From Montellano with Love
Greeting from Montellano, DR!
We are in the land of sugar cane, giant clouds- somehow the sky seems bigger here-- and friendly, welcoming people. This is a beautiful country, but that's not all it is ; )
We started at the school this week after spending the weekend with our Dominican family, Alberto, Lydia, y Jean Pablo. Alberto runs the school in Caraballo (Montellano and Caraballo are neighboring towns, Caraballo is more of a village). There was a work team in the missionary house, so we got to stay with them. I don't think any of us were very thrilled at first because we really wanted to get to the missionary house and set up camp, but it was so good to be with them. They took wonderful care of us. We got to go to the beach a couple of times, got to rest after orientation with the other interns and get used to the country a little bit (Alberto and Lydia are taking us to La Vega this weekend to go to the Mirabal museum!) I am grateful that we weren't just thrust into life here in Montellano because I don't think any of us would have been ready. We would have gone into shock! Our trip has been like climbing a mountain, a little higher everyday. We are in an environment that is so different from anything (I think) any of us has ever experienced before.
We also had an incredible gift to help us feel more comfortable, one of the other interns who's been in the DR with Kids Alive the past three summers, Lindsey. She came with us to help us get set up at the school and make sure the curriculum was ready to go. She's fluent in Spanish, so she helped us to communicate. She went back to Jarabacoa yesterday.
We feel good being here. We're all glad to have started classes. The school is a really cool place. Last night we had wonderful team bonding time hunting mosquitos in the house (sounds weird, but is necessary haha) and talking about team dynamics and school and everything that's going on. Living with us in the missionary house is one of the teachers and her two daughters, one who's nine and one who's 13, both are in the school. We are so fortunate to be with them, we're like little chicks who need guidance. It's so good to have someone who we can ask questions and who knows how to cook and knows the culture. The younger daughter is so friendly and I play cards with her a lot. When we talk, she helps my Spanish.
Let me tell you about school. We heard on the front end that this was the most difficult placement in the program. The school is in a very poor neighborhood (barrio), there's a lot of tension between the Dominicans and the Haitians who come over to work in the sugar cane, people don't have the economic resources they need, so they resort to other ways of getting the things they need. There was an incident in the barrio last night that the staff found out about today and prayed about in morning devotions. I asked one of the teachers if the kids were going to be different today, if they would be afraid or anything, and she said no, that they were used to it. That was almost harder to hear.
I am teaching 2nd (morning) and 5th (afternoon) grade geography and writing, and I help out some with the other subjects. Rachel K is teaching geography, and Rachel J is teaching geography, math and science (her teaching partner speaks English, so she gets to teach more). Everyday with the kids is different in my classes, and there's a huge difference in the second and fifth graders. The second graders are crazy and fun and wild and adorable. With them, it's really hit or really miss. The fifth graders are much less rowdy, and I think they learn more. With the second graders, sometimes it seems like we spend more time distributing and collecting materials than learning. There have been some really cool moments so far though. Yesterday I got to work with one of the 2nd grade boys in math, finding points in a plane. It was a cool God moment because the night before I tried to teach one of the kids living in the missionary house with us how to do a sudoku puzzle, so she taught me all the words for row/line, column, square. I was equipped to talk to the boy about lines and columns and squares and all those things. It was great. When I did the sudoku with her, I felt a little anxious because I still had to prepare for class and do all these different things, but spending the time with her was the preparation I needed and I didn't know it.
All of us are in class with other teachers, all Dominicans or Haitians. I teach geography, there's a Bible lesson, science, math, reading, writing, maybe some other ones I'm forgetting. I can't really believe I'm doing it sometimes. It is exhausting to be between the languages though. Sometimes I forget what I'm doing. I like being at the school. The kids really are glad that we're there. They want to play all the time. This afternoon I played dominos with some of my 5th graders and one of the younger girls came over and just stood kind of leaning on me the whole time. They want love and they want to be hugged and valued and smiled at. They want to hold your hand. The school is like an oasis in the neighborhood, it doesn't feel safe outside, but inside, yes, it is safe and clean and nice. That's kind of simplistic, but...
Alright, it's time for us to go home (from the internet cafe).
I would love to hear from any/all of you and thank you to the ones who have emailed. All the words are encouraging. Thank you for the prayers, we need them.
With much love,
Sarah and co.