Monday, March 30, 2009

Practically the whole month of March all in one blog!

This is a lovely pic of a toilet I had to use when I went to the beach a few weeks ago. Public bathrooms here are SICK.

3/26 Thursday: Sick and Escojo
Tomorrow is finally the day that I will be leaving the campo overnight… it will be four weeks straight, a new record for me! I’m proud of myself because I don’t even feel like I’m going nuts. I think maybe I’m finally beginning to getting used to this whole campo thing. Or maybe it could be the fact that I had a visitor and went to Ann and Tim’s site twice. Who knows? Either way though I’m going to La Capital Friday, Sat to Randi’s site in Baní for a meeting and then Sunday maybe to visit the host fam from CBT since Randi’s site is like 15 minutes from there. Sunday there is another carnaval in Baní so we may hit that up on the way back. Either way we’ll all be getting together (Jess, Kenz, Randi and I) so It should be fun.

Tuesday wasn’t the best day for me. I had a headache all day (which is really rare for me) and felt like something wasn’t right. Sure enough, 8 hours after the headache began the other digestive issues commenced. It was a long night in the bathroom but at least I had my cat at my side the whole time. She was pretty cool; she came when I called her, she ate a spider and then she sat and chilled with me. I think that she is part dog maybe and so I’m starting to get attached.

With a night like Tuesday, it doesn’t really need to be said that I felt pretty crappy on Wednesday. I was supposed to have my Escojo class later that day. I didn’t want to change it to another time since it was the first time the director let me have it on the day that we discussed. I really want to try to have some type of regularity. I was a little concerned about how I was going to teach sex versus sexuality when I still lacked the concept myself. Well, I am happy to say that Wednesday’s class went surprisingly well. Despite the fact that the class began at 5 since none of the teachers let the students out early, I feel like we didn’t lose our flow. First we played Peso Caliente where the kids made two lines and then had a race where each line had a peso that they had to pass through their clothing. Not only does this reward people with clothing that isn’t skin tight but it put the class in a really great mood. We didn’t have enough time to do the Sexuality part of my lesson so we just did the part on Auto Esteem. At the end, kids each put a piece of paper on their backs and went around writing things on other’s backs. Then they wanted to read all the things people wrote about them out loud. It was a huge success. I think that the next class I may try to either do body parts or STIs. We’ll see how brave I am, I’d rather do STIs.

When I went to Minga’s house today she sat me down to have a very serious talk with me. She explained that I have hot blood and people with hot blood simply should not be out in the rain. I could be paralyzed but more likely than not I will have at the least have a headache from it. She said that if I want to go running or walking when its sunny then that’s great but in the rain, well that’s why I “got sick” three days later with my headache (which is all I told her I had). Of course this is the advice from the woman who has been given information as accurate as putting deodorant or vaginal cream on your eye will cure whatever is wrong with it or the same women who was told that medicine for acne will cure a stomach infection (the directions were in English and when I explained what it said it was for she graciously gave the pills to me explaining that I could use them. Then the next day, after she talked to the man she bought them from, she asked for them back since she decided that they were to cure stomach issues). This is life in the campo.

3/24 Tuesday: Preparing for Wednesday’s class
Sunday I was supposed to go to the 27 Waterfalls with the two PCVs down the road from me and with their trainee who was visiting (remember how I went on a PCV visit when I was in training?). But, surprise surprise it was raining and cold so we decided not to go. Instead we went to Santiago where I ate a sandwich where the “bread” was a fried plantain. It was so tasty! I really like fried plantains, they’re like French fries kind of and so when you have them for the bread it fills the void of having potato chips accompany it.

I’m happy to say I went grocery shopping in Santiago so I once again have bread and peanut butter. The down side is that the only grocery store open didn’t have cheap peanut butter so I had to splurge and get Peter Pan honey roasted pb at a whopping 189 pesosa a jar!!!! That’s like 80 pesos more than the knock off brand!! But, dang, it does taste GOOD!

Yesterday it was still raining and so I had no phone service. We also didn’t have power at all yesterday until around 9 or 9:30 at night. When we woke up today, it was gone again. Bummer. Lucky for me the power came back around 11 stayed until around 7- right around when I turned on my computer. I think it’s correlated with the weather. I think that when it’s raining we don’t have power as often. Maybe I should write down when we have power and the weather to prove or disprove this theory. It could also very well be that when its raining there’s not much to do but dwell on the fact that I’m cold and when it’s dark I feel even colder so I sit, cursing the “power companies” of the DR.

I felt a teeny bit bad last night because I was a snot to Wandi. Sometimes I get annoyed with having absolutely nothing to myself. One time people were even commenting on what was in my trash; it’s ridiculous! Well, I had my cheese (another costly extravagance I have) in the fridge and Wandi of course was going through my stuff. I was ignoring him, trying unsuccessfully to get some songs on Ernie’s iPod for her which was only after my sister had been trying in vain to call for an hour just to get through literally long enough to tell me she had been trying for an hour before the phone hung up. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I’m going to say that I really hate my PC phone. They gave me a new one, which is definitely so much better than the first one they gave me but this stupid thing phone broken. The 500 peso phone I bought in CBT is better than the one they gave me in the sense that it doesn’t hang up during the conversations. I would bring the phone to PC and ask to trade it but I can’t afford to be in SD waiting 3 or 4 days to get a new phone (it takes forever to get things done in the office… scratch that- it takes forever to get things done in the DR) when I’m buying Peter Pan pb- a jar of that cost more than it costs to spend a night in the Pen!

So back to Wandi; it’s not like I thought he was going to eat my cheese or anything but he sat there and baulked at the price (the sticker was still on it) and he asks me all these annoying questions like a freaking 5 year old. Whats this? Why do you have that? Where did you get this? And on and on and on… He’s overwhelming sometimes like I’ve said. He even pokes at tugs at you like a child, and I’ve told him I don’t like that. Anyways I finally snapped at him and told him to leave the stuff alone; that sometimes I like to have things that aren’t for the whole freaking world to mess with so bug off. After some silence I began to feel a little bad. I told him that I understand that here people don’t care much for any privacy but that in the States it’s pretty much the opposite. I said it was fine that that’s how they do things here but I am still American and I’m not going to instantly be ok with all my stuff being on display to play with all the time. He was quiet for a minute and told me that if I didn’t feel like talking because I was in a bad mood I could have just said that. Ha! I told him I would have but then he would have said, “Why are you in a bad mood?” And the cycle continues.

Overall, life is good. I have my 3rd Escojo class tomorrow. I still haven’t talked to the humping boy from class. I guess I’ll have to do it before or after class next time, tomorrow. The Director is actually letting me have class on Wednesday so that’s good since I wanted to go to SD on Friday. There is something embarrassing though- so I was supposed to teach Values and Auto Esteem in my last class but ran out of time. So, now I have been looking for a short topic to go with Auto Esteem. But, remember I am the person who was embarrassed to even teach about Abstinence in CBT and now the topics I had to chose from for this next class are waaaaaaay more forthright than that. I don’t want to take human anatomy into a classroom and teach about the female/male reproductive system to small class with a boy making humping motions behind my back or to my face for that matter. Not to mention the other kids…. I could do it with a little more faith if they had even the same as low maturity level as the 17 year olds in the States but it seems worse here, although I have never had to teach sex ed to teenagers in the good ol’ US of A. Who would want that job? Me I guess. Live and learn.

I found a topic I thought would be ok; sexuality. Sure this seems dangerous to teach as well but I thought it’s vague enough that I can handle it. Problem is, once I began to look at it, the vagueness thing may be an issue. What is sexuality? Sure it requires some critical thinking, no big deal right? Wrong. The kids here aren’t taught to think critically at all. That’s why they wanted to copy the whole test in my last class; they’re used to being fed information word for word and not having to think about it much. Just read and copy things. I saw a “summary” a girl wrote for homework and it was just some key sentences she had copied word for word from the book! So, I’m trying to get something together for class tomorrow but we’ll see how it goes. I’m surprisingly not worried about it. I feel like this whole first class is a bit of an experiment and if I can see the last session in a positive light I think that I will think good things of this one as well. Wish me luck!

3/21 Saturday: How long have I been in the campo?
I’ve been in the campo for a long time… too long. I’m running out of food but I think I can live off of trigo and carrot cake. Yes, that is something that needs to be mentioned: the carrot cake turned out to be delicious. By the end of the night tonight it was all gone, after just one day, and there was a lot of it.

Today was kind of a crappy day. It was still rainy off and on. I went for a run, and after getting another blister on top of an old one I came to the conclusion that my feet have grown- or rather my right foot has grown. Is it possible to develop a callous on the top of my toe that’s strong enough to bear the shoe rubbing on it for at least 4 miles? When I ran today it wasn’t raining but by the time I was on my way back it was pouring. Aside from the salt water in my eyes the rain felt really good. I kept going but was a little embarrassed since there were crowds of people here and there that I was running past (since they all packed together from whatever they were doing to get out of the rain) who were just staring at me, yelling things. I felt like I was in a marathon or something.

After I got home I took a shower and got ready for dinner. Ernie, Vangie and another girl whose name I always forget, came over and hung out. I went outside to study a little and Wandi came over. I decided that telling him I was disappointed was the way to go in regards to the class. It seemed to work. We had this whole long discussion about expectations and why I didn’t invite him to go with me for the Escojo conference. I’m not sure if I mentioned that but I had to pick two youth to take with me for the regional Escojo conference which is April 3-5 in Jarabacoa; coming up soon! I invited Ernie (which I may regret) and another girl named Keyla. She participates, listens and went to both of my classes. I thought it would be hard to pick who I thought would be good to take with to the conference after only two classes but it’s pretty obvious who the serious students are and which aren’t.

Well, Wandi was hurt that I didn’t ask him so I was a little relieved that he acted like such a butthead in class because I told him he wasn’t setting a good example and thus had a good reason not to invite him other than he drives me nuts. I explained that there are some students who may be in this class to learn for themselves and may not want to be health promoters, and that’s ok. I told him that since he wasn’t participating and also because I outright asked him if he had interest in being a promoter earlier in the week, to which he said no, I figured he wasn’t interested in teaching others about the topics aka being a promoter. I asked him if he understood where I was coming from and he said he did. His little brother I still haven’t talked to about anything. He’s so strange I feel like if I tried to talk to him he would just walk away from me. I’m going to see if he’s better the next class since I’m sure Wandi will talk to him about what I said. Guess we’ll see!
3/20 Friday: Escojo Part 2; What is in my water tank?
This is annoying but last night I had to have another talk with Wandi about how we are friends and NOTHING MORE EVER. He left almost immediately, surprisingly without an attitude so maybe I got through. Who knows? Anyways, after that I went to my bathroom to get ready for bed and when I turned the water on, a weird noise came out of my tube instead of water. That’s not good. I was hoping it was just that my water tank was empty and not that it was another broken tube. It has been raining a good amount here. Without Wandi coming to my house harassing me, I knew I would have to look for someone else to lend me a helping hand. Lucky for me Ernie came over before 10 am. I explained my problem and she jumped up (literally) to help. She can be pretty bossy but she loves to be given responsibility and loves to help.

We went to my tank to see if it was empty. Up until now I didn’t even know where the tank was so I suppose it was good that this happened. It’s a bummer though, the tank is in a spot where it won’t get much sun so I doubt I’ll ever really have decently warm water from it. We opened the lid and were surprisingly assaulted with a mal olor. Next, I was assaulted with Ernie, who was the one who opened the lid, shouting what I thought was “Ay! La gata! La gata se murió aquí!” What?! Not my cat!! It’s just been a say since I last saw her!! I thought she said that my cat was dead in the tank so I started yelling, “La gata?! No, no la gata! Mi gata?!” To which she corrected me and said lagarto (lizard) ... Oh. Well at least it’s not my cat but at this point I still didn’t know what lagarto was so I walked over to see for myself.

What I saw was a little disturbing. There, in the tank with the water with which I bath, cook, sometimes drink and always use to brush my teeth was a dead, bloated, smelly, floating lizard. I went too see this dead lizard for myself and in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have. It’s safe to say the thing had been in there for a while but at the same time comforting to know that el tinaco was filled about 3-4 weeks ago so at least no longer than that. I’m guessing that lizard was larger than it was about a month ago. Another informative piece of information was to see was the inch or two of dirt in the bottom of the tank. You know, I had noticed my bathroom had a kind of stinky smell so earlier this week I tossed some some bleach in there but didn’t think anything of it.

Mercedes found out about this and started cursing all the little boys that she has apparently told many times to leave the lid on the tank and leave it alone. What a funny joke those little boys played on the Americana! Of course I couldn’t say anything about how I more than just bath with this water since Ernesto recently gave me some advice. About a month ago I was telling him how I could just cook with or drink the water from my tinaco… right? And he responded with an enthusiastic NO, don’t use that water! Well, I figured it was just a concern because sure we didn’t exactly clean it before using it but hey- that’s not such a big deal. I had been using the water for all of the above and more and also, in the Dominican spirit, sharing the fruits of my labor with my neighbors and whoever else happened to stop by. But don’t worry, no one got sick that I know of.

To resolve the issue we decided it would be a good idea to put some bleach in el tinaco after running water through it for a bit and, of course, fishing out the dead lizard. Thanks, but who are we kidding? Unless we drain the thing and clean it, the dead lizard-ness is still in there! For some more comfort I bought a 7 peso thing of bleach and had a muchacho toss it in there for me. Maybe it was a little too much for the size of my tank. It smells really strongly like bleach in my bathroom now. On the brightside, I can use that water to mop; it’s a built in air freshener/ breathe mint and free perfume since I smell like Mr. Clean after each shower. ¡Que buuuueno!

Now for the other part of my day: my Escojo class. I was feeling better about my class for this week than I felt about the class the week before, more prepared for some failure but also I went through the entire class with Ernie and Vangie in the morning so there were some people who would be able to help me if I needed it. I tried to bake some banana bread before hand but didn’t have any baking soda or bananas. I asked Noel to go to Navarrete to get some for me but he couldn’t find the soda. I figured that I didn’t want to have to pay for him to come back up to my house from town just to bring me bananas so I told him no thanks. I decided that I would try to make carrot cake since I had all the ingredients for that already, except the baking soda. I didn’t end up having enough time to bake it before my class so I guesstimated the ingredients (since I have no measuring utensils whatsoever), tossed them all together, and put it in my “fridge” until I could bake it later.

I headed off to the class with Argeni and Geraldo. We arrived at the school and the director, despite remembering that we were going to have class today at the same time as before, didn’t have a room for me. Let me correct that; there was an empty room but it was being cleaned by the cleaning ladies so I guess that meant that we couldn’t use it. Apparently school got out early because the teachers needed time to tally up the grades of all the students. The teachers were still in their classrooms though, sitting at their desks, figuring out the grades. No one wanted to take their notebooks to another classroom to work on them and open up a room for us. So there it was, 4:15, and I still didn’t have a classroom to have class in. Finally one of the teachers told me that he would move so I could use his room. We set up class and had to wait for the one teacher who was actually still having class to let the students out. We began class around 4:45.

There were a lot of problems with it. Ernie, who was supposed to “help” me decided that she was going to try to take over the class and wasn’t a student, therefore she didn’t have to participate. Not to mention she was correcting me on what I was teaching, the order and my responses to questions over things not pertaining to the material but to how I was going to teach the class. Holy power trip. I plan on talking with her before the next class.

Then there was the boy who seemed really helpful but later I found out he was making humping motions at me behind my back the whole time. There was actually note passing (yes, during a once a week, one hour class) and there was a boy who insisted on hitting on Ernie the whole time with comments I’m pretty sure (but not completely) weren’t appropriate to announce to the class. Of course this was only when he wasn’t talking to Wandi, who was sitting next to him.

Ah Wandi, him and his brother wouldn’t participate AT ALL. They wouldn’t stand up to play the game, they wouldn’t write anything- well, Wandi at least was writing and was sitting in the circle of desks but Argeni refused to write during the majority of class and for a while refused to sit in the circle. It was absolutely ridiculous. Of all people, I thought that THEY would be helpful! So, of my neighbors, I had a power-tripped girl and two non-participatory boys; great examples. Also, I had written out a simple pre-test on a large sheet of paper to for everyone to do. Despite me telling them several times, and even writing an example on the board of how I only wanted them to write the number and then the letter corresponding to their answer (ex: 1. A, 2.B, 3.C) , they all wrote out the ENTIRE test. Something that took so much time I didn’t have time to do the second lesson I had prepared for the day (a lesson on auto esteem). On top of that, there were two women who were standing outside, snapping the windows open and closed during the last 20 minutes of class or so. It was actually kind of creepy when they snapped the windows open since they were standing there, stone faced, looking in, and it was raining outside- then SNAP! The window was closed. I thought that they were some weirdo parents or something but it turns out they were the cleaning ladies, impatiently waiting to clean the room! To top it all off, the rain made it dark and very loud so we had to try to shout over the sound of the rain on the tin roof, and we couldn’t see very well.

Despite all this, I’m happy with my class. I think that it turned out way better than the first. At least it wasn’t boring. We even played a game (a different one) and they seemed to have a lot of fun with it. I’m looking forward to the third class. I just need to figure out how I’m going to talk to the humping boy since class is the only time I see him. Should I give him the extra attention he seems to want and pull him out of class to talk to him a bit? I have no idea but that seems better than not doing anything so I think that’s what I’ll end up doing.

I walked home in the rain and Wandi was trying to talk to me. I was pretty disappointed in him and his little brother, Argeni. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him right then until I knew what I wanted to say (I had to look up the word for disappointed for one thing…) Well, he took it as I didn’t want to talk to him at all and that I was pissed at him so he kept his distance the rest of the night.

And what a surprise his little brother is! Let me give a little background here: when I got back from my beach trip last Sunday, Ernie and Vangie had been in my house most of the day. There was a “love” note supposedly from Argeni on my bed, written in English. It was something about how I was a beautiful flower. Argeni is extremely shy so I was certain it was from the girls. I called Vangie out on it when we were alone and she all but confessed but when I talked to Ernie about it she acted much more surprised. I am one of the most gullible people ever though and I really can’t tell when someone is messing with me. Vangie and I had been discussing all of her admirers earlier that weekend and she showed me the text messages they send her. They are about the cheesiest thing you could possibly think of but at least very inventive. Well I began getting text messages from Argeni the same day the “love” note was left for me. Since I had just had the conversation with Vangie about cheesy love messages and I figured she had left the note for me, I laughed out loud when I would get the texts from Argeni since I assumed they were from Vangie. I didn’t even have Argeni’s number so I wasn’t sure if they were even from his phone.

Well, after getting the texts from “him” all week I was beginning to wonder. After all, it costs to send texts; would Vanige really want to pay to send me more than two or three as a joke? Then, after my class I began getting apology texts from him. I noticed that he was just sitting out on my porch for hours, silently ignoring Ernie when she tried to call him to sit inside. (I said this kid is a little weird. He’s pretty emotional I think but I really wouldn’t know that well since I can’t remember ever even having an actual conversation with him!) It was after I got the first apology text, after he left my porch, when I realized the texts are actually from him!!!! Its sooooo weird! He’s super shy; he’s barely ever talked to me! The first month and a half at least he would only intently stare at me the entire time I was in his presence, which was weird but hey, I’m in the DR. How is it possible the same kid be sending me love messages saying something about how if he was a submarine he would guard the opening of my heart…. And what the heck does a submarine have to do with a heart anyways? Maybe I’m just not that romantic.

To make things worse… earlier this week Ernesto told me to invite Argeni out with Wandi, Ernie and me when we go out because he was feeling left out. And of course I had been doing that since I felt bad for the kid. So basically since I got the love note and the texts began I’ve been inviting him to do stuff with us. Since I didn’t think the texts were from him I didn’t act any different except invite him out with us. Is he unaware that he is FOURTEEN YEARS OLD?!!! I mean for crying out loud, I was in 3rd or 4th grade when he was BORN! And his brother has a huge crush on me, isn’t there like an unspoken rule about that? It’s so retarded that last night, sitting alone in the dark in my house I just started cracking up. I mean, you have got to be kidding me! I’ve been ignoring the texts the whole time because I thought they were from Vangie and now I feel a little bad because Argeni keeps telling me to text him to let him know if I’m mad. But, I kind of feel like I’d rather not acknowledge the fact I’ve gotten any of the messages. I still don’t know who the love letter was from but I suspect it was from Vangie since in the texts he writes my name “Betsi” and the love letter was “Betsy”. Although, nobody calls me Betsy here… the world will never know.

3/19 Thursday: A recap of my 1st Escojo class, Idonnah visits, and exercise
Yes, we have power finally so I thought I would take advantage of that and finally write in my blog. Although that’s not to say that I haven’t had power in 4 days, I have, it’s just that I used my power time to watch two movies this week or listen to the radio while coloring something, sorry guys.

Since I last wrote on Sunday, I have finished my charla for this week. I actually finished it on Monday thanks to Ernie. I drew everything and, never being much of a fan of coloring, wasn’t looking forward to coloring the 7 pages. While trying to color, Wandi said something stupid to me and I thought I may kill him. I don’t know where Ernie was during this but she must have known a throw down was about to take place because she left, taking my bag of coloring stuff and all the posters to her house to work on them. She finished them all that night! And they look really good too! Not that I’m really picky about my charlas but I would prefer them legible at least and she went above and beyond. I’m really happy about this. I think that she’ll help me color all of my charlas because she seems to really enjoy coloring. I say “help” because I did after all color one page and Wandi did another (but Ernie did 5). Awesome.

If only my class could be as awesome. I realized I never wrote about how bad my class bombed last week. Maybe it’s premature to say this, but let me put it out there- I’m glad I didn’t major in education. It was a disaster- something I wasn’t prepared for AT ALL. I understand that it was the first class and each one will be a learning experience for me and all that jazz but even the game at the beginning failed for crying out loud! Here’s a recap of my class: I show up at the school a little after 4 to look for Ernie and set up. Ernie had helped me pick out about 25 kids to participate earlier that day and she was going to go to the classes to tell them which kids had been selected to participate. When I showed up, she came out and asked me for the list of kids. Well, she had taken a list with her in the morning but apparently it was only half of the list and I was supposed to take the other half. So I tell her I don’t have it and start trying to remember the names of the people I don’t even know while she’s telling me for the next three minutes that it’s my fault the list isn’t there, not hers. Finally I ask her just to pick another 25 and meet me in the classroom.

Ahh, the classroom; another issue. Despite the fact I reminded the director the day before that we were having class today he “forgot” and so we didn’t have anywhere to go for class. He walked to I guess the seemingly least productive room, booted the teacher out for the day and told me to take over. Are you kidding me? I’m not sure where the rest of the kids went from the class but my Escojo class piled in and we got started. I tried to get them to play a game where everyone stands in a circle and then each person says their name while making a gesture about their personality. For example, “Hi, I’m Betsy, I like to shop…” and then I would make a credit card swiping motion with my hand or something. I must not have explained it at all because after each person mumbled their name they said a word that described them. That may not have been so bad if I had had the foresight to implement a rule saying you can’t repeat other’s word since by the time the “game” was done, about ¾ of the class’s word was “heart”.

The rest of the class was boring with the highlight being when I gave out candies for participation. Looking back, I remember thinking that the class was going to be boring since the whole first class was going over rules. I guess I didn’t think that it too much so I wasn’t prepared for it and the class ended up being a let down. One thing I have been told I’m going to learn very well in PC is failure and how to fail. I guess it’s true that a lot of people (myself included) don’t try things too extreme (aside from PC itself) or things that we think we can’t do. Sure it makes sense not to, why try something you’re going to fail at? But then on the other hand, how will you ever push yourself and who knows, maybe you won’t fail after all? I guess a lesson can be learned in confidence with this as well. With that said, I suppose failure can be a good thing, I just need to look at it as such.

I was supposed to give my second class yesterday at the school and I was really excited for it actually since Idonnah (my PCV- Leader, a PCV who has been here for at least a year and a half and is hand selected by the APCD) was going to be here. Tuesday I baked cookies for the class and everything. When Vangie went to school Tuesday I asked her to please remind the director for me that we were having class the next day but of course, there was a problem. The director said there was too much work to be done yesterday so we couldn’t have the class. We could have it Thursday (when there’s no school) or we could have it Friday. I was initially really put off by this but I got over it. It’s a bummer that Idonnah won’t be there to help me since I knew it would be a great class with her there but I guess I’ll just have to learn it on my own. I plan on moving classes to Saturdays in the Club de Madres building so I don’t have to deal with the director and his erratic schedule. I don’t want to move it this week since it’s not much notice and next week I’m planning on going to the south of the country on Saturday, so I guess it’ll have to be at the school for two more weeks.

When Idonnah was here I walked to the school to talk to the director about having the class on Friday. He already let one class out early that day (so much for a lot of work to do…) since it was drizzling and when we walked up he said that I could have had the class that day if I wanted but that the weather wasn’t great so how great that I was going to have it on Friday instead. How annoying is that?!

Having Idonnah here was a great mood lifter. She really is a breath of fresh air. She’s very encouraging and one of the most positive people I have ever met. She and I talked for a long time about how one’s attitude/outlook affects their life and their successes/failures. I believe in fate and understand different people are given different gifts/opportunities but I completely agree that life is what you make of it. If you think you’re getting screwed over all the time, then it will seem like you are for sure. I know I was getting pretty down here lately, it’s easy to do. That’s one reason I enjoyed the visit from Idonnah so much, I feel like I have a renewed outlook again. She’s really great. I’m bummed that her service will be over in May and I hope she can come out for another visit once more before then.

Aside from Idonnah, another mood lifter is exercising. Although I already knew this, I’m not normally a fan. But I do have to say it’s helpful. I have been walking everyday after school with Wandi, which is nice but it hasn’t been de-stressing me much. Wednesday we decided to walk “up” instead of “down” the mountain. We walked to the intersection and Wandi wanted to stop because he said we had gone far enough but I wanted to keep going for an even 3 kms (2 miles). I walked the other .75km without him and when I got to the top, I turned around and decided I would run back. Yes, I know… I have this weird fear of hills and falling down them but the good thing about going “up” from my house is that the incline is much more constant and therefore less steep. I ran back, passed Wani, and ran the whole way back to my house but still felt like running so I ended up running down to the bridge- the point we normally walk to when we walk “down”. I was going to try to run back up but that lasted about 3 minutes. I power-walked back to my house and when I looked to see how far I had gone, it was about 12kms. The next day I went out again but didn’t have as much time so I just did 2 miles up walking and 2 miles down, running. My feet are a hot mess now though. I have four blisters and I feel like the bones in my feet hurt! Guess I’m not used to running anymore and not that much either- but it feels so good! When I get tired I just think about how frustrated I’ve been and then I get a little burst of energy. I would like to go today but I’m not sure if I’m going to- not only do my feet hurt but now I feel like an old lady since I’m so sore. Maybe I’ll just walk today…

3/15 Sunday: A day at the beach and more
I was going to walk to Ann and Tim’s house but ended up not having to since Ernesto let Wandi take the motorcycle and bring me to their house. It was my first time on the motorcycle with him and I told him that I was afraid since he is a psycho. Just to prove me wrong, he didn’t drive like a nutty 17 year old boy, thank goodness.

When I arrived at Ann and Tim’s I was tired. The colmado next to my house didn’t turn the music off until 12:30 and I had to get up at 7. One would think that after so long in the DR that I would be able to sleep through such things but I doubt if that day will ever come. Instead it seems more like the ear plugs aren’t quiet as effective but who really knows? Anyways, Ann, Tim and I sat at their house waiting for our ride from 8:30 until 11:15. It wasn’t too bad though, they have hammocks which I utilized happily. When our rides did show up, they weren’t what we were expecting. We thought that we were all going together in a car but I guess the story goes something like the driver of the car was in the hospital because his appendix burst… so we took 2 motors. That was the longest I have ever been on a motor! We went to Altamira, looking for an ATM but it was out of money. So we went to Imbert next and wouldn’t you know it- there’s a problem with all three of our ATM cards. Not to mention there is an annoying new policy prohibiting PCVs from taking out more than 2500 pesos at a time in a 24 hour period! I can see how this seems like a great preventative measure against theft but 2500 is nothing! And when it costs money to go to the ATM each time, that rule is a pain. Not to worry though since none of our ATM cards would work at all anyways. Luckily I had enough to get us through the day.

We drove to Luperón, where the beach is. It is a really pretty beach but pretty rocky in places. There are a few resorts along the beach which must be all inclusive since when Ann and I tried to enter to use the bathroom we were told we couldn’t since we didn’t have a bracelet. Dang- that meant I had to use the beach bathroom which was so hideous that I took a picture for all you visual folks.

We were at the beach for a few hours before heading to a river to wash off all the sand. We stopped at a colmado to get some shampoo packets and officially “bathed” in the river. This is such a common occurrence in this country that they don’t call swimming “swimming”’ but instead they call it “bathing”. The river was a lot more fun than the beach. Not only was it a surprisingly big river, with a spot deep enough to swim in, but it was salt free, hardly windy at all and kind of warm! An added bonus: the cows were even crossing downstream. We had found a winner!

On the way back we stopped at a stand, per my request, to get some yucca balls (sounds nasty but they’re fried, cheese-filled delights!) and had some issues with communication. One thing I noticed about a lot of Dominicans, with each other and us, is that they think they know what you’re going to ask before you ask it so they either answer a question you didn’t ask or they don’t listen, assuming they knew what you were going to say. Well, Tim doesn’t eat meat so we asked what was in the pizza empanadas and we told it was just cheese and sauce. We ordered three but ended up getting ham, ham and cheese and a cheese one. When we asked about it, the dude got all pissy with us and told us that’s what we ordered, something that seems weird to me since we had a conversation about pizza flavored ones! I ate the ham and cheese, Ann ate the other two and Tim was protesting since he was annoyed by the whole thing.

We ended up driving up the mountain really late, it was already dark! On the way up, the guy driving the motorcycle told me he wasn’t going to be able to take me home since it was so late. Thankfully he changed his mind and ended up taking me home.

The day ended well. No one was home (or awake) when I got home so I showered off the rest of the sand, and hopped in bed. I feel so much better after going out with Ann and Tim, it was a lot of fun. Not to mention that now I have a number of a guy who works down at the Altamira side of the mountain so I can call him up when I need a ride from Altamira instead of going with Franklin. Thank goodness!

3/14 Saturday: Things to look forward to…
Yesterday I asked Franklin if he could take me to Ann and Tim’s house on Sunday morning (the PCVs who live on the other side of the mountain) and he said, “We’ll see”. I figure he must not want to so I think I’ll plan on walking it. It’s probably only about 2 ½- 3 miles and I won’t be exercising much the rest of the day I think anyways. They invited me to go to the beach with them:) I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure who they’re going with, some guys in their site who have motorcycles I guess. I have only been out of my site 2 days this month so far and Wandi is getting on my nerves. Today he came over after lunch (early- at 12:10!) and I told him I was writing and pretty much to go away. I just don’t want someone here at the house all day long. At least with him I can tell him to get lost but with Ernie I can’t. I’m still thinking of a method to have some alone time during the day when she’s here. Although, she’s not here every freaking day like Wandi.

I’m looking forward to a lot of things I have going this month, which is lucky for me since I feel myself getting more and more negative- something I wasn’t expecting! The 18th, this Wednesday, my PVCL will be here and I’m hoping she’ll be able to help me with my 2nd Escojo class so it goes better than the 1st one, an unexpected failure. Then, the 22nd I may be going with some other PCVs and a newbie, a trainee on their PCV visit, to the 27 Waterfalls. Next, on the 27th I’m going to a Mini Vac meeting (when PCVs from that region get together to talk about concerns, happens 4 times a year and you can go to any region you want to) in the south where I’ll visit my friend Randi and then my host family from CBT. That should be fun, I’m thinking since it’s so far I’ll stay from that Friday until Sunday or Monday. Before I know it, this month will be over and next month is APRIL!!!!!! That’s when my Mom and sister are going to visit me for my birthday!!!!!!!!!!! Yaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!!! 41 more days…:)

3/13 Friday: Hable mejor? Escuche mejor! (Speak better? Listen better!)
Last night around 8:30 my friend Sarah called me and asked if I would be able to go to her house the next day to help her lay a floor in her house. She lives with her host family still because her housing options were bleak in her community and the crappy house she can live in has some issues that need to be corrected before PC will let her move in- like putting in a cement floor and a latrine. So, being the dedicated friend that I am, I told her I would check to see if I could find a ride through the mountain to Altamira the next morning, today so I could help.

When I woke up today I was just wiped out for some reason. I couldn’t get out of bed until almost 9:30. I felt bad because with public transportation it takes a while to get from one place to another and so I wouldn’t be at Sarah’s until around noon. Plus, I wasn’t planning on spending the night. I want to make things into day trips if possible because I don’t want to seem like I’m never here. After not being here a lot in February I think it’s important to have more of a presence. Anyways, I caught Franklin around 10 am who told me he would give me a ride to Altamira and pick me up later, around 6.

It was an awkward ride because I think he is definitely still pissy with me for the whole not being his girlfriend thing. I’m not sure if I explained this but it’s partly my fault. I didn’t tell him no right away, I told him we would have to get to know each other. Well, long story short: he was pushy and insistent that we date so after about 4 weekends of this I told him there was no way. Then he was obviously upset with me for a while. I thought he had gotten over it since he came up to me a few weeks later and shook my hand, saying hello at the discoteca. What I wasn’t prepared for was, after a dance with him the same night of him being completely normal, he randomly told me in so many words that he was still interested. Arrrg.

Today there weren’t many options for people to take me to Altamira- I DON’T want to ask Borein to take me all the way to Altamira which is about a 35 minute, twisty, very bumpy ride on the crappy road. Noel was working and I would prefer to go with someone I knew. Franklin has the most comfortable bike anyways. I was glad Franklin told me he would take me but I knew it was going to be weird. I was right.

After he dropped me off in Altamira I caught a guagua in record time and headed to Sarah’s site. I told the Cobrador to let me off at her site, La Colorada. He had me repeat it 4 times and then said, “Ohhh, ok”. I figured that maybe he didn’t understand me at first or couldn’t hear me since I couldn’t talk very loud thanks to a cold I have or la gripe. Then I thought that he must have heard me since he said “Ok”. A lot of the time people don’t know where her site is because it’s small. I paid less than the other people on the bus (who were going all the way to Puerta Plata) and since he didn’t question that either I figured he must know where it is as well. Then we passed her site.

As we passed my stop I yelled, “Here! Let me off here! Aquíííííííí!!!!! (Heeeeeeere!!!)” In hindsight, it sounded pretty funny to me but I was soooo mad when I got off the bus. Not because we passed it and I had to walk a little, that’s no big deal. It was because the rude freaking cobrador told me to Hable mejor. (speak better) Are you kidding me?!?!?! AHHHH!!! I am getting soooooo sick of people being crappy like that! “Speak better”. You know what? Here’s an idea: how about you don’t act like you understand/know where I said I needed to get off if you DON’T?! It’s a good thing the bus drove away really quickly because, as I experienced in Santiago, my patience is pretty much GONE when it comes to people not understanding me. I may not habla bien but I have acquired the awesome skill of telling people off like a skilled Doña. Yes, it is I who has the accent but I gladly repeat myself if asked. I wish I could say I felt bad about being hostel with the cab driver in Santiago who told me to talk to him in Spanish but not even a little part of me feels bad. I still fail to see how a cab driver in a tourist city doesn’t understand someone with an accent when they list a major street in the city. It would be like a foreigner responding to the question: “Where to?” with “Lake Shore Drive” in Chicago- I would expect that the drivers would understand that. Not to mention, I know my Spanish is far from perfect but the fact that the majority of people, the majority of the time understand me tells me it’s not so bad that one would need to ask me in the same language I am speaking what language I am talking. Errrr, it’s exasperating!

Luckily, the rest of the day went much better. I walked the 20-25 minute walk to Sarah’s house, ate lunch, and set off learning how one goes about laying a floor. It was interesting and although I didn’t personally mess with the wet cement except for carrying bucket after bucket to the house, and dumping it on the floor I did my share of shoveling the sand to mix with it. I left with Mark around 4:30 so I could go to Altamira and meet Franklin on time. I called Franklin to see if he could meet me later (since I wanted to get pizza with Mark) but he said no so I ate an Empañada and ignored the dude hitting on me while I ate it. Franklin was late so I ended up sitting there waiting for about 30 minutes. It wasn’t all bad; I found out that my phone has some games on it at least. I was glad he was there because I didn’t want to have to explain to another driver how to get back. Franklin is good too because he doesn’t try to overcharge me like Borein. It cost me 300 pesos that day to go and see Sarah and come back.

When I got home, Ernie was in my house with the music blaring. Normally I don’t care and normally she isn’t in the house when I’m not here. Since I was just gone for a day trip and I didn’t kick her out when I left in the morning she was still there when I got back. It didn’t bother me that she was here but I was in a bad mood and I didn’t feel like listening to music at a deafening volume. I did something I never thought I would do: I went to Minga’s for some quiet. Minga made me some juice and fried cheese. We sat and talked until I felt a little more sane and then I went back home.

Wandi saw me walking back and so he followed me back to my house. I don’t mind him here as long as he leaves me alone but he just doesn’t get it. When I’m writing or reading I’m not going to be talking to him. He’s such high maintenance! I tell him he wants attention all the time and how annoying it is but he doesn’t seem to think that’s a bad thing. Ernie left around 8:30 and I kicked Wandi out around 9. My Mom called me and we talked for a while, after which I felt a lot better. I don’t know what I would do without my Mom. She really helps keep me sane.

3/12 Thursday: Harder to Blog…
With the power being as it has been (1-5 hours per day, the majority of time those hours occurring at night) it’s been hard to write but here are the highlights:

Monday 3/9: I’ve been working on my charla for my first class feverishly this week. Today is supposed to be the first day of my class. Monday I wasn’t able to prepare much since I went to the Club de Madres meeting to be the official photographer. Mercedes called to me from the street at 2:30 and asked if I was going to the meeting which was starting an hour earlier at 3 today. And also if I could bring my camera and take pictures. Oh ok then. I showered, got ready, and was walking out of my house at 3 when Santa magically appeared on my porch. She wanted to know if I would make a sign for the group. Sure. 25 minutes later we were on our way, with Santa hurrying along. I knew better. The meeting started 45 minutes late- at 3:45. It went longer than normal since there was a special guest speaker for National Women’s Day. It’s uplifting that the women were all so encouraged by the presentation and that they were all willing to sit there for an hour and just listen pretty much. I was mentally taking notes for my nutrition class… whenever I start that.

Tuesday 3/10: Here is where I would talk about Tuesday but I don’t really remember what I did. Wandi seemed to think that we were dating (so much for me thinking we were in the “friends- zone” so I had to give him The Talk again. Errrr. Aside from that, I have nothing. Minga went to the hospital Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and they ended up finally giving her medicine yesterday. Well, yesterday she seemed a lot better and looked like she didn’t even need medicine!

Wednesday 3/11: This is the day I went to the assembly. I was alert, trying to listen the whole time (2 1/2 hours!), waiting for when the director would call me out and make me introduce myself but he never did. I was relived for this but at the same time I wish he had told me he wasn’t going to include me. The assembly was a weird thing, that’s for sure. Each of the teachers got up and gave a lesson with the focus supposedly being on student rights. Somehow this equated to manners and we got to sit through 150 minutes of lessons on manners. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think this was undeserved but I do think that giving a lesson like this to a bunch of 14- 20 year olds in an assembly is an odd idea. Shouldn’t they be taught to say please and thank you as children? Wouldn’t it be easier to tell the 4 year old not to disrespectfully call to the elderly neighbor as “Hey old woman!” than to tell an 18 year old not to? I mean really, did they need to have an assembly on it? The parents were invited but what did they have to do with it? The whole thing seemed like they were having an assembly just to have one, not because they had anything really useful to say to a large group.

The only useful thing that they really did was to announce new hours for the school. Normally grades 1-8 go to school from 8am- 12pm and then kindergarten and grades 9-12 go from 1:45- 5:15pm. So, yes this wasn’t a mistype: they go to school about 3 ½- 4 hours a day and they get recess, milk and bread or cake everyday. School is pretty much optional. Marvey hardly ever goes and it’s uncommon that a student DOESN’T fail at least one grade. The school just changed the hours so the mornings go from 8-12:30 and the afternoons go from 1:45- 6. They don’t have that many students (all the students from the afternoon, the teachers and the parents all fit into one classroom with room to spare) so I don’t understand why they have it broken up the way they do. There are only 6 teachers so obviously they don’t each have their own grade. The state of the schools here in the DR is a perpetuation of the under-development of this country. Maybe instead of giving out shoes, book bags, shirts, (given to every student, each year up until grade 6 or so) and cake, the government should look into hiring more teachers and having school longer each day.

Today, Thursday 3/12: Anyways, aside from Monday, I’ve been working a lot on my charla. I finished it pretty much yesterday, just have a few things left to do to prepare. It required more work than I anticipate for future classes since I had to make some extra things that I won’t have to make each week like the contract, the page explaining what Escojo is and a few other random things. I still wanted to laminate them to ensure I don’t have to make them again. I went to Navarrete today with Borein (the guy who crashed into a cow) to try and get the papers laminated. I was initially a little nervous about going with Borein thanks to Noel telling me last night to make sure to tell him to drive slow. When I was first on the bike with Borein today I had a flashback of a time when we went really fast and afterwards he was like, “Yeah! We were going really fast!” Really? I didn’t notice.

Now, I know you’re probably wondering why I went with someone who drives fast and had an accident with a cow, breaking his leg in three places like two months ago but I tried to go with Noel. Noel has been working on that American dude’s house (remember the huge house with a pool and hot, running water that I visited with Minga sometime in December or November) in Los Cabreras (another part of my community) so he hasn’t been driving. I would have gone with Franklin but I didn’t want to ask him since he was a snot on Sunday and the only other person I know somewhat ok is Neno… and there was no way I was going to ask him. So, Borein it was.

We went to the grocery store (I had to get more peanut butter since I used a lot in those No Bake Cookies) and then we went to the shop that Kevin supposedly went to when he had to laminate something. Well, not only was there no power at the time but they couldn’t do big pages. You would think that they would have a generator or something seeing as Navarrete hardly ever has power and their business depends on it… Ok, plan B: packing tape. Yep, always have to have a plan B and although the idea of incasing each of the 5 sheets I have, strip by strip in tape doesn’t excite me, the idea of making them over again thrills me even less. Thanks to my experience as an RA last year I know how I feel when people deface things that I spent a long time making. I’m supposed to be promoting a positive image of the States, not killing teenagers in a fit of rage.

So, here I am now in my house, my only company the power… a rarity. I still have to figure out a way to pick who is going to be able to be in my class today and who is not. I have a list of 42 kids who want to participate but I only want a class of about 25. I feel bad turning some away but I will have more classes in the future. I just don’t want to make some people feel rejected, like they didn’t make the cut or something and then deter them from announcing their interest in the fall. I’m not sure how I’ll do it but we’ll see. Well, se fue la luz and Wandi is here annoying me again so I guess it’s time to go. Until there’s more power…. :)

3/9 Monday: Still raining! Are you freaking kidding me?!
Yep that’s right, it’s still raining and there still hasn’t been power for more than 2 hours. Let me just say that I discovered that when it’s not already on, my computer battery lasts for about 20 minutes now sin luz (without power)…

3/8 Sunday: Do things ever go the way they were planned? Ah well…
I woke up today around 7 so that Noel and I could go to town to get my Escojo contract laminated and run some other errands and still be back in time for the plant class which was supposed to start at 10. Noel told me that all the stores are open at least in the mornings on Sunday so we would be ok. He’s been working on building the new Club de Madres building so he hasn’t been working as a motorcycle driver lately. Sundays are the only days they don’t work on the Club de Madres so I figured we’d go to Navarrete and see. We left around 8:15 and turns out, all the office stores are closed on Sundays. Great. You know what else? I don’t know what the Spanish word for “sticker” is but it’s nearly impossible to describe it to people. I’m not sure if they don’t know what they are here or what but no one understands what I’m talking about or the word in my dictionary. I can’t find them anywhere in Navarrete. So, if anyone at home is so inclined, I would like to use stickers for an attendance sheet I’m going to make and also maybe for prizes so feel free to send me some :) Until then, I guess I’ll be cutting out shapes and gluing them on each week.

After the office stores were a flop, we went to the grocery store and I got us each a chocolate milk and some ingredients for a new recipe I got from a friend for no bake cookies. I’m pretty excited about this. Maybe its because people think I can cook or maybe it’s because I love to each the stuff but I love to try out things. Randi, Kenz, Darryl and I are working on a Campo- friendly cookbook for PCVs here in the DR so if anyone from home has any really easy recipes that don’t require things that need to be refrigerated (keep in mind that I can use things like milk powder instead of milk…) or expensive things like chocolate chips, please send me them.

On the way back home Noel and I stopped at Minga’s house. Minga told me that the plant class was cancelled on account of it being National Women’s Violence Awareness Day. Did I mention that the professor is a man? So, here I am again, contemplating the validity of this class. I talked to Ernesto about it and he seems to think that the professor is more concerned about getting the money from the women than teaching them, which seems quite possible. I guess last week they cancelled class because a Catholic church was having service in one of the rooms at the school. Despite the fact that there are 6 rooms at the school and church service was in a different room than we were using before, the professor decided that we weren’t able to have class. Seriously, I could use a little outside input- what do you guys think? Do you think that it would look irresponsible if I didn’t go? I’ve only gone to one class (out of 2 that have happened but there were supposed to have been 4 by now).

After I went to Minga’s I went home. 5 minutes later, there were like 5 little kids on my porch. As you know, I do not enjoy the company of children much but for some reason I decided to be nice about it and hang out with them. To document this rare occasion, I took out my camera to take a picture- a mistake. They LOOOOOOVE pictures here and somehow, I’m not sure if there are just a lot of kids who walk by my house all the time or what, but there were 12 kids on my porch within minutes. Again, I thought I would be a good sport and so we had a dance party with Ernie. I think there was a 9 year old prodigy on my porch by the way… the kid was like a little man dancing!

A little while later I went to lunch at Minga’s to find Minga in bed. I think that she thinks when she’s cold she has a fever because she was telling me that over and over. Tomorrow she plans on going to the hospital to get checked out. I seriously question the dependability of the medical care here since they seem to want to fix everything with a pill- even more so than in the States.

I went home after lunch and I must have been followed or something. There were two little boys on my porch pretty much right after I arrived. I told them I wanted some alone time and that just confused them. I felt a little bad but I just shut the door, trying to ignore them and went about my business of making cookies. Soon there were at least 7-8 kids on my porch all saying my name, Elisssssssabet, while squashing their faces against the front windows. Yes it was annoying but I tried to make the most of it by sending one of them down to the colmado to get me ingredients three separate times. Maybe it was mean of me not to share my cookies with them but I don’t want them thinking that every time I make something I’m going to share it with whomever is on my porch.

After I showered they were still there. THANK GOODNESS for Ernesto who saw them and told them to go away. They all scattered and very soon after I was peacefully sitting on my porch reading. Three girls came back but they weren’t being annoying. They were just sitting there, starting at me while I wrote in my journal, occasionally playing with my hair.

The night ended like most Sundays. We went to a woman named Celia’s house and then to the Discoteca for a bit. Franklin saw me and pretty much called me a stuck up snot since apparently I didn’t greet him. This confused me since I shook hands with him about 10 minutes earlier. Later that night, I offended a person from Navarrete when I told him I didn’t want to dance and then not one other person asked me to dance! (Although I was only there for about 45 minutes) I have been told not to dance with people I don’t know but for some reason now even the people I know haven’t been asking me to dance! I figure it’s either because (1) I don’t dance well still (2) They think I’ll say no (3) Wandi is always sitting next to me and he gets obnoxiously jealous. Who knows but if I’m there for more than 45 minutes next time (tonight I had to leave early since I was waiting for a phone call) then I guess I’ll have to be proactive and be the one to ask to dance. What is the world coming to, equality?

3/7 Saturday: We’ve had power for about 4 hours now! (and it’s only 3pm!)
Today the men were finally able to continue the work on my wall. The last day they worked on it was Feb 18th- two and a half weeks ago. They were waiting for more supplies and then they were waiting for the rain to die down a little. Although it’s still raining in spurts today, there’s more dry time than rain so I guess that constitutes a work day.

Thanks to the guys working bright and early I got up around 7 am today. I was thinking how I didn’t feel like making them coffee but then when I looked outside and saw them working, I felt bad for them so I made some. I couldn’t help but laugh though as I put the coffee in my brand new cafécito cups- very small, dainty cups with polka dots. I put them on their little saucers and then on some kind of a lid I found in my house to use as a serving tray and did my best to keep a very serious dutiful Doña face as I handed the coffees out. I hid behind a pillar and took a picture though. It’s the little things in life isn’t it?

Tomorrow is the plant class and I’m still undecided if I’m going to go. Not only does it make me mad that the professor shows up whenever he wants but also it’s 1000 pesos. With my wall already putting me in debt, I think that I’ll save the money and read a book on gardening or something. On the other hand, I asked Wandi what he thought about it and he told me that if I already signed up (I did fill out a form the first class…) that it was a responsibility and I should finish it. Ugh, that sounds like the responsible thing to do doesn’t it?

So here’s a piece of good news: earlier Wandi was at my house and then said he was going for a walk and he would be back in two hours. Not only was it weird that he was just going for a walk but it was weird that he didn’t invite me. I asked him what he really was doing when he came back and he told me (in secret so shhhh…) that there is a girl he likes and today was her birthday (she’s 14). He went to her house to wish her a happy birthday. This makes me really happy because I hope that now he’s focused on her and I can stop being so snotty to him. Is there a “friend- zone” people get stuck in here in the DR? I hope so!

3/6 Friday: Keeping busy sin luz ni sol (without power nor sun)
Yesterday I went to the school to get the lists I asked the professors over a week ago to make. I wanted lists of all the students who were interested in the Escojo Mi Vida course. Maybe I should have expected that when I went to the school, not only had only one professor taped the contract up, but out of the six teachers that are there, only one (the same one who posted the contract) had a list prepared for me. All of the others magically misplaced theirs. When I was leaving the director of the school stopped me to talk to me. He asked me when the class was supposed to begin (despite the fact he already wrote it in his planner) and I told him on the 11th. He asked me where I was having it (again, something we had already discussed) and I told him at the school. Wednesdays won’t work for him now because he’s going to have assemblies on Wednesdays. He said we could move the class to every Thursday and then he invited me to the assembly. Sure, why not? I like assemblies at home, I’m sure this will be different but somewhat interesting to watch none the less. Well suddenly now I’m not just there to watch… I’ve got to give a speech! And, it’s not just the students who are going to be there- the parents go to these to I guess. And I also discovered within the last month that the school here in LR has about 10 communities that attend it. I’m not freaking out too much though. Mostly because it’s like a week away and also because how many parents actually go to these? Not many I hope.

After I went home I began to bake a cake. It’s amazing the things that I do while procrastinating. I also cleaned my house, sewed up the holes in my mosquito net and made a very attractive first page to my course. It’s not that I don’t want to prepare for my first Escojo class, it’s just that the first class is all about signing the contract, teaching the rules and the goals of the group. It seems boring and I’m not sure how to present it in a fun way. So, instead of applying myself, I baked and ate a cake. It was good too, everyone told me it was so good I should open a cake business and sell cake! Ha! I told them no thank you and that job was for my other sister. (Plus, technically PCVs aren’t allowed to do anything here for monetary gain although I would consider doing this for fund raising) Rach should move here and then she can open her bakery. There are no crazy health dept people here to tell her the kitchen isn’t up to code, that’s for sure! (Have you seen my “kitchen”? I wash my dishes outside for crying out loud and there isn’t even a sink in my house… I would make Marj, the BCHD Food Inspector, ashamed.)

Sometime after the cake eating, while I was at my house Wani asked me if he annoys me. Really? Did he really just ask me that? Well, he actually told me that he was able to spend a ton of time with me and asked if I liked spending time with him. I answered with an honest, “It depends”. Sure, it was a golden moment, I may have been able to get him to bug off but it’s tricky. Even saying that made me feel a little bad since it seemed like I hurt the poor guy’s feelings a little. I mean like I said, he can be really helpful and this week at least he has been at my house a lot less so he’s not half as annoying. Plus I felt bad telling him right then that he frequently drives me nuts, since it was such an honest question. I decided that a lot of the time he really just doesn’t know he’s being annoying and when I point it out (in a nice way of course) he almost always stops. One time he even asked me to tell him the annoying things that he does because he said how is he supposed to know unless I tell him? (Who does that?!) He then proceeded to tell me all the annoying things I do of course so maybe it was just an opener to what I should stop doing? Who knows? He doesn’t do this stuff in a weird, desperate, creepy way… just states it in a matter of fact type of way. The main thing that’s annoying about him is his personality. That sounds bad but he’s got this always-trying-to-be-tough/showoff personality. I don’t think he tries to have it and I think he’s even like that when he’s alone. Why I think this I’m not sure but I’m just going to keep trying to be open about it. If anything I’ll just be more tolerant of annoying people, a skill I’m sure I’ll use a lot more in life.

This whole week combined I think we have had about 15 hours or less of power. Plus, it’s been raining a lot so it’s cold. Sure, it’s like 58 degrees still but even in my house its breezy all the freaking time. So, the cold was keeping us inside (since it’s obviously windier outside) but the lack of power was making us bored. What did Ernie, Wandi and I do to stay entertained you ask? Play with matches of course. I can now light a match two very special ways and have one other way to keep practicing. Not to say the night went without incident though, I did almost blow us up according to Wandi. One of the special tricks involves kind of throwing the match across the box with your thumb, lighting it in the process and launching it across the room. Well, I got the lighting it part down but the launching it across the room at the same time is still lost on me so it ended up sticking to my thumb while burning. No big deal, I just shook it off and have a small burnt spot on my thumb. The problem, according to Wandi, is that it happened to fly somewhere in the area of my gas tank after shaking it off of my thumb. Wandi then proceeded to lecture me about it. I had to point out of course that it was his idea to play with the matches in the first place (since I’m that mature) and then lectured him on how it’s never a good idea to play with matches. Ya tú sabes. (A favorite saying here which means “Now you know”)

PS: I keep having thoughts of the new group today. Poor guys are going to meet their host families today in Santo Domingo and go spend their first nights there! I’m glad I’ve been here 7 months and don’t have to go through all that again.

3/5 Thursday: Why I can stay
Today marks the day where I am finally no longer a “newbie” as the new group of trainees will arrive in country sometime today. I remember being at the airport in Miami right after staging, bored out of my mind with all these people that I didn’t know, waiting hours for the stupid plane that was delayed more than once thanks to the zillion hurricanes. I really had no idea what I was getting into at the time and to tell you the truth, I prefer it that way. I wasn’t worried at all. The biggest concern I had when I was leaving was how much I was going to miss everyone at home and the state of a relationship I was in at the time. Ignorance is bliss isn’t it? I cried the more due to homesickness/sadness due to leaving when I was flying to Miami from Chicago than the whole time I’ve been here! ( I feel bad for the person stuck sitting next to me on the plane)

In the 28 weeks (as of today!) I’ve been here, I have lived with three host families, only one of which semi understood me most of the time (CBT), slept in countless beds, been ripped off more than I’m sure I realize, been attacked, been stared at and hissed at enough to last me indefinitely, spent the night with a friend in the hospital, seriously contemplated changing the color of my hair from blonde to brown, somehow avoided dengue, almost been robbed by a “taxi” driver who wouldn’t let me out of the car then grabbed my purse, I’ve cried for friends and family at home, maintained the precarious balance between constipation and diarrhea like a pro, felt like a movie star who can’t get a single bit of freaking privacy, felt helpless more than helpful, been more frustrated and uncomfortable than I have ever been in my life, and am so used to not having toilet paper that sometimes when it’s available I forget to use it (don’t worry, I always remember for #2). Yet somehow I’ve learned to deal with it all in stride, one piece at a time, not even realizing it until now. Why is this?

I genuinely thought that what I have been doing really was no big deal and that anyone who wanted to be here could deal with the few annoying issues. After all, what have I really done so far but practiced tolerance in several forms? That’s one reason I was so confused when people started going home, dropping out my group like flies. “What is the big deal?” I wondered. Life is good here, I mean look here we are in the DR- a tropical island in the Caribbean- I’m on a mountain, with great neighbors and a great PC family while back home near Chicago there are ice storms with wind-chills well below zero (although not right now for some reason you stinkers!) That alone is quite the motivation to stay isn’t it? I just didn’t get it. That is, until my recent visit from my friend. I feel a little guilty since I realize now that the poor guy was not warned properly but I guess the truth is that I really didn’t realize there was much to warn about. He put some things in perspective for me.

First, I realize now (finally, I know) that PC isn’t for everyone. My friend was only here for 11 days, and I’m not one to say he would or wouldn’t enjoy PC if he joined but he gave me an understanding of why some people go home early. I recently read that around 35% of all PCVs terminate their service early. I’m sure that the people who went home had the epiphany that PC isn’t for everyone earlier than I and knew what they were doing when they left. Its better to go home than stick it out and be miserable for two years of your life- I remember one person saying that to us all in staging. Although I always said no matter how miserable I was, there was no way I was going home. I mean, I had a freaking going away party! People gave me stuff! I couldn’t go home after that! One girl from my group left, saying “cultural adaptation isn’t for me” and my jaw dropped. (she must not have had a going away party…) Now I understand though. I am able to stay here thanks in part to the fact that I am blessed with a positive attitude. While I don’t see myself as super easy going I guess I am more so than not and also things that irritate “normal” people generally crack me up. I decided that this is an essential quality to have in PC.

Equally important, if not more so since it feeds my positive attitude, is my support. From my fellow PCVs who empathize, to my mom who is always there to listen to me and take my side, to my sister who lets me know all the time she’s thinking of me, to the postings on my wall in facebook which are always there to greet me when I can check it, to the blog comments showing interest in what I’m doing from friends and family at home, to the occasional letter in my inbox in myspace, to the packages and letters I get in the mail, to emails and donations, to the few brave souls who visit me…. All of it makes such a difference. I know for sure that I would have freaked out by now and been overwhelmed like my friend who visited if I was in this alone. Thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read this and who takes the time to let me know you’re still there in some way or another thinking of me. With out it I may have just been another person saying that I didn’t think cultural adaption was for me.

3/4 Wednesday: Where has all the power gone…? HAPPY 8th BIRTHDAY BEAR!!!
Thanks to the fact that LR hasn’t had power for almost two days with the exception of 2 hours, and my battery is pathetic I will make this short. I just wanted to wish my nephew Isaiah a very happy 8th birthday!!! I will try to call but it’s been raining for two days now and I don’t have very good service when it’s raining. I hope you have a great day and I’ll be thinking of you all day:) Love you!!

PS: Ernesto brought me the receipts today for the work on the wall so far and it’s a sad story. Good thing he told me to ask for more than the 12,000 pesos he originally thought since I asked for nearly 21,000 and that’s already not enough. The materials alone cost 12,500 pesos! So, I gave him all the PC money (the 21,000 pesos) and guess I’ll be using money from home to pay the difference which is about $40 US so far. Basically the only thing left to pay for will be labor which is cheap in this country. The bad part: the wall is only about 2/3 done. I’m a little confused since I think he told me something about each of the guys going to work for a day for free? That seems weird to me. No matter what though, I hope it won’ cost too much more. We’ll see.

3/3 Tuesday: Tiguera in Santiago: am I getting better or just lucky?
After I dropped Jake off at the airport I apprehensively walked out to the public transportation. There are two routes that go to the airport: the PA and the MA. I thought that I wanted the MA, which I hoped would take me by the supermarket. I walked up to the cars and was surprised to see only PA cars. I asked where the MA cars were and two drivers told me that the MA cars don’t drive there anymore. Great. I told them I didn’t want a taxi but needed to get to the grocery store and asked if they knew where to let to out so I could get another car or walk. They told me they did and it would cost me 200 pesos. I laughed and repeated that I didn’t want a taxi, that I wasn’t a tourist and that I wanted to pay the 45 pesos like normal. They looked at each other and laughed saying, Ella sabe (she knows). Then they told me that we would have to wait for at least two more passengers and we would go. It was 9 am, there was no one else there so I told them I would pay 150 pesos if they would take me to the store. One agreed and that was that. If I had called a taxi I would have had to have paid 400 and waited about 30 minutes for them to get there. So, I was pretty happy.

Later that day, I hopped on a bus going to Navarrete and the cobrador asked if I was going to pay for two seats since I had my huge bag full of groceries on the seat next to me (I don’t know if I said this or not but my friend brought me an awesome hiking bag so now I can fit everything I could possibly want in it but the downside is that it was really freaking heavy after I over-did shopping). I told him I wasn’t going to pay for two seats and he told me to put it on my lap. I told him there was still space for more people and when the bus filled up I would put it on my lap. To my surprise, he laughed and said, “Ahhhh! Ella sabe”, and then told me to give him a high five. How weird is that?! Then I was suddenly this super cool chick. Then when we got close to my stop, trying to make small talk I think, he called me a horse. He said that I had long hair like a horse. What a weirdo.

As I rode up the mountain in the rain with Noel I couldn’t help but wonder if my luck is changing or if I am getting better at this whole rubia in the DR thing. Maybe it’s it a mix of luck and knowledge? I can tell you that for a while I was pissy that I was a female here in this country since I get soooooo much unwanted attention. I have since learned to deal with it better. After being with my guy friend for 11 days, I am more aware of the advantages of it. I get such better service and more help too. I think I’ll deal with being an Americana here and work on perfecting using it to my advantage. May as well accept the things I can’t change and learn to use them.

1 comment:

Boone County Health Department said...

Hey Betsy...It's Lisa from BCHD...I am lovin your blog and living vicariously through you. I want to put together a package but need to know how long it normally takes for you to receive something from the states...I think measuring cups are a must! Take care of you!