Tag Archives: girls

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

under the big, tall tree

26 Jan

Peace Corps is all about the little wins.  When something good happens, no matter how much of a difference it makes in the grand scheme of your service, one learns to appreciate and cherish it  – who knows when such a little thing will make your day again?

Running water in the shower?  Awesome.  Luz all day long?  Exceptional.  I wasn’t the only one that showed up on time to a meeting?  Unbelievable.  My English students finally understand the difference between “throw out” and “throw up”?  Groundbreaking.  Just got a bag of mangoes delivered to my door?  Delicious.

Then, every so often, a little win turns out to be a milestone moment.

I continue to meet with my two groups of Chicas Brillantes every Thursday, once in the morning and again in the afternoon due to the school’s current two-tanda system.  Each week, seated on the cement floor of my living room, we discuss a different topic – inner vs. outer beauty, self-esteem, puberty, healthy communication, diet and nutrition, the media, etc.  We put our knowledge to practice through both individual and group activities, dinámicas, games, and their favorite, coloring.

a typical Chicas meeting - coloring.  here we're drawing the various food groups and discussing the different benefits we get from a balanced diet.

a typical Chicas meeting – coloring. here we’re drawing the various food groups and discussing the different benefits we get from eating a balanced diet.

It is not the easiest task I’ve ever taken on, especially because a lot of times I feel as though I’m simply babysitting 20 adolescent girls rather than actually getting any information across, but our reuniones are always the most rewarding hours of my day.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that they feel the same way.  For many of these girls, our Thursday meetings are the few hours of their week when they can still be kids; where only positive, constructive, engaging, and amicable interactions with others are allowed; where they can giggle, doodle, and eat popcorn rather than looking after younger siblings, cleaning the house, or helping their moms get lunch ready; where they’re always given encouraging adult attention in a healthy environment.

Last week we entered into the topic of adolescence – a potentially scary one for both teacher and student – where we discussed how our bodies change, why they change, and how we can care for them while doing so.

To illustrate the importance of relaxing and ‘alone time’ (a hardly-practiced concept in collectivistic cultures), I had all the girls lie face-up on the floor, making sure that they were comfortable and not touching anyone else.  Once all eyes were closed and there was no peeking, I explained to them that we were going to relax and do some visualizing.

Girls, we are no longer in Pescadería.  We are at the top of a huge mountain.  We hiked here together.  It is a beautiful day – the sun isn’t too strong, and there is plenty of breeze and shade.  We got to the top of this mountain together.  We just finished a delicious, healthy lunch, and each of us is now resting under our own big, tall tree. Your belly is full, and aside from the gentle breeze, it is absolutely quiet. Under your big, tall tree you are safe.  In this moment, under your big, tall tree, you are happy.  You have no worries.  From your head to your toes you are calm.  You are safe, happy, and relaxed.  And so you start breathing deeply.  You breathe deeply and can only think about how relaxed you are in this moment, under your big, tall tree.  The breeze allows you to breathe even deeper, and frees your mind of any bad thoughts.  With each breath you become more relaxed.  And with your eyes closed under your big, tall tree you are at peace, focused only on your breathing. 

I let them lie there for quite sometime, admiring their tranquility and dedication to such a foreign activity.  In that moment, despite the persistent and distracting noises that blasted from outside the walls of my living room, they were calm, quiet, and innocent. I savored that moment, their time under their big, tall trees.

After some more time, some more breathing, I reiterated how safe, happy, healthy, and beautiful they all were in that moment; how important remembering to breathe was.  I told them that it was time to start gathering our things from the top of the mountain, and that soon we’d be hiking back down together.  I explained to them that when they were ready, they could open their eyes and join me back in the living room.

But here’s the kicker – not one of them opened their eyes.  Whether they had fallen asleep or were just relaxing, all of my girls chose to stay put under her big, tall tree.  For me that moment was magical – to watch how positively they were responding to an idea that I had pretty much come up with on the spot; to witness how truly safe and comfortable they felt in my company; to understand that maybe I am making a small difference.

So that’s what I mean by little wins.  Who knew that a leading a successful 15-minute relaxation activity with 20 adolescent girls would be such a memorable moment?  I didn’t, but what I do know is that I will never forget that afternoon under my big, tall tree.