Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jarabacoa: Voy a reír, voy a bailar (Thursday Week 7)

"Voy a reír, voy a bailar, vivir mi vida, lalalala"
"I'm going to laugh, I'm going to dance, live my life, lalalala"
--from the song by Marc Anthony, one of the "theme songs" of our trip

Three friends post 14 km of rafting!
Last weekend was my last full weekend in the DR, and I was feeling pretty conflicted because there were so many things that I wanted to do and not enough time to do them all. On Friday I went whitewater rafting in Jarabacoa with two friends. The trip was 14 km long and took about two hours. There were three other girls in our group who are living in Jarabacoa and studying Spanish post-college, and we were all in one raft with two guides. The main guide's name was Clemens, and he's German but has lived in the DR for more than 20 years. He was awesome--very funny but very capable at the same time (a good thing because I fell out once! I was totally fine though.)

One of the highlights was a set of rapids named Mike Tyson, which involved going over a 8-10 foot high waterfall. Afterwards, we stopped by the side of the river for a swim and a snack, and we took turns jumping off a 15 foot tall rock into the water. I only went once, but I'm glad I did it because I never did make it to the 27 Charcos, where the main attraction in jumping off the rocks into the pools beneath the waterfalls. After the rafting, we went back to the ranch, ate lunch and wandered around a little bit. The ranch is very focused on ecotourism, and they had a short trail that went over a creek and to some ponds. I enjoyed getting to try out some more nature photography of all the beautiful plants and flowers.

I spent Saturday relaxing doing homework and hanging out with my host family. All of my host mom's adult children and their spouses come over for lunch on the weekends, and I didn't want to miss one of my last chances to hang out with the whole family at once. On Saturday night I also went to a fair by the monument park. There were a lot of typical fair things, like music and food (including cotton candy), but also a lot of food and household good companies selling bulk groceries at a discount. It would have been great if I was back in the states, but alas I can't be bringing home Costo-size packages in my luggage.
Hiking selfie!
Waterfall we saw during the El Mogote hike

On Sunday, I returned to Jarabacoa with two different friends to hike up one of the mountains. The trail was called El Mogote and climbed 3,000 vertical feet over 4 miles. That's pretty steep, and on top of that the trail was really narrow and overgrown in some spots. I really enjoyed the challenge and spending time with my friends, and we were rewarded with several spectacular views. We took a wrong turn and didn't actually reach the summit, but it was still a really fun day (and now I have a reason to go back and make it to the top!)

I also had a really nice time on Monday night, when my host brother Carlos taught me to play table tennis. He plays competitively and he started telling me about the sport when he came over to watch some YouTube videos of old matches and instructors demonstrating different skills. We went to the student center on the university campus, where they have four tables set up for open gym. All four tables were occupied with people playing, and they were so intense! We started with the basic shots and worked up to playing real games. I lost every time, but I liked the sport a lot--it's all about precise control and mental focus. Afterwards we talked for awhile about our countries and families and the process of language learning--he's taking English classes at night, so every time we see each other he asks me a few questions about English, and I ask him a few questions about Spanish. He's a 36 year old married lawyer, but he's one of the people I'm closest to here and I'm really going to miss him when I leave.

My host mom, Josefina, and I at the going away party
Last night we had our goodbye party, which was very bittersweet. Almost everyone who worked with us or helped us during the program was invited, and there were probably about 150 people, including students, host families, program staff, university staff, professors, promotoras, estudiantes de apoyo, and even the guagua drivers. I was pleased that five people from my host family came--I thought it would be just my host mom and maybe my host sister. It was nice to introduce everyone from all the different parts of our experiences--I met my friends' host families, they met mine, our families met our promotoras and our professors, etc. There were thank you speeches and and photo slideshow, followed by dinner. The slideshow made me very nostalgic, but after dinner there was plenty of dancing and it was great just to relax and have fun. Dancing is another thing that I'm going to miss a lot when I leave--there's nothing like bachata and merengue in the US. Fortunately, they burned us all a CD with plenty of Dominican music, including the song that's the title of this post--one of my favorites!

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