Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tribute to Eminem.

Back to reality. Oh there goes gravity.

Did I really just quote an Eminem song for my blog? Strange, but I’ll go with it.

So here I am! Back in Juan Lopez, Moca, my humble abode for the next 7 months of my life. It’s a little after 9:00pm, and I am currently sitting outside the director’s office at the high school where I work. The public night school has a questionable reputation and is basically a last resort for kids in my town and the surrounding areas. Most of the muchachos work during the day and then study at night. Also, it is the only school in the area that is open to anyone that wants to study, such as undocumented Haitians or non-traditional students of any age. With all of that being said, there’s never a dull moment here! Tonight’s main event was the breaking in of a former student who has been expelled for 2 years due to bad behavior. She was apparently a troublemaker who wanted to cause a scene, so she climbed over the barbed wire gate behind the office building and ran through the halls. As I sat in the office waiting room with my computer in my lap, in my little plastic chair that has become my makeshift office, I heard a stampede of the entire body. It came complete with, as we would say in Arkansas, hootin’ and hollrin’, and I thought, “Yup, so this is it…They decided to revolt. This is how I’m going to die.” Moments later, when I realized what had really happened and the watchyman dragged the little rascal into the office by her arm, I was greatly relieved and a little comforted by the fact that my liceo did not let me down. Although it was a slight stray from the usual fight and occasional bloodshed, broken my up by an armed security guard, it will still be something to share with my neighbors when they ask, “So how was school tonight?”

It’s good to be back!

About being back. It really has been great. Or at least it’s been easier than I thought it was going to be.

I’m doing really well, with more than enough projects on the near horizon. The neighbors were welcoming. The entire town has been excited to hear of my “adventures over there.” Still love the food, and didn’t realize how much I really missed my favorite side of concon (burnt rice) YUM!

With the help of another volunteer, Charlie, I was able to get 3 laptops donated from an organization called Free Geek. Charlie used to volunteer there, suggested we apply for computers since he knew that was one of my new main project goals, we filled out the request, and BAM! Free Geek was so kind to donate 3 laptops to this school that even the Ministry of Education tends to overlook. Lucky for us, Charlie was heading back to his hometown, Portland, so he was able to pick up the computers and bring them back with him! The director and the teachers were very grateful, so that always helps make it more rewarding to help a group. As with all transactions in this country, it turned into an unnecessary presentation. Charlie and I had to speak and then there were lots of pictures with us posing with the computers and handing them over. I will try to get copies of the pictures and post them soon.

Another update since I’ve been back is that I’m continuing my Chicas Brillantes girls’ group. I have already completed the 12 lesson, 1.5 billion activity manual with the group, so I had decided that I was done. I had an epiphany while I was home that I really want to focus on the most important, most meaningful projects in my final 8-or-so months; in my head, that did not include dragging out this group about which I thought I was the only one who cared. I also didn’t love the stress it caused me each week as I frantically planned each meeting and worried about whether or not the girls were going to show up at all. I went into the computer center where we meet, fully expecting nobody to be there and ready to go to the each girl’s house to announce that we were going to have our final party at the river and then go our separate ways. Surprisingly enough, there were 6 girls there waiting on me. When I suggested that we’ve had a good run at the whole girls’ group initiative and that we could simply graduate and call it a day, they were strongly opposed to this idea. One girl even started crying about how she was going to miss me when I’m gone, while the rest of them said that they wanted to keep it going. Hmm…definitely wasn’t expecting that response. I tried to gently convince them that I’m really busy and, although I love all of them and still want to hang out sometimes, that maybe a weekly meeting with activities and lesson plans wasn’t what we needed.

Still they opposed.

How am I supposed to turn down a group of girls that want to keep talking about self-esteem, relationships, health, values, etc.? Or maybe they just like the weekly snacks, but -still- they have to hear participate in the talks first. So maybe I’m insane, but I decided to take my chances at another round of this youth group. The girls also said that they would take more of a leadership role and give the charlas (talks), so that should take some of the pressure off of this commitment. Also, it will help them learn about responsibility. Si Dios quiere. Hopefully we’re not all regretting this decision in a month, but we’ll see!

Other activities with which I will be focusing include: helping plan the Peace Corps DR 50th Anniversary celebration (I’m in charge of organizing 12 hours worth of presentations with the help of some amazing volunteer friends), getting trained and then installing water filters in my neighborhood, getting started on the cement floor/tin roof project, eventually continuing the Muchachos de Los Macos kids’ art club in my barrio, working on the follow-up teacher training for the staff at my high school, still working to get more computers for my liceo, and Lord only knows what else! It should be an incredibly busy next few months, but I’m really excited and everything seems to be falling into place.

Knock on wood.

Last update for the night….seeing as how the high school is about to let out and the lights keep flickering…not that I’m scared of this ridiculously intimidating high school of hoodlems or anything…but probably the most exciting update of my time back is that my neighborhood has been amazing as of late! I’ve always, for the most part, appreciated my neighbors; however, lately they’ve been extra fun. The happenings of Los Macos can be summed up in 4 words: Impromptu Dembow Dance Parties.

What do you mean? What in the world is Dembow?? Is what you might be asking, Mom. But hold your horses.

I came home from the school earlier this week to find a group of the neighborhood muchachos breaking it down in the street in front of my house. Not wanting to be the only girl in the mix, I went across the street to Doña Maria’s house to watch from her porch. Once her niece came back home, we got some of the neighborhood women to come out for the show. Next thing you know, we were all taking a shot at this dance…and it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time!

We were all outside enjoying each other’s company and cracking up as the guys tried new flips and moves, sometimes resulting in a full-out face plant on the street (I never said it was the safest night).

Since then, we’ve had dance parties almost every night this week. May they live on forever!

It’s hard to put all of this into words, so I will attempt to upload a video of the guys performing at a birthday party last night…

So there’s what’s been going on around my neck of the woods! Hope things are going well in the States! Love you all…especially you all because you’re the ones still reading this :o)

Have a great weekend!


  1. Impressed...2 updates within a month of each other :o) Love them!! :o) That is scary about the school incident, so be careful! Congrats on the laptops, that is wonderful!! Can't believe it's been a month since you went back to the DR and happy that adjusting back wasn't too hard. Hopefully Mikey will get back into the groove of things. Miss you both very much!! Sounds like the afternoon dance parties are quiet the video :o) Love and miss you!!