Saturday, October 4, 2008

Markets, Site Placement, Gardens and more!!

Week of 9/27/08- 10/4/08

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I was able to post! I didn’t even have time to write in my blog until about half way through the week and man I feel like there’s so much to write I could never remember it all but here goes…
Today is my brother Aarons 25th birthday!!! I wish I could be there (birthdays are a BIG deal in my family) and I’ll be thinking of Aaron a lot today. I hope you have a GREAT birthday and can’t wait to talk to you all today during the party!!! :D HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!


So, last Saturday the lone guy in our group got really sick. At first we were all afraid he had Dengue since he had a lot of the classic symptoms and seemed miserable but the next day he was pretty much better. Then on Sunday another member of the group came down with the same thing he was sick with. At least we knew she would most likely be better the next day although she was so ill and was losing so much fluid that she was worried she would have to go to the capitol to the hospital for an IV to rehydrate. Thankfully that didn’t happen. The then next day, Monday, another girl got really sick but it was different from the first two; she was only vomiting like crazy. All three lasted for a strong day but then just as quickly as they came, they left. Last week one girl found out she has Scabies (it’s gone now) and someone else had bedbugs!! Monday or Tuesday one of the language teachers discovered she had pink eye and I’m not sure but I think another one has it. People in the town have pink eye like crazy and they don’t use medicine to get rid of it, they use cherry juice or Vicks (Vicks is used for a lot here, I’ve put in on my mosquito bites so far)- that’s right, they put that crap in their eyes. Not good. Anyways, we’ve ALL had diarrhea here and with two weeks left I’m wondering what else is in store for us here at CBT. At least we have each other for support. When we get to our sites, we’ll be on our own.

DR Moments worth noting:

1) It’s customary here for a person to offer you a chair to sit in. This includes when you’re in the park with friends I guess since a child came out of no where with one of those plastic yard chairs on his head for us to sit in. When he walked up to us, dropped the chair and took off I think I had a “DR moment”- aka- “Wow, that was different… and yet normal”.

2) A PCT left the community building we were having class in at the time to use the bathroom in a host family’s house and when she came back she asked if anyone wanted the coffee. We looked up to see that in the five minutes she was gone the Dona had managed to give her coffee. People looooove to offer coffee or juice here and Patty just couldn’t get out of it that time.

3) During class the only girl who has a latrine stood up to demonstrate to me the proper way to balance on a latrine for me so I don’t pee on my pants again when I have to use one. No one though it was weird, just informative.

4) “I love using other people’s toilets” – PCT who has a latrine at her house.

5) When we talk about not wanting to get up at night to pee either due to sheer laziness from not wanting to un-tuck our mosquito nets only to have to re-tuck them a few minutes later or because we can hear something scurrying around on our floor. (The latter hasn’t happened to me thankfully)

6) The weird new sensation that I would rather know what’s crawling on me before getting it off of me.

7) The strange but strong satisfaction that comes with lying in bed and looking at all the mosquitoes that can’t get in my net.

8) Finally understanding why people shut their windows at night when it’s the best time to cool off their house. One word: insects (or in my case, spiders).

9) Waking up each night, not sure why and then realizing it was because the power came back on and the coolness of the fan freaked me out.

10) Not ever being able to sleep through a storm due to the zinc roof. Also, not being able to have a conversation when it’s raining hard since I can’t hear the person sitting next to me.

11) Fitting 22 people in a van that is supposed to hold like 15. (This happened just yesterday when we stopped to pick up a huge group of kids walking home from school).

12) Going from hating to tuck my mosquito net in since it scratches up the back of my hand every time to enjoying it since it scratches my various bites.

Building a Garden

So, on Monday (9/29) my group and I set out to build a garden. The house had already been selected by the technical trainer, Ann so we all showed up at 5 pm, after our Spanish classes, somewhat ready to work. Ann walked us over to the site of the future garden which didn’t seem very spectacular. It was nice and shady but not very flat, and our garden was going to be kind of small. Well, that was ok with me actually. So the group got to work- well about half of the group since there weren’t enough tools for everyone to work or enough space really. I stood there watching the others pick- ax away at the dirt and starting thinking that I would maybe prefer to just supervise this project. One problem: I had never constructed a garden before! I tried to do some flowery things at home last summer but they were quickly overtaken by weeds and I realized that gardening is NO easy task.

So, as I stood there pondering life I was brought back to reality as I somehow had volunteered myself to help get the manure. I strolled off to the van and we drove to a pig pen where two other girls and I shoveled pig poop into bags. This part proved easy but the challenging part was not stepping in the fresh stuff. I didn’t want my tennis shoes to get all nasty so I had worn my Crocs- that’s right, shoes with holes. We went back to the house with the soon to be garden and I was still shaking suspect pieces of “dirt” out of my shoes. Two hours later we had finished! The garden had three raised beds in it and we planted something like 8 plants: onion, garlic, carrots, cilantro, and I forgot the rest.

During the process we had the usual weird person come up to see what we were doing. We were in someone’s fenced in backyard but someone walking by and seen all of us and had to know what was going on. I guess it was some important person from Santo Domingo. After haggling Ann for a few minutes about what we were doing, who we were and why the garden was so small he decided he knew a better way to work and, in his dress shoes and business casual office clothing, he took the pick ax from a PCT and began hacking the dirt. He did a pretty good job I thought, except he didn’t look first before he swung the instrument and almost took out the Spanish teacher standing behind him! As quickly as he came, he was gone again… but not before getting something to drink from the Dona of course!!

The Market Field Trip

Well I can’t remember what day it was exactly but sometime this week we were informed that we were going to the market in our Spanish groups, something we were supposed to do forever ago. (I know I’ve been at CBT for like 3 weeks but a week ago feels like forever!) The whole health group went to the market together and broke up into our groups when we got there. To my surprise, Juan (my teacher) walked us to the entrance and said, “Good luck, remember to bargain!” and then walked off. Hmm, that’s not what I had in mind.

Well, ok then and off we were. My group decided to make cookies (recipe compliments of Rach:) and we had to get the ingredients for the presentation we were doing the next day. (making Super Eggs but I’ll get to that later) We were able to find a stand with items for our Super Eggs pretty early on and gathered up the ingredients. The guy told us it was 45 pesos and Darryl (guy in my group) said ok and handed him the money. I was like, “Darryl!! Why’d you do that? We’re supposed to bargain, remember?” Ok, I said the next place I would try to haggle.

So we went into this place with most of the goods for the cookies where a really helpful guy assisted us. We asked for half cups of this and tablespoons of that and he would scoop stuff out randomly and say, “That looks about right.” Not exactly an exact science but ok. When we got it all it was supposed to be 90 pesos without the eggs. “90 pesos! Oh, but that’s soooo expensive!” I said. “How about 50?” The guy laughed and joked a little but didn’t say no. Kenzie and Darryl felt a little bad for him I think so they were like, “Ok, how about 80?” The guy was happy with that and so off we went. I still think we could have at least gotten away with it all for like 65 or 70 though.

Next we had to find chocolate chips. They are impossible to find in this country!! We had some random boy who was about 12 trying to help us and he was leading us all over the place looking for chocolate. He was helpful but a little annoying and Bossy Betsy had to shush him at the end finally. He kept trying to get us to buy these bitter chocolate candy pieces which people use in hot chocolate. Being the inquisitive chocolate pig that I am, I had already sampled those bars and they are soooo not ok to use in cookies. Thanks to the lesson Jackie and Rach taught me when I was like 13, I know for sure that chocolate bark is gross if you’re going to be consuming it when it’s not totally mixed in with something. 10 years later and their mean trick finally came in handy!

So we walked and walked and finally we found a candy store. They were selling chocolate bell thingys for 3 pesos each. Well, we needed like 20 and that’s a lot to spend on chocolate when all other other ingredients cost us 80 pesos. I asked her if we bought 20 would she give them to us for 2 pesos each. I have no idea what she said but when I counted out 20 so told me it was 40 pesos so I guess it worked.

Next I went to buy some fruit and the mango dude was selling them for 10 pesos EACH! I just bought them last weekend somewhere else for 5 pesos each. I asked if he would give me two for 10, he said 2 for 15 and I said 2 for 12 and we had a deal! Needless to say, I was pretty dang satisfied. After all the walking and looking though me and my group were about 30 minutes late for meeting everyone else so as we were walking back we were met by our Spanish teacher who was pretty worried. Poor guy thought he lost his whole class!

Nutrition Center

Wednesday we all went to the nutrition center in Bani. It’s the only nutrition center in the whole country. Its way more than just a regular nutrition center though, it’s for children under the age of five and so it doubles as a day care. People have to pay a little per month to take their kids there (to help with the costs since its run solely on donations) but in the morning the kids are fed breakfast, then they play and run around until snack time. They get milk as a snack at 10 and then lunch at 11 or 12. Then they are all given baths and lay down to nap while their clothes are washed. After more playing and another snack of milk, the parents can either pick their children up or let them stay for preschool. Children get a lot of milk at the clinic since they generally don’t get it at home. Due to the global food crisis, the cost of food has gone up a ridiculous amount in the last few years. Milk is much too expensive for the average person to buy and so they just go without.

The clinic is run by a nun who is from Canada. She’s lived here in the DR for more than 30 years and had the nutrition clinic for a looong time. I’m not sure how long but I know that she moved from a church to her current building and has been there for the past 12 years. It seems she runs the clinic pretty well. In order for a person to bring their child to the center they have to come and volunteer one day a week. The children come to the clinic five days a week for up to a year. By then the mothers should know how to properly nourish their children with what they have and the child should be close to normal expected weight.

You all know that I am no fan of kids so playing with them for an entire hour was less than entertaining for me but it wasn’t too bad as long as I wasn’t one of the people holding the bubbles. After the kids at their lunch of “green soup” (which is made of green leaves made into a paste and noodles) my fellow PCTs and I were treated to lunch. It was the best lunch I have had in the country with delicious cheese, (the cheese from the colmados has the nick name “squeaky cheese” since it squeaks against your teeth when you eat it and this is the only cheese I’ve been eating pretty much since I got here), healthy cookies with oatmeal, fresh cantaloupe (which ALWAYS makes me think of you Rach since you loaded me up with it my last few days there:), fresh veggies which weren’t cooked, nice fluffy rolls and of course green soup. It was great!

The nutrition center also has a clinic on the property which offers consultations, vaccines and other common services. It’s really a great asset in the middle of a very poor community. The nun showed us pictures of various children she has had there, some that have made it and others than died. Right now they have a child who is 9 months old and just 11 pounds. It’s really sad to see the pictures of the children who died because the mothers were unable to feed them or unwilling to take them to the clinic each day.


So, yesterday was the day that I had to give my first presentation in front of the members of the community. When I first heard about this I was nervous but later I felt ok with it but then right before it I began to get nervous. Here it’s normal to take a nap after lunch (which is when I write my blog since it’s too hot to nap) but the day of our presentation I fell back into Bossy Betsy mode and our Spanish teacher didn’t take a nap either. I worked on this with my Spanish group and with two of the three of us being sick on Saturday and Monday it put us a little behind. So, college style, we were working on finishing it up a few hours before we had to present. I figured we needed all the time we could get and there wasn’t time for naps, but then I felt bad. I was later reassured that I’m not that bossy and that in this country all the women are bossy so it’s ok.

When it came time to present we had dealt with all the issues that come up right before hand and were ready. We went outside (it was held in my Dona’s backyard) and saw that the crowd of what we thought was going to be 8 grew a LOT. By the end of the presentation there were probably over 30 people there. For our presentation we could talk on either nutrition or breastfeeding. We chose nutrition. Giving a 45 minute speech in Spanish where you can’t read it straight off of paper is no easy task. We played games and cooked a meal for everyone (super eggs) with green leaves in the community. The presentation got off to a rocky start with a turkey mistaking me for its mate (or dinner) as it followed me around all puffed up but by the end, it went well.


Last night proved to me that my Spanish MUST be getting better. We were planning on cooking our meal in the kitchen and having the 8-10 expected to show up in there with us. There was no way 30 people were fitting in the kitchen though, in fact when I said it no one moved from their chair. So my two other presenters were in the kitchen cooking while I was trying to explain the steps and then ad-lib so I wasn’t standing in front of a crowd in awkward silence. Ad-libbing in Spanish is no easy thing but you all know me and I guess I can babble in more than just English!

Also, today we had to take another proficiency exam to see where we are in our Spanish. When I took the first one I was placed at a level 3. I was pretty nervous since I was afraid I would be having a bad Spanish day or something and she would tell me I was like a level 2 now. But, I did in interview and can happily report that I’ve improved to a level 4. I need one more level by the 29th; I think I can do it! The professor told me that I am a good conversationalist but I need to work on using the imperfect more, I’m not sure but I think she said she would have put me at a 5 if I had done that more. Luckily for me, she told me not to study but to practice by speaking. I told her that’s good news because I like to talk and don’t like to study!


So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…. Where will I be for the next two years? Drum roll please… As I said in my last blog, I was nervous about having to live in the south or having to live in a batey. I was surprised to find out that we were being told our sites so early since I had heard from other volunteers that they didn’t find out until the week they were to leave for their sites! Well, to add to the suspense, let me just say that we were all having class and the APCD began calling us out of the classroom one by one to tell us where we would be going. I found out that some people were being given a choice between a few places. After one after another went, I found myself the last person to be called to go, which could have meant that I got the last pick!! I was so nervous when I finally got to talk to Miguel that I had prepared myself for the worst.

I got the opposite. Miguel began by telling me that the area he was thinking of sending me was in the mountains and was cool and crisp. He said that there had been water volunteers in the area on several occasions and so PC is known there (and kind of celebrities since water volunteers are almost thought of as gods since they “bring water” to the communities) and so PC is very popular as well. He said there is a team of community members for me to work with and that the community is excited to have me. At first it sounded really good but then I wondered if I would be far up on some side of a mountain that I would need a whole day to get to my site or that my phone wouldn’t work! He told me the nearest town is about 20 minutes away by car and that my cell phone should work there since it worked with the other volunteers. I guess Miguel is really found of the site, he told me he goes there just to get away sometimes and relax. He said it’s more than beautiful, that it’s “God’s gift to the Earth”. If you knew Miguel, you would be shocked to hear such vivacious statements from him, I know I was. He also said the people are great there, that they are very open and kind.

Where is it you ask? Just where I wanted to be, in the North in the beautiful, fertile area of the country!! It’s really close (I’m guessing within an hour) of a ton of tourist resorts (which are in Puerta Plata- the region directly north of mine- but there are a lot more in other regions of the country) so you all can visit a resort and swing by to pick me up at my site!! My site is in a town called Los Ruales which I think is outside of a town called Villa Bisoró or Nayarreto. It’s a campo (which may even be a campo campo since it’s pretty small) with a total of about 125 houses and that sounds perfect to me:) If you find anything out about it on google or something let me know!!

I’m excited too because it’s pretty close to Santiago and there is a regional PC office there. This means I can get mail there and won’t have to go all the way to Santo Domingo for mail and I expect that will save me a ton of money in traveling. So I’m going to change my mailing address as soon as I get the Santiago address. Don’t worry if you forget and send something to the Santo Domingo address because I will always have a mailbox in Santo Domingo, it’s just that I’ll be going to Santiago much more often than Santo Domingo.

Feliz Navidad

Ok so today was mail day and let me tell everyone it was like Christmas here!! Let me say thank you sooooo much Rach, Mom, Sarah and Stewy for your letter/packages!! I was soooo surprised; there was a ton of mail for a lot of people today too which was nice since almost everyone got something. Dad, just so you know I have not gotten any other flashlight. Rach send a light but it’s not a flashlight, it’s like a light you stick to things and leave in place (thanks Rach!!). And I think the book bag will be great Mom, thanks a LOT!! It was good today to use to carry my mail back in! I got a letter you mailed me on September 4th Sar and I always love to hear what’s going on and look at pictures of family so thanks for that! Gabe and Isaiah, thanks for the new words! I don’t know my animals or body parts at all so maybe you can send me body parts next time. I informed the class that a fox is called a zorro, so we all learned something new thanks to you guys! And Stewy, aside from planning a movie night at my house on Friday thanks to all the great movies you sent me, I really enjoyed munching on some snacks while I worked on this super long blog!! You’re a freaking genius for stuffing that gladwear full of starbursts!! So thank you so much guys!! You’re really spoiling me here.

Other Random Things (added the next night 10/3…)

So, one other person in the total group left this week. He was in the youth group. Guess he woke up one morning and just thought to himself that he had had enough. And that was that I guess. The health group may be getting some new additions from Bolivia. I guess that there was a program there and something happened so the PC pulled out of the country. So the news is that there are possibly two volunteers who may be coming here to the DR this weekend and join us as early as Monday! But here it is Friday night and I haven’t heard anything so who knows.

Movie Night!

Friday night we had a great time at my house! Everyone came over between 5:45 and 7:30 (well, the Spanish teachers were fashionably late showing up at 8:30) and we made a bunch of food. My group made our chocolate chip cookies and they were sure a gamble! No one has measuring cups here and I’m no cook. So we guessed and did our best with what he had. Turns out the vanilla we got was white vanilla, aren’t we supposed to use brown vanilla? Well, aside from burning a few of them, and the fact that there may have been a little too much sugar since they were crystally, they were goooood:) The other two groups made a HUGE fruit salad and salsa with avocado, garlic, tomato and other good stuff. We didn’t have chips so we used this crunchy bread made out of yucca and it was good too! Then sat out in our plastic chairs and watched What Happens in Vegas with Spanish subtitles for the teachers. We were pretty happy because we got through the whole movie without my battery dying.

The next day I woke up disappointed to find that the power had not come back during the night so my computer was dead still. Normally it comes on between 11 pm and 2 am. So, I had a lot of stuff I needed to get off out my lap top since today we’re going to go to Bani and use the internet for the first time in a week. Luckily my Dona is a genius and told me to ask a colmado for a favor since some of them have generators. Three colmados later here I am hooked up to the generator in a colmado, drinking a coke from a bottle, my favorite:)
In Conclusion...

So that was my week, nice and busy!! I guess next week is finally supposed to be slow down a bit which is good. Hopefully I’ll be able to charge my laptop so I don’t always have to go to the colmado and use the power but boy am I happy they had one!! I miss you all and hope you’re all doing well there. Can’t wait to hear from you and read your responses!



Anonymous said...

Holy cow all that was in a week? I got tired just from reading it. I am sooo glad you get to go where you want to. Can't really comment on all of it cause there was so much. It sure was nice to talk to you on Aaron's b-day I know he enjoyed that too. Guess I'll talk to ya tuesday. Love ya lots

batteredbugs said...

That all sounds great Bets!
Except all the illness part. And speaking of that, I think I'm getting a nasty head cold myself. Sammy just went into the "free clinic" at KSB today b/c he's been just choking and gagging on sinus matter and phlegm. I'm sipping on a nice hot cup of green tea as I type this. And the thing about the flashlight that I'd thought I'd sent U... Well, it never got sent! A couple of days ago Rachael brought it in here to me and said that somehow she'd overlooked it when she put the parcel together. So, no, U don't have it, I still do. Did U still need/want it? I never did find out from her if she'd sent all of the AAA batteries to U or not though. That'd be a shame b/c they're heavy, and to ship U those with no flashlight... Well, that's not very good! On another note, be careful with that hog manure. The best manure to use as fertilizer is cow manure, then horse manure, and the last one U'd want to use is hog manure. Chris G. says that if U use too much of it that it will "burn" your garden plot and nothing will grow there! And I think that's b/c they're not herbivore exclusive, they eat just about anything. U never know what U'r gonna get from the other end! Plus U want to really wash thoroughly after U handle that stuff... A good nail brush. Anyway, everything else sounds just great out there. It sounds like U're going to be staying at about the best place you could. It's almost as if U'd have picked it yourself. And it sounds like U'll be amongst "friendlies", which is a really good thing too. I only hope that U don't have to go through another diet shock b/c they might eat different stuff up there than they would in the more developed parts of the country. It's better to be up in the mountains when it rains too, just as long as U're not too close to tributaries that turn into raging rivers when it does, but it sounds like Ur learning Ur way around there pretty well already. And Ur language and bargaining skills seem to be getting dialed in a little better too... Just remember, "Everything's negotiable"! :) It's a shame about the group from Bolivia, b/c the people who'll be losing out on their services will be missing out on a lot, but it sounds like with as busy as U guys are out there U could use the reinforcements. So then, no talent wasted. Keep up the good work and U're gonna be a great asset there and make numerous new friends. That's about as good as it gets anywhere. Always strive for and seek out the positive in all situations. Have fun and thanks for keeping us so posted, this is truly wonderful.
Dad :)