Today was very hot! I have never sweat so much in my life! This morning when I went outside it was very humid and hot. I'm not sure what the temperature was, but it was quite warm!

Today we learned how to dance some of the popular dances the people here in Dominican Republic do. The first dance was the Salsa, the second dance was the Merengue and the last dance was the Bachata. Our dance instructor was a nationally award winning dancer from Dominican Republic. Needless to say, she danced very fast and it was hard for me to catch up!

I always tell people that I am too white to dance, which most of the time is true! But once I get warmed up and "broken in" I can swing my hips almost as good as the instructor! Ok, maybe not even close to as good as her, but she was quite impressed with my hip shaking abilities! Haha. After the dancing I swear I probably looking like someone dumped a bucket of water over my head! I was so sweaty and gross!

Right after class Sonni, Alex, Jordan, John and I got on a Guagua and headed down Independencia, the main avenue by where we live, and planned out our long weekend this week.

On Thursday there is a holiday here, so we have a four day weekend. A group of us are going to go to the north side of the island to Cabarete, a really nice beach town where people do surfing, kite surfing and wind surfing. We are going to rent a room or two at a beach resort. I haven't been there yet, so I don't know all the details or amazing things about it. Those posts will come later this week! :)

When I got home tonight I had chicken and plantains for dinner. After dinner my mom wanted to see photos of my family, house, friends, etc. back home so we spent time going through my pictures. It is times like this where I am really glad I use Dropbox and keep all my photos there so I can access them any time I want!

Later Joca helped me get some pictures onto my Dropbox from my camera. So, I will be posting some photos - finally!!
 
 
Today was awesome!! First, I woke up at about 6:30 so I could go to the Santo Domingo LDS Temple! I went with my new friend Sonni. I took a Guagua a few blocks west to Sonni's house and then we took a carrito (a taxi) to the temple. We went to the 9:00 session. The temple is so beautiful! As stated in a previous post, people don't have grass here in Dominican Republic, the the temple grounds do, and the landscaping is so gorgeous.

After the temple Sonni and I went and met up with some other classmates who went to Zona Colonial, the old historic part of the city. It took us a while to get there because we had to walk a ways and then take a Guagua. I bought a really awesome "Double Sixes" dominos game that is hand made! I'm excited to show it to Grandma since she is the one who taught me how to play it!

After Zona Colonial our group went to the beach again! But this time we went to Juan Dolio instead of Boca Chica. Juan Dolio is a bit further than Boca Chica, but the extra 15 minutes is worth the drive! That beach is so much more beautiful, less crowded, less people trying to sell you stuff and it has waves!!

We spent the afternoon there until about 7pm. Not everyone in our group went, but I think the was about 15 of us. I took some awesome pictures of this beach, but again, I can't upload them because I can't get them off my camera until I can use Joca's computer.

Our taxi driver dropped us off in Zona Colonial and then we took Guaguas back to our houses. If the taxi driver took each of us back to our individual houses he would have charged us about 400 pesos more per person. So, instead we only paid 25 pesos each and it probably took us about the same amount of time it would have taken with the taxi - maybe a little bit longer.

When I got home last night there were more family members at my house again. I don't think there has been a night where I haven't come home and had more people to meet and visit. I feel bad, but I don't remember hardly any of their names... But, if they are over as much as they were this last week then I'm sure ill have it all down when I leave at the end of June.
 
 
Today was really fun! We had class as usual from 9-2:30, with a one hour lunch break at noon.

Class today was kind of interesting. Like I said yesterday, I think my teacher is just getting a feel of how much we already know and what we need to learn next because there wasn't "teaching" that really went on in class today, but rather we just sat in a circle, reviewed our homework assignment from yesterday and then just talked until lunch. The teacher said we could talk about anything, but of course it had to be in Spanish. If anyone said anything on English she would stop them and tell them to say it in Spanish. After lunch it was pretty much the same thing.

After class our whole class went to Boca Chica!! We were all anticipating going to the beach ever since we got there! The car ride, which we rented three large taxi-vans (actual taxis and not Guaguas, the buses I talked about before). The car ride was about 40 minutes but thankfully those taxis have air conditioning!!

The beach was fun! I was a little disappointed because Boca Chica is more like a lagoon than a beach. There is a large rock wall that has been built a couple hundred yard out in the ocean which keeps the waves from coming in to shore. The waves are actually one reason I really wanted to go to the beach! I like it when the waves crash up against you and push you back.

There was also a ton of people walking around trying to sell us stuff. They would just walk up to us, hold put their products and try to get us to buy them. We would tell them no, but they would still just stand there. I think they stood there because they were looking at all of the "white girls" in their swim suites! Haha.

I took some pictures, but I forgot to bring my SD card adapter from home that connects to my iPad... I will have to wait until Joca, my host brother, gets home and I can use his laptop.

When I got home my family had some of their relatives over again. I sat down and visited with them for a bit. They speak so fast though! I have a hard time understanding them. I can pick out a couple words or phrases in their sentences, but it is hard to follow the conversation with only a couple words here and there.
 
 
(This post was written in my journal and I just copied it over. I say "today" but it was on Thursday)

Today our first day of having our actual class. We met at the library and had immediately got inky our classes.

My teacher's name is Veronica. I like her a lot. She is really funny and I feel like I will be able to learn a lot from her. At the beginning of the class she wanted to get to know us all better, so we went around the room and introduced ourselves and said what we like to do. Each person had to start with the first person who introduced themselves and go down the line repeating what each person before them said until the got to themselves and introduced themselves.

For lunch we went to La Sirena again. We only have an hour lunch before we have to go back to class, so we weren't able to walk around a ton.

When we went back to class our teacher had us write paragraphs about ourselves, again to get to know us better. I think she was also wanting to get an idea of what we already know, what we need to learn and want we each need to improve on.

After class our whole group decided to go down by the ocean to the park and play volleyball. Although we were right next to the ocean, there is no beach directly in the city - at least not big enough or clean enough you would want to swim in. It is really sad because there is so much garbage in the ocean in the city. The closest beach is Boca Chica, which is about 30-40 minutes east of the city.

When we were at the park playing volleyball some of us got ice cream, which was so good! The volleyball court is directly next to the main street that passes the park, which is a bad idea... Needless to say as they were playing the ball went into the street and a car purposely ran over it! It made quite a loud pop noise too!

After we couldn't play volleyball anymore most of the group decided to go to Zona Colonial, the historic district of the city. Three of us, Alex, Sonni and I decided not to go. Instead, we went to a movie. Alex and Sonni wanted to go see the new Star Trek movie. I saw it in Utah already, but since it was only $150 pesos (a little over $3) I didn't mind seeing it again. Also, on Wednesdays the movies are only $100 pesos! It's awesome that movies are so cheap here!!

That was pretty much my day on Thursday.
 
 
It has been a few days since I have made a blog post - sorry about that. I'll give an overview of the last couple of days in another post. Right now I want to focus on my house and family I am living with in the Dominican Republic.
Below are some photos of my house/condo I live in. I must admit, the houses and buildings here are not what I am used to back in Utah. Not very many people live in houses with yards, but rather live in multi story apartment buildings or multi story condos. Also, people here do not have grass; they have concrete, dirt, rocks or sometimes other types of plants.
I am very fortunate to have the family I do here in Dominican Republic. My family is very kind and welcoming. I think every night this week there have been other family members over to the house. My mom, Fifi, has eight siblings. Some of them have been over every night and tonight since it was Mother's Day here, I think all of the siblings and a lot of their families were here. It was crazy to have so many people here! I try to listen to their conversations, but they speak SO fast it is hard to comprehend much. Like I said, today is Mother's Day and so we had a TON of food! Below is a picture of my plate with my host mom filled!
I thought I was maybe going to lose a little weight while I was here - thinking that I wouldn't be eating as much, sweating like crazy and walking a ton. Well, two of those are correct, but as far as eating I think my host mom feeds me more food than the families on my mission! I have a hard time finishing it all. (note: just a minute ago while writing this my mom just asked if I wanted more food right now... we literally ate about 2 hours ago. Haha) As far as sweating, I have never sweat so much in my life! I shower in the morning, which by the way is with cold water, and as soon as I get out and dry off I feel like I had just taken another shower! My clothes stick to me like none other and I can literally feel the sweat drip down my back! I know, you wanted to know that much detail, right? I also don't want to sound like I'm complaining because I actually don't mind it and I would so much rather have this kind of weather than freezing snow and ice in Utah winters! Haha. Below is a some pictures of the big family today eating and visiting.
 
 
There is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it! I have been here for one whole day (since most of yesterday was spent at the airport) and I feel like I have learned so much!

First, I have been reminded just how much I DON'T know about Spanish, other countries, cultures, etc. I don't understand most of what is said by the locals. They speak REALLY fast and everything they say in one sentence sounds like one really long word like supercalifragileisticexpealadocious... (I probably didn't even spell that right...)

This morning I had fresh watermelon and mangos for breakfast. Can I just say that fresh mangos are probably my favorite, and any mangos or mango flavored things I have ever had in the states doesn't even come close to how good these things taste here in Dominican Republic! My host "brother" told me that it is mango season, so I'll be eating mangos everyday - fine by me! (don't worry mom, I brought plenty of anti-diarrhea stuff if I eat too much fruit)

After breakfast Carlos, my host brother, left for the university. I rode on what they call a bus - but it was unlike any bus I have ever ridden. When I was in elementary school I rode the bus almost every day. When I hear the word bus, I think of a long, yellow vehicle that fits a lot of people and has brown leather-like seats. Well, that is not even close to what these "buses" are like.

We walked 2 short blocks from our house to Independencia Avenue to catch the bus. We crossed the extremely busy street and waited for the bus. We were only there for a matter of seconds when cars and van-like vehicles started zooming by us and calling out to us. Carlos kept yelling back, "No!" He then said that they were calling out to us to see if we wanted a ride. Yep, those cars and van-like vehicles are their bus/public transportation. There are no "bus schedules" like in Salt Lake, or any major city in the United States. There is no need to make sure you are at a "bus station/stop" to catch the bus. Pretty much, you just have to be on a street corner and stick your hand out, pointing your fingers a specific way to show the driver where you are wanting to go. If they are going in the direction you are needing to go, they will swerve across traffic, almost hitting others and getting about 5 or 6 honks as they do so.

You then hop on the "bus" which can usually hold a dozen people. A bus ride costs 25 Dominican Pesos, which is probably about 55-60 U.S. cents.The bus has a door, but it does not close once you get on. Instead, it stays open and a guy stands on the edge of the doorway calling out to people as the bus driver continues down the street. When the bus stops, they guys gets out of the bus and tries to get other people who may be waiting for another bus to ride his instead.

When you are ready to get of the bus you can just yell to the driver "Aquí" which means "here." As soon as he can, he will pull over and let you out. And when I say as soon as he can, I mean that he will swerve across traffic like before when he picked you up.

We had our orientation this morning at the library of the university and me out instructors. After the orientation we went on a tour of the campus. I took pictures, but now I need to figure out a good way to get them from my digital camera onto my iPad since I only brought that and not my laptop... I forgot to bring my nice camera adapter for my iPad and digital camera... :(

After the tour of campus we had lunch. We walked across the street to La Sirena, which means "mermaid." La Sirena is an equivalent to a Target in the U.S. we had lunch there, and then took a bus tour around the city. This bus however, was a bus owned by the university, so it was an actual bus with air conditioning and everything!

On our tour of the city we drove in the colonial part of the city which comprises some really amazing architecture, military forts and even Christopher Columbus's house! We are actually going to take a Friday in a couple of weeks and see colonial Santo Domingo in more detail.

After the bus tour we had about two hours of free time until we met back at the library for a little fiesta with our host mothers. During this time some guys and I went to a little market and got a Coke, made with real sugar, unlike those made in the U.S. shortly after it started to rain. It is monsoon season, so it didn't just rain - it poured!! It was awesome.

Later in the evening my host family had a bunch of her family over for dinner. She has a really great family! They all are very nice and friendly. I sat there not understanding 90% of the conversations, but it was great practice for me to just listen.

Now, I am extremely tired, so I am going to go to bed!!

(I'll post pictures as soon as I can!)
 
 
Well, it has been a long 24 hours. I departed last night from Salt Lake City at about midnight. The plane ride to JFK seemed really long. I dosed off a time or two, but didn't really seem to get much sleep.

When we landed at JFK it was really foggy. So much that I couldn't see any of the skyline surrounding the airport. However, as we were flying towards the airport I was able to catch a glimpse of the Hudson Bay and some of New York City. For a brief second I saw the Freedom Tower and its mighty height and strength it brings to that city.

The next flight, only and hour after the first one landed, departed around 8 am. It too seemed like a long flight, however, I was able to get some sleep on that flight.

When I woke up I gazed out my window onto the ocean below. We were so high in the air that I'm sure the little white spots that would appear and then fade away were actually decent sized waves crashing and swaying on the ocean's surface.

As we got closer to the island, I could see its coastline of the north shores in the distance. I don't know why, but in a way it reminded me of Jurassic Park; and I was on my way to some mysterious island. Well, that isn't too far from the truth.

We landed, unloaded the plane, exchanged our U.S. dollars for Dominican Pesos, went through immigration and customs and finally met up with our trip coordinator who had already been here for a couple of days.

To make a long story short (about 6 hours short), we finally got everyone who flew in today (about 20 of us) into our taxis and off to our host families.

The taxi I was in had 6 other students, not counting me; Courtney, Katty, Jordan, John, Aaron and Lincoln. One by one we were dropped off at our host families, meeting them for the first time.

My family I am staying with is the Buenas family. The family consists of my host mother, her son and her sister. Oh, and don't forget the Chihuahua.

Fifi, my host mother's nickname, and her sister made me a delicious dinner consisting of rice, beans, vegetables, chicken, fried plantains and the best freshly made mango juice I have ever had!

Tomorrow morning I will go to the University for the first time, go through orientation, takes tour of campus, meet my Spanish instructor and get better aquatinted with the city.

I haven't had a chance to take any photographs yet (unless the 6 hour wait in the airport or inside of a taxi cab with homemade curtains on the windows) would have interested you, then I would have. Once I am able to walk to the ocean (which is only several blocks away from my house) I will get some good photos and post. Until then, I am going to bed! I am exhausted!!!
 
 
Tonight is the night before I leave for Dominican Republic. I have been waiting for this since February. I have been spending the last couple of days getting ready - buying some new clothes, packing, etc. 

This time tomorrow night I will be on a plane to New York City where I will have a layover, then I will be on a flight to Santo Domingo, capitol of Dominican Republic! Once there, I will spend the next five weeks in Santo Domingo learning Spanish, the Dominican culture, spending time on the beach, traveling the island and simply living it up!

I have always wanted to do something like this, so when the opportunity became available I jumped on it!

Over the next five weeks I will be posting all about my fun adventures and stories while in Dominican Republic and posting pictures of this great experience.