The hard work of the music workshop (Ryan said he would split his lip if he practiced his clarinet any longer) paid off for the musicians Wednesday night, as they presented a beautiful concert. It was held in an auditorium at the state university in Bonao, and began promptly at 7:00 p.m. Dominican time (translation: 8:00 p.m.). When the applause died down after the last piece was played, the MC asked if the audience would like to re-hear one of the pieces as an encore. The decision was unanimous: we wanted to hear the invigorating William Tell Overture again. The orchestra played just as exuberantly the second time around and got a standing ovation. The administrator had pizza delivered for the musicians after the concert and they got home after 11:00 p.m., tired but happy. Not only did they master six beautiful pieces of music, they got to know several Dominican young people.
VBS also wrapped up Wednesday, with 20 children in attendance. A highlight was giving the children the books that my Spanish 2/3 classes had written and illustrated. The children were thrilled with their gifts and it was hard to persuade them to put the books down for the rest of the program. Those who could read, read them aloud in their little groups. The school principal has helped us with crowd control every day. She was thrilled with the book project. “This is like a project for a university class!” she exclaimed. She told us that this project was a valuable way to help the children with their reading skills. We had more books than children in VBS, but rather than giving each child two as we did last year, we are going to let the early elementary teachers give them to children who were not at VBS.
Wednesday also saw our painting project come near an end. There is just a bit more to do on the outside of the church today. With “all hands on deck,” we feel sure it will be completed this morning and we will have this afternoon to prepare for Sabbath.
So after a wonderful Wednesday, we were ready to celebrate yesterday. I had really worried that the outing we had planned was not going to be interesting for the local young people, so last night I asked my young friend Kasandra if she thought the kids would like it. She looked at me incredulously. “What? We can hardly wait! We keep telling each other, 'I wish it were tomorrow right now!'” Spirits were high when the buses pulled up to pick up the students… and then it started to rain. My heart sank and I prayed, “Lord, you know the kind of day we need. We would like it to be special.”
As we drove up into the hills, the sun came out and it was a fabulous day! We went about half an hour from here to the Saltos (waterfalls) de Jima Natural Protected Area. We were required to have two guides to lead us up the trail that wound through the jungle of cacao and banana-like trees, along a little river of white water. The waterfalls were not high and there were quiet pools to play in. We were the only ones there for the first few hours of the day. After lunch of veggie dogs, chips and granola bars, we hiked up farther to the second water fall, where we were also the only people there. We swam a bit and then went back to the first falls. The vacation crowds began arriving, so it was no longer our private nature reserve. Many of the kids swam a bit more, while others visited or sunned themselves on the rocks. I noticed most of my students had broken into pairs or little groups, chatting in English among themselves, so I matched them up with some Dominican kids whom I instructed to make sure they spoke Spanish. A college student who is teaching English in the elementary school asked me, “Profe Rita, how do you do it? Your students can really speak Spanish!” Yes, they make me proud!
At 4:00 we hiked back down the mountain and boarded the buses. We had a restaurant reserved just for us, where the (mostly) vegetarian buffet was especially appreciated, since we were all hungry after hiking and swimming . I thanked the Dominican kids for joining us—honestly it was so much more fun than our usual trip to the beach by ourselves. Not only did we take all of the teenagers and 20-somethings, we also took along the house parents, who thanked me afterward for giving them a wonderful day of vacation. The college student who had come to our house to ask to spend time with my students exclaimed, “And supposedly we weren’t going anywhere for spring break!