20 Marzo 2015 … Final Full Day

March 21, 2015

7:20 Am rolled around and off to the bakery we went (duh), buying doughnuts and croissants galore. Don’t forget the various fruit juice flavors! Sitting together, just like most mornings, we enjoyed breakfast before the last day of teaching. We return back to the hotel and with our fearless leader, we set off for the National Escuela, after picking up Hector (Abuelo) of course! We knew this was a day full of many lasts and even more goodbyes.

Rachel and Gara teaching their lesson for the last time.

Rachel and Gara teaching their lesson for the last time.

After teaching our lessons a total of 27 times (per group) the last time just feels different. It’s hard seeing beautiful faces each day knowing that you will have met them and said goodbye in such a short time.

Melissa, Heather, and Brandi teaching their lesson for the last time.

Melissa, Heather, and Brandi teaching their lesson for the last time.

After teaching all morning it was time to say goodbye to all the kids, as well as the school’s staff and principle, after a few obligatory selfies with the students of course! The school, as a whole, was very nice and very well organized.

Savannah, Lauren, and Brittany having their last race.

Savannah, Lauren, and Brittany having their last race.

We then continued our day by going back to do a quick wardrobe change, then headed to lunch. Sitting right on the water, our big family enjoyed our last lunch together. Leading fearlessly for one of the last times, Mr. Mark took us to the Alcázar De Colón (Columbus Palace Museum). Seeing so many artifacts and where someone from so long ago lived was amazing. We walked all throughout the house, which is the museum, and took so many pictures!

What’s next? Shopping! Having a few minutes to spare before needing to return the van, we set off to make last minute purchases. We walked the unique streets of El Conde going shop to shop to see what we wanted. Then we had to go return our trusty steed, the van, by 5 o’clock. Yes, we were late. I blame the ice cream that we all decided we needed. After returning the van we had some free time to relax and get ready for our last dinner where 21 people would gather for one final time (that was dramatic). A dinner for champions of course! We all feasted on pastas and bread, as well as various meats. Deliciously satisfied, we all sat around and talked for what seemed like seven hours. But, as the night came to a close, those seven hours turned into five minutes and the goodbyes came too quickly. Hector gave us all bracelets to remember him and to remember our time here, and WE WILL!

Final adios before exiting the restaurant!

Final adios before exiting the restaurant!

This trip was an opportunity. It was an opportunity to learn and to grow and to meet the best people you’ll ever know in life. We’re thankful, and I’m more than positive I’m safe speaking on everyone’s behalf.

Dominican Republic, thank you, and that’s a wrap!

We bid adieu to our host country and our honorary abuelo.

We bid adieu to our host country and our honorary abuelo.

Brittany Rude, Towson Student

19 Marzo 2015

March 20, 2015

Once again, early this morning, some of us stopped by the bakery to pick up breakfast to go. We can never get enough of those delicious croissants, doughnuts, and muffins! By 8:00am Hector drove us to the Santa Rosa school here in the capital, on the west end of the city.

Our place of instruction today.

Our place of instruction today.

The Santa Rosa school used to be an oral school which practiced methods of developing speech as the primary mode of instruction. However the director of the school, Onelia Aybar, decided that the school should switch to utilizing the visual language for instruction. For the past 3 years Santa Rosa has been using sign language all day augmented with speech instruction in the afternoon after school ends at 1pm.

My teaching partner for the week, Rachel.

My teaching partner for the week, Rachel.

We taught our lessons in a different setting than the other two schools we visited. Instead of going to different classrooms to teach, we all were in the multipurpose room and formed 3 stations. We divided a large group of students into three smaller groups. The small groups would rotate to each station every 30 minutes. We did this style of teaching with 2 other large groups. Afterwards the students would reunite to play the ASL hand shape game. All of the students were wonderful and we even were able to visit the cute preschool and kindergarten babies!

What a warm, colorful wall in the multi-purpose room.

What a warm, colorful wall in the multi-purpose room.

After school we went to a pizza place for lunch. This seem to take forever and we were finally fed and out the door at 3pm. Afterwards we went to visit Hector’s house and learned more about his familia :) Hector has been our highlight everyday as we get to know him more. He is so warm and open and makes us feel very comfortable.

To end our day we went to dinner but the place our leader chose was not the best this time. The lighting was dim, the music was loud, and the food was pricey. Guess what we did instead, yep, hoofed it to .. the bakery once again!

Gara Gabriel, Towson Student

Love the wall in this place!

Love the wall in this place!

18 Marzo 2015 Vamos a la playa!

March 18, 2015

Vamos a la playa!

8:45- Our day begins with our ritual trip to the bakery. What a way to start the day! The sights and smells prepare us for our day — particularly this day at the beach!

We love going to the bakery every morning to begin our day!

We love going to the bakery every morning to begin our day!

9:30- We board the “Magic School Bus” with Hector (abuelo) as our driver and begin our journey to Juan Dolio. Oh the sights we saw! Green trees, bright flowers, and a turquoise ocean that only excited us more for our time at the beach.

11:15- We arrived at the beach resort in awe. We were excited about being able to swim in the ocean, jump in the pool, and relax on the beach :)

Our view from the beach!

Our view from the beach!

1:00- Lunch time. We headed to the buffet curious as to what food we would find.

We are ready to delight in what our lunch buffet has to offer.

We are ready to delight in what our lunch buffet has to offer.

After everyone filled their bellies with delicious food, we spilt up. Some to the pool, some to tan, and others to play various games.

5:00- Our journey back to the hotel begins, with all of us tanned, a little burnt and, ready for showers.

7:30- None of us were prepared for the traffic of Santo Domingo.. What was a one hour trip to the beach became a 2 and a half hour trip back. During the long ride back we had all decided we wanted to order pizza and stay in because we were exhausted.

9:00- Pizza! We all sat in one room, ate pizza and regaled the others with our adventures of the day. From playing volleyball with other beach goers to fish encounters of the human kind… Hector decided to scare some of us by being a “fish” :)

10:00- Everyone decided quickly that it was time for bed so we could prepare for our early morning at Santa Rosa tomorrow. Teeth brushed and faces washed we all tucked ourselves into bed pleased with our day at the beach.

Rachel Dockter,
McDaniel College student.

Signing off .. a bit more red than I wish to be!

Signing off .. a bit more red than I wish to be!

17 Marzo 2015 Shenanigans!

March 17, 2015

We woke up early today and headed to the bakery to get some energy before what may be the most difficult day ahead of us. Mark was a bit confused when he headed to the lobby to find no one waiting for him. But, he quickly realized all of us were at the bakery for breakfast waiting for him to pick us up. After finishing our food, our fearless leader, Mark, picked us up and we headed into the city to pick up Hector. Along the way there was a lot of screaming and yelling about dogs and chickens because some of us had cake for breakfast …. Cough cough Melissa, sugar high!!!

We arrived at the school in Sabana Perdida around 9 am and got right to teaching. We were familiar with some of the students as they attended church in the school with us on Sunday.

Teaching away!

Teaching away!


We each began by teaching in separate classrooms, quickly becoming more comfortable with our team dynamics and getting the students more involved.
Have a great time!

Have a great time!


It seemed each lesson became more organized and fluid as they day went on.
Teaching can be fun?

Teaching can be fun?


Between the six times we taught our lessons the kids were given a small recess and lunch where we were able to socialize with them outside of the classroom.
Hello, Francisco!

Hello, Francisco!

For lunch we had Domincan Flag which is a chicken of sorts, I dunno for I didn’t eat the meat, but I did have rice, avocado, plantanas, and concón, which is similar to rice but more tough. We ended our day at Sabana Perdida at 3 o’clock with a lot of pictures and exchanging of Facebook names to keep in contact.

Group photo at Sabana Perdida before we depart.

Group photo at Sabana Perdida before we depart.


We said a lot of goodbyes, all of which broke my heart. If I can give any advice to those reading I would say this, don’t “fall in love” in a foreign country… for you will have to leave.
Sabana Perdida afternoon group.

Sabana Perdida afternoon group.

After a long day of teaching and making life long friends, a few of us hung out by the pool while others stayed in for a nap before dinner with Mark’s long time friend, and our now honorary uncle, Tommy. Tommy is the president of the Dominican Deaf Association. He gave us a little history on the expansion of ASL in the Dominican, and some background knowledge on the use of Dominican Sign Language known as LESDOM. We finished eating dinner at the bakery, having interesting conversation about running over dogs and saving cats from the side of the road. Now we are ready for our day of rest and relaxation!

Happy St. Patrick’s day everyone! The celebration and relaxation begins tomorrow! We are halfway there and the thought of having to leave makes me sad! I close this with a heavy heart, thinking about all the children in Sabana Perdida we taught today, may God bless them and may they remain forever in our prayers.

-Savannah, Towson University student

Making friends!

Making friends!

16 Marzo 2015

March 17, 2015

Today was our first day of teaching!

Sunrise from the hotel window! 6:45am

Sunrise from the hotel window! 6:45am

Everyone was very excited and nervous to start the morning. A few of us went to the bakery at 7:30am for breakfast and happened to run into a Deaf man named Brent who was from the U.S., but had been in the Dominican Republic for 7 months already. After a brief chat with him, we all piled into the van and went to pick up Hector, our honorary grandpa, and Juana, our interpreter for our working days, aka. honorary mama. To keep ourselves occupied, we played a highly competitive animal spotting game of our own invention where you get points for seeing dogs, goats, cows, ect… (Gara won). Just do not ask us about the fresh meat hanging from the road kiosks.
We connected with Hector and Juana and made our way to San Cristóbal, which is only about 20 minutes west, outside of Santo Domingo. We got to the city just fine, but once we were there, we couldn’t find the school, so Juana bravely hopped on the back of a “public transportation motorcycle” and had us follow the driver and her crazy self to the school.

Juana leading the way!

Juana leading the way!

The school was very small. It was inside a house and consisted of two classrooms; one for younger kids and one for older kids, with about 15 kids in each room.

Rachel and Gara beginning their lesson on static electricity.

Rachel and Gara beginning their lesson on static electricity.


We decided to split ourselves up instead of splitting up the kids, so we had one group teaching in each classroom and the other group observing/taking pictures for those approximately 30 minutes.
A student testing Melissa's hair for static electricity.

A student testing Melissa’s hair for static electricity.


We stayed there from 9:00am-12:00pm with, of course, some play time in between lessons. At noon, we regretfully said goodbye to the energetic children and headed back into Santo Domingo.
Brittany sharing a teachable moment with students from San Cristobal.

Brittany sharing a teachable moment with students from San Cristobal.


We dropped Juana back off at the same place we met her and went to a restaurant near our hotel called the Garden Café. We ate on the patio dining area under a giant tree covered in vines and the like.
Brandi is excited to possess two shiny new coins in time for St. Patrick's Day!

Brandi is excited to possess two shiny new coins in time for St. Patrick’s Day!


The food portions were larger than normal so some of us had to bring leftovers back to the hotel and save them for later. We had previously planned on going on a tour of the Columbus Palace Museum (the 1500’s home of Christopher Columbus’ nephew, Diego) in Colonial City, Santo Domingo, and although we were all exhausted from teaching, we decided to tough it out. Unfortunately, we chose a bad day to go because the house is closed to tours on Mondays! We were disappointed, but enjoyed walking around the city some more (even though we had to pass through some sketchy construction zones).
Melissa and Gara posing in front of the Columbus home.

Melissa and Gara posing in front of the Columbus home.

The trip was worth it because we stopped at Bon, our favorite “yogurt früz” store, on the way back to the hotel. After some tight traffic situations anyone but our fearless leader would have shied away from, we had time to rest in our rooms or by the pool before dinner.
For dinner, we walked along the Malecon to a busy, seaside restaurant called Adrian Tropical. The service was slow, but we watched the waves roll in and the sky darken while we waited. During dinner, we talked about possible lesson improvements to provide clearer concepts for the days to come. The walk back to the hotel was breezy and cool, but still pleasant We returned around 9:15pm and settled ourselves for upcoming adventures.

15 Marzo 2015

March 15, 2015

Today we started our day heading to a Deaf church! Hector, our honorary driver, guide, and grandfather, was a guest preacher there for the service.

On our way to church this morning.

On our way to church this morning.

On the drive over we passed a good portion of Santo Domingo, and as we arrived we learned the church was housed in a school where we would be teaching at later in the week. The service was really cool with signed hymns, prayers, introductions of our group by our fearless leader Mr. Mark, and of course Hector’s impactful sermon.

Afterword, we were able to converse with some of the church members, and some of us even were given a sign name!

Savannah and new friend.

Savannah and new friend.

When we headed out, we drove past the new American Embassy built on the north end of town. Wow! Is it grande! We, then, went to the Agora mall, a large mall in the heart of the financial district of the city. We had lunch at the food court and then went to JUMBO of complete our shopping list for our lessons. On our way out, after a stop for ice cream – go BON!, we ran into a group of Deaf folks from a different Deaf church and were able to learn more experiences of the deaf in Santo Domingo.

From there, we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon of relaxing, pool time, and walking the rocky coast of the Caribbean along the Malecon.

Craggy coast across the street!

Craggy coast across the street!

As a full group, we went to dinner a couple blocks away and had good conversations. Now we’re preparing for our first day of teaching tomorrow in San Critabol and we’re all very excited! Keep a look out for our next post!

14 Marzo 2015

March 15, 2015

GroupPhoto

 Our day began at 8:30am a group of us walked to the near by bakery, named Villar Hons. We enjoyed fresh donuts and other yummy baked goods. After breakfast we separated into two groups one group went back to the hotel and got their tan on. The other group walked around the town. Later, we all came together at 12pm to then go out and get lunch. Our fearless leader Mark Rust lead us to our van. We all loaded up in the van and off we went. The driving situation here in Santo Domingo described in one word would be CRAZY! “Honk to your mama” profound words by Mark Rust. Here people honk and are not patient when it comes to driving. Cutting people off is a norm here. Motor bikes are everywhere. While driving on what an American may refer to as a highway people are trying to sell things like windshield wipers, kits, bottles of ice water, sugar cane, mangos, etc. Not on the side of the highway but along the dashes that separate cars, literally in the middle of traffic.
To make pedestrian crossing safer here they have bridges for walking that are located above most of the busy traffic highways. After experiencing all this we found a delicious pizza place called Pala Pizza. Lunch was great we used this time to get to know one another a little more. We went around the table sharing what we want to do after college, some of us knew and some of us did not.
After, lunch it was time to pick up Pastor Hector from his home. Back in the van we went, took us a little while to find his house but when we did he was not home. We were a little late; oops! Traffic to blame for that. However, we decided to just drive to the sports place. Once we arrived Mark Rust immediately noticed his friend Pastor Hector. Excitement was in the air and we all jumped out of the van to meet and watch some handsome Deaf guys play basketball. We walked to the courts to be greeted by rain! We found a near by tent to stand under while the storm passed. We introduced ourselves to Pastor Hector and chatted for about twenty or so minutes. Finally the rain stopped and we met up with the handsome Deaf guys. We introduced ourselves to them and chatted. They were very nice and fun to sign with. We decided to go back to the basketball courts and play around, we were not able to play a real game because the courts were too wet. That did not stop us from having a good time. Time for us to say goodbye to our new friends. The goodbyes included tons of pictures. Eight girls total and five of the girls fell in love with the handsome Deaf men.
Back to the hotel to fill our pockets with money to purchase presents for our loved ones. We traveled back across town to the historical district for shopping and dinner. Many of us made some good buys and had fun walking around. The area we were in had many historical features and was simply beautiful. The weather was amazing not too hot just right,with a little breeze. We ended our night with a nice dinner at a restaurant/hotel named Mecure. We all enjoyed our meals and afterwards we were more than ready to return to our hotel. We had a busy fun packed day! I think it is safe to say we are looking forward to Sunday’s adventures!

OnTheOldWall

Lauren Lewis, McDaniel College

13 Marzo 2015

March 14, 2015
Learning how to manage our money.

Learning how to manage our money.

Our adventure to the Dominican Republic began with a 3:15 AM wake up call to our hotel rooms nearby the BWI airport. Groggy but excited, the eight girls (three from McDaniel, five from Towson) loaded into the airport shuttle behind our fearless leader, Dr. Mark Rust. After two short flights, six passport checkpoints, and several fits of sleep-deprived delirium induced giggles, our group finally arrived in warm, sunny Santo Domingo. We shed our jackets, buzzing with excitement! We hopped into a van and plummeted perilously through the erratic streets of Santo Domingo, traveling to the Crowne Plaza hotel. Once we were checked in and settled, it was time to explore!

On our way to the bakery.

On our way to the bakery.

Fearless Leader Dr. Mark led us down the block to his favorite bakery across the street from his residential friend, the Deaf barber. As we each sampled the authentic Dominican cuisine, Dr. Mark introduced us to the friendly barber, who filled us on community gossip and history. Later we relaxed by the hotel pool and marveled over the differences between American and Dominican money, language, and cultural behavior. Together, we enjoyed a hearty dinner in the hotel restaurant and then ironed out the finer details of the magnet-based lessons intended for the kids of the Dominican Republic Deaf schools that we would be teaching later in the week.

Traditional Dominican stew.

Traditional Dominican stew.

Exhausted but satisfied, I find myself reflecting on the beautiful scenery I’ve observed in this country thus far, particularly the Independence Monument, which I can see from my hotel window.

View from my window overlooking the Independence monument.

View from my window overlooking the Independence monument.

Despite my tiredness, I am inspired by the immense and colorful structure outside my window and I can’t wait to see what else this vivid new place has in store for me.

Melissa Miller, Towson student

12 Marzo 2015

March 12, 2015

Well, another trip is beginning. We are housed at the ALOFT hotel, near BWI, anxiously awaiting our trip for an early flight to Santo Domingo. We depart at 6am … ugh! We have 3 McDaniel students with us this year (Rachel, Lauren, and Brandi) along with 5 Towson students (Gara, Savannah, Melissa, Brittany, and Heather).

We will visit three familiar schools (Sabana Perdida, Santa Rosa, and National School). We are going to visit a new school this year west of the capital in San Cristobal. Should be interesting. Our theme revolves around electricity and magnets.

Stay tuned!

M

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)


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