6/27 Saturday: Happy Birthday Sarah and happy day at the beach Escojo!!
That’s right, there are two birthdays this week in my family, and so HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH!!! It was really nice that I was able to talk to Sarah at night, Mom called me while everyone was singing happy birthday to Sar:) Then we talked while she was out on her porch and I was under the mango tree in the “play” (by the baseball diamond) and we were both looking at the moon. It’s cool to think that even though you are so far away from someone you can both still be looking at the same thing.
So, the beach trip that almost didn’t happen. As you faithful blog followers know, on Wednesday our crappy bus driver backed out on us and no one would take us to the beach for any less than $3000 pesos, what thieves! Even the dude who works at the school wouldn’t do it for less than $3 Gs which was a shame because we had exactly $2 Gs. Luckily Xavier has a cousin visiting right now from the States and so his family decided to help out by pitching in half for a bus and all of us going to the beach together. It worked out really well.
There was some drama the night before when Joheiry asked Ernie if she could go to the beach with us. This little girl is always with me and generally she is pretty cool but sometimes man, I think she just needs a good spanking. She KNEW I told her she couldn’t go, that it was just something for the Escojo group for all their hard work. Despite this, she asked someone else until she got the affirmative answer she was looking for.
There are very few things that I stand firm on but this was one of them. I didn’t want to have to tell 14 kids from my class that they can’t bring their kid sister with them and then let her go. This wasn’t meant to be a family trip and a family trip it will not be. Joheiry came to my house and I told her that despite what Ernie told her, she was still not going. Sorry kid but asking other people if its ok isn’t going to change a thing because ultimately, I am the one in charge. All those kids are MY responsibility when we’re at the beach. I was pretty mad about the whole situation. To make things worse, Joheiry can be a real brat sometimes so after I told her no (again) she ran off in a pissy huff and that was that, or so I thought.
Then Ernie came over and I explained why Joheiry couldn’t go with us. I couldn’t hear what she was saying to me though thanks to the stupid colmado having their music so loud that I couldn’t even hear the person sitting next to me at my house. Ernie left and when she came back she said she wasn’t going on the trip. I thought that this was really childish and dumb. She worked harder than anyone else on this and here at the very end, just because she didn’t get her way for one thing she said she wasn’t going to go. I told her that I wished she would change her mind but she is a pretty stubborn person. She left and the next morning she was holding strong to what she said the night before.
In the morning people began showing up at my house at 7:30 am despite the fact that we said to meet at 9 (but forgot to mention a specific meeting place). Guess it was understood to meet at my house and to be at least an hour early. Aside from the fact I couldn’t eat breakfast since there were so many people in my house and not enough food to share, I was happy they were there. I was happy that they were excited about their trip. After Ernie began seeing all of her friends all excited and ready to go to the beach, she changed her mind and got ready to go with us. I talked to her, Joheiry, and Mercedes (now I try to make sure I don’t “lose face” to Mercedes and I didn’t want to look like the jerk who didn’t let the little girl go with us) telling them that Joheiry could go to the river with me the next time I go which seemed to suffice everyone. Even Mercedes was supportive, telling me that it was too much responsibility taking a little girl to the beach with us. Whew!
When we were about to leave I spied some rum in one of the kid’s bags and had to really lay the law down. I didn’t want alcohol in the first place and so the compromise was no hard alcohol. The kid was surprisingly obedient about it, not even arguing and (after I made sure to tell Mercedes to get her support) the bottle of rum went back to the house of the kid. However, Xavier was not there when we had this discussion and I sure can’t tell his family not to bring rum. Alas, there was still rum with us on the beach. I have a feeling most of the kids were pretty tipsy and none of them know how to swim, a recipe for disaster but, take it easy; no one died. They watch out for each other. We left La Lomota at around 10:15 headed for the beach (over an hour late thanks to the bus) and left the beach around 5 pm.
When we got to the beach I went to a store in search of boy short bottoms to wear instead of the bikini bottoms I have. Apparently it is NOT ok to wear bikini bottoms, also called panties. I would have worn the pajama shorts that I wear to the river over the panties but, nooooo I wear those to the river and the beach is a spectacular event, one should dress like it. Lucky for me the store I found (since we were at a tourist beach) had some bikini shorts that fit ok. I would like to say that I used to work as a lifeguard over the summers and never felt embarrassed to sit there all day in my swim suit but the kids made SUCH a big deal about it to me, I was really embarrassed! I was happy I at least had those boy short bottoms.
When we left the beach around 5 everyone seemed really tired. We were about half way home when the bus broke down. For one thing, it was out of gas. The other thing was that it was smoking. I guess it was overheated from lack of water. Luckily this happened here in the northern part of the country so we were able to find some water pretty easily. When I say “we”, I mean Wandi and some other kid.
After “we” got the bus up and going, we had the driver drop us off at the river. Wandi and I went to the nearest colmado and bought some shampoo and we all bathed in the unusually ice cold river. Yep, it was a great ending to a great day. This group of kids is awesome. I hope that they keep on with Escojo and the next class I have is as active as they are.
6/25 Thursday: Problemitas
Well at least I can say for now that these issues are small but bothersome nonetheless. Here is what is plaguing me at this moment in time:
1) Small problem 1: Rats. When I woke up this morning there was once again rat poop on my kitchen table. Last night I could hear the rats and I have gotten so used to them that I can say that I honestly was not bothered by them at all. The thing that bothered me was waking up this morning and having to wipe the poop off of my kitchen table. Yuck. Also I have rubbery window clings up from Easter still and there is an actual bite taken out of one of the eggs. Guess Ratatouille wanted a sample. He also got into my suitcase with my candy stash and seems to love to eat the Ziplock bags while only taking a bite or two of some Snickers bars. I still ate the Snickers bars of course, just cut off the gnawed on part. Luckily the inside of the suitcase seems to have been spared of the rat pee.
Why do I have at least one rat you ask? That would be because my prego cat was unable to continue pulling her weight in this household by protecting the house to do her impossibly round size. About 10 days ago or so she gave birth to two kittens in her cat carrier. Sure I locked her in there to have them so she wouldn’t have them on my bed (a reoccurring day-mare of mine) but she seemed to enjoy her assigned place of birthing- at least for the first two days until she took her kittens by their necks (not their scruffs)to the neighbor’s house to live under Ernestina’s bed. Yes it is true, my freaking cat moved out. I still feed her so she comes back a few times a day to reap the benefits of that and also when it rains she comes back to sit on my lap as she is afraid of storms. Used by my own stupid cat.
2) Small problem 2: Holy mosquito net! I guess the problem isn’t that I have a mosquito net with holes, I have fixed that issue but now am confronted with yet another. Yesterday I went to town and the first store I went into I found mosquito nets that hang from the ceiling, something I have discovered to not be an easy task. I was pretty happy with the luck of finding them at the very first store and figured I would buy one for sure. The guy told me that these were one size fits all so I figured that they were pretty big. The problem? Well, it has no door for one and holy crap is it ugly. It’s yellow and has these UGLY foamy-fabric shapes sewn on it. The shapes include a heart with festive lace around it and then there are some flowery shaped thingys to compliment it. The net itself is hug on a rectangular frame so it’s like sleeping under a box. Then, the dude at the store lied to me or doesn’t know his butt from a hole in the ground because this net is even smaller than my last one. This means that I have to have it hung really low, making the awesome heart and other decorative items right at eye level. Awesome.
3) Small problem 3: Dirty water, dirty neighbors. I guess there is this person out by the clinic who dumps their laundry washing water in the road. This is an issue with others since the water is “dirty”. Ernesto asked me last night if I could go over to the clinic and talk to the doctor about this, see if she could talk to the doña house about the health risk. I see a few issues with this. First, no one has talked to the people of the house yet, telling them that they are concerned. Second, why is this an issue? Not to make one issue smaller than reality but hello- there is TRASH everywhere, I’m not sure that throwing some water from the hand washed laundry in the road, in the heat the dries it up before the daily rain, is an issue. And I really I think that if it were me who was throwing my water in the road, that I would feel pretty bad that my neighbors, aka my friends, didn’t talk to me about it first but instead went to the gringa and the doctor and had them talk to me about it. People in this culture don’t like to confront things; I understand that but why send other people that are not from the community to confront the issue? It’s possible that this is a more productive way to get thing done but I asked Vangie about it and she seemed to be in agreement with me. We shall see, I’m going to talk to Ernesto again about it.
4) Small problem 4: Beached. Our ride for the beach trip this Saturday backed out yesterday. This doesn’t seem to have a solution yet but I will keep you posted.
5) Small Problem 4: Prune Jelly. Yesterday I was on several missions when I went into town. One of which was to buy some jelly. I went to two different stores in search of this sacred item. The first store I found some jelly by a super nasty brand and others which were some unknown flavor by an unknown brand. Jelly here is not cheap. The absolute cheapest is like 95 pesos and it’s not for the biggest jar. 95 pesos is like $2.75 but that’s a big chunk of change for me to spend on something condimental like jelly. The second store didn’t even have jelly but oddly enough, although this store is my store of choice it rarely has peanut butter; today it had a TON of peanut butter. I’m talking like 4 brands, crunchy and creamy, quite the impressive collection, but alas, no jelly. Back to store one. I picked up the two unknown brands and asked for a price check. They were both the same flavor whatever ciruela flavor was. It looked like there were little green apples on the side and so I thought that it was some type of green apple? Who knew but I was in a hurry at this point and a little desperate so I bought the cheaper one. When I got home and took it out of the bag, I was studying it more carefully and realized that it could quite possibly be prune jelly! It was brown, yuck. They like prune stuff here. They put prune jelly stuff on top of pastries like prune is a delicious dessert! Turns out ciruela means plumb but may as well be prune. So, I will be eating toast with prune/plumb jelly and eating pb & js with prune/plumb jelly. Another thing I noticed after purchasing the jelly was the expiration date of November 2008. I ate it last night (and fed it to Wandi too, hehe) and no indigestion today on either of our parts so it looks like I will be eating this jar of jelly in its entirety. It’s not that bad actually, it kind of tastes like a local fruit, tamarindo. The downside, I have never liked that fruit.
6/24 Wednesday: Happy birthday Mom!!!
Today is my Mom’s birthday and so I wanted to say HAPPY 52nd BIRTHDAY MOM!!! I love you and I wish I was there with you to help eat the cake Rach is going to make… I mean to celebrate this great day with you:) I hope you have a fantastic day and know that I am thinking about you all day.
Talk about changes though, Mom and Rach arrived in New York early Tuesday morning, moving into their new house. A lot has been going on at home that I can’t be apart of due to my being here. My brother Aaron bought a house in March and moved into it (wow!) My Dad was in a devastating accident but, thank God, is recovering amazingly. My very best friend is getting married in September to a guy I don’t even know and I obviously won’t be able to help plan anything which is a HUGE bummer. And now my Mom and sister have now moved from IL to NY... both of whom have lived in IL their entire lives. It’s weird how things happen in life. It’s like nothing has changed really since I was 12 years old and now, after I’ve been gone for just 10 freaking months, there are drastic changes in my life from home. It goes to show you though that choosing to join Peace Corps wasn’t just a decision that affects me but also everyone who I am close with at home. I didn’t think about that when I signed up but I’m still glad I’m here. Everything in life has a negative and a positive side and if those are the biggest problems I have from being in a 3rd world country for a little over two years, then I think life is pretty good.
All morning my house has been full of kids. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary for me but occasionally I get lucky and the little girls take it upon themselves to clean. Today is one suck lucky day. They clean the weirdest things, like my shoes, matching up all the earrings I have or cleaning or the window sills. I will take what I can get though! I never ask them to clean because I don’t feel right about it but I sure wish they would get a bug to mop more… hehe.
Today the only plans I have are going to town. I just talked with a reliable motor driver and so I feel confident that today will be the day which is good because I’m all out of jelly. So much for peanut butter and jelly or toast and jam. And the bread I have is weird so it’s nasty to eat with just peanut butter. I also have to try to find a mosquito net that hangs from the ceiling thanks to sitting on mine two days ago and ripping it down from the ceiling, the net is FULL of holes anyways though thanks to my cat. I’ve been sleeping with the crappy net PC gave me which is depressing yet very spacious. Anyways, hopefully it doesn’t rain because a 20 minute motor ride up to my community from town while its pouring down rain is not fun. We shall see how well things go today.
6/23 Tuesday: Absolutely nothing
That’s what I did today. I was going to go to Navarrete but, after my ride ditched me and I sat and waited another 30 minutes for another ride that never showed, I went in my house and read a little. Reading isn’t as easy as it used to be, let me tell you. It’s really becoming quite impossible to read around here now. I’m not sure if I just ignore people less than I used to or if there are more people trying to talk to me than there used to be but I suspect it’s a little of both. I should have found someone else to take me to town. I decided against it because it looked like it was going to rain soon (and has rained nearly every single afternoon/evening since the last week of April) and I was sleepy. There’s always tomorrow as I have nothing to do.
This is the first time since I’ve been here that “nothing” has really been an option. I always had something to do with my Escojo class but now that they have graduated the only things I have to do this week would be better prepare myself for future classes- aka: drawing charlas for either the next nutrition class or my Escojo youth leader classes that will be next month or in August. I’m more of the procrastination type myself though so that knocks that out.
Saturday we’re set to go to the beach which will be interesting since my youth group already decided they were going to bring beer. Is this against the law here? Yes. Am I promoting this? No. Am I being as strict as I should be? I guess that depends on your point of view. There is one thing you should know: people here think NOTHING of beer. At the graduation last weekend, Ernesto was giving beer to the 6, 7, and 8 year olds at the table. Ernesto: my morally sound, stable rock here. The shocking thing is that the kids were drinking the beer and liking it. What type of child likes beer? This gives me a little hope for my nutrition class, if they can like beer, they can like green leaves and cucumber peels.
Anyways, back to the beer thing: I am going to be watching how much beer they drink because I can tell you now; if I have to try to save some underage drunk person from my YOUTH GROUP in the freaking ocean I am not going to be a happy camper. This is a reward for everyone, not a death sentence. Needless to say, Saturday will be interesting. Drunkenness is not looked upon favorably here and the kids are used to drinking so I don’t think that it will be an issue. I still have a few days till I have to worry about it though. Maybe I’ll make a rule that they can bring beer only, no rum. Until then, I’m not completely sure what I’ll do to keep busy, guess I’ll write in my blog:)
6/22 Monday: Mothers Club
Even though I had my class for the day long prepared, I wasn’t looking forward to giving the nutrition class to the Women’s Group. Sure when I began Escojo I wasn’t enthused either but that was more because of my Spanish and Xavier being a smart aleck little tiguere. The Women’s Club is just plain old boring. I’ve given three classes so far and this one today was particularly boring. It was about the alimentation of small children. Yawn. Shame on me, this is one of the main goals I’m supposed to be working on here. Don’t get me wrong, there is always something to be learned and thus always something to be taught but it’s not like there is a huge “small child” population in my town. And I just can’t get into it. Sure, I should have the attitude that if one person learns then at least one child will be better fed and the world will go round but hey, what can I say? I guess I just have 0 faith in the fact that the women are doing anything more than politely listening (or talking with their neighbor getting the latest gossip) during the class and then when they leave, they change nothing. This could be due to the fact that when I check to see who did their homework (cooking a new meal or telling me an example of a healthy one, bringing a green leaf to class…) not one person has EVER done it. I feel like I should try to begin my own group and have it once a week. Every 15 days isn’t frequent enough and people forget.
On top of that, the women don’t participate. They actually fight about who is going to have to read stuff. I’m not going to stand up there and read the big sheets of paper I spent hours preparing. The class is boring already yet alone to have me standing up there reading. And, getting volunteers to cook food is like pulling teeth! I can’t even guilt them into it. I tried and I think I am a really good guilter. I also tried specifically picking people but they actually said no! I tried the we’ll-sit-and-wait-till-someone-volunteers method and they didn’t care. They had no where to be and so they used it as a social time. I finally just sat down with the recipe book open and two women began reading it. One of them recognized something she cooks and so she volunteered. Thank goodness there are only 7 classes in this series. But I am really supposed to be training health promoters here? I can’t even get someone to give up time to cook or get a volunteer to read a sentence.
I get the feeling that here I won’t have a real “health promoter team” per say but rather classes educating and in turn hopefully that will be a mild type of promoter-ness. The homework in my nutrition book wasn’t really applicable to the women’s enthusiasm and so this week I assigned them the task of sharing what they learned with at least one other person who wasn’t in the class that day. I know that they are interested or else they wouldn’t be there but I need to figure out how to be more interested myself and how to teach in a different way that works with their dynamic. Wish me luck.
6/20 Saturday: GRADUATION TIME!!!
What a crazy day. After issues with the music, Miguel and Ali (the PCV who lives about two hours from me whom I met at the regional Escojo conference) being over an hour late and some other little issues, we began the ceremony- an hour late. But hey, that was when the crowed showed up. I am so proud of my group, the graduation pulled together perfectly. They did two of the four dramas (two that I picked after the exams, the exams went really well by the way as did the dramas) and a teacher from the school presented the certificates to each person. In the middle of the ceremony, all of them went to the front with their diplomas and I was confused. Ali asked me what they were doing and I told her I didn’t know, I though that it was time to do Drama #2 but it looked like they were going to take a group picture or something. Well, it turns out that they were so secretive with the fundraising money because they used some of it to buy me a plaque, getting it engraved and everything. I was so touched, I almost cried. I wanted to give them all a huge hug but there were 14 of them. After everything that happened this week it really made a huge difference. It was prefect. It was so amazing. It meant so much to me; I really am blessed to have a group like them.
After the ceremony the kids set up some tables and sold more beer. This time the money was for Ernesto and Mercedes though, which I thought was tacky of them. Making money off of our group is kind of shameful. No matter, my group has exactly 2000 pesos left which is what our ride to the beach told us he would charge. So, thanks to the work and planning of the leaders in my group, the graduation went really well and now we’re all set for the beach trip.
6/18 Thursday: A Breakdown
Man, I have been sooooooo stressed out here lately. Last night I finally reached my point. Here’s what happened:
Like everything, it’s a long story but to sum it up a little- Mercedes (my neighbor, project partner’s wife, my best friends mom, the president of the mothers club…) is pissed at me. She hasn’t been visiting, she leaves when I try to visit her house, she ignores me when I talk directly to her and come to find out, she has been saying really stupid, immature things about me to people, actually name calling if you can believe that! I have no idea why I even would come up in conversation but the kids who hang out with me have been coming up to me on separate occasions telling me in confidence things that she has been saying about me, things that I guess I would rather not know.
I’m not sure if this is because of what happened when I got back from the water filter training I was at or if it’s from what happened at the mothers club. First, when I got back from Santiago after being at that training for 3 days, I discovered that there was a pan missing from my house. Actually I didn’t notice, Yoheiry noticed almost instantly and asked where it was. I was a little annoyed that someone was in my house AGAIN after I have been more than clear about how I feel about it but more than that, I was annoyed that they were borrowing things on top of it without asking or anything. I know that this has been a long, drawn out issue that seemingly could be solved simply by taking back the spare key but I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m not sure how I would ask for it without making someone mad and I don’t want to offend my neighbors of all people.
Wandi came over and I calmly asked him if he knew if someone was in the house. He asked why and I told him I knew someone was in there and I would like to know who. He told me he didn’t know, which I found hard to believe. Then Ernie came over and I asked her. Before she could answer, Wandi started yelling and saying that he was the one who was in the house. With that Ernie left and I asked Wandi why he lied about it. Now I was put off for three things: being in my house when I’m not there, taking stuff like it’s theirs, and then Wandi looking me in the eyes and lying about it! A little while later a boy came up to me with the spare key to the house and said Ernie sent him to give it to me… and I never even asked for the key! Great, now I was wondering if Ernie was mad at me.
The next day was Ernie’s birthday and I already bought the ingredients to bake her a cake as a surprise. I figured that if she was mad, really mad, and didn’t want to eat the delicious cake, I would suck it up and take on the responsibility. She visited me in the morning though and wasn’t mad at all. She spent the majority of the morning in the Mothers Club selling beer for the fundraiser and when I surprised her with the somewhat ugly cake she was so sweet and seemed genuinely excited to have it. I thought that this was particularly sweet since someone else bought her this really pretty cake (by Dominican definition) with a giant number 19 on it. Here she already had this pretty cake but she was still excited over my ugly little cake. (ugly but alllll chocolate:)
So anyways, back to the spare key issue: later I found out that Wandi was in my house 2 times while I was gone- once to deliver some paint I had Tolo bring up from town and then again to get a frying pan for Mercedes to use. I have no issue lending stuff but people have to ASK. I am always lending/giving stuff to people in my house and I’m fine about it as long as I don’t feel used. People here ask their neighbors for things if they need them and they don’t go into other people’s houses when they’re not there, why am I any different? No, I am absolutely holding my ground about this. That may cause more conflict since I’m not going to change my stance on it and she obviously feels like she has every right to send people in my house when I’m not home and also use whatever she wants.
On the upside, she had been sending little boys to my house 3-4 times a week to ask for stuff, which was getting excessive. At first it was once a week or two and it was for a match or a plastic shopping bag- no big deal- but now its- “Oh when you were in your room, Mercedes came over and took a box of matches” two times a week, or it was her asking for an entire onion when it’s a 1 minute walk to the colmado. Why doesn’t she send a little boy to the colmado to get that instead of mooching off of me? Nevertheless, I thought that I would let it go since it’s really not worth being stingy over; until this incident. And, in my defense I wasn’t rude, angry or even aware that it was her that sent Wandi in my house. If I had known it was her I would have talked to her in a direct/non-direct way somehow… the way you seem to have to handle things here.
The second thing that happened is absolutely stupid. When politicians are campaigning here they give presents to people. A politician was scheduled to go to the Mother’s Club and give each woman a gift. This has happened before and I purposely stayed home since I don’t feel right about taking a gift. However, on this day I was already there since I had to give my nutrition class. This class was two days after the spare key incident went down and at this point I was unaware that Mercedes was mad at me. She seemed a little ruder but nothing super significant. I suspected things weren’t peachy because of the spare key thing and also because Argeni, her youngest son who is in my Escojo class was apparently telling his parents I was ignoring him in class (this is because everyone in class received a sucker when they participated and some received 2-3 suckers but since he refuses to participate he didn’t get a sucker). So I thought that Mercedes was irritated with me for one of those two reasons.
In the Mother’s Club, I tried to avoid being counted when they were seeing how many people to give gifts to. I even went outside but Mercedes saw me and counted me. There were too many women and so the politician said that he would get some more gifts from Navarrete. Later that night a little boy came up to me and gave me an opened gift of three glass cups from the Woman’s Club which I assumed were from Navarrete. Pretty handy too because who doesn’t need glass cups? Especially ones with handles!
The problem began a couple days later when Minga told me her sister was upset that she was at the meeting but didn’t get a gift. I figured I already had some glasses and of course didn’t mind not getting a gift so I gave my cups to her sister. I tried to do it discreetly, sending the cups with a little girl, hidden in my laundry basket. I don’t want people thinking that I am going to give away all my stuff or that I have a lot of money because then they bug you ALL the time asking for stuff.
Despite my clandestine efforts, Wandi came over the next day really mad asking why I had given my gift away. Turns out that there weren’t enough gifts and so Mercedes gave me hers, which I obviously didn’t know. So now she was really mad at me for giving the cups away… or is it because of the key thing… or is it because she thinks I’m being a jerk to her son? Who knows, all I know is that she is NOT someone I want mad at me. She likes to physically fight with people, she’s all the stuff I already listed (neighbor, wife of project partner, bff’s mom, pres of mothers club…) not to mention I always felt like if everyone here turned on me for some reason I would always at least have that family and Minga.
So, for this I was feeling completely and utterly abandoned, discarded. I wanted to confide in someone but whom? Should I really talk to Wandi about issues I’m having with his mom? I felt like I was being stabbed in the back every time one of the little girls told me crap she was saying about me. Stabbed in the back by one of the very few people I completely trusted, someone I thought would be there for me no matter what. I mean, they’re the family who solicited me! They’re supposed to help me and take care of me- not talk crap about me to people and ignore me.
I decided that I need at least one person here that I can completely trust. At home everyone has someone, they’re mom or best friend… someone they can tell anything who understands, someone who, no matter what thing you do, they will never turn on you and they will always support you. This, I think, is why so many PCVs have significant others here. A lot of PCVs in this country get married to locals (I forget exactly but out of the 70 some odd countries Peace Corps operates in, the DR is the 1st or 2nd highest for marriage rates of PCVs to Nationals) Also, to me it seems that a lot of PCVs end up dating people they would never date if it were at home. I guess the combo of the campo, culture differences, and loneliness are kind of like beer goggles in that sense.
Peace Corps is not what I thought it would be. I didn’t think that I would feel attacked by the people I trusted in my community, especially for something so little. This is the second time someone was so pissed at me they wouldn’t talk to me, and both times I didn’t do anything horrible, I didn’t even know when I was doing something that it was wrong! Ignorance is NOT bliss. Before I left home, I didn’t have a lot of expectations of what I would find in my time here but one thing I did expect was to make life long, lasting friendships. I never thought there would be soooo much drama. I’m not completely sure if that is very normal here in the DR but, after talking with other PCVs, it seems I am in a super dramatic community. I am sick of everything always somehow being blamed on me, even when I wasn’t here when whatever happened. I’m sick of feeling used. I’m sick of backhanded compliments (you have so much pretty clothes, why don’t you ever wear them?) I’m sick of feeling alone in this.
So I was having a really low moment, and getting lower and then Wandi came over. I had been in my room crying and talking aloud for about an hour, trying to sort things out but it wasn’t helping. First the little girl came over and, not knowing I was upset, she told me that now it seems like Ernesto is upset with me too. That at first it was just Mercedes who didn’t care about me but now it’s both of them. Great, awesome thing to say. I honestly don’t know what I would do if Ernesto started acting like Mercedes. He is the rock I have of the entire community. We’re not really close but I know he’s there and he will support me and seems like he is always the voice of reason, rationality. After she told me that, all my efforts of cheering myself up went down the drain.
After a little while, she left and Wandi showed up. I decided that I would open up to Wandi. I was feeling so bad and it seems things are adding up and getting steadily worse. It’s like, as soon as I confront one issue another one pops up that’s bigger than the one before! I felt bad to burden him with what was weighing on me but he genuinely wanted to know. It was so great to have Wandi there because he actually made me feel better. He told me he would try to see what was going on with his mom. Literally for the first time since I have been here, someone was empathetic. I’m not looking for anyone’s sympathy but I am looking for understanding and he actually gave it to me. We talked about it while I cried and it felt good to finally be able to let me guard down, like the first breath after being under water for so long, it gave me the warm tinglies that you get when you hug someone you really missed, when you hang on to them and let go of all the time in-between.
I know that PC has ups and downs, life does in general, but I’m hoping that I’m learning to deal with it so I have less downs and more ups. I talked to another PCV, someone who’s turning out to be a great friend, Ali, and she told me I should write Mercedes a letter apologizing and telling her I never met to offend her. I would rather just go over there and talk to her but that’s not how they roll in this culture. It’s hard to keep my attitude in check and my pride. Tomorrow is the graduation and Miguel is going to be here. I’ve been thinking that maybe I would talk to Miguel about all of this but I don’t want him to think I suck at this and need help with my personal issues. I’ll try the letter first and see. The sucky thing is that even if she’s not mad at me anymore, my confidence in her is gone. Things won’t ever be the same. She said horrible things and now, after this I’ll always be wondering in the back of my mind if she’s going to turn on me again. It’s a terrible feeling.
6/15 Monday: TO THE RIVER!!!!
Today we all went to the river, to a part I have never gone to before. It was a long walk to get there but wow, it is amazing. Now I have been to two parts of the river here, one that is “up” from my house, closer but what a pain trying to hike down the hill to it. The other is a hike but easier to get to, although I still need some help. Lucky for me Wandi is as always, attached at the hip and Dominicans are amazingly agile. This is a random fact: when I had some friends over one of them arm wrestled Wandi. It was my friend Mark, who was not so long ago on the swim team in college and is a big guy. Well, Wandi completely kicked his butt- which was a COMPLETE shock. I figured Mark was drunk but he said he wasn’t. So it seems to me that in general Dominicans are uncannily strong. It’s weird. Another weird thing is how talented the group of kids I hang out can learn how to do things. When we went to the river Vanji didn’t know how to swim at all but by the end of the day, and just a few attempts, she was able to stay afloat! Wandi didn’t even know how to dive and all of the sudden he started doing back flips! BACKFLIPS! Its not like that’s not what you start with.
All I can say about this is that I love going to the river. It’s getting hotter here and so I feel that once Escojo is over and I have more time, river trips will have to be more common.
6/14 Sunday: Cogiendolo suave… for now
Yes, that’s right. Today has been the first time in a long time I felt like a kid without tons of homework to do weighing me down. Although I do still have to prepare a few things today, it’s nothing like last week. Gracias a Dios.
This week I have to give a review class on Monday. I think it will go pretty well but that’s if I actually get on it and prepare the class. I figure, despite the fact that no one knows what Jeopardy is, I’ll make the class Jeopardy style. Then on Wednesday they have to take their exams. I originally made their exam pretty thorough- it was 5 pages with body diagrams and all that jazz but after giving it some thought, I guess I don’t have that much faith. I don’t want anyone to fail and let’s face it, I bet the easiest test in the States would be like the hardest test here. I don’t want to intimidate them with a long test so I decided to make the test 2 pages plus include a questionnaire. But, not to skimp on actually testing their knowledge, I decided to have them prepare and perform dramas as part of their “grade”. I broke them up into groups based on shyness/participation and assigned them topics like Abstinence, VIH/AIDS, Discrimination, and Alcohol. I wrote a few requirements on the back of each topic, specific things they had to cover in the dramas, told them they should last 5-10 minutes. For motivational purposes, I told them that the group with the most focus, that was the most creative, and where everyone had some part in it, would win. What do the winners receive you may wonder? The best drama will receive the honor of performing in front of everyone at the graduation! This may seem like a punishment to some but not here in this culture, attention is always a great prize.
As far as the graduation, well due to a TON of stuff I have had to do, I have been nearly completely hands off with it. The only thing I did was help form the groups, provide fundraising opportunities, and set times to meet in the groups with deadlines to get stuff done. But the kids have planned it all. To tell you the truth, I really have no idea what’s going on with it. Now I know you may be thinking that it is really irresponsible of me but I told them from the start that this was their baby and while I would love it if they had a graduation, it doesn’t reflect poorly on me if they don’t have one.
One thing I have been trying to be more hands on with is the money situation. I have been hounding Wandi and Ernie, as they are the treasures, trying to see how much money they have between the two of them that the group raised. I would like them to write down how much they raised from each thing but they keep putting it off. Guess next time I should try to be a little more hands on with this part. And it has not even crossed my mind that they’re pocketing the money, I have complete confidence in my kids. I really feel like I lucked out with my group, even though they drive me insane sometimes.
6/8 Monday: Beer as a fundraiser
Yesterday was a fun day. It was a good day actually because I was able to start it by watching Heroes:) Let me just say though that I think that season two was lame. Anyways, I went down to the Mother’s Club where kids from my youth group were selling things to raise money. While I was gone in Santiago I guess some dude gave our youth group like 2,000 pesos and so Ernie decided that with that money she would buy 24 bottles of beer. At first I was like, “Ummmm, ok... why did she buy beer with that money?” But then it turns out that she decided to take it upon herself to buy the beers so that she can sell them at the baseball game on Sunday. I thought that it was really funny because here my youth group was on Sunday, at the Mother’s Club, selling beer as a freaking fundraiser. What a cultural difference eh? I guess they were a little worried that they wouldn’t make money off of it because it turns out, the baseball team my community was playing was Evangelical, which is VERY strict here, but they sold all 24 bottles of beer before the game was over. Pretty impressive and I think they made like $500 pesos más o menos. Way to go Escojo.