Sunday, September 18, 2016

Back-2-School Pool Party

Some of you will recall the story I wrote back in May about treating my students to an impromptu pool party. Here is the direct link if you missed that story— This story is about our latest party (shown below) that was held on Friday, September 16.
The initial pool party was such a tremendous experience for the 21 students who had followed me (Pied Piper style) on a hike that day! For nearly all of them, that had been the first time they had ever been in a real swimming pool. They were all eager to do it again, and of course, those students who had not gone on that hike with me were wanting to get the chance to experience a pool party themselves someday.

While I was home in June, I was fortunate enough to receive several monetary donations from friends to benefit my service here. As I mentioned in my blog post about my trip home, one friend gave me a check for the specific purpose of providing the students with another pool party. She had loved my blog story about that day and wanted them to be able to enjoy it one more time.

This time, we decided to make it an official school outing—a celebration at the end of the first full week of school. [This was actually the second week of school, but last week was just a four day week since the opening of the school year on Monday, September 5, was canceled due to torrential rain.] Rather than a long hike, we would rent a bus to take us over and bring us back. The hotel charged a little more this time, because we had nearly 40 people. Below is a picture of us all, squeezed on the bus as we left the school (these large buses are referred to here as "coasters").

There were a lot of minor hassles getting this official event coordinated. Making arrangements with the hotel; informing the ministry of education; securing transportation to and from; writing, printing, distributing, and then collecting parental permission letters; arranging to leave book bags at the school rather than taking them along; etc. I also had to explain to disappointed faces why we couldn't allow siblings who weren't current students to come along—it was going to be crowded enough with just our students. Thus, the preliminary work was a lot different this time than the day we merely walked up the hotel's hill to see the view and ended up with a total unplanned pool party.

Another difference was dealing with the children's anticipation as the event drew nearer. They were so excited about it! "Sir, how many more days until the pool party?" On Friday, they were really psyched and couldn't hardly wait until the end of school. "Mister Kurtz, what time is it? How much longer before we leave for the pool party?"

The good news for me was that this time, I was not the only adult. We had three teachers and several parents who came along to help supervise. I think many of the parents were a bit dubious of this endeavor, because many of them have not had much experience with swimming pools. They probably wanted to watch over their children themselves to ensure no one drowned.

I didn't get to do much swimming the last time, because I was the sole lifeguard for two pools of children entrusted to my care (40 years ago, I passed my Red Cross Lifeguard certification test—I still remember a lot of it, but hope to never need to use it). This time, with so many "supervisors," I got to spend all my time in the deeper of the two pools (which was only about five feet deep). Most of the supervisors stayed up in the shallow pool with the younger students, while one other parent (who also came dressed to swim) and I watched (and swam with) the older students in the pool down below. I even got to spend time trying to help improve their swimming techniques. In the picture below, you can see me in the upper right corner with outstretched arms encouraging a student to swim to me.

Here is another picture taken by one of the teachers, showing me having fun with the students in the water (perhaps this was when I was trying to explain entering the water with your thumbs first so that your hand slices into the water rather than slapping the water with your hands). We had a great time on this gorgeous afternoon!
I took the photo below of the lower pool before I joined them in the water. What I like about this picture (as well as the first one in this article showing the upper pool) is that if you look on the left side of the ocean horizon, you can see a mountain on the island of Guadeloupe to the north of Dominica (with a cloud overhead). Friday had started off rainy (prompting lots of student fears that the big trip they had been anxiously waiting for might get canceled), but by the time we arrived at around 3:30, the weather was beautiful, and the atmospheric conditions allowed long distance visibility. The hotel sits on a portion of the island that has a more northerly view than our village does, and it was interesting for me to have such a nice view of the French island of Guadeloupe.
I also took the picture below, a diagonal shot showing the rock wall with the waterfall from the upper pool down to the lower pool, before safely stowing away my phone and getting into the water.
Finally, here are a couple of pictures taken by one of the teachers showing the action in the shallow pool. The students had a blast! I think everyone in the village has heard about what a good time they had.
The kids are already asking “When are we going again?” [And if any of my readers ever travel to Dominica, I highly recommend the Atlantique View Hotel.]

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