welcome to the campo

7 Apr

hello HELLO!  Currently writing to you from a sticky PC keyboard belonging to a centro de Internet in the town of Peralvillo, our new home for the next month!  Life in the campo has been more than great – people are friendly, the streets are cleaner and safer, and the way of life is simply more relaxing…think of  summertime in Vermont (star gazing, chickens on your lawn, ice cream, etc., but minus Silver Lake), then add the shade of cacao trees, endless natural and homemade fruit juices, and loud bachata music.

There´s 14 of us here for training regarding Community Economic Development; our schedule is still fairly rigourous, but it´s much better than carrying it out amidst the chaos of the capital.  We´re each still living with host families, but for me anyway, it´s been much better than my first homestay.  It´s the first time that this town of 25,000 has ever hosted volunteers, so all of the families are very excited by the new experience and the opportunity to exchange.  My family consists of a don, a doña, a 24-year-old hermana, and her 7-year-old hijo.  Since I first arrived, they´ve been more than eager to get to know me, ask questions regarding what I´m accustomed to, share knowledge, feed me tasty food, introduce me to neighbors, and sit, talk, and compartir.  Last night I even brought out my guitar and held a little concierto for the families that live by me.  We´re all able to walk to the training center, which is a nice change from the city where I had to rely on the public transportation.  I live right across the street from another trainee, so we usually start our day off with a walk and/or run around the neighborhood, then head to training, come back for lunch with our families, go back to the centro for Spanish class, and then spend the evenings getting our hair braided, sitting in the hammock under the gazebo, and playing cards and dominoes with the kids.  Life is gooooooooooooooood, and I´m happy to be spending a couple more weeks here.  Unfortunately I can´t post photos because I haven´t found a place with WiFi yet, but here´s some more campo highlights:

  • For training, we´ve broken up into groups according to Spanish classes, and are completing diagnostics of the community – practicing techniques and tools for when we all get to our individual work sites.  Among other things, each group has to draw a map of the community, complete a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), conduct various interviews, and create a seasonal calendar.  Andy, Kaley, John, Julianna, and I decided to work yesterday, so today is my first real day of rest here.  All the groups present their projects in Spanish on Tuesday.  
  • I ate a chicken foot!  There´s really not much meat to it at all, you just kind of suck the flavoring off the toes.  Tasty, until you´re sucking on a toenail.  
  • Kids fly homemade chichiguas (kites) everywhere here – until May anyway when rainy season starts.  It´s cool to watch, and there´s definitely an art to flying one properly.  Seeing as there´s kites stuck in trees, around telephone wires, and on top of houses, some are better at it than others.
  • Much like the rest of Latin America, the Dominican Republic is considered a collectivistic society.  Family is treasured, decisions are made on behalf of a group, and people genuinely look out for one another.  This being said, it´s expected to pay a visit to a sick or dying neighbor to show your support.  The other day, my mom and sister said that we were going to visit a friend.  I wasn´t sure what to expect.  Turned out to be an older man with a serious case of the chicken pox.  I told him I had had it when I was little, and recalled my that oatmeal baths relieve the itching.  We left after about 20 minutes, and now I have a new friend.
  • There is cacao everywhere here, and it´s definitely the biggest form of income for the community.  We got to visit a cacao bloque,  where the seed of the fruit is fermented, dried, and bagged before getting sold to buyers for various bi-products – wine, manteca, marmelade, and of course, chocolate.  It was the first place to start processing organic cacao, and the bloque contributes to the fact that the Dominican Republic is the top producer of organic cacao worldwide.  Various agricultural groups here sell to well-known international companies like Black and Green Chocolate and Lush Cosmetics.  Pretty cool stuff, and it grows right in my backyard.
  • I´m pretty sure that I´ve got pure juice running through my veins.  I have now tried, por lo menos: pineapple, tamarind, starfruit, passion fruit, cherry, mango, guava, lime, and zapote.

I have plenty more things to share, but I think I´m getting free Internet so I don´t want to aprovechar to much.  Hope all is well up there in Nueva Yol – when you say you´re from the US, they automatically assume you live in the Big Apple…

Much love, and hasta pronto!


2 Responses to “welcome to the campo”

  1. Steverino April 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Thanks for the continued posts Kate. Love keeping up with you. I know it takes a lot of effort on your part, but they are read and appreciated.

    XXOO Steve

  2. Mary B April 21, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    I’m so enjoying reading your adventures, and remembering my visits to DR. Beautiful place and nice people…but you’re not at Altos de Cevon before you leave. Miss you! Maybe we can come visit when you get settled. Love Mary

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