Tag Archives: bahia de las aguilas

Close of Service?

12 Mar

My two-year mark has come and gone as quickly as mosquitoes flock to a gringo at dusk. Last week we had our Close of Service (COS) conference in the capital, where 517-13-01 (the name of our group who swore in as Peace Corps Volunteers together) celebrated and reflected on the experience we’ve had here on this island.

517-13-01

517-13-01

To say the least, COS was bittersweet. Like almost any other unit that trains, lives, and endures hardship together, 517-13-01 has become a tight-knit group. Although we live far apart in distance, a phone call with a fellow volunteer always seems to elicit sympathy, resolve frustration, and inspire endurance, creativity, and the motivation to continue with what we as a group set out to do. Our COS conference provided us with both closure and opportunities. We listened to the experience and advice of three Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who continue to work in the development world, and learned how to translate two years of service into convincing bullets points on a resume. Our Country Director explained how Peace Corps Volunteers can take advantage of non-competitive eligibility status, useful for those of us who wish to continue our careers working for the federal government. I shed tears during several visualization activities, stumped at the thought of how on earth I can say goodbye to two incredible networks I’ve created here in the Dominican Republic – my cohorts and my community. My family.

517-13-01 Trip to Bahía de las Águilas

517-13-01 Trip to Bahía de las Águilas

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517-13-01 Trip to Bahía de las Águilas

517-13-01 Trip to Bahía de las Águilas

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After two years, I’ve become aplatana’a. Essentially, native, as the Dominicans say. Though I still don’t understand or agree with certain parts of the culture, the uncertainty or uncomfortableness with other aspects has long since disappeared. No longer having to deal with uncertainty avoidance (a concept I was taught in Intercultural Communication classes and now can apply to real life experience), it’s easier and more comfortable to work and interact in a foreign environment. Loud noises during conversations, cramped guagua rides, non-formal education techniques, machismo tígueres, lethargic concepts of time, and superstitious doña myths have become normal, expected parts in the equation of sustainable development here in the Dominican Republic. Though they still present a challenge, setting out to work in this environment no longer seems as daunting because I’ve got two years of experience under my belt.  Or better yet, bathing suit?  Apron?  Fingernails?

Having just co-coordinated a sub-regional conference for about 30 Chicas Brillantes, I am as busy as ever. Plans for the annual Construye Tus Sueños business competition are due at the end of the month, and I’m working with two young entrepreneurs to complete their plans – one who aims to start a clothing store and another who hopes to improve his already existing operations as a veterinarian. To top it all off, my mom and aunt came to visit! We painted a mural in the local high school with students of the junior class, and crafted artistic expressions of individual beauty with my Chicas Brillantes, who continue to impress and inspire me every day.

Workshop with the junior class - choosing values to put on our Tree of Values mural.

Workshop with the junior class – choosing values to put on our Tree of Values mural.

Learning about values and deciding which ones to put on our mural.

Learning about values and deciding which ones to put on our mural.

Choosing values to put on our mural

Choosing values to put on our mural

Visit from my auntie and mommy!

Visit from my auntie and mommy!

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Tree of Values

Tree of Values

Additionally, I’d like to share that I’ve secured the help from a new project partner. Project partners, or key community contacts, are members from the local community that work in conjunction with volunteers to meet both local needs and Peace Corps’ goals.  Essential to both community integration and the longevity of projects, they are the true volunteers. They are the people who, once the volunteer leaves, ensure the sustainability of a project, and continue to multiply education and opportunities throughout the community. Monica is a young woman from my community, who not only teaches Construye Tus Sueños and Chicas Brillantes with me, but has also become one of my closest friends on the island. A natural-born educator, Monica presents what we’ve planned together with grace and conviction. She imparts the same tools and knowledge that I could as a volunteer, but because she is native to the island, our audience receives it more instinctively. Seeing her impart tools and knowledge that I’ve introduced to her, and the positive effect she’s having on our students, has been one of the most rewarding parts of my service.

Michelle and I - Co-coordinators of the Sub-Regional Chicas Brillantes conference

Michelle and I – Co-coordinators of the Sub-Regional Chicas Brillantes conference

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Professional Panel of women from our Regional .  Rosiris (President of La Cabrita) and Mónica (my new project partner) both participated and represented Pescadería with fuerza!

Professional Panel of women from our Regional . Rosiris (President of La Cabrita) and Mónica (my new project partner) both participated and represented Pescadería with fuerza!

Chicas y Mujeres Brillantes

Chicas y Mujeres Brillantes

Professional Panel

Professional Panel: Yessenia (Educator for World Water Relief), Rosiris (President, La Cabrita), Mónica (Math Teacher, studied abroad in Cuba), Yasmiris (Presidente of Women’s Association and local Tilapia Business), Indhira (Doctor) —- all from the region of Barahona and huge inspirations for our Chicas Brillantes

Mónica and our girls from Pescadería celebrating International Women's day at the conference

Mónica and our girls from Pescadería celebrating International Women’s day at the conference

Rosiris, Mónica, and I - two inspirational women from my community who have contributed to the motivation I have to continue working here in the Dominican Republic.

Rosiris, Mónica, and I – two inspirational women from my community who have contributed to my decision to continue working here in the Dominican Republic.

So for now, I’m staying. Yup!! I’ve signed up to stay another whole year on this island. Starting mid- to late-May, I will be living in the capital and working as the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader for the Community Economic Development sector. I will describe more of my plans and responsibilities as PCVL in a later post, but I figured I owed an announcement now that I’ve been officially cleared to stay on board ☺ 

Dad in the DR

10 Jul

I must admit, since inaugurating our court it’s been difficult to get back into any sort of ‘productive’ schedule.  Between hosting the Courts for Kids group, coordinating the construction process, constantly adjusting both sets of budgets, and dealing with the ingeniously inevitable snafus that present themselves at the most inconvenient of moments, I was left with very little ánimo.  Add in the summer heat and the recent Chinkungunya epidemic, and I found plenty of excuses to stay put in my hammock. 

Something that did motivate me to venture off my porch was that I had some international visitors – Dad and Mary!  We drove from the capital to Pescadería, and from my community all the way down the southern coast to the border town of Pedernales.  Known as one of the most beautiful drives in the Caribbean, we stopped along the way at various beaches for photo-ops.  Despite not having a map, we took only a few wrong turns and arrived at quite a few off-the-beaten-path, but worth it nonetheless, destinations; we made up lost time over rich conversation, and were accompanied only by the soft whir of the AC and the surprisingly hefty cattle that scattered the seemingly abandoned highway.  

sharing one of my favorite places in my community with my favorite guy

sharing one of my favorite places in my community with my favorite guy

San Rafael beach

San Rafael beach

San Rafael

San Rafael

Bahía de las Águilas

Bahía de las Águilas

our after-lunch transport to the beach!

our after-lunch transport to the beach!

Bahía de las Águilas

Bahía de las Águilas

Bahía de las Aguilas

Bahía de las Aguilas

deserted land behind the beach - we were in the middle of no where!!

deserted land behind the beach – we were in the middle of no where!!

Bahía de las Águilas

Bahía de las Águilas

starfish!

starfish!

our own private beach :)

our own private beach 🙂

Similarly to when my mom and sister came to spend Christmas in Pescadería, it was both reassuring and gratifying to share my community with my dad and Mary.  They were not only able to see where I’ve been living, but also who has been taking care of me and what we’ve been accomplishing together – the court in particular!  They sampled La Cabrita’s goat cheese and yogurt, dunked a basket at the court, learned how to play dominoes, and most entertainingly, danced at Patronales (once-a-year celebration in town – really just an excuse to drink lots of beer and/or rum and blast loud, bass-heavy music).  My community was just as happy to meet them, proudly introducing them to their culture, warmly inviting them into their homes, and humbly accepting Dad’s gratitude for looking out for me. 

dad and i out on our court!

dad and i out on our court!

dominoes lesson

dominoes lesson

out celebrating Patronales :)

out celebrating Patronales 🙂

Now that Tom and Mary are back on US soil (happy belated Independence day!), I’m focusing on projects that I had put on the back burner to get the court finished – English class, Construye Tus Sueños, and my Chicas – while hoping to start some others.  More importantly, I’m intent on avoiding the current talk of the town (or country more like it – the Chinkungunya), by making sure that I continue to take care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, as the past few weeks have been rewarding but tiring nevertheless.  For now, that means resting, reading, and running at dusk when the sun glows rather than scorches. 

I attribute most of my success here in Pescadería to the fact that I’ve discovered how to be myself here – corny jokes, alone time, singing, inventive culinary concoctions, exercising, staying in touch with other volunteers, etc.  Experiencing this process and then being able to share it with my parents is both humbling and heartwarming; I look forward to continue getting to know myself through connecting with others, and to most effectively helping others by staying true to myself. 

 “You cannot get sick enough to help sick people get better. You cannot get poor enough to help poor people thrive. It is only in your thriving that you have anything to offer anyone. If you’re wanting to be of an advantage to others, be as tapped in, turned in, turned on as you can possibly be.” Esther Abraham-Hicks

Pepelo and I - finally my Dominican dad and American dad got to meet!

Pepelo and I – finally my Dominican dad and American dad got to meet!