Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wow, its been a month... yikes!

11/25 Wednesday : To Santo Domingo, I looooove Thanksgiving!!!!!

In a nutshell: Ah, it’s that time again: Thanksgiving. I looooove Thanksgiving here. It’s fantastic. We all go to this country club and eat real Thanksgiving food, complete with green bean casserole, pies and turkey among other things. Some PCVs begin arriving in SD on Monday if they are lucky enough to be on the Thanksgiving Committee and they cook and cook and cook Monday- Thursday. They stay with an Embassy family for free the entire week. Then on Thanksgiving Day anyone can run in the Turkey Trot (6 K) and then we all go to a country club. The club is supposed to have wireless internet. It has a pool which is amazing! We have domino contests, a dance off and a talent show (which I will be performing in this year). We’re even playing water twister this year!!! It’s beyond fun. I can’t wait! :)

11/20- 22Friday- Sunday: Getting stood up in Cabarete

In a nutshell: I have been in contact with this woman from an organization that invites volunteers from all over the world to come and work here in the DR for something like 6 weeks. I met her last summer and have been trying (passively until recently) to meet up with her and discuss if we can make something happen in my community. Turns out she lives in Cabarete- which is where all the PCVs celebrate New Years- it’s touristy and beautiful. It also turns out that my friend Kenzie was going to be in Cabarete this weekend with her family and I was invited to stay with them. I called the woman from the organization, Andrea, and we set up a meeting Saturday for the morning. I was excited to maybe finally getting somewhere on something tangible. Well, I went out there Friday so I could be there Sat morning and she never called. I called her, left messages, emails and text messaged her. I even stayed an extra day hoping she would get back to me with no luck. Then Sunday I finally shut my phone off since it was about to die. I was pretty disappointed and annoyed. Thank goodness I was able to stay with Kenz’s family for free or else that would have been a HUGE waste of money. Granted I enjoyed myself at the beach, the good food with Kenzie’s family, meeting Kenzie’s family, wireless internet, comfortable bed…. It was nice but I of course still spent some money and had no meeting or headway to show for it. What a bummer.

(Update: Tuesday I checked my email and Andrea had written me telling me that it was no wonder that when she tried to call it wouldn’t go through seeing as my phone had died. The thing is, my phone wasn’t off until Sunday and there were no messages for me when I turned it back on a few hours later. Is it possible that she didn’t get any of my messages and randomly couldn’t reach me either? Why not email me? Then she said she would “make an effort” to come out to my site this week. SHE HAS A CAR!!! It took me over three hours to get home on Sunday. I will not act annoyed. I just want this to work out and want to be able to work together.)
11/19 Thursday: Mistoline is a pain in the butt with lazy kids
In a nutshell: My kids need to fundraise for some shirts that we will be making for an exchange in December in honor of World AIDS Day. (December 1st but we’re celebrating it the 6th) We got together to make something similar to Pine Sol called Mistoline and it was pretty much a disaster. The kids were fighting, refusing to do more than what they thought was their fair share of work and I was left compensation for they’re lack of work. They each worked for about an hour if you include time spent looking for bottles to put the Mistoline in, and cleaning the bottles- whereas I got stuck working for 3 or 4 hours. I’m hoping this trip boosts moral among the group or else I wouldn’t have done it. The kids are really getting on my nerves. I never did like kids….

The Real Blog: As I have said, my Escojo class has been a bit of a struggle this go around. So, I decided to invite my Escojo promoters instead of a few kids from class to the exchange for World AIDS day. We’re going to go to my friend Sarah’s site, meeting up with kids from like 10 other communities, and recognize those affected by HIV/AIDS. We decided that each participant should have a red shirt and so in October I made a design for a shirt for my kids. I thought it would be nice for them to have a shirt with something printed on it as opposed to just a plain red shirt; give our group a little pride. The thing is these shirts aren’t cheap to make. I went to SD during Halloween and was quoted about $400 pesos/shirt. So I told me kids they would have to fundraise for it. Maybe I teach in too much of a hands off manner… I’m not sure. But I can tell you, no one was motivated to do anything. I went to Santiago (making a special trip just for this), and got the recipe to make this stuff called Mistoline- which is like a flowery type of Pine Sol. People use it to clean their floors or what have you and to make it smell like perfume as opposed to dirt. (Everything always smells like dirt here) I knew it would be easy to sell and the profit margin is pretty large. I had the ingredients for a few days before I was able to coordinate with the kids to meet up and make it. They were each to bring 20 bottles, cleaned and with the labels taken off. This was an easy enough task since there is no trash pick up in my community and so it’s full of empty pop bottles.

The kids showed up and Yamelissa was refusing to wash the bottles telling me I should have to do it since she had to find the bottles. How rude is that!? Would you talk to your professor like that? Such a lack or respect, I need to stop hanging out with these kids outside of class. I pointed out the work I already had done (I had to prepare the day of, beginning at 8 while they were all about 30- 45 minutes late showing up) and the fact that I was going to use my own money to buy my shirt. Begrudgingly they began cleaning the bottles. Wouldn’t you know it; at the very start Wandi was pissed at me for telling him to shut up while I was trying to explain how to mix the ingredients. He then decided to leave and make it alone at his house. Three of the kids couldn’t come and so we were supposed to make an extra 60 bottles. I figured it was no big deal but it of course was. Vanji and Yamelissa stayed and made an extra 10 each but then just left, without even picking anything up or wiping anything off, leaving my house in disarray. Wandi made 13 and decided it as enough (although no one knew how many he had made until about noon since he was hiding how many he had done). Argeni actually pulled up a chair, making himself more comfortable while staring at Yamelissa and Vanji as they made an extra 10 bottles each and he refused to help. He only made 15. Everyone only worked for about 30 minutes and then they all left. I on the other hand was making stupid Mistoline from 8 am until 12:30. Not to mention there was no water in my water tap so I had to use water from my tank, which was nearly empty as well. I was getting pretty crabby by the whole situation but especially since it looked like I was going to have to bathe with my purchased, bottled water if the water from the aqueduct didn’t come back soon. Thank goodness for the little kids that hang out at my house and are always so helpful, they went and found me the other 47 bottles, cleaned them and took the labels off, helped me make the mixture, and helped clean it up.

After how the group was acting, I wouldn’t have even made the Mistoline but I feel like it will boost moral. I’m hoping this exchange will make the group a little stronger. I could have been a slave driver and argued with them, MAKING them finish but I’m exhausted. I try to motivate them but you have to pick your battles and it’s often easier to do it yourself. If I had had more energy or patience I would have had them stay and learn a little about responsibility and work but I just don’t have it in me.

But, karma strikes again. What the kids don’t realize is that they are going to have to sell all 20 bottles by Tuesday and collect the money. A lot of them I’m sure will sell them on “credit” where the people pay the 20 pesos when they have money. That’s fine but I don’t see how the customers are going to get 20 pesos in 5 days if they don’t have 20 pesos now. Remember, 35 pesos is $1 US. Hopefully it works out because I don’t want to have to front all the money for the shirts until they can gather it themselves.

11/15 Sunday: Miguel wants me to do what?
In a nutshell: When Ernesto came back this week from his job in Coutí, he informed me that him and Miguel talk nearly every day and Miguel wants Ernesto and I to visit 10 communities and invite 3 people from each to have a workshop about how to form Escojo groups in the 10 communities. Apparently Miguel has picked the 1st week in December to do this. Since Ernesto is only here one day a week (thanks to Miguel) he obviously can’t do this so it has been passed to me. I can’t do it the 1st week. I have training, a conference and my own World AIDS day. I’m mad. I don’t want to try and start 10 freaking Escojo groups at the same time and there aren’t grants for them either… so who is going to pay for them? One guess. Plus I’m mad that Miguel always is talking to Ernesto about things he wants US to do. I’m the PCV. I’m the one who will be doing the work. Miguel is my boss and if there is work he wants done, he needs to start talking me to directly. I called Miguel to clarify what it is he wants and he talked to be for less than 5 minutes then cut me off in mid sentence, telling me that he couldn’t continue the conversations. That if I had questions to ask Ernesto. Then he hung up. One of the few times in my life I was speechless. I just stared at my phone. And, I can’t even call Ernesto because where he is now he has no cell service. Thanks Miguel.

11/10 Tuesday: Adios Escojo and good riddance.
In a nutshell: My Escojo group this time around sucks. They don’t listen. We aren’t able to finish the classes because the kids are constantly talking. I have to tell the kids 3-4 times that class is starting to even get them into the classroom and then it still takes about 20 minutes to start. My Escojo promoters group thinks they’re above the rules and instead of setting good examples they huddle together and talk the entire time. During this last class two kids asked me if they could leave early because they live far away and it was getting dark. I said sure and went back to answering questions of some confused little girls. When I looked up, about 2/3 of the class had left. Apparently they were so busy talking with each other and were spending so much time paying attention to other kids that the didn’t realize we were still in class. When they saw the two girls leave they thought class was over and they left. I was pissed! I asked Vanji and Yamelissa if they told the kids they could go and they said no, they still had 2-3 pages of the presentation to go. That was it. I’d had it. I told the kids who were there that I was DONE teaching Escojo and that if there aren’t kids who want to learn, kids who don’t want to be in my class just because it’s the cool thing to do, that I was DONE.

The next day I met with my Escojo promoters and they convinced me not to cancel the class. I told them that I would give a midterm and the kids who didn’t pass weren’t going to be able to continue with the class. So the next class I gave a surprise exam. There were only 17 kids there to take the test and of the 17, 13 passed… a great surprise to me. The 4 that failed were younger and so we decided that we would just give them extra homework each week so they could grasp the concepts better.

Some time in October: Scary things
In a nutshell: There is no “in a nutshell” for this. It just needs to be read.

The Real Blog: Have I been here too long? Are freaky things getting so mundane that I don’t even think to write about them?! I realized the other day that I didn’t write about either of these 2 occurrences and they are ones that should be shared. Enjoy.

Story 1: This is random. One night as I was about to go to sleep, I was in my mosquito net and had just shut my computer down. I heard a mosquito right next to my ear buzzing and then suddenly it was in my ear!!!! I could feel it crawling around- YUCK! I instantly thought of two things: #1-a girl I know here had an awful ear infection it and turns out it was because a mosquito crawled into her ear and died. And #2- I thought of those bugs you hear about on the Discovery Channel or something, those bugs that crawl into your ear and then eat your brain, yikes! I was grossed out and concerned.

I jumped out of bed, grabbed my headlamp (since there was of course no power) and ran to the bathroom. I tried getting it out with tweezers but they didn’t fit. I tried looking into my ear but it was useless in the dark. I pondered my shower for a moment, thinking about trying to flush it as one would if they had something in their eye but I was afraid I would just push it in further!!! Seeing no other option however and feeling the nasty mosquito crawling in my ear, I stuck my head under the PVC tube and let the water fall in my ear, tipping my head a few times to dump the water and then feverishly inspecting the floor with my lamp to see if I could find the dead mosquito. I never saw it. I was tempted to call the PC Doctor but refrained since I was going to SD the next day for a medical checkup.

I went back to bed, made sure to lay with that ear down towards the pillow, made the pillow in the shape of a U so if the bug fell out, it wouldn’t get stuck in my ear, and tried to sleep while the water slowly trickled out of me ear- also feeling like it could be the mosquito leaving. Sick. The next day at the Dr.’s I had her check my ear and FYI: if you ever have a mosquito caught in your ear, rinsing it is the way to go. It was gone. Ya tu sabes.

Story 2: I went to Minga’s house one day, the day after I had brought her my laundry. She informed me that the clothing I had brought her… the clothing which I scooped up with my bare hands from the floor right next to my bed, to put in my laundry basket… that clothing, it had a scorpion in it. She discovered the scorpion when it jumped out as she dumped my pants into the washer. Did I mention that I am TERRIFIED of scorpions? I prefer tarantulas or snakes. And it was BY MY BED!!!! Probably living under it!!! And, I picked the clothing up with my bare hands!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Even Minga was freaked out, and she never freaks out about things that bite or sting. Scary, I told you.

11/5 Thursday: Preparing
In a nutshell: I am maybe going on a trip to Bonao to do an exchange between Ali’s kids and two of mine- Vanji and Wandi (they’re the ones who know how to the different ways to contaminate a river). In other news, one of my women canceled to go to this health promoter conference. It bothers me that out of 30 women in the Women’s Club, not even 3 want to go to this completely free conference where they will get lots of free stuff (although I didn’t tell them they would get free stuff because I don’t want them going because of that). If I can’t even get them to go to this, how am I supposed to get 5-10 of them to be the free working health promoters that Miguel wants?

The Real Blog: My friend Ali called me today and wanted to know if Vanji and Wandi could go to her site in Bonao this Sunday thru Monday to present their presentation on different ways one contaminates water. Turns out that Monday there’s no school so she was seeing if we could go out there Sunday-Monday. I told her I would see but I have the health promoter conference this weekend until Sunday so I would have to come back to my site, drop the women off, get the kids and then leave for Santiago again right away. The problem is that Wandi plays baseball and this weekend is going to be a far trip for his team, one that he was looking forward to. Also, Vanji’s parents are protective so I wasn’t sure if they would be ok with it. Wandi talked with his coach and now he can go so I’m just waiting to hear from Vanji. I hope she can go.

Then, I talked to the women who were supposed to go to the Health Promoter conference and wouldn’t you know it, 1 backed out. I hate working with this women’s group. Out of 30 some women in the group, not even 3 wanted to go. Well, forget that. I’m not going to finagle women into going on a completely free trip which is helping them. Miguel tells me I need to try other methods to get the women interested since one of the three main goals of health PCVs is to get women health promoters but there doesn’t seem to be interest here- which according to my goals, is a problem.

11/3 Tuesday: What a crappy day.
In a nutshell: Tuesday did not go well. I lost my treasured external hard drive (which I had just filled up), was sore from carrying my loaded backpack across the country again, was nearly late for my Escojo class, and Wandi was being as retarded as ever, annoying me by being mad at me for nothing again and acting like a freaking 5 year old. Then when I got to my class it was reaffirmed that my class sucks and I was feeling pretty down about it. Ah, my life sometimes… I tell you. Hopefully tomorrow is better.

The Real Blog: I got back to my site, tired from the long time in SD and from carrying my as always heavy hiking bag but had no time to recoup. I had to get to my Escojo class which was starting in 15 minutes. I would have been there sooner but for some reason the trip from SD to my house took about an hour longer than normal. I got to my class and felt really down. I feel like it’s a sucky Escojo class. The kids don’t listen, they’re too little, they don’t get concepts and I am losing motivation. Today I felt Bad but I booted 5 or 6 kids who were younger than 11. I told them PC told me I had to do it when I was in SD, which was a lie. I want the group to be better but I just don’t have the proper time to invest in it (or the proper motivation to invest the time into it). Is it too late now? Will they fail the final test no matter what? I feel down about my Brigada Verde as well class and want to restart that but how can I? What would I tell the kids? Um, sorry kids but this isn’t going as planned, I would like a do-over.

When I got back to my house after the Escojo class that I wasn’t even able to finish because it got too dark, I found that a tube or something was broken and so I wasn’t able to get any water and had to use the bottled water I buy to wash my face. I also realized I lost my $85 external hard drive in the PC office (hoping my friend Sarah can find it at the office but there has been issues with people just “loosing” them at the office) and my back was hurting me. I was so tired for some reason that I slept nearly the whole way on the bus from SD to Santiago. What’s wrong with me?

To make matters worse, Wandi was at my house driving me insane and of course he was mad at me for something and acting like a 5 year old. This was because I completely forgot that in the morning today we were supposed to meet up with a group of 6 other kids or so and talk to the coffee farmers. I was in SD a day longer than I wanted because my computer had a virus and dumped a presentation I spent two days working on, a presentation that I need for the Health Promoter conference this weekend. Errr, overall It wasn’t a good day.

(UPDATE: My external hard drive was found!!!!!!!! :D)

10/29 Thursday: To Santo Domingo, ick…
In a nutshell: I hate SD. It’s dirty and not safe. I get anxious still every time I’m there. My friend was robbed at gunpoint (the guy held it to HER HEAD!) directly in front of the hotel all us PCVs stay in, the Pen, about a month ago. (It’s the cheapest and closest to the office). The robber was probably staking out the Pen, waiting for a white person walking alone. I’m going to be in SD for a dentist and doctor appt. All PCVs get to go to the dentist once a year (gee, thanks US government, with all the sugar they put in stuff here I’ll be surprised if I don’t have 5 cavities.) and we are all required to get a checkup physical as well once a year (something I could do without). Oh well, at least my day today is going well. I got a free ride all the way to Santiago and saved 95 pesos!!! I used 40 of those frivolously on a 3 Musketeers bar and I’m planning on using 20 of those saved pesos on the Metro which will take me just a few blocks from the Pen. Still 35 pesos ahead! Not all is bad:)

The Real Blog: Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad to be going to Santo Domingo for free (eventually as soon as I get my reimbursement which could take months…) but I really hate SD. Sure, its nice to be around other PCVs, maybe get free lunch from Romeo, go to the Embassy pool when I’m not glued to the free internet in the office, be able to do laundry, have pretty much anything you need be available somewhere in the city… but it’s not safe man! I hate going here. I don’t know if I mentioned this or not but recently (about a month ago) my friend Randi was walking to the Pen (the hotel all PCVs use) from the PC Office and was robbed at gun point during the 3 blocks she was walking alone. Keep in mind that this didn’t go down like it did for me last Dec with some drugged out robber in a dark alley, downtown at 2 am- this happened in a nicer neighborhood at 8 pm where the streets are well lit and we all walk all the time. To make matters even more disturbing is that this happened right outside of the Pen and the guy had a getaway all set up and ready. He was obviously just sitting outside of the Pen waiting for someone to walk up alone. After what happened in Dec to Ry and me, I don’t even feel safe in groups and now it sucks even more not to feel safe on the short walk to the hotel we stay at.

On a better note; its 11:15 am right now and the day has been going very well. I woke up at 6 effort to try to catch a free ride to the bus station in Navarrete early enough to arrive in Santiago and catch the 9:45 bus to SD. Sadly, I woke up to find my water tank completely empty (having a lot of visitors last week really emptied it out fast and there hasn’t been water to refill it) which delayed my morning slightly since I had to find some water to wash dishes and get ready for the day. This delay pretty much squashed my chances of finding a quick bola to Navarrete since I wasn’t actively looking for one from 7am- 8am- the prime hours of bola-ing. Thus I ended up waiting with Minga for over an hour at her house, sitting in a plastic chair we set out along the road. Lucky for me, I did end up getting a bola- all the way to Santiago! Score!!!! And it saved me so much time I still caught the 9:45 bus!!! When I get to SD, I was not looking forward to the mile or so trip with my heavy bag from the bus stop, right past the PC Office to the crappy Pen to check in, and then back to the PC office. Then I remembered- I can get off early and take the Metro!!!!! (This country has like the shortest Metro ever, apparently was a better investment than say… the shotty education system here, and is waaaaaay nicer than any train transportation in Chicago- and for just 20 pesos its almost as good as a deal as the Skim Ice Man’s icy stick thingys (what the heck are those called?) for 5 pesos) The Metro will drop me off blocks from the Pen!! This makes me very happy since my book bag is loaded down with books to return to the office and a ton of stuff for the free box. And now I’m meeting my girl Regina at the Pen to walk together to Provacone, the best chicken place in the DR and for cheap too!!! Yessss! Ahhh, things are looking good. Hopefully my dentist isn’t a hack and today will be a day worth noting down! I have high hopes for this dude since his office actually called me to confirm my appt- the other dentist offices I called didn’t even ask for my number. Wish me luck!

10/28 Wednesday: More money please.
In a nutshell: Minga told me today that she wants me to not only pay her the 200 pesos/load of laundry but that she also wants me to buy the soap and softener (which I’m sure she’d use for the whole family). It is excessive that I am paying $200 pesos/load as it is. Most PCVs have someone offer to wash their clothing for free or they pay about $150 pesos per load (or they wash it themselves, no thank you). Anyways, it is a rip off to pay 200 plus soap! (not to mention she always returns all my clothing to be folded but inside out. Why even fold it?!) Minga got this idea in her head because her daughter washes clothing for one of the two very wealthy families in town and that’s what Margara gets paid. So, in Minga’s mind, that’s what I should pay her as well. Although I would love to give Minga more, I can’t afford to pay that much! I tried to explain this to Minga and she pretty much blew me off as cheap since I’m an American and so I must have money. Ugh, who knew laundry could be such a pain?

The Real Blog: Today I went to Minga’s to use her generator and to pick up my laundry when she dropped a bomb on me. She casually mentioned that she wanted me to buy the laundry softener and the detergent for my clothing on top of the 200 pesos I’m paying from now on! Let me point out that I have been asking around to see check prices of this service and I don’t know of ANY other PCV who is paying 200 pesos/load. But I really like Minga and felt bad about going from paying her $2000/month for lunch and laundry to paying her nothing since I stopped eating there. Plus, I don’t want an issue with her if I was to switch to someone else for laundry. And the other option? HA! please I sure don’t want to do it. Today she told me I need to spray bug killer in my house because when she was washing my pants a freaking scorpion jumped out and nearly stung her!!!! I picked that laundry up off my floor, obviously with my bare hands, and put it in the basket that morning before I brought it to her, ahhhh!!!

Despite the danger, 200 pesos is steep (most PCVs pay between 125-150/load and don’t buy soap) so there is no freaking way I’m buying the soap for the clothing as well. Not to mention, hello I can’t afford to pay so much in laundry. Well, I told Minga that we already decided on the price and I would really like to keep it at that. She said that her daughter washed clothes at the rich dude’s house “up” the mountain and she makes 200 plus soap. And she counts how much clothing constitutes a load. Minga tried doing that to me and I guilted her into NOT doing that to me. Well, I pointed out; rich man up the mountain is rich. I, sadly, am not. Does the word VOLUNTEER mean anything? (And the fact that’s my profession…. whew, sad) To that she rubbed her thumb, pointer and middle fingers together, making the money symbol and rolled her eyes at me as if to say since I’m American I just naturally have money, as simply and as easily as I have white skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. I mean with all that, I have to have money- I just think I don’t.

Fine, I shall go a different route. I told her that my brother from home was giving me money each month (they understand about remittances here of course with is being they’re number one or two source of income) but now his wife has cut him off from it since they just bought a new house. “Minga, now I’m just screwed and well, what can I do?” She seemed ok but I feel like she was mad. She thinks I’m cheap. I am.

Unfortunately, in this country that’s a big insult. I went to the colmado yesterday and said I didn’t want one type of cheese but the other since the 1st costs too much and people actually laughed out loud at me. This is something I’m pretty used to and no longer fazes me but later they made fun of me to my face and called me tacana which means cheap. This is bad to call someone. It should bug me but mostly I just see how it could be an issue with other things, like people not believing me when I tell them I don’t have $1000/month to spend on laundry. *sigh*

10/26 Monday: Back to site, Ernie got married!!!!!

In a nutshell: I was out of my site this weekend, at Kelly’s inaguartation for her library an also doing a Walk for the Cure. When I came back on Monday, I asked Mercedes where Ernestina was because she was selected to interview to be an Escojo regional coordinator! (A BIG deal!) “Ernie got married on Friday.” is what I was told. Are you kidding me.

The Real Blog: Friday was a fun day for me. I was at the waterfalls with my friends. Apparently it was a fun day for Ernie. Her 40-something year old boyfriend (who she has had about a week of personal contact with since July due to the fact he lives somewhere in the States) came back into country for the 2nd time in 25 years to surprise her. And wow, they got married. I’m still not sure what happened. It seems to be that she was visiting his mom’s house and he showed up to surprise her. Then they went to her house here in La Lomota to get some of her clothing so she could spend the night with him. Here, when someone spends the night with their boyfriend it means they’re married. Her mom was pissed. I mean, the dude just shows up here, helps her pack her bag and then takes her to his mother’s house (since he doesn’t have one here obviously).

I was upset. I cried. One minute Ernie was going to go to the interview in SD and the next she’s married. I called her to confirm from her mouth if she thought she was married an also to see if she was still going to the interview. She said she was married and couldn’t go to the meeting. PC has these interviews once a year and next year I’ll be done with my service. Ernie hasn’t even gone to a single meeting though since she got married. Can someone please explain to me what she’s planning on doing? Is she going to live at his mother’s house indefinitely? And they’re not legally married so she can kiss any chance of going to the States goodbye until they sign some documents. I am so upset about this. I feel for her. I feel like she had so much going for her and she just threw it away. She doesn’t need him to make her. She can make a life for herself and be independent. She’s smart and beautiful and determined. The world is hers! And, he has kids OLDER than her! Is this what it feels like when a parent watches their kid make a terrible decision that they can’t do anything about? It’s just so sad.

10/25 Sunday: Walk for the Cure Dominican Style
In a nutshell: I participated in a Walk for the Cure with my friend Kelly and another American who is teaching in Santiago, Lesa. We thought the walk was going to be pretty legit since we paid 600 pesos for transport and got a “free” T shirt but it was actually incredibly unorganized. Despite being in the area of the walk, and earnestly searching for about 3 hours, we were never able to find the entrance to the walk. This may be a let down to normal people but to us, the day over all was interesting and funny. It was a great and typical Dominican experience.

The Real Blog: Yesterday I went to Kelly’s site to support her library inauguration. Sunday morning we left with a group of people from her community and a few surrounding communities to go to SD to participate in a Walk for the Cure. There were a TON of people there. We lost our group pretty much right away but Kelly, Lesa and I managed to at least stick together. We thought the walk was going to be relatively organized since there were so many people and we each also received a T shirt which said things like, Yes You Can!! The issue was that, like everything Dominican, the walk was really unorganized and we couldn’t find the entrance, just the exit. We wandered around, asking and finally just sat down in the shade.

Other people were apparently confused as well. To our amusement, they began climbing this fence in front of us. One larger lady got to the top and began to chicken out. Then some random guy in the crowd climbed up and stuck her butt on his shoulders, like this was somehow helping. Her large rump was just hanging out there, wagging back and forth, with her bright yellow underwear begging for attention. Kelly, Lesa and I quietly stared. The woman seemed like she was going to be stuck there forever. I guess we weren’t the only people taking note because the crowd began chanting- YES YOU CAN!! YES YOU CAN!!! It worked and I guess she just needed a little encouragement. Before we knew it, her butt was up, off of Random Man’s shoulders and she was climbing down the other side. See, she could.

We wandered around looking for the entrance, with people telling us that it was “over there” for about 3 hours. Then we finally found it and we were told, as we were walking it, that the walk was over. It was a little upsetting but also reassuring since we were wondering why so many people were taking breaks along the “walk” at colmados drinking beer.

So, 600 pesos, a free shirt, and 5 hours of driving later we found that we didn’t even get to walk the walk but the day overall was pretty dang humorous and quite the Dominican experience. I was glad I went.

10/23 Friday: 27 Waterfalls: Round TWO!!!
The Real Blog: While the PCVs were in my site for the meeting we decided to plan a trip to the 27 waterfalls. It was a hoot. Because it’s the dry season we weren’t able to do all 27 for lack of water but we did like 25 and it was fun. All of the health PCVs in my group either have a bf from the States or they have at least dated a Dominican, all the Health PCVs of my group that is, except for me. Thanks to this, my girls are constantly trying to set me up with a Dominican, like it’s their mission in life. Right when we were at the beginning of the trip, I fell behind the group because I was tying my shoe and when I caught up, the guide had our group divided into who is married/dating and who is single. Well, walking up last all my friends were like… Ohhhh, she’s single and lives super close! Well, that did it and I had a personal guide the entire trip. Kenzie fell twice, Jess almost fell at least 3 times and Randi fell once or twice but I never fell. That’s because the guide insisted on holding my hand the whole time. And he gave me his number afterwards. No discount though, dang it. (Is that wrong of me?) Fear not, there will be no phone calls made to Jorge.

10/22 Thursday: Meeting with Miguel
In a nutshell: My boss, Miguel decided to have a ‘Health Field Day” at my house today. He didn’t tell us what time to meet and so he showed up 4 hours before the rest of the group. I thought he acted very rude to Mercedes who got stuck preparing lunch for 10 people with about 2 hours notice. Then he took a nap on her porch. After that we had our meeting which should have really been a meeting between Miguel and two other PCVs since Randi, Jess and I were sitting there listening and that’s it. It was a weird day.

The Real Blog: What a mess. Miguel asked me in September right before I asked him for a raise if we could have a meeting with a few other PCVs at my house at some point. Sure I said. Later I received an email from his secretary saying that my health group was going having a meeting Oct 22nd at my house. Miguel neglected to mention in the email that we were going to have the meeting at my house (the one person who is furthest from the capital) in the morning, well there was no time listed at all. He has never come to my site in the morning since it’s so far from SD so we all assumed that he was be there in the afternoon. Imagine my surprise when I got back from running, was all sweaty and gross and then discovered Miguel there in the road in front of my house. Carumba!

Since the other PCVs were still in SD, Miguel and I had 4 hours alone together. The first order of business? Lunch. He didn’t talk to Mercedes about lunch or anything but assumed she would make lunch for 10 people. But she wasn’t even home; she was in Santiago for the morning. So poor Ernie got stuck with the job. And Ernie was sick! Her whole upper lip was swollen because of a problem with a front tooth. (Looked like she needed a root canal) Miguel told her to make a grocery list for lunch and then he inspected it. He told her that it just wouldn’t do, we needed at least 2 chickens and we needed avocado and while we were at it, he was hungry now and wanted some eggs- scrambled and with crackers. But if they’re not a certain type of egg don’t bother. I was embarrassed. Thank goodness Mercedes did come back around 10 to help. When her and her family was eating, Mercedes gave him lunch from their lunches so he wouldn’t have to wait. When he was done, he asked for the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot (sounds gross but its actually the treat, its good and crunchy and tastes like popcorn, mmmm:) But Mercedes had already filled the pot with water and more rice, making lunch for the rest of the group that was arriving. Miguel wasn’t happy and wouldn’t drop it. Finally she said that she would give him the con con from the next batch. How rude can a person be!?

I wanted to shower. I was sticky from sweat still. I needed to shower but it would have looked inexcusably horrible if I just left him there and showered. (Even though we weren’t even talking; he was on the phone the ENITRE time and I was just staring off in space) Thank goodness Mark’s project partner randomly showed up, freeing me to shower. After about 10 minutes I noticed I didn’t hear any talking. When I went back out there I saw that Miguel had asked Mercedes for her couch cushions and was sleeping (complete with snoring) on her front porch. Why not?

About 30 minutes into Miguel’s nap, the other PCVs finally showed up. We ate and then went to my house. Miguel gave everyone money for their transportation and then per diem. Then he told us we had to each pay $200 pesos for lunch! I could have eaten a sandwich in my house for free, ugh! After that we had the meeting, which included about 5- 10 minutes with each PCV except Meridith and Kenz, who kind of share projects since they live really close. Miguel pretty much interrogated them. It was annoying. Plus we were only allowed to talk about three specific things; he didn’t want to hear about anything else. Which meant the only thing I could talk that I was doing was Escojo. I am doing other stuff than that but it’s not worth talking about I guess.

After Miguel left I had my Escojo class. I went to it and the other girls went for a run and then began preparing dinner. I have never made so many tostones in my life: THIRTEEN PLANTAINS I peeled cut up and fried. And it was soooo good:)

10/20 Tuesday: New PCV by ME!!!!!
In a nutshell: The 1st 6 months of service are hardest but you adjust and it gets easier. Jenn, the brand new water PCV who lives super close to me, reminds me how I felt a year ago and it makes me glad that time is past me now.

The Real Blog: Man, am I glad my 1st year of service is DONE! I am so glad I went through it but I am happy it’s in the past. It’s easy to forget how crappy I felt during those first 3 months in site until I went to talk with the new PCV, Jenn, who just swore in and lives very close to me. I really like that girl. She is sooo sweet and reminds me a lot of myself when I got to my site. Things suck sooooo bad but you barely say how miserable you are out loud because that would be recognizing it and thus making it worse.

When I visited her I asked how she felt and she slowly and timidly gave me the type of answers I would have given a year ago. Overwhelmed. Tired. Anxious. Walking on egg shells. And a plethora of other similar feelings. I told her not to worry; I swear it WILL get better. In fact, I hardly remembered all emotion until she told me how she was feeling. Her community is much more protective than mine. They wouldn’t even let her go walking to meet me at 6:30 am. This is because they say a Haitian raped a young girl a few years back. The thing is, it is not uncommon that people say Haitians do stuff to them. No one questions it, they just go and find Haitians and take justice into their own hands. I don’t know what happened to the Haitian family but I know that the Dominicans went looking for the accused and his family.

Anyways, the day we were supposed to walk I went to the intersection where we said we would meet and waited, then just walked to her house. That’s when she told me how she felt. Poor girl. To any person who’s thinking of doing PC: the 1st 10 weeks suck because of the strict minute by minute training schedule and overwhelming culture but aren’t so bad because you’re with other PCTs. The 1st 3 months in site are harder because you don’t have your PCV buddies by your side. But, after that you figure it out and it gets better. Keep your head up Jenn and I’m just on the other side of the mountain so I’ll come by often.

10/18 Sunday: Marry for Business, who needs love?
In a nutshell: I have had two people ask me since I’ve been back from the States if I knew someone they could marry “for business” Both of them were married with families. People here think that the streets are gold in the US and if you go there you will get rich and live rich like all the other people. They don’t understand that immigrants who don’t speak English have it very rough in the States. I can’t convince them.

The Real Blog: I would like to talk about an interesting interaction that occurred between me and the Disco Man, Tono. I am not particularly found of this man since when my mom and sister were here for my birthday he charged us double for everything but of course didn’t tell us it would be double until after we had already drank it all. Then when Wandi told him that some of the stuff was his, Tono lowered the price of Wandi’s stuff but kept the high price for my stuff. When Wandi argued with him, Tono said, “What, like these people don’t have money?” I have not been a fan since.

About two days ago I went to Tono’s colmado to get something and he said he wanted to have a serious talk with me. He asked if I knew anyone from the States who would marry him for business. Tolo had approached me about this before as well, trying to marry off his son (who is married with 4 kids) to someone in the States. I told Tono the same thing I told Tolo, I don’t know anyone like that and aren’t you married? Tono told me timidly that he wasn’t married (as his teenage daughter folded laundry behind us). Tono told me he wasn’t making any money with his business (to me it seems that by all Dominican standards he’s doing well for himself) and he wanted to go to Nueba Yorl (how they say New York which is what they call the entire USA) to make the big bucks.

People are so mislead here. They think that if they can get to the States they will make tons of money. For instance when I was on the bus today coming home from Santiago, I was talking to some university student who didn’t believe me when I told him not all American’s are rich. That right now there is the highest unemployment rate in a loooooong time. How can people have money if they don’t have jobs? The guy didn’t believe me. Go figure.

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