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The return

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“Courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country  home.” -Fra Giovanni 



These same four packs have been our constant since we began in August.  They were good to us on this journey, holding what we needed as we journeyed, teaching us the meaning of that word ‘need’.  Our packs kept us nimble, which in turn kept us moving, and the moving provided our adventure.  Today they are packed for the last leg, the leg that leads us home.  I’m writing this last blog post from the airport, as Jake is trying to get me to board the plane.  Desperately trying to get me to stop writing and get on the plane.  Not ready to say goodbye, but at the same time ready to be home. Fully trusting that we have learned enough courage along this journey, for a return. 


These chicas have grown this year, and their wanderlust has been sparked, they will never be the same. Jake and I have grown this year, and not just from the empanadas, this yea…
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Science

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When I realized we had volcanos for the 4th quarter of 6th grade science, and we had already been there, done that, I thought we might take on a little physics for homeschooling.   






Science lesson #1:
There are lots of fun things to study about the physics of air, one of Jake’s favorite is scuba.  As a certified Dive Master, he has been diving for years.  I frequently go with him, but real-talk, it freaks me out, every time.  Now that I am of a certain age, I feel like I have hit the stage in life when I can say no to things, things that other people might think are cool- but I don't.  Outdoor Music festivals would be one example, scuba is certainly another.  Plus with my advanced years of age, a bonus 12-year-old lives with us.  According to PADI, 12-year-olds are old enough to dive 40-feet underwater, and ours loves an adventure with her dad.  When she found out that her aunt Abbie was gonna come down and go diving with her, she was all in and I was all out.

These three …

Cacao by Claire Amundson

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When I was in Spain I wrote a report about Chocolate, my aunt Becky told me that when I went to the Dominican Republic I should write a report about the Cacao beans.  This is because the Spanish do not grow their own cacao, they only make it yummy.  Their cacao is grown in tropical places like the Dominican Republic.   In fact, 15% of the world's cacao beans are grown in the D.R.  We went to San Franciso de Macoris, which has a large cacao plantation to see how cacao is grown and turned into chocolate.



First, the farmers plant the trees.  I got to plant my own cacao bean, once the bean grows a foot tall, they cut down branches from a mother plant and splice it into the new plant.  A mother plant is a grown tree that has always grown lots of pods, so they hope that it will help this new plant grow lots of pods as well. 


There are three different kinds of cacao pods.  At this plantation they grew yellow and purple pods. Pods can grow on a healthy cacao tree for over …

Semana Santa in the DR

To be fair...

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Part of my sabbatical proposal this year was to work with students with disabilities.  I have been working for 3 months with three kids who are non-verbal, helping their teachers to set-up a homemade version of a picture exchange communication system (PECs).  The boy that I am working with has made huge gains, turns out he loves listening to música and will follow almost any communication demand in order to get 30 seconds of a little Enrique Iglesias.  To be fair, so would I.


The two girls have had more challenges.  I thought they were just progressing slowly, moving along at their own pace, and I was fine with that. But I was off for a week when the Greenville group come down, and I am pretty sure they had a whole week of tranquillo (chillin').  When I came back, one of the girls had completely forgotten not just what we had done for 3 months, but also forgot who I even was- that didn't feel great.  The other girl certainly remembered me, in fact she took one l…

Fortaleza San Felipe by Charlotte Amundson

.................. Christopher Columbus landed on the north coast of the island of Hispañola in 1492.  He named the location Puerto Plata, meaning silver port because he had finally found silver.   Puerto Plata became a important location for the Spanish for the next 300 years, as ships would arrive to this port using it as an entry point to travel to other parts of the Americas.  

Puerto Plata needed protection, and Fortaleza San Felipe provided military and arms to be used  against pirates and other colonizers such as the French and the English.   In May of 1800 the fort was used in the Quasi-War between the United States and France.

Fort San Felipe was first commissioned by King Felipe II of Spain in 1564 and completed by Don Rengifo de Angulo in 1577.  It sits on the hill of Puntilla Del Malecón and is strategically located as all other locations on the coast are protected by the reef and ships were only able to enter here. 
There were many similarity between this fort and forts …

Coffee by Claire Amundson

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The Dominican Republic has amazing coffee according to my mom.  The best coffee is grown in tropical climates, but up in the mountains.  We went to see how they grow coffee in a place called Jarabacoa.


First the Dominicans grow the coffee, it takes about four years before a coffee plant is ready to harvest.  Then they pick the coffee beans by hand, this takes a lot of work.  In my right hand are the coffee when you pick them from the plant, they look like berries.  The dark red ones are the best ones.  In my left hand the coffee beans have been through a machine above to take off the fruit.



Next they dry the beans in these tents to take out the moisture.  They need to get the moisture down to 11% so that takes a lot of sun.  Fortunately, the Dominican Republic has a lot of sun.  Charlotte is standing here because my mom made her.  My mom says she has a case of the teens.



Before you roast the beans you first need to hull them.  This means you take off the skin around t…