Sunday, January 25, 2009

1/14- 1/24 Ten Days of Diagnostic stuff and Reflections

Its chilly up on the mountain after a few days of rain!->

1/24 Saturday: Change of Plans and Scenery but not Weather

Yesterday sometime during the 5 ½ hours I was working on my diagnostic, Sarah text me and asked if I would be interested in going to Santo Domingo to work on our diagnostic together. We were planning to go to the Hub in Santiago but we weren’t able to get a hold of the owners to make a reservation. With the rain for the last few days, the cold weather, the constant distractions when I was trying to work and the irregular power schedule, I figured going to the Capitol was a great idea.

I woke up in the morning nice and early at 7 due to my alarm clock, Koodbie. It was so cold and my blanket wasn’t doing the job so I was using my pillows as insulators on each side of my body as well as Koodbie under the blanket, curled up on my leg. Due to the comfort of my bed and the cold environment afuera, I felt the need to stay in bed for an excessive amount of time. When I finally did get out, I knew that it was time to wash my hair. It had been a few days and putting a hat on just wasn’t going to cut it today. I managed to deal with washing my hair but the idea of submerging myself in the icy cold water to scrub a dub dub was too much so I just washed my hair and put on some nice smelling spray to make up for the other part.

When I left my house it wasn’t raining. I asked myself, “Should I take my poncho?” Nah. So, as Noel and I headed down the mountain and it began to rain, I did what any sensible person would do: I ducked behind Noel and chuckled. We ended up stopping at someone’s house to wait out the rain but it was too late; Noel was soaked through his coat and t-shirt. I was wet but nothing compared to Noel, thanks Noel.

I met Sarah and Mark in Santiago and we hopped on a bus to Santo Domingo. The bus company that we took, Caribe Tours, is under the impression that we’re in the freaking desert or something and tries to freeze us with the air conditioning- something amplified this time since we were all wet from the rain. Two and a half hours later we arrived in Santo Domingo, dismayed to discover that the storm had followed us and it was raining. We got some lunch, some delicious yogurt and headed to the office to do some work. Tomorrow is another day and we’ll see how productive I can be:)
1/23 Friday: Still raining… still cold but not as cold
Well, it’s still raining but today it’s not as cold at least. I’ve noticed that people like to use how cold it is as a preface to telling me I need a boyfriend, a Dominican boyfriend. For example, here is a scenario played out yesterday when I went to the colmado…

Colmado Man: “Man, it sure is cold isn’t it?”

Me: “Yep.”

Colmado Man: “What do you do at night? All alone… isn’t it cold? I bet you’re pretty cold. You should get a boyfriend to keep you warm at night. Why don’t you look for one here? There are a lot of good ones here.”

Me: “Sure there are but I have a cat who loves to sleep in bed with me. If I got a boyfriend the cat would get jealous. If my cat was jealous I would be afraid.” (Yes my friends, this is how I actually talk here… somewhat like a 3rd grader)

That generally stops them in their tracks since people are appalled with how I treat the cat which has soooooo many parasites. (You kiss it?! Aye mi madre!!!) After I’m given the advice that the parasites will kill me I ask if I should be buried here or in the States. I mean, there is a cemetery conveniently right down the road. Then I ask if it’s here if they could please make sure I’m in a tomb off of the ground; like maybe on the 3rd level or something. The idea of being in a puddle in the ground makes me even colder. If the cat sleeping with me didn’t distract them from the fact that I’m sleeping solo, the grave thing does it every time. Hehe

My days have been consisting of working on the computer and whatever distraction happens to fall into my lap. Today I was so cold when I got up that I stayed in bed with the hell-cat until 9:30. By the time I put breakfast on (hot chocolate), and got dressed it was 10: time for se fue la luz. I worked on my computer and was distracted by Wandy barging in my front door without knocking- something I yelled at him for. How rude can you be? He left but then returned with a friend. He and his friend sat out on my porch for an hour (making sure to pass by or stand in front of the window incase I didn’t see them) until they finally knocked and I let them in. My battery was just about to die anyways.

I decided to study Spanish while they played cards and looked at the Gringo Grita magazine I somehow have that has the Closing of Service (COS) information of Kevin in it (from Fall 2007). The Gringo Grita comes out 4 times a year and 3 of those 4 issues have COS information from whomever is left in the group about to COS. Each person fills out a survey complete with questions like, “I knew I was Dominican when…”, “Funniest moment in country”, “Advice to new PCVs”… and so on. My neighbors here love to look at the magazine from the fall 2007 since it has pictures of people they knew, even though the magazine’s almost completely in English. The Gringo Grita isn’t online or anything because it’s written by a bunch of people mostly in their 20s with a lot of time on their hands so it’s not exactly politically correct and most likely wouldn’t give the best image of PCDR. It’s freaking hilarious but most of the things are probably inside jokes for PCVs who live here.

Anyways, I was just asking Robin, Wandy’s friend, if he was going to be in my Escojo group (the HIV/AIDS education youth group) when they started getting all excited by something in the magazine. One of the types of dances here is called Reggaton and is pretty risqué. Well, this particular magazine posed the question: What came first in the DR: crazy sex positions or this dance? And it was complete with stick figures demonstrating to ensure the reader was following the descriptions. So much for asking about ways to prevent STIs and such, Robin wanted to know the answer to the question. I don’t know, which do you think came first? Could this be a debate topic at one of my classes? After two years here I’ll be remembered like this: Betsy Spencer, PCV who didn’t teach about abstinence but about different sex positions. “Use a condom kids!”

1/22 Thursday: A visit from Miguel and rain that wouldn’t stop
I got a phone call around 10 am from Miguel’s receptionist letting me know that Miguel would be visiting today around 3. Ernie, Wandy and Noel were here at the time and asked who it was. When I told them they all started cleaning my house in a frenzy. I felt a teeny bit bad since I wasn’t helping but the power was already out and my battery has a very short life for some reason (It’s depressing; during CBT it would last for 3 hours while I typed but now it’s good for about half that) so I wanted to keep working. They cleaned my whole house, mopped and all, in about 25 minutes. After my computer died I felt compelled to do something to help the appearance of my house so I organized the books on my shelf. Every little bit helps right?

When it was lunch time I went to Minga’s house for the bandera of Domincan food: arroz, habichuelas, y carne (rice, beans and meat although I pretty much never eat the meat unless it’s chicken- they know how to cook chicken here let me tell you). Minga had a mini food crisis on her hands today though: she ran out of gas to cook. Luckily, she has a back-up: a fogon, which is a large can fashioned into a stove with wood in the bottom half, a large hole cut into the side for air and to load up the wood, and a shelf near the top to put more coal/wood and the food. She cooked the rice on that and I think she felt happy that she had my food from the day before she could give me- more rice and beans.

I didn’t eat there yesterday because at noon I wasn’t hungry and I told her I’d come by later to get the food. Well, I went to that party and then the discoteca so by the time I went to her house to see if she was still up, it was 9pm and all the lights in the house were out. So, I headed home and ate leftover pancakes from lunch. (I found a box of blueberry ones:) When Minga asked why I never came by and I told her I did she insisted that she wasn’t sleeping. She said although I sleep somewhere else I still live there so she wants me to knock on the door “at 12 in the afternoon or 12 at night”. Awww:) That’s really nice but I still won’t wake her up.

After lunch, I went back home around two, stopping at the colmado for some crackers and Coke to give Miguel when he arrived (I wanted to make the Doñas in LR proud). I sat on my porch and was just about to start reading a book, happily listening to my iPod when Ernesto and Mercedes came over to wait with me for Miguel. Dang, so much for some alone time, I put my book down and took off my headphones. I guess I get enough of that in the mornings when I don’t open my door until 10 or 11 sometimes. Miguel called around 3 to tell us that he got his SUV stuck in the mud and would be late. It has rained every night now for about 3 days and now all day today so there was a lot of mud and I guess he was stuck for about an hour and a half.

When Miguel finally arrived it was a little after 4 and we all piled into Ernesto’s house. This means that I got my house cleaned as a freebie, hehe. The meeting was a little annoying because it was pretty much Ernesto talking to Miguel the whole time with other people pitching in at times and I was just sitting there. At one point Miguel told Ernesto that he was talking about the other PCV too much. Which, yeah that happens a lot but it really doesn’t bug me since it’s something to talk about and also I can understand it. He was here for 2 years and I’ve been here for 3 months; there are a lot more stories to talk about dealing with Kevin. When I did finally talk I told Miguel that it was lucky there was an activist group here and I was hoping that they would be motivated enough to do something about the trash. When I mentioned the name Miguel flipped. Guess the group isn’t exactly peaceful. They have strikes, throw rocks and bombs sometimes and sometimes use guns. Hmmmm….. well, so I guess that means I should maybe focus on getting the Mother’s group to do something about the trash. And don’t freak out, there are only like 5 people in the group here so I seriously doubt anything is going to happen here in La Lomota- I wasn’t planning on going down to Navarrete with them to strike or anything. Ah well…

1/21 Wednesday: I’m going insane
Although I know you may not feel bad for me, if I was in your shoes I probably wouldn’t either, but- remember how I said that this job was so great? Having to make posters and be social was right up my alley… well, this is more social than I’ve ever been in my life and for the longest duration too. It’s tiring! Maybe because it’s in Spanish it’s more exhausting but let me just say- dang! Not to mention that finding a balance between being social and doing diagnostic work isn’t easy either.

For instance, today was a holiday. Everyone went to this big party up the road to drink and dance. I was faced with a dilemma because I thought that I should go since I’ve been locked up in the house a lot working, but there was power when everyone was going to the party and I wanted to get some work done. Plus, I’ve never been a partier and this parting all the time thing is wearing me out! It takes extra effort to do willingly do things that are embarrassing and I wouldn’t normally do- like dance in broad daylight to a beat I can’t keep and a dance I don’t know while a lot of people were already staring at me. I would also like to point out again that I never danced while back in the States thanks to an embarrassing incident when I was 16 so dancing in itself is a bit of a push for me. (Although, I really do love dancing:) Anyways, this is hard in a different way, one that I didn’t expect but I still love it here and I love my “job”.

So, back to my story- I ended up staying home from the party today until the power went out. I figured that people will probably forget that I was antisocial in the beginning of my service and besides, I need to get my work done. Not to mention that I’m sick of trying to keep up with trying to get people to think of me a certain way. It seemed like training tried to get us all to do that but you know what? I live here and I’m going to live here for two freaking years. I couldn’t try to be something different (or be on my best, tip top behavior reserved for when relatives visit) for that long even if I wanted to. I’m going to try to be social and have a degree of professionalism but overall I’m going to try to relax finally. I think that’s what’s really been wearing me out.

Anywho, after the power went out I went to the party for about 2 hours. The power was still out so we went to the discoteca where we were supposed to only stay for a little while but ended up staying for over two hours. The power finally came back while we were at the discoteca but it was pouring and chilly- forget walking home in that. After we waited out the storm by dancing, we left and I got home just in time to have a conversation with Wandy about what I did today when we went out that upset him. Ugh.

Finally, I’m here in the house with psycho Koodbie and I can do some work since there will probably be power tonight (generally there is every other night) but I’m pooped! And, I know I told myself I wouldn’t stress about my diagnostic but today I found a CD that had some useful information on it, including another diagnostic (much shorter) that I found out I have to have done and the CD also pointed out that the report I have to write is in Spanish! AHHHHHH!!!! So much for whipping that out at the last minute.

I have 12 days (well, actually 10 since I have two days of meetings in there) to get all that done, plus of course drawing my whole presentation out- all while trying to navigate between the sporadic power schedule. There is something to be glad about here though; the power does have somewhat of a schedule that I can plan around. If it was the night where there wasn’t power, it generally comes back during the night, and it always (so far) goes out at 10 am. The afternoons I haven’t figured out much yet but I think if there’s going to be lights at night, there’s power in the afternoons (from when to when, who knows) but it goes out in the early evening and returns around 8:30pm. The days when there’s not power at night, generally the power is out from 10am until later in the afternoon (like 4) and lasts until 8-9pm. Then it comes back sometime in the night (like 2 or 3 am)- except last night when it didn’t come back at all. Ok, so I wouldn’t try to set my battery powered clock to this schedule but it’s something anyways.

1/20 Tuesday: A different view
Ever since I signed up for PC, people have been telling me that the whole process is an emotional rollercoaster. I hadn’t experienced it much until arriving at my site. Although I have only had about 2 really bad days, (and those were right before I went on my site visit) I have definitely had some rollercoaster-type induced nausea with this whole experience. Life is so absurd in PC. I live in the DR which is somewhat like being in the States at times. I think that makes it difficult in an unexpected way. Sometimes I forget that I’m here and when one of the many different cultural things happens I get really annoyed by them, as if they were happening to me at home. (Like when Dominican men call me like 9 times a day) I need to remember to keep an open mind and not think that just because it’s not what I’m used to its wrong. I hope that this is a habit I get into and take home with me. Each PC experience is unique I’m sure, but I think that overall the experience for every person in PC is just plain bizarre and yet can be so normal.

For instance, today Obama was inaugurated. I had just finished putting the last of the information from the interviews in my computer. Kenzie texted me during this process, telling me that someone at a grocery store had just robbed her. (She’s ok thankfully. It’s a little alarming that my entire Spanish class has been robbed in the last 5 weeks). 20 minutes later, during the inauguration ceremony, Minga was screaming (yes, literally) at Marvey to go to school, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, the annoying roster on the porch wouldn’t shut the heck up, and I was contently eating my rice and beans, trying to concentrate on what Obama was saying and ignore the Spanish translator. I didn’t think about how strange all this was until I noticed the neighbor boy staring at me, I assume to see how I was reacting to the ceremony. Then I remembered that even though, right then at that moment I felt comfortable and at home, I’m not. I’m still in the DR and I still am the center of attention nearly all the time. Even though these things seem normal now, they’re still there and life is anything but my idea of normal. It kind of opened my eyes to ridiculous and relative idea of normalcy.

Sure, at times my situation can be unnerving. This past weekend was a little unnerving for some reason. However, there is always something positive to focus on here in La Lomota. For instance, yesterday I went to the club de madres (an hour late, whoops) and they were having a session on HIV/AIDS awareness. Everyone was sitting, listening intently to a woman reading a brochure. Dang, if that can keep their attention then I should have no trouble with my presentations! I talked to Mercedes and she said that they would love it if I could give presentations at their meetings. This is great news since normally the women want to have their own time at their meetings and want to keep them short.

Also, I was a little relieved at how excited I felt to be able to give a charla (technically translates as a speech but it’s more like a presentation or a mini class). I can’t freaking wait to be done with the diagnostic and begin my English classes and whatever else! I was worried about it before but suddenly, I feel ready. This is great news. I have two weeks from today to finish up my diagnostic presentation and after that I’m free to do what I would like with the community. I can’t wait.

1/19 Monday: And this is why I’m a dog person
I was sitting with Wandy and Ernie, practicing my best “I’m focused, don’t ask me a million questions” face, working on my interviews in the dark when I heard a cat growling. I couldn’t find my headlamp and tried to use the lantern that I had but it wasn’t cutting it. The growling was getting louder and it seemed like Koodbie was about to get beat up by some kind of a tiger or something. Not that I think she doesn’t deserve it after how she treats the kitten next door. Wandy was under the impression that it was the other cat that lived there with Kevin, Grendel, who was about to put Kood in her place. I guess Grendel liked to fight with other cats, was a little feisty with people and was a giant, super-sized beast.

Right when I got to where the growling was coming from, the power came back and Koodbie took off under the bed. Whatever it was that scared her scared her so much that she pooped all over the floor! Right in the doorway and not in a nice little pile either. Gross! I guess it was time for something to happen since I hadn’t mopped the floor yet (I don’t like mopping) Lucky for me, everyone thought it was as funny as I did and Ernie jumped up to help. She’s a machine! She ended up mopping my whole house, and my porch! Sure she did it with the broom for some reason but hey, it was clean. She then made some coffee for everyone and washed the dishes! So, in return I tinkered with her iPod (left from Kevin) and put some more Spanish music on it. What a trade off:)

The thing is, Koodbie is super cool and all but she is annoying! I mean, she has her perks but dogs are so much easier! She scales my mosquito net at least 5 times a day (that I see) and that’s bad news! I also hate cleaning out the poop box. Not to mention that I use dirt instead of buying litter and it’s been raining at least once a day now for the past 4 or 5 days so all the dirt is wet. FYI: wet dirt doesn’t contain the smell like dry dirt does- and I clean the thing every day. I guess I have to take the good with the bad. I feel a little bad since I know that I don’t appreciate her like I should. And Kenzie put it in perspective for me; she’s annoying but not as annoying as Wandy. If I can deal with him, I can deal with her and like her. Plus, she eats cockroaches.

UPDATE: Later that night, it was raining and when Wandy left he shut my front door, mistakenly locking Koodbie out. I didn’t realize it (how I have no idea since she’s extra annoying during the rain storms that she’s afraid of) until about an hour and a half later when I was going to bed. I went outside, looking for her but eventually just went to bed. I thought it was ironic that I had just written something about taking her for granted and then she disappears. She was ok though. It turns out that she broke into Ernesto’s house and spent the night in Wandy’s bed all night. I asked how he slept with her and he said hardly at all! Ha! At least I’m not the only one who thinks she’s obnoxious!

1/18: Sunday Morning: A recap of Friday and Saturday and some insecurities
Friday I went to the school dance party thing with Ernie, Vangie, Ernie’s brother whose name I always forget, and Wandy. It went pretty well for the most part. I had a talk with Wandy about being jealous and how unattractive/annoying it is. He was upset the last time we all went out and acted like a total baby. It was so obnoxious; something like a bad combination of a 17 year old and a 12 year old. Friday he was better but still a little irritating.

I should have remembered that the last time I went out with them to a party type thing we played the game Surprise. This game is a little embarrassing but I guess that’s the point. Someone goes up to the front, pulls out a strip of paper, reads it, and has to give a kiss on the cheek to someone of the opposite sex that the paper applies to. Of course, all the things are slang so I’m never sure what they say- not that it matters because the point is pretty much the same of them all. It’s also so great that all the girls are incredibly enthusiastic; all of them silent as the person reads the paper and chooses who to kiss. Once the person hones in on their target and it’s obvious who will be next, the room fills with cheers and screams while the person makes their way over and delivers the little kiss. What a site.

I got picked pretty much at the beginning, and it was especially great since the boy kissed each of my checks twice to show off, also that it was the boy who told everyone I was his girlfriend at school. (I had a talk with him about this but really, I mean who cares? I can’t be everyone’s girlfriend like a bunch of muchachos are claiming and people are going to think what they’re going to think.) When I picked my note it said something about the skin of a chicken. Apparently saying someone has the skin of a chicken here is a compliment, meaning it’s soft and nice. I personally think this is weird since I think the skin has a nasty texture and always give it to the dog or cat to eat. Anyways, I wanted to pick someone safe; someone who wouldn’t think it was a big deal that I kissed him on the cheek. I went for Ernie’s little brother and he wouldn’t let me! I gave a kiss to my friend Franklin instead and I would have been embarrassed by the failed attempt (since this doesn’t happen) but everyone seemed to peg the shame on him. So I felt really bad instead. I didn’t mean to embarrass him. After about 15 more minutes, I acted like I had a phone call and went outside trying to call whomever.

Saturday there was power for a good portion of the day, an amazing phenomenon. I should have worked on my interviews more than I did but I felt like studying Spanish instead. I was out on my beautiful porch when these two old dudes came over. One of them is a neighbor of mine but the other was some dude from Santiago and was a total showoff. He was like, “Oh, I have three cars…I have a great job… I go to the States for business conferences…” Great. What do you want a sticker or something because I’m fresh out. I had to sit and listen politely to him for like an hour. Then he got his 13 year old son to come up and wanted us to talk English. Well, the poor kid didn’t know much or was nervous or something because I asked where he was from and he told me his name. I asked his age and he told me his name. I asked how he was and he told me where he went to school. So on and so on. After that, one of the old dudes invited us (me and Ernie) to go down to the drinking colmado and hang out a bit. It’s rude not to go so we went and were the only females with 15 drunken men. There were 7 empty bottles of rum on the ground and countless bottles of beer. Ernie and I each took a glass of beer and then I said I had to get back to studying. Awkward.

The night was a pretty quite one. We all just hung out at a friend’s house. Ernie called Wandy out on his crush on me in front of 4 other people which was nice and awkward. She also started this annoying thing calling me gringa. I told her not to but she keeps doing it. I’m not sure why this bothers me, maybe because it’s what they call the white chickens. Quien sabe but it’s obnoxious. I don’t mind Americana, or Rubia but that one bugs me.

Sometimes I wonder what the heck I’m doing here. I mean, I know that I’m going to walk away with Spanish and friends but what else? What am I doing in my community? And will I go about it the best way possible? I don’t expect to change the world or even make a huge, noticeable, measurable difference but I want to make sure I’m helping/changing at least a little. The time in my site has been going sooooo fast and I wonder how I’m going to get going on things. That’s the thing about development, it’s not something you can jump into and change. It’s frustrating and takes a lot of time. (So, I hear… I haven’t had a lot of experience with it yet you know) It’s been going fast but I still have a lot of time left. I get down when I over-think things. I don’t know how my community is going to respond to the programs I want to do here like English classes, Nutrition, Women’s Health, HIV/AIDS education with the youth, school murals, the garbage… there are a lot of opportunities and I haven’t started anything. I know it’s early and as soon as I can, I’ll jump into it like I have with this whole PC thing. The truth is that I’m afraid to start. I will but I’m nervous. It’s like, how the heck do I get started? I’m afraid of the things I can’t control. I know it’s useless to think about it but I can’t help it sometimes. For instance, where is the line on going out to the discoteca? I know that each community is different but during training they warned us a lot not to go out a lot since we shouldn’t seem like partiers. I’m anything but a partier. My community seems to encourage going out, to socialize. I want to socialize but I want to make sure I’m not secluding myself from the people who don’t believe in dancing and singing. Also, I’ve noticed that training seemed to take the extreme on everything so that we were prepared. I know I can’t please everyone but I’m hoping I can find the balance so I can bounce between the most groups possible. Not worrying about this stuff and telling myself not to worry about it are two completely different things.

For now, I’m trying to just go with the flow and see where it leads me. Today Ernie, Franklin and I are supposed to go on Franklin’s motórrr to “get to know” a street. I’m not sure which one or why but I love riding motórrrs so I’m down with it. It’s been raining for about 10 hours though so I’m not sure if we’ll be going. Vamos a ver.

1/16 Friday: Rants
So, yesterday and today I woke up to music from my great neighbors. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s only happened twice or what but for some reason it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I kind of like the music that they play. Lucky for me, their kitten slept at their house last night so I was able to sleep a little better. Today though Wandy brought the kitten (him) to my house, concerned that he wasn’t eating the rice they were giving him. Poor little guy hadn’t eaten in like 2 days. I put some of Koodbie’s food in water and gave it to the kitten who happily ate it.

So, Wandy told me last night that he has a crush on me which was no surprise since he’s always at my house. I told him I didn’t want to date him and didn’t want to be friends if he was going to be all jealous all the time. I feel a little bad for him but at the same time it’s annoying. He wants to talk about it all the freaking time but at least understands, I think. He’s at my house a LOT. This morning I had my door shut and when I went outside to throw out the food scraps he was on my porch! It scared the crap out of me! I wasn’t expecting to see him there. Also, I’m not sure if I said this, but when I left for Santiago Monday I asked Ernie to play with Koodbie and to make sure she had food. When I got back I found out that Wandy took over the job. He slept at my house too…. I’m thinking in my bed since it’s the one with pillows. That could be a little creepy. I don’t think that he’s creepy or anything, I just think that he’s a 17 year old with a crush. I’m not sure what to do about this; first I tried to be nice about it. That didn’t work. Then I was snotty about it. That didn’t work. Then I ignored him. That didn’t work. Now, I’m just waiting it out. After all, he can’t be persistent forever. What a pain.

I don’t know if I’m getting stingy or what but I’m starting to get annoyed with Minga again. She was one of the people who told me not to give Angie my clothes since she takes so long to give them back (like 5 days to give back a dress) and here Minga had one of my sweaters so long I forgot she had it! Then she talks about how I let her borrow it so she’s going to wear it. I was like, “Ummm, yeah I let you borrow it- not forever.” She asked if I wanted it back and I said of course. It’s cold today (and raining) so I asked if she was going to wear it today and she said no and gave it back. I like to share clothes but a lot of people here are looking for handouts. It’s the mentality of a lot of 3rd world countries. People come, build a school or give a bunch of stuff and leave so it’s what’s expected. I get pissy when people ask me to give them stuff. I say; “No, what do you think am I? A store?” Besides that, the majority of people here have more clothes than I have! (Amazing I know:)

Another thing that gets me is that now that I’m paying 2000 pesos a month, I’m not going to be supplying food. When I moved I saw that Minga used half of a container of my chocolate power (which I never even opened) and like half of the cinnamon I had. I figured after I moved that she wasn’t going to ask for my stuff since I’m not walking home to get things to share. Today she had some fruit and was like, “Oh, we’ll save this for tomorrow when you can bring some milk to make a smoothie.” Guess I need to lay down the law. I feel a little confrontational doing this but I’m sure I’ll think of a way to do it where it’s not confrontational. One great thing about this culture is that you can be as blunt as you want and it’s not rude. Great for me.

1/15 Thursday: Power, Activist Group, Drive, Dance= my day
The lights were finicky today. They were here, then they were gone…. completely unreliable but maybe that’s because no one pays for electricity. I don’t like to have my computer plugged in when there are surges like that even though I have a surge protector. I have a method for charging my computer. I use it in the morning until it dies. Then I do the dishes from the cooking fiasco from the night before. Next it’s time for lunch and I bring the computer to Minga’s house to charge it. It takes forever to charge so I plug it in, eat and then watch a telenovella with Minga while it’s charging. I’ve noticed that for some reason the battery monitor thingy in the corner lies and doesn’t tell me how much charge I have left really so it’s a guessing game for how long to let the computer charge.

After the novella, I head back to the house and see what distractions are there to entertain me. Today it was one of the boys who used to live in the house I’m living in, Jeraldo. He was telling me all about the movie he had seen called Hanky Panky. It’s pretty interesting; an entire movie set in the DR about how a guy (or two, I’m not sure) is trying to get an American wife. That seems pretty comparable to real life here. So that took like two hours. When I first met Jeraldo I thought that he didn’t like me much. He was a little snotty with me and quiet. He’s really funny though and surprising. I guess you shouldn’t judge a person by the first impression (or maybe the impression for the first 3 months.) Anyways, that makes me want to get to know more people in the community.

Right after Jeraldo left Minga came over to walk with me to the school to pick up a map someone drew for me. Not what I was looking for but I appreciate the effort. Going to the school reminded me of my site visit when I went to the school and everyone was hissing and saying nasty things to me in English and Spanish. Then, I was horrified and kind of embarrassed. This time when I went I was able to look the students in the eyes who were doing it and at least shake my head at them. It was still awkward but I felt a lot more confident about the whole thing.

After that I went to Minga’s house to drop off my computer to charge while I went to a meeting for a group whose name I forgot. Turns out that there is this activist group in my community! This is really good news if they’re actually active. There are like 3 places in the DR that are really active and strike a lot; Naravette is one of them. Well, I guess this group is really large in Navarette and take part in a lot of the strikes. Strikes can be dangerous so PC wants me to stay away from them if possible of course. I almost got stuck in one once but thankfully it was just beginning so I was able to get right past it without problems. Since the larger part of this group (the part in Navarette) takes part in strikes a lot, people in the community are afraid to join because they correlate the group in LR with being killed by the police. A bit of a jump, I know. Well, yesterday I went to the group and brought up the issue with the trash. (Recap: there is no trash pick up here so people either toss the trash out in the ditches of the road to wash down when it rains or they burn it. There is a school in my community that has trash pick up from the city so I don’t see why they can’t pick up trash for the community too.) I want to talk to the Women’s group and the Water Committee as well. I can’t solve the problem myself. I would like to go to City Hall with someone or a group and help but I don’t want to actually do it. Doing things for the community instead of helping people do it themselves isn’t going to sustain after I leave.

When the meeting was finished I went to Minga’s house to get my computer. She insisted that I go with her and Tolo to Rosa’s house. I asked like 6 times who Rosa was or where she lived and they were like, “Up! Up!” Wow, so specific. I told her I had work to do but she assured me that we wouldn’t be there long. While that was true, we went like three other places as well so I was gone for over an hour and didn’t get home until about 6:30.

Amazingly the power came back around 8 but instead of doing more interviews, we had a dance party at my house. It was me, Ernie, Vandy and Wandy. They said that it looks like I can dance Merenge (finally) but I need to work on Bachatta. Well, that actually gave me some hope. I guess tomorrow is a party at one of the discotecas for Ernie and Wandy’s grade- invite only. Vangy and I have been invited by Ernie and Wandy so it’s a good thing that I had some lessons!

1/14 Wednesday: a kitten and dinner in the dark
Yesterday Ernesto sent Wandy to get a new kitten for his house. For some reason the kitten had to sleep in my house which I didn’t think was a big deal until I realized that it was going to cry endlessly. Plus, Kubdie like to “play” with the kitten who doesn’t seem to want to play. The only way I could get the kitten to shut the heck up was to let it sleep with me in the bed. Somehow the two cats slept peacefully next to each other and so I had one on either side of me the whole night.

There wasn’t power at night but I felt safe in the house with two guard cats. The power has gone out at 10 am each day and sometimes comes back at night and sometimes doesn’t. For this, making dinner can be a mild challenge. Writing in my blog is also a minor challenge since I have to use my computer for my interviews and the battery only lasts about 90 mins.

Anyways, tonight Wandy and Noel were “helping” me make dinner. I was trying to make a stir fry with the only meat I have: salami, but it ended badly. I couldn’t see how much oil I was putting in or how the meal looked when I was done cooking it. So, when I thought it was done… well, let’s just say that it was nasty. I was pretty glad that Noel and Wandy left early so my cooking shame wasn’t made public. Even though it didn’t’ turn out like something from the cooking channel, I ate it. I am not deterred. I’ll have a lot of time to practice and hopefully I’ll be a decent chef after 2 years, especially in the dark.

Well, I was going to write more about this but the power was out for a long time and my computer died. I don’t remember what else I did that day so I’ll use this opportunity to say thanks a bunch Grandma and Grandpa for your contribution to my Christmas fund:) There’s nothing like having a little extra cash for when I’m in the Capitol or who knows where- maybe at the beach! I’ll probably use it for food, to eat something other than the Dominican Plato del Día of rice and beans when I’m out. Or maybe I’ll add it to a savings that I haven’t started yet to pay for scuba diving lessons. I guess there’s a guy here who gives a discount to PCVs and it’s a type of scuba cert that’s good for life and I can use anywhere. Sounds like fun but I’m going to have to save for a while for that so maybe I’ll go with the more instant gratification of a big, juicy bacon cheeseburger. Thanks so much! :)

1 comment:

Boone County Health Department said...

Hey Betsy, Mary Alice had a baby boy - Oliver Wesley. He came 5 weeks early on March 29. She is doing ok but baby finally comes home tomorrow..April 10. He was 5 lbs 15 oz. We miss you around here. Malafu lives in Tennessee and we have an interim Admin. She was hired but State said she needs 2 yrs experience so we have a mentor for her also. Have a happy Easter. Chris says Hi!! Deb