Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This and that from 2/19- 3/7

3/8 Monday: The Carnaval Parade
Today was a good day. It was finally sunny but still cold (a high of 70 with a cold breeze is cold here people). I wanted to leave the house but I had a bunch of stuff to get done on the computer and there was power so I stayed in (well on the porch, plugged in) until nearly 4 pm when I went to the Women’s Club for the meeting and after the parade. When I was walking up, a woman who I was surprised to see on that side of town (her and Mercedes hate each other so she stays on her side of the community) approached me and handed me a pamphlet about interfamily abuse. Then she said that I would be the one to present the presentation. Wait, what? I stared at her for a minute and then figured, what the heck. It’s just reading and I think my accent has gotten quite a bit better since I began reading Harry Potter in Spanish aloud. It went over pretty well. After the meeting there were a lot of kids waiting for me, asking about the candies I said I would give. Dominican culture has no order. People don’t say please or thank you. They say, give me. Add that to 25 crazy kids who are hopped up on the idea of a parade and candy and you have a recipe for disaster. They were insane. I wanted to choke them. There were 50 little hands in my face, palms up and wide open, swaying back and forth frantically accompanied by 25 little children’s voices shouting at different octaves GIVE ME CANDY ELIZABETH. Holy crap. There was grabbing, shouting, and shoving. I tried to get them to line up but forget about it, they’re not programmed that since kindergarten like US kids. So I took my baggie of mints and put it in my satchel and we went on the parade candy-less. Not how I had pictured it but aside from the little candy gremlins it went really well. We walked from the Women’s Club to the school (1/4 mile) and back with me taking pictures of them all along the way. I think it was a success!

3/7 Sunday: Visit from Jenn!!!
I loooooooooove having a neighbor who likes to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Ane and Tim but they’re got each other so they don’t visit. I think in the 16 months I’ve been in my site they’ve come to my house maybe 2 times. I’ve gone to theirs at least 5 or 6 but I don’t feel like that’s very much for being only about 5 miles from each other. Jenn and I were talking last week and she’s going through some hard times in her site so last week I showed up to her new house with some dinner and dessert. It was so nice!! Then yesterday she came over and we talked, made cake and kind of watched a movie. It’s really nice to be able to make someone newer feel comfortable like I thought my neighbors were going to do with me. I’m looking forward to the rest of my service in my site for several reasons, one of which is a great friendship with Jenn:)
3/6 Saturday: Escojo Fieldtrip to Marks’ Escojo graduation:
This field trip was fun. I told my kids about it when we started Escojo which was 3 classes before. We had some fundraisers selling raffle tickets and a floor cleaner similar to pine sol. With that money we bought the group a recognition plaque and some pop and cookies. I didn’t even try to find a driver to take us until 3 days beforehand which wasn’t a great idea but thankfully it worked out fine. I asked Tolo if he could do it, actually I invited Minga and got her all excited about it and then she asked Tolo. They agreed and Saturday morning 14 of us piled into Tolo’s truck- two kids less than were originally going to go since it was raining and their parents didn’t want them to get wet. We arrived to Marks and all the kids were pretty excited. To my dismay several of them felt it would be more fun to hang out in someone’s house watching tv instead of participating but kids will be kids I suppose. We stayed for about 3 hours and then most of the kids were antsy to get going since they were all really cold. We headed back without a hitch! Amazing, no breakdowns, we didn’t run out of gas or get lost… the biggest obstacle was the rain! Ha!
3/1 Friday: My Quarterly Report…. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that…
So, every 3 months we have to write a report that is basically a number tally but PCDR tries to make it more personal for PCVs by adding little personal sections for our APCDs to read. All of health and water are pretty sure our APCD doesn’t read them but supposedly the APCDs are going to start reading them and giving feedback. I was skeptical but then what wasn’t I skeptical of at the time? Well when I had to write my report I was in the slum of my funk and was pretty negative in my report. For example, on the Success Story section where it asked for me to share a success story I wrote: not applicable. So when I heard that two months later Miguel was beginning to respond to people I was NERVOUS!! I don’t like confrontation and I wasn’t looking forward to what could possibly come from this. Well, Miguel wrote me back March 4th and I was nauseous before opening it. I brought this upon myself. I read it and Miguel was really cool about it all. He told me he understood how much it must suck to have community members steal from you and that having Mercedes not like me must be rough as well. I was shocked and relieved, whew! Yet another thing to be grateful for!
2/27-28 Friday and Saturday: Carnaval!!!
Last year I went to La Vega and was the only one in my group that didn’t get wacked really hard by the swinging goat bladders. Sure it was because I ran shamelessly like a huge chicken but hey, I wasn’t sore the next day at least. This year we went back to La Vega but we went with other kids from the new group, the group one year after me. And it was funny!! The newbies were all really drunk and some of them threw themselves in the streets to get the butts kicked by the carnaval men. One of them really deserved it because he bought a souvenir goat bladder and was hitting all the females that walked by! Including me!! He freaking attacked me and I was so surprised I dropped my phone in a NASTY puddle. So, when he got smacked, that’s karma baby. Hehehe. At the end of the day we went to a concert with some band from Puerto Rico and we all danced in the streets to the music. It was really fun. And aside from the PCV, I didn’t get hit at all again this year!
The next day Kelly and I went to Santiago to see their Carnaval. I liked that one better. Maybe it’s because they use whips instead of bladders so they don’t hit you but also because its more like a parade. They throw candy and do little dances. It’s a performance. We were only there for about 15 minutes before it began to DOWNPOUR and we got soaked! We ran to McDonalds for some shelter (and McFlurries) but by the time we got there it had stopped raining and we were soaked and cold. We still ate the ice cream though:) We went home and made soup and it was a good day!
2/18 Thursday: Art Class!!
So I had my 1st art classes today. I decided to have two each Thursday that way all ages can participate. I have one at 10 am and one at 2 pm. Today I wanted to make face masks for carnaval with the kids and I wasn’t sure how many kids would go since I didn’t make any official announcements for it. I just told as many kids as were around me when I thought of it and counted on the fact that the 1st class was so cool it would attract more kids. The 10 class had a small but comfortable amount of kids; about 15. Then at 2 pm there were about 35 kids… which was a LOT. And we only had two pairs of scissors. All the kids really struggled with what they were going to do. They have never learned how to be creative so to speak so they were like, “Elizabeth, cut my mask for me because I don’t know how to do it. Glue for me because I don’t know how. Paint for me because I don’t know how. What colors should I use?” And so it went. Well I compromised and cut the mask for them since there were only 2 pairs of scissors and there were so many of them but the rest I made them do. After a while they really seemed to get the hang of it. It was really great to see them blossom into having more confidence. On the 8th we’re going to have a parade with all the kids and their masks which should be fun and interesting. I have no idea what it’s going to entail aside from bribing them with candy to go. But I’m looking forward to it.
Random things that happened sometime between Feb 19th and March 5th

Money Money Money!!
Well my grants finally came in on the 24th or so. In the past it has always been that you have to go to the PC office in SD to pick up the check which would be in your project partners name and then you have to go to a bank with your project partner to cash it. This time was different though as I discovered when I went to the ATM to withdraw the last few little pesos out of my account for the month. I took the most I could and when I checked my receipt in hopes of seeing an extra 1,000 pesos from some surprise reimbursement, my jaw dropped at the 181,000 pesos that was in my account! I checked the balance again and then was concerned. I don’t want that much money!! So the next day I was relieved to find out that PC is now doing grants different, simply depositing them into your account. Thank goodness!! Also because I was having a nervous breakdown that very day of boredom. I mean I was BORED. I was in near tears to my fellow PCVs asking the normal questions, Why am I here, What am I doing with my time… yada yada yada and let me tell you, being bored does not help. I was pretty much biding my time until my grants arrived, not a great use of time. So, now I have my grants- one for my Escojo class, one for the more efficient wood burning stoves, one for my art class… all in the same week! I am one happy camper.
What I’m going to do with all that money!
Thanks to all this money I can now repay myself a LOT of money I lent my classes for supplies which is reason to party! Also I can order the supplies for the stoves which people in my community seem to really want. (After the filter fiasco I’m not holding my breath that they’re going to be willing to pay the 500 pesos for the labor but I remain optimistic!) I went to a few hardware stores with Ernesto to recheck the prices to the ones I got back in November. They went up quite a bit so instead of being able to do 80 stoves I think we’ll be able to do more like 70. I think that should be more than enough.
The one thing we need that the hardware store doesn’t have is the special ingredient: ceramic bricks. We have to go to one special place in Santiago to get those which means we need a truck. Well the hardware store dude, Leonardo, seems like a cool guy so I went to his store and asked if we could pay him for transport and go get some bricks. He agreed and then tried to get my number (ugh) and I left without giving my number.

A lesson in Dominican Men from Betsy:
The next day I was supposed to go with Ernesto down to the hardware store but it was raining. After the chaos when the filters were delivered I know that I don’t ever want anything delivered when it’s rainy or muddy again if I can help it. So, I called Leo and told him we weren’t going to be able to go until the weather shaped up. He agreed and at the end of the conversation he said how great it was that now he had my number. Oh brother. Later that day he sent me a 4 page love poem text. Gag. I tell you, when I get home I’m going to be upset with myself for not taking advantage of so many options in men but it’s just that I don’t trust Dominican men! They generally cheat, like nearly all of them! Sure they may be great looking, romantic, sweet… but they’re that way with their other 2 girlfriends too. And it’s a sure sign I’m right when every single one I ask tells me they don’t have a girlfriend. All of them, really? Jeesh.

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