Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend (plus Monday too)

Hello All,

So I know that I went a while with out posting and here I am, back on after just a day or two. I can explain. I had to make more copies so here I am, in Navarrete, trying to figure out what the dude with the printer is telling me. Something about the printer blocking my flash drive.... wish me luck and enjoy living through me while you read this wonderful posting:)

12/1 Monday: Vergüenza (shame)

Ok ok ok, maybe that’s not an appropriate title but that’s what I feel feeling after I went running. That’s correct: I went running aka: hell froze over. I swore I wasn’t going to go running here since it’s either all up hill or all down hill, that is unless I want to run in circles around the baseball diamond. When I went running (not at the baseball field, fun as that sounds) Minga didn’t want to me go alone in broad daylight at 4 in the afternoon so she sent a 13 year old (the boy who squished the spiders for me) and an 11 year old, incredibly talkative female to go with me. I decided there was no way I was going to run up the hill, through the town with the way my face turns bright red and also with all the people to point at me. (Why is that weird gringa running?!) People here don’t even like to walk let alone run for exercise. The PCV before me used to run (I have been told his regimen several times, and I don’t see myself running that much- ever) and there are two dudes who ride their bikes up the mountain. So, maybe since three people exercise I wouldn’t be thought of as such a freak.

I decided I would walk abajo (down hill) for like 15- 20 minutes and then “run” back up. I know right? What was I thinking? It may not have been that bad except I told the kids with me I wanted to see the river. When I said that I was under the impression that the river wasn’t the same one that we drive over to get to my site since that was fairly far for my first run, up hill. Well, after them telling me it was just around the corner a bunch of times we arrived at the river. It’s a pretty puny river by the way.

The shameful part came when we ran back and the kids were running ahead of me, then running back, talking and laughing the whole time- while wearing jeans and flip flops and I was panting and turning red in my shorts and tennis shoes. I have this to say: up hill is hard! I’m going to just try to think about being in a swim suit with each time I eat another bite of rice or take another bile-inducing sip of beer. I’m hoping that I keep exercising a few times a week or so and don’t let the humiliation (or the hill) get to me. I have made a commitment with the 11 and 13 year old to go each day mas or menos (more or less), running or walking which is better than nothing I suppose. Vamos a ver (we shall see).

When the kids weren’t running literal circles around me they were stopping this mango tree which somehow had fruit! Anthony climbed the huge tree and put my many many tree climbing days to shame- big time. He went out to the far parts of the branches and hopped up and down, shaking the fruit off of the branches. He even picked some and pocketed it before his descent back to Earth. We decided to walk the rest of the way home and share the mangos. I was eating mine, surprised that it was pretty sweet, when Anthony laughed at pointed to a big black part in his. Nasty.

I remember getting a few mangos like that in Baní. It’s like there are little pieces of fiber-y looking rot in them. Well, that’s what I had thought, until I was unfortunately corrected today. It turns out there’s a worm that looks like a maggot, in the mango where it’s black. There’s a small pin prick in the outside where it goes in and then it eats the mango and grows. Just when I was getting really grossed out (“EWWWWW!!!” means the same in Spanish in case you were wondering) Anthony pointed to mine, just above where my teeth had just torn off more of the skin, where there was a part of a nice black spot showing. I thought I could deal with it so I turned it around and tried the other side, a bit more cautiously though. I stopped dead when it happened on the other side as well and decided it was time to compartir my mango. I didn’t want that thing: I’m waiting till mango season when I can pick from endless mangos to eat one with out a worm thingy.

When I got back to my house, nice red and sweaty and freshly grossed out, I found it all locked up with Minga nowhere to be found. I did what anyone would have done: I sat on the ground with the girl and tried to do sit ups while the boy went to find Minga and the key. Guess where she was? The Woman’s Meeting I forget about every week. She was the one who told me to wait to go running until 4 when it was cooler (and also when the Woman’s Meeting starts) and she knows I’m supposed to go to those!

I was upset with myself for missing it (week two now although last week it was canceled) and asked Minga to remind me for now on if she remembers. She told me that she did remind me which is interesting to me since I never heard her mention anything about it and also because she told me she was planning on going “up” at 5 to celebrate for Tolo’s birthday. I had passed Tolo on the road while he was heading “down” but he told me he would be back at 6. I took a shower and got dressed again and waited with Minga for Tolo- who never came back. Guess he liked the decorations at the house of Other Woman better. I felt bad for Minga because she was all dressed up and excited to go. Remind me to never engage in polygamy. (Dang because it was just starting to look so tempting)

When Minga saw me she started cracking up. I mean she actually bent over, grabbed her knee with one hand and pointed at me with the other while she laughed at me. Yep, that’s right: red is just freaking hilarious. She did this at least 4 times before I was able to get my hot water from her for my shower. In between laughing she said, “How pretty!” You have got to be kidding me. “Hahaha, what a joke.” I said to her flatly and she insisted it was pretty. It must be a kind of really funny type of pretty that we just don’t have in the States.

In the morning I went with Wandy and Robby (a new guy to help) at 9am to do interviews. We only were able to get 4 done today as we went to some talkative houses and shared a few cups of coffee. That’s ok with me; I need to be more talkative (never thought I would say that!). After leaving my site and coming back refreshed I’m feeling much more talkative myself and have a refreshed outlook/attitude. I think, for now, two weeks is the max I can stay in site without leaving and that’s almost painful.

I would also like to say that you should all be very proud of me since I went to a house today with FOUR adorable puppies (much cuter that the other two which I helped name Cookie and Snickers). The people were like, “Take one. I know you like puppies. I know you want one. Which one do you want?” I told them I did want one, I love puppies, and even picked out the cutest one (it has skunk stripe!)… then I said I couldn’t. If only I could have that kind of self control with making myself run…

11/30 Sunday: Who said it was dangerous to travel after dark?

I didn’t want to travel after dark. I’m going to blame all my problems on a bagel. There was this girl in the PC office who offered to get bagels for everyone at like 10 in the morning. I was pretty hungry and I’ve had the bagels before from the only place you can get bagels; they’re good. A few hours and problems later I had my bagel and should have left about 45 minutes earlier. Despite this, I headed to the bus stop.

I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus before since the station has a ton of buses bus this time I had to wait almost an hour. I was starting to get a little nervous about it since it takes 4 hours to get from my house to the bus stop and now I was going to have to wait until 4 to leave. It gets dark here around 6:30-7. But I told my Doña and my interview partners I would be back Saturday or Sunday. Sure I said “Si Dios quiere” but this was my fault, not some hurricane or something. Nope, I would just have to hope for the best. Probably not the best decision since Entrena told us over and over again not to travel after dark and PC will pay for a taxi for us (even if it’s for leisure) since they don’t want us taking public transport after dark.

I got to Santiago (about an hour from my house at this point) right as it was starting to get really dark. I had about a 10- 15 minute power walk ahead of me (or take a carro public alone at night with my two backpacks and purse- all the stuff closest to my heart, i.e.: my computer, camera, helmet, and all the groceries I had just bought- no thank you). Despite the fact I looked like a tourist, I made the hike without a hitch, except for the normal cat calls of course, and arrived at the guagua station realizing that there may not be a guagua that runs from Santiago to Navarrete this late on a Sunday night: something I maybe should have thought about before I got there. I was in luck though and hopped on one after waiting only a few minutes. There was a talkative woman on the bus who was really helpful and gave me her number. It wouldn’t be an outing if I didn’t get at least one number right?

When I got off the guagua the motos that normally are circling me like sharks where no where to be found. So, I walked up to some random, clean looking guy with a decent looking bike and asked him if he could please take me to Los Ruales. He was hesitant so I asked if he had a friend who could take me. Then two other guys walked up to me and we began discussing a price; I guess it costs double at night since it’s dangerous. At first I was protesting the price increase but ok, it is dangerous. The other two guys knew Tolo and my driver knew where I lived so I didn’t even have to tell him where to go.

When I walked up to the house I realized the lights where off and the front door was closed. Minga wasn’t home. Nuts, but at least I had my groceries to eat if I got hungry… I figured she couldn’t have gone far so I sat in the chair in front (weird since she normally takes all the chairs inside when she’s not there) and waited. It was good timing because she walked up only about 5 minutes later:) Once inside, I unpacked my stuff and washed up just in time to catch my mom’s phone call before getting into bed. It all worked out, as usual.

11/29 Saturday: The pool, the aquarium, and the sports bar

I woke up in the morning after just 4 hours of sleep and I was pretty tired, again. I decided that today was going to be a good day to kick back and go to the pool. I said goodbye to Kenzie and headed for the pool which is open on Saturdays from 10- 2pm. I got there at 11 and stayed until 2. It’s amazing to me that I was at a pool, an outside pool none the less, two days after Thanksgiving! I fell asleep for a bit and actually got a little sunburned! After the pool I did something amazing that I haven’t done in 3 months: I took a HOT shower with running water that had pressure!! The drain was working and I was in heaven, until I realized how I have been neglecting my belly button. But I guess that was the place to discover that. I have taken showers at the embassy before but it was always after about 25 other people so the drain was clogged and the water was barely warm. This was perfection (minus the belly button discovery).

It’s no surprise that while I was at the pool my friend Randi wanted to use the great showers to wash her hair. She invited me to go to the aquarium with her but I was pooped after such a hard day and I was feeling somewhat antisocial. I told her I would have to pass but to have fun. When I arrived at the PC office she was still there waiting for someone who she thought was going to go with her but turned out the other girl wasn’t able to go. Randi didn’t want to go alone so I got out of my antisocial bubble for a bit, bit the bullet and went.

I’m glad that I went because it was really fun. When we got there we met up with two other PCVs. The whole aquarium just took about 30 or 45 minutes to walk though but it is on the ocean so after we walked the building we went outside and spent about 2 more hours talking and watching the sun set over the ocean. Another great thing about the DR is that they’re really relaxed with rules. One of the PCVs with us was a guy from Hawaii who loved jumping off of “cliffs” into the ocean. He decided that there was a great place to jump so we climbed the fence and off he went. It’s pretty handy that he always wears his swim shorts. I was up next in line but I was afraid I would embarrass people if I stripped down to my skivvies to jump, despite the fact that I was not wearing anything white underneath. Be proud of me Mom that I resisted the urge because I was sooo ready to go. Next time I’m taking my swim suit and going jumping too. (By the way, there weren’t any signs saying no to jump either)

When we got back it was late so we went to the PC office and grabbed our stuff just before they closed. We dropped our stuff off at the Pen and headed off to the American Sports Bar. (How great is that?) I got a cheeseburger (got gypped on the cheese though) and some fries (which weren’t as good as before since they were out of their seasoned fries) and a Coke. Let me tell you, despite its faults- my meal was delicious. And a good deal too at 300 pesos for the whole thing, including the giant gratuity included for the waitress who never asks if you need anything and then sometimes forgets you ordered something at all. I got some ice cream next and after I was sure I had spent all the money I had to my name, I went back to the Pen to finally go to bed at a decent hour. It was another great day.

11/28 Friday: Got my exercise for the day and missed the ball game:(

Friday morning, after yet another sleep deprived night, I woke up with Kenzie and we began discussing how so many people from our group of 50 have gone home after just three months! We have received 4 transfers from other countries but from our original 50 we have lost 9, and we’ve lost a transfer from Bolivia too:( And 6 of those 10 total were from my small health group! Now there are only 7 in the health group, just two more than in the Water group. CED and Youth each have somewhere between 15 and 20 people in their groups. We were talking about this since the night before while we were dancing at the talent show (no we didn’t win, amazing I know!) one of the health PCVs from my group that Kenzie and I had shared the hotel room with, informed me that she was going back to her site tomorrow to get her stuff and then heading home. Wow. She was the closest to me out of the health group. That’s three people in three weeks that have gone home. Our group is getting smaller and smaller.

After Kenzie and I got going for the day we went to the PC office and used the internet for a little bit before heading off to the store to do some shopping. Mom and Aaron were nice enough to give me my Christmas money early so I was on a mission trying to find some warmer clothes for the rainy times in my site. The bummer is that Santo Domingo is a lot warmer than in the north and I wasn’t able to find any warm clothes that we’re ridiculously expensive. I was able to find some black heels and cheap earrings though. I would like to point out that it is a perfect example of cultural integration when I buy nicer clothes to go out in, after all I need to go out dancing with my community and how can I do that when all I have to wear is tennis shoes and an NIU shirt?! I’ve got to represent, so there.

While we were out shopping I got a phone call from one of the PCVs back at the office who said she and some others were going to go to a baseball game. That sounded like a lot of fun! From what I’ve heard, baseball games here are super fun with people dancing in the isles celebrating. Well, Kenzie and I left the store at a bad, busy time and we weren’t able to catch a carro pubico so we had to walk back, which took about an hour even though we were power walking (made even more difficult by all the groceries I just purchased including a huge bag of powered milk).

By the time we got back we had missed the boat. It was ok though because our new friends from the night before called us and invited us to go out to a park with them. After some problems getting a hotel room (I wasn’t as sauve sneaking into a room since I was distracted talking on the phone with family), a shower and a lot of walking, Kenzie and I were ready to go to the park. It turns out the park is a big hang out spot. There were a ton of Europeans there and it was really cool to see them talking back and forth, switching from France to Spanish to English like it was nothing. It gives me motivation to learn another language after Spanish, but for now I think I’ll focus on Español.

11/27 Thursday: Happy Turkey Day from the DR!!!

Greetings everyone from the DR on this great Day of Thanks! We sure all have a lot to be thankful for don’t we? I was a little worried that I would feel un chin (a teeny bit) down this Turkey Day but on the contrary, it felt so good to be able to see everyone again!!

The day began early as it always does somehow. The other girls in my room felt compelled to run in the 5K Turkey Trot and of course, once I wake up there is no going back to bed. So, despite my lack of sleep for the past two weeks or so, I was up with the rest of them at 6. They went for a run, I watched tv and ate some of my fav cookies for breakfast. I thought it was a good combination. When I turned the tv on I was really happy to find some channels in English but not after I ended up watching the news (weird for me I know) and found out what was going on in India. That’s a big bummer which has me asking myself the simple question once again: “Why can’t we all just get along?!” It gave me some more perspective on how I have so many things to be grateful for, more than the standard obvious I normally think about.

After a decent amount of tv, I headed off to the country club where I was told we were having the feast for the day. Wow, the country club was GREAT! Way better than I had hoped for! There was a pool and I took advantage of it- when it wasn’t raining (yeah, thanks Sarah). The food was great too! While there weren’t either of my two favorite pies, French silk or apple, there was pumpkin and pecan. I had never tried pecan before since I have an aversion to nuts but I tried it with an open mind and I really have been missing out all this time! It’s great! Since I ate so much food, I wasn’t keen on the idea of getting back into my swim suit. I put my feet in the water and talked with Rach, Mom, Dad, Sar, and Isaiah while they had their Christmas party. Then I played some Dominoes with some friends and we decided that it felt like a family reunion, even though a lot of us newbies don’t know a lot of other PCVs. Later in the night there was a talent show which was a lot of fun! There is a lot of talent in PC. The cool thing is that even when people weren’t so great at something they still did it. For example, there were a couple of people who wrote really good raps but aren’t the best rappers but they still went up there and did it. I think since we’re all PCVs there’s no shame; we can sing in front of each other and suck and it doesn’t matter. No one will make you feel bad about it but we’ll all sing along with you instead.

After the feast that shamed most of us away from the pool for the rest of the day, we went out the “car wash”. This one wasn’t a real car wash though; it was a dance club/bar. It’s not like the dance clubs in the States though, it’s more like an open bar (open meaning no walls), lots of tables and a small area for dancing and a band. We were all dancing pretty much on top of each other since there wasn’t much room for all the people that were there. I know I have said this before but dancing here is different than at home and I have another reason why: you actually get tired from dancing. After two dances I had to sit down, dancing does a number on the hips here too. I’m surprised I that all Dominicans over the age of 12 don’t have arthritic hips. News flash: I’m not Dominican; I have the stamina of an Americana nueva. Sorry but that’s the way it is. Anyways, after the “car wash” I went with some newly made friends and Kenzie downtown to another place and danced some more. I’ve never danced so much in my life since I’ve been here in the DR!

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