Let's start with the bad new first, I feel that no matter what the bad is, the good will off set it.
Bad: We started off this trip being delayed two days because of the weather here in beautiful Buffalo. Thanks to Tamara, who I feel should be a travel agent, she was able to get us all set and ready to go two days later. Now flash forward to our departure date. It's 80 degrees and 12:30 pm in Puerto Plata, barely a cloud in the sky. There should be no problem getting home. Our flight is scheduled to leave at 2:30pm and we also have a four hour layover at JFK, that I was really looking forward to getting some Ben and Jerry's at. Right before we were supposed to head onto the plane, the check engine light came on. Which is more in depth than the one we sometimes see on our car. Okay, still that's no big deal because we have a four hour layover so we definitely have time. Fast forward to 8pm at night and we are just leaving the Dominican. The JetBlue lady assured us that they will hold the plane for us, because this was not our fault what so ever. Turns out we missed our connecting flight. JetBlue got us all on a flight Saturday night at 9:35. They got us a few rooms at the hilton, but we were sadly kicked out of our rooms at 2pm and we all had to hang out in the lobby till 8pm. The delay coming home wouldn't have been a problem, but I hate flying. I have the worst ears and it causes so much pain, and also the stomach flu went around to almost ever girl on our trip. Which leads to my next bad experience.
I got sick. I rarely ever get sick. I go to class no matter what and I don't even think I've missed a day of work in the last eight years due to illness. I started to feel funny the first Tuesday we were there. Then that Friday I was out for the count. I tried so hard that morning to get ready. I showered, slowly got dressed, drank some water, but eventually I could not leave the bed. I wound up sleeping all day long. I was sad, alone, and scared. I'm not sure what happened, if it was the food I ate at the families home, the bacteria, or if I had unfiltered ice. At one point I had a fever, and I would wake up either freezing or sweating. I was definitely dehydrated at one point, because even though we drank filtered water, it had a slight tint to it that grossed me out. From that Friday on, I mainly stayed to Gatorade. So I missed that Friday when the girls went to the Marisposas foundation and the dinner prepared by Nanny Estates. I also wound up missing that Saturday, when almost everyone went to La Playa Granda. I just wasn't feeling 100% and I didn't want to risk being an hour away from the hotel. Nothing is worst than being sick and not being at home, and also I just missed having my mom there to comfort me. But on the flip side, being sick in a different country showed me that I truly am capable of taking care of myself in any situation.
Good: This was also the best experience of my life. I learned so much about Montessori that I never knew before. I was also able to work with students ages 1yr -5yr. My teaching degree is for grades 1-6, and I always preferred the older ones. This trip however showed me that I liked working with the younger ages. With the students, I was able to give lessons using the nomenclature cards we created. Also being a math major, I was itching to give a few math lessons using the Montessori materials. I was shocked when I gave the math lesson, how good some of the students were with English. It just surprises me how bilingual these students were, and yet they don't realize what an amazing thing that will be for them when they get older.
Also at the school we were able to enhance the outsides for the students. We weeded, dug, and transported material to make a mud pit for the students. It was hard labor that I wasn't expecting to do especially in the heat, but it was awesome seeing how every student wanted to help us move the new mud, or just how they wanted to play in the mud. We also used an existing tree house to create a music tree. We brought material that we were able to hang cans, cookie trays, and foil pans. After a few failed attempts at bringing the tree to life (the students destroyed it because it was new to them and they didn't know what they were doing yet) we left with a standing and completed music tree. The students were receiving lessons on how to use the tree and also the teachers were given lessons as well on how to use and fix any of the pieces.
Another thing at the school, in the walkway we did some weeding. Sarah thought this one weed was a vine with flowers. Turns out it was just an overgrown weed that was killing every plant underneath it. So a few of the girls and I de-weeded the walkway for her. When we were finished, it looked bare, but it was healthy.
Lastly, I noticed that they had signs on the gate that lead into the school. The signs were saying their hours of instructions and that the gates would be locked between a certain time and it listed a number to call. There were two signs, one in Spanish and one in English. I noticed these signs day after day. The signs were a piece of paper in a sleeve protector that was duct taped to the fence. The signs had water damage to them and I just didn't like them. On the last day, I asked Sarah if it was ok if I made new ones. I wound up making two new signs using colored markers and instead of using sleeve protectors, I used the last two laminating slips we brought down to create the new signs. Since the laminator seals the plastic, I'm hoping these signs will last longer than the previous ones in any weather. Sarah and all the staff loved the new signs and it was nice leaving my individual mark on the school.
Like I said in the beginning, this was the best and worst trip of my life. It truly was a trip I will never forget and people who I will never forget as we'll. I was never able to get so close to professors such as Tamara and Wendy and they truly cared about us and they want us to be successful. Also the girls that went in the trip with me. We shared a special bond and I know we will be friends for life. Also the people in the Dominican, they were so nice and welcoming at all times. They were also so patient with our lack of Spanish. If I could recommend a trip to anyone thinking about a service learning trip, it would be this one. I think my group, since it was the first, was able to work all the kinks out and that this trip is truly once in a lifetime experience. Also it's just the right amount of time. I am forever grateful that was I chosen and given this opportunity to work, volunteer, and learn in a different country.
The teachers, staff, Buffalo State, and most importantly the students at 3 Mariposas Montessori
The beautiful family that welcomed me into their home almost everyday for lunch.
My Spanish group with our amazing Professora Elena. Muchas Gracias Elena!