Greetings to all, Yajaira and Cassie here, bringing you the latest from Fun Day #2! We were so excited the night before that it was difficult to sleep. We woke up energized and ready to start the day. Today was an early 6am wakeup call which is always hard but knowing that we had a full fun day planned ahead of us, was invigorating. After everyone groggily exited their room, a variety of cereal and fruit were waiting. We later made our way to Aguas Blancas, the waterfall in the National Park in Valle Nuevo. We rode in a safari-style truck with an awning protecting us from the sun. The ride was long and bumpy and made it hard to sit in one place but we have connected so well that it all felt comfortable. In addition to that, the whole ride we were jamming out to Beyonce and Bruno Mars, singing at the top of our lungs. The hills were steep and the roads were narrow making it hard for traffic to flow in opposition, but the scenery was surreal making for an overall great ride.

When we arrived to the waterfall, we soon realized that the park was unmaintained which is different than the National Parks in California where there are park rangers, recycling bins, and decent bathrooms. Once we reached the waterfall, it was cold and confined but beautiful. We could feel the mist on our sweaty skin which only increased the desire to jump in. Robin was the first to jump in, quickly followed by Robert, Jason, and Yeshi. They reported of such freezing water to the point where it was almost unbearable but did not stop their adventurous selves or the rest of the group from taking the leap of faith in the cold water. In being the best leader that I (Cassie) could be, I decided to join the swimmers in the water. As I tried to slowly enter the pond, I found that one of the rocks I stepped on was much slipperier than expected and instead of waltzing in, I took a full body plunge. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been described to me and it was hard to find a rock for footing due to how slippery all the rocks were. I ended up turning red from the cold of the water, and I was covered in goosebumps head to toe. This didn’t deter me from staying in the water and having a great time with everyone else. After a half an hour of playing and taking pictures in the water, we started to trek back to our trucks. There were a few bumps and stops along the way but we all arrived safely just in time for lunch.

We all ate large amounts of Dilenia’s amazing food, as per usual. Following lunch with no time to waste, some students went to the hardware store to purchase materials for our Community Action Project. The students who did not shop, had the opportunity to work on their appreciation letters or had free time. After free time we went straight to prepping for English tutoring. We then proceeded to our English classes where both of us had different experiences.

Cassie here! Class started at five pm and we only had one student. Krystal and Robin are my co teachers and we decided to play games with the other intermediate class next door. We had a blast playing, “Move your Butt” which is where there is a set of chairs in a circle and the person in the middle would say something and if people sitting agreed with that statement, they would have to find another seat. The person left without a seat, would be the person in the middle creating the new statement. A couple of minutes later, more of our students came. They greeted me by yelling my name and asking how I was doing. It made me feel so special because they remembered my name and cared about my wellbeing. After our games we continued to our lesson where we taught modal verbs and gave homework. When we concluded class, one of our students asked us for our social media contacts so we can stay in touch. I have grown to love this city and its people so much that the attachment is very real and the thought of going home is very difficult to fathom.

Yajaira here ready to tell you all about my day teaching English. My experience with tutoring was significantly different from Cassie’s. Today was hands down the hardest class I’ve had teaching with Jason and Marielle. Teaching a beginners class means a lot of children and that can sometimes mean a louder class. My group of children are particularly rowdy and today was no exception. As a matter of fact, it felt like my children made it a point to be extra distracted, loud, and impatient. I was already feeling extra sleepy so my patience was wearing thin to begin with. Thanks to my amazing co-teachers and Camillo, I made it through the afternoon feeling successful knowing all our students were retaining the information we taught them in previous classes. When I think about it, even though my students wear me out, I’m still going to miss every single one of them because no matter what, they are a key reason why I’ve fallen in love with Constanza. As our days in the Dominican Republic begin to dwindle down, I realize how much I’ve grown as a person. The Yajaira that first came on this trip wouldn’t have been able to make it through tonight’s class, let alone stay happy and lead a group right after. I’m glad to say that this trip has made me a better and stronger individual than I was before I came to the Dominican Republic. It genuinely breaks my heart to leave but I know the connections I’ve made and stories I’ve lived through will stay with me forever and I couldn’t be happier about it.

After tutoring we had yet another phenomenal dinner prepared by Dilenia which led to the nightly meeting and free time after. Everyone had a blast, was punctual and flexible with time, and no one got hurt. All in all, we worked like a well-oiled machine and used each other’s strengths and weaknesses to the benefit of the group.

Big love to the Villanueva clan back home, I miss you all and we’ll be reunited soon enough. I can’t wait for the home made burrito waiting for me when I get back home!

S/o to the Latus, Menlo Mailes, Fongs, Grandma, Papa and Grandma Joan! Also s/o to my baby sister Meki!! Love and miss you guys and I think I am going to stay here instead of coming home!