Well folks, THIS IS IT! I am currently sitting in the Peace Corps office and will be leaving for the airport in about 45 minutes. The last week or so has been one, long, drawn-out goodbye with people from my community, my Peace Corps friends, etc etc… I ate my last rice and beans, bought my last souvenirs, rode my last loud guagua…I closed my bank account and turned in my PC ID Card. And now that the sad goodbyes are over I am PUMPED to get on this plane and fly home. It has been one wild ride…and now it is off the the USA to start the next one. I still can’t believe I made it!!
I love you all, and thank you again for following with me and cheering me on these past few years. I’ll post some photos once I’m home with fast internet.
I’ll see you all on the other side
Hello again, everyone! I apologize again for my absence…but I am back! For a little while, at least. I am both happy and sad to report that my Peace Corps experience (and this blog) is drawing to a close. On May 2nd, 2013 (in approx. 2.5 weeks), I will be boarding a plane to come home to the US of A! I can’t believe it, but the end is really near…it’s here!
One reason why I haven’t been posting is that I have had a LOT going on! We just finished up with a 2-month training course here in Banica, in which we trained 26 individuals from 15 different communities to serve as “Documentation and Human Rights Promoters” on the DR/Haiti border. So, basically, the promoters are going to be helping undocumented kids and adults get birth certificates, passports, and other important documents so that they can go to school, get jobs, get health insurance, etc. I’m so excited that we finished this course and that these promoters are going to be doing this important work after I leave. This really was a culmination of my documentation work here in the DR! Peace Corps is all about sustainability, so I’m hoping that this will be sustained for many years to come! The training course was also a great way to top off my work here in Peace Corps, and “pass on” the information I’ve learned about documentation, declarations, and human rights issues to others. We have our graduation this Tuesday! This has been a very unsophisticated description of the course…if you want more info about this project or about Peace Corps’ work in documentation and human rights in the DR, check out the “Declaro mis Derechos” facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/declaromisderechos?fref=ts
ALSO I’ve taken more girls from my Chicas Brillantes group to conferences, attended an educational Telenovela premiere, got Dengue fever, got a bad case of the stomach flu, and got into LawSchool! I’m going to be attending UW Law School in the fall, and I couldn’t be more excited.
This is not my last post, but I wanted to take this opportunity, before I forget, to touch on something that I have for the most part steered clear of in my blog. This is: the “dark side” of Peace Corps. The ugly underbelly. THE TOUGH STUFF. In my posts I’ve talked about all of the funny, interesting, humorous, and sometimes crazy things that happen in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. I guess my posts have been a little bit of comic relief for me! But one thing I haven’t talked about in this blog is that Peace Corps has also been a very DIFFICULT experience for me. It has challenged me in so many ways… emotionally, physically, and professionally! Living here on the border I’ve had a lot of really high highs and a lot of really low lows! There have been a lot of days that I’ve felt like giving up and going home, when I’ve asked myself “why am I doing this?!?”, when I’ve felt like I’m beating my head against a wall, when I’ve just felt so down in the dumps! But it has been the love and support of all of YOU — my family, friends, and even anonymous blog-readers — that has kept me going and helped me finish this amazing, crazy, wonderful, and at times extremely difficult 27 months. I really, truly, honestly, literally couldn’t have done it without you. Everything from a phone call to an e-mail to even just knowing that you’re sending me good vibes has helped me throughout these two years. It’s because of your love and amazingness that I am now posting to say, officially, that I’m gonna FINISH this thing!
…And you know what? Now that this experience is drawing to a close, I really feel like I can do ANYTHING. It was all worth it. All of the tough, bad stuff was worth it. That’s what being a Peace Corps Volunteer will do for you – if you get through it…you’ll be on top of the world.. So thank you for helping me finish this so that, among other things, I can feel like I can do ANYTHING! And hopefully, I helped a few people here in the DR in the process. J I’m excited to catch up and make up for lost time with you back in the states.
But wait – I am getting ahead of myself. I still have 2 and a half weeks left – I’m not done yet! Time to get back to work. This is the PENULTIMATE post in my blog. It’s in the LAST post that I should be thanking the Academy! I think In my last post I will include some sort of fun questionnaire of myself.
Hello again, friends! I wonder who is still with me after almost two years of sporadic blog posts! Yes, you heard, me, almost two years. It is hard to believe, but I only have five months left in this country! The time really has flown.
In the past month, I have actually been engaging in some pretty glamorous activities! I promise, outside of these things I do rough it in the campo, sharing my home with rats, living half the time in the dark, and sweating under my mosquito net!
Medical Mission – Sarah almost becomes a surgeon!
About a month ago, I was itching to get out of the campo for awhile, so I participated in a “Medical Mission,” where for a week I went to a nice city called Santiago and helped out a team of doctors, nurses, and med students from Nebraska who came down to perform free surgeries on poor Dominicans. It was great! I was terrified that I would faint in the operating room, but actually I was fine (well, most of the time I wasn’t looking, so I don’t know if it counts). I helped out as an interpreter – sometimes I was in the waiting room with the patients, and other times I was in the operating room, talking patients through the surgeries. I definitely felt a little out of my element at first, given that I have absolutely no medical background! But by the end of the week I had gotten the hang of it. I had learned what it means to be “scrubbed in” and what exactly an anesthesiologist is. I was rockin the lil scrubby-cap and scrubby-foot covers. I was almost a real surgeon! Time to think about a career change.
I also met a lot of really great and generous people. One night we went out to a really nice dinner at a restaurant that doubled as some sort of horse farm (really, it was more elegant than it sounds), and then at the end of the week, I got to accompany the whole team to the beach for a couple days!
Peace Corps Thanksgiving Bonanza!
So, in the PC-DR world, Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday of the year! Oh wait, it is the biggest holiday of the year in my world, too! On Thanksgiving, all of the PCDR volunteers from around the country get together in Santo Domingo for a huge, action-packed celebration.
Here are the day’s activities that I participated in:
- 6am: Turkey Trot 5k run. My goal was to not stop running. Envisioning turkey and stuffing the whole way, I FINISHED (and I did not finish last, I tell you!)
- 8am: Sports Tournament – I played ultimate Frisbee with some overly competitive Peace Corps guys who never passed to me. Then I got pushed by someone on my own team.
- 10am: I hung out with volunteers at the ROOFTOP POOL of a hotel!
- 2pm: Dinner with all of the fixin’s. Actually I was a little disappointed with my performance at dinner this year. I was so hungry (I hadn’t really eaten that morning, and the Turkey Trot and the Sports Tournament had just taken it out of me) that I mindlessly shoveled down my huge plate of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, salad, etc and then ate a huge second serving of stuffing and cranberries. I was a little too ravenous about the whole thing, and before I knew it I was so full that my stomach was hurting and I almost had to lie down on the floor. I realized that to my horror, I had snarfed down my meal without really appreciating it! That’s the whole point of Thanksgiving – being APPRECIATIVE, and I had just been greedily eating like some sort of orc! Also, I had hoarded more than my share of the (albeit small) bowl of cranberry sauce and a friend of mine didn’t really get any….how awful is that?!? Alas, I will have to remember to eat some hoers d’ouvres (SP) before T-Day Dinner next year to make sure I am good and prepped for the onslaught of food. OH, and then they served up four kinds of pie RIGHT after the dinner ended, with no stretch-break or anything, so I was still in pain but of course had to push through it to eat 3 out of 4 kinds of pie with copious amounts of whip cream. Anyway, I had a poor thanksgiving dinner performance.
- 4pm: PCDR Annual Talent Show! I performed a rendition of a popular song with three other volunteers. It is actually a duet between Romeo Santos (the former lead singer of the Dominican bachata band Aventura) and the one and only USHER! Anyway, here is a link to a video of us practicing…definitely not professional quality but hey, gotta start somewhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYVxjxreaXY&feature=share
- …And after the talent show there was a fun dance party! And then, miraculously, I was hungry again, so a group of us went to the Colonial Zone and I ate three tacos.
So, that was Peace Corps Thanksgiving 2012. I have to say, it was a vast improvement on last year. At last year’s event I was a little teary-eyed, because there was no cranberry sauce (my favorite part), and then that reminded me of the Chaplin Family Thanksgiving where there is ALWAYS cranberry sauce! Anyway.
I’vealized that I talk very little about anything “work-related” on this blog. Well, on that front, since I am on my way out of this country, I am planning a 3-part series of “Legal Promoter Trainings,” to train community leaders in communities around Banica/Pedro Santana to serve as legal advocates and help declare children in their communities. Here on the border, especially in the isolated campos, many children grow up without receiving a birth certificate or any form of documentation. As some of you know, I’ve dedicated my work here to helping families get documentation (birth certificates, passports, etc) –but have realized that this work won’t be sustainable if we aren’t training local leaders to do this same work. Hence, I am in the planning stages of this endeavor right now!
Chicas Brillantes Group Update – Some Untrustworthy Falls
Well, folks, a couple weeks ago I decided that in my Chicas Brillantes (preteen girls’ self esteem/empowerment/leadership group) we needed to have some fun bonding activities. So, we started off with some good ol’ TrustFalls. I gathered the 15 girls all around and talked about trust, how we need to trust each other, yadda yadda yadda, and explained how we were going to put a blindfold over each girl’s eyes, and they were going to fall backwards, stiff as a board, and then be caught by their fellow groupmates, friends, trustworthy comrades, confidants…the girls were elated. So, we began. And then this Circle of Trust fell to pieces – I don’t know what happened but the girls were fighting, running around, laughing maniacally…I tried to calm them down, and then when I thought they were calm, I tied the blindfold around one girl’s eyes, and then she fell back…AND FELL RIGHT ON THE GROUND. No one caught her….I think this is the first time in the history of TrustFalls that one girl has actually FALLEN. Anyway, so I stopped the activity and gave them a good scolding.
This week, everyone was much better behaved. One teenager from Banica was recently seriously injured while driving his motorcycle while drunk (a very common and accepted occurrence here). I decided that this was a great time to give the girls a little talk about the Dangers of Alcohol. I talked about what alcohol does to your brain, ways to say NO to alcohol at a party, fetal alcohol syndrome, the whole gamut, and then I had the girls do a little skit to demonstrate what they had learned. The girls proceeded to reenact a skit in which they all did very good impersonations of drunk people…they were quite amused. Anyway, I hope that they got the point!!
Also, this weekend I am taking three girls from my Chicas Brillantes group to a leadership conference. Of course, now there is much drama in the group because other girls feel hurt that they didn’t get selected. The claws are coming out! But, for the three lucky girls that DID get selected, I think it will be a great experience – for one of them, it is her first time ever leaving home!
Other news from the trenches
In other news, I am currently applying for law schools, and should probably start hearing back in January! I am hoping to stay in the Seattle area, but we shall see, we shall see…
ALSO, in a couple weeks I am headed home for Christmas! I am beside myself with excitement.
Happy belated Thanksgiving and early Christmas, everyone! I am so thankful for all of your love and support. Dios les bendiga!
Yes, it really happened…. I
a.) am updating my blog for the first time in several months!
b.) Just gave a sex ed talk to 10 tittering preteen girls!
Now, this whole Peace Corps experience is filled with new, heartwarming, cross-cultural, broaden-your-horizons-and-do-something-you’ve-never-done-before experiences, but the one thing I swore I would NEVER do was ANYTHING “sex-ed” related. But lo and behold, about two hours ago I found myself holding up pictures of the female reproductive system, talking about menstrual cycles, and figuring out how to say words like “Fallopian Tubes” in Spanish.
But let’s begin at the beginning.
How this all came about, my venture into the world of even giving talks to preteen girls in the first place, was me being inspired by my neighbors to start a girl’s empowerment club called “Chicas Brillantes” (Brilliant Girls). In Peace Corps there are several youth groups one can start, for example Brigada Verde (environmental youth group), sports groups, etc. Chicas Brillantes is a youth group for girls ages 11-14. Through activities, talks, and meetings, the girls lean about important topics such as leadership, professional development, self-esteem, and….wait for it….SEX ED! I never thought I would ever want to start a group like this, because I am not really a “youth group leader/camp counselor” type person….I love the youg’ns, but in small doses. Very small doses.
However, I found that a bunch of my 11-14 year-old neighbor girls love to come over to my house to hang out….constantly. They come over to color, talk, watch me study for the LSAT, play in the yard, read, watch me cook, do my dishes, eat m chocolate when I’m not looking, just….watch over my shoulder at all times. At first it was a little endearing, I loved having my little friends watching over me, kinda like in Snow White or something. But then I realized that I kind of wanted some time to myself. But despite my chidings, the girls still saw my house as the “clubhouse” of sorts, the place to haaang. But no, I did not always want to hang with 12 year olds! I wanted to hang with myself, and with my LSAT study books! Why, I asked myself, WHY OH WHY don’t these girls have anything better to do?!?
And then I realized that I had answered my own question. These girls really don’t have anything better to do! No after school activities, no sports (unless you consider mopping a sport….actually takes some good upper body strength!) So then it dawned on me that maybe starting up this girl’s club would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone: first, give these girls something fun and EMPOWERING to participate in, and second, an excuse to get these girls outta my house every one and awhile! Like, I was thinking, if I had a club, every other time they came over to my house to hang out, I could just say “Sorry, I am busy right now, but let’s hang out at the meeting’ or something like that.
We are currently three meetings in, and I have a loyal group of 10 girls and counting. During the first meeting, we set the rules for the group, came up with a group name (the girls chose “The Princesses”), and played some fun ice breakers. The second meeting we talked about the concept of beauty, culturally accepted standards of beauty and why people feel pressure to live up to them (for example, ALL women here straighten their hair, many as early as 12 or 13, and curly, “African-looking” hair is called “bad hair), self-esteem, and LOVING ourselves! We then had a self-esteem fashion show a la Christina Aguilera in which every girl confidently walked down the catwalk and said “I am _______ and I am BEAUTIFUL!” The girls loved it. It turned out that I was a pretty good youth group leader/camp counselor type after all!
And then, week three came. The “Our Bodies, Ourselves” segment. I opened the “guide to leading a Chicas Brillantes Group” manual and saw that week three is the “Sex-ed week.” The “let’s talk about the changes to our bodies” week. I remember when I had sex ed in 5th grade, everyone was talking about it for WEEKS leading up to it. This is big stuff, people.
As instructed by the manual, I drew out diagrams of the female reproductive system and found myself tittering and giggling to myself as I did so. I called one of my buddies and exasperatedly asked her “So what IS adolescence, anway?!?! How is it defined? WHAT EXACTLY ARE HORMONES??” I was at a loss. Maybe I was the one who needed the class.
I am normally pretty good at giving talks and speaking in front of people, but oh man, this one was a killer! I kept messing up every time I tried to pronounce the word “sperm” in Spanish, and a 12-year-old corrected me in an aloof and scholarly manner each time. I gave all of the girls little slips of paper so that they could write questions down for me to answer at the end, just in case they didn’t want to ask questions in front of the other girls. One question was “Sarah, do you have a baby?” (No.) Another was a detailed account of one of the eleven-year-old’s past failed relationship. Glad I could help you get that off your chest. Another was “What is sex?” Well, golly gee, I thought I just explained that in detail.
Anyway, looking on the bright side, giving a sex ed talk was another thing to check off the bucket list. At least there were no bananas involved!
Oh, and by the way, the girls HAVE stopped frequenting my house as much! So, success!
I will post about all of the latest happenings soon! Here’s the in-a-nutshell version:
1. Got a kitty to ward off mice; realized I don’t like cats!
2. Studying for the LSAT!
3. Hurricane passed through, I am fine!
4. Went to the states for a wedding, it was great!
5. Continuing to help people with their declarations!
An update from Santo Domingo
Hello! I am here in Santo Domingo…tomorrow I am going to visit my family in Brazil! I am beside myself with excitement.
I’ve decided in this entry to amuse you all with a few funny things about my life in a small border town in the DR.
Keeping up Appearances
So here in Banica it is a really big deal to do what I call “keeping up appearances.” This means, if you make any friends you have to “call on” them regularly…by stopping by their house and sitting on the porch, dropping in to say hi, making small talk, etc. It is kind of like a Jane Austen novel. Here it is pretty easy to make friends, so the list of people I now have to keep up appearances with is getting out of control.
There are serious repercussions for not keeping up appearances. If you fail to visit a friend for a week or so, when you see them they will say “Tu ‘ta perdida” or “You’re lost!” which basically means “So did you get lost or something? WHY HAVEN’T YOU VISITED ME?” Or sometimes they say “Tu me botaste,” which means “You threw me out!” Harsh words, harsh words. So now I am actually writing down in my planner people I have to go call upon. I also have about 4 women here who say they are my mother, and they all gift me food to bring back to my house to cook every night. Now that I live with another volunteer, they all ask me, “What do you cook? Do you have a pot to cook rice?” I am not renowned for my cooking skills, so all Dominicans are concerned about this, especially when it comes to pleasing my future husband and children. I would like to learn how to cook Dominican Chicken though.
My list of people to call upon is growing, so now I consider it part of my work to make the daily rounds of visiting people. It is kind of fun, and I usually get coffee or food! But the whole process of keeping up appearances can be a little exhausting, I must admit.
Currently in the DR, we are in the middle of Mango Season! It is the best time of year (aside from the heat and the occasional torrential rain). In my back yard there are two mango trees. There is also a cherry tree and a bitter orange tree.! Whenever a ripe mango falls off onto my tin roof, it makes a sound SO LOUD that every time I scream. But the process of eating mangoes here is as follows:
- Knock 4-10 mangos off of a tree
- Sit down and eat all 4-10 mangos in one sitting!
One thing I didn’t know before moving to a tropical country is that there are many varieties of mangoes. There are big ones, small ones, short ones, tall ones, fat ones, skinny ones, etc etc. But all of them are delicious. Also, mangoes can be eaten green or ripe. And best of all, mangoes are FREE and literally raining from the trees right now. One thing that Baniqueros (people from Banica) do is what I like to call “The Great Mango Adventure.” On the Great Mango Adventure, groups of a few Dominicans (usually teenage boys) band together and cross the River Artibonito intoHaiti. They venture intoHaitito look for groves of mango trees. Once they find a big grove of mango trees, they knock down lots of mangoes and then go eat them by the river! It reminds me of Tom Sawyer or something…crossing into a forbidden land (well,Haitiisn’t exactly “forbidden” but people living on the Dominican side don’t like to cross the river very much) to search for the golden treasure…MANGOES! Unfortunately, I have yet to go on a Great Mango Adventure because us Peace Corps volunteers are not allowed to go toHaiti…one day, one day…
Riding the Bus
One thing I have gotten more of my fill of here in the DR is riding the bus. I ride the bus all the time to go to the capital, go to the neighboring village to teach class, etc. But here, riding the bus can either be the trip from heaven or from hell!
Pros to riding the bus (“gua gua”)
- In Banica, the bus drivers give door-to-door service. I have the phone numbers for all of the bus drivers, so I say “Hey, I am going to such and such place tomorrow, will you pick me up at my house?” And they pick you up at your door, grab your bags, etc. It is pretty convenient. I am buddies with all of the bus drivers, and a lot of times I get to sit in the front seat…
- Saludar-in aka greeting everyone! On the bus, you are always bound to make a new friend. Here, whenever you board the bus, it is culturally acceptable that you shout out a greeting to all of the passengers. Acceptable greetings are “Salutations!” or “Good morning/afternoon/night, everyone!” And everyone responds, “Greetings!” Also, when you get off the bus, you are supposed to bid everyone farewell…I usually say some variation on “God bless you all…have a nice trip!”
- It’s a PARTY. Bus rides can spontaneously turn into party busses. First of all, the bus driver is ALWAYS playing music, usually bachata. Second of all, alcohol is always permitted on the bus, encouraged even. So sometimes even the cobrador (fare collector) will stop somewhere, buy a couple bottles of beer/rum, and share it with the passengers. People also get pretty boisterous and love to pal around. So, on a Dominican bus ride, you will never be bored.
Cons to riding the bus
- It’s a PARTY. Sometimes this party can just get out of hand. Men being inappropriate, drunk people, etc. This one time, I was on the bus going back to Banica during Holy Week, when everyone is traveling to go see their families for the holidays. The bus ride normally takes 5 hours, but this day it took almost 9 hours due to traffic. The bus was PACKED with people, and for the whole nine hours I was seated next to a drunkard and a pack of people who were literally YELLING and guffawing the whole time. Even with my earplugs it was unbearable.
- Uncomfortable…the bus drivers will pack as many people as possible on to the busses. ‘Nuff said.
- Finally, sometimes you just want an American-style bus experience, one where no one is talking and it is a lil awkward, and few people are reading on their Kindles and other checking their e-mail on their phones. Alas, that will have to wait until I am back in the States! For now, it is time for a few more boisterous bus rides.
Well friends, there you have it, a few fun aspects of life in the Dominican countryside!
Until next time, fare thee well…
I am happy to report that I am writing to you laying in my hammock out in my yard! Life is good.
Yes, I know, it has been forever since I last updated, and I have no good excuse. I suppose it is because now that I have been living in this country for over a year things don’t really seem like news like they used to! Things have been just swell here in Banica. Life here is pretty peaceful, I really can’t complain! A month ago I moved out of my (fourth!) host mom’s house and in to a great house with the other female volunteer who lives in my community, Keeton. I feel so lucky to share my site with another volunteer, it is great to have someone to lean on! Also, our house is right next to the community internet center, so we get free wireless internet. Aside from not having electricity for half of the day and having to haul water to bathe and cook with, things are pretty comfortable. But summer is now here and the heat is slowly becoming unbearable yet again.
I have been pretty busy as of late! I have been working on a children’s literacy project in two campos outside of my town. Since the Dominican education system is so poor, many kids “slip through the cracks” and never learn how to read or in public schools. A lot of the time, this is because these children, especially here on the border, just don’t receive enough individual attention. Here in Banica, I am working in a program that another volunteer started last year called “Todos Leen” (Everybody Reads). In the program, we first evaluate kids to find out which are reading below grade level, and then work with them in small groups of 2, 3, or 4 to help get them up to speed. I was in charge of the “Todos Leen” program in a campo outside of Banica. We work with facilitators/tutors that are either university students studying education or high school students wanting to volunteer in their communities. This school year’s program ended last week, and I am happy to report that many kids that couldn’t even identify the five vowels are now reading words and full sentences! I never considered myself “good with kids,” but this has been a great experience to get me out of my comfort zone and learn that I am not so bad with kids after all! It is also really meaningful to see how much both the kids and the facilitators get out of the program. Keeton and I also organize training workshops for others (Dominicans and Peace Corps Volunteers) who want to start literacy programs in their sites.
I am also one of the co-directors of the Girl’s Choir at the Catholic church here in town (almost everyone in Banica is Catholic). It has been fun to work with the girls and watch them discover their love for singing and performing in front of people. Here in the DR there are not a lot of opportunities for girls (especially opportunities that boost girls’ self confidence and self esteem), so it is great to see them really loving singing in this choir.
Also, this past weekend I attended the Peace Corps “Dominican-Haitian Relations Committee” conference called “Leadership and Empowerment in Marginalized Populations.” It took place in Santo Domingo I brought two community members, I think that they got a lot out of it. It was a really neat experience for one of them, who had only left Banica three times and rode on the metro for the first time in his life! Some of the presentations and talks were about discrimination, effective communication, immigration, stateless, etc.
In other news, I have now been in this country for over a year! The year definitely went by in a flash, and I think the year to come will go even faster. A couple weeks ago, we all had to go to a 1-year retreat called “1-Year In Service Training” to present about the past year’s successes and challenges, our goals for the following year, etc. It was great to check in and see how other volunteers are doing. One volunteer is actually getting married this August to a girl he met in his campo – WOW! At the end of the training, we did a really neat activity where we were each given a board. On one side of the board, we wrote our personal demons, things we want to overcome and challenges. On the other side of the board we wrote what we will be like, feel like, etc after overcoming the challenges. Then we all BROKE THROUGH THE BOARDS karate chop style! And believe me, the boards were pretty thick! Anyway, it was a very empowering activity. I felt AWESOME after I broke through my board!!
This summer I will be doing a lot of traveling. Next Thursday I am going to visit my parents in Brazil, which should be awesome and a real vacation! In August, I am going home to be a bridesmaid in my good friend Rita’s wedding. I am so happy and excited for her and her fiancée Jon – I have known them both since they first started dating and am so happy that they are getting married!
I hope you all are doing well back at home, or wherever you are in the world. Sending lots of love!
Hello again! I hope your new year has been going splendidly so far. I am currently writing to you from the capital….unfortunately I had to make the 5-hour trip yesterday because I sprained my ankle playing soccer. But…first things first!
I arrived back in the DR on December 30th and spent my new year’s eve with other volunteers on a beautiful beach on the north coast called Cabarete! It was a great transition back to the DR from the United States. We ate a lot of good food, relaxed on the beach, and had an altogether wonderful time! After the beach, it was time to move from Batey 4 to my new site. Peace Corps sent me with a driver to pick up all of my things in the batey, (kind of awkward to just pack my stuff up and leave in such a hurry) and then we drove about 5 hours to my new home!
Upon arriving, I was greeted to a welcome party from several members of the community and the other volunteer, Keeton, who lives there already! It immediately felt like home :) I then went to meet my new host mom, whose name is Simona. She is a very nice and educated older woman, who worked for 35 years as an elementary school teacher. All of her kids are grown, so she lives alone, and has hosted several missionaries in her home. Let’s just say…I got a big upgrade from my living situation in the batey. In my old house I was peeing in a bucket, among other inconveniences. My new home has a flushing toilet, a real shower, an inverter (the DR suffers from frequent and long-lasting power outages, so an inverter stores power so that you can have electricity 24/7), a tinaco (also, the water suffers from the same issues…a tinaco is a huge tank that stores water so that you can have water in your sink/shower 24/7), and a nice big refrigerator! I am living like a queen.
Also, in my new site I have a lot of support from my project partner, an American Catholic priest living in Banica. Keeton also works with him, and he is beyond supportive of us and our work. Once a week we eat dinner with him and discuss projects, life, etc. Since the community is so used to missionaries, everyone is very respectful because they all think that I am a missionary or a nun. So that is an added plus! I am so thankful to feel so welcome, safe, and comfortable in this community. I have only been in Banica for about 2 weeks now, and so far I have been having a great time. I go out on runs or play soccer almost daily! Also, I have a lot more privacy and time to myself, something I was very much lacking in the batey. It also looks like there are many possibilities for projects – since my new community is literally right on the border to Haiti, there are a lot of problems with declarations and documentation, so it looks like this is going to be one of my main projects, like it was in the batey. We will see what else I will be working on!
But…since I have been so gleeful and active up in my new community, of course something had to happen to bring me back to reality! A couple days I was playing soccer with the local muchachos, feeling pretty confident in my newfound soccer skills (or lack thereof). The game we were playing had already ended and it was getting dark outside, but I decided to keep on playing the game full-force! I ran head-on into another player, trying to seize the ball….I gave a huge kick with all of my force and energy and my ankle SMASHED right into the foot of the other player. Everyone soon ran to my aid and then the coach started twisting my ankle around (apparently something you’re not supposed to do after an ankle injury).
I am now in the capital at the orthopedist, waiting with bated breath see if it is just a sprain or if it is broken…
…. A couple days later…
Well, after some x-rays and several hours of waiting to get in to see the orthopedist, I am now sitting pretty back in my site with a nice white CAST! My ankle wasn’t broken, but the orthopedist said that the sprain was so bad that I needed a cast for three weeks. When I was in elementary school I always wanted to have a cast, because it was always so cool when the kid with the broken leg or arm walked in and then got everyone to sign it! They really were minor celebrities for a few days. Well, folks, I hate to say that my dream has come true, but having a cast is not nearly as glamorous as I had imagined in my days as a wee one…I am garnering lots of sympathy from all of the Dominicans, and several have wanted me to swear off playing soccer…
I was so happy and excited here running around, playing soccer, etc etc that this sprained ankle business has grounded me a little bit. Maybe now that I am not as mobile I will sit down and get some good work done here :).