A Final Reflection

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Today was our last day of camp- pool day!! The kids were outside of the church by 7:30 because they were so excited. Around 9 we piled all of the kids into a bus and drove to the pool. It was pretty crazy in the pool. Everyone had at least 5 kids hanging off of them at all times. We played games and had races and I tried teaching a few of the kids how to swim. I got dragged under the water a couple times too. It was a very fun but extremely exhausting day in the pool. The important thing is that the kids absolutely loved it and they were all smiles the whole day!

 

After getting back to the church, we sang happy birthday to Kate and ate ice cream cake. Then we all took very long naps. A bit later there was a massive downpour and the church was flooded. We all pitched in using brooms and mops to try and get the water back outside. Today was just full of water!

 

As we are leaving tomorrow, I want to reflect a little on our trip. I have had one of the best weeks of my life. Not only have I made the best of friends and memories, I have learned so much about what it means to be a community. I really hope I can take the sense of community and tranquillity i have learned here back with me to the states. I feel so content and free here. When you don’t have all of the luxuries we have in the states like wifi and water, you focus more on the relationships and people you meet. They are so giving here. Even though the kids don’t have much, they will willingly give you presents like an ankle bracelet or a shell they got from the beach.  I am so happy to have met all of the kids and teens here in the Dominican Republic. One of my friends on this trip said something in reflection that I think is too good not to share. It really encompasses how I think we all feel. Femi said that she thinks the people here have given us more than we could ever give them. The friendships I have made with the teens is more than I could’ve ever imagined. From riding motos and salsa-ing the night away to water balloon fights, I could not have had a better time. I am so happy to be going back to the states with 9 new amigos.

-Emily Crisen

Pictured: (Left)Kids lining up an HOUR before camp each morning, (Center top: meeting with the teens to plan camp, Center Bottom: Group pic with Padre and Frankie the Dog at the end of the week), Right: Dominican Teens and Duq students mid water fight!

The Final Dance Presentation- Larissa Koumaka

This Friday, our team from Duquesne, alongside our friends from the Dominican Republic and the kids we are mentoring presented the dances that we worked on all week long in front of an enthusiastic audience made up of proud parents and grandparents.

As one of the leaders of the dance team, it was especially great for me to see the kids deliver beautiful performances that were followed by loud applauses from their campmates and families. However, as I watched the little boys from the yellow team, the little girls from the orange team, the big boys from the blue team, and finally the big girls from the green team dance, it hit me that today really is the last day of camp, and that tomorrow, I will not spend my morning with Roy and Maddy teaching mini choreographies to excited little boys and girls, and hug them goodbye as the move on to their next camp activities.

It is often said that when you take a journey, it is not the destination that is the most important but instead, it is the trip itself, all the things that happen between the departure and the arrival, and after today, I could not agree more. Looking back to the first day of camp a few days ago, and all the days that lead to today, I vividly remember all the kids yelling my name in unison after I presented myself to them for the first time. I remember them fiercely concentrating on the dance moves that we were teaching them. I remember them laughing delightfully whenever they remembered all the steps to a choreography and we gave them high fives. I remember the little girl crying during practice because she was afraid that she would end up not doing well in front of her parents during the final presentation and my teammates and I trying to reassure her that everything would be okay. I remember all the kids jumping to fit in the group pictures at the end of our dance sessions.

Outside of camp, I remember my teammates and I going crazy over the delicious mangoes that father Don brought us, I remember us climbing the steep steps of the cathedral of San Juan and gazing in awe at the beautiful view once we reached the top. Finally I remember Michaele, a 9 year old boy that I met one night at San Miguel high school. For as much as he tried Michaele could not remember my name during the whole time we spent together that night listening to music and running together. I remember him not only because he made my night that day with his welcoming and easygoing attitude, but also because at the end of that night, he asked for my name one more time and promised that he would not forget it again. The next day he came all the way to the camp (he was not a part of camp) to let me know that he had not forgotten my name and that he never would again.

I remember so many other moments that instigated genuine laughter, pushed us to try new things, learn from each other and helped to create strong friendships. I lived all those moments with joy and excitement, and today, as I watched my friend and teammate Roy’s eyes fill with tears at the end of our final presentation, when he also realized that this experience will be ending soon, I was happy and proud to realize that this experience will forever be as special and unforgettable for the friends we made here in the Dominican republic as it will be for my fellow Duquesne mates and I.

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Camp Update

Today for arts and crafts we are making tshirt capes! the kids are getting really creative with all of the feathers and paint!

We also have a water balloon toss going on as I type! Following activities we have an end of camp performance for the parents that we hope to upload later assuming wifi holds up!

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I Never Want To Leave-Hannah Baker

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Despite the exhaustion it brings, being a leader in the art room for camp is very rewarding. Today Femy and I decided to tackle two crafts and within a few minutes, the room was chaotic. I was constantly running around the room making sure all the kids had the supplies they needed while trying to give instructions and answer all their questions in Spanish. Even though I’m tired within the first session of camp, I love being in the arts and crafts room because once a child is finished with the craft, they come up to me with a big smile and when I tell them how good of a job they did, their smile grows even bigger. And every day before they leave the room, they all give me the tightest hugs and I immediately feel content and pure joy.

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Not only are the little kids amazing, but the teens who help us run the camp are also wonderful. It has been so fun getting to know the teens and working alongside them during camp. Last night, the teens invited us over to Penelope’s house to make tacos. Some of the group stayed at the house but when we were offered to go on motorbike rides with some of the teens, I jumped on the opportunity (sorry mom and dad). We rode around the barrio for a while and for those of you who have seen the Lizzie McGuire movie, I felt like I was Lizzie riding with Palo. But that’s beside the point. It was just so fun to explore the barrio and spend time with the teens while doing something that they do every day.

Building relationships with the people here has been amazing, but I’m also so thankful for the group of Duquesne students whom I have had the pleasure to travel with. It’s crazy to think that just 4 days ago, we were sitting silently in the airport together. Now I’m already starting to get sad thinking about how I’m going to miss this group so much when it’s time to leave. But thankfully we all go to the same school and because of this trip I now know nine more wonderful people who are a part of Duquesne. Although we have only spent less than a week together, I feel as though we all know each other very well because everyone brings their own strengths and positivity to the group. First off, Femy has the most contagious laugh out of anyone I know and she’s constantly laughing or smiling; Dani has continuous energy and she’s always so prepared and willing to share; Emily is so easygoing and good at talking to anyone because she just wants everyone to be loved; Grace has a quiet spirit and she always shares her unique thoughts and feelings whenever we debrief; Matt deals with being the only male in our group and he always puts others needs before his own; Mallory has been eager to break the language barrier and try to learn Spanish despite knowing very little; Maddie is always willing to finish the leftover food and she is kind to everyone, including Frankie, the slobbery dog; Larissa is so sweet and she has a welcoming spirit that attracts all the little kids; LASTLY, Kate goes with the flow and deals with all of our complaints and problems while still managing to bring energy and positivity to our group.

Overall, the people here are incredible and everyone is so present because the lifestyle here is not fast-paced or controlled by materialism, but rather it is about living in community with one another. I’m so, so thankful I am able to have this experience because it has been of the best and I know I won’t be near ready to leave once Sunday rolls around.

A comparison of Trips and New Friends!

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Maddie at the top of the Cathedral de San Juan

Today we all woke up to the news that the electricity in the parish center had gone out. Shortly thereafter, we lost our water as well. Fortunately, we were still able to run the camp for the children of the parish this morning. The first day of camp was a success and we all had fun! We had four groups of children rotating through four 40-minute sessions: dance, storytelling, arts and crafts, and sports.

In my group, the dance group, my morning started out a bit rough – during a break, a little girl came right up to me and asked me why I couldn’t dance. I felt pretty self-conscious after that, but I regained confidence throughout the morning, and enjoyed myself all in all. Roy, one of the Dominican teens helping us, is hilarious and a great dancer. He has several years of experience working in this camp, and working with him is going smoothly.

Another highlight of the day was that after dinner, several of us went to play volleyball with some of the Dominican teens. They are competitive but like to laugh and joke often. We played for well over an hour before heading back to the parish compound to prepare for camp tomorrow and get ready for bed.

All in all, I am really happy to be here at last. I had planned to go on this mission trip last year, but it was cancelled due to the Zika outbreak, and my group went to Dayton, OH instead. This trip is similar to the Dayton trip in that we are working with children, but otherwise the experiences are quite different. Here I feel more integrated into the community because I am interacting not only with children, but also with the parish teens. I love being able to socialize with them during our free time. This trip is focused on being with people far more than on accomplishing a task. In Dayton, a big part of our job was to paint a hallway in the school where we were working. Our time was divided between working with children and painting, and there was less opportunity to interact with people in the community. Another major difference is our way of life – here we cannot count on having electricity, and we will probably be without water for the next three days.

On both mission trips I have been on, I have loved the sense of community within the groups I have been a part of, as well as forming relationships with those we meet. On that note, I would like to introduce you to my friend Frankie, a dog that lives in the parish compound. He broke some limbs and his jaw in a car accident, so he lurches around everywhere drooling. (Frankie is short for Frankenstein, one of the teens told me.) Despite his initially frightening appearance, he is sweet and loves to cuddle. I’m having a great time with him – and all my other new friends of course!

-Maddie Troppe

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Joy Has No Language- Matt Broeren

9-10 months ago, I was accepted to come onto this trip. As a non-spanish speaker, my first worry was communication. How do I communicate to someone over such a large language barrier. Since then, I had been using an app called Duolingo in a desparate attempt to learn enough Spanish before going. I thought I was going to be set. It’ll be okay. It’ll work out just fine.

 

We left on Sunday at 3:30 AM from Duquesne University to arrive here at about 6 PM. I was to be left without the help of Duolingo now to hopefully know enough Spanish to be able to do something. However, I was also in possession of a phrasebook. This phrasebook was going to be my crutch. My ability to speak would be based on this book and anything else I had learned from Duolingo. I can do this. I will speak Spanish. This will work out.

 

We arrived in the Capital at about 1 PM and were in a bus on our way to San Juan de la Maguana at 2:30 PM. I had been reading some of the signs and was picking up what some of them meant. I thought I may actually be in the clear. The guy who came to meet us at the airport from the Parish was named Yeuri. This is my test.

 

To be truly honest, I had no clue what he was saying. I could barely pick up when he was saying even the most basic of words. Obviously, I was stressed out. All that time of attempting to learn felt wasted. I attempted to pull out my phrasebook to ask a question about how much sugar the country made in a given year. It should be easy. All I needed was the words for “make” or “produce” and I can form the sentence. Opening the index of my phrasebook and continuing to search through my own learning, I felt my stomach drop. Oh no, I only know Spanish for tourists.

 

The stress I felt leading up to the first morning of camp was due to the fact that I did not know the Spanish necessary to communicate to the kids what the activity was. Thankfully, Emily, who was in the same group as me, gave me some words that would be important. This gave me some relief, but I had a feeling I would not be able to translate enough. Nonetheless, when I heard everyone talking in the meeting room this morning, I felt lost once again. Well here goes nothing.

 

I tried to see if I could see or explain anything, but it was to not avail. Yeuri invited me to join in to one of the games that was being played. The laughter and fun was relaxing, even if I didn’t know what anyone was saying. I could communicate joy, they could communicate joy back. This was the new language I am going to have to speak. I do not have to speak Spanish and I probably didn’t need to go through the time to learn it. The language I need to speak is joy.

A little site seeing

Following lunch and siestas we went on a tour around San Juan. We climbed to the top of the Cathedral (highest point in the town) and got to see some some sites. 

Riding in Padre’s truck

Touring the inside of the cathedral before climbing to the top

Taking a break mid climb

Posing with some artwork on the campus at the local university

Traditional picture with King Coanabo

Sitting on the rock of Queen Anacoana, Taino queen(pre columban). This is where she would sit and watch games played in her honor. 

Here we go!

It might be VERY early but we are all smiles waiting to board our flight for the first leg of our journey. We left campus at 3:30 am and if all goes well, we will arrive at Our Lady of Hope Parish by 5:30pm!