Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A little about college here...

9/14 Tuesday: Book Club!!
I began my book club today and I am excited!!! I want to make it a book club/creative writing class. I think this will be as fun as my art class. A few women came to help out and I asked them afterwards if instead of just helping out, if they wanted to form a book club of their own and they seemed really enthusiastic about it!! So this weekend I’m going to research what exactly one does in a book club (aside from read) and buy a few copies of a Harry Potter for the kids and In the Time of the Butterflies for the women, and a dictionary.

What will we do in this club?! This is what I have so far: Class will be once a week for about two hours. We will have homework of reading about 15 pages a week or a chapter. The kids will have to keep a list of characters and their roles. Each time a new character is introduced they have to write it down with a description. Each week they have to sum up what they read and also keep a list of words they didn’t know and we’ll look them up together. They will write down the definitions and maybe we’ll have vocabulary tests every couple weeks? Who knows? I also want them to write little short stories to encourage their creative sides and if anyone has any other creative writing ideas, let me know! They will receive a star each week for completed homework and will earn something after so many stars but I’m still trying to think of what. I was thinking of making it a prestigious thing, like levels of reading and they get a new color name tag or something. We have to make name tags I decided. Big ones that hang around the neck with yarn, because why not?

I am excited. I don’t remember if I wrote that Brittany is the one who is going to be in La Coyota but Miguel told me she is and I am sooooo happy!!! She said she’d love to take over my projects (ie any Escojo classes/book club/library organizing). I keep picturing us working together on the book club each week (even if only for a month) when she gets here. Can’t wait! (Can you tell I am STARVED to work with someone? Ha!)

9/13 Monday: Noel goes to college
Today is a proud day for Noel and for his family. Today is the day that he begins going to the University. While this is a big deal in the States as well, here it is harder to go to school and thus less common, making it a bigger deal on average. Think of this: Noel’s dad died when Noel was 4 (the story behind that is that he was a motor driver like Noel and he was driving in the rain which made his blood cold, giving him a bad case of la gripe which killed him), Noel’s step dad, Tito went to school up to sophomore year in high school and Margara made it up to 7th grade. Nowadays most kids at least finish high school but as recently as 15 years ago it was very common to drop out before finishing.

Why is it so hard to go to the university here you ask? Well for one, I have noticed that parents don’t push their kids at all. Noel has been telling me since I got here that he is going to start college one of these days to be an accountant. And I always thought he was kind of a slacker for not just doing it. Then I realized that (A) I am naïve in thinking anyone can get whatever they want, they just have to do it and work for it (a luxury for more developed places) and (B) Noel has no one in his life giving him that little push. So one day mid August, after tiring of listening to him debate with himself when the actual last day to sign up for classes was based on what Fulana said, I said “Why don’t you just go and ask the University yourself?” And he looked taken aback before saying sheepishly, “Alone?” I had no idea that was the issue! I said I would be more than happy to go with him and we picked a date to go.

The day before we were supposed to go I casually asked if we were still going and he started to make an excuse to get out of it. I got mad and was like, “Fine!! Don’t go to school and keep on driving a motorcycle your entire life.” No no no! Of course we’re going. He was just joking. Riiiiiight. We went to three colleges the next day together to check out prices, see when school starts and when you have to sign up by. Noel is so timid, once we walked into a registration office, I took a number, looked around and Noel was gone!! So, I decided to just be Dominican and I budged in line to ask my question, I wasn’t registering after all right? Then I went out to the hallway and found him sitting out there. When I asked what happened he was like, I’m not sitting in there!! Then I told him that he doesn’t have to be embarrassed, that room was full of other guys from the campo that were nervous and didn’t know what they were doing either. I told him I was here to support him so he didn’t have to feel alone in this. He didn’t know anything about school, not even what a credit hour was. We decided what to ask based on the brochure I grabbed and when our number came up we were ready. By the end of the day he had picked which school he was going to based on a pro and con list we wrote up together. I think a lot of Dominicans get overwhelmed by the entire process and have no one to turn to for help so they never start it. Also most Dominicans get stuck in the planning stages of anything. They just aren’t taught how to problem solve/organize stuff.

Second large reason many Dominicans don’t go to college: banks don’t give school loans. I can understand that, chaos would ensue! They don’t even have home addresses here, how would you find someone who skipped out on their loan? So while the universities aren’t expensive it is difficult for the average Dominican to pay for everything. For instance, Noel has to keep paying 700 pesos/week towards his motorcycle. Now he’s also got to pay 850 pesos/week in transportation, plus the $2000 pesos/month for school and on top of it all he’s working less because he’s at school half the day! So he’s got to come up with an extra $5400 pesos/month to go to school. I know if I suddenly had to pay $5400 RD/month I would have to use money from home; and I make a little over $11,000 RD/month! Imagine someone who makes like $7000 RD/month. And that’s not buying any books or anything. Overall, college here is really cheap as compared to American university prices (ridiculous) but having to pay for it all out of pocket as you go without a decent paying job… no es facíl.

Anyways, I feel very proud of him for going to school. And it’s fun to see anyone when they start school because they try to act humble, like its not a big deal but you can hear it in their voices when they find any excuse to say, “I go to the university, yada yada yada.” I just hope that he can find a balance between earning enough money and going to school. I would be so sad to find that he had to stop going to school because he couldn’t afford it, a big reason he never started before Tito go the job as a cobrador in the guagua. (so Tito can help pay if Noel comes up short)

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