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Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
41Trip End Apr 06, 2008
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Greetings once again from the Dominican Republic. I am back in the capital after being away all week. I was at an ecotourism workshop in Duverge, a town in the Southwest of the DR. It is an interesting area - pretty hot and dry compared to the rest of the country, and there is a huge salt lake there called Lago Enriquillo, which is more than twice as salty as the ocean. We got to go on a guided bird walk and see some Taino cave drawings. The bird walk was neat - there are a lot of endemic and migratory birds here and apparently it is a desitnation for hard core birdwatchers (which I am not, but it was still neat). The Taino Indians were the indigenous people here when Columbus arrived, but after being enslaved, raped, and ravaged with European diseases, the last Taino died in the 1800's. There are some cave carvings that are pretty neat, but unfortunately some Dominicans have decided to add their own carvings to the rock, which detracts from the whole site. I sometimes forget that I am in the place where Christopher Columbus first landed in the "new world" and there is so much history here.
During the week we visited two different ecotourism projects and had some training sessions on ecotourism.Peace Corps DR is working on several ecotourism projects as a way to preserve and protect the environment and bring income into communities. At the end of the week we each had to present a ten minute session, in Spanish, as if we were an ecotour guide at the salt lake. I did mine on changing water levels and salinity, and it went pretty well if I do say so. I never thought a month ago that I would be able to talk about technical subjects in Spanish, but slowly and surely I am getting there. During the last week in Duverge and for the next five weeks at community based training, I have a new Spanish teacher who is amazing. He is a Dominican named Dany, who has to be less than 5 feet tall, and so much fun. He is very encouraging and makes us feel really comfortable speaking in Spanish.
The week was long and really busy, so the time seemed to fly by. We did have some down time to hang out and relax, and had some interesting experiences. We watched some of the games of the World Baseball Classic, which was fun because baseball is ridiculously popular here. Dominicans take it very seriously and feel that their team is playing "por la patria," which is an expression used a lot here, which translates more or less to "for the love of the country." Dominicans feel very strongly that the US team lost because they don't play "por la patria." At the end of day that we did the bird walk and the hike to the caves, we decided to go swimming in a canal. We were hot and sweaty and it looked really inviting, so we jumped in. However, the current was really strong due to recent heavy rains and we quickly realized that there was no hope of swimming against the current. At first it was really funny as we struggled against the current, but then panic set in as we realized that we might not be able to get out. The canal was concrete and the walls were sloped at a little less than a 45 degree angle, and under normal circumstances it wouldn't be that hard to climb out, but when you are struggling against raging water it is a whole different story. I was seriously afraid that either a) my swimsuit would be ripped off and go floating downstream never to be seen again or b)i was going to be ripped away by the current and sent downstream, never to be seen again! Obviously, I survived and am able to laugh about it now, but at the time I have to say I was kind of freaked out.
So life here is good. I am excited to leave for my community training on Monday. I am a little apprehensive about moving in with a new host family and starting all over again, but I met the volunteer who lived with my host family during training last year and he said that they are amazing. I am also glad to be getting out of the capital and into a more remote setting, and to be with my small group of the 7 environmental volunteers. They are all great and we joke about how we are now a little environmental family. I love it here and have to laugh a little bit at myself at the ways in which I am becoming more Dominican. For starters, I now shower at least 2 or 3 times a day, which is a very Dominican thing to do. It is just so hot and sweaty here that it is that or go around all stinky and gross feeling. I also have adopted the Dominican way of drinking coffee, which is in a tiny cup, very strong, with sugar. I have never put sugar in my coffee in my life and at first I hated it, but now I can't drink it without. I also find myself spending inordinate amounts of time sitting in plastic chairs and talking to my friends and host family. Plastic chairs play a very important role in society here that I honestly cannot convey. Dominicans keep stacks and stacks of the plastic molded chairs with arms, and you cannot walk by someone's house without them calling you over, leaping out of their seat and offering it to you, and running to get more plastic chairs. Literally, it makes Dominicans nervous to see people standing around and talking. They will keep telling you to sit down until you finally do. Overall, I am learning to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. Well, I don't have much of a choice on a Peace Corps budget because it doesn't allow for a lot of luxuries, but I like it that way.
Well, that is it for now. Over the next 5 weeks I will not have as much access to the internet, but I will try to get to a computer when I can and keep the updates going. Miss you all!