7/29 Wednesday: Nightmares of scary things. But I’m not sleeping. Dang.
Life has really gotten rough here in the DR in the last month, let me tell you. Summer here is hot (although not where I am thankfully) and I’m learning that summer means a LOT more of your favorite insects, which is really not ok with me. You name it and there are more of them. Examples you ask? Well, how about the community of centipedes living in my shower. Recently I decided to be proactive and take action about this but I didn’t want to make a mess and squish them. So I hosed them with repellant (thank you PCMOs) and that did the trick. Keep in mind that centipedes here are the ones that, if they bite you, the bite supposedly hurts for 3 days. I took the liberty of preventing that experience.
The DR is all about survival here right now, let me tell you. Nothing is safe, not even the food in the fridge. A few weeks ago I was dismayed to I find a roach happily taking a stroll through my fridge. I thought I nipped the issue in the bud when I taped over a hole I detected. It turns out there is more than one hole. More tape then. A few more days passed and I figured my food was safe there. I was wrong. I put a peanut butter and honey sandwich in there to eat later (couldn’t eat in front of company) and when I went to eat it later it was covered in ants! The ants here suck by the way. They’re not like the friendly little one from Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Noooo, these ants bite, literally. Eat them at your own risk but know that you have to chew them before they chew you. Needless to say, I carefully picked nearly all the ants off (lazily leaving a few because I figured I could eat a couple at least before they bit me) before digging in.
Another example of how you have to live to merely survive on this little isle happened about two weeks ago. I was doing my business in my bathroom (not even in a latrine) when a leg of something randomly fell from the ceiling, landing of course on my lap. I’m not sure what it was attached to at one time but I’m guessing from the color it was a roach.
Things have a habit of falling from the ceiling in my house. Sunday I was sitting on my porch with two Domincans when a baby spider fell from the ceiling RIGHT next to my foot. You could tell this was no wimpy spider; it was going to really be something. You can tell these things by the way it walks. It was going to be large. I tried to not mess with my Spider Karma and so I flung it into space but it came back. I did this two or three times, each time surprised to discover this spider was not to be deterred; it had the persistence of a true Dominican. I left it alone to see where it would go and found that it was going right for the open window of my house. I finally gave up and smashed it right below the window. Don’t judge; I tried to be diplomatic first, I swear.
Last week I was in my room when I noticed a large spider by my window. I was going to ignore it but then I saw that all familiar sack on its back. It was the type that carries its babies in a little round bag on its posterior full of tons of little spiders. Sick. As I looked at it, pondering the best way of how to get it out of my house, it must have seen me eyeing it and it took off hiding in my clothes. I searched but it was too late; the Elusive DR Spider strikes again. About 3 days later I discovered the empty sack in a shoe.
Two nights ago as began my normal “cleaning of the bed” ceremony (to make sure there are no ants) I encountered a small spider (about the size of a half dollar) right on my pillow for crying out loud. This spider didn’t have a bad attitude though, you can just tell. I stared at it, willing it to run out of my bed but it seemed to be sleeping. Finally I took my shoe and flung it out of the bed. I haven’t seen it since.
The pinnacle? Last night I was in my dinning room, talking to my mom on the phone when I noticed my neighbor’s cat playing with something about a foot from me. There was no power so I bent down trying to get a better look, thinking it was a lizard or something when all of the sudden it walked. It was a gia-normous spider. It was in its adolescence, not yet reaching full potential. I was FREAKED OUT. I shoved out of my chair and ran to the back of my house and the spider followed! It was like it thought it could eat ME. No no no no no! I made a break for the door and the stupid thing turned on its axis’s and made for the door as well. This spider had an ego. It wasn’t the least bit phased by the fact that the cat was batting at it and biting it, it thought it was so cool. Well, it at least followed me outside and so I took off for the neighbor’s. It didn’t matter that it was 11:30 at night. Then I realized that I should just knock on my best friend’s window and wake him up but I didn’t know which window was his. Why does life have to be so complicated? I went back to the house and saw that the spider was giving up the chase, with the cat now in hot pursuit of him. The spider lazily stopped and actually scratched itself with its leg! Have you ever seen a spider scratch itself? No, and so as I watched it meander down my front yard in the night, I decided that it is actually a mammal.
To make things even worse, when I went back inside I realized that there is a large gap between the front door and the floor so Senor Spidy can come back whenever he pleases. Great, that’s a comforting thought for bed. Then, when I began to tuck in my net, I discovered a large roach on it. Can’t a girl catch a break, I mean really!
So yes, there you have it. My life is becoming WAAAAAY to full of roaches and ants and especially spiders. I’m looking forward to visiting IL and NY where the insects aren’t nearly as large or daring. Less than a month till I’m on base! Until then, they’re “it” and I’m running, trying not to let them tag me, gives me the creeps.
7/26 Sunday: Visitors.
Today 4 other PCVs came to my house as a break between their sites (all over this country) and tomorrow when they’re going to go to the 27 Waterfalls. I loooooove having guests so I was pumped. I ran out of toilet paper back on Thursday and kind of figured my guests wouldn’t enjoy the “cleaning your butt in the shower” method as opposed to TP so I used some of my few remaining pesos and splurged on a roll. Never a peso spared in the name of hospitality, thats how I roll.
I firmly believe in what goes around comes around and wouldn’t you know it, when my guests got here around 5 pm they surprised me with a pack of Oreos! And they brought this corn cream stuff to make for breakfast. What a trade off for a 17 peso roll of TP. It was a fun night. Of course it didn’t go like we thought it would but it was still pleasant. We hung out at my house, eating peanut butter and jelly on crackers (I have no bread left) for dinner before heading out to do a tour of my town. We went to the clinic and the school and the PCVs were really shocked that my little community has this stuff. Brittany told me that her town of 10,000 is still fighting to get a clinic. I have 400 people in my town.
On the way back to my house we were going to stop in at the disco since it was to be a big night with it being Fathers Day here in the DR. One woman in my community tried to warm me about something being dangerous by the disco while we were walking back from the school but I thought that she was talking about traffic. Turns out she was talking about a fight that broke out at the disco. People had cleared out of there almost as fast as they run towards the mothers club when they hear there’s going to be free gifts. Meanwhile, we were walking to the disco, still unknowing, and a bunch of people were like, “You can’t go there! There was a fight! Get away quick!” Fights here are a big deal because people like to shoot guns in them. On the brightside, I thought it was so considerate that people were taking care of us and telling us that we shouldn’t go to the disco. You know your community cares about you when they try to protect you and your friends from maybe getting shot. Despite this, I was still a little disappointed since I wanted to show them the disco but I figured it was ok because we went to the hot dog stand instead. That’s when I found out that 2 of the 4 of the PCVs are vegetarians. Whoops. Next we went to my house and had a super small, somewhat lame, dance party (Wandi, Noel and Franklin were no doubt disappointed since it turned out that my female guests didn’t like to dance). We were going to go up to the big hill to look for shooting stars but everyone was too tired so we ended up going to bed around 11. What a night.
7/25 Saturday: Left out.
This morning I woke up nice and early and met up with Wandi and Vanji to go for a run. Normally we got about 4- 4.5 miles but I wanted to run a certain amount for the week so I wanted to go a little further. When we reached the normal goal Wandi and Vanji were horsing around far behind me so I just kept going. When they caught up, I had met the goal and was ready to head back but Vanji wanted to keep going to see some spot she had never seen. Turns out the “close” spot she wanted to see wasn’t close like she said, it was another 1.5 miles away. Needless to say we were gone in the morning for nearly double the normal time and Wandi of course had to act mad about it the whole time. He always acts mad but hardly ever is really mad. He reminds me of someone from a sitcom or something, maybe like a younger version of the dad on Everybody loves Raymond… or maybe just like Oscar the Grouch.
Anyways, supposedly Wandi told Vanji before we left to run that he was supposed to go with Ernesto to that morning at 8 and work for the day (something I didn’t find out about until more than half way into our adventure). That wouldn’t have been an issue if we hadn’t trekked the whole west side of the mountain, to which Wandi was acting mad but he never actually stopped and said he didn’t want to continue. When we were walking back to the house, back on the main road finally, a guy named Jimmy passed us on Ernesto’s new motorcycle. We asked where he came from and he said he just dropped Ernesto off in Altamira. He went to work all the way in Altamira? No, he was going to go to a water inauguration. I knew right then that he went to the inauguration that I wanted to go to and he didn’t even tell me about it! And, to make it worse, I had talked with my APCD- Miguel, earlier that week and he told me he was going to the ceremony. I told him I wanted to go and could he please pick me up in Altamira on his way to John’s site. Miguel told me he couldn’t because his car would be full but failed to mention that my project partner was one of the people filling it. On top of that, if Ernesto knew back on the day I talked with Miguel that he was attending the water inauguration in the site where I was for like 5 days in April, a water inauguration for Peace Corps, and that he was getting a bola with my boss… don’t you think that would have been something to share with me? Call me crazy but I would say why, yes it is something worth sharing.
I wasn’t mad yet at this point. I was pondering over these facts thinking that I hadn’t told Ernesto I wanted to go either so I guess I can’t really fault him since it was lack of communication on my part as well, and I didn’t ever ask Miguel who he was taking in his car… so can I really be mad? I was feeling kind of offended over the whole thing when Wandi started in saying that this entire situation was my fault. If I hadn’t wanted to run a little further then we would have been back and I could have gone with. I could have smacked him. No one is perfect and everyone has their good and bad qualities but I swear with Wandi, his qualities are so extreme; it’s maddening. Yes, it could maybe be true that if we had gotten back by 7 like normal I could have possibly gone with Ernesto. In reality though, probably not since he left at 7 and I would have gotten back at 7, needing to shower still. I pointed out to Wandi that he didn’t even know about it, thinking that he was going to work with Ernesto that morning and, what, am I supposed to try and make plans around plans that I don’t know? Don’t be ridiculous. I was so pissed at Wandy and his dumb little hang up about getting the last word in always, saying I told you so and just generally making situations worse that I told him to not talk to me for a while but he kept on being obnoxious. So, I snapped. I told him that he was immature and he always had something stupid to say to make things worse. After I was sufficiently rude about it I went straight to the guilt method and told him he must really enjoy making me feel bad. It was true that I was feeling bad about it and then he rubbed salt in the wound. And, besides this whole state of affairs it should be noted that I would have been able to go if someone I trust hadn’t stolen my money and along with it my trip to the ceremony, the rest of my TP for the month and other things. How frustrating.
I didn’t talk to Wandi for a while afterward my little blowup since I didn’t want to keep being rude and that was exactly how I felt like being. About an hour later we talked about it and I told him that telling anyone “I told you so” whether warranted or not, is not ok and generally is going to make someone feel negatively. The thing that’s so irritating about this whole thing, aside from the obvious, is that not 12 hours before Wandi and I had a talk about how trying to pin the blame on someone and saying things that are better left unsaid (like “neener neener neener, I told you so”) even if true, just make the situation worse. I suppose it was kind of a good thing since here we had this perfect example applicable to what we were talking about. Live and learn, both of us.
Later I talked with Ernesto and after he told me how much fun it was and how the other PCVs were asking about me, I told him I wanted to go to the party but couldn’t since someone stole my money. Ernesto asked if I knew who it was, which I don’t, so then he told me I should keep the little kids out of my house. And that was that. After that a bunch of us hung out on my porch (there was like 9 of us) for a good 4 hours until everyone kind of just got up and left. It was weird. Good timing though because not 20 minutes later I began feeling really sick with awful pains in my abdomen, also really weird. Lucky for me, I went straight to bed and when I woke up 10 hours later I was cured.
7/23 Thursday: An unexpected exchange
Today I was walking by Noel and he yelled to me to give him some chocolate. He’s generally asking me for something, or rather telling me to give him something- which I find extremely annoying. In this culture it’s ok to tell someone, “Hey, gift this to me!” or “Bring me some tennis shoes when you come back from the states.” Or, “That’s a neat headlamp you have there, give it to me.” Does this really annoy me? Yes. It makes me want to punch someone but do I? No. If there is one thing I have learned here, it is restraint (or more specifically, ignoring people) and never having the last word.
So, anyways, when Noel told me to give him some chocolate I shouted back asking what he was going to bring to my house and “gift” me. He asked what I wanted and I said the first thing that came to mind- cake. He told me to make hot chocolate and I said sure, as soon as I had that cake in my hands. Well, at about 9:30 pm, guess who shows up at my house asking where his cocoa was: Noel. I laughed and asked where the cake was and to my absolute shock he pulled a little cake out from behind his back! I was stunned! I thought it was about the funniest thing ever for some reason and told him that tomorrow would have to hold the cake eating activities since I was about to go to bed. Who would have thought that he actually was going to bring me cake?!
7/22 Wednesday: Am I really that broke? ¿Y quien tiene la culpa?
This month is killing me. I am so penniless it’s painful. I ran out of TP but didn’t want to use any money to buy more so thank God my shower just happens to be right next to my toilet. I’m out of TP but not out of soap and water… How did it come to this? Well, sure I took that trip to the south at the beginning of the month and that used a decent amount of money and sure I went to the beach with Lisa when I took her to the airport- another somewhat pricey day, and sure we went to the 27 waterfalls which cost me 500 pesos… but REALLY? I used money from home already this month but my pockets somehow seem to be extra vacant and lonely.
Each time I go to the bathroom I can’t help but think a little extra about my finances. The only month I wasn’t painfully strapped for cash was in May. This is really counterintuitive since I was in the capital (a pricey place) for 11 days... paying for 7 nights in a hostel, paying for however many meals and who knows what for transport. On the other hand, I was away from my house nearly the entire month as well… and thus my cash was away as well. I don’t want to accuse someone of stealing from me but doesn’t this seem fishy? I mean I’m sure someone recently stole the missing 1000 pesos and at least 500 of Lisa’s which’s opens the door of thought on the subject. It’s hard to keep track of money here.
Here’s the system that I have: take out 2000 pesos or so at a time (it’s pricey to go to town and back to take out less but more often) then I put all but 500 in a “safe place”. The 500 I use on this and that and when it’s gone I grab another 500 from my stash. Do I keep close track of the 500 pulled out? No, just on what’s left in the bigger pile. It’s easy to lose track of the smaller bills. I go to the colmado and buy 10 pesos of sugar or whatever and break the 500 to smaller change. After that it’s each peso for itself since it’s hard to keep track of 30 pesos here and 20 pesos there. There have been several times that I wondered- “Wow, that money went really fast, did I leave 200 in my pants pocket or something?” But I am amazingly scatterbrained so I didn’t think too much about a crook taking it from under my nose- a crook who would have to be one of my friends or someone I trust. Nearly every person who comes to my house I trust and those that I don’t, I don’t leave alone.
So, now I’m in a pickle but at the same time feel like I’m on the verge of relief. Does this mean that it is possible to get by on my measly salary? There are lots of PCVs who do it but they’re generally the ones who either never leave their site or it costs them like 50 pesos to get to the nearest city to use internet or go grocery shopping (it costs me 150 round trip just to leave my site at all, let alone to get a city. That’s the price for living on a mountain though). I feel relieved that I can live a little better maybe (at least buy freaking TP) but then I’m offended by the fact that someone’s been taking from me. I’m no nun or anything but really? Not to pout or anything but to point out the obvious; would YOU steal from someone whose sole purpose is to better your community and your life in any way they can while leaving their entire life- language, culture, friends and family for over two years? Karma is going to come around and bite that person in the butt, hopefully hard. I don’t know ANYONE here that is so hard up for cash it warrants stealing.
What shall I do about this predicament? Minga is set on me leaving all my money with her but I’m not really feeling that option. I don’t want to have to go to her house whenever I want to buy some eggs or sugar. So I guess the only thing I can do is hide it in a better place, tell as many people as I can that someone stole from me (try to scare the thief) and try to keep track of nearly every peso. Wish me luck with that because that last part has a dim future.
7/21 Tuesday: A meeting and missing cash
Today I had my meeting with my Escojo group. I feel like it went really well. I’m trying to change the dynamic of the group a little and make it more informal. The ideal goal is that they will be teaching the next class. They will be in pairs and each pair will have to do like 4-5 classes. I was thinking of rotating the pairs so they work with someone different each time but I’m not sure. They will have to meet once a week to work together on the classes and then another time to present the classes. I feel like this is a good system but we’ll see. There were 7 kids in my class today but two of them who were there I could do without. Not only are they the two that cheated on the test, Argeni (one of them) is the one who was pretty terrible in the last class, refused to participate and now he thinks hes going to give charlas? I just don’t see that happening but I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. The fact that he is now not talking to me again for some reason unbeknownst to me doesn’t help his case.
I have one issue and that is that I would like to start an environmental group but how am I going to start it if all the awesome kids are committed to being in my Escojo class 2 times a week. Asking them to have meetings 3 times a week is too much. I need to get others involved but I’m not sure how. I talked with another PCV about having an exchange of kids, to have like 4-5 PCVS each bring 3 kids and present to my kids while my kids present Escojo or some environmental topic. I think that this could be really fantastic but that’s only if I have a good group. With school not in session I’m not sure how to get kids nor am I sure I should have it as only a youth thing (although I am leaning towards that).
Anyways, after I got home from my Escojo meeting, a bunch of us hung out for a while drinking juice and eating crackers and whatever unidentified objects were hidden in my fridge. I should be a little more careful with whom I let in my house now but I trust those kids completely. The issue is that I trust everyone and someone stole 1000 from my bag. Also when Lisa was here 500 pesos disappeared. I have been thinking for the last few months that someone has been stealing money from me but have been terrible at keeping track. I just thought that I was going through it fast... super fast but without me buying much.
I’m upset about this for a few reasons: Reason 1: I have 452 pesos to get me through the rest of the month which is doable if I don’t plan on leaving. But I was going to go to the water inauguration for the completion of the water system in the community that I helped out with in April (with the high schoolers from the States) and also I have to go to Andrew’s site on the 31st- one day before payday and I need at least 150 pesos for this and that’s including the luck of getting some serious bolas. Now I definitely don’t have enough money to go to the water inauguration, which is a BIG bummer. Not to mention I need to get more cat food and toilet paper (I have already thought of a plan B the TP though). Reason 2: Hello, there is a thief and I have no idea who it could be! Reason 3: Minga knows about it because I went to her house to check my laundry and see if it was in a pocket and she is all riled up about it. Minga knows: aka: everyone knows. Although that could be good, maybe it will freak out a thief and they will stop. Either way, it doesn’t help me for this month. I have to get through 9 days on less than $13. Awesome.
7/19 Sunday: A recap of yesterday
So, yesterday proved to be a pretty interesting day after all. I thought that I was going to a meeting with some other PCVs and the Director of Environment of the country, Jaime David. Well it turned out that it wasn’t a “meeting” really but a big party in the back yard of some Dominican’s yard- out in the middle of no where. It was different than I thought it would be but soooo much better. They were cooking out and we ate the best meat I have had in a year. It was FANTASTIC. Not to mention that Romeo Massey, the PCDR Country Director was there with our little group along with the APCD for environment, Alberto- some big rollers and so we received super special treatment. Even though there were a ton of people there, we sat at the same table as Jaime David and talked. Ok, so when I say “we” I mean to say that I didn’t talk to him really except for when she asked me questions directly because I still get nervous with my Spanish when it comes to really educated people that I feel the need to impress.
Lucky for me, the APCD of Environment, Alberto, is really cool and helped me with the mission I was given by my Ernesto. I was asked by him the night before I left to talk to someone about the issues we have with the river here during coffee season. The farmers throw the shell of the coffee bean in the river; it rots and pollutes the river so no one can use it. Not to mention it stinks something awful. So, I talked to the Alberto and he got the number of the chief of the environmental police (with whom I had talked to a little bit earlier) and talked to him. Now I just have to call the Environmental Police dude whenever and talk to him about it. Maybe this is too optimistic of me but I really feel like this will resolve the issue. I can feel it in my bones.
After the party Alberto gave me a ride to Ali’s site (which, by luck, was really close to where we were having this meeting). I arrived to Ali’s site and we hung out before heading around to try and convince some girls to go to a camp with Ali this week. This is mean to say but I’m going to put it out there: poor Ali; her community bites. Why on Earth does she have to beg and CONVINCE girls to go on this trip? They have nothing to do, its all expenses paid and they get to get out of the pueblo for an entire week with 70 other girls their own age. Not to mention there is a POOL! Ali had been trying to get people to go but they all kept backing out- which to me was unbelievable! Good thing I’m not there because I am a lot less persistent than she is and I would say, “Great, if you little jerks don’t want to go then I’m not going to convince you. And, by the way, you suck.” So I’m not the super-encouraging- school-teacher- type of PCV, so sue me. I feel no guilt. And I don’t like kids much anyways, especially ones who think you owe them something.
This makes me feel realize once again that my kids are phenomenal and they rock my world. Tuesday this week we are going to have our first meeting since the last one a month ago. Well see how many of them want to be promoters but I’m sure that there are at least 5 really committed ones. To tell you the truth, I would prefer to just chose 6 of them from the entire group that I think would be good and not offer it to the others but I don’t feel like that’s really fair. Plus some of the ones that I may not think are committed may surprise me and I want to give that opportunity to them all. Although, on the other hand, if I make it more of a prestigious thing with invites then maybe I would have better luck. Who knows but of course I took the nicer way because I am a sucker.
The main reason I went to Ali’s site was to help out with this dance. Her dance ended up being really good in general but not for her group. It was a flop for her group who didn’t plan anything and so another group pretty much took over and thus took all the earnings from it. I think that’s fair but felt bad for Ali since she gets really stressed out about it. On a good note, the dance was a huge hit. At first there were just little kids there and it was like a junior high school dance. After about an hour though things got better and it started filling up. It was an interesting dance/talent show and went late into the night. I was really tired by the end of it. We didn’t get to bed until like 3 am and at 8 I woke up because it was too hot to sleep. I hate that. I’m so glad that I don’t live in a place where I wake up because I can’t sleep due to the sweat. I would be MISERABLE. Thank God that I live on a mountain, that’s for sure.