It’s hard to believe we’re already over half way through our week at camp, and even harder to believe that after only three days we’ve settled into its magical rhythm. Each day has brought its own set of curve balls (today’s involved learning how to prepare a mid-morning snack for the campers and Putzer falling off a chair in the process of jelly-ing crackers), and it’s own set of awesome-feeling accomplishments (getting the girl who always wants to hang in the shade to play a game of SPUD, or having a camper successfully recite the English alphabet). Since most of the kids at camp have grown up together in the same, small community in many ways they have the closeness– and share the inside jokes and protectiveness– of lifelong division mates in a way that parallels our own relationships.
Again, the day started the moment we stepped off the bus and were greeted by smiling faces, and again all the kids lingered even after we blew the whistle for the day to end. As sleep away kids, I guess we understand the lure of wanting 24 hours of camp, and it’s astonishing how such a short amount of time can bring that same infectious camp spirit for our Dominican campers. We changed up the activities at each station Wednesday, with sports featuring SPUD, photo day in art, and the alphabet and days of the week in English.
The campers usually do pretty well with any variation of baseball, but SPUD was a whole new playing field, and our hope is that the kids learned it well enough that they’ll continue to play it into the school year. For photo day we pulled campers out of the classroom one by one to snap a pic under a palm tree (shout out to Hannah Schorr for bringing her polaroid camera) and then had them paste the photo within a frame they decorated with everything from giraffe stickers to jewels and pom poms. Our camp numbers have swelled as word has caught on, and the 70 foam frames we brought down with us did not suffice, but luckily were able to fashion some last-minute popsicle stick creations. It was amazing to see the excitement in kids faces as their polaroid transitioned from white, to faded, to fully saturated color, and many campers went around asking us to sign the back of their frames for a keepsake. English had us teaching days of the week and running around the school with the campers, trying to find different letters written on walls and classroom doors for them to practice pronouncing (the TH noise is particularly difficult, and Tuesday sounds more like Too-es-day… but we’re pretty sure our Spanish accents aren’t so hot either.) Our mural is coming along swimmingly (pun intended), and we’ve learned that even the smallest gestures – like giving out stickers at the end of an activity, or running relay races while kids wait for their snack – can make all the difference in making the day just that much more special.
Following camp it was directly off to Damajagua, a set of 27 waterfalls located in the beautiful scenery of the jungle just outside of Puerto Plata. We picked up burritos to eat on the bus en route (a meal Nick Goodacre had been talking about ceaselessly, and swears is “better than Chipotle”), and arrived with just enough time to change and make it through 12 of the waterfalls. While it started with a rather sweaty walk that took 30 “Dominican minutes” as our guides told us (so more like 40), that made us all the more anxious to jump in the refreshingly cool river water. Equipped with lifejackets and helmets we experienced the adrenaline rush of walking, sliding, and jumping our way down the river bed, at times squeezing ourselves between hulking limestone rocks and swinging Tarzan-esque vines. Sadly the underwater camera died the exact moment Nick went to take a group shot of us inside a particularly cool waterfall alcove (where we likely frightened our guides by shouting a SC-SCA-SCA-SCATI cheer), but much of the action was go-proed. More than any other excursion this one challenged us and pushed us out of our comfort zones– even Lauren jumped from one of the highest rocks into the deep turquoise waters to much cheering and encouragement!– but it made the rush all the more rewarding as we walked back to the entrance some two hours later.
Everything about walking and traveling around the DR involves a sight worth processing or taking a “mental picture” of– from the rainbow we spotted out the bus window as we drove back, to the never ending processionals of cows we encounter, to the community strike we observed on the side of the road in protest of shoddy electricity (shout out to Jesus our driver for clearing their branch road block!). There’s never a dull moment on this trip.
In the evening we headed to Mojitos on the beach in Cabarete for sandwiches (not mojitos, though Gross DReamed big and ordered nutella crepes!), and walked along the beach spotted with discotecas and restaurant lounges before heading back to Beachcomber. Thursday is our last regular camp day before “1, 2, 3, 4, we want Color War!”