Family and Friends,

As our first full day in Jarabacoa draws to a close, I’m struck by the remarkable sense of familiarity I perceive within our group. Most students have known one another for fewer than three days, and yet their interactions with one another are already so warm and supportive. Perhaps they were galvanized by the logistical challenges they faced in getting here. But I think it’s more than that. I think this group is constituted of quite a lot of what people like to call “old souls.” That’s not a term I’m in the habit of using, so let me tell you what I mean by that. I’m talking about people who intuitively understand others–or, if they don’t, they make great efforts to do so. I’m talking about people who take risks in unfamiliar situations, knowing that it takes courage to grow from real world experience. I’m talking about people who surrender pride and highlight the strengths and accomplishments of others, rather than merely absorb attention for themselves. In calling these students “old souls,” I suppose I’m calling them something like “soulful,” “profound,” or “deep.” Maybe they’re just “awesome.” 

Our first day was centered around the topic of culture, and we wasted no time immersing ourselves in the local culture of Jarabacoa, walking to the park, meeting with the fire brigade, and sampling what an American hipster foodie would likely call “craft paletas,” or really good ice cream. 

After acquainting ourselves with the town, we spent the afternoon at the annual Festival de las Flores which, beyond flowers, also boasted an impressive array of crafts from local artisans and some very fancy horses. Insofar as I can, let me explain. These horses—and their begrudging riders—competed against one another in some sort of equine walk-off. They pranced back and forth, side to side, in and out of cones and obstacles, and across a runway fit for a supermodel. Meanwhile, a team of three judges assessed which horse had the finest moves.

And speaking of moves, you should see these Global Glimpse students dance the Bachata. Our next activity was a dance class during which the group learned a number of local steps, along with their historical and cultural significance. It was said during the class that this group was one of the quickest to learn that our instructor had ever seen. Sounds like a few Chicago-area proms are about to get lit, starting in 2020!

We wrapped-up this very full day with a seminar about English language teaching and some time during which groups planned lessons for classes beginning Monday. As a veteran teacher myself, I feel I have some credibility when I tell you how impressed I was by the intelligence, insight, creativity, and passion these students brought to the notion of teaching. I think they are naturals. Few, certainly, will choose education as a career path; however, many exhibited talent that made me both proud and jealous. 

Saturday night begins our “Living Like a Local” day, so both electricity and running water will soon be gone, and students will experience what it is like when the modern, technological conveniences we often take for granted are in short supply.

Again, let me emphasize what an incredible group of young people I have the privilege of working with this week. Tomorrow’s leaders of the day, Nia (Evanston Township) and Shamar (Noble Street), are going to demonstrate exactly what I’m talking about as I pass the leadership torch to them.