Much like life at Scatico, each day in the DR feels like it crams in a week’s worth of activities. Even though we’ve only just finished day two of camp, it’s already starting to feel like second nature. We know which kids will be the ones that run for the kickball to play catch before the day starts, which won’t be able to finish their art project before the whistle blows, and which will be the first to raise their hands (or yell out the answer) in English. While at Scatico we straddle that fine line between camper and counselor, here we’re running the show, and it feels amazing to know that at the end of the day the success of the week– and the happiness of the campers– lies in our hands.
The day started when “El Rey de la Carretera” pulled up to a group of smiling campers literally waiting at the steps of our bus to greet us the very moment we stepped off. Besides the dozens of campers sporting their DREAM project lime green, several new faces joined our group, a sure sign that the first day of camp was a smashing success and the word of mouth spread.
We kicked things off with a new dínamica that involved a “trip to the doctor,” yelling out body parts, and shaking them. At the end of the day these chants aren’t a far cry from the ones we’re well-versed in from the girls’ Social Hall, and just as quickly as we pick up the Dominican cheers, the campers pick up games of quackadillioso, taps, and whatever else we throw their way (tomorrow Emma and Mel even plan to teach their Zumba routine to “Dear Future Husband”). The moments of downtime are filled with endless small exchanges and moments (high fives and races, dancing games and silly faces) that highlight the fundamental nature of camp, even in different languages and across country borders.
We switched the activities up at our stations today, keeping things fresh and high energy for the campers. Sports had to contend with the issue of on-again, off-again rain, but if camp teaches you anything it’s how to think on your feet and be flexible, so what started as kickball on the basketball court ended as relay races and games of over- under in the hallways. Luckily, the other stations all take place in classrooms, and so dream catcher making in arts n crafts and learning the numbers in English were both rain-free. Part of the challenge of camp is how to alter activities for the different age groups (6 year-olds need a lot of help tying knots on dream catchers, 14 year-olds not so much), but each day we rotate what age group we work with and get a sense of the special moments and unique challenges that come with each. Some kids grow up a lot faster in the Dominican Republic– by their early teens many are already taking care of younger siblings or working on the weekends to help out around the house– so as much as we’re teaching campers new activities, we’re also learning from them. There is such a wide range of kids– from the outrageously polite to the more outspoken– that there is never a dull moment.
After our morning at camp we headed back to the DREAM center for a pizza lunch and to meet Chi Che, DREAM’s all around go-to handyman, who took us on a tour of Cabarete’s national park. If there’s anyone who knows the Callejon (the small neighborhood of Cabarete where DREAM is located) it’s Chi Che. He and all 16 of his brothers and sisters were born under the same tree in the jungle that encompasses the national park (at least that’s what we we’re told) and most people in the area are his relative in some form or another. With an easy smile and nearly incomprehensible Spanish accent, Chi Che led us through the entrance of the park, pointing out the fruit trees we could eat from (lychees!) and various animals his family raises (we saw newborn goats and stood directly in the path of a family of cows being herded). After about a 20 minute walk we arrived at our destination: the mouth of a 30 foot-deep cave filled with an even deeper pool of water. Though it would have nearly been pitch black inside, Chi Che’s grandson set up some candles for us, so we were able to see as we waded, jumped, and sat in the refreshingly cool water. Even Moe got in because, as Nick says, “he may not swim in the Scatico crib, but he can swim in caves.”
Post caves it was back to the hotel for a quick turnaround before heading out for a grocery store run (you can never have too many pop tarts or chips ahoy) and beachside BBQ at the Kite Club. So much of getting from point A to point B is filled with the endless inside/ mindless jokes that are what division dynamics are all about. Adonis and the other DREAMers are now more than familiar with “Spinach” (or espinaca as we’ve started to call it), which is basically just creating a satisfyingly loud clapping noise when you high five, and we’ve spent more than enough time flipping our water bottles a la the “epic” YouTube talent show act. You can take the CITs out of Scatico, but you can’t take the Scatico out of the CITs.
The night ended with a quick ice cream pit stop (just as cheap as Holy Cow but, alas, not as delicious), before we were back to the hotel. With another double whammy of camp and an excursion on deck for tomorrow, there’s plenty of prep to be done.