Tag Archives: beach

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!

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a snowless christmas and happy new year

7 Jan

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It’s crazy to think that group 517-13-01 has been here for almost one whole year already!  Some days are easier than others, but like I expressed in my last post, I’m very happy (and lucky) to be doing what I’m doing.  But a true highlight of 2013 was having my mom and sister come to visit me!

Christmas-time in Pescadería seemed like a combination of Spring Cleaning and Thanksgiving.  Everyone spent the entire month of December painting, dusting, and organizing their house from top to bottom, intending to start the new year on a clean slate.  Given that two of my favorite people were coming to visit me, I followed suit – house got painted; chairs and table got sanded and painted; windows got washed, then decorated with paper snowflakes.  This was our first snowless Christmas, and I don’t think any of us were sad about it.

I gave mom and Carrie a decent tour of the community, stopping by La Cabrita (where there now at least 10 new baby goats!), my host family’s house, and other homes of wonderful people that have taken me under their wing.  Not only did my community get to know more of me by meeting my family, but my family got to see where the heck I’ve been living for the past 9 months, how I’ve been keeping myself busy/sane, and who’s been taking care of me (read: the 3000+ members of Pescadería).

laundry and longaniza

laundry and longaniza

We drove a couple hours down the southern coast to Paraíso, and stopped on our way back through for papaya juice and the best sandwiches in Barahona.  We survived a dance lesson with Reni.  We people watched.  We gorged ourselves on Dominican Christmas favorites – longaniza (homemade pork sausage with lime and garlic), fried chicken, potato salad, fried plantains, apples, almonds, gumdrops, and pastelitos (platano/banana tamales stuffed with pulled chicken) – and shared some of our own by decorating gingerbread cookies that Mom brought all the way from the States!

cookie decorating!

cookie decorating!

We left early the 26th to explore Cabarete, which is located on the north coast of the island and is known as one of the kite-surfing capitals of the world.  After all of the attention, translating, and traveling, lounging in a hammock while reading a book and drinking a passion-fruit mojito seemed like a pretty good idea.  And it was.

described above.

described above.

We ventured out the 28th to do the Playa Grande tour, recommended by a fellow PCV living in the neighboring town of Sosua.  For US$150 we had our own personal and bi-lingual taxi driver, who took us to various beaches, a waterfall where crazy locals jumped off, a cacao farm with tons of yummy fruit and honey to sample, and our personal favorite, Dudu Lagoon.  35+ foot cliff jump and zip-line into vibrant blue-green fresh water – one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in country to date.

Playa Caletón

Playa Caletón

Playa Diamante

Playa Diamante

Cave next to Dudu Lagoon

Cave next to Dudu Lagoon

Dudu Lagoon

Dudu Lagoon

fishy lunch options at Playa Grande

fishy lunch options at Playa Grande

Carrie and I at Playa Grande

Carrie and I at Playa Grande

Carrie and Mom left for the snowy States the 30th after a semi-successful paddle-boarding session (how could we visit Cabarete without doing at least one water sport?  Couldn’t).  I stayed in Cabarete till the 1st, ringing in 2014 with other volunteers that had flocked to the area to celebrate the end of one year and start to another.  How will this one top the last?  Who knows, but here are some goals:

  • actually start writing in my journal, even if it’s just a couple words a day
  • floss
  • visit 5 other volunteer sites
  • graduate 15 girls from my Chicas Brillantes class
  • do a Medical Mission (will probably end up writing about this later)
  • complete Construye Tus Sueños course and have 3 students participate in regional and/or national conference
  • build that darn basketball court (more on this later, too)
  • plan an activity with my women’s group for International Women’s Day

Anyway.  Since December is not the most productive time to get things done in this country, all of my groups and projects are starting up again.  My Chicas group meets Thursdays, my Chicos group starts Saturday, the women are meeting Tuesday, La Cabrita is having a planning meeting sometime next week, my Construye Tus Sueños class starts the 26th, and kids are headed back to school (well, technically they started today but no one will actually go till next week).

sunset at Sosua beach

sunset at Sosua beach

Thanks to all of you who take the time to read these posts.  I can only hope you’re learning half as much from me as I am from this experience here in the DR.

Felicidades amigos 🙂

a rainy but happy start to 2014

a rainy but happy start to 2014

Mio, my!

12 Oct

Government in any country can be a touchy subject.  Take for example what’s happening in the US.  It’s been important for me to demonstrate to the people I’ve met here that even the most developed countries have plenty of problems to sort out.

Here, as a representative democracy, there are two main parties – the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD).  Aside from the fact that the PLD party is represented by the color purple and the PRD by the color white, few people know the fundamental differences between the two; people are generally loyal to the party to which their parents supported.

Unfortunately, almost every aspect of this country is affected by political corruption.  Take teacher employment for example.  Given that the current president, Danilo Medina, belongs to the PLD party, it’s nearly impossible for any PRD teacher or school staff to find jobs (unless they’re already working there).  If and when the next president is PRD, the current PLD janitors will lose their jobs and will be replaced by PRD janitors.

Given my limited Internet access, I’ve had very little contact with the ‘outside world’ and learn only through news snippets or town gossip what’s happening on an international level.  However, when someone told me the other day that the United States had formed two new states or that Angelina Jolie had been murdered, it confirmed that I seriously have to filter and think twice about any information I’m told.  Anyway, there are lots of things here that needs fixing (government being one of them), but as my own mother put it, most days I feel very lucky to just be eating rice and beans and watching cockfights.  Long story short, the closure of various government agencies and such should not effect my stay here as a volunteer with Peace Corps (ironically, a government agency).  It does however affect funding and the opportunity to access and apply for grants, which I will explain a bit later.

http://files.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/documents/Peace_Corps_Operations_Plan_in_the_Absence_of_Appropriations.pdf

And so, in addition to eating rice and beans and watching cockfights, here’s some pictures to show you what we’ve been up to in Pescadería…

I got a kitty!  Mio keeps me company, and also helps me keep the creepy crawlies under control.

Mio - playing with a cockroach and a tarantula

Mio – playing with a cockroach and a tarantula

I attended a local religious celebration called ‘Los Palos‘.  A group of guys were playing drums, doñas served yummy snacks, and people danced, offered food/drinks/cigarettes to the saints, and got lost in trances.  I didn’t participate in the dancing per se, but it was certainly interesting to witness.

cake and offerings to saints at Los Palos

cake and offerings to saints at Los Palos

my neighbor Reni, her son Omeilin, and me at Los Palos

my neighbor Reni, her son Omeilin, and me at Los Palos

I went to the San Rafael beach with a large group of people from my community.  Of the four guaguas that took people back and forth, I was of course on the one with the live band.  Going to the beach with Dominicans is a big to-do.  They make tons of food (we brought moro de guandules y coco, chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, and homemade passion fruit juice) and get all dolled up.

San Rafael - fresh water pools with the ocean at the bottom

San Rafael – fresh water pools with the ocean at the bottom

We harvested fallen coquitos (literally, little coconuts, but they’re almonds!) from the beach to make a delicious almond dulce with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and star anise.

Juana cracking coquitos

Juana cracking coquitos

Coquitos (almonds)

Coquitos (almonds)

Finished almond dessert

Finished almond dessert

I’m finally doing laundry on my own.  My neighbor Reni was helping me before, but now that I’m comfortable with the Dominican way of washing my clothes, I’m my own doña.  

Laundry + tubie = full on doña

Laundry + tubie = full on doña

I’ve had two very successful Chicas Brillantes meetings.  We have one group that meets in the morning and another in the afternoon to accommodate the half-day school schedule.

first Chicas Brillantes meeting

first Chicas Brillantes meeting

We plan to continue meeting weekly, and will cover topics such as leadership, team work, body image, sexual education, healthy communication, personal and professional life planning, and so on.  We also do fun stuff, like draw and play Peso Caliente.

Chicas Brillantes group

Chicas Brillantes group

Peso Caliente - a race in two teams to see which can get the peso through their clothes first

Peso Caliente – a race in two teams to see which can get the peso through their clothes first

This week I had 51 seventh and eighth graders participate in a savings class.  I taught the class in the library of the school with the help of a local savings bank, Banco Ademi.

Banco Ademi savings class

Banco Ademi savings class

We discussed the history of money, the financial system, the importance of saving, and the advantages of saving in a bank.  10 of the students won the opportunity to go on a field trip to the local Banco Ademi branch to get a tour of the bank and to open their very own savings account.

25 of the 51 students that participated in the Banco Ademi savings course

25 of the 51 students that participated in the Banco Ademi savings course

Since February, La Cabrita has been in the process of applying for government funding via FEDA (Fondo especial para el desarrollo agropecuario – Special Fund for Agricultural Development) to be able to expand the infrastructure and milk production of their project.  Last week, their proposed budget was approved, and they will eventually receive a loan totaling over RD$11,000,000.00.  They are required to pay these funds back within two years after their business starts earning profit.  Needless to say, a lot of my time with them will spent helping to plan payments, manage funds, and assure efficient scheduling/development of funded projects.

Irrigation system at La Cabrita - part of the loan funds will go towards the construction of a reservoir

Irrigation system at La Cabrita – part of the loan funds will go towards the construction of a reservoir

Lastly, about a month ago my youth/sports group and I applied to the program Courts for Kids to see if they’d help us build a basketball court in Pescadería.  Courts for Kids provides $5000 towards construction costs and sends a group of about 20 students down to help build the court.  Good news is, we’ve been approved!  Other news is that we have loooootttsss of work ahead of us – preparing the land, raising the rest of the funds (court will end up costing over $12000), planning logistics/activities for when the group comes in June, keeping the community involved, etc.

Pescadería from the highway

Pescadería from the highway

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it is my job to coordinate the project, but to also ensure that my community is involved every step of the way.  So you ask, how on earth are we going to raise over $7000?  Good question.  At this point we need to start on a local level by talking to the mayor and reaching out to national institutions, programs, and foundations.  Additionally, as a PCV, there are international funds that I can tap into aka YOU J  Because Peace Corps is a government agency, they prohibit us to receive donations directly, but rather offer a grant called PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program), which allows us to funnel donations towards any project we’re working on, like building a court.  We, alongside individuals from our community, must apply for the grant in order to start receiving donations.  By helping me complete the application, local community members will learn all about the grant process including project planning, recognizing beneficiaries, monitoring and evaluation (a requirement for receiving a grant), and budgeting.  BUT, as I mentioned towards the beginning of the post, given the government shut-down and lack of Peace Corps funding, the grant office is currently closed and is not receiving any applications for new projects.  Regardless, I plan to start putting together the application with my group so that when our government gets itself sorted out, we can submit it and we can start fundraising immediately.

Lastly, I’m feeling very well adjusted in my new home – I’ve been here for almost two months now!  I soon plan to buy an Internet stick (so I can update you all more than once a month) and also another bed (so my visitors have a place to sleep!)  I will keep you all posted on the grant and how you’ll be able to help.  I thank you in advance for your interest, advice, and support.

DSCN3912

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