Tag Archives: ceramics

HCD, CBT, and CTS

12 Apr

As I mentioned in my last post, passing the two-year milestone has been both salty and sweet. Good friendships – formed while navigating a foreign culture and work environment on unforgettable bus rides – will now have to be stretched over international waters. All but two other members of my swear-in group are continuing their studies, travels, and adventures elsewhere.

John, Andy, Samantha, and I

John, Andy, Samantha, and I

Andy and I - such good friends that we happened to wear the same outfit.  #tigueres

Andy and I – such good friends that we happened to wear the same outfit. #tigueres

But this transition has been mostly sweet, especially because of Semana Santa! The official religion of the Dominican Republic is in fact Catholicism, but most religious holidays are celebrated outside of the church – wherever there happens to be music, food, and family. Though consumerism is not as prominent as say during Navidad, people buy plenty of new clothes and big plastic pools to celebrate Easter. If you’re not swimming in a pool in the middle of the street with a bunch of your neighbors, you’re not having a very Good Friday. No one here ‘gives up’ anything for Lent, but rather binges on a traditional dish called habichuelas con dulce. Beans (usually kidney but sometimes black or lima) are cooked with coconut water until soft. They are blended in a licuadora (though I like it how my doña leaves some whole), and then put back on the stove with cinnamon, chunks of sweet potato, a touch of salt, and sugar. After having boiled for un ratico, Carnation milk and raisons are added. For a final touch, habichuelas con dulce are served with a few wafer-life cookies on top. Though I find this concoction rather delicious, I can’t decide if HCD are a clever use of a typically savory food staple or maybe just that my food standards have dropped over these last 24 months…and to refresh your memory on how I spent Semana Santa last year, click here.

Good Friday

Good Friday

Chicas chillin'

Chicas chillin’

HCD

HCD

I will be moving from Pescadería to the capital sometime in May to start working in the Peace Corps office. As the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader for the Community Economic Development sector, I will serve as a liaison between the office and my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. Some of my responsibilities include assisting the Associate Peace Corps Director of the CED sector in site development for future volunteers, providing technical support to my peers, and helping in the coordination of several In-Service Trainings and conferences. Though I will be working in the office, there will still be a fair amount of travel, especially because I plan to provide continued support to my people, groups, and projects in Pescadería.

the birthday party my Chicas Brillantes planned for me - how could I leave them?!

the birthday party my Chicas Brillantes planned for me – how could I leave them?!

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at home.

at home.

To help prepare for this new role, I’ve been helping with the Community-Based Training for the new group of Community Economic Development trainees that arrived in March. I’m living with the same host family that I lived with in Peralvillo two years ago during my own CBT – a sincere and straightforward reminder of how generous, cohesive, and tranquilo most Dominicans are. I work alongside the Technical Trainer, a host country national who offers culturally aware feedback and advice to the trainees during CBT. Community Based Training lasts for five weeks, and allows trainees to deepen their cultural understanding of the DR by living with host families while also practicing newly acquired information related to business development by working directly with youth/community groups; it is designed to give trainees the basic information and tools necessary for 2 years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the CED sector.

Habichuelas con dulce with my host family in Peralvillo

Habichuelas con dulce with my host family in Peralvillo

my host sister, Mayelin, and I

my host sister, Mayelin, and I

My participation in the training sessions is beneficial for two reasons. First, my own experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer is supplemental but crucial information for the trainees to be exposed to – while the Technical Trainer offers a cultural perspective, I help relate the material to a volunteer’s experience. Whatever information or practice I feel might have lacked in my own training, I emphasize it in theirs to help make sure they are as prepared as they can be for service (which for them will start on May 13th). Furthermore, I’ve now gotten to know the people who I will be supporting for the next 12 months, which will allow me to tailor future advice or technical support to their personalities, learning styles, and experience. Overall, CBT has been productive and positive – the group is a set of talented individuals who all seem eager to apply their skills and knowledge to help make a difference – and I look forward to continue working with both the people of the CED sector and their community counterparts towards increased economic opportunities within the Dominican Republic.

CBT: tour with the trainees at Hermanos Guillen to see and understand how a local business operates

CBT: tour with the trainees at Hermanos Guillen to see and understand how a local business operates

Pottery at Hermanos Guillen

Pottery at Hermanos Guillen

Trainees sculpting clay at Hermanos Guillen

Trainees sculpting clay at Hermanos Guillen

In this same vein, the National Conference for Construye Tus Sueños is at the end of the month. CTS is an entrepreneurial course designed to help youth develop the skills and knowledge needed to start their own businesses. Once they’ve completed the course, students are encouraged to create written plans regarding their business ideas. These plans not only allow the students to apply the course material to a practical concept, but also give the students a tool to present to financial institutions and/or guide the execution of his/her business.   At the national competition, students present their plans and compete to win the money needed to start/expand their businesses (usually capped at RD$50,000). I’ve been facilitating Construye Tus Sueños with the help of my project partner, Mónica, to two young people from Pescadería. Both of our students wrote plans for their own businesses – Chamila hopes to start a clothing store where she can sell both commercial and original clothing designs; Jonathan has already started his own veterinary practice but since CTS has realized the potential of his business and therefore aims to expand his target market and product variety as well as strengthen his marketing campaign and accounting practices.

Chamila wearing one of her original designs

Chamila wearing one of her original designs

Jonathan and his veterinary business

Jonathan and his veterinary business

Of all of the written plans that were turned in to compete in the National Conference, both Chamila’s and Jonathan’s plans were accepted into the Top 15 who will compete for prize money! While not at Community Based Training, Mónica and I will consult with both of them to create an oral presentation that effectively communicates their business concept and also demonstrates their passions and entrepreneurial spirits.

CED PCVs

CED PCVs

CED PCVs

CED PCVs

Wishing all of my fellow PCVs from 517-13-01 the best of luck.  con los pies en la tierra, y los ojos en la luna //// eres dueño/a de todo lo que puedes imaginar.  

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Los Hermanos Guillén

27 Apr

So yesterday was awesome.  Not only did I teach you how to take a bucket shower, but I also took a field trip with my fellow trainees to Yamasá, the pueblo next to Peralvillo.  As business volunteers, there´s a good chance that some of our projects will include working with artisan groups.  So, we visited the Guillén brothers to understand some of their business practices and to learn about the history of the Taíno Indians.

For over 3 generations, the Guillén family has been collecting and reproducing native Taíno ceramic art.  The majority of the original pieces they showed us were made of clay, and were at least 500 years old!  The scultpures were of both male and female gods that the Taínos worshiped – Mother Earth, Yuca, Thought, Moon, Shaman, etc. – and were used in various rituals throughout their culture.  For example, a bowl they showed us was used to store holy vomit.  Yes, vomit.  If someone became sick or was thought to have a bad spirit within them, they would not eat or drink for at least three days.  After a period of time, what they were able to throw up was kept in a sacred bowl, and then used as a cream to rub on ailing body parts.  Another fun cultural fact has to do with their funeral traditions.  When a Taíno cacique died, he was buried with his chosen, favorite ´mistress´, who was normally still living.  Fun stuff, huh?  Anyway, when Christopher Columbus landed on the island and discovered the Taíno, he stole many sculptures from them and sent them back to Spain, as they were often decorated in gold.

…Es mejor morir de pie que vivir en las rodillas…

Despite the fact that the native population is now non-existent, people like the Guillén brothers have managed to keep aspects of the Taíno culture alive.  Every year they hold a large gathering to celebrate and advocate Taíno culture.  They have dance, food, and art exhibits, and they told us that around 5000 people attended last year!

Over all, it was a very impressive visit.  They are a very grass-roots organization, and you could tell that it´s important to them to involve the community in the work they´re doing.  For example, instead of having to hire someone to cook us a snack during our recess, one of the brothers, Jesús, had a local coquero (guy selling coconuts) come over and crack one open for each of us!  Jesús also showed us around their workshop.  They still use pottery methods the Taíno used to make their own line of products – sculptures, plates, amulets, etc.  He gave us a pottery lesson, and explained that a local school had just visited to understand Taíno culture and to make their own ceramic creations.  The Guillén family wants their business to support other local entities, and in doing so, makes people aware of what a culturally rich country they (we!) live in.  I bought an amulet necklace depicting their shaman god as a souvenir 🙂

Once I get WiFi back in the capital, I have lots of pictures to share!  But for now, check out their website here.

On another note, I´m off to go food shopping!  Samantha, Lauren, and I are making brunch tomorrow for my host family – scrambled eggs, hash browns, pancakes with VT maple syrup (what´s a pancake without it?!), fruit salad, and chicken salad sandwiches.  Wish us luck and buen provecho!