After our red-eye from Portland to Newark Saturday night, the next leg of our journey was delayed one hour because the pilot’s seat was broken. We were happy to find our bus driver still waiting for us when we emerged from customs at the Santiago airport, and although most of us had slept very little on the flights, we were game for a little tour. At the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration, we got a quick history lesson: more than three centuries of Spanish colonial rule ended in 1821, but Haiti conquered the Dominican Republic in 1822, following its independence from France; the DR broke away from Haiti after a couple decades of resistance, only to be re-annexed by Spain; the War of Restoration brought independence from Spain again in the 1860’s.
History lessons are one way to meet our goal of learning more about the Dominican Republic, but our cook, Gertrudis, provides a delicious cultural lesson every day, with traditional Dominican dishes that use ingredients we don’t even recognize. We have already enjoyed sancocho, yucca, moros (arroz con gandules), and tostones.
Some of the funds raised for our trip are helping to sponsor a music workshop that brings together students from Las Palmas and musicians from surrounding communities and from as far away as Santiago and Santo Domingo. My students weren’t quite aware what an intensive music camp this was going to be, but they got a glimpse of it as the seven jet-lagged participants had their first practice soon after dinner Sunday night, ending about 9:30. The visiting artistic director, a professor from Puerto Rico, studied and taught in the USA, so he is able to explain things in English when needed. My students are finding music to be a universal language, but they are also picking up some helpful terms and phrases. Chelsea asked me at lunch how to say, “Let’s start again at the beginning,” so she would be ready to work with her two fellow violists this afternoon. The emphasis of the workshop is building unity, and the Dominicans are very happy to have PAA students uniting with them to praise God through music.
Those who are not in the music workshop prepped the church for painting inside and out this morning. In the afternoon, my five students and I prepared and led a Vacation Bible School. Onica and I had worked with VBS here at Las Palmas last year, so we were sure the six of us could handle it, especially since we had been told there would probably be a smaller group of kids this year. However, invitations to kids from town had been very successful and, instead of the two dozen children expected, we had close to 40. The singing was enthusiastic and the kids enjoyed the students’ drama about Noah’s ark. The energy level during the craft time, if harnessed, would power a small city, I am sure.
Meanwhile, back at the church, our two adult sponsors, Mike and Paul, having lost all the students to the workshop and VBS, started painting. The Las Palmas pastor and Antonio, a 16-year-old boy who we taught to paint during our first visit three years ago, came to help them. The four of them painted the first coat of the entire interior of the church and one exterior wall!
An important purpose of this trip is to grow in our relationship with Jesus. We all get up early for one-on-one time with God and get together to share what we have read. Last night we started a Bible study from the book of John, starting at John 13 and Jesus’ “new commandment” to love as He loved. We pray that these twelve days will be a time for us all to connect firmly to Him, so that he can give us the ability to love like that.
It has been a full day. There is no internet when the power is out, so I will have to post this tomorrow. But for now, buenas noches from Las Palmas.
Tuesday morning: I had some pictures to upload, but forgot my cable at the house. I have to walk to the director's house to access the internet, so I am not going back for the cable right now! Check back tomorrow for photos! But please remember no electricity means no internet. :)