It´s Not Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas

Trip Start Aug 19, 2008
Trip End Oct 29, 2010

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

FELIZ NAVIDAD: I spent my first Christmas away from my family this year in the Dominican Republic.  Navidad is really built up in this country, where people begin to put up lights and decorations months prior to the actual holiday.  Though other volunteers were complaining that it didn't feel like Christmas because the blistering heat was still existent, being from Southern California really worked in my favor for this one (as it usually does). Really, for me, the only reason why it didn't feel like Christmas was that there was no Starbucks selling holiday flavored drinks.  Dominicans celebrate La Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) much more than Christmas itself.  During this time, they make an elaborate dinner consisting of chicken, bread, salad, fruit, and potato salad to share with the whole family. It was odd waking up on Christmas Day and having nothing change, unlike the "miracle" that is Christmas Day in the states.  I did get together with other volunteers to eat hamburgers and go swimming, so it ended up being a nice Christmas after all.
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION:  I honestly don't know where to begin with this one.  First, high school graduations take place months after the kids actually get out of school so that they can receive their test scores from the government and also raise money to have their graduation ceremony.  Second, (as applies to everything else in this country) when something is supposed to start at a specific time, it never does.  The graduation I attended started more than 3 hours late!  I got there an hour late (I was told to show up an hour late because that's when it would start) and still had to wait 2 hours!  Third and most entertaining, since it started late (at 6pm instead of 3pm), not only did most people just leave after they received their diplomas, in between announcing names, they blasted reggaeton music!  I couldn't stop laughing because the whole situation would never happen in the United States, but for that reason, it really was an unforgettable experience.  I wish I danced across the stage to reggaeton to receive my diploma!
EL ANO NUEVO: was celebrated in the North at a beach town named Caberete.  It was nice to see another part of the country, especially on the coast, and be with other volunteers to bring in the New Year.  We lounged around a lot on the beach and was the first time that I really felt like a tourist in this country, mainly because all we did was eat, swim, lay, and speak English.  The countdown happened on the beach, which included fireworks and music, so it was reminiscent of being at home, except cooler.  Many of us stayed at my girlfriend's site the day before and the day after the Caberete trip because it's on the way.  It was much more tranquilo than the rest of the trip in terms of hanging out, making dinner, and conversing with each other. My friends here are wonderful and it always amazes me how unique situations such as these can really bring people together.
BUSINESS CARDS:  I made business cards for myself (my first ones I've ever had) because I found out we do a surprisingly high amount of networking in order to connect people and projects and funding.  When I showed my project partner my business cards he immediately thought it was a great idea and wanted some for his business (he owns a Larimar gift shop).  A few days later I brought my laptop over and my camera to help design his cards and the whole process was an experience.  First, he wanted to basically put every piece of Larimar he could into one photo for the card.  Next, he essentially wanted to write a novel on the business card, explaining the history of larimar and his gift shop.  Last, when I told him that he would have to put just one piece for the card, he didn't understand why you couldn't fit all of the pieces onto one small business card..  It was interesting because during training we learned about push and pull techniques and when it is appropriate to push your ideas on the community or sit back and let them pull you in.  Well, I pushed.  The cards turned out great and he was grateful for my opinions, so I'm glad that it all worked out.  I mean, I understand where he was coming from; if I made cool Larimar jewelry I would want to showcase all of them as well.
THE REST: is going well.  It was odd being away from my friends and family during the holiday season because it really is so different here, but I was glad to experience a new culture's way of celebrating.  The 6th of January (El Dia de los Reyes Magos) is when they actually give toys to children and not on Christmas, so in a sense, I did get a 'Christmas' experience.  In terms of projects, I'm still working on my community diagnostic and will be starting to write a grant for the eco-tour project in a week or two.  It is disappointing that implementing some projects requires waiting and processing, but that is how development works and in the end it will benefit the community regardless of the time spent.  I have my diagnostic presentation in less than a month where we exhibit our 3 month findings on our communities so I need to start putting that together (you all know I can't wait until the last minute to start anything). Oh, and I should be moving into my own house soon!   Happy holidays!
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