Saturday, September 18, 2010

Laundry and Potty Training

Hate to ruin the suspense, but no, I have not mastered the two tasks mentioned in the title.

This afternoon, after a quick siesta, I decided that it was time to wash some clothes. The fact that I couldn't remember the last time I had done my laundry was enough to convince me that it needed to get done. Now for those of you who are wondering how I wash my clothes without a machine, prepare yourselves and, please, try not to judge my method. I've come up with a very impressive, energy-saving, technique that involves soaking my clothes in a giant tub in my bathroom and then rinsing them in the sink a few minutes later. I then hang all of the mildly washed clothing up on a few lines of string that devour my entire living area. Within four hours, I can wash enough clothes to last me a week or two. So this is what i've been doing for the past two months and I think i'm finally starting to notice a few faults in this method. The unfortunate thing about this entire story is the fact that there is very little I can do to change my laundry days and I have a feeling that i'll have to throw out the majority (if not all) of my clothing at the end of my two years. Oh, and I just realized I forgot to mention that I DO use detergent--it is essential.

As for the potty training part of this entry, I thought I would relay my biggest and most frustrating challenge here in the Dominican Republic. First of all, my puppy has to be one of the cutest things I've ever seen in my entire life. She has almost doubled in size within the past month and a half, but she still looks like a little jelly bean. No matter what she destroys, and the list is long, all she has to do is give me her little puppy face and I instantly forget my anger. However, when it comes to her going potty inside the house, I've had to start enforcing a much tougher stance. It all started two weeks ago when I took her on a vacation, first to the beach, and then to Santo Domingo. I was planning on having her spayed, but after I got the final price (10,000 pesos!) I decided it would be best to wait another two months when she can have it done for free by a vet mission, and that way we wouldn't have to survive on $30 for the rest of the month. On the last morning at the hotel, Fifa decided to pee all over one of the beds. I was horrified and extremely embarrassed since my friends, who I was sharing the room with, were surprised that I hadn't done a better job in training her. So that's sort of where i'm at now. I'm afraid i've allowed her to become too comfortable and used to going potty in the house, but at the same time something needs to change. This past weekend we didn't have water for three days, and that took its toll on the cleanliness of my house. The one positive aspect that has come out of this disastrous problem is my newly acquired mopping skills with the most wonderful product in the world, Fabuloso. So if anyone (Katie) has any potty training tips, feel free to share them with me.

I've got about four hours before my next meeting, and considering it's 95 degrees, I think i'm going to take Fifa to Boca de Cachon to swim a little bit. God, I love Saturdays.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Three Things

I know it has been a while, but I thought I would give this worthless blog another chance. Three big events have occurred in the last month. To start off, I moved into my own apartment. After five months of living with four different host families, it was time for me to get my own place. As much as I loved living out of my backpack, to have a stable home that is all mine for the next two years is extremely comforting. I think I’ve succeeded in turning the space into a true representation of myself: a little disorganized, colorful and inviting. The apartment is on the third floor of a hotel in my town (making it safe to say that I live in a penthouse) and has constant electricity and water, two necessities that in the United States are considered obligatory for any household, but here in the Dominican Republic, where electricity only comes for about 8 hours a day (if you’re lucky), it is a luxury. I’ve adorned the walls with photos from home, family and friends, and put up a few maps that I got last minute from AAA around the kitchen and living area. The greatest aspect of this place has to be the panoramic windows that stretch around the kitchen area, giving me countless excuses to stare out onto the mountains that encircle my town. One major downside, however, is its proximity to the only discoteca in my town, where every weekend is commenced with blasting merengue music that lasts well into the early hours of Monday morning. Can’t say that I haven’t caught myself dancing along to the loud tunes in the privacy of my own home, but it has made sleeping a challenge.

Secondly, I finished my first task as a Peace Corps volunteer, which was to put together a community diagnostic of my town. For those of you who are wondering what exactly I’m doing here as a volunteer, the diagnostic, as a three-month project, forced me to study the needs and resources of my town, so that I can address them with future projects. What I realized in doing the diagnostic was my town’s inherent need for a latrine project. With all the expansion that has taken place, especially recently with the onset of new Haitian communities in the upper parts of town, there has been no real effort to regulate and assist the sanitary needs of those families. Since La Descubierta sits at the base of a large mountain range, it naturally is inclined down towards the lake. All of the rivers and streams that meet to form the natural pools in my town (where everyone bathes in at least once a day) pass through the town, in people’s backyards and along the streets. Because there has not been a latrine project in over twenty years, those who do not have proper sanitation areas go to the bathroom in the streams, which has caused a great deal of water contamination in the pools, resulting in various forms of infections and diarrhea. Naturally, I have yet to swim in the pools, as enticing as they are on such hot days, for fear of what I’m actually swimming in. So that’s one project I’m starting immediately. I also realized the need for a reforestation project with two local agricultural associations. Even though there is already a tree nursery built, for some reason or another, it has been left to decay over the years. I’m hoping that within the next month or two, I can, along with the members of the associations, can get the nursery up and running again so that individuals can begin to reforest parts of the Sierra de Neyba that has been harshly deforested in the past 10 years due to charcoal production and the burning of plots for cattle and sheep herding. Along with these two primary projects, I’ll also be working in the schools, giving classes on environmental subjects and will be working with the local women’s groups on small family garden plots. Considering the latrine project will be slightly expensive (still need to figure out where I’ll be getting the money for this), I’m trying to work within the resources that my town already has to implement other projects that can hopefully be more sustainable while having an equally important impact on the lives and environment of this town. Wish me luck!

And lastly, the third event that has taken up so much of my time and energy—I got a dog! Well, a puppy to be precise. Her name is Fifa (yes, as in the soccer federation) and she is a pure-bred golden labrador. I had a very difficult time trying to name her, mostly because I wanted to name her Pretzel (my dad’s suggestion) but couldn’t imagine how anyone in my town would be able to pronounce that in Spanish without butchering it every time. So Fifa works just fine, as she is becoming more popular in this town than me, but I’m not complaining (takes the stress out of being the only “rubia” here). This past week has been all about understanding her schedule of things and puppy-proofing the house. I have a strong feeling she will destroy all of the furniture I’ve recently purchased and eat the majority of my shoes. I’m watching her right now as she sleeps underneath my sink (which oddly doesn’t have tile and is just an unfinished area of gravel and dirt). August is proving to be the hottest month of the year and it is a task, each and every day, to find a cool area to relax in.

Monday, the 16th of August, is the official day when the new government takes office. This includes all congressmen and local officials (like my town’s mayor). From the sounds of it, the entire day will be devoted to celebrating these new politicians and their commencing the next six years of their term in a very Dominican manner. I can’t wait, it should give me ample time to try and pitch my project plans to anyone that will listen.

After Monday, summer officially ends. School starts next week and politics will be back in order. I can’t wait. Time to start working!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Not bad, not bad at all

I wrote out a blog about two weeks ago. A really good blog post with plenty of information concerning the past couple of weeks in country. I have of course found it very difficult to find internet availability in my town, but today, I happened to find a very nice internet center, where I can access wireless connection on my laptop. Pretty sweet, I know. So this afternoon, after I finished washing my clothes (I had gone three weeks without washing my clothes--disgusting) I thought it would be an excellent time to update my blog and read Huffingtonpost (still not quite sure what this whole oil spill thing is all about). Well, of course I left the sheet at home, but I thought I should at least write something while i'm here.
With that, here is a picture of the water canal in my backyard where i've been spending my afternoons reading. I have big plans to go tubing down this canal sometime in the near future.
Other than that, I found an apartment that i'd like to move into within the next two months. It's a one bedroom 'penthouse' at a local hotel. Half of the place is indoors and the other half is outside. I'm just imagining how the next two years will feel like California summers, where we eat outside for all meals and enjoy whatever hint of a breeze there is.
Now off to dinner! Adios!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Project Site

Good News! I just received my project site, and it looks as though i'll be living on Lago Enriquillo, in the south of the country, working with a local mayor on municipal and environmental development projects (broad, I know). My town has around 7,000 people and, from what i've heard, has a lovely town square. I'll also be about 30 minutes from Haiti and will have to take a week long Creole class in two weeks--very exciting. Couldn't be happier about my site and i'm looking forward to going there tomorrow! I also have a new, permanent phone. My number is (809) 723-6559.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Breakfast with Jesus

Earth Week

Given that April 22nd is the official date of Earth Day, we environmental volunteers decided to take it a step further and turn the event into a week-long celebration! For the most part, this week of our training concentrated on the education side of our program. As much as I love children, I pray to God I don't get stuck teaching in the schools. Moving on, my friend Sarah and I taught a class on deforestation and it's long-term effects, planted some trees, and, together with a larger group of volunteers, painted an over bearing world map. I'm still not convinced the grid method is the most efficient way to sketch out a drawing, but it got the job done this time.

Today we started early, 8:00 am to be exact. I woke up, had a plate of white cheese and dined alongside a massive portrait of Jesus Christ. Intimate, indeed. I still can't figure out what was more daunting, the cheese or Jesus staring at me while I attempted to eat the cheese. After that whole ordeal I spent 15 minutes trying to explain the concept of a sandwich to my host mother. Dominican culture has still not grasped the idea of a quick, on-the-go lunch. I've actually develeped a theory between their over-done, hour long lunches and the state of their local economies. Makes me appreciate fast-food establishments all the more. Anyways, since the school we painted the mural at is about two miles from my house, I thought it would be easier, for both my dona and myself, to pack a sandwich in the event that our mural would take longer than four hours. But that failed. Oh communication, how you have failed me countless times in this country!

Now i'm back at my favorite coffee shop, organizing my thoughts and planning out my last week in La Cumbre. Starting Monday, we will receive our last bit of training which will explore the benefits and disadvantages of eco-tourism. Tomorrow i'm headed to a beach near Puerto Plata, where I will attempt with all of my power to not get horribly burnt like last time and to instead get a glowing tan. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Saludos de La Cumbre!

After six weeks in the Dominican Republic, I think it best to officially update this lackluster blog of mine. To begin, I owe an apology to anyone who checked this site frequently. I have failed. But given the indeterminable state of electricity and internet availability, i cannot take all of the blame.
I am currently up in the mountains, half way through my environmental training. We are studying at one of Trujillo's old mansions outside of Santiago (Trujillo having been one of Latin America's most repressive dictators). Unlike Santo Domingo, La Cumbre is cold and rainy. Rainy in the sense that when it pours, the tin roof of my house sounds like it is under siege--it's absolutely terrifying. Anyways, I spend half of the day with my Spanish class, working on the subjunctive and other fun verbs, and the other half of the day learning how to compost, start a garden, prepare a charla, and as was the case yesterday, build a stove. All very interesting.
I'm still not quite sure where my site will be or which project i'll be working on, but my boss, the APCD for the environmental sector, promised me a hot spot (literally) working on ecotourism. Who knows if that will be the case, but I find out in two weeks and will certainly update on that.
As for right now, i'm sitting at a very lush coffee shop in Santiago, enjoying the luxuries of a flushing toilette and WIFI. Not that I don't love the campo, but it's nice to get out once and a while and not have an entire community of Dominicans watching my every move.
With that, I will leave you all with a Dominican dicho (saying): "Cuando las cosas se quieren perder, alas le quieren nacer"
----Not quite sure what that means, but I think it relates to my current posting situation that I will try desperately to work on.
Until next week, ADIOS!