Even though this was only our first full day in the DR, we’re already starting to pick up the rhythm and spirit of the country. From getting to meet the first of our campers, to exploring the community, and a scenic boat ride down a river to the ocean, we crammed a lot into our 24 hours.
Day two started with our first ocean view DR breakfast, complete with pineapple, papaya, the sound of waves, and a man on a horse. By 8:30 AM it was time to lather on the sunscreen and douse ourselves in bug spray, and head out into the heart of Cabarete. Our first stop was the DREAM Center—DREAM being the non-profit we partner with here on the ground, and standing for Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring—a building that serves as the organization’s home base in the community. A mini scavenger hunt in the park divided us into nine groups, each of which was responsible for describing a different component of DREAM’s work. From the country’s only Montessori preschool to a job training course for teens, DREAM’s programs address so many needs of the community, and learning about all they do helped provide some context for the contribution we’re making at the day camp.
From the DREAM Center it was back on our “magic carpet” bus with Jose and off to the Sabaneta school where we actually host the day camp. From the moment our bus pulled up we were greeted by dozens of smiling faces. The beauty of having the camp at the same school every year is that we have started to build a real connection with the kids and reputation in the community. Some 50% of the campers are returnees and even 3rd years, who have been with us since we started the program in 2015.
Adonis kicked things off by leading a “dinamica,” basically a high energy game to get us in the camp zone and help us get to know the kids. The “dinamica” of choice was “El Barco se Hunde” (the ship is sinking), which is kind of hard to explain but involves skipping, carrying, piggy-back rides, making a house with your hands, and lots of laughter.
Next it was time for our high stakes Scavenger Hunt. Divided into three teams, we had the campers lead us to different places around the community, as the majority of them are from nearby and know the streets inside and out. Some hunt destination highlights:
1. A “Pica Pollo” aka an authentic fried chicken and fried plantain joint
2. A hardware store where we learned a paintbrush costs 50 pesos (about $1)
3. A vast furniture store complete with lots of bright faux leather dining sets, where we learned a chair is 380 pesos
4. A grocery store, where we bought a banana
Four of our stations required asking an employee a question and receiving an envelope containing puzzle pieces for two different puzzles. It was down to the wire at the end, as each team raced to complete their two puzzles—one we learned depicted an image of Cabarete, and the other of Scatico. Despite accusations of cheating Team Verde emerged victorious.
Then it was time for a Pica Pollo experience of our own. Lunch at El Saman (named for the enormous Saman tree that shades the tables), consisted of rice, salad, fruit, tostones, and…. you guessed it… chicken.
Following a quick return to the school to set up and unload our many many suitcases of supplies, it was off to Janet’s, the grocery store holy land. After learning that no, you CANNOT bargain at a grocery store, we loaded our carts with everything from gluten free pretzels and icing (a CIT favorite), to many liters of water, packets of oreos, and even an inflatable volleyball net for the pool.
We returned to the hotel to discover (drumroll please) Noah Wagner’s bag had arrived (!!!) and quickly headed to the beach for an intense football game. The Kite Beach Hotel is aptly named, for the beach is chock full of kite surfers (we watch, don’t join) and their colorful kites dot the clear blue sky. Hotel time also included lots of synchronized swimming, volleyball, and chicken fights.
After a refreshing pool sesh, it was time to make our way to dinner. The evening started with a half-hour boat ride down a river, whose banks were lined with cows, birds, lily pads, and palms.
Our destination was Wilson’s Beach Bar, a fish shack located in “La Boca” where the river meets the ocean. We docked just as the sun came down, and were greeted by sopping wet dogs and Coco Locos (non alcoholic). After a meal of fried chicken, fish and more we enjoyed a brief bonfire and star gazing in silence (which lasted all of 10 seconds) and noted that the Big Dipper is sideways from this latitude.
The night ended with a major “magic carpet ride” dance party (props to our two Day 1 DJs, Vandercar and Karlin). Who knew a Bohemian Rhapsody sing along could be so loud (or so confusing to our Dominican guides)? Voices hoarse and energy high we capped off our second night.