Friday, July 14, 2006

Home for the Next 2 years

My Project Site for 2 years, San Victor Moca

My site is called San Victor, Moca. It’s in the Cibao valley where there are mountain ranges to the north, and past the mountain ranges is the beautiful north coast. It is very pretty especially for somebody who grew up in the flatlands of the Midwest and is not used to seeing mountains. They grow tobacco, coffee, yucca, mangoes avocadoes, cherries, passion fruit, papaya, and all sorts of other delicious fruits. I love having fresh juice straight from grandma’s backyard. Right now mangoes and avocadoes are in season. I had no idea there were so many different types of mangoes; there are like 8 varieties all equally delicious. Everybody here raves about the avocadoes and is excited to have avocado at the table for lunch everyday. I am not too crazy about avocados but everybody assures me that there are also different types of avocados and there are some as big as coconuts and others that taste like butter. Yummy , I might become an avocado fan after all.

San Victor is about 14,000 people and is considered a pueblo and not a campo. The town has all of the services available such as electricity, water, telephone, cable. However , of course like all of the country, the water and the electricity are rationed during the day and week. We have some paved roads and some gravel roads. All in all I am impressed with the little town and its current state of development. We have little mom and pop shops for all necessities such as food and cloths.

In the picture above is the colmado we usually go to and that is my host sister on the right in the blue shirt. She is buying groceries to make lunch. Looks like we had chicken that day.

The little food stands are called “colmados” and are where everybody goes everyday to buy the food to prepare lunch, or “la comida” which literally translates to the food. Lunch is the biggest meal here and my family spends 3 hours everyday preparing lunch. It is definitely worth it because it is delicious or maybe its because I am so hungry by the time lunch rolls around that anything would taste delicious. Really I think it’s very good, it’s usually rice and beans with chicken, pork or beef.

I think my town is considered a little better off than other volunteer sites. We have an internet café and even a gym where I go everyday and to do aerobics. There is a religious retreat here called Monte de Oracion where people from all over the world come to stay and visit.

Also there are 2 big universities within an hour away from San Victor so there are quite a few college age students that still live in San Victor but travel to school everyday. My host sister Sagrario, goes to Moca and is studying psychology.

My Host Family
Here is a picture of my house family.

From right to left, Carolina (the youngest), Sagrario, Mejo, Negra, and Escarlene ( the oldest)

Sagrario got married this year so she no longer lives in the house but she comes over everyday and makes lunch, and the oldest, Escarlene, is engaged and will be getting married within a year. Escarlene is a pharmacist and works for the government in Santiago. She is very smart and a lot of fun. She has introduced me to her friends and took me out dancing in Santiago. I am so glad to have the 3 girls as host sister. They are great company.

Here is a picture of my house.

Right behind my house is the grade school and the highschool. In our backyard we have a mango and avacodo tree, a rooster and some hens. If the rooster doesn’t wake me up in the morning the school kids definitely do.

From the pictures it probably looks pretty normal but there are some areas of town that are very poor and many of the houses look like the ones in the picture below.

My project – Tele-centro at the high school.

Here is a picture of the high school that I will be working at for the next 2 years.

It looks pretty tropical doesn’t it. I took that picture as an arial view from the Monte de Oracion.

So the goal of my project is to incorporate computers into the school curriculum, give classes to the community, and make the computer laboratory self sustainable so that it generates enough funds to pay for maintenance, repair, and a director/teacher.

The secretary of education has donated 20 dell computers , 2 inverters and 16 car batteries for back up power for when there is a blackout.
I have a committee that is supposed to help with achieving the goals of the telecenter.
I want to get a projector, laptop and digital camera for my school so that teachers and students can create power point presentations to show in class.

Wish me luck!

What I’ve been doing for the past 2 months.

Well the idea of a computer lab and donated computers with back up power is a fabulous IDEA but the reality is that power is a big problem and the education system has lots of problems. So in the past 2 months I have not been working at the computer lab because our inverters blew out and we had no back up power. As frequent and unpredictable as the blackouts are it is not feasible to use the computers without a back up power source because the computers can become easily damaged from not being turned off properly or from power surges. The reason why the inverters blew out was because our transformer was sending too high of voltages. So my school director had to find a new transformer and have it installed. I have no idea how he got a transformer but he did it. With our new transformer installed the secretary of education agreed to give us 2 new inverters which were installed last week. However now we are waiting for the batteries. So it seems that real soon we will have everything and will finally be able to open up the lab again. It’s just a shame that I had to wait because summer would have been a fabulous time to give classes. The kids are bored and keep asking me when computer classes are going to start. I think it would have been so much better if the secretary had donated laptops instead of desktops but I am sure they have their reasons and beggars cant be choosers right? Either way there are plenty of internet cafes that function perfectly well with desktops and blackouts. So it can be done at my school too. The problem is making people accountable for problems that occur. That is where the education system problems come into play and all of the problems of the government come into play. Really in any country, government run operations are less efficient than privately owned. Maybe that is the solution. Outsource the lab to a private company. Yeah , problem solved.

So what have I been doing really?

Becoming the national spokesperson for UNO , reviving every child hood game I have played and teaching the kids, nagging everybody about not throwing trash on the ground, hanging out on the front porch with neighbors, learning how to dance bachatta and merengue, fending off “enamoradores” aka admirers, getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep finally, working on my community diagnostic, and doing a few volunteer activities.

For the 4th of July about 50 volunteers went to the south to a national park called Bahia de las Aguilas, where we camped out on the beach and had a great time. Oh the beaches here are going to spoil me so much. The water is so beautifully blue and warm and the sand is so soft and untouched by tourists.
What can I say, I LOVE it here and feel so lucky to have this opportunity to slow down and enjoy life.

It looks like things are going to pick up some more as I will be starting private computer lessons this week and have been asked to teach English 2 hours a week.

Send me your addresses so that I can send you all postcards. My palm pilot treo phone was reset when I tried to have it activated so I lost all of my contacts, booh.

For those of you who can come visit me the best time would be November through February as this is when all of the festivals are and of course it will be nice and warm here when it’s freezing cold in Illinois.

Big Hugs and kisses
Miss you

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Phone and Address Update

Hi All
just wanted to update my contact info
i'll write more soon
miss you , write to me!

Laura Espinoza PCV
Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado Postal 1412
Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic
Cell Phone 823.979.9021