Saturday November 1st: Huston, I have a problem… ok today I have a lot of them.
Well, after a great week it was time to face the fact that I was going to have to go back to my site sometime. I tried to convince three different people to hang in the capitol with me one more day but people were already experiencing Campo Guilt and wanted to get home. Learning quickly, I made sure to tell my Doña in Los Ruales (her name is Dominga) that I would be back Saturday or Sunday, si Dios quiere… aka, don’t be surprised if I don’t show up for a while. So I was experiencing no guilt, my community seems really easygoing thus far so I wasn’t stressed. Not wanting to hang solo for a day and deciding it was better to save the money, I agreed to be ready to go by 1:30. I can happily say that I was able to use the pool one last time before I had to leave for about 30 blissful minutes.
Around 2 Mark, Sarah and I headed off to the Caribe tours stop which apparently was just a 10 minute walk from the PC Office. Mind you, it’s only a ten minute walk if you go the right way the whole time and even though it’s supposed to be a short walk, I found out after walking the wrong with my suitcase for about 20 minutes, the short walk is all uphill and we left during the hottest part of the day. By the time we got to the station I was a very attractive bright red, not to mention soaking wet. We hopped on a bus and headed for Santiago. Turns out there are two stops in Santiago but we managed to get off at the right one and headed to where someone told us the guaguas were. After more walking that I would ever care to do again with my suitcase (which now is missing the rubber on two of the four wheels and has one wheel with a flat side- completely round wheels are overrated) we finally arrived to our destination. Only problem was that it was Sarah and Marks destination- not mine. Luckily, my bus was pretty close. I hopped on my bus and headed to Navarrete.
As soon as I got off the bus I was greeted by a dude on a moto who offered to take me up the mountain with my suitcase for 100 pesos. I was complaining it was too much with three other guys came out from the store. Two of them were telling me that it was a good deal since I had my suitcase and the other was telling me I was beautiful and he loved me. Ok then, I figured what the heck, I guess I do have this suitcase so I agreed and hopped on. Well, it was the first time I was honestly scared for my life on a moto. And let me just say that 20 minutes up a mountain is a loooooong time to be scared for your life. When I got to my house I asked my Doña and her friends if he was crazy or something and they said they knew him, that he wasn’t crazy but just didn’t have much practice at driving a bike. I’d have to agree.
Later that night I was heading to the latrine when my Doña said something to me about how she was going somewhere to do something. Ok then, great Dominga. I have no idea what you said but sounds good. So, I headed to the latrine (since the lights weren’t working I went with my brand spanking new, sweet little headlight- thanks Aaron and Mags!!!) and I see a cockroach in the latrine hole. Ok, it’s just a roach, I can deal with this. Then I look and I see a smaller spider to the right and I see a big one on the ceiling. Suddenly I see another one next to that one! Oh NO!! I am SOOOOO NOT going in there!!! But, Dominga took off so I couldn’t get her assistance. I did the next best thing: I yelled for the 13 year old in my house to help me.
He came over with his friends and walked right up to the biggest spider first and wacked it with his bare hand!!!!! The spider flew off the ceiling and Anthony promptly stepped on it. But it was too late, after it fell from the ceiling, which I was expecting about as much as I was Anthony to smack it with his hand, I left out a yelp (ok, maybe more of a scream) and tripped stepping backwards to get out of the possible 6 foot jumping range I heard some spiders have. Well, him and his friends looooooved that. They started batting at all the other bugs in there and now I can happily say there are no more spiders in the latrine for now. As long as I had my headlamp on I decided to look in the hole to see if the cockroach was going to crawl on my rear and I saw clothes in there! Why on Earth are there clothes in there? Guess kids put things in the toilet no matter where you live or what kind of toilet it is.
So, those were my adventures the last week in the capitol and the first day in my site. Dominga is bugging me to get off the computer and socialize so that’s it for now. Don’t worry, I did not write this in one sitting though. If these are too long, sorry but I figure better to write too much and have something to look back on than not write enough. It’s going to be a lot at once since I probably won’t post as often now. But, with it being winter and cold, you’re all stuck inside with nothing to do right? Lol, well I hope it’s not overwhelming. I hope you’re all doing well and I miss you all!!! I’m sure I’ll write more later:)
I was feeling pretty bad for Kenzie and Jess who had a LOT of stuff to take with them to their sites. It’s a long walk from our houses to the front of the barrio with a bunch of crap to drag along the gravelish road. Luckily some people in the barrio were on their way to an English class downtown so they gave us a bola. I read their English book and made sure to tell them that they were pretty much getting ripped off since the English was soooo jacked up. Plus, the entire book was in English, how are you supposed to learn when there aren’t even directions in your native language?
We were dropped off at the Pen and after we unloaded we headed over to the PC office. We hung out there for a while, taking advantage of the free internet. Then we headed over to the pool for a second time that week. After that, we chilled more at the office. When we finally headed over to the Pen a few of us were kind of bummed that we weren’t able to find a costume to wear to the Rock n Roll bar we were all going to that night. A lot of us only had a few things with us since we took most of the stuff to our site but in true PC style we all shared what we had and everyone was able to come up with a costume. I felt like I didn’t contribute very much but by the time we left I was wearing Katie’s shoes, Ian’s socks, Sarah’s shorts, Kenzie’s shirt and Lindsey’s eye liner for the stripes on my face. I went as a Cubs fan:)
Before we went to the Rock n Roll bar we went back to that pizza place to have some veggie pizza. We normally stand out being gringos and all but being a cowboy, a lumberjack, a cubs fan, a tiguere, a girl scout and an 80s aerobic instructor made it a little worse. We noticed that the pizza place was packed and it was packed with mostly men, all off which had not received their food yet. We ordered our food and while we waited people were taking pictures of us from across the room. After we ate our pizza and the crowds left we decided we were still thirsty but didn’t want to buy another pitcher of pop. I got nominated through my slowness to put my finger to my nose to be the one to get more pop. I had to do this by obtaining the rest of the pop from a pitcher from another table from the group who had left. Great, I felt like a homeless person. I walked up to a table, took the pitcher, walked up to someone who looked like they worked there and said, “Está bien si yo tome…” (is it ok if I take…) and the guy laughed and nodded approval. I wonder if that happens often….
And off we were to the Rock n Roll bar! It was a great time, first we stopped at a colmado where one of the PCVs won two dance contests. We went to the bar and Sarah broke the sink when she was bracing herself to hover over the toilet, so we left our mark I guess. After the bar closed we began walking home and we were about to catch a taxi when we spotted one of our Spanish instructors!! So, he gave us a bola to the hotel, what are the odds of that?! Another great ending to a great day:)
Thursday the 30th: To the Embassy!!!
The morning began with an attempt to find this supposedly great bagel place somewhere in the Capitol. Jay and I even looked at a map before we went so we theoretically knew exactly where it was. However, about 25 minutes later we both decided we must not remember Spanish street names very well and returned without the bagels. I was not defeated though because right outside of the Pen is a fruit vendor who sold me a delicious banana for the going rate of 5 pesos.
We got to the PC office to finally receive our bank cards, which lead to a still empty account. I was pretty sad about this because another PCV went to the bagel store and I had to borrow 5 pesos to get a bagel with the rest of my money... maybe I shouldn’t have gotten that banana. Even though I was in the city with no money to get home and no way to eat the rest of the day I felt like it was a good purchase. The bagel was one of the best things I have eaten in the DR.
After we received our bank cards all us brand spanking new PCVs (that’s right, a trainee no more!!) headed over to the embassy to take advantage of the pool. The Ambassador told us there were Marines who would be cooking the hot dogs which many of us were pretty pumped. Imagine our disappointment when there were not only no Marines but the hot dogs were not grilled but instead boiled. The hot dog experience was much better than my first one in the DR and the pool was so perfect that there’s not much else I can find to complain about. We all loved a day to relax and swim. And we also loved the SHOWERS!!!
I was going to spend the night at the Pen again but I was feeling really guilty about leaving my fam in Los Cocos with out being able to say goodbye to my sisters who were at school when I left in the morning. So, I saved the money and ate a cheese sandwich for dinner with the fam in Los Cocos.
Wednesday the 29th : SWEAR IN DAY!!!
The morning began with all of us heading off to Entrena to see if we passed all our tests, which as I already said we all “passed”. I received more mail; actually it was the first package that was sent to me- sent the day that I left Chicago! It was the only package that hadn’t made it to me so far. After we found out that we all passed our tests we were free to go but had to return around 3:30, about 5 hours later. Kenzie, Jess and I were at a loss as to what to fill our time with so we did what anyone would do: we found a salon in Los Cocos and got our hair cut. It was just me and Kenz who wanted our hair cut and not being as easy going as her, I said I would have to see how her hair turned out first before I got mine cut. It seemed like it looked ok but it was hard to tell since the lady dried it and immediately put it up in a “tubey” (which I’m sure I spelled wrong since I spelled it looks English there but that’s how it sounds) and then a hair net thingy was placed over it. I figured it was good enough for the five seconds I was able to see it so I hopped in the chair for my turn.
For some reason, the gringas getting their hair cut drew a crowd so by the time I was going to get mine cut there were like 4 kids, two teenagers, the Doña, me, Jess, Kenz and the beautician in the room- needless to say it was hot and cramped. Apparently my hair is pretty cool because two of the girls felt the need to collect it off of the floor and play with it. Then they began holding the ends of the hair still attached to my head as the beautician was cutting it off. After they felt they had collected a sufficient amount of hair, they put rubber bands around it and brushed then cut it. At least I didn’t get the feeling they were going to make a voodoo doll or anything from it.
I realized after I took my tubey down two hours later that I had made a mistake when I got my hair cut. I told the lady I wanted it the same as Kenzie’s but longer. Well, she obviously didn’t hear the last part about it being longer so now my hair is just passed my shoulders. I was sad for a minute or two but then decided it was actually ok, at least I didn’t look like a dude. Also, aside from the fact the chick took the towel from my shoulders to wipe her sweat a few times, overall it was a great deal for only 150 pesos!
We headed off to the ceremony, me with short hair and Kenz resembling someone from Threes Company or Charlie’s Angles since she has as many layers in her hair as me but has very wavy hair, all dressed up to walk the 30 minute walk with guys offering to wipe the sweat from our faces all along the way. (What a pick up line huh?) My Doña wasn’t able to go and seemed a little bummed since I was the first one she had missed out of 6 other PCVs she has had stay with her. We were able to meet the Ambassador and his wife at the ceremony and both seem really cool. I thought it was really nice because the Ambassador gave a speech in Spanish, which he has been trying to learn for the last year and a half. It made me appreciate all I have learned since I’ve been here and made me think highly of him. I give him an A for effort for sure.
After we all swear in we headed to our houses to eat dinner and then headed out to the car wash. I feel a little bad for my Doña because when I returned from Las Tablas I told her I don’t like mashed up/boiled bananas or plantains. So she had no idea what to feed me since that’s literally all they eat along with rice and sometimes beans. Each day I either had a salami and cheese sandwich or a cheese sandwich and that was fine by me.
The car wash was a good time with almost everyone there and dancing. We were pretty much the only people there so by the end of the night they began playing American music and we all rocked out to Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Somewhere between the dancing and the domino games one of the PCVs worked out a bola with someone at the bar. About 7 of us piled into the back of this SUV and got a free ride downtown to the Pen. It was a good ending to a good day.
Tuesday October 28th: A Boring morning with an awkward night
This day started out soooooo boring. We had to get up and get our butts down to Entrena 45 minutes earlier than normal so we were all puffy and sleepy. Then we had to drive downtown for a meeting so we had to sit in traffic for what felt like forever. When we got there we had a morning filled with super boring meetings, it wasn’t the people- just the topics. But, there was good juice and cookies too so it was ok. We were supposed to get our bank cards to our empty bank accounts but something went wrong and we weren’t able to get them. Which worked out well because they fed us lunch ( pizza and I would like to point out that I ate vegetarian pizza which was loaded with onions, corn and other weird pizza stuff and I really liked it…. Yep, I can sometimes eat chucks now and I highly suggest corn on pizza) and because we were downtown with the day to kill. I was on the internet for most of the day before the long walk to the guagua (to save 15 pesos) to spend the night in Los Cocos.
After dinner I headed over to Jess’s house in my pjs to hang out with her and Kenzie. While we were sitting there these two random guys walked up and asked to sit with us. Sure. So they were sitting there talking and asked to buy us some drinks. Everyone split a Presidente (the Miller/Bud of the DR) and I had to be difficult and drink and 7 up. Well, little did I know that it was going to be one of the most embarrassing nights I had thus far. Dominican men are sooooooo forward when they hit on you and they think it’s great to stare at you, trying to make eye contact and hold it. It’s awful. The guy seemed so cool at first and we were planning a trip to the beach with him (turns out Jess knew him) and so I took his number- since I was the only one with my phone with me. He suddenly decides after like 3 minutes that he is “enamored” with me and asks me all the time if I’m going to call him. Si Dios quiere buddy. I had to play the, “Sorry I don’t understand what you’re saying” game a lot, which was true a veces. But when he told me I was like an angle and I laughed out loud I think he was on to me.
After about an hour or so of this they left and I learned that he has an 11 year old son with Jess’s host sister. Her sister was there while he was telling me he was “enamored” with me. Another fun fact, her boyfriend, who is from Canada, was sitting there with us, just chillin. Does anybody else think that could have been weird? It sucks too because I really wanted to go to the beach! Cosas de la vida…
Monday October 27th Oh, was I supposed to pass that test?
Monday was pretty boring at Entrena. We pretty much sat around and waited to take tests. We took this written test which we were supposed to get a perfect on or else we would have to take it over. I was then confused by the fact that at the top of the test it said each question was worth 10 points and there was a bonus question for 4 points. I got three wrong, including the bonus. So, I had to sit and talk with the director (like pretty much everyone else) and discuss what was wrong with my answers. After we got that squared away we each waited to take a first aid exam and then we had to take our Spanish oral final. I wasn’t even nervous. I was so freaked about it when I started training back in August but now I was like, “Dude, I spent the last week using a latrine and sleeping in a stinky, wet bed. If I can handle that, this is nothing”. However, when I take these tests I purposely talk a lot so I at least feel like I’m controlling the conversation and avoid using certain irregular verbs or I like to set it up so I can say everything in the “we” form so I don’t have to conjugate verbs. However, this day I just wasn’t on my game. It was being recorded and I actually stopped myself and said out loud in English, “Why am I using these verbs? I don’t know how to use them.” And yet, despite that I still got my level 5 and passed… like every single person in my group- even those who had NO Spanish ever in their entire lives, hmmm…
Sunday October 26th: Shopping and talking, these are a few of my favorite things…
Sunday was a pretty chill day. We all decided to hit the mall and Plaza Llama for some stuff we needed for our sites. I needed to buy sleep pants and a blanket, things which I, like a crazy person going to a Caribbean Island, didn’t pack. That’s pretty much the only thing I remember about Sunday… I was able to find a dress to wear for swear in, I spent the night in Los Cocos and I talked to Rach for three hours:)
Saturday October 25th: How many ways can I complicate this trip?
I left nice and early from my site on Saturday 10/25. I thought I was going to take a ride the Pepsi truck dude when he came to my community to collect bottles and was going to have to leave at 6am. Then Ernesto said he would give me a ride to town on his moto at 7 am. So, at 7:30 (which of course was 7 in Dominican time) I was on my way on the back of a moto that had Ernesto, Mercedes, me and my suitcase on it. It was and interesting ride down the mountain with the moto breaking down once or twice on the way. It’s a good thing I was being oh so safe and wearing my helmet because I never saw that tree branch. I also discovered that my helmet fogs up in the morning.
Once I got to Navarrete I hopped on a bus to take me to Santiago. I thought it would be fairly straight forward since Ernesto wrote the directions down for me as: “Caribe Tours to Santo Domingo” and for the way home he wrote: “Santo Domingo to Santiago. Santiago to Navarette. Navarrete to Calle Santiago”. Caribe Tours is the bus company in Santiago, which is about 25 minutes from Navarrete. So, I took the bus from Navarrete thinking it was going end its route at the Caribe Tours stop. Well, after riding on the bus for about 30 minutes I asked where the stop was and the people on the bus said I had missed it. The bus driver agreed to take me to another bus so I could get to my stop. So I hopped on another bus which drove me around its route about 3 times before letting me off. The bus driver was trying super hard to get me to give him some attention (and I think I accidentally agreed to go home with him which may explain why I went around the route with him so many times) He eventually let me off by slowing considerably, tossing my bag and telling me to jump off.
Across the street was Caribe Tours. Since I was finally there, I called the other PCTs to see where they were, the water PCTs who live so close. Turns out they called me the day before to tell me to meet them at another bus station, a message I didn’t get since I don’t have service very often at my site. I also learned that if I receive a voicemail it automatically deletes after one day but texts stick around. So anyways, I called them and turns out they had just gotten to their bus stop and they agreed to wait while I tried to figure out how to get there. I found a random person washing cars and asked if I was able to take a carro publico there and he said I was but then offered to call me a taxi. Why would I want to take a taxi which is going to charge me like 200 pesos when I can take a carro publico for only 15-30? I think he was just trying to be nice though since carro publicos aren’t super comfy.
I caught a carro and turns out I wasn’t too far from the other bus stop. The other PCTs and I bought our tickets and hopped aboard only to wait an hour and a half before leaving. The bus was playing the weirdest movie; it didn’t have much talking at all. It pretty much only had some sex scenes and the rest was killing. When it ended it just started over again. No one seemed to be bothered by the vulgarity of the flick despite tons of kids on the bus.
When we got into Santo Domingo we realized we had no idea where we were and didn’t know the address of the PC Office. We found a taxi and bargained him down to a proper price and eventually found the office. It was a little more complicated than I thought it was going to be and I had no idea how to get back but I had a week to forge- I mean think about it. I spent the night in the Pen (the hostel that PC recommends for the PCV/Ts) and went out the other PCVs to a sports bar at night. We were supposed to watch the World Series but because of the rain we weren’t able to. So we sat around and talked. Afterwards we were going to go to the car wash (aka dance party) but someone decided it would be more fun to go to the casino. Not only do we not have any money but we had the educational experience of walking down the street with all the prostitutes. After about 10 minutes in the casino a lot of us remembered that we had been up since 6 and it was long past the 9:30 time we had gotten used to going to bed at. We walked back to the Pen and rested up for the beginning of a busy week.