Trip Start Feb 28, 2008
6Trip End May 10, 2010
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Where I stayed
After a rough first six months in my site, things are finally coming around. Adjusting and adapting to my new surroundings has been all consuming. Please forgive me for not writing more frequently or keeping up with you. I also hope that you continue to stay in touch with me and remember to keep me updated on your life. I have learned that time is precious, passes much too quickly, and, it is hard to catch up on lost time.
As many hilarious or tragic errors as I have committed in the last six months, I am finally settling into some kind of routine of which to speak. My current projects consist of teaching three English classes, Monday, Tuesday and Friday. I have 7 to 8 year olds in the morning, 8 to 11 year olds in the afternoon and 12 to 15 years in my second afternoon class. My community has a strong desire in learning English. I attribute their interest to the growing tourism industry in Samaná and to the unique history of the peninsula of Samaná. Samaná was settled by freed African American slaves in the 1840s along with others including folks from England, France and Haiti. Before the time of Trujillo, English was the language of the people in Samaná; therefore, many of the other folks speak English and sing English church songs as their native tongue. Their interest in learning makes my job fun and rewarding. It is likely that I'll continue teaching English to older folks, kids and everyone in between for much of my service.
The days that I don't teach English, I work with the women's group to support their small business activities and work on the implementation of a cook stove project. This is a specific type of cook stove designed with ceramic pieces to improve the quantity of food cooked in a shorter period of time. Other benefits are that it will improve health of the family as it has a chimney to direct the smoke upward, requires less fuel which saves the family time and money, and reduces deforestation in the community. This stove is designed to help improve the lives of families who cook on open flame fire between three rocks. In my rural community, many use this cook method or have reverted back to it as a way to save money. With the price of natural gas increasing, they cannot afford to cook on their more costly cook stoves.
Finally, my last project is with a group of youth committed to improving the environment. My work with them is currently focused on gardening and composting as a way to help improve the soil quality and increase the quantity of organic fruits and vegetables. Of course, these are tried and true methods common to most. But, as the Dominican Republic deals with growing pains of a swelling population, changing economy, and movement away from agriculture and jobs working with one's hands, I believe it is important to reinforce and model these important skills of self-sufficiency and good nutrition.
All in all, I feel like my work here is valuable and that there is potential to make small difference in someone's life. I am fulfilled by this. I have learned and continued to be reminded that I am not Dominican, as much as I may look it! I am looking forward to a short vacation to Ohio during the month of November to refresh me, give me a new perspective and to reconnect with friends and family. It is also sure that I will be rooting the Buckeyes onto victory as we beat Michigan on November 22nd!
Best wishes and Happy Holidays to you and your family!