Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The projects are just flooowing now.

The new computer center in the local high school
Update to Builders Beyond Borders and people back at home who donated or fundraised for the "idea" i had of a computer center in the local high school. It is a reality! Over the past five months or so I have worked with an Environmental Awareness volunteer on a project to turn one classroom of the local high school into a Library/Computer Center. Over the past few weeks we have been working on construction in the classroom-reframing a division wall, building a computer bank, fixing locks, building bookshelves etc. Just two days ago I had the same company that helped with my solar projects come up and install constant electricity with a charger/inverter in the classroom. And now the room is now pretty much usable! It was amazing to me to see such a rapid change, being used to projects like my aqueduct and community center! The high school is now equipped with a library stocked with books, a couple big round tables, a couple small kids tables, some chalkboards, a world map, and a computer bank with 8 laptops that will be usable all the time thanks to the inversor! This is literally the biggest computer center around, probably within two hours travelling! The local pueblo has some internet cafes but they all have much older computers and none have as many. So my neck of the woods just got a lot cooler! Computers, internet, and all of that is popular here like it was about 10-15 years ago in the states-everyone loves it and knows it is important but very few know how to do anything with a computer. So now they have a chance. Although I am leaving, the other volunteer still has some time and is excited to try to be a librarian/tech. consultant for the next months in the library she made! Take a look at a couple pictures!
On a complete nerd level I feel really lucky to have dealt with so many diverse energy systems in this country. I put a solar panel on my house and got to live with it for the majority of my service, realizing why Renewable Energy isn't always great for everyone, especially in a rainy country with a lot of poverty. I got to design a small solar-powered community center, and then used it to drill holes in steel bars with an electric drill-previously impossibly in my community! I got to design a solar-powered water pump system and see it working, without batteries! I also got to design small solar electrification projects. I got to experiment with small 10 watt panels and tiny batteries to power one lightbulb and also got to install big 55 watt panels with a larger battery and a small inverter to send luz longer distances and power 3-5 lightbulbs. And now I got to work first-hand with the reality of most Dominican households with luz: an inversor and back-up batteries. Even though I didn't get the chance to work with Hydroelectricity in a country where so much is possible, I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to do and see so much. One thing I learned about Energy and Water in a poor country like this: it sucks, simply put. You have to go way above and beyond the effort you might spend in the US to get a service that is far from reliable. But in a country where almost nothing is reliable, it just fades into the background with all of the other development problems. At least I know that my community with have water and light, and the high school with have a very powerful attraction for students.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Misión cumplida...y entonces?

So after all of my bitching and complaining, loving my site, hating my site, leaving my site, all of that-we had the inauguration and it was great. We inaugurated the aqueduct which gives water to 47 individual tapstands, the solar powered community center which is now host to a spanish and english class multiple times a week, and the solar lightbulb project which lit up the whole road, putting lights in 40 homes. It was an amazing feeling to realize all that we have done. And we spent over a million pesos to do it! It was a great close to my service here, and the small group who really understood my struggle showed their gratitude more than I could have expected. They presented me with two plaques, sent to be engraved over 2 hours away, and after the second plaque presentation they lifted me up on their shoulders! In true Dominican style they didnt take me anywhere though, hah, they just wanted to lift me up for the pictures, then put me right back down. But it was really cool. And I definitely saw some people shedding tears. I think what hit me more than anything was when the motorcycle-taxi guy, who had helped me go back and forth between multiple hardware stores in search of materials, came up to me just balling after seeing the community center. I didn't know him very well, but he is a much more educated Dominican than the majority of my community members, who kind-of understands what Peace Corps is trying to do in poor communities. I just hugged him and he put his head into my shoulder and cried(Dominicans aren't super tall guys). That was enough for me. That made it a good day.

The rest of the day was filled with swimming in the river, frias, and bien frias. And I finally got my revenge on the chicken that has eaten my cat's food for the past year. I cut his head off with a machete and we ate it for dinner! And Llave ate its foot(the delicacy here). I sucked on the foot a little bit, and some buddies also tasted the cooked deliciousness. Then we had some late night dancing, a very late night skinny-dip in the river, and then a nude late-night return to my house. Hey, when you have just finished a nine-month long project and its pitch black outside, you gotta walk right through your village naked. I'm pretty sure it says that somewhere in the Peace Corps manual.
(Evan chomping down on the chicken foot)
And a bunch of Peace Corps buddies showed up to support me and the project. All in all it was a great day, and it feels great to be done!

So now Im tying up loose ends with other small projects, trying to take advantage of free time to go see and do some things I missed out on, and wrapping my head around the next step in my life-School!