Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Volunteer Visits, New City and the Beach

Hello everybody ,
Here is an update of the past few weeks
i'll post more photos later s'not working right now :(

Volunteer visits

I survived my first trip in country all by myself! All of the trainees were given the mission of visiting a current volunteer to find out how the current volunteer is living and what a day in the life of that volunteer is like. A trip across the country all by ourselves, how exciting and scary! I feel pretty comfortable with my Spanish and I can always ask if I get lost so no problem right? It’s just different here; there are no schedules, signs, bus stops, etc. People here just know where to go and how things work, so there is no need for them to create schedules or organization and it works for them. So when a visitor is traveling you basically have to ask where everything and how to get everywhere because there are no maps or designated areas. I guess its like small town living in the USA. I was excited to have some freedom, prove to myself that I can get around on my own, and of course to meet the current volunteer to have an idea of what my life might be like in a few months. I was fortunate enough to be at a site were I could take a Caribe tours bus that took me to Santiago. Caribe tours buses are so much better than guaguas , there is air conditioning, a bathroom and you get your own seat, its LUXURY. Guaguas of course are not air conditioned, you have to carry your bag on your lap, and I had a huge bag, and the guagua doesn’t leave until it has at least 10 people in it. Once in Santiago I took 2 carro publicos ( I got a tour of the city on the carro publico because my driver forgot to tell me where my stop was and so I took it all the way to the end of the route and back) and then a guagua to my final destination , San Jose de Las Matas! Yes! I made it and didn’t get lost

The site visit was a lot of fun. The volunteer that I visited, Kate was an awesome host. I felt like I was back in the states. We had pasta and wine for lunch, she heated up water for me and I had my first HOT bucket bath, which was divine, we even went to aerobics class lead by a chubby Dominican man. The setting was awesome, an outdoor patio with a roof and beautiful lush tropical trees surrounding the patio. The ladies in the class were a trip. Kate had leant the instructor a Pilates DVD and at the end of class he asked her to explain it to the ladies. The ladies seemed more interested in the men in the video than the exercises. The instructor told them that when they had a question to tell Kate so that she could pause the video and explain it. Basically when a guy appeared on the screen they would yell out that they had a question and then talk about the guy on the screen, ese me gusta, suave come anoche, etc…

We went to the school were she works, I met her Dominican counterpart, I even got to assist her a little with a class she taught on Saturday morning. Kate has a computer youth group in the afternoons and teaches advanced Microsoft word to the community on the weekends. I will probably be doing stuff like that also whenever I am at my permanent site. The PC goal for IT is really to teach the teachers but from what I’ve heard and seen, the teachers don’t really have an interest in using the computers. It’s not going to be easy motivating the teachers, which is a common phrase here, “no es facil”. The education system here is hmmm a little inadequate. I think that’s going to be the biggest obstacle in creating sustainable development in IT. Before IT , I think first this country needs sustainable development in basic education. The kids here go to school for only half a day! Its like summer time all of the time here because the kids run around the rest of the day playing and even in school they run around and play. The teachers don’t show up when it rains, they leave when they have errands to run, they strike often, they aren’t paid well etc… and the list goes on and on. Really half a day of school seems like a problem to me. I never see the kids I live with doing homework and they are 13 and 16. Anyways I digress

We walked around her pueblo, which is beautiful. Its surrounded by mountains and pastures with goats and sheep.

So the visit was really fun and I feel like I have a better idea of what I’ll be doing. On Saturday we went to Santiago and met up with a few other current volunteers. We stayed in this pension called “the hub” which was 100 pesos or 3 dollars. The hub is owned and operated by a Canadian couple who created it just for PC volunteers in the Dominican sweet! I felt like I was in Europe traveling with friends and meeting new people. we went to an Italian restaurant and I was reminded again that we are poor volunteers as we contemplated bringing in our own bottle of wine because owe couldn’t afford to buy one at the restaurant. It was an awesome night and I even had a hot shower at the Hub. It was interesting to hear about the other volunteer’s experiences and to see how different they were even though it’s the same country. One of the girls I met has absolutely no electricity and you have to walk 45 minutes up hill to get to her house. I haven’t had to live without electricity yet. The electricity goes out here but only for few hours and then it comes back. That night I found out that a volunteer had gotten into a car accident and was in the hospital with a fractured skull. The volunteer is in stable condition now.

I spent 4 days in San Jose de Las Matas and then headed back to Santo Domingo on Sunday, just in time for Carnival! Carnival is basically a big parade next to the sea. The costumes were absolutely beautiful and the masks had so much detail and color in them. My camera battery ran out so I wasn’t able to take a lot of pictures. Carnival wasn’t as wild and crazy as I thought it would be. One of the things they do here is spank people with a bladder like container filled with , I dunno , sand. Its kind of violent. I got hit in the side of my leg and it stung. People in the parade also had whips which they would hit the ground with and hit each other with. I was glad I got to see the Carnival. The parade is supposed to be one of the best in the Caribbean.

I had another week at the training center in Santo Domingo. We had to make a Dominican meal in groups of 3 and then had a potluck on Thursday . my group made an eggplant dish, which is very common here. Eggplant is very common here in general and I have it at least once a week. Friday we had our pasadia which was a little get together for all of the host families and volunteers. We took pictures of the families with their volunteer and then displayed the pictures in a little slide show. The entertainment was dominoes and dancing. Why was it that the few times I was taken out to dance NOBODY else danced , the song lasted forever, and my dance partner was dancing way to class , practically cheek to cheek, for all to see because we were the only ones on the dance floor? I lived through my embarrassment and stumbled my way across the dance floor. I think I am getting better at dancing :-). They taught us how to bust out some dance moves and how to keep our dance partners at a respectable distance from us with a locked elbow. I should’ve busted out the locked elbow but I know for next time.

The next week all of the volunteers were split up into sectors and moved again. All of the IT volunteers were moved to El Seibo for 5 weeks. So that is where I am at right now. During these 5 weeks we will get extensive training in computers and lesson planning. We also have to do a community diagnostics and present it to our professor on Saturday. I am working on the diagnostic with my Spanish group, Jenny and Iris. I actually like El Siebo better than Santo Domingo because it is cleaner, prettier, quieter, for the most part more tranquilo. I actually have running water here and can take a real shower! The water is cold but its alright after a long hot day it feels good to get the sunscreen bugspray and sweat off with some fresh cold water. I also have not been bit by mosquitoes as much either. Life just keeps getting better and better. I think I’m really going to like living in a smaller pueblo. I can definitely get used to this. My new family is great. There is Sabina, who is the host mom, her mom, her son Ramon (13), and her niece Scarlet(16). Sabina’s husband lives in Detroit with her 2 daughters.

Saturday has to be one of my favorite days in the DR. Finally I got to go to the beach and it was one of the most beautiful, softest, cleanest and peaceful beaches that I’ve been on. It was pristine, secluded, and there were even baby pigs roaming around. After a week of moving and getting adjusted to a new city , family, and schedule , the trip to the beach was our little reward from our trainer. The drive to the beach was an adventure in itself as we all packed into a truck and went up and down windy roads through the mountains and down a secluded road to finally get to the beach. The scenery was breathtaking with mountains, waterfalls and lush trees.

Hope you all are doing well
Miss you and write to me

1 comment:

keshamania said...

What's up! I've been extra busy with work and your blog was down for a little bit the last time I checked, but I'm catching up now.

You got lost...shit, I got lost on my way to Oak Park this past week! Okay, not truly lost, but I had taken the last bus and had to walk 10 long blocks back. But I digress. Look at you - rocking the Spanish & finding your way. Big kudos for that.

So, will eggplant replace your beloved cucumbers? And I'll keep your locked elbow in mind if we ever go back to Nacional 27 for dinner. Geez. WhhhhhhhhhhY? But you lived through it so that's excellent!

- Kesha