Tuesday was the dreaded Project Partner Day. This is the day that PCVs describe as the blind date that wouldn’t end. It begins with an awkward meeting of up to five of the people you could be working with for the next two years of just the first three months. After some time together you head out with them to your site where you stay from Tuesday until Sunday and on Sunday you return to Santo Domingo for a week or so. I’ve never heard of anyone looking forward to the day.
Here’s how my Project Partner Day went down: I woke up at 6 and finished packing all my stuff. My APCD told me that I would be getting a ride to my site and thus wouldn’t need to take public transportation so I should bring all my stuff. Thankfully the heavy, unmovable suitcase that I took to CBT was already at Entrena so I didn’t have to deal with it. I also lucked out when I left my house in Los Cocos because one of the PCTs Dons picked us up in a truck so I didn’t have to drag my suitcase the mile up to the front of the neighborhood again. We got to Entrena, loaded our bags up on the trailers and left to meet our new partners- 45 minutes behind schedule.
When we got there we dealt with our bags and were ushered in to meet our partners. For me, meeting my partners consisted of Ann saying, “There, they’re over there. Talk to them and ask them if they have eaten. Good luck.” And with a little push I was off to meet the two people sitting there starting off into space. I sat down and tried and make small talk in Spanish for almost an hour before a presentation started. Turns out, the people who met me are married and are each on a committee in the community. One of them is supposed to help me conduct my diagnostic. They both seem really nice and I was happy to find out that the PCV that was in Los Ruales before me didn’t speak very much Spanish when he arrived either so I was off the hook for now.
After what should have been an awkward half day but I thought was kind of fun (but hey, I also get a kick out of blind dates), we piled into a van with 4 other PCTs and their partners and headed off to our new homes. Four hours later, I got off the van and said good bye to the other PCTs and began the 20 minute drive up the mountain in the back of a truck. My site is so pretty. It reminds me of Lowell Park except with mango, avocado and palm trees instead of pine trees.
We got off of the truck and a bunch of people came up to me and started giving me hugs. We all walked up to a block house that was open and sunny. It wasn’t as great as the house in Las Tablas but I was pretty psyched. Then they pointed to a house right next to this one and said that’s where I’ll be living after three months when I’m allowed to live alone. They own the extra house. What are the odds?!? There are a lot of people who have to live with their host families longer than three months either because they can’t find a house, they can’t contact the landlord or they can’t get the house approved by PC.
We went to my future house and sat and talked. The house is the first one I have seen that has glass in the windows, the front two- how great is that? Now I can put window clings up for decorations!! Looking out the front door I could see mountains to my right and left and a valley in the middle where the city is. At night it’s really pretty because I can see the lights between the mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful, and fresco! I asked the person living there if it was ok I used it and they all laughed and said of course it was fine because the person living there right now is 14. He’s just going to move up the hill back with his parents. I asked about the furniture (a kitchen table with four chairs, two plastic chairs for the porch, a tabletop stove, shelves, and two beds) and they said I could use it all!!! I think they said I won’t have to buy anything because the PCT that lived there before left everything so I should be set.
Just when I thought things couldn’t be better, I was told it was time to meet my host family, which turns out was up the road. So we walked up to this tiny little pinky-peachish, wood house and I said hello to my new Doña and Don. They took me back into my room which has no windows and my Doña started unpacking me. Then she took me around, pulling me by the elbow, showing me where the latrine and the shower were. I was happy to find that the latrine and shower are separate. Showering where people crap makes me want to take bath in hand sanitizer. I asked my Doña about the water source and if she fills up the buckets with water she buys or with water from the tap and she said, “No, this is water YOUR going to buy.” Hmm, I was starting to think my days of having a laid back Doña were over.
Anyways, I went to my room and decided I didn’t really mind the crap hole I was living in (which only has one light bulb in the entire house) because my site was beautiful and my future house is a piece of heaven. Then I realized I had to use the latrine. I worked up some courage and went out to face it. There were two large spiders in there so I yelled for my Doña who then handed me some bug spray. I decided I didn’t want to piss the spiders off before I finished using the latrine so I brushed my teeth and did my business. I was going to spray them but after one of them killed a mosquito I supposed they were contributing to society and thus allowed to live.
When I got back into my room I was really happy to discover that there was a mosquito net already in place and it has a slit to get out of!! No more having to do the limbo!!! The problem was that there were a lot of holes in it so I spent the next hour sewing it until my Dona turned off the light. That’s another thing, I’m super lucky that my house has a generator!! It’s in my room, smells and is noisy but I can plug my stuff right into it and never have to worry about se fue la luz. One other nasty thing about my room is that it smells. I haven’t decided what contributes to this more, the nasty old, wet bed or the latrine outside where a window is supposed to be. Did I mention there are no windows in my room? As far as the smell goes, thanks for the candle Rach because I take the lid off and sleep with it next to my nose every night.
On Wednesday I was super happy to take my bucket bath with hot water!!! That was the first time in over two months I had even warm water. My Doña heats the water up, I’m living the good life:) After that we walked around to meet people my Doña wanted to show me off to. I decided that while my Doña is pretty cool, she’s overbearing and not a good person to take with on interviews. She tells everyone that I’m here to give speeches which is good on one hand so people don’t expect me to build a road or something but I have to clarify that I will not be doing that during the first three months. I don’t want people thinking I’m lazy since it’s going to be a while before my first presentation.
Overall, I am really excited. I know I’ve only been here for a few days but the people here are super nice and patient with my Spanish. I understand a lot of what they say but it’s hard to understand my Doña because she mumbles a lot. When we were doing our visits that first day, one lady was psyched to paint my nails! I also found out that there is a married couple that only lives about a 15 or 20 minute drive from me which my Don drives almost everyday so I can visit whenever I want. Turns out that they’re going to visit the 27 waterfalls site in a few weeks and they invited me to go!! PC says not to leave your site much during the first three months especially but I don’t see what the big deal is as long as I’m still doing my interviews and chilling with people a lot.
So, that’s whats new with me this week. Project partner day is over, my site has a lot of promise and my room is stinky. I’ve got a latrine that you actually sit on which I was afraid to do at first but now, I own that thing. I show it who is boss. I go back to Santo Domingo tomorrow, I think I’m catching a ride with the Pepsi guy at 6 am or something. Then Wednesday I graduate and finally become a Volunteer!! Yay!! Hope you all are doing well there and I hope to hear from you soon!!
PS: As far as the mail situation goes, I guess there is a guy, the regional PCVL (PCV Leader) who lives in Santiago and goes to the capitol and collects the mail once a week. He calls when we have mail so I should be able to get my mail once a week or so and I still have the same address.