Rebecca Kennedy left Regent House in June 2015 and embarked on a gap year with Project Trust to the Dominican Republic– her first blog can be by clicking here
“I’ve now been here for over 12 weeks, and I apologise to all those who have been wanting to hear about my time here in Bombita, Dominican Republic, but to be honest, it doesn’t feel like all that time has just gone by. The days are so jam packed that it’s difficult to find down time. For example, a normal day consists of getting up at a quarter past 7, to shower in the dribble that is our shower, and be in time for fila at a quarter to 8. At Fila, the whole school stands in their classes and sings the school song and the national anthem as they raise the flag (if someone remembers to take it down the night before!). There is usually a talk and a prayer, and then we’re off to our first class at 8:15. Yes you heard me, school starts at 8:15 here.
Kirsty (my partner in a figurative project trust marriage) and I both share a house and a classroom, so at least if one of us has a difficult class, the other can stay and help. The number of classes I have a day can vary from 1 to 6 but the craziness of the kids doesn’t really change from full on crazy! I say that, but they can be really cute, when you don’t spend half an hour trying to get them out of the classroom after class has ended! When you walk down the street or even in the school, you get kids running up to you and clinging to you and hugging you. They always seem so happy to see the ‘Americanas’.
Here in the Dominican Republic, there are four possible nationalities you can be: Dominican, Haitian, American or Chinese. This basically means that if you tell them you are from Northern Ireland, they think it’s a place in America!
School finishes at 4, and after that, we go for a walk around the metro. The metro is a reservoir where the locals farm fish, swim, bathe, and do their laundry, all with an amazing view of the surrounding mountains and sugarcane fields.
I can’t say I’ve improved my Spanish as I didn’t have any when I got here, but in the past eight weeks I’ve come from only being able to say ‘hola’, ‘buenos Dias’, and ‘me llamo Rebecca!’, to being able to teach classes, and have simple conversions!
My first week here consisted of studying Spanish from 9 until 3, everyday in preparation for my first lessons on the following Monday. I was expecting a couple of classes, and had plans for all of them, and scripts for anything I might need to say in the class. I no longer need to script lessons as nearly all my Spanish is geared towards teaching. It’s a huge relief, as my first script took me over an hour to prepare! And even though I only taught one of my four scheduled classes, I was completely exhausted afterwards! The classroom’s fans don’t work so you have to teach in a full classroom of at least 30 kids plus the heat and humidity. Even now, when you haven’t really done anything strenuous all day, you still get incredibly tired by 10 o’clock, and as it gets dark early here, and there’s no TV and often no internet, you just go to bed. As we’ve gotten used to the lifestyle, it’s easier to occupy ourselves in the evenings, which mainly includes going out and socialising or cooking.
Socialising here, basically means either sitting in the street chatting in Spanish, or cooking together as cooking here takes a lot of effort and is a major part of the day. We are usually asked to bring some ingredients and contribute to the meal, or they come over and cook in our house. The food here is incredible!!!! And incredibly fried and sugary! Everything is fried or has about 10 spoonfuls of sugar added to it. The coffee here is like a shot of coffee syrup, so forget about having any nice cappuccinos after your meal! Also, the main staple foods are rice, and plantain (which are twice fried for extra flavour).
Although we are into October now, and term started 8 weeks ago, we are still having trouble with the timetable! I still haven’t taught a full week of classes yet due to unexpected days off, clashes in the timetable and lunch consistently running over by an hour! People here are so laid back, and so it’s taken so long to get an almost organised timetable! (I don’t really mind though, I mean who’s going to complain when they get a break from teaching!)
On Fridays, we go to barahona for the week’s shop, which usually costs around 1000 pesos, or £15. Some things are incredibly cheap here, like eggs and sugar. But we’ve now learned to avoid the cereal aisle, as anything on those shelves will inevitably be out of our price range! We then usually go and stay in la Hoya with Chynah and Alisha, who are also project trust volunteers working for COPA but in another school that COPA runs. We often go to the beach on Saturday or Sunday (usually San Rafael) and plan lessons on the other day.
Every month, the COPA mission flight comes in, and that means we get parcels and letters from home! Everyone gets really excited as it feels almost like Christmas comes every month. We all ask for certain things that you can’t get here, mainly chocolate and cereal as they are both either very expensive or not nice.
Bombita is starting to feel very much like home, and I feel a lot more comfortable here than when I first arrived. We have friends in the village, we now know where Sophia lives so we can buy bombitian bread (the only edible bread we’ve found here) and have learned how to eat bits of chicken that We never knew existed without choking on bones! All in all I’m really enjoying my time here and I feel like I’ll really miss the Dominican Republic when it’s time to go home.”