It’s been one week since Swear-In. Still working on a decent Internet situation, as I’m currently using my host mom’s banda ancha device, but it’s better than nothing! These first few days as a real, live PCV have been interesting to say the least – all sorts of awkwardness, entertainment, and excitement; calming but overwhelming; lots of walking, eating, and compartiring. Campo life is simple and slow. People start stirring around 5 or 6 (I’ve been going out walking or running around then because the sun is up by 6:30!), and the town seems to be in full swing by 8 or 9. At least three herds of cattle walk by my porch every morning; it’s a pleasant sight to witness while enjoying my homemade and sinfully rich hot chocolate. There’s a noticeable lull from 12-2 while everyone’s eating lunch (biggest meal of the day) and taking their pabita. When the second tanda of school gets out around 5, all of Pescadería seems to be in the street, listening to music, eating mangoes, playing marbles or dominoes, revving motorcycles, or gossiping on their stoops. Dinner’s normally around 7, and I hit the hay around 9. Sounds grandma-ish, but it’s tiring to think in another language all day long!
For the first three months of our service, we’re in the “Diagnostic Phase”. We’re supposed to walk around our communities, introduce ourselves, let people know what we’re doing here, understand how life works, what businesses exist, what could be improved in the community, etc. It gives people the opportunity to adjust to have a foreigner living amongst them, and for us to become familiar with our new home of two years. Peace Corps compares our diagnostic with a visit to the doctor – if you were sick, you wouldn’t expect your doctor to just give you medicine without knowing what you had. It’s an aspect of Peace Corps that I really admire; they expect their volunteers to both integrate into and collaborate with their community. Without either, a volunteer’s work will be both unsuccessful and unsustainable. Eventually, I’ll have to conduct interviews, draw maps, and use other tools to create a formal presentation regarding my diagnostic, but for now I’m expected to just walk around, chat, and drink coffee. It gets awkward at times, but hey, I’ll take it.
I’ve been meeting at least 3 people a day, which is very encouraging, but also challenging to remember so many names and faces! Most of my new friends are either over the age of 40 or under the age of 15. Whatever, friends are friends. I get lots of stares, and even more questions. Some of my favorites include: “What year is it where you live?”, “Are you friends with Barack Obama?”, “How many kids do you have?”, “Do you wash your hair?”, “What part of the Capital (aka New York) do you live?” and “What do the elephants do when it’s wintertime?”.
Overall, I like my community. It’s tough being the town spectacle, but it sure is good character building. I’m practicing my cat-like reflexes on the mosquitoes – it’s just about rainy season so they’re EVERYWHERE (if Dominicans are being bit, you know they’re bad). I’m gifted at least three mangoes day and though it’ll never be a graceful sight, my mango-eating process is getting a little less sloppy every day. I’m practicing phenomenal personal hygiene a) because flossing is necessary after eating mangoes and b) because I’m expected to bañarme at least twice a day. Like I mentioned, time is NOT of the essence here, so patience comes in handy, as does positive energy. Dominicans saludar to everyone walking by, so I’m working on saying hola as many times as possible – it’s gotta be over 100 times daily. I like it though, and I wish we recognized the importance of greeting people you walk by more in the States. I’m gaining confianza with my goat group by starting to help them with daily chores and activities. I’ll eventually have to do an organizational diagnostic for La Cabrita in addition to the one for the community, but for now I’m just taking it slow and easy – cogiendo lo suave. Today I’m going with the ladies to sell cheese and yogurt, which I kind of helped make the other day! Hoping to have a meeting with the president of the Foundation soon so I can understand what specifically they want me to work on with La Cabrita. From what I can see, finding a niche market to sell their products too should be a top priority.
That’s about it for now, hoping to start an English class soon! One for niños and one for adults, might have to offer one for jovenes too. Just bought lots of paper and crayons to make signs, and to color with my new friends 🙂 Will fill you once those get started…
Off to sell queso y yogurt!