Mission Trip Journal – June 2011

As our busses left the Episcopal camp in El Pedregal, Tar+ had one final handshake from Carlos, one of the camp youth workers. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

A Journal of the Mission Trip, June 18-25, 2011

June 28 7:30 p.m.
I’m gradually going through the photos from the mission trip and adding them to our online photo album, and will use some in this journal as some of the rough edges are removed (hard to type on a little iPhone screen when the bus is bouncing on a dirt road….) This process will take several weeks. Then the information in the journal and the posted photos will be used to write and illustrate a trip report to summarize what we accomplished. All of this work should be completed by the end of July, 2011.

June 25 6:00 p.m.
Savannah, Mike, Julia and I are safely back home after a rainy drive from Orlando, and we hope the other team members are either home or well on the way. On the way home, we were saddened to learn of the death of one of Jim’s brothers earlier today. Jim and Tar+ were informed of the death soon after landing in Orlando. Our prayers are with the Drazdowski family in this time of sorrow.

June 25 12:20 pm
Safe landing Orlando! The mission team is back in the US.

June 25 here we go 9:43 am. Shutting down again.

June 25 9:40 am
No official announcement, but cabin crew looks like they are preparing for departure.

June 25 9:35 am
Nope, still on the ground. Some problem with the flight plan not being approved. But we’re all on board, and that’s what is important.
June 25 8:51 am
About to close cabin door. Shutting down Internet. Next stop, Orlando!

June 258:31 am
All through security, boarding airplane. All looks good for the return trip. Weather blue skies and puffy clouds.

June 25 6:44 am
On busses, headed for the airport.

June 25 6:20 am
I think we’re all in the lobby with our bags and team tshirts. Busses not here yet. Also in the lobby, about 20 construction workers in hard hats from the Phillipines? Not sure about that, but some have a flag patch on their sleeves that I think is the Phillipines flag. Will check on that. [Confirmed: Phillipines, and they are gold miners. A potential gold mine has recently been discovered in the Dominican Republic, and I guess the miners are headed there.]

June 25 5:00 a.m.
It’s time to go home. Awake in the hotel and starting final packing preparations to be ready in the hotel lobby at 6 a.m.

June 24 8:42 p.m.
Julia, Grady and I had a good meal at a restaurant near the hotel and came right back to rest and prepare for Saturday. We are to be in the hotel lobby with bags packed at 6 a.m., with our busses scheduled to arrive at 6:30. Our flight time (JetBlue 1718 to Orlando) is 9:10 a.m. This is one of those genuine “don’t miss the bus” moments. Julia and I have mostly packed already, and plan to get up at 5 a.m. to complete the task.

June 24 5:22 p.m.
We split into smaller groups to look around the Colonial Zone this afternoon. Some of us went to a nearby grocery store to buy Dominican coffee and vanilla extract to bring home tomorrow. We will also form small groups to go to supper at the many restaurants in this area. None of the restaurants is very large, and splitting up will avoid overwhelming any of the restaurants. The only stipulation is that no one can go off alone.

June 24 12:54 p.m.
Hotel check-in went smoothly, and most of us are resting in our rooms before venturing out for sightseeing in the area of the hotel, known as the Colonial District because it is the oldest part of the city. One building by the harbor is the actual headquarters used by Christopher Columbus when he administered the island of Hispanola for Spain. Tar+ has offered to take a group to the Roman Catholic cathedral, about ten minutes away, at 2 p.m. Supper tonight is on our own, but we’re advised to stay in the general area of the hotel and not to go out alone. This particular area is fairly safe, but the side streets lead into other areas of Santo Domingo where tourists are cautioned not to enter without an escort.

June 24 12:22 pm
In Santo Domingo, checking into hotel.

June 24 9:24 am
Smooth, but sad, departure from El Pedregal at 8:40 this morning. Padre Carlos was wearing the mission tshirt we gave him last night, and the camp staff assembled outside the dorm to wave goodbye to us. At the community dinner last night, Padre Carlos said that our team was one of the ones the village looks forward to each year because many of the mission team members return year after year. There are many mutual friendships between the villagers and the returning mission team members, and more have been added this year.

We should be in Santo Domingo around 12:30 pm.

June 24, 6:22 am
Up, packed, enjoying morning coffee.

At the community dinner Thursday night, Savannah presented a stole decorated with thumbprints of the VBS children to Padre Carlos. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

Tar+ also received a stole with the fingerprints of the village children. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

June 23 10:46 p.m.
The dance after the community dinner is still going strong, judging from the music coming from the dining room. Before the dinner began, Padre Carlos and Tar+ both received stoles with thumbprints from the children of El Pedregal in brightly colored paint. Tar+ gave team crosses and t-shirts to the camp and church employees who had helped us during the week. The food for the dinner was a mixture of home-cooked Dominican dishes and American pizza (from a Jarabacoa pizza place). After dinner, dancing started and is still ongoing.

After supper, there was dancing to recorded music. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

The young woman in the yellow shirt is Annie (not sure of the spelling there), one of the senior camp EYC members. She was one of the translators for the team. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

Friday morning our busses arrive at 8:30 for the drive to Santo Domingo. That means an early morning packing session for all of us, as we decide what to pack and what to leave behind for our Dominican friends. Padre Carlos will be in charge of apportioning out what we leave among the village residents according to his assessment of their situations. This is an annual practice for us and, we suspect, other mission teams – leaving behind what we don’t absolutely need since the needs here are so great.

June 23 8 pm
Community dinner about to start. Villagers and team members filing into dining room. Some new photos in online album, not captioned yet. Most from swim party this afternoon.

Mitchell dances with the little girls at the swim party Thursday afternoon. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

June 23 5:00 p.m.
Some kinda afternoon! After lunch, most of us took a walk through the village, escorted by the EYC members who workbat the camp. Bonnie rode on the back of a motorbike. We got back to camp just in time for the start of the water splash party. Large blue tarps and several inflatable swimming pools had been set out on the lawn, and after the children were grouped by age and gender, they dove into their assigned pool and started to have a great time. The tarps were wet with a film of soap, and they liked to slip and slide on them. There was a loudspeaker with dance music, and some of the older teenagers – including the ones on our team – started to dance as couples and as groups.

At the end of the water party, the children each received a hot dog as they exited the camp grounds. To us, one hot dog didn’t seem so much, but here the hot dogs and buns are at least twice the size of those in the US. The children ate as they walked down the road to their homes in El Pedregal.

Tonight we will have a community dinner with a mingling of food from the village residents and from the USA (via a pizza restaurant in Jarabacoa). We think dancing will follow the dinner.

Haven’t had time to post photos this afternoon, but will try to get at least some cell phone images up on the attached album tonight.

June 23 10:33 am
Work going well on our last full day here. Weather sunny and warm, some white clouds in the sky. In the excavation site, rocks that had been dug up from the site are being carried to another site at the rear of the camp to reinforce a retaining wall just before a steep drop down a cliff into the river below. A trench is being dug on the site of the former chain link fence by the church for eventual installation of a concrete block wall. During this digging, unfortunately a water line was broken that supplies water to about ten houses, and our Dominican site foreman immediately plugged the leak with a stick and went for repair supplies.

Justin+ and Lonnie+ visited the Canadian medical clinic in the village to become more familiar with that operation, and then went to a nearby house where they visited withva grandmother and her invalid grandson. They prayed with the whole group and blessed the grandson. At this same site, they also observed a house that had been worked on by the June 2010 team, but had seen no progress since then. They also checked out the completed roofing jobs on our two houses completed on this trip.

Four students were selected to sing a song during the graduation exercise. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

June 22 9:35 p.m.
There are some new photos up on the mission trip’s album that I’ve not had time to add to this journal page. They are mostly from today’s school graduation. I’ll work early Thursday morning to upload more photos of additional activities from Wednesday. FIXED THAT PROBLEM; NEW PHOTOS FROM ALL ACTIVITIES ON WEDNESDAY ARE IN THE ATTACHED PHOTO ALBUM AND SOME HAVE BEEN ADDED TO THIS JOURNAL PAGE. — Thursday, 5:54 a.m.

After supper tonight, Tar+ went over the schedule for Thursday and Friday morning. The roofing projects on the two houses are complete. The fence by the side of the church has been taken down, but we probably won’t be able to make much more progress on that task (replacing the fence with a concrete block wall) since the rubble from the fence line base will need to be cleared away first, then a new foundation prepared for the blocks that will make up the wall. Some material for a new project, installing bathroom ceilings in a new dorm building, may start tomorrow, but perhaps only to test one way to accomplish the task. VBS is over, but there will be a knitting class involving making colorful Cursillo materials such as rainbows and roosters.

Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. we will hold our traditional “splash party” for the village children, complete with inflated wading pools and slip and slide tarps. The children will also be served a meal of hot dogs and chips.

The community is coming to a pot luck supper at the camp Thursday night, and our contribution to that supper will be pizza from a pizza restaurant in Jarabacoa. It comes to the camp via a motorcycle delivery person with the pizza boxes strapped to the back of the motorcycle – will have to see if I can get a photo of that.

Friday morning we pack up and board our busses to Santo Domingo at 8:30 a.m. We spend Friday night in a hotel in Santo Domingo to be close to the airport for our 9:00 a.m. flight back to Orlando.

June 22 6:21 pm
What an afternoon! Starting at 4:30, a grand graduation parade of school children from the outskirts of Jarabacoa into the Episcopal camp, a distance of two miles, accompanied by a 10-piece band – and a clown. Tar+ marched in the parade as the guest of honor. The graduation exercise was held on the camp lawn, and the US Episcopal mission team received a round of applause. Tar+ was called to the podium and expressed the love our team and our home churches have for the people of El Pedregal. Stefani translated for her. The children received graduation certificates, and a group of honor students saluted the Dominican Republic and the United States by waving the two national flags. Rain descended just as the event ended, and everyone scattered for cover.

In one photograph, one of the great joys of this mission trip. The woman on the right is telling Grady and Julia that before she attended our knitting classes last year, she did not know how to knit. She is proudly showing a knitted baby block that she has made this year from a pattern taught in Monday's class. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

Wednesday's VBS activities included decorating foam crosses and bookmarks with Bible stickers. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

June 22 3:00 p.m.
Knitting class today featured patterns for wash cloths as a way to emphasize different patterns for the same object. As the class ended, the knitters drew numbers to determine the order in which they came up individually to choose three items (needles or yarn) from a large group of assorted knitting supplies donated by several people and church organizations all across the Diocese of Georgia and several other dioceses also. Not all of those donations were given away today, so there will be a second round tomorrow. The knitters enjoyed this activity and seeing what items other people picked out. White yarn in particular was very popular, and we need to figure this out since we tend to prefer colored yarns and those made up most of the donated supplies.

Bonnie (on crutches) re-visits the scene of her accident. She's walking around fine on the crutches now. On Wednesday, her ankle was xrayed at an orthopedic clinic in Jarabacoa and that examination confirmed that it was just a sprain, not a fracture. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

June 22 12:30
Almost lunchtime. A swirl of activity this morning. Roof on one house painted, roof on house 1 finished, roof on house 2 almost done, fence by church taken down, excavation deeper but still in progress, fans in dining room almost installed. Graduation for kindergarten set up in front lawn of camp with stage, balloons, little chairs for the children, big chairs for the adults. Breeze feels good.

June 22 10:19 am
OK, here we go. Several projects ongoing right now. Roofing house 1, roofing house 2, replacing fence around part of church with cement block wall, digging more on excavation site, painting roof on house on camp grounds, installing ceiling fans in dining room. VBS and knitting materials also being prepared for the afternoon.
Hard for the ol’ photographer to be everywhere at once, but he’s trying. Clothes already soaked from the humidity this morning.

June 22 5:50 a.m.
Up and in the dining hall, waiting with Jim Drazdowski for the coffee to be ready. Jim volunteers to get up early and plug in the coffee pot so coffee will be ready around 6 each morning. Somewhat cool last night and this morning, blanket or at least a sheet required last night. I would estimate the temperature in the lower 70’s, but don’t know for sure.

A team member brought along a large number of handmade metal wire crosses, about a inch high, and we are giving them out to village residents when the occasion seems right. After compline last night, several team members told about such exchanges, including one with a village resident who spoke perfect English through long residence in the US and who did not seem aware of what we were doing in the village on this mission trip. She was happy when she found out, and so she got a pocket cross. About 20% of the Dominican population lives abroad, mostly in the US, so there are several people in the village who have lived in the US, including the senior warden of the Episcopal church here.

June 21 9:52 p.m.
We did not get to walk through the village after work ended today because of the threat of thunderstorms and lightning, both of which were visible in the area but stayed away from the Episcopal camp. After supper at 6:30, the leadership team met with Tar+ to review the day and plan for Wednesday. Two new items for Wednesday will be that we will form a fourth construction crew under Mike Richardson’s leadership to install ceilings in a new dorm building that’s not quite ready for use, and some of us will attend a graduation exercise for the school. We don’t know what grades this will involve, but will find out tomorrow.

A member of our team, Bonnie Hanson, sprained her ankle late this morning while working on the excavation site. She was examined by Cheryl Perkins, the other MD on our team, and also by Sharyn Branson, a Canadian physician’s assistant who operates a medical clinic in El Pedregal. Sharyn and her husband, Paul, are missionaries who live in Jarabacoa and are long-time friends of the Christ Church mission teams here although they belong to another denomination. When Paul heard about Bonnie’s injury, he brought a pair of crutches from the clinic for her to use, and alerted Sharyn who came to examine Bonnie in consultation with Cheryl.

Just before Compline at 8:30 p.m., I relayed today’s announcement from the Diocese of Georgia that the bank loan for Honey Creek had been paid in full. We like to think of the Episcopal camp in El Pedregal as the Dominican Honey Creek, but tonight we reversed the thought and were glad that the Georgia version of the Camp of the Mount of the Transfiguration had been saved.

One of our construction teams roofed a new house. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

Experienced Dominican knitters instructed others in Tuesday's class. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

In VBS, the children continued to work on a stole featuring their thumbprints. Click this photo to see other photos from this mission trip.

June 21 4:10 pm
Work has ended for the day. Half of roofing metal on house 1. We would like to walk through the village before supper, but we have high winds now and rumbling thunder getting closer and closer. Really big dark cloud on one side of El Pedregal, headed this way.

June 21 3:25 pm
Afternoon’s work going well. The roofing metal sheets are going up on house site 1, and we have started work on house site 2. In that location, we helped the Dominicans remove rotted rafters and metal sheets covering a house, and will install new rafters and sheet metal panels. VBS featured bead work, Bible stories told by Dominican teachers, and decorating the felt hand prints with stickers. Knitting was crocheting today, with a pattern for a large, colorful cross. The knitters/crocheters returned to class with the colorful bags they got in class on Monday and also with the laminated patterns for all projects this week. The digging of the foundation for the substation is almost comported, and the afternoon work involved spreading out the excavated dirt and piling up rocks that had been dug up.

Weather is hot and partly cloudy, with what looks like thunderstorms on the horizon.

June 21 1056 am
Work on roofing one house well underway. Wooden joists are half done and painted metal sheets are ready on site. This concrete block house is in the middle of two wooden houses and will replace both.

Digging at the substation power station site also continues, with the deepest cut over 7 ft high. The dirt is being taken downhill on a wheelbarrow and team members are scattering it on the ground in the middle of a cluster of banana trees.

Weather remains blue skies and white clouds. Had a few gray clouds this morning, but they blew over without raining on us.

There was not enough workspace on the two sites, roofing and digging, for all of our construction team members to work at the same time, so several of us started clearing trash and rubble from the back of the school area and also playing with the children who are constantly around. Some of the children helped us carry roofing beams and metal sheets to the house being roofs, and we appreciated their help.

June 21 6:00 am
During a sharing time yesterday, Grady Lacy, the father of Lonnie+, told us about a central metaphor in Padre Carlos’ sermon on this past Trinity Sunday. Padre Carlos talked about the Trinity by saying that it was like going to a store and buying a three-for-one special, where you pay for one item but get three, and that he was the sales clerk and the Church was the store. And the price – free.

June 21 5:45 am
Marilynne sent an e-mail message at 11:30 last night with the happy news that she was safely home in Tifton, had enjoyed a hot shower, but missed the mission team members. She had read about our work on Monday through this trip journal, and was happy that everything had started well. I’ll read her message to the team at breakfast this morning.

Since Marilynne mentioned the water situation, I’ll elaborate by adding that the camp dorm bathrooms do not have hot water. Water pressure was restored in most bathrooms Sunday night, but the water is cold – but refreshing after a hot day under the El Pedregal sun.

The camp is on the top of a flat space on a hill (“The Mount of the Transfiguration”), and so in the mornings we can hear the roosters crowing both on the camp grounds and in the valleys around the camp.

June 20 10:05 pm
Thunderstorms rolled over El Pedregal late this afternoon and early evening, but no significant rain fell on the camp. Before supper, our teenagers and the Dominican teenagers played volleyball and baseball on the camp lawn, or sat in groups to practice each other’s language. Supper was at 6:30, with yellow rice mixed with beans, pasta salad, and meatballs. After supper, Tar+ convened a meeting of the people responsible for different areas to share ideas on how the first day had gone, and passed along some of those comments to the full group when we assembled at 8:30 for Compline.

We were pleased to get a text from Marilynne that her flights from the Dominican Republic had gotten her safely back to Florida and that her husband had met her to drive herb back to Tifton. We prayed for her family at Compline.

Tuesday will feature more of the same activities as Monday, but with a different project at the knitting class and different crafts at VBS. The construction crew that painted the roofing panels will take them somewhere for installation, but that location or locations has not been identified to us yet. The crew working on excavating the hillside will continue that work, making the excavated site even deeper.

After work tomorrow, we plan to walk through the village of El Pedregal, guided by one of the Dominican teenagers who work at the camp.

Another one of our construction tasks Monday was to dig out the foundation for a new electrical substation.

The knitting class on Monday featured the pattern for a baby play block.

Vacation Bible School was held in the Episcopal school classrooms.

June 20 2:55 pm
Knitting and VBS have begun. We had 60 bags full of knitting supplies for sixty knitters, and all 60 have been given out. Lots of teenagers came early to get a head start before they had to report for VBS duty. The project today is making a six-sided block as a child’s toy.

VBS is in the school, with the children grouped by age. They are coloring a Bible story book and listening to Bible stories told by Dominican teachers. One of our team members, Joel, is going from room to room, juggling. Other team members assisted the children in crafts like drawing an outline of one of their hands on felt, putting their name on it, and cutting it out. Another craft project was to imprint a fingerprint in brightly colored paint on a stole, with the fingerprints in the design of fruits on a vine. What will the hand prints and the stole be used for? Stay tuned.

Painting the roof panels and digging the foundation have also resumed. The foundation is to be for an electrical substation for the camp’s electricity supply. The foundation is being dug into the side of a hill, and many rocks had to be dug up and removed from the site. As the digging proceeded, levels of dirt were carefully separated from levels of sand, with the sand being retained for use later in mixing mortar for the concrete blocks when that step in the process arrives.

June 20 11:45 am
About to break for lunch. One construction crew has been digging out the side of a hill near the camp dormitory for a retaining wall, and the other crew has been painting sheets of roofing metal that will be put on two houses later. One house in near the church and is to be a kindergarten, and I don’t know about the second house yet. The VBS materials and arts & crafts supplies are all arranged I’m the school classrooms, and the knitting supplies are in the camp dining room. Knitting begins at 2 pm, VBS at 3 pm

Tar+ returned from taking Marilynne to the airport and said that although her reservation on an early flight fell through, she did make a later flight at 11 am. So we’re hoping she’s in the air right now on the way to Miami, and then on to Jacksonville where her husband will pick her up.

June 20 9:30 am
Work has begun. One construction crew is digging a foundation trench for a concrete block retaining wall. The VBS material is being put out in classrooms in the school. The knitting supplies are out in the dining room (knitting classroom). Weather clear, blue skies. Two other construction crews awaiting instructions to move to their designated roofing sites.

June 20 6:09 a.m.
Taxi arrived on time, and Marilynne left on time. In addition to Tar+, Padre Carlos sent one of his youth workers, Pedro, to ride along in the taxi and escort them to the airport. Pedro is the son of Tomasina, one of the camp cooks, and he is the young man who brought knitted goods made with yarn donated by the June 2010 mission team to Santo Domingo in the fall of 2010 to sell to the St. Paul’s Savannah mission team for re-sale in their bookstore. Tar+ and Marilynne are in good hands.

June 20 5:42 a.m.
Up early, waiting for the taxi from Jarabacoa that will take Marilynne and Tar+ to the airport in Santiago, a city about an hour’s drive north. That airport is smaller than the one in Santo Domingo, but has international flights. Tar+ is going to help Marilynne with any last-minute travel arrangements, and will then return to the camp.

Some rain last night, cool this morning. Skies seem clear as the dawn breaks.

After my last post last night, we had Compline at 8:30 in both Spanish and English, alternating languages throughout the service from our bi-lingual service booklet that Jim Drazdowski made. Then we got to know each other a little more, with one team member talking about another team member. We “interviewed” each other fir five minutes, then took turns doing the “introductions.” This helped to merge the team “veterans” and the “first-time” team members.

June 19 7:25 p.m.
One of our team members, Marilynne Marshall from St. Anne’s, Tifton, received the sad news early this afternoon that her mother-in-law died earlier this morning. After contacting her husband in Tifton, she made plans to fly back home early Monday morning. Our whole team deeply regrets her loss and will miss her participation in the mission work, and wish her “traveling graces” as she leaves El Pedregal around 6 a.m. on Monday morning.

People from the village and the camp come here to swim in the Jimenoa River, about a mile from the camp.

Joshua was one of the team members who jumped from a cliff into the Jimenoa River.

Updating the rest of the afternoon: a large group did go to the Jimenoa River for swimming around 2 p.m. this afternoon. This river has a popular gathering spot where people can swim, play in the sand on the river bank, and jump into the water from cliff edges — some high, some low. After everyone returned to camp, we all assembled in front of the main dormitory building in our team shirts for a group photo, since Marilynne would be leaving in the morning. Then came supper (yellow rice, pork chops, fried plantains? (not sure about that last one, but they tasted good). After supper, we met with Padre Carlos to go over the plan for the week. We have three construction tasks, two involving putting on joists for roofs and the other working with concrete blocks on house walls. We will start the knitting and VBS sessions on Monday — VBS includes both lessons and arts & crafts. These will continue every day through Thursday. On Wednesday afternoon there will be a school graduation ceremony, which if I heard correctly only involved the kindergarden children. (Stay tuned for more details there.)

We presented Padre Carlos with a ciborium to match the chalice our mission team gave several years ago.

June 19 12:45 p.m.
Couldn’t update before now because of the rush of events this morning. Trip continues to go well, weather is actually blue skies and white puffy clouds, not the rain we were expecting. we had breakfast this morning and then went to the Church of the Transfiguration at 9 for the worship service. Four priests were present, vested, and participating in the service: Padre Carlos, and our Tar+, Justin+, and Lonnie+. The service was mainly in Spanish, but our priests celebrated the Eucharist in English while the Domincan congregation followed along in a bi-lingual service booklet. We presented Pad Carlos with a ciborium that matches the chalice our team donated several years ago. Two groups of EYC teenagers danced for us as a show of appreciation for our mission work. Following the service, we rested at the camp and then had liunch at 12:00. In addition to the ciborium presented at the church service, at lunch we presented Padre Carlos with a photo album of pictures of the camp, the church, and him both as a deacon (June 2010) and on his first Sunday in El Pedregal as a priest (February 2011). We also gave him two coffee cups bearing the seal of the Episcopal school that is a part of the Mount of the Transfiguration facility.

This afternoon we plan a trip to the river for swimming, weather permitting (conditions can change rapidly here….) and then rest time.

June 18 10:30 p.m.
After supper, we worked to set up the dorms and then had a team meeting and Compline at 9:30. The schedule on Sunday will be breakfast at 7:30 a.m., church at 9 a.m., and then time to relax and see more of the village for the rest of the day. We won’t have any work projects on Sunday. Padre Carlos will discuss the week’s projects with us Sunday afternoon, and then we’ll plan for those activities to start Monday morning.

After supper, Padre Carlos introduced his staff and youth workers, and we introduced ourselves to them.

Padre Carlos (yellow shirt) and several of his camp staff members and church youth workers met us when we arrived.

June 18 8:18 pm
Safely at the camp! Unloaded the luggage, moved into the dorm rooms, eating supper (rice, beans, fried chicken, carrots, potatoes). Life is good. Padre Carlos introduced his staff and youth workers to us after supper, and they all expressed the hope that we would complete successful mission work during the coming week.

June 18 7:30 pm
In Jarabacoa, 3 or 4 miles from the camp. Will post again after we get unloaded and set up for the night. Need to work photographing our arrival and help unload the luggage.

June 18 6:56 pm
Stopped at a rest stop / restaurant plaza for a break a few minutes ago. Now back on the road. ETA at the camp 8:15 or so. We have a long, steady drive up a twisty mountain road to get to Jarabacoa, and then will drive through Jarabacoa to El Pedregal and the camp.

Rained heavily earlier this afternoon, but clear now. Temperature in the high 70’s, I estimate.

June 18 5:05 pm
Just now leaving Santo Domingo; traffic heavy, plus bus had to re-fuel. ETA at the camp 8:30 pm or so. Will be a long day, but worth it.

June 18 3:51 pm
Safe landing in Santo Domingo at 2:45 pm. Out of airport and on busses at 3:45. Now on the four hour drive to the camp. All team members and luggage made it ok.

June 18 12:27 pm
Delay in pulling away from gate to replace airplane part; they let us turn on our phones to communicate; part fixed; about to pull away now. Landing should not be too delayed, according to the pilot.

June 18 11:50 a.m.
Cabin door closed, turning off tech gear. Will try to post again as soon as we land in Santo Domingo. Vamanos!

June 18 11:45 a.m.
Trying to count 30 team members. Airplane has small computer problem which needs to be fixed, but pilot anticipates no delay in landing. Tar+ has counted to 30 – we’re all on board!

June 18 11:37 a.m.
Boarding has started. About 10 team members on board already. Sunny skies overhead.

June 18 11:14 a.m.
First set of team members through security. Airplane at gate.

June 18 10:15 a.m.
All 30 team members are now at the airport. Still in the check-in process.

June 18 8:30 a.m.
Airport check-in has begun. Tar+, Julia and I were in the first wave, and checked in without problems. We had some concern because most of us were traveling on a “group ticket,” and we approached the check-in counter with some worries about that – no security of having an individual ticket receipt in hand. But it all worked well, and we saved a lot of money with the group discount. Now we’re waiting by the JetBlue counter for the others to arrive and check in.

June 18 7:15 a.m.
The departure day has arrived. The team members will be riding the hotel’s shuttle van to the Orlando airport, about five minutes away, and checking in for our 12:05 p.m. flight. With 30 of us, it will take several van trips to get all of us and our luggage there.

June 17 8:45 p.m.
The team gathered at 8:45 p.m. at the Sheraton to discuss the details of the plan for Saturday and our arrival at the Episcopal camp at El Pedregal late Saturday afternoon. Tar+ assigned leadership responsibilities to several team members covering such areas as liaison with Padre Carlos, the priest in charge of the camp and its church and school; knitting; Vacation Bible School, arts and crafts, construction teams #1 and #2, housekeeping, keys and locks, photography and telecommunications, and the daily worship services. We also discussed specific sanitation measures to take to avoid illnesses while we are in the Dominican Republic. The shuttles to the airport will start running at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and our flight is at 12:06 p.m. (JetBlue #1717). The dufflebags with knitting supplies and donated t-shirts were all assigned to individual team members who will check them as part of their personal checked baggage allowance on the flight.

June 17 7:45 p.m.
Other team members, including Tar+ and Jim, are arriving now and are checking into the Sheraton. Our team meeting is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. in the hotel lobby, and we’ll go over the plan for Saturday and our arrival at the Episcopal camp late that afternoon or early that evening. Julia, Savannah, Mike and I ate supper at a nearby T.G.I.F. restaurant, and others are eating there now or in the Sheraton’s restaurant.

June 17 5:06 p.m.
Just saw Jim Ellis in the hotel lobby. She flew from Alabama to Orlando earlier today, and has already talked with the hotel staff to make reservations on the hotel – airport shuttle bus in the morning.

June 17 4:45 p.m.
T-shirts have been picked up in Valdosta by the Beelands and are headed south. Some might question our practice of having all team members wear identical, brightly-colored t-shirts on the flight to Santo Domingo and then again on the return flight to Orlando, but it is Tar+’s experience that moving through airport security, immigration and customs as a team facilitates our transit from start to finish. Tar+ also travels wearing her clerical collar, another tactic to help overcome potential roadblocks as we pass through the airport.

June 17 4:05 p.m.
The team members have begun to arrive at the Sheraton Suites hotel near the Orlando airport entrance. Savannah, Mike, Julia and I are here, and Tar+, Jim, Marge and Liz are expected soon. Tar+ likes to say that we leave home with Plan A firmly in hand, and soon thereafter shred that plan and go on to Plan B, or whatever comes next. That proved true for this trip, with the team t-shirts being left behind in Valdosta by mistake. But Tar+ was able to alert other late-departing team members, who will be able to get the t-shirts and bring them on to Orlando tonight. So Plan B doesn’t look too bad, but we’re sure that Plan C is waiting in the wings.

June 17 3:45 p.m.
Had a message from Michael that he, Fred and Justin+ were on the road from Statesboro to Orlando.

June 16 10:20 p.m.
The thirty members of our mission team are packing their bags and preparing to travel to Orlando on Friday for our flight to the Dominican Republic on Saturday. We have a team meeting at 8:45 p.m. Friday night at the Sheraton Suites hotel near the entrance to the Orlando airport. One task at that meeting will be to distribute seven duffle bags packed with knitting supplies for the knitting classes we plan to teach, plus other duffle bags packed with VBS supplies. Each person on our team brings one suitcase with personal items, and some also volunteer to carry one of the “team supplies” duffle bags. JetBlue passengers to the Dominican Republic can only check two bags, and each bag must fit size dimensions and weigh less than 50 pounds.

This journal is being maintained by Julius Ariail, the photographer for the mission team.

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Christ Episcopal Church will be sponsoring a mission trip to the village of El Pedregal in the Dominican Republic from June 18-25, 2011. For an annotated satellite photo map of the Episcopal camp and the village of El Pedregal, go here. For a view of this area in Google Maps that you can zoom in and out to see more of the surrounding area and the nearby city of Jarabacoa, go here.