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!

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