It’s hard to believe it’s only been just over 24 hours since we loaded onto our charter bus in Elizaville, headed out on our one-week adventure! With our Scatico backpacks, suitcases (hopefully under 50 pounds), nearly 200 water bottles (we’re supplying Dominican campers at the day camp with them), dozens of Spanish library books, and plenty of CIT spirit we greeted Cyrus our driver and headed down the beautiful I-87.
We rolled into the Sheraton JFK around 10PM, to be welcomed by 8 sizzling pizza pies (and no plates, so we ate like real New Yorkers). It truly felt weird to be sleeping in AC and hotel sheets after nearly a month in Scatico cabins, but somehow we pulled through. It was an early 7AM “reveille” so we could be sure to make it in time for “line up” at Gate 16. We’re proud to report that ALL bags were under 50 lbs (we even had some pounds to spare!) and not one CIT accidentally packed liquids in their carry ons (true seasoned pros).
As we stuffed our faces with our last bites of American food at the terminal, there was a surprise (and perhaps inevitable) RSS! Stephanie Friendman—a bunkmate of Jaqueline Karlin’s mom—spotted our Scatico backpacks and stopped to say hello. After squeezing in a pic with the RSS it was time to board JetBlue flight 627! Shoutout to Sage (our airplane aficionado) for even snapping a selfie with the pilot in the cockpit. Following the photo frenzy, we enjoyed a smooth 3ish hour flight full of Netflix, cards, and go pros.
By 2:30 PM we had officially touched down in the Puerto Plata airport, and were greeted by a lively merengue band and piiiiiles of paperwork. Once we were all stamped and customs approved (though one Navy duffle down…Wagner’s bag was lost in limbo, to be returned manana)… we emerged in the hot DR sun, the full DREAM staff (Adonis, our trip leader, Stacy our liaison, Jon the head of DREAM, and Nunos our library carpenter and right hand man) waiting to greet us. Then it was time for charter bus #2! This one was manned by Jose, and “magic carpet Aladdin style” (in Kassin’s words), or decked out in purple (in everyone else’s).
A few highlight observations from our 30 minute drive to the hotel:
1. Lots of zooming motorcylces in the DR, and not so many helmets
2. Stray dogs, horses, cows, goats, hens and chickens abound
3. The ocean really is just right there!
4. Not a ton of traffic lights, but lots of palm trees
After a brief orientation at the hotel it was finally time to HIT THE POOL! Luckily, we have about 10 go pros, 8 cameras, and a “dome” to capture all the fun. Suddenly it was 6:00 and we were due in the lobby in thirty minutes for dinner. We managed a quick power shower and were back on the “magic carpet” headed to Velero for a romantic sunset dinner… for 33.
Dinner was a true intro to DR cuisine, consisting of pollo, pescado, or pasta. And, thanks to Michael Tolstoi’s 16th birthday, it was capped off by a true Dominican desert… a very very large and very very sweet cake.
From Queens to a birthday queen it’s been quite the crazy first day. Can’t wait to continue reporting on everything that we have in store!