Alex Noble once said, “Success is not a place at which one arrives, but where the spirit with which one continues the journey.”

To us, JA1C, we learned that our spirits are born and then strengthened as our hunger for adventure, curiosity, and empathy expand in our lifetime. As we learned, grew, and nourished our spirits in the Dominican Republic, we also became better people, friends, leaders, and human beings. We kept a certain question in mind today: “What are the things I will stop, start, and continue doing back home as a result of my experience here?”

Hello to all! My name is Anelalani Vares, otherwise known as Lani and my name is Sarai Parker better known as Rai, and we are your Liders Del Dia! Today’s theme of the day encapsulated the past 14 days we have been living in Quinto Nido, our hostel. The final reflection was filled with love, vulnerability, memories, and compassion, not to mention lots of crying. We woke up at 7 am and had breakfast at 8 am all thanks to Wilen (Gracias Wilen!). We then proceeded to do our last very emotional program seminar which bled into lunch due to massive amounts of tears. We ate lunch (don’t worry parents) – a delicious one with a 5-star cuisine of rice, beans, fried chicken (our favorite), vegetables for a balanced meal, and bananas. Of course, we had bananas! We then filled out our E-tickets and started to pack our bags around 1 pm for our long journey that awaits us tomorrow. Then, we got to explore Jarabacoa! We drank fresh juice, and smoothies, bought souvenirs, watched and played a basketball game with the locals (shoutout to our MVP Moises), and then went back to the hostel around 5 pm. Now we needed to dress to impress for our first ever dinner out at the pizza parlor. We ate veggie, pepperoni, and chicken bbq pizzas (Felipe had pasta). We threw our heads back with laughs and drank some soda. We walked home, had a dance party, did our nightly meeting (surprise we didn’t cry), and now it’s lights out, and Lani and Rai, well we, are staying up to do this blog.

As we lived together we learned that you didn’t have to know someone for years and years to be close to them, but rather the small intimate moments of eating together, laughing together, giving each other big love, and allowing everyone to be themselves made our little group of total strangers a close knit family. This experience took us on a rollercoaster of emotions, but it ultimately allowed us to create a safe space in which we could be open-minded and not be judged. We were allowed to feel all emotions. The uncomfy, the comfy, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thankfully, we had 21 people, our family, who had our backs 110% of the time. Although the group is filled with 21 different budding personalities, the most surprising thing is that we meshed really well together and brought out the best in each other. Each of us has our own light, and we lit the way together. We feel as though we have learned from one another and will continue to learn from each other for years to come. Not only this, but we will always live with pieces of each other no matter how far away we are. During the day, we lived completely in the moment. Maybe because it was our last day, but we think it was because we were genuinely happy. We are proud to have shared our happiness with others and to have provided leadership on this day.

For us, we learned that leadership is not a one-way street. In order to be a great leader, you must come to realize that it’s not about having full control over situations but adapting to your circumstances and the environment around you. Being each other’s co-leaders, we are forever thankful for one another as we had someone to reassure us, back us up, and lean on throughout the day. For the last two days, we have had nightly dance parties on our balcony, a little something we call “Bailamos.” To see everyone, and we mean everyone, dance even if they think they can’t, boogie on the dance floor was truly the most inspiring moment. No one worried if they looked weird, or stiff, or even if they stepped on someone’s toes. For many, we lived in that moment, enjoying the shared experience of our last night without any cares in the world.

Many of us today became vulnerable. Many today showed compassion. We saw the boys cry. We saw the shy people cry. We heard the loud people bawling their eyes out. And of course, our leaders cried too. To us, that really embodied courage, commitment, compassion, and camaraderie. Courage to be vulnerable, to cry, and show strength in your tears. Commitment, to being here and experiencing shared experiences all while being present. Compassion, because to fully love and care for 20 other human beings is great compassion. Camaraderie, because when one cries we all cry. We laugh and cry at the same time, and we embrace one another all while doing it.

Every night, for the last 14 days, we have given, what we like to call, Big Love (“to my roommates” haha). It is where people express themselves and their appreciation for others and what they’ve done. A big love that I (Rai) have is for Pamela (one of the leaders), Lani, Liss, etc, etc… because they have always been there for me and because they made this experience one that I will never forget <3. I, Lani typing :), give Big Love to everyone who has been on this trip with me and all the people I’ve met here in Jarabacoa. They have truly made this experience one I will never forget. An experience that healed my inner child and allowed a new young lady to flourish and grow. Big Love to my mom, Sarah, and my dad, Dino. I miss you guys a lot, more than you can ever imagine. I love you guys a lot too. I hope you are safe and well.

Well, Rai is about to fall asleep next to me so we will be signing off now. From Anelalani Vares and Sarai Parker: Hasta luego Jarabacoa! Hello Home!