Tag Archives: goat

home grown results

16 Oct

I’ll have to admit that when I was awakened yesterday morning at 7:15 am I was a bit bothered. The sun had just risen, meaning that the tin roof hadn’t quite yet turned my house into an oven. The whir of the fan was comfortable in both the breeze it provided and its ability to drown out the around-the-clock roosters. Despite my slumber caused by a full day of traveling, I had mustered to fix clean cotton sheets onto my queen-sized mattress the night before, and they were still crisp on my skin. I was cozy and protected under my mosquito net, which my kitty has begun to use as his own personal hammock; he seemed to be just as perturbed as I was by the unanticipated alarm.

It was two of my oldest Chicas graduates, Oda and Grissel, calling my name through the window as if not to wake me but with enough angst to get my attention. “Qué?”, I managed, hoping I could answer their proposition from my bed. “Háganos el favor,” – a common Dominican phrase literally meaning ‘do the favor’, and used when someone has to ask or tell you something and they make YOU go to them rather than the other way around. I debated telling them to come back later, but I knew that they were on their way to school so I figured it was important. I shooed Mio from atop of the mosquito net and untucked it, stepping barefoot onto the needing-a-sweeping cement floor and accepting an early start to the day. I opened the window and gave them a sleepy smirk, not even pretending that they hadn’t woken me up. “We need the charla paper you have of the woman’s parts. We are going to teach Gris’s class about female anatomy today.” And just like that, my slumber and annoyance vanished and I felt on top of the world; I was home.

“Where we love is home,
Home that the feet may leave,
but not our hearts.”

I just spent five days surprising and visiting friends back at Clemson University. Clemson was home for four years – a quintessential college experience that provided me with a sturdy academic career and a friend group I wouldn’t change for the world. Now that we’re each living a new chapter, it was refreshing to come back and catch up.

Carrie and I

Carrie and I

Tiger family

Tiger family

My college roommates and I :)

My college roommates and I 🙂

My mom even surprised me!

My mom even surprised me!

“Travel does not exist without home….If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.”

After recognizing a pattern among a few of my friends, I reflected on my time here in the Dominican Republic. Am I happy? Do I take care of myself? Am I loved? Do I love?  Am I giving this my all? How am I helping? What am I learning? What’s not working? What should/can I change? Will I be happy to do what I’m doing tomorrow?

Most recent birthday party I attended...

Most recent birthday party I attended…

...with these cats.

…with these cats.

All in all, life here is pretty dang fulfilling.  So fulfilling in fact that I seem to be abandoning this blog 🙂  Every day is different and unexpected, which is both challenging and liberating. There’s a typical routine, but more often than not I diverge from it, and it’s satisfying to have the freedom to be able to do just that. My projects, in terms of audiences and themes, have been all over the place, and have recently been based around my knack for sexual education (local high school) and slight knowledge of marketing (goat group). I am witnessing and experiencing progress, not just in terms of ‘work’ but also in my level of integration within the community. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not just a Peace Corps Volunteer anymore, but also a colleague, running buddy, daughter, girl-with-the-WiFi, and trusty dance partner.

Sexual Education workshop at the local high school

Sexual Education workshop at the local high school

High school parents at Sex. Ed. workshop

High school parents at Sex. Ed. workshop

process of straining milk before pasteurization

process of straining milk before pasteurization

cheese!

cheese!

yogurt

yogurt

The secretary of La Cabrita and I at an artisan market in the capital

The secretary of La Cabrita and I at an artisan market in the capital

What makes Peace Corps challenging, particularly for outcome-based folk, is that here results come slowly, and typically not in the form that one might expect. They are rarely grandiose in numbers, but rather moments that shimmer amidst frustrating dark ones; results are witnessing a slight but positive change in behavior and recognizing a signal of potentially sustainable progress…The family across the street not allowing the photographer at Reni’s graduation to take the family portrait until I was in it. A student in my environment course commenting that her backpack is now always full of trash because there are no trashcans at school and she feels bad throwing it on the ground. Oda and Grissel stepping up to share what they’ve learned about the human body with their class, striving to protect their own peers from an unwanted pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections.

Brigada Verde (Green Brigade) students at International Beach Clean-Up Day

Brigada Verde (Green Brigade) students at International Beach Clean-Up Day

The beach of Barahona, where there seems to be more trash than sand.

The beach of Barahona, where there seems to be more trash than sand.

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DSCN7122

Reni and I at her graduation

Reni and I at her graduation

high school graduation

high school graduation

my family.

my family.

These kinds of results are heart-warming and significant, but they are also the ones that are most difficult to communicate or validate with others. Their attainment is as sweet as it is complex, and can be accomplished regardless of a Peace Corps’ service. They don’t occur within a given environment actually, but rather where the individual that accomplishes such results is in his/her element; where there is a feeling of both ease and motivation; when feet hit the floor once a challenge is accepted; where she is at home.

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”

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Thankful.

9 Dec

Not too much has happened since my last update.  Oh wait, I VISITED HOME!!!!  10 days sure did fly by, especially because 2 of them were spent traveling, but catching up with so many friends and family was priceless.  Some highlights include:

–       Speaking at Woodstock Union High School to various students and teachers about Peace Corps, culture in the Dominican Republic, and my life as a PCV in the DR so far – very rewarding, and I was thrilled to share my experience with so many eager listeners.  Thanks guys 🙂

–       Sharing all the Dominican goodies I’d brought home with my family.  Before I left, my neighbors and I made pan de yuca and pan de maíz, both of which I fit in my suitcase; they totaled about 20 lbs.  I also brought various dulces home – banana, coconut/pineapple with raisins, and tomato (yes, you can make tomato dessert, and it was actually the favorite of the three!).  Lastly, I brought home three big bags of tasty sweetened cacao seeds made by a women’s association where my friend Sam is living and working.

–       Seeing my family and friends after so long, but particularly my niece and 2 nephews.  It had been almost a year since I’d seen them, and they’re growing up so beautifully!

–       Thanksgiving dinner.  Who doesn’t love it?  Plus it had been 9 months since my last bite of turkey.

–       My dad got married!  Congrats Tom and Mary – love you both very much.

–       Visiting Oak Knoll farm in Windsor, VT.  This place has over 800 goats (!!) and they produce milk and yogurt.  I took advantage of living so close by and took a tour of the farm.  I plan to share pictures and what I learned with members of La Cabrita

Oak Knoll's Goat Yogurt

Oak Knoll’s Goat Yogurt

I got back to site on Tuesday, realizing that I’m thankful for an infinite number of things.  Visiting home was such a blur of mixed emotions.  Culture shock.  Hugging family and friends that I hadn’t seen in way too long.  Freezing my butt off.  Being able to plug in my electronics whenever I wanted because I didn’t have to worry about there not being luz.  Speaking in English.  Nature.  Mescaline lettuce, and not having to soak it in bleach before eating it.  Trash cans.  Realizing how great my high school education was.  Drinking pure Vermont water from the tap.  Wearing a seatbelt.  Having all my friends telling me that I look pretty because I’m so tan.  Coming back to the DR and having everyone tell me that I’m prettier because I’m whiter.  Culture shock.

burgers are good and I missed them.

burgers are good and I missed them.

But I’m thankful for it all, and I decided that I’m really happy with what I’m doing.  Not every day is comfortable or uncomplicated, but that would take the adventure out of this whole experience.  Overall, life here is pretty dang good, and I’m thankful for so many things every day…How easy it is to clean cement floors.  How badass I feel while riding a motorcycle, even if I’m always the passenger.  My health and safety.  The kids’ eagerness to learn, play, and give hugs.  Fresh fruit, and the infinite number of tasty juice combos one can create.  Saludar-ing.  The determinedness of the members of La Cabrita.  Having my neighbors bring me lunch every single day and not expecting anything in return.  My mosquito net.  Recognizing how much less water I use by taking bucket showers.  The crunch of perfect tostones.  The fact that no one does anything when it rains.  Bachata.  How accomplished I feel after finishing my laundry.  The stars on a luz-less night.

Catching up with friends and family :)

Catching up with friends and family 🙂

One thing that I don’t express enough though is how thankful I am for all the other volunteers.  It’s one thing to go home and “explain” to people what your life is like.  That’s even what I’m trying to do by writing this blog.  But no matter how many details you give, gestures you make, or pictures you share, you just can’t do it justice.  Life here is too different.  Good and bad different.  So that’s why I’m thankful for other volunteers.  They’re living here too.  We all have different sites, but we share similar frustrations and break-throughs, failures and triumphs, goals and dreams, and digestion problems.  And from Day 1 we’ve been able to talk about it all.  And I mean everything – I’ll spare you the details 🙂

Jackson, my nephew, and I

My nephew, Jackson, and I

So here’s a list of some fellow PCV-DR bloggers, most of who arrived with me in March (more than nine months ago!)  All of them are doing great and very different things, and are those who make this whole experience that much better.  Thanks guys!

http://theadventuringtype.blogspot.com/

http://lewisjw7.wordpress.com/

http://skinneypeacecorps.wordpress.com/   – who I bought the cacao seeds from!

http://pazitivelyloca.blogspot.com

http://caitkeegtravels.wordpress.com/

http://serpasjohn.wordpress.com/

http://Landylamb.wordpress.com

http://susandr.blogspot.com/

Really important P.S. – Two weeks from today I receive my first stateside visitors!!!  Can’t wait to see you Mom and Carrie, and to show you what life here is really like 🙂

Mio and I decorating for Christmas while anxiously awaiting Carrie and Mom's arrival!

Mio and I decorating for Christmas while anxiously awaiting Carrie and Mom’s arrival!