My junior year of college, I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic for spring break. This was really a dream come true. For some reason since I was in elementary school I had an intense desire to go to the DR, so when I had the opportunity I immediately snatched it up. I ended up going through an organization to help build a school associated with an orphanage there. Instead of a sterile building were the orphans were kept, there were houses on the compound, and each orphan was assigned a family of 10 to live with. I loved the warmth that this arrangement provided, and I was especially excited to help provide for them a building in which to learn! With the money that my team raised, we not only bought all the building supplies, but we also paid for a number of local men to help us with the project.

On the first day I was there I shoveled gravel into a concrete mixer for eight hours with a Dominican man. I remember him telling me that he couldn’t understand why we were here because that isn’t what he knew of American women from MTV. I loved that we were able to show them that not all Americans are those seen on MTV, and I loved the hours I got to spend talking to him. I didn’t love how I felt that next morning when I tried to get out of bed. Being in a bent over position shoveling for 8 hours when you aren’t used to doing that does a real number on your body!

DR CollageClockwise from Top Left: Shoveling gravel into a concrete mixer for 8 hours, playing with the little kids across the street, playing with a girl at the orphanage, and sunrise on Easter morning in Sosua.

There were a few little kids who lived in the houses across from where we stayed, so when we finished work for the day and had showered, we would go down and play wiht them. I knew (know?) a little spanish, and could communicate in basic ways with them. A little four year old boy started to call me his girlfriend, and at one point dragged me into his home to meet his parents. So there I was, an American girl standing in the middle of a strangers home in a little mountain town being introduced by a little 4 year old boy as his girlfriend. I tried, in my broken spanish, to explain who I was, and that I was, in fact, not his girlfriend or trying to creep on his son. He was adorable. In fact, I still have a picture of 4 of those kids on my refrigerator as a reminder of that amazing week I spent there.

The last day we drove to a resort in Sosua to spend Easter there before flying home. We hid Easter eggs for an egg hunt for kids in the town, and that was lots of fun to be a part of! After lunch, we headed to a local beach (not the one associated with the resort), and we spent a few hours snorkeling in the beautiful ocean while steel drums were playing on the beach. It was amazing, straight out of a movie. I’ll never forget it.

We didn’t end up sleeping that night at all. We stayed up all night sitting on the beach and looking at the stars. All too quickly our 4 am bus left for the airport, and we left the Dominican Republic. That week was forever etched on my heart, and I think of that time often. Every Easter week I think about the great blessing it was to meet the people I did and have the experiences I did on this wonderful island!

Now it’s your turn to share! What is your favorite spring break memory?