Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adios El Seibo.

Guess it makes sense to take advantage of my family’s internet while I still have it…So hello! We are leaving the wonderful town of El Seibo in an hour, and that makes me a little sad. This is also the last time that all of the ICT volunteers will be together; once we get back to Santo Domingo, we all live a decent distance apart. Training has really flown by! I can’t believe I’ve been gone for almost 2 months…crazy.

It is so hard to say goodbye to this family, too. I am planning on visiting as soon as I can (hopefully right after our 3 month mark in our new sites), and I am already looking forward to the visit. I am completely out of pesos right now, but I can already think of things that I know they will love, both from the states and from my luggage in Santo Domingo. They gave me some small gifts last night, including a tshirt that they all signed. They even drew a hangman on the back of it with the slogan saying, “Heather No Come.” Perfect. They are precious. I will try to put pictures of it up as soon as I can.

Anyways, I have been reading over some of my blog posts, and it occurred to me that I share very little about the culture, my projects, living conditions, Peace Corps, etc. I mean, updates about my language incidents and awkward situations are great and all (they better be because I have a feeling they will not be stopping anytime soon in the next 2 years), but I figured I should balance it out and help give anyone who is reading a little better picture of what life is like here. The following might help someone understand my experience a little more:

- We have been living off of about $1 a day for the past 2 months. About 33 pesos, I believe. That means that if we decide to splurge for a Gatorade or yogurt or something, then that is a full day’s work. It has made me think twice about budgeting.

- We are still making more than most people in the communities.

- We do not have cell phones…yet. We get them on Monday, and we are all sooo excited. It’s been a unique experience to have to walk to someone’s house, hope they are home, and then figure out what the plan is for the night. Let’s face it, a text is just a lot simpler.

- Peace Corps pays our host families to do our laundry, feed us, house us, etc. We eat what and when they eat, and only get to shower when they have water…this is why it matters what kind of family you get. This is also why I don’t want to leave El Seibo…my family here is perfect.

- Female volunteers have to wash our undergarments in the shower.

- It’s extremely hot here. And we’re not even in summer yet.

- We have no idea where we are going to be living for the next 2 years. They give us our assignments on Monday, I think. It’s made most of us a little anxious because we just want to know and get started! Still, I would prefer to not split up from the group for another solid month or so. But they didn’t ask me.

- When we get to our official sites, we will live with another host family for the first 3 months. After that, we have the choice to stay with that host family or move out and find our own place.

- I am allowed to have visitors in about 3.5 months :o)

- I am ready to meet my new community.

Ok well that’s not exactly the overview of the DR like I had planned, but there is a little bit about the volunteers’ current situation. I will write more about the culture ASAP; however, I have to go finish packing because I have been dilly-dallying around my house, and I need to be packed in 15 minutes. Story of my life. Anyways, keep my future site location in your prayers, and I will write whenever I can get internet again! Adios friends.

My host mom & dad.
Our fun backyard!

The street that I will miss.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just an update to let my mom know that I'm alive.

Visiting a Haitian community in El Seibo

Dona Martha teaching us how to cook Dulce de Mani

The famous empanada stand!
Surprise party for Adam, a fellow volunteer. He loves America.

El I will miss thee.

Rooftop party at the house of one of the highschoolers

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Un poco overview.

Howdy :o) The week is still going well! We started our internships with various organizations around town this past week, so that should be fun. Two other volunteers and I are working with a small computer lab where we observed a class in the facility, and we are teaching an adult IT class tomorrow night. Hopefully that goes well. Also, we are working on 3 different youth projects around the community- a documentary, a newspaper, and a PhotoShop class. I am working with 7 other volunteers on helping a group of high schoolers make a documentary about something that interests them in their town. The topic they chose is the factories in town...a Mabi factory (the town's signature fruity drink) and a dulceria (a sweets shop). I'm really excited to see what the students come up with, as well as to learn a little about actually making a documentary! Once again, I feel like I am learning everything as I go along. It's overwhelming, but it's been a fun process.

So here is an overview of the past week or so...

- I like coffee now! I figured it would happen sooner or later over the next 2 years, but it's official. I'm slowly becoming Dominican.

- I saw a political parade in the streets, and finally figured out to which political party my family belongs. Found this out the hard way when I came home with a poster from the parade and they started hissing and booing at me.

- Got my hair blown out Dominican-style. Lasted for about 10.2 minutes until the humidity hit.

- One of my many language bloopers for the week...told my host mom to have fun at a funeral. That one was a bad one. She kept saying that I didn't understand, so it turned into a game of charades- she would pretend to slit her throat and then act like she was praying. I thought she was saying that she had to go pray or God would kill her. Things got awkward.

- Feliz went back to Korea for 3 weeks :o( I will be gone by the time she was a sad goodbye.

- I started a small fire in the family's kitchen while trying to make scrambled eggs on that dern gas stove. So much for thinking I wanted to have one when I get my own place. Adios Martha Stewart dream.

- FINALLY SAW A BEACH!!! Our group went to Playa Esmeralda on Sunday, and it was absolutely beautiful. About an hour into the day, though, I stepped on a sea urchin while swimming in the water. Spent the rest of the day soaking my foot and had a random Dominican man try to dig out the spines with a needle. Good times.

- Still had a good day at the beach :o)

- Foot is almost healed.

- Several of the volunteers have been getting sick lately. Everything from dehydration to food poisoning to parasites. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as the overall health of everyone.

- I learned a few more rules to the national game of the DR: dominos. I am far from good; however, I have a lot of time to practice over the next few years.

- I have a new skill: I can cut hair now. Not well by any means, but people have trusted me to do this and I have a few appointments lined up for the next few weeks. It all started as a joke between another volunteer and myself when he agreed to let me try to cut his hair. It was my first real attempt to do a full-on haircut and it didn’t go horribly wrong if I do say so myself; however, he ended up having to fix it after he left my house. That same night, I cut another volunteer’s hair, and it turned out a little better. Then people in the neighborhood started hearing that I was giving free haircuts, and they didn’t seem to care that I had zero experience. It was free, so why not? I gave one of the usual teenagers that hangs out at my house a nice trim, and, if I understood correctly, I am supposed to cut a few more neighborhood guys’ hair in the near future. The volunteers have decided to go a different direction with their styling techniques, so I think I have been replaced by another volunteer. But that is beside the point.

- My family had a massive birthday party for my host sister the other night at our house. Tons of spaghetti and cake. Who doesn't love that combo? Also, somehow I ended up singing "I Believe I Can Fly" with my new best Dominican friend. Not exactly sure how that happened, but maybe someday I will post the video.

- Also, I feel like I am making friends in the neighborhood, so that's nice. They all basically think it's a hoot to help me with my Spanish, so I'm not sure how deep the friendships go. I'll take what I can get.

- My family is still great.

- The food portions are still massive. And I am still struggling with hurting the family's feelings. It's an ongoing battle.

I guess that's all of the updates I have for now. I am going to attempt to upload a million pictures along with this blog...we will see if it works. Hope you're having a great week! Love and miss you all.

Feliz and me in front of our host family's house!
El Seibo...

Discoteca WOW :o)

Me, Feliz, Katie, & Odelia eating dinner- Korean-style.

Katie & friends on the way to the river

My 1st motoconcho ride!

My sketch-looking barber shop.
My first victim, I mean, client.

Some of our students for the documentary.

Me with my wonderful host mom, host sisters, and another KOICA volunteer, Piedad

Me, Carly, Yade, & Chloe outside watching the political parade

Chloe's favorite part of the DR.

My "I Believe I Can Fly" friend & my host brother

Playa Esmeralda!!

Post-incident :o(

Our whole group!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Life outside of Santo Domingo.

Hola friends. Things are already 100% better since the last time I updated. Good start to this entry, huh? Our group has been in El Seibo for a little over a week now, and I absolutely love it here! The Lord definitely answered my prayers concerning my host family. My new family is wonderful, and I actually think my Spanish is improving a little (which doesn’t say much, but is exciting nonetheless). So my new family consists of the following: the don and doña (yup. Figured out where to find that dang eñe), three kids- Esmeralda (13), Eddy (19), and Francis (20), and my Korean host sister, Feliz. She has been stationed in El Seibo with the Korean version of the Peace Corps, Koica, for about a year so far. I have really enjoyed getting to know her because her Spanish is much easier to understand and she knows what it’s like to be in a new place and to feel a little out of place. There are actually 2 Korean volunteers in El Seibo. The other girl, Odelia, lives by herself and has had me, Feliz, and another PC volunteer, Katie, over a couple of times for dinner and even a movie day! She had a bootleg version of Alice in Wonderland, so that was really fun to watch with Korean subtitles. It was perfect except for some guy in the theater that kept getting up to go to the concession stand, so every fifteen minutes, his silhouette would leave and come back with a new refreshment. Looked like popcorn one time, but nobody can be sure.

Other than loving my new family and enjoying Korean food every now and then, I have been doing a lot of technical training and so many Spanish classes that it makes my head spin. Our group usually has class all together in the morning from 8:30-12 and then we break up into our small Spanish classes from 2-5 (or vice versa). Another reason I like being here is because we all live a little closer together, and we get to go home for lunch. Our group has also been doing fun things like going to the park some nights, going to the local club, Discoteca WOW, and we even borrowed our director’s projector one night and watched The Hangover outside of one of the host family’s houses. Speaking of Discoteca WOW, I am just going to say that the language is not the only thing here that is difficult. I am having some major problems with Bachata, Merengue, and Salsa. It’s still fun to try, though, so back to Discoteca WOW I go.

Like I mentioned before, I am working really hard at Spanish. I actually had to do an entire 15-minute presentation in Spanish earlier today and it wasn’t as painful as I thought. It might have been painful for the people listening, but I didn’t cry during it and I compensated for my lack of Spanish skills with a decent Powerpoint, so I guess it could have been worse. My new family has helped a ton because-well- #1: they talk to me. The family is precious, and every time someone attempts to talk to me in English, my mami says, “En español porque ella necisita practicar!” It really is nice to have people around that want to help.

Another one of the many reasons why my family is great is that we get to snack. This sounds like a small thing, but it has changed my life. Seriously, for a month, I thought that nobody in this country ate between meals and it was killing me. I get hungry between the ginormous meals, and my family’s fridge is always open for me to get a piece of fruit or a slice of cheese or something. Still, we’re working on the issue of the enormous portions, but I have heard from other volunteers that this can’t be fixed. Anyone that knows me knows that I pride myself in being able to eat A LOT. Hey, I like me some food. But here, it is insane. There is no need to have a giant plate full of rice and beans, a giant plate full of fried plantains, a giant plate full of chicken, and a giant plate full of cheese spaghetti. All for lunch…all for me. No need. I swear I feel like I’m on an episode of Man Vs. Food every time I sit down for a meal. Even when I was in Santo Domingo, Mama Sol and mi abuela would clap every time I finished a whole meal. And that action has followed me to El Seibo. The family’s favorite expression here is, “Heather no come” (Heather doesn’t eat)….ummm..yes, I do. A lot. More than is recommended by any food pyramid. But it is never enough. They get really excited when I finish everything, and the people-pleasing side of me wants their constant approval, but the logical, and to be honest, what-is-physically-possible side of me can’t make the cut. I am either going to have to disappoint them or come back in two years in my own airplane. We will see what happens. I wouldn’t bet against the plane route, though.

Well, I have been making a habit out of writing few, but very long blog entries. Sorry to my friends that would prefer a short update every few days. I will work on it, I swear. My family actually lets me get on their internet some, so hopefully I will be able to start using my computer a little more. If anyone is up for making a Skype date, please let me know! I will see what I can do :o) Also, rumor has it that another volunteer discovered the password for wireless about 20 minutes from where I live, so I might try to hit that up in the near future. For the few people out there reading this, know that I love and miss you and will try to be a better Facebook/Skype friend ASAP.

Ok, so that’s it for now I suppose…more to come in the near future. Please keep my fellow volunteers and me in your prayers, and let me know how I can be praying for you, friends. Adios.