Friday, February 20, 2009

2/14- 2/18 Valentines Day and my new wall

2/18 Wednesday: Brownies for the Workers
There was no power from yesterday morning until about 12:30 last night (I know because I always forget to turn the switch off when they go out and then they wake me up when they turn on) After that we had power from then until about 7:30 this morning. It’s not really helpful when we have power from 12:30 at night until 7:30 in the morning except to charge stuff. But I guess I can’t be too picky, I am in the PC, living on a mountain/large hill in a 3rd world country (well, mostly 3rd world… not so much in the cities).

Thanks to my phone being charged I talked to other PCVs, Randi and Sarah, for a while today while I sat down at the drinking colmado and watched the men working. I don’t know if I have ever explained the stupid phone situation here in the DR. There is no such thing as a phone contract. All the phones are prepaid and the PC phones are, of course, no exception. We do have a perk though and that is that most PCVs are on the “network” or flota. This means that we can talk to each other for free but technically we’re not supposed to use more than 100 minutes a month. They told use in training that the phones have a lock thing on them and won’t call out after 100 minutes but that was just a scare tactic. That’s never happened to anyone so I like to take advantage of the free flota for those friends of mine who are on it. Kenz isn’t on it because the carrier PC uses, Claro, doesn’t have service in her site so she has a phone and PC gives her some money to buy calling cards each month.

Anyways, after I got off of the phone, I tried to appear productive like the guys working so I took my Escojo manual down with me and translated the words I didn’t know while swatting at the stupid rooster who kept walking by me, bugging me. I’m such a multitasker, I know. I managed to stay busy all morning doing this, which I was pretty proud of.

I know I was complaining when there were only two people working on the wall and now I’m complaining where there were 7 men working but it’s a little annoying having so many people focused on my house. For instance, this morning I didn’t leave my house until 8:15 or so because I wanted to make sure I did my exercises today so I did them in the morning (since I didn’t get to do them yesterday). When I walked out to ask who wanted coffee they were like, “You slept a lot last night huh?” I’m not sure why but for some reason it bugs me when people think I slept a lot. I told the dude I was exercising and he was like, “Where? In there?” Yes, it is possible to exercise inside I told him. Who knows, maybe I can try to set some example with exercise; something that would never have even been possible if I hadn’t gained weight. At least something good may come of it.

I have been really tired lately since I have a cold (or la gripe as they call so many sicknesses here) and haven’t been sleeping much and so after I ate lunch at Minga’s I laid in the sun for a bit in her front yard. It’s funny because I would have felt stupid doing that before with people walking in and out right past me but not today; I was tired and comfortable! It’s been really cold here lately (comparatively of course) and so the sun felt good. I was all covered up in pants and had my hoodie over my head and nearly fell asleep right there on the ground when I felt something tickling me… don’t you just love kids? For some reason, maybe it’s the lack of snacking, but I was semi dreaming about making brownies. When I went home I decided I would make some brownies in my new oven thingy. It’s a pot that you put on your stove and it acts like an oven! I’ve never used it before and I’m not much of a cook but I had a good feeling about this. It may have been the thought of brownies that was giving me that warm, encouraging feeling but whatever it was, I was set on making them.

I went home and when I walked by the guys working they were like, “Hey! Bring us coffee or pop or something!” I know this seems a little rude but it’s normal here. When they’re really rude about things (or I think they’re being rude) I tell them so. But in this case I’m more lenient because I feel bad for them. They’re all super glad to have work and they’re working really hard. I wouldn’t want to do their jobs! Not to mention that they haven’t gotten paid yet since last time I checked I hadn’t gotten the money from PC. When they do get paid they’ll get about $10/day. So, I like to bring them coffee in the morning and maybe some candies and then in the afternoon either another cup of coffee (which is extra special since I put creamer in it) or if it’s hot, pop. Although I try really hard to encourage water first.

Anyways, I told them that I wasn’t going to bring them coffee or pop, that I had a surprise for them instead. I had invited a little girl and Marvey kind of tagged along too so I had some helpers. Even though I don’t like little kids much these two were fine, plus it’s more fun to do stuff like that with a little kid around. They loved it. The guys kept trying to guess what the surprise was and the kids kept guard of the door so the guys couldn’t sneak in. Noel was the worst! I was a little nervous that it would turn out bad since I didn’t have vegetable oil (is soy bean oil the same? ) and hadn’t used the oven thingy before. There was all this pressure on me now! On the other hand, I thought it would be interesting to see if who would pretend they were good and eat them anyways. In the morning I got a little overwhelmed with how many cups of coffee I had to make and so some were cold and I knew one of them didn’t have sugar but wasn’t sure which. I thought it was funny. I warned them. The guy who go the one without sugar still drank it (amazing since they have to have a LOT of sugar in them) which I thought was nice of him. I was lucky with the brownies since they turned out really good. Now everyone knows what a brownie is… a very important cultural sharing experience. Plus, I felt really cool since they were all telling me that I was a good cook! They say I make good coffee and good brownies! (The guy who got the sugar free coffee in the morning wasn’t there to share his opinion of my coffee)

While we were sitting there eating the brownies and taking pictures a motorcycle passed by. Right when it drove in front of my house that pesky rooster ran in front of it and it the motorcycle ran over it like it was nothing! It looked like less than a speed bump! While I have played hit and run few animals in my day, I have never actually seen an animal be turned into road kill. I know that this was just a chicken but I felt like it should have bothered me more than it did. My mouth dropped and everyone laughed at me but I didn’t even really feel the need to say, “Poor bird…” All the guys were telling each other to go down and get it so we could cook it for dinner but then the colmado owner walked over and picked it up. It wasn’t even dead all the way but a lot if it’s insides were in the road. It sounds gross but I bet if you saw it you wouldn’t be too fazed by it either for some reason. Weird, I know. Is it sick or am I just adapting?

2/17 Tuesday: Exercise and going to the school.
I know I said I was going to take a nap after I went walking with Minga but I feel bad sleeping when there are people working so hard on the wall for my house. The colmado finally shut off the music around 12:30 last night so I got about 6 1/2 good hours of sleep. I even woke up before Koodbie today! The men started working on the wall earlier today at 7:30 which I wasn’t expecting. I felt a little bad since I didn’t have time to make them coffee before I went to Minga’s but I made them some when I got back.

When I got to Minga’s at about 7:35, she was doing laundry. I know that she only gets to do laundry when there is power and sometimes there’s not much power but I want her to value exercising like she values laundry. I know I have them on the same pedestal. She argued with me a little about going since she was doing laundry. After a little while I convinced her to go since we agreed that we would walk down the mountain for 15 minutes and then back up. I don’t think she understands that it’s faster to walk down, and easier, and that the faster she goes down, the more she’s going to have to walk up. I tried to explain it to her when after literally 3 minutes she asked if we were at the stopping place but I don’t think she got the point. We ended up walking about 3 kms or a little less than 2 miles. I was impressed with how much she could walk. She told me she wants to go further tomorrow since she won’t have to do laundry. It’s good but I’m afraid that if we don’t stick to the 15 minute rule she’s going to tell me later that we don’t have to walk at least 15 minutes.

Yesterday Minga was all riled up, telling me how it wasn’t fair that Ernesto doesn’t look for more people to do work. She said that he is in charge of building the building for the Women’s Meetings (which I think should be a community center, not just a place for the Women’s Club) and in charge of my wall and that he only has his family work for him. Then she started complaining about how each month the person who collects the money for the water taps (they have to each pay 40 pesos a month for maintenance) is always someone from Ernesto’s family too. The person who does this job gets paid so she basically said that Ernesto was being greedy. The thing is that Minga doesn’t want to collect money and she couldn’t list anyone who would want to, she thinks it’s a crappy job. Then she told me about a man down the road with 5 kids and no work, she made it seem like it was Ernesto’s fault the man wasn’t working. I told her that I didn’t know why Ernesto has who he has working for him but that he obviously knows what he’s doing since he’s always the person in charge of construction here. I also said that if people are looking for work, they need to talk to Ernesto at least and ask for work. Ernesto’s not a mind reader. Yesterday I asked Wandy why there were only 2 people working on the wall and he didn’t know. Today there are 5 guys working on it so I guess something changed.

By the end of today, I had had no time to myself, but I wasn’t really bothered by it. I ate lunch with Minga and when I got back to my house around 1:30 I talked with Ernesto about my wall then Santa showed up to go with me to the school. While we were walking there I was told her how I was feeling so much more secure with my Spanish then I had the meeting with the teachers and like no one understood me… so much for self-confidence. I’m not too concerned about it though, I’m kind of over it. I’ll learn however fast I learn and that’s that.

I was really happy with how my meeting at the school went though. I think that the Director is a genius. He asked me when I was going to have my meetings (for Escojo remember) and I said every Wednesday at 5 or 5:30, when the kids get out of school. He told me that he thought that was too late and I should have it at 4:30. Since there will (hopefully) be kids who want to go who are in school, he said that he will give whomever a pass to go to my class. Sweet! So much for being concerned with having enough interest! Now the worry was having too many kids. I have no freaking clue how many kids I can handle…. in Spanish… ick. So, I asked the teachers to ask who is interested, write all the names down and then put stars next to the people who they think are serious, responsible people. If there’s not enough room, I’ll take the “stars” first, then randomly pick from the rest of them. I’m happy that I probably won’t have to worry about recruiting kids but now I’m feeling the pressure!

2/16 Monday: Nothing starts on time but at least I’m not in a hurry
Yesterday when I was at the pool with Minga and Mercedes (she came with us too) they told me that there was a class today teaching women how to have gardens. Since one of the goals of a health PCV is better nutrition, I thought that this was something I would like to see. Class was supposed to start at 8 and Minga was supposed to go be at my house at 7:45. After I made myself and the guys working on my encache (remember, it’s the supporting wall that’s being built for me) some coffee it was 8 am and Minga still wasn’t at my house. I walked to her house to see what was going on and she told me that she knew the car the professor was driving and he hadn’t arrived yet so she was doing laundry and cleaning the house. I guess that made sense.

I sat at her house with her until 9 when she decided we should go. We walked to the clinic, which is next to the school, and waited. While we were there Minga of course had pain somewhere so she went and talked to the doctor who gave her pills for whatever she has. Later she told me that she has swollen feet and pain all over and that it was from high blood pressure. I’m not sure what some symptoms of high blood pressure are but we had a conversation about what she could do differently instead of having pain and then trying to correct it with pastillas de quĂ­micas (pills made of chemicals). Her feet really are swollen. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we’re going to go walking. I told her exercise is good for you and she seemed ok with the idea of going. She wanted to go at 6 in the morning though! Forget that dude! We settled on 7:30 which is early enough.

Anyways, today at the clinic, we ended up waiting for the professor until 10:30, which I think is really crappy. I wouldn’t think much of it if he was 30-45 minutes late since that’s how this culture is but 2 ½ hours is excessive, even here. Despite that, no one complained to the Prof, at least not that I noticed. The class was pretty interesting although I don’t know how realistic it is. The guy wants to teach people how to actually build greenhouses. I would be amazed if people even threw a few seeds in the ground and took care of them. Not to mention that there were several people in the room who told me that the reason they don’t have vegetable gardens is because they don’t have space. Where the heck are they going to put a freaking greenhouse?! I asked if we would only be talking about building one or if we were going to be actually building one and he said we would build one so at least one person will end up with a greenhouse.

I guess its going to be a series of classes ever Sunday from now on, until he teaches 120 hours. I feel like that’s a weird requirement since it should be over material covered and comprehension if there’s no set date to end. I also think that it’s stupid that each person has to pay 1000 pesos by the end of the classes but still have to buy materials to build their own greenhouse. As long as I’m critiquing, I don’t like that we all have to wear a white shirt with sleeves and jeans. Maybe it gets the women to take the class more seriously. I was talking with Minga about it and she told me proudly that it was like going to school since we all had to wear the same thing. Great, I normally avoid white like a plague so I don’t have any white shirts. Guess I’ll have to borrow a shirt from Minga this week until I get paid and can buy a white shirt or two.

Despite my complaining, there were some good things about the class. For instance, there were women in there who made me feel really bad for them during my interviews by telling me how they have noooo money. One of them I really believed since she has a dirt floor. If they can afford to pay 1000 pesos for a class, they’re not that broke. Also, I was told not to make my charlas more than 20 minutes of talking since it won’t hold people’s attention. The professor of this class talked for an hour and everyone was still engaged which takes some of the pressure off of me when I do my charlas. And the last positive thing: there are a lot of women who are enrolled in the class despite having to pay. This gives me hope for my group that I want to form and also hope for meeting my goal of training at least 5 health promoters.

It was 12 when the class ended so I went home for a little bit then headed to Minga’s. Her son (the one that hit a cow on his motor) was there and I was happy to see that he didn’t have his cast on. He told me that he doesn’t have any pain except at night and he’s happily back to work, driving. His bike is broken (or totaled, I’m not sure) so he borrowed Noel’s bike for the afternoon. I have a feeling that it’s a bad idea for someone on crutches to drive but I guess we’ll find out.

After lunch I hung out with Minga and then sat and watched the two guys work on my wall with Noel until about 3:30. It was an interesting afternoon, let me tell you. I feel really bad for anyone who has to build this stuff. It looks like backbreaking, tedious, slow, hot work. I bought the guys and a drink and then went back into my spot in the shade, reading over my youth group stuff. (I tried to get them to drink water but they weren’t interested so a refresco (pop) it was.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to go to the school to talk to the professors about Escojo. That’s the youth group that I want to form. Escojo means “I chose” meaning “I chose my life” or “Escojo mi vida”. It’s all about teaching youth that they have options and they control their life. It’s about STIs, HIV/AIDS and empowering youth to make healthy decisions with their relationships. The goal is, by the time I leave here, to get at least 5 youth who are committed and responsible who can be promoters and teach this stuff to other youth after I leave. Then the youth they teach take over after a while and so on. I have some hope but more so I’m afraid that there won’t be enough interest and no one will go to my meetings. Although, it is very common to pretty much have to bribe people to go to things so we’ll see how inventive I have to get. I’m sooo not paying people.

After getting my fill of watching the two men build (it’s a mystery to me why there were only two dudes on this task), I went to my house, did my exercises, and then went to the Women’s Meeting. It began 45 minutes late. They asked me to give a little speech randomly to fill time which was ok I guess. I feel comfortable enough with my Spanish and with the women so I rambled a nice little ditty about what I’ve been doing and everyone seemed satisfied. I also invited everyone to go with Minga and me walking in the morning. One woman seemed really happy and exclaimed that I was starting a “walking group”. I doubt anyone else will show up but I’m going to hold Minga accountable so at least one person will be getting a little bit of exercise.

Next, I went with Wandy and 4 or 5 little kids down to the river- where I walk each day. (Well, you know, starting yesterday.) I’m proud to say, unlike yesterday when I had to sit in the shade and cool off three times during the climb back up to my house, I didn’t stop at all today but my calves hurt. Ahhh, feel the burn of turning the scale back.

After melting off the calories of the rice I ate for lunch (I hope) I went home, showered, made some weird dinner with powered milk, eggs and canned mixed veggies (something I would have never eaten back home but hey, I’m trying to work with what I have here), shared it with Wandy, did the dishes with Wandy, and finally kicked Wandy out early so I could go to bed at like 9. I’m so tired from all this exercising! Plus, I have to get up at 7 to go walking with Minga.

The only problem I have now is that it’s 11 pm and the stupid colmado is still blaring music for some reason and the men there are still playing Dominoes. They’re yelling over the speakers which are right next to them and my ear plugs just aren’t cutting it right now. Maybe I’ll talk to Ernesto tomorrow and see if I should say something to the colmado owner. I heard the owner say something about people trying to sleep and then one of the men playing Dominoes convinced him to keep the music on. Hopefully they turn it off soon but already, as it stands, after I go walking with Minga tomorrow I’m coming home and taking a nap.

Yes this is annoying but I don’t regret that I’m in this house. Even though there was a landslide that caused me a lot of grief, I’m next to a church where they have service for 5 hours on Sunday’s with a microphone that’s surprisingly loud (and the people can NOT sing at ALL), and I’m next to a colmado that plays music into the night, I wouldn’t trade this house for any other house here:)

2/16 Sunday: The flu, Exercising, Waterfalls and pools and of course the discotecha= a complete Sunday
When I woke up today my whole body hurt. I think maybe the cold was getting the best of me. I woke up at 7:30 as always thanks to Koodbie (I know, I change the way her name is spelled all the time) but I didn’t get out of bed until 10:30. I felt awful. In my mind I was thinking of the poor water PCV who lives about 35 minutes from me and started showing symptoms of Dengue while we were together at IST. He was in the hospital for about 6 days. I haven’t heard good things about the nurses bedside manner or their ability to find a vein to put an IV in (for those of you who don’t know this- I developed an awesome phobia of people who don’t know what they’re doing when around my veins with needles thanks to a few bad experiences when donating plasma and a pre-existing phobia of any type of hematoma on my body) so I was laying in bed contemplating what I would do if I ever did get Dengue. I came to the conclusion that if I could do it, I would try to just stay home. Although I’m a huge whiner so I really doubt I would be able to. The only thing that may keep me from La Capital aside from my fear, would probably be the 4 hour travel there. Hopefully I never have to deal with all that.
I took some medicine and decided that no matter how I felt, I was going to exercise. My body obviously isn’t used to the food here and since I can’t really control what food I eat, I can control how much of it I eat and also I can exercise. Never in my life have I suddenly gained weight ever or been on a real diet but now is my time. This sounds a little vein but, like a car wreck where you don’t want to look but can’t stop looking, I look in the mirror a lot, trying to see where the weight went. I can’t find it! I guess I’m glad for that but then on the other hand, one time I lost like 20 pounds all of the sudden and people kept telling me how good I looked but I really thought I looked the same. So, I guess I’ll have to trust the stupid scale and actually watch what I eat. And…. exercise… errr.
After exercising in my house a little, I went to Minga’s to eat lunch. I took a small helping and was going to only drink water but told Minga too late. She already made me juice but I was able to tell her I didn’t want sugar in it. It was nasty juice. It was mostly water (it was still clear even!) but had some sour oranges in it and a ton of nasty vanilla flavor. I passed it off to her after a bit, figuring she would drink it or give it to a muchucho and went on a walk.
Thanks to the storms, there was a lot of damage to the semi-paved/semi-dirt road that we have. After muchachos fill in the holes, they stand in the road with their hands out collecting money from passing cars so I was able to find a few to go with me easily. I have this thing about walking alone here, maybe because I wasn’t encouraged to do it at first, so I always look for someone to walk with me. I feel super safe here, it’s just that the passing cars can be a nuisance and even the young boys who walk with me help me out. Plus, they’re up for anything. We walked to some waterfalls that I had never seen (small ones that were kind of like slides. The boys found large leaves and rode down the “slides”, it was really fun.) and then on the way back they spotted a tree with mangos on it already so they climbed them and we all ate some mangos on the way home. Delicious!

Despite the great plan of going with muchachos, it was a bad idea to go for a walk when I did. It was about 3pm and it didn’t seem hot until I began walking back up hill. I walk about 1 ½ miles down hill and the same up. It doesn’t seem like much, and I hope to be able to run up it soon, but dang its hard! It’s actually just what I need I decided. When I was in school last year went through a stint where I liked to run and I used to run like 6-7 miles each time. It was annoying because I felt like I wasn’t getting the best workout and it took about an hour. With this, it takes about 40 minutes and I’m sore and beat afterwards. See, things always work out.

After I went for my walk and the medicine kicked in, I was feeling a lot better. I went to Minga’s and Ernie was there, all done up in her Sunday going out clothes, looking for me. Tolo was there and since it was so freaking hot, he suggested we go to the colmado-pool. Ernie was there and she wanted to go too so I wasn’t so afraid. I went home, showered and off we went. I thought I had my memory card in my camera but it was in my computer so I still don’t have pictures of this world wonder. I even brought my camera with me before I realized!

When I got back, Ernie had me under the impression we were going out to the discotecha so I changed into something warmer and waited. We ended up hanging out in my house forever. I was going to tell them that I wanted to leave the discotecha at 8 or so but we were at my house until then! Sure I could have just stayed in but I already changed for it! We ended up staying at the discotecha forever! I guess it was only like 2 hours but it felt like longer. I haven’t decided if I’m going to swear off beer like I’ve sworn off pop due to this “diet” of mine but I definitely value not gaining weight more than I value sharing beers. Maybe that’s not exactly culturally sensitive but I’m back to the leading by example thing, drinking water (after all I am a health PCV).

After my night of no dancing (I think my balance was off or something and didn’t feel like falling over in front of everyone when I broke out my crazy mad dancing moves, not to mention it was the first time I wore heels in el campo- an experiment that I think went fairly well), not drinking, and getting crap from a few guys who were mad I surprised them by being here on Valentines Day when they weren’t prepared, I went home and went to bed. It was way later than I had planned on going to bed and I was pooped.

2/14 Saturday : Happy Valentines Day, I have a cold…
I went to the PC office and made sure I got all the things done that I needed. Pretty much the only other thing I needed to do before leaving was write a grant which was already partially written for me so it didn’t take me long. I’m getting a lot better at this whole Spanish thing (finally) and so writing it in Spanish wasn’t too hard. I left the office loaded up as usual with my one backpack on my form, the other on my back with two PCV tubes full of charla paper sticking out of each side, paper in my hand, my purse (which was loaded up with what wouldn’t fit in my backpacks) and, of course, my power ranger red helmet. Even thought I normally stick out being a gringa and all, there is no chance I wouldn’t stick out with all that stuff loaded on me- and plus.. NO ONE wears helmets here so I MUST be a foreigner.

On my way to Caribe Tours I stopped at the colamdo that owed me money from the day before. How did this happen? Well this country is so weird about change. It’s like the government doesn’t make enough of it or something so people are really freaking stingy with it. Yesterday when I bought some delicious chocolate milk (and asked for a straw since the milk still tastes better when drunk through a straw… even this “milk”) they didn’t have any change. I was a little apprehensive when they told me to come back later for my change but they seem pretty cool and not even a little creepy so I guessed it was ok. I forgot to go back that day and when I went back the next day they were still cool about it and gave me back my change. Whew, I was nervous I was going to lose 30 pesos- that’s more than a milk!

I don’t want to jinx myself but I’m feeling pretty confident with this whole traveling back to my site thing. I was in a really crappy mood still from the weekend and also because I weighed myself (I seriously hope there is something wrong with that scale…) but I have noticed that when I’m in an intensely foul mood, men don’t hit on me. I must either look really ugly when I’m super pissy or I must look like I could beat them up. Either way, it works in my favor here so I’m happy… but not too happy since I want to keep this going.

I hopped on my 3 o’clock bus (the last one for 45 minutes which is a lot since they normally run every 15), the last bus I can catch and still get home before dark. When I arrived in Santiago I opted to walk the 15 min walk with all my junk thanks to the scale in the back of my mind. I got my bus to Navarrette but my mood was slowly getting better (no thanks to Rachael telling me she laughed really hard when she read my IM to Mom that I gained ___ lbs. errrr). While on the bus, the men on it saw my awesome helmet and began talking about how cool I must be that I drive a motorcycle. When people talk about me I enjoy sitting there like I don’t understand it. Maybe it’s because I didn’t understand for soooo long or maybe it’s because I was a spy in another life, who knows? After a while they decided to ask me and I burst their bubble- I don’t know how to drive a motorcycle and I can’t drive in this country anyways thanks to a Peace Corps rule. Then the dude who collects the money on the guagua, the cobrador told me that he normally frequents the discoteca in my town and so maybe he would pay me a visit. I need to get better at this vague “up there” or “over there” thing before I get a stalker or something.

When I got home I put my stuff down and went to talk to Ernesto and Mercedes for a bit. They were all going to the discoteca but I was not feeling so hot since I was getting a cold or something so I took a rain check and instead talked to my great and wonderful Mom for a long time while in my bed. It was a nice ending to my week.

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