Friday, July 18, 2008

Help is still needed!

There are two of my projects up on the Peace Corps website right now and you can donate to them over the internet!

One is my community aqueduct that is desperately in need of money. We have been ready for construction for months, but cannot begin without money! Click the link below or the one on the right sidebar to learn about the project or to donate. I am asking for a small portion of the total project cost, just to get a start!

Donate to my Community Aqueduct!

The second is a youth camp that I am involved with. It is scheduled to take place on August 29-31 but will not happen unless all the money requested on the Peace Corps website is donated in time! Click the link below to learn about the project or to donate.

Only a little over a month left to make sure this camp happens! Help!

Donate to "Celebrando Cibao" Leadership and Youth Camp!

With each of these website donation links, the problem is that we will not receive a dime of this money until the full amount requested has been donated. That is to say, don't be bashful! Don't be shy and think that your contribution won't do enough and you shouldn't even donate. A full day of physical labor in the fields with a machete is valued at just over US$7 in my campo. So literally donating enough for a taxi out to the bar or a footlong sub will be equal to a man chopping and sweating all day. We have it a bit easier in the states, spread the wealth!

Thanks guys. Take this chance to donate some modest amount from your life and directly see and read the results of what you donated right here on this blog!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bailando y Tocando...'tamos apprendiendo!

Dancing and playing music...we're learning!

And...look! He's making a video, come here!
video

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fishing


Today I went cell phone fishing like I normally do. I typed up a text message, chose the recipient, then hit send and held it up above my head, hoping the ‘Sin Servicio (No Service)’ would change to ‘Claro (Verizon)’ on the screen of my phone. It’s not a quick thing to get signal on my phone. Usually takes about thirty seconds with the phone in the same place to work. Then if I catch signal I need to keep my hand still for another thirty or more seconds to wait for the message to send. If I am lucky enough for that to happen before the screen goes dark, then I wait another thirty seconds or so hoping to get a delivered message receipt. I did all that earlier today while sitting on my hammock, and I felt like my luck was on the up and up. There are very few places in and around my house that have enough signal to send or receive text messages. So it made me incredibly happy! Good day! But then, when I was planning on napping for a while, all I could think of was-If I put my phone back into signal for a little bit will I get a response?! Did the message really get to its recipient? And if it did had they read it yet? In my life in my house, there is not much more exciting than receiving a text message. It is a message from the outside, in English, and it means someone is still thinking about me. Out here in the campo you start to feel forgotten every once in a while. But every day, at some point, I try and drop my DR bought prepaid phone into the small pond of signal outside my house and hope for a big catch.
Feel free to stock the pond-(809) 857-2216

English

I miss my first language. Just writing this right now makes me feel better. It is now 10:48 PM and I just finished watching a movie on my laptop. I have done so quite a few times while here in the DR and every time I do I forget where I am at some point in the movie. Then the movie ends and the really good feeling I have after listening to spoken English for two hours is interrupted by the realization that no one around me can speak it. More often than anything else, I have pinpointed this as a factor that makes Peace Corps so hard. I just miss English. All those stupid little things you say back and forth with your buddies, or the little accents you use to add more meaning to a joke, or the pace at which you say certain things, all of that is lost in another language. You learn new little jokes and all in a new language. But it’s not the same. It doesn’t fit as well. Kind of how a new shirt can never replace the old beat up one. It doesn’t feel like home. Ha, as much as I have been a traveler since I left for college, and as much as when I am home for brief periods I think about where I can go and what I can do next…I miss home. I really do. And that does not mean that I want to leave here. But it is a new thought for me. That I could miss all of those little things about English I had previously not paid any attention to. I miss MY way of expressing myself. I miss MY language.

I love my cat…and I actually feel good to be back!(At this moment)

I can’t really describe how much my cat has been to me since I have been back. It really is, in the words of a fellow PCV cat owner, “unhealthy” how much he makes me happy. When I went to the US of A I had no choice but to leave my cat with another volunteer, Jo. Couldn’t take him with me. I also had a week of Spanish class right before my trip, and right when I got back Russ was here and I wasn’t going to be around much, so I didn’t pick him up until Russ was leaving. All in all I had not seen my cat for almost a month! And Jo did a great job, even got pretty attached to my little buddy, but I wanted my cat back! And honestly, my first three days back in site have been so much better just because of that little animal. When he follows me around on my crutches, I love it. When he looks at me from 20 feet away and sees me looking back he comes running and, if I didn’t have a cast, ha, I might run towards him. We might make one of those movie hugs where the two people come running together and jump into each other’s arms after years apart. (I know, definitely unhealthy) When he chases cockroaches or lizards, I just get a really deep smile and feel like a proud parent. I always find myself worrying where he is if he’s not just purring in my lap or waiting for me to pet him. I love that little thing, and I really don’t know what I would do without him. Probably be a little miserable…

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I swear I will make your money go far!

There are two of my projects up on the Peace Corps website right now and you can donate to them over the internet!

One is my community aqueduct that is desperately in need of money. We have been ready for construction for months, but cannot begin without money! Click the link below or the one on the right sidebar to learn about the project or to donate.

Donate to my Community Aqueduct!

The second is a youth camp that I am involved with. It is scheduled to take place on August 29-31 but will not happen unless all the money requested on the Peace Corps website is donated in time. Click the link below to learn about the project or to donate.

Donate to "Celebrando Cibao" Leadership and Youth Camp!


With each of these website donation links, the problem is that we will not receive a dime of this money before all of that requested has been donated. That is to say, don't be bashful! Don't be shy and think that your contribution won't do enough and you shouldn't even donate. A full day of physical labor in the fields with a machete is valued at just over US$7 in my campo. So literally donating enough for a taxi out to the bar or a footlong sub will be equal to a man chopping and sweating. We have it a bit easier in the states, spread the wealth!

Thanks guys. Take this chance to donate some modest amount from your life and directly see and read the results of what you donated right here on this blog!

Russ's 10 day Dominican 'Vacacion'

So I had a pretty cushy entrance back into the DR from the US. My best friend since kindergarten (yup, we even failed together at our first attempt to complete the first grade) came in on the same flight as me and I got to show him what Peace Corps DR is like. Well, kinda. He spent 10 days here and only two nights in my campo, the way I live most of the time. But it was a great opportunity for me to enjoy the country and we definitely aprovechar'd every day.

The itinerary was this:
Day 1: We flew in after being lucky enough to get seats standby flight after our original one was cancelled.
Day 2: Headed up to a volunteer's site near me to jump down the '27 Waterfalls', then headed into my campo. Bathed in my river at dusk because we got in late. Then almost made Russ gag with boiled plantanes for dinner.
Day 3: My Birthday! Just hung out, hiked around the mountains, and ate a mountain of mangoes. Then got surprised with an amazing prepared birthday dinner at Chulo's house. Rice, beans, chicken, salad, tostones (smashed and fried plantanes), soda, and a piece of cake for each of us. Then a night of rum, coke, batchata, and merengue until 12:30 AM. That is late for the campo! And yup, russ danced. That was a great day.

Day 4: Got up, packed up, and headed out of the campo, on foot, through the rivers. Bathed one last time on the way out. Then we dealt with my lost bag from the flight in that had been dropped off at the local fire department. Finally we headed down to the capital to stay in a hostel for the night, before heading west towards an amazing secluded beach to celebrate the fourth with 74 other PCV's.

Day 5: 7 hours of traveling and we were in the town that is the jumping off point for the beach. Had some pizza and hung out with other volunteers.
Day 6: Fourth of July! Early wakeup to get on the back of a truck and get carted in to where we got on a boat that took all us volunteers to the beach. Approximately 2 hours after arriving I jumped off the pier trying to catch a football and landed on my ankle in a way that led to its current state: in a cast. Ha, this was just another ailment to add to the list and it didnt stop us having a great time lazing around the gorgeous beach all day. Then at night headed back to the town and I had an early night with my newly fat ankle. Russ told me stories of rum and batchata in the park with other volunteers and very friendly Dominican girls. I didn't see any of it, so I can't speak for that night, but sounded like a good time.
Day7: A lazy wakeup and then we all got on a guagua that took us all 7 hours back to the capital. The ride was gorgeous along the coast and completely took my mind off the swelling mass attached to my leg. Once again, we were at the hostel that night. Just hanging out and doing a little resting after days of travel.
Day 8: Got up early and went in to the Peace Corps office to see the doctor that told me I should go to the emergency room and get my ankle checked out. So we went. I had an X-ray. No breaks. But they told me I needed to see the orthopedist the next day. I got an appointment and headed out on my crutches. And we were now really close to the downtown area Russ had wanted to see anyway. We shuffled our way through the streets and street vendors, saw some things, met some Dominicans from CT, had some good 'comida criolla', and just lazed around a little bit. Then that night we headed out with some other volunteers to a 'car wash', which is basically an outdoor dancing/drinking site. During the day these places actually wash cars. At night they are packed with batchata-ing Dominicans. I clearly was not in batchata form so we just enjoyed the music and watched other volunteers pick up Dominican girls for dance partners.
Day 9: Got up early again so I could go figure out some finance things at the Peace Corps office and also get my cat back! It was being watched by another volunteer, Jo, who's cat is my cat's biological sister! She didn't want to give him back, seriously, but I got him back and it was so great to see him. I realllly missed my cat. Thanks for letting me have him back! So then i went to the orthopedist, who promptly decided that I had an overabused ligament in my ankle that needed to be isolated. Before I knew it I was walking out with my left sandle in my hand and a cast on my foot! Ha, only me! So then I headed back to the office and proceeded to have everyone look at me, laugh, then ask "Roooob, what happened now!?" I definitely have garnered the most injured award as far as my Peace Corps group goes. Then we quickly gathered our stuff (well, Russ gathered all the stuff and I got on my crutches) and we got in a taxi towards a bus line to take us up to the city Russ would fly out of the next day. The first bus didn't allow animals so we got another taxi to the second company, and had luck. Well, it wasn't lucky that Llave pee'd himself in his cat box and I tried to clean him and his box in the dirty public stall of the bus station right before it left, but he was allowed on. So that was lucky. Gotta take satisfaction out of the small successes right? So about 2.5 hours later and numerous phonecalls to other PCV's that helped me find a vet that would take Llave for the night, we got off the bus and headed towards another hostel. After about 5 blocks of now-very-sore-armpit-crutch-walking on my part and two-backpack-plus-a-cat-box-in-one-hand walking for Russ, we got to the hostel! And we were greeted with all kinds of jokes/cutdowns/and general comments about my constant injuries and sicknesses from awaiting volunteers. The previous night there had been a party that was supposed to celebrate my birthday as well as all other July birthdays, but obviously I couldnt make it. So most of them stayed! After a little trouble we found a good vet, dropped off Llave, and got pizza for dinner, with a side of homemade guacamole from fresh street-bought avocados. Then, to top off the whole trip, Dave, the owner of the hostel, took us all out in his car to a Monday-night jazz lounge! It was amazing. I felt like I was back in the US and the artists were all really talented. What a way to cap off the trip. We were driven back to the hostel by Dave, and popped in a late-night movie. I went in and out of sleeping on the couch in front of the movie, and then finally sleep got me. Long day, but all went really well!
Day 10: We got up, called a taxi, and drove to the airport. Of course, Russ's flight was delayed 2 hours and he still has an hour to wait more in the aiport at the writing of this blog. But I dropped him off, said I wanted to see him back here again, and he took off into the airport. Thanks for coming buddy. It was coold hanging out after so many years apart. I hope you enjoyed it, learned a little spanish, and maybe got a little travel bug in you. (even though im sure you felt like this kid below)

It was an amazing testament to what can be accomplished in 10 days as long as you stay flexible. You gotta roll with the punches. I, unfortunately, rolled my ankle. Not exactly the same, but now I definitely am rolling with the punches. Ha, all in all, just another day in the DR and the unexpected problems that arise.

I am happy to be back, but feel like I just got here. The first day without Russ feels like the first day here, at least mentally. Im back on my own, and that gives me mixed feelings. Even though my spanish has come along since swearing into the Peace Corps, I know I cannot begin to relate my thoughts and feelings in entirety to the campesinos I live with. Seeing the Dominicans at the jazz lounge made me realize that I am not living like everyone in this country. I am living like the poorest. I guess I never completely thought about that. I knew I was living poor, but never thought about the fact that a lot of people in this country live fairly normal first-world lives. Makes me feel a little offended, as if they might look down on me as the homeless are seen in the states. Its a feeling that is extremely personal, and depressing. But then I realize that I chose to do this and it is just a little experiment for me. I will leave back to 'normal' life in a year and a half. I then feel so much sadder. The people i live with won't ever leave their life here. Most kids in my campo won't have much opportunity to do or be much, just because they were born into it. Its sad. Its depressing. And it makes me extremely scared to be in charge of bringing them water. It makes me question if this idea of 'development' will bring about any real change in their lives. And what difference will piped water really make in the large scheme of things.

And with all these mixed emotions and a fiberglass foot I will ride a motorcycle back into my community this afternoon. With my cat in my hand. And I know from experience that each day will soften my doubts and worries, but still, the doubts and worries are with me. Ha, I guess thats what I signed up for. No verdad?