Tag Archives: miches

the third fourth

6 Jul

This week marks the THIRD Independence Day that I’ve spent outside of the United States.  How did I celebrate the land of the free, home of the brave in the land of bachata, colmados, and doñas you might ask?  Why, at a German market of course!

Santo Domingo and the campo are two different worlds – it’s exciting to have so many options yet again at my fingertips (big box stores and supermarkets, international restaurants, cultural events, live music, mass Zumba classes in parks, etc.), but also nerve-wracking to think how much more ‘world’ awaits me once June 2016 comes around.  It’s almost more unsettling (but also gratifying) to recognize that us PCVs have a very unique perspective of the Dominican Republic; we in fact know much more about campo culture and hardships than many people who live here in the capital do.  My neighbor here was shocked that I had even stepped foot inside of a latrine, and yesterday, my guagua driver refused to admit that I had lived in Barahona for two years because “donde hay prieto, no hay progreso” (literally, “there is no progress where there are blacks”).  In the campo, most of my time was spent compartiring with neighbors outside of my house (oh how I miss my hammock!) or wandering the streets, peeking in colorfully friendly homes and not thinking twice about denying hugs, juice, or a plastic chair to, as us PCVs like to refer to it, join in on the ‘power sitting’.  Time moved slower, and little interaction or awareness of ‘the outside world’ was always a confusing blend of comforting isolation.  Santo Domingo can be isolating too in the sense that people keep much more to themselves than in the campo, but in reality there are plenty of opportunities to explore and share in an authentic Dominican style (read: loud).

Having spent a good chunk of June visiting volunteers in their sites (or attending a seafood festival, as shown in the pictures below), I turned down the option to spend the 4th on a world-renown beach and opted instead for Kati-time…mainly to do a month’s worth of laundry, but also to continue exploring my new world here in Santo Domingo, where I still got plenty of sun and had the opportunity to enjoy authentic German brews and brat.

Danielle (CED PCV), me, and Michael (Associate Peace Corps Director for CED)

Danielle (CED PCV), me, and Michael (Associate Peace Corps Director for CED) at the Festival Marisco Ripiao in Sanchez

Festival Marisco Ripiao, Sanchez

Festival Marisco Ripiao, Sanchez

They put us in charge of face painting...

They put us in charge of face painting…

Artisan booth - Faceless Dolls

Artisan booth – Faceless Dolls

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Eco-Tourism Lodge

Eco-Tourism Lodge

cooking show !!

cooking show !!

Cooking show - ways to use local seafood

Cooking show – ways to use local seafood

Took a break from face painting to judge a food competition !

Took a break from face painting to judge a food competition !

In this new city and new role, rather than being partnered with a community group or organization, my new primary project is essentially supporting the volunteers of the Community Economic Development sector.  While it’s not as hands-on as my first two years of service, Sector Leader is still grass-roots in the sense that we help prepare the community to receive a volunteer before he/she even gets there, and then continue to give follow-up support/visits throughout the PCV’s service.  Though these visits allow me to gain context – understand who the volunteer is working with, current activities, site conditions, etc. – and to better connect with my peers, I STILL have to be proactive about not comparing my service to theirs.  I am striving to use this retrospect in facilitating the service of my fellow PCVs and not to deplore or regret aspects of my own.

Learning about vermiculture (fertilizer from earthworms) in San Jose de Ocoa

Learning about vermiculture (fertilizer from earthworms) in San Jose de Ocoa

PCV visit to Montecristi

PCV visit to Montecristi

"The Shoe" at El Morro Beach

“The Shoe” at El Morro Beach

View of El Morro from the Salt Mines

View of El Morro from the Salt Mines

Loading salt into the truck

Loading salt into the truck

Salt!  Extracted from salt water, filtered through mangroves, and passed through a series of pools until...

Salt! Extracted from salt water, filtered through mangroves, and passed through a series of pools until…

it's salt!

it’s salt!

One way I’m choosing to be proactive about this – learning from my peers and applying it to my own work – is by continuing to visit Pescaderia and interacting on the ground level.  As you might recall, two of my Construye Tus Sueños (Build Your Dreams) students each won $RD50,000 to start/strengthen their own businesses.  Chamila took advantage of the local week-long patronales party to sell clothes to interested party-goers and plans to save the profit to eventually build a locale; Jonathan is using this investment to widen his product line, encouraging customers to buy all of their agri-veterinary needs at his business rather than making the trip to Barahona.  To learn more about the Construye Tus Sueños initiative and the national conference where these two young entrepreneurs showed their stuff, watch the video below.

Lastly, I’d like to make a special shout out to someone who has helped me to create and seize opportunities – my MOM!  In under one week she’ll be headed to Washington D.C. to participate in her very own staging for Peace Corps service in Malawi!  To learn more about the adventure this incredible woman will experience, follow her blog here.  Suerte, amor! 

Alejandra and I on top of Montaña Redonda near Miches

Alejandra and I on top of Montaña Redonda near Miches

Mangoes on mountaintops

Mangoes on mountaintops

see we can sit in a distant haze and watch rain clouds pour thoughts of greatness to help our troubles sail real far away

see we can sit in a distant haze and watch rain clouds
pour thoughts of greatness to help our troubles sail real far away

balancing business

4 Dec

One of the many perks of being as a Peace Corps Volunteer on a tropical island is that there are other PCVs serving on it with you.  They’ll invite you to partake in cool things like volleyball tournaments and kayak tours.

Visiting a neighboring volunteer's site during a volleyball exchange/tournament

Visiting a neighboring volunteer’s site during a volleyball exchange/tournament

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More than 4 different communities attended the activity where young teenage girls learned about healthy relationships, team building, and fundraising among other topics

8 girls participated from Pescadería :)

8 girls participated from Pescadería 🙂

Kayak Limón is located close to the city of Miches in El Seibo, a province in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. While the east boasts sought-after beaches and all-inclusive hotels fit for Hollywood’s A-list, it is also home to hundreds of sugarcane-cutting communities of stateless citizens, a surplus of passion fruit, and off-the-beaten-path eco-tourism projects.

The view on the drive to Los Guineos

The view on the drive to Los Guineos – that’s the peninsula of Samaná in the distance

Host family

Host family

view from the host home

view from the host home

Kayak Limón operates out of Los Guineos (The Bananas), taking visitors out in kayaks to explore Laguna Limón and to understand the various ecosystems that compose it. To enhance the tourist’s exposure to Dominican culture by steering away from the all-inclusive experience, Kayak Limón plans to host visitors while they pass through the area for the tour. We met with two women to discuss hospitality and food preparation so that when overnight guests do begin to arrive, various homes are equipped to share Dominican culture with foreigners in an authentic, sanitary, and profitable manner.

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Laguna Limón

Laguna Limón

Kayak tour at Laguna Limón

Kayak tour at Laguna Limón with Emily and Sam 🙂

Mangroves and bird nests

Mangroves and bird nests

Playa Limón

Playa Limón – another destination on the Kayak Limón tour

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Our trusty tour guide Danny and fellow PCV Samuel

 

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Sam, Emily, and I

Sam, Emily, and I

Fishermen fishing in the estuary between the beach and lagoon

Fishermen fishing in the estuary between the beach and lagoon

Reassured of the genuineness and generosity of Dominicans, I headed back to my own site, motivated to continue capacitating others in ways I knew how to. While many jóvenes are aspiring to ser profesionales (be professionals), there is typically little support from either the school or household in terms of the skills or preparation required to get them there. Keeping in mind my duty as a Business volunteer, I developed a workshop that focused on professional development for young adults that could strengthen their self-esteem, enhance their financial management, and increase their opportunities look for and/or obtain jobs. The workshop lasted for four Sundays and was implemented in the following format:

  1. What do we count on as of now?
    1. SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
    2. Resumé Building: what is a Curriculum Vitae, what is it used for, and how do we create one
  2. Professionalism with Invited Speaker
    1. What is professionalism? *** Here, many people consider a ‘professional’ to be someone who has a university diploma, so we stressed that one’s professionalism is a) based on both internal and external attributes and b) is a combination of your abilities, knowledge, and expertise i.e. that a person might have a degree but might not be a legitimate professional ***
    2. How to prepare for an Interview
    3. Role Plays of various Professionalism scenarios
  3. Goals and Savings
    1. What is a goal? What are the criteria to establish one? (realistic, specific, important, measurable, action)
    2. What is savings? Why is saving important? What are the benefits of saving in a bank as opposed to your own home?
    3. How can we use savings to achieve our goals?
  4. Networking (was supposed to have another speaker come but he cancelled last minute)
    1. What is networking?
    2. Elevator Speeches
    3. How your Professionalism affects Networking

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Skits on how or how not to be professional

Skits on how or how not to be professional

This course took a significant amount of planning, but it turned out to be one of the most successful projects I’ve coordinated while in site, especially because it supports my goals and role as a Community Economic Development volunteer. 46 jóvenes ages 15 to 30 graduated from the course. Having sought support from a local bank, three graduates were also offered the opportunity to start a savings account with the minimum deposit already provided for them. I’m hoping to develop the curriculum into a formal lesson plan or manual so that other volunteers can use it to meet the needs of a population with such potential but not enough resources.

professional graduates :)

professional graduates 🙂

While working with the youth in Pescadería has provided me with some of the most surprising and rewarding moments of my service, there are many factors that make it one of the more difficult parts as well. I’ve stressed how worthwhile it has been to integrate myself into this community. I go out dancing, make spaghetti with my girlfriends, offer Internet and homework help, and have even learned to make comebacks at the guys when they hit on me. I’m integrated, and life is good. When I’m in a position of authority however, like in this workshop we just finished, the gears change and both parties still seem to be unfamiliar with each other’s expectations. In the end, it really comes down to culture and not age, but the youth are typically the ones that like to find out how far they can stretch the boundaries.

In the professionalism workshop, I explained at the beginning that the participants would be expected to attend the course, participate, and complete all homework assignments, and those that do so would graduate. When the course finished, multiple people were disgruntled when I told them that they wouldn’t be receiving a diploma. The fact was that while she found a way to turn in all of the assignments, she only showed up for only one Sunday. Another student, who happens to be one of my best guy friends here, attended and participated in all four workshops, but didn’t turn in any homework.

It is in these situations where I’m both reassured and puzzled by the mission of Peace Corps:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
Neighborhood birthday party

Neighborhood birthday party

Neighborhood birthday party

Neighborhood birthday party

Essentially two thirds of our work is for us – to make friends and share culture – and it’s a frustratingly real concept that many people don’t like to admit. The other third is the meat – capacity building –, which for me anyway seems to emulate the best and worst parts of service. The issue that I’ve been trying to explain above is essentially the act of balancing these three goals – doing my job in a place where I’m still coping with differences in culture and expectations, and where others will always be questioning and/or learning about mine.  As a foreign facilitator, it is not acceptable that a student, having known the expectations of the course, graduates without having completed the homework or with insufficient attendance. But here, in his/her own culture, it may acceptable, and unfortunately it often is. On another occasion, I saw teachers sit around the school while their students held a nearly violent strike because they didn’t like what was being served for lunch. Am I wrong to get frustrated at the fact that they are held to another standard based on differing cultural values or expectations? Is it fair to them that I hold them to what my culture has taught me is wrong and right?  How can one manage the task of forming both friendships and productive working relationships where there exists such differences?

The professionalism workshop example is fairly black and white, but it still lends itself to the difficulty of finding a productive or satisfying balance between cultural expectations, integration, and effective development – and doing so without creating too much of a fuss.  I’d also like to point out that while it is sometimes discouraging to clash cultures with even your closest of friends, I understand that is all part of the experience.  I still go out dancing, we still make spaghetti, I share my Internet, and make comebacks at the tígueres; I also share my own culture and experience to open opportunities and expand knowledge for those that have shared their culture with me here.  Whether it is touring lagoons with a mangrove connoisseur or explaining to youth that Facebook is typically not considered a professional way to network, I’ll continue to seek for such balance; it’s complexity is intriguing, and it’s mastery is the key to unlocking change and understanding.

preppin' to tear down this 4-year-old 'meeting room' at La Cabrita to build another one!

preppin’ to tear down this 4-year-old ‘meeting room’ at La Cabrita to build another one!

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“There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.”