So today I turned 23. Sure, I’m still one of the youngest people in our group, but it’s no ‘milestone’ age. It’s not the first birthday that I’ve celebrated without my family, not even my first birthday out of the country (I turned 20 in Argentina), but nevertheless it’s been quite a special day. Here are some highlights…
My host mom greeted me this morning with a huge hug and a felicidades, then served me the biggest bowl of fresh papaya, mango, and pineapple yet
As soon as I walked into the training center, all of the other trainees that had already arrived sung me happy birthday! Literally, as soon as I walked in the door – so surprised that people I’m still just getting to know remembered!
I got my second Rabies vaccine, and took my chalky, makes-you-have-the-most-vivid-dreams-ever Malaria medicine (happy malaria miércoles!)…not the best part of the day, but figured I’d add it to the highlights considering this is my first birthday to have done either
For the first time, we split into our sector groups – community economic development (CED, my sector) and eduction. The 13 of us were officially introduced to our training staff; we talked about the basic logistics and objectives of our community based training (CBT) that takes place in a couple weeks. During CBT we’ll be living in the region of Monte Plata, known for its agriculture, primarily cacao; it’s also where fair trade and organic products really took off in the DR. One of the staff brought us cacao rolled in sugar and a cacao marmalade (YUMMM), both made by a women’s cooperative we’ll have the opportunity to work with. We also received the details regarding our visits to a community of a current Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). I’ve been assigned to visit a girl currently in CED who’s living in the northwest region of Dabajon – more on this to come.
We spent our Spanish class cooking! For those of you who don’t know, cooking is one of my biggest hobbies and I find food culture fascinating. Eating isn’t bad either. Today we made arepas and empanadas de jamón, queso, cebolla, ají de morron, maíz, y tomate
During the last hour and a half of training, we learned how to play dominoes, a huge Dominican pastime – still figuring out the strategies, but what a relaxing, fun, new, and cultural activity to end a long day
After training, a group of at least 20 of us met up at a colmado, which is more or less a corner store where they sell everything from cooking oil to rum (both of which are Dominican staples I might add). We played cards and dominoes (we’re professionals now after all), drank Presidente, enjoyed the afternoon sun, and chatted like old friends – the people that own the colmado even brought me two little muffins stacked together with a birthday candle stuck on top!
Even in the midst of a power outage, my host sisters and mother hovered around the stove to make pasta Alfredo and garlic bread for dinner
I got to open the envelope my mom had given me the day I left. She told me not to open it until my birthday so that I’d have something to look forward to, even if she wasn’t with me in person – thanks mama 🙂
And last, but certainly not least, my sister just brought me a glass of fresh mango juice
en realidad, no podía haber pedido un día mejor…