11/2- 11/8 First permanent week in my site
Sunday 11/2/08: Why am I putting this makeup on?
Yes this was the question I kept asking Dominga (or Minga, my Doña) when she insisted I put it on. As always, it was a question that never was answered somehow. So, in my best (and only) kaki pants and make up, I headed off to destination unknown with Minga. I started to get little butterflies in my stomach when I thought we were going to the discoteca, you may be able to guess why if you recall my hot dancing skills. Being new and the center of attention, I should maybe try to avoid embarrassing myself. As I told the random person from the DR who spoke English and wanted me to ditch my DR Comrades to go to a party with him, “I am a professional so no thank you.” It’s good to say that out loud sometimes. However I have decided that I need to try to get over my feeble attempts to not be embarrassed. It’s going to happen; it does happen. Also, dancing here isn’t quite the same. I think it’s pretty fun actually, even if only when I’m drunk.
So anyways, Minga and I walked and walked and walked and even walked some more until we got to the discoteca and then we took a left and went to the lottery place. Yep, we got all dressed up to go buy some lucky numbers- cross your fingers. Next we promptly walked home and got ready for supper. Who knows, maybe the numbers will be luckier if we’re dressed up when we buy em.
Monday 11/3: Off to the clinic I go
Minga and I were supposed to go to the clinic in the morning but just when I started to think that another day would pass where I would get to the clinic when they were closed, off we were. We walked and walked and walked till we finally got there. Sometimes I wonder how much Spanish I know and how much I think I know. Could it be that I understand the weird and random things my Doña says or am I completely off base? I would say I would like to think I understand but actually maybe I don’t… For instance: while we were walking to the clinic she told me how the random guy started following us was a really bad person. She kind of creeped me out! But then she talked to him like life was good. Once again, I was in my constant state of confusion, some things in life never change.
When we got to the clinic it turns out Minga had an agenda. She has some issues she needed to address with her feet. It’s very common in this country to just give pills for whatever. When she said her feet were hurting her and she had a pain in her side, they told her she had high blood pressure and gave her pills. They didn’t even take her bp! Next she told them I was there to interview them. Well, great… yes, nice to meet you too. Doña, does it LOOK like I’m here to interview them? No. I was there to say hello and be nosey. I had no paper, no pen… she must think very highly of my memory for some crazy reason.
Later that day we went to Minga’s mother in law’s house. Her sister in law was here for a visit from Queens, NY. I was semi-surprised to learn that she has lived in NY for 17 years and she does not speak English. She, like every other freaking person who knows two words of English, felt the need to practice her skills with me. She was tickled when she would say something in English and I would repeat it back to her in Spanish. However, when she tried to say “years” she kept saying “días” which means days in Spanish. I didn’t help the situation when I tried to correct her. After she would say día, I would say “year?”… later I realized with our little translation game that she is probably more than ever sure that día indeed means year. That’s why I joined PC, to change the world one bad translation at a time.
Later that night we went on more visits to see other parts of Minga’s family. We got back kind of late (for us) and it was dark already. I went into the house to get something and when I came out I saw Minga going to town on the ground with a machete. I asked her what she was doing and as always I have no idea what she said but as my mind completed the translation, I froze in horror: she was attacking a spider with that thing! “A spider?!” I repeated out loud. She stopped for a second to look up at me and laugh after seeing the look on my face. Being seasoned at seeing the types of spiders Doña’s kill or merely pick up and move, I was mortified to think of this size this one had especially since she said it was huge. She demonstrated with her fist, making knurly legs with her fingers. This one was spider I was glad I didn’t see in the latrine. She stopped and began pouring water on the side of the hill where the body was when I yelled for her to stop because I wanted to see the body in the morning. Weird yes, but I wanted to see the size of this thing! Plus, I needed confirmation it was dead. The next day I went to check out the scene of the crime and wouldn’t you know it, there was no body. Not even a sign of a struggle. Minga concluded that something must have eaten the body; lets hope so.
Tuesday 11/4: Why plan?
Today was the day that my APCD, Miguel was going to visit and we were going to lay down some rules in my community about who was to help me with my diagnostic. Ernesto, Mercedes and I each received a paper saying what time Miguel was going to visit Los Ruales back on project partner day but they took my papers to put them in their folder. I hadn’t seen them since which was solely due to my laziness of not wanting to have to speak in Spanish to ask for them. So, I asked them what day and time our appointment was and they told me Tuesday the 4th at 2 pm. Good as gold.
I made an announcement the night before when I went to my first women’s meeting and I said that there would be a meeting the following day at 2. Considering the fact that Minga told me the woman’s meeting began at 4:30, we showed up at 4:45 and it actually started at 4, I was thinking maybe people wouldn’t pay to close attention to the time. As I am beginning to notice however, it seems that people here are not on “Dominican time” which is a bummer because I was looking forward to being late to everything and having it be socially acceptable for once. Either way, I was hoping people would be at my meeting around 2 more or less. So, imagine my surprise when I was sitting on the porch at 9:15 on Tuesday the 4th and the daughter of my project partner showed up and told me the meeting was actually at 10 am. I told her we had to tell everyone the time change and she said her dad already had. So, off I went to the top of the hill, the only place I have cell service and the site of my future house, to sit with whoever would show up and wait for Miguel.
By 11:30 I was thinking that Miguel was pretty late, even for “DR time” which as far as I understood, was supposed to be like 30 minutes. Not 90. I called another PCV who is actually organized and had the schedule and I asked her about Miguel. Turns out, he was supposed to be there at 2. People cleared out of there like there was a tornado (or hurricane I guess…) when they found out. Not because they were upset or put out but because it was lunch time of course. I was about to get up when they offered me lunch which, for the sake of cultural integration, I had to eat.
Miguel was early for our meeting, getting there at 1:30, which went well. I’m always a little intimidated when I have a meeting with any boss but I shouldn’t with him. He’s super laid back and has one of those laughs where his whole body laughs, its great and genuine. He was eating lunch and I was telling the story of terror with the three spiders and roaches in the Latrine when he gave me a very valuable piece of information I could have done without: there are some spiders in the DR which are poisonous. As lucky would have it, it was one of those very spiders which Dominga was slaughtering just the night before at our house. And, for the record, they are huge.
When Miguel was getting ready to leave I asked if I could catch a ride with him down the mountain. I was planning on going to Santiago to spend the night with other PCVs and watch the election. When I first met Miguel I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. The more I get to know him, the more I like him. I also rediscovered that he loves my site big time. He said he promised them he would be back to visit when he didn’t have work to do, just to hang out. I think that’s a big deal since my site is about 4 hours away from the capitol, where Miguel lives. He said that he put me in this site because he thought I seemed most like the PCV here before me, a water PCV. Apparently the water guy was really super close with the community so Miguel wanted to find someone similar. We shall see:)
About half way down my mountain I realized I had forgotten my helmet, which I of course said out loud to Miguel. I’m not sure if I have said this but it’s a super strong rule that PCVs must wear a helmet at all times when riding a motorcycle or a bike. (yes, even a bike but at least not a horse!) If PCVs are found out not wearing one, they get the boot back home. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get back up the mountain since I had no helmet but for now, I was happy I was going down it for free. As soon as I got out of the car two people I knew from my community came over to greet me. How perfect! I asked if they were going to be there the next day at the same time and if they could bring my helmet for me. They said they could and one of them gave me his number to call when I got back.
The ride to Santiago was interesting. I found myself, once again, only knowing what my destination was but having no knowledge of how to get there or what street it was on. No worries, I had some PCV’s phone numbers and my cell phone that sometimes had service. On the bus to Santiago I was proud of myself for carrying on a complete conversation for the 30 minute drive with the person sitting next to me. I’m not sure if I come across as clueless or Dominicans are super protective or maybe both but this girl seemed like she wanted to help me. We traded numbers and she wouldn’t leave me once we got off the bus until I got a hold of a PCV who could give me directions and I told her where I was supposed to be going. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t tell people I haven’t known for more than 30 minutes where I’m going, where I live and give them my number.
When I got into the carro publico I got in the front seat thinking since the back seat was empty people would get in there first. Then I would have more space for longer: genius. With the back seat completely empty a dude gets in the front seat with me. So right from the start I have to share the one front seat. He was pretty friendly and we talked the whole time. When he asked me for my number I felt like giving him my friend’s number and warned that my phone doesn’t have service much so he may have to call several times. He gave me his card and said to call. Si Dios quiere.
I FINALLY got to my destination, a place called the Hub. It’s a house owned by some super cool Canadians and they rent it out mostly to PCVs. I feel like it’s important to share that they baked chocolate chip muffins and brownies and they were soooooooo good!! We all stayed up late watching the election and I had the great plan of waiting to look for a hotel to stay in when we were ready to leave. We knew from the start that The Hub had no rooms open so we would need to look elsewhere. After some confusion Patti (my roomie for the night) and I were happy to find a hotel were we each got our own bed, there was a fan AND it’s own bathroom with RUNNING (cold) water, a tv and two CLEAN (looking) towels- all for 600 pesos! It was double what we would have paid at the Hub but we happily took it.
We hung out a little the next day and then said our goodbyes and headed off to our sites. It was a fun time and I know that when I go to Santiago I’ll be pumped to stay at the Hub:) When I arrived to Navarette I was happy to find that my helmet was there waiting for me. The guy who gave me his number offered to give me a ride and I told him I just wanted to go back to the bus stop where I had found a place with free internet. He told me he would take me there so off we went. Turns out the internet wasn’t working there but some guy who worked there told my ride, Neno, that he would take us to another place. The other place wasn’t free which was a bummer but I needed to print off some copies off my interviews anyway and this place was a full service stop. Neno decided to help me out and stick around while I was going about my business. While I was waiting for the power to come back (so I could make copies) they let me use the internet for free. I’m guessing they had a generator for the computer lab. While I was checking my email and going about my business Neno was looking over my shoulder asking questions. Sometimes I am soooo glad I speak English, it’s like a secret code. Now if I could just understand Spanish…
When I finally got home, without my copies still, I told Neno I would pay him 60 pesos. I think he was telling me I didn’t have to pay him but Entrena told us that we may be giving the wrong idea if we take stuff for free so I paid anyways- plus I’m not exactly sure he was telling me I didn’t have to pay. He offered to take me back the next day to get my copies and I asked if it would be for free since he was going there anyways. I thought he said it would be and after a weird, awkward hand holding thing which was supposed to be just a shake, off he went.
Thursday 11/6: Interviews, Carnation leche and Novios- Oh My!!
Neno was supposed to pick me up at 10 this morning so imagine my surprise when he showed up at 9:45! This whole DR time thing has really been a let down. Minga seemed to want me to buy a large can of Carnation milk pretty badly so that was on my agenda as well as making copies. We went to the copy store where the power was out again and then we went to three different places in search of the milk, none of which had it. Neno dropped me off at the computer place again to wait for copies while he went to run other errands. I waited for a little while and then decided to use the internet. Finally I had my copies and we went back up the mountain.
When we got there I said bye and went inside- sans a handshake this time. Neno hung out in the road for a while which confused me so I kind of avoided him and hung out in the kitchen with Minga and her daughter. Turns out he was waiting to be paid!!! And I thought we had been so clear that it was supposed to be free! When I went inside to get my money he left.
Later, when I was lying in my smelly bed about to take a nap, guess who showed up? Neno. I gave my Doña 100 pesos to give him and she came back telling me he wanted more! What am I, a bank?! So, I grabbed another 50 and went out there. Then he wanted to sit and talk, he asked if I was sleeping first. I told him I wasn’t, which is the truth, but I should have said I was. My impression thus far is that there is a delicate balance between being social with the community and giving off the wrong signal. It didn’t help that normally my Doña sits and visits with me when there are people but this time she was suddenly busy. I was a little confused because to me, it seemed that she was helping the situation when the day before she made sure to tell me like three times that he was not boyfriend material. So, after an awkward hour, I left with two girls to do my first interview.
Ah, the interview process. Maybe I set myself up for slight failure when I failed to read through it first. I was pretty confused for quite a bit of it. “Winging it” in Spanish just isn’t the same which is unfortunate since that’s how I got through college: it’s my style. I told the two girls who were helping me with the interviews that the first 5 or 10 would be practice since I would have to tweak it for our community. Well, it’s a good thing I planned on having the first few practice!! One interview was all I could handle before reviewing it so I told the girls I’d see them the next day and headed for home to hide in shame.
When I got home Minga had made plans to go to her mother in law’s house to wait for her husband Tolo to come home. We were all supposed to go somewhere so I went with her. Well, he never showed up so after we sat there for an hour or so, we headed back. But first Minga told everyone how Neno ripped me off and then they were talking about how he may think we’re dating! Doesn’t it seem fair that if there is a misunderstanding of me having a novio then I should have at least gotten a free ride out of it?
Friday 11/7: “Bugged” by night and a trip to the Café farm by day
Last night was a mildly terrifying night. It all began right as I was to get into bed. I saw this nasty roach crawling around the inside of my mosquito net. It could be from the few holes I have yet to sew in my net or it could be from the net not quite tucking under the mattress the way it should. Now, I’m sure I’ve told this story to pretty much everyone I know but let me recap it. I read it in a blog before I left for the DR, it was written by PCV living in the DR. This poor girl was sleeping and woke up to a cockroach scurrying across her chest. She didn’t think much of it and was about to go back to sleep when she heard something and thought it was the rat that always visited. She shined her light on it and turns out it was a spider the size of her palm chasing the roach across the wall. She did the only thing there was to do: she covered her whole body in a blanket and cried a little.
So, when I saw the roach I immediately became paranoid of a massive spider in my bed as well. I also realized then that I never did see the body of the giant poisonous spider which resided/resides near my house. Not to mention I have a growing repulsion for nasty roaches each day when I see them doing something grosser all the time. The night that the light in the latrine wasn’t working and I was almost devoured by three spiders (well, you know… I use the word “devoured” loosely) I shined my wonderful headlamp into the latrine hole to make sure the roach that was there before wasn’t going to surprise me with a little hello. The roach wasn’t there but there were two of them happily crawling around on the poop down under. Ewwwww, and I had one of these nasty things in my bed, probably already crawled on my pillow too.
I had to take action. I got the feeling that my host fam was starting to think I was a little helpless thanks to my fear of the latrine at night so I felt that I should deal with this on my own. I grabbed two bags to snatch up the roach- gotta double bag my hand, just in case. When I turned back the monster was gone! I searched my bed and to my dissatisfaction, Houdini the Roach had disappeared. I got in bed and stalled for a while, reading Marley and Me (which is so good by the way!) but made sure to turn on my headlamp and do a scan every 5 or 10 minutes. I kept having thoughts of a large spider hiding in my bed with me or thoughts of the roach being on my face when I woke up. These thoughts led me to the same fate as the blogger before me: I covered my whole body and tried to pretend the sheet provided some sort of bug-zapping force field. At least I didn’t cry… this time.
When I awoke in the morning, after checking my face for roaches, the first thing on my mind was that I would have to do those awful interviews. You can do this! I told myself. I’m sure they get easier, especially after I read and understand what I’m asking. So, I went to the porch and began working on my interview. My Doña brought out some Trigo con Leche, which I normally love but this stuff was like two days old and had milk in it. She just got a new refrigerator but if there’s no power, sorry a new fridge isn’t going to cut it. So, I looked at it and thought about eating it but then I began sifting through the large chunks that shouldn’t be there. Who needs breakfast? And boy am I glad I didn’t find a large can of the Carnation milk now. I’ll stick with the little, safe ones that we can eat all at once for the most part.
Ernesto’s daughter came over to do interviews with me but I wasn’t ready. She said she couldn’t do them in the afternoon because she was going up the mountain so we decided to do them the next day. She came back right after lunch and hung out for a while and then told me to go with her at 1:30. When I asked like three times where we were going she responded with “Up there.” Aka: up the mountain. How specific. I grabbed my helmet and we went to her house. Mercedes, Ernesto and I piled on the poor old moto and headed “up there”. Turns out we were going to visit Mercedes sister who lives on a coffee farm. They took me through the steps of preparing coffee beans from the trees and offered to let me pick or harvest or whatever some. They offered right after I saw someone with a big gash in their leg and another with a thick gauze bandage on his arm with blood soaking though. Hmmm, although I’m not sure how I would be with a machete, I did just get my nails done so I’m going to have to pass, maybe next time. Or maybe I’ll watch.
I had no idea that I was going to be with the fam for 4 hours but 4 hours went relatively quick. I was glad to get out of Minga’s house; I was starting to get a little depressed. Mercedes was asking me if I wanted to eat dinner with them up there and I said whatever was easiest. Next thing I know, they’re telling me that Minga is probably making dinner for me so I should go but when I live on my own I can stay as long as I want. Then they’re asking about Neno. “Where’s Neno?” And why was Neno supposed to be there? Oh, to give me a ride home of course! I’m not sure how he became my personal driver but he was a no show so Ernesto gave me a ride home.
When I got home turns out Neno had been there to drop off a gift. My Doña made sure to say gift. Sure, it was just four oranges but it was a gift. I asked if he had an orange tree. Nope. Well, there are a lot of orange trees so I’m sure it’s no big deal. To be sure, I asked if it was normal to give people oranges for gifts and was told it was. So, at least it’s normal. Glad I was “up there” for 4 hours today and didn’t have to sit and talk awkwardly again. I’m saving that for another day.
Saturday 11/8: Cultural differences or just plain wrong?
The day began bright and early thanks to Ernestina, the girl who I was supposed to do my interviews with for the first week or so, who showed up 45 minutes early to get started on them. I had a cup of as always super sweet coffee and hit the road. The interviews went considerably better this time around and I feel like I’ve got something to work with now. My next task is to get to the copy shop and back, hopefully for free.
I spent the afternoon studying Spanish and reading Marley and Me. My Doña came up to me and told me something I didn’t understand but it involved us going somewhere. I decided today that off all the people I talk to, Minga is one of the hardest to understand. She cuts a lot of words off and when I ask her to use a different word since I had no clue what she said, she simply repeats the same thing only much louder. There are two “mute” people in my town meaning they’re deaf. After talking to Minga, I feel like I can relate.
Minga told me that we were going to go up the mountain. Then she tells me we’re going down the mountain. When I asked where “down the mountain” entailed, she replied (much more loudly and clearly) “DOOOWN!” Ok then. Specificity is overrated anyways. Besides, it’s not like I had anything pressing to do so wherever she wants to go, I may as well go. We walked down to Tolo’s mom’s house and hung out until Tolo got there. His sister again tried to practice her English with me and to my surprise, she used the word “year”! Maybe I shouldn’t write off English classes…
When Tolo arrived the sister (who’s name I never did learn), me and Tolo packed into the truck and headed “down”. I wasn’t sure where we were going, why we were there or why Minga wasn’t going along but ok. The Mystery Sister was trying to talk to me in English and when she didn’t know a word (which was pretty much all the time) she talked to me like I was deaf, aka: she stopped talking all together and started making wild hand gestures. This is the woman I have had like three conversations with and each time by the end she says over and over how I know soooo much Spanish. When we got to a nice house in Navarette, I asked her whose house it was and she told me it was her girlfriend’s house! After about 30 minutes the three of us plus the girlfriend packed into the front of the truck and took off for wherever they were taking me.
Turns out we were dropping Mystery Sister off at her house. She has a house here in the DR and one in NY. I asked what she did for a living and she told me she doesn’t work. She said she can’t sleep at night so she takes a pill. I asked if that was why she couldn’t work and she laughed and said no. Even though she decided I could communicate better than a “mute” person by the end of our conversation again, I still couldn’t really get many answers but that’s the case with a lot of Dominicans I have met.
Mystery Sister was nice enough to buy us all some pop and we were lucky enough that it was the pop that tastes like cherry cough syrup. I was just sitting there alone with the other woman who had gotten in the truck with us and I was trying to figure out if she was really the girlfriend of Mystery Sister. Mystery Sister told me she has a husband so I was thinking something was off but who knows? I asked the new addition to the day if she was Mystery Sister’s sister and she casually said in a monotone voice, “No, I’m the other woman. Didn’t you know Tolo has two women?” Uhhhhh…, no I must have missed that in the introductions. It all makes sense now: he introduced me to his two older teenage sons at the house of the Other Woman and I was so confused. I had seen pictures of his sons at Minga’s house and these two sure looked different than I remembered. Also, he spends every other night “down” the mountain. And he told me that he owns and rents a lot of houses but when we were at the house of the Other Woman, I asked if they pay rent and he said they didn’t. It seemed weird since it was such a nice house. I mean I could see letting someone live in a dump for free right?
As I sat there with the three of them I couldn’t help but get defensive of poor Minga. Here she was living in this crappy little wood house and here was this chick living in this nice house made of block- a social statement all in itself here. Sweet old Minga told me she was waiting to move to Navarette but her house wasn’t finished. Why doesn’t she have a nice house when the Other Woman has one already?! Wasn’t Minga there first? Her kids are older at least. I started thinking this Other Woman didn’t’ seem so nice either. She just sat there and didn’t talk to me… the nerve of being a quiet person.
After a while I started seeing that the Other Woman was pretty nice. Her and Minga are both aware of each other and stick around but what other choice do they have? It’s not like they can go and get a good job or anything; Minga can’t even read. When we dropped of the Other Woman I was thinking that this situation is no secret so why not ask about it and get some clarification? I was just going to ask my first question when he said, “Yeah, so I have TWO women, HA!” What a transition… ok then, I asked some questions and found out that he is married to each of them (probably “campo married” aka common-law/living with) and that Minga was first. I was informed that he was married to Minga but the Other Woman is taller, smaller and has lighter skin. (of course, why didn’t I see how obvious it was?) He said that the women know each other but aren’t friends. Sure, it may have seemed like a stupid question to ask but, hey for all I knew they were best buds and went shopping together. After all, Minga was the one who shoved me in the truck to meet Tolo’s other family! I asked if it’s common for people here to have more than one wife. He said, sure as long as they can afford it. He said he was a business man and so he was able to afford it. I asked then, if a man makes a lot of money can he have a lot of wives? He laughed and said, why not? Oh gosh.
Later I began noticing things like when Tolo and I were eating and Minga wasn’t in the room he told her he wanted water. She came in from outside, took the full water pitcher off the table that was right in front of him and filled a cup with water. It’s not that Tolo is a bad guy. When I got home and realized I had no food to eat since I haven’t gone food shopping, he split his dinner with me. He offered to take me to Navarette when he goes and to take me to see the other PCVs that live on the other side of the mountain. So, it’s weird because normally I would think someone who did some of the same things as him was a jerk. I would steer clear but with Tolo, he’s nice and pretty much fair. It’s not just him either; I think it is just a cultural thing. So, I’m left not sure what to think except that I’m glad I don’t have to have the same standards for a husband.
Well, that’s it for now. I completed my first week in my site although I cheated a bit since I left for a day at the start. Next week I may be visiting a site where a PCV lives with 27 waterfalls! Those Ecotourism PVCs get all the luck, although, I really can’t complain about my site. So, wish me luck with the next week at my site and I hope to post this soon!
PS: Mary Alice I read your update on the weather and my mom has told me likewise. I can’t believe it’s so warm there!! Here I was thinking you all were miserable and cold… but no more! I thought it was getting cold there earlier than normal this year. Enjoy the weather because you know it won’t last suckers!!! Ahahahahahah!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Start of A New Week:
11/9/08 Sunday: 8 pm Caller and a Pool
I was just getting ready for bed Sat night after writing my blog when my Doña told me I had a visitor: Neno was here and wanted to ask me a question. Earlier I was feeling pretty weirded out by him since Minga made such a big deal about everything before. Plus, Entrena doesn’t help with the fear they strike into all the PCTs souls with everything from HIV to mosquitoes. They make it seem like a wrong move and your toast; you’ll be doomed for the rest of your life if you let that guy buy you a drink. It’s confusing now because I don’t want to be thought of as a snob to my community and I want to make sure I’m being social but thanks to Entrena I stop and wonder all the time- how much is too social? I can’t ignore men either, that wouldn’t be fair plus they’re so much calmer than the women… So, when my Doña made a big deal about the community thinking Neno and I were dating and with too much time on my hands, I remembered a story about a PCV who went on a few dates with a few different guys in her community and her host mom kicked her out, calling her a slut. Well, that would sure be a good impression wouldn’t it?
So, here I was with all these pressing thoughts looming over me when Neno shows up in the night. Ok, so it’s not like it was super late but for my Doña who goes to bed by 9 each night when I’m not keeping her up, it may as well have been midnight. When she told me he was here though, I did not fret. I knew this was no big deal and I was going to take care of it in a friendly but forward way: the Betsy Way.
I went out and talked to him and was surprised to see him off in the far corner of the yard in the shadows, not visible from the front porch of the house. Turns out he wanted to ask me how I liked the oranges from the day before. I said we liked them very much, they were great to share with everyone and thanks so much. It seemed like he was trying to get me to go with him somewhere but when I looked back at the house I laughed out loud as I saw Minga standing on the porch with hers arms crossed. She wasn’t even trying to be discreet: she was staring right at where we standing! I felt like I was in a movie with an overprotective dad or something; something I sure have never experienced! So, it was really comical and hard to focus when I tried to give “The Talk” which is a lot easier in English let me say.
I began The Talk like this: I said how in the States its super easy for guys and girls to be just friends. He said of course. I asked if it was the same here. He said of course. To be sure, I said that’s great because I didn’t want a boyfriend, that I had to learn Spanish first for one thing. Then I said if a guy and a girl are friends here does that mean they’re dating? He said of course. Great. Back to square one. I hoped I had made my point and we promised we would play Dominoes sometime (something people always laugh at me for because pretty much just guys play) and he did the awkward hand holding thing for a second and was off into the night. I went up on the porch and joined my Doña. What a weird day.
The next day was largely uneventful. I spent about 3 hours slowly going over my interview, making little changes here and there until I was satisfied. Later I piled into Tolo’s truck to go “up” the mountain with him and Minga. We had been driving for a little while when my Don told me we were visiting the other PCVs who live closest to me. I reminded him of the conversation we had the day before about 3 times where I told him they were in the Capitol until Tuesday. Hmmm, guess that does sound familiar… After that I had no idea where we were going, as usual.
It turns out there is a pool about 30 minutes from my house! Don’t get excited though. We went to visit the pool and I realized that it is no normal pool. First of all, there is a small creek that runs right next to it which is its water source. There are PVC tubes that run water into the pool on one end and other the end the wall is made of sandbags. The overflow of water just flows right over the sandbags into the creek again and that my friend is the filtration system. Who needs chlorine? The best part is that it’s not just a regular pool: it’s attached to the colmado/discoteca. How bout some fun for the night kids? Dad and I are going to get tanked and dance and you can swim in the pool! FREE SITTER! My Don was all about encouraging me to bring my swim suit next time and go swimming. Well, I’m not sure how I feel about being the only gringa in the gallows but vamos a ver.
11/10/08 Monday: A Mag Light and a Murder
Today was not a good day. There are certain times in a person’s life where committing murder is contemplated, and today was my time. Thanks to my Doña I was pretty pissy all day and now I know exactly how many days I have left until I move out.
It began simply. Minga decided to get up at 6 am and start the laundry. That I can maybe ignore but when she came into my room yelling (because that is her default volume) asking who knows what, it was hard to ignore. When I opened my eyes I was confused as to why she was shinning a flashlight in my face. Turns out, the one light in the house- which is located atop of the intersection of the only two interior walls and does so little that during the day I still have to use my headlamp in my room, was actually working quite well this morning. And it was shinning right in my face. I was incredibly annoyed that I was being woken up so early and that it involved what I thought was something similar to a Mag Light. To top it off she did the most obnoxious thing that she does: she said something and I had no clue what the heck she was saying, so she repeated the same thing (or one word of it) in the exact same way but somehow with even more volume than the first time. Although increasing the volume of something always gives me an epiphany as to the definition, today it just wasn’t rubbing me the right way. In the one minute I had been somewhat awake, I had my time; the time I was wondering if I would be “administratively separated” if I cracked.
Around 9 am, and after more of the repeating-the-same-word-in-a-louder-volume game I knew I had to do something or I would really lose my mind. Pretty distressing at only 9 am. So, I whipped out my computer to write a blog. I had just gotten it booted up when Minga came in and told me we had to go right now “down” because Tolo was waiting for me. I highly doubted that he was there right now and to be sure I asked, “Right now?” about three times and she repeated it back to me. Thus, I figured my blogging would have to wait. She had already told me he would be there to get me on his way back “down” at 8 am, something which I deduced from the little I knew of his schedule, would not be possible. So, we hurried to go down to the mother in law’s house and we sat there for an hour until we decided he wasn’t coming and her son gave me a ride, a ride which cost me 150 pesos. So much for a bola, again.
When I got into town to make my copies of my interview, I was surprised to find that all the internet places I knew of were closed. Oh, well that’s because it’s a national holiday. Gosh that would have been nice to know around 8 am this morning. Lucky the driver knew of a little place that was open for just enough time to make copies and use the internet for a bit. The owner was really nice and didn’t charge me for the internet:) He also gave me his email; people give their information very freely here. I’ve gotten 5 different numbers or emails in the last week alone!
The day was starting to turn for me but I was in such a foul mood I wasn’t sure if there were any saving it. The good began when I was waiting for Tolo for an hour. I was feeling pretty crazy and called about 6 or 7 PCVs before I got one who picked up. Shilpa and I talked for about 30 minutes before my ride came. Then when I got to the internet I was able to vent to my great Mom who was on yahoo to chat with me. Then later I was able to talk to my awesome sister, Rach for about an hour. Whew! I was beginning to feel better but still faaaar from normal- it must have been the Mag Light…
Minga and I went to a woman’s meeting later that day and then to buy a lottery ticket. (A daily ritual) I’m not quite comfortable in the community and generally don’t go anywhere without Minga or another person I’ve been designated to follow. I think that’s mostly because I’m afraid to hold my own with my Spanish. Today though, on the way back from the Banco (the lottery place), I asked Minga if she wanted to stop at my favorite spot so far in Los Ruales, which, lucky for me, happens to be right below where I’ll soon be living. (The view from my future residence is breathtaking so that may be my new favorite spot in about 52 days.) We had been sitting in my spot for about 3 minutes when she wanted to go home. She is such a homebody. I told her to go ahead and I would stay there.
For a while it was just me and this random woman who told me about how her daughter married someone and he left her and then how she broke her foot falling down a hill. Strange but ok. More people came over and we all sat and talked for a while. I really like talking without the overzealous Doñas. I love the Doñas but they just talk right over me, I talk too slow and they don’t have patience. After a few people I was talking with left I decided to check and see if my PC phone had service there- and it did! Was this even the same day I woke up with a Mag Light in my face? So, I talked with another PCV for a while before heading home to make hot chocolate and having bread with peanut butter for dinner.
It was a pretty good night and it would have gone so different if I didn’t have so much support. Thanks so much guys for being there for me and helping me to be grateful for all I have. Life is too short and my time in the PC is even shorter to waste days being completely and totally pissy. Although, I realized that today marked the 5th straight day where I was with my Doña pretty much all day, alllllll day long. I like her ok but that’s too much time together. I’m really looking forward to getting away for a day to go to the 27 waterfalls, and….. I even have a bola to the other side of the mountain!! Yipee!!!!! Yep, it’s still the same day, amazing. Thank goodness for change!
11/11 Tuesday: From Poop to Oranges
Today was a great day. I feel bipolar saying that after my day yesterday but what can I do? With it beginning the way it did, one would think that it was going to be a repeat of yesterday but nope. It began later than the day before; I kept my Doña up nice and late last night so she slept in until 7. I got out of bed at 8 and was piddling around my room before I ventured out to brush my teeth. I wasn’t looking at the ground and I stepped in poop in my bare feet, I’m not sure but I suspect it was chicken poop. That was sick but at least I had the wipes Rach sent me to clean up with.
Next I went to the window to brush my teeth and wash my face. This, like my bath, is done with a bucket. I pour the water over my toothbrush or hands and get to town cleaning whatever my heart desires. Well, I noticed today that the water bucket I was using had two or three mosquito larvae swimming around like little sperm-worms. (I imagine that explains them perfectly for you all) I decided it was best not to think about this to much and instead concentrated my efforts on not pouring one of them on my tooth brush.
While I was doing that Minga came in to tell me that Mercedes, the woman I was supposed to be doing my interviews with today, would be gone in the afternoon. Mercedes and I spoke the night before about doing interviews today in the morning and the afternoon but I figured it was no big deal as long as I could get my 5 done with her in the morning. I was in a hurry but figured I had time to drink my coffee and I was almost done chugging it when I looked in the bottom of the cup and saw a dead insect; I thought they were supposed to float! That’s what Dominican coffee will do to you…
As I was on my way out Minga came up to me asking me where I was going. I told her I was going to Mercedes’ house to do my interviews with her. Minga just kept repeating how Mercedes was going to be gone in the afternoon. Ok, I get it… that’s why I’m going now. I realized that maybe she was trying to tell me that she was going to be gone until the afternoon but since I couldn’t communicate with her I asked the random guy who had been sitting in our yard all morning if he knew what was going on. He confirmed what I had thought: Mercedes was gone until the afternoon.
What to do what to do… well I did what anyone would do. I bought 8 calling cards from the colmado (because it only sells the smallest increments of calling cards) and I called my bff Becky. It was really nice to talk to her since I haven’t talked to her, besides the occasional message on facebook, since I left three months ago. I went to my favorite spot to talk to Beck and on the way back I was flagged down by a man who I had forgotten about. His name is David and he speaks English. He’s a truck driver in the States but is here visiting for a few months. I went over to his house and hung out with him, speaking English for about 2 ½ hours (shame on me!).
After I said goodbye to him and his family I went home to eat lunch. One day last week I made the fatal mistake of taking the icky meat my Doña gave me and slipping it on my Don’s plate. I figured she would think I ate it and he would be happier with more food. No harm no foul. Wrong. I hear her telling people how I just loooove beef and she makes it all the time now. It’s pretty sick. It’s super hard and chewy. I’d rather just get my protein from beans or peanut butter. Today was no different but I again was able to slip the food onto my Don’s plate like a stealthy pro.
After lunch I had lost my motivation to do my interviews. I was excited to do them in the morning but by now a nap and a bucket bath with hot water were sounding great. I willed myself at 2 o’clock to go and look for Mercedes. Turns out, she was still gone but she arranged for her sons, ages 14 and 16, to help me. We went to the highest, furthest part of the town first, Las Trujias (or something close to that) which was really freaking high up. Keep in mind, there are no sidewalks or roads- its lumpy, dirt paths up the mountain. Tomorrow I will be more prepared and I’m going to wear tennis shoes.
Anyways, we visited an overzealous 6 houses and I am happy to say that only 2- no like 1 ½ were awkward. I drank coffee with the first family while I fanned myself since I was panting from walking up the hill. The other families were really cool and they insisted I come back to visit, which I definitely will- if for no other reason but to work off all this rice I’ve been eating. By the time we finished our last interview for the day it was a little after 6 and my Spanish was winding down fast. We would have been out for a lot longer but the 16 year old who was helping me was very task oriented and insisted on hurrying things along.
It was ok though; the people didn’t seem to mind. A few families sent me home with some oranges and others flagged me on my way back down the mountain to give me oranges and mandarins; one family gave me this bag of nut-looking things (I ate one and it was nasty; I think you’re supposed to do something with them before you eat them). People here are amazing; they are soooo inviting and friendly. I gave a bunch of people hugs after I left and already feel like they’re much more than Dominicans I can’t understand perfectly.
On my way home I ran into Neno who was asking me something about oranges again but the 16 year old I was with wasn’t having it; he just walked off and he had my goods from Las Trujias! So, I said sorry and took off after the focused 16 year old. When I got home I began cooking dinner and my Doña walked in with a bag of more oranges; another gift from Neno! I have sooooo many fresh picked oranges now I’m going to be eating and sharing them for the next week!! I seriously have over 25 oranges.
Tomorrow is a new day. I was supposed to go to the 27 Waterfalls with some other PCVs but I can’t get a hold of them and have no idea what the plan is so I think I’ll be staying here. That’s ok though, I’m actually excited to do more interviews and meet more people. Despite the poop, the bug, the constant miscommunication with Minga, and the fact that my partners ditched me all happening before 9 in the morning, the day was pretty satisfying. Some days I think I’m really cut out for this, my job is to be social and, after the first three months, make presentations for people for the most part (yes there is a lot more to it but those are the main points) and other days- like yesterday- I wonder how long two years can feel. Luckily I’m sure I’m going to have a lot more days like today and that makes yesterday seem like a different lifetime:)Until I can post again,