Given that the official religion of the Dominican Republic is Catholicism, la Semana Santa is a big deal here. Many people leave the Capital to go visit relatives in the campo, but mine stuck around here seeing as theirs live right down the street. Semana Santa is primarily a mix of the following: masses and religious processions; traffic/drunk driving/drowning accidents (if I haven’t mentioned already, laws are not followed here – but don’t worry, we’re all safe!); fish dishes; family get togethers; ghost-town-like streets because most businesses are closed; song and dance; strolling and/or swimming at the Malecón; and most importantly, habichuelas con dulce. Practically every doña makes her version of these sweet and pureed red beans; mine’s no exception, though she did substitute the traditional habichuelas rojas for habas. My host mom made a huge batch, 7.5lbs of lima beans to be exact, then called everyone to make sure they didn’t forget to stop by and pick some up. It’s similar to Christmastime in the US: you make sweets, or others do while you taste test (caramels, toffee, cookies, spiced nuts, truffles, pizzelles – Weschler favorites I might add), and then package them up to share with your loved ones. Works pretty much the same here, except everyone makes the same dish. Anyway, it’s certainly an interesting concept, but they’re surprisingly tasty, and very filling!
I’ve been told that it rains every Easter weekend; given today’s the first time that it’s rained since we’ve been here, their almanacs are on point. Training ended at noon on Thursday, and granted nothing tooooo exciting has happened this past week (aside from an Iron Chef competition, a Creole lesson, 2 more vaccines, a surprise birthday party for Caitlyn, and a visit to Santo Domingo’s Botanical Gardens), I wanted to touch base before heading off to CBT; also, because I’m not sure when I’ll have Internet next.
We’re meeting at the training center at 9 tomorrow morning, then saying goodbye to our Education friends as they leave for the city of Monte Plata; we’re headed to a pueblito outside Yamasá. Though we’ll be fairly close, I’m sad to be separated…BUT it’s exciting to finally start doing more business-specific training. There’s 14 of us in the CED sector, all of us with varying Spanish levels and business experience. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be living with a new host family until the first week in May, when we’ll come back to Pantoja to wrap up training and swear-in to become actual Peace Corps Volunteers.
Until then, some of our training activities will include:
- Business Skills Case Studies: Community Based Eco-Tourism, Artisans, and Ruta de Cacao (plus field trips!)
- Complete a Community Diagnostic based on Monitor and Evaluation lessons
- Trainee presentations regarding various business techniques – Julianna and I have ‘Customer Service’
- Micro-business interviews
- Business modules with Somos Mujeres
- Income generation projects
- Observation and hands-on learning activities in local school
- Construye Tus Sueños conference
- Spanish, Spanish, Spanish
We’ll find out our official project site placements, where we’ll be for the 2 years of service, on May 6th. With lots of learning and waiting to do until then, I’m just happy to be getting out of the city for a while. Despite the impressive history and prominent culture of Santo Domingo, the Capital, like any other city, is loud, dirty, and often dangerous. My family here has been more than hospitable; Peace Corps has provided them with extensive training, and they’ve been hosting volunteers since the 1990s. My family has provided me hearty food, protection, consejos, and even Internet. That being said, I’m excited to connect with a family that hasn’t had as much interaction with Americans – it might be more special, or at least more of an exchange, that way.
Welp, I’m off to finish packing. Later tonight, I’ll give my host family some good ole Vermont maple syrup that I brought with me. Here’s to hoping they like it – maybe they’ll even put it in their habichuelas con dulce next year!