I want to thank all of those who responded to my desperate pleas for donations towards our basketball/volleyball court because we’ve raised $400 dollars over our fundraising goal! In addition to what the town mayor is offering towards the project, we have about US$6000 to work with. Our Courts for Kids group is scheduled to arrive in Pescadería June 8th. They will sleep in the local school, and will have their daily meals prepared by two gung-ho doñas. We plan to work June 9th through June 12th, mixing and pouring cement alongside the multitudes of jovenes that will very soon benefit from the court’s completion – who are also in charge of planning various cultural activities for our visitors. If all goes as plans and we finish the court, we’ll head Friday to celebrate at San Rafael beach and then inaugurate the court the morning of the 14th. The group will then go to the capital on the 15th, stay the night at another local beach, and head home to the States on the 16th.
The excitement and energy of the local athletes is motivating– I can’t tell if they are more anxious to meet our visitors or to play on the court. Before the group comes we need to have the base finished, columns built, and ground leveled. This way, we’ll have four days to pour the cement, put on the backboards, and hopefully get the court painted. I’m relieved to say that we’re making good progress. From the pictures above you can see that we’ve got the base built – just have to pour the cement for the columns and then level, compact, add, and re-compact the sub-grade.
La unión hace la fuerza
Unity makes strength
During my shrinking amount of free time, I joined up with a group of PCVs and went to Lago Enriquillo – a confident check off my growing bucket list to complete while on the island. Lago Enriquillo is salt-water lake located close to the Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti. As the largest body of water on the island, it is also known as the lowest point in the Caribbean. Due to its unique habitat, the lake is home to a number of species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world, drawing both national and international tourists to experience birding and boat tours.
Interestingly, Enriquillo’s water level is growing (there are multiple theories why, but it has still yet to be solved), meaning that overtime the lake’s salt concentration is decreasing. This occurrence is both good and bad. Because the water is not as concentrated, more species are able to survive in the lake. However, the rising level of the water is encroaching on locals’ farm lands, and the last of three islands located within the lake (nesting grounds for flamingoes and home to a unique species of iguana) is in danger of being submerged.
Another recent accomplishment was our Somos Mujeres Regional Conference. Spearheaded by a fellow business PCV, about 10 other volunteers and I planned and organized a conference dedicated to women’s empowerment. The two-day event emphasized two Peace Corps sectors – health and business. Over 20 women from the southern region of the country attended the conference, where we covered topics including the importance of savings, how to set goals, what it means to be an entrepreneur, healthy home and business practices, and how to discuss sensitive topics like condom use and HIV/AIDS with your children.
One of my favorite parts of the conference was when two health volunteers explained how germs are spread, then taught the group how to make hand sanitizer. The women not only understood the importance of safe hygiene practices within a home and business, but also left the conference with a potential income generation activity.
Though I had intended for my project partner and two women from La Cabrita to join me as well, my friend Silvana and I represented Pescadería appropriately. Plus, no matter if you have participants from your own community or not, attending conferences are always motivating and reinvigorating. Dominicans are selfless, energetic, and resilient people. They are masters of conversation; on the other hand they find it not the least awkward to sit in prolonged silence. They are not embarrassed by silly ice-breakers, and know how make the most out of something small or simple. Silvana and I plan to share our motivation and knowledge gained from the conference with a group of local women who are attending a weekly course in which they are learning skills they can potentially use to generate income (i.e. how to make a wide assortment of household cleaning products).
And lastly, a belated mother’s day to all my doñas out there! Here mothers are honored on the third Sunday of May, and to celebrate the women of my neighborhood threw a party. Just about all the attendees received a letter and at least one beer from their husbands – they even gave one to me! They had a gift exchange, and as per usual, a tasty Dominican brindis. Oh there was a doña booty-shaking competition too, but that should go without saying.
Without a fuss or question, the women (and men too! – those that don’t hit on me anyway) of Pescadería have taken me in as one of their own daughters. This whole Peace Corps thing wouldn’t be the same glorious adventure or experience without the doñas’ cushy hugs, brutal honesty, or dirty humor. And while striving to remain humble, I continue to be thankful for it all, down to the last grain of their customarily bountiful rice offerings.