Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oct 4th- Oct 9th

10/9 Friday: Escojo National Conference in SD; yeah it’s kind of a BIG deal.
In a nutshell: Today was the day that we had to leave to go to the Capital for the Escojo national conference, something that comes just once a year. We left at 7:01 am- one minute late and it was my fault (the girls showed up at my house 10 minutes early). I would like to note once again that the DR is known for everyone being like 30- 45 minutes late but it’s not the case in my community, they’re generally pretty punctual. It’s weird.

Anyways, we headed for Santiago where we waited for Mark and Sarah with their kids and also my friend Beth’s kid (who I said I could take since she was in SD sick)and then made the hike together on the bus to SD. I loved it because the girls I took, like nearly everyone if not everyone in my Escojo class, have never been to their country’s capital and so they were REALLY excited. Not to mention they are both really poor (one comes from a Haitian family) and unlike the other kids I’ve brought, they each only had a single small book bag with their best clothing and other contents for the next three days. The conference is a great example of how PCVs are able to really impact kids even if for a few days, giving the opportunities that they may not get again.

10/8 Thursday: Brigada Verde elections= FUNNY
In a nutshell: My BV class had elections and so now we’re legit. Wandi bribed the crowd behind my back with my suckers for the class and as a result was successfully elected treasurer aka fundraiser man… hehe, what a crappy job. There was a committee formed during elections and this committee and I will be going to talk to a coffee farmer on Thursday (in the hot hot sun) about ways to not throw the coffee seed-pod thingys into the river which pollute it and make it unusable and stinky. Yay!

Today was the 2nd BV class and I wasn’t sure if we were even going to have a class. The school randomly didn’t have class yesterday or today and so it depended on whether I could get a hold of the key to the school so we even had a place for it and also on whether kids showed up. Last Tuesday when I went to have Escojo class, school had gotten out early and about 1/3 of the kids didn’t stick around the 20 minutes in between. They thought that I wasn’t going to show up so they left. I was annoyed and told them that I wasn’t like that. When I said we were having class, I meant we were having class that we would always have it unless something really bad happened (like serious injury or death). But they’re used to teachers just not showing up so they thought it was no big deal I wasn’t there. Class starts at 5:30 though, not after school which was something I think they were confused about.

Anyways, back to BV… so to my amazement pretty much everyone showed up and we had class. The BV manual is pretty crappy making it difficult to use so, for lack of material, I decided to take up some time and we would have formal elections. I based them off of my experience from when I was an RA in the dorms. I thought it was really funny. It went over well, all things considered. Wandi ended up being the treasurer but I found out it was only because he was being very “Dominican-Politician” and told them if they voted for him he would give them a sucker… one of MY suckers for the class. I wondered how in the world he got them chanting for him in the 5 seconds I was out of the class…

I’m excited because this Thursday the BV Committee and I are going up to the coffee farmers to talk to them about alternative methods of disposal of their coffee seed pods. Right now they leave them in a pile and then when it rains the empty pods flow into the river and rot. It stinks and no one downstream can use the river. I’m not looking forward to the fact we have to walk there at 1 pm in the full sun but I am REALLY excited for the prospect of doing something productive and tangible, motivating my kids as well as myself.

10/6 Tuesday: Tolo’s Dad dies at 92 years old
In a nutshell: It is very awkward when someone dies. VERY. I deliberately waited to go visit Tolo until after my Escojo class (which was about 6 hours after his dad died) and when I got there he was STILL screaming and crying. Not that I’m against that, do whatever you need to do but I mean that’s a real example of stamina. When I walked up to him he hugged me super tight and cried, as he had been doing with every single person who walked in. I felt really bad for Tolo but thanks to my 4 years in the old folks home, I’m used to the dealing with death of the elderly so I wasn’t feeling particularly depressed of this man’s passing. Also, I had never even met his dad since he had been sickly and bedridden since I arrived to my site. Unhealthy and 92; it was time to go, wasn’t it?

The part I feel weird about is that everyone goes there and hangs out all day. It’s like big party where people aren’t supposed to laugh loud. Everyone uses any reason it to get together and chill in this country and so the road was lined with people and cars; even when I got there at 8:30 at night. Then, I’m supposed to say something to the degree of “sharing your pain with you” when I go up to talk to the family of the deceased. To me, its nice but it’s just not me dude. I can’t say that to someone, least of all my Don!!! So, I didn’t say anything, which a lot of the time is just as good or better, right? I do really like the way the community supports one another though. I wonder if it makes it easier or more of a burden since in the following days (the next 9) people come to your house during a specific hour (for Tolo’s mom, its between 5 and 6) and everyone gets juice and a cookie. I feel like I would like the support but a few days later would want to be alone to be depressed for a while, not handing out juice and cookies.

Anyways, when I went there that first night after he died, I felt bad leaving so I hung out for like 3 hours, trying to be supportive. Even though I hate small talk, I’m glad I was there. Despite this, the next day I skipped out on the part when they put the body in the cemetery. Minga took me to one of those on my site visit when I first got to La Lomota and I was horrified. Everyone was crying and screaming. Then Minga, literally in the middle of crying herself, stopped for a minute and introduced me very thoroughly. Yes, life here is different.

10/4 Sunday: Happy birthday Aaron and Ali!
In a nutshell: Can you believe that I saw a tarantula and actually forgot to write about it? I mean, really! What is this world coming to? It would outside of my bathroom at night and Wandi killed it with a rock. Adios, farewell and vaya con Dios. I went to another PCVs house for the weekend to celebrate Ali’s birthday (that’s where she wanted to go). We went to the beach and it turns out there had been an incident with jellyfish stinging people in the past. The only reason I knew this was because I had just learned the word for jellyfish that same week. I was pretty pleased with myself. The beach was nice but there were a lot of mosquitoes since we got caught there at dusk. I was reflecting about how the PCV we were visiting is going to be done with service in about a month and thinking about how she must be feeling. That’ll be me in a year. I think my COS (close of service) date is like the 25th of Oct. We’ll see if I can say goodbye or if I’ll extend for a bit. Time will tell:)

Before I begin about my weekend I would like to say that I must have too much time on the island. I saw a tarantula (a BIG one) and actually FORGOT to write about it till right now, like a week later!!!!! Here’s what happened: It was a peaceful night and I had conned Wandi into watering the garden for the 2nd time that day with me helping minimally. He walked ahead to the small garden area by my house (the tree truck which used to be the seedling bed) and said, hey look! It’s a tarantula. I said, Don’t kill it!!! I want to see it alive 1st! So I booked it over and sure enough, there was the big sucker. Wandi squashed it with a rock and its torso/hind end and some legs went flying. It was kind of sick but I learned something: they sure squish different than I would expect. They’re kind of airy and I bet they’re lighter than they seem. According to Bear Grills (who did an episode in the DR in Feb) the tarantula’s bite here “liquefies flesh”. I bet that would be way sicker than seeing a few tarantula legs and butt go sailing through the air unattached to anything.

On a happier note, what did I do for the weekend? Well, it was my friend, Ali’s, birthday and she wanted to visit a health PVC who is about to finish her service- Beth. So, we went through La Isabella to Beth’s site. Her house is cool. The first day we got there we didn’t do anything but hang out and talk. The next day we were supposed to go to the beach early, or so we thought. It turns out that Beth is building a library/community center and the guy who was taking us to the beach was working in the morning on that. So he said he would be by to get us at 1:30 or 2 and he showed up at 3:30. Typical Dominican time. Sometimes I’m glad my community is on time.

The beach was beautiful. Sorry, I forgot my camera so there will be no pics. We ate fried fish and fried sweet potato which were both delicious. The only issues were (1) the kids were talking about how the last time they were here Beth got something-ed by a medusa. Lucky for me, earlier that same week I learned the word for jellyfish: medusa (thanks Sarah and kids for sending me back with curtains you decorated with tropical creatures that had the Dominicans in my house pointing and playing the “And What’s That?” game.). Apparently, sometimes schools or clans or cults or whatever you want to call the little jellyfish groups hang out at that beach. I was scared. This girl from northern IL has never experienced a jellyfish sting. Ouch!

Another bad thing was that the people we were with ordered food that took forever and we ended up being on the beach at dusk. If there is ever a time to get dengue or malaria, dusk on the beach is it. Even though we were cold, we went into the water to try to avoid the mosquitoes but the little stalkers still followed us out into the water, biting our faces. Bummer.

The way home was so fun. We were in the back of a pick up truck, driving along with the 7 kids or so that were with us singing at least 20 different songs. They were singing them together for about 10 seconds and then when no one knew the words they switched to a new song. I wondered about Beth, thinking that this would probably be the last time she did this with her kids and how she felt about such a transitional time. I’ll be done next October so that will be me a year from now. I think I’ll be really sad about it. I’ve been talking to a lot of people who are about to leave and they told me the last three months are as bad as the 1st three in country; they suck big time. Even if you’re not best buds with people in your community, it’s harder than leaving home because when you left home you knew you would be back in two years. Whereas this even if you visit you won’t have it the same. I mean for instance, when you come back to visit where will you stay? With your old Doña? (Yeah because the 1st time around was such a hoot!) You wouldn’t get the feeling of it again unless you could just hang out for at least a few days and do you want to live with Doña for a few days again? Don’t get me wrong, Beth is ready to go as are the other PCVs. There’s no place like home and we all miss home but it’s hard leaving a stage in your life I suppose. Even one that’s been a rough ride. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with all that right now. I’ll put off thinking about it for another 11 months or so.


batteredbugs said...

Hi Bets, Dad here. I was just thinking that Ur visit to the coffee farmer might go better if U go beyond merely insisting that he refrain from disposing of his bean husks into the river, which is probably the easiest thing for him to do, and offer an alternate option to him that would have a positive impact, possibly even offsetting an expense for him... Like heat. :) I would assume that coffee bean husks, once dried out, would burn, much like corn, and release heat in the process. He could collect this heat and use it to heat his home, barn, etc., etc. U did say that U have a "winter" down there. Also, U might want to consider tethering/tying a small rock to a stout 3' long stick for spiders and the such for Ur own purposes in case sometime Wandi's not around to help! Then there's jellyfish stings, and they're nothing to mess around with either, just ask aunt Claudia, she knows firsthand! When we were kids once we were all walking down CoCoa beach in Fla. on vacation, she stepped on one that had washed ashore. So be careful about that one too, b/c they don't just get U in the water, they can and do get washed ashore and they're stingers are still quite potent. Bad scene, U don't wanna be there. So, besides those spiders and snakes to watch out for, U now also must add to the list, jellyfish! Not to mention that Wandi too! Sounds like he's moving up in the world... Treasurer, huh. Hope his math is good! He's probably gonna want U to tutor him! :)

batteredbugs said...

Well Bets, I'd posted U this big humorous comment, and something got screwed up in the password part and it all got lost, but, "in a nutshell"... U should also propose an alternative means for the farmer to dispose of his bean shells, like as a heating fuel, for instance. I'm sure that once dried they'd burn just like any other organic, but probably require a special mesh to burn completely on or something like that. U'll be much more well received if U are able to come up with and suggest a more beneficial disposal means for them. And he needn't build himself any sort of elaborate heater, have them built in the towns and villages, in peoples houses, and then just have him dump the husks in large piles that people can come and pick up for their "heaters". And something like the "heater" could be constructed out of the same materials that U used to build Ur retention wall... Stone and mortar! They'd have to be open hearth units unless U could come up with metal doors for them somewhere. U do need to install a damper plate in them though, and something that will be able to seal pretty closely to the interior size/shape of the chimney stack, and it too would have to be made of fairly thick steel. Just a thought, but U just might be able to put something together there. They do have scrap yards down there, don't they? Next U should tie a small rock to a stout 3' stick, using the knots on the stick to keep the rock from falling off, and if U can find a piece with a branch on the end of it, that would be better. The secret to success with this one would be to use leather strapping, or in-other-words to "tether" the rock to the stick. This is a very special process as the leather must be sufficiently moistened/wet when it is tied to the rock and the stick, as tightly as U can. Then it is set out to dry in a hot sun. As it dries out it also shrinks, a great amount, making the "tethering" U did much tighter than U could possibly tie. That generally lasts quite well. So U might be able to smash spiders when Wandi's not available. Jellyfish are nothing to mess around with either, and watch where U step if they're in season! If they're in the water, they can just as well wash ashore. Aunt Claudia stepped on one on Cocoa beach once when we were kids. It was nasty. And I think there was one more thing, but I've forgotten what it might've been. And if U'd want any help or suggestions on setting up a heater/stove for those coffee bean husks, lemme know. And even as temperate as it might seem down there, from Ur description it seems like they could use some heaters out there, and something like that would be durable and revolutionize things for many of them, as well as solve a disposal problem too. Oh ya, U'll need a plate of steel for a hearth too, unless it's constructed on a dirt floor, and even if it isn't, a footer has to be dug and stone and mortar put in the trench. To provide a subteranian support for the massive weight of the stove and chimney. Oh well, I guess that's about all, so I'll talk to U later.

batteredbugs said...

This sucks. U know that I've left and gone through the stupid validation process twice already and neither of my comments have posted yet!!! Grrrr!

Anonymous said...

Hey Bets,

I was stung when I was 16 by a jellyfish on my behind. Yes it hurts but not for ever. That was a long time ago and I'm not sure how long the pain lasted, but I can assure you not forever.
Sure was great to have you home for a few weeks...and I don't think you're rude. Love ya lots