Friday, October 23, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The last couple of days in my site were almost like a funeral of sorts. People kept stopping by to ‘pay their respects’, asking me if I was really going, and then telling me to have a great trip and popping off. Then there were the people that were really close to me. They just stopped by and stayed a while. The awkwardness of the whole thing is what I miss the most. They are just there to spend time with you. No TV, no radio, nothing but two plastic chairs and a messy house I was trying to clean up. One of my favorite guys, a Haitian from the other side of the river, kept telling me he didn’t think I was really going to leave. He jokingly said, “I am not going to bid you farewell, because then maybe you won’t leave.” On the Saturday before I was to leave site Sunday we had our last water committee meeting. I didn’t plan anything, didn’t expect much from it, and just showed up. I wanted to see if the collapse would start immediately, or not. They completely surprised me with a whole agenda, a plan for having new elections to fill some of the empty spots in the directive, and a detailed sheet outlining all of the expenses that had been paid out from the water committee since July 2007! I was floored. The president, treasurer, secretary, and my host-dad had gotten together and worked out all the expenses with the owner of the colmado. They had heard that people were saying they were stealing funds, and wanted to address it clearly. Everything was accounted for, down to the blocks of ice bought for juice when Builders Beyond Borders was here. When they were done they quietly passed the turn to speak off to me, knowing that it would probably be my last chance at a water committee meeting in Agua Larga. I thought for a little bit, told them how impressed I was and then tried to get a couple words out explaining how grateful I was to have been…that was it. My throat closed up, my cheeks started to spasm, and I looked down trying to compose myself. The next half hour was the best and worst time of my service. Everyone from my host-dad to the water committee president to the beneficiaries at the meeting were in tears sputtering whatever thanks they could to me before they couldn’t talk anymore. I just sat with my head down accepting all of this love for the last time, and in many ways, the first time. Seeing these tough guys that work in the hills with machetes most days balling was really hard. And it didn’t stop.
Agua Larga with their token gringo.
And just to give me one last whirl, it rained. Then it stopped, but the damage was done. The motorcycle rounded the corner and we saw a truck that had slid off to the side on the muddy incline. We got off the motorcycle, the driver and I with all my big bags and my cat in a carrier. We then tied a rope to the front of this big truck loaded up with rocks, and proceeded to straighten it out while it spun its wheels. We went from on the road to slipping off the side about five times and then it got traction and started climbing. So now, muddy, sweaty, and much later than planned, I left my site for the last time. I stopped at a high point that overlooks my valley and snapped these two photos, one of my valley and one of my moto-guy, who had come to pick me up for over a year almost without fail.
When I got to the capital I was lucky enough to have a bunch of my PC friends around up until the moment I got in my taxi that would take me away to the airport, but that made it tougher. I had a red-eye so I got in the taxi at midnight, gave everyone who was there a hug, then tried not to look at them much and got in. Then the driver started to ask me how long I had been there and what I had been doing. I told him, and then he said, “Oh wow you must have a real connection with the people.” That did it. I was sitting in the back seat with the window open and tears just started pouring, being blown aside by the wind(which I now realize was an amazing temperature). He asked a couple more questions but soon realized there was something wrong with me and it was just better to leave it be. That was just the beginning.
To perfectly cap off the irony that is Peace Corps service in the DR it took me seven hours to get from the hostel where the taxi picked me up to my parents car at JFK, one hour less than it took me to get from my community to the capital, Santo Domingo. That trip was very Dominicanly broken up into segments by me trying to get people to allow my cat on a bus, them kicking me off, and so forth. So when I arrived, saw my parents, tried to act like my head wasn’t spinning, and got in the car so quickly, it just added to the whirlwind that was the last 24 hours. They were asking me questions about this and that and I don’t remember much, but I remember sitting in the back seat feeling as if I wasn’t ready to be there. I was right back where I had left off and the last two years was some kind of dream. I had to concentrate really hard just to take it cool and try to absorb things in stride. Well, my schedule was not a great one. I was going to spend two days at home and then head off to Pittsburgh where I would begin grad school in a week! Those two days I left my home maybe twice. I was not balanced yet. The first thing I noticed waking up on my floor in my room that next day (I don’t know why, I wanted to sleep on the floor) was how quiet it was. It was sadly quiet, made me feel all alone. The first time I went to the bathroom I realized I could get a drink of water from the sink, did so, and lost it. I was balling. My face was not under my control and I had to just ride it out. Then I took my first shower. It was amazing, so much water and so warm. I was doing alright then for some reason a thought of the Haitian guy popped into my head and my face went crazy again. This happened probably about ten times in those two days in my home. Chatting with volunteers online, making a sandwich with food from the fridge, sitting on my couch. I had no control. I literally would not know when it was going to come and then my face would flip out and I had to just ride it out. It was sad, but on a weird level I was happy. I didn’t want to forget, I wanted to keep remembering. I wasn’t ready to let it all go.
So before I knew it I was packing clothes and things, supposedly everything I would need for a year in Pittsburgh-where there is snow! I haven’t seen snow since the winter of ’06-‘07. Needless to say I got very little sleep the night before leaving, and then I set off with my parents in a full car. I still didn’t really know what was happening until two days later, when they left. I was moved in with my Peace Corps buddy, which helped, but I was on my own. I did not feel at home, did not feel comfortable, and I just had to take it like I had taken my first night in my village, two years ago: with a deep breath. I knew I didn’t have to figure everything out right then. I just had to wake up the next day and things would be a little bit better…
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
So even though I have very little to do with the project being actually completed-check out the link below. My senior-design project at Bucknell to get water up a mountain to a coffee cooperative in Nicaragua ended with me installing the pump at the bottom of the hill. A couple of steps from running water at the top huh? But luckily Bucknell and the Center For Development In Central America has followed through and kept the project going. And now it is done! There is running water at the top of the mountaintop, and the pump that we bought and installed works! Who woulda thunk?! I can't wait to get back there soon and see and talk to everyone about it. For now, this picture of running water from a pipe does me just fine. :)
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I've got more time than usual to post this blog, as I decided to loiter in the wireless-enabled reception area of a hotel for the afternoon. I think they assume I have a room because I just sad right down, and because im white. So hopefully this blog will be a little more coherent than the rest. Maybe not.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Yesterday I took 5 men from my site, who are in the running to be the plumbers when I leave and be in charge of taking care of the whole aqueduct, to Santiago where I purchased our solar pump. It was really cool. We set up some solar panels outside the shop, connected up the pump and the controller, and showed these campesinos how renewable energy works! We pumped water from one bucket of water to another using no batteries at all! Oiga! It was cool, my guys seemed to be pretty comfortable with the idea of working with this pump, and I felt great to finally have the meeting of the solar pump and the people it will benefit-my community members. Seeing, feeling, and touching such a vital part of the aqueduct was a great feeling. And the owner of the shop was great, offering all the support my community could need as long as they are in business. Its all coming together!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
So I am short on time again for the post, but we are still working! We actually are within 2-3 days of finishing all of the aqueduct piping, we are putting the final coats of paint on the community center, we are gettin prepared to install the solar water pump, and the solar panels for the lightbulb project are purchased and on their way! I am also getting ready to start making the 45 tapstands that will become property of each member of the water project. Things are cranking along...Check out the pictures. The top pic is of Chelo, a local kid with some mental difficulties, just ecstatic to see all of the faucets lined up and ready to go!(actually I think he was just ecstatic to have his picture taken, but either way its priceless) Even in the most frustrating of communities, there are always a couple really good reasons to keep on working!
Friday, April 17, 2009
Although it is kind-of sad to see them go, the last Builders Beyond Borders group has come and gone, and now I will be back to the Dominican pace of life. We had a very succesful 5.5 days of work. We put around 1400 ft. of pipe in the group, put up the walls of our solar community center, and put the roof on! I have to say that the community center was the most fun I have had in a while. It reminded me of my Habitat days in college, measuring wood, cutting, and nailing. We went with a roof design that was a mezcla of Dominican and American styles. Half of the roof beams were trusses made to American standards and the other half were just beams coming down from the main roof beam. Thats how most Dominican houses are made(and the main beam usually bends down, but doesn't fall, and that seems fine to them!) But when the trusses were up and the roof was on it just made me extremely proud. I showed them a new way to do things, and they questioned and fought back against me every step of the way. But in the end they all said it was a pretty design and I "know too much". Also, on the last day we sent water across my new big bridge and through all of the pipes the kids put in, to the other side of the river. Everything went to plan and we opened a faucet more than an hour walk from the water source! It was the first water to ever come out of a faucet on that side of the river, and I was proud that my bridge didn't even seem to budge. All in all, life is good right now. I am an extremely lucky human being. It makes me feel great to be here, alive, and living.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So I just finished hosting the second Builders Beyond Borders group, and they did a great job! We installed about 1700 ft. of tubes in the ground, all the tubes needed for the upper portion of my community, and they painted my storage tank! We are now going immediately into construction on the footing of the community center. That all needs to be poured and ready for the group in April, who will then work on putting up the walls, roof, and windows/doors! And on top of that I am going to be used as a translator in a medical mission this week, with American doctors coming to treat patients from the mountains around me. Phew! Life is kind-of crazy now but it feels great. Oh!-a perfect example of that is the fact that I broke my pinky toe yesterday and I am sitting here with it taped to my other good toes/didn't remember to mention that until right now! (don't worry, it has been checked out by a doctor, and this tape job was the treatment) Things are really hectic but I love what I am doing. There are other projects also possibly on the horizon but I don't want to jinx them by mentioning them here. But I will let you all know if they come to fruition!
Just like the last group, we had a little faucet opening ceremony at the end of the 6 day trip. My host dad tried to say a couple words but got too choked up to continue. It was very humbling. I constantly get caught up in the frustrations of coordinating all of this work and forget the basics-we are bringing water to people that have never had it. And those people are now almost family to me. It is an amazing thing. Below are a couple pics from the March group of B3. PS I have BIG hair, and its not coming off until the aqueduct is done.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Over the past five years, Peace Corps volunteers have organized a major conference to bring together youth leaders in the Cibao region to discuss discrimination and the importance of cultural diversity. I participated in my first conference last year and was pushed by their enthusiasm to work much more with my youth group. For many of the young participants, the Celebrando Cibao conference is a life-changing experience. During the three-day conference, participants have a safe environment in which to examine their own culture, be introduced to other cultures, and gain the tools to combat discrimination in their communities. We look forward to planning the sixth annual Celebrando Cibao Conference, to be held August 22-24, 2009 and as a vital step in the process we are asking for your help with funding! I know that times are tough in the states, and for that reason I am not asking for anything more than $50 from any one of you, but literally anything you give will go a long way. Thanks again in advance! Follow the link below to donate to the Diversity and Leadership Youth Camp. (The volunteer name listed on the project is Hinojosa L. of CA and the project # is 517-290)
Donate to Dominican Youth!
Check out my older blog "Celebrando...El Cibao! Celebrando...Diversidad!" from September 2008 to see what last year's conference was like.