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.
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.
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
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.
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.