Friday, April 27, 2012

Top 5 Friday – Top 5 things I will miss about Manabao (and CBT)

Today is my last day in Manabao – tomorrow, we head back to the capital. In honor of my time here in Manabao, I present the top 5 things I will miss about Manabao
  1. 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
  2. The mountains – it’s absolutely beautiful here, and I love getting to hike in the mountains in the weekend
  3. Doña Diana – I absolutely adore my Doña here. I’m going to miss her tons, especially her amazing cooking!
  4. 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
  5. 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

Sick in the DR or ¨The Gripe¨

Hey everyone. I´ve been a little MIA recently. I had my first illness here in the DR, which wasn´t fun at all. Basically, any headcold or flu here is called the gripe, which in my opinion, sounds like I am going to die. I started with a headcold, and the next day I got a fairly high fever, chills, and just in general felt like crap. They got me on an antibiotic for what they thought was a sinus infection and after a few days I started to feel better. I´ve still been having some allergies and congestion, but I am doing tons better.

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

Top 5 Friday – Top 5 best foods (or drinks) that I’ve had in the DR

On the topic of food, I thought this next top 5 Friday should be about the good food I have eaten here. So without further ado, the top 5 foods and drinks that I have had here in the DR
  1. Chinola Juice – it’s basically like passion fruit juice, and it is my favorite things ever. Yum.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Pizza Empanadas. That might be cheating, since it’s not a Dominican food and we cooked it, but the dough was absolutely amazing
There is definitely some good food here! I will definitely be picking up some of these recipes once I head home to the US

Friday, April 13, 2012

Top 5 Friday - Top 5 Foods I Miss

To continue with the topic of things from the US that I miss, here is my list of the top 5 foods I miss. If I hadn't separated foods, 3-4 of the 5 things I miss would be food related, so I figured it would be good to keep things separate
  1. Sushi - Yum
  2. Camembert Cheese with a fresh baguette... heavenly
  3. Pasta that isn't cooked until it is mush. Whatever happened to al dente?
  4. 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
  5. 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!
Well that's it for this Friday! I hope to post a good top 5 next week!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Samana Santa and Construction or “Dominicans Know How to Throw a Party”

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

Top 5 Friday – Top 5 things (not including food) I miss

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!

  1. Hot showers
  2. Being able to put toilet paper in the toilet!
  3. Actually understanding everything that is being said around me. While my Spanish has improved a lot, I still have a long way to go.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Community Based Training or “It’s Always Rainy in Manabao”

Hello friends and family! I have officially finished my first complete week of CBT up in Manabao, and what a week (and a half) it has been. I’ve barely had time to think!

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!