Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wow, an entire month of DR happenings! Things are pickin' up!

6/4 Friday: A week of real work, no power and confrontations
So I have been a slacker and not been writing in my blog very much. Wait, let me correct that, I’ve not been slacking actually- I can’t even blame it on Heroes since I finished season 1 and the realized that the first episode of season two didn’t download right, along with some other episodes. Its better to not ruin the experience I suppose and so once again, I will be patient and wait until I can watch it in order, *sigh*.

What have I been doing this last week?, you may ask, aside from neglecting my blog of course. Well my faithful blog followers, I have been very productive in this week. Where to start? Let me give a little background: when I got back from the capital Ernie told me that someone from the local municipality was in our town a few days prior. She talked to them about getting some funding for our graduation on the 20th and apparently they said that they would be able to give the group however much money they wanted as well as provide a live band. Ernie and Ernesto were really pumped about this, I on the other hand was VERY skeptical. The catch? We had to write a letter requesting what we wanted. Except Ernie doesn’t tell me it like that, she tells me I have to write the letter. Whhhoa, I am the professor here, I am not a part of the graduation committee. So, I told her I would not be writing the letter that the kids from the committee should write it. I felt attacked after that because she argued with me about it, along with Wandi and Ernesto even! I totally felt like they thought I was slacking, not doing my job when my job is not to do things for people but guide them along the way of them doing things for themselves. Not to mention, having a graduation is a perk, not a right. I told them if they wrote the letter I would be more than happy to type it up for them to which Ernesto countered that Wandi, Ernie and I could just write it all together. I figured this was an ok compromise.

A few days passed with no sign of any progress. Then I find out that Ernie asked her uncle, a teacher at the school to write the letter and he agreed! I was flustered but figured I would let it go. Then on Sunday she came up to me at while I was sitting at a colmado sharing a pop with Minga and Tolo and told me about some dude she just met who told he would like to donate to our group. She was really excited, telling me that we were going to have so much money for our graduation! Then she said, “Miguel (my APCD) is going to be so pleased with the graduation and even though you didn’t do any work, I won’t tell him and you’ll look really good.” I was speechless in English let alone in Spanish. She wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, she thought she was doing me a favor and she really doesn’t think I’m doing anything!!!!!! Does she not know how long it takes to plan a charla? Errr, I was feeling very bombarded since I get the feeling that her entire family, my main supporters, feels that way.

On Tuesday Ernie shows up with these two letters to the sindico (municipality) and tells me to sign them. I read the letters, if you even want to call them that, and was not impressed. Aside from the spelling errors, the grammatical errors, and the crazy uses of different types of font, each letter was like 5 sentences long. They basically said, “After I say hello to you all, I would like to tell you that our group, Escojo, needs a band of music (or in the other letter: 7,000 pesos) for our graduation. God bless you”. Then at the bottom it said, “Leader of Group” and left a line for me to sign. It didn’t even have a name on it or explain what Escojo was!!!! While I was thinking there was no way I was going to sign my name to this crappy letter I said, “Wow, this is a really good letter. You know what though? It doesn’t explain what Escojo is or anything. I think we would have a better chance of getting money if we explained a little more.” Ernie insisted that there was no time and we had to turn the letter in the next day. I was frazzled. I didn’t want to write the stupid letter, I wasn’t the one to ask for money in the first place and now, somehow, I ended up the one who was supposed to sign my name to this POS letter. Not to mention, as I have noted, there hadn’t been much power lately so when she showed up at 8 pm, I was trying to make the most of the power by finishing up my lesson for the next day (a day earlier than normal since I had to go to Santiago for some training on bio sand filters… I’ll elaborate more later). For some reason, on top of it all, I had been in the worst mood for a week and her pretty much dumping this responsibility on me when I didn’t want it in the first place, really ticked me off.

I cut my lesson plan in half, finished it up and told her I would write the stupid letter. Two hours later I had a sweet freaking letter if I do say so myself and, after Ernie and Wandi proof read it, I felt pretty great about my Spanish writing skills (there were only 2 mistakes!).

After Wandi and Ernie left, I felt obligated to use the power more since it was present. So I wrote up my Escojo exam. This took me until 3 am. Go figure but we had power until at least 3 am. The next day, Tuesday, I woke up at 8 to Wandi knocking on my door asking me when I would be ready to go to Navarrete with him to the sindico and drop the letter off. “In 30 minutes.” I told him and then lied about how I was still sleeping when he knocked on my door. I’m not sure what happened but we didn’t leave until 9:30 and spent the entire morning in Navarrete. I figured if I’m paying to go to town I would run a few errands as well. So, we bought some glitter from the paper store, some cat food from the vet, and later went to the hardware store and bought some “melon” colored paint (think cantaloupe) and of course, went to city hall.

When we went to the Ayuntimiento or city hall, we ended up talking to some head honcho for quite some time. She annoyed me a little for a few reasons. First, she had our letter in front of her, open but didn’t read it and so was asking us questions directly from the letter. Then, after a lot of wasted time, she tells us that there is no money left for the month. Despite the fact that we went on the first business day of the month (June 2nd), she neglected to tell us three weeks earlier that she would need a letter from us at least 2 months in advance of when we need it. Well then, Wandi and I left and said so much for that.

When I got back home, I dropped my paint stuff off at my house and then went to Minga’s for lunch. While I was eating, Noel showed up, obviously unaware I was there since he had been avoiding me since the beginning of April. At first I was just hanging out, talking with Minga outside of the house waiting for him to come out so we could talk but then I decided to be more proactive. I walked inside the house and sat down on the couch right next to him. I took the Dominican way about things and decided to stare shamelessly, right at him until he became uncomfortable and began to laugh. Then I asked him if he was still mad at me. I told him that what happened was a miscommunication and that I didn’t want any “anti-friends” here. It was a little weird to have this conversation with him since his mom was there, laughing and asking if we were anti-friends. Then Minga, his grandma, comes in and says how he is such a proud person, getting mad about nothing, and how its in his blood… how he’s so ridiculous. While that was soooo helpful, I wished that we could just talk alone or something. Despite all that, after we talked he said he wasn’t mad anymore but that I should still go with other motorcycle drivers and not him when I am at the entrance in Navarrete. This to me means he is still mad but as long as we don’t have conflict over it, I’m ok with it.

Another problem I faced this week was Wandi’s little brother, Argeni. This kid has been sending me love text messages since March, sometimes mixing it up a little with some tangible love letters left at my house. Well, earlier this week I found one on the floor of my bathroom (probably stuck there through my window) and his grammar is so awful, and his letter so difficult to read that I just read a few lines and tossed it to the side to read when I had more time. Then on Tuesday when I had my class he was being really unruly, it was very disruptive. Two weeks before I had a talk with him about how he wasn’t participating at all in class. He would literally sit in class and do NOTHING. He wouldn’t write anything down, wouldn’t read, he refused to do anything when asked… it was really obnoxious. I told him that he wasn’t giving himself the same opportunities as the other kids since he wasn’t participating. Then the next week, he showed up at the school and then stood outside of the classroom, looking in the windows. I was sick that week and that was the week I was in the awful mood so I let it go. Later I talked to Wandi about it who told me Argeni took our talk before as me telling him he was stupid since he wasn’t participating! Ugh!

I tried to talk to him about this before the next class, the one this past Tuesday, but I couldn’t catch him and then he was terrible in class. So, after class I finally talked to him. I told him that while it was great that he was more lively and was participating, walking all around during class, talking constantly over me, and trying to hit other kids with a broom stick or whatever it was incessantly, wasn’t the type of participation I was talking about. Then I told him I had received his text messages and letters and that there was no way we would ever date. I told him he is 15 years old, love does have an age (he told me in the letter left in my bathroom that love has no age so if I didn’t want to date him it was because I had a secret boyfriend) and it’s called being a pedophile, but that if he wanted to hang out that he shouldn’t be afraid to visit. I also told him to talk to me in person instead of sending all those messages. He then told me that he would have talked to me but there are always people at my house and that we wouldn’t be friends because he didn’t want to be friends with me. Well then, quite the hostile one aren’t we? At least I tried to clear it up and at least I talked to him about it so he hopefully won’t do things for attention thinking I’m ignoring him.

That all about brings us up to date. Today I am at ISA, a university in Santiago. I arrived yesterday and will leave tomorrow. I’m here to complete training on how to install bio sand filters. It’s a sweet deal through the Rotary Club where if I go to the training, pass the requirements and complete the forms along with a report (which I have to write tonight, ick) then I will receive 25 free filters for my community in the future. The communities have to pay for the transportation but that’s it so they’re making out like bandits. Tomorrow I have to go to Santiago and fill out the police report for my stole iPod which should be interesting. I don’t even know where a police station is but I hope it’s near a photo shop because I have to get some pics developed! That’s all for this update:) Peace.

5/29 Friday: Am I just being a crab?
Very quick recap since Monday:
There was hardly any power at the beginning of this week and so when there was, rather than write in my blog I felt it was a better use of time to catch up watching the greatest tv show ever, Heroes, which I acquired while in the capitol last week. I mean, I have THREE SEASONS to make up! This is serious business…

So, due to rainy season it has been… you guessed it, raining. A lot. When I got back on Saturday there wasn’t much I could do to be productive since there wasn’t any power which meant that I had to prepare the entire charla for my nutrition class all on Sunday. So, the whole day Sunday was devoted to drawing the 13 pages for that class. Lucky for me, Ernie colored them all but I can see it is burning her out asking her to color 13 pages in one day. Despite all the preparing, we still couldn’t have class on Monday. I went to the meeting along with about 25 other women but it was raining so hard no one could hear. I caught a cold while in the capital and pretty much had lost my voice from Friday until Sunday. While it was back on Monday, I still couldn’t compete with the rain. We decided we would just have the class next Monday after the normal Woman’s Meeting.

Next Monday is the Mother’s Day exchange. I was on a mad hunt in the capitol to get something good for about 100 pesos and I finally found it: a 5 glass bowl set for 123 pesos. I received my first ever Mothers Day gift from Minga. She bought me an alarm clock. I told her I wasn’t a mother so she didn’t have to but she insisted. Now the question, is she trying to tell me something by purchasing an alarm clock for me?

Wednesday I had my Escojo class. It was a great class. We talked about discrimination, which like anywhere else in the world, is a big issue here. There was one part in the class where we read a story called The Lottery. I remember reading it when I was in 8th grade; it’s a pretty famous story. It’s about this town that gets together once a year and everyone selects a sheet of paper. If your paper is the one with the X on it, the townspeople stone you to death. We read it, discussed it, and related it to discrimination. Then I told them that I wanted them to really understand it so we were going to reenact it. I had everyone pick a sheet of paper out of a bag and whoever chooses the one with the X was going to have to stand in front of the class and endure one minute of insults from the rest of the class. I told them to be really mean, use all the bad words they could think of. The reaction was absolutely priceless. Jaws dropped and half of the kids didn’t even want to draw a sheet of paper so I picked one and gave it to them. And you should have seen their faces when they saw that their sheet had the X! I drew an X on each and every sheet. It was so funny. And I feel like it really brought home how unfair discrimination is for the person born with whatever quality the X is (being poor, being “crazy”, being black…). I have to give two classes this week since we couldn’t have class the week of the strike. So, today I’m going to have a second class on Sexual Orientation. People here generally seem to be very homophobic so this should be interesting.

As far as my personal life, well I am in a better mood than the last time I wrote in the blog but let me say that Wandi is once again, really really annoying me. Last night he pointed out that I don’t really have any friends in my community, which is true. Ernie is great for Escojo but I don’t see her being one of my friends. She’s kind of mean actually. She’s always calling people names and putting people down. Not to mention she is BOSSY, I mean really really bossy. I need to get out more and hang out with people more. It’s a problem because I kind of prefer to try and stay busy hanging out around my house. It’s hard to make myself get out but its time to make the effort... and having seasons 1-3 of Heroes probably doesn’t help…

Anyways, back to Mr. Annoying, he’s annoying me for more than just saying rude but true things and also lately always calling me names (joking but anything in excess is unhealthy) and I’m not sure what to do other than tell him we can’t hang out. He’s very extreme. I tell him to back out of my personal space (he’s constantly trying to be literally a few inches from my face, yuck) and so he goes across the room and sits down. So I tell him, not in a mean way, that if he honestly doesn’t understand the balance of where it’s ok to stand then he should stand across the room. (This is not a cultural thing either, he is the only one who is always in my space) Also, he’s always trying to put his arm around me or hold my hand. So, when I tell him not to be in my space he gets all offended and starts asking if everything he does annoys me, since he isn’t supposed to be close to me or touch me at all. Well, if you want the honest answer… Really though, I just don’t get it, no matter how many times I tell him to knock it off he doesn’t care or doesn’t get it.

To make things even better, last night he was hanging out with me and the little girl who hangs out with me all the time, Yojeiry (Joe- Hadey). For some reason, when she left, she left with a little attitude. She had been moody all day so I didn’t think anything of it until today when neighbor told me that Yojeiry had been telling people that the night before Wandi kissed me. This is not helping. And it’s so not ok. I’m going to have to start dealing with these issues that are piling up and stop ignoring them. Things are adding up, I can’t get away from it and I’m feeling the stress. Things don’t solve themselves or simply go away. I feel like either I was a lot better at ignoring things in the States or things did just kind of go away there.

That reminds me, Noel asked Wandi a few days ago if he could use my headlamp again. I told Wandi no. I’m good enough to ask (or have someone ask me for that matter) to use something of mine but when I asked Noel a question a few weeks ago he wouldn’t even look at me. I’m not sure if its better to let him use it, if saying no is making things more complicated but I said yes before (not fully realizing that he was still mad at me) and that didn’t change anything. Besides, it made me mad that he even asked for it with how he’s been treating me and I feel like telling him no is the right thing to do. This is really exasperating.

5/13- 5/23: Ten days in Santo Domingo
After I already left my house, while I was heading down the mountain, when I was about 10 minutes by motorcycle away from my house, about half way to Navarrete with my big hiking bag (which was packed for 11 days) on my back… right then, at that moment, was when I realized that I had forgotten my power cord to my computer. There was nothing I could do aside from ask the driver to pull over, let me off, dropped my bag off at someone’s house, walked about an hour back up hill to my house to look for it and then look for another ride later. I was too close to not think about going back but too far to actually go back and get it. So much for all the free internet that I can possibly get my hands on…my battery lasts about 45 minutes. Right then, at that moment, I was sad. It was a dismal moment.

Ten days in the capital is a long time to recap, and it would be a recap since I couldn’t write on my computer. So, I’ll list the highlights:
All Volunteer Conference: was fun. It was a full day together with the other PCVs and was a good time. We broke up into our sectors and gave each other advice which was really helpful. It was from 8 am until 4 pm. The day before was the swearing in of the new group so we all went out to the car wash the night of the all volunteer conference. It was a really great time and I was excited to meet a new PCV named Helen who told me she used to read my blog all the time; she read ALL of it!!! Vindication, sweet vindication.

The weekend that followed a lot of PCVs went to the beach but I, trying to save money, went with Kenzie to her site. It was a lot of fun. During my two days there, a group of boys went to a bee’s nest and got me a huge bottle of honey with amazingly only one boy obtaining a sting, we went to the river on horses (someone thought it would be a good idea to put me and Kenz on a horse together… I’ve ridden a horse maybe 5 times in my life with those few times being in Wisconsin Dells with guides- oh, and saddles. Does an empty rice sack count as a “saddle”?) Another interesting thing was when Kenzie got so sick she honestly thought that she was going to die (her words) while I, sleeping right next to her, managed to sleep through her spell of illness. Sure I was sick myself (I have been sick at least since April 30th) but did that warrant sleeping through her vomiting numerous times, having explosive diarrhea, calling her boyfriend who came over for about 5 hours and having her Doña come over? The next morning her whole community of course knew she was sick and they were all asking where her friend was during it? “Oh, she was sleeping…” What a great friend… not to mention I was embarrassed because my stomach issues apparently give me some hard core gas and during the night, and during the silent night in the campo I had some major releases, calling the attention of Kenz and her boyfriend. Apparently it was sooooo funny with perfect timing because Kenz was actually in the middle of crying she was in so much pain when my stomach decided to put on a show… with two performances. Oh and, due to my strange issues the Peace Corps doctors had given me not one or even two but THREE tubes to fill with stool samples. I happily was able to fulfill my duty but I forgot about them, they were kind of sitting out and so soon people saw them and started commenting on how the tubes looked filled with peanut butter. Yep, and that’s my peanut butter in those tubes… so I guess its no surprise that between my gas and Kenzie’s diarrhea, her boyfriend really wasn’t sure who the tubes belonged too but I wasn’t claiming them.

After that interesting weekend at Kenzie’s, we headed back to Santo Domingo for language training or ISLT, complete with 3 full tubes in my purse. I was dreading this as I was going to have to go back and stay with my original host family. Sure they were kind of cool but mostly I felt like they were making fun of me. It turned out to be ok, worse than the first time I was there though. There used to be a generator but now the battery is bad. This means that the room I had, which had no windows, was a great little heat box since there was no fan. The first night I pretty much didn’t sleep but the second I was a little better adjusted. Kenzie and Jess seemed to really like their families now. What a change that from when we first arrived where I was the only one who liked my family. I have to admit though; the house is niiiiiice, nicer than I remember.

It was a long week with a lot of rain. When we first got there I asked my friends to look in my bag on my back for my umbrella, which they couldn’t find. I thought that it must have fallen out somewhere so I went the entire week without. It rained everyday… a LOT and we had a 25 minute walk to Entrena each way. Guess what I found on the last day when I was packing my bag to go home? My umbrella.

The last day of language training was supposed to be Friday but since it was just a half a day and my fellow PCVs and I needed to get stuff done in the office when the administration is in, Enrena let us out of training a day early. This worked out well since the next day was Randi’s birthday and we wanted to go out that night.

We ended up going out to this street with a lot of DR dance clubs, Calle Venezuela. Aside from the creepo taxi driver who ripped us off in the end, it was a great night. It’s so fun going out with my health group. Of course the Americanas were the center of attention, with Kenzie, Randi and Jess doing a sort of a talent show on a sort of stage… it was hilarious. I was sitting at a table watching. The next day we all felt a little sick from the night before but each time Kenzie got a call from some other random dude who I had given her number to the night before, the nausea went away.

I ended up staying Friday night even though I could have gone home that afternoon mostly because I was writing my trimester report in the PC office and because I needed to get to the store the next day to look for a gift for the Mothers Club exchange. When I finally got back to my site on Saturday, I was really really grouchy. For one, my iPod was stolen or something sometime during my 11 days there and so I very regrettably no longer have it. Second, I went up the other side of the mountain this time to get to La Lomota in an effort to (a) stop at Ane and Tim’s house and learn how to make a new type of bracelet to sell in a fundraiser, (b) borrow Ane’s iPod until I can get another one, and (c) avoid the entrance to my site on the Navarrete side at all costs since I feel awkward with all the drama from stupid boys. After riding the 30 minutes or so on the amazingly crappy road with Camilo, good friend of Ane and Time and the guy who always hits on me (I was NOT in the mood this time) with my 66 lb backpack (yes I actually weighed it) I was all but grunting by the time we arrived at Ane and Tims, trying to keep myself on the motorcycle. It was ridiculous. Then Camilo, who was being extra annoying by being an extreme know it all, tells me that he can’t take me to my site unless I leave right then. So I didn’t get to do anything I would have liked to except avoid the motors at the other entrance. And it cost me an extra 30 pesos.

When I arrived at my house I realized that the huge thing of honey had fallen out of my bag somewhere along the way, but why not? Then there was Wandi who poked my gut and asked me if I was pregnant. Welcome home. The joys of being in the Peace Corps and cultural adaption.

5/11- 12: Meetings meeting and more… and getting ready for another still!!
Today was my first Nutrition class. I had it after the Women’s Meeting and so we were supposed to begin at 4 pm. I was pretty happy to find out on Friday that FALPO was to have a community meeting today, at the same time, (same day) and in the same place I had planned on calling the community meeting to talk about the trash! It is on the agenda again but this time I have talked to others in the group about saying something about the trash if its not brought up in the meeting again. If they don’t speak up I’ll be ready to this time. I was really happy to see it on their agenda because I was NOT looking forward to holding a community meeting and giving a charla to a group of 50 people. Not my cup of tea, well, not in Spanish anyways.

The nutrition class went really well. There were about 35 women there, which you would think would make me nervous but I love the woman’s group here. They’re open and inviting. After my class was the FALPO meeting where they did talk about the trash, yay!! They also talked about having a strike which I thought was supposed to be in Navarrete but I figured out around 11 pm at night that they were talking about having a strike here in La Lomota the very next day! Despite that, when people came to my house throwing the rocks from my wall (the loose rocks, not the ones in the wall already) down into the road at 12 am, I was a little freaked out. I guess I didn’t realize people were going to come in the middle of the night (something I think is a bad idea since people consistently drive without lights on) to throw crap in the road and also I didn’t realize that they were throwing stuff in the road to block it for their strike.

The next morning when I woke up, I tried to stay away from the “strike zone”. I did everything possible. I cleaned my house, took a shower, made my bed, did the dishes… this was all before 9! After the press came and went, and after I stared at the plume of smoke from the burning tires in the road I decided it was time to look for Minga. I was maybe going to have a few guests but figured that with the strike they wouldn’t be able to get to my community anyways so I needed to tell Minga not to make lunch for 3. I was looking for her when I saw Noel. I asked him where she was and you know what that little punk did? He ignored me! Can you believe he is still mad at me for like 5 weeks ago when we got in the argument about how Ernie, Karina and I went with another motorcycle driver up the mountain? Rediculious. I was annoyed because he’s still going to be mad at me, be immature enough to ignore me but had the guts to ask to borrow my headlamp like 3 or 4 weeks ago? I was in disbelief and luckily didn’t say anything to make it worse. What a jerk though.

About the strike though, my community really worked together on this. They moved huge branches in the road from one end of my community to the other and they had tires burning right by Minga’s house. I understand the point they are trying to make but I feel like it could be more effective. If they’re going to burn things I really feel like they should organize earlier, collect trash from around the community and from their houses and burn that in the road, blocking it. Why burn tires and cut down branches when they can get two birds with one stone? After all, there is an issue with the road and with the garbage.

As far as I know, the day went off without a hitch. They had their strike. It was peaceful, nobody was hurt and they are going to give city hall an ultimatum: agree to fix the road (and recognize it is a problem) or they’ll strike in ___________ days. Sounds fine and dandy but what about the freaking garbage issue?!? Ahhh!!! Another bad thing about all these freaking strikes? There was no Escojo class today. Now I have to have two classes in one week to stay on track… errrr.

1 comment:

Boone County Health Department said...

Betsy- Mary Alice here. I've finally read your whole blog! I was behind in March and then didn't have good internet until I came back to work. Thanks for the congratulations. Baby Oliver is doing great and I'm going to try sending you a picture the old fashioned way- by mail. Maybe I'll try e-mail, not sure. I hope your digestive issues get resolved soon. See, there really are reasons for all our crazy health codes. Jim has been in charge of nuisance since the spring. We are very behind and could use your help. Ha-ha. I bet you'd rather make a charla and teach a bunch of energetic kids? Anyway, good luck and I hope to keep up on the blog now.