Day 4 – This day started unexpectedly early for some us. Barb got up to go to the bathroom about 4:00 am. She was on the top bunk and the bunk beds were wiggly and squeaky and the bathroom door was really squeaky. But that wasn’t what woke us up. What woke us up was Nancy’s blood curdling scream.
Barb thought she had been too noisy and had startled Nancy awake, so she began apologizing, “I’m so sorry! It’s just me, it’s ok, you can go back to sleep” But Nancy was quite agitated and said, “No! It was wet and cold and in my face!”
So, now we are all confused and certain that Nancy is in the midst of a horrible nightmare of some kind. Julie flipped on the light and we all began trying to tell Nancy everything was ok. Nancy kept insisting that, no everything was not ok because something really gross feeling hit her in the face.
Then Tami, very calmly says, “hey guys….I bet it was that” She is pointing to the ceiling in the corner of the room, just above Barb’s pillow.
What we surmise must have happened is, that when Barb got out of bed she startled our quite large and slimy friend, Mr. Frog. Who then hopped up onto Nancy’s bed. She felt something on her leg and thought it was me trying to wake her up for her turn in the shower. So she sat up in bed, which must have further startled Mr. Frog, who then jumped in her face. Hence the screaming. And then somehow he hopped way across the room and up to the ceiling. Upon seeing Mr. Frog, Barb and I screamed and bravely ran into the bathroom and slammed the door. It’s hard to be brave at 4:00 am, on the wrong side of the Mississippi in a room with filled with foreign frogs.
We did eventually collect ourselves and come out of the bathroom to help our roommates problem solve. We quickly came to the conclusion that the frog had to go. Barb was particularly insistent on the fact that the frog had to go. She has a weird aversion to sleeping with a frog hanging over her head.
It was Nancy, however, who took charge of the situation even though she had every right to be the one most traumatized by the whole situation. She found some gloves, climbed up on Barb’s bunk and attempted to grab Mr. Frog, who proceeded to “walk” across the wall with his suction cup like feet. Seeing this someone screamed, it could have been me but it also could have been anyone else in the room, so lets just leave it at someone. The screaming once again scared Mr. Frog, who is apparently a jittery creature. So, he jumped all the way from the ceiling to the floor. Luckily it was very near the door.
Nancy climbed off the bunk grabbed Mr. Frog and in a brilliant moment of team work, Julie instinctively thrust open the door as Nancy gently (or perhaps not so gently) tossed Mr. Frog outside. Julie quickly slammed the door closed and locked the door.
At this point we all began laughing hysterically. We wondered how on earth the other half of our team had not been woken up by all the commotion (they must be very sound sleepers we decided) and also how on earth Mr. Frog got in our room in the first place and then if he might have friends or family…..
We then decided to do a sweep of the room just in case. I had a flashlight so I looked under every bed and in every corner (see I can be brave sometimes). We were clear. So we laughed hysterically some more and wondered how we were ever going to be able to sleep for the rest of the trip.
We did eventually all fall back to sleep for about 15 minutes and then our alarm rang.
As we gathered with everyone waiting for our van to arrive to take us to school, Nancy Lee said, “did you guys here that party last night? I heard a woman scream and thought she might be being attacked but then there was all this laughing, so I guess it was just a wild party.”
It was then that we knew for sure not to count on our fellow team members in the other room to come to our rescue. We would be fighting frogs all one our own.
So, then it was off to Doulos for a day of substitute teaching. But first we would join the staff for announcements and prayer circle and then the whole school begins the day together in the Wallace Amphitheater. All the students and teachers gather and have announcements, a student lead prayer, sing the national anthem and then they have a Doulos Cheer. The Doulos cheer is when a student or staff member comes up on the stage and performs some short action, dance, song and then shouts “Doulos!” And then everyone tries to copy it. Then they all scatter for their classes.
Then we picked up our class assignments and lesson plans. Tina and I had 6th grade French. And here’s the thing. Tina nor I speak French. Not a single word.
We learned something very important in that class, which was this. Sixth grade students world wide are united in giving their substitute teachers a hard time. Sixth grade students are universal in their inability to use their “inside” voices. And substituting for an hour long sixth grade French class will last for approximately 3 days…..at least that is what it felt like.
They wore us out. Don’t get me wrong, they were good kids, funny kids, smart kids but they totally knew they had us over a barrel from the second they sat down. They spent the entire hour trying desperately to convince us that “really, Miss Matild always lets us out early”, “no really, she does”, “especially on Mondays, on Mondays she always lets out early.”
No French was learned that day. But we did keep them in the room and alive and safe for one whole hour which I’m going to count as a success. We were not able to keep them quiet, which was really unfortunate for Nancy Lee who was trying to conduct her teacher workshop next door, but we did keep them in the room for the whole hour so I feel good about that.
Next up, Tina and I were sent to 9th grade Science where we were instructed to introduce the concepts of mass, volume, weight and density. Let’s just say that after 6th grade French our confidence in our substitute teaching skills was waning a bit. So we were really glad to see Cara come bopping into the room with props to help us. This class went much smoother and they did learn at least the definitions of mass, volume, weight and density, even if we did just read them out of the text book. After they did some reading and answered some review questions we spent time just chatting with them. It was a very enjoyable class.
Then it was time for lunch with our lunch buddies. The two days we were serving at Doulos we were assigned a Doulos teacher or staff person to have lunch with. My buddy was Courtney.
As I mentioned in my last post, Courtney is from the Twin Cities and came down last year on the POP women’s trip. She then decided that she wanted to be a bigger part of Doulos and she’s been in the DR since last June working as the communications supervisor. All the teachers and staff at Doulos have to raise the money to pay their own salary. It’s a huge commitment, to not only leave your family and country but to also fundraise. But every one of the teachers and staff that we talked to all felt called to be there. They were passionate about the kids and passionate about the mission that Doulos is set upon. They were all amazing and fascinating people to talk to, all with huge hearts and huge faith.
After lunch, one more class. This time Barb and I went bravely to 7th grade English (at least I know English, so I figured it had to be a step up from French). This class was a breeze. The teacher was there to at the beginning of class to kind of set things straight and they were to read and work on a plot diagram. It was the quietest group of 7th graders I have ever seen.
A quick walk downtown for some refreshments and back to Casa Tranquila to get ready for our family dinners.
We were split up into groups of 2 or 3 and then assigned a Doulos family who had graciously offered to host us in their homes for a typical Dominican family dinner. I’ll be honest I was really nervous about this. First of all, I don’t know Spanish (ok, I know un poco, but two semesters in college and then never using the language again definitely was not going to cut it). Second, I’m not great at making conversation with people I’ve known for years, let alone people I’ve just met who speak an entirely different language. Social situations make me nervous and I was way outside my comfort zone here.
I was relieved to find out my partner was Nancy Lee. She has done this several times before so I knew she could get me through it. And it was an awesome night! We spent the evening with the Castillo family. The boys, Robert, a third grader and Robert Louis a Kindergartner, both of whom go to school at Doulos on scholarships. Nancy Lee sponsors Robert Louis so that he can attend Doulos. The older son spoke english, as all Doulos students do, but since he was just in 3rd grade and still learning, a neighbor, Carol, a sixth grader from Doulos came to translate for us. And yes, Carol was in French class with me earlier that day but she was on of the three girls who kept shaking their heads no, when everyone was saying, “we always get out early”. So I knew she we were in good hands.
We had brought a few small gifts including Jenga and UNO, so we played games, ate a wonderful dinner and visited, every word going through Carol. She was a wonderful interpreter and I’m sure she was exhausted by the end of the night. I was and all I really did was sit back and take it all in. They were such kind and gracious people. The parents told Nancy Lee how grateful they were to her for sponsoring Robert Louis. That it meant everything to them that he had such an opportunity.
Later in the evening, as we were standing in the dark (not a lot of streetlights in the DR) under the stars, waiting for the bus to come pick us up. The boys father, Robin, said, “you know Jesus makes all the difference for a family. My wife and I and did not have that as children and our families had struggles but we want better for our family and knowing Jesus has made all the difference for us.” It was a very sweet and tender moment.
Back at our Casa Tranquila, we gathered in our evening spot with our tea and biscuits and the stories spilled out. The teaching, the throwing the teaching out the window and just trying to keep the kids contained, the families and the dinners and kids of all ages and “oh there goes the tree rat!”
Nightly prayers – Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all of these wonderful experiences and also please keep the frogs away.
And then it was off to bed, right after sweeping the room of any signs of anything that shouldn’t be there, and off to sleep….
Day 5 – The morning started off much the same, minus the frog drama. We were off to Doulos for breakfast, singing to our driver Jiovanni all the way.
Nancy Lee joined a few students for the Doulos Cheer.
This day we were landscaping and painting, which for me was much easier than subbing. I was on the painting team with these lovely ladies. Here is our before and after.
Here’s part of the landscaping team.
Then at the end of the day we were invited to the home of Mathilde, the French teacher, for tea and cake. We ended up not having time for the tea but the cake….oh my goodness the cake! It was seriously some of the best cake I have ever eaten in my life. We begged for the recipe to which Mathilde said, quite directly, “No. Absolutely not. I’m sorry if I am too direct but no.”
Back at our DR home we got cleaned up and ready for dinner. We had wonderful dinner guests once again. Mike Zweber and his family came to join us. This was a big treat because not only is Mike the new Executive Director at Doulos but he’s also a Minnesota guy and not just a Minnesota guy but a Lakeville guy! Mike had been on the POP mens trip last year and by the end of the summer he was the new Executive Director and had sold everything and moved to the DR. I told you this was a common theme.
He and his wife Becky, shared their story with us. I am still shaking my head over the whole idea of just selling everything and moving to another country. I am amazed by their courage and faith. We heard many times from the Doulos staff and the staff at T.E.A.R.S. where we would venture the next day, that they felt called to come here and serve in this way. I’m not so sure I could do it….
They had such great stories and were so much fun to spend time with we could have talked all night. But we sent them home because it was a school night and the kiddos needed to get their rest.
We had our nightly discussion about our day, our book study and wondering what tomorrow had in store for us….