First 6 Weeks In
Trip Start Feb 28, 2008
6Trip End May 10, 2010
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Where I stayed
C/o Peace Corps Office
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Current Status: About 40 minutes just north of Santiago. Currently, I'm living without landline phones, television, internet, mail service, etc. We're spending 30 days in the campo. What an adventure! Feels kinda like Elizabeth Township as there is no reliable public transportation, spare some guaguas (public buses) that pass by every once in a while, no internet and cell phone reception even, and everyone here is related to one another. It's a small campo, country life
Greetings Folks both Near & Far,
As you know, I've been in Peace Corps training for about 6 weeks now and I wanted to give a broad overview of how it's all going. The first three weeks of training were all about the basics of life in the Dominican Republic (DR). Training focused on how to get around the country using public transportation (including a site visit to a volunteer in the field), health classes and immunizations, learning the basics of Dominicanisms and Spanish, and learning about Cuerpo de Paz R.D. (Peace Corps Republica Dominicana). There are a total 36 volunteers who entered Peace Corps in February 2008. To date, all 36 of us are still here in the country and we all went through the first three weeks of core training together in Santo Domingo (DR's capital). In Santo Domingo, I lived in a barrio (neighborhood) in a suburb called Pantoja. My host family was warm and welcoming and, best of all, experienced in housing Peace Corps volunteers. I had my own room and enjoyed my space there immensely.
After those first three weeks, my group of 19 Environment Volunteers broke off from the group of 36 volunteers to enter the second phase of Peace Corps training called CBT (Community Based Training)
Currently, I'm living with my second Peace Corps family just north of the city of Santiago. My family is great. They are really excited to have me here and very happy to host Americans. They think of me as a sister and at times I'm pretty overwhelmed with all the culture shock in the small world, campo life. I went from having accessible internet, phone and being in the hustle and bustle of the biggest city in the DR to a close knit, small bend in the road community on a hillside. They are very loving and definitely give me that star-status that unintentionally makes me feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Fortunately, I have a fellow volunteer next door to me who has quickly become my best friend. We kinda share the attention as a diversion. I say this and you may laugh, but truly this "Gringa Power" is how I'm going to gain interest in my projects over these next two years.
As you can see, I am having great time here and I'm very much looking forward to the adventure playing out over the next two years. I do have to say that culture shock is just beginning to set-in
Some of the ways my life has changed from the States is that now I deal with a cold bucket shower/baths. The doors in my house are made of sheets. I use a mosquitero (mosquito net) every night to protect me from dengue fever, malaria, and the creepy crawlers. There is no running water, and sparse electricity. There are rats, mice, snakes, frogs, and spiders in many environments that you might not appreciate. Fortunately, my uncle and aunt next door have an inversor, which provides electricity 24-7. Spanish is difficult. I just keep on plugging away at it and hope that I get it one of these days. I celebrate the small victories. (Thanks for those stars, Pam Miller! I think we definitely deserve them.) Finally, the biggest change possibly, is that I'm now going by my middle name, Rosa (pronounced Rrrrrosa). I love my name change as it's much easier to pronounce and it's shorter. Plus, it's the name of my great-aunt who passed away at 99 years old this year and I think it's a cool way to remember her.
In terms of my personal life, it's weird being a Peace Corps Volunteer where your life is very personal and public at the same time. My time pleasure and business time are one in the same. I always have to being aware of what impression I'm sending and hope to err on the side of being too conservative, rather than liberal, as I'm constantly reminded of my ambassadorship to the U.S, especially in this small campo life. To this end, it's really wonderful being reminded of who I am, and reconnecting with the amazing life we have. I love all my awesome support systems back home. To all my Friends and Family: I can't wait to host you and whomever and whenever you work out a plan to come, please let me know. I'm excited to be expecting visits from my sister, Kathleen, and Nixon this summer. Also, to date, I have received my first mail from Grandma Leggett and my other momma, Pam Miller. It is a wonderful feeling to open those letters and hear from you. It guarantees a grand smile from me so if you're wondering how to make my day, send a letter.
Training has my life objective for these last 6 weeks and I want to include you in on the new skills I'm acquiring. So far, training highlights have been:
Completing a community diagnostic, including:
1) Creating a community map
2) A family tree-a very important resource as everyone here is related to one another,
3) Daily Schedules of folks in my community to find out who does what when
4) Visited the school in our community to learn about formal education. Kids here go to school, on average, for 4 hours every day. School includes a daily recess, and about 5 sessions daily. There are two sessions of school and kids will either go to the morning session or the afternoon session. As you might imagine, four hours of learning gives kids a great deal of free time and few responsibilities as there is little homework here. One of the benefits of this is that when I get to my future community, I'll get to work with the youth and take advantage of their free time.
Learning Environmental Education techniques and Projects that I may be able to implement in my future community has been important as well. Some of those techniques are:
1) The double dig gardening technique. This is a technique used to improve soil when gardening. It's called "double-dig" because instead of a typical rotor-till of land, you remove the topsoil and put it to the side of your hole without tilling it. Then, dig up the second layer of earth, or subsoil. After, put the topsoil back on top. This process aerates the soil, provides room for moisture and still gives you the microorganism rich topsoil to plant. I'm hoping for high yields and lots of fresh veggies.
2) Constructing a fogon (stove). This type of stove is fairly inexpensive for folks to construct and provides a number of benefits in this time of high gas prices. They cut down on deforestation, as they require less wood for more heat, have stovepipes, which send smoke outside, and protect women and families health.
3) How to start a youth group to work (similar to a 4-H group). Here in the DR, this is a national PC movement called Brigada Verde, which are groups of youth who work to address environmental issues of the DR. Last weekend, we traveled to national youth conference and talked with other volunteers about how to start youth groups of our own.
4) How to identifying common plants, trees, and crops such as:
Coffee, Cacao, Tobacco are big crops here going back to the days of colonialism
Fruit trees such as avocado, mango, guanabana, guayaba, and tamarindo
Soil conservation techniques, which I'm skeptical of my abilities of being able to convince farmers of the benefits for implementation
As you can see, they're preparing me to be able to get out into the field, and I'm ready to begin working. I've met some good people in my training experience, but now I can't wait to find out what community I am to be placed in and figuring out how to begin my work. Practice time is almost over. My graduation from training is May 8th. This is a pretty big day in the life of PCV. The Country Director will be there and the U.S. ambassador and his wife. We'll be celebrating a lot too and there's a pool party scheduled at the U.S. Embassy the next day. Probably after that, some Peace Corps Volunteers will be going on a vacation to the beach for a few days as we have a little bit of time before we have to report to our sites. I can't wait....really!
Well, I've updated you pretty well on all the activities of my life. If you have questions about the DR or if there is any way I can help you from here, let me know. Next e-mail, I'll definitely be able to tell you much more!
Kisses and hugs XOXOXO