In the Beginning...
Trip Start Sep 06, 2005
14Trip End Nov 23, 2007
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Well, this travelpod entry is long overdue but thankfully I am presently sitting at a free computer terminal (both in terms of cost and availability) so I can make up for lost time! And even better, I got the IV that has been stuck in my arm for the past 48 hours removed earlier today. I had been in the Clinica Abreu for the past two nights, but thankfully I was freed from my little sterilized prison this afternoon. On that note, let me back track and fill you in on how I ended up there...
Thursday the 8th around 7:30pm I got really queasy (during a Catholic mass no less, praising the conception date of the Virgin Mary) and about an hour later, after church, it was coming out both ends...simultaneously!! Oh, it was awful. And let me remind you that our toilets don't flush on account of the lack of running water, so what you put in there just sits there until someone hauls a 5 gallon bucket into the bathroom to fill up the tank and flush. Not soon after my "cleansing" began a fleet of over-concerned Dominican women started parading in and out of my house offering me various pills, cups of teas etc... all of which were nice gestures but I had something wicked that night, and I dont think the cinnamon flavored water they were offering me would have done much. This combination of diarrea, vomit and random crys of impending death from my host mom continued until about 7:30 in the morning when I finally stumbled out to the local basketball courts (the only part of my community where I get a cell phone signal) and called the Peace Corps nurse. She jumped right into action and sent a chaffeur out to pick me up and bring me into the hospital. He arrived a little before 10 and we headed back into the city. Despite two diarrea stops on the way we made great time and I was checked into the Clinica Abreu before noon. For this efficiency I am eternally grateful to Pedro the Peace Corps chaffeur.
From that point on it was just a series of IVs, antibiotics and blood/urine/stool samples (I list these in ascending order of humiliation) so there isnt too much to tell. I did get to bask in air conditioning, watch cable, visit with two PCVs who stopped by, and call my family and girlfriend, so it wasnt all together horrible, but I was quite happy to leave today. I'll rest in the capital tonight, stop back by the nurse tomorrow for one final check up, and then head back out to my site tomorrow afternoon.
However the purpose of this entry is not to list my recent bodily disfunctions (although I won't lie, I think it's funny to do so) but rather to relay what's been happening over the past month.
I swore in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer in later October, and then gorged on traditional American food for Thanksgiving, which was exceptionally good after three months of rice and beans twice daily. Then for an additional treat, all 150 some-odd PCVs in the Dominican Republic got free access into Santo Domingo's biggest club...which is 150 feet underground in a cave! So for about 6 hours we merengue-ed, bachata-ed, and shook those stalagtites. The next morning, after having relished in American food and cave dancing over a two day span, we finally departed to our sites....
Upon arriving at my site I decided that a good way to meet some people right off the bat, and earn some respect and trust within the community would be to play some card games with the locals. This worked....a little too well, and now I log about 4 hours of Gin Rummy a day. But when we're not accusing our neighbors of cheating in cards, we usually go swimming/bathing/clothes washing in the river. Yes, I have some mild concerns about the sanitation of this river since it is so "multi-purpose" but I figured that I've already endured two ear infections in this country so if I dont have some kick-ass immunity by now then I blame my immune system and not the river. The river, which is actually an over-praised creek/brook, really is alot of fun and serves as a gathering spot for the community, so sometimes its fun just to watch what all is taking place. I mean the dynamics, pecking order, conversation topics, and everything else dramatically change depending on who is at the river. My fondness of the river has also led me to realize that it makes a lot more sense to bring one bar of soap down to the river and bather there than, it does to haul 10 gallons of water up to my house to bathe. So a warning to all potential visitors--bring a swimsuit cause we's river bathin'. There is also a large park in my community where people meet to dance and socialize which is great because it creates a very warm and gregarious community (something I think Dominicans already are by nature) and makes it easier for me to meet people, which is my primary objective for the first three months of service. I'm supposed to complete a full "community diagnostic" complete with report and presentation, but in reality all this is secondary to meeting my community and building mutual trust and respect.
Thus, to accomplish these goals of relationship-building I started teaching an English class. Actually, my community somewhat demanded this of me (as they kind of did in Nagua), but I am really enjoying it. However, I am currently struggling with every educators battle, "Is it them or is it me, becasue they are just not getting it." I shouldn't be so harsh on all my students cause some are quite bright and hardworking, but I will say that in the past week I have probably spent a total of 1 hour and some change trying to get people to correctly pronounce 13 and 30. They haven't mastered it yet, but maybe they'll suprise me tomorrow when I return...if not I'll just keep encouraging the use of hand gestures. Despite these insignificant set-backs, English class is going quite well. I have a huge chalkboard and desk, and even got the keys to an old "Club Deportivo" to use as my classroom so it's quite professional. There's even a Regidor (like a city council member) attending my class. He probably has the worst pronunciation of everyone, but damnit if he doesn't try hard.
And then there is the dance troupe. The group is currently learning a number to perform at the Juegos Nacionales (kind of like the Junior Olympics and a really big deal that it is in Monte Plata) so I have been forced to learn alongside them. They aren't making much progress, but I am making less. I don't think they would every ask me to actually dance with them in front of an audience at the Juegos Nacionales (because they've seen my skills or lack thereof) but if they did....well that would be a whole other entry in and of itself.
Overall things here are going very well. I haven't felt as bored or lonely as I though I would in the first few weeks, so I hope that doesn't change. Occassionally I still get frustrated when people refer to me as the gringo or americano (especially those that know my name) or when they make assumptions about me just because I am an American. However, for the most part my community has really embrace me and the concept of Peace Corps so as they say in the Dominican Republic, "E' PaLante Que Vamos" (It's Forward We Go)
I wish I could make it home to visit all y'all, but I hope and pray that everyone has a blessed holiday season. Take care,