The orange wagon that forged friendships in Luperon, Dominican Republic

On weekdays at 4:00 pm the school bell sounds, and children erupt in screams of delight. I wait for my children in the leafy schoolyard with a bright-orange collapsible wagon. This past Friday (yesterday) was a special day as I had arranged to give four local school kids a ride in our dinghy.

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Karen and Henry – twins age 5 – outside their kindergarten classroom with a classmate and our orange wagon.

The children were ecstatic. We loaded the wagon with backpacks, and walked our regular 25-minute walk to the dinghy dock. I initially used the wagon to carry our kids’ backpacks and at least one of the twins. But, that has changed since other school kids along our route also like to put their backpacks in the orange wagon. I am happy to carry their belongings.

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Henry and Karen having a ride in the wagon. For this photo I had asked them to make their ugliest faces.

Some of the school kids are escorted home by car or motorbike. But, most kids walk. And, virtually all of the kids walk home without their parents. Sometimes I hold my breath as kids dart in and out of traffic. Today, I watched a girl who looked to about 6 years old run across the road, while ushering another student who appeared to be younger than herself.

But, it seems to be organized mayhem. I have seen people escort my kids across intersections. This has happened when my kids have strayed too far ahead of me.

Betty likes to do cartwheels with her friends and has to be reminded to keep her gymnastics on the sidewalk and off the street. Paul and his friends like to shake the trees after it rains and watch as people get showered upon. Karen and Henry enjoy having a piggy back with the older students.

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Henry enjoying a piggyback outside Wendy’s bar, which is a popular hangout amongst the cruisers in Luperon.

Unfortunately, Paul was at home today with a sore back. He hauled his backpack to school earlier this week – when I opted not to bring the orange wagon. He will be back at school on Monday.

Without Paul, I would be bringing seven young children in our dinghy. I brought life jackets for them, and assured their grandmother that they would be safe. When we had approval from their grandmother, the kids raced to the dinghy dock.

The kids put on their life jackets, and I helped them with the straps.

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Getting ready for our dinghy ride.

And, we set off towards our catamaran, SV Aphrodite.

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All of the kids in the dinghy, except for Paul who was at home for the day. It is not the best photo but I took the photo while I was driving the dinghy.

Seeing the water through the eyes of the local children was wonderful. They marveled at the jelly fish, and liked to feel the spray of the water on their hands. They spent a short time on SV Aphrodite. But, they had enough time for a pillow fight and for a romp on the trampolines.

Watching our guests approach the trampolines on the front of our catamaran, they were full of trepidation. I was reminded of how I might react on the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto.

At first, they didn’t trust that the trampoline would hold them suspended above the water. But, soon Betty’s friend Lisbeth (7) was climbing the mast and said that it was “beautiful”.

Back inside our boat, Betty braided Lisbeth’s hair.

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Lisbeth on SV Aphrodite.

The kids wanted to stay. But, their grandmother was expecting them at home. We had to coax them back onto the dinghy with our newly learned Spanish.

When we returned to shore, Lisbeth passed me her bag to carry, and she ran off with her siblings and Betty down the road. There was no need for our orange wagon.

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