Exploration Trip Journal – February 2011

A rubber shoe sole makes a hinge for a gate at a church construction site in Santo Domingo.

This journal for the current exploration trip to explore potential mission sites in the Dominican Republic is being maintained by Julius Ariail, the team photographer. Photographs are posted in this online album. This album will be updated as conditions permit during the trip. Note: names of people and places in this journal may not be accurate, and will be corrected at a later date. Please send notes on needed corrections here.

April 5, 2011 11:00 a.m.
I’m thinking my work on this trip journal is completed. I’ve corrected a few errors in the text and in links to photos this morning. The trip report is completed and is available here. The online photo album is also completed and is available here. However, if anyone spots an error, please let me know by sending an email message here.

March 1, 2011 12:45 p.m.
I’ll be refining this journal in the next few days and adding about 600 photos to the linked online photo album here. Eventually, we’ll compose a trip report to summarize our trip and our thoughts about what to do next, but that will take a week or so to put together and post. The trip journal will remain online as a supplement to that trip report, as will the online photo album. Photos in the online album may be downloaded for use in Episcopal congregations and others engaged in mission work in the Dominican Republic directly from that album.

March 1, 2011 1:00 a.m.
My wife, Julia, met us at the Orlando airport and drove Tar+ and me back to Georgia. Since Julia and I live in Lake Park, about 13 miles south of Valdosta, Tar+’s husband, Jim, came to Lake Park to meet us and was waiting in the parking lot of the Waffle House when we arrived. At the time we left the airport, the other team members were also planning to drive directly to their homes, with the option to stop and spend the night along the way if they were too tired to continue safely.

[We did have an unexpected security inspection in the Orlando airport that caught most of us off guard. After we got off the plane and passed through US immigration and customs, we were directed into another security inspection line where we had to pour out liquids in our drinking bottles, pass all carry-on baggage, shoes, and jackets through a scanning machine and step through a metal detector ourselves using exactly the same procedure as if we were going to a departing flight. I haven’t ever had to do that to *enter* an airport before, but learned from other experienced travelers later that this practice is not uncommon and is used at unpredictable times for reasons known only to US Homeland Security. In any case, we were happy to be safety-certified twice! and back on US soil again.]

February 28, 2011 8:15 p.m.
Safe landing in Orlando!

The path of JetBlue Flight 1718 from Santo Domingo to Orlando.

February 28, 2011 6:00 p.m. AST
Boarding in progress, all systems go for takeoff. Shutting down in seat 12B. Have switched my watch back to GA time, 5:00 p.m. Orlando here we come!

February 28, 2011 5:00 p.m.
All ten of us are through airport security with our passports and boarding passes in hand, waiting for the airplane for JetBlue flight 1718 to arrive at the gate. Looks like takeoff will be about 40 minutes late. Will try to update again after we all get on board, but might have to shut down before then. Will definitely update from the Orlando airport.

February 26, 2011 1:00 p.m.
10 km to airport.

February 28, 2011 12:56 p.m.
In Santo Domingo. Misty rain. We can see the Caribbean Sea. The highway from Santo Domingo to the airport runs right along the coast.

February 28, 2011 10:40 a.m.
On the way to the Santo Domingo airport, three hours away. Flight leaves at 5:20 p.m. We had better make it, because I’m out of clean clothes and about out of international cell phone data package megabytes. Allowance is 200 MB in the package I bought, and I’m at 190 now.

Children in an Episcopal day care shelter in San Francisco, a city in the Dominican Republic

At the Episcopal shelter for homeless and street children (those left on the streets to fend for themselves while their parents work at day labor jobs).

February 28, 2011 10:27 a.m.
Just leaving a children’s shelter in San Francisco run by an Episcopal priest and his wife. In addition to “regular” day care children, the shelter takes care of some street children who either are homeless or are locked out of their homes for the day when their parents go to work.

February 28, 2011 9:30 a.m.
Left camp on time at 8:30, now getting close to church and children’s shelter in San Francisco. Lots of rice fields in this area.

February 28, 2011 5:30 a.m.

Allison Clarkson distributing presents to the schoolchildren.

Our last morning at the Episcopal diocesan camp, on the Discovery Trip, and in the Dominican Republic. If all runs according to plan today, we’ll take a 5:20 p.m. flight from Santo Domingo to Orlando, and from there by car to our homes. Some of us will drive on from Orlando this evening, and others will overnight in Orlando and head home Tuesday morning.

But first we need to pack up, have a quick breakfast at the camp, board our bus at 8 (will it be here on time? Stay tuned….), and visit a church and children’s shelter about an hour away before getting on the major highway that runs from here through Santo Domingo and then to the airport.

The Rev. Sam Buice with an attentive group of schoolchildren.

The Rev. Tar Drazdowski

Once I get back home, I’ll tidy up this journal and the linked photo album, then add in about 600 more photos to that album. This should take about 10 days to complete. Eventually, there will be a trip report composed by team members posted online as part of the Companion Diocese Commission web pages, and this journal will be a supplement to that report.

But first, let’s see if there’s some coffee ready in the dining room.

February 27, 2011 10:17 p.m.
About 30 new photos from today have been edited and uploaded to the linked Picasa album. Because of the Internet limitations at the camp, some of the photos uploaded in the wrong order and I can’t correct that easily. Will be able to straighten them out next week from home.

Walking around town, with children

February 27, 2011 5:00 p.m.
What a day! Breakfast at 8, church at 9, a combination school children’s party & tribute to The Rev. Tar for the mission teams she has brought to this community at 11, lunch at 12, walk through the village at 1, during which we bought several dozen scarves and other handmade goods to bring home to sell to support mission work, a group meeting of knitters to learn their preferences for the June 2011 mission team here, some quiet time / hiking to the waterfall time / updating the journal time – and that last task is in the works.

Padre Carlos' First Eucharist

As I mentioned earlier, today was Padre Carlos’ first time to celebrate the Eucharist after his ordination a week ago, and The Rev. Tar+ assisted during the service by setting the altar, blessing the children, and giving the benediction. The children’s party was a wild affair with a hundred or so children in school uniforms in the camp dining room where they received refreshments and toys. The mission team members helped to distribute those. Padre Carlos paid tribute to Tar+, and she answered by saying that her work here was not about herself but about building community between our churches and our two dioceses.

After lunch we walked through the town with several Episcopal young people as our guides. We visited one house site where the 2010 mission team had worked, and sadly that site is still uninhabitable and not much further along than it was when we left. We were able to buy several sacks of knitted items to bring home (if we can find room in our suitcases….)

Pablo shows Tar+ the living room in his house that the June 2010 mission team helped to construct.

The knitting meeting discussed several projects, and basically the knitters here are interested in additional variants on the purse project of 2010 plus some new projects such as knitted jewelry and cords made of white cotton string. Cursillo items are also a possibility since the Dominican Cursillo meets here.

After supper tonight we hope to spend some time as a group talking about our impressions of the week and perhaps some initial thoughts on specific mission trip projects that might come out of what we have seen.

Hope to be able to upload 10 or so photos late tonight. Early departure from the camp on Monday, 8 am or so. We are scheduled to see one or two more potential sites in San Franciscio before we head to the airport for our 5:20 pm flight to Orlando.

February 27, 2011 6:00 a.m.
After trying several different methods, I’ve uploaded several high-resolution photos from Saturday into the linked online photo album. More remain to be uploaded later. Since I couldn’t upload all of them, I have left the low-resolution iPhone photos in place for now.

Given the unexpected difficulties of updating from the camp, I’ll probably shut down the journal and photo updating process during today and will try again tonight.

Breakfast is at 8, with church at 9. The roosters, however, have been awake and crowing since about 4 a.m.

February 26, 2011 11:00 p.m.
I’ve run into some Internet connectivity issues with my laptop, and can’t connect it to the Internet to upload photos and add text and photos to this journal. I’m trying a workaround to upload photos to the linked photo album via an iPad, and to update the journal minimally through an iPhone. Because of some hardware limitations on the iPhone and iPad, this means that I can’t insert photos into the journal text or rearrange photos in the linked photo album. That will have to wait until I get home.

But working in the Dominican Republic is always a challenge, so we’ll take this setback as just another challenge and move on.

Presenting a photo from this summer

We did have a grand visit with several families who had worked closely with the Christ Church Valdosta team earlier, and as we walked around more and more children joined us.

After being present at a choir rehearsal for Sunday, we got a tour of the school from Padre Carlos. We then had supper in the camp dining hall, and afterwards had a planning session with Padre Carlos to learn more about his priorities for mission team work in the camp and in the community.

Sunday morning we will attend church at 9, and will be happy to be present at Padre Carlos’ first celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Then we understand that the children of El Pedregal will give The Rev. Tar a gift in recognition of her hard work in this village. Ater lunch, there will be a meeting of knitters at the camp at 3 pm to talk about local preferences for knitting projects when the Christ Church Valdosta mission team returns here in June 2011.

Walking through the village of El Pedregal. The woman in blue jeans is Sharyn Branson, a Canadian medical missionary who operates a clinic in El Pedregal with her husband, Paul (in background on right, in black t-shirt). Both are long-term residents here. Paul works building Habitat-type houses both here and in Haiti.

February 26, 2011 6:24 p.m.
Glorious reunion with many of the people the Christ Church Valdosta team has worked with here for several years. We walked through part of the village of El Pedregal and got hugs and cheers everywhere. For those who have been here before, all these people are ok: Inez, Ana Maria, Tomasina, Elizabeth, Josephina, Pablo, Estephan, Euclides, Fela. Life is good. Plus 3G connection in village and camp! [Alas, 3G signal was spurious — actual speed was in the “E” category, sometimes “O.” But with the exception of a few instances, a data signal was always detected by my iPhone and iPad. Could not manage to connect my laptop, however.]

February 26, 2011 4:45 p.m.
On the grounds of the camp. Getting set up in our rooms. We’re staying in the small motel-type units, not the dorms. Padre Carlos greeted us, along with four teenagers, members of his EYC group who work at the camp. Village very quiet when we passed through, but Tar+ saw a few children she remembered from previous visits here.

February 26, 2011 4:20 p.m.
Arrival in Jarabacoa. Stopped to buy Dominican coffee and vanilla to take home. For those who like strong coffee, The Dominican “Santo Domingo” brand is excellent. The vanilla here is apparently a high-quality extract that uses real alcohol, not synthetic vanilla flavoring that does not use alcohol. I’ll leave it to the cooking experts in our group to explain more about the difference between “vanilla extract” and “synthetic vanilla.” Now about 15 minutes from the camp. WooHoo! (as the young people would say)

February 26, 2011 3:55 p.m.
On a steep hill about five miles from Jarabacoa, 10 miles from the camp. Bus struggling on the inclines but keeps moving forward.

February 26, 2011 2:57 p.m.
Excellent lunch at Padre Vincente’s house, served by his wife and the senior warden of his church. Now on the way to El Pedregal. Should arrive around 4:30.

Walking through a vacant lot in Bonao where an Episcopal church will be constructed someday. An open air shelter that is currently being used for worship services is at the far left of this photograph.

February 26, 2011 1:41 p.m.
At Padre Vincente’s house for lunch. His wife and two daughters greeted us. A third daughter was away, so we didn’t get to meet her. We are currently sitting on a veranda enjoying the breeze while lunch is prepared. We came from seeing a church site with a vacant lot and a small open air shelter where services are now being held. Next to the shelter there is an apartment building for sale, and Padre Vincente wants to buy it for a day care center. This guy is amazing, with a project in every pocket and the enthusiasm to accomplish them all.

February 26, 2011 12:10 p.m.
Have seen fire station with donated fire truck from US church group and a plot of land in an outlying residential area that is available for a new church. Now on to Padre Vincente’s church and school in urban Bonao.

February 26, 2011 11:18 a.m.

Padre Vincente

Padre Vicente met us on the side of the highway and told us about the land donation. After he looked at our bus, he decided that it would be unwise to try to drive to the site because he thought our bus would have difficulty negotiating the dirt road there. Now on the way to see a donated fire truck from an Episcopal group in the US. Then lunch at Padre Vincente’s house.

February 26, 2011 11:00 a.m.
We’re parked on the side of the highway about 10 miles south of Bonao, waiting for Padre Vincente to meet us and lead us to a site where he has been offered land to develop a church and perhaps a neighborhood of houses.

February 26, 2011 9:45 a.m.
We are on the road north of Santo Domingo to Bonao, where we will visit several sites with Padre Vincente and have lunch at his house. Should take about 90 minutes to get there.

February 26, 2011 9:00 a.m.
We’ve checked out of our hotel and are riding to the diocesan cathedral and seminary for a brief visit before heading north to Bonao.

February 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.
We’re packing up this morning to leave Santo Domingo for the four-hour ride to El Pedregal with two stops along the way. I’ll try to update this journal and the online photo album from the camp in El Pedregal if Internet access is sufficient. When I was there in June 2010, I could get a faint but steady cell phone data signal almost everywhere in the camp and surrounding village. In February 2011 — we’ll see if the signal is still present, and if so, is strong enough to connect my laptop. However, if I’m not able to update from the camp, the team will be back in Santo Domingo Monday afternoon on the way to the airport and I should be able to post brief updates then. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me until then. We’ll be in good hands.

February 25, 2011 11:00 p.m.
No doubt about it: there’s a street party going on outside the hotel. Loud band, lots of cheering, walls of the hotel shaking. But I haven’t signed on to journal or photograph a street party, so will resist the temptation to go downstairs with my camera. Saturday: we head north to El Pedregal where on Sunday we will be present during the first celebration of the Holy Eucharist by Padre Carlos Santana, the priest at the camp who was ordained at the diocesan convention this past Sunday morning. And that same Sunday is also the official Independence Day in the Dominican Republic. Did anyone say street party?

February 25, 2011 5:00 p.m.
Back at hotel, and the team is gathering at 7 for supper. The streets outside the hotel seem noisier than usual, probably due to the weekend and also to the national Independence Day celebrations on Sunday.

February 25, 2011 4:00 p.m.

Bishop Holguín

We weren’t sure we would be able to work out a second visit with Bishop Holguín, but he was able to see us when we arrived at Diocesan House where he had been in a lengthy meeting with his clergy. We asked him to give us his priorities for action in the sites we had visited for the past three days. At the conclusion of the meeting, Deacon Bob and Ellen Snow gave us rides back to the hotel in their vehicles since our leased bus service had to return to the bus depot at 4 p.m.

February 25, 2011 3:15 p.m.

The principal of the school in Haina

We just left Haina where we visited San Marcos, the diocese’s largest school, with over 900 students in grades K-12. The church on the site has three stories, with a parish hall on the top floor. This church and school are self-supporting. The school is unique in that it has a free-standing kindergarten building. The school staff served us refreshments in the kindergarten building, where we admired classroom window decorations made of crepe paper.

The room that will eventually be the nave and sanctuary of the Episcopal church in Donana

February 25, 2011 2:07 p.m.
Leaving Donana, where we saw an unfinished church where a pig had been tied up in the room that was eventually designated to be the nave and sanctuary when the church was finished. Our guide Frederico, the son of an Episcopal priest who founded the San Matias church and school, said that it was his dream to play the piano in the church when it was completed. Frederico has spent a good deal of time in the United States and spoke excellent English.

February 25, 2011 1:45 p.m.
After lunch, we went to see a government-operated camp in the area that might be a housing option for mission teams in Santana.

Our lunch buffet at San Mathias in Santana

February 25, 2011 1:00 p.m.
Back at stop #1 of the day, San Mathias church and school in Santana, where the residents prepared lunch for us. We are eating in the school open-air pavilion. The meal included pasta, plantains, chicken, and two kinds of rice with little brown peas, regular and crusty (Tar+’s favorite!) The crusty rice is actually the rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan and has to be scraped off. This was not our original plan for lunch, but the people here were so hospitable that we were very pleased to accept their kind offer. They prepared the lunch while we were in Carreton.

Children outside a house next to the Episcopal church in Carreton

San Antonio de Padua in Carreton

February 25, 2011 12:15 p.m.

The Rev. Tar in the unfinished high school

Visited a small church, San Antonio de Padua, and its high school building under construction in Carreton. The church is a community center with beautiful murals on the walls. The two-story high school was located here by the bishop because no local public high school is in the area. Unfortunately, the two-story building is about half done but needs further work to start holding classes. We met a local family who sold the land for the high school to the diocese very inexpensively to support the concept of a high school in their area. When their own house burned down in an accident, the diocese paid for a new house for them to be constructed. As with the high school, some work remains before they can move into that house.

The Episcopal School and Church of the Transfiguration in Bani

February 25, 2011 11:00 a.m.
At our second stop, The Church of the Transfiguration in Bani, we first visited the school building and then heard about the school programs in the church from the wife of the local priest and the director of the pre-school program. The priest’s wife also serves as the school’s principal. Two groups of school children entertained us in the church with Mardi Gras and patriotic songs.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet any priests as we visited locations today because they had all been called to a conference with the bishop about new labor laws in the Dominican Republic. The church schools in the diocese employ a large number of people, and national employment policies must be followed.

Episcopal school children parading in celebration of the Dominican Republic's Independence Day

An unedited YouTube video of the parade

February 25, 2011 9:56 a.m.
We arrived just in time to see the Episcopal and the public school children marching in an Independence Day parade. The actual Independence Day is Sunday, February 27, but the school communities celebrated today. We met a teacher at the school and also Frederico, the son of the Episcopal priest who founded the church and school. They invited us to come back to the church for lunch today, prepared by the kitchen staff of the school, and we gladly agreed.

February 25, 2011 8:30 a.m.
On the way to our first stop west of Santo Domingo, San Matias church and school in Santana. On Wednesday we visited sites in Santo Domingo; on Thursday, sites east of Santo Domingo; and today, sites west of Santo Domingo. On Saturday, after a brief stop at the Cathedral and seminary, we head north.

February 24, 2011 4:00 p.m.
Arrival at our hotel. Some of the team members walked a block to the Roman Catholic cathedral, the oldest in the Americas, to visit the bookstore. Others went to rest in their hotel rooms before we all gathered together again at 7:00 p.m. for supper.

Michael Dohn, an American missionary doctor, gave us a tour of his clinic

February 24, 2011 2:50 p.m.
Dr. Dohn gave us a tour of the medical clinic across the street from the Kellogg Center. During the tour, we met a Dominican doctor who worked at the clinic as a teenager and then went on to medical school. She is now the medical director of the HIV AIDS clinic.

February 24, 2011 2:00 p.m.
Michael Dohn, an American missionary doctor who works at a local clinic, is now describing his work to the team. The real mission of the clinic is to serve the poor, but that leads to a constant need for external resources. Episcopal Relief and Development has been a big supporter of his work. The doctor said that he is constantly working on an “exit strategy” for his medical ministry — moving the community to medical self-sufficiency so that he could shift to another area to begin again. He is proud of developing methods to encourage local residents to “spread the word” about common techniques such as using clean water in the household to prevent diarrhea in children and to recognize the signs of acute respiratory infections instead of thinking that a child just had a bad cold.

February 24, 2011 1:30 p.m.

Angelina Alvarez

After lunch, the team heard the personal religious testimonies of Padre Alvarez and his wife, Angelina. Angelina described him as “the other half of her orange,” a Spanish term of endearment. Although only Padre Alvarez is ordained, Angelina believes that she also has a religious calling and shares his ministry whenever and wherever she can. When they were previously stationed in Azua, they were known among the people as Padre and Madre Alvarez, and usually walked to their church so they could knock on doors and greet passersby on the way.

The Episcopal school here has severe financial difficulties because of low enrollment, and may close in 2012. The Diocese sends scholarship funds to the school, but the building is large and there is not enough scholarship money to assist more parents in sending their children here. Pastor Alvarez is negotiating with the Dominican government to get more government-funded teachers assigned to this school. Such government-funded teachers are common at Roman Catholic schools in this country, but rarely at Episcopal schools.

Lunch at the Kellogg Center

February 24, 2011 1:00 p.m.
At the Bishop Kellogg Center, the diocesan conference center. Lunch was prepared by Padre Alvarez’s wife: rice, red beans, chicken, corn fritters, eggplant patties, pineapple and mango cubes, Diet Coke! with ice! and water to drink. Mission teams often work out of this center since it has an excellent, air-conditioned dormitory and kitchen support, and is located in an urban area with several potential mission work sites nearby. Super wireless network, by the way.

The American Sisters of the Transfiguration at Buen Pastor

February 24, 2011 12:30 p.m.

A student at Buen Pastor

Leaving Buen Pastor, a church, clinic, and school staffed by two elderly American members of the Sisters of the Transfiguration. Their expenses are about $6,000/monthly and they currently have only $10,000 in their bank account. Their greatest need is for financial sponsors to support their work. Over the years, they have built an amazing complex of buildings to support this neighborhood.

February 24, 2011 11:00 a.m.

A high school basketball player.

Visited Santa Cruz, an elementary and high school and church in Santa Fe, with active community ministry. At the high school we just visited, there were several very athletic basketball players on the playground during recess. The pastor at Santa Cruz, Padre Felix, told us about several of his innovative social ministries, including the practice of supplying free t-shirts with the name and address of the church to local motorbike “taxi” drivers who zip all around the city carrying passengers. He also has programs to send food baskets to families in need and holds a worship service every day to bring members of the community into the church building so that he can learn more about their needs.

St. Thomas.

A school classroom in Angelina.

February 24, 2011 10:00 a.m.

The principal in Angelina

On road after visiting St. Thomas and Angelina, two small but active churches in small rural communities. Both have extensive social ministries, and Angelina has a church in addition to a school. Angelina is in a sugar cane production area where a cane processing plant closed several years ago, but the local residents refused to move away. The Dominican Episcopal diocese increased its support for the church and school as a way to support the entire community here.

February 24, 2011 7:30 a.m.

Bob Stevens, executive director of the DDG.

Leaving the hotel now for another day of visiting churches and schools. We were joined today by a group of five members of another exploration team who wanted to go to the same sites that we did. Also with them was Bob Stevens, the executive director of the Dominican Development Group, a US-based foundation that raises funds to support the Dominican church.

February 23, 2011 5:00 p.m.
Back at the hotel to rest before gathering for supper at 7:00 p.m. I took the opportunity to walk down the block from the hotel to a well-stocked grocery store to get three gallon jugs of purified water. We’re doing our best not to drink the local tap water, even at the hotel. That water is probably OK, but given the full schedule of our trip we don’t have any “down time” available to recover from intestinal upsets.

A large indoor crafts bazaar. This is a good location in Santo Domingo to buy local crafts to sell back home as part of fundraising efforts for mission teams.

February 23, 2011 4:00 p.m.
We arrived at an indoor crafts market so Tar+ could show us one source for craft items if anyone wanted to buy something like that to sell at a church gift shop or other outlet. One of the stalls in this market was run by Episcopalians who knew the members of the diocesan staff, and we saw some of their photographs on display there.

The interior of San Andreas.

February 23, 2011 3:00 p.m.
At San Andreas, we were met by the school principal who gave us a tour not only of the school but also of another building on the school campus that is being prepared as a dormitory for mission teams. Then she took us into the large church, also on the school campus, that was the site of the concluding service of the recent Dominican convention with the ordination of five priests, one of whom, Padre Carlos Santana, serves the congregation at the diocesan camp in El Pedregal.

February 23, 2011 2:20 p.m.
After lunch, we’re now headed to San Andreas, a large church and school. The recent Dominican diocesan convention was held there. During lunch, I uploaded several cell phone photos to the linked photo album here. These low-resolution photos will be replaced bu higher-resolution ones when I have a chance to edit the photo files from my big camera.

St. Peter & St. Paul, under construction.

February 23, 2011 12:50 p.m.
Stopped for lunch at an open air restaurant after St. Peter & St. Paul, a three-story church under construction on a hill next to a low-income area that is frequently flooded. The church building has been designed as a shelter for those residents when the nearby river floods. We were met by the construction foreman, who is also a member of the church and the caretaker of the church grounds. He proudly showed us his pepper plants, almost ready to harvest.

February 23, 2011 11:00 a.m.

Doña Emma

At Sagrada Familia, a church and school in a lower-income neighborhood, we were greeted by Doña Emma, the first member of the church and now a revered matriarch, and by the school principal. School was in session, and we saw one classroom full of kindergarten-age children. The church matriarch gave us a brief history of the church and its several locations, and said that although she was disappointed that burglars continually break into the church and its buildings and steal equipment, still “we aren’t going to let robbers stop us.”

Our meeting with Bishop Holguin.

February 23, 2011 10:30 a.m.
We had a tour of the diocesan headquarters led by The Rev. Deacon Bob Snow, another American missionary who is on the diocesan staff here to coordinate the work of mission teams. His wife is Ellen, who met us at the airport yesterday. After the tour, we met with Bishop Holguín for about an hour. He talked about his priorities for the development of the Dominican diocese, and we were able to ask him questions. One particular item of interest was a set of plans for 100 houses that the Diocese of the Dominican Republic would like to construct for Haitians in an area near the border between the two countries. The Dominicans would donate the construction materials, and the Haitians would do the construction labor. The Bishop hopes to build the 100 houses in four neighborhoods of 25 houses each. After the meeting, we had a group photograph with the Bishop and then left for Sagrada Familia church and school.

The lobby of the Hotel Mercure. Our breakfasts were included in our room rate and were served buffet-style in the restaurant in the center background of this photograph.

February 23, 2011 8 a.m.
Breakfast at the hotel this morning (a buffet of several varieties of bread, scrambled eggs and bacon, sliced cheese, fruit and yogurt, plus some really fine Dominican coffee!). At 8:30 our bus arrives to take us to the Diocesan House to meet The Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguín, Bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. Then we’ll be off visiting several sites around Santo Domingo. I’ll try for brief text and cell phone photo updates during the day, with better photos and a more complete text update tonight.

View of a plaza at night in the Colonial District of Santo Domingo from the a rooftop restaurant.

February 22, 2011 10 p.m.
We celebrated our safe arrival in the Dominican Republic with a festive meal on the upper level of a restaurant overlooking a plaza in Santo Domingo named for the son of Christopher Columbus, one of the first Spanish governors. Our team consists of ten people: The Rev. Sam Buice, St. Peter’s (Savannah); The Rev. Ted Clarkson and Allison Clarkson, St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s (Darien); The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, Christ Church (Valdosta); Julius Ariail, Christ Church (Valdosta); Dorothy Cunningham, St. Cyprian’s (Darien); Karulynn Koelliker (St. Andrew’s (Darien); Fred Richter, Trinity (Statesboro); Dave and Judy Sweeterman, St. Peter’s (Savannah).

Hotel Mercure in the Colonial District of Santo Domingo.

We’re staying in the Hotel Mercure in the Colonial District, a comfortable hotel that is often used by the Diocese of the Dominican Republic for visiting groups in the capital city of the Dominican Republic. It has air conditioning, a solid wireless network and a restaurant.

View of the colonial district of Santo Domingo from the Hotel Mercure.

February 22, 2011 5:30 p.m.
The team has checked into the Hotel Mercure and will reassemble at 7 p.m. for supper at a nearby restaurant.

February 22, 2011 5:00 p.m.

The Rev. Tar Drazdowski meets us at the airport.

We were met at the airport by The Rev. Tar Drazdowski and Mrs. Ellen Snow, one of the American missionaries who work on the staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic and who coordinate the work of the mission teams in the Dominican Republic. Now on a bus to the Hotel Mercure in Santo Domingo, about 20 minutes away.

February 22, 2011 4:15 p.m. AST
Safe landing at Las Americas Airport, Santo Domingo. Smooth flight all the way. AST = Atlantic Standard Time, one hour later than Eastern Daylight Time. I’ll use AST time from now on for this journal until we get back to Orlando next week.

February 22, 2011 12:45 p.m.
Boarding has begun. Shutting down here soon, will attempt update when we land.

February 22, 2011 12:09 p.m.
Savannah team members are at gate. The team is all here.

February 22, 2011 11:57 a.m.
Team members from Darien, Statesboro and Valdosta are at gate.

February 22, 2011 10:30 a.m.
Smooth shuttle from hotel this morning, quick check-in at JetBlue terminal, and zipped through security. Close call with my checked bag, however – maximum weight of bag was 50 pounds, and my bag came in at 46.5 pounds. Now waiting at Gate 4 for the team members to assemble.

February 21, 2011 9:30 p.m.
Met the other team members from Darien tonight and we enjoyed supper together at a nearby restaurant. Tomorrow morning we use the hotel shuttle services to go to the airport, about a ten-minute ride away. Once we check in and get through security, we’ll look for the team members from Statesboro and Savannah at the flight’s departure gate.

February 21, 2011 8:05 a.m.
I’m currently in Orlando, in a hotel near the airport awaiting the arrival of the other exploration team members later today. I’ll spend the day sorting out my gear, charging camera batteries and deciding what will go in my carry-on backpack and what will go in the one checked suitcase I’ll have on the trip. During mission trips, the team members usually have one carry-on bag, one checked suitcase for personal items and one checked duffle bag that is full of mission supplies such as knitting yarn and needles, Vacation Bible School material, or construction tools. On this trip, however, I’m not bringing a second checked bag and will go with just the main suitcase plus the on-board backpack.

The Rev. Tar Drazdowski (back row, center) and Mrs. Elizabeth Welch (middle row, to right of Tar+, in a black-and-white striped shirt) at the 2011 Dominican diocesan convention. Elizabeth Welch represented the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast at this convention.

February 20, 2011
I received this message from Tar+ in Santo Domingo, reporting on the recently-concluded convention of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic:

February 20, 2011
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic
The Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic on February 18-19, 2011, was full of energy, the Holy Spirit was present, and the family of God came together to engage the mission of the church. The Dominican church was very gracious and made all of their guests feel welcome and at home. Much like our convention of the Diocese of Georgia last week, reports were given, elections were held and ordinations were done at the closing Eucharist.
Prior to the closing Eucharist, there was a parade of seminarians, Dominican clergy, visiting clergy and bishops followed by the representatives of most of the congregations. The parade was lead by a band that played “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “We Come with Joy to Our Lord.” Once we arrived at the church we all processed into a packed church with standing room only and people standing outside the exits. There were at least five hundred people in the church and outside in the church yard. It was a great day in the life of the Dominican Church, as there are now five more priests to labor in the fields of the Lord.
What an awesome day!
The Rev. Tar Drazdowski
Chair, Companion Diocese Commission
The Diocese of Georgia


February 17, 2011
The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, the chair of the Companion Diocese Commission, arrived in Santo Domingo yesterday to represent Bishop Benhase at the annual convention of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic and to attend a meeting of the Dominican Development Group following the convention. She will remain in the Dominican Republic to meet the arriving discovery team members on February 22nd and accompany them during the next week as they visit potential mission sites.

Flight 1717

The route of JetBlue Flight 1717 between Orlando and Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic

February 15, 2011
– – – – –
In cooperation with the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, the Companion Diocese Commission of the Diocese of Georgia has organized a discovery trip to explore potential mission sites from February 22-28, 2011. The tentative itinerary for the trip is as follows:

Tuesday, February 22
4:30 p.m. JetBlue Flight 1717 arrives from Orlando to Santo Domingo
5:45 p.m. Arrive at Hotel Mercure for Check-in

Wednesday, February 23
8:30 a.m. Leave Hotel
9:00 a.m. Diocesan Orientation – Meeting with Bishop
10:45 am Sagrada Familia
1145 a.m. San Pedro, San Pablo, San Felipe
1:15 p.m. Lunch
2:30 p.m. San Andres Church and School
4:30 p.m. Arrive at Hotel

Thursday, February 24
7:30 a.m. Leave Hotel
9:00 a.m. Santa Fe – Santa Cruz School and Church
10:15 a.m. Sisters of Transfiguración Church and School,
11:15 a.m. Clinic Esperanza, St. Stephens School
1:15 p.m. Lunch –
2:45 p.m. San Jose Seniors’ Home, Church and School
4:30 p.m. Arrive at Hotel

Friday, February 25
7:45 a.m. Leave the Hotel
9:30 a.m. San Matias Church and School
10:45 a.m. Visit Carreton Church and School
11:45 a.m. Arrive in Bani – Church and school
12:45 p.m. Lunch
2:15 p.m. San Marcos Church and School in Haina
4 30 p.m. Arrive at Hotel

Saturday,February 26
8:45 a.m. Leave Hotel
9:00 a.m. Epiphany Cathedral and Seminary
11:15 a.m. Bonao
1:30 p.m. Lunch Typical Bonao
3:45 p.m. Arrive at Camp at El Pedregal (near Jarabacoa)

Sunday, February 27
Attend Church and Spend day at camp

Monday, February 28
7:30 a.m. Breakfast at Camp
8:15 p.m. Leave Camp
10:15 p.m. San Francisco Children’s Shelter – Jesus Nazareno Church and School
12:00 noon Leave San Francisco
3:00 p.m. Arrive at Airport in Santo Domingo
5:20 p.m. Plane Departs for Orlando, JetBlue flight 1718

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