Monday, May 30, 2016

Sports Day!

Friday was Sports Day at our school, which I understand is a common tradition in Dominican schools. Rather than academic classes, the day was spent in a wide variety of athletic competitions. It also included a fundraiser aspect with a variety of food sold that day to benefit the school. For example, there were hot dogs, which are often referred to as sausages here. However, they were not served West Virginia style with sauce and slaw on hot dog buns. Here, they are typically served here on a wooden skewer and slathered in ketchup. Hot dog buns are not unheard of, but they are not easily obtained on this island. Most bread here is in the form of a narrow baguette.
Ice pops are popular snack items down here. People will pour juice into a baggie, add extra sugar, maybe some powdered custard, flavoring essences, and other ingredients (villagers seem to have various secret recipes), tie it off in a knot, and then freeze it. After it is frozen hard, you can bite a hole in the bottom corner of the plastic baggie, and start sucking out the frozen slush. The kids here really love them, and I had one of my students take a picture of me (shown above) holding my half-finished ice pop. [The picture below shows one of our teachers giving instructions at the starting line of an event--notice the ocean in the distance.]
We also had homemade fried chicken, popcorn, and palau (a chicken and rice dish) available, as well as a variety of pre-packaged cookies (referred to as biscuits here) such as generic Oreos. Delicious passion fruit juice was provided as a drink.
The contests included a cross country race, sack races (a fall was caught in the picture above), relay races, etc. One race required students to hop on one foot the entire distance (shown below). Another required them to balance a lime on a spoon while moving as fast as possible (the start of which is shown in the picture below the next paragraph). The little ones did a duck walk race (waddling with your butt held low to the ground) and a crab race (walking on your hands and feet with your back towards the ground).
There was one race that was a bit like a school day. The starting line was similar to a wake-up alarm, from which they ran partially down the playing field to a table to drink a glass of water (sort of like a quick breakfast). Then they ran further down the field where their school uniforms were in a pile on the ground. They had to put on their school shirt and button it, as well as their slacks or skirt. After getting dressed, they ran the rest of the way across the field to my location, where I had various multiplication questions that I gave to them in the order they arrived. As soon as they answered the question correctly, they could run all the way back across the field to the finish line.
Another race required them to remove the laces from their shoes, which were placed on the other side of the field. They started by running barefooted and carrying their laces across the field. Upon arrival at their shoes, they had to properly lace five eyelets and tie a knot before running back to the finish.
There was a competition for the younger children where they were blindfolded and then placed atop a table, where they were to try and guess where the eye of a duck was located that I had I drawn on the whiteboard. It was similar to pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
One of the most popular contests involved running to a little inflatable pool of water. You then had to fill a glass bottle that was about ten feet away from the pool by carrying water in your hands. Needless to say, it required numerous trips to fill a bottle. However, the kids seemed to enjoy getting wet and playing in the water.
Perhaps my favorite was the cross-country race. It was a long race across the playing field, across the bridge and up Back Street. Then they had to follow a path through the bush that led down the hill and eventually over to Main Street. A right turn across the Church Street bridge and then behind the church building took them back onto a path into the bush. It led to a creek crossing (which had several large but unstable stepping stones) and then up a steep hillside. A dirt road then led back to the upper edge of the playing field, and a final sprint across the length of the field to the finish line at the school.
After the start (pictured above), I headed over to the water crossing (see below) to take pictures (I was ready just in case it happened, but no one made a big splash in the creek!). When the last place student arrived, I decided to jog back with him to keep his spirits up. As we rounded the Health Center at the far edge of the playing field, we picked up the pace to race to the finish line. Everyone was cheering for us as we raced side by side to the finish.
Like many schools here, our students are divided into two arbitrary teams—the Yellow House and the Green House—for school competitions. The scores for the day were recorded on our outdoor chalkboard. It was formerly used in the classroom for our oldest students, but they now have a whiteboard glued to the wall, so the old chalkboard was moved outside under the stairwell. I often use it for my after school “Math Club.” As the picture below shows, half of the students were elated while the other half were less than thrilled.
That wasn't the end of the fun on Friday. I let all the students know that the Space Station would be flying over our heads at 6:58 PM that night. I invited them to join me next to the ocean to watch the thousands of bats fly out around 6:30 (click here to read a previous story about our bat cave ), and then watch the Space Station go over (see previous story here). Anyone who came would get a glow-in-the-dark bracelets. After these bracelets proved to be immensely popular as Christmas presents, a friend recently brought me a cardboard tube with 100 of these chemiluminescent bracelets that are fascinating to my students—they love running around in the dark with their wrists or ankles glowing. [I highly recommend these bracelets to Peace Corps Volunteers everywhere!]
My night time pictures didn't turn out well, so I took a picture of the big container while it sat on my porch rail, which also shows the pathway leading up to my cottage. Although some clouds blew in and obscured our view of the Space Station that night, everyone still had a great time. Best of all, I still have enough LumiSticks left for a future Space Station party. Maybe I will have some better pictures of the kids playing in the dark in a future story.

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