Trip 2016, Day 7: La despedida/ the farewell

Where to begin when it comes to the end? Our trip to the DR was a lot of things: it was about intensely bonding as a division and, even after many summers together, learning even more about each other and ourselves; it was about challenging ourselves and trying new activities (like waterfall sliding or cave swimming) in a different country; it was about giving our time, smiles and energy in order to bring the camp magic to an underserved community; it was about partnering with an NGO, befriending people from another culture, and fully embracing all that is encompassed in a true exchange. That’s a lot to cover! When your day swings from floating in a pool and taking Polaroid selfies with Zac Brown Band’s “Toes” on a never-ending loop, to consoling a crying camper who feels excluded, to running a Color War relay, to a true Dominican BBQ with the slap of dominoes heard in the background, it’s hard to process every moment. In our final FINAL post tomorrow, we’ll share some of our personal thoughts and feelings, but for now, here are the highlights from our final full day.

We jumped into Color War at full force this morning, heating things up with our final dinámica (another rendition of “El Barco Se Hunde”), before we divided up into our four teams– Yellow Starfish, Green Alligators, Blue Whales and Red Lobsters– to distribute the shirts campers made in Arts n Crafts yesterday. Major learning curve for next year… divide the teams up once the campers arrive at school not via t-shirts the day before, as we wound up with a 32 person team of Blue Whales and only 18 Green Alligators, but by finagling some CIT participation we managed to make it work. Next, we taught cheers to represent our team (good thing about being lifetime camp people is it takes about 10 seconds to think of a solid Color War chant), with the Yellow Starfish snagging 1st with a classic “Everywhere we goooo, people wanna knoooow… etc.” variation (though the Blue Whales came in an impressive second thanks to a camper actual spritzing water out of his mouth and doing a backflip).

It was insane how much energy and intensity the campers brought to all of the activities (almost too much intensity, as there were many attempts at cheating), but at the end of the day it was about getting them involved and amped. The activities began with the ping-pong relay, which went relatively smoothly thanks to yesterday’s practice, though the Red Lobsters certainly suffered from an inordinate amount of 6-year-olds on their team (balancing ping-pongs was not their strong suit). Following ping pong, the boys and girls split up for a home run derby and standing broad jump, while a construction crew working on the school’s cafeteria cheered us on. Then it was on to the yard for a game of over-under and girls side Color War favorite water toting, which involves filling campers’ hands with as much water as possible, transporting it to a vessel located a few yards away, and measuring which team successfully transported the most. As much as the day was about bringing Scatico games to the DR, it was also about working with the materials at our disposal, so paint trays and empty garbage cans stood in for the tubs and pitchers of the 12523.

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Blue Whales take on the ping-pong relay

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Following water toting it was on to a scavenger hunt (a learning curve from last year was to opt out of a treasure hunt involving clues), where campers had to find items that could be located within the school (think: 10 rocks, something you put in your hair, a word in English… there is no underestimating how much young kids love “hunting” for things). We finished the competitive events off with a game of “Hit the Penny,” another girls side Color War novelty where campers try to hit a hockey puck on the floor with a tennis ball from behind a line. At Scatico it’s always striking how even the simplest activities generate so much intensity when it comes to Color War, and the same held true in Sabaneta. As we read the scores from each activity the kids screamed and jumped with pure joy if their team nabbed first or second.

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Water toting with paint trays
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Full concentration for hit the penny

We finished the morning off by teaching the whole camp Czechloslovakia– a weird sort of song/chant/dance from girls side that while involving outdated country names is a fun and easy way to get people all on the same page and moving around– before reading aloud the final scores. Despite the mismatched teams and cheating shenanigans, it actually wound up to be a pretty close competition, with the Green Alligators winning 1st by just one point. The campers went absolutely nuts.

While the go-go-go of the morning was draining (and left a good 50% of us in desperate need of some R&R), the campers’ unwillingness to leave even after we blew the whistle just proved how much our sweat equity (literally) paid off. As they exited the school we heard campers yelling about the best moments from this game or that, or bragging about their own team’s performance. We knew it was a day they would remember for some time to come.

After a much needed recharge and pizza/ burrito lunch at the DREAM Center, it was back to the school at Sabaneta for our official goodbye party, which we encouraged campers to invite their parents to. Placing the photo frames the kids made and projects from Reading out in the main yard, parents were able to get a glimpse of what their children had been up to over the past five days, and all expressed deep appreciation for how happy their kids had been upon coming home each day. From signing each other’s DREAM T-shirts, to snapping photos and simply playing around, it was a perfect opportunity to say farewell. Our campers hounded us for Facebook names and Whatsapp numbers so that they could keep in touch, and many more asked when we would be back again next year. The campers who already had been at camp the year before constantly brought up the games and names of CITs from 2015, and it’s a special feeling to know that our own camp experience will be added to those memories, and that after just two years Scatico is developing a legacy and connection to one community. As one camper said, “Even when I’m a hundred I’m going to remember you.”

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T-shirt signing

Hugs goodbye are always tough, especially when you know so many campers are returning to a long month of hanging out before school starts again, but a good fiesta de despedida is a nice way to cap off one crazy week. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to put the final touches on our mural, including a 1 2 5 2 3 of red fish. I guess it’s safe to say we left our mark (both literally and figuratively).

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A school of 12523

The next two hours were devoted to pure poolside lounging and napping, with even Jesus the bus driver squeezing in a game of pool II (billiards). It was our last real opportunity to soak in being in the DR just as a division, one that has now spent many more uninterrupted hours together. Then it was off to Otto’s sister house for an authentic backyard BBQ, complete with pork chop, grilled chicken, potato salad, and pasta. With plastic chairs set up around the backyard and the shadow of the cock fight ring in the background, it really did feel like we were a world away, but the same easy banter and laughter of a 4th July camp BBQ held true. After asking Adonis (who we’ve bar mitzvah’d/ nicknamed as Adonai… luckily he thinks its funny), unlimited questions about life in the DR and a heated debate about the best NBA players, it was time to head back for our final night’s sleep (though we did have to pry Jesus from an intense game of dominoes first).

It was as full as a week could be, and yet there are still so many moments we couldn’t squeeze in to the blog. More thoughts to come after our 5:30 am wakeup and hopefully less sloooow journey through the Santiago airport!

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Parting shot: The CITs with the final stragglers of our goodbye party

 

 

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