Tag Archives: espaghetti

cause(s) to celebrate

9 Mar

On March 6, 2013 I boarded a plan headed to the Dominican Republic with 32 strangers.  A year later, those people are now some of my closest friends; they are the best people to call when I have to rant about a crazy doña or lonely meeting because they most likely encountered a similar situation last week; their company makes home feel not so far away, a beach more idyllic, a guagua ride less painful, and a Presidente beer better-tasting.  Can’t believe a whole year has gone by; I look forward to spending the next 15 months surviving and exploring this beautifully crazy country alongside great friends and fellow volunteers.

Peralvillo

Morning run during CBT in Peralvillo

4th of July Celebration in Samaná

4th of July Celebration in Samaná

New Years in Cabarete

New Years in Cabarete

Laura and I in Alta Mira translating for Builders Beyond Borders in February

Laura and I in Alta Mira translating for Builders Beyond Borders in February

Celebrating Dominican Independence Day, February 27th

Celebrating Dominican Independence Day, February 27th

And let me tell you folks, this first week of my second year in country is off to a busy start.  Most noticeably, we started breaking ground in the pley!  Despite being voted the most corrupt mayor of the region, our síndico has been surprisingly active and helpful.  He’s hired an engineer to measure the area of the court in the pley and to mark off a road he plans to build around it.  He found a greda to clear and level the land, then brought in 11 dump trucks full of rocks to begin filling the area.  We’ll need plenty more to get the land to an adequate level where it’s safe from flooding, but we’re off to a great start.  It gave me butterflies seeing so many community members coming out to help, talking excitedly and envisioning amongst themselves what the pley will look like in just a couple months.  We still have a good amount of money to raise, especially because they’ll eventually want bleachers, lights, and fencing put up around the court, but we’ve got a plan, gumption, and community support to finish what we’ve started.

The pley!  Leveled and ready for rock filling

The pley! Leveled and ready for rock filling

On-lookers

On-lookers

Street full of dump trucks

Street full of dump trucks

Stuck truck

Stuck truck

High school student- athletes

High school student- athletes

Remember to visit our fundraising website to contribute to our project: http://www.razoo.com/story/Help-Build-A-Basketball-Volleyball-Court-In-Pescader-A-Dr

Rocky - community basketball/volleyball coach, and one of my go-to guys

Rocky – community basketball/volleyball coach, and one of my go-to guys

Yesterday was International Women’s Day.  It was also one of the most rewardingly chaotic days I’ve had in site.  Why?  Because I invited all of my Chicas to celebrate the occasion at my house.  Over 40 girls showed up in some of their best clothes, some of who’d been waiting outside my house since 7:30 that morning.  Some had organized to make spaghetti to share, while others contributed soda, ice, candy, cheese and crackers, cake, napkins, balloons, and disposable plates.  I reminded them that they didn’t have to bring anything, that I’d be providing materials and such, but I was touched that they all wanted to offer something to help make the day special.

camped out and waiting for the celebration to start

camped out and waiting for the celebration to start

And special it was.  There were four activities the girls got to do – they were split into groups and had about 25 minutes to be at each station.

–       Write a letter to an important woman in your life

–       Paint a rock with a word or phrase that is important to you i.e. family, love, faith, etc.

–       Make paper butterflies

–       Play games

Over all, the whole event went pretty smoothly, with more giggles and cheers than spills and tears.  Good friend and fellow volunteer Laura even came to visit my site and help out!  What really made the afternoon special though was watching one of the girls that I had brought to the Chicas Brillantes conference leading dinámicas, getting the girls’ attention, and being my right-hand girl – all self-initiated.  It was awesome to see her exercising ideas and knowledge that she had picked up at the conference.

Side note: another one of the girls that had come with me to the Chicas Brillantes conference expressed interest in facilitating some of the future charlas we’d be discussing.  I was ecstatic, and immediately agreed.  Not only is this what Peace Corps is striving for – capacitating local leaders that will be able to sustain the information in the community once the volunteer leaves – but it’s also very effective; the girls retain much more information when they are receiving it from their peers.  So, in addition to the weekly Chicas meetings, we are meeting each Sunday with just the older girls so they can impart information, practice giving presentations, discuss and understand topics in more detail, and learn from one another.  Today’s first meeting went very successfully 🙂

Anyway, after everyone got to visit each of the four stations, we feasted on espaghetti, deviled eggs, and ants on a log (it was pretty funny to watch some of their reactions to eating the latter two, which they had never seen or heard of before).  The girls left full, giggly, and empowered, and are already looking forward to planning an activity for next year.

40+ girls ready to celebrate International Women's Day

40+ girls ready to celebrate International Women’s Day

Crafting

Crafting

Rock painting

Rock painting

Letter writing

Letter writing

Finished stones

Finished stones

kati gettin' crafty

kati gettin’ crafty

DSCN5348

DSCN5350

DSCN5349

a “day” in the life

17 Sep

Although it might sound contradictory, living on my own has allowed me to experience Dominican culture on an even deeper level.  How many people can say that they’ve watched a cockfight in their own backyard?  I have (unfortunately).  In addition to my Peace Corps duties, and aside from having children, I share all the responsibilities of a typical doña – cooking, sweeping, mopping, doing laundry, etc.  Being in charge of my own space has earned me some street cred too  – “Ah the americana knows how to clean” or “oh she can actually cook!”  In fact, my neighbor Pepelo who owns the colmado across the street is officially addicted to my coleslaw.

my friend Onario fishing

my friend Onario fishing

By no means do I have a ‘typical day’ or a 9-5 work schedule (Peace Corps is essentially a 24/7 job), but here’s a general idea of how how my day’s split up – also, the schedule of these activities can change depending on whether or not there’s luz or agua:

5:15 – wake up to walk with a group of ladies (unfortunately too hot and too many catcalls to do it any other time of day)

6:45 – come back and start oficios – sweep outside (yes it’s expected that you sweep outside), clean bathroom, sweep and mop inside, water plants, etc.  I wash my clothes 1/week in my neighbor’s washing machine depending on when I have time/when there’s luz

8:00 – cook breakfast (coffee, eggs, boiled yucca, fruit, or peanut butter), eat, and wash dishes.  Lots of people pass by every morning selling food too – corn bread, sweet potato bread, milk, avocados, chicharrones, cassava bread, bananas, cabbage, tomatoes, ice cream – so I’ll buy from them if I need ingredients for lunch/dinner or don’t feel like cooking

12:00 – cook lunch (rice, chicken, salads, or whatever my neighbors bring me), eat, and wash dishes.  Now that I have a fridge, I’ll be able to cook more and save leftovers

1:00 – nap (only and if only there’s luz so I can plug in my fan, otherwise it’s way to hot to sleep)

7:00 – eat dinner (leftovers, avocado, bread, fruit, or peanut butter/banana sandwich) and compartir/pasear with neighbors

10:00 – sleep

in the meantime…

  • Mondays @ 3 – English class for kids
  • Tuesdays @ 4 – Women’s group meeting
  • Wednesdays @ 10 – English class for jovenes/adults
  • Lots of people watching, sitting, chatting outside my house
  • Nail painting
  • Work/meetings with La Cabrita
  • Helping kids with homework
  • Making espaghettis with friends
  • Trips to Barahona – grocery shopping, buying supplies for work/house, meeting up with other volunteers, using the Internet
  • Meetings with jovenes/sports group
  • Walking around to visit friends/host family
  • and I’m about to start Chicas Brillantes (youth iniciative where I’ll meeting weekly with a group of girls to talk about gender roles, self esteem, healthy living, etc.)
making espaghettis with some of my chicas

making espaghettis with some of my chicas

Like I said, this is just an idea of some typical activities; no two days are the same.  Some days I have very little work to do, others I’ll spend the whole day away from my house.  It also depends on the ever-changing schedule of electricity and water.  Power outages are more common than not.   The luz often goes out around 5am and will return anytime between 11 and 2.  It will then last for a few hours, shut off, and come back on again around 8.  Other days the electricity will last all day, and others it won’t come at all.  A good amount of families have generators, but I’ve learned how to get a long just fine with my headlamp.

inauguration of the World Water Relief purified system at the school

inauguration of the World Water Relief purified system at the school

Although it’s technically rainy season here, the south is pretty much a desert.  There’s a slow-running spigot right outside my house that has water for about 3 hours every day.  I still don’t have a tinaco on top of my house to store water, so I use two large buckets, one for the bathroom (bathing, flushing toilet, cleaning) and the other for the kitchen (washing dishes and cooking), that I try to keep full at all times because who knows how long it will be until the water comes again.  It’s been two days now since I’ve been able to fill them so I’m definitely learning how to budget my resources.  I buy drinking water at the colmado across the street (RD$30 for 5 gallons).

photoshoot while walking through my neighbor's conuco

photoshoot while walking through my neighbor’s conuco

Things I love about Dominican culture:

  • Hospitality – never have I met a more generous group of people; they will offer you the shirt off their back and the food off their fork.
  • Dance – these people know how to move, and it’s intimidatingly beautiful to watch
  • Fruit – unlimited, and fresh from the tree
  • Solidarity
  • Family – everyone is related, and everyone looks out for each other; kids under the age of 7 are already master babysitters
  • Patience – there is a lot of waiting that goes on in the country, plus it’s friggin’ hot here
  • Faith – caution to the wind, and God willing, things will go as planned
  • Simple pleasures and entertainment

Things I could do without:

  • Gossip – secrets and rumors spread like wildfire; the first to know ‘new’ information wins
  • Nosiness – people will ask you about anything and everything, especially if it has to do with money
  • Child and animal abuse – throwing rocks at your kid does not solve the problem
  • Noise levels – you need to make an effort to find a place to hear yourself think.  Often I think people are fighting but in reality they’re just having a passionate conversation
  • Laziness/dependence on outside assistance – sitting around and playing cards does not get a community center built
  • Trash – people throw it everywhere, or burn it
  • Mosquitos – not cultural, but this country would certainly be a lot better without them
fishing with Onario and Caesar

fishing with Onario and Caesar