Sunday, September 18, 2011

some things i've forgotten

Still procrastinating writing about my trip home for 2 reasons: 1. I am a tad worried that it will make me homesick. 2. I have been drained since being back here. Don’t get me wrong, I love being back and am really blessed to have people that I love in this country, but it’s incredibly tiring. Much different than my not-so-realistic, way too amazing trip home where I was able to sleep in late, without the noise of dogs, motorcycles, or neighbors screaming at 7am, in my comfortable bed in my parents’ house; take a nice warm shower to start the day; lay on an actual couch; hang out and wait for everyone to get off work; visit friends and family any time I wanted because I had cell phone service AND a car; still feel clean by the end of the day because I hadn’t spent the last 12 hours sweating; and then start the next day fresh all over again. That was a little glimpse of what the few weeks home were like! More to come soon, I’m sure.

Anyways, I found this blog that I wrote a while ago…like after I had been here for 13 months (I have now been here for a year and a half…). Thought I’d share it! Maybe it will get people from home (you know who you are) from griping that I never update. :o) Or at least it will make me feel better about procrastinating longer….

The 1-year mark quickly came and went (yikes?!). This is scary enough in itself, but what might be even scarier is that I have started noticing that some of the things that once drove me crazy or really confused me are becoming fairly normal in my everyday life. Notice that I said some of the things in my life; others will never make sense to me. Several of these no-longer-strange-to-me cosas were brought to my attention during my first round of visitors, while others hit me every now and then like a ton of bricks. Like, “Oh my goodness, I forgot that it’s not normal for me to be told how I’m a fashion victim just because my eyeshadow doesn’t match my shirt, which matches my nails, which matches my jewelry, which matches my purse, which may or may not match my friend’s wardrobe.” At first I was going to call this blog “Things I’ve Forgotten aren’t Normal”, but that isn’t right. These things are normal to my life here; they are simply very different from my past life as an American.

Now: Things I’ve forgotten are…umm… different.

1. My water situation. I have a tinaco, which is actually great because it means sometimes I will get to take real showers; however, it is quite the process. The tinaco is a black tank (usually large, but mine is miniature) that sits outside my house. When it is full, it holds the water, and I have to turn the knob outside to allow the water into my house every time I want to flush the toilet, wash dishes, or take a shower. Mine has a leak in it somewhere, which is why I have to turn it on and off so much. Going to try to explain this process…if you think it’s boring to read this, imagine how I feel having to do it all the time :o)

Ok…so there is one pipe that runs from the street into the tank; the water from the streets can go straight into my house instead of the tank, too. Usually once a week, the town will send water through the pipes into the street pipes. When this happens, everyone in my neighborhood yells that there’s water, and (if I’m home) I run out and open the pipes from the road and run around to the back of my house to open the pipe to the tank. Once the tinaco gets full, I can close the pipe into the tank and use the water from the road to fill the buckets in my house. This is also a good time to do dishes, mop, and shower because I won’t have to use any of my water to do these things. After the water from the streets stops, everyone yells to let others know that it stopped, and I can close the pipes from the street. Once our neighborhood went over two weeks without getting water, and I had not yet invested in a large bucket. I had no water to bathe, wash dishes, or clean (and to my surprise…all of these bugged me). Luckily my neighbors (yes…one of the overbearing ones that never let me breathe, God bless ‘em) let me bathe in their house. Now I have a large bucket in my shower (still sporting the bucket showers…would have to change the name of this blog if I didn’t), so there is usually water of some sort available if I play my cards right.

2. Piropos. This is basically the Spanish word for “cat calls.” It is completely normal, and even encouraged, for the men in this country to yell things at women as they are walking by. We learned in training that many women in the Dominican culture like this because it’s a way for the men to tell them that they look nice (in usually a completely inappropriate manner, in my opinion). There is a popular song here that goes, “Yo quiero una Americana pa’ manga mi Visa, pa…….” Translated: I want an American girl so she can get me my Visa. Perfect timing that this song came out right before I moved here, right? So that’s always a popular liner to shout out as Americans are walking by. They will also hiss at you. Yes, hiss. Like pssssssst 100 times as you’re walking by to get your attention. Usually if you look at them, they have nothing to say or do besides say, “I love you,” or just wave. I mean, who wouldn’t melt at an almost-Shakespeare-like liner such as that? It’s bizarre. And I don’t like it. But sadly, it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Honestly, it’s not as bad in my town, so (for the millionth time) people should visit. :o)

3. On the hissing topic, it’s not only the men. EVERYONE HERE HISSES. In the classroom, in the church, on the streets, at work, in the supermarket, in the gua guas, at home. It’s is the way to get people’s attention. At times, I have told people that I have a name and they need to use it. Other times, gotta admit, I’ve caught myself doing it. It’s a culture thing, so -for example- it’s hard to be the only person in the middle of a crowded store who is trying to scream “Excuse me!?” to get the cashier’s attention. Guilty.

4. Public transportation. There are no words. Will have to come back to this one later.

5. Halls throat drop = candy. Energy drink = medicine for a sick stomach. Seen these so many times, I’ve started believing ‘em.

6. Another thing I’ve found keeps sneaking into my head, “I can eat as much fried cheese, fried salami, fried chicken, rice, and potatoes as I want and I will be healthy; however, if I take a sip of yogurt, I will get fat.”

7. Hitchhiking. It’s so normal here. LOVE it. It is probably one of my favorite things about the DR, no lie. It’s like an adventure sometimes: How fast can I get someone to pick me up? And how far can I get them to take me? I may or may not take this back to the states with me.

8. Try #2 at the transportación público.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still crazy. But I have definitely gotten so used to it that I may or may not warn you about it when (yes, I said when) you visit. So consider this my warning.

Picture this: 1 normal car. 11 adults. 1 child. 2 suitcases. And a live turkey. Yup. Alive. For approximately 2 hours.

I suppose the example will suffice as the explanation.

9. Need for patience. Something that takes 10 minutes in the States could- and probably will- take about 2 hours here. And something that would probably take 2 hours in the US might take up to a few days here. For example, getting somewhere here is a slow process, filled with lots of the aforementioned transportación público. One can never be quite sure when one will arrive at the desired destination, so it’s advantageous to leave an hour or so before you would think necessary. It never ceases to amaze me how patient Dominicans can be. Hopefully this will follow me back to my life in America, and I won’t get irritated if the pizza delivery guy is an hour late, but we shall see.

10. Health consciousness. Having to wonder whether or not you’re going to get cholera every time you accept a glass of water at someone’s house. You can either live in fear or just go for it. The choice is yours.

Like I said, these things are merely parts of my life here. And I love my life. So I guess I should love everything on this list, too. I can’t remember why I even started writing this 6 months ago, but I’m sure there was a reason at the time. Thanks for listening! It’s about time for the last gua gua to my site, so I don’t have enough time to develop this random list into an organized thought-provoking analysis. Not like any of my other posts really do that. But I will just casually sum this up by saying that life is good here.

I’m back in the DR.

Ready to do 8 more months of this thing called Peace Corps.

And maybe eventually post about my trip home.


  1. Funny..I had checked earlier today and saw no update :o( and read all the others that had, but "YaY!!", you did :o) We really enjoyed your and Mikey's trip home too!! I miss you!! Wish we could have Skyped today, hopefully we can soon. And yes, please don't bring the hitchhiking habit back to the states :o) I'll be checking and hoping for updates and more of your stories. Love and miss you and Mikey so much!! Talk to you soon!
    Love, Mom

  2. Heather I could not handle most of the things you wrote about. Especially the #8,9,10. I didny get enough time with you when you were here!! Today I asked tiff when the last time she laughed til she cried was. And she told me when you were home about your neck muscle story and I just about died. I love you! Be safe.