Jan Term Day 12: 21 Jan 2017

January 22, 2017


Well, the trip has come to an end. We found ourselves awaking early in the morning (3:30am/est) to catch our taxi ride to the airport. Our flight departed at 7:20am (6:20am/est). Check in and security at the SDQ airport is not the same as we experience in America, to say the least. But, all went well and we found our seats for the 3.5 hour flight back the US. We landed at JFK airport in NYC and had two hours to clear customs and find our gate for the last leg of the journey. We were all amazed at the ease of clearing customs. WHEW! Last time I went through customs at JFK was ten years ago and this process was much better. We had an hour to spare when we finally made it to the concourse.


The McDaniel team hanging out while awaiting our flight out of JFK.

However, our eagerness of returning was stunted when we learned we had a delay in our flight due to mechanical issues on our plane. Consequently, our 12:20 departure finally occurred at 5:01 pm – a 4.5 hour delay. This was the only hiccup in the whole trip so not a problem. We were glad to return to our familiar surroundings and thank Tracy for shuttling us from campus to the airport and back to campus. What a trooper!

We visited six different deaf schools, the team taught their 30 minute-lesson 26 times reaching about 225 Deaf students during their time in the country. Dottie and I witnessed a transformation in the McDaniel team from the first time they taught to the last time they taught. We also witnessed the enthusiasm of the Deaf students in learning the concept of fossils and dinosaurs through the lessons presented. The teachers were amazed at the students’ response to our lessons and were pleased with what they witnessed.

I have not been back to the Dominican Republic in two years. I was pleasantly pleased at the progress that has been made with the government hiring Deaf individuals to work in the deaf schools through the country, particularly the capital area. This has not been the case since I began going to the DR. The government began hiring Deaf adults to work in the schools to assist in providing language experiences to the Deaf students in 2015. We witnessed three Deaf assistants at the San Cristobal school, six Deaf assistants at the Centro Cristiano de Educacion Para Sordos school in Sabana Perdida, twelve Deaf assistants at the National school, and four Deaf assistants at the Santa Rosa school. What a change!!! There is still a need to improve the instruction of reading and writing for Deaf children in the DR but, for now, students are being exposed to visual language and developing a strong foundation in their first language in order to build the second language.


As this year’s trip comes to an end, I look forward to the next visit with a McDaniel Jan Term group. Until then, I will just revel in one of the views during our down time, a view that incites a feeling of peace, quiet, and reflection.

Salud, Dr. Mark M. Rust





Jan Term Day 11: 20 Jan 2017

January 22, 2017

Good evening, 

Where do I even start writing? There is so much to write about, but I’ll attempt to keep this short and precise.  

This trip has been an eye-opening experience for me. I have learned so much about Dominican and Deaf culture. I have fallen in love with ALL of the children that I have encounter over the past two weeks. I have fallen in love with the food, lifestyle, and this beautiful weather. 

When I first arrive here I was intimidated because the other girls on this trip knew more sign language than me. I just knew the basic signs because I only took American Sign Language III. I have learned so many new signs while being here and I understand the difference between ASL and LESDOM signs, too. 


Translation: When we work hand in hand, great things happen! (This sums up our week!)

Enough about my experience, lets talk about our LAST teaching day! Our last teaching day was at Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is a Deaf school for children located in on the west side of Santo Domingo. We arrive at Santa Rosa very early in the morning, but we all were excited to teach. The children were very eager to learn about our topic, fosil (Spanish spelling of the word).




We were expecting to set up for our final day of teaching but found the room already set for us – a very special treat. 


The room was pre-set for us and now we are waiting for the second class to join us.


Laura and I have been sharing a children’s story about fossils, a graphic novel written by Bill Thomson.


Fossil, a wonderful book!

This book was a great choice for this trip for there was no printed language meaning we didn’t have to present info printed in English or Spanish. This allowed kids to make up their own storyline. We had a little different interpretation each time we presented the story to the various groups throughout the week, which demonstrated the creative side of the children.


Today we taught two sessions of 90 minutes, which wasn’t bad because we ended right before noon. After a short snack provided by the school,  we visited a cave located just outside Santo Domingo to the east. The cave is called “The Three Eyes” (Los Tres Ojos). The cave’s name refers to the three major lagoons (lagos) which appear to be eyes when viewed from the top. This place was so beautiful! 

The Three Eyes took about an hour to explore the caves. It was an exhaustive walk, but the scenery was just gorgeous. 

day11sbbakery08Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for free time. Laura, Rebecca , and I decided to go to the bakery, just up the street from the hotel. Laura bought a big slice of chocolate cake , Rebecca had raisin bread, and I drooled for the caramel doughnut! That doughnut was so good! I want another one! 

The evening brought us to our last dinner in Santo Domingo. We had a group dinner tonight with Hector and his wife Belkis, Alan, Juana , and her husband, Eric. This was a great way to end the trip. 


From left to right: Laura, Rebecca, Belkis, Alecia,Brielle, Ali, Mark, Sierra, Hector, Dottie, Juana, Erin, Eric, and Alan.


Adios! Dominican Republic, Hello America!

– Sierra Brewer

Jan Term Day 10: 19 Jan 2017

January 19, 2017

Hola! Today was another busy day in the Dominican Republic. Hector drove us to our school of the day, and amongst all the traffic his love for the car horn continued.


The Escuela entrance.

We taught at the Escuela Nacional De Sordomudos, which is next to the the Deaf Club we visited a few days ago. This is one of the first schools in the country focused on educating Deaf children. Currently, the school has 478 students. Classes begin at 8:00am and students go until 3pm. There have been several changes since Dr. Rust has been there two years and one of the changes is the school now employs 12 Deaf aides and two Deaf teachers. When we arrived there, they seemed to have been some miscommunication and we were not expected to arrive arrive today … oops!  But don’t fret….it was all worked out! We were given a group of 25 kids which we split up into three groups.

day10natmarkWe each taught our lessons three times, thirty minutes each session. It’s always amazing to see a kids eyes light up when they impersonate a dinosaur, or discover the meaning behind the word ‘fosil’.day10natgroup
When we finished teaching, we were lucky enough to be given lunch at the school. We ate with all the kids, and had some delicious chicken and sweet, mashed plantains (yummy!)day10natlunch
The school unexpectedly asked Dr. Rust and Dottie to stay and give the Deaf teacher aides a workshop, so being the amazing Proffesor’s they are they came up with a workshop lesson on the spot. The rest of us piled into the van and went back to the hotel.
On the ride back, Hector Elvis started a jam session and danced with us to loud music all the way back to the hotel. We, then, changed out of our teacher clothes and quickly piled back into the van to visit the El Conde again. We did a little window shopping and had some amazing Bon (frozen yogurt).day10natbon
Once we finished our tasty treats, we retreated back to the hotel and had a little pool time. For dinner we went to a restaurant called Buche’ Perico, which was the definition of amazing. We all had some eclectic cuisines and fresh fruit juice. Once our bellies were full, we went back to the hotel to do our final packing of school supplies in order to prepare for our last day of teaching. See you in two days!!
            -Ali Lewisday10nat28


Jan Term Day 9: 18 Jan 2017

January 18, 2017

Well, this is our day of R&R and the team has been looking forward to this day for a while. There is not much to say other than this is where we spent the day … Grand Bahia Principe LaRomana. It is about an hour and 30 minutes east of the capital and we had a hard time leaving. I’ll let the pics speak for themselves!

Adios … M


Jan Term Day 8: 17 Jan 2017

January 18, 2017
Today, we arrived at our fourth school located in Santa Berdida day8spfor our third day of teaching. There were around 70 students enrolled at the school and after meeting Paulina, the director of the school and other staff members, we introduced ourselves to the students and began our lessons.

Students were engaged!

I found that the students at this school were really interactive and eager to learn, which made teaching really fun and worthwhile. For example, one student had a lot of knowledge about fossils and dinosaurs but was still very involved in our lesson. When I learned that he had prior knowledge of dinosaurs, I became nervous that he would be bored and that this lesson of making fossils and the development of fossils would not be challenging for him or the older students.day8sp18

However, this student was still very engaged and became creative in telling stories about where fossils were found and what they can teach us about dinosaurs. Seeing this child’s creativity and involvement in the lesson, despite his previous knowledge was very exciting for me.


While not all of the students had the same background with dinosaurs that this student did, they all seemed very engaged and eager to learn about the subject which was very rewarding for me.


Making fossils

day8fossilsBecause it is our third day of teaching, I feel more confident and comfortable in teaching the material and have new ways of doing the lesson to help students better understand the material. One way that Alecia and I were able to evaluate whether or not the students were understanding the material was by asking them to take on the role of the teacher and explain the development of earth and dinosaurs.


Laura during story time.

Having students explain this timeline after we did our interactive “what came first activity”, displayed what knowledge the students learned and what concepts they were still confused about. This technique also  brought about many “aha moments”. For example, when explaining dinosaurs, students were able to go into depth about when and how dinosaurs went extinct, a topic that Alecia and I did not deeply cover in our lesson.


I also noticed that the students were able to teach me about some of the topics that they learned about in the other groups. For instance, many of the students used the signs for dinosaurs that they made up in Ali, Erin and Rebecca’s group. day8sp36Seeing the students share the signs that they had created in the previous group, showed me that they were really learning and getting something from our lessons.
day8lunchAfter teaching three groups and a short recess, we began teaching again until it was time for lunch. The cooks at the school made a delicious meal of rice, chicken, avacado, plantains and “con con” which is essentially just the burnt rice at the bottom of the pan. For many of us, it was our first time trying con con and we enjoyed it as well as the other traditional Dominican Republican food the cook made for us.
 We had dinner at  “Adrian Tropical” restaurant where we were able to eat more Spanish food and drink delicious juice by the water.
I have really enjoyed my emergence into both Dominican Republican culture and Dominican Republican Deaf culture. The former president of the National Association for the Deaf, Tommy Guzman and his wife, Zahara, joined us for dinner and taught us more about the tradition of knocking on the table before a meal, explaining that this gesture is similar to the saying “bon appetite”.
While I am enjoying our time in the schools and loving this experience here in the DR, teaching is very tiring and I think we are all looking forward to our day of rest and relaxation at the beach tomorrow.
Brielle DeRosa

Jan Term Day 7: 16 Jan 2017

January 18, 2017


day7sanp01Today we had an early wake up call and got to see the sunrise while having breakfast. We left the hotel at 7:30 to go pick up Hector el presidente y Elvis and drove for an hour and a half to San Pedro where we taught about 20 children at the Deaf school there.


We have arrived at San Pedro.

This school was taken and closed down by the government but they are slowly getting the school back up and running.


Alecia doing her job.

This was a really fun school to teach at because all the children were so excited and intrigued about fossils and dinosaurs and asked so many questions. We had a wonderful time!





After teaching at this school, we tried to find a place to have lunch that the director at the school recommended but we could not find it. Instead we went to McDonalds (so American of us).

After driving another 30 min we arrived at the school in La Romana called Escuela de Sordos (translated: School for the Deaf). This school has in total 1,500 students which includes both hearing and Deaf students. The Deaf students are in a separate building and use Sign Language but a while ago, this school used to be only an Oral School.


LaRomana loving the lesson.

In 7th grade, the kids are mainstreamed in the hearing school and they have an interpreter with them. One thing I thought was interesting was that the whole school learns to sign; both hearing and Deaf. This was a tough school to teach at since the kids we were teaching were both hearing and Deaf (which we did not know before arriving at the school!). Brielle and I needed to have a translator with us in our room to translate from Sign Language to spoken Spanish for the hearing children. This would have been ok except that our translator said that her English was very poor so it was hard to communicate both with her and the hearing students. We made it work though!


We communicated by gesturing and having the hearing students use the little signing they know so they could also be involved. The group with Ali, Rebecca and Erin as teachers did much better since Rebecca speaks Spanish. They were able to communicate with everyone using all of the languages. Erin signed, Ali did SimCom (simultaneous communication of signing and speaking English) and Rebecca translated the spoken English to spoken Spanish. I’m so impressed that they made that work!

In the group that Brielle and I taught, the kids spent a long time using the model magic both planning and playing with  their fossils, which had not happened at the other two schools we have visited. I loved the time and energy they put into creating their fossils.

day7sanp05On our drive back to the hotel we saw a wildfire from the brush on the side of the road. I have seen wild fires before on TV but never in real life so I had no idea how much smoke there actually was.


Making a pit stop on the way back to Santo Domingo.

Finally when we got back to the hotel we had time to rest. Then we went to dinner at our favorite restaurant that we like to call “Goat and Juice” restaurant because Laura found her love for goat at this restaurant and we all love the juice they serve. My favorite is the passion fruit juice! day7carivalWhile walking back from the restaurant, we saw some individuals preparing for a Carnival at a local hotel. Dottie and Brielle crashed the performers as they prepared.

Today was a fun filled day and I enjoyed every bit of teaching (even if some students misbehaved 😂). I cannot wait for tomorrow so we can all add to our list of adventures as the days go on!

¡Buenas noches!

-Alecia Reed

Jan Term Day 6: 15 Jan 2017

January 16, 2017

After the sun had risen over the Caribbean Sea, Dottie and I set out for or second run on the Malecón. day6gymrebeccardWe stopped again at the outdoor gym; however, we were still sore from yesterday, so we didn’t stay quite as long. The equipment there is so cool and they rely mostly on calisthenics (body weight exercises). They are all painted light blue and las instrucciones are in español, but there are also pictures to help know how to use the machines.day6gymdottierd

Later, after a filling and balanced breakfast, we were ready to go to Hector’s church! We took the van to his house and he drove the rest of the way until we arrived at La Iglesia Central Asamblea de Dios (The Central Church of the Assembly of God), where service was on the third floor, in room four. Before going all the way upstairs, we met some deaf people in the church who eventually ensured that those of us that did not previously have name signs received name signs! While Dr. Rust mentioned this would probably happen today, it was such an honor, as our name signs are personal and come with a great story.


This is the outside of the church building.

This was the main sanctuary of the church, but our room was upstairs! It was neat to see all the flags and the phrase on the wall that reads “United in the same Spirit.”



Listas para la iglesia!

Before Hector spoke to the congregation, Belkis, Dr. Rust, and Dottie were able to share personal stories the group, and two of the women sang while signing. It was beautiful! After Hector gave his lesson, I was able to sing while one of the women (who knows Spanish, English, and LESDOM) interpreted a song in Spanish to LESOM and sang “Gloria en lo alto” with me when I forgot the words.


Hector’s lesson was from S. Lucas (Luke) 19:1-10, which is la historia de Zaqueo y Jesucristo in which Zacchaeus could not see Jesus, so he climbed a tree to see. When Jesus called Zaqueo down, they went to his house, where Zaqueo was changed when he heard the Word of God, so he decided to give his money away (the whole chapter is at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+19&version=NIV). Hector shared with us the importance of letting go of things that distract us from Jesus (por ejemplo, money).


Hector teaching us during church.

A foto del grupo was definitely called for, so many were taken among rounds of trading cameras and saying “¡Una más!” and “One more!”


Our McDaniel Team


Morning’s Group Photo

Next, our faithful driver, friend, and now pastor Hector drove us to the Sambril Mall, where we went to a food court for lunch and then had time to walk about and see the shops. For lunch, Laura, Brielle, and I once again sought out cuisine from an establishment we do not have at home. We decided on Cubanísimo, for we were convinced after meeting a man whose family owns the restaurant! It was also a place approved by Hector. All of our plates included rice and beans, either chicken or pork. In addition, Laura and I were so excited to have plátanos (plantains). They were soft, sweet, and sliced lengthwise (as opposed to thin, fried, and also tasty tostones). While we did not have Bon for another meal, Ali and Alecia decided to swap a more traditional almuerzo for Bon’s yummy yogurt. For dessert, Laura, Brielle, Dottie, and Belkis had gelato!


This was one of my favorite meals!

After the Sambril Mall, we were then invited into Hector and Belkis’ beautiful casa, where we saw Toby, their puppy. There were colorful paintings on the wall that reminded us of those we saw yesterday in la Zona Colonial. It was so kind of Hector and Belkis to let is see their home; the hospitality we have received (from Hector, Belkis, Juana, Eric, and the Escuela Nacional de Sordos Mudos en San Cristobal) has been so welcoming.
I have been taking notes of phrases I have seen, whether they are as graffiti, purposefully painted on a building, on a windshield, etc. One that I would like to share today is:

“Educar es amar” which means “To educate is to love”. (It was part of an emblem on a school near Hector’s house.) I really think the phrase “Educar es amar” applies to our trip, for we have not only been given the opportunity to educate and teach deaf students about fossils and dinosaurs, and expand their vocabulary, but we have been given a multitude of opportunities to love, especially to love the students with whom we haved worked and with whom we will work. This concept of being here to spread love was even something Hector mentioned at church this morning!
After a brief rest, we met in the lobby again to go to a deaf club, located next to the Escuela Nacional (where we will teach on Thursday). There is a pool table, a television, and lots of chairs to encourage personas sordas of all ages to spend time together and have conversations.


Unos amigos playing pool.

We learned that Hector was el presidente del club at one point! Our friend Alan was there, and discussed history of the country as well as some current topics in the deaf community here. Por supuesto (of course), we took a foto del grupo at the end of our afternoon at the deaf club.


El foto del grupo!

Afterwards, we parked the van at the hotel and walked to Pizzarelli for pizza. During meals is definitely one of the places I like to learn new signs. Tonight I learned the signs for king, queen, prince, and princess, and was able to practice signs as well. I would like to thank Dr. Rust, and Dottie, and all the girls, especially Laura, for helping me when I am lost and constantly helping me improve my signing!

We were able to finish all three pizzas;


Pizza night!


these long days make us hungry! We walked back to the hotel, past a busy plaza with many families. Some children were riding bikes and we even saw a family on roller blades. In contrast to these families exercising, I do not think I will be running the Malecón tomorrow, for we have a big day ahead of us with an early start! Gracias por leer! Mucho amor de Santo Domingo.Nuestra cena de pizza! (Tenemos mucha hambre en esta foto)

  • Rebecca Debinski

Jan Term: 14 Jan 2017

January 14, 2017

Another great day of experiencing a new place and a new culture. Click here to watch  Dottie’s Vlog.


Dottie at outdoor gym in Santo Domingo along the Malecon.


Rebecca at outdoor gym after we had a good run.


Following Mark Rust . . . through the arch and onto the El Conde.


Rebecca & Sierra bartering at a market on the El Conde.


Rebecca, Sierra, Laura bartering while, inside, Ali is searching for a favorite find.


On the square at the end of the El Conde: Alecia, Sierra, Rebecca, Ali, Erin, Brielle, and Laura … and lots of pigeons.


Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor       . . . the first Catholic Church in the Americas, 1523.


Alcazar de Colon, built by Diego, son of Christopher Columbus between 1510-1512.


Looking out at the Rio Ozama.


Lunch at “Bon”, frozen yogurt . . . we all had a frozen lunch.


Basketball practice for Deaf atheletes in Santo Domingo’s Centro Olimpico.


Group photo after our spaghetti dinner with friends at the home of Juana & Eric Quinlan.


Jan Term Day 4: 13 Jan 2017

January 13, 2017
¡Hola Everyone!!!

Our site for our first lesson in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.

Today on January 13th, we went to the Esuela Nacional De Sorsomundes the school for the Deaf where we did our first teaching lesson in Dominican Republic.

When we first got there, we introduce ourselves in front of the 15 deaf students that were there. Once we all finished introducing ourselves, Dottie and Mark Rust did a skit about being archeologist digging fossils of dinosaurs.


Starting the lesson on fossils and dinosaurs.

Once they finished we split up into our teaching groups (three groups of five) to present our lesson for the day. The groups were split according to ages:  1. Young kids 2. Middle kids 3. Older kids. The range of the students were from age 4 to 14 years old.

Brielle and Alecia’s group made imprints of fosssils. Laura and Sierra’s group did a skit about fossils and dinosaurs.
Ali, Rebecca, and I taught four common words connected to dinosaurs: carnivore, herbivore, Jurassic period, and Creatous period.


Erin being introduced to the class.

We introduced 8 different dinosaurs with facts, the periods they lived in, what kind of food eaters they were and traits of each dinosaur. We had 2 games, the first one was a card on students’ heads describing each dinosaurs. The second one was describing a handshape (HS) story using the HS 1-5.

I noticed during my lesson time the younger kids were really excited about our lesson! I like how they were really involved; they melted my heart when they were super interactive with my lesson.
As we were leaving the school, everyone was waving the regular sign goodbye, but I was signing the I love you sign to them as goodbye and they signed it backed to me! My whole reaction to this experience while teaching them was incredible knowing the students were really receptive and understanding of the lesson presented to them. I was really amazed on how quickly they learned the material!


Having a great morning!

Tonight at dinner we ate at the Manolo restaurant where we met Alan who created the National Sports Association for the Deaf. He had some good stories to share. Also, we learned tonight, from Alan, when it’s time to eat, one should knock once on the table, which none of us knew. It was really interesting to know.
We also taught our waiter sign language a little bit, like thank you, finish, enjoy and applause. It’s really wonderful to see other than deaf Dominican people learn LESDOM to be part of the culture and community.
I cannot wait to interact with other deaf students at different schools for the rest of the Jan Term!!!
-Erin Holtz

Jan Term: 2017 (Day 3)

January 13, 2017

Today we had an opportunity to sleep in (due to lack of sleep the previous day) and had an opportunity to take in a bit more of the history of the Dominican Republic and the island of Hispaniola. We had free time to enjoy the amnesties of the hotel until 1230 when we (kind of) got our van for the week (so maybe that was 1230 dominican time which is actually about 1 of clock and maybe it left for a minute- a blooper for our ever growing list but it all worked out in the end even though the van was suppose to be ready at 10am) and and went to pick up Hector Elvis, our driver, general knower of all things here, and one smart Deaf dude.

With Hector, we went to lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant serving a mix of entrees and then to the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, a museum of the island of Hispaniola with the most extensive artifacts of the indigenous people of Hispaniola, the Taíno people.


Busily translating the info.

We went on a tour which was an experience. Our tour guide didn’t know English so we had Rebecca translating into English and from there Dr. Rust and Dottie took turns translating the English into a mix of ASL and LESDOM for Hector. I found the Taíno people to be interesting. They used stone tablets as children to shape the skull to be slightly pointed – this was seen as beautiful and they used some form of narcotics in ceremony they believed would allow them to talk with the gods and see the future. There also used to be a toothless bear and a mute dog on the island but unfortunately these are now extinct.


Hector and Dr. Rust having too much on the stainless escalator at Jumbo.

After taking in some history, we focused on personal needs and went to the local supermarket where we purchased some munchies for our rooms and enough bottled water to drown a fish …. just to make sure we keep hydrating 9 Americans who don’t want to get sick from the tap water. We picked up the rest of our school supplies from the local “Target” store, JUMBO, at the very huge Agora Mall. We briefly walked around before meeting Juana, our interpreter for the week, at the mall’s food court for dinner.

In order to try something that we could not have in America, (lots of chains we know and love in the food court) Rebecca, Brielle and I made the extremely adult decision to have frozen yogurt dinner.


Our Bon (Frozen Yogurt) dessert!

There’s this place called Bon where you pick 3 things (frozen fruit or other edible delights) and they put it in a magical machine that turns it into frozen yogurt. It was really good, although ordering was a struggle as we were tired and kind of giggly. My flavor was strawberry and melocotón (or peach as we figured out later).

Then it was back to the hotel to work on our lessons for tomorrow at the San Cristobal School for the Deaf. Wish us luck and stay tuned! Friday should be a marvelous and interesting day.

Laura Hawk