3/26 Friday: A trip to the mayor’s office, the public health office, the vet and a miracle!!!!!!!!!!!
Yesterday I told Ernesto that I have that letter asking for trash service but wanted someone to go with me to talk to the mayor about it. He immediately volunteered to go with me the next morning, Friday. So, today I really prepared myself. I picked out my nicest blouse, my dress sandals, even scrubbed my feet and pained my nails!! We went to the office after printing out the letter and an envelope only to find out that all the prep was in vain. She is out sick from an operation! What a pain!! So we explained to her secretary and I guess I’ll go back alone sometime after Samana Santa (Easter week) to see if she’s back in.
I felt like the day was off to a bad start and Ernesto seemed pretty crabby too. He dropped me off at the bus stop and I headed for Santiago. 1st stop was SESPAS- the department of Public Health- to try and get condoms. For those of you who remember, last year this was a bit of a challenge. I need condoms for my Escojo class and don’t want to use grant money to buy them when I can get them for free. Last year I was in the office for a good 45 minutes trying to get someone to give me condoms, I even left defeated and then went back in, deciding I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I did eventually get some condoms but the experience was not forgotten. This time I went to the clinic in my community and asked the doctor if they had condoms. They didn’t have any but the doctor said he could get some for me the next day. I knew that he would forget so I said I could swing by SESPAS the next day and get them. But, if he would please write me a note with his name on it and the stamp of our clinic my life would be easier. When I went to SESPAS the security guard wasn’t going to let me in because I was wearing my nice blouse still which was sleeveless. I told him I was from far away and couldn’t change so he offered me HIS shirt- a denim button down SESPAS shirt. I said thanks, put it on (sure it was a little big) and walked in like I knew what I was doing. I walked right past the secretary, flashing my SESPAS badge on my shirt and went to the room in the back with the condoms. I asked them to give me condoms and they drilled me- Condoms for who, when do you need them, what’s the name of your organization, what’s the name of this youth group, how many kids are in it, what are you going to do with them, where are you from, what community…. Really? They’re condoms people, not your 1st born son. Then I pulled out the gold: The Note. Almost right away they passed me an entire box of condoms; 144 brand spanking new condoms. Now I think we’ll have enough for our Escojo conference in April as well!! Yippee!
After that triumph I went to the find the vet I was recommended to see if it was legit. It was a decent walk in my nice sandals but I made it and the vet was pretty nice. I bought some cute stuff for my little puppy, made an “appointment” for next week and set off to use the internet.
Once I was on the internet, I was upset to see that my grant had disappeared! Where did it go? I called Conrado, the grants coordinator and he said if it was gone that meant it was filled! No way dude, as much as I would like to believe that the hours I spent writing emails to friends and family asking for donations (which makes me feel guilty since everyone at home has already given so much) I just don’t see $1500 being donated in 4 days. Conrado said he would check and call me back. He never called back.
That night my mom called me to ask me why I didn’t tell her I was interviewed for the Dixon Telegraph and Sauk Valley Newspaper. I told her I must have forgotten to tell her, whoops. I also didn’t know the story was going to be printed today. The reporter wanted to interview me because of a grant I received called Kids to Kids. It’s a great grant where kids from the States raise money for other kids in impoverished countries. The grant is for $500 and it’s what I’m using to do my art class. So when Kids to Kids contacted me asking if I would be willing to interview for my local newspaper to get them some publicity of course I said I would be more than happy to! After all, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have my most fun project right now- art class. I asked the reporter if she could include a little tidbit about how I’m trying to fill this grant to build a library and she said she didn’t know if she could but she would check. My mom read me the story and I was super happy to find that the reporter was able to include the URL for my grant and so it is VERY possible that my grant was filled that same day!!!!! Can you believe it!??! $1500 filled in ONE DAY!!! I am soo happy!! I did a happy dance in my house when I finished talking with my mom. Amazing the way things always work out and fit together. I was so worried about getting that grant filled and now it’s probably filled, after just a few weeks online!! (I just have to get a hold of Conrado to confirm it is actually filled and not MIA.) Fantastic and thank you soooo much to everyone who donated!!!
3/25 Thursday: Don’t procrastinate and your dreams will come true.
In hindsight this was wrong of me but after not having anything to do during my 1st three months in site I developed this habit of procrastination. See I thought that I would always try to“save” some things to do for tomorrow so that I would always have something to do. Ever since I saw how the new PCV, Jenn was acting- doing everything as soon as she could, not only was I a little embarrassed about my behavior and impressed by hers but I took note of how she was always busy. Hmmm, maybe this newbie is on to something. Since then I’ve tried to do things right away and, yep my theory has proven true, I have had more to do. The moral of this story is that once again I am very glad to have Jenn living so close to me and that even here with the slower pace of things, you can get more done if you don’t procrastinate. (Genius I know)
An example of a typical “workday” for me these days is like today: wake up at 7, take puppy out and clean any messes. Get dressed and find where the stove workers are at the moment. Meet up with them around 8 and stay with them until 9:50 or so. Then find the key to the Club and go have my art class from 10 until 12. From 12- 1 hang out with the Doña and get a free lunch. 1-2 shower if I’m really hot or relax away for a bit. 2-4:00 have second art class. 4:30 head up to the intersection (about 1.5 miles up) to teach English. From 5:30- 7:30 have English and from 7:30- 8:15 walk home. Hang out with the kids who were at my house waiting for me to get back until 9 or 9:30 and then shoo them away so I can grasp at the few strands of sanity I have remaining.
3/24 Wednesday: A mural and nice walk.
Today as I was preparing for my next English class I received a phone call from Anne asking me to go over to her site to help her paint. As any of you who know me are aware, I love painting and decorating. I don’t like painting alone or painting a wall one boring color but help paint a mural? Yes. Especially since I went to her house last week and helped her design the mural. Caramelita (my new puppy) and I hopped on a motorcycle and went to the mural site (about 4.5 miles away) and had fun painting. We didn’t finish it so I said I would come back Saturday or Sunday to help again. Anne and I discovered that Caramelita likes to eat paint and paint brushes.
I told my motor man to come and get me around 6 and by 6:45 it was getting dark and I was still at Anne and Tim’s. So I called him and he said he would leave right then to get me. I told him I would begin walking back so look for me along the road. I was a little freaked out because there are lots of parts of the road where there are no houses and it was foggy. Can you say creepy?! Tito showed up after I had not only walked all the way home in the dark and fog but also had the time to go to Minga’s and then to the colmado to chat. Thanks Tito. He’s Noel’s step dad and I was thinking I would split my business between him and Noel since Tito’s money goes to the family and Noel’s doesn’t but on second thought…. maybe I’ll just call Tito when I’m not creeped out or in a hurry.
3/20-22 Saturday- Monday: A legit vacay in Cabarete
This weekend was fantastic. Saturday morning I went to the hardware store before skipping town to pick up some supplies and send them up with Noel. I was waiting for them to be prepared when the hardware store owner told me that he would get them ready and send them in about 10 minutes. So far he has been very reliable and so I trusted him. He took down 2 numbers for me, Noel’s and Franklins, and assured me it wouldn’t take long. So I set off for Cabarete!
When I got to Cabarete about 3 hours later I met Kenzie’s mom and her godmother. They’re both really nice and we had a great time. They reserved a hotel room which was more like a sweet apartment with a balcony, ocean view, two bedrooms, comfy couch, kitchen with dishwasher… it was great. And the hotel had a pool and a hot tub! The 4 of us along with Kenzie’s host brother and boyfriends spent the rest of Saturday, all of Sunday and part of Monday together before I had to get going. I was planning on picking up my puppy later that day and I needed to get food, a collar and parasite medicine for her. Little Manchita Gallenia Cabrera Espencer was going to have one comfy night ahead of her!
When I finally got back to my house I passed by Ernesto. He seemed annoyed. I asked what time the tin and rivet gun arrived on Sat and he said they never came. He finally went to Navarrete on Monday and had to wait until 11 am for the owner of the store to arrive. I guess the owner, Leo, had an emergency with his wife (interesting he’s married since he always hits on me and once last week sent me a love poem text) and that’s why he was late. I’m annoyed because it looked bad on me that I was on a vacay while things here were falling apart. Urg.
After I put my stuff down and put some time in with Ernesto and his fam and then I went to pick up my new puppy, Manchita or Little Spot only to find out that she had died on Saturday. And so did one of her sister’s leaving just one sister puppy left. And Manolo, the owner told me that the puppies died dramatically and painfully. Apparently they were whining in pain and then just died. I was sad for them and not sure what to do about the last puppy. If I left her she would probably meet the same fate but then again if I took here would she die in the same manner, leaving me to dispose of a puppy body!? I took her and hoped for the best. I had picked up some de-parasite meds and gave them to her that night. The next day she pooped out a ton of worms and was in considerably higher spirits. Maybe there’s hope for her yet, little Caramelita Yautia Cabrera Espencer.
3/19 Friday night: Payday for the men
Jimmy, Oney and Ernesto weren’t able to complete any stoves this week since we were missing a rivet gun and tin to make the chimneys. They took the initiative and built 10 stove bottoms, which impressed me and showed their commitment to the project and eagerness to make money. They are supposed to make $500/stove so I was thinking I would give them half since the stoves were half done but that only would have been about $800 pesos or about $24 USD each for the entire week. As they have all done prep work for this going back about two weeks I decided to pay them $1500 or about $43 USD each which was nearly all of the money if they had finished the stoves. I know that they will finish the project and so I figured it was ok. Well, when I was talking with Ernesto, one of my favorite people, we were discussing how many stoves to build. I said we should have enough to do about 60 or 65 stoves. I also want to give at least 5 for “free” (meaning they don’t have to pay the $500 labor) to the poorest families- probably Haitians. The problem with that is most all of the Haitians live in group living, in a house provided by a rich farmer who gives them free living and pays them to farm his field. So the issues with this grand idea are that (1) Dominicans don’t think we should give free stuff to Haitians despite the fact that they may have been born here and should be entitled to the same things as Dominicans (2) Many of the Haitians are migrant workers and so Dominican’s don’t want to put something in the house for them when they’re just going to leave (although many Haitians live here for years and years if not their entire lives) (3) The owner of the home can afford to improve the living conditions but won’t pay for it. What a conundrum!
Anyways, back to the point. I was talking with Ernesto and he seems to think that 40 stoves is enough here. I think that’s a huge waste of a perfectly good grant (the money that isn’t used is returned) and so I want to use it all. We have 100 houses here and I’m sure 60 of them would like a stove and the majority of them can pay for one too. If there aren’t 60 that need a stove then we can reach out a little to other surrounding communities. If we have to donate the labor for 10 stoves instead of 5 then we’ll do that. Sure I have to lie to the community and say it was a separate grant I wrote and so I have to give stoves to Haitians or something like that but whatever. The thing is, everyone here thinks they’re entitled to a free stove and that they are dirt poor but that’s not the case. I am sure there will be a little uproar over this but I’m prepared to deal with it because I support it. And, let’s face it; people have been upset with me for less than that here so… why not?! :)
Then Ernesto tells me he has 3 houses in mind to donate to. One I agree with completely, one I’m not sure who it is and one is not going to happen. He wants to donate one to his mother in law- who doesn’t even live in the community and I think Ernesto can afford to pay for one! I was annoyed that he suggested it. Not only to see if we could build one there (which I probably would have agreed to since she lives in the neighboring community) but to have her be one of the donated ones? No way dude! Not to mention it looks bad giving him extra perks because he’s my project partner. Since he is a worker, if he wants to work on her stove for free and donate his time that would be ok but I am not going to pay him $500 from the grant to do her stove.
Then he tells me that he doesn’t think we should do all the stoves because it’s better to have extra materials rather than not enough. Sure I agree to that but doing 20 less? Not an option. While I’m letting my mind wrap around all this he tells me that doing 40 stoves is the way to go to save money and that we can make up receipts for whatever. Oh great. Just fantastic. I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe my Ernesto was talking like that. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume I misunderstood but then there’s the issue of the change from the hardware store. He went 2xs to buy stuff in the same week and each time I gave him $1000 pesos. I didn’t know how much he had spent but tonight I finally asked and he had spent just $500 pesos. I asked about the $1500 pesos in change 3 times and he never went and got it. I think he spent it. And so I need to figure out a way to get it back without offending him. No matter what, he is still the best person I have here. I just need to watch him more closely I suppose until I figure out something else.
Then, a few days later I found out that he asked Jimmy to lend him $1500 from the paid money which Jimmy didn’t have since he gave it to me already (thank goodness) and that Ernesto collected $500 from two houses and wouldn’t give the money to Jimmy to give to me. I mentioned to Ernesto how weird it was that only one new person had requested a stove this week and he said, “Well you know how it is here, everyone wants something for free.” And so he had the chance to tell me, “Oh yeah- by the way Fulana and Bob paid and I collected the money. I’ll give it to you later.” But he didn’t. So, this sucks. It also sucks because I feel like an enabler. I knew when he did my wall that there was no way it cost over $48,000 pesos and the wall still supposedly wasn’t able to be completed. That wall should be done and lined in gold for that amount of money. It’s upsetting for me and now I’m not sure where that leaves me with the library project. The only thing I can say about it is that I’ll have to wait to do that until the summer when all my other projects are done and I can carefully monitor supplies each day. How sad and what a pain.
3/18 Thursday: My 1st English class and possibly an offense...
The Offense: Today I was in the Club de Madres, attempting to multitask but failing miserably. I was supervising the art class while trying to draw out the papers for the English class Jenn and I were going to give that night, and it wasn’t going well. The kids were insane as usual, the wind kept blowing my large paper away and the guy I sent to buy some materials from the hardware shop came back after buying stuff from the wrong place and not getting something I still need to look the definition up of… something like a rivet gun?? (How did I know he didn’t have it if I didn’t know what it was you ask? Because I am just that great of a detective, what can I say?) Anyways, in the middle of all this confusion that has become my life, some dude walks in and tries to take a water filter. If you remember this project, there were 30 filters delivered to our community in December and it’s been a process getting people to pay for them. So, resisting the urge to simply give them away to get rid of them finally, I have been holding out telling everyone who tells me that they’ll pay later that they have to pay BEFORE and then they can pick up their filter. Imagine my surprise then when this guy shows up to take one and I have no idea who he is. I found out he was picking it up for Minga’s sister. She had given me $300 pesos towards the filter that day or the day before and I was very clear that AFTER she paid the other $250 she could pick up the filter. So I told the guy he would have to come back later to get it and he was a little rude, telling me I was going to have to pay for his gas and time. I asked how much she was paying him (just because I’m nosey, obviously I’m not paying for anything of the sorts) and he said he was just helping her. So I was feeling double annoyed that A) She sent him to get the filter after I told her she had to pay 1st (B) This guy was trying to haggle me, in my community, in my art class, and with my project. I sighed, told him he couldn’t take it right now and went back to trying to draw out my lesson for English. Then Monino walked in, Minga’s sister. When I tried to explain (yet again) that the rule is that EVERYONE has to pay BEFORE she got really mad at me and started yelling and getting all frantic. Then she said, “If you think I can’t pay, I can!! I have your money right here I just have to get change!!” as she began waving a $1000 peso bill around. Before I could say anything she handed the bill to Santa and told her to guard it since I obviously didn’t believe she was good for the money and when she got change for it, she would give it to me. Then she walked over with her rude helper man and took the filter. At this point I would have been fine with her taking the filter and then making change to pay for it. But what a way to go about it. And what drama in my art class. After the class I walked to her house to make sure there were no hard feelings since I’m pretty sure I offended her. We hung out a little bit before I had to leave for English class and I think she’s mad at me. Look, everyone has to pay before, the only people who haven’t paid beforehand are the richer people who live in the weekend homes and that’s because they came and took one after they got my permission to have a filter. I guess I didn’t convey that they had to pay for it first. I’m not concerned though because I don’t think they’ll try to finagle their way out of paying. Monino I think would. She’s asked me for money before, her son is the one who stole from me for months on end and she is one of the types that always says she has no money and is trying to get people to give her stuff for free yet she lives in a pretty sweet house.
English Class: On Sunday Jenn called me and asked me if I wanted to participate in teaching an English class with her. I have been avoiding English simply because it’s not like Escojo where there are clear and immediate results and because they aren’t going to be fluent in 16- 90 minute sessions over 4 months but that’s what they think will happen. I guess Jenn is pretty good friends with the pastor of the church there and he wanted her to teach a class. Poor girl is in her digging stage of building the aqueduct which means she leaves her house at 7 am each day, walks 2.5 miles with a pickaxe over her shoulder to the site and digs 3 ft deep trenches until 2-3 each day. Sooooo glad I’m not a water PCV. Needless to say, she is tired. I however am like the Teaching Master now and love working with someone else on projects so I said I would love to! It works out well for both of us: we have a reason to meet up during the week to plan the class, I prepare the class (why not when I already have all the markers and paper?) relieving Jenn of that duty, I get exercise walking the 3 miles round trip to where we have the class or walking the little over 4 miles round trip to her house each week to plan and I feel satisfied that I am going to give an English class, something that I simply feel I should do. Win win. We anticipated having a lot of people in the 1st class and there were a lot of people but it wasn’t out of control. I only told about 6 people from my community so there weren’t many from La Lomota but there were a lot from the other communities. Where we have the class is far for everyone to walk but it’s the most central location and a lot of communities can participate. I think we had about 40 kids there, which was a little crazy but manageable since we have a large space and there are two of us teaching. Other PCVs have had 80 people show up to their 1st classes, thank goodness that didn’t happen since we wouldn’t have gotten anything done. Overall I think it went really well. We talked about the rules, took attendance, did some kind of little drama and played a game with greetings and farewells. We have this electronic manual but I think we’re going to more use that as a reference and do our own thing. I personally like to play at least one game in each class and the manual doesn’t have any games so we’re going to have to get creative. Aside from the fact everyone from my community except my little 12 year old friend, Niña, and I got a free ride back- leaving her and I to walk the 1.5 miles alone in the dark and in the rain, the experience was a good one. Even the walk back was fun. Messy but fun!
3/17 Wednesday: Stove Training, new puppy!!
Today we were all supposed to go to Ane and Tim’s site to see how a stove is built. Out of the 4 of us working on the stoves (Jimmy, Oney, Ernesto and myself) Ernesto and I are the only ones who really needed to go to this training as we are the ones who have never see a stove built before. That’s why I was a little disappointed when the morning of Ernesto told me he couldn’t go because he had a doctor’s appointment. He had a bad kidney infection last week but I just wish he had mentioned the checkup to me before so I could have made the training for a different day. No matter, at least the guys are getting a 2nd training and I’m getting a 1st. The training went well. The stove is simple enough and right when we got to the part where we’re going to add the mouth (the hardest part) to the stove Ernesto showed up!! He’s so dependable. We made some changes to the design and hopefully each of the two pots will heat up now (it’s a two “burner” stove).
Something you should know about Oney and Jimmy is that they think its hilarious to tease me with things such as slamming on the brakes of the motorcycle so I slam into the driver or making up stupid names for me. I’m pretty accustomed to this by now and so what happened today shouldn’t have surprised me. A little background for this story: I have decided to care for a puppy while I’m here. I wasn’t going to but I broke down and now I am getting a puppy with only 7 months of service left! There was this really fuzzy cute one I liked a lot- I walked around with it before returning it to its home and I even named it. It makes all kids of weird noises so I named it Chewbacca. I have it set up so that when I’m out of site and when my service is over a certain family will care for little Chewy. The daughter wanted to name him Beethoven so I decided to be very Dominican and gave him the name…. drum roll… Chewbacca Beethoven Cabrera Espencer with a nickname of Chewy (Dominicans have two last names and nearly everyone has a nickname). Fantastic! Well, Jimmy saw me walking around with this puppy the day before and during our stove training he decided to start calling me Chewbac. I was hoping they would forget about it after a day or so, especially when I bring Chewy home to live. Well, when I got home that day I went to play with the puppy and had he died. Bummer. And Jimmy and Oney still call me Chewbac… oh my.
This sounds cruel but since Chewy died (I would have been much sadder in the States but for some reason am more disconnected from animals here… maybe its watching all the chickens die or listening to the pigs get slaughtered) I picked out his sister, a cute and spunky little white thing with brown spots, and not at all furry (sadly). She likes to cuddle and already sleeps on a pillow!! I need to name her something cool that can be pronounced in English and Spanish so if anyone has some ideas… let me know! Thanks! (Just not “Spot”)
3/12-3/13: Hellllllooooooo Committee Weekend and Christmas in March!!
The reason I had to go to committee weekend was because I am in a co-planner for the Celebrando el Cibao kids camp this summer (a fun 3 day camp on diversity for kids at the end of August, something very important especially considering the level of discrimination against Haitians here) and so I had to hold an informational meeting for PCVs. To my grand surprise, I checked my mailbox and had a package slip. I was sooooo excited because that means that my Christmas package from my mom and sister had arrived:) Imagine my shock to find that I had TWO Christmas packages- one from Mom and Rach and one from the Health Dept!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH GUYS!!!! For those of you interested in the goodies, Mom and Rach sent me fun yet practical things like a super colorful table clothe and curtains but also included the essential bag of candy- YUM!! Then BCHD gave me two DVDs (Blood Diamond and Pirates of the Caribbean- great choices guys) and the rest was CANDY CANDY CANDY!!! Which as I opened each box I realized that it was everything off of my wish list on my blog- lol!! So, not only do I now know that you do read my blog but I am fat with sweets! Merry Christmas and thanks soo much for thinking of me! :)
3/12 Friday: Getting the brick for the stoves…
THURSDAY: I received the grant money nearly 2 weeks ago and yet we still don’t have all the materials to make the stoves. This is largely due to the rain. I didn’t want to repeat the same craziness that ensued after/during heavy rains when we had the water filters delivered so I put the brakes on the project and said we had to wait until it had been sunny for at least 2 days. Well, this week the weather finally began to cooperate and on Thursday the hardware store began delivering the supplies. This surprised me since no one mentioned to me that they had spoken with the hardware owner to have the supplies delivered today. Minga was at my house around 8 am calling me, saying that the truck was here and they were waiting for me. I was awake but needed a few minutes to get dressed and by the time I arrived to the park where the truck was waiting about 10 minutes had passed. The annoying guy in my community who speaks English was there, perfectly playing his role of being annoying, acting like he knew what was going on or that he was somehow in charge of the project. When I got past him I was slightly dismayed to find out that none of the workers were around since some family member had died the night before. So I took inventory of what was there and we began looking for spots to unload. The truck had to make 4 trips that day and it took alllll day. I was running back and forth between my art class and driving with the truck, dropping the supplies in different locations. Ernesto was there off and on (thank goodness!) and so he helped with where we would put the supplies.
Then on Friday I’m supposed to go to the capital for committee weekend but we really needed these ceramic pieces to make the mouth of the stove (where you load the wood) which means we have to go to Santiago since that’s where the pieces are. Ernesto is a valuable person to have with you because he knows everyone and everyone respects him. People say no to me or tell me a super high price but when Ernesto walks over they say yes and give him a discount. He was able to find us a truck to take us to Santiago for great price. When we got there they didn’t have the right sized pieces and, once again- thank goodness Ernesto was there because he said he could cut the pieces that were too big because he has a saw. We got the brick, loaded it up and Ernesto and the driver headed back while I headed in to Santiago, making my way to the capital.