4th Festivities & some favorite days

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If I am being  honest, the last couple weeks took a toll on me physically and mentally. With one of our volunteers having to stay over night in the hospital, 5 of our volunteers leaving to go back home, an outbreak of lice in our house, having to evacuate for the night due to the smoke of a wildfire, and figuring out new teaching schedules for summer schedule- it’s been quite the eventful last couple of weeks.66383631_2227327983986945_8898026842548600832_nAnd boy, did my body feel it. I’ve been exhausted, mentally drained, and even got very sick this week with the most random symptoms including a fever, joint pain, head ache, nausea, and weakness. It’s frustrating being sick in a foreign country with no AC or hot water. All I want at the moment is my bath tub and Harvey snuggles, but I am pushing through, because we are already down to less than 5 weeks left here and I am trying to soak up and enjoy every moment.IMG_6984 (2)I always post about our vacations, but I’ve had so many favorite moments and days while we’ve been “home” and I want to remember them just as much as I do our vacations. I am finally feeling a little better today, which is why I decided to write this post to document and remind myself of the “good old days” when I felt a little more like myself. 😉

To start off, we decided to throw a party to celebrate the 4th of July last week because you can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take America out of the girl. As you all know, I am a lover of holidays, get togethers, and every reason to celebrate something so I HAD to do something for the 4th. My friend Emilee and I decided to throw a “party” out on our pavilion in the backyard of our house.IMG_7010IMG_7015

 

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IMG_7011We had American food such as hot dogs and BBQ chicken, french fries, watermelon, and rice krispie treats. We decorated with red white and blue of course, played musical chairs, had a pretend firework show (on the projector) and danced the night away. It was so fun to all have a night together to celebrate the country that we all miss so dearly, and remind us how lucky we are to have such a wonderful home.IMG_7008IMG_7007IMG_7006

IMG_7009A few other favorite days worth documenting:

Hiking to Pico Isabel de Torres. May 26, 2019IMG_6979IMG_6980This hike is a 10 minute drive from our home and has the longest cable car in the Caribbean. We spent all day on top of the mountain- enjoying the cooler temperatures, beautiful views of our home, and eating yummy food at the restaurant.IMG_6973IMG_6976IMG_6978IMG_6977IMG_6974Celebrating our 4th year of Marriage June 5, 2019DCIM100GOPRO

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img_6987-1.jpgDerek and I spent the day at our favorite beach, and ate delicious tacos and pina colodas for lunch. We also went to dinner at a resort restaurant and had the best food we’ve had since being here. We’ve spent our anniversary in a different place every year, but I don’t know if anywhere can top this year.

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Many service project days throughout the monthIMG_6995IMG_6992IMG_6994IMG_6983From painting houses, to delivering food and hygiene kits to less fortunate families. These days are so humbling, and make me so thankful for what I have back home, and in general. It makes me emotional to know that people live this way, and makes all of the small problems that I’ve struggled with here, seem even smaller.IMG_6993A night spent at City center- June 26, 2019

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City center is my favorite place in this city of ours. (after the ocean of course) It has the best food and coffee, so many fun souvenir shops, and architecture that is straight out of my Caribbean dream world. This particular night, a small group of us went to a little food truck place, and had the some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. We walked around city center after and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Nothing too special happened that night, but it was one of my favorites since being here.

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Hiking Damajagua Cascades- June 29, 2019IMG_7025IMG_7038IMG_7035This hike is only a short 30 minute drive from our house, and one of my favorite experiences since being here. From cliff jumping, to natural water slides, and swimming through canyons, this place was absolutely breath taking and we had such a fun time with other members in our group. (Sorry for the go pro quality photos 😉 )

Covering for sick teachers, and enjoying the students.

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I haven’t been the only sick volunteer around here, many other teachers have had similar symptoms and haven’t been able to teach, which means Derek and I get to substitute. Even though it’s only been a couple times, teaching again has made me so happy. Helping these kids, who have close to nothing, get an English education is so rewarding. Plus, since a lot of them come from broken families, they don’t get a lot of affection at home, so they are always wanting to give hugs and snuggles. I love loving on my Dominican babies, I am going to be so sad to leave them in just one month.

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Even though this experience has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, there have been so many days that have made me so happy to be here. I’ve had more realizations, self growth, and humbling experiences here than I have had in a very long time. Here’s to a healthier 5 weeks, and soaking in every single minute of them!IMG_6981

Onto the next adventure, Wren

 

 

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Those type of days that “can’t be real” -Barahona & Pedernales

IMG_6799Like I mentioned before, we had a 10 day vacation away from teaching and service work earlier this month. Our wonderful weekend in Jarabacoa was the fist half of that vacation (see our time spent there in my previous post). For the second half of our vacation, Derek and I met up with a few girls from group and visited the beautiful beach towns of Pedernales and Barahona.IMG_6788Pedernales is on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The population of Pedernales is the lowest populated city in the DR and sadly, I think the beaches are that beautiful because there aren’t a lot of people there to ruin them.IMG_6798IMG_6800XQYP1467IMG_6792I’ve never seen more clear water, or white sand in my life, and the best part is that we were the only ones there.IMG_6025IMG_6052IMG_6050IMG_6053IMG_6051We spent our 3 days there walking the “ghost town” streets, trying to find restaurants that were open, and enjoying the beautiful beaches. At one point we talked about how “this place looks like a movie set, or it feels like we are living in a dream world.” And I thought to myself multiple times “this can’t be real.”IMG_6794IMG_6790IMG_6789IMG_6795IMG_600334

IMG_6797After 3 nights in Pedernales, we headed to Barahona.  This place is right below Samana on my favorite vacation places this summer. It had beautiful green mountains, bright blue water, and the biggest waves I have ever seen. We ditched the Air BNB idea here, and instead camped 2 nights on the beach. We had a bon fire, enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets, and we even got lucky enough to have a full moon!IMG_6774IMG_6784IMG_6770IMG_6771Our time there included a beautiful hike, swimming in the river, getting swept under by the giant waves, and enjoying the camping life of tents and no shower. Derek and I have slept in some crazy places, and we both agree that this is one of our favorites.IMG_6786IMG_6787IMG_6778IMG_6776IMG_6777IMG_6779Our “vacation week” felt very long since we visited 3 different places, but it was filled with once in a life time experiences, some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, and memories that I’ll hold on to forever. These photos make me realize just how lucky I am to live on this beautiful island.IMG_6773IMG_677212IMG_6782We have couple more vacations planned before we head home in 6 weeks, and I am looking forward to more days, more places, and moments that feel like they “can’t be real”.

Onto the next adventure,
Wren

Our beautiful 3rd week in China

Derek and I had so much fun this past week. We spent a lot of time leaving the school campus and exploring the streets that are close to our school. It’s been raining a lot which is so different than what we are used to, but we are enjoying it and trying to get used to the fact that if it rains, it stays for a couple days, not a few hours.

The other night, we went shopping, and I found cute boots for 60 yuan, which is 10 US dollars, and cute shorts that actually fit me.. It’s hard for me to find shorts in the US since we don’t have many small sizes, but I am a size large here, so my size is EVERYWHERE. Derek got a nice jacket and a shirt. His jacket is a size XXXL and in the states he is a size medium. (HAHA!)

While we were shopping, we came across a place that had really loud techno music. I thought it was a poppin’ store or restaurant, but as we got closer we saw that it was a roller skating rink! We decided to tell the other volunteers and come back a different night as a group. So on friday night, a bunch of us went back and roller skated together. It was so much fun! Like with most things we do, we had a bunch of locals watching us, laughing at us, and snapping our photos. We are getting used to this celebrity type lifestyle by now.

I even made another new friend who belongs to the owners of the rink!

On Saturday, about 20 of us took a train ride to a neighboring city called Nanjing. Our head teacher, Jared, taught English there last year, so he wanted to take us there and show us around. The beauty of Nanjing did not disappoint. We walked around a city square called The Laumendong. It had a lot of fun shops and little restaurants, but the thing I enjoyed most about it was the architecture. It was so beautiful. I couldn’t stop snapping photos.

 

After walking around for a while, Derek and I decided that we wanted to get food at one of the restaurants. Most of the volunteers ate a burger joint, or grabbed street food, but we weren’t feeling it. We came across a restaurant that looked pretty fancy…but it said western menu (which means american) I looked at the menu, it was in English so I could actually read it! Two things grabbed my attention. CHEESE pizza, and Chicken and CHEESE enchiladas. Cheese isn’t common here in China, most locals don’t even eat dairy. I didn’t even care to look at the price, I had to eat there. Derek agreed.

I ordered the enchiladas and a latte, since I haven’t had great coffee since we left home. Derek got teriyaki chicken with vegetables and seasoned rice. We were in heaven. Our total was 130 yuen, which is only 20 US dollars for both of us! We were so happy with our decisions and full bellies. Like really…have you ever seen me happier?

After the Laumendong, we met up with the rest of the group and headed back on the metro to Zhongshan Mountain National Park. There we explored the ming tombs, a mausoleum, and enjoyed the beauty of the gardens.


We even came across this precious puppy. She was just running on the street, with no mother or owner in sight. She didn’t look like a stray, but even if she was I didn’t care. I had to snuggle her. Do you blame me?

She followed our group for about a half hour before running off to another one. I begged my family to lend me 2,000 dollars so I could bring her through customs in December. None of them replied to my text.

After the park, a lot of our group headed back to the school because they were exhausted. (We were out for 12 hours at this point…it was a long day) Six of us decided to head into downtown Nanjing and get dinner because we weren’t ready to leave this beautiful place.

Derek, Jared, Landon, Tanner, Lauren and I grabbed dinner, shopped at a 3 story Wal Mart (because we wanted to experience a Chinese Wal Mart) and ended our day with donuts and ice cream. I even found green mint chocolate chip, which if you know me is my guilty pleasure! I told Derek “today just keeps getting better and better.” We got back to the school at midnight and after being gone for 18 hours, I was actually excited to sleep in our hard, uncomfortable bed.

I woke up the next day and looked over at Derek looking so handsome while deep in sleep. I grabbed my phone, and scrolled through the hundreds of photos I took this week and thought, “Holy shit, this is really my life and I am so happy about it.” And the best part is, it’s only getting better. I hope everyone has the chance to experience that feeling at some point.

Onto the next adventure, Wren