Tuesday, July 8, 2008

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?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds pretty accurate as I can remember it. Really is a piece of heaven and then some. Hopefully the next bit flies by bro, and I'll make my best effort for another adventure this summer, hopefully with some of the guys. Make sure that foot heals up well and that you do what you do! Keep up the great work bro, your doing more in two years then I could in a decade! More power to you and those like you, going above and beyond the call of duty!

- Roo - sss (Russ)