Today was our second full day in San Juan and we had a fun filled day of learning a bit about the culture here in San Juan. We started the day thinking about how various populations have influenced the culture in the DR. We learned that Dominicans are descendants of Taino, African, and Spanish populations, making for an interesting mix of cultures, customs, and traditions.

Our first activity of the day after breakfast was a mask making workshop where leading mask makers came to show and teach us how they work with clay to make masks that are representative of different things. Our hosts have made the top masks and costumes for San Juan’s yearly carnival which happens in February. We watched in awe as Angel made a mask representation of “the devil” before our very eyes in approximately five minutes. We then made our own and attempted to apply some of his techniques. We then watched the various steps involved in mask making. We proceeded to paint already made masks in various colors which was an extremely enjoyable activity. We then got to have lunch with our hosts where we got to ask them more questions and increase our knowledge of their craft and who they are as people.

In the afternoon, we walked down to city hall and were greeted by dance performers and musicians. They showcased various Dominican dances including marimba and bachata. Then we got our very own lesson! Everyone danced and participated, which we were all very impressed by. Our group so far has been participating extremely well in all our activities.

Later this afternoon we had our first session of English tutoring where we partnered with Dominican young people–our youth embassadors–to teach our own English classes. Some people were very nervous but everyone executed a successful first lesson! We are impressed with our students’ willingness to step outside of their comfort zones and look forward to them practicing and improving this craft!

We reflected on the day this evening and shared highs and lows of the day. Students are coming out of their shells and are getting to know one another, learning from our activities as well as from each other.

Good night from San Juan!

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