Happy New Year
Trip Start Sep 06, 2005
21Trip End Nov 23, 2007
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My first three months in site are supposed to be observation and a community diagnostic, but I've started working a little. My main job here is to strengthen and develop a youth program, giving kids an alternative to drinking, drugs, and all the other delinquent opportunities abundunt in the DR. The youth here are great, but very unmotivated. A basketball court was started in this community 4 years ago and is only 20% done. My first goal is to finish the basketball court within the next few months so they have a safe place to play. Right now, they are playing basketball and volleyball in the middle of the street, so whenever a motoconcho comes flying through the area the kids are free game. The half done basketball court is right next to the baseball diamond, which is also a mess and not used. When I went to explore a little, I found 2 pigs living on the baseball field, a women killing a chicken (literally) - there is blood and enough feathers to stuff a million pillows, and trash everywhere. Apparently the government at one point decided to use the kids playing area as a trash dump. How considerate! The basketball court hasn't been touched in the last four years, and so there are trees and brush growing everywhere.
The thing I have so say about the DR is that everything is more difficult here. I am sure it is the same in most third world countries. What is common sense in the US, and what would just happen on its own, is major, time consuming, hair pulling work here. For example, the baseball field and basketball court are over grown. In the states, we would get a mower/tractor and take care of it. Here we have to cut/chop each blade of grass/weeds and each tree with a machete. This is not easy work (it's generally high 80's and blazing hot). And then, what do we do with all the tree and brush? We can't call a trash company. The government isn't exactly helpful. We have to wait a few weeks until the brush dries, so we can burn it. And about the trash...I found one rake in the entire community, even though it's an agriculture community. Oh, but it was just a rake head...no handle. So we had to make a handle out of a stick. But the problem is, there is SO much trash, that it is nearly impossible to collect it (not to mention feathers, pig poop, and what ever other chicken, goat sheep animal ect that decided to wander to the trash pile for the day). In fact, we started one day, I went back the next and guess what...MORE trash! So the task, needless to say is daunting. The community is getting excited about it though, which will make it easier. The government has agreed to stop dumping trash, and is even going to come and collect the trash we pile (so they say). The local offices are also going to try to help us raise the money we need to finish it. I'll have updates on the project!
As I was saying, things are so hard in third world countries. It is easy to see why the living expectancy drops dramatically. Simple things such as cooking, laundry, getting from one place to another, and even using the bathroom is harder (you have to squat the whole time!). In order to do laundry, if there is no electricity, (which is quite often) you have to take each individual piece of clothing and scrub it clean. Then you have to dunk it in water and ring it out (ringing out large pieces of clothing is next to impossible). Then you have to dunk it in another bucket of water, ring it out again, and hang it on the clothesline. Imagine doing this for an entire family. Think of how many outfits little kids go through a day. Cooking takes the entire morning. You have to start the beans at around 8 so make sure they are done by 12. Public transportation is a disaster. You never know how long a trip will take. For instance, some days it takes me 2 hours to get the capital. Other days it takes me 4 and a half hours. Try planning out a day on this. For example, the other day I left the capital in plenty of time to get back to my site before dark. Well, the gau-gau (bus) stopped 4 times to just hang out. I being directionally challenge as I am have no idea where the entrance to my community is. And I'll be honest, it's not that I'm directionally challenged, but that there is absolutely no sign and everything looks the same. There's a guy at the door of the bus who collects the money and stops it for people to get out. I told him where I needed to get out. He forgot, and before I realized it we were in the next community 30 mionutes away and it was pitch black. Instead of helping me, he just left me in this community. As an American female, I tend to stick out. So, here I am, in the dark of night in a some community where I know no one. I about just sat down in the middle of the road and cried because I had no idea what I was going to do. Buses weren't running because it was to late. Of course me cell phone didn't have service, although I don't really know who I would have called if it had service. I asked some kid about getting a motoconcho ride back to my town. I finally found someone to take me. So imagine this, I am in a strange place, speaking a strange language, and I get on the back of a motoconcho, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (because of, course I hadn't intended on riding a moto concho) and take the 30 minute ride back to my community praying that this guy isn't going to wreck or kill me. Luckily I arrived safely with my whole community waiting for me at the entrance because I was supposed to be back earlier. The difficult things are what make life interesting though. The 4 hour gua gua ride with chickens in the back is a new experience that I couldn't have if I had my own private vehickle here!
Ok, other fun cultural stuff to mention.... when someone dies they have something I could describe similar to a wake. The weird thing is that the whole community goes. It doesn't matter if you knew the person or not. And it's really bad if you don't go, so I've already been to 2 wakes for people I don't know. Now at these wakes you will find in one corner, people wailing, in another corner people playing dominos, a mean on a motoconcho with a bell selling ice cream, and another person handing out cigarettes and halls (the thing you take when you have a sore throat...they eat it for candy here). It's really bizarre.
Ok, that's enough for now. I hope its not to unorganized. Send any questions you have. Sarah just left today, so I'll send a little blog on her trip soon! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!