Friday, May 15, 2009

Mom and Rachs visit and MORE!!! :)

5/10 Sunday: Happy Mothers Day:)
To all the mothers out there, I would like to wish you all a happy Mothers Day:) I was able to talk to my Mom today which was really nice. Mothers Day in the DR seems like it’s a big to do, I’ll know more when the DR Mother’s Day happens on May 31st. I’ll keep you all who are on the edges of your seats posted with information as I receive it.

Today I finally bucked down and finished drawing my first nutrition charla and what a pain! I wanted to make sure it had a few drawings on each page since the crowd isn’t as educated as my Escojo youth. It took forever and all I can really say about the 11 page feat (normally my charlas are 3 pages) is that I hope drawing out so much crap keeps their interest. Today I went to a woman’s house to help her cook a meal out of my health recipes book. She picked which one she wanted to make and today we cooked it together (for practice) and tomorrow she will cook it on her own and then bring it to class. I think that it turned out really well; I ate a lunch’s worth. Only one of her kids that was there didn’t like it, one out of three isn’t bad for kids. Anyways, I am fortunate that Ernie likes to help out with this stuff because she colored (and enlisted others to color) straight from 10 am until 6 pm. She takes her time sure but she does quality work too. Imagine if I had to draw AND color this. No no no, that would bite.

After Ernie made sure ALL of it was colored (even with her dad and brothers outside waiting for us to go to the discoteca) we headed out. I made sure to look presentable with my aqua blue shirt, matching bracelets, matching earrings, and matching necklace. Sure my belt and shoes weren’t blue but they were a matching white and I had on my bling blig butt DR jeans (Dominicans love their Bedazzler and embroidery) Thank you Santiago Shopping trip with Mom and Rach. Now I don’t look homeless!! I look like una Dominicana. Wandi even told me I look elegant- why, thank you, thank you very much!

During all the cooking, drawing and coloring my little girl Yojedi (the 8 year old, sassy wonder that follows me EVERYWHERE but who I think is super cute and hilarious so I don’t mind) stuck to my side. She went to Margara’s with me to cook. She ate lunch with me there. She ate a second lunch at Mercedes house since Mercedes was saving food for me and I found out today that it is rude to tell her I already ate. (Minga went to a wake today by some beach which is why I didn’t eat with her). Yojedi sat by my side and played in the hammocks while I drew. She disappeared for a while to go home and bathe and when she came back she was all dressed up! She looked adorable in her little white dress. She was going to visit with us while we walked “up” to visit people I guess. Well it didn’t take long before Vangie and Ernie gravitated for the discoteca and so Yojedi went as well with us. We hung out longer than I would have liked, since I thought we should get her home, but it was down pouring for a while. We walked her home and right before we got to her house, Wandi and Ernie told her not to tell that we were at the discoteca! I was so mad! If she isn’t supposed to go there, and you two BOTH knew it, why didn’t you send her home earlier or at least tell me and I would have done it? Teenagers I swear! I feel pretty bad about this, deceitful. I immediately told Yojedi that this would be the first and last time she could go with us on a Sunday. I said that I really liked spending time with her but that she can’t go back with us again since she’s not supposed to. Maybe when I’m 30 and she’s 15… then we will see when I come back to visit (no I am not staying here until I’m 30 for those of you whack jobs that were wondering…)

5/6 Wednesday: A cockroach and some omens?
So today I had my Escojo class and it went pretty well. We talked about La Abstinencia (abstinence) which was a concept that, at the beginning, the kids didn’t get at all but I’m fairly sure they understand it now. That made me pretty proud, I actually taught something! But, that is not what the focus of today’s blog will be. No, today’s focus will be about how I shouldn’t have slept during the night but I have acclimated to the Dominican weirdness I suppose so that normally disturbing things that used to keep me from sleeping now do not disrupt my REM. Let me start at the beginning…

Once upon a time I lived in the United States of America. It was there that I had free, unlimited access to the internet, a wealthy, flowing supply of peanut m & ms, constant power, and privacy among other wondrous things I took for granted. It was during one carefree afternoon, where I was indulging in all the peanut m & ms my heart could desire, while using the free, high speed internet, without worry of se fue la luz that I came across a particularly disturbing blog from a PCV right here in the DR. I’m not sure if I have recounted this story before, I think I have, but it is worth reciting again. Brace yourselves, what you are going to read may give you nightmares.

Picture this: una Voluntaria was sleeping peacefully in her bed when she was awakened by something running across her chest. Fear not, it was just a cockroach… although it was a rather large one, even for the DR. She thought nothing of it and went back to bed. A few minutes later she heard something and thought it was maybe one of the rats that like to visit during the night. She shone her flashlight in the area of the noise and low and behold, there was a spider “the size of my palm” chasing the cockroach that had just been running across her chest, up the wall.

Now that I have lived here in the DR for nearly 9 months I understand more components of this story that used to bother me, like large cockroaches scurrying across ones chest, why the girl felt the need to sleep with a light, rats in a house being a normal thing, etc… but most importantly I was disturbed by two facts: that there were spiders the size of one’s palm (I have fairly large hands) and the fact that they CHASED their prey!!! What was I getting myself into? I was heading to a place where the spiders were confused and thought that they were missiles whose sole purpose was to seek and destroy!!! Holy crap!

While I am lucky that I have never seen a rat in any of the houses I have lived here in the DR, I have seen a LOT of roaches but never larger than a few inches in length. I have only one time been aware of them crawling on me, which is lucky because I would rather not know. I of course sleep with a headlamp each and every single night but that’s mostly because of the power situation in this country, that I don’t have a bedside lamp and generally not because I’m afraid (but sometimes for that too). I have seen large spiders but have gotten to be much better about fearing them. I have never seen one the size of my hand except as road kill where I’m assuming it once was as big as my hand. And I have never seen one chase it’s prey…. That is until last night.

There I was in the bathroom, still having digestive issues but relatively pain-free, when I noticed a cute little bug walking along my shower. All of the sudden, in a flash, a spider (NOT the size of my palm, THANK GOD!) ran from a small hole in the wall I had never noticed, snatched the poor unsuspecting bug, and ran back. I just sat there, open mouthed. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen!! I stood up to try and get a better look at where the spider went but there was no sign of it. I was so startled that when I went to sit back down I missed the toilet! And my bathroom is NOT that big.

I immediately sought the comfort of my cat, trying to see if she could master the skill of seeking and destroying but the concept was lost on her. She waltzed around before plopping her gordita self on the floor, looking up at me with those satisfied-with-life eyes, blissfully unaware of the creature of death lying in wait just inches from where she lay. So much for Seek and Destroy Cat.

Ok, no worries I told myself. I would learn from the mistakes of the other PCV and make sure my mosquito net was tucked in well. The problem was, after I anxiously tucked in the net my eyes began to wander over all the holes the net has acquired since arriving to my house in late January. Thanks to the net being really crappy (the only one I have found that’s round, thus taking up less room, and has a door) and my cat being very mischievous the net leaves a lot to be desired. I can’t sew the holes because, as I discovered, it makes the already too small net smaller and then the door won’t close, creating another problem.

I got in my bed and my cat followed, opening up the door all over again. I was just about to go to sleep when I noticed that she was staring intently across the room. Soon enough she was up, out the door, opening it again, and trying to scale the cement wall by my clothing. I got up out of bed and walked cautiously to her point of interest. I tried to be prepared incase it was a spider the size of my palm. But, no it was the only thing missing from the equation- it was a VERY large roach. I mean it was like 5 inches long. Nasty. Seeing the roach gave me mixed feelings. Was it going to get in my net some how? Was it going to scurry across my chest? Was the spider going to chase it down? I felt like it was too many coincidences in one night! I was nervous but retreated back to my bed, making sure to know exactly where my headlamp was and was thinking about how the cat had opened the door again when she came back to bed when I fell asleep.

I woke up in the morning, not quite with those satisfied-with-life eyes like my cat has but still blissfully unaware if there had been anything crawling on me during the night. There was a time, not very long ago where I would have woken up several times in the night due to fear. I may have even dreamed about it. On the contrary, the morning following this, I slept a little later than normal as the campo was unusually quiet. Yep, I have adjusted in yet another way to life here and now I can proudly say that Missile Spiders that hunt their prey, 5 inch long cockroaches and lots of holes in my net aren’t quite the combo that are going to disrupt my sueños.

5/4-5 Monday and Tuesday: Feeling better, have LOTS of work
I finally feel better. Last night I went up with some kids and Wandi to a high point in the community to look at the other towns lit up at night. You can see Navarrete, Esperanza and then Moa to the right and to the left you can really see Santiago. It’s a hike up there but, on the rare occasion when the kids aren’t being annoying, it is very tranquilo and so worth it. The view is breathtakingly beautiful.

Its nice to go up to the point during the day too. I’ve never been able to sneak up there alone since there is always someone with me or who sees me along the way and follows but its still nice. It helps me to wind down. Right now I feel overwhelmed by everything. I told Wandi I didn’t feel like I had been doing very much and asked what he thought. He agreed with me which could have hurt my feelings but it’s true, I mean I have been only teaching one class. Sure it was because I’m overwhelmed and anxious with all the adjustments that need to be made to live here (and not to mention I haven’t had the desire to be a teacher since momentary insanity in the 4th grade), and I am terribly insecure with my Spanish but is that an excuse? After all, this is my job and I have to push through. I went to the Mother’s Club and we decided we would start our nutrition class on Monday after their meetings. Step one.

Another new project I’ve been tweaking has to do with the Escojo class. Sunday I began working with Wandi and Ernie forming two committees of our Escojo group. I was conflicted as to the attendance policy of the class. Initially I said that they could only miss 2 classes if they wanted to graduate. I want to reward kids who go to all the classes but I don’t want to discourage kids who miss a few classes to drop out completely. I had kids telling me that they had missed a class or two and didn’t want to go back since they thought that they couldn’t graduate. The solution I came up with? There will be an exam at the end of the course (which I will grade of course) and if you pass, you can graduate regardless of the number of classes missed. I will say I had to send the exams to the PC Office in Santo Domingo for official use and then I’ll only pass the kids who went to most of the classes. Then they can’t argue to see them afterwards if they “failed” and it will seem even more official since people in the capitol needed the exams. Although I am pretty sure all the kids who are going to be taking the exam are kids who haven’t missed many classes anyways so I hopefully won’t have to fail anyone.

Wandi is in charge of forming the graduation committee to plan their graduation, a decision in which I’m not sure how much faith I have but we will see. He seems to want more responsibility but then when he has it, he doesn’t know what to do with it. So I’m sure I will be micromanaging since I don’t think he’s planned anything in his life. As long as he’s making the effort I have no problem helping with whatever he needs. Maybe this will give him some confidence in doing more.

Then for the kids who have missed three classes or less, we are planning a trip to the beach. It won’t cost very much and each kid is obligated to sell so many raffle tickets to raise money and also has to be able to being some food for the trip. What are we going to raffle you ask? Well when I was in Santiago the other day I found a mug that says Happy Mothers Day and it was only 20 pesos. I’m going to buy 5 of them and we’re going to raffle them off. No one knows how cheap they were so I figure we can sell the tickets for 20 or 25 pesos each. All the extra money from this will go to the graduation fund.

The other thing I’m beginning this week and next is finally forming the garbage committee. I’m calling a community meeting of my own and I’ve begun to prepare a charla on trash which I’m going to give followed by an invitation to all to our garbage committee meetings on ____________ date. Wish me luck because I’m nervous to talk in front of 40 -50 adults in my Spanish.

So anyways, I have a lot of new stuff on my plate this week. On top of it, Ernesto gave me the budget of the wall and it’s going to be another 19,000 pesos! I’m trying to work something out with the PC office to get an advance on my monthly salary and have them take out 1000 pesos each month but you know how it is working with Money Man…. Wish me luck.

5/3 Sunday: Still sick, I’m giving the key back
I still felt very sick today. I decided while I was sitting in my house, trying to ignore all the annoying kids around me that I would talk to Ernesto about the key. It just so happened that he showed up at my house alone at night and so I told him I “found” the key but that I wanted to make it clear that it was to be used only for emergencies by ME for when I lock myself out. He agreed and so to be clear that this was not what the key was being used for I cited a story of Geraldo coming into my house while I was sick one time. We’ll see how it goes… again. I really would like to have them have a spare key.

5/2 Saturday: Sicker
Today I pretty much sat in my house and slept. I was still sick with something that gave me an awesome sharp pain in my stomach. I am a little concerned that I may have an ameba or something but I guess we shall see if it comes back in a couple weeks in true parasite fashion.
5/1 Friday: May Day!!!! Kelly moves into a castle. I don’t feel so hot…
Last night Kelly and Rachele were up relatively late talking, enjoying her new place during her “move-in party”. I, being a fun sponge, went to lie down around 8:30 or 9 and accidentally fell fast asleep. They woke up around 7 the next morning, which, to me, signaled the time to put my ear plugs in. I then went back to bed until 9:30. I still was feeling pretty bad in the morning but didn’t want to be a party pooper. We all got ready and went to Santiago for the day. Kelly bought different things she needed for her house and I got some stuff from the hardware store, Ochoa.

Aside from my stomach issues, another disturbing factoid to throw in my current mix of life was shared with me by Ernesto. He called me on Thursday around 6:30 pm (nearly 11 hours after I left that morning) telling me that my front door was open! He asked if he could shut the door and if I had the key since they couldn’t find theirs. I knew where theirs was; I had it! I’m not sure if I want to give it back with all the issues I have had with them having the spare. I was happy that I had the other key during this point since this way I knew that they weren’t in my house, leaving the door open when I wasn’t there. The problem was that I knew I closed the door when I left since it had been left open earlier in the week when Mom and Rach were here. I took extra care to close the door when I left this time to be sure I didn’t leave it open. I should note that my door is a little jacked up and has issues closing. Since I had the only key and was sure I shut the door I began thinking of other alternatives as to why the door was open. Is my door more broken that I thought? Is the lock broken? My bathroom roof was damaged so I began to think that maybe someone was able to get in my house that way and didn’t close the door when they left, what a rude thief! I had my computer with me and my iPod so at least the only thing of great value someone could steal would be my camera, my wonderful camera.

One good thing about the door being open was that I had forgotten my helmet when I left so I asked Ernesto to grab it out of my house before he shut the door. I asked if he could send it down with someone the next day so it was waiting for me at the entrance. When I arrived at the entrance Friday there was no helmet. I called Wandi when I was on the guagua still and he told me something but I couldn’t hear it thanks to the loud music. I was pretty annoyed by the guagua since I felt like I may poop my pants and it was the freaking slowest bus EVER. The dude told me it was an express when I got on it (which means it charges a little more but doesn’t stop to pick up every person it passes in the road) but it DID stop to pick up every person on the road until we got out of the city meaning that it took FOREVER to get out of the city. We even went looking for people! We took side streets and stopped at vendors! It was ridiculous!

Ernesto came through for me and mandar-ed a muchacho to bring me my helmet. Although it wasn’t until after I had been sitting at the entrance for a while. He is pretty forgetful I decided but then that’s the pot calling the kettle back isn’t it? The problem was that, after I had been sitting there for a while, Tito drove by in his car and offered to give me a bola! Ah, the ironies in life. I got in and as we drove we passed the boy with my helmet, on his way to the entrance looking for me. I got out and rode with the motorcycle instead and paid him a little more than normal since he came just to find me. Well on the brightside, at least I didn’t poop my pants.

4/24- 4/30: Mom and Rach’s visit:)

It was soooo nice having visitors, even if it was for a short time. I really loved being able to show Mom and Rach where I live (although Rach was here in Dec) and how the cultures are different. None the less, having visitors is exhausting. Having to translate everything (something which I’m not used to since I’m normally with my Spanglish- loving fellow PCVs) and being responsible for every little thing is tiring but definitely worth the trouble.

4/24 Friday: Time to start the vacay!! Mom and Rach supposed to arrive at 8:35 pm
When Mom and Rach arrived on Friday I decided to take a little risk and arrive at the airport around 8:40, about ten minutes after their plane was supposed to arrive. Normally I’m a little early but since the planes are generally late and then there’s some type of fiasco with the luggage, I’m left waiting with the taxi driver for like an hour. This time the plane was early and so it worked out that I was at the airport for about 5 minutes before Mom and Rach walked out of the doors. It was pretty lucky really that they didn’t get out before me but the airport lost Mom’s only bag so that stalled them a little thankfully.

We loaded everything in the taxi and stopped at a delicious chicken place on the way to the hotel. Mom and Rach were able to indulge in boiled bananas, yucca, moro and chicken on their very first night in the DR! We ate in the hotel lobby before heading to bed. We were all pooped. Despite loosing one bag, Mom and Rach still had a lot of luggage and so we were lucky enough that the hotel let us keep some bags in the downstairs closet since we had a room on the 4th floor.

4/25 Saturday: Watch out Santiago, here we come!
Today was to be our day out in the city. We began the day by eating some banana bread and some fresh, delicious pineapple and mango. Turns out Mom and Rach don’t like mango!!!! Crazy, I know. We left the hotel around 10ish and set out for town. It was pretty fun walking the streets with Mom and Rach. We went to the market and the grocery store. I had to run some errands for my class so we did that and by that time it was time for lunch! We ate lunch at this place called the Crazy Plantain which has sandwiches where they use fried plantains as the bread instead of actual bread. It’s delicious and was a hit with Mom and Rach although a little rough for Mom to chew.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to drop our bags and Mom and Rach took a nap while I caught up on some writing. When Rach woke up we went out to find some veggies from a vendor and got sidetracked into an accessories store. We picked up some cool, super cheap, gaudy Dominican jewelry and I said how I would like to get a new shirt for my birthday and then some jewelry to match. Rach agreed with me and this sent me into a serious shopping spree. This is what happens when I find out I’m getting my tax return back… although I have to say, it is a lot easier to find deals on clothing here than in the States. The most expensive thing I bought was $10.

After Rach and I went back to the hotel to get Mom, we all got in a taxi to take us to this giant hardware store called Ochoa (or 8A). We were all impressed with this store; it was like being home in a Lowe’s or Home Depot. We picked out some paint for the shelves in my house and set off for a mall called Jumbo. We were going to see a movie there but all the movies were lame (sorry Rach but alien movies just don’t grab me) so we spent the time walking the stores. We ate some delicious pizza, had a coffee drink that tasted like it was from home and ate some Yogën Fruz. It was so much fun, a total girls day:)

We didn’t get back to the hotel until around 10:30 and by then we were tired. We pretty much went right to bed. We had to get ready for the next day you know:)

Sunday 4/26: My Birthday and Time to go to the Campo!

The next morning when I came out of the bathroom Rach and Mom had decorated the hotel room with a balloon and a little happy birthday banner for me! It was so nice!:) Rach was sneaky and picked up some stuff the day before when we were in the stores. They sang to me and then we packed up our stuff and went out to look for a touristy shirt for Mom before heading out.

Pretty much everything is closed here on Sundays so it wasn’t very chaotic walking the streets, unlike the day before. We found Mom’s shirt fairly easily and went back to the hotel. The guy at the front desk helped us carry all of our stuff to the bus and soon enough we were on our way to Navarrette.

It had been raining off and on since Mom and Rach arrived and as soon as we got on the bus it began to really downpour. The bus driver did a sign of the cross before taking off and Mom, Rach and I all exchanged worried glances. I had called Tolo while we were walking around Santiago and told him we would be there around 1. I was hoping he would be there for us since it was raining but I wasn’t holding my breath.

When we got to Navarrete it was raining but not too bad. Tolo was there waiting for us and I guess he had been there since 9 am for some reason. He acted like it was ok that he had been there for 4 hours but I have a feeling he was annoyed, who wouldn’t be? I have no idea why he was there so early and also why he didn’t call and tell me he was there waiting. I told him and Minga SEVERAL times that there was no way we would be there before 11 but more than likely would be there after lunch time. But he is like Minga a lot in the sense that he’ll ask a question and then repeat the answer he wanted to hear rather than what I said. We can go though this cycle with him asking the same question and me answering NO and then adding my answer followed by his question… and me responding NO plus the same answer I just said… several times. Just have to do it with a smile on my face though.

Anyways, we waited until it stopped raining a little and then Mom, Tolo’s second wife (remember the Other Woman? She was there, waiting to get a ride to a party on the way) and Tolo all climbed in front with Rach, me, and some random girl in the back. We were joined along the way by a random kid who wanted a free ride. It began to rain on us a little but we didn’t get too wet before we arrived at Minga’s house for lunch.

We ate lunch (which was delicious and very complete with guandules, tostones, repollo, ensalada mezcla, y arroz blanco or beans, fried plantains (kind of like French fries), cabbage, mixed salad which is like potato salad, and white rice) and hung out for a bit before heading to my house.

As we drove up to Ernesto’s house we passed my house and I was really surprised to see that the wall was done! Well, mostly… there still aren’t stairs or a railing but the wall itself is done. Its huge and beautiful. Ernesto told me later that we just need about two more bags of cement to finish it up once and for all.

It was hard to get up the drive to Ernesto’s house since it was so wet and muddy but lucky for us Geraldo was there to help with the bags and Marvey and Randi were there to help us walk. You know it’s slippery when even the Dominicans are falling!

What a great surprise it was when I arrived in my house to find it full of people who were there throwing me a surprise party! They decorated my house and baked me a cake and even bought orange pop! It was so great! It was the only surprise birthday party I’ve ever had (I would say the only surprise party but you know BCHD threw me a sweet surprise going away party which I had no clue about… I’m not sure how they kept that quiet) and it was great! After we were a little more settled in (and I’m saying “settled in” loosely) Rach used Mercedes oven and made me my favorite kind of cake. There were about 20 kids and 6 or 7 adults in my house watching intently while Rach was decorating the cake. They think that she is God’s gift to the Earth since she can bake and color cakes, oooo fancy pansy! Later she helped me paint my house and I thought they were going to drop dead from shock at how talented she is! It was fantastic.

Later that night we headed off to the discoteca. It wasn’t too full of people but it wasn’t dead either. Rach was once again the center of attention as she was asked to dance about twice as often as I was! We both danced, and sat, drinking pop at the table with Mom, Ernie and Wandi. We were really annoyed later when we tried to pay and the discoteca owner overcharged us. I heard him telling Wandi “What you don’t think these guys have money?” I was really pissed at him. I guess I can’t get away from it even in my own small campo.

Monday 4/27: Paint-a-thon!
Today was our day to decorate my house. I still hadn’t opened up any of the gifts Mom and Rach brought since there were always people in my house. I didn’t want to open anything in front of people because: for one, it’s embarrassing and for two, people will think that I have a lot of money and also will expect me to share everything with everyone. Well, let me just say this: thank you sooo much Grandma and Grandpa for your gifts! Who knew a shower curtain with pretty butterfly hooks could make a person so happy?! I guess I didn’t notice how crappy my musty colored, torn shower curtain was… I couldn’t open or close it because there weren’t rings on the “shower bar” (a piece of PVC tube hung from the ceiling with ties) but instead the curtain was tied with some type of wire, thus contributing to the tearing of the curtain and explaining why only about half of it was still hung, the other, torn part left dangling. Anyways, the shower curtain makes a world of difference so thanks a lot:)

And, even though I know you don’t read this Aaron I’m still going to say: THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE HARD DRIVE!!!!! The all PCV conference is soon, May 14th, which means there will hopefully be lots of opportunities to share movies and music (I know someone who has every season of Heroes!!!!!). This is an especially useful gift since the CD drive in my computer has decided to almost never work y entonces, muchas gracias!!!

After we open gifts we got to work on my house. Ernesto cut and hung almost all of the shelves for me while I was gone. Almost because while he was using the power drill the power went out so he didn’t get to hang two shelves. Rach and Mom went around and took all the screws out of the ones that were up while I tried to organize all the stuff they had brought me, stuff which I was trying not to let everyone and their mother know I had. It wasn’t until after lunch that we were able to get painting but we painted until around 10 at night. There is a weird Aztec looking design around one door (Rach may kill me but I think I’m going to paint over it in June when I save some money to buy more paint) and the front door is painted along with all the shelves and a cute little mural thingy to put pictures in. Ah, my house is beginning to take on a personality. The only bad thing about it is that we were so busy painting that I completely forgot to take Mom and Rach to the Woman’s Meeting! I felt bad because I wanted them to meet everyone; or rather I wanted everyone to meet them.

Tuesday 4/28: Day at the beach with some bad news and a bola

Today was a good day until around 12. Tolo picked Mom, Rach and I up around 8 am and took us to the entrance in Altamira. Once we arrived he asked me why I didn’t ask him to take us there earlier than yesterday since he was planning on doing something with his son that day. I told him I had talked to Minga about it and he said she had never told him. Then he told me we had to pay him 500 pesos for gas. It annoys me when they tell me that I have to pay afterwards. 500 pesos isn’t much though, it’s less than taking a taxi. We have to take a guagua or taxi since Mom can’t use a motorcycle with her bad back.

When we got to Altamira we waited for a bus and went to a beach I had never been to before, called Cofresí. (Co- fra- sea) It was really nice once we found a part without any rocks. Rach being the fish of the group, was in the water more than Mom or me. I was contently sitting in the shade. We enjoyed ourselves on the beach till 11:30 when we left to get something to eat. It was then that I checked my cell phone to find a message from my bother saying my Dad had been in a bad accident the night before and broken his neck. The doctors were saying he may die. So much for a relaxing day at the beach!

I told Mom and Rach to prepare themselves that something bad had happened at home. I told them what I knew and tried calling Aaron back. Miraculously it didn’t use any of my minutes as he recapped what happened. He was transferred to a bigger hospital in Rockford and about to have an operation. Because of his COPD he had a small risk of not coming out of the anesthesia and thus not making it through the surgery. Due to the location of the shattered vertebra he had a very high risk of being paralyzed afterwards. Needless to say, none of us were in the mood to enjoy the beach after this so we just wanted to get back to my house as soon as possible.

I called Tolo and couldn’t get through. I called Minga and told her what happened and asked if she could get a hold of Tolo and ask him to meet us in Altamira in an hour. Then I called the PC-DR County Director, Romeo, and told him about it. Before I could even finish my story he asked me if I needed to go home. I told him I didn’t know, that I would know more after surgery. He was incredibly supportive. He said that PC would do whatever they could to help and gave me the name of someone to talk to who could get me a plane home and even change the tickets of my mom and sister to the same as mine, which may be a day earlier than Mom and Rach had planned on leaving.

When Mom, Rach and I got to the entrance of the beach, at the highway, I told them that we would look for whatever came first- whether it is a bola or a guagua. I was pleased that a large truck stopped before a bus approached so we all got a free ride in the back of that all the way to Altamira, about a 20 minute drive. Call it hitch hiking if you want. Call it a free ride. I call it a bola. When we got to Altamira Tolo wasn’t there but I knew that he would be. This was a family emergency and Dominican’s take these things very seriously. Within a few minutes he showed up and we were on our way to my house.

We spent the rest of the day at my house, just waiting to hear from Aaron who got stuck with all the responsibility of keeping everyone informed since he was the only one home. He dealt with it like a champ though and around 7:30 he called telling us Dad was out of surgery and was going to be fine. My community was so supportive, with families coming to visit me and see how Dad was, and people walking by yelling up to me to see how he was. Dominican’s have a very strong sense of family which is very comforting.

Wednesday 4/29: Passing time and teaching my Escojo class.
Today it was raining again. It was raining yesterday too but not too bad. Despite the rain, we painted some more and when it was time, we went off to my class. It was a fun and educational class about condoms. I think that it is the most fun of all the classes and specially planned to have it the same week Mom and Rach would be here. Aside from the yelling that broke out at the end when they were competing during the race of putting a condom on a plantain, blindfolded after being spun around in a circle 5 times, the class went off with out a hitch. The fight was due to the fact that someone broke one of the plantains somehow during the commotion. I told them it was a learning experience to handle with care when putting on a condom, after all that would be a tragic accident wouldn’t it?

The class went pretty late, till about 6 or 6:30 so we didn’t get back home until around 7. There was no power and since it was raining, it was already dark. We learned how to make tostones out of the plantains from the class and enjoyed them along with shells n cheese macaroni cooked with salami, a good American-Dominican mixed meal.

Thursday 4/30: Se fueron
We had to wake up early today to make sure we left enough time to get to the airport. You can’t depend on any Dominican transportation. Tolo was here to pick us up at 7:30 and we arrived in Santiago around 9. Mom waited by the luggage while Rach and I walked around a little in Santiago to get some pineapple one last time. When we returned to Mom she was occupied doing some word searches, trying to look busy so people would stop yelling at her, trying to get her to take their taxi. At the last minute Rach threw out the idea to take a carro publico to the airport which would cost 135 pesos total as opposed to a taxi which would cost 400 pesos.

The first car that stopped began putting our bags in the back and I told him we would pay 45 pesos each. He told me we had to pay more since the bags were taking up so much room. I got pretty annoyed and asked if he was planning on putting a passenger in the trunk where the luggage was, if not then we weren’t paying more. We began to argue and right then another car for the same route pulled up. I told the first guy I was going to ask the other driver if he would charge extra for room in the trunk. I think the new guy was a little taken off guard and maybe a little afraid, I asked him if he charges to put people in the trunk and if he was a thief. He looked started and shook his head no, I said “Good, then you won’t charge us to put our luggage in the back right? It is 45 pesos each then and that’s all right?” He agreed with me, which was good because the other driver was already angrily taking our luggage out of his car. Good riddance.

We arrived at the airport and had about an hour until Mom and Rach had to leave. It was sad seeing them go but at least I was able to see the plane fly away. I also found out that there is free internet there which I made the most of. I was planning to go to my friend Kelly’s site for the night and help her move into her house but she lived really close to the airport. I didn’t want to pay 45 pesos to get back to Santiago and then another 50 or so to get to her house later that day. Because of this I spent the entire day in a very uncomfortable chair, using the internet that cut off whenever there were people by a certain widow. I was there until 6:15 at night and by then I was not feeling good at all. I had been having my normal digestive issues so the night before I took the normal dose of 4 teeny leaf pills and drank some laxative out of the bottle. That morning I had the runs but chalked it up to maybe drinking too much laxative. By that night I was beginning to think that I should use a spoon to take the laxative and not measure it in mouthfuls.

I left the airport and was going to walk the 30 minute or so walk to the highway but then it began to rain. Not wanting to get my laptop wet I approached the carro drivers and asked how much they would charge to take me to the highway. The crook told me it would be 50 pesos! “50 pesos!!” I squawked, “You have got to be kidding me!” Too bad it costs 45 to go all the way to Santiago. They guy asked how much I thought I should pay and I said 5 or 10 pesos and nothing more. He told me he could take me all the way to where I was going and then I wouldn’t have to wait for a bus. I asked him if he would take me all the way there for the 15 pesos it was going to cost me with this and the bus ride put together and can you believe it, he called me cheap! I told him that I really didn’t care if he thought I was cheap since I didn’t know him and if it made any difference I thought he was part thief. I explained that I wasn’t a tourist with a ton of money that I was a VOLUNTEER here to help this country. He told me he understood and we talked a little more before I left.

While I was walking towards the highway a man in an SUV told me his friend would be happy to give me a ride for free. I wasn’t sure since it wasn’t the type of bola I liked to take (where I get in the back of a truck) but the driver spoke English and seemed trustable enough. It was raining and I guess I am cheap so I got in and they were nice enough to take me the whole way to the community of my friend Kelly.

Kelly, Rachele and I met up and by this point I was feeling really sick. I was cursing drinking the laxative out of the bottle but was beginning to wonder if it was something else, if I was coming down with something or if maybe I was just sore from sitting for 7 hours. We went to Kelly’s host family’s house and showered then went to her new castle. It is a huge, beautiful house. I would be shocked but then this is the PCV who lived in the host family’s house that has cable tv, and she had her own bathroom with a shower (complete with glass shower doors) a sink and the bathroom is even tiled! It is amazing and so is her new mansion.

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