridge.

But first...a selfie from the best seat area on the bus, "la cocina" !

But first…a selfie from the best seat area on the bus, “la cocina” !

Santa Bárbara de Samaná

Santa Bárbara de Samaná

Then, we hopped on a boat and sailed over to Cayo Levantado. The boat ride over was about 20 minutes. When we arrived we were briefed about the lunch and drink menus and then we put on our swimsuits and headed to the shore. The sun was shining, the weather was warm. Everyone did their own thing and after a buffet lunch we played a few games that got everyone socializing together. We played the the panuelo game, my team lost HaHa! There were a few relay races also. It was pretty fun. Around 5:00pm we were back on the boat headed towards Samana, where we hopped back on the bus to go back to Santo Domingo. We all had a good time! I really enjoyed myself and am looking forward to taking more trips with Best Tours around the DR.

Sailing away

Sailing away

:)

🙂

PrezFest ‘14

At the beginning of this month I attended the Presidente Festival in Santo Domingo. It was sooo much fun! I originally planned on only going to the Saturday show but I got a price offer for the Friday one that I couldn’t refuse. For the Friday night show, I went with Lety. We arrived about halfway through the show, but were still able to see Duck Sauce, Calle 13, and Tiesto. For the Saturday night show, I went with my compañera, Nike (who’s our new Art Therapist). We arrived in time to see Miriam Cruz, Héctor Acosta, Prince Royce, Daddy Yankee, and Bruno Mars. And, YES, every last one of them “kilt” it on stage! I paid about $50 to see all of these performers in 2 nights; That’s a great deal! I didn’t go to the Sunday show, good thing I didn’t buy a ticket because I was exhausted from those first two nights. But, I did miss out on seeing Wisin Y Yandel and Anthony Santos. It’s all good though. Note to self (if I find myself at the next PrezFest): bring a zip-lock bag to keep camera/phone safe from water.

Festival Presidente 2014!

Festival Presidente 2014!

 

-DeeJay ❤

Just hold on, I’m going home…

These last few weeks have been pretty tranquilo. At the end of May we had the annual party for all the local sponsors. The day began with a mass, followed by a few performances in the park by some of the kids. Some sang and others did a dance routine. Then we had lunch. Afterwards there were a few relay races for the kids and their sponsors and then we ended off with free time.

Padrino/Sponsor day! Emily and a child her parents sponsor, and there's me and one of my Santa Ana girls who's now sponsored by my Ma. I've only got these 2 photos to show for the day's activities :( , just trust me when I say it was fun. :)

Padrino/Sponsor day! Emily and a child her parents sponsor, and there’s me and one of my Santa Ana girls who’s now sponsored by my Ma. I’ve only got these 2 photos to show for the day’s activities 😦 , just trust me when I say it was fun. 🙂

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Saturday basketball tournament;; That little girl has game!

Saturday basketball tournament;; That little girl has game!

Last week, the staff and children of our San Marcos house had a fashion show. San Marcos houses our children who have special needs. It was really cool, they were all into it. Some of the styles were: Traditional, Modern Dominican, Athletic, Beach, and Formal. Meike (who runs the house) and Emily (her assistant) had been planning this for months but it kept getting pushed back due to other events. Finally, it occurred and was a success!

Business wear vs Athletic

Business wear vs Athletic

Emily and one of the San Marcos girls in Beach wear;; Meike and another girl in Party/Fiesta wear;; One of the San Marcos boys in his traditional hat posing for the camera;; A caregiver and child in their best Formal wear;; A lindita in her best estilo dominicano

Emily and one of the San Marcos girls in Beach wear;; Meike and another girl in Party/Fiesta wear;; One of the San Marcos boys in his traditional hat posing for the camera;; A caregiver and child in their best Formal wear;; A lindita in her best estilo dominicano

A few more pics, look how cute they were!

A few more pics, look how cute they were!

For my last Tuesday Trip into town I decided to take these 2 with me. These two have been really solid this past year. They are sooo funny, and have always been respectful towards me. I’m always telling the other volunteers about the cool things these two do and say. They just get me. HaHa I couldn’t have picked any other 2 to join me. We took a nice walk to the malecon in San Pedro where we ate ice-cream and drank some soda. It was my first time seeing the malecon during the day. I’ve only seen it when I’ve gone out there at night, filled with a LOT of people. My girls and I walked back to Jumbo where we ate pizza and met up with others. ‘Twas a good day.

Mis hermanitas y yo, chilling at the malecon.

Mis hermanitas y yo, chilling at the malecon.

 Now’s the time to say “goodbye” temporarily. On the last weekend I was able to see all my friends who live in the capital. I had my last Sunday Beach Day at Guayacanes  beach. The night before my flight, I weighed my suitcases and measured my carry-on to make sure everything was within limits. I even raffled off some of my clothes to my Santa Ana girls so that I didn’t over pack. Waking up on flight day I was all packed and ready to go. I would’ve had a perfect flight that left at 12:05pm and arrived in Rochester around 7:30pm. Just enough time to unpack and then catch up with friends for the Saturday night.

 …But this is how my day really went: the driver who was scheduled to take me to the airport arrived 20 minutes late to pick me up. I made it to the airport around 10:30. I got through check-in and security within 15 minutes. Then, I arrived at customs. Everything went well until they told me I had to pay a tax because I overstayed my visa. I had a 30-day visa. Obviously I’ve been here for a bit longer than that. Thing is, NPH volunteers have a letter that pardons us of paying the tax. The tax-clerk sent me over to talk with her supervisor. I explained to her that I was a volunteer and showed her the letter, I told her that all of our volunteers have shown them the letter and left without paying the tax. She tells me, “Well, it wasn’t me that was there, and you will pay the tax.” The amount I’d have to pay was a whole $100-$150 USD that I did not have. Anyway, I backtracked my way through security and headed outside to let the air dry my eye sweat. I made a few phone calls that didn’t go through. Meanwhile, I’m a walking mess fearing that I would not make this perfect flight and ultimately be stuck at this airport forever. Yes, FOREVER: the rest of my natural life. Melodramatic, I know. Anyway, I finally got in contact with Kat, who convinced me to go back and plead my case one more time. Time check is now 11:45am. I’ve heard the United Airline folks call my name over the loudspeaker, telling me that I’d better be hauling ass to get to the gate. I go through security check again, and then back to the same tax-clerk I spoke with before. I explained again, and she told me to go to the regular line, and that she was going to let me slide. They finally stamped my passport but I got to my gate at 12:10pm, only to see my plane out the window…detached from the passenger loading ramp. -_- I caught the next flight (thankfully with no charges) that left at 5:30pm which would now have me arriving in Rochester at 11:30…the next morning! So I spent the night in the cold Newark airport, waiting for my connecting flight. Someone turned off the heat in Northeast USA, I was freezing and I didn’t sleep well. Gracias a Dios, I finally made it home this morning and was happy to see my Ma, my brother, my cat, my little cousin, my father and step-mom, and 1 of my aunts. Working on seeing the rest of my family in these upcoming days. I am completed exhausted.

View from about: Beautiful sunset above the clouds in Southeast USA

View from above: Beautiful sunset above the clouds in Southeast USA

View from above: Lake Ontario looking south over Rochester

View from above: Lake Ontario looking south over Rochester. I’m home!

Mi primita y yo

Mi primita y yo

Anyway, I’m looking forward to going back there in 2 months to complete another year in the DR. This summer I will miss my Santa Ana girls and hope they enjoy their vacations and free time at NPH. I have a few that will volunteer in a home for the elderly in Batey Montecristi. I’ll miss my friends too: Lety (my FrenchFry), Roberto, Rephael, Justine, Grim, & Israel and everyone else I met through CS. Kat, Megan, & Jen (my three “day 1” volunteers), Emily and all the rest of the past/present volunteers. You’ve all made this past year worthwhile and are part of the reason I’ll come back. I thank you and I love you all. Special thanks to my Ma, Ashley, “Treh”, Kay, and Charmaine (who all came and visited me this year). & everyone else who has checked up on me, who’s been following this blog, who’s sent a letter/care package. I appreciate every last one of you.

Taking the summer off from blogging, so look for the next post in September 🙂 But first take a peek at 1 of the 5 new additions to our NPH family. She’s almost 4 months old!

One of the 5 newest additions to our NPH family, 4 months old. I think she likes me...sort of.

I think she likes me…sort of.

 

-DeeJay ❤

On the road again

On April 22nd, the school at NPH hosted an Earth Day fair. Each grade prepared table set-ups explaining vegetation, sustainability, and how to compost/recycle. They’d been working on it for about 2 months. It was really cool to see how knowledgeable they’ve become about the subject. I made sure to check out the tables of my girls. Since I don’t work in the school, I don’t really know what they do during the day, how much studying they actually do, let alone if they’re actually learning anything. So, attending this fair opened my eyes a bit. I was proud of them.

Earth Day Fair!

Earth Day Fair!

A few table set-ups

A few table set-ups

Seed Mural;; More table set-ups;; Skit performed by 2 girls from the nearby batey.

Seed Mural;; More table set-ups;; Skit performed by 2 girls from the nearby batey.

On April 26th, we had another Visitors’ Day. I think this is the 4th one since I’ve been here. As usual we invite relatives, close friends, former volunteers, and sponsors/padrinos to come spend the day with the children. We play music and have a few activities planned for the kids. Same ol’, same ol’. Except this time I wasn’t put on FacePaint duty. I was more than happy about that.

A few Visitor/Family day games: Parachute, Dominos, and Uno

A few Visitor/Family day games: Parachute, Dominos, and Uno

Photos of a few siblings

Photos of a few siblings

Goofing off with one of the Bigs while working the welcome table;; And, YES, Emily and I are Skateboarding experts...more or less...(Less) :)

Goofing off with one of the Bigs while working the welcome table;; And, YES, Emily and I are Skateboarding experts…more or less…(Less) 🙂

At the beginning of May I decided to use up some of the remaining vacation time that I had left. I took a weekend trip back up to Samaná with Jenny and Emily (both volunteers), and my friend Jessica. We took guaguas up to Las Galeras. The guagua was packed when we got on. I had a seat in la cocina (“the kitchen”, the furthest back row & no one wants those seats) where I was seatmates with this guy carrying 4 baby chicks in a bag. It took us about 3 hours to get there! Overall, I wasn’t too impressed by Las Galeras. We wanted to take a few excursions but it seemed that we’d be required to take transport to a different city to actually do them. There weren’t any excursions IN Las Galeras. We enjoyed our weekend, though. We stayed at an aparthotel called La Isleta de Samaná. The first night, we met up with some friends of Jessica and had a small barbecue on the beach.

View from our hotel;; Mini Beach Barbecue

View from our hotel;; Mini Beach Barbecue

The next morning we took a boat ride over to Playa Rincon and spent the day there. For lunch we had fresh fish, lobster, and of course tostones.

Soaking up the sun.

Playa Rincon

Playa Rincon

Playa Rincon

Starting our Sunday pretty late, Jessica and I met up with our friend, Justine, and took a boat over to Playa Fronton. It was beautiful there. You can only get there by foot or boat, and you’d have to bring your own of everything. There were people camping out there, barbecuing. It was really nice! Earlier that afternoon, Jessica and I booked a hotel in Las Terrenas and headed there afterwards. There we met up with some friends and went to a few bars. It was a fun night; I always enjoy myself in Las Terrenas.

Playa Fronton

Playa Fronton

Monday afternoon we headed back towards Santo Domingo, and from there I took a guagua back to San Pedro. I spent two days at there and then took a CaribeTours bus up to Santiago. I was there back in September, but only for a day. That was that 3 day weekend where I went from San Pedro to Punta Cana to Santo Domingo to Santiago and back to San Pedro (yeah, too much). So this time I spent 3 days in Santiago. There I stayed with a friend of a friend, Paula. I met her back in September through my friend, Israel. Over those 3 days I visited the Héroes de la Restauración monument, the Aurora Cigar Factory, the San Luis Fortaleza, and a few art museums. I met a lot of cool new people. That Saturday I left Santiago to spend the last few vacation days in Santo Domingo with some friends.

With my friend, Israel.

With my friend, Israel, at the Heroes of the Restoration Monument

In Fortaleza San Luis;; A few pieces of art that I liked

In Fortaleza San Luis;; A few pieces of art that I liked

Tamboril: Where La Aurora is located;; inside  one of the factory buildings

Tamboril: Where La Aurora is located;; inside one of the factory buildings

Me, Israel and his 2 friends from Argentina

Me, Israel and his 2 friends from Argentina

Randomly ran across 2 tops representing our countries: USA & Argentina

Randomly ran across 2 tops representing our countries: USA & Argentina

 

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Now, for some random photos 😀

Another trip to Campo Azul, this time with the April babies

Another trip to Campo Azul, this time with the April babies

Fun activity we did a few Saturdays ago: balloon tossing contest. When I did this a couple months ago it turned into a war!

Fun activity we did a few Saturdays ago: balloon tossing contest. When I did this a couple months ago it turned into a war!

Spent an afternoon acting silly with this cool kid. He arrived at NPH not speaking any Spanish and now he's speaking it like a champ. He's going to help me practice speaking Haitian Creole!

Spent an afternoon acting silly with this cool kid. He arrived at NPH not speaking any Spanish and now he’s speaking it like a champ. He’s going to help me practice speaking Haitian Creole!

-DeeJay ❤

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