Archive | June, 2013

there’s a first for everything…

27 Jun

Welp, I can officially say that I’ve been to a cockfight.  My friend Wandy brought me along to one on Saturday, as it happens to be one of his favorite pastimes.  If it weren’t for baseball, cockfighting could probably be considered the national sport of the Dominican Republic – it’s an integral part of the culture, and there’s even a National Federation!  A fight consists of two roosters, each of which has plastic spurs glued to their legs, and lasts up to 15 minutes in length, or until one is severely injured/killed by the other.  Having always been a huge animal lover, I think the three fights that we watched satisfied my cockfight-viewing quota.  Overall, it’s a very loud and rambunctious atmosphere.  I am happy I went – it was an important cultural event to experience, but given that I was one of three women present and two roosters left blinded, I’m not sure it’s something I’ll be craving to witness again soon.

us at the beach!

the group at San Rafael

I went to the beach on Monday!  I joined up with my project partner, Ronny, and a group of people from his church who were taking a paseo to San Rafael, a beautiful but rocky beach about an hour south of Pescadería.  We arrived around 10am, and stayed until almost 7pm – everyone brought loads of food to share, and it was a great day spending time getting to know people.  The water was warm, strong, and SO blue. We played baseball, swam and surfed in the ocean, and rinsed off in the fresh water pools.  The water from the arroyos comes from an almost crystalline river that collects into manmade pools/waterfalls, and then runs right into the ocean.  Freezing cold, but very refreshing.

snack time

snack time

The County Director of Peace Corps, Arthur Flanagan, visited my site today!  It’s a routine visit to make sure that we’re safe, behaving ourselves, and that there’s actually work for us to do.  Ronny and I showed him around the town, then brought him to La Cabrita.  He got to try the cheese and yogurt, and was very impressed.

 one of the three padrotes

haha, talk about horny – one of the three breeding rams

I’m very lucky to not only have been placed in such a welcoming community, but also to have the opportunity to work with such a cool project.  Though there are still improvements to be made (organizational, marketing, and accounting skills for example), they have a solid two and a half years under their belts.  Multiple national and international organizations have and will continue to support them, especially now that they’re producing a steadier quantity of their yummy products.  Wish I could share samples via Internet!

 

 

 

P.S. La Cabrita is in fact looking to expand the number of French Alpine goats they have, so if you know anyone with some extras lying around, send them our way 🙂

La Cabrita - the stable and surrounding land

La Cabrita – the stable and surrounding land

 

 

plagiarism, shmagiarism

19 Jun

Oooooh the hypocrisy of calling me fat and then shoving food in my face, or getting offended that I didn’t try your version of fried plátanos.  Unlike us in the United States, Dominicans do not take offense to getting called fat – it’s often taken as a compliment because it means that you get enough to eat.  You might not even be fat; maybe you just put on a few pounds, or are simply bloated.  But from what I can tell, there is no perfect medium – you’re either fat or skinny.  Here, if you’re skinny, you’re said to have AIDS…

Furthermore, Dominicans are all about nicknames, especially when they have to do with your personal appearance.  For example, there’s a cute little old man that lives down the street from me who’s called Senón.  In English, this would probably translate to ‘man boobs’.  Nicknames like these, though they may seem harsh, are not meant to hurt any feelings.  They simply call it like it is, which I guess I can appreciate, especially now that my skin is getting thicker in both the literal and figurative sense.

In other news, I survived my first English class!  On Monday, over 50 niños ages 7 to 14 showed up at the school to witness the americana in action.  Here, classroom behavior, teaching methods, and the education system in general are quite poor.  There are normally way too many kids crammed into one classroom.  Teachers expect the children to learn, retain, and understand the given material by copying it directly from the board.  Classroom and teaching materials are scarce.  Many people become teachers not for their love of the subject or for interacting with kids, but rather because they’re guaranteed a job.  When I decided to start this class, I promised myself that my teaching methods would not reflect what the kids might be used to.  I’m striving to create a fun, dynamic, and interesting class, not only so they can learn English, but also so that they have an alternative outlet for their energy and free time.  Over all, it went really well, though I think they were disappointed that I didn’t teach them the entire English language in their first class.  This afternoon I have my jóvenes class – let’s hope it goes just as well!

Having seen how poor the education system is here, I’ve realized how thankful I am for the schooling I’ve had the opportunity to receive.  Context: La Cabrita is currently enrolled in a class taught by an organization called INFOTEP, in which they’re writing manuscripts regarding supervision, delegation, responsibility, and how these relate to their association.  Sounds like it could be useful, right?  But how does one go about writing a 20+ paper when you’ve hardly been taught writing skills, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, or even spelling?  Well, you copy it all from the Internet of course!  Each member found various books or web pages, and copied the material word-for-word by hand so that they could then type it up and put it into their own paper.  Given that the members of La Cabrita don’t really own computers (they use the Internet on their phones), or know how to operate Word very efficiently, I took the liberty of typing up their papers for them.  My moral gears were grinding throughout this entire process; but, seeing how plagiarism laws don’t even exist here, for them, it was the obvious way of going about writing a paper.  Ultimately, the fact the INFOTEP assigned this workload was silly – they could have easily demonstrated their knowledge of the material in a different manner, because with this method, they learned nothing except how to copy and paste, and that Americans can type fast.

In short, I’m thankful for all the annotated bibliographies I was forced to write; for the writing workshops that seemed painful at the time; for the computer literacy classes that we started in elementary school; for libraries; for the principles that encourage and laws that protect an individual’s intellectual property; for educated, dedicated, and motivated teachers; and most importantly, for parents who make sure their kids go to school, do their homework, give 100%, and never stop learning.

Tímida to Talkative

3 Jun

Saludos from the Peace Corps Office! Kaley and I left our sites yesterday to surprise my host family in Peralvillo. We stayed the night, laughed as if we’d never left, visited the Bomba for old times sake, and are now taking advantage of the air conditioning and free WiFi here in the capital. Well had back towards Barahona in a couple hours…

It’s amazing how much you can learn about yourself, or others for that matter, in such a short period of time. The day after I wrote last, I was walking with Wanderson, one of the 11 members of La Cabrita. He said he’d heard that I was tímida, and that instead I should be walking around with confianza. This small town talks a lot of big talk, and I could have easily gotten offended, but he had a point. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s a bit intimidating to walk up to a group of strangers that have been watching you approach them from a kilometer away. But how do you know how they’re going to react until you talk to them? They could be rude, or more likely, be your new best friends and give you mangoes. So I decided to bite the bullet. Every day I go out walking and join a new group of people seated under a shady tree. I’m making lots of new friends, and I couldn’t be happier to have looked on the bright side of constructive criticism. Personal growth – one of the main reasons I joined the Peace Corps after all.

20130603-134541.jpg

Given all these new friends, it appears that maintaining my waistline will be a daily challenge. Good thing I’m walking a lot, because I’m offered/force fed food wherever I go. These offerings include but are not limited to: juices of any and all kinds, ears of corn (grilled, boiled, or the whole ear itself), mangoes (duh), limoncillo fruit, candy, gum, plums, tilapia (yes, raw fish, but seasoned and ready to cook!), soda, ice cream, coffee, and a gallon of raw cows’ milk (don’t worry Mom, we boiled it lots before using it). Furthermore, I told the president of La Cabrita that I liked the shoes she was wearing, and she just about took them off her feet to give them to me! Never have I ever met a more hospitable or generous culture in my life, and my taste buds and I are sure happy to have become a part of it.

I think their generosity impresses me so much simply because they do not have much to begin with. For example, when my friend Sam arrived to her new host family’s house, her mom greeted her with: “In this town we don’t have much, but we do have a lot of love.” Including the Dominican Republic, many countries in Latin America are overrun with corruption; education is poor, resources are limited, particularism is accepted, and inefficiency is tradition. Amid all of the negatives however are also many positive aspects, many of which we take for granted in the United States. Food is savored; clean water is not wasted; leisure time is enjoyed (often taken to the extreme); conversations with friends are more important than getting somewhere on time; family is treasured. I’ve learned so much already from these lovely people, I can only imagine who I’ll be two years from now. Hopefully, half as humble and generous as they are.

20130603-135228.jpg

I’m about to start an English class. I think this is far easier said than done. Sure, English is my native language, but I’ve never had to stand in front of how ever many people will show up and explain its various rules, exceptions, spelling, or pronunciation in a different language. In all honesty, I’d feel more comfortable teaching Spanish. Regardless, Peace Corps calls activities like this a ‘quick win’. Why? Because we already know the material, it’s a good way to meet people, and it doesn’t require months of diagnostic work to find out if people are interested (because they most certainly are). I’m planning to teach three one-hour classes once a week – one for niños (under 12), jovenes (13-18), and adultos (19+). I hope to start the week of June 9th, so wish me lots of suerte!

20130603-135236.jpg