21 Marzo 2014 National Escuela and our Going-Away Banquet

March 24, 2014

First thing Monday morning up on arriving in Conseulo, I told Dr. Rust that “my heart was home.” Automatically, I felt at peace surrounded by the beautiful children, language, and culture. As we wrap up our final day teaching at the National School, my heart is so full and belongs nowhere but with these sweet babies scattered throughout a variety of different Deaf schools in the Dominican Republic.

Our final day started at 8:30am with the first group of students who ranged from around 8 to 11 years old. Their desire to be taught and talked to in a clear, visual language they understood was palpable, and it absolutely broke my heart that it was not the norm for them to receive that level of education. The students were excited, happy, and motivated to get involved and learn in all of the lessons.

ImageLuckily, Chris and Karyn were more than capable of teaching our lesson without me, because I spent very little time teaching with them. Instead, I used my time to learn about the school itself, the teachers, and many of the older students that would not be involved in our large group lessons. These students are some of the only Deaf high school students in the entirety of the Dominican Republic, as the National School is the only Deaf school that accommodates students after 8th grade.

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The teachers in the upper grades appeared very lackadaisical in their teaching, often just leaving the students alone in the classroom when they no longer felt compelled to teach. In one classroom, I noticed students sitting around by themselves. Upon asking if they were on a break, I learned that their teacher had just left the classroom in the middle of the lesson for no apparent reason. So, instead of teaching the younger students who now had six excited and motivated teachers with them, I stayed with the high schoolers for part of the morning. While I did not formally teach them, we did spend time teaching each other our languages and simply letting them know that I thought they were important enough to not leave them in the middle of the school day. I also spent part of my morning with the youngest of the school! Their teacher was in the classroom, but for being a preschool aged classroom, it appeared she lacked any enthusiasm or excitement, very much just tolerating being there. The three little girls and myself played tea party and talked about how an anchor keeps a boat from moving.

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At the National School, the groups of students were younger than at the previous three schools, because there were nearly 400 students in the school and we catered to the students who were mostly likely to benefit from our lessons, which were created for students on a 2nd – 6th grade level. All of the students, including those we didn’t teach, were wonderful. They invited us into their school and their lives and wanted to be taught and loved.

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After we left our final school for the week, we stopped by our favorite bakery for lunch, headed back to the hotel to change clothes, and headed to the Colonial Zone to do some souvenir shopping and visit Christopher Columbus’ son’s house (Diego Colon), which has since been turned into a museum holding artifacts from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. There was so much history to be learned!

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Finally, our day, and trip, was coming to a close. We went back to the hotel for one last swim, nap, or adventure before getting ready for our final dinner with all of our favorite people from the week. We celebrated our week in the DR with a wonderful meal and conversation with Hector and Belkis, Juana, Paulina, Tommy, and their spouses. The dinner was the perfect ending to our trip, even if the goodbyes were tearful.

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The next morning, we packed up at 3:30AM to head to the airport for our 5:45 AM flight. The whole week was a beautiful and amazing experience that I know we won’t forget. Our lives have been permanently changed by the smiles and love we received from all our sweet babies from the week.

- Stephanie Voss (Graduate Candidate in the Deaf Ed Program)

20 Marzo 2014 Santa Rosa, Hombre Museum, and the Sports Complex

March 24, 2014

Today is Thursday March 20th 2014. Today we all started off our day a bit tired from being at the beach all day yesterday. But, we still got up and were ready to teach. We got in the car and headed to Hector’s house to receive our usual morning greetings! We then headed over to Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa was an oral school until the 2012-2013 school year. Dr. Rust visited the school for the first time last year. We weren’t sure what to expect at this school, but we went in, as we always do, and managed just fine! The kids were great! They were so warm and receptive to us and the material we were presenting. Who would have thought teaching would be such fun. Image

Afterwards, we rested a bit and then headed to the National Hombre Museum. After our day of teaching was done we headed back to the hotel to get some rest. We headed over to the National History Museum. I must say was quite interesting! This place is full of history of the original island people who longer exist due to colonization. The original inhabitants of this island were the Taino tribe. The Europeans first visited this island on Christopher Columbus’ first trip west and the island has not been the same ever since. Image

Afterwards, we headed to the sports complex to visit everyone from the deaf club! As soon as we pulled into the park they spotted us and waved us down! I think that touched all our hearts! We all stayed and talked and played sports for about 4.5 hours! 7pm hit and we were almost on our way out but stayed even longer. 9pm hit and Mark Rust had to get us home! In my opinion today was beautiful! Being at the park was a special moment for everyone. Everyone built a connection with someone in particular. They all made sure we felt comfortable and made sure we were having fun! I felt so welcomed and felt at home. And that’s where our day ends.

- Cinthya Trejo (Towson Student)

19 Marzo 2014 – A Day of R & R

March 24, 2014

¡Hóla todos!

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Today we went to a beach resort, Barcelo Capella, in the town of Juan Dolio. It was a nice day of just relaxing after a couple really busy days of teaching. There was a great all-you-can-eat buffet that everyone was really excited about. One of the things I thought was really interesting was the restaurant was an open air restaurant; there were birds flying around inside. One of the things that’s different about beaches in the Dominican Republic is that there are vendors wandering around trying to sell you their wares. You can’t even make eye contact with them or they’ll swarm you. Chris managed to get rid of them by telling them he was Deaf.

There was one guy walking around with two parrots, an iguana, and a monkey and when Cinthya and Jennifer went to talk to him, he let Jennifer hold the monkey. It tried to get in Jennifer’s purse and the guy jokingly told us that the monkey was looking for money. Cinthya handed it a coin. It dropped the coin and tried to unzip her purse. It turns out the monkey was looking for food.

There were lots of great activities to do during the day. There were merengue lessons and a mini golf tournament. They also had music playing, so part of the group started dancing on the ledge between pools when the resort staff had a dance demonstration. During the mini golf tournament, when everyone was dancing, one of the staff members started dancing with Stephanie and his coworker hit him over the head with her clipboard. He also decided to show off his golf skills and let Stephanie emcee the tournament for a little while.

The day went by so fast and before we knew it we were getting in the van to go back to Santo Domingo. On the way, we passed a truck full of guys and some of the girls in the group thought it would be funny to blow kisses. The guys were really surprised. Usually they just get ignored when they hit on girls. We also discovered that blowing kisses must be something that they don’t do in the Dominican Republic because they seemed confused by the concept.

Overall, it was a restful day and a nice break from the fast pace of teaching. It was nice to just relax on the beach and goof around for a while.

- Karyn OttoImage

18 Marzo 2014

March 23, 2014

Today was a day to remember. It didn’t start off as early as Consuelo but still we began early. We all piled into the van and set off for Hector’s (AKA my love) house. Then, once in his safe driving hands (no disrespect to Dr. Rust) we set way for Sabana Perdida. From the ride to the school you could see that this would an area where children arrive to school with the most need.

Another group of our students at Sabana Perdida. We had a blast with them.

Another group of our students at Sabana Perdida. We had a blast with them.

Once we arrived I was surprised on how small the school really was. Juana was already there and running around introducing us to the people that worked at the school and helping set up our instructional area for the day. We were in a small room. Once again, each group gravitated to a different part of the room staking a claim to an area for the lesson. This didn’t take as long as I thought because we were all pretty efficient from seeing what work and didn’t work from the day before at Consuelo. The school treated us to breakfast, amazing eggs and orange juice. From there we began our first lesson.

Group photo of one of our groups of students at Sabana Perdida

Group photo of one of our groups of students at Sabana Perdida

Compared to the day before I think we could all agree that teaching at Sabana Perdida was easier then the day before. We knew what work and didn’t. We had more of a feel for teaching our material and how to get our points across. The kids were just amazing. All the different age groups were excited to have us there and wanted to learn. I think I speak for all of us when I say I enjoyed the older group the most. Compared to the group at Consuelo, they were more advance with there vocabulary and signing skills. We would get through the lesson and have about 5 minutes left at the end of the lesson. We used this time to talk with and get to know the students and they wanted to get to know us. I met a student who became my good friend, Bernardo. He, like most of the kids at Sabana Perdida, was such an open and friendly person. Lena met her future husband (don’t worry Lena I wont put his name) and we all met people and made memories that we would remember for a lifetime.

- Chris Jones

17 Marzo 2014 @ Consuelo

March 18, 2014
Today was…quite a day. We began mighty early. We met in the lobby outside of our hotel rooms at 6:45 AM, all dressed in our teaching gear. We met Juana- our lively, lovely, and spirited interpreter- and her husband Eric and we all piled into the van. Let’s just say that 10 people plus a printer was mighty tight.
Next stop was Hector’s house! 10 became 11, and the title of driver switched from Rust to the amazing Hector. When hunger set in we stopped at a sweet little place on the side of the road.
          Stephanie and Ali were ALL about the fried cheese situation.
          Chris and I gazed at the beautiful ocean and climbed over a beautiful old coral reef.
Soon we piled back into the van and set off for Consuelo.
Teaching about water pollution.

Teaching about water pollution.

At Consuelo I was struck by the bareness of the classrooms. I was also surprised by the amount of hearing aids I saw- I would have thought that their economic situation would not have allowed for that, yet today I saw many children with hearing aids.
The children were bright eyed and curious and had all different levels of language capability. Our students came to us in groups. 3 shifts with 3 rotations in each shift. the age range was from 7-34 years old. Some students were partly blind, some had cerebral palsy, one had Waardenburgs, and all- every single one- had a smile on their faces and in their hearts.
9 lessons, a twin mixup, a delicious lunch, and a myriad of pictures later, our day came to an end.
Teaching about density.

Teaching about density.

Teaching was hectic, it was hot, but most importantly, it was lovely. Seeing the happiness, willingness to learn, and understanding was beyond rewarding. Something Stephanie said really struck home. She said, looking around at the bustling children and brightly colored, square buildings: “my heart is home, here”.
Lena Jenny

Woo Woo! What a lesson!

Woo Woo! What a lesson!

Oobleck: is it a solid or is it a liquid?

Oobleck: is it a solid or is it a liquid?

16 March 2014

March 18, 2014

I started our second full day in the DR by walking to the most fabulous bakery, just down the street from our hotel, with a few other students. Once we got back, we headed to Hector’s church to spend the morning integrating into the deaf community around us for the first time! It was an interesting experience, Hector’s church is located on the 3rd floor of another church. So, when we entered, a hearing church service was in full swing; there was loud music and clapping. But when you entered Hector’s third floor chapel there was none of that; it became a different kind of lively experience. There were songs and skits put on by those from the community, all of which were relatively easy to follow in Dominican Sign Language. Once church was finished we just hung out and chatted with those in attendance. One woman had the most adorable two year old boy who would not be stopped for anything – he spent the full church service bopping from chair to chair trying to find some entertainment.

After church we went to lunch with Hector and his wife Belkis – both of whom are amazing people! Lunch was great,  and the resturant had some crazy awesome bread! All too soon lunch came to an end and we headed over to the deaf club. Unfortunately it was closed. So we went back to the hotel and hung out for a few hours. Around 5:30 we went back to the deaf club, which is located adjacent to the National School for the Deaf. This time there were three guys there and we hung out with them for almost 2 hours, learning about the nature of deaf education in the Dominican. But, once the serious conversation was done they taught us how to play pool.
We finished out the day by coming back to the hotel and really ironing out our lesson plans for the next day. This is where the struggle began. How do you plan for the unknown? What my partner and I ended up doing was making a plan, but made allowances for adjustments once the real teaching began. We also did a mock teach, where our other group members pretended to be children, some were definitely accessing their inner child (Stephanie). The day ended at 11 pm, as we all went to sleep dreaming of what the next day would bring.
- Ali Duhan

Dominican Republic 14/15 Marzo 2014

March 18, 2014

Saturday, March 15th

Thanks, Tracy, for our shuttle to Washington National Airport!

Thanks, Tracy, for our shuttle to Washington National Airport!

 

Jennifer and Karyn heading to the Dominican Republic!

Jennifer and Karyn heading to the Dominican Republic!

So, I’m sitting here in the lobby of our hotel, La Jaragua, at eight o’clock pm

on a Sunday, trying to figure out what to write. I look around me and see the expensive, sparkling chandeliers, the vaulted ceilings, and the marble floors. I can’t help but be struck with the feeling that I’m in a typical high-end resort. The only reminder that I’m in another country is that the people passing by me are speaking in Spanish rather than English. However, when you step outside the hotel grounds, you enter a completely different world. One in which the people are impoverished and the buildings are crumbling before your eyes. The homeless sit on street corners looking desolate and the stray dogs lay stretched out on the sidewalks. People approach you from every direction trying to sell something or guilt-trip you into paying for their services. All the people here in the capital city of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, are just trying to make a living as best they can. I don’t live far from the Washington D.C., so I have seen homeless people before, but in the Dominican Republic the majority of the population lives in poverty relative to our standards. You can attempt to imagine what this city looks like, but it is an entirely unique experience to actually be here. The emotions that flood you just walking down the street are overwhelming. Feelings of sadness and guilt invade your thoughts because we take so much for granted in our country.

Yet, there is a serene beauty here. The cracked pavement giving way to the plant life, the New Orleans-style architecture, and the colorful art painted on abandoned walls. You come to also appreciate the people, even if their driving is terrifying. There is a sense of community here and strangers are greeted with friendliness and open arms. One kind lady at a grocery store called La Cocinada allowed all of us to pass in front of her and she let us use her membership card. The wish to see a different style of life for the people of the Dominican Republic is such a strong desire in all of us.

Our first full day here began about 10:30 with a walk down the street to La Cocinada in order to get snack food for our hotel rooms. It was the first time we had actually seen the city, beyond the hotel in the daylight. The currency here is the peso, the exchange rate is 43 pesos to the dollar. I have to admit that my heart skipped a couple of beats at first when I see a sign that read 19.99 for bags of chips, which is more like 50 cents. When we returned to the hotel some people napped and others went swimming in the outdoor pool. The pool is really nice in the heat of the afternoon at 83 degrees Fahrenheit. We met again at four o’clock and drove to the mall, which was harrowing to say the least. Drivers don’t seem to obey any of the stop signs or traffic lights. The mall was huge, five floors. The view from the second to top floor of the parking garage was fantastic. We got some food to tide us over until dinner at the food court. I was surprised by how many American fast food chains there were, like Taco Bell and KFC. There was a smaller version of Walmart inside the mall and we went shopping for supplies for our lessons that we are going to teach on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday is a beach day at an all-inclusive resort!

Stephanie, Chris, Cinthia (Towson), Lena, and Ali heading to the Dominican Republic.

Chris, Stephanie, Ali, and Lena making a funny face!

That evening we dropped off the supplies at the hotel and drove to the oldest part of the city,  where Columbus landed and his son built a house when he was the viceroy of the New World. We are planning to tour this home later this week. We had dinner at this club-like restaurant in the VIP section cause our group was too big to fit anyone else. Afterwards, we were all exhausted. Some of us went straight to sleep and others went to the casino to play a few games. Overall, it was a great start to an amazing experience in the Dominican Republic!

P.S. I just want to give a shout out to McDaniel College and the Deaf Studies Program for making this trip possible. Also to Tracy, who drove us the two hours to the airport and reminded us not to forget sunscreen! Finally, to the greatest professor and trip leader ever, Mark Rust!

Arrival success!

Arrival success!

Adios for now!

-Jennifer Cooper

Final Reflection 24 March 2013

April 1, 2013
Joe having a thoughtful moment on our first full day in the DR.

Joe having a thoughtful moment on our first full day in the DR.

First off, on behalf of the ASL students and myself, I would like to thank Dr. Mark Rust and McDaniel College for making this trip possible. Without them, the memories created from this trip would be non-existent. We would also like to thank Hector for putting us under his wings and ensuring us a safe and memorable trip. He is a man of wisdom and shared many of his stories with us and I am glad he was able to accompany us on the trip.

This is the home of Christopher Columbus' son, who was the Governor of Hispaniola.

This is the home of Christopher Columbus’ son, who was the Governor of Hispaniola.

Gathering for our final meal.

Gathering for our final meal.

The students at the schools we visited. Where do I start? We learned from them as much as they learned from us and being around them was a rewarding experience. I could see the group grow from our first day of teaching together to the dreadful, last day of teaching. On Friday, all of us were very sociable with the students and felt much more relaxed and confident in our instruction of the solar system.

I really enjoyed all the schools we visited and I’m sure some of us have our favorites, but we can all agree they were all wonderful and filled with amazing students.  Most of all, it was being together and meeting the people we met that made this a wonderful and memorable experience.

Athan Decker

Graduate Deaf Education Candidate

DAY 9 Heading Home 23 March 2013

April 1, 2013
An early morning start to the airoport.

An early morning start to the airoport.

Alas, our amazing experience traveling, exploring, and teaching in the Dominican Republic came to an end. Though we were not teaching today, we still had to wake up early in order to make it to the airport in time. In fact we had to wake up about two to three hours earlier than usual, 4:30 am!

Tim and I were the first to arrive at the front desk, thus followed by the rest of the group a little after 5. We packed the van, said our goodbyes and thank yous to Mark; he was staying in the DR for a few more weeks.  We were all extremely exhausted in the van on the way to the airport, but I think deep down we were all ready to get back to America. As we arrived to the airport and received our tickets we had noticed that the girls, Maria, Erin, Sydney, Casey, Haley, and Emily, had first class tickets. While they were quite ecstatic from such great news, Tim, Joe, Athan, and I came to realization that we were stuck in business class.  However, we did not mind too much due to the fact that by the end of our first flight, the girls and the boys made an agreement to switch tickets from Miami to BWI.

Saying 'Adiios'.

Saying ‘Adiios’.

Our view heading home.

Our view heading home.

Once we arrived in Miami things became a bit hectic because no one knew the difficult process it took to renter the United States, especially without Mark by our side. Though it was a frustrating experience going through customs, we still had about two hours to eat and relax before our next flight. During this time all of us basically gathered around, played with our phones (we were not able to use them all week), and joyfully spoke of our experience in the DR and of how much we were going to miss it.

Around 2:30 p.m. our final flight to BWI was ready for departure.  The flight was a little rough because we caught the tail end of a storm, but for the most part, we all used this time to catch up on a little sleep. Well, except for Maria due of Erin’s loud snoring.  We landed in BWI safe and sound, but we were not excited about the cold weather since we had high 80’s all week.  Finally we grabbed our luggage, said our good byes for the time being, and made our way back to McDaniel College. To summarize our trip, I think we all collaborated and realized that we were sent on this trip to teach deaf students about science, which we did so and loved doing. Yet in reality, the true reason was to show these kids that there are people who truly care about them and to see their excitement and smiling faces completely made this trip to the Dominican Republic worthwhile.

Justin Rines

DAY 8 – National School (Santo Domingo) 22 March 2013

March 26, 2013

Today was a bittersweet day for many of the students on the trip. We had been to 3 deaf schools and many of the students have seen things and heard stories they have never been exposed t0; and, for some, it was emotional and a life changing experience.

Today we went to the national school for the deaf in Santa Domingo, which was the biggest school we worked at all week. Every group had to teach their lesson 9 times throughout the day. Today many of the students that went on the trip were mentally and physically exhausted from taking in so many new things in such a small amount of time but still enjoyed the last day working with the deaf kids in the school.

Sydney in action.

Sydney in action.

We woke up not as early as other morning and met around 8:00 in the morning to go to the bakery down the street. My personal favorite item was the ham and cheese croissant with an apple juice. After everyone had their breakfast we picked up our favorite driver, Hector, and we were off to the National School for the Deaf. This school was automatically one of my favorite schools just because they provided us with water as soon as we started teaching, which was very nice because that school was probably the hottest of all of the schools. This school also had the biggest range of students from ages 4 to 20. Some of us  felt a little weird teaching people who were older then us, or our age, but we soon felt comfortable because 20 year olds here are very different then 20 year olds in Santa Domingo.

By today, everyone had their lessons down and had a rotation down from doing it so much this week. We worked with about 6 groups before we got a break while the kids had recess. Some of us went outside and played with the kids while others, like Joe, and myself, stayed inside. As hot as it was from just sitting down, I knew that if I went outside and got sweaty I might pass out from a heat stroke so I decided to stay in and chat a little. I felt like I made the wise decision because Justin had been outside and through a few lessons couldn’t stop sweating and I was afraid I might have to use my CPR skills on him. Lol jk.

Erin explaining the patterns of the planets.

Erin explaining the patterns of the planets.

Going through the materials regarding the seasons.

Going through the materials regarding the seasons.

After the break we continued our lessons with the kids but seemed to get a little more difficult because Casey, Justin and I all have tattoos and we had the mistake of showing them before the lesson and the kids would want to talk about tattoos the whole time. We adjusted and finished up nicely. After everyone finished their lessons around 1:15 or so, we all got a chance to sign with the kids and take pictures. One of Maria’s kids gave her a beautiful bracelet for Maria to keep and remember her by. Maria was very touched by this act of kindness and will always remember that little girl.

After we were done with our last school, it was a bittersweet moment for us. We were happy that we were done teaching but also sad that we were done making such a big difference in these children’s lives by just signing with them and teaching them new things.

After we were done eating, some of us wanted to go to the El Conde to buy some souvenirs for our families while others just wanted to relax by the pool. Emily, Erin, Maria, Casey and I went to the El Conde where I got my father and boyfriend a little something along with Casey who got her boyfriend something. After we were done, Emily and I got into the van to wait for the rest of the students when Mark pointed out across the street, a man giving away free puppies. Emily and I instantly dashed over and fell in love with these innocent cute puppies. We thought it was kind of the man to at least try and give them away other then abandon them or kill them, which usually happens to puppies without homes. When we got back to the hotel, we all went to the pool to enjoy our last day at the beautiful pool and our awesome employee, Alex. We stayed for a while soaking up the last bite of sun we could before we had to go back and start getting ready for our banquet diner with everyone. Maria, Casey and I decided to go a little fancy and wore dresses and had the pleasure of being honked at every 5 seconds, even though Athan said they were probably honking at him.

Athan going through the motions of explaining constellations.

Athan going through the motions of explaining constellations.

When we arrived at the restaurant we had all planned to eat and then hurry to the casino to enjoy our last night at the hotel. Our other guests however came a little late and our 1.5 hour dinner lasted 3.5 hours. On a better note, the food was delicious and gave us a opportunity to sign with some of the deaf natives. After we were done eating it was emotional for some of us to say our last good byes to Hector and his wife and the president of the deaf club and his wife. It took about 30 minutes to say bye but eventually did and we made our way back to the hotel. Some of us went to the casino for a little but were pretty tired from the day and called it quits early.

Here is our crew saying good bye to our new friends.

Here is our crew saying good bye to our new friends.

This was a very special trip for me because my father’s family is from Santa Domingo and the president of the deaf club offered to help me find some family if I give him names of my family members. It was nice seeing where my family came from and made me appreciate more of what I have and how lucky I am to live in America. This was a life changing experience for many of us and we will never forget the kids we met along the journey. I would like to speak for all the students on the trip and give a big thanks to Mark Rust for having brought us here and opened our minds and see new things, both good an bad. We will never forget this spring break.


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