Monday, August 30, 2010

Celebrando el Ciabao y otras cosas

8/27: Friday: Why the rush with my life?
So this whole time I have been freaking out about extending. I want to go to med school and that takes forever so I wanted to get started on it STAT. I just kept thinking that my 20s didn’t last nearly long enough! Well, the thing is, once I start med school there will be no traveling for a long time. And then I started thinking: I have to get this library on its feet. I may stay here in the DR be here until the spring to finish it- Who knows?! On top of that, I really would like to extend to another country for a year. I mean, it’d be so neat to compare the different Peace Corps experiences and I think I have learned so much in these two years. Plus think of how my Spanish would get so much better in another year where they say their “s” in their speech! The thing is though; I may be too late to apply for an extension for another country. That little concern aside, where would I like to go you ask? Well, as 3rd year PCVs get a LOT more freedom in picking compared to the newbie PCVs who don’t get any say at all really, I would like to go to (1) Nicaragua (2) Guatemala (3) Ecuador with a big lean towards Nicaragua. I figure that I may as well put off going to med school another year to get another great experience fit into my life. If I get into med school, I’ll be in it for so long, what’s another year?
Good news!! I just called Romeo, the Country Director for PCDR and he said there’s still time to extend to another country!! I told him I would like to Central America and he’s going to call me back so we can get the process started :) Ohhh, excitement!! If I go to CA, who’s going to visit me??????? :D

8/26: Thursday: A malicious rally conspired by diabolical neighbors.
When I left for the camp on Monday I saw Ernesto in the street and I stopped and said hello. His partner in crime, Oney was there and ignored me. I assumed he was mad at me again for one thing or another despite the fact that I haven’t seen him since he randomly came to my house and gave me a hug. I don’t really care if he’s mad at me. I don’t think about it more than noticing it and then I brush it off and don’t even try to understand it. Nor do I care if my neighbors fantasize about ways to kill me each day, which they very well may do. There was a time where it bothered me but I have come to terms with it. Recent news has pushed me past my point finally and I can cheerfully and honestly say that I hate them. I have never hated someone before. I’m pretty sure they hate me as well and their façade of being nice to my face while planning conspiracies behind my back will no longer be effective. I won’t be mean but I won’t put another ounce into being nice.
Before I completely felt this way, on this particular Monday morning, when I said hello to Ernesto he said hello back. I asked what they were working on and he answered. I stood there a moment, then realized I had nothing else to say to him at all and walked off. It seemed that maybe there was a residual resentment emanating from him but aside from that, it wasn’t so bad.
When I got back from camp on Wednesday I was so tired from sleeping about 5 hours the last three nights that I went to bed at 9:30 pm and slept in late the next day. Noel came over and told me that my creative neighbors had been up to no good while I was at camp and that his mom wanted to talk to me about it. Great I thought. What surprises await me now?
It turns out, while I was away, Ernesto went to a part of the community that doesn’t know me very well and told them that I was stealing money. Now he’s telling people that I have stolen $100,000 pesos from the library and I used 50K to pay off Noel’s motorcycle and the other 50K to pay for Noel’s school and our 4th of July trip. (In reality Noel’s school is about 6K pesos/semester- so he’s going to pay a little less than $2000 pesos/month and our trip was about 4k each; he paid most of his part and had to borrow a little from me. He owes me about $1500 pesos or about $35 USD and is paying me back in motor rides.) On one hand, at least they accuse me of sharing the stolen money, so I’m what? A generous thief I suppose. On the other hand, I’m mad. I have been patient. I have turned my cheek. But enough is enough. There is a balance between being tolerant and being a pushover and that line has definitely been crossed, probably a while ago but I like to give the benefit of the doubt when possible. I deserve respect, dang it. I’m a professional. I came here to help, I didn’t think to myself as I was about to finish college with my entire life ahead of me: “Ohhh, let me join the Peace Corps and steal grant money because that’s where it’s at.”
I don’t even want to talk to my neighbors; I don’t want to look at them. And I sure don’t want them to talk to me or try to be my friends. I want to walk in front of their house each time I come home just so they can see me. I want to go out of my to be nice to other people in my community just to make them look even more crazy. There are several things that make me mad about this so why don’t I point them out:
1) Noel works really hard to pay his way in life. It really bothers him that people now think he’s taking handouts. I can see where he’s coming from.
2) I told Ernesto when I got back from the States what happened with the finances. I offered to let him look at the receipts and he laughed and declined saying there was no need. Then he goes behind my back and tries to rally people?
3) He’s trying to get people in the community to turn against me. This isn’t just between us anymore. I don’t want the community remembering/thinking of me as a thief!
4) He told some woman who works for the Mayor to tell the Mayor that I am a thief and not to give any money to the library. WTF?!? Does he just NOT want a library?
I called Miguel and I told him all of this. We have a meeting set up for Tuesday at 2 pm. I can’t wait. When I called my friends Kelly and Rachele they were both like, “And why do you want to extend again?” Jessica told me she would have said to hell with the library and quit working on it. I thought about doing that but there is no way I’m dropping this project. I have worked too hard on this for too long. I am extending in my site to finish it and if they throw rocks at me at every step along the way as they seem hell bent on doing, bring it on. This library isn’t for them. It’s for the kids that need a place to learn and grow and it’s for the kids that I’m going to do this. Not just throw it together but finish it in a hurry but do it completely and finish it well. Despite the rumors my neighbors start on a weekly basis saying that they’re going to get Miguel to fire me, I ‘m not going anywhere. I talked to Miguel after my COS conference and he told me he would love it if I extended, to revamp Escojo, to plan the Escojo National Conference, to tie up stuff in my site. So there Ernesto and family. Take that. (sticking my tongue out)
Oh yeah, another thing. Tonight I noticed that I must not have shut my bedroom window all the way so it locked and someone stole my money box. I’m pretty sure there was just about $100 pesos in it but guess who I think did it? None other than the wonderful, consistent, shameless thief: Geraldo! Who lives with whom? One guess… that’s right! My neighbors!
8/25 Wednesday: I love youth camps!!!
It’s true. I love youth camps. Like I said, this year it was Rachele, Kelly and I planning this three day camp for 75 people and while at times stressful, I really enjoyed planning it. I like being in charge of stuff I suppose. We plan fun nighttime activities and this year we were lucky to have really interactive presentations from each PCV. I was only bored like 2 times during the entire camp whereas normally I peace out to take a nap several times during conferences.
I was really proud of one of the youth I brought, Randi. He’s Noel’s little brother and I was hesitant to bring him at first because he’s at that age where he sometimes listens but other times gives an attitude and walks away. Also I wasn’t sure because Celebrando typically has older participants- like 17 years old. Randi is 12. But seeing as he always calls me Haitian as an insult I figured he could use the diversity camp more than other kids.
I also brought a younger girl, Anyi who is 12 as well. I hadn’t ever brought her to a conference, not because she is a bad kid but because her personality bothers me. Rude to say I know. But she makes stuff up when she doesn’t know the answer (such as telling a group of people that I am home, just locked in the house sleeping when I’m actually in Santiago for the day) and she bosses the younger kids around a bit. As this was my 10th conference I was running out of options so I decided to go for it and take them. Randi was super outgoing, a real crowd favorite. All the other PCVs were asking whose he was and saying how cute he was. He won an award for being the best participant in the group (and I didn’t even vote!) and when he accepted his award he did a little Michael Jackson dance in front of the crowd upon request. It was hilarious.
Anyi however did not seem to enjoy herself. I realize that to a shy 12 year old 3 days away from mom and dad can seem like an eternity so after I found a note she wrote to her mom the first night saying she missed her and that she was different that everyone else, I asked all the other PCVs who have girls to please have their girls go out of their way to talk to Anyi. This didn’t help. She didn’t try to interact with any of the other girls at all. I felt bad for her but was also annoyed at her lack of effort. I also think that maybe she felt bad that Randi was so popular and she wasn’t.
As a last ditch effort for fun, on the way home on the last day we went to the big mall and ate pizza and ice cream in the food court. It was their 2nd time ever having pizza. Then I gave them some money and let them play in the arcade. After that we went into the big grocery store, Jumbo, and looked around. Anyi finally seemed to be enjoying herself once we began to check out the clothing:)
Overall, it was one of my favorite conferences. I’m to miss taking kids to something that they would never get to experience if it weren’t for these groups. I doubt either of them will be able to go back to Jarabacoa where the camp was, for several years but I’m sure they will always remember the experience fondly as will I.

8/23 Monday: Celebrando el Cibao
Today is the first day of the youth diversity camp we have here in the Cibao. I have been looking forward to this camp for a few months now. Kelly, Rachele and I are the ones planning it. It’s for 27 PCVs and 55 youth. I really like this camp because, (A) I’m sick of Escojo camps, (B) the kids really NEED to learn about diversity because they don’t get it anywhere in their education. It was a struggle getting the school director to let the kids go to this camp. As you know, we do not see eye to eye. He told the kids they couldn’t go because school is important. Which I agree with of course but it’s the lack of consistency on his part. He says no because he’s got power issues; a common problem with school directors in this country. He told the kids that they couldn’t miss 3 days during the 1st real week of school. They actually began school last week but that week doesn’t count as they are only in classes talking about behavior and rules. An entire week of that! Even better, they have so many “holidays” here where there’s no school that even the 1st day of school this year was a holiday and they started on a Tuesday! So when he tells me he values each and every school day it’s hard not to visibly roll my eyes at him and groan. Very difficult indeed. I had to go to the school with one of the kids’s parents and talk to him about it. I pointed out that 55 other kids were going, meaning that 25 other schools in total were letting kids miss three days of school. He didn’t say it was ok that they go but he said it was up to the parents and that if they missed these three days then they couldn’t miss another school day for the rest of the year. Bologna.

8/22 Sunday: Broken stuff and out of site!
Just as I said I was going to start writing in my blog again I (1) had my COS conference and then went to a resort for two days (2) my computer broke. So much for writing! After getting a new power cord and a new hard drive my computer is almost nearly fixed. I have learned that you have to download drivers for every single thing you can think of after your hard drive dies or else your computer won’t work. As a result, I have no sound/movie driver or whathaveyou I suppose so no Glee watching for me (making this one of the lowest points of my service now, so sad without Glee!!), and no music. Also there are random things like the fact my Microsoft Office is in Spanish as well as my iTunes. Ah well. I’m just glad to have my computer back, although sometimes the new power cord doesn’t work. I have a lot of paper work to do at this point in my service.
The question of my life now isn’t “to extend or not to extend?” but rather, “to extend for how long?” Yes sure the last blog I wrote I said how I wasn’t extending but hey, that was a while ago. Also you know me, things change all the time. Also of course when I’m in the States I didn’t want to extend! My neighbors were overwhelming me too. So I want to extend until December for sure and then I was thinking of traveling with some PCV friends of mine through Nicaragua and Costa Rica. But then I’m like, well… I’ve wanted to work with the Haitian population more and I’d love to do a latrine project before I go as well. I need to finish the library and get some community groups formed and strong to keep the library up and running. These aren’t things I can do really if I leave in December. Well I could but it would be very stressful. So I think I’m going to apply for a grant to do latrines and if I get it, I’ll stay till next spring. I also was thinking that I should take a pre calc class in the spring semester and I won’t be able to do that if I stay.
Then there’s Noel. So, I know I said I was emotionally unavailable before but I think I’ve changed my mind about that. I like the guy! I can see why the DR is number 1 in number of PCVs who marry host country peeps. They are sweet in their own way. I’ve never had anyone tell me and actually follow through, that they would do anything for me. And, not that I’m looking to get married but I find myself empathizing with many other a volunteer with ending a perfectly good relationship prematurely. It’s sad really. I’m not looking forward to the day.

8/2: Monday: Why haven’t I written? A sum up of the last 3 months
I know I have been really great about writing in my blog my entire service but I stopped on purpose in June because all I wanted to talk about was my drama with my terrible neighbors. I don’t want to look back at my service and only think of that, so I stopped writing. Although I will now recount some stories about them, it won’t be the focus so that’s good.
About Current Events and My Trip Home: First and most excitingly, my COS (close of service) conference is in two days!!!!! This means that I’ve made it guys!!! I did it!! Although my COS date (last day of service) isn’t until the 28th or 29th of October, the COS conference is as good as October. The end is so close. And, while I LOVE my service, I am excited to go home. I feel very mixed about it. I can’t WAIT to be done with my neighbors but I also realized when I went home that my PCV friends aren’t like any other. I didn’t realize how we had changed until I went home and found myself not wanting to tell my best friend stuff but rather wishing I could call my friend Kelly (a PCV) because, even though it was something that happened in the States, I knew my States bestie wouldn’t understand the way my PCV bestie would. A simple example is Chai tea. I bought some and I knew my States friend wouldn’t like it because it has such a distinct, different flavor. And she hated it, like I would have two years ago . I wanted to say, “Wait, just taste it. Really taste it and if you actually don’t like it for the flavor not for the fact that it’s a different flavor, then great.” And I want to say that with lots of things, life in general! I didn’t feel like that last year when I went home. Other differences were that I kept randomly speaking in Spanish and then would be sad that no one was around to understand my spanglish. Also, even on the last day on my trip home I was still stopping myself from tossing the toilet paper in the trashcan! Overall the trip home was fantastic but I missed my PCV friends so much. I felt like I was disrupting the lives of my States friends and was trying really hard not seem rude or imposing but still left feeling like I was selfish by American standards. That part of my trip sucked. Also I noticed that I am a lot more social and need to be around people more than before. That part was fun. I hope that when I get home I don’t have problems making new friends because I realized that there is really only one person I hang out with in Dixon and she’s since gotten married, has two new children and is pregos. So, yeah- that’s not quite the same. I talked with my friend Ali (she COSed in May) and she said that social seclusion is tough after PC. I mean think of it, now I can call up at least 5 different people at any given time to hang out or to talk and odds are, one or two will be down. At home, I went through the one on my list and then would just take a nap or something. Depressing.

About Gossip: I was dreading coming back to my community because of my neighbors. While I was gone Noel called me about once a week and told me that Mercedes and Wandi were telling people I had sex with Wandi (GAG!!!!) and Ernesto was saying that I stole 50K pesos from the library project. I was repulsed and amused by the 1st accusation- although that’s a very strong thing to say because really all I have is my rep. If that’s gone, I become ineffective in my community but it’s so out there to say that it made me laugh out of disbelief. The thief thing is super strong to say in this culture and made me incredibly angry. How dare him. I have worked so freaking hard to get funding for this project and then to say I would steal it? I was sooooo mad. People get into machete fights over throwing the T word around!! And, not to mention I was bailing hay, painting and scooping ice cream while I was home because I’m so broke. So if I had stolen roughly $1,389 USD I think I would have lived up my vacay a little more. All I can say is karma karma karma. It’s not my place to punish them but I take comfort knowing it will come one day.

About Mild but Sweet Revenge: I came up with a great plan. I baked cookies when I got back to my site and just gave them to Mercedes today, telling her that they’re from my mom. That my mom wanted to send me back with a special treat just for them since she knows how they take care of me. Mercedes was really nice to me today. It was awesome. When I was home I called Ernesto once after I found out he called me a thief. I had been avoiding calling him but I figured that he was snowballing things in his mind so I needed to straighten it out and stop being a child, avoiding the things I didn’t want to do. When I called him from the States to check on things he was not friendly, didn’t ask about my trip (very rude on his part) and then when I asked him to write down my phone number he said no thank you! How rude! Although it’s hard I’m going to try to go out of my way to be nice to them. It’s going to be 100% fake because I detest them but I think it’s the best punishment I can give and strangely satisfying.

About Noel: So, he was really sweet when I was home and he called me a lot. I previously we talked like once a week but I think it was more, he definitely called way more than that. I have decided that I am not good at relationships. Maybe I should just be an old maid. He’s all Dominican and says all the “te quiero”, “mucho besos”, “te extraño” yada yada yada and I find myself nearly cringing. I’m just not an emotional person and while I like Noel, I’ve decided that I must be emotionally unavailable. So why did I start dating him? Well, I thought I would grow to like him more. Its not that I don’t like him, I do!- but I don’t think I would have dated someone in the States if I liked them this much. Also, we’ve had our problems and I swear if a Dominican dumps me, I’m hopeless. Here’s what’s going on: he was worried that I would come back from the States changed. I explained that’s ridiculous as I am American and so it’s not like I’d come home thinking I was all cool since I could now speak English. It’s different when an American goes to the States than when a Dominican goes. We hung out the 1st day I got back and then 2nd he only came by for a few minutes. I gave him some crap about it and I think I offended him. He came back and hung out with me while I was with two other PCVs so I wasn’t talking much in Spanish and since then, he’s been cordial to me but not coming by. Actually, today he said hi to me and then changed and went to the river and didn’t even invite me!!! How are you not going to invite me to the river? Man! He and I need to talk but he needs to come over so we can talk! I am starting to get annoyed by it and am trying to tell myself if he doesn’t come over today at a decent time I won’t get mad. Maybe it’s like a junior high break up? Maybe this is his way of breaking up with me? That would be how my Dominican relationship ended! Hopeless!

About Dengue: This is just so you all know, dengue is running ramped here. Last I knew there had been 22 deaths in the country from it, 12 of which were in the Santiago area (so by me). If I get dengue I hope first hope it’s not the hemorrhagic type and I second hope it’s the kind that just makes me sleepy. No matter what though there’s that rash…

Side note: the kids hanging out at my house are really annoying me lately. Today I hid out from them for 2 hours. They didn’t know I was home, hehe. Right now they’re on the porch and I’m inside at the kitchen table and my front door is shut. They’re just waiting for me to finish the “work” I said I had to finish, basically until my battery dies because there’s no power. Just so you get a picture of my life right now.

About Projects:
The Foundation SSAMA: The foundation is a freaking joke. To sum it up, Miguel wants each foundation to form 10 new Escojo groups per year. The leaders of each foundation don’t know anything about Escojo and so they throw these crappy classes together (unless they have a PCV to do all their work) and don’t actually teach anything but write down names and get head counts. It’s a blasphemy of Escojo. I am upset because I have worked so hard with it to have its name dirtied so quickly though laziness. I have stopped helping with the foundation stuff because (1) Ernesto is pretty much not talking to me (2) I shouldn’t be doing all their work, I’m leaving in a few months (3) I went to an Escojo “conference” through the foundation and it was a complete disaster. Apparently it’s ok that the kids get drunk at Escojo conferences and stay out till all hours of the night drinking and dancing. The three PCVs that were there put their feet down and Miguel wasn’t in agreement. Romeo, the country director- the head guy in PC-DR had to get involved. I don’t want to be apart of it. It’s a mess and if Miguel sees no problem with it, I’m out. But I do feel bad for my kids teaching Escojo and feel bad for their students. They’re most likely going to fail the final exams.

Stoves: The stoves are nearly done. Word is that Ernesto charged a few people and didn’t build their stove so I need to talk to him about that. I have a feeling he’s going to tell me he didn’t take anyone’s money. My poor stove guy, Jimmy, literally has to eat with his mom at her house with his family because the stove project is over and he has no money or work. Ernesto has begun shunning him and remember that Ernesto is in charge of doing the labor on the library. The deal we had was that Oney was going to start the library and Jimmy finish up the stoves. Then Oney told me he couldn’t work in the community any more because he found work outside the community. During this time an opportunity came up for me to take a stove mason to another community to have a stove building workshop. I took Jimmy because he was the only one of the three who told me he was available to work on the stoves. Oney got super jealous and was very disrespectful to me and now Ernesto won’t give Jimmy any work on the library. Another issue that I need to talk to Ernesto about. I love the maturity levels here.

Library: I have been working diligently trying to get funding for this library and I feel like the weight of the world is on me! The first grant of $2300 USD miraculously filled in May- which we used right away on materials. Then we received another grant for $5,000 USD and we’ve got about $500 USD left from that. I’m guessing we need another $1500- $2000 USD for materials and the rest I’ll use on books!!! I have one $500 grant for books on its way. Then there’s the $5,000 grant posted online that I have been really trying to “fill” with donations. I did a radio interview, wrote a press release, contacted 9 newspapers, have been in contact with 2 foundations… and when I was home I found out that the $5,000 USD grant I have been trying to get money donated to will be receiving a check to complete the funding- last I checked it was short $1,874 USD still. I was soooo relieved and excited! I literally was singing and jumping up and down. I didn’t realize how stressed I was to get that filled. I had come to terms with the fact I wasn’t going to get the library done. And now we will be able to finish it!! It’s a good thing we’re going to get that grant because despite the fact I told Ernesto NOT to get anything else on credit at the hardware store and despite the fact I told him not to do more than half of the work on the library, he has “bought” things in my name at the hardware store on credit and has done more than half of the labor on the library. Why did I not want him to do this? Because we’re out of money. The Mayor of Navarrete is supposed to donate $150,000 pesos. She said she’d donate half of the money last May and the other half in June... I’m still waiting for anything. Today when I called the treasurer, she said maybe next month (which is what she told me last month) When I told her we were out of money, that we needed at least $40,000 to pay the workers she said the check would be ready for me for $40,000 on Monday. We shall see but I hope so! Then I can pay another installment towards the labor at least. I had just been hitting walls with this project all of May, all of June and half of July. Now I’m hopeful again. It’s true that you have to be persistent, when you get knocked down keep trying. You have to think outside of the box, be resourceful and be able to accept failure to be a PCV. Jeesh.

About After Peace Corps: So, I’ve decided to try to get into med school. I’m going to apply to a few post bachelorette programs and cross my fingers. My GPA Is decent but my math/science GPA is not so impressive and it makes me nervous. But that’s what a pb program is for! I had thought I was going to extend my service (was like 95% sure) but then when I went home instead of getting a feeling of sadness on the plane, I got his overwhelming feeling of, yessssss, I’ve paid my dues. I need a break from volunteering. No es facíl dude. Although I recently found out that Miguel is placing two health PCVs on my mountain, two from the group that’s coming in two weeks to the DR. This annoys me on several levels. First, why was I placed here ALONE and now he’s all about grouping? It SUCKED being here alone. I was the only health PCV in the entire north region of the country! Second, Ernesto told me that these girls will be here to help with the foundation. So if Miguel is making Ernesto their project partner I am seriously going to object. To me it’s a slap in the face, like the fact that he’s such a bad person and treated me so poorly doesn’t matter. Miguel is still going to reward him with more PC work. Also, why didn’t Miguel think to mention this to me or ask me to help with site development like he should have?

On the other hand, I’m glad that there will be two new girls (even though he’s putting them in the only two communities I did some stoves in outside of my community) because I am sure that they will continue the library. And I am happy for them that they will be able to work together; I think my service would have been exponentially better if I had had a nearby partner in crime. This leads to me think that I need to extend for at least a week since they will be leaving for their communities a day after I am supposed to leave the country. Seems kind of stupid to extend for a week but I think it’s important to talk to them about the library and the foundation so they don’t end up having to repeat groundwork. We’ll see if I extend. I really want to backpack across Central America when I’m done until Christmas but that depends on if my PCV friends (Kelly and Kenz) flake out… lol

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