12/15 Thursday: Ouch. You know it’s bad when even your thumbs are sore.
In a nutshell: Yesterday I got the great idea that I would redo my sad little garden. After all, I’m expecting my women to have one; shouldn’t I set an example and do mine the correct way as well? The issue is that my old garden was too small so I literally spent 5 of the 8 hours I worked that day simply leveling out more ground to make it bigger. Thank goodness a 14 year old boy happened over my way about 2 hours in and he helped me the rest of the day. Muchachos here are truly amazing, they work harder and better than any kid I’ve ever seen in the US. Anyways, we were able to cut all the weeds down from my yard (something I wanted to do before my Christmas party), level out more ground, dig the hole for the bed, make the bed, make a walkway to the garden, and put in all the sticks for the fence. I had a slew of helpers during all this; whoever happened to walk by would come and help for a little bit. It was a great group effort. Despite all the help, I still pick axed and machete-ed a LOT and today I am sore. So sore in fact that last night, despite how tired I was, I couldn’t sleep! Even the muscles in my thumbs hurt! Man oh man.
Today, to my surprise, I was still mildly productive. I graded all the Escojo finals and was disappointed to see, after I lowered the passing grade from 70% to 60%, still 6 kids failed. What am I going to do with them?! I also had my meeting with two of the Escojo promoter kids who are in charge of planning the graduation. I broke a piece of a tooth this week so I will have to go to the capital tomorrow to get it fixed meaning that these kids will pretty much be planning the entire graduation themselves. It will be interesting.
I was supposed to have a my women’s group meeting today but 1 of 3 didn’t show up so I told them to enjoy the Christmas break and I set off to check out the 3 women’s houses where they each already made the gardens! I made it kind of a competition telling them the 1st ones done would get a watering can and 1st pick of the seeds. I didn’t expect 3 women to finish it in the 1st day though, wow! I’m going to get them each a watering can and some special seeds because they deserve it. After working all day in my garden yesterday I appreciate how much work that was for them. And how exciting it is that they are actually doing it!
12/14 Tuesday: One. Long. Day.
In a nutshell: Erin and Kenzie showed up at my site ready to work but we were missing one very important thing: the plastic to line the garden beds. We didn’t need it on day one but on day two yes. So Kenzie and I went on a wild goose chase trying to find this plastic. We spent all day in Santiago trying to find it and literally after 6 hours of searching, the last store we went into had the plastic. We bought it and some other last minute necessities that were much easier to get a hold of and went back to my site. Gardens are hard but hopefully worth the sweat.
The Real Blog: Well the garden workshop has been going well, all things considered. I handed out 97 invitations and the 1st day 25 women showed up, the 2nd there were 18 women. I was hoping for at least 10 women without the handouts so the 12 hours of house visits I did paid off. The weather was great and although Kenz and Erin were a little late getting to my site, Dominicans are always really late anyways. Whenever they want to have a meeting or something they purposely say it’s like an hour before hand or if they say the actual time they want to meet up they add “American Time” at the end meaning that’s the time and that’s no joke! For example: “The meeting will be at 3 pm, American time.” Which I think is hilarious since this means they think Americans are always right on time. If they ever got there on time they would realize that I’m (like most Americans) generally about 5- 10 minutes late, ha!
Anyways, back to the point… so everything was going well. The women dug out the 2 garden beds the day before and today they were ready to lay down the plastic, fill the beds in and plant. One problem: no plastic. Erin said she would bring the seeds and the plastic for the project and she showed up empty handed. Luckily Kenzie had some seeds with her and I managed to get a small grant for about $70 USD the week before so I had some money to get the plastic. I figured I would just run out with Kenz the next day to find some in Navarrete. We thought it would be easy since the town closest to Kenzie is super crappy and even they sell plastic in the hardware stores. After an hour of driving around on a motorcycle looking for this stuff in Navarrete the next day we discovered it was harder to get than we thought and just decided to go to Santiago. The giant hardware store there had to have it.
We got to Santiago and it turns out, this plastic is incredibly elusive! No one has it but everyone thinks they know who sells it. And since we had no better ideas, we always followed the advice. We went to about 10 hardware stores, 2 green houses, a farm vet, walked around downtown with some random dude who decided to be our guide for a while without being asked, went to craft stores, decorating stores, we took this carro publico and that carro publico up town and down town… we were beginning to loose hope and were feeling very resentful towards Erin after about 6 hours and 4 or 5 miles of walking and sweating. As a last effort we got the bright idea of going to furniture stores and asking if they would sell us some of the protective plastic they use but no one would sell it. So we asked where they buy it and were given more directions.
We decided, for lack of other options, to keep on this trail and after following the directions, asking 3 other furniture stores and another green house, we found a store (amazingly close to where we began our search that morning in Santiago) that actually makes plastic. Sure it was in a ghetto area and Kenzie kept making comments about how mad she would be if we were robbed but it didn’t matter; when we walked into that store and saw the plastic our hearts so desired- we began yelling happily, hugged and nearly cried! I’m sure we looked completely insane to the workers in the teeny store but who cares?! I wasn’t going to have to go back to my community empty handed! I wasn’t going to have to tell the women to fill in the holes they had just done the day before and do raised bed gardens instead!
We bought the plastic and set out hoping to find some empty rice sacks quickly as we were already going to miss the whole presentation part of the workshop for the day and show up for the digging. Lucky for us we found a guy selling them on the side of the same ghetto road. He wanted to charge me 10 pesos a piece but I told him I would only pay 5 and we had a deal. That was the 2nd person that day who automatically told me 10 pesos 1st and then dropped it to 5. What the guy didn’t know was that I was actually quite tired and desperate at this point so I would have paid the 10 if it meant I didn’t have to walk anymore.
Kenz and I got the plastic and the rice bags (the bags are to nail to the stick fencing, protecting the garden), some Cokes and took off for home. I had asked a motorcycle driver to find me a sack of carbón which is a specific type of burnt wood that we needed as well. While Kenz and I were walking to the bus I called the motor guy and asked about the stuff. What stuff? He wanted to know. The carbon, I told him. Then he said that Carlo (the motorcycle man) wasn’t going to be back until 6 pm. I thought I was talking to Carlo… and 6pm?! I need this stuff by 4, I said to whomever I was talking to. I asked who I was talking to and the guy said he couldn’t tell me! By this point in the day, this really annoyed me and said fine but that if Carlo couldn’t get me the sack of carbon then he needed to give the 500 pesos I paid him to someone else who could get it. Then the guy on the phone told me to calm down and said, “Carlo who?” Are you kidding me? If it was a wrong number don’t you think the guy maybe would have thought to say that to me 5 minutes before since you have to buy a calling card to call anyone in this country and he was just wasting my minutes! I swear, sometimes…
We got back to the entrance of my site and I talked to the real Carlo in person who had gotten my carbón. Kenz and I showed up about 5 minutes after the women finished the presentation with Erin, which was perfect. I gave Kenz the materials and took off to my Escojo class to give the final, Erin had to leave, and Kenz took the women over to assemble the gardens. I delegated the exam to the Escojo promoter group and went back to the gardens. It was great. Sure there were only about 5 women working but they were all learning and they all have interest in this. I wasn’t interested in gardening before but I am so glad I did it. What a great community response! :)
12/13 Sunday: House Visits and Garden Workshop
In a nutshell: I went door to door giving out invites to go to a garden workshop a couple PCVs and I are giving Monday and Tuesday. I’m hoping giving a personal invite to a free something something where they can get free seeds seems intriguing and there will be a big turnout. I also rediscovered how much I enjoy house visits. After day 2 of 6 hours of passing out invites, finished going to nearly every single house in my community and I went to check on the garden area. It was supposed to be clean, and chopped up, ready to plant, and all the sticks needed to make the 2 beds and the fencing were supposed to be along side it. All I found was Earth full of weeds and grass. This is a problem. I talked with some people and tried to convince them to help me. I never even saw Ernesto (he got back late last night and will leave early tomorrow) and he leaves again tomorrow so I guess I can’t ask him. I think it will work out. And anyways, we have until 2 pm tomorrow to figure it out. Wish me luck!
The Real Blog: Yesterday and today I spent about 6 hours visiting each house in my community giving an invitation to go to a garden workshop we’re having in the Women’s Club Monday and Tuesday. Kenzie and Erin are coming to give charlas on this and then after we are going to make a garden. I was a little afraid that no one was going to go to it so I made invitations and walked to nearly all the houses to invite them personally. I have heard this works really well and I hope it pays off. I’ll be embarrassed if no one shows up, like it’s a flashing sign saying I’m not integrated in my community.
I got a lot of positive feed back when visiting each house and rediscovered that I really love visiting houses. It’s so fun here. For instance, yesterday by the time I went to my last house I was really cold. I caught the lady in the street and after doing this all day (with a break in the middle where I stopped at someone’s house with Anne and Tim to make no bake cookies:) I gave her the invite, explained what it was and could have left to go home and make dinner. Instead, we talked, she invited me in, we went in, drank pop (even though I was cold), her dog tried to bite me, and we watched tv together. (a really weird game show about sex) This would have been sooooo awkward in the States! But here, even though I can’t even really remember her name (I believe it is the feminine version of her husbands name though) we can do this. And I love it. I need to take better advantage of it. Today I was given a bag of yellow bananas as a gift from a family after a visit and another told me how appreciative they are of the work I do here, how they can’t count on the government or anything here but they can count on Peace Corps as Kevin came and actually gave them water as promised. It was a great feeling and I finished the day extra exhausted but really satisfied.
After my house visits I went to see how the progress was on the garden. Oney (Ernesto’s best bud) was supposed to clean and level the ground where we are putting the garden and also look for sticks to make each bed and enclose the garden. Mercedes and Santa were supposed to look for palm branches for the fencing and a bag of ash from their stoves. They were all supposed to try and get manure so it was dry by the time we had to use it. Oney got the manure and Santa had the ash and some palm branches. But that was everything. The ground is full of weeds and grass, even fallen a dead tree. We have no branches. I was acting a little nervous for show but really I just wanted to motivate them. I bet they could finish all of it in 1-2 hours. I just need to make sure they do it.
After I got back to my house, I was tired but for some reason decided to make no bake cookies for dinner, not a good idea on my calorie counting diet! I had just settled into bed around 8:30 when there was a knock on the door: Wandi. Strange since I can’t remember the last time he was at my house, the Mistoline fundraiser perhaps? Well we talked and, although he still says the root of the problem is my fault because I was the one who was mad 1st however long ago, he did apologize for how he has been acting and what he did to me in class. He also promised to apologize to the class for being such a jerk. Aside from the fact he took 90 minutes of my sleep time, I’m happy he came to talk. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep!
12/12 Saturday: A Change of Heart
In a nutshell: I need an attitude change. I am negative and feel used. Its hard to change your attitude but I am going to try to go about things in a different way and see where it gets me. For instance, when a motorcycle driver takes me somewhere, normally I get angry when they try to overcharge me but from now on, I’m going to overpay and see if they start treating me better or worse. I figure they may try to take even more advantage of me or they’ll respect me. An experiment. Also, I need stop being so American by measuring my self worth by my accomplishments. If I’m not busy, if I’m not getting results I feel like crap. But that’s so American. Lots of countries actually judge self worth by relationships and trust, rather than achievements and success. I want to do that as well. But that’s HARD. And another thing, when did I get so anal? I used to be so easy going but now I’m so high strung! Having my friend Jay visit me (who is a total hippie dude) made me realize I would make more friends and have more relationships if I just let it all go. But how? It’s so easy to feel that if I were more integrated into my community that they wouldn’t steal from me. If they were all friends with me or at least all respected me, then they would take care of me better and not steal. But is that true? It could be but on the other hand, it is a way to just blame myself? I’m so exhausted from it all. Its time for a change. I’m done complaining about it all and then doing the same old same old. I’m going to try it from a different angle and see where it gets me. May as well try.
12/9- 12/11: Enema, cell phone issues, bed bugs, car sick, downpour, artisan fair… what more is there in life?
In a nutshell: My fingers are too cold to type more. Sorry Deb.
The Real Blog: I am in a bad mood. I am crabby. I am annoyed. This is due to several things but I chose to pin all my problems on one man: Francisco, the front desk man in the Peace Corps office. This is because it is HE who told me he would be back with the phone I have been waiting for since October at 12 then didn’t show up until 2. Thus when I was walking to my bus stop, after passing the entire day simply waiting for him and nothing else, and was caught in a downpour with my super heavy bag- his face came to mind. Then when I got to my bus stop, I was late and missed the bus. The next bus was supposed to leave at 3:45, nearly an hour later, but left at 4:30. It really didn’t matter though since either way- 3:45 or 4:30, I am going to have to beg someone to take me up the mountain now since it will be dark and I will also have to pay double. Thanks Francisco.
Then when Francisco finally did get me the phone, he actually just got the same crappy model that broke on me 3 times before. Newsflash: “upgrade” at least should mean different model. And to top it off, he canceled the memory chip in my old phone so I had to reenter all the contacts in the new one! Then, after it all, he tells me I can just keep the loaner phone Anna gave me last month. The loaner phone he wouldn’t give me in October when mine broke? The loaner phone that will probably break before the end of my service seeing as how it’s more than a year old and thus ancient in the DR phone world? Yep, that one. ERRR! So, now as I sit here on the bus that is notorious for being freezing cold, and I am extra cold because I am still wet from the rain, I think of Francisco and wonder if he knows how much trouble he caused me by taking a 2 hour long lunch today and not giving me the promised phone before hand as promised. I’m sure he doesn’t.
But that was just today. Yesterday I went and talked to Lisette, the PC Doctor and asked about the weird red bites I have been getting all over my body for about two weeks and we determined that they were from bed bugs. Even better, I toted all my dirty laundry 5 hours from my house to the office so I could wash it in there, to save money on laundry this week with Minga and now I am going to have to have her wash all my sheets anyways.
Then Lisette tells me that since I hadn’t gone #2 in 7 days she wants to give me an ENEMA. Sorry dude but I am too young for that. “Is that really the first option that comes to mind?” I asked her. Ok, I convinced her to give me a laxative instead but the thing is, I was going to the Artisan fair downtown and didn’t want to poop my pants! The last time I took a laxative I had a very close call. She assured me I would be ok. I went to the fair with toilet paper in my purse just to be sure, saw some great stuff, and went back to the PC office with some friends later feeling oddly full.
About 10 minutes after I got back to the office it hit me and I bolted for the bathroom to do my business. About 2 minutes in, another PCV burst into the bathroom without knocking. It was awkward but we hugged afterwards to get over the moment quickly. Then I went to the Pen and had awful diarrhea for a few hours and vowed to take the enema next time.
UPDATE: When I got back to my site, my friend Jay was there with his Dominican friend waiting for me. Jay had called me the day before telling me he was at my house but I was in Santo Domingo so I suggested how to break into my house and he and his friend spent the night. I was happy to have him there when I arrived the next day, he also was a big help because he put the mattresses outside to sit in the sun, sprayed them with bug killer and took the sheets to Mingas to have them washed. When I got back, all we had to do was dust the mattresses with the powder Lisette gave me, make the beds with towels (since Minga had all my sheets) and hop in! Thank goodness!
12/8 Tuesday: Escojo gone bad
In a nutshell: Wandi has been a real butthead for what feels like a long time. He’s been ignoring me and being weird. Its been about a week since he came into my house even. So, imagine my surprise when he showed up at the Escojo class this week. Sure he was 20 minutes late but I didn’t even think he would go at all. We were playing Jeopardy to review for the final exam (which I am giving next week- THANK GOODNESS!!) which should be fun right? Long story short, Wandi wasn’t even on a team but freaked out when he thought I wasn’t being fair on a turn. Then the other kids freaked out. I tried to calm the others, with some success, but Wandi was ridiculous. I finally said if it bothered him so much that he couldn’t calm down he could leave. To which he said “Make me.” And this is why I am not a teacher. I was soooo mad. I walked outside and did the best thing I could- I called his dad. But of course, his dad is hours and hours away in a community working on a water system (and has been since July)- yes my project partner which my boss put there- and he has no cell phone service. So I did the craziest thing: I left a message. Dominicans never leave them, I mean NEVER. I have never left one for a Dominican. Ernesto called me back later that night and we talked about it, he promised to talk to Wandi the next day. Er, teaching bites.
12/7 Monday: Cockroach in my cereal, and I still ate the cornflakes.
In a nutshell: I really wanted to eat cornflakes and for once, I actually had some! I prepared my powdered milk and reached for the cereal. I was distraught to discover a large, live roach living in the cereal bag. But, I really wanted cornflakes. After pondering what I should do versus what I wanted, I came to a compromise. I took the bag outside, dumped out the top 2-3 inches of cereal along with Mr. Roach, and picked 1 cup of cereal out (sorting it well 1st in case there were cockroach poopies), and then poured the cereal in with my milk and ate it. It was satisfying but not like it could have been. Stupid roach.
12/3-12/4 Friday- Saturday: Brigada Verde Conference
In a nutshell: These conferences are very different that other conferences I have been to. It’s more like camping. All the kids slept on the floor in sleeping bags and the PCVs slept 2-3 to a bed on mattresses on the floor. There was no water (partly because someone left a tap open draining the water tank of what little water there was) so we all had to walk to the river to bathe each day and had to wash our faces/brush our teeth outside of the rooms with a cup full of water. We did tree planting activities and went on a nature hike. We used all plastic, reusable cups and washed our own dishes. We learned all about organic vs inorganic garbage and how to make art out of trash. It was a really good experience. But there were a few mishaps.
Mishaps: Well, long story short: I was not well informed about this conference at all. When I arrived at the meeting place, no one was there. I called another PCV and she told me it had been moved. So, 4 carro publicos later I finally got to the bus. Then, I also had no idea we were supposed to bring art supplies, sheets, blankets (it was cold), a swim suit or tennis shoes. Needless to say, I was ill prepared. Then there was the nature hike. The nature hike was interesting because I left nearly last with another PCV, three youth and a “guide” who works at the center. We ended up walking about a mile past the entrance to the river without knowing it. After we exhausted ourselves we came upon a person on a horse, coming from the opposite direction, who told us there were no people in front of us. Then the guide said that he knew where the entrance was but the other PCV and I were walking too fast which is what made him miss it. When we finally backtracked to the entrance we noticed the large sign indicating that we had indeed arrived to the entrance of the river.
12/1- 12/3: One year In Service Training.
In a nutshell: What is 1 year IST? It’s when you get together with your sector and talk about the last year; tools and challenges of the year and also when you “plan” for the next year. Well it went ok I suppose. It made me realize just how frustrated with my community I am. Aside from that, its always really fun getting together with everyone from the health and water group. We went to a baseball game (my 1st in country!, Las Aguilas against Las Estrellas) on Wednesday night and Thursday was Jay’s birthday so we had cake and played 2 truths and a lie and night. I don’t feel it necessary to talk about the training sessions because they’re kind of a waste of time. I had to leave early on Friday to get to my Brigada Verde conference but at least I was able to get some cake the night before!
11/28 Saturday: Que peña.
In a nutshell: Last night when I came back from Santo Domingo I stayed with my friend Helen and a Dominican family she knew in Santiago. I was pretty happy to stay somewhere for free, to be able to stay at the Peace Corps office later than I have ever stayed when having to return to site and for the fact that the next day I was able to get back to my site before 9 am still. The day was going well. Then I talked to Minga. She told me that someone stole a pair of my pants from the line while they were drying. Fantastic. I told Minga I thought someone was stealing my clothing a while back when a favorite tank top and sweater went MIA but she reassured me, saying it wasn’t possible. Now she’s sharing stories about how someone stole 2 pairs of her underwear recently and come to think of it, I’m pretty sure they swiped a few of mine as well. It’s always the favorites you know, they can’t steal the stuff with holes or that’s sun faded. But then, I suppose I wouldn’t steal those either.
I feel bad for Minga because she obviously feels very bad about it. She gave me two of her very Dominican pants with pink threading and some sequenced bling, accompanied by a brand new knock off purple Aeropostle shirt she just bought. I tried to say no no no but it just made her feel worse. Minga is now on a mission to find out who did it and of course people think it was the Haitians. There are a ton of people who walk around randomly selling clothing and most of them are Haitians. I could totally see a clothes vendor taking my stuff for obvious reasons but also because it would be immensely stupid for someone to take my shirt and then wear it around the campo. I think it’s safe to say I will never see my pants again, nor will I ever see the sweater or the tank top.
PS: Wandi is annoying.