Our crew’s experience in the Dominican Republic started early as everyone awoke to views of the beautiful Samana peninsula.
After a stay in Barbados and the surprise port in Isle de Saintes, the jungle of the Dominican was an exotic sight for all on board. After picking up our pilot we headed into our dock, basically a pier in the middle of nowhere with nothing but trees in sight. After finishing our classes for the day, we got a chance to leave the ship, hop into a packed minibus and explore the nearby town. We exited the mini bus in the heart of the city with music blaring from nearby speakers and a group of kids playing baseball in the park; we had truly arrived in the Dominican.
We had the evening to explore and the crew dispersed for a variety of activities. Some went to the beach, some explored the local restaurants and some even joined a pickup basketball game with local kids. It was an enjoyable night that gave us all a taste of the culture we were set to experience in our upcoming homestays.
The next morning, in a torrential downpour, we cleaned up the ship one last time before our few days of adventure to land. After a good deck scrub and cleanout of the mess and dorms, we boarded another bus to take us to Las Terrenas, the coastal town about an hour away where we would do our volunteering and meet our homestays.
On our way to Las Terrenas, we stopped in a little town called El Limon, known for its beautiful waterfall. After a forty-five-minute hike through the gorgeous countryside and quaint streams, we reached the pools of a splendiferous cascading set of falls. After our hot hike, the cool water of the pool refreshed us all. After a long dip in the water, we hiked back to the bus and had an amazing lunch of some of the local cuisine. We were treated to a buffet of “la Bandera” (the flag) a local dish of rice, red beans and chicken. Our bellies were soon full and we left El Limon, excited to get to Las Terrenas and meet our homestays.
A group of students pose in front of the El Limon waterfall.
Some of us stayed with local families in Las Terrenas while others travelled up the mountainside to a town called Los Naranjitos. Our first night we all got acquainted with our homestays and the next morning we awoke, ready to start the main part of our experience in the Dominican, the work projects. Organized by a local organization, the crew set out for a variety of work projects in the area.
A few students went to volunteer at a local international school, many students went to paint educational murals at other schools and the rest of the group went into the countryside to paint houses for people who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so. As much as some of us missed the Gulden Leeuw and our precious smoofs, getting off the ship while living and working with local people really gave us a chance to experience the Dominican culture. I was part of a group that helped paint houses and our local organizer explained to us that the families we helped wouldn’t have been able to paint their houses otherwise. Working away from the more touristy areas of town not only allowed us to help the community but to see how people really lived.
Our work days went smoothly except a small hitch, the rain. Usually it’s extremely dry for Class Afloat’s visits, but this year mother nature had her own ideas. The rain cut some of the painting projects short, but many houses still were completed and the work in the schools continued. Our final morning of work was cancelled because of rain but the crew took the time to explore the local area: some people went surfing while others who had been staying in the mountains explored the quaint little town for the first time.
Student Antoine works hard painting a house.
A baseball game breaks out at recess.
After saying a final goodbye to our homestays, it was time to start the journey back to the ship. On our way home, we once again stopped in El Limon for another delicious lunch of rice and beans and a debrief of our experiences.
After lunch, we got a lesson in Merengue dancing, the Dominican variation of salsa dancing. Were we good? The answer is no, but we all had a good time learning another aspect of the vibrant Dominican culture. It was a great way to finish our time off the ship and in the Dominican Republic. The next day was spent back on the boat getting ready for our penultimate sail to Bermuda. One thing is for certain, we all enjoyed an awesome and educational experience in the Dominican.
- Written by Grade 12 student Klaus Bachhuber