12/11 Thursday: A drag but not that bad
Ahhh, relief: tomorrow I’m going to the Capitol for the Artisan fair and for the Christmas party. I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but the Country Director (the head honcho) told us all at Thanksgiving that we were invited to his house for a Christmas party. Then him and his wife sent out email invitations to all of us (which I couldn’t RSVP to because when I opened the invitation with like 3 minutes left at the internet center it locked up my computer). I think that it really nice of him to do for us all and I’m looking forward to getting out again. I also look forward to the fact that when I return to Los Ruales I have just 9 more nights (mas or menos) till I can sleep without snoring and just 7 days till Rach visits me!!!!! :)
Even though I complain a lot about my host fam here, in reality I have it pretty good (not as good as in CBT but still good). After visiting almost all of the houses in Los Ruales I know that I could have had it a lot worse. What if I lived at that house with the kid that should be in an institute?! (By the way, Nacha has been MIA since the little incident with that kid yesterday.) Minga is really caring. Today she’s going to the airport to pick up her son from Neuva York (actually from Ohio) and she’s been all worried about leaving me here solita (alone) until sometime tonight. She is making dinner before she leaves at 2 (despite the fact that I make my own each night, but it’s just in case I change my mind I guess) and she’s set it up with 3 different people that I know of to come over and keep me company. Part of me is like, “Ugh, noooo…” because I feel like I have to be on my game all afternoon then talking with everyone after I did my interviews in the morning. I found out that if you don’t talk much then the people here think you’re stuck up so I have to at least make the effort. She’s not leaving until 2 and I’m going running at 4. I wouldn’t mind being alone from 2-4, believe me: I wouldn’t mind. But I know she’s just being thoughtful so I’ll be social and appreciate the effort of the people visiting me.
12/10 Wednesday: A dead pig, more delicious fruit, and bratty kids
I decided not to do any interviews today as it was raining off and on and also because I forgot to guilt someone into helping me yesterday. I was sitting in the kitchen with Minga and Marvey when Minga was trying to get Marvey to go to the meat shop. Marvey was whining of course and so Minga volunteered me to go with him. I wasn’t doing anything anyways so I thought that I may as well go. I thought that the butcher shop was really close to my house but it turns out that it is across town. By the time we arrived we were just in time to see the butcher taking out the stomach of the pig. He then took cut out the manhood of the poor pig. Next went to town taking out the rest of the innards doing some weird thing involving wrapping the esophagus around a hind leg to hold it in place until its time came to be removed. What a special treat when I was even able to watch as he cracked open the rib cage and scooped out the heart then the remaining blood with his bare hands. When he cut the head off I couldn’t help but think about the Women’s Meeting next Monday where we would all be eating pig head. I was surprised that I was able to not only stomach the sounds of the bones being chopped through but also that I was able to watch. Yes it sounds nasty, and it was, but now I know not to go to the carnicería before 10 am.
When we got back to the house about an hour later Minga wasn’t there so we killed time at the guanavana tree. What began as just Marvey and me throwing rocks at the fruit turned into 8 children and me trying to get fruit from the tree. It turns out that there are kids in the town who are part monkey as they were somehow able to climb the tree and get down three pieces of fruit! Only one piece was ready to eat so I shared it with my helpers.
Marvey has two or three younger siblings, one of which is a HUGE brat. The kid is 2 or 3 and he needs to be put in an institute or something. He was getting on my nerves but then he found Nacha and began chasing her and pulling her around by her tail. Then he held her upside down by her leg and began shaking her. That kid was asking for mauling and if it weren’t for the fact that I was afraid what would happen to Nacha afterwards I would have left him with her to learn a life lesson. I took the kid and had to literally carry him to Minga since he wouldn’t walk. He was laughing the whole time of course. Minga told Marvey to take him home but being the snot that he his Marvey said no. So, I took the kid and put him in the street and left him. Thankfully one of the girls volunteered to take him home because I wasn’t going to let him come back into the house. If anyone is worried about their kid there in the States having babies, send them here and they won’t ever want the risk of having kids.
12/9 Tuesday: Stick it out and it gets better
My day didn’t begin very well as I woke up around 7:30 and laid there for a while, listening to everyone talking in the kitchen. Sometimes I think that my Spanish is in a very bad place right now. I can understand a lot but since I listen a lot more than I talk, I can’t communicate like I would like. I can say roughly what I want but it’s not graceful and is very blunt. This morning was disheartening when I could hear the women in the kitchen talking about me. I told Ernestina yesterday during our run that I am not a fan of kids (after she asked). Well, today they were all expressing concern about the health Volunteer who doesn’t like kids. Here’s the thing: Yes it’s true, I don’t like kids. They’re ok, even fun for a few hours (the time limit is directly correlated with how many kids there are) and one day I want a few of my own. That day is not today or anytime soon. I’m a health PCV, not a youth PCV- there is a reason for this. I’m not going to apologize for not liking bratty kids (I like kids that listen more often that not, call me crazy). I’m not going to lie and say I enjoy them endlessly; I don’t. I will however, point out that I am here to work with youth (ages 11 and up) and mothers.
I was sitting there, first thing in the morning, trying to think of a way to be positive about this. I knew people would talk about me, it’s what they do here and I’ve already been the talk of the town. I was a little upset at first that Ernestina expressed concern with them yesterday with me she agreed with me. But, she is just 18 and I have been told that people generally gossip here. If anything I should look at it as an opportunity to experiment with how to correct it and also as an example that I need to be cautious with what I say.
I was still not feeling very positive when I went out to the kitchen. By this time it was just Ming and the new Vecina (neighbor lady who’s name I can’t remember). Right when I walked in we said our greetings and then the Vecina turned to Minga and said, “She has a lot of pimples.” Then she turned to me and told me that I had a lot of pimples. Man, how long have I even been awake today!? It was the first time since I’ve been here that I just wanted to go back into my room and cry. I was wearing down. Minga was already making me coffee though so I sucked it up and stuck it out.
I’m glad I did because we all talked for a while and made sure to try to give my point of view on kids as well as point out the ages I’ll be working with. Even though the other women weren’t there anymore I could at least try to explain myself to two of them. After all that was said, I asked something about guanavana fruit. It turns out there is a tree with the fruit right in front of Minga’s house. I asked if we could go look for some fruit, mostly so I could see what it looks like. Luckily, there was some fruit within reach that was ready to eat so we grabbed it (after throwing rocks unsuccessfully at one giant one high in the tree) and went home to make juice.
This fruit is definitely in the top 5 of the weirdest looking fruit I have ever seen. Sure that’s probably not saying much since my idea of exotic before I left Illinois was apples with a Fiji sticker on them but still, they’re weird looking. La Vecina took one of them and pulled it in two, giving me half. The outside is a green color and has little prickles sporadically over it. The inside is white and has weird texture, I’m not sure what to compare it to. I’m sure if I had tried this fruit 6 months ago I would have hated it since it’s so different from anything I’ve ever eaten. Today, after concentrating on having an open mind about it, I decided that this fruit was gooooood. Ming made some juice in the blender (how lucky am I that she has a blender?!) with water, powered milk, fruit and of course sugar. It was a smoothie! It was sooooo good; I completely forgot all the negative feelings from earlier in the day.
Ever since finding out that most of the female PCVs who come into country gain an average of 15 pounds I’ve been trying to be slightly more health conscious. It also doesn’t help that this week alone I have had two different people greet me by telling me how much fatter I am now. Sure, I have this severe addiction to a certain type of deliciously satisfying cookie here but I didn’t think it showed! I’m hoping if I moderate the rice, load up on the beans and avocado and try to exercise regularly that my metabolism will cut me some slack, give me an A for effort and discard all the cookies and rice that I’m not burning up.
Holding up on my end of the bargain, I met with Ernestina, Evangelina (or Vangie) and Angie at 5 to go for our run “down”. We were almost to the river when we were passed by a car going up la Loma. The car drove up a little ways and then turned around and pulled up right next to us. Turns out it was the same car with the guy who speaks English from last week. They drove along, talking with me until we got to the river and then they turned around and drove next to me while we walked up the hill. (Yes, I was going to run but power walking is hard too so I figure as long as I feel the burn its ok… and believe me- I felt the burn) The guy was trying to get me to give him my number but I told him I didn’t know my number (which, by the way, is the truth). He asked if it was ok if they were driving next to us and I said “Sure as long as you don’t hit on me but it would be better if you walked.” Next thing I know, his friends dropped him off and he was walking up the hill with us, ha! I was fairly far in front but he was still carrying on a conversation with me. Why is it all the guys who hit on me always have at least one kid? This guy has 4! I guess it just makes it so I’m not tempted at all. After a while I passed his friends and he left with them.
He missed out when he skipped out early because we stopped a little later to get some chinola fruit from a tree. While were we stopped, throwing rocks at the fruit to knock them down, Tolo passed us and offered a ride back to Minga’s house. Vangie took it (which we all gave her crap for since she had already taken a bola with a moto) and the rest of us walked. When we got to Minga’s in-law’s house we came up to one of the guys who frequently rides his bike. I went up to him to talk to him when I saw blood all over his mouth. Turns out he was riding along when a kid ran in front of him so he took a dive on his bike to avoid hitting him. We got him some water so he could clean up, and after examining his tooth, relived his fears that it wasn’t broken/chipped. After a bit of conversation he set off back down the mountain and we continued our trek up. These excursions I go on are turning out to be a good way to meet people, eat fruit and also never seem to be dull, but then what “normal” thing here has been dull?
12/8 Monday: Mosquitero melancholy and the Women’s meeting
Today I took my sheets off of my bed for Minga to wash them and when I returned after lunch I was annoyed to see that she un-tucked my mosquito net and tied it in a knot above the bed. Dominicans do this each day with theirs but they also don’t tuck the nets in under the mattress at night (which is a huge freaking pain and nearly impossible to get tight so the net sags, absorbing what little personal space is available in the bed). I figured as long as it was up I may as well enjoy it so I made my bed all nice (something pretty difficult when the net is up) and sat in my now much larger bed. I also finally took out that pillow case full of rice bags which freed up some space too.
As I sat there, I realized that even though I love the security the net provides I’m not a fan of using one. I was so happy sitting there without that stupid net up, I actually found myself daydreaming of sitting in my bed back home. Whether it was studying for a test, watching tv, staring out the window, reading a book, talking on the phone…. all of it was sans a net and was great. Not to mention I can do none of the above in my bed now, even without the net, except read or study and day or night that’s just with a headlamp. I decided I would never again take having my own well lit room without a mosquito net for granted. I never realized it was something that I was taking for granted or something I missed! I decided to try and take a nap in my new found freedom but only slept about 20 minutes since I instantly became the daily special for all the freaking mosquitoes in a kilometer radius.
After I provided all the mosquitoes with their snack, I got up and headed to the Women’s Meeting. I don’t get how everyone knows when to go to these. One week I went and it was me and one other person waiting for the meeting to start until 4:30 when everyone else showed up. The meetings are supposed to start at 4. Today Minga was hurrying me along and we got there at 3:50 to find the meeting full of people and had already begun! The meeting consisted of a beginning prayer (everyone prays separately but out loud), reading a prayer out of a book, taking attendance then dues, signing up to bring something for next week’s pot luck (I’m bringing 6 of those little chicken flavor cubes), name drawing for the weekly raffle, and then the closing prayer. All of this took over an hour. Everything took about 15 minutes except for the signing up part, that took the rest of the time. Next week I get to look forward to eating pig head at the potluck. I’m just glad I didn’t get signed up to bring that!
12/7 Sunday: Frustrated
Yesterday Minga told me that we would be leaving early today with Tolo to go to Navarrete. She told me to be ready to go by 8 so, learning from the past, I woke up at 8. I ate and was ready by 8:30 when she decided to take a shower. While I was waiting for Minga one of her neighbors showed up (so Minga could buy her numbers for the day) and asked why in the world we were leaving so early. Minga said it’s because I needed to go to the bank. (hello, it’s Sunday!) When Tolo showed up Minga told him that we would have been ready sooner but I wanted to eat breakfast. I have noticed a lot lately that Minga uses me as an excuse often. When it happens sometimes I say something but most of the time I don’t. It bugs me but I feel like it’s a small thing to argue.
We were dropped off at her daughter in law’s house (the one we went shopping with in Santiago for Christmas clothes). After about an hour of talking I was starting to get antsy wondering when we were going to leave. I reminded Minga that I needed to go to the grocery store today too and she acted completely surprised. Remember the conversation we had when you said you were going to Navarrete Sunday to go clothes shopping? I asked if I could go to the grocery store too and you said no problem… Minga insisted that we leave right away because Tolo was going to be back very early. I was confused; I thought that she was going shopping today for clothes. When I asked is she was going shopping today she answered casually like I should have just known through osmosis that her plans had changed and she wasn’t going to go shopping today. Ok then. After Minga and I left the house to find the grocery store, she said that she remembered me telling her before that I needed to go. At least I know I’m not nuts, just going nuts.
After Minga lead the way not to a grocery store but a colmado. I reminded Minga that there is a difference between a colmado and a grocery store and that I needed a grocery store. I told her that the colmado wouldn’t have cat food but of course she had to ask. When a bunch of people laughed at her she made sure to point at me while laughing and saying that it was me, the gringa, who wanted it, not her of course. We eventually walked to three grocery stores I knew about but were unable to find what I was looking for. I guess I have to get that in Santiago. Sorry Nacha, looks like its just rice for you this week.
That trip successfully passed two hours and we got back to Francis’s house (the daughter in law) just in time for lunch. ¡Un buen tiempo! People say that when they show up at someone’s house and the people are the house are eating. It’s pretty much inviting yourself to eat but in a polite way. When you show up to someone’s house and don’t want to eat then you say “Buen provecho” which is like saying in a polite way “enjoy your meal, I don’t want any”. I like eating at Francis’s house, the lunch is the same as everyone else’s (rice, beans and some type of meat) but it has more flavor.
I asked when Tolo was supposed to be there and they said around one in the afternoon. I was getting pretty bored and it’s a lot hotter in Navarrete than in Los Ruales so I was really feeling the need for a nap. Not to mention that the 8 year old (Marvey) and the 3 year old are both bratty so after a few hours with them within 3 feet of me, I wanted to scream. One o’clock came and went. So did two o’clock, three o’clock and then four o’clock.
I was going to insist that we just leave around 2 or 2:30 but, despite my annoyance, I wanted to see how long Minga would wait. The only problem was that I had been scolded earlier in the week for not being social enough by one of my “project partners”. I think it was actually because I wasn’t out the Sunday night before socializing since I got home late from Santo Domingo. There was a big Christmas party today in Los Ruales that I wanted to go to and I could have gotten some socializing points for. It began at 1 and went until 5. First Minga told me it went until 7 but then around 4 pm she changed the ending time to 5. I thought it would have been fun to go to since it was during daylight so I could actually see who I was talking to unlike the Sunday night parties.
By the time Minga finally got annoyed at 4:30 it was too late to go to the party. We walked to where the motos are at the bottom of la Loma (the “hill”) and each got a ride up to the house, sharing the moto with the driver and another person of course. 140 pesos later we were home and I was finally boiling water for my shower. Soon after that Tolo showed up and Minga gave him an earful. His defense before telling her to shut up over and over was that he did go to Francis’s house but we weren’t there. Sure he went there but he was already 4 hours late! Does that even count?! No, in this case the thought doesn’t count; I think the thought wasn’t worth guandules.
I was doing my best not to say anything or be pissy after we got home when Minga started hurrying me along to take my shower because “Tolo wants to go.” You have got to be kidding me. After all day waiting to get home I wasn’t about to take a shower at night, when it’s significantly colder, with cold water so Tolo didn’t have to wait. I felt like a Diva but I just didn’t care.
About 30 minutes later, we piled into the truck, went up to where the big party was and talked with the family that lives there. From all the trash that was around I could tell that it was a huge party. It’s a shame too because all those plastic cups are going to be burned or thrown over the edge of some cliff in the area. That’s what they do with the garbage here since there’s no trash pick up.
After about 15 minutes we left to get some avocados (Tolo sells them and oranges to colmados for his job) and then we went back “down” to the discoteca. I was feeling better and happy that I left the house since being around people generally puts me in a better mood. Sunday’s are becoming the highlight of my week in the campo, they’re really fun! We walked up the steps to the discoteca and were there for maybe 5 minutes before Tolo said it was time to leave. I asked why we didn’t sit down and stay for a while and they said it was because I needed to get back for the phone call from my mom. Again, I was their excuse for something they didn’t want to do because my Mom wasn’t supposed to call for an hour! How many days until I can move out…?
12/6 Saturday: Its time to party!
After I got done running yesterday with the group, Ernestina told me she would meet me in the morning to go to one of the birthday parties I was invited to, the one for the little girl who was turning 3 or 4. So much for sleeping in but, ok I know I should socialize. Besides, what was I going to say? “No thanks, I’d rather sleep than hang out with you.” Although the last time I slept more than three hours straight without waking up was sometime in October. I can mostly thank the wonderful snoring orchestra in my house for that. (How may days till I move out…?)
It took Ernestina and me about 30 minutes to walk to the party. When we got there we found that we were too early. The good thing is that I brought my interviews so we walked to a couple of houses and were able to find someone to interview. We decided to walk to Ernestina’s Aunt’s house to interview her as well. When I say “we” I mean, she decided it and I agreed before I realized what I agreed to. I have this awful habit of just saying yes and nodding my head when I don’t understand what someone says. It’s gotten me in a little bit of trouble and I agree to things that I sometimes I wish I hadn’t but for the most part it works pretty good.
Anyways, it was another 30 minutes up a much steeper part of the hill to her Aunt’s house. Of course when we got to the top a few people felt the need to tell me I was “a little pink”. I was the one that stood out since I was pink even though Ernestina was the one with the big rollers and hair net on! I am generally a little self-conscious of my appearance since I can’t see myself very well in the mirror at my house. Sometimes people look at me and laugh and I think, “Oh nuts, I’ve had something on my face this whole time haven’t I?!” It’s too dark in my room and my headlamp just doesn’t do the job in this case so sometimes I appreciate people telling me if there’s something array. (Array, not pink)
We ended up eating at her Aunt’s house before saying goodbye. We stopped at the birthday house on the way home and stayed to help decorate it. We walked a little to my house and then were lucky enough to get a bola to my house. By the time I got back to my house it was about 2:30 in the afternoon. My brain was getting tired from thinking in Spanish but I had already committed to going to another party later so I had to get ready to go to that one. I have no idea why but during my spare time between parties I studied Spanish. After Ernestina took her rollers out we headed down the hill to another party.
The house we went to was a very large, very pretty house for the campo. The guy who owns it lives in Navarrete and only uses this one on the weekends. He totally offered to let me live there and it was a teeny painful to say no thank you. That is until I thought about the house I’m going to live in and it’s proximity to people, the view and the indoor toilet (not that this one didn’t have an indoor toilet but I just like to remember as often as possible that the latrine is a very temporary situation for me). After about three hours Ernestina and I decided to head back up the mountain. On the way we ran into Minga who was just heading to the party (She was going to with me when I left but decided to wait for Tolo- as usual. Then Tolo didn’t even want to go.). Tolo dropped Minga off and then headed to Navarrete for the night to his other house. Minga, Ernestina and her parents (who we also met along the way) caught a ride with someone back up the mountain.
After we passed Minga’s house and then Ernestina’s house I asked where we were going. To the 3 year olds birthday party at 8 o’clock at night of course. Oh boy, round two- or would this be round three? Birthday parties for children are very strange here. I came in at the end so I’m not entirely sure what was going on but it involved pulling pieces of paper out of a bag, reading them and then everyone screaming. I was sitting at a table with three men and Ernestina. The man to my right was very drunk and I guess he has a thing for Ernestina, which he told me at least 20 times. (better her than me)
After only about 30 minutes at the party Minga wanted to go. She was making every excuse under the sun- or in this case under the moon- to leave but ultimately the decision is always mine for some reason. I get annoyed that she shows up late and only stays for such a short time, especially since I need to socialize and be seen making attempts to be social, but who am I to make her stay? Plus I figured I had put in my time for the day. We were offered a moto bola for the way home but I didn’t have my helmet, there were a lot of drunk people on the road (possibly the driver too) and it was dark out. After insisting stubbornly that I had to follows the rules of the Peace Corps and ignoring Minga again literally pushing and pulling me towards the moto (I have thought of the last time she did that many times and so was better prepared. I can happily say it didn’t annoy me at all.) I was able to convince everyone that I was not going to ride it without my helmet. Point for me.
A little while later we were able to catch a bola with someone in a truck and arrived back to the house in one piece. I was in the middle of a 90 minute Spanish class with Margarita and her husband Tito while eating dinner when I got a phone call from Rach. She bought a ticket to come and see me over Christmas earlier but it was a gamble because we weren’t sure if her passport was going to come in time. She called me to tell me that she got her passport yesterday (thanks a lot dad for the sense of urgency in giving her the mail right away… I hope you know that was sarcastic) so she’s going to visit me over Christmas!!! Yay!!!! It’s the first Christmas away from home for both of us and we get to do it together!!! My only worry is that she’ll get bored here with everyone speaking Spanish. I did get an invitation from the one guy who speaks English to go to his house for Christmas…. Maybe we’ll drop by for a while, despite the fact that he’s a little inappropriate, so she can talk to someone besides me. May as well make it an interesting trip, huh?
Anyways, I have to get to bed because after Minga and I go to Navarrete tomorrow we’re supposed to go to another party. This campo likes to party that’s for sure but it is December after all. People paint their houses for this month; yeah it’s kind of a big deal here. However, I have to make an amendment to my beer rule. There is no way I’m drinking beer every time someone wants me to, not this month at least. I would have had to drink beer three separate times tonight, sick!
12/5 Friday: Running, a Bet Doomed for Failure and a Bisquick Bummer
Today I went with Wandy to do interviews. After we finished I invited him to go running with me later. I also invited Ernestina and Evangelina. Then there seemed to be a steady stream of children who kept asking if I was going running. I told them each I was and invited them each time they asked. When it finally came time to run our group was made up of Wandy, Ernestina, Evangelina, and five children. Wandy seemed upset that the kids were going but I told him exercise was good for all ages. We walked down the hill (since I said there is no way I’m running down it, how do you say klutz in Spanish?) and when we got to the river we turned around and began to run back. We were doing the: run 5, walk 2, run 4, walk 2… thing but the girls weren’t lasting very long. I was struggling with the time myself since it is a hill after all. Wandy bet me that he would beat me back, which- duh I figured that. I know that people here like to bet though so I figured I would bet him. The wager: a refresco (pop) at the colmado. Wandy decided it would be fairer if we broke into teams. That seemed fair until he made it guys against girls. All the guys were up together with me, and all the other girls were a good 30 feet behind us. I figured it didn’t matter much since I already knew my odds were slim.
As we were walking a car pulled up next to us. A guy in the passenger seat asked me where I was from in English. This is one of those key phrases that everyone here seems to know, like “How are you?”, “What is your name?”, or “I love you.”. I was unsure how good his English was and so I answered in Spanish. Turns out his English is pretty good since he lived in NY for 22 years before he was deported. He was telling me all kinds of things in English that made me want to gag. I decided that I like it better when men here don’t speak English. That way, when they say inappropriate things to me at least there are other witnesses or people who can tell them to get lost. In English I can pretty much handle that stuff myself and this guy didn’t live in my community so I didn’t have to be super nice about it. But he does know people in Los Ruales so I figured I had to be civil. I told him if he lived in NY for 22 years he should know that American girls don’t like guys saying stuff like that to them. I kept walking the whole time and pretty much ignored him.
All the excitement of the car almost made us forget our bet so I had a decent chance to beat Wandy. But, nope I still lost. I even tried to cheat and grab his shirt but was only able to grab one of the 8 year olds shirts (hey, at least I beat an 8 year old, HA!) Somehow me losing to Wandy made me obligated to buy everyone an icy thingy from Minga. Minga makes batata (I have been told that’s sweet potato but I’m not sure since I didn’t eat that in the States and I thought sweet potato was orange) ice with sugar, milk and batata then sells them for 2 pesos each. The logic behind me having to buy everyone an ice was that I would have spent 15 pesos on a Coke and this was just going to be 18 pesos. I could have debated that I would save money if I only bought one for Wandy but I figured I may as well just do it.
After everyone ate their ice and went home, I took a shower and made some pancakes for dinner. Bisquick is on my black list now. I paid extra for their stupid pancake mix and was all excited because I thought they were blueberry pancakes. The picture on the front shows blueberry and nowhere does it say “blueberries not included”. As I poured the mix into the bowl I began to get suspicious; I didn’t see any blueberry- looking lumps. I remained hopeful until I made the first pancake and sure enough, no blueberries. What a gyp! I was getting a little grumpy from this but then decided at least I was eating pancakes at all so I could deal with the fact I got ripped off.
I had just enough time to make dinner and eat before Minga and Tolo went to bed! They go to bed so early and sleep for like 10-11 hours!! It sucks because Tolo keeps me up with his snoring (Minga snores too but it’s not nearly as bad as Tolo) and then Minga wakes me up at 7 with her yelling. Ugh, there are a lot of perks to living here (generator, never have to clean, people always here) but I can not WAIT to move out. How many more days till I can move out…?
12/4 Thursday: Spiders and Tigers and Dogs, Oh My! (ok, not really a tiger…)
I’m in my bed for the night and about an hour ago I thought it finally happened: I thought there was a rat, tarantula or something worse in my room. I could hear something scurrying around on my floor. When I aimed my headlamp at the noise, it turned out to be the neighbor’s cat. The house is already locked up for the night and I’ve already made my nightly trek to the latrine (talking to myself the whole way, deciding what I would do if tonight is the night I see a tarantula) so I guess the cat is sleeping with me tonight.
It has been called to my attention that I have two followers: Chive and Nacha. Chive is a cute, scraggly, happy go-lucky dog and Nacha is a skinny, somewhere-between-a-kitten-and-a-cat cat. At first Chive was my main squeeze, I showered him with my food (Minga gives me enough food for lunch so I can eat it for three meals) and my affection. As you all may know, I am a dog person. I’m mildly obsessed with my dog back home, Booker.
A few days ago this white cat with some splashing of orange showed up. Not only do I not like cats much but I don’t like white much either. This cat is demanding, it sits at my feet and demands either food or attention with this loud, annoying meow. Maybe it’s my current situation but this cat that I would normally think is more annoying than being stuck behind a slowly walking person in Walmart is growing on me. When I come into my room after being gone for a few hours, Nacha is quietly sitting on my clothes in my room. She loves affection but will sit content on my lap without affection.
I asked Angie what that cat’s name was and I thought she said “nacho” but I guess she was telling me the cat was “macho”, not nacho. It was too late though and the name stuck- until someone realized he was a she and now her name is Nacha of course. I think that Nacha is fitting since she has an orange tail at least. So, here it is midnight and I have the neighbor’s cat, which I named, sleeping on my clothes in my room. She’s no tiger but she’ll keep those rats away. I guess it is true that I have a following. I think I should encourage this behavior by buying some cat food this weekend at the store. Nacha can share with Chive un chin too, after all- it’s the Dominican Way.
PS: I would like to say that Angie, who told me Snickers died (the little puppy), was mistaken. I went to that house today and played with Snickers and Cookie who are both very much so alive, thankfully. I also had to practically beat the owner off with a stick, telling her I couldn’t take a puppy. I think I’m being tested….
12/3 Wednesday: Dominican Hospitality
Today was a good day. In the morning I did my interviews with Evangelina and, despite the fact we only got 5 done when we should have done 6, I felt like it was a pretty productive morning. We had a lot of luck with the people we visited; they were all really nice and lively. Sometimes the interviews get really boring when the people are shy. To make it better, today I was given one cup of coffee, a bag full of oranges, a single orange and a bag full of chinola (passion fruit). I really liked one family in particular and I’m looking forward to visiting them often.
In the afternoon I studied Spanish (which I decided I’m going to be more proactive about and do more often) and today was the first day I actually asked for help. Most of the Spanish books I was given are for Mexico not the DR so there are quite a few differences. Sometimes when I learn something I try to use it and people look at me like I’m retarded. I never know if that’s because they don’t understand me or if what I said was stupid. I had never asked for help in the past, I’m not sure why but I think it was a combination of reasons. I found today that people love to help me with my Spanish! I was asking Angie (that 17 year old girl who is a little annoying) in particular and by the time I put my books away I had 5 different people trying to help me, two of which couldn’t read and another under the age of 8. It never ceases to amaze me how helpful people are here.
For instance, when I went to Santiago for the first time I was waiting for a carro publico. A taxi driver came up to me, offering me a ride. I told him he was too expensive, that I was waiting for a carro. He could have just walked away but he told me a different place to stand so I would have a better chance of getting a carro. Then on Sunday when I was on my way home from Santo Domingo, a man was trying to get me to ride his bus but I needed a different one. Not only did he tell me where to go for the bus I needed but he even walked me to the right place to stand for it. Or the time I was with Tolo and his truck got stuck in the mud. There was a random guy walking by and Tolo called him to come over and push. The man happily walked over and pushed the truck out of the mud while Tolo backed it out. As a general rule Dominicans are very helpful and very hospitable. Sure there are a lot of things that drive me nuts but there are a lot of good things too.
12/2 Tuesday: Interviews, stinginess, and a flakey face to make fun of
I’m actually pretty busy here when it’s not raining. (By the way, you’ll be happy to know that it’s warm here once again so I’m hoping it’s just cold when it rains) I didn’t have any down time today from 8 am until about 7:30 pm. I thought I was going to be bored in my site, not that I’m complaining. The day began about 15 minutes behind schedule but about an hour earlier than normal. I walked to Wandy’s house to see if he was going to help me for the day despite the fact that he pretty much told me yesterday he wasn’t going to. I like doing the interviews with him the best because he’s talkative and doesn’t complain about having to walk to the super far, high up places like some of the girls complain. I was hoping that he would feel bad for me when I showed up and I could act like I didn’t know he told me he wasn’t going to help today. Poor confused Americana.
He did end up helping me today but he wasn’t in the best mood, something having to do with the girl who was with us (not because I just showed up at his house). The interviews weren’t as fun as normal thanks to that. But one thing happened I thought was really nice. I was at this house with the cutest kitten and I was playing with it when the Doña asked me if I wanted it. It wasn’t a kitten from a litter at this woman’s house; it was her pet that she picked out. Who offers someone their new pet kitten when they just got it?! I asked her if she didn’t want it and she said of course she wanted it but I seemed to really like it. How nice is that?! Of course I didn’t take it but I’m sure I’ll go back to visit it:)
Back to the interviews though, getting up an hour earlier was a huge waste of sleep since Wandy and Evangelina decided an hour earlier that we were done for the day. So much for doing an extra interview today to make up for yesterday. I was starting to get worried about getting all the interviews done by Christmas although I don’t have to present my presentation over the results until training the beginning of February. I wanted to be done nice and early because I think it’s going to be pretty time consuming to analyze the interviews, make the crazy community map, write the report, and make the presentation (my presentation is something I have to draw out on big sheets of paper with markers and has to be at a basic level so everyone can understand it in my community- i.e. lots of pictures and I am no artist)
There are several casas we’ve gone to a few times and the people are never there, not to mention I feel like we’re not doing many per day. I’ve decided that I have a better chance of getting some of these houses by doing interviews on Saturdays. Also that will be an extra day of interviewing to boost the numbers, I just need to find someone to help me. I have the perfect opportunity this weekend since I was invited to a birthday party of a soon-to-be 4 year old.
I have another opportunity to do interviews with people who are far away or never home. Today while I was in town printing more interviews another person died in my community. So I thought tomorrow I would take the interviews to the funeral and… just kidding:) The death has me thinking though… Minga said he died from a big neck. I wonder if he had that problem (forgot what it is) where a person gets huge goiters (is that what they’re called? Help me out on this Mary Alice, I know you know:) in their neck from an iodine deficiency. That would be crazy to me! Isn’t the salt iodized here? Everyone eats a ton of salt here! One of the major concerns expressed to me in the interviews is high blood pressure. Today Minga made hot chocolate and I gave mine to Anthony because it was salty! Sick, who puts salt in hot chocolate?!
Speaking of hot chocolate, I let Minga use my powered milk. It was no big deal except that she finished off the rest of a small bag, using like three portions for one serving! When I came back from the Capitol I found a bunch of bread gone and my chocolate for the hot cocoa MIA. Then, this morning she informed me that she had used my cinnamon for her boiled pumpkin and sweet potato breakfast. I wouldn’t have minded too much except I found (for the first time) POWERED cinnamon and Minga uses a TON of whatever: salt, cinnamon, powered milk, sugar... For instance, when I gave her my full 16 ounce bag of laundry soap for one load of laundry, she handed it back to me with maybe 2 ounces left. So, I was starting to get a little peeved but what could I say about it? The culture here is all about sharing, which I’m normally happy to do. I figured I need to just deal with it until I can appreciate it more often. The trick is going to be not seething about it each time but finding a reason that it’s ok and eventually sharing hard to get things will be enjoyable all the time- I hope.
After lunch I told Minga I wasn’t feeling very well. I have a touch of gripe (in this example it means a cold but people use it for every type of smaller sickness imaginable: allergies, runny noses, headaches, full blown colds, etc.) but I had a headache and was feeling a little lethargic thanks to Tolo coming back (yep, long after the party was supposed to happen) and snoring super loud all freaking night. Minga told me to take a pill and brought me some fresh squeezed, sugar saturated orange juice. I thought that was really nice of her. I’m trying to lead by example and show her that pills aren’t needed for every little thing so I passed on the pills, whatever they happened to be. A person can buy anything here from a truck that drives through neighborhoods selling pretty much every type of pill sans prescription of course, announcing their presence on a loud speaker as they drive down the roads.
I was trying to sort through my interviews and see how many I had left when I kicked the full glass of juice over and broke one of the very few glasses Minga has. I stood there staring at the mess for a while before I finally picked up the glass and went into the kitchen to show the damage to Minga. I think she could tell I felt really bad. At first her face dropped when she saw the glass but then she told me how it was ok and she went and mopped up the juice. Here I was getting all pissy when she was using my 50 peso ground cinnamon that I can get whenever I go into the Capitol and she was trying to make me feel better for breaking one of her good glasses. Just when I start to get the wrong attitude, something happens that brings me back.
I’m not going to lie though; it is easy to get the wrong attitude with people laughing at you all the time. When I say all the time, I mean at least 5 times per day but generally more than that. Now, I’m used to getting teased and messed with from home but let me tell you, after nearly 15 weeks in the DR (Thursday!:) I can feel myself getting sick of it. Ok, maybe I’ve been a little sick of it. When I get home I’m going to be crazy easy going. If I had any pride left when I came to my site, it’s gone now.
Most recently, the thing that people have been making fun of me for stems from a problem I have had since I got into my site. When I got here, my skin took a turn for the worst. It wasn’t really that bad but my fam kept pointing it out to me, asking me if I had mosquitoes in my bed biting my face. Yeah, because everyone knows the preferred spot of mosquitoes to dine is the face. I thought it would be a simple fix: go to the doctor at the PC office and get some cream or something. A lot of people have problems with their skin with all the stress and changes in environment so it was really simple to get medicine at the office.
I used some on Friday night, and Sat morning like I was supposed to (or thought since the directions were in Spanish I had to guess a little) and then went to the pool. I didn’t think about the fact that it would make my skin more sensitive to the sun which the Spanish warnings may have said. In my defense, I did try to read it and I learned that I shouldn’t eat it. Not understanding the full meaning of the warnings maybe wouldn’t have been an issue but I think I fell asleep for about an hour at the pool. (What? I was tired!) So, half of my face got a kind of sunburned- I was in the shade a little.
I’m guessing the cream I used doesn’t agree with sunburn because now half of my face is peeling. Not even a normal type of peeling, more like a flakey, can’t-ever-get-rid-of-the-white-flakes peeling that, lucky for me, makeup makes worse. All that is just great because I don’t think people here have issues with skin peeling very often (or ever) so now I have a lot of people asking me what’s wrong with my face. They look at me all concerned and I tell them it’s from medicine the doctor gave me. Now I’m a little pink, a little flaky with a touch of the gripe and people are wondering what the heck is wrong with me that the doctor had to give me meds with such awful side effects. On top of that, Minga is telling everyone I have diarrhea, which I don’t have right now thank you very much.
PS: Angie told me today that one of those two puppies I helped name, Snickers, died today:( Poor puppy, it was fairly old too, probably about 6 weeks.