4/6 Tuesday: So this is what it feels like to finally be adjusted… well, mostly adjusted.
Today was the day of the condom races in Escojo. This is the best class ever, something about spinning blindfolded kids around and watching them trying to put a condom on a plantain is great. So great in fact that last year I planned to have this class around my mom and sister’s visit so they could be in the most fun class. I really like my Escojo class this time around. I regret not putting myself in the last class 100% because I think all the classes have potential to be great if they’re lead properly. This class and my first class are great. Sure they fight and argue and say the other team cheated and yada yada yada but that’s a given with these kids- maybe all kids, I really don’t know. But with my kids I expect it. I’m so glad that I have Escojo. Sure I don’t feel like drawing/planning the 4 new topics we’re going to do in the upcoming weeks because drawing the classes takes forever and I am quemada, but I really love my classes. Teaching kids is really fun, something that seriously surprises me. (Remember I am the one who when asked what I wanted from my host fam in CBT I said, “I just don’t want to be in a house with children.”) I’m so grateful that Escojo is my project (or one of them) because I never would have volunteered to teach anything before PC. Now I know I can do it, I understand how to do it and I really enjoy it (although not enough to do it for a career). One great thing about Peace Corps I’m discovering, aside from the friendships and freedom, is that in a very hands-off way it throws you into things you probably would have never done before and makes you do them. I realize I really can do anything. It’s not about being smart or super talented- it’s about determination and motivation. If you stick to anything and have the right attitude you will become good at it. I never wanted to do things before that I wasn’t fairly good at but I embarrass myself alllllll the time here and it’s fine. I am so glad that I am here, that I did this because it’s opened up my world: to food (I ate my 1st and hopefully last, full bowl of boiled bananas the other week because a poor family gave them to me and it was so nice of them), to experiences, to culture, to friendships, to an entire world I never would have experienced simply because I didn’t speak the same language. I can say for certain that I am adjusted to my situation here. Yes I will continue to adjust and to grow but I am comfortable and happy now. I know not everyone likes me and that’s how it’s going to be. I love it here (but am still counting down till I go home!!!) and I appreciate all the opportunities I have been given. I am finally not living being really careful not to become attached because I’m leaving in X number of days. I got a dog for heavens sake! With only 7 months left, who does that?! The main thing I want to do now is work on Dominican relationships. I want a Dominican best friend who is really a best friend. I really love my Doña and her daughter but that’s it. Noel and I are becoming pretty good friends, surprisingly. It’s strange but the last week or two, I have begun seeing my service and Dominicans through different eyes and I really like this new outlook. I’m excited for each day to come and grateful for each that passes. I think I am gaining a better understanding of Peace Corps and what it means to be a Volunteer.
Later that day… I went looking for Lucy Loquita (I changed my dog’s name) and ended up sitting and talking with Ernesto for a loooooooong time. How long I will never know as the watch fixer in the community has my watch (hopefully just a dead battery). But it was a nice talk and I’m glad to have Ernesto as a friend to hang out with. I never just hang out with people. I always feel like I’m passing time because I have to and am waiting until I can leave. What a bad attitude. Anyways, I left his house and called the grants coordinator of Peace Corps (who I have been calling a lot lately so my grants for the library move along quickly). I was on the phone with him working out this and that with the grants when he told me that- oh! The money from the PCPP (the grant that was online) was sitting there waiting for me and he just noticed he had forgotten to approve its deposit. And also, oh! The money for the SPA grant has arrived!! Not for me in particular-however, my SPA was written and since I had been calling it moved along quickly and was approved in Washington already which just means that I have to wait for the divining up of the money. That was the one I was really afraid of. SPA can take FOREVER to finally come in for the people who are on the waiting list and Conrado told me that he didn’t know if there would be enough money in the funds (whenever they finally came in) for my project since I was at the end of that waiting list. So I called Miguel last week who told me he would make sure that I was bumped up on the waiting list since I’m in the next group to COS (leave). YAYYYY!!!! The SPA grant is $5000 USD!!!! And the PCPP is $2300 USD!!!! And the other grant I wrote and should hear back from by this Friday is for $2500 which means that potentially by the end of this week I could have gone from having no funds for the library to having everything I requested- $9500!!!!!!!!!! WHOOOOOOT!
More good news: I wanted to write a grant for a small latrine project and Conrado kept telling me there were none that were applicable. Then I read about a new one that seemed applicable but Conrado told me it wasn’t. Knowing that he deals with lots of people and wouldn’t remember that it was me that asked him every time we spoke about that grant for latrines I kept asking him if this grant was applicable for latrines. I figured he would double check after “so many people” were asking him about this grant and latrines. It worked and today when I asked him about it again he reread it with me and realized that it can be used for latrines! So now I can write one for that and do a latrine project too if I get approved!! The only two other things I would like to do before I leave in the way of projects are the basketball court and garbage pick up. Well, murals too but that’s just a few days of work and doesn’t involve much planning. The other two involve a lot of harassing. I am so pumped right now!! We are meant to have this library!!! :)
4/3 Saturday: Concert at a water park= genius idea
I had heard that Santiago and Puerta Plata have water parks but I never had gone to one here. To tell you the truth I was scared to go thinking that I would contract some nasty fungus or disease. I pictured the water in a park like this, in a country with no general regulations for anything, to be cloudy and full of pee- maybe even poop. I vowed that if I went and the smell of chlorine was not in the air then I was absolutely not getting in the water. I also thought it was going to be a joke in size, having one small, crappy pool full of people and maybe having two slides. I was ready for the worst and ended up being pleasantly surprised. The water was pretty clean, the park was waaaaaay bigger that I had expected with multiple slides and pools- it even had a sprinkle area, platforms to jump from into deep water (with Dominicans actually in lines and waiting!) and, my favorite part because I have never used one before: it had a bar in the water!!! The prices to drink were double or triple that of a colmado but I guess that’s to be expected, especially on a day where there was going to be a concert with multiple singers, some really famous.
We were mildly concerned that we would miss a singer since they claimed that the concert was going to be from 10 am to 10 pm and, since we had to get ready by going to the salon beforehand, we didn’t get to the park until around 3. Luckily we are in the DR and so they didn’t start singing until around 3:30 or 4.
Overall we all had a great time. I haven’t gone to many concerts in my time but I think I prefer Dominican concerts. No one has any shame and so they’re singing and dancing. I must have danced for 3 hours Saturday night. The park closed around 10 or 10:30 and we took a cab home. There was a group of 7 of us and we all went to my friend Kelly’s house because she lives pretty close. If you are ever in the DR and can go to a concert, I recommend that you go!
4/1 Thursday: Easter Egg Hunt!!!!!
In honor of Semana Santa, today is my only class this week. I canceled all the others for “spring break” but I still wanted to have my art class. I really wanted to have an egg hunt for them and this week is the most appropriate time for that so we had to have art class! The only issue was figuring out a way to dye the eggs. After lots of searching and research I have decided to dye the eggs using the DR version of kool aid. The only sad thing is that we only have red and orange but I was fortunate to come across some actual Kool Aid grape flavored powder on Monday! At least we will have purple which is all that really matters, verdad?
I knew today was going to be crazy but fun. I only let 30 kids participate since we had a limited number of eggs and it’s nearly impossible to control more than 30 kids at a time. I bought 120 eggs and Minga hardboiled them on her new stove for me that morning. I set up all the bowls with juice and explained to the kids how to use the crayons and then dye the eggs. Then I told them to collect their eggs and memorize which eggs were theirs before trading eggs with a partner. Then they had to go out and hide their partner’s eggs and after, return to the Club. Of course chaos ensued. All 30 kids went right up next to the side of the Club and hid all three of their eggs TOGETHER in a pile- when they had the entire baseball diamond at their disposal!! This would not do. I herded the kids back into the Club and said they weren’t allowed to hide them next to the Club and they couldn’t be together, that the point was that the person had to really try to find them so they needed to use all the space in the play and put them separate from one another. I saw their light bulbs turn on, now this was going to be fun. The went out and re-hid the eggs and then came in for a lesson on why we have the Easter Bunny in the States and why we do fun stuff with eggs. Then I let them go out to find the eggs before the big dog in the neighborhood found them and ate them, and that was equally funny. Ah, I love my “job”:)
3/31 Wednesday: A talk with a neighbor.
Today I spoke with Ernesto about Mercedes. I have done everything else. I’ve avoided her, I’ve talked to her, I’ve been super nice, I’m sucked up, I’ve gone to her house to hang out, I tell her when I’m leaving and when I’m back… after 4 months of this, there are no other options aside from talking to Ernesto. And I was a little nervous because if Ernesto decided that I suck as well after this conversation, I would be in a pickle. Surprisingly it went well. I explained my problem, telling him that I wanted to talk to him about this because he randomly told me the day before that if he were in the US and I was his project partner and he had a problem with someone, he would talk to me. I told him how I have really tried to make things better between Mercedes and myself and have not been seeing the fruits of my labor. I told him I care for his whole family and when I first realized she was angry with me, it really upset me. I also told him even other women have approached me telling me that I should talk to her about this because she seems really mad at me. He told me he would talk to her so we shall see how it turns out but, as usual, I’m hopeful.
3/29 Monday: This is kind of a boring story but I thought it was funny: A trip to the vet….
Last Friday I went to the only vet I knew about near the downtown area where I always go in Santiago. I was nervous that is was going to be one of those agro-veterinarians which are a dime a dozen here and is staffed by people who don’t generally know how to care for a “pet” rather than just shoveling vaccines down farm animal’s throats. Sure I def have a different opinion of them in the States but they’re different here. For instance, I went into one of these shops last week in Puerta Plata. I told the guy behind the counter I needed a deparasite med for my puppy. He didn’t ask how big she was or how old she was, he just gave me a bottle and said to give it all to her. I decided not to buy anything and instead went to a different place. With common sense stuff like that I know it’s no big deal but with actually giving vaccines I need a legit vet. So, I was very happy to find on Friday that VetBoca in Santiago seems very legit. I would prefer that they spoke English but Spanish isn’t really an issue anymore so that ok. I had decided to bring Caramelita into the vet on Monday and wasn’t sure how I was going to go about it still. I have heard many many horror stories about PCV’s animals freaking out on the bus rides, throwing up, defecating or urinating all over everything. I hoped that if I was calm she would be calm. But also I had some errands to run in Santiago and didn’t know about getting her into the stores.
Getting out of my site was a piece of cake. I assumed the motorcycle ride would be ok because we had already been on a motor when we went to paint the mural last week. We ended up getting a bola down in a truck with Tolo, went to a lumberyard to buy some wood for the stoves and then waited at the expresso bus stop to Santiago. To my relief she rode on the bus like a champ and slept. We got off at the giant hardware store in Santiago, Ochoa, and I decided to put her in my shoulder bag and see what happened. Success! We got in! I picked out some paint, bought some seeds for the gardens and checked out, all the while with her being a very good girl in my bag. It wasn’t until as I was leaving, I went to pick up the bag I had checked that they saw her. And they didn’t even care!! They thought it was so cute that she was in there the whole time! So, I took her out of my bag and put the harness I had just bought for her on her. Stop at Ochoa to get some stuff: Check.
Next we walked for a while… she doesn’t understand how to walk (a) in a place with lots of stuff to distract her (b) on a leash (c) with a harness. So when I say “we” walked I really mean it took her about 15 minutes to walk one block and then I carried her the rest of the way. We went into the next store, her carefully stowed away in my shoulder bag, and I went to the counter to get some tickets to a concert “water park” this weekend. Apparently only one guy can sell tickets and he wasn’t going to be in for another 30 minutes. So I walked around the store, found grape Kool Aid for my egg dying art class on Thursday, tried on some clothes, looked at makeup… a little of this a little of that. An hour later I went back to the counter and the dude still wasn’t there. Not surprising. But there was another store that sold tickets that wasn’t too far from this one so I set out to find that store. All the while Caramelita was zonked out in my bag. Overstimulation can be a good thing sometimes! I went into the next store and bought the tickets without a problem. Buy 7 tickets for this weekend: Check.
After that I decided that now would be as good of a time as any to buy some paper for my Escojo class. When I went into this store Caramelita was readjusting and the door checker said, “Let me see what’s in your bag.” I showed her and it was our 1st rejection: she said I couldn’t go into the store with her. So I asked her to get me some paper and glitter for my art class and she stared at me for a minute and then said I could go in. Stop to get supplies for Escojo and art: Check.
Now I was really beginning to become loaded down with stuff so we went to the park and played fetch and then went to the vet. She did a good job with the vet and so I left her to go to the normal spot to use internet: the hotel Aloha Sol. They have free wireless for their guests and while I have never stayed there, that’s the hotel PC uses when we need to be consolidated (for hurricanes generally) so they let us use it.
When I went to pick Caramelita up she was laying peacefully on her side staring at the wall. I asked if she had been sleeping the whole time and the vet said no it was just the opposite. She had been crying so much that they thought maybe she was hot so they moved her to a different cage on top of all the other cages so that she was closer to the fan, they gave her water and even shut their front door and turned on the AC! What a diva!! I put her in my bag, grabbed all my stuff and walked to my bus stop. She slept for a while but woke up when we were half way home and was standing at attention looking out the window on the way home. Then on the motorcycle she didn’t behave quite as well as the 1st ride but overall she was good.
I thought this day was funny. All those stores and only one cared that I had a dog in my bag!! Hopefully when I take her back to the vet for her 2nd vaccine set she still fits in my bag!