Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Unexpected Guest

April 28, 2013. Woo! I emerged and my Doña wasn't upset! I met a few new people, she laughed at me when I said yes, I had been sleeping that whole time, and asked if I wanted bread and coffee. Yessss!
Can I just say that I hate how close the words for beer and cherry are. Cerveza vs cereza. Por que one of my Doña's daughters popped in and asked if I wanted a cerveza. I think. To which I said no due to my physical state still at that point ;P But. She could have said cereza as in cherry juice and if I turned that down, I'd be pissed haha.
I was in my room all morning but that's okay. I need to keep studying my Spanish and there was an overwhelming amount of people here visiting today. But as I was listening to the insanity outside, Uncle John decided to join me here. I thought about how crazy our family is when we get together and how despite not taking part, or understanding much of anything outside my room, I felt like I was at home here with this craziness. It was as if we were having a family reunion at Grandma's house with beer, wine, food, love, games, laughter, and yelling. We would have shown up late. The boys and Emma would already be there waiting and Jonny would have texted one of us or called asking where we were. Uncle John's laughter would boom from the back room and there, we would sit together, drink, eat, talk, and play Golf. Grandma would play with intensity but also get up to wash dishes or answer the phone the entire time, two people would get blocks in one round, Mom would get pissed anytime she gave Dad an Ace or King, Sam would sneak sips of my alcoholic beverage, and Jake would be on Uncle John's lap. I'm not sure why I felt him here but I did. And as I let myself drown in that memory, a ukulele (sp?) started playing on the TV in the living room. And though it wasn't, it sounded like that Hawaiian song that was originally in his slide show for his wake... Only proving to me that the feeling of his presence was in fact, him. I love you, Uncle John. I hope I'm making you proud here thus far. Keep looking out for me? Help from above is always appreciated. I miss you everyday.
I ate lunch, headed to the Internet house and wasn't able to post much because it was too slow. I'll probably go back some time this week since we leave Monte Plata this Saturday ( !!! D: ). But! Susan was able to put movies on my iPad so I now have Bridesmaids, Twister, Matilda, and Goldfinger. Win! That's like a perfect mix of movies and I'm going to be watching them a TON in the next two years haha. Bridesmaids for when I need to laugh until I have to pee. Twister for when I need an adrenaline shot. Matilda for when I need to believe in myself a little more. And Goldfinger for when I need to get pumped up! And I already started with Bridesmaids tonight :). I got home and my Doña's family was still all here and outside. I feel like I should have tried to interact but I couldn't muster up the courage... I just have to remind myself that it's okay and that when I get to my community it'll be different and that's where it will matter. I care a lot about my Doña here but I'm trying not to stress myself out trying to be perfect... I only had 5 weeks here with a limited level of Spanish and I will have 2 years somewhere else with fluency (eventually). Okay, there was my rant out loud (posted publicly) to try and convince myself that being in my room all day was fine haha. These are the times when I miss being able to get a pep talk from family or friends so I make due in my own head :P
Buenas noches!

Fulano? Thank you.

April 23, 2013. Today we had Pull-outs and we decided to focus on the vowels. We read the story, "Un Pato En Bicicleta" and we put up the title in big letters on the wall. They first had to find the vowels in the title and stand by them to show us what they knew. Then we had mirrors to play with the shape of their mouths when they say each vowel. And then some fun sheets to practice. I think it went well! We had extra time so we let them color unnecessary things but they enjoyed it and I enjoyed watching them relax. Some teachers came in and took pictures of us doing our dínamica and alphabet practice and our group work. Wish I could see those but also know why they took them! Lol
Afterwards, we had a meeting with a parent (who had no idea why she was there), two teachers and us volunteers about how we're going to change the physical ambience of the school in some way. We decided to paint a globe with the kids' handprints coloring in the continents, the alphabet, and phrases ("valores") that the school decides on a wall that you see as soon as you walk in. I'm super excited for this and we will start tomorrow! Hold your breath for pictures!
Lunch followed and my host mom again pumped me up by saying "Yo soy una Dominicana buena!!" She added the buena part today :D I studied in my room until Spanish which was only an hour for me. At 3pm, we headed to the school to set up for the PRESENTATION!
It ended up getting pushed to 5:15pm because the second tanda didn't even end until 5 and we were supposed to start at 4:30. But! Almost 30 teachers showed up as promised! Crazy! And I think it went really well. They participated, volunteered, and seemed genuinely happy at the end. We got lots of hugs and cheek kisses on the way out. I told my story about my little one (aquí, Fulano!) that caused me lots of problems back in student teaching. I explained how positive words ended up being exactly what he needed and not the scolding that my cooperating teacher had suggested. I tried my best to move, use my hands, act out his behaviors and my emotions while remembering my memorized speech with the proper grammar and vocabulary... The teachers nodded, made sounds of agreement, and gave me an applause at the end! Ah! Haha after all the trouble I had with that munchkin, I just want to go back and squeeze him so tight for giving me a challenge which turned into a triumph and lesson to share with another world. Fulano? Wherever you are now, thank you. I will never forget you and what you taught me. It truly is your greatest struggles that become your greatest victories.
I wanted to run afterwards (or get a damn drink to celebrate!) but it ended up being later than we had anticipated. Samuel came to support us and suggested we just go for a walk instead. It was a perfect suggestion. We walked to new parts of town that I had not seen thus far. It's so easy to stick to the same roads and I didn't realize the monotony of it all until I saw new faces, new houses, another baseball field, different colors, and heard different sounds. I was able to come down from the anxiety of the presentation and then the excitement of it ending and soak in this place that I feel so comfortable calling home. I also felt a bit motivated to write so when I made it back, I sat on the porch and put pen to paper. Wasn't my best work but I felt like I accomplished something since it's been a while since I've done that. I just feel at peace today despite the craziness of it all. As they say here for feelings like this, "Estoy tranquilo." Perfect.
I ate eggs and potatoes for dinner, had the house to myself for two hours, showered with running water, and watched my novellas. Y ahora? Buenas noches.

STOP SCREECHING ALREADY

April 22, 2013. Training today was about behavior change which was actually quite fascinating. Then a gentleman from the Ministry of Education came to talk about PTAs here in the DR. Not going to lie, I tuned out most of that. And of course, Raini asked me what percentage of his talk I think I understood. And then she goes, "50%?! That's good for you!" Uh...thanks Raini? Lol
Lunch followed and then, Spanish class. Which actually turned into practice for our presentation. Después, Susan and I made a few copies for our pull-outs tomorrow and headed to another group's presentation. And it was wonderful!! I decided there that I needed to completely memorize my part so that's what I've been working on all night (hence why this blog is gonna be super short). I think I have it down though!
But anyways, after that we headed to the Multi Uso and played a game of kickball! It was awesome cuz the Dominicans had never heard of it. Super fun :). I then ran some more with a few friends and worked on abdominales (Woo! Easy new word!).
I got home late but of course, my Doña didn't mind. Her son asked about my day, where we played kickball, and if there are novellas in the states. Haha I then told him I like them because they help me with my Spanish which they thought was funny. But it's true! Mi mamá also pointed out a raña and said "Look!" And I said, "¡Oh mira! ¡Mi amigo!" She told her son that I was afraid of them and he laughed at me. But I defended myself and said that I totally wasn't afraid! I just don't like it when they're in the water I need to shower with... Lol
On that note, I showered, ate dinner, had to call 4 different numbers to try and get Nate to call me back, talked to him, and then crawled in my bed to practice my speech until I fell asleep! But there's an awful screeching animal of some sort outside that won't stop (Nate! What the hell is it??) so I decided to write this to wait him out. Except now I'm out of things to say and he's still going strong... Ay Dios mio. Buenas noches.

A Chest Hug :)

April 21, 2013. I woke up around 8am and showered since I didn't last night. My host mom made me some sort of natural blended drink out of lettuce (but it was orange?). It was okay... She said that she had worked for 16 years with a woman who was vegetarian and "didn't eat nothing!" Lol but one day the woman was making an all-natural drink and my host mom said, "Let me try that!" And loved it! So bam! She made it for me because she said it's good to clean out your system. Hopefully she's right because I'm not supposed to be eating raw lettuce here (though I already have been with her haha)! Not my favorite drink thus far but that's okay; you can't win them all.
At 10am I was supposed to go to the park with a few neighbor kids but I decided against it. A lot of running and sweating sounded like the opposite of what I needed. I studied and practiced my speech instead (Mira below for a view of my hand-made materials thus far). I missed my Doña's grand kids but I also enjoyed doing nothing for a few hours each day and having quiet (although the damn roosters will never let me have complete peace). My Doña came in at one point and said she was going to the store. She tucked my head into her chest and hugged me (like you do, Gram!) while petting my head saying, "Aye mi hija" (my daughter) hahaha. I told her I loved her and she said it back ;).
She made me Sancocho for lunch which of course was phenomenal. She said (for reasons I don't understand) that it would be better for me to have instead of rice, beans, meat, and salad all separate. Most of that is in Sancocho (plus way more) but hey, if it made her feel better ;). After, I continued to study while a gorgeous little 3 year old popped in and out of my room. I gave her crayons and paper to play with but she totally enjoyed just carrying the crayons around on a paper tray rather than using it to actually color. Lol so precious.
At 2 I headed out for the Multi Uso with my group to work on our presentation for Tuesday. I think we're basically ready! One last run through with Barnel tomorrow so he can edit it all and we're off! We were there till 6pm and luckily (sorta) we missed the heavy rains. A huge part of a tree had actually fallen over in one of the neighborhoods he walked by. Crazy to think since this was nothing like hurricane season. Now that will be an adventure!
Anyways, I got home and my host mom was at church. But she left me the house key! Woo! Lol I just sat on my bed, listened to music, totally sang out loud which I'm sure the neighbors heard, and played games on my iPad. I loved every minute of it. Then Jen called! We chatted for a while and my Doña came home and made me fried cheese and fried plantains for dinner. Mmmmm. Oh! And fresh piña juice although she was upset that the piña didn't have a lot of flavor. But... It tasted delicious to me! Haha and definitely made up for that orange lettuce drink from earlier today :P She also literally ran into the kitchen to grab my dishes from my hands before I made it to the counter. Lol! I said she runs way too fast for me and we laughed together.
After I showered, I watched a show "Revelaciones" with her, tried to kill a cockroach with my sneaker but it ran too fast under my closet, and scurried into the safety of my mosquitera before it decided to come back out. Must get over this jitteriness (is that even a word?) with those damn things. I haven't even come close to seeing the last of them. My first kill will be an epic day, I can tell you that. Buenas noches!

Ha! I AM Dominican!

April 20, 2013. I think one of the best ways to wake up here is with my Doña softly calling my name and asking how I felt. Then once I finally got my ass out of bed, she had coffee waiting for me and told me that I'm like a real Dominican because I wrote my note to her last night perfectly! Hahaha "Yo me acosté. ¡Buenas Noches y hasta mañana!" I heard her come in last night and chuckle as she read it out loud. That made me happy :D She has it hanging on the wall next to the dining room table; as if I was a kid again and I got 100% on my test in school so my mom hung it on the fridge to show it off :).
She sang all morning and I loved it... I just chilled in my room writing and reading and having her comforting voice praise the big guy upstairs was heavenly (ha).
But I literally spent all morning playing games, scripting my speech, and studying Spanish. Perfect. I then was able to eat lunch! She kept checking on me to make sure I felt okay :). And cleared my dishes because she didn't want me "to work too hard" when I'm sick. Haha I told her I needed to leave at 2 to work on my project and presentation for Tuesday and then covered my face and yelled "ahhhh!" with nerves cuz she knows it's in Spanish and in font of a bunch if teachers. She laughed and just goes, "No! Because you will close your eyes and say to yourself, 'I am Dominican!' and you will do great!" Haha Why is she so wonderful?? :D
Also, a religious man came by and spoke of some girl that lives somewhere that might be missing? No sé. But of course, my host mom fed him and he sat down and talked to me. In English! Haha but I answered him in Spanish ;). He lived in the states for a while, was born in Haiti, but came back to do missionary work here. He asked if I was Dominican (that's a first!) and then asked why I was here. I told him I was a volunteer with the Peace Corps and he said he had just met Samuel the other day. He went on and on about The Lord and his good works and such which was nice but he wants us volunteers to somehow help him? Not sure what to do there... He gave me his contact info (like name, address, email, and organization) so yea.. :/ One of those moments. I'll talk to Samuel at some point and see what was said to him. Most of this group isn't even religious and it's not like we have money here so yea... Hence the title, "volunteer." Lol
At 2 I headed out and stayed at the wifi house for about 3 1/2 hours. Oops? Haha but my man is at my house for the weekend and I got to FaceTime with them all! What an incredible hour that was. The craziness, their faces, meeting Sam's certain someone (;P), and having a moment with each if them. I love you guys so much. And Nate again, you have no idea what that means to me; driving out to be with my family while I'm gone? Ugh. You're amazing. Enjoy my bed and my room! I miss it.
When I got home my host mom was gone and she didn't leave the house key in our secret spot. Odd. But almost immediately after this realization, Samuel called and asked if I wanted to hang out. Perfect! So I went to his house, we sat on the front porch, chatted, and drank coffee. It was lovely. After an hour or so we headed to my house and my Doña was home. She apologized over and over again because she had forgotten to leave the key haha. Samuel then taught me how to play Casino which I guess is pretty popular here. I love it! The scoring system is strange but I won! I ate dinner afterwards and headed across the dirt road to Keegan and Caitlin's. Ivette, Andrea, and Dallas joined shortly after and we chatted, played BS and Catch Phrase while listening to James Taylor and others like him. How wonderfully perfect. Oh and the weather was mild all day with some rain and I think I heard one thunder clap! Yup, it was totally perfection wrapped up in 15 hours. And now I'll maybe have some good dreams to tie the bow?? *crosses fingers* Buenas noches!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Too Shall Pass!

April 19, 2013. Today I had eggs for breakfast but scrambled and I think mixed with some sort of salsa? And plátanos y yuca. Delicious but sat heavy in my stomach. At training we worked on our presentation for Tuesday. And what presentation is this you may be asking me from way up there? Well, with our group at the school (Susan, Caitlin, Keegan, and I), we are having a charla (workshop) about classroom management. And we have 30 teachers signed up for it... Oh god. Haha. But! I really love our plan. I know I explained it a bit already but here it is in more detail (skip here if bored!) First, we are going to have brief introductions and a review of the day. After, we have two skits; one as an example of good classroom management, and one as an example of bad classroom management. That should be pretty fun and funny (and doable for my Spanish level!) :P. Then, we will lead a discussion about what they noticed and write what they say on charla paper. We have created posters for the walls in the good example skit so hopefully all that we incorporated into it will be noticed. Next we are going to split up into groups of 4-5 teachers and they will make their own charla paper with things that they have used or seen that are successful. This way, we're not coming into their school as Americans with limited Spanish and just telling them what to do. We will share ideas and when our group is up, we can then share what we know. I'm excited to use my example of Pepe (a child I struggled with when I was student teaching) but I need to do some serious scripting! Ah! Anyways, so yea. We'll share and wrap up with snacks and questions. Also, throughout we have a raffle system so when a teacher participates or volunteers for anything, they will get a ticket as one example of how to motivate children. At the end we have stickers for every teacher that has a ticket (hopefully all of them!). I like this set up because it relieves a lot of the pressure on us, is participatory, and hopefully eliminates any cultural offenses.
We worked until lunch but I didn't end up eating anything. My stomach is doing some funky things (not diarrhea yet, thank god!) so I just couldn't. My poor host mom thought it was her food and that was a challenge trying to explain that it wasn't! But she understood me. I rested before Spanish and after she asked me if it was intestinal (don't think so), I headed out lol. Spanish was short since we had a test on literacy and classroom management at 4pm. It was pretty easy and ended historically with Ivette and Maegan locking themselves in the bathroom. We had to fetch a guy that works at the Multi Uso for the key. That didn't end up working because the deadbolt was messed up so Greg kicked open the door, breaking the hinges. Haha So good.
I returned home after that episode and my host mother pulled me aside and asked if what I was feeling was menstruation (sorry if that grosses anyone out) haha She was so cute about it; pulling me away from her son and Alfredo and whispering the word! And she just went on and on about how she cares so much about me and doesn't want me to be feeling bad :D. So much love here.
I ended up heading out anyways to the house of the teacher who opened her wifi for us volunteers. I got to see my munch and Dad! Ugh, love you both so much. And thank you for the prayers, they're definitely being answered! I'm so incredibly blessed here! And even though I'm feeling awful, this too shall pass (hahaha) and too many other awesome things surround me every day to care.
Around 7:30pm we headed home. On the way, a woman actually came up to Caitlin and I and asked for a favor with her adorable baby girl... She needed milk. I honestly didn't have money... But damn it I feel awful... Anyways, I got home just as my host mom was leaving for church. She asked for the 100th time if I was sure I didn't want dinner (in case you were wondering, yes I was sure). She left, I watched a bit of Dulce Amargo but decided to shower and head to bed. I just want to sleep this off. And I'm a bit chilly and loving it. For the first time outside of the mountain trip, I put my long sleeve shirt on! Woo! Buenas noches!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Música Cuando Yo La Necesito

April 18, 2013. Today was our second pull-out day. We played Ninja for our dínamica! Haha we then had a worksheet that had the alphabet with the letters in upper and lower case written on it. But there were blanks and some letters were missing. Let's just say... That didn't go well. Especially for the first group. With the second group, Susan worked on it more as a group and that helped, plus they are older. After, we played, "Me Voy De Viaje" (I'm going on a trip). We went around and they had to come up with things to bring on their trip that started with a letter of the alphabet (in order, of course). I'm so glad I made fichas with words and pictures on them because #1 they struggled big time thinking of words and #2 they loved them! Haha for most of them, I would give them my ficha (barco for Bb, casa for Cc and so on) and that helped them to think of more. It was like an exciting mystery to find out what word I had :). So no, our original plan (that we made up this morning) didn't play out and the sheet didn't go so well but I think they ended up enjoying the session.
I did get frustrated again though. I understand why we do this. This is training after all... But with people like me, where the Spanish just isn't there, I'm not able to do or say all that I want. Like many other things here, I'm not able to give my all yet; whether due to a lack of understanding or a lack of words on my end. One child struggled today and the kids were talking over him or for him and I couldn't figure out how to tell them to stop and to encourage him in every way possible because I saw that he was frustrated... We're working with actual kids that need actual help. And yet I feel like we're just using them for practice. Again, doesn't feel fair. I can't be the best teacher, I can't plan the best lessons, and I can't facilitate their learning in the best way I know how because of my current lack of language.
Anyways, afterwards we had a session on differentiated instruction. Woo! I do love Gardner's 8 Multiple Intelligences but when I took the test at the end to see which one I was most, I had like 3 tie for first and 3 more for a close second haha. I have no clue how I learn best still. Oh well!
Lunch followed and then Spanish. He actually had music for us today! And we went through lyrics, learned vocabulary and "palabras en las calles" (words in the streets). Haha. And he likes Adele! So while we worked on a worksheet, we sang along to "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You!" Loved every minute of it despite not being able to concentrate ;). He then said he just got a ton of Spanish music and will transfer it to us if we want! Yes!! I've been wanting so much music from here! He played Romeo and I saw what he looks like. Um...Nate? If there is a Dominican out there that you need to worry about... It's him. If I met him...Hahahaha yea. ;) Love you! In all seriousness though, it's incredible what music can do for your emotional and mental state. And it's such a simple thing to have. It was there, just when I needed it.
I didn't play much volleyball today but that was okay. Instead, I ran a ton with Ivette, Maegan, and a Dominican named Andy. He's been their personal trainer and I wanted to join them this time. He played music while we ran and him and I sang along to Eminem haha. He then worked us hard with arm and core stuff. I totally expected him to be a stereotypical guy here but he's not. He actually would look away when we would do certain exercises, told Maegan she should wear longer shorts so as not to give guys here the wrong idea, and watched out for us when other guys threw out piropos to us lol. Love it. Him and I did pepper a bit with the volleyball which was wonderful too. I will definitely be joining the again tomorrow. A free personal trainer, Mom! Jealous? ;) Gotta keep working off all this damn rice, beans, starches, and fried plantains or yuca.
When I got home my host mom asked if I was going anywhere because I looked like I was walking in a hurry and with a purpose. I just said, "Nope! I just really need to shower!" She laughed at me pretty hard with that one haha. So I went to shower and what was there to greet me this time? A raña (I think that's how you spell it but I don't feel like leaving my mosquitera to look it up-see below) in the bucket water. They're like little gecko thingys. I was already undressed and had no clue what to do. But voila! The knob that I test out everyday to see if running water will come out, actually worked!! So I got a somewhat real shower AND got to avoid the raña! I emerged after and told my Doña and Alfredo saved the day by getting him out! Oh and I had thought he was dead since he didn't move while I showered but he was alive when Alfredo took him out. Haha I visibly had the heebie jeebies (oh my god is that how you spell that??) and they both got a kick out of that :P I'm so glad I'm the source of entertainment for them :D
I worked on some homework, we watched novellas, I interacted much more during the shows than normal which felt good, and now I'm off to bed. Buenas noches!

This Crazy Fast-Changing World

April 17, 2013. So last night I had a baseball dream (first sign of becoming a Dominican?!?). There were tons of people of all ages playing and watching. My team was up to bat and it was my turn. But the pitcher wouldn't pitch for me because he didn't want me to hit a home run. He threw it behind my back (somehow still curving into the catcher's glove) the first time so I walked. I remember being pissed about that lol. The next time I was up to bat, he threw it right and I got a home run, running all the bases through a maze of houses (?). I woke up and had no idea where I was. I felt as if there was snow outside, and totally thought I was late for work! What?? Haha and TONIGHT is Malaria Miercoles, not last night!
What a way to start the day! And a day I was pumped for! We left at 8:30 this morning and headed out on a bus to a hotel about 20 minutes away for training. And who was there?? Our long lost CED group! Ah! It was so good to see all of them again! Another strange feeling was feeling that CBT has flown by thus far but then when I saw their faces, it felt like I hadn't seen them in years hahaha. We mingled and chatted and it took a long time to get us going into training. And what a joy training was. We had our second sexual assault class, a bystander class, an STI class, alcoholism, and first aid. It was a rough day. I may or may not have come close to throwing a punch... At a face... A real person's face...But! I also was in a skit and got to say (with a hat on backwards), "Man, I can't WAIT to tap that ass!" In front of my teachers and Jennifer, my training director. But it's okay cuz Washington sent the skit scripts, I didn't make it up ;). And after, we got to hang out for 2 hours and go swimming in a pool at the hotel! And drink chocolate milk! Ugh, so wonderful. And quite interesting to see what they've been up to. Their group sounds much more "exciting" than ours haha. It actually was really hard to say goodbye.. Two hours was not enough for sure but we think we'll be getting together one more time before CBT ends. I have to say, going out into our community (though I'm still super excited for it!) will be a lot more difficult than I realized. These people have become family here and we will have seen each other everyday (at least in the education group) for three months. And have talked about things that normal friends in the states wouldn't have discussed this early (bowel movements, past horrors, deep-rooted emotions, etc). And then just like that we are going to be thrown into a community where it will only be Dominicans. No more being able to have a sanity check and talk in English with a friend, no more collaborating for daily projects, no more running and doing crunches with a group... Phew, what a crazy fast-changing world we're living in...
We got back to Monte Plata around 7:15pm and my host mom went on about how I said I'd be home in the afternoon and leaving around 2pm so she had made me lunch. Now that would be a normal day yes... But I definitely explained yesterday that I had class all day today and that I wouldn't be home for lunch. So... Yay language! I probably said something funny that got misconstrued. She was fine, I think, and left me to go to church with six plates at the table for dinner. It was kind of nice being alone for a bit. I ate, worked on materials for our pull-outs tomorrow (although we have no set plan still...), watched some novellas, and got attacked by ants! Like, a lot.
After, I went to shower. When I was done, I opened the curtain and a huge cockroach was on the wall. I grabbed my towel, wrapped myself up, ran out to my room, and brought my camera back in to take a picture for my munchkin. After slowly opening the curtains as my heart raced like crazy and I held my breath, I realized it was gone. Defeated but possibly also relieved, I put my camera back, got dressed and went back in to brush my teeth. This time I went through the curtains at a normal pace and what was on the wall just above the sink? The damn cockroach. I may have let out a little squeal with a hop backwards but I tried yet again to grab my camera (you better know how much I love you, little man!). As soon as I headed back, however, my Doña came home and I pretended to be doing nothing. Now I'm in bed with un-brushed teeth and okay with it :). Buenas noches!






A Detachable Ass

April 16, 2013. Woo! We did it! The kids were great but it's interesting to see their levels. They enjoyed the paper that shared who they were. A boy in the second group refused to finish up in the time given because he loves to draw haha. I was okay with that. We then practiced the letters in their names and the sounds. They got a kick out of the goofy dances I did with the letter sounds. We then played a game where we split the group up into two teams and they raced to put the alphabet in order with the fichas we had. The first group caught on that there was an alphabet on the wall, damn. Haha I covered it up for the next group. In each group there was a student that definitely seemed a bit more behind the rest. I think for Thursday we're going to set up our lesson so that one of us works with 3 students while the other is with 1 and we'll rotate. That way, we can get some one on one time with them and hide the fact that one might need more help than the others. The kids loved our funny applauses and our dínamica so we definitely need to keep doing those. I'm pretty happy right now about this. Granted, I still want to be there more because I know our time there is not enough to really make a difference. But it went really well today despite that fact and it was the first real day working with them! They enjoyed the hands-on part big time and I have a general idea of a few things that each student needs. Ugh. I could go on but I'll end here. I just can't wait to be in my site so I can start doing these things. I was told I'll be able to do teacher training AND pull-outs with students so I'm so pumped for that. I'll get to have my own mini classroom, even if it's in my house haha. Aaahhhhhh cannnnooootttt waaaaiiitttt. So impatient. And the fact that we still don't know where we're going to be for the next two years of our life, who we will be near and what kind of work we'll be doing? Aye! Peace Corps really trains you to be patient! Wish it was working... ;).
At lunch, Jerson played with my fichas. He totally loved spelling words (like the names of people in his family and other cosas) and was good at it! I am quite confused though since they apparently go to the same school that I work at. But I swear the last time I asked where they lived they said in the capital haha. Damn language barriers.
So then speaking of our placements... In Spanish, we each had an interview with Ann, our Placement Director! Soooo! I'll be working with the NGO, American Chamber of Commerce (need to do some research!). They've wanted an experienced volunteer for this project but it hasn't worked out yet so she's excited for me. Apparently their project needs help? haha At first, I will be working solely in my community but then I will be able to work in schools in the zones around me with the NGO (!!!). Perfection. I won't be near other volunteers like mostly everyone else but I also won't be more than an hour and a half away from a bigger area (como un ciudad). I cannot tell you how amazing that all sounds for many varying reasons. I'm struggling to contain my excitement but I must since I don't know where it is yet, I'm not leaving yet, and there's always the possibility that it'll change.
Phew! Afterwards, I ran a lot around the outside of the play. The terrain was a bit rough but it was beautiful. I didn't play volleyball but that was okay because the group was not ideal today. I went home, showered, ate dinner, and headed out with Raini to the house of a teacher that wants to share her wifi with us volunteers. She had been a host family in previous years but she works both tandas (morning and afternoon sessions in school) this year so she couldn't. We literally can go whenever we want and sit in her gallery and use her internet. :D So I got the password and am going to pass it out tomorrow!
Samuel's birthday party followed! It was a mix of us and Dominicans and it was a ton of fun. I totally drank straight chocolate milk and am damn proud of it. Oh, and have I mentioned that Dominicans can dance? Like seriously, it's as if their ass is detached from the rest of their body and they can do whatever they want with it. I want my ass to be detachable. Is that horrible to say? Sorry family back home... but it's incredible. Haha I'm feelin good. Buenas noches.

My First Broadway Appearance Is Coming Up!

April 15, 2013. Today my Doña went across the street to make my breakfast. The poor thing. She said she had bought $50 (pesos) worth of gas before I arrived and spent $30 the day I arrived. And she's out already. She went on and on about how she got robbed and how there are hardly any good people here to rely on for things like that. Her sandwich maker also decided to stop working and wouldn't heat up haha. So she made my coffee and mushed and heated my sandwich across the way. What a woman.
Today was all about classroom management. Pretty awesome but we have to do a charla (workshop) for the teachers at the schools we're working at about it. So... Do a presentation in Spanish? Aye Dios Mio. Luckily, there's 4 of us, it's more of a discussion and sharing than a lecture, and it's only 40 minutes long. We met today to start planning and I'm actually pretty pumped about it now. To start, we're going to do two skits where we act out a model classroom with good management and then a bad example. Haha can't wait to be an obnoxious student! Or maybe the bad teacher? Either way, it'll be awesomeness cuz I've learned that my Spanish is way more convincing when I'm acting. Maybe I should just pretend to be someone else for the next two years? My first Broadway appearance but behind the curtains?? I mean, there's certainly enough curtains here since doors are too expensive...
Anyways! We then really centered the charla around the teachers so that they will be doing most of the sharing and talking while we will guide it and actually be modeling and applying appropriate classroom management skills within the workshop. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!
Lunch was delicious as usual but my host mom went on a pretty bad rant about how her granddaughter eats nothing. Meat? She doesn't eat it. Salad? She doesn't eat it. What does her body have to grow on? Nothing. So basically her body is going to die and it's her fault. She was yelling loud and talking really fast to me while Noemi just sat there silent. I didn't know what to say so I just nodded... On a positive note, I had fried yuca and it was incredible.
Spanish was fun, learned two new tenses that I knew before but needed the refresher for sure. Volleyball was after but first I ran for a solid 20 minutes. Don't make fun, that's impressive for me :). After, I started walking home and Raini drove by so she picked me up and gave me a bola (free ride). She had just gone into the city and picked up a few things from the PC Office. And I got mail! My wonderful family made me a little book and they all wrote to me on Easter! My dad wrote me a poem, my munchkins took a picture on the steps with a sign that says, "We Miss You Julie!" And I got Tony's address and picture! Ugh, so good. I love that I have more to hang in my home when I eventually live on my own. And of course it means the world that you all thought of me that day. I love and miss every single one of you. Talking to you guys tonight was wonderful, as usual :).
After I ate my mashed potatoes and some sort of sausage, I headed out for a charla on relationships in the DR given by our PCVL Amber and another volunteer. This included being careful in your site about what you do with people of the opposite sex in order to protect your reputation. Inviting someone in to your house even for just a drink on a hot day will be viewed as more by your community. In some places simply walking down the street with a person of the opposite sex your age means you're married. And so on. Also how you act, as a woman, with men and how that can be viewed was discussed. And again, I was reminded that I need to basically change my personality if I want to stay out of trouble... Lol sweet. It's all good though. I just need to be colder? Oh I'll figure it out later :P. The convo then turned to dating Dominicans so I happily tuned out and ate chips and salsa and drank my Coca Cola. Love you, babe :). If you come visit though, you'll have to be my husband. Can you handle that? ;). And sorry I couldn't talk earlier! Hopefully tomorrow will work out better.
But it's time for bed! Tomorrow we get to implement our first pull-out lesson! Wish me luck! Though... by the time this will be posted, it'll be over already. So... Thanks for the prayers! They worked! haha. Buenas noches.

With A Simple Hello

April 14, 2013. I woke up late (almost 9am!) and told my host mother I just felt lazy this morning. She laughed and said she's up at 7am everyday. I know... Haha I hung out in my room for a few hours reading my children's Spanish books and organizing my papers. I felt a bit dizzy (been that way for a few days now and unsure as to why) so I told the kiddos I couldn't play much.
I had something so similar to polenta for lunch today Gram! Totally the same texture, was made from corn, and had a red sauce and ground beef with it. It was delicious! And of course, I had it again for dinner because I raved about it :P
After lunch I played cards, went to buy gum with the munchkins, and watched as Jerson went fishing in the filthy water in his underwear with fishing line and a hook he found and worms that he dug up in the mud. Crazy. Noemi and I sat and chatted on the porch a bit. She then... Decided to do my nails and hair... I can't believe I'm going to post the pictures below. I must love you all and not care one bit about my appearance anymore. Ha. Okay, so my nails were done with play dough. My hair, she did in pig tails and then decided I looked like "something in Spanish" which totally had something to do with a Chinese woman... So. She asked for my makeup and added some...things on my cheeks. Just see for yourself. Haha my host mother got a kick out of it. I flipped my hair around and spoke with an obnoxious high-pitched ditsy voice about how pretty I was. Haha every Dominican that walked by seemed to love it too :P
We then played outside some more, I busted out my iPad to show the pictures and ended up showing them games. Which lasted quite awhile and resumed again at night. Haha oops. But they enjoyed it :). Munchkin and Dad? Jerson LOVES the Mayhem game! I told them that it was one of your guys' favorites.
I'm trying to think of what else happened today (outside of lots of people coming over to buy clothes or shoes from the giant box!) but it was really just lots of hanging out with the kids. Lots of cards. Lots of running. Lots of complete confusion but also lots of understanding (more than last weekend!). Lots of iPad games and arguing over who's turn it was. And lots of sweating; como siempre. This weekend was infinitely better than the last. The more I think about it, the more I realize I may have gone crazy on the weekends if they never came over. I love my host mother but we would have done nothing but watch TV. Hooray for them saving my sanity! It's amazing how fast you fall in love with these people. Honestly. These kids now have a special place in my heart along with mi mamá aquí and I'm already dreading the day I have to leave them... It's also amazing how much the people here light up with a simple "Hola" or "Buenas." Totally a random side note, sorry, but en serio, they stare and keep a straight if not stern face as us Americans walk by. But as soon as you say hello and smile, their eyes lift and a wide smile spreads as they say hello back. It's a beautiful and simple thing that makes me really happy :).
The night ended with a phone call from my baby girl and I couldn't have been happier. We actually had time to chat, just us girls. I missed that and miss her like Woa. Thanks for calling beautiful. Wish we could do it more but those brief calls mean the absolute world now. I'm so proud of everything you're doing and feeling (and I mean, everything). Keep becoming the incredible woman I already know you are!
Un chin corto but I think the pictures do enough in this post... Buenas noches, everyone.







¡Yo Soy Yulis!

April 13, 2013. It's amazing the paranoia that sets in with a language barrier. Is she still mad at me for last night? Was she mad at me in the first place? They lowered their voices, are they talking about me? What are they saying? Should I be talking more? But I have no idea what they're saying... Yup, my morning right there haha. Not only are there language barriers, but then there's the cultural aspect where I could have offended her without having any clue that I did something. Especially here when they won't say directly what's wrong if there is something wrong. And I think I'm officially sick. Nothing serious, just annoying and I sound like a man. It's hard to focus on translating everything when my head is cloudy.
But enough complaining! (Whoop! se fue la luz 9:25pm right now) My Doña's grand kids invited me to play cards (yes!) this morning. We played "Tres y Dos" which was the game Paola taught me! Except here, they play that Aces are wild. I liked that :). Neomi wrote down my name to keep score and wrote, Yulis. Haha it totally makes sense. A lot of times, they pronounce their /y/ like our /j/ and they always swallow the /s/ at the end if words. So Julie spelled Dominican is: Yulis. I think I might change my name! :D lol We then went outside and played tag in the yard of the neighbor's and eventually made our way back to that park. This time, I brought my camera and they took TONS of pictures (see sample below). We swung again, played more tag, and they made me pose for more pictures with flowers and such lol. Around noon (llegó la luz 9:31pm! not so bad!), we came back and ate lunch together (I had some sort of amazing lasagna thing. Soooo good). Another weird feeling is being thirsty all the time. I'm officially a fish, Daddy, drinkin' all the water pero it never feels like enough! Haha
We played a few more card games but then I had to head to the Multi Uso to prepare more materials while the resources were still available! I finished my sand paper vowels, made a dry erase board (with handwriting lines on the back) out of cardboard, white paper, markers, and a laminate sheet. Susan and I then discussed what we should do for our pull-outs on Tuesdays. I really hated the idea of busting into alfabetización right away with the kids. So, we made a sheet that says at the top, "¿Quién Soy?" And then, "Mi nombre es____" Big space in the middle and then "Tengo ___ años." Each child will write their name, age, and the draw pictures of who they are; what they like to do, favorite colors, their family, etc. Susan and I will do one as well and then we can share them! This way we can break the ice, get to know them a little, and see if they're able to write those simple things. We then have activities planned just centered around the alphabet alone; to see where they're at with names and sounds of the letters but nothing more. And they will be game-like and fun! Woo!
Afterwards, Susan and I went to a hotel restaurant to steal their wifi and just bought jugo de piña ;). No clue if that was okay but the guy didn't kick us out! I SAW MY PARENTS' FACES!! Crazy to think it's been over a month since I've seen them! And I saw Lauren Murray and her beautiful baby girl!! Ugh. So good. I hope the function was incredible (though I already know it was), it's so weird to think I'm missing it!
Once I updated the blog and such (no more withdrawal for at least a day or two, right?? :P), I headed back, ate dinner, played cards, and shared my grandma's cookies with the kids. They went nuts for them! I tried to ask which they liked best (sugar or banana) but they all said both and wouldn't pick one! Haha your love is being spread across the ages and cultures Gram :).
Then suddenly a bunch of grandsons of Mi Doña pulled up in a massive truck. They literally came in, attack hugged my host mother, told her they were hungry, ate a ton of rice, and left. Oh, and according to my little 10 year old, one of the grandsons is in love with me after 30 seconds. Because he gave me, "the eyes" which I failed to see hahahaha (I know Nate, I know).. They came and went but left a huge box here. It was filled with clothes, shoes, and bed sheets to sell. My Doña wasn't impressed with a few of them though and complained that no one would want to buy some because of the quality. I'm pretty sure it came from the states but how she got it and how she is going to sell it remains a mystery for now.
As we were sorting through it all, Nate, Bob, Amanda, Steve, and Ryan called!! And Amanda, you were right, the tears came after. And thank you Nate for reiterating that I sound like a man right now, I know. Goodness that was such a wonderful surprise! They were playing Bean Farmer and I'm completely jealous. Love you guys. Thank you so much for thinking of me and calling :).
After, I took a shower and got a spoonful of honey (totally not going to forget that word now!) from my Doña since I couldn't stop coughing. And tomorrow she is going to buy me a lemon to go with it :). She's the best. I've heard stories about Doña's and pushing Vick's Vapor Rub made into a tea onto volunteers...So, honey? Possibly with lemon? I'll take it! Buenas noches.

















BAM!

April 12, 2013. Today we had a volunteer come in and do a training on making didactic materials with limited resources. It was pretty amazing. We brainstormed tons of ideas from what to do with bottle caps, to charla paper, to bodies, to solamente a chalkboard (and more!). We then were able to make a few things so we could have something in hand to take to our sites. I now have a set of laminated flash cards with the lower case alphabet on one side and the upper case on the other, a vowel set made out of sand paper (for finger tracing), and a bit of homemade play dough. Win! It was so incredible to be able to be crafty again :). I can't wait to do more when I get to my site with random things I find or salvage!
Raini mentioned briefly at the end that this will be good for us for our pull-outs on Tuesday. But then gave no other details. As I was leaving, I asked if there were certain criteria for Tuesday and she then told me that we would have a group of 4-5 kids for the first hour and another for the second hour. So we had to plan for that and the child we tested Thursday was about the level of all of kids we would have. Um... I'm glad I asked then since Monday would have left no time to plan with Susan. Annoyed and frustrated but that's okay. Well figure it out. And they'll probably change the plans on Monday anyways. Haha
Lunch, Spanish, and the rains. What else is new? Volleyball? Nope, that's routine now too and I love it :). Oh! I got something new. After dinner I went to shower. The toilet seat was down so I lifted and BAM! A freaking frog jumped out of it! Like a damn Jack-in-the-Box. And ya'll know I hate those! Haha I ran out in my towel to get my camera so I could share with Jake but of course, it was gone when I returned. Though I had three people then in the bathroom with me looking for it while I was in my towel hahaha. I wonder how often they think to themselves as they shake their heads, "Those damn Americans." O:)
Us volunteers then had a night out, and boy was it needed. I got dressed, put money in my shorts, and the proceeded to change my shorts before I left. Which means, no money haha. Go me! Nate called as we were walking to the house we were having the get-together at. We chatted as a few of us drank chocolate milk on the corner since the party ended up being a no-chocolate-milk-zone. I miss him. Anyways, I may or may not have left after five minutes to get another milk and drank it on a bench with a few others while we played stupid games. We then ended up at a pretty empty bar (?) and chatted and played pool. Felt like Geneseo again! But a Dominican version? Lol I think I'm getting worse at writing these blogs...
My Doña might be upset with me.... I got home at 11:30pm. I had asked if there was an hour she would like me home and she said whenever... But it may have been one of those times where I needed to read her body language because her words weren't what she really felt. :/ feeling bad but also feeling good because I got to relax, drink, play pool, and hang out with my friends... Ugh. What a mix. But maybe I can sleep in tomorrow?? ;) Buenas noches!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cookies, Sancocho, and Rats

April 11, 2013. I'm actually kind of cold right now!! Woo! It's raining again and when I said that I almost couldn't cross the road to my Doña's house yesterday? I had no idea what I was talking about. It's completely flooded up to her house and my Toms are caked in mud now; there was no other way... Keegan came up with an incredible idea to have stakes for the bridge but have it connected with rope so that the bridge will rise with the water and won't get washed away. I also talked to Raini and she said I could use her truck to transport materials whenever I find them. Cory also thought to cut grooves with a machete (there are plenty of those here!) to help if the wood gets slippery. I talked to my host mom today and she said it's possible but I think she thinks I'm crazy lol. Oh well! This weekend, I'm gonna hike up in the woods by the Multi Uso and look for wood. Oh! Raini also said that she passes a mining place on the way back to the city and she will stop there sometime soon and ask if they'd be willing to give us big rocks that they don't want. That way we can have stepping stones on either side of the bridge since it's just mud. Granted, it's now covered in water but it'll at least be better for the majority of the year. That, and they shouldn't move at all with their weight so hopefully it'll be sustainable. I'm pumped and wish I could start now. But I have a feeling the rains are going to hold up progress for now. And lord only knows how long it will take for all this water to go away. Also, my Doña showed me all the places that flood in her house when the rains are bad and it's already started to do that... She said it can get so bad that her entire house will be flooded... Wish I knew how to fix that too...
Anyways. Today we implemented the standardized test with a child at the school. Susan proctored it while I kept time. It was awful. The boy is in third grade and he couldn't read most of the letters let alone words, and he struggled with sounds of letters as well. He tried so hard though. And got really excited when I would simply say things like, "Great job!" Or "Keep it up!" Even though it was when he was wrong... We didn't even finish the test because the last two sections would have been impossible for him to complete and he had already looked defeated earlier in the test. There was no point. So we stopped, I read a story for him which he enjoyed, and I gave him candy haha. Ugh. I just wish we could have had a day to hang out with the boy, develop rapport and not have our first encounter be a test. We're going to be working with him more and I just hope this didn't put a bad taste in his mouth for our days together. A lot of other people had the same experience though in that none if the children could read. I may have mentioned this already but here, you can't fail a child until the 4th grade. So even if they are supposed to be reading by the end of 1st grade and they're not, they still move to the 2nd grade. By the time struggling students are in 4th grade... They're exponentially behind the rest. I'd love to know who came up with that brilliant rule and where they live.
After that bit of a frustrating morning, I was rewarded with two things. First, COOKIES from my grandmother!! Aye Dios Mio Gram, you're insane!! It cost you a fortune to send those and while I'm currently mad at you... I cannot tell you how happy it made me. I shared the graham cracker ones with everyone at the training center and they LOVED them. All of them are still good, a month later!! Can you believe that?? The banana cookies are broken up a bit but sooooo rico. My host mother also loved them and I told her she has to like them because I need help eating them all. haha I told her that tomorrow I'm opening the other two kinds and she said, "Good, because I need to try those too." Haha And Gram? Your cookies are more valuable to me than any object that costs $1,000,000. And while I love your cinnamon rolls, please don't send those. I wouldn't have a way to heat them up! And I'm spoiled and don't like eating them any other way but perfection :). I love you, Gram. Thank you. Oh! And how the hell did you know I needed tissues?? Lol! Genius!
Phew! And second, my host mom made me Sancocho, a super popular dish here and I now know why. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's my new favorite meal here. I told my Doña that and she gave me more for dinner haha. Though like always, she said that I didn't eat anything after both meals.
Spanish was good and actually, I got some pretty exciting news. Lillian, our language director, came and held informal interviews with each of us individually. So during Spanish, she pulled me aside and we chatted for about 5 minutes. In that time-frame, she was somehow able to tell me that I was now at a level 4! I moved up one in a little over a month and I've got one more to go before May 15! Haha that felt pretty good, I guess :)
We actually beat the rains today on the way to the Multi Uso so this time, I was soaked in sweat instead of rain (ewww). But as soon as we got there it started to downpour again (hence the river next to my house now) and se fue la luz about an hour later. We made our way back home and that was when I talked to Raini about the bridge. And when I got my Toms muddy.
After dinner I worked on some homework, got to talk to Jen (!) and then got a text from Andrew saying, "So guess who switched host families?" Andrew, I hope you don't mind but I'm totally going to share a bit of your story here... Though by the time you see this it'll be too late anyways (Mom, you might not want to read this next part). Haha oops. So apparently his Doña's house had a rat problem. Two nights ago she had asked him if the rats bothered him to which he said no, because he hadn't seen many. That very night he saw two, one was absolutely gigantic and fat. He went to bed and had a dream about them. And then no joke, when he awoke at 2:30am, there was a rat on top of his mosquitera. I'm freaking out just imagining this. He kicked it off but then heard tons of rats running around his room (the floors of his house were tile so it was easy to hear). Yea, no sleeping that night. He brought this up with our training director and they sent someone to check it out. He had to sleep there that night again though but didn't hear as much. The next day there was evidence of the rats being there. He then opened his drawer to get pants and they were chewed through a bit. His shirt was peed on. And then he saw one. Which apparently it's bad to see one during the day because that means all the spots where they normally hide/sleep during the day are taken. Oh. My. God. He moved today and is so happy now. Ugh! I can't even imagine. And Andrew? If you're reading this, I completely admire you for surviving that and still maintaining your sense of humor. And I'm so happy for you and your new and better living conditions. What a story to tell future PCTs during their first few months in country ;)
Well, now that I've officially creeped myself out retelling that story, I'm going to head to bed. Yet another day has passed that could have been two with how much stuff went down. But such is life here and you guys get to suffer reading through it all ;) Buenas noches!

So In Love with My Man ;)

April 10, 2913. MY BABY GOT A JOB!!! Ah!! That's totally not the first thing that happened today but I just got off the phone and I'm SOOOO HAPPY! And proud! And excited! Haha Ugh. Nate, though we are apart right now, please know that in spirit I'm celebrating right alongside you. If I were there, we'd be out for a drink and I'd be kissing you like crazy! You're going to be great because you absolutely deserve this. Show them all you've got and you'll soar. And... Put some money aside each month so you can come visit me at some point ;).
Okay... I'll try and focus now. I learned the word for honey this morning! Though I've already forgotten it... My host mother gave me fruit and a bottle of something, said the word, and just told me to drizzle it on my fruit. Her son explained something about an insect, that goes to flowers, and does stuff and then spreads stuff, and I said, "¡Oh! ¿Amarillo y negro?" (yellow and black). And he said yes! Thus: Bee and then honey. Duh. Such a process simple things can be.
At training, we did our presentations of our story. I was a goat that was mean, ready to fight and here in the DR, similar to a Tiguere (como un gangster in the states). So I wore my long sleeve hoodie, a bandana, and my sunglasses for our skit. It was such a blast! And the other presentations were hilarious too! We then shared our activities that we created for various concepts of literacy and with limited resources so to practice for the reality that is the next two years. Those turned out amazing too! This bunch is ridiculously talented (see pictures below!). We then had to switch to learning about a standardized test... Yay. Luckily we don't have to use it but it's for us, if we want it, when we go to our sites. The problem I have is that we are wasting a day at the schools tomorrow practicing this assessment with a child. I know that the director's expectations are too high but we can at least try and help a little more. With only 10 days actually there, why are we spending it proctoring a test that's pretty self explanatory? Aye, anyways.
On the walk home, the rains had brought a lot of water to that spot by my Doña's house. And... I've decided to build a bridge. It rained much more during volleyball and I almost couldn't cross it at all. And Cory nearly fell slipping in the mud when she had to jump the gap. So yea. I prepared a bunch of questions to ask my Doña about how high it can get, why no one has tried to build one yet and what she thinks in general about me building one. Now don't be impressed.. I have no money so all I'm going to do is find thicker branches, buy nails, place a bunch in a row and nail them to 3 perpendicular branches. I don't know if that makes sense in written word but it does in my head lol. I'll also have to dig a bit so I can bury each end into the ground so it hopefully won't move when the water rises. I also worry about it being slippery when wet but I feel like it can't be worse than complete puddles or mud. But I could be wrong. I asked Keegan & Caitlin to talk to their Doña about it and I'm going to talk to the neighbor too and see if they think it's possible. I may or may not have gotten my heart set already though so hopefully I'll be able to.
But moving on for now! Spanish was fine, we had to scream at each other to be heard when it started to pour on the zinc roof but we managed. Volleyball sucked. A lot of ego and attitude that was evident in the guys outside of the words they were saying (since I didn't understand most of it anyways). But I wasn't a fan. The one guy that's been an absolute sweetheart and totally patient with us even quit playing with them and started passing the ball around with a bunch of us volunteers instead. I hope it's not going to continue like this. Then I'll have to solely run laps and do stairs and push-ups and core work. I don't mind that stuff but it's even better when I get to reward myself with volleyball after haha. Crossing my fingers for that one!
At home I had chicken and potatoes but then she gave me at mushy, white, sweet stuff. Love it. Her youngest son is here now with his wife and daughter. The little one is 7 years old (like you, munchkin!) and tried to talk to me a lot. Such a cutie. She also, I guess, really had to go to the bathroom because she walked in on me showering... And I didn't have the curtain completely closed because it's too dark that way. So yup, that poor girl saw me naked. But when I closed the curtain quick, I peeked out to say hello and she was just smiling and proceeding to pull her pants down to go. Wasn't phased, thank goodness. But aye Dios mio that was funny.
I worked on some homework, Nate called (did I mention that he has a job?????), I missed 3 calls from someone (Jen, if that was you, I'm SO sorry!), and now I'm off to bed :). Buenas noches.






Morir Soñando

April 9, 2013. Well as I lie here in my bed, the frogs outside have become unbearably loud (totally competing with the dogs), I'm pretty sure one just jumped into the stream, a cockroach is chilling under my bed, a dog definitely just attacked a cat, and my Doña is mumbling something in her room (possibly singing?). And despite the yucky feeling in my throat (probably due to being soaked for 3 hours yesterday), I don't want to go to bed yet. And it's 11pm! Haha :).
Today I had two hard boiled eggs waiting for me with my two cheese and jamón sandwiches. Win? My host mom and I talked outside before I left about the rains and what happens to the stream that passes through the street near her house. It has been filled with water since I got here but there's a pretty easy spot to jump over it off to the side. When the rains come, however, it can be impossible to cross and get to her house. She has had to walk all the way around the back neighborhood and down to come in on the opposite side. The water has also risen all the way to her house before and the people that live upstream will push their garbage into the water and it will sit in front of her house since there's no outlet. I guess stream is the wrong word since it's not moving... But yea. Pretty awful. Her road needs to be paved so this isn't an issue for my poor old Doña...
At training, a volunteer who is possibly in her 30s came to take about literacy! She was a youth volunteer but just extended for a third year as an education volunteer. That was an exciting morning, just talking about literacy and having things flood back into my memory from college. She also brought an entire box full of books in Spanish for us to use and borrow here in CBT!! And guess what I found, munchkin!?! The Kissing Hand! See the picture below? In Spanish you say, "Un Beso en Mi Mano." Goodness I wish I could call you and read it to you. I still have that kiss on my left palm that you gave me ages ago. And no matter how many times I wash it, I can still feel your love when I place it on my cheek. Thanks little man. I hope my kiss is still on your hand! I miss and love you so much.
Lunch deliciously followed and Spanish was of course, at 2pm. Today was pretty fun since we just talked together for a while, casually. We then watched his Doña make that orange drink that we had made back in core training. The one with freshly squeezed chinas, evaporated milk, ice, and sugar? Yea, it's called "Morir Soñando" or "To Die Dreaming." And it's so true. I would die happy if it was while drinking that drink :D. We then worked on a project for tomorrow where we will tell a children's story en español! We were able to choose how we wanted to retell it (with a cartoon, poster, acting, etc) and we chose acting it out with puppets. So pumped :).
After, yet again in the rain, a few of us went to play volleyball. We only stayed for about an hour this time though since we had Game Night at Marcia's house at 8! Aye, no hay tiempo para nada. But at least it's all fun stuff! I showered, had mashed potatoes and this delicious mystery meat that reminded me of sausage, and I was off again! All of the Spanish teachers were there and there was Scrabble, Dominoes, cards, Spanish Banana Grams (sooo need to get that game), and others that I can't remember. When we arrived, Marcia said as we started talking in English, "Oh no! This is a Spanish only zone!" I joked and started walking towards the door and yelling goodbye to everyone. Pero en serio, that made me really happy. I've found that I'm totally fine when it comes to exercises or practicing in the grammar book. Ask me to conjugate a verb in a certain tense and I'll write it for you. But applying what I know and then being fluid in my speech? Ay Dios mio, no. I feel like we don't have enough time to just casually converse in Spanish just to practice. Pretty much all of our training is in English and when the volunteers are together, we speak in English. Hay solamente Spanish class and then the little time I have with my Doña. So my point after that long-winded explanation of my frustrations? Yay Marcia for making us talk only in Spanish even if I initially dreaded it!
I played Dominoes first and owned :). Then we played a game called Blitz which was pretty fun too. After, I taught a few volunteers and Marcia and David how to play Set! Remember though, I had to do it in Spanish! haha They started to understand by the end and David said that he really enjoyed it because it was challenging. Exactly! Marcia said that each year the volunteers teach her a new game. The first year it was UNO, the second... I'm blanking, and now Set!
Caitlin, Keegan, and I then walked home in the dark since se fue la luz. They seem to have the same concerns about needing to just casually talk in Spanish and invited me over to converse anytime :). Definitely going to take advantage of that. My host mother was reading her Bible by cellphone flashlight when I arrived and thought my headlight was really cool haha.
A half hour has now passed since I began this blog and during that time the frogs have not stopped, the dogs are still having barking competitions, some other animal has joined the group but I have NO idea what it is, and hopefully the cockroach is gone... Though I'm not getting out of my mosquitera to look. No way, no how. So! Buenas noches!

But Then The Rains Came

April 8, 2013. Woo! My Julie sandwich had different bread and different cheese this time! I asked what kind of cheese it was and she just said, queso blanco. Oh. White cheese. Okay :).
Today we reviewed the upcoming week and then met with our Spanish professors to finalize our presentations. David has a ridiculous amount of patience running through his bones, Gracias a Dios. We finished our script, poster, and power point by 12:45pm.
For lunch, I had a typical Dominican dish called, Asopao. It had rice, corn, meat, and some sort of sauce. And it was delicious! But because I got home late, I wasn't able to catch up on my novellas. Damn.
At 2, commence our presentations! We were 4th and despite not being confident in my Spanish, I wasn't nervous. I think with how much work it entailed, how much mental effort went into preparing it, and how tired I was, I was just ready to get it over with. We went through, I messed up a lot, but we did it. Then my training director decided to stand up and critique what was missing and what was wrong right then and there in front of everyone. And what was frustrating was the fact that I had asked her specific questions last week to ensure no miscommunications (which were numerous). And just what I asked her was what we did wrong despite doing what she said was okay.
Now I know I have a flaw that I need to work on. Feeling embarrassed is something that kills me and kills me fast... So on top of speaking horrible Spanish in front of the Spanish teachers and the fluent volunteers, my training director proceeded to question why we were missing parts and questioning our approach as a whole. I was miserable and just wanted to be happy that it was over and be proud of us. Which I was, but again, my intense hatred of embarrassment got the best of me. I had to escape to the bathroom and collect myself. Marcia, my Spanish teacher from before CBT noticed and actually came in to ask if I was okay. Goodness she's good. She told me how wonderful we were, I insisted that I was okay and we went back out. During the next presentation, she wrote in big letters on her paper, "I love you!" (and yes, in English!). This may or may not have made the tears return momentarily but she somehow knew I needed something simple like that... I wrote back, "Gracias Mi Amor."
Because I didn't just let my frustrations all out, I was losing composure, collecting it and then repeating the process throughout the next presentations. Haha Yay me.
But then... The rains came. And they came fierce. Perfection. It poured and poured and drowned out that little voice in my head that I was trying to get rid of. After we finished, there was cake and juice to celebrate and I took it outside and just stood in the rain...
I thought that was just what I needed but then we all changed clothes and went running in our bare feet on the baseball field. We played tag and Red Rover and did a few laps, sliding into bases that were actually just puddles at that point. We were soaked and my clothes were suction-cupped to my body haha. After a bit, we went over to the Multi Uso which is indoors and played volleyball together. Slowly, quite a few Dominican guys came in and we mixed up the teams. We played for 2 hours straight. All of that, was just what I needed.
We walked home in the rain, my host mother had made me pasta, and we watched novellas together, laughing at a fluffy cat in one of the scenes. Those little gecko things crawled all over her walls to escape the downpour outside and the tin roof made it sound like a hurricane. The presentation wasn't the end all for training. There was no such thing as failing it. Yes, my Spanish could get better but that will always be the case even after these next two years. Yes, my director could have done things a little differently but hey, this is her first time leading a CBT. And yes, the project was a lot of work but I'll have three months to do these things when I get to my site and not a week. At the end of the day, Monte Plata got the rain it needed, we got the stress reliever and workout we needed, and the geckos got the protection they needed.
Despite those damn tears, today was still a good day. Buenas noches.

I Will Never Be That Far Away

April 7, 2013. "Algo diferente para desayuno." ("Something different for breakfast.") Was what my host mother said to me this morning as I sat down. I lifted the upside-down plate slowly and un poco nervously and... Eggs!! Hahaha sooo different :D. Yum!
This morning was a bit boring. A lot of my host mom's kids (I think that's who they are. About my age and up) were here. They moved in and out of the bedrooms, talked really fast, didn't talk to me, and... Yea. So I escaped to my room and worked on the PowerPoint for tomorrow. I literally stayed there until lunch time (Oops?) lol. More delicious food and then I stayed in the living room and watched TV with the munchkins.
At 2, I headed to Maegan's and we scripted our speeches. We finished a bit early so I headed home before meeting with our Spanish teacher. As I watched more TV, the older ones came back and again, I was a bit overwhelmed and ignored so I went into my room. About twenty minutes later, the little girl called out my name. I emerged from my sanctuary and she was alone. She asked, "Are you afraid when the adults are around? Because you go in your room when they're all here." Haha busted. I said, "No, I'm not afraid but It's just difficult for me because I don't know much Spanish." She just smiled and led me to a chair, holding onto my arm. What a sweetheart. We talked a bit, I may have pretended to understand more than I did but I think it went okay. She has a bit of a lisp which made it a little bit more difficult. And her brother kept talking with his mouth full of white rice haha. Eventually I had to leave but we met with David, he corrected our PowerPoint, and I headed home again. The kids had gotten picked up :( but I think they may be back next weekend :). I struggled a lot communicating with them but that makes me want to be with them even more...
Dinner was mashed potatoes and some kind of awesome meat and onions. Loving these onions, seriously. Shortly after I got phone calls from my big brother AND my family. Goodness it meant the world that Matthew called :). Then while I was waiting for my parents to call, se fue la luz. The streets went completely black and for the first time since I've been here, I was able to see all the stars. And oh there were so many! It took me back to The Land with my family and being able to see more stars than I thought was possible. So while I feel such a disconnect from home, it was loosing luz and the stars making their appearance known that reminded me of the obvious: though the distance may be great, we still lie under the same sky. I will never really be that far away.
My host mom joined me on the porch and we talked about how beautiful it was out there. She then mentioned that a plane crashed in the Malecón today and two people died. The pilots were apparently young, 25 and 27 years old. She went on and on about how they were too young and that pilots need to be older with more experience and a better head on their shoulders...
And then, just as la luz returned, my phone rang! We laughed together about the timing and she left me to chat. Gosh I love Sundays; knowing I'll hear from my family :). And I didn't cry this time! Oh! And I did get to talk to my munchkin earlier! He got to spend the weekend with Grandma Judy (jealous!) so that mom and dad could have "quality time together" (which apparently he made up on his own hahaha). Not too exciting of a day, but a perfect end to the night and a perfect start to a new week. Buenas noches.

At Least I'm Not An Ant

April 6, 2013. This morning I awoke to hot chocolate, coffee, and my Julie sandwich. My host mother showed me how she cooks with carbónes (coals) for the times when there is no luz or you're out of propane! Plus, it's faster :). She suggested I go out and get one when I live on my own and it's only about 250 pesos. Totally doable! I then found out she is 73 and I think they (her and Alfredo) asked me how old she looked, but I wasn't sure so I just said, "No sé." Haha then she said, "¿Estoy bien por eso?" Which I think she was saying, "Am I good for that age?" So I said yes! Lol she just smiled and nodded... Hope that was right!
I went outside to read over the teaching manual (that didn't last long in the heat even though I told my host mom I liked it when she questioned whether I should be in the sun haha). Tried the 5 finger rule that kids use to see if a book is the appropriate reading level for them... Failed miserably. Then mi Mama's grandkids and a friend took me to the park. We raced, swung on swings, played tag (my sandals are falling apart already...), played hand games, took pictures with my phone and then visited a cemetery. That got really uncomfortable... There was a a ceremony going on of some sort and a few people were crying and many just standing around a grave. The kids just kept getting close and peeking in. They tried to get me to go closer but I couldn't. I don't think that's actually disrespectful here but it felt wrong. I should've just told them I didn't feel comfortable because it's not my family but I didn't think of the right words until after (of course).
After we got back, I watched my host mother cook. I was supposed to help but I had gotten back too late (damn it! Next time..). She explained to the kids that I'm still learning and that talking, sharing, and being patient will help me learn faster. And because she is sharing her food, home, and love, that we are family and I am her daughter :D I also met her other daughter, the aunt of the two kids here. The kids' mother is apparently 24 too. But I swear the daughter said she is 10 years old. Which would mean... Yea. Maybe I'll meet her tomorrow. I asked my host mom if the kids are here every weekend and she said no, she's normally alone. But the kids' father doesn't have a job so they have no money. Every once and a while her daughter will just drop the kids off for the weekend and she takes care of them. Like she seems to do for everyone else in the world. What an incredible woman. Have I mentioned yet how much happier I am here then in Pantoja? Ugh. Luckily the weeks following CBT are crazy and I won't be there much longer when we return. That's crazy to think about though.
I ate lunch and had the best juice in the whole world (no clue what it was but I plan on asking my Spanish teacher tomorrow). I had homemade papas fritas, rice, beans, vegetables, and chicken. THERE WAS AN ACTUAL CHICKEN FOOT TOO. haha I freaked out and told her I had never seen that before let alone eaten it! She laughed so hard at me and said it's totally normal here :)
At 2 I left to go work on our community diagnostic. We met with a bunch of kids from this street and asked them questions about school. One girl even wanted to write down all the answers for us. Win! They then went crazy with pictures but we had to go keep working. Goodness I hate how much work we have. And I can't wait to be in my site just porch sittin' and coffee drinkin' for the first two months. I think I'll save all my work for that last third month ;). Anyways, we got a lot done but there's still more. I scripted my part of the presentation when I got home so that we can meet with David to practice and he can correct our mistakes before Monday. When I got home, a bunch of the kids wanted to go to the park and play. It was so hard to say no but I had to get my work done... Dinner was cheese with onions and banana peppers and plátanos haha. And more of that juice! She then fed 6 children. I looked up a word and said to her, "¡Tu alimentas el mundo!" ("You feed the world!"). She laughed and said she loves to. If anyone passes by her house she yells out, "Are you hungry?" And she feeds them. She's usually alone here and always has food to spare so no one goes hungry, Gracias a Dios. :)
Finishing up dinner and then finishing up my script (almost), I decided to go shower. While I was trying to work a medium sized bucket with the big bucket (totally didn't fit and I didn't have the normal small one so I used a Ziploc bag to fill the medium bucket lol), I watched as a line of ants moved along the wall. I then saw about 8 ants surrounding a dime-sized piece of food and bringing it up, circling as they went. The ants stayed holding onto the perimeter and were able to sustain it's weight on a completely vertical wall... I thought about all the stuff I complained in my head about today (hate admitting this). My shoes, not having enough time to play with kids, the ants ruining my two suckers that the kids gave me, my lack of Spanish, etc. But then as I showered with the ants, I thought, "Dear God, at least I'm not an ant!" Haha I hate them and constantly feel like they're crawling on me (which they usually are here) but dammit it do I respect them. That life must suck. I wonder if they know it sucks... Yup, I'm losing it. Time to go to bed! Buenas noches!





Saturday, April 6, 2013

When a Bucket Shower Gets Even Crazier

April 5, 2013. Today we had technical training on lesson planning and teaching materials were passed out. One book was filled with various literacy worksheets. The other was called Escojo Enseñar and this was the Spanish manual for teaching. Lesson plans, activities, and videos; all scripted for us to use with the teachers. Super exciting but my favorite part? Escojo Enseñar means, I Choose to Teach. LOVE that. Especially here when teachers are underpaid and unappreciated as much as they are? This gives them a sense of pride and appreciation for what they do everyday...
Raini (our technical trainer) also approached me and apologized about the school situation from yesterday. She also made a few announcements to the group. First, that we would go over the week's schedule every Monday. Also, that sometimes she forgets that we don't know everything and can't read minds (ha). So if we are ever unclear about something, unsure of our purposes, or if things are going too fast, we need only to say something :)
Afterwards, we had more time to work on our community diagnostic seasonal calendar. We did a few more interviews and though it didn't go as smoothly as the last one, we got some interesting perspectives. We've got a lot of work to do for our presentation Monday though... Have I mentioned yet that it has to be in Spanish? ....
Lunch was chicken, pasta with corn, and mashed potatoes. And como siempre, it was phenomenal.
Spanish class followed and then we had our CRT (test) about community diagnostics at 4pm. It was pretty easy, I think. And I could probably argue any of my answers and prove that they're correct even if I didn't word it perfectly lol No biggie ;P
Next? Volleyball! First, Amber and I warmed up peppering. We then joined the girls playing. I have to say, seeing so many girls playing was wonderful. Most of the time here, from what I've been told, there aren't enough activities for girls. They go to school and then have to go home to take care of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry with their mothers. Most after school activities are for boys. There were at least 3 teams worth of girls and some of them were really good!
I then joined the guys again. That was interesting haha but still fun. After sweating way to much, as per usual, we left and headed home.
As soon as I got there, I yelled, "Mi mama!" And she said, "Mi amor!" Haha We're so in love :). She explained all that I need to do if I leave while she's at church in regards to the door (that's such a crazy sentence right there lol my apologies). And repeated 100X that I need to lock the door if I am going to shower while she's gone. And then she left. As I was showering, some people came by and started knocking on the door. Then fiddling with the windows, yelling for who was inside. I freaked out, put my towel on and snuck my hand out of the curtain to turn the TV off and... stayed silent pretending no one was home. haha. Real smooth. Cuz I'm sure they didn't notice that the TV was on and then suddenly, it wasn't... Eventually they went away and I got back to the bucket. About a minute later, the power went out! Haha I hand-felt my way out of there wrapped in a towel and into my room to get my head lamp. I finally finished the crazy process that was today's shower, ate dinner by head lamp light, and shortly after, la luz returned. And Nate called! Win! It was hard to hear him, possibly because of where I am, but it was wonderful.
Keegan and Cailtlin's host mom really wanted people to come over just to hang out so a few of us volunteers headed over there around 8:30pm. It was nice and chill and we just chatted about various things. I left around 10:30 because I didn't want my Dona to be up waiting too late. She ended up being awake and watching a movie with Alfredo and had two grandchildren (or just neighborhood kids?) over too. One was sleeping already though. She said as I came in, "You didn't like dinner?" And I was like, "Yes! Of course I did!" And tried to really convince her I did even though I didn't finish it (its always so much food!). She didn't seem to believe me but didn't seem mad, either. I watched the end of the movie with them and then went to brush my teeth. I came back out and said, "Gracias por todo y en serio, me gustó la comida!" She laughed and laughed and laughed and repeated what I said two more times with lots of drama (EN SERIO) Haha either I said something wrong, or I was just really that funny :D Either way, I think she believes me now and maybe even thinks I'm super funny. I'll take it!
Buenas noches!

Espera, Espera, Espera

April 4, 2013. Woo! Cheese and jamon! I think it's growing on me and Dad, you'll be proud to know that I can eat in the morning now and had two sandwiches today at 7am ;).
Today was our presentation and I think it went really well. The other two groups had great activities to implement with their power point and a few people afterwards said that they really enjoyed the session as a whole. We discussed blended pedagogies, building school and community relationships, and co-planning and co-teaching. I do love doing things like that so it was a good way to start the day.
At 10am, however, we were on our way to the schools that we will be working in for the next 4 weeks. And let's just say... I left frustrated and torn. We were split up into groups and sent to various schools. I'm with Susan, Keegan and Caitlin. We just found out today what our school was and that we were just observing. So far, that's all we know about the work we will be doing here. When we arrived, the director gave us a tour but when he introduced us, he had to ask on numerous occasions what we were doing that day and afterwards, he just let us go to observe whatever classroom we wanted. I thought the classrooms were already set up for us and that we'd be observing the classroom that we will be working in. Luckily, I'm not the only one lost. A few people have agreed that they've just been learning day by day and making mistakes because nothing seems to be clear. Then the director made it sound like he was so happy we were going to be there to work because they need so much help. He had a list on four pieces of paper (front and back) of the things he feels need improvement in his school (not for us to do but just in general). But we're only here for five weeks and a small total of 10 hours will be in that school. After talking with my group, we're only doing pull-outs with students who need extra help. What good will that all really do in the long run? The people at the schools seem to have this crazy high expectation of what we will do in the short amount of time here... I observed two classrooms today and I cannot even begin to explain how opposite they were and my opinions of the one will have to remain my own.. I just don't understand our purpose since there seems to be two perspectives here (ours and the school's).
Then there's the Spanish. Even Keegan and Caitlin who are a few levels above me are concerned. We've heard twice now from teachers in the schools that we need to be doing well with our Spanish because there's no other way to reach the kids. I literally had to write down a list of education words that I need to look up after today. I have a degree in education, which only about 5 others out of the 19 of us have. Okay, cool. But what good does that do if I can't communicate what I know in Spanish? And especially when these teachers seem to think we're going to be doing wonders in 5 weeks? We're only in training for goodness sake. And I feel like we're using the schools and not being realistic with them about why we're here; training... Not to bring about long term fixes for them... Or at least, that's what I thought CBT was. Maybe I was wrong? But what if I am right? Something feels wrong here.
Okay. Espera, espera, espera. Wait, wait, wait.
Well just as every other day here is a complete roller coaster ride, today was no different. I wrote the above during lunch. It is now 9:15pm and the day made quite the turn-around. First, Spanish. Nothing too thrilling here but it went well. Afterwards, we went to play volleyball. Holy shit. Haha the guys were amazing. But they let us play and it was a blast! Didn't do as well as I would have liked and they raised the net too high (but for good reason cuz the guys were destroying the ball on a low net-wasn't really fair). But like yesterday, I cannot tell you how good it was to be active and on top of that, do something familiar and something I love. Tomorrow, they have practice at 5pm which is right after our exam (perfect!). So we're gonna bring our stuff to change into to our training center so we can blow off steam after failing our test ;).
Then after. I had seen Amber (our Peace Corps Volunteer Leader who is in her third year now and helping with training for us) before volleyball and asked her if we could set up a time to chat. I just felt more comfortable approaching her about the above concerns than our technical trainer since she's still basically one of us; just... Two years ahead lol. Anyways, after volleyball, a shower, and dinner, she came over and we sat on the front porch and chatted. Conversation was easy, stress-free and successful. She absolutely understood my concerns. First, the confusion with the schools shouldn't have happened and will be fixed. There is supposed to be one classroom in which we will be working with; mostly with student pull-outs. Second, the schools will be getting a little out of us being there and though their expectations sound high to me, the materials they will get actually meet their expectations when I didn't think it would be enough. Third, I need not worry too much about my Spanish although she understood completely. Tomorrow (talk about perfect timing), we will be receiving materials centered around education. These manuals have resources for us to use with the kids, videos in Spanish, but also scripted lesson plans in Spanish that we can use. The vocabulary will be there and I just need to bring my personality (basically :P). Lastly, in regards to training as a whole, she is going to bring up with our director that we need to communicate better. That the gaps in this last week are not because of the volunteers' lack of personal responsibility, it's just in the lack of communication between those that know everything (our technical trainer and Amber) and those that know nothing (us). We're going to start by simply going over each weeks' plans every Monday morning so that everyone knows what to expect and doesn't have to guess every day and guess wrong. Simple, but absolutely needed. Take a deep breath... And smile. Like usual, it's all going to be okay (Yea, yea, I can hear the I-told-you-so's from all the way back home)
Amber and I then spent another hour just chatting about life. The Peace Corps, our families, our significant others, home, being addicted to novellas and how good they are for learning Spanish, experiences, etc. She talked about how she had a discussion with our technical trainer about how she needs to be careful with her expectations of us. That while we are capable of so much, there is much change going on in our lives and thus, there are some reasonable limits right now. Not only are we trying learn all we need to do here (Education and Spanish) but we have to constantly think about the simple aspects of life in a new country. How we shower, how we brush our teeth, what we are eating, how to act in front of Dominicans, wearing bug spray all day, etc. Ugh, yes thank you! She also shared with me that she had never traveled anywhere outside the country before the Peace Corps (!!!). Hooray! I'm not actually alone in that! It was just what was needed and I'm so glad I worked up the guts to ask her for some time when I know I'm really good at letting things boil to not bring about confrontation. She's an incredible person and I admire her a lot. After tonight, I feel as though we started to develop a friendship, not just a trainer-trainee relationship. And as lame as it sounds, that's a pretty damn good feeling :). So on that note, I'll study more tomorrow during lunch and just go to bed smiling. And laughing with my Dona since she just sneezed for the 6th time and I finally yelled out "Salud!" from my dark room to hers. Don't make fun; it's just the little things :) Buenas noches.