Trip 2017, Day 7: Floating through Thursday

Much like time at Camp Scatico, time in the DR feels distorted, where days jam-packed with activities can feel like weeks, but then when you look back on the whole experience it’s as if it happened in a flash. Today officially marks one week since we greeted Cyrus and boarded our charter bus for JFK, and yet the progress and connections we’ve made as a group should seemingly have taken months. We’ve come so far and done so much, so fast.

Today at camp marked our last “regular” day of rotations as we gear up for an epic Color War competition tomorrow. While we’re eager to break into our four bilingual teams—the Red Fuego, Yellow Pinas, Grey Tiburones, and Purple Dragones—our final traditional camp day was an excellent one. A quick recap of everything that went down:

Getting off the bus and into the front yard, we were encircled by dozens of kids waiting to start the day. Small gifts have quickly become part of our morning routine, as smiling campers hand us fruits picked from their backyard, notes written during reading time, and small trinkets and bracelets. While a handful of us went straight to the bookshelves to get a head start on painting (with Color War tomorrow, today was our last opportunity to get them done), the rest of us oversaw a quick recess and participated in a dinamica involving shaking our body parts and counting down from 10 (many of these activities are reminiscent of songs sung after evening activity on girls side). Circling up to divide into our groups, campers sang a loud and enthusiastic Feliz Cumpleanos for Erica Smiley, our birthday girl, before heading off to their stations for the day.

In English we learned the days of the week, and with the older kids pushing them further to ask what it is they do on those days of the week. Additionally, a few particularly gifted English-speaking campers and Spanish-speaking CITs from each group went outside to memorize a poem about the beauty of being bilingual (lines like, “porque hablo ingles puedo jugar deportes y sports, puedo leer libros y books.”) The poem will be recited by CITs and campers alike at tomorrow’s goodbye party (in the afternoon following Color War).

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At sports we all gave it our best shot (pun intended) in a game of knockout. Another first-time activity for the camp, kids quickly developed winning strategies, scoring free throws and layups on the CIT 2015 painted basketball court. The orange group (our littlest ones) had a liiiiitle trouble throwing the ball anywhere remotely near the basket, so they enjoyed an intense game of over-under instead.

When we hit art it was time to design and create our own T-shirts! Using a method borrowed from John Hickey back at Scatico, each camper and CIT drew a design in crayon on a piece of sandpaper. We then placed the paper on top of each kids’ shirt (100 white Hanes Tees part of the load we brought down from Scatico) and ran an iron over it, so that the wax of the crayon melted and transferred on to the tee. While the kids’ designs mostly involved their names, flowers, sports equipment, stars and hearts, the CITs designed team shirts to be worn during Color War (we have some interesting drawings of dragons and sharks as a result).

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Lastly, at the reading/library station we got to work on the designs for our bookshelves, splatter painting, hand-printing, and sketching our way to the finish line. With nearly as much paint ending up on ourselves as the shelves (both intentionally and unintentionally) each group finished their shelf just in time. It’s incredibly rewarding to imagine loading our books onto the shelves tomorrow and leaving the kids with a little piece of our hard work.

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By 12:30 it was time to circle up, say goodbye, and head on to the day’s excursion: tubing down the Rio Yasica, a first in CIT DR trip history. Pulling up to the tubing site we were greeted by Rob, a DR expat originally from Toronto but who’s lived here for 12 years. Demonstrating classic Canadian chillness (at one point we asked if it was OK if kids shared tubes, to which he responded “I don’t care, I’m from Canada”), Rob first gave us a brief tour of his gorgeous and unique organic, hydroponic farm where he grows over 150 kinds of exotic tropical fruits, 25 kinds of mint, and has built worm beds, fish-involved water purification systems and more to create a fully sustainable project.

Then picking up our giant black tubes, we were led by Juan on a 15-minute walk, snaking through the beautiful mountain paths of Sabaneta (specifically we were in Los Brazos, a small community where both our DREAM guides Nuno and Adonis hail from). We finally reached our lazy river, and quickly got into the cool, calming waters, letting the river slowly take us on our way.

As we calmy floated down we looked up and around at the gorgeous scenery surrounding us. Like something out of a painting there were lush mountains and soaring palm trees, brightly flowered trees and swooping birds. Bodies in the water and soaking up the sun, we idled down the river, our peace and calm interrupted by only a few issues with some shallow waters, tipping tubes, and “crashes” into trees.

Eventually making our way down the river to where we started, we walked back to the farm along a dirt path where we were met by cows and horses, the animals barely registering our presence as we laughed and sang our way to the bus.

Upon arrival at our hotel a surprise awaited us: room changes! An error with reservations meant Scatico had to be veeeery flexible, as two boys’ rooms got bumped to an enormous penthouse complete with an empty deck Jacuzzi and stainless steal kitchen (somehow the boys managed to handle the news), and two girls rooms combined for a giant 8-person sleepover. When in the DR, rolling with the punches is the name of the game.

After a rapid shower it was on to the bus to head out for chicken parm at Villa Taina. Once again looking out onto the ocean, we enjoyed our meal, until we experienced a “power outage” (the lights actually intentionally turned off) to bring out one GIANT birthday cake for Erica. Decorated with light pink writing, flowers and foam stars, it was a confection fit for a princess (apt since Erica also wore a crown). Topped with sparkler candles straight from the DR supermarket, we sang both happy birthday and the extra long camp bday song, as our waiters looked on in amusement.

Running on a post-cake sugar high it was back to the hotel for our Color War meeting. With a morning of competition, a goodbye party, and DR vs. Scatico basketball game ahead, it’s going to be one packed last day (a fact that is decidedly bitter sweet).

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