Tag Archives: community

calmed by community

3 Jan

Written 12/28/15

I find airports bewildering and entertaining. Both weary- and bright-eyed travelers represent a spectrum of individuals coming from or heading to an adventure of some sort. Overwhelmed, curious, rude, oblivious, excited, seasoned, and determined. Airports are strangely neutralizing; they are international arenas through which such an array of passengers navigate systematically, and where one has the choice to interact with, observe, or neglect his/her immediate surroundings. Today, in the wondrous community of the Miami International Airport, I am one of these travelers. Stimulated yet calmed, I am sitting at the same gate where I had been intensely people watching just over a month ago while awaiting my flight to Boston. It had been two years since I was last home in Vermont, and now, as I wait to board my flight back to Santo Domingo, I have some time to reflect on the whirlwind vacation I just experienced.

Between November 23rd and December 28th, I traveled over 10,000 miles, visited three major US cities, spent two holidays in my hometown, attended my grandpa’s 98th birthday party, gave six 50-minute Peace Corps presentations, watched my sister graduate from Auburn University, reunited with my favorite Peace Corps Volunteer (check out mom’s blog here), got two massages, ate all the food I’ve been longing for, spent quality Auntie Kati time with my five sobrinitos, took the 5:20am Dartmouth Coach to the Logan Airport too many times, and reconnected with a healthy number of family members and friends. I owe the majority of these ‘accomplishments’ to my parents, particularly to my dad. Generous with his time, feedback, humor, and goodwill, Tom has become an active, integral part of the local Woodstock community; he not only made my homecoming possible, but also humbly heartwarming.


Turkey Trotting

photo 1

Vice Admiral Thomas Weschler and his granddaughters 🙂


Chicago with my college roommate, where we watched Clemson make it to the Orange Bowl!  


Tree decorating in Chicago



One of my favorite activities?  Catching up with a fellow Tiger.  

photo 1

snuggle seshes in Denver


So happy I was able to catch this guy’s holiday concert!


Tree decorating in Denver


Reunited with my favorite Peace Corps Volunteer


Carrie graduated from Auburn!


War Damn!


Weschler sisters and the Mister

photo 2

Long weekend with mom = awesome bike tour in Atlanta


Grandpa turns 98!


*Merry Christmas*

This sense of community – bumping into classmates at the gas station, alumni hockey games, celebrating the holidays out on the dance floor of the only bar in town, sharing my Peace Corps experience with the local schools, exchanging motivational cheers with both tourists and Vermonters alike during the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, an unspoken yet shared appreciation for good beer and local food – is what I missed most about Vermont, and is also one of my favorite parts about the Dominican Republic. It seems almost paradoxical that one has to leave a place to be able recognize what makes it so special in the first place.


hungry -> Worthy -> blessed

During my trip home, I came to several realizations. The three that reoccurred the most were: 1) I am excited for these next 6 months of work in the Dominican Republic. 2) I am excited to start preparing for what might come when it’s time to leave the island on June 15th. 3) How will I bridge 1 and 2 to close this chapter that has shaped some of my most intimate beliefs and experiences to date?

These next six months have a lot in store to keep me busy in the mean time – site development, volunteer visits, arrival of a new CED group, training sessions, hosting Stateside visitors, planning the national conference of Construye Tus Sueños, and soaking up all the time I can get with mi familia dominicana. My mind races with to-do lists. I consider the thought that I’ve lost the ability to speak Spanish. But as the passengers begin to arrive for our flight to Santo Domingo, the familiar vibrancy (read: loud colors and voices) assures me that I will finish out this service how any traveler can choose to embark on an adventure – curious, stimulated, and determined.


Since writing this post, I’ve realized that I still do know how to speak Spanish. I celebrated this New Years in my home away from home, surrounded by mosquitoes and blaring bachata music, and watching my Tigers make it to the National Championship.


Reni and I on New Years Day

photo (1)

my home, my heart. omailin.

photo (2)

Hungry hippos, happy campers


Watching the game in my Dominican family’s house.  ESPN in Spanish!  

Love knows no boundaries.




“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”


Diagnostic and Discrimination

19 Jul

Saludos!  Long time, no blog.  The past few weeks have flown by – 10 days of Patronales festivities, celebrating 4th of July in Samaná, lots of walking and talking for my diagnostic, waking up early to exercise with a group of women, helping La Cabrita with various projects, getting my hair did by various niñas, and even house hunting – hard to believe I’ve been in country for nearly 5 months already.

my girls Cristi and Peque dressed up for the Reinado during Patronales

my girls Cristi and Peque dressed up for the Reinado during Patronales

Like I’ve mentioned before, Peace Corps requires volunteers to live with a host family for their first 3 months of service.  I think it’s a valid condition – it’s the best way to integrate into your community and its culture; it’s a smoother transition into your new lifestyle, as opposed to immediately going out and living on your own without knowing anyone.  I’ve been very lucky.  All three host families that I’ve stayed with (one in training, one in Peralvillo, and one in Pescadería), have been more than supportive and welcoming.  I’ve gained quite a bit of confianza with my host parents here, Eufemia and Reyes, and truly feel like their daughter – my host dad even showed me the kidney stone he passed (so yeah, maybe too much confianza).  Around the 4th of July, I was giving Eufemia examples of some typical American cuisine.  I explained coleslaw, and mentioned that sometimes we make a similar salad with chicken, egg, or tuna.  She got the idea, more or less anyway, and made coleslaw with bits of chicken in it. 
La Playita, Samaná - 4th of July trip

La Playita, Samaná – 4th of July trip

While I’ve enjoyed staying with them, the 3-month mark is approaching, and I’m excited to start living on my own (and for people to start visiting me!).  There’s over 4000 people that live in Pescadería, and very little housing options.  From essentially the first week that I arrived, I’ve been planting the idea that I’d eventually be living by myself.  It’s common for an entire extended family to live under one roof, so I often get funny looks when I tell them that I’m not afraid to sleep alone.  Regardless, through word of mouth, I found a house located quite close to La Cabrita, and about a 7-minute walk to where I’m currently living.  It’s a great spot – made of cement, two and a half bedrooms, kitchen, living room, and an indoor bathroom – an option that won’t come around again.

Cooking with Peque, Topazio, and Anita

Cooking with Peque, Topazio, and Anita

Rent here is normally paid every six months, and usually costs no more than RD$1500/month (about $40) including water and electricity, because nobody pays that anyway.  While being American in a third world country has its perks (lots of juice, hugs, and people wanting to be your friend), there are also downsides.  It is assumed that because I’m white, I’m rich.  Though my volunteer salary would tell you otherwise, the rental price of my future house unfortunately fell victim to this prejudice.  Although we explained to the landlord that I’m a volunteer, get paid very little, and am here to benefit the community, he upped the price to nearly double what I should be paying.  We were able to talk him down a little, but he’s fixed at RD$2500/month, which I’ll pay every six months.  Being charged so much simply because of the color of my skin disappointed me, but after weighing the pros and cons, I’m left with no worthy alternatives.  Ultimately, the house is safe, surrounded by lovely neighbors, in a quiet part of town, and still within my budget.  I plan to move August 15th, after someone from Peace Corps comes and gives final approval.

Dancing during the Reinado, Patronales week

Dancing during the Reinado, Patronales week

Until then, I’m working on finishing my community and organizational diagnostics.  We have our 3-month In Service Training (IST) August 6-9th, for which we go to the capital with our project partner and share our findings in a 20-minute presentation in Spanish.  Like living with a host family, the diagnostic has helped me to integrate, and lets people know why I’m here.  It also has allowed me to better understand Pescadería – what services and businesses exist, how people earn money, its history, the living conditions and education levels of its inhabitants, what kind of groups or associations are active, what the community lacks, etc. – and La Cabrita – project history, plans, financial situation, organizational structure, etc.  After interviewing numerous community members and key contacts, and sitting in on various meetings and activities with members of La Cabrita, I’m starting to develop a better idea of how I’ll be able to help.  Once my diagnostic is complete, I’ll share what I’ve learned, and ideas of how I hope to serve Pescadería and La Cabrita over the next two years.


Group at La Playita, Samaná