Monday, August 17, 2009

A little of this, a little of that. Life is stresful but I'm still enjoying it:)

8/14 Friday: Visit from Miguel= Site Change??? :(
I decided to finally call Jenn Bingham, the Safety and Security Officer for Peace Corps, and tell her how “someone” had been stealing from me and the whole story about Geraldo. She told me that she thinks it is a big deal… a huge deal and so she talked to Romeo about it. Romeo told her that she should go out to my house to show the community that I was supported by Peace Corps or that Miguel should go to my community. I thought that was really nice of them. I mean, I am not confrontational at all but, hey, if someone else is doing it I’d sure watch! I trust Romeo completely and I know that he knows what he’s doing so if he thinks that is the best thing, well then it probably is. I can see this ending badly but I plan on watching and learning.

Around 3:30 I was wondering where Miguel was and decided to call him. I called and he was on his way which made me relived because I thought that he had ditched me. He showed up around 4:30 and we talked about everything that had been going on in my site, how Argeni was being a butthead for a few months and ignoring me, how Geraldo came into my house and all that jazz, how Ernesto’s wife didn’t talk to me for two weeks in June due to the spare key… it was a lot to go over. I didn’t mean to tell him all of it but it was all kind of an answer to questions he was asking me. For instance, why didn’t I talk to Mercedes about the neighbor boy coming into my house? Well, after she ignored me and then talked crap about my back for two weeks in May/June I don’t have the same relationship with her and I was afraid how she would react. But she has been completely back to normal now for about 3 weeks and so I felt bad bringing it up to Miguel. I am a -forgive and forget/if it’s not broken, don’t fix it- type of person and so I didn’t want to bring it up and have to deal with it again, even if the issue is there there, hidden under everything.

Miguel feels differently. He told me in so many words that he feels really close to this family and had treated them as more than just friends for a long time. He thought that they would take care of me, expected them to take care of me- like leaving your child with a family member- and here they were, the only ones in the community treating me badly. He said that it is completely unacceptable, even in this culture where people share so much, that someone feels they can go into the house of another while that person isn’t there. Then when they get called out on it, to be mad at the person’s house they went into-that’s ridiculous. He seemed to be really hurt and feel really betrayed about it and so I actually felt really guilty about it. He told me that they were so good to Kevin that he thought that they would be fantastic to me as well. To tell you the truth, that made me feel even worse, like what did I do that I screwed things up so much?

Now the game plan is that he will come back on Wednesday and talk to Mercedes and Ernesto about all this with me there talking with them. He said that he will see how they react. If they over-react then he will pull me out the community and put me somewhere else!!!! I don’t want to move!!! We both decided that they probably wouldn’t overreact but I’m afraid that to his face they’ll be fine and later Mercedes will be crappy. I’m not even sure how Ernesto will react. Miguel was talking to him on the phone in front of me and he lied right to Miguel and told him that I didn’t talk to him about Geraldo on Sunday! Miguel said that this was probably just because he was embarrassed about it but still… I’m concerned. Can you imagine having to move to who knows where, having to start all over again, having to live with a host family again for at least 3 months, I could be somewhere without water, I could be somewhere hot and have a horrible host family and I almost definitely wouldn’t have an awesome Escojo group, free house or awesome view. Ugh, I get stressed thinking about it. I would hate that. I’m so happy here I don’t see how the grass can be any greener on the other side. I’ve finally gotten adjusted to this community, don’t move me please.

When Miguel and I talked about it we decided that probably what would happen during our meeting on Wednesday was that Ernesto and Mercedes wouldn’t overreact but that it would kind of ruin the chance of us having a tight relationship. They would probably distance themselves from me. This makes me feel awkward. I hate the thought of it. After Miguel left I went up and hung out at Mercedes house with her and Ernie for about 2 hours and it was fun. I’m torn because part of me feels like Mercedes isn’t a real friend anyways but on the other hand, good friends are hard to come by no matter where you are. Not saying that it’s better to have fake friends than real ones but is it better to be alone than to hang out with people you wonder will turn on you? That’s the question isn’t it?

8/12 Wednesday: The worst day at the beach EVER.
I have had a fellow health PCV visiting me since Monday and it has been fun. I hadn’t seen her since May and it was so nice to catch up. She is completely cool with just hanging out and even going to my meetings. She got here Monday night and pretty much entertains herself. I’m super happy because she seems really comfortable here in my house and I LOVE visitors and love the fact that she feels so at home. We were planning on going to the beach tomorrow but had to change our plans since Miguel maybe was coming to my site tomorrow to talk to Geraldo about the “incident” (little punk).

Stephanie and I left my house around 10:30 am, after we went to the clinic to get some more anti parasite medicine for me since I have another freaking parasite. Its bad when you start to feel off and recognize it as a parasite since you have gotten so many of them. Anyways, we got to Altamira and sat and waited for a bus to come for what felt like ever (about 45 minutes). Finally a carro publico showed up and charged us the same as a bus. While we were in the car the driver told us that there were no buses running that day because there was a nationwide strike for the entire week. That would have been helpful to know before we left the house. It was too late by that point to turn back; we were more than half way to Puerta Plata but it was a bad omen for what was to come the rest of our day.

When we got to Puerta Plata it was no problem getting to the beach. You have to take a motorcycle and Stephanie was on the motor in front. She was getting impatient because for some reason her motor man decided to give her a tour of the waterfront and so my motor followed suit. We had been driving for about 15 minutes and were at the far end of the road when she told him to just let us off. I felt a little weird about where we were since there were like no people. I don’t like getting in the water where there are no people, what if there is a riptide or sharks or piranhas or something?! Where is everyone!? In an effort so avoid sounding how I just did, I kept my mouth shut and let Stephanie lead the way over to some shade. There weren’t a ton of Dominicans but there were a few. There were no tourists though so we stuck out like sore thumbs. Stephanie went into the water first and when she came back I went in. When I got out of the water and walked up to her, she was flaming mad yelling all kinds of stuff at some guys down the way. Turns out, while she was sitting there a group of guys walked by and chucked a cell phone at her crotch. What a bunch of tools. She was really upset and felt violated. We decided to leave that part of the beach and thankfully after we moved to a different part we had no more issues.

Stephanie got the number of the motor driver from the morning and when we were ready to leave she gave him a call. I thought it was so weird that he showed up to take us both on just his bike, they NEVER do that. Sure they could make more money packing the people on but motor drivers ALWAYS get another driver if there’s two people. Anyways, we get on his bike and he takes us to the other side of town. I thought that he was showing us a fish restaurant in town but after we reached the main highway where he was supposed to let us out and he kept going I was wondering were we were going. He told me that he wanted to show us the restaurant still but that it was just a little outside of town. He was super friendly, I wasn’t getting my creep-o goose bumps and Stephanie seemed at ease so we just went with it. I figured it’s always helpful to know where a good seafood place is, right?

Well, when we FINALLY got there, it was not “a little outside of town” but like 25 minutes out of town. Then he didn’t want to leave until Stephanie and I ate. He said he had to make sure we were on a bus first. We told him we weren’t hungry and he said we should go to his house to meet whomever. Keep in mind, this is not unusual Dominican behavior but I said absolutely not. There was no way I was going to go to this dude’s house. We told him we wanted to get going and I thought he said his brother was a carro driver and could meet us. We sat on the side of the road waiting for a car or bus or something- not necessarily with a member of his family or anything- and then his brother showed up. This dude was something else. He had both ears pierced complete with Air Jordan earrings, gold chains and bracelets, converse shoes… and he had to be pushing 50. Of course he was very confident he could speak English while Stephanie and I exchanged looks during his “conversation” with us. Finally, Stephanie was getting really annoyed and told them they were messing up our chance to get a ride, sending them off.

We sat there on that road for about 20 minutes trying to find a car or something but there were no buses and by the time the cars arrived they were already full. It would have been better if we were in Puerta Plata trying to get a car. After a while a red truck pulled over to give us a ride. It wasn’t the type of bola I like to take. It was a regular truck and we had to sit in the cab with the dude. I sat in the back seat because I sat in the middle with the stupid motorcycle driver the entire way and figured I had met my small talk quota for the day. I couldn’t really hear the driver of the truck talking over his music but I heard him say he was American like we were and he tried to talk in English- which was awful. Stephanie was trying to be polite, I was ignoring him. After a while I noticed he was swerving a lot and thought it didn’t seem like the normal –trying to avoid the million potholes in the road- type of swerving but much crazier. About 5 minutes after this thought he pulled a BIG, nearly empty bottle of rum out from under his seat. Well that explains that… I rolled my eyes and began hoping he was just a bad driver and had drunk that bottle a different day or maybe the bottle had a hole it in.

We had been in the car for about 20 minutes when I heard Stephanie saying, No thank you. No thank you. No thank you. He had been offering her rum earlier so I wasn’t paying much attention to it until she said, Let us out here. We hadn’t even gotten to Imbert, the town between Altamira and Puerta Plata, and we had a long way to go still. Stephanie wasn’t familiar with the area at all so how does she know where to get off. Immediately I realized he was putting the moves on her and that’s why she had been saying no thank you. I reached up to him and said, My friend just called me and he is going to meet us in Imbert so let us off at the park there please. He kept trying crap with Stephanie and so I said, if you really were an American then you would KNOW with out a doubt that it isn’t ok to force yourself on someone after they tell you know. He asked me what and I told him to turn down his music so he could hear me and then I told him to take it easy and leave Stephanie alone. We got into a mini discussion and Stephanie was reaching back to me and trying to get me to shut up. She was worried I was going to make him mad or that we would get in an accident. Well, I believe in God and I believe everything happens for a reason. If this guy is going to do something, he’s going to do something. The least I’m going to do is tell him to knock it off before hand and if he keeps going, well, I’m sure going to give him a GOOD piece of my mind because someone should. By this point we were in site of the park and I reminded him of our friend awaiting us among the crowd of other motorcyclists. He pulled over and let us out. What a douche bag.

Poor Stephanie, this was the 2nd time she got violated in one day. I was feeling pretty bad for her but was under the impression that at least he had only been trying to hold her hand. She said that she felt really scared he wasn’t going to let us out and he could do anything to us. It reminded me of when I was in Santiago and the carro driver wouldn’t let me out of the car because I wouldn’t pay him 100 pesos. I had had my hand on the door, waiting for him to slow down in traffic and I was about to jump out of the car and run. Here with Stephanie we were on a busy highway with no stops, no slowdowns and no where to get out. It could have gone very badly.

So there we were, stuck in Imbert with no ride to Altamira, the next town over. All the motor drivers were saying tasteless things to us, to which Stephanie was not handling well. I learned that she is a screamer, which is dramatic- aka: Dominican’s LOOOOOVE it. She was putting on a show for these guys, screaming at them to shut up and leave us alone. I took note that she was upset and decided telling her to try to calm down wasn’t the right approach. There were no women around except for one who was working at the little snack stand so I decided to go over to her and say hello. After that I found some decent motor men that weren’t sleazy and made struck up conversation with them. I told them my friend was really nice but had a bad day and so if they could help us look for a way to Altamira, that would be fantastic.

When the brain damaged motorcyclists were still asking us 45 minutes later if they could just drive us to the next town, after we have explained that we don’t have our helmets and CAN’T RIDE ON A MOTORCYCLE WITHOUT A HELMET 50 times, I decided to make it a interactive mind puzzle and talk to them like they were 8. “Now remember, we had this conversation 4 minutes ago, didn’t we? We can’t go with you. Do you remember why? (here’s where I point to my head) That’s riiiiiiiiight, say it out loud to me though. Yep, because we don’t have our H-E-L-M-E-T-S. Now, is that hard to remember? Answer me, is it? No, that’s right it’s not. Now why don’t you help your friend learn, he’s asking me again…”

Stephanie and I passed an hour there like that. Not one bus drove by. Three carros but they were full and we even took to looking for bolas again but there were none. Stupid strike. There were taxi drivers but they wanted to charge us 300 or 200 pesos to take us. We didn’t even have that much money on us so we told them to forget it. I figured it should cost about 30 or 40 pesos. One guy had a legit little bus but he wanted to charge us 300 pesos. We told him to get lost. 15 minutes later he wanted to charge us 200 pesos. Still no. Then he said he would charge us 100 total. Ok we decided. We got on the bus and then we sat. He was about to go but then two other woman arrived and they were pitching a stink about how much he wanted to charge. I heard him tell them a different price and they wanted to know why he was charging us more. Because they’re white. I asked one of the women how much they were paying and she said 40. I told the driver that we would not be paying one peso more than 40 ourselves, I didn’t care WHAT color our skin was or how much money he thought we had. We are volunteers here to help this country, HIS county and SHAME ON HIM for wanting to rip us off. Stephanie flipped out. She began yelling at him and said we were getting out. I sat her back down and pointed out that we had been waiting for an hour. We were taking this bus and we would pay 40 pesos. She was afraid he would beat us up or shoot us so I told her to have the other 20 pesos in her pocket in case he got out of hand but that we would pay 80 to begin with.
Along the way the driver kept telling me and Stephanie to pay and I calmly told him we would pay when we got there. No one else was paying and neither were we. He got pissed after about 10 minutes of this and threatened to kick us out. Go ahead, I told him, but then you won’t get anything. By this point we could have walked it if he decided to kick us out, even though it would have been a hike. He kept going. I took up conversation with the woman sitting behind us and when we got to our stop I asked her to say it since I was afraid the driver wouldn’t let us out. He stopped, thinking it was to let that lady out and Stephanie and I got out. I walked to the passenger side window and held out my 80 pesos. He tried to trick me into thinking that the other women in front paid 100 pesos. I told him he was full of it, take the 80 pesos, have a good day y Dios te bendiga. And I turned on my heal and walked my happy little butt away as Stephanie called him a thief and shook her fist right back at him.

I told Stephanie that when we got to Altamira it would be a sign that our luck was changing if, at the very least the empanada stand I loved was open. They have the best chicken or cheese empanadas. Well, we got there, it was open but it had 4 food items total. Not 4 varieties for food on their menu for the day but 4 items of food: 3 yucca balls and one beef empanada. The idea of a beef empanada has never appealed to me, and the last yucca ball I got wasn’t worth the money so no thank you and good bye. I just wasn’t sure how to interpret our sign… “Open but Empty”

The entire day I had been going to snack stands and asking if they had Coke in a glass bottle. Not one person did. There was one last place to look: a cafeteria right at the entrance of the road to my community, And guess what. They had Coke in a bottle. I was so pleased. I asked how much and the guy told me 20 pesos as he opened the bottle. As I handed over 20 Stephanie freaked out. She told him it should cost 15, and began shouting lots of things. I was embarrassed. She was making a scene over 5 pesos and he was charging more because of where his cafeteria was located, right on the highway where no one stays and drinks it so he has to charge for the glass deposit. I tried to tell Stephanie and she was flipping out but it was too late. The guy made fun of us to his friend that he was playing dominoes with and gave me the 5 pesos change to calm Randi down. I sunk my shoulders. I needed to have a talk with Stephanie. I told her I knew she had had a bad day but that she can’t just go yelling at people! That’s when I realized through conversation that the dude in the truck had been reaching for more than her hand. I felt awful.

Bertico showed up with Noel and we headed up the mountain. Bertico told me on the way up that he saw Stephanie had been crying the entire way, about 35 minutes. Then when we got to my house she sat outside and cried. I made her a peanut butter and Kelly sandwich, heated up some bath water for her and gave her some space and while I went and ate dinner at Mingas without her.

Stephanie seemed to be feeling better the next day and she called one of Peace Corps doctors and talked with her for a while. She talked to her dad who of course tried to get her to quit and come home right away. She is not dealing well in general with Dominican men and their attitude towards women here. She told me she has a lot to think about since she still has a long time left in her service and she doesn’t want to spend it very unhappy, unable to cope with the men here as she is now. I told her she should do whatever she thinks will make her happy. She has put in a great year here so far and if she thinks she’ll be happier at home, she will not be going home empty handed. She has made a difference and has grown as a person. What more can you ask for?

8/11 Tuesday: For the first time in 12 months, I’m saying I can’t wait for the weekend.
Today I had my Escojo meeting. They have been real crappy since school got out and whenever we meet, someone gets into a fight. Last week Wandi and Vanji got into one. I had to have a talk with each of them on separate occasions and explain how they were responsible for their own actions and can’t control someone else’s actions. I feel like an elementary school teacher. They seem to be the two that are fighting more than anyone which is a real bummer because they are the two that are going to the conference in Jaraboca the 24th- 26th with me and they may kill each other... or me. I don’t want to think about it.

I am looking forward to this Saturday when I get to go to Santiago. Sure, I’m going to work on a charla with another PCV for the Celebrando el Cibao presentation so it’s not going to be all fun and games but let me assure you, there will still be fun and games. Saturday I’m going to do some special shopping in Santiago with Kelly and then work a little with Rachele on the charla. Sunday we’re going to go to the pool and then at night to the concert in Rachele’s site, which hopefully means we’ll dance a lot. Monday I’m going to the artisan shop in Kelly’s site to make some gifts for my trip home and then I have to go back to the campo and practice giving the water charla we prepared. We worked on coloring that charla for 4 hours today and I am happy to say that it looks really good. We put extra work in it because it’s going to be presented in front of 50 other kids. I was shocked that Geraldo showed up to the meeting. That kid has some nerve. I would wonder if I should let him participate if it was just Escojo but it’s the promoters group and he not an example. He is a thief. I’m sure Ernesto talked to him because he hasn’t said a word to me since Sunday and he hasn’t visited my house at all. Also Argeni finally was kind of talking to me today. Well, I asked him something and he mumbled a response that I kind of understood. I need to just crack down on that kid. He is getting on my nerves. Anyways, I can’t wait for this weekend.

8/10 Monday: Work work work work work work work work work work work
Today Anne came over to work on the water presentation we are going to present at the Celebrando el Cibao conference. I told my kids that the kids that go have to present a charla on a country (I was given Italy) and that we had to present another topic of their choice. The second part wasn’t true but I feel like my kids can handle it since they are a really good group (when they’re not fighting during the meetings). I had them “pick” a topic to present at the conference but I rigged the results a little because I wanted them to present on water. That way when I get the water filters I can have them help out and give that charla to the people who will receive water filters.

Anyways, planning a presentation from scratch is time consuming. We had to still narrow it down, what did we want to talk about in relation to water? We decided to talk about the different ways water can be contaminated, or rather some of the common ways here, the effects of that and how the kids can make a change. It took all day to plan it and write it out but it was worth it. Tomorrow in the meeting the kids will color in the pictures and block letters I drew. I’m excited! I love environmental issues, its so interesting and so fun to teach stuff to the kids where they can actually make an impact.

Later in the day I went to the Women’s Meeting. You will be happy to know that, as promised, right away I had the woman get into a circle and share what they cooked with the green leaves. I know that some of them lied because I was asking very specific questions to throw them off a bit. Despite this, I was thrilled that they put the effort into lying. Every other week they simply said they didn’t do it and that was that. What type of person doesn’t have any shame when they don’t do their homework!? There were two women who said they didn’t do it, maybe 6 or 7 who lied and I think about 12 that actually did it. I was really happy with that. I’m going to make a point of going to their houses and making them feel guilty about not putting those dang leaves in their meals until it’s a habit for them. It IS possible to change bad habits or to better old habits, you just have to be obnoxious and find methods that work.

8/9 Sunday: A cacophony of things: Beer is a great fundraiser but if only the kids could make change… bake like there’s no tomorrow, dance your butt off, who’s mad now?
Today began well and ended well. It was the middle that less than perfect. I went to bed super early yesterday and got a ton of sleep, something surprisingly rare here and started the day off right. I promised a woman in my nutrition class last week that I would bake two types of cake for the class on Monday if she brought me the carrot, squash, and flour for the cakes. I still ended up paying 215 pesos for the other ingredients but it was worth it because I wanted the women to see how you can make something that they initially think will be nasty (because its different and has green leaves) but it turns out delicious. Well, let me tell you, grating two pounds of carrot and squash is no fun nor is it a simple task. Not to mention, in the middle of all this grating, my Escojo group was at the Mother’s Club selling beer as a fundraiser. I wanted to be there with them but couldn’t leave my house with something on the stove, baking (yes ON the stove). I was down in the Mothers Club for a while, grating away and finally the little girls came around and I passed the job on to them. We went to my house and I spent the rest of the day trying to juggle making the bread and helping the Escojo group.

When the first of the bread was done and cooling I went back to the Mother’s Club to see how they were fairing. I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t sell all the beer since I was the one who fronted the money for it. But when I arrived they had sold all the beer and were going to the colmado to buy more. I kept asking them how much the colmado was charging per beer but they were so excited to be selling so much beer they didn’t care or know. I was getting annoyed with this, trying to give a crash business 101 course about how they may not be making a profit but no one wanted to listen to me. Fine, eat up the profits with ignorance then and we will have this same discussion afterwards when you have learned the lesson the hard way. I was annoyed.

Have I explained why we are doing this fundraiser? We have to raise 1000 pesos to take 2 kids to the conference, Celebrando el Cibao, which is a great deal since it is PRICEY to have this conference. Thank you soooo much to all of you who helped my group out by donating for this trip. I know that Aunt Claudia did specifically, and we really appreciate it. We can raise 1000 pesos with some work but trying to raise nearly 5000 (which is what we would have had to have done) by the beginning of the summer would have been nearly impossible.

Anyways, after the fundraiser was over I took all of the money (despite the fact that Wandi was being a child, wanting to hang on to it) and figured out how much we should have made after we paid the colmados. Thank goodness we were still making a profit when we bought beer from the colmados (a whopping 10 pesos a beer) but somehow we were 335 pesos short! We still don’t know why we were so short- Could it be the thief? Could it be that Vanji isn’t great at making change? Could a confusion have happened when Vanji got pissed at Ernie and walked out about 45 minutes before we closed? (and she had how much everyone owed written down in some weird code in a notebook that Antonio and Wandi tried to decipher afterwards when we were collecting the tabs) Who knows but everyone was pretty bummed. I tried to refocus on the fact that we at least made 750 from one day, which is great.

After all that commotion I still had to finish the other cake. I popped it in the oven and Ernie invited me to a party up where the roads cross. Hmmm, a party, eh? Count me in!! I showered and got ready and by the time Franklin (Ernie’s cousin) was here to get us, I was all ready and the cake was done. We went to the party (which- crazy- had a 100 peso cover, can you believe that?!) and it was amazing. It was at a large disco at the crossing and it was packed. It had a teeny dance floor in relation to the building and the people were dancing in between the tables as a result. I haven’t danced that much ever in my life I think. I danced every since dance, except the 3 times salsa was playing, straight through from 8:30 until 12! It was so fun but, ooooh when I woke up the next day I just laid there for a minute, feeling every bone in my body. Merengue is not gentle on the body and it was mostly that which was playing.

On the way to the party we stopped to ask Ernesto if Ernie could go to the party. I still hadn’t been able to get him alone to talk to him about how his son refuses to talk to me in class, even when I ask him a direct question (a complete lack of respect) and how the other kid living with him tried to steal from me. I pulled him aside and told him everything and he didn’t really seem to acknowledge the fact that Geraldo was trying to steal from me. He said, “Of course it’s not ok that he opened your window and also, if your front window was open he should have called you instead of going inside to close it.” Ummm, what about the fact that he was TRYING TO ROB ME and that it was a load of crap he was going in to close the window?! Ernesto said he would talk to him so I guess I’ll let it lie and see what happens?

8/8 Saturday: The Beach and the Store: Day of Adventures, Pizza and Mangoes
I want to take this very special moment to inform you all that I was at the beach all day today eating mangoes with my friend Kasey. While on the beach, we bought a ton of mangoes for 5 pesos each and ate until we felt sick and couldn’t possibly fit anymore mango goo between our teeth. The beach was fantastic and beautiful. We got a bola from the beach to Puerta Plata afterwards and went to La Sierna, the new grocery store there where I had to pick up 150 pesos worth of school supplies for my Escojo group. We’re raffling off the stuff for 10 pesos a ticket so we’ll make 850 off of this, a good amount. School starts Monday the 17th. Next, Kasey and I ate Dominoes Pizza (they do Dominoes Pizza here way better than at home) and then headed home. It was a great day.

8/6 Thursday: How do you catch a thief? My advice: hide out in your house.
Today I was tired. I was trying to work on my charla for the very last Nutrition Class in the Woman’s Club but decided that eating a sandwich would be a better move, followed by a nap. I had just made my sandwich and went into the back room to eat it so no one could bother me before my nap when Geraldo, the neighbor boy who lives with Ernesto, began calling my name from outside of my house. I just ignored him and was pretty dang pleased with myself for having the foresight of eating my sandwich in hiding. All of the sudden the back window slats snapped open and his face was on the other side, peering inside. For some stupid reason, it startled me and I ducked down out of view. As I sat there, squatting I began to wonder what the heck my life had come to. I mean, here I am in the DR, in the back of my own house, squatting down with a sandwich in hand while someone peers in to see if I’m there. After he shut the window I became more and more annoyed. I mean, can’t a person get some privacy? What if I was naked?! Then I looked over and saw him standing by my front, glass window, just standing there. What a weirdo, I thought irritably. I wondered what he could possibly be doing now and then realized that he was opening the window really slowly and climbing inside!! Right when I realized that, he must have seen me because all of the sudden he bolted and shut the window behind him.

By this point, I was really mad. I was pretty sure that this meant he was my thief. This made me mad. I mean, I hung out with this kid. He’s 16 or 17 and only in 8th grade so I have tried to help him with his homework. He cheated on his Escojo final but I still let him graduate, just went over the test with him individually… he’s even one of the 6 in my Escojo promoter group! What a sneaky little punk! I could have felt betrayed but instead I was thinking about ways to catch him in the act. I didn’t want ANY doubt.

When I walked by the front window about 5 minutes later, still in my bedroom, I saw him there again and I decided that two can be sneaky. I looked around my room for somewhere to hide but couldn’t find anywhere good. I contemplated hiding under my bed for a quick minute but I would only be able to see his feet from there and I needed somewhere I could watch him and catch him red- handed so I went into the bathroom. Almost immediately and without making a sound he was in my bedroom. Sadly, he saw me right away and asked me why I left my front window open. Which window, I wanted to know. He pointed to the window that was messing with earlier. He had shut it behind him but didn’t lock it. I pointed to my shut front door and asked why he was inside and he said it was so he could lock the window. I told him he could leave.

Now I’m paranoid about my dang windows. And what a shame because they were really something I was proud of, glass front windows…. how fantastic. I didn’t say anything to anyone about this and I figure I will talk to Ernesto when he comes home on Saturday and see what he says. At least now I know who my thief is.

8/5 Wednesday: Am I prego or fat? D: None of the above. So there.
Today in the morning as I was hanging out with Wandi he poked my stomach and said, “Dang Elizabeth! Are you prego?” Ok, so maybe I am a little bloated. Maybe I ate one too many packs of cookies yesterday. Maybe my shirt was a little tighter than normal but really? PREGNANT?! I feel like that was an unfortunate word choice.

Later that day, I was in Minga’s kitchen with her and a new friend. Her friend was buttering me up, telling me how I really didn’t look that fat and Minga was in total agreement with her, saying that for how long I have here, I’m not that fat. This may not seem exactly like a compliment but I’ll take what I can get here that doesn’t have to do with my “good- hair”, white skin, or blue eyes so I was beaming. Remember, it’s counter intuitive for them to call someone skinny so, in my experience, the best they can do is call someone thin or “not that fat”. Minga’s grandson was in there as well, the 20 year old Noel who enjoys calling me fat. When Lisa was here he called me really fat- TWICE, and not as a compliment (I’ve learned the difference). The first time he just said I was huge and carried on about his business. Then the second time he called me colossal and Wandi tried to stand up for me. He tried to tell him that I wasn’t fat when Noel decided to get more specific, telling him to look at my arms. Wow, were my arms ever fat. All this talking as though I wasn’t sitting a foot from them looking right at them. Thank goodness I haven’t ever had a complex about my arms! So anyways, I felt the need to point out to Noel while we were in the kitchen that the ladies here with me thought that I wasn’t fat and what did he think of that- HA! He turned to the guest and casually said, ‘Hey, sure she is skinny now but that’s only because she runs every day. Before, she was a COW!’

I was at a loss for words, my jaw involuntarily dropped. DANG IT! I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of a reaction but what could I do? It was surprising. He actually compared me to a cow! A COW! But on the up side, at least he said that was before… maybe I’ve lost some weight? I’ll tell you this; after I stopped eating red beans I feel 100 xs better. I’m a new person, so screw you Noel! Ha!

8/3Monday: Giving the Mother’s Club a piece of my mind.
I never have liked giving classes to the Mothers Club. They don’t participate, they talk over me and they never do their homework. The homework is simple and has been the same every week since June: add green leaves (found from plants in their yards) to your food. But does anyone do it? No. This week I felt just like every other Monday giving the class but when I asked them who did the homework and everyone glanced around and looked at eat each other sheepishly, giggling. That did it. I lost my patience. I said, “Ok then… let me ask you all this: do you think that just listening to this information and then not applying it is helping anything or anyone? Sure it’s great that you sit here and listen (“listen”) but you won’t remember a thing if you don’t use it. Do you think that it’s easy to draw and color these presentations? It takes time and I care about you all so I do it, it’s my homework. How does it make me feel that you don’t take 5 extra minutes a day to toss some leaves in your rice? Next week we are going to sit in a circle and say what we cooked this week that we put leaves in. We are all going to share and if you don’t have anything to say, shame on you for not wanting to improve your family’s nutrition and health.”

We shall see if this worked. The women were very clearly shocked I spoke to them this way. Minga has told me several times I need to be sterner and not let people walk on me. Well, no time like the present, eh? After I began the class with that little introduction I felt a little weird just continuing with the day’s lesson but on the other side I felt good about it. It’s a tactic I haven’t tried yet and going the tranquil road isn’t accomplishing much. Hopefully it pays off. Next week is our last meeting.

8/2 Sunday: Death by Cow
Tonight Wandi and I thought that it would be fun to go up to the hill since we hadn’t gone for a while. It was a rare night; we walked all the way there without any little kids with us. I always just assume someone will end up going with us. Since I’m an old lady now with my campo bedtime, when 8:30 rolled around I was dead and ready to sleep.

We left and as we were walking back Wandi jumped and pointed to something. I thought it was something small and stupid, like “Look at the big spider!” since everyone and their mother here knows I’m scared of spiders (although I’m now much better that I was). But no. It was a cow. Now, never in my life have I been afraid of cows, I grew up in northern IL in the country for crying out but when some people here are seemingly scared of an animal, I think it’s probably with some reason, right? So, when he acted freaked out, I got a little freaked out. When I was about to keep walking, he was like, “Sure, keep going if you want to die.” What? He asked if I would be ok spending the night on the hill and the idea did not delight me. I tried to think of any other way down the hill and he said there was none. He said he wasn’t going to keep walking because “Where there’s a cow there’s a bull.” It seemed like a logical statement but I DID NOT want to spend the night on that hill, especially with Wandi, no gracias. I began having visions of things written in the next Peace Corps newsletter about the PCV who was killed by a cow.

I was starting to get really scared, really desperate. I wasn’t going to spend the night on that hill. Wandi was insistent that it wasn’t safe but I was weighing the options: possible death by cow or spend the night with Wandi on this stupid hill while mosquitoes and ants feast on us. Nope, that did it. I did the best thing I thought- I threw cow caution to the wind, forgot the cows and power walked my butt out of there, leaving Wandi in my dust. He told me to slow down but, why? So the cow can get us? No way. TĂș eres loco. We finally got to the gate at the end of the path and I breathed a sigh of relief. I went to my house and lived through another night. The next day I told Ernie about it and she looked at me like I was nuts. After all, what’s a COW going to do to you?

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