A school trip

A few weeks ago, we visited another “colegio” (private school) to have a look at their facilities and for an intra-school (friendly) basketball game.

The trip was optional but our school would be closed for the day so if you weren’t going on the trip you had a day off school.  Guess what – most of the children chose the “day off school” option!  So the trip comprised the two basketball teams, the two cheerleading teams, their friends and groupies and the teachers who had been conscripted (all of us who don’t have afternoon or evening jobs).

The first rather surprising aspect of the trip was the start time.Meet at the school gates at 4:30am (yes you read that correctly!).  This presented me with a serious dilemma – I am English so therefore it is completely against my nature to be late for anything and to cause a delay for others.  But I have been here long enough to know that a 4:30 meeting time means that most people will turn up from about 5:30 and we will leave about 6am.  So with my Britishness getting the better of being totally Dominican and getting an extra hour in bed, I dutifully arrived at 4:30am.

There were a few cheerful kids and one bus so not a bad start.  At least I could get on the bus and go back to sleep – or I would have been able to had the bus not be blasting out merengue at “AC/DC at Knebworth” volume.

No teacher took any kind of register or head count and there weren’t quite enough seats for everyone but not to worry, move over and we can squash a few more in.  No seat belts, just a long prayer and we are away.

As I predicted we left at ten to six!  The children, excitable at the best of times, were full of life for the whole 3 hour journey – singing, laughing and shouting.  As we have said before, everyone here likes to squeeze every drop of fun out of life.  We had to stop twice on route to stock up on sweets, fizzy drinks and snacks but finally we arrived at Colegio Carrusel (only an hour late!)

They were as excited to see us as we were to be there and offered us nothing short of a royal welcome, with a brass band, cheerleaders and flag wavers lining the pathways.  After the traditional national anthem, prayers and much mutual thanks giving and appreciation we were given a tour of the school and the teachers were invited to a presentation of the history of the school, whilst the students went to the cafeteria to replenish their stock of sweets and drinks.

The main purpose of our visit was the basketball games and these were introduced with a kind of pomp and ceremony that would befit the 2012 Olympic Games.  More prayers and the National Anthem, words from their head teacher, our head teacher, their head of sport and a long speech by the much awaited special guest – the Roman Abramovitch of the DR and owner of the two national basketball teams (that’s him in the white shirt).  Then followed much photographing and autograph signing, the National Anthem once again and finally the cheer leaders were invited onto the court for their opening dance.

The school was much larger and better resourced than ours and set in beautiful manicured gardens, all tended by the students.  I am happy to report that, despite our basketball court currently being full of builders rubble, ours was a resounding victory in both games.

We were then offered lunch Dominican style – beautiful and plentiful food served to us under a shady palm.  Or at least the teachers were, whilst the students who had remembered picnics ate thosed and those who had forgotten (which was most of them as picnics require a little foresight and planning!) happily munched on some more sweets!

We left the school about 2:30pm and as it had been a 4:30am start and was a three hour trip home I naively assumed we would be heading back to Nagua.  But i forgot my company – the “squeeze every drop of fun from every moment” brigade.  So we drove into the nearby town of Santiago (DR’s second largest city) to visit a shopping mall. This was to be the highlight of the day for all the teachers and students and for me it was like being propelled forward in time 30 years!  (Remember it is currently only 1973 here in Nagua (see blog post “Life on Mars” if you are lost!)).  The mall was small but in every other way resembled one that you would find in any town in the USA.  The first assault on my senses was on my eyes as I was dazzled by the neon!  Neon lighting is something that you are quite used to at home but we haven’t seen any for 3 months so it is immediately startling.  The second was on my nose – the smell of the mall, or rather lack of smell!  All the shops local to us have an “aroma” and the streets smell of rubbish and the corpses of recently deceased chickens.  The mall smelled of “clean” and “shops” l and it was wonderful to breath great gulps of it!

We were instructed to be back at the bus by 4:30 so we started to drift back at about 5!  I felt sure we would be heading home now.  But no there is a monument to visit first!  A great walk up to the top of a hill (not many of those here so again very noticeable) which I loved but the other teachers and students were less keen (usually they would take a motorbike-taxi to the top of any hills!) to get stunning view of the surrounding mountains and city sprawl.

At 6pm it is time to get back in the bus for the final time to return to Nagua.  We had been travelling for about 10 minutes when we stopped abruptly at a roadside café for more food and the loo (even though there had been lots of opportunities to buy food and drink and go to the toilet at the monument only 10 minutes before!)

At no point in the day did any of the teachers count the kids or take a register.  They trust in God and the homing instincts of 11 year olds.  We arrived back at the school at 9:30pm, about 17 hours after we had set off! I was totally exhausted and confess that despite the racket, I might have had a little doze on the bus on the return journey.  The kids had sung and chatted all the way home and had had the time of their lives!


  1. Rich says:

    Glad to hear it’s all still groovy. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas out there, and an even better 2012. Luvs ya, Rich

  2. Ted & Liz says:

    Quite an exciting day out, so there is another form of life in DR !!!! Hope you didn’t spend too much in the shopping mall Alison.
    Thanks for the Christmas greetings, may we return ours to you all.
    I presume you have included the computer users at No. 10 with this, Doreen seems to be getting the hang of things now, she is doing well.
    I mentioned your recent Skype when you couldn’t see them but they could see you. I said they may have pressed the Call sign instead of the Video Call one because they didn’t have a PIP of themselves on their computer. Better luck next time.

  3. james morris says:

    Must say you are the ultimate Good Sport!!! What a fascinating day, although I would have been out of my mind counting kids and fussing over the clock! What is it with all those fizzies and sweets? I thought us Americans had poor eating habits!! OMG! Just returned from a week in Aruba and sailing the Caribbean in January, but missing the DR. Jim and the entire clan join me in wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and our best wishes for a new year filled with joy, laughter, happiness, peace and good health. Keep those wonderful stories coming!!!!

  4. Juliet says:

    What a great recount of a wonderful day! Wishing you all a lovely Christmas – speak soon.
    Juliet x

  5. caroline britton says:

    What a day to remember! The locals time keeping is somewhat similar to mine & Andrews I fear.
    Have a wonderful family Christmas filled with fun and laughter and treasure the moments you share on this epic journey. Love & big hugs to you all.
    Caroline, Andrew, Millie & Lewis xx

  6. Lin says:

    Just another day at the office, huh?
    Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo! xx

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