Friday, November 28, 2008

11/12- 11/26: Two weeks and a lot of rain!

Hello all! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I had a great time at a country club here with my fellow PCVs, swimming and dancing. I'll write a blog about it a little later but for now I wanted to wish you all a happy thanksgiving:) Sorry it took me so long to post a new blog. As you'll find out, I tried to leave my site a few times but each time was spoiled. It has been a looooong two weeks:) Enjoy!

PS: In answer to your question Bill, no I don't have an intern, well unless you count the 8 year old who lives with me. He's my gofer and thats what an intern really is, isn't it?:)

11/26 Wednesday: A La Capital!!!

Last night my cell phone tactic didn’t work. I could not get Tolo to stop snoring and felt bad playing my ring tones since I didn’t want to wake Minga all the way up. I even got up and went to the latrine which I thought would wake someone up for sure but no such luck. I had to bust out the ear plugs and then put my iPod on top of them to properly drown out one of the most obnoxious sounds on the face of the Earth right next to a never-ending alarm clock and Minga’s pig sound.

When I got out of bed at 8, I was pretty pumped to start the day since today was the day I was finally going to be able to leave my site!!!! I ate some breakfast and headed out with my interview partners, set on doing 7 interviews today and thus completing one of four sections in Los Ruales. I have been keeping a list of names of the houses I have done since I don’t remember who’s house I’ve visited and often had different interview partners. The problem was that my interview partner’s didn’t know any of the names on my list! Everyone uses nicknames here so their name may be Juan Fulano Alejandro Garcia but they go by Tito or Chelo. So, I had 7 houses to find in this one part but didn’t remember who I had done and also wasn’t sure where more houses were (since there are just random houses all over). This lack of information lead to walking up and down the sides of hills more than I would have cared to do. I guess I need some exercise though to burn off all that beer…

Five interviews, some genuine freshly fried pork rinds, and a rain storm later it was time for lunch. I went home, ate my craved quota of rice and beans for the day, took a shower, packed my bag and was ready for Minga’s son to take me to Navarrete. Problem was that he left an hour earlier… dang my town for being punctual! So, Minga took a plastic chair and set up camp for me in the street where I sat with my bag and helmet, waiting for someone to drive by who I could grab a ride with. I felt a little retarded and told her she had to sit in the road with me.

The ride to Santiago went smoothly and had a good feeling about the rest of the day since I got all the way to Santiago without paying: I got a bola down the mountain and for some reason the guagua dude who takes the money (the cobrador) on the bus from Navarrete to Santiago didn’t charge me. My luck was running low though by the time I got to Caribe Tours. I’m not sure what contributed to that more: the child who was throwing up right across from me during the 2 ½ hour drive (it was a little longer today thanks to traffic) or the weird, gory space movie with lots of weird awkward sex that was playing over and over.

I got into Santo Domingo around 6 pm. I went to the PC office first and was sooooo happy to see everyone!! It’s true that the other PCVs become like family. Due to the cell service in my site I hadn’t talked to a lot of them since swearing in but we all hugged and talked like it had only been a day apart and we had been good friends forever. It was great:)

After some time at the PC office, I headed over to a hotel and snuck into a room with some friends for the night where Kenzie and I had the luxury of spooning on the twin bed all 6 hours. A good ending to the first day of my mini vacation:) And tomorrow…… TURKEY DAY!!! I hope there’s pie!!!!! :D

11/25 Tuesday: 21 straight nights in my site…. Ay Mi Madre…

Today was a good day but I wouldn’t have guessed it from the start since it was all cloudy and had the potential to rain. I wasn’t able to sleep last night for some reason and woke up completely tucked under my covers, head too, since it was so freaking cold. It reminded me of living at the school in Dixon where there is like no heat. I used to wake up for high school and it would be 57⁰ leading me to stay in bed under my covers and ditch a lot of school my senior year.

Today I had even more to look forward too as one can only go so many days without taking a shower. I made the mistake of asking Minga to boil some water for me while I brushed my teeth and got ready to take my shower. I was really surprised when I went to the shower and found the hot water bucket full of water! The last few times she gave me water she skimped big time giving me like three scoops worth of water so I specifically asked her to give me a LOT of hot water today since it was so freaking cold. Before I could get really excited I realized there was no way she could have boiled that much water in that short of time and sure enough, the water was lukewarm. If I get pneumonia here, you all will know why.

After my great bath I dipped into my peanut butter reserves (thanks Aaron and Mags, Jiffy never tasted so good!) for breakfast and headed off to do my interviews. I have two people who are my favorite to do interviews with and I was lucky enough that they were helping me today. I was also lucky that it didn’t rain today either so I did my interview quota for the day. At the last house I went to for the interviews the family has kittens. I had self control a few days ago and told someone I couldn’t take a puppy since I already have a dog at home in the States and what would I do with two dogs? Then I went to the puppies’ house and played with the two super cute, fat, flea ridden puppies and I still maintained my self control. Gold star for me. I’m not much of a fan for cats but I have said since my first spider encounter here that I need a cat. I need a special cat that is ferocious and also likes to eat spiders or at least rats and maybe roaches. So, when I saw the kittens I was pretty happy. The question now is should I get the one who was calm and sat in my lap, who will probably be a good companion (or is maybe just sickly) or should I get the one who is the biggest and most rambunctious? He is obviously a go- getter as he is the largest of the litter, eating the most milk. I need a cat with ambition but I think he may be a little annoying too. Then again, Booker is really annoying and I think he’s great!

After I came home from playing with the kittens and doing my interviews, I ate lunch and then got my nails done. It’s just 30 pesos to get all 20 of your nails painted! Then I talked for a while with some women I should know but don’t. Minga finally came to get me (she ditched me about 40 minutes before that) and we walked to her mother in law’s house to wait for Tolo. About an hour later we were off with Tolo to get pick up a truck bed worth of oranges. On the way home, after eating at least 4 oranges and telling Minga I can’t eat anymore, she just kept handing me oranges all cut up ready to eat. I thought my stomach was going to revolt but it took it like a champ.

Later Rach called me and I’m soooooooo excited because she’s going to visit me in December! She’s got to wait for her passport but if it all works out, she’ll be here from the 24th until the 27th- FOR CHRISTMAS!! Not much time here but it seems to me that the 24th is the most important day of the year here so she should be in for a good visit. I can’t wait! Minga keeps talking about how Rach and I are both going to sleep in my bed together. It’s a pretty small bed, even smaller with the mosquito net but at least we’ll be warm! I’m also excited for her visit because I already started a list of warm clothes I want her to bring me:)

Being the wimp that I am when it comes to cold weather, I haven’t been doing interviews when it’s pouring rain here. I feel like a slacker but it’s too dang cold to be soaking wet. If I had a dryer, an indoor shower, a heater or just a blow dryer even I would suck it up and get to work. But I don’t. So I told them here that I was going to buy rain boots because if I can keep my feet dry, I’ll feel like I can face the rain and the cold. Apparently only Haitians wear rain boots so they all laughed at me. I told them I was going to start a fashion trend and I was going to wear them on Dec 24th- the equivalent of the first day of school where everyone wears their new clothes. It was a joke but today I heard some people talking about how I was going to wear rain boots for Christmas. Do I really have a choice now? Look at the weird Americana wearing rain boots for Christmas!!!

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. After I do interviews in the morning, I’m going to eat lunch with the fam (got to get my rice and beans for the day) and the I’m finally going to head out of my site! I love my site but I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner!! I paid 500 pesos for my meal already and I’m hoping there’s going to be pie:) I can’t WAIT!!! I think there’s a pool too; the first Thanksgiving pool party for me! I hope it’s not raining and that it’s a lot warmer in Santo Domingo. I’ll know tomorrow!

11/24 Monday:

It was raining. Again.

11/23 Sunday: Sun-Day and discotecas

I was so happy to wake up today to sun again. It feels like forever since it was sunny! This was also good because the nasty, still-wet laundry in the bucket was hung up on the line today and actually dried. The only things that stunk really badly were my socks and I would have rewashed them but I only have one other “clean” pair. I learned my lesson not to have all or nearly all my clothes in the dirty clothes pile since they’ll probably be washed but who knows when they’ll be dried. I’m a little confused because Minga told me before and today that she was going to take the clothes to her sister’s house and dry them since I guess her sister has a dryer. If she has a dryer why were the clothes sitting in the bucket for 4 days?

After the clothes were hung out in the sun Minga decided I should hang out in the sun too. For the first time since I’ve been in this country, a Dominican wanted me to be in the sun, it felt weird. I was glad for it since I was (and am) already sick of being cold on a sub-tropical island!! While I was basking in the sun with Grandma, Ernestina came over to take me somewhere. I knew I was going to be a little underdressed for Sunday but I put on my cleanest pair of jeans, a T shirt and my tennis shoes. I think it’s better to be undressed and dry than wet and smelly.

When I’m not trying to cover my new found scent by hosing myself with some type of spray (perfume, air-freshener or bug repellent) I’m thinking of a new tactic of what to do with beer. People offer it to me pretty frequently and I’m starting to think that I should probably suck it up and drink it. I got through high school and FIVE years of college and never developed a taste for the stuff but who knows here in the DR? My new possible motto: Drink beer, it’s polite. Here’s why: On the way to Ernestina’s house we stopped at a table with some guys where everyone was drinking beer. They offered me some, but I just took some water instead. I’ve begun to notice that people really want me to drink something with them so if I won’t drink beer they’re going to buy something that I like. That makes me feel a little bad, I feel like a mooch. I would just buy a coke or water before each visit but I don’t want to buy something every time I go to a colmado. It’d be easier to just have a glass (or a half) of beer. So, I figure if I can like beans, maybe I can try to like or at least tolerate beer. If I get fat here though, I’m blaming it on the beer...

After we hung out with some people at the colmado Ernestina and I walked to her house where we waited for her uncle to arrive. I still wasn’t sure where we were going and turns out we were going to a discoteca aka a colmado with a dance floor. Now, I had been a little worried about this since I’m not the most coordinated person but it was pretty fun. Ernestina is a great dancer and she’s fun to watch. I danced a few times with different people and didn’t even feel embarrassed each time I stepped on someone’s foot. I also had my first experience witnessing two teenagers dancing Reggaton. Some PCVs wrote an article for the Gringa Grita (PC-DR’s magazine written by PCVs) and they were wondering if Dominican’s get their Reggaton from sex moves or maybe sex moves from Reggaton. I can see why that’s a valid question. They had their legs up in the air, moving around and humping this way and that… they had no shame! They were the only two dancing too. I asked if they were dating and the girl next to me just laughed and said no. Wow. I think for now I’ll stick to Bachatta.

I was grateful for the creative dancing since it was distracting me from great pickup lines like: “But I can get a visa with in two years…” Yes, that is an enchanting line which is hard to resist but somehow I manage. One of the people I was out with was trying pretty hard to get me to fall for him while at the discoteca. I was telling him no every way I could think of but still being nice about it when I said I was only going to be here for two years. To which he said he wanted to get married and that 2 years was enough time to get a visa and move with me back to Nueva York. Are you freaking kidding me? If only I knew how to say that in Spanish…

When I got home Minga told me to say away from Visa Man because he is a tiguere aka: a player. I was wondering why he was only saying things to me when his sisters weren’t at the table and I found out it could be because he has a daughter. Or maybe it could be because he also happens to have a wife, who of course is jealous and I’m sure wouldn’t hesitate to beat me up. That would just be my luck to join the Peace Corps and get beat up. I was a little annoyed at first that this guy had the nerve but after a bit I just laughed. That’s campo for you. When people tell me that they’re “enamored” with me I translate it as same thing as having a crush or the illusion I will marry them and take them back to “New York” with me. I just need to also keep in mind that they may have children and a jealous wife.

Later that night I was just finishing talking with my mom on the phone when Neno drove by. He stopped to say hello and just when he was leaving Tolo woke up. Minga asked what time it was, about 10:30, and then Tolo flipped out. Why was I outside talking to Neno at this time of night? Blah blah blah …. Well, I tried to tell them that it’s not like he came here looking for me, that he was on his way home, but when Minga gets excited (all the time) she talks over me. I wasn’t really able to explain myself so I just began giving short, random answers instead. Then they thought I didn’t know what they were saying and left me out of the conversation. That was my plan since the “conversation” was a debate where my side was ignored. Probably wrong of me but I tried to give an explanation first. The next morning Minga told me that Tolo was afraid I wanted to date Neno and he was jealous. I’m not sure why he would be jealous, that seems weird to me. But since he doesn’t get along with Neno’s family he doesn’t want a romance budding when I live at his house, or at least that’s the message I get. What romance? I told Minga that there are a lot of crazy men here and left it at that.

11/22 Saturday: So much for the beach…

I didn’t sleep much last night since around 3 am it began pouring rain and continued until about 12:30 in the afternoon. After that it was just a light drizzle with the intermittent heavy spurts. Yep, that’s right… another rainy day. Since it was raining so hard I made the painful decision of not going to the meeting with the other PCVs. My ride offered to take me still but I knew I didn’t want to pelted with rain for 30 minutes on the moto let alone ask him to do it an hour. Not to mention all this rain is making things slick and muddy which I wouldn’t’ think is a great combo with a moto. Plus, if it’s still raining tomorrow I don’t know if I would be able to get a ride back up the mountain when I got into Navarette.

I didn’t want to be bored so I figured I needed a game plan, or just a game. I walked to the colmado with the neighbor girl, Angie, and bought some cards and a Dominos set. I’ve never been one for learning tricky new card games at home, in English. Trying to be taught new games by a bunch of kids speaking Spanish doesn’t make it easier but I did learn one new game. We also played a game of Dominos, which was fun for the first hour or so but after that, the kids were getting on my nerves- big surprise I know. I was proud I lasted that long. I was playing with a loud, somewhat violent 17 year old, two 8 year olds and a deaf man who is a really poor sport.

After lunch I retreated into my room, lit some candles and watched What Happens in Vegas. In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have eaten nearly all my candy and cracker stash yesterday since now I won’t be going out for another 5 days to replenish my food… I hope I have enough peanut butter for 5 more days. If not, I’m sure I can live off of hot chocolate, rice and beans. I noticed last week that I actually really look forward to rice and beans. When I don’t get them for lunch (only happened once) I feel really let down. It’s weird the way the staple grew on me. When I left three months ago I didn’t even like beans! But I told myself if I wasn’t going to adjust to plantains and boiled bananas then I needed to suck it up and eat the beans. People here are generally surprised when they find out I like rice and beans, yet when I say I don’t eat the plantains or mangú they seem equally surprised. As if rice and beans are so much less desirable than the other.

Minga is still trying to get me to eat the dreaded boiled banana. I’m not sure why that is but I admire her persistence. She also moved on from the idea of having me live with her. I finally told her I just needed my own space and I would have to have more space anyways to prepare my presentations. Minga now has a new idea: after I move out she wants me to eat lunch here and have her do my laundry- something that a lot of PCVs do. The thing is, she wants to me pay the same that I’m paying now- yes, after I move out. Not to mention that, while I like the rice and beans, I’m not so sure about the laundry. She doesn’t let it dry all the way and then wads it up so when I get it back, all of it has a bad smell. The laundry that was out on the line getting rained on Wednesday has been lying in a bowl, still wet, for three days now. She’s waiting for the sun to come out so she can hang them back up. It makes me a little sad to say, but one day in the sun is not going to get the smell out: they need soap.

11/21 Friday: It’s still freaking raining!!!!!

Today it’s dreary, cold and raining- again. What a bummer!!! Aren’t Caribbean rains supposed to be pretty, refreshing and warm? Not in the mountains. I’m sure when it’s August and everyone on the beach is dyeing of heat I’ll be grateful for my location but today, the weather is making me lethargic. I still have a lot of beauty to be grateful for but with all the clouds, which I’m inside of at times, it’s hard to see much in the valley.

Anyways, I really hope tomorrow it stops raining. Not only because I have to take a 30 minute moto ride but because I have a regional meeting with other PCVs. The meeting was supposed to be on the beach but if it’s raining I’m not sure where we’re going to have it of even if we’re going to have it. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t be able to get out of their sites if there’s a lot of rain. I’m not going to despair over not meeting up with everyone or not being able to go to the beach just yet; there is still hope.

Next week I get to look forward to going to the capitol Wednesday after my interviews for Thanksgiving. I realized I’ve been isolated for too long when today a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movie came on, When in Rome, and I got excited. It’s in Spanish but I don’t really care right now. Yup, I need to get out…

It doesn’t help my mental state that this morning when I was eating my peanut butter bread the neighbor girl asked Minga if she had a knife. I took my butter knife out of the pb jar and offered it to her but she said she needed a bigger one; it was for cutting the chicken. She took the larger butcher knife and walked out of the kitchen. I didn’t think anything of it until when she came back in there was blood all over the blade of the knife and she was wiping blood off of her arm. Then I heard her ask someone outside if it was still alive. Suddenly I remembered the live white chicken I saw in the kitchen last night. It was so much healthier looking than the other chicken that met the same fate last week in our kitchen. And it wasn’t locked in the kitchen so I thought it one of the chickens not for eating. As I sat there, eating my bread, I realized the chicken was on the other side of the wall bleeding to death upside down. How appetizing. Later when they took it inside and began chopping the legs, wings and head off I pictured them chopping up broccoli and surprisingly wasn’t really bothered by it. Maybe I am getting used to this DR business little by little.

For now I’m not going to think about the chicken or the weather. I’m going to eat the soggy candy left over from Halloween (I’ve been saving it for a rainy day) and watch Mary Kate and Ashley do their thing in Rome.

11/20 Thursday: Not what I pictured

So much for laughing at everyone at home freezing their butts off- the joke is now on me. I am FREEZING! Yes, I am on a Caribbean Island and I’m COLD! Sure, it’s not the same kind of extreme where your nose hair freezes when you walk outside (thank goodness!) but I was not expecting to be in the kind of temperatures that pants and a hoodie couldn’t handle. That’s part of the problem: I only packed two hoodies and one long sleeve shirt. I thought that was over packing! Little did I know I would be put up on a mountain. (or a “hill” as I noticed people here call it. Coming from the Prairie State, I think this is no “hill”) How great it would have been if my CBT, where I was sweating like mad in the hottest part of the country at the hottest time of the year, was up here! (Although I wouldn’t have gotten as many mangos probably since Baní is the mango capitol of the country) I’ve been asking around and people keep telling me that this is how the weather is up here during December. It’s not even December yet! Adding to the cold is the fact that it was still raining today, ick.

Remember the great piece of advice I got from my family in CBT, how the spiders come in when it rains? I agree with that. The last two nights now I’ve had run-ins with nasty spiders in my bed. I already recapped the story of the mother spider with her young crawling on my net but last night there was no comfort in the fact that the spider was on the outside of my mosquito net. I wasn’t inside of my net yet; I was doing my normal visual sweep to make sure it was safe to get in my bed when I saw the evil creature on the inside of my net, just looking at me menacingly: Big Daddy.

I was about to call for Minga again but she hasn’t been helpful even once with spiders. She just scares them off and I could do that but I didn’t want him in my bed! I wanted him gone- out of my space- or DEAD. Plus I didn’t want to wake Minga up two nights in a row. And the way she laughs when I tell her I’m going to live alone, I thought I should show a little independence here. (or maybe start making up stories to make it seem I’m independent) No, this is something I am going to have to learn how to deal with solo. Since I was pretty sure it wasn’t one of the venomous spiders I figured I could face it.

The fact it was on the net presented a problem since there was no hard surface to wack it against. After I put on some shoes (I feel less vulnerable with tennis shoes on I realized), and tried to intimidate him with my death stare for a few minutes, I finally gathered the courage of a crazed person and chased Big Daddy around for a little while. My first plan was to try to catch him and set him free outside however it didn’t go well as I lost track of him. I panicked a little when I pictured him camping out in my bed until I went to sleep and then attacking. I couldn’t have that! I was getting frustrated when I saw a much smaller spider, like an average sized one from back home that used to make me hyperventilate with fear, on the outside of my net, so I took my anger out on him and crushed him between two flip flops. I was on a roll when I caught sight of Big Daddy again and I went for it; I squished him. I squished him on my sheets with a book I was reading that wasn’t very good. It left a mark and it was nasty. I was happy he didn’t just deflate like the huge spider in CBT: that was creepy.

I think I’m getting not only braver but gaining patience slowly as well. I’m guessing because it was lightly drizzling all day, my interview partner for the day showed up about 30 minutes late. I can deal with 30 minutes; I was actually studying Spanish anyways. She came to see if we were still doing interviews today, which of course I said we were, and then she left again to take a shower. She was gone for an hour. Luckily we were still able to get my quota of 5 houses done. That doesn’t make up for the 2 I’m short from Monday or the 5 I’m short for yesterday but its progress none the less. When I asked my interview partner three different times throughout the day if she was going to help me tomorrow she just kept saying she didn’t know. I finally had to be pushy and tell her I needed an answer and that if she wasn’t able to help me then we would have to find someone who could. So, we set it up with some kids to help me tomorrow in the morning. The fact that they only have school here for half days works to my advantage when it comes to interviews.

Tomorrow if it’s freezing again, I’m not taking a shower in the morning. Even with my hot water it’s too cold to be taking bucket baths outside. Last time I took a shower, in my hurry to get dressed I dropped my freshly washed pair of undies on the ground. I noticed there was some black stuff on them and when I tried to wipe it off it just smeared and turned a brown color, which of course was in a spot that suggested I have bowel problems. I didn’t care at the time and just hung them up on the clothes line. The clothes have been on the line since yesterday morning- getting rained on and smelly. Today between rain clouds Minga walked over to my underwear and told me they were dirty while she made a face. She took them to wash them (she scrubbed my underwear por mano) and I’m pretty sure she thinks I pooped my pants. Why was she inspecting my underwear anyway?!

Despite Minga thinking I pooped my pants, which who knows who she told, some people are still “enamored” with me here. I guess Neno has been outright telling people that he’s got a thing for me now and then there is the older guy (old enough that he served in Vietnam) who speaks English. He’s been saying things for a while now that I didn’t want to look into but seemed a little inappropriate. Today after some similarly flirtatious comments he told me he was going to take me out next weekend to have some fun. Yikes!

To make things more interesting, when I was talking to Minga about it she (and three other people) told me how this guy’s wife is really jealous. She’s a teacher too, someone who could really be a good asset to me. Then somehow Minga and her friends got on the subject of date rape. They were adamant that I don’t take drinks from anyone because they said there’s a good possibility my drink could be drugged. I think they’re being a little paranoid. When I’ve been doing my interviews people haven’t expressed concern with the community’s date rape epidemic.

11/19 Wednesday: A rainy day

Today should have been a boring day. When it rains here nobody does anything and to tell you the truth I was kind of glad for that today. It was really pouring and I didn’t want to have to walk around all afternoon, getting soaking wet and filthy from the mud, to come home and not be able to warm up (yes, it’s kind of chilly here today) or clean up. So, since I couldn’t sleep much last night to due the spider’s visit and Minga’s snoring, I was pretty tired. It’s really hard to sleep during the day here though since the bratty kids and Minga are so loud. They drive me nuts but I’m learning how to deal with them. I’ve also decided I want the kids on my side so I try to win them over a few pesos at a time. And you know what? It’s working. Minga sends them around doing things for her all the time and she doesn’t say please or thank you of course. She just orders them around, which sometimes I think they deserve but for the most part I feel bad for them. So, when I asked them to go to the colmado today in the rain (and like I said, it was cold today so I felt a little bad) I told them after they agreed to go that they could each get a piece of 2 peso candy. I need to work with the one that lives with us, Marvey, and try to get him to stop being such a freaking whiner- it’s really annoying. But aside from that, the kids are acting a little better around me, thank goodness.

Since it was raining, I didn’t leave the house even one time. I still have yet to buy an umbrella; I’m not sure why that is. So, I should have been bored but somehow I was not. Thank you 2 years of homeschooling! I have been conditioned for this. I took a nap, sat there and stared at the wall for a while and listened to music, made hot chocolate for everyone, looked up some words in my dictionary and wrote them down, and now I’m going to watch a movie (thanks Aaron!). Yep, the day was long and completely uneventful but I dodged boredom for now: mission accomplished.

Oh yeah PS: Tolo asked me now why I don’t want to live with them for more than three months! I thought they were thinking I’m kind of weird and reclusive since I “study” all the time. Would you want a recluse in your house for two years? It’s nice of them but I don’t think I could do it. I would say PC tells me I have to move out but that’s not exactly true. I try to be really vague and tell them that it’s because I’ll need more space (so true, I’m going nuts with the kids here). It seems even stranger because, as I understand it- Minga normally works in the coffee fields for money but with me here she doesn’t. Aren’t they losing money? I’m sure they’re not making any off of how much I’m paying. It’s nice of them to offer and I feel a teeny bit conflicted. A teeny bit but for the most part, for my sanity, I don’t. Entonces, si Dios quiere, I will be moving out in January.

11/18 Tuesday: Another memorial, an orange and more hot cocoa

Today was a pretty average day. I woke up late, trying to defy Minga again, and stayed in bed until 8:45 today to make up for yesterday. You all may think it’s ridiculous that I wake up so late every day but keep in mind, I can’t sleep at night. Last night I actually woke up once cold (the first time since my site visit). I was also proud of myself that I found away to stop Tolo’s snoring enough so I could finally fall asleep. When the phone rings here people freak out trying to find who it belongs to and answer it because it’s pretty rare (at least in my fam here) to have a phone call. So, I just played with my ring tones a bit on my phone until it woke him up out of his deep snoring sleep but not all the way. I was able to fall asleep just after 12:) Minga woke me up at 6 again when she began doing laundry but I already had my ear plugs in from the snoring so I could kind of ignore it.

In the morning when I finally got out of bed, I went to the kitchen and began boiling some water for my shower. The last time I did that, Minga had left the house again and I found a huge spider in my bucket. Once again I had to ask that 13 year old that reminds me of my nephew Gabe, to help me and once again he charged the spider like it was nothing more than an ant (and not even a biting ant). Today I was happy to find there were no spiders to greet me.

Later Minga invited me to another memorial service! This time it was for the birthday of someone who died. I told her that would be the 3rd service we went to in a week so I was going to pass. Which is just great too because now she can really say she’s been asking me to go out places with her and I never want to.

After lunch I set out with a 16 year old boy and a 37 year old woman to do some interviews. Since we were only able to do 2 yesterday we were trying to do 6 or 7 today. By the time we did 5, I was ready to call it quits. The last 3 people we had interviewed were putting me to sleep. On the way home we passed a teacher who invited us to her house to do another interview. I asked the other person I was with if she could help me out by reading the interview because my mind was tired of Spanish. When we got in there and talked with Violeta though, she was such a conversationalist that I perked right up and did the interview myself. We stayed and talked with her for an hour. It was a nice ending to the day, and I got a orange as a gift from a family again:)

On the way home Neno caught up with me and we talked for a little while. He told me that Tolo doesn’t like him which is why he doesn’t go to the house. He told me to make sure I don’t tell Minga I talked to him! Can you believe that?! I’m not keeping secrets. I told him if he wants to play Dominos he needs to come to my house and get me. Either way, Neno is great to practice Spanish with. He understands what I’m saying and he’s talkative but talks clear and somewhat slow for me.

I’ve been telling everyone I don’t want a boyfriend until I learn Spanish and Minga put a timeline on it today. She told her nephew that I wouldn’t be open for a boyfriend for 12 or 18 months! I said by that time I won’t want one because I’ll be leaving soon! I wonder if the PCV before me issues with this too or if it was different since he’s a dude.

That’s it; there wasn’t much to my day. I realized that today makes it a full month since I left my Doña in CBT in tears as I said my goodbyes. Hard to believe that was a month ago, it feels like longer but it also feels like less than that so I guess a month is a good compromise. I wonder what I’ll say about that a month from now, will it go fast or painfully slow? Vamos a ver…

Later that night…brace yourself, this is SCARY!!!

I take it back: I really hope today is not an indicator of a normal day for me. Here I was all snuggled in my smelly bed, trying to be helpful by writing a blog for future PCVs going to the DR when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. There, on the outside of my net, crawling around was a large, round body- one that I didn’t think belonged to a beetle or even a new type of circular roach like I was hoping. I was afraid to take a better look at it. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had this weird thing where I suddenly am able to face any insect- I need to look at it. Even when I feel something crawling on me, I have to look first before I swat whatever away from me. Tonight however, I could see how large the spider body was and I was afraid to really get a good look at it. After trying to face it with just the light from my laptop and then with just my red light of my headlamp, I decided that I would for sure have nightmares if I didn’t just look at it. So I did. And it was scary.

I was going to try and ignore it but then I remembered how this morning I discovered my mosquito net wasn’t tucked in all the way on the part behind my head. I couldn’t get my hand in there to tuck it in so I gave up. By my head! Oh gosh and what if this was the type that my Doña tried to hack up with the machete: the poisonous type!?! What if it was the same spider coming back to take out the weakest link of the family that tried to kill it?!? This is why I decided to give in and call for help. Poor Minga went to bed about 2 hours ago. I also noticed that the spider was carrying something but didn’t feel the need to examine it.

Minga came in and I sprang from the bed as she was going to take my hairbrush to smack it! Not my hairbrush! I shouted but couldn’t remember the word for hairbrush so I said it in English, which I’m sure was helpful. On my suggestion, she grabbed a shoe and went to get the beast but it was too late. That spider was no fool and it took off. I’m not sure why Minga told me this, but she was maybe trying to comfort me telling me that it was carrying its nest. There are lots and lots of baby spiders in the “house” it was carrying. That’s just great, how is that going to make this situation better? Minga offered to let me sleep with her so I’m in bed with her right now… Ok, who really believed that? Man, you really think I am pathetic don’t you?! I have some I’m going to try and tough it out and stay in my bed. At least she said it wasn’t one that bites often and it wasn’t the poisonous type either. I told her if I start screaming to please come really really quickly to see what part of me the spider was eating. Yes, these are the thoughts I get to go to bed with; those and the fact that my mosquito net is still open- by my head. Sweet dreams. dignity left, ok?

11/17: Monday= A bella, two interviews and a delicious cup of cocoa

After some confusion today of who was going to help me with my interviews and when we would do them, we finally had it all worked out that I would be doing them in the afternoon with Santa. I planned on going to another Bella with Minga in the morning since I figured it’s a good way to meet people. Pretty sketchy I know- I go to memorials to meet people! Anyways, Minga told me that we would be getting a ride with Tolo early so I had to be ready to go by 8. I decided to not fight her waking me up today with her usual loudness and I got out of bed just before 7 so I was ready by 8 with time to spare.

8 came and went with no sign of Tolo so we caught a ride with some other random person to Navarette. When we got to the house, we were some of the first people there. Hurry up to wait- story of my life with Minga. I felt bad about this Bella because the person had died just one year ago so there were a lot of people crying. I was thinking about it and I think that Bellas If you were close to someone when they died you would remember the day they died anyways so why not have a memorial on that day? are a good idea.

This Bella was soooooo boring though. Everyone had left by 12 and I was ready to go by 11. It was a quiet group so we just sat there; quiet for the most part, from 8:30 until we left which ended up being at 2! When I was ready to go at 11, Minga said that we had to stay because she told Tolo to pick us up at 1. Heaven forbid he drive 5 minutes out of his way to find we weren’t there. I don’t know much about their relationship but I don’t get the idea he would be mad if we had left. But since I don’t speak Spanish so great, who knows? We waited around 2 more hours until he was supposed to be there and then another hour after that. I think that Minga really would have sat there all day waiting, I however am not that patient. I walked to the back, got my helmet, and said goodbye to everyone. When I walked up to Minga and asked her if she was ready to go she looked shocked. She asked if I was going to wait for Tolo. I told her we had waited an hour past the time (not to mention we were ready to go three hours ago) and I had interviews to do so I was going. She seemed really concerned with how we would get home so I told her I was planning on walking to where the motos were and grabbing a ride. We didn’t even have to walk to the motos, we caught a ride with some guy who happened to be driving down our street. Sometimes I wonder how grown, fully-functioning people can be so dependent. Minga has lived here her whole life and yet she is afraid to travel home from only 20 minutes away. I think it’s a rotten situation; I felt helpless for the first 2 weeks in country and I wanted to scream. It was awful. I can’t imagine an entire life like that.

Minga seemed to thoroughly enjoy the moto ride up the mountain. At least one of us did. Minga was wearing a skirt so she was sitting sideways- and that takes up more room. We were three to the moto and I was on the end! I almost lost my flip flops a few times but it worked out. We got stuck behind some men walking their cows up the road, taking up the whole road. Then one of the guys rode ahead on his horse and we followed behind through the sea of cows. I was cracking up when I wasn’t concerned with falling off or losing a shoe. It was something new for me, that’s for sure!

Since we got back late I was only able to get two interviews done before the Women’s Group meeting at 4. No one showed up until 4:15 or 4:30 though, which I thought was weird since they had been so punctual in the past. Ernesto came and told the group something about how they’re having problems with people paying for the water and wanted to know what people thought should be done about it. I guess they pay a water bill each month of 40 pesos and some people are refusing to pay or if their tap is shut off they use another family’s. I was impressed with myself for understanding all that. Gold star for me.

I got home, made myself some hot chocolate which I shared with Grandma, Marvey, (the bratty 8 year old who lives with us and pees on the couch where he sleeps… some things you find out too late) and Minga… the lesson here is always make extra. I have to say that I am pretty proud of how my hot chocolate is coming along. The first time I made it in CBT, my Spanish class and the Doña didn’t even want to drink it since it was kind of lumpy (and maybe a little gross) but today I tried something different again and it turned out really good. I got two compliments on it! And that’s with powered milk! Who needs the Cocomotion?! (ok, I take that back, I love that “orgasmic” hot chocolate making machine!- orgasmic was a word some lucky soul used when they had the privilege of drinking hot chocolate from the Cocomotion, not my words but so true)

Tomorrow is a new day. I’m hoping interviews are interesting. I’m going with two new people so hopefully they’re not shy and also like to socialize a little too. For now, I’m beat. My poor brain falls into a trance like state when it’s expected to have a completely full day of Spanish like today. So, hopefully I’ll sleep good and Doña won’t wake me up to early tomorrow.

11/15-16: Saturday and Sunday: House Arrest

Here is it Sunday night and I have done practically nothing. I was invited to a BBQ at the two American dudes’ house on Saturday afternoon but I didn’t feel like going as I was in an antisocial mood. Not leaving the house will do that to you. At 6:30 Tolo asked me if I wanted to go “up” with him and Minga. I was shocked! Leaving the house that late is very unlike them! I was pumped! I hadn’t left the house all day. I grabbed a hoodie and off we went.

We were only gone for about 40 minutes. We went up a road I hadn’t been up before and I saw the lights from Puerta Plata, which were beautiful from up there. I also noticed how there are soooooo many stars visible here. I never noticed them from my house since there are a lot of trees making it hard to see the sky. I always laughed at people who came out to the school in Dixon (my Dad’s house in the country) and would gasp at how many stars they could see; that must be what Minga was thinking of me. After we picked up our truck full of grass-green bananas (the purpose of the trip) we walked to the colmado and everyone shared a beer- everyone including the 8 year old boy who chugged his portion like a champ. I of course passed since I like beer about as much as I like spiders.

Sunday was somewhat interesting with my friend Hermann visiting me. At first, since I was feeling all hermit like, I was going to make up an excuse as to why he couldn’t come over but then I decided, what the heck, and he came over around 11. After receiving some friendly texts from him I made sure to give “The Talk” as well telling him I was NOT interested in a boyfriend the last time we spoke and this time. I also told him that if I was going to help him with his English I was going to help him with his understanding of American woman too. So, starting Sunday I told him no more calling me “baby” or “queen” or anything else similar- in texts too. I told him a lot of American women feel smothered “easily”. So, we shall see how that works out. He seemed hesitant. I get the feeling that a lot of men here are pushy, it’s suffocating!

After he left around 2, I was starting to get really sick of being in the house. We stayed at Minga’s house since I’m a little worried about people in my community seeing me with a random dude and thinking we’re dating or worse. Especially since I noticed that when people ask me if I have a boyfriend and I say no, I hear blah blah blah Neno blah blah blah. I’m not sure what’s happening in the gossip circle but I think I have an idea. Brining Hermann around could have made it better- Oh look, she has a boyfriend. We should stop trying to get her to date someone. Or it could have made it worse- Oh man, she goes out with a lot of guys... doesn’t she already have a boyfriend here? Or who knows, maybe nothing. Either way, I’ve got two years left and I didn’t want to see what would happen.

Even though it had only been a day and a half since I got out of my Minga-sphere and walked around it felt like a lot longer. Out of the blue Minga asked me if I wanted to go “up” with her and Tolo so I happily grabbed my faithful dictionary and tagged along. It didn’t fully alleviate my issue but I was getting out of the house at least. Minga and I went to Mercedes and Ernesto’s house and sat and talked for a while. Mercedes was scolding Minga for not taking me out more, she said she hadn’t seen me in a while. I was amazed that she read my mind when Minga told her that she asks me all the time if I want to go out with her somewhere but I always say I don’t want to since I’m studying! Studying?!?! She never asked me if I want to go anywhere with her, she never leaves except to walk to the colmado which is like a 3 minute walk. And I hardly ever study!

All the commotion of finally being out of my house made me forget about my Mom calling me! She calls Minga’s phone since my phone is so crappy and luckily Minga had her phone on her! She answered it and at first I was afraid it was Hermann calling me again (yes he has her number too, not my fault) but after Minga asked “Who is this?”, “Why aren’t you talking?”, “ Hello?, Hello?” and “ Who do you want to talk to?” she hung up. I wasn’t sure what happened but I figured it wasn’t Hermann. I took the phone from her and saw it was my poor Mom who had called! The next time it rang, Minga answered it and my sister was on the line instead of my Mom. We all laughed since Rach tried out all her Spanish skills with Minga which are “Hola, como está Ud.?”. Rach had exasperated her Spanish with those few words so when Minga started a conversation she was lost. “A” for effort Rach:)

We walked to a friend’s house and all hung out for a while. There were a lot of people there, which the Doña says is a weekly occurrence. It was so nice to get out of the house and feel refreshed in my Spanish. I actually feel like I know what I’m doing when I talk with other people aside from Minga. I told Minga we would have to make it a weekly event, going out of the house to socialize on Sundays. I just hope we do!

11/14 Friday: Getting ready for Christmas

Last week I was invited to go to the house of a PCV whose dog had puppies. She was going to have a party today and try to give away her cute little 8 week old puppies. Well you all will be proud to know that I was able to resist and I did not give in and get a little puppy. I didn’t go of course or else I would have gotten one like my friend Sarah. I had already made plans with Minga and I would have felt bad if I ditched her.

Since the first week I arrived, Minga has been talking about November 14th: the day she was planning on going to Santiago to go shopping for a new Christmas outfit. We woke up nice and early today to be sure to catch Tolo when he was coming back down the mountain so we could get a bola from him to Navarrete. Once again, Minga was pulling and pushing me (literally) to hurry. We left around 7:30 and we were dropped off at a house in Navarette to meet up with Minga’s daughter in law and 2 year old granddaughter.

When we got to Santiago I was excited to see where we would go. I saw a bunch of vendors on the streets when I was there last time and figured that’s where we were headed. Turns out, we were there for about 5 hours and we only went into about 4 stores: the kind of big and crappy stores where things are dirty and thrown everywhere without any order. These stores weren’t even that cheap! Needless to say, I was a little disappointed- and bored! I thought I was a bad shopper but this was ridiculous! We went into one store 4 different times!!!! And it was a small little store too, not like forgetting something at a Walmart- where there are a lot of things one could forget- and running back in.

At the first store I was in with Minga and Frances (the one we ended up going into 4 times) I was idly looking at some sun glasses when a random guy walked up to me from the street and asked if I looking to buy sunglasses. That started a conversation where I found out a lot about this Dominican dude who loves English; he’s teaching an English class in his town. That could be an asset to me should I dare try teaching English here. He wants to practice his English by talking with me, and I would like to have someone who I can ask what things like what La Bellas are! It’s pretty lucky that he lives close to Navarrete so we planned that he would come and visit this Sunday. Later Frances told me that she knew him from college and he’s a really good person- so don’t freak out Mom:)

After the first store, with the whole day still ahead of us, we headed into a grocery store. When I was looking around, I happened to end up over in the makeup isle which was weird to me because it was set up kind of like a department store. There was a desk with people working and there was a woman who would paint your face up- all this for Maybelline and Cover girl! I was a little overwhelmed by all of it when a woman who worked there took my hand and lead me to the “make up chair”. I took note of her makeup first, like I do to a hair dresser before she cuts my hair, and she passed my little test. Her makeup looked great. So I wasn’t nervous at all, I was kind of excited, after all I’ve never had my makeup done before. When she was finished random people were walking by saying how pretty it was so I figured she must have done great. Then she handed me the mirror. I looked like a freaking clown! And a really pale clown at that! She made my eyes super super dark and put a TON of powder on me to make me even paler. Great, I get to walk around the rest of the day looking like the big chick from the Drew Carry show with the psycho eye makeup. I decided to try and ignore the fact I looked something like a child who got into her mother’s make up and focus on grocery shopping when I noticed random people kept commenting on how pretty I looked, they actually liked it!!! That’s nice and all, but I still felt like I looked like a clown. Nothing was going to get me to like this makeover.

As I walked along, I noticed another gringa! I walked up to her and introduced myself. Turns out she’s from Germany and works at a hotel here in Santiago. She’s lived here for a year and really likes it. We traded numbers and I hope to have yet another new friend:)

When we got back to Navarrette, we got off of the bus to find ourselves, as usual, circled by moto drivers trying to make a few pesos. I asked Minga in the morning if she thought I would need my helmet and she said I would be ok without it since Tolo would be taking us up and down the mountain. Well, now that we had like a 15 minute walk ahead of us, neither Frances nor Minga wanted to walk it. Frances was already on a moto with her little girl and all the bags loaded up. I told Minga I wasn’t going to get on one sans helmet. Not to mention, I was so not paying for a moto ride when I could walk it so easily. Well, Minga grabbed my elbow, pulling me towards the moto, telling me it wasn’t very far, to get on. I told her again and again and again that I wasn’t getting on. She wasn’t getting upset or anything, obviously thinking I just didn’t understand but I was getting pretty pissed off that she was still trying to literally push me up onto a moto. Finally Frances told Minga if I didn’t want to ride one then we would walk. And like that, Minga relented. Why the heck doesn’t she listen to me like that? She still tried to ‘help” me cross the street my having a death grip on my elbow. How annoying. Maybe a day trip with Minga is something I should avoid while we live together, when I get my fill of her during lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I like her, she’s a really sweet good person but she has some qualities that clash with my personality so I think I need some space from her- a lot of space.

On the way back up the mountain, after we left Santiago, Tolo was talking about how he was going to take us to the pool again this Sunday. This Sunday?!? I can’t go this Sunday! The other PCVs all went to a party today so they won’t want to leave their communities again! I don’t want to go to the freaking pool and swim alone! I tried to think of a way out of it, telling Tolo that it was too cold last time to swim so he said we could go earlier. Ugh, why why why? Then later, when I was talking with Minga we remembered that my new English speaking Dominican friend was supposed to be visiting on Sunday! Great, all of us at one big party in our swim suits on Sunday at the Colmado Swimming Pool. How awkward.

11/13 Thursday: La Bella, is that a salon?

I was very confused on Wednesday when Minga told me we were going to La Bella tomorrow. At first I figured it was a salon or something but then she said that she wanted to go there because she was sick of cooking. What kind of a salon is this?! I asked if it was a restaurant or a salon and she laughed at me, saying no. I asked if it was a friend’s house and she agreed that it was. So, I figured we were going to visit a friend for a bit in the morning, maybe have lunch and I would be on my way to start my interviews.

The day began at 6 with Minga hurrying me along, as usual. The whole laid back lifestyle of the Caribbean is something I have yet to experience thanks to my super pushy Doña. We left the house a little before 8 and walked about 30 minutes or so to a house a little higher on the mountain. When we walked in the door I noticed something of a shrine set up. There were 5 sets of flower arrangements and candles all arranged around pictures of Jesus. I began to think that someone had died! And I was feeling kind of bad because I was wearing jeans and a regular old polo shirt. Minga was wearing a skirt and the works but remember she’s the one who gets dressed up to buy her daily lottery ticket.

We hadn’t been there more than 5 minutes when Minga was telling me to hurry up and shoot the coffee back that I was taking my time drinking. I was hoping we didn’t walk the whole way there to sit for 5 minutes and walk back but I could see the possibility. After I took the coffee shot like a seasoned Starbuck’s addict takes an espresso, we were off. We walked down the hill and went to a church, where we sat for an hour waiting for the service to start. Ok, so by now I was pretty sure someone had indeed died. I was beginning to notice that the people here weren’t acting like the last funeral I was at, where everyone was crying as one would expect. There were some who seemed sad but for the most part everyone seemed ok. The priest didn’t even know the details of whom he was giving the sermon! Right there, in front of the church he asked all about it: she was 29, had three daughters, was a teacher living in the States.

After the 2 hour service (that’s three hours sitting in the wood bench mind you) we went back to the friend’s house. There were a TON of people there now and after we were each given a huge helping of really good food (I know who’s house I’ll be interviewing over lunch time:) it felt like a huge family picnic; aside from the fact that it was all in Spanish of course. After about 3 hours there was a commotion because two Americans guys showed up. Turns out that they’re from Rhode Island and one of them is married to one of the sisters of the deceased. He is building a huge house within walking distance of her house so he took me to see it. He’s just going to use it as a vacation home as his wife lives in Santiago (about 30-45 minutes from here) and he stays in the States. He offered to let me use the pool when it’s done (which is a little different from the colmado pool) and told Jordan (the 17 year old boy who has been in charge of overseeing the project since his dad passed away about 6 months ago) to let me in to take a shower or whatever when I want. After thinking of the greatness of actually feeling clean and being able to take a HOT shower with RUNNING water, I was pumped however, I have to remember that PC wants me to live like the people so using the big, huge, beautiful house in paradise wouldn’t really be culturally assimilating. Once in a while wouldn’t hurt though right…?

So, by the end of the day I had the full story: after a person dies they throw a bella for the on the day that they died every year for the next 6 years. They have food and a church service for the person and then after lunch they pray a lot for the person. This year was the 6th year the woman had been deceased so it will be the last. I think it would be really expensive to have every year. It takes all day. Ming and I left early and we didn’t’ get home until 4 or 5. I wonder if it would have been wrong to go around doing interviews there. It would have been perfect, so many people in one place! Oh well, now you (and I) know what a Bella is and it’s no quick trip to the salon!

11/12 Wednesday: 12 weeks in the DR and 1 full week without leaving my site!

Ah yes, that’s right. Not only does today mark the 12th week I have been in country but it also marks an entire week in my site. Minga has been at my side this whole late week and I haven’t run for the hills yet- or I guess since I live in the hills a more accurate statement would be that I haven’t run for the valley. I thought it would be easy to stay in my site for a month straight if I wanted to save money and not leave, and who knows? Maybe one day it will be but for now a week is a loooooooong time. Don’t get me wrong: I love my site. But it’s amazing the difference it makes being in the DR without another American right down the road to talk with or without at least being able to call them and talk. I have a cell phone but the service reminds me of the Nextel I used to have which lead me to a “phone rage” problem.

So, how did I spend the day you’re wondering? Doing interviews of course! I went with Ernestina and her two brothers. It was kind of a bummer because Mercedes (their mom) was supposed to go with me but she was tired from working in the coffee fields all morning so she sent them instead. When Ernestina found out where we were going (the part of the town highest on the mountain) she was not pleased. So, I felt like we were hurrying everyone along and it wasn’t nearly as fun as the day before. Plus I wasn’t on my game today when it came to Spanish so I was getting really sick of doing them myself, even spacing out when people answered me.

Yes it was a day of distractions: from the kids screaming outside the window so loud that I wasn’t able to even hear the woman I was interviewing to the truck that was trying to back up a steep driveway right next to us, flinging huge rocks everywhere, to the large rainstorm that hit which made it impossible to hear the person sitting next to me under the tin roof. Yep, today was a long interviewing day BUT at least I got out of the house for a bit and I have a ton of oranges I can eat while I sit here and reflect, looking at the beautiful view I’ve been given to gaze at for the next two years:)

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