10/17/08 The last night at CBT
Today I had an epiphany. When my Doña asks me what I want to eat, it’s not really a question but more a transition into what she’s going to tell me to eat. This morning, for example, she asked me what I wanted for breakfast. I know that they have run out of the money PC gave them to feed me and thus don’t have any more food besides plantains and rice. So, when she didn’t give me dinner last night or when she asked if bread was ok for breakfast, I said sure. They she asked what I wanted to drink; “Leche de vaca?” Ok, the thing about this milk is that it sits out on the counter for like a week till it’s gone. I am trying to get my mind around the fact that it may be ok to sit out, I mean she at least has it covered and protected from the flies. But, despite this, I do not like to consume more than one cup in a 24 hour period and even that is a stretch. So, I was like, “No Doña, I’m going to just drink water today.” Apparently that was blasphemy because there are few times my Doña is really pushy but this morning was one. She insisted and insisted and the more I told her water is a health drink the more she pushed milk. I went into the kitchen and saw my breakfast already sitting there, hot chocolate with the cow milk and all. This all happened within about 2 minutes. I took my meal, with the leche de vaca of course and walked, defeated to a chair. I pondered the encounter as I ate and while I was secretly dumping the hot chocolate in the bathroom and came to my epiphany.
I recently learned something about DR Doñas. They have this weird belief that if a person is really hot and they take a cold shower, or the other way around, that they could become paralyzed. Remember when I came back from my PCV visit and I was super hot from walking? My face was the attractive tomato red it gets when I’m really hot and when I got home I just wanted to make a beeline for a bucket bath of ice cold water. My Doña absolutely would not let me take a shower!! She made me sit in a chair and drink juice, which by the way is only 30% juice. I gave in but said I was only sitting till I finished the juice. She gave me a big glass. Thanks to Doña, I’m not paralyzed.
Today we had our last day of technical training. It was full of papers to fill out and of course, we had to play three games. If I don’t play another stupid game in my life I would die satisfied. I know eventually I will rely on these games but for now, they annoy me.
After training we were supposed to go to my house to learn how to make trigo, my favorite lunch. I’ve been talking this over with my Doña for a while now and explaining how the group doesn’t want to eat here, just learn how to cook it. When I got home today (about an hour before the rest of the group was supposed to arrive) she had made me trigo. I was like, dude we were supposed to make this together remember? She picked the time to have everyone over and then she asked me when they were coming. I told her they would be here in 15 minutes. She looked panicked. She said that she already made it and that she would just give us the recipe for it. Better than nothing I guess. Once everyone got there she started making it. I finally decided that maybe I was just getting what she was saying confused so I asked a more advanced speaker to ask her. She confused Katie too! At first she told her were weren’t going to make it and then she changed it and said we were, and back and forth! That actually made me feel better, it wasn’t my Spanish or my understanding. It was my Doña. So, I guess she decided to make it because there we were, all in her kitchen, cooking away. Lucky for me, it’s a really cheap and fairly simple meal to make. I’ll be taking it home with me for sure.
As long as I’m talking about food, yesterday my Doña gave me some interesting looking meat. There was the normal pork on my plate and then this weird stuff. I was afraid it was an expired hot dog or something so I asked what it was. She told me it was something I had never heard of but recalled a valuable lesson from Spanish class a few weeks ago. One girl ate something and came back to ask Juan what it was. He laughed and told her she could remember what it was because the name sounds like “long and nice” and it’s intestines. So, when my Doña told me the mystery meat was something that sounded like long and nice, I knew I could not put it in my mouth. Not today, maybe not ever. She knew I was up to something because she stood there staring at me, waiting for me to try it. I told her I needed to eat my rice first and then I would try it later. She walked off and I started throwing pieces of it under the table to the cats. I made sure to leave some on my plate, that way she thought I tried it but didn’t like it too much. I have a feeling that won’t be the last I’ll see of long and nice.
After lunch yesterday we had a meeting with the community members we were expected to go to with our Doñas. My Doña skipped out on me, she’s got this weird thing about leaving the house, so my sister Kirses went with me. It was really sweet, some Doñas were there and they were crying. On the other hand, I felt like I was on that MTV show where they have a guest and they just make fun on them. Each Doña was supposed to say something about their PCT, a memory or something. It turned into a session where they just made fun of us, how they had to save us from spiders and how people were running to the bathrooms with diarrhea. Yes, this was a public community meeting. So, needless to say, I was a little relieved when it was over.
The rest of today is planned for us, as usual. We are to meet up at 5:30 to transplant the garden we planted a couple weeks ago. This is not something I’m looking forward to, it’s hot and I’m not a fan of digging through the poopy dirty to move plants around. Ah well, I guess I should learn how to do it incase I have a garden project. After that it’s time for a Domino tournament. Everyone here plays Dominos but I’ve only played twice! Yesterday was my second time and I love it! It’s pretty fun:) After that, at 8 we’re meeting up at one of the Spanish teacher’s houses to have ourselves a little fiesta. We’re going to have nachos (which people don’t eat here) and brownies!! We heard that if we buy a lot from the Colmado that they’ll plug our iPods in and play our music too so that’s an option.
We’re supposed to leave bright and early tomorrow; everyone is meeting up at my house at 8. Kirses said that she has a friend who may be able to take us all into Baní for free where we can catch our bus to Santo Domingo. That’d be nice if we could hitchhike with her but if not we’ll just have to walk about 1 ½ miles to the next town and catch a bus. It wouldn’t be bad though because we don’t have to take our luggage with us, just what we need to last until Monday. Ann is taking our bags back to Entrena for us.
Well, with all that said, I see a mosquito in my net that I need to hunt down and I also need to figure out how I’m getting all this stuff in my suitcase. I hope you’ll all well there, until later…
PS: Whoa, the phone just rang and my Doña ran out of the shower, naked to try and answer it. I didn’t expect to see that…
10/15/08 Eight Weeks In!!!
Yep, today marks the eighth week in the Dominican Republic. Some parts have gone fast while others (the first two weeks) went painfully slow. I thought it would be nice to compile a list of interesting things I have or have not done in 8 weeks.
I HAVE NOT:
Thrown any toilet paper in a toilet, only in trash cans
Driven a vehicle
Made a phone call (on purpose, I stepped on my phone the other day at 6 and accidently called my Doña in Los Cocos)
Made a meal
Been able to go somewhere when I want to and stay for more than two hours
Eaten fast food
Gotten a good hug
Been sworn in as a Volunteer
Sweated than I would in an entire summer at home
Only taken bucket baths
Only had cold water (but its hot here so it’s ok)
Ridden on a LOT of smelly guaguas
Had a woman on a bus brush my butt over and over, I’m assuming I had dirt on it?
Developed an addiction to Casino cookies and then broken it (sort of, I’m eating some now…)
Seen a LOT of large cockroaches
Taken a motoconcho twice
Told three guys to stop “hissing” at me because I don’t like it
Been “hissed” at more than I can count
Bought two cell phones
Bought a LOT of calling cards
Used a latrine and peed on my pants
Stepped in lots of poop, almost always in flip flops
Had a delicate balance between constipation and diarrhea
Had two different days of vomiting
Gotten TONS of support from home:)
Had at somewhere around 10 shots
Woken up to either the cow bells clanging as the walk by at 6 am or by the stupid goat that won’t shut the heck up outside of my widow every day since I’ve been at CBT
Spooned with my lover, Cameron every night (my duck buddy, he’s very soft)
Developed a love for mango… not mangú
Developed a deep hatred for mosquitoes
Made great friendships with other PCTs and my family here
The Hospital Visit
Today we started the day a little later than normal, not meeting up until 8:45. We drove to Baní to visit the hospital there. It specializes in births but it does a little of everything as well. It’s supposed to be one of the better hospitals. The hospital itself kind of shocked me. We visited a hospital in Santo Domingo (the only one I’m allowed to go to unless I can’t make it there without dyeing) and it wasn’t bad at all. I had heard the hospital in Baní was one of the better hospitals in the country so I was expecting more but was way off. I guess PC doesn’t want us going to other hospitals because they don’t even compare with the one in the capitol.
The Baní hospital is an old building and it reminded me of an insane asylum in a horror flick except with more sunlight. To begin, we went into a small room to watch a presentation and the door was guarded with bars. The room also doubled as a library but I don’t know where the books were. The halls were really long with super tall ceilings and, thankfully, a lot of sunlight. The tour we took made me appreciate the hospitals back home because there were 8-10 beds in each large room without privacy curtains or anything. A lot of the beds didn’t have sheets and people were just laying on them, chilling. One area was a large waiting room with benches all lined up but there were also two beds with children on them who were receiving IVs.
The first room we went into, the room that had the premature babies was kind of sad because the babies seemed really alone to me. There were nurses in the room and one baby had its mother but the room itself just seemed kind of lonely to me. Weird, I know.
Next, we were taken to the delivery room where there were three beds lined up. I have been present for three births but this room even mad me curl my lip. They had a sheet of plastic hanging down from each bed into a BUCKET!!! YUCK!! Maybe if I hadn’t seen three births I wouldn’t have been able to visualize that so much. I was relieved there was a delivery room though because that meant that the chick in the adjacent room writhing in pain from labor was just waiting for the right time to go in to the stork room. She was in one of those large rooms with like 10 beds, laying right on a flat bed with no sheet. (yes, the no sheet thing really bugs me for some reason) I was like, “Dude, no way! She’s having a baby there?” What a relief to know she was going to be moved to a bed with a bag and bucket. After this experience I decided I should modify my life long dream of having a baby in the DR… what to do what to do.
The presentation was all about the missions and goals of the NGO that works with the hospital, Infante Sano. A sad fact is that about 60% of the pregnancies at the hospital are of teens ages 13- 15. Also, the norm here is for women to have cesareans when they give birth; more than half of the women have these. Imagine trying to have three kids (the norm as I understand here) and having a super weak uterine wall with each; no thank you. I guess it’s mostly because the doctors here don’t make very much money so they work two jobs. They work in the hospital for a half day or so but get paid for a full day and then hurry to their private clinic. They make about $500 US dollars/month starting out. So, when they’re at the hospitals, they’re trying to hurry things along so they can get to their other jobs. They tell the mothers that it’d be better and so the mom agrees. And that’s that.
The hospital was so mortifying that one girl from our group threw up in a trash can! Ok, that’s not the whole truth, she threw up but she was actually sick from other factor than the hospital. That means that there are only three (and one new PCV who’s been here a week and a half) left in the health group (out of 14) who hasn’t been sick the whole time at CBT- and I’m one of them!! It’s that grease free food I’m telling you…
We got home and took an hour break or so then went to work on our presentation which we were to give two hours later. It rained a little, not all the way I guess, so it was oppressively hot. We went to the community center and immediately sat down and got to work sharing a Coke. I love love love Coke from a bottle! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I think it tastes so much better coming from a glass bottle, and for only 12 pesos!! What a satisfying deal!
Back to the presentation… after we finally motivated each other to finish up and practice it was time to start. There was a problem though: we didn’t have any kids there. So, at 4:30 we set out in the neighborhood to find some jovenes. I immediately found about 6 young girls that were willing to come and then went with Kenzie to find some others who didn’t know what they were getting into. We spotted a crowd of people across the baseball diamond and decided we may have hit the jack pot. A family of donkeys trotted by us and we were just commenting on how the baby donkey was so cute when I was like, “Whoa! Is that the dad donkey’s… Holy crap!” It was huge!! That donkey was on a mission from nature to procreate which he obviously took very seriously! He was chasing down the female and before we knew it, he was on top on her, running to keep up and hold on with only his back legs on the ground. So there we were, walking across the field, jaws dropped in awe, to get youth to listen to our talk about the ABCs of safe sex, and here was a mom donkey running like mad with her husband donkey on top of her trying to focus and then the little baby donkey awkwardly trotting along beside them. (I say Mom and Dad donkey because they were obviously taking the next step in their relationship so they must be married, come to my presentation if you have any questions) Meanwhile, all the distractions caused me to make a crucial error and not look where I was stepping and so, yep- I stepped in a large pile of some type of poop… in my flip flops.
After all this, we got to the crowed and asked if they wanted to go. They seemed enthusiastic about it but were playing bingo and although they said they would go, I seemed to be getting the gist that they were interested… just not today. One boy went home to take a bath. We told them it already stated and so we needed to go now but eventually walked back alone. It was ok though because Darryl was able to somehow fill up the room with kids and we were able to have our presentation!
I had to start, being A and all. What is Abstinence? It’s different for different people (got to be politically correct you know) Some people define it as no kissing (riiiiight) and others define it as no penetration, no anal sex, oral sex or vaginal sex. Yep, this was how I had to start off the presentation to youth. Awesome, I’m pretty sure I pronounced vagina and anal wrong but, hey who cares right? I think they got the point because for as great visual aide I drew pictures:) Ah, the joys of teaching an awkward subject in Spanish to a room full of kids I don’t even know.
Next was my first game. It was simple. Tell me if you think I’m ready to have sex based on the statements I make. If you agree I am ready, move here. If you’re not sure, move here. If you disagree, move here. Each spot was marked with a sign on the wall which I pointed to with each explanation. So, I read the first sentence and they all just stood there, silently staring at me in front of their chairs. Hmmm, ok I guess they didn’t get it. So, I read the directions again. Still, nothing. This was not good. I put my notes down and tried to explain it a different way. I was trying to say “truth” and accidentally said “vegetable” which I didn’t realize until much later, so once again, they were confused. Finally, on the fourth time, they got it! Whew!! That was painful, I pretty much wanted to go home to my mosquito net sanctuary and take a nap or something.
After that I did a little more talking, a role playing game on how to say no, and then it was time for my last game. As you may have noticed, I wasn’t really excited to be talking about this wonderful topic so I thought I would fill my time requirement with symbolic games- genius I know. There was so much confusion with that first game I probably could have gone home and taken a nap when I wanted to and still reached my time requirement. Not me though, I took it like a champ and acted like I knew what I was doing, like I remembered what the stuff I was reading off my sheet in Spanish meant.
Entonces (next), the new game: Limbo. The stick signified the pressures to have sex and each time we lowered it represented another year older. So, the stick got lower, the person got older and the pressure got higher. We labeled the stick “El Sexo” and moved outside where we had more room. This was a big mistake since all the really little kids (think like 1st and 2nd grade) were getting out of school and wanted to play Limbo. Luckily, when the game was over Ann manned the door and wouldn’t let anyone in unless they were at least 10. Two other PCTs took the rejected kids and played the biggest game of duck duck goose I’ve ever seen of about 70 kids.
After I finished I with my part, I was relieved. Kenzie presented on “Be safe” and then Darryl went on about “Condoms”. The kids played a condom race (putting condoms on plantains) and had a pretty crazy but good time. Over all, it was a little weird but aren’t most things? I learned to check to see what time school gets out and also to toss the notes and just wing it when possible. Life’s crazy and even more so in Spanish! Anyways, I hope you’re all enjoying my blog and I’ll be sure to keep adding to it. It’s my therapy. See, I needed a lot of therapy after that donkey encounter. I miss you guys and still want someone to jump in a pile of leaves for me! Until I need more therapy- aka: tomorrow,