The longer my training drones on, the more I wish I could know where I was being placed. I decided I really want to either be in the mountainous region with the lush, fertile, beautiful valley, or maybe up north near the tourist beaches and stuff or on this peninsula that I hear is beautiful. There’s whale watching and stuff there. I told my ACPD (the head health dude who places people) that I need to be somewhere pretty or I’ll get depressed. His answer was NOT promising saying "Everywhere in this country is beautiful." Sorry but, even with the mountains in the backdrop where I am now, it is NOT beautiful. It’s not ugly and I think I could learn to really appreciate it but I’d rather of course have someplace I could really brag about!:)
There are a few places I could be placed; I specifically asked to not be placed in a city though. I want a personal feeling which you can’t get in a large city, and Santo Domingo is really dirty so I don’t want risk it and end up in another really polluted city. So, starting with the smallest type of town here in the DR- a batey is an agricultural sugar cane plantation, often with Haitians. This means they are mostly on the border which is shared with Haiti. Batey’s are generally very poor since there is a lot of racial tension here against Haitians so that the Haitians are not able to be citizens, go to school past something like 6th grade, get a birth certificate if born here… they’re not allowed to do anything. Even people who are born here but have a drop of Hatian in them are shunned. In Santo Domingo there were a few families in my barrio and one of the PCTs stopped to talk to them only to be yelled at by her Dona later not to talk to them. It’s really sad but there are similarities so Mexican immigrants in the US. They’re "illegal" and its’ not uncommon for them to work for a day shy of two weeks (when they’re supposed to get paid) to have their boss call the DR form of border control and have them sent back, unpaid.
So, another type of town is a campo- which are throughout the country, some are in the mountains without electricity or water but as I understand most have water and electricity most of the time. I live in a campo right now in Las Tablas. There is usually water but here, after a large rain there’s a problem getting water since the tubes that supply the town with water are above ground and run over the river. Every single time there’s a heavy rain the river sweeps a part of the tubing away and the people don’t have water. Keep in mind, it’s not drinking water but water to wash clothes, clean the house and to bath with. They have to buy the drinking water and thankfully they can afford to do that.
I think it was Tuesday when it rained so now we’ve been without water for 4 days. My family is lucky and has a large bin in back that they fill with water so we have enough to bath with but I have a ton of laundry and can’t wash it. I think it smells so I’m not too happy but at least I can shower. I need to pick up some detergent but I’m a little low on cash thanks to my cell phone issues to I’ll just have to be stinky till CBT is over- 4 more weeks I think. Other PCTs don’t have families with water one showered in the river yesterday and brought some clothes there to wash them. I’m going to hold out a little longer before I do that. Hopefully they fix the tubes soon.
The electricity here goes out generally once in the afternoon, between 12 and 2, and my Dona says it comes back around 4. Then around 8 pm it goes out until 11- give or take an hour. At least we can expect when it goes out so while it’s a nuisance it’s not too bad. Last night the other volunteers came over to my house and we set my laptop up outside to watch My Best Friend’s Wedding. We made it 75 minutes until my battery died so we popped the DVD into the backup computer another PCT brought. It was a good plan until her computer started malfunctioning and we couldn’t finish the last 20 minutes or so. It was still fun though.
Even smaller than a campo but still bigger than a batey is a campo campo. I’m not sure the difference, I think it’s just got less people. My campo here has a lot of colmados and lottery stands (big here I guess), a clinic (which is not used nearly enough), a school, a community center and a small library. No internet or stores but luckily they’re only about a 15 minute drive away, in Bani.
Now that you know all about campos, the next size up are pueblos which larger towns sometimes with water, electricity, Internet. That’s pretty much all I know about pueblos, sorry. And lastly are ciudads which I thought were just cities but someone else told me were more like suburbs of a large city so I don’t know.
So, with all this information, I hope end up in a campo or in a campo campo. If I was placed in a batey I think it would be especially challenging. I really hope I have access to water and don’t always have to worry about where my next bucket is going to come from like the families here. One PCT here unfortunately got scabies. She had to have all her clothes washed and felt really bad because her family had to buy the water to wash the clothes since they were out of water. (Scabies don’t look the way you would think either. Another health PCT got bedbugs. I’m not looking under my mattress, I’d rather not know.)
So, all in all- wish me luck!! I don’t know when I’m going to find out but the APCD comes this week, on Tuesday or Wednesday so maybe he’ll have some information. If not, that’s ok because I don’t feel like I was able to talk to him much about my preferences and I guess they really try to place you somewhere that will work for you. There are 8 volunteers and 11 sites the APCD said we would help (3 volunteers left remember so I guess 3 places will get dropped) so it’s not like I just get to pick a community and say, "Hey this one looks good, put me there!" but at least it’s a process, the APCD calls it a "negotiation". I’m not sure about that but ok.
This afternoon my fellow PCTs and I are headed to the beach again! Yay!!! I have some pictures up of my whole trip so far on myspace so if you can check those out feel free. If not, I’m trying to persuade someone from home to upload them to a common place you all can see. The connection here is soooooo slow but I find that myspace is the fastest although still really slow. I don’t have the money to pay for internet time and upload them myself somewhere else. Anyways, hopefully soon! Tomorrow it’s back to work on group projects and we’ve got a super busy week ahead of us. I miss home and hope you’re all doing well. Feel free to send me email updates/letters of your lives there, I’m sick of hearing about the DR!!
A Little Insight
Ok, so I was just reading a friend of mine’s blog and he had an excerpt written from another person who is living in Thailand. I thought that while it seems a little dramatic to me, it is also very true. Here it is:
A Dose of Reality by Josh Stein (Thailand ESL Teacher)
"Lately, I’ve had the concept of reality on my mind. I think about the concept of reality and how it is all relative based on your experiences. I used to live in Chicago, and before that the suburbs – and no, it wasn’t Schaumburg, thank you! My reality prior to going off to college was the palatial bliss of Palatine, Illinois – home of the fighting Pirates! Upon arriving at college, my reality soon changed. The boundaries of my life had been expanded to include Chicago-proper, and with that I gained new experiences. These new experiences quickly reshaped my sense of reality. Continuing on with my life, each new experience changed my sense of reality. Whether it was graduating from college, landing a new job, moving into a new apartment, a new neighborhood, a new relationship, or loss there of, my sense of reality was constantly changing.During my journey, I was fortunate and blessed to have great mentors and friends help me throughout the various stages of this journey. One such mentor exposed me to so many different experiences and ideas that I have been forever changed. I had the opportunity to go on service trips to remote parts of the United States, as well as within Chicago. I had opportunities to work with individuals who had a drastically different reality-base. Their reality was different because life dealt them a different set of cards to play with -- in some cases, a completely different game. These experiences changed my reality and reshaped my views. When I decided to take this position as an English Teacher in Thailand, I knew this would be another experience that would reshape my reality. This was a chance to change my views and opinions, yet again, and bring with it the awesome responsibility of reshaping someone else’s reality.I realize that not everyone is privileged enough to leave their hometown, explore different worlds, different cultures, different foods, different languages, different traditions, and different people. I also realize that there are people in the world who never want to experience those things – they are completely content with where they’re at in life – their reality. The idea of their reality being changed, well, it scares the hell out of them. But, I started to think more about my presence and how it is shaping the reality of those I interact with; my students, the Thai teachers, my neighbors, the vendors at the market, the woman at the coffee shop who always smiles and personally greets me every time I come in (heck, I’m there nearly every day), or the other Ferang who are from the Western World, but not "my" Western World. I constantly think how I might be altering their reality, about "Americans" (which I always correct to United States – "American" implies two whole continents of people, not just the states).I also think about how I am changing your perception of reality – you, the reader. How has my journal changed the way you view Thailand, or South East Asia, or Asia as a whole? I think about this, and the impact I’m having on molding your sense of reality. Has reading my journal prompted you to leave your house and explore other worlds? Do you get a hankering for Thai food after you finish reading my various escapades? Or, have I managed to instill the opposite reaction? Has my journal reinforced your own biases? Or has it made you want to lock yourself in your house, never to experience anything new? I will say that I bring in humor and sarcasm to my stories (at least I try to) because it is what I know, and these are the emotions I am most comfortable expressing in such a large forum. What I want you to know is that the stories I tell are my reality, and I want you to experience it with me – if you so chose. I want you to be there with me as I try to navigate through the market, or try my hand at driving through the streets of Thailand. I want you to experience my reality, so you can understand that there are different realities in the world. The reality of a family who has to commute to work using a motorbike because that’s all they can afford on 5 Baht a week ($0.15). Or, what about the man who sells Pineapples on the side of the road because he can’t afford a pick-up truck to transport his goods to the market. Or, what about the student who commutes for 2 hours on a motorbike every day, because our school is one of the best in the area and his family wants him to have the best education they can afford. Or, what about the other Thai teachers at school who understand only their culture and therefore our interactions are socially awkward at best. I want to help you understand the realities of these people because my hope is that it will help to reshape your own reality. It will help you think differently about the Pakistan cashier at Wal-Mart, who doesn’t speak very good English; the Latin-American family at the grocery store who shop with their extended family and take up too much room in the aisles while you’re trying to shop too; or the man on the street corner who is simply trying to get back on his feet with a little help from you. These are the realities I want you to think about, and how we’re all connected by something larger. Because once it’s all stripped away, the only thing we have left to cling to is our human dignity. "
Back to Betsy…
Ok, so I think that this could give anyone something to think about. I have found myself many many times thinking about all the people, myself included at times, who think less of people who do not speak English well in the States. I can say now with proof, that it sucks not being able to speak the language of those around you. Just because I speak Spanish like a 3rd grader- and that’s probably on a good day- doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I feel like being a jerk sometimes and yelling , "I have a college degree, I’m not stupid so stop looking at me like I’m retarded!" when people are being rude to me but even that’s impossible since I would say it wrong and sound even more unintelligent. So, I would like you all to try and put yourself in others shoes. Even after I have lived here for 2 years I know I will still sound funny to people. I get so aggravated when I ask something simple like; "Do you have orange juice without sugar?" and I know I said it with all the right words and the person at the desk stares at me and says, "I don’t understand what you’re saying." It’s not that I said the wrong words but that I said it different with an accent of a foreigner, a way they’re not used to and so they don’t get the first few times I try. For those of you who know me well, I am not a patient person and I especially HATE repeating myself so this is a challenge. It reminds me of an immigrant in the store that maybe said something the cashier didn’t understand. You know that she is wrong about something but she seems to not understand and gets really upset and snippety with the sales clerk. Well, I get it now. It’s annoying and frustrating. And even though it’s easy to see people as inferior when they don’t speak correctly or easy to make fun of the Pakistani at 711 who you have to concentrate to understand, it’s wrong. Think about them before you act or say rude things. Try to put yourself in their shoes, it could make a world of difference. Living in a different country is not a piece of cake. The language is just ONE of the million new/different things a person has to deal with every single day.