- I actually learned Spanish!
- I completely designed a water system that is 8 kilometers long and will serve over 50 families
- I secured funding for over half of my aqueduct
- I got a parasite
- I've visited the Capital, Manabao, Santiago, Jarabacoa, Las Galleras, La Vega, and Cotui
- I've read 30 books
- However, I also managed to break my kindle
- I've watched Game of Thrones,
- I built my own house (or, my community built me a house, but almost the same thing!)
- I moved into said house
- I survived my first tropical storm in the campo, including crossing a waist high river to get to my house
- I was gifted a kitten (Tiguere) and a puppy (Candi) in the span of 3 days
- I got Dengue Fever
Friday, August 31, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
- A fear of insects, especially cockroaches and spiders. There’s no way to not have them in your house
- Vergüenza, or embarrassment. People laugh at me all the time. You just have to accept the fact that you are going to mess up and laugh with everyone else!
- A lack of Spanish skills. The first few weeks in country were really hard. I’m getting a lot better, but I still wish I had studied Spanish more and had a larger vocabulary
- Light sleeping habits. With all these roosters, dogs, and early morning work by Dominicans, the ability to sleep through noise would be amazing
- Independence. It’s funny, because to be a successful volunteer, you would think being independent would be extremely useful. Dominicans don’t want me to live alone, walk alone, travel alone, sit alone in my room, or in general do anything alone. If I was less independent, my life would be so much easier here!
Friday, July 6, 2012
- Rolling luggage. Basically anywhere you can roll a suitcase. While my duffel bags are super nice at times (shorter trips in particular), they are super heavy to carry long distances when others have rolling suitcases.
- More photos. I don’t like to bring out my computer that often, and the only printed pictures I have are of me and my sister. I think the Dominicans might think I have no friends.
- Yoga Mat – I had a yoga mat in my pile of things to bring, but due to space constraints I took it out. When I’m doing crunches or yoga in my room, that yoga mat would have been perfect. Definitely would have gotten more use than a lot of other things I brought!
- Nice flats – I brought a few pairs of nice heels, but in a lot of situations they aren’t practical. Some pretty strappy flats would have been perfect to bring
- Hanging organizers. I haven’t managed to find good ones here in country, and space can be VERY limited at times. Some good quality hanging organizers would have been amazing to put all my folded clothing in, rather than the crappy ones that I have now that are collapsing
Friday, June 29, 2012
- Polo shirts. I didn’t like them in the US. Why would I suddenly start wearing polo shirts all the time?
- Toiletries. I brought several deodorants, toothpastes, face wash, plus big bottles of shampoo and conditioner. You can buy all these things here, and they aren’t that expensive. Huge waste of space and weight
- Sleeping bag/mat/sheets/pillow. Maybe when I start traveling the country I will change my mind, and if I had been placed in a cooler area I might have a different opinion, but I haven’t used any of these things in country. I guess they could be nice when I have visitors or visit people, but they have been fairly useless so far
- Clothes pins – really, did I think I couldn’t find those in country if I needed them?
- Hair straightener – I’ve used it twice at nice Peace Corps events, and both times the humidity (or rain) made my hair curly within an hour.
Friday, June 22, 2012
- My laptop and external harddrive - I have tons of movies on my external as well for at night when I need to hear English for a while
- My headlamp – in the night when I need to use the bathroom, or when la luz se fue and I want to write in my journal. Every PCDR volunteer (and honestly, probably every Peace Corps volunteer in general) needs a headlamp.
- My kindle – the ability to check email occasionally in the campo is god sent, and I love having so many books
- Several water bottles – I already lost one on a bus, backups are great!
- 7 different colored tank tops – I wear these about 80% of the time!
Friday, June 15, 2012
- Mayi –Mayi are these horrible little bugs that bite you. They come in groups and attack your legs. They itch like crazy and last forever. I look diseased because of these things.
- Hissing – to get the attention of a lady walking by, guys will do several things. One that I don’t mind too much is yelling out Piropos, or “compliments.” The one I despise though is the hissing. I refuse to acknowledge anyone that hisses at me.
- Dogs off leashes – the fact that they are off a leash doesn’t bother me so much. It’s more when I’m running and an angry dog starts chasing me and growling aggressively. I would really rather not be bitten by a potentially rabid dog, thanks.
- The heat – Being from Florida, I thought the heat would be the least of my worries. I was wrong. The heat here is almost unbearable, and it’s not even the hottest months yet. From around 12-3, I literally cannot do anything but lie in my bed or sit on the porch and try not to move because I am so hot. I’m hoping to eventually become accustomed to it.
- Unexpected Proposals – I have had countless men ask me if I will marry them so they can get a visa to the United States. They don’t even try to be subtle about it. I really don’t like that they think it’s okay to talk to me in that way.
Friday, June 8, 2012
- “Nobody Does it
Better: Bridgeport Cheerleaders” Worn by a 7 year old boy
- A Hot Pink Girl Scouts T-shirt – worn by a grown Dominican man
- A Relay for Life Steering Committee t-shirt. I have a feeling the 17 year old Dominican boy didn’t organize that relay for life.
- A shirt with the Playboy Bunny logo – worn by a 7 year old Dominican girl. It made me sad
- Firefighters for Rod! Rod Smith for Governor. I found it really funny, since Rod is a family friend!
Friday, June 1, 2012
- For children, clothing is always optional. I have seen more naked or half naked little kids here than in my life combined
- There is such a thing as too much fruit. I love fruit. But when you are gifted 8 papayas in one day, you have some problems with what to do with them all.
- I’m either really funny or act really stupid all the time. Either way, I make Dominicans laugh. A lot. I’m not always sure if they are laughing with me or at me.
- People out here are so friendly and generous. I have been gifted more fruit than I can count. Every time I visit a house, they want to give me a glass of juice or a cup of coffee or some crackers. I love the feeling of community and the warm welcome I have received
- I can survive with a lot less than I am used to.
Friday, May 25, 2012
- You get yelled at for trying to take your shoes off before entering the house, even if they are completely covered in mud. Make that you are yelled at in general for not wearing shoes in the house. Walking around in just socks is NOT acceptable.
- After being yelled out for trying to take off said dirty shoes, the next day, those shoes are suddenly sparkling clean
- You get served ridiculously large portions of food for every meal, and are offered seconds even when you’ve only eaten half of what you received
- You are also served ridiculously sweet coffee, and are constantly asked if you need more sugar in it
- You have a slew of endearing nicknames – mi amor being the most common.
Friday, May 18, 2012
- The finger wag. Shaking your head is useless, but if you use the finger wag, people know you mean no
- Pointing with your lips. This one is so funny. You don’t point with your finger, you point with your lips. In the direction of the house, the store, or which item on the shelf you want
- The nose crinkle. It means you don’t understand.
- The finger circle. When it’s too loud in a party and you want to dance, you use the finger circle to ask someone to dance with you
- Tacaño, or the elbow hit. It means someone who is really cheap
Friday, May 11, 2012
For the next 2 years, I will be living in a small community outside of Cotui. I will be working to construct an aqueduct for two small communities - La Javilla and La Hondonada. The title of my blog is actually the translation of my community - La Hondonada literally translates to "The Deep Nothing!" It's a very remote community - you have to cross 4 rivers without bridges to get to my house. It's a bit of an adventure to get to my site with that, but I really like it so far. I went for a visit for about 4 days, and my family is wonderful and it's beautiful. Also, it is an area known for fruit - during my visit I was served pineapple, apples, bananas, oranges and more! I am really going to love all the fresh fruit in my diet.
I had an interesting miscommunication during my visit to my community. One day, we went into Cotui to see where the bus stop was, the presa, and good supermarkets. During that time, I decided to buy a machete. My project partner kept telling me that my host family had machetes, but I wanted to buy my own. Once I got home, proudly displaying my machete, I realized that what my project partner was trying to say was that my host family SELLS machetes! They thought it was really funny, but I was super embarrassed.
Other than that, we had our finals tests, including my Spanish exam, which I qualified for service with a 5.5. Then we had swear in. It's amazing, all 40 volunteers that we started with swore in, including one of our volunteers that had a torn ACL and had to return to the states for 5 weeks! We have such an amazing a dedication group, and I feel so lucky to be part of it. The ceremony was really nice - we were sworn in by the US Ambassador, and there were some really nice speeches. Afterwards we had snacks and punch and some cake. It was a great last hoorah at the Pantoja. We've been relaxing for a bit in the capital, and soon we will head to our sites for the next 2 years. It's crazy that I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer, but I am so excited to start my work here. Thanks for all your support, and I'll try to update as much as I can once I'm in site!
Friday, May 4, 2012
- Ramen Noodles for breakfast. I feel like I’m in college again!
- “Avena.” Avena is oatmeal, but here, they don’t like the oats, so they grind the oats into a powder and add chocolate and sugar, so it’s basically like thick hot chocolate. It is served with some bread. Bread and hot chocolate for dinner. Dinner of champions
- Fried hot dog for breakfast. Or dinner. Or both. Enough said.
- Boiled yucca with bacalao (dried salted fish). The one time I’ve had to choke down the food given to me. And it was for breakfast. Who eats dried fish and starchy vegetables for breakfast?
- Fried Mayonnaise Sandwich.
Friday, April 27, 2012
- The weather – the rain hasn’t been fun, but I like the cool weather here. It’s going to be tough going to a warmer climate
- The mountains – it’s absolutely beautiful here, and I love getting to hike in the mountains in the weekend
- Doña Diana – I absolutely adore my Doña here. I’m going to miss her tons, especially her amazing cooking!
- My fellow Americans – It’s been really fun having the 6 water volunteers together, as well as our awesome trainer Mark. I’m going to miss them all once we head to our respective communities across the DR
- Running water – I have been blessed during CBT to have consistent running water, with flush toilets and sometimes even a hot shower! Back in the capital I have bucket flush and bucket baths, and once I head to site, I’ll have a latrine. I’m definitely going to miss this life of luxury that I have!
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Other than that, training has been going well. We have one more week of training, and then we head back to the capital to get our site assignments. Shortly after that, we go for a site visit, and then swear in the following week. 3 weeks from today, I will be in my site for good, moved in with all my stuff and meeting the people I will be spending time with for the next 2 years. I already unofficially know where I will be living, but I am going to wait until I get the final announcement and information to share it on here! It´s crazy to think that it´s so soon, but I am really excited to get started on my project and getting settled in. It´s hard at times to not have a real home and to just feel like a guest in someone´s house, but soon, I will have as home!
Friday, April 20, 2012
- Chinola Juice – it’s basically like passion fruit juice, and it is my favorite things ever. Yum.
- All fresh fruit. I know this might be cheating, but it’s my top 5 list so I make the rules. The fruit here is out of this world. Papaya, pineapple, mango, bananas, avocados. I get served fruit fairly often, but once I’m on my own, I’ll be eating it every day
- Coffee brewed with ginger. It might sound strange, but it is so amazing! The coffee here is wonderful, I’ve started to even drink it black on occasion, and never with milk. The ginger is such a great flavor with it – crush up some ginger and have it with the coffee while it brews. Yummmmmm
- Stewed Eggplant. It might sound like a weird thing to be obsessed with, but my Doña makes the most amazing stewed eggplant. Those are the happiest days
- Pizza Empanadas. That might be cheating, since it’s not a Dominican food and we cooked it, but the dough was absolutely amazing
Friday, April 13, 2012
- Sushi - Yum
- Camembert Cheese with a fresh baguette... heavenly
- Pasta that isn't cooked until it is mush. Whatever happened to al dente?
- Anything SPicy. I'm not the hugest fan of spice, but here, no one like anything "picante" or spicy. I can add hot sauce to my food, but it's not the same
- Leafy green vegetables. I get salads here, but its with iceberg lettuce or cabbage and it's not the same as a yummy romaine or spinach salad. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Hello blog followers!
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write. Things have been crazy here – lots going on with Samana Santa, training activities, and more.
Samana Santa was my first real Dominican holiday, and it was pretty nuts. Samana Santa is their Easter celebration. It is a very family based holiday, so most of the extended family will return home to celebrate. That meant my Doña’s 6 kids, 4 grandkids, and multiple nieces were visiting. I think I counted and at one point over 15 people were sleeping in the house. The house only has 3 bedrooms, and one is for me only, so you can imagine the sleeping arrangements were creative. For Samana Santa, there is lots of eating, drinking, parties, and dancing to celebrate. We had our major fiestas at a cabaña that a wealthy family in Santo Domingo owns. My host family takes care of the cabaña, and they are really good friends and celebrate together. Even though it is a religious holiday, it is more of a cultural celebration. I had a great time dancing bachata and merengue, eating huge meals, and meeting and talking with all my host siblings that were visiting. One son came all the way from the US with his 2 kids! It was a really fun celebration here, and I think I might just have to come back and celebrate it here again during my 2 years. My family in Manabao knows how to have a good party.
Technical training continues to go well, though it is some long days. We have been working this week on constructing a water tank for our community. All of us will have to build a water tank during our service for our water systems, and this construction practice is so that we will understand what goes into building a tank. It is hard work – lugging sand up hills, sifting that sand, mixing concrete, applying concrete onto the walls, and more. I have tons of cuts on my hands from the work, but it’s a really amazing feeling to see something like this being built by my own hands. I can’t wait until I get to design my own water system and see it constructed by my community – it will be a surreal feeling for sure!
Other than that, all is well. I had a little bout of dehydration one day after construction, but I am starting to feel better. My Spanish is continuing to improve little by little. All in all, things are good. I’ve been in the DR for more than 6 weeks now, and I am excited to be staying here for a little more than 2 more!
Friday, April 6, 2012
So I’ve decided to start this new thing – Top 5 Friday. Every Friday, I hope to write a top 5 list about my time here in the DR. It will let me reflect on some funny things, as well as some serious ones. I started to write this top 5 list, but I realized I was writing too many foods. So instead, for my first top 5 list, I give you the top 5 things I miss from the US, food excluded. We will have a whole other list devoted to that!
- Hot showers
- Being able to put toilet paper in the toilet!
- Actually understanding everything that is being said around me. While my Spanish has improved a lot, I still have a long way to go.
- The ability to be anonymous. Here I can walk down the street or go for a jog without being stared at. My light skin will always set me apart.
- My friends and family! I am making some wonderful friends here in the DR, but I miss all of you tons and tons!
Sunday, April 1, 2012
First, a little about Manabao: Manabao might be one of the most beautiful places in the Dominican Republic. It’s up in the mountains, with rolling hills and gorgeous views everywhere. Everything is green here and the air is crisp and cool. However, there is a downside to being here: the rain. I think without fail, it has rained every afternoon in Manabao. And lucky for us, most of our outside work is in the afternoons! That has led to come very dirty afternoons!
My host family here is Manabao is absolutely amazing. My Doña, Diana, is a firecracker, and I have some hilarious conversations with her. She is also an absolutely amazing cook! This also is the first time I have had a Don in my host family, and he is really nice, though at times hard to understand. There are tons of other people that hang around the house: two host brothers, a host nephew, and tons of friends and family that wander in and out. It definitely keeps me on my toes and practicing my Spanish a lot.
Speaking of Spanish, we had our second interview, and I have officially reached the Spanish level to qualify for service! It is a great feeling to have that done with, and I can focus on continuing to learn more and more words and grammar to become closer and closer to being fluent. At times I am starting to feel really comfortable with Spanish – I caught myself counting in Spanish in my head the other day, and I am able to have conversations on some subjects without feeling like I am constantly translating in my head. Poco a poco!
CBT has involved a lot over these few days – I’ve had two technical presentations so far. The first was on a community diagnostic, and the second was a water committee meeting. Things were crazy, that’s for sure, but I think both of them went all right. I get my scores back sometime next week, so I have my fingers crossed for now. I have my first test on Monday on technical knowledge, so things are going by quickly!
The coolest thing I’ve probably learned so far is how to lay bricks and mix concrete. Let me tell you – mixing concrete by hand is really hard work! And laying blocks looks a lot easier than it actually is. I never quite realized how much work went into cutting rebar, tying frames, mixing concrete into a homogenous mix, and lining up blocks and sealing them with mortar. I had some real sore muscles during the work this week, but I learned a lot. Plus, it’s really cool to build something with your own hands. We will finish up the columns next week, so once I have the finished product, I’ll definitely post a picture!
For those who know about my running, I have gotten a few runs in up here. Even though I’m so busy, I’ve managed to find a bit of time for running. The hills here are tough, but it’s good fr me to get some hill work – that’s what killed me in my half marathon in February (that and my horrible knee, which also seems to have healed up well!). There is a half marathon in Santo Domingo in June or July which I am debating running. It would be hot, but training in these hills would really help me on a flat course at sea level!
That’s about all for now. Next week should be pretty crazy – lots of technical lectures and Spanish. Then, over the weekend, it is Samana Santa here. Samana Santa is the Easter celebration in the Dominican Republic, and basically it’s a huge family reunion and party. Lots of food, beverages, dancing, and people! It should be an long weekend with not very much rest, but I am excited to experience my first truly Dominican Holiday!
Monday, March 19, 2012
This past weekend, I went to visit a current volunteer, and it was full of adventures.
First, I want to say a few words for one that is no longer with me – my water bottle. I brought 3 water bottles with me to the Dominican Republic, but one was my favorite. It was a Kleen Kanteen, blue, with a wonderful top to drink from. I got this water bottle almost 2 years ago, and it has traveled with me to Ghana, Chile, Nicaragua, Europe, and more. It’s been around New York City and spent many a day in the field hydrating me during sinkhole investigations in Florida. It had scratches and dents, but that simply gave it character. Sadly, my water bottle was lost on a Dominican Guagua when it broke down and I had to switch guaguas. Things happened so suddenly that I grabbed my bag and helmet to change buses while forgetting my water bottle in the cupholder. Dear water bottle, I hope some adventurous person found you and may you travel around the Dominican Republic having many more adventures without me.
Another adventure would be one of the first things that happened during my trip. We were riding on the back of a pickup track, when we came to an intersection where people were all yelling. Turns out seconds before there had been a motorcycle accident. A man was seriously injured, and the only vehicles around other than ours were motorcycles. So, we loaded this man into the back of the truck with us, and he and 2 of his friends rode with us to the nearest hospital. The man’s head was bleeding significantly and he kept trying to go to sleep, like he had a concussion. We got him to a clinic nearby where he received care, and apparently returned home the next day. It was one of the most intense things to happen since I’ve gotten here, but I was glad we were able to get him the help that he needed. If we weren’t there, I don’t know how long it could have taken for him to get to a hospital to get the care he needed.
Other than that, it was a pretty straight forward trip. The water volunteer I visited was amazing and gave me tons of great insight about how it is to be a water volunteer in the Dominican Republic, and especially how it is to be a woman water volunteer. I can only hope that I will be that put together, have an amazing water system almost completed, and have Spanish skills like that in a year! It was really cool to see a water system almost completed. It’s overwhelming to think that I am going to be designing and building something like that, but I can’t wait to start learning all the technical skills I need.
Speaking of learning technical skills, I will be leaving on Thursday for Manabao for our Community Based Training part of training. Myself and the 5 other water volunteers will be up there for 5.5 weeks by ourselves learning technical skills and constructing a lot of cool things, such as ferrocement water tanks, gully crossings, and a toma! I have no idea how my access to internet will be during those weeks, so I may not be posting much.
I may try to post once more before I leave, specifically about how I love motorcycles now (sorry mom and dad!)
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Friday, March 9, 2012
I think some of the best stories from countries come from public transportation. This is to be the first of what I am sure will be many public transportation stories during my 2 years here. If you think that traveling around NYC is hard (and I know some of my friends do), you haven’t seen anything yet.
In the Dominican Republic, there are three main modes of public transportation: the guagua (public bus), the carro publico (or shared taxi), and the motoconcho (or motorcycle taxi). This transportation adventure involved the first one. Our adventure was an applied Spanish lesson – we had to take public transportation into the city, find the Peace Corps office, the Clinica Abreu, and the Hostel Bella Epoca, three important places for all PCVs to know (the office, the hospital, and the approved hotel).
First, we took the guagua into the city center. A guagua is the Dominican version of a bus. Imagine a bus that is built for about 8 rows of 4 people, approximately 30-35 people. Now imagine fitting 50 or more people into that bus. That’s how buses in the DR work – there is always room for “one more” person. These buses are hot. We’re talking sweat dripping down your back hot. If you are lucky enough to be one of the last people on the bus, you stand. There aren’t any good handholds. Imagine standing in a bus of 50 people (which is similar to the subway in NYC during rush hour), hanging onto the windowsill for dear life, trying to not fall into the lap of anyone or knock anyone over every time the bus driver suddenly breaks (which is about once every 5 seconds). Oh yes, and it’s raining outside, so rain is coming in through the open window. And then imagine this for an hour straight. That’s the guagua ride I had today! It definitely prepared me for the “worst case scenario”! It’s actually a pretty amusing situation, once you realize you have to have a sense of humor to get through life as a PCT/PCV. I feel fairly confident about public transportation after today, which is good – next week I will be traveling into the interior by myself to visit a current volunteer, so I better be ready!
Also to all my friends from Gainesville, I ran into a group of UF students doing missionary work in the DR> The Gator Nation truly is everywhere!
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Hello friends and family!
I am writing this from my comfy bed in my host family house so I can be prepared to post it tomorrow morning at the training facility. While we have internet there, it is difficult to have enough time to write a post and post it in the same day, so I thought I would try to do it in advance to speed up the process!
I have officially finished my first week here in the Dominican Republic, and it both has flown by as well as part of me feels like it’s been a month. It has been one of the most hectic weeks of my life, and one of the most exhausting as well. I am here with some of the most amazing people I have had the pleasure of meeting and I can’t wait to learn more about them and all the amazing work they are sure to do in the Dominican Republic during their 2+ years here.
I am living in a small barrio outside of Santo Domingo with my host mother and two host sisters, aged 14 and 15. My house here is very modest. We have electricity at times – usually in the evening, which is nice to have the light. Apparently that is due to a battery supply, but I don’t have all the details. During the day, we are prone to blackouts. Running water is very rare, and the one time it was running was the middle of the night, and it was used to fill up a bit garbage barrel with water. There is an actual toilet, but I have to dump a small bucket of water in at just the right angle with just the right amount of force to get it to flush. We also have a family cat (creatively named ‘Gato’ – the Spanish word for cat). He hasn’t warmed up to me that much yet, but I have faith – today he actually let me pet him! That might have been because he was begging for my dinner at the same time, but whatever works. I have yet to see any creepy crawlies, but I have plenty of time ahead of me, right? I’m hoping they stay their distance for as long as possible! We all know how I am when it comes to cockroaches!
The training facility we have is absolutely gorgeous. It is this little oasis in the middle of this urban town. There are trees everywhere and beautiful green lawns. Our classrooms are little pavilions – there are roofs, but no walls so we have nature all around us. There are small pavilions for our Spanish classes and then 2 large pavilions for our group classes. There is running water and flush toilets on site, so we are definitely spoiled in that regard. Lunch is prepared for us every day, and so far it’s all been great! I was very pleased that I tested into the class I hoped to, Level 4, Intermediate Low. We have to be at level 5, Intermediate Mid to swear in, so I don’t have that far to go to get my Spanish skills where I hope for them to be. I would really love to be a level 6 or 7 by the time I swear in, but we will have to see what happens over the next several weeks. I already feel like my Spanish skills have improved significantly over the past 6 days, and I can’t even imagine the improvement after 8 more weeks. I hope I can listen to my initial interview again at some point and laugh at my sad attempt at Spanish.
That’s about it for now. I have some very exciting posts that will be coming up – A visit to Santo Domingo to learn where the Peace Corps Office, approved hospital, and often used hotel are on Thursday, a visit to the Colonial Zone on Sunday, a visit to a current water volunteer in the interior of the country next week, and the CBT up in the mountains in just over 2 weeks! The life of a Peace Corps trainee is a busy one.