Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Owe Alele a Ton

May 29, 2013. Holy @$#! I did it. Haha Today, a teacher wasn't there because she had "something to do."  The director wrote some stuff on the board for the students to do and then left me and a younger girl (maybe my age but she looked younger) with the kids for the rest of the day. It was getting crazy, of course, and the voice inside my head was screaming, "JUST DO IT." So. I walked around and had the kids write their name in my notebook. Then I told them that I was going to give points to those students who worked hard all day and the student with the most points at the end will get a prize on Friday (not my favorite method for various reasons but I didn't have materials or time to prepare for this so yea). But it worked.  They weren't perfect but oh my god it was incredible. I also erased points if necessary which was effective too.  The boys are especially troublesome in that class but I noticed that the ones who are normally the worst, completely turned their behavior around in the hopes of getting a point. Next, the other girl wrote math problems and they did well then too (I learned that Genesis who can't read anything (they're in 3rd grade by the way) is amazing at math!). She then tried to have one student at a time go up and read from a book (that no other student had). Ugh, painful even for me lol. But they mostly stayed in their seats. Then the girl kinda just left. I decided the kids deserved a break (since the director said they were skipping recess and ending a half hour early today. But even so, working for 3 hours straight is too much). The kids read, ate, played, whatever. I let them go for a bit so there was some fighting but it was in other classrooms where other teachers should have handled it lol. Then. My Dinámica. I gathered the kiddos back up, put them in the middle of the room and did a dínamica with them called "Alele." It's one of my favorites and the kids LOVED it. We ended up doing it twice and after they begged for more, I promised we could do it again at the end of the day. I then wrote a paragraph on the board with lots of blanks for certain letters. I've noticed a pattern with the students and what letters they miss when they free write (like the n in tengo or the s in every word possible lol). So, they had to write the paragraph and fill in the blanks with the missing letters. I had to help a bit but they got it and seemed to enjoy it. Then I wrote their homework on the board (totally making this all up by the way cuz I don't know much quite yet what they have or haven't learned and that girl was still gone lol). I made up math problems that they had to solve using drawings. Continuing with the point system, they finished pretty quick :). After, the dínamica again (the girl came back and joined lol) and announcing the winners. There were three top ones so I'll get something bigger for them and then something small for the rest because they really did so well. Ah, I did have a problem with Sandi because something happened during the break and he wouldn't talk to me or participate for almost the rest of the day. But he popped back in at the end so I guess he just needed time. 
Oh man I was on such a high lol. Sorry if I am sounding super conceited :/ I'm just so pumped. I went home for lunch, played cards with Samuel and Mayelin (of course), and made a lunch date with Greg and Lula for tomorrow in Villa because we don't have class (Día de Fiesta!)!  Around 1, my host mom yelled at the kids to leave me be so I could rest since I had to go back to school. I kinda felt bad but loved her a lot for that lol. 
At 2, I headed out and passed out the muffins and milk (my new job by the way). Then the teacher of the pre-escolar (five year olds) had to leave for a minute. "Vengo ahora" she said which means, "I'll be right back" but that always actually means in like an hour lol. So who was the teacher? Yup. Me. Oh god. We sang Alele again and they loved it. Then I started to write the alphabet. They knew a but not b. so I tried the vowels. And they knew them all. Perfect. So I wrote those, we repeated them louder, softer, faster, slower, in order, out of order. Then I drew pictures of things that started with those vowels and wrote the words. In their notebooks, I wrote the vowels, the words, and had them copy below and then draw the pictures themselves. Some could write, others could not. Again, totally making this up with no preparation and with chalk, a board, and their notebooks so I know it's not great. I helped those that couldn't write to trace my letters. Then let them free draw (again, some couldn't). Kendris, one of my precious favorites (brother of Mayelin) was a pain in my @$!.  He screamed, got up, drew on every other page but his, fought, threw things. Lol yea. Just towards the end, the teacher returned and I looked at her and said, "Oh here!" and went to hand her the chalk. She hurries in, grabs something and goes, "No! You're doing great! Continue!" And leaves me. Ha.
As they were finishing up, I found a book in the room that was called something like, "What Can You Make With 10 Dots?"  The first page had one dot and a picture was made with one dot. The next had two and another picture. Etc until 10. I read it and then gave each child a number which was the number of dots they had to create a picture with. I put an example on the board with a tree and 8 dots as manzanas (apples). They drew, some used the dots, some didn't Lol Oh well. Then I let them play. Kendris drove me nuts and was absolutely wild but the others responded well to positive feedback... After what felt like hours, the teacher came back as I was preparing to do something else in workbooks that I had found. I ran out as fast as I could lol. 
The director said I could observe in pre-escolar so I returned and she was cleaning and organizing the room... Haha. Linda then said she had something for me and took me to her house. I'm so happy she did that too because I've wanted to visit her, she lives down a road I hadn't been to yet, and there are much more houses that way that I didn't know about. And she gave me mangoes! Quadruple win :D. When I returned, the teacher was still cleaning. Then, however, she showed me some songs that they know with movements. Super cute. The one girl begged me to show the teacher Alele so we did it. Twice. She joined us and loved it too :D. Man, I owe Alele a ton.
Classes let out a half hour early and the teachers started teaching me to dance Merengue and Bachata in the office :). And made plans for me to visit all of them at some point. I'm pretty sure there are 2 teachers total from both schools that actually live in the community here :/ Crazy. No wonder there's no community or parent involvement when the teachers all peace out as soon as classes end...
I headed home, and we had a game playing party on the porch. My Dominoes were out and two sets of cards were going at once. I was still on my high so I managed to play games for the next 3 hours haha. I did learn a new game you can play with Dominoes though! Love it. We had no luz for most of the night so I was able to say we couldn't play with my iPad since it needed to charge (and there was no luz to do so) :P Oops. Huevos y víveres greeted me for dinner, llegó el agua (!! Literally-The water arrived!), I showered (love not having to bucket shower and being able to flush the toilet normally!) and now I'm waiting for Nate to call me back. I've gotta remember this day for sure cuz it felt so good. My Spanish wasn't perfect, but I talked more. I wasn't prepared para nada for teaching today but the kiddos worked and maybe (?) learned a little. The teachers didn't really see anything that I did but the director took notice that the class was managed well and the kiddos attack hugged me a few times at the end (after all, they're who I care about most). I'm having major stomach issues (to spare the details) but I don't have a fever so it's not Dengue! Hahaha oh god I'm done, I promise. Buenas noches.

It's All For Them

May 28, 2013. Class was pretty bad today. Lots of the teacher leaving and lots of me doing (almost) absolutely nothing about it (I can't seem to let the fights go without intervening...). But during recess I looked through a book with some kids and ended up having a bunch at my side. I also got a lot of hugs today which felt amazing.  In the midst of the overwhelming task ahead of me, I was reminded that it's all for them, the little ones. And I couldn't help but smile in my little chair surrounded by screaming and fighting children and no teacher in sight.
During lunch I packed and ate a bunch (definitely getting a gut already and super upset about it... Did some exercises in my room tonight).  As soon as I left for the other school, it started downpouring, and hard.  My legs were soaked from my thighs down with the umbrella only covering so much when I had to cross flooded streets and the thruway. I got there and the teachers yelled at me for not waiting for the rain to stop lol. Which today, would've meant that I should've never came because it didn't stop.  I had a funny feeling that the director wasn't going to be there on the walk over. I was right. She's apparently sick (but also mentioned that her son from the states was at her house so there wouldn't be a bed for me) so I didn't have to go spend the night in Villa. Part of me was sad since I was planning on seeing Lula and Greg but most of me was pumped :). I observed Manuela's class which was first grade. No, her management and teaching methods weren't the greatest but I will say that I loved the way in which she spoke to the children. She was fun, loving, mostly positive, and genuinely seemed to care about them. She said that one of her favorite things in the entire world is when a student comes back to her and says, "Profé, it's because of you that I learned how to read."  Loved that. But of course, because of he rain, classes started almost an hour late and ended an hour early. She and I talked a bit while we waited for it to die down a little. She still doesn't understand why I'm there... I wish the Peace Corps had done a better job at making sure they knew about my arrival and purpose. We talked about schools here and schools in the states. How parent involvement is nonexistent here and it's essential to kids' learning (I agree). Actually, one mother today came "looking for" her daughter. She had no idea her daughter was in school... And it's the end if the year. Manuela went nuts in her; asking how it's possible that this child's own mother doesn't know her daughter is in school at that time (the same time everyday). Incredible. I also tried to ask how/what the school does to try and bring about parent involvement. It didn't come out quite right but she did gives examples of what she does, so I was sorta successful :P. In the past, if there is a student who never brings back their homework or does work in school, she has made visits to their house to try and explain to the parents the importance of their help in the child's learning. One time, she was completely successful and the student improved tremendously. Most of the time, however, it does nothing... Oh, have I mentioned that getting the parents and community involved in the school more is part of my project? Oh boy.
Eventually we walked back together in the rain. And she asked my favorite question: "So what didn't you like about my class?" To which I, of course, said, "Nothing!"  Lol
When I got home, my host mom asked why I didn't go to Villa and then left for about an hour. That was when I did my exercises in my room and showered. Then Lili and Samuel came over and we played cards. 
Lili then saw my iPad and asked if I had pictures on it. I thought about it for a second because of how much the Peace Corps warns about busting out expensive electronics early in your site buuuuttt... I did it anyways. And it was so worth it.  I first showed them my family, then my boyfriend, and other random photos. Then I showed the ones from Photo Booth with the crazy funny effects and they absolutely died laughing. So I started taking photos of them with Stretch, Squeeze, and Twirl. Oh my god I haven't laughed that hard since I've been here. Then my host mom got involved, died laughing, sent me to the neighbors, they died laughing, more kids came over and it just was a blast. Then of course the games came out and the kiddos passed it around for the rest if the night playing Fruit Ninja and Temple Run 1 & 2.  Maybe it was wrong and maybe I shouldn't have opened that can of worms just yet but seriously, it was just so fun watching them enjoy it so much. I'll just have to be careful with how much I let them play it is all :). No worries. Oh random side note: I found out that there is Wifi at the colmado by the thruway. Good to know but I'm still not going to go there with my iPad cuz that would be super out in the open. And the guy that works there creeped me out the only time I've been there... So yea! 14 more days lol. 
I finally told them I needed to head to bed at 9:15 (the latest they've ever been at my house), got to talk to Jen, and now it's time for bed (except for whatever reason, it's late but I don't wanna go to sleep. Hm...). Another decent day filled with "I-just-don't-give-a-shits" and laughter. I'm good with it :). Buenas noches.

Having The Stars Within Reach

May 27, 2013. Before I begin, I just want to say how incredible the zinc roof is when the lightning outside is constant and brighter than ever. There are lots of holes above me so when the lightning strikes, the roof looks like a clear night sky with the stars shining. Love.
Today was a better day. Although I never explained what happened last Wednesday (the blog with just a list), I'll say that something similar happened today but it went better than before.  In the morning, at around 11am, the teacher wrote "Draw the different modes of communication" on the board and also the math problems for homework. She then picked up her bag, waved goodbye to me and walked out; an hour early. When the kids finished what was on the board, they could leave. I only broke up one serious fight, I walked around and helped a few, tried to use positive feedback to see their reaction (since I have yet to witness any teacher here using it-the kids loved it...), and was able to communicate most of what I wanted. Then in the afternoon, the teachers were supposed to end class early (4:30) and have a budget meeting. Instead, they had it at 3pm and again, the teacher wrote questions on the board and left me with 20 kids in a cramped classroom for 45 minutes. This one wasn't as smooth but still much better than last week. I asked them questions, gave them directions when they weren't listening, understood much more of what they were saying (some kids are sooo hard to understand), gave them a book to read when they finished, and checked their work. One student wouldn't listen to me para nada but I was at the end of my "I care" rope (I have an end! Lol) so I let him go. I just know when I do things, it will be different. But that wasn't my class and I can only do so much still... Hope that's okay to say.
Anyways, after they ended classes early (como siempre), I had quite the conversation with the teachers in the office. Let's just say I learned some slang terms for certain parts of the body and a certain action between men and women lol. They got a kick out of teaching me those things and at some of the things I joked about back :). I totally enjoyed that. 
On the walk home, one lady (who is a substitute) walked with me and asked me for help... She needs a job because she has 5 kids and her husband isn't working. She makes RD$1,000 every 15 days, which if you can't guess, is absolutely nothing. She wants me to talk to my "Jefa" and see if there's anything she can do for her, even if it's in the capital... This was hard. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to handle that cuz Lordy I want to help her, but I don't know if I can. I think I'll make a call or talk to someone when I go to the capital next just to see... I told her I'll see what I can do and hugged her goodbye.
At home I played cards and Dominoes with some kiddos. Then Mayelin and Lizbeth had a dance-off on the patio :). I talked about music with a family member of Dulce, and played more cards with another family member. I talked quite a bit more (overall today), I think, which felt great and provided as a distraction from my wondering heart. 
The rains came heavy so the little ones left. My host mom set up her new fridge-Oh! Did I mention that she's putting her old, little fridge in my room?? So I "can have cold water when there's luz!!" God she's wonderful :D And I can use the top of it as another table since even the three I have doesn't seem like enough lol I'm so pumped :). I did some (not many, but some!) exercises in my room, showered, and then ate my weight back in víveres for dinner at 8pm. My man called and made me laugh a ton which helped so much too. Missing him hard but feeling super strong about us. 
Today at the school was better than most days. I understood more, talked a little more (with teachers, students, and Dulce who also gave me a little bit of this delicious sweet drink that had rum in it :D oops?), managed better, and was able to bring my personality out a little more. The possibility of improvement and being successful didn't seem so far away today; just like how the lightning streaked above me the holes of my zinc roof, it was as if I had the stars within reach.  And now hopefully I can sleep tonight with the rain gently patting on the roof. Buenas noches.

El Padre, El Hijo, y El Espíritu Santo

May 26, 2013. I awoke at 6:11am today and was ready for church by 7. Of course, we didn't leave until 9 lol. Lizbeth and David received their confession so I've now seen a baptism ceremony and confession :) I actually love how similar it all was (just...in Spanish-El Padre, El Hijo, y El Espíritu Santo). But seriously, I could hear much (certainly not all) of the English prayers in my head as they were spoken in Spanish. It was a wonderful experience and I felt chills the whole time. But I was also fighting back tears much of the time. I prayed for Roy, his family, and mine (Grandma Irene-you especially)...
We ran a few errands in town (next town over "La Puerta"-I definitely don't miss that hissing) and then fit 9 people in a carro público for the ride back lol. After changing, we headed up to my host mom's mom's house and I hung out with the family and met lots more that live in Santiago. They all noticed my feet and asked if the mosquitos were bad. I said, "Oh, espérete" (Just wait) and lifted my pant legs (see below). I was the talk of everyone around the house for twenty minutes lol. I told them I have repellent but it doesn't work, and I use my mosquitera. My plan is to go into the doctor's office when I go to the capital and tell them to save their money for my repellent and buy me pants instead. We'll see how that goes :). If I have to wear pants everyday, I will now. Cuz the severity of the itchiness is nothing like I've ever felt before. And gets pretty painful too.
Sancocho was on the menu for lunch and it is definitely my favorite food here. They made a massive pot of it and fed probably 25 people. Incredible. There was luz all day (:D) so I watched the kids play video games on a computer and then we watched Death Race (although a different one than I had seen). Finally at 5pm, I headed out. My host mom hadn't been around for a few hours and I was so tired. Not sure from what since I really didn't talk much today but yea. I felt super left out the entire time there and just hoped Lizbeth would invite me to things with her as she came and went but she didn't. I could have asked but I just didn't have the bravery in me today.
Back at my house, I sat on the porch a little with my host dad, hung out with their grandson, learned from Lula that we have to get a Dominican green card (?apparently it's in an email lol I should probably call someone tomorrow and figure that one out; sounds important), and kinda snuck off to my room. 
Today was just kind of a haze; I'm sorry for the lameness of the post and my negativity. My family is going to call tonight though, which is good. I think I just need to talk and not having someone here to do that with is hard. I just think if I tried to explain what happened to a Dominican, and how much Roy meant to me, they would understand even less why I am here, away from my family. And I wouldn't be able to argue with them today.



Lord, Take Care of Your New Angel

May 25, 2013. I'm not sure where to start. Do I still talk about my day when the reality of back home is bearing heavy in my chest and I'm struggling to fight back the tears? Maybe I'll give a brief summary but I don't feel like explaining much. Not when I've got another angel up in the skies today.
I couldn't sleep after I awoke at 4am unsure as to why (though I guess I know now). At 8 I finally rose and emerged to an empty house. Shortly after though, Lizbeth came and brought me to her house. There was a pig getting stabbed and a whole group of people watching. I then watched the entire process of using a knife to shave it's hair, the gutting, the breaking of the rib cage, the joy Dulce's mom expressed after seeing the blood in a pot, Dulce ripping apart the intestines, and the cutting, weighing, and selling of the meat. Absolutely crazy. Llegó la luz so we watched a movie (Patrick Swayze as a transgender male?). I met another person in a house way por arriba and swam a little in a new river. I taught an informal English class to 4 jovenes. We played cards and I tried to teach them how to shuffle. Then the storm came. I think I may have said before that I had seen and heard the biggest thunder storm ever here but I lied. Today was the biggest. And now I know why.

At 6pm, my mom called. Roy passed away just this morning. For those of you who don't know, he had been an incredible addition to our family for many years now. He loved my Grandma Irene, and she loved him. The two of them were wonderful together and it all started in church with a simple tap from him on my Grandma's nose as tears fell down her cheeks. You couldn't help but feel so special around him. Despite all his pains, he never failed to hold tight my hand, kiss my cheek, and tell every woman in the room how beautiful they were. His family also became our family and they fit right in with our chaos of love. He was a talented glass sculptor (I'm sorry, I know that's not the right name) and created amazing things with his hands. His smile stretched wide across his fragile, wrinkled face and easily lit up any room. He used a cane and was unsteady on his feet but that never stop him from enjoying his glass of gin (I pray that's the right alcohol but my memory is uncertain).  He told stories but also listened so intently; I could have sat and talked to him for hours whenever he was at the house.
With complete sincerity I can say that he is one of the greatest examples of a true gentleman I have ever and will ever know. He was like a grandfather to me. I can hear, even worlds away now, how his gentle voice would say my name.  I'm finding that I am teetering back and forth from believing it's real to not in seconds and it's as if there are two realities happening at once.  But though I'm not back home with this reality, I still felt as if a part of my chest was sucked away and a void was left when my mother spoke those words. None of you will read this for a few weeks so please know now that I was with you as much as my spirit could be. I sent prayers and love with my tears and I wished (and still wish) I could have been there to say "Nos vemos pronto." Because we will all see each other soon in the vastness of eternity. And until then; Lord, take care of your new angel. We were blessed to have him for as long as we did and now he deserves to be at your side. Roy? I love you. And I'm sorry I wasn't there. 
Buenas noches.

Had My Personality Back for a Day :)

May 24, 2013. Woo! I did it! No, it wasn't 100X better than the first trip but it was significantly better :D. I left at 7:45, met up with Manuela at her house, we drank coffee together, she gave me food for the afternoon (I had snuck two pieces if bread from Dulce and made a peanut butter sandwich but yuca, papas, cebolla y salami sounded so much better :P), and we headed over the the other side together. We waited for the director and the bus for about an hour but I had decent conversation with her and this super super skinny old woman that works at the school and lives on that side. The poverty on that side is... Yea. I thought my side was bad but when the director took me around... Ay Dios mio. It's bigger on that side and there's more things (colmados, a church, a "hospital," etc) but some of the houses are in incredibly bad shape. 
Woa, tangent. Anyways. We boarded the guagua (one this time, not three!) and headed out. The kids were just as loud as last time but I loved it. They sang, chanted, danced, and yelled the entire time lol. We got to the zoo and the chofer said that he had another trip to take and had to leave for Villa again to pick up students and bring them to the capital. And that he wouldn't return until 4... He completely robbed them. They paid for his service for the entire day and they were supposed to go to the zoo and the museum and the colonial zone... But because he didn't come back until 4, we had to head home.  And por eso, there was a lot of sitting around at the zoo and waiting while the kids blew off so much energy on the playground (but not all!). 
I was with the director and teachers mostly and two guys my age. I talked a little, not a ton, but it was nice. I shared with the guys why I was there, what I studied in the states, what The Peace Corps is, my family, etc. And the director FINALLY realized that I know more Spanish than she thought. At around 2:30, I was sitting with the guys and she was with the other teachers (Manuela was one of them). They must have been talking because the director gets up, walks over to me, and says, "You DO know Spanish? But I thought you knew nothing! And you didn't tell me!" I wanted to punch her lol. I said that I had tried to tell her I knew more than she thought but not a ton. But again, she ignored me and couldn't believe I didn't tell her. The guys and Manuela defended me :). The director also kept bragging about how she knows how to speak English but her English is pretty bad lol. She kept saying treinta was 50. It's 30 :P. Tuesday is gonna suck. Hahaha. 
But continuing on, we literally sat around for hours. There was no keeping track of the kids, and a few times, some were missing so we would just sit and wait for them to show up lol. It's amazing. In the states, we would have all gotten sued haha. Eventually the guagua came and we left. The kids kept chanting stuff that I didn't understand but the director kept telling them to stop, that it was rude, and then behind the chofer's back she egged the kids on to continue haha. She came back to me and called him a "ladrone" (thief) and explained to me again what he had done. I felt bad for the kids since they expected one thing (which was a HUGE awesome experience for them) and only got part of it. But they had a ton of fun anyways. 
Ugh, also. Can I just randomly say that I have now seen the most precious little boy in the entire world? He is probably 3, wouldn't talk to me, but has the biggest and darkest black eyes I have ever seen. Oh god I melted when I saw him. He also has a huge scar from the corner of his left eye down his cheek a bit, almost like a big tear drop... But seriously. He stole my heart and has no idea :)
We got back, Manuela and I walked home together, Dulce made me coffee when I returned, I understood her a little today (!! That's huge!), and I got Mangu for dinner! Mmmm. So bad for you but so good :D (lots of butter). A bunch of kids came over and we played cards. I talked more, joked around a lot, and laughed a ton at the voices they were making. It was so wonderful to almost have my personality for a day lol. 
Y ¿ahora? It's the weekend! And I'm gonna learn how to cook with Dulce! I had told Lizbeth that I wanted to learn and she told Dulce. Yessss. Oh and Sunday is Mother's Day here and we're going to church I guess? Not sure where though. Guess I'll find out! Buenas noches. 
Addition: Saw my first rat up in the beams on the ceiling tonight hahaha. Not thrilled but I think I'd rather have them than the huge tarantulas that exist here :P Seriously, I've seen dead ones for sale in display cases and hear stories from volunteers. I really don't want those things (but luckily no one in this community has talked about them thus far, so maybe we don't have them!). Just rats I guess! 

Va a Llover (yet again)

May 23, 2013. Today I had some weird soupy thing for breakfast that was good but literally had the sticky texture of mucous lol. Mmmm. I observed some more and it was much more tranquilo. Still not great and a lesson she did was pretty good but not managed well. She had the kids write their own story (not copying!) and then draw a picture (creativity!). I wrote one too and it was about my little brother :). They caught on that he was real and my brother when I talked about this boy's sister who lives in the DR :P The teacher also talked to me a bit during recess about what she thinks they need in the school and that she is glad I am there. It was nice to converse a little though I think my Spanish has gone back a level since training. Wonder if that's normal since I don't have a structured language class anymore...
Lunch was me alone and I didn't mind. Dulce was in Villa again shopping lol. Mayelin and Samuel came over and we did puzzles, played cards, and read books. At 2, I headed back to the school. The teachers talked in the office for a long time and my man was brought up yet again lol They just can't wait for you to come visit, babe! :P. Finally, we headed to class, suffered through copying and waiting and boredom until 4 when "Va a llover" (it's going to rain) so we let out early again. I studied on the porch while it poured for a bit. 
Then at 5:30, I made my brave move! I went to visit Manuela por abajo :D. It was awkward at times but she forced me to talk, which is exactly what I need. She, like everyone else, doesn't understand why I would leave my family and do something like this. I had a hell of a time trying to explain still and though she doesn't have much more of an idea afterwards, she let it go. We talked about our families, my boyfriend, food that's different in the states, the school system differences, and lack of parental involvement here. She gave me milk and whole grain crackers lol. Her house is absolutely gorgeous. And believe it or not, she had offered her home to me when Ann came to scope this site out for my placement. But Ann said no since she she wanted to me to live with someone outside of the school. That way I could meet more people. But oh man, seriously. There was not a mosca in sight, her TV is huge, her kitchen is spotless with a stainless steel refrigerator, my room would have been gorgeous, aaaand I could go on but I won't. I truly am happy with Dulce and actually love having a very-less-than-perfect home. Manuela's daughter then came home with her 3 year old son. Oh my god he was precious. He went through his notebook from school and showed me all of his work. He knows all of his colors in Spanish and English, numbers, and vowels. It was incredible. He talked and talked and talked and I asked if he could teach me Spanish and he said yes! Lol he also gave me the biggest mango I've ever seen from his mom :). Manuela is amazing. And though I was uncomfortable at first, it was so worth it. I explained my frustrations with not knowing Spanish enough yet and she said that it's okay, everything's a process. It'll come (that phrase seems to be a theme). Again, she made me talk, asked me lots of questions, and translated her grandson for me lol. I need to visit her a lot. I understood probably 75% so she's not the pastor but she's way easier to follow than my Doña :P
Finally I headed out and met up with Mayelin in the street. We went by her house and I chatted with her mom for a second. Kendris went on and on about stuff down by the water and I conversed with him a bit too. We left shortly after though since I figured I had dinner waiting. And I did. Huevos fritos with cebolla with yuca and plátanos. Love. 
Now I shall shower and head to bed. Today was a great day :) And tomorrow I'm heading for the field trip! Lula called though and warned me that rain and wind is supposed to be really bad the next three days. Good thing she called cuz I don't have internet to get those messages. I wonder how they warn volunteers who don't ever have internet or maybe even no computer? Lol Three more weeks. I can do this (funny part about this is, ya'll will be reading this when I finally have Internet :P).  Buenas noches.

Tomorrow-Make A Brave Move

May 22, 2013. Oh the rain. How I love thee en la mañana. How I adore thee en la tarde. And how I long for you en la noche. I woke up to rain and I'll be honest, 75% of me hoped it would continue pouring so maybe school would be cancelled and I could sleep in. But of course, just as my alarm went off, it stopped lol. Saltine crackers and nacho cheese that you microwave and dip tortilla chips in served as my breakfast and went surprisingly well with my hot chocolate :P
I ventured out in a skirt and sandals and observed Ramona's class. Today was better in that I was only left alone with the kids for 20 minutes while she was in the phone and only broke up two fights. The director got a list of the kids that need extra help with literacy. This was wonderful. Now I just need to figure out how to tell the kids when to come (since I don't know where they all live), how often I'm going to have the classes, and how I'm going to teach them. Luckily, classes don't end for another month so I sorta have time :) 
After lunch, I laid down for my daily nap. Aaaaand literally laughed maniacally in my head as I watched the mosquitos fly around and land on my mosquitera. Muahaha you can't bite me! Though I have 15 bites on my left leg (yup, Nati and I counted them together-bring it on Dengue!) from this morning :(. Guess I'm never wearing capris or skirts for the next 2 years. There goes my entire wardrobe. Haha I changed into jeans and voilá! Didn't get bitten. I headed back to the school and observed again. The kids were calm in that class but the lesson was sooooo boring. But we ended classes early again today (that may have actually been a plus) because of the rain. It stopped me from visiting Mauela, however, which I didn't like. I hope she understands. It was just so flooded in the streets (see below) but I'll try again tomorrow.
I had been studying in the doorway while watching the rain. A few people came to visit just as I sat down to eat dinner. They gathered in the living room and I escaped to my room once I was done. Guess nothing has changed... Oops. I know I need to venture out or else my Spanish won't ever improve. I suppose I just had yet another weak moment. I think my plan for times like this is to then try 100X harder the next day to make a brave move and overcome a fear. Make up for the lack the previous day. Vamos a ver. 
I read in my room for the rest of the night, ate two spoonfuls of peanut butter, and talked to Nate (which helped like always, love you babe). And with the crickets and my malaria pills, Buenas noches :) Also, side note: I love the love between my Don and Doña. It's the first genuinely loving Dominican relationship I've seen since being here :). Okay, night!

Stick To The List

May 21, 2013. We're gonna stay positive after today and just make a list of the good things that happened so as not to dwell.
1. Ann (my placement director) had a meeting with me, Juana Iris, and Nati. We also got a chance to talk just us and she validated my concerns about the job I have ahead of myself. It didn't make it any easier but I felt better knowing I'm not wrong.
2. She also said it would be a great idea to just do something small in the summer with those kids that need a little extra help so that was a weight lifted too.
3. My parents answered the phone when I needed them and sent me lovin'.
4. I woke up from my mini nap to cerezas on my table in my room from Mayelin.
5. I ventured back out to the second tanda despite really really not wanting to.
6. I observed Nati teach since the teacher was running late and she was better than anyone I've seen thus far here (better, but I still don't understand the teaching methods here...).
7. The director of the other school was finally there so I headed over (alone! I felt brave.) and got to observe a little. Manuela is great with her kids though again, there is still a lack of understanding.
8. The director (Elba) then took me on a "paseo" around the community on that side and I got to meet a ton of people. She really pushed that I'm working in the schools but also with anything and everything in the community... Oh boy. She also thinks I understand nothing in Spanish and reminded me of that multiple times ("Tú no sabes nada en Español. No entiendes nada." You don't know anything in Spanish. You understand nothing). I tried to explain that I understand more than I'm able to talk but I do understand quite a bit. It didn't really work and she tried to throw in English here and there. She was wrong most of the time and always when I already knew what she was saying in Spanish. But shit, I said I'd stay positive. Moving on! Stick to the list.
9. We returned to the school and sat outside and ate mangoes. She gave me days to come observe and Friday I'm going on another excursion with this school (the same one!-zoo and colonial zone). I'm putting this here because I'm choosing to believe that it's a second chance. I messed up majorly the first time. Not this time.
10. Next week she wants to bring me to her house in Villa (like Nati did) and to church. Church is late though so I'm going to be spending the night there. *crosses fingers for a positive trip since I'm just not sure how I feel about her yet*
11. I set up a time to visit Manuela at her house tomorrow just to pass time. I'm really excited about this because she's wonderful and patient with me and my Spanish (unlike the director).
12. I played cards with a few kids on my porch and set up a time Saturday to teach some of the 8th graders English. Hell, why not.
13. Learned a new card game.
14. Got to talk to Jen.
15. Going to bed early.

Buenas noches.

Gettin' That Confianza!

May 20, 2013. Dude, I busted out my sleeping bag to use as another blanket this morning cuz I was THAT cold! :D so awesome! And I had a spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast this morning. So worth the pesos :) I went to the school to observe. And wanted to cry the entire time. Let's just say last week was the norm (I tried to stay positive and hope it would be better) and I broke up two fights. Recess was great cuz I played with the kids :). But yea. I literally just repeated in my head, "Little by little. You have two years. Concentrate on the kids first and literacy. The teachers can come later." Over and over again... I told the director I wanted to observe the other side this week so she said she would take me in the afternoon tanda. I also told her I wanted to get a list of the kids that needed extra help with literacy so I could put something together for the summer. She said I could use the school and that "Anything is possible with me."  Love, love, love her. 
I went home for lunch and was so exhausted. Mayelin came over though so we played cards until my lunch was ready. I ate, then went to rest. And of course passed out just as my alarm went off. I headed out and Nati walked me over the thruway. I asked her about her job, why it's temporary and what happened before her. Lots of drama. But! It's possible that she could stay! And she wants to! Crossing my fingers so hard right now. The woman that she's up against for the spot next year is a teacher right now.. Anyways, we went and the director wasn't there. So I couldn't observe for some reason. But we chatted with the one teacher that lives on our side but teaches there and she's wonderful. Said I could come over anytime. And they talked about wanting an English class too. Oh alright lol. We left, I saw another guy I met at the Play last week and I'm gonna return tomorrow. Nati said maybe the director can show me around the neighborhood as well which would be great since I feel like I know nothing about it.
I observed in another classroom on our side. The teacher up and left to do something with the director and just told the kids to take turns reading aloud and that I was in charge. It was a mess. But just as I started to organize something and the kids started listening... The clouds rolled in so they let out an hour and a half early. Some kids have to cross that river... I went home and sat on the porch and watched the storm (new favorite thing). A few girls came over and played my cards, drew, and read some of my books while I played with the little 2 year old. More and more kids came over and did the same. Four of us played cards until eventually it was me and three grown men playing Tres y Dos (that game that every Dominican in this country knows, I swear). We must have played 30 rounds easy. I had no idea men my age and older liked it so much haha. I didn't talk much and they talked a lot. And super fast, of course. But I laughed, stayed animated, and didn't feel too awkward which is nice. After giving the guy next to me the card he needed to win for the 100th time, I dramatically quit and had dinner by candlelight. Alone. Super romantic :). 
So today? I ventured to the other side. Got to know one woman a little more. Found out where someone I already knew lives. Almost had a teaching moment. Had a bunch of kids hanging out with me despite the rain. And hung out and played cards with more people around me here (gettin' that confianza!). Little by little. I'd say this is a Win Day #3 :). Buenas noches.

Shucking Guandules

May 19, 2013. I finally rolled myself out of bed around 8:45am shortly after I heard my Doña rise. I had been up since 6:30 when my Don left with all the noise outside but it was alright, I felt relaxed somehow. My Doña was gone so I read, studied, and found some of the notes and lessons I had of the things the pastor and I talked about yesterday. When she returned, I got breakfast! And then she left again lol For the pueblo, Villa Altagracia. I hung around, read, and studied some more. Then Lizbeth came over with some friends and they took my cards to play. Then wanted to draw more. 
Lizbeth asked me if I wanted to go "por arriba" (towards the mountains) to her house. She mopped first, I helped with dishes, and then we went. We stopped at her friends house, then had to cross a river to get to her house. We talked about how it gets dangerous when it rains too much and she can't leave her house to go "por abajo" (towards the thruway) where everything in town is. Crazy. Anyways, we got there and the majority of the time was super awkward for me. Her grandmother (my Doña's mother) and her aunt were cooking and I just sat and watched. They didn't interact with me so I was lost a lot and the old people (there were two old men there too) have ridiculously difficult accents.  My Doña came over eventually and talked to me a little but dammit, she talks so fast. We ate lunch there and chatted after. 
Then the guandules. Oh baby those are fun. I don't know what you call it so I'm just gonna say that the act of taking the beans out of their pod is "shucking."  We shucked for a good two hours lol. My Doña  left at one point but I decided to force myself to stay. No, I didn't talk but I was there helping... I hope that meant something still. At one point, my "grandmother" (we'll call her) asked me questions about where I'm from, my family, and why I'm here. That felt good since at least she knows now that I can in fact talk... 
I finally said I was gonna head out but she made me wait for Lizbeth so she could walk me back. I tried to tell her I could go on my own, but it didn't work lol. I drank my third cup of coffee of the day (and loved it) and left with the girls. Immediately upon leaving it started down pouring. And I had my glasses on so I literally couldn't see a thing haha. We were drenched by the time we made it to my house and the lightning and thunder was fierce. There was one thunder clap that was the loudest boom I have ever heard in my entire life. All of us jumped and laughed. Oh, and I shucked more guandules with my Doña while the girls made more things for my room (my wall is almost completely covered and it makes me so happy!). I already need to buy more paper and supplies but right now, I don't mind. Maybe when I see the prices I will, but when I asked if they were able to do these types of things in school at all, they said no. They love it, they're so good at it and they're creative. It kills me. Even my host mom made something lol. After talking with the pastor yesterday and seeing how much these girls (and the two boys that have done some) love it, I may want to have an art camp this summer. Not sure if I could realistically afford enough supplies but it would be wonderful. And I could easily tie in literacy with it... It could be less structured than a lesson (perfect for my Spanish level right now) and a great way to allow the kids to be creative (and take a break from copying from the board). We'll see...
The luz returned just as it was getting super dark which was wonderful. They eventually cleaned up and headed out as the rain slowed a bit (but it still hasn't stopped yet). My doña went to watch TV so I went to my room to study and read some more. She brought me two mangoes and made me dinner (tostones and fried chicken. Ugh, so delicious but so terrible). The luz went out again and when my Don came back from playing Dominoes, we ate together around their lantern. 
I showered (with running water finally! There hasn't been any for quite a few days now, apparently) by headlamp light with some weird gross looking mini-cockroach things and went to bed. It's only 8:30pm now but when the luz goes and it's pitch black out... What else is there to do? Lol Not a super exciting day but I need to count the little things:
1. I found things I want to share with the pastor.
2. I got breakfast.
3. My Doña went to Villa and bought a bunch of nice things for herself which made her supper happy (I just gave her my rent money last night lol).
4. Two new girls (more names memorized everyday!) came over to color and play cards.
5. I ventured out of my room and met new people and hung out with my host mom's mom (and learned about that new area of town since I hadn't been down that road before).
6. I shucked guandules for 3 hours total today.
7. I didn't get sick from eating raw lettuce (yet...oops). 
8. Listened and watched an insane thunderstorm.
9. Conversed with my host mom more. 
10. Let the girls' imaginations go crazy with artsy stuff (despite it probably costing me a fortune in the near future to replenish). 
11. Ate mangoes, tostones and fried chicken.
12. Made it to page 2 of my novel in Spanish (definitely ignoring that whole 5 finger rule for picking a book with an appropriate reading-level). 
13. Appreciated the luz but didn't get upset when it went back out!
14. Got to shower with running water.
:)
Buenas noches.

I Simply Took a Walk

May 18, 2013. Today I woke up around 8. At 10 I got corn bread and hot chocolate and I spent the morning studying. My doña did my laundry even though I tried to say I needed to learn (to which she explained how in seconds with her quick, difficult-to-understand Spanish- I learned nothing). Mayelin came over and I interviewed her for my diagnostic (woo!) and we played cards. She's super sick and was coughing and sneezing everywhere so I'll probably be next haha. I was going to go for a walk around the neighborhood but my Doña went to her mother's house and I wasn't sure if I could leave. Lizbeth came over and we played cards (I taught her one of the games Paola taught me and she loved it!), watched TV, I interviewed her as well, and ate lunch.
After, I finally worked up the courage and simply took a walk (the guilt got to me and I knew I should be showing my face in the community before these next three months fly by and I visit no one. Haha so dramatic but that's all I kept thinking: "Don't ruin it from the start!"). I didn't know where I was going or why but I walked. I met a boy on the street who lost 5 pesos so I helped him look for a bit. The kids called me either Profé (love) or Julie. I said hello to everyone I saw. And then found myself walking to the end of one street where I knew the pastor lived. My plan was to simply turn around there and walk back, maybe seeing Juana Iris that time. But the pastor saw me out his door and told me to come inside.
I spent three hours with the pastor. We talked about everything. Police corruption. My passion of teaching. How to manage classrooms. How to plan lessons. Wages of teachers. Documentation in this country and this community. How he wants a center for adolescents and youth to hang out. Multiple intelligences. Different teaching styles. Lack of creativity in schools. First you have a relationship with God, then yourself, then others. His family. The Constitution of the RD. English and that he wants to learn. How the Duarte is dangerous and I must promise never to cross it alone. The people across the way that he is going to introduce me to so they can show me around that community :D. That parents are a child's first teacher and their responsibilities as such. Violence in the lives of our kids here and how they're becoming insensitive to it. The rights of humans. How he talks too much (to which I explained how good that is for me and my Spanish and for confianza). My education background. My family. My boyfriend. My plan for life (which he actually understood!! He said that I have an organized plan; this first, go back to school, get married and that's a good thing. Yessss). He was amazed at how much work teaching was (though I didn't even come close to explaining it all) and that I could have chosen any profession that would have paid way better. But I chose teaching and he truly appreciated that and understood that it was a decision of the heart, not the wallet. 
I could have talked to him for three more hours. We laughed (I said funny things in Spanish!), talked about serious matters (because time is too valuable to waste words), and just enjoyed each other's company. He repeated over and over again how glad he was that I am here. I'm so glad I simply took a walk. I took the first step unsure of a destination or specific purpose. But I found both, and now the next walk won't take so much courage (hopefully).
I just have to keep reminding myself that I do have time. I spent time with two children, my Doña, and the pastor (and passed by a few others). That's a good day! Part of me is telling me it's not enough but I truly know that's wrong. I just have to keep doing that each day and the comfort will come. The relationships will develop. My Spanish will improve (I find I yell at myself when I think I've been thinking too much in English). And the things I need/want to do with the community will fall into my lap. Sasha said this at training and she was right. Even today already, a lady in the community asked me if I would have English classes because she wants to learn. I soooo don't want to teach English but if it's wanted, I'll do it. But that's one example and I've been here for one day. It'll all work out with time. I just need more patience with myself. 
Oh! Random side note but we had luz all day! Super awesome :D And Orange works in my community so I'll be able to use the Fly Box from Amber for Wifi. Major win for me and I'm not ashamed to admit that. 
I had a cheese and jamón sandwich and lemon juice which made me super happy (despite drinking mini flies). And now I'm headed to bed. Buenas noches.

Embrace Them And Wait It Out

May 17, 2013. I've found that sometimes you just have to wait out the nerves. I don't know how to get rid of them yet. Words of encouragement from loved ones help, friends experiencing the same helps, and breathing deeply helps. But the flutters always seem to remain and the slight panic washes over anyways. But I think I've realized that they're okay and maybe even good. I need to accept them. It means that whatever I am nervous about, my whole heart is in it and I care a lot about it.  Maybe they're even preparing me to not just succeed, but excel. My senses are heightened and I'm ready to try 101X harder.  And then when they finally subside, the feeling of accomplishment is even greater because I had to overcome the nerves that pricked my body and go out into my fear anyways. And possibly it's one less thing I will need to be nervous about next time.
I awoke this morning at 6:30am (after getting to bed at 3:30am after our party) and couldn't fall back asleep. My mind spun and spun with things coming up. Going back to my site. And for good. Meeting more people. Only having Spanish as a means of communication (verbal). The community diagnostic. Missing my family. The reality of two years. Etc. I felt more than just the hangover (oops, I said it) and the nerves settled back into their home in my stomach and head. We slowly arose around 8:30 and played Internet for a while. Eventually we got breakfast right in the hotel and it was delicious (and cheap!). I tried to distract myself, talk, eat, laugh but I had a constant reminder. We finished packing and took a taxi to the bus stop. In the taxi, Susan and I barely spoke. She felt it too but there weren't words to help. It just was what it was. We made it and I found out that there was no bus there that went to Villa Altagracia. I was pretty sure I could wait for a bus on the street so we parted ways and I waited. After a bit, I finally asked a security guy. There was no bus there for me. He got me a taxi to take me to the right bus stop but that cost me RD$250. That's more than double what the entire trip should cost me and I hadn't even taken the bus yet. Then that bus was going to the actual pueblo Villa Altagracia (I paid RD$140 and I found out from Lula it should have only cost me $70. Asshole.) and I needed to go about 10km further. So I would have to take a carro the rest of the way; paying more and I had no idea how to find one.  I was pissed. But Susan and her infinite wisdom said, "You live and learn. Next time will be easier and think positive: you're on your way! Every adventure has some bumps but that's what makes it an adventure!"  She was absolutely right. I know now (at least, I think I do) what I need to do next time and I won't have to pay as much. I also managed to speak in Spanish and ask the security guy for help, converse with the taxi guy and a lady on the bus, explain to a cobrador my dilemma with needing to go to Km59 and not the pueblo, ask where I can find a carro, ask the carro if he goes to my campo, and go (with my hiking pack, a bookbag full of children's books, and another bag). Some parts with the whole Spanish thing were messy but I did it. Holy shit. 
I got to my site and two women got out with me. They apparently live in my campo and the one is the niece of my host mom. Oops, didn't recognize her lol. On the way, my host mom ran over and took my bookbag of books. I tried to argue, explaining that it was super heavy and that I could carry it. She proceeded to tell me that she's carried much more than that before and that she was fine :). She's just so damn tiny, the bag was at least three times her width.  Anyways, we got to the house and I started to unpack (with all my new things I bought which made me super happy! i.e hangers, a soap dish, toothbrush holder, writing utensil holder, peanut butter, y más. It's the little things, right??). Then she brought me milk and added a little coffee which was strangely good. As I busted out all my books she goes, "Oh! I have a table you could use! It's super ugly but we could cover it and you could put your books on it which would be better than the floor." She grabbed it and it's perfect. She went on and on about how ugly it was but I seriously couldn't have been happier with it (see below). 
This was when I thought all those things I put above. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't nervous anymore and in fact, I felt very calm.  I couldn't pin point a moment when the nerves went away. And it wasn't like I completed all that I was worried/nervous about. All morning I had stressed, felt cloudy, and struggled to eat my delicious breakfast because of the butterflies. But, they got me through a crazy, expensive trip, lots of Spanish, and the reunion with my home. And then they went away and I was at peace. Sometimes, you just have to embrace the panic and wait it out. It's all good.
Mayelin came over and helped me with my room again. Then Juana Iris and Linda (that crazy lady I said I couldn't wait to get closer to) came over. They bought me Ritz crackers with cheese and a grape soda :D. We sat outside and chatted about my trip, my family back home, my boyfriend ("Is he begging you to come home yet??"), their week, and the Avon catalog that I think my host mom has to sell product. They also asked if I was going to have classes over the summer. I said I wasn't sure yet but I thought about doing a few things with those students that need a little extra help in literacy; but I needed to talk to the teachers still. I'd like to do more but I'm not sure where I'll be at with my Spanish or what resources I'll have (location and materials). I didn't say this but I'd love to have a family reading event where parents and kids come and read together. There could be a mini talk in the beginning about how important it is to read with your children and maybe we could have a snack as incentive to come (Dominicans love that!). 
At one point I dropped my soda, waited for a bit, and opened it. I didn't wait long enough. It exploded all over me and a little on Juana Iris. Oh man that was a good laugh had by all :). Eventually they left, I finished my room, and Lizbeth came over. We played cards, a few people came over and said hello to me, the kids and I spread all my new books out and read for a while, I had tostones (with ketchup!) and salami for dinner, we drew more things for my room, I hung my cards around my one window (with my new clothespins), and yea.  There was no luz all day so Mayelin and I went outside for a bit where it was a little brighter. We talked about the weather, the capital, school and what she learned, New York, dancing, and her family. The crickets chirped, some dogs would fight every now and again, and the stars whispered a calming tune. I felt so great. And not one moment of silence felt awkward. 
My host mom returned from another random trip and she had that awesome corn bread (with sugar and coconut) from her mother. She gave us some with milk :). Finally I told Mayelin that I needed to shower (my new plastic, rectangular bin for my shower stuff was genius, btw) and go to bed early since I was super tired. Oh! And the luz came back! And my host mother showed me the new light system in the house. Before, there was just one light in the middle of the ceiling which served for my bedroom (where the switch was), the bathroom, living room, and dining room. They had a light in their bedroom. The bathroom was always dark so showers were interesting, and when I went to bed, the majority of the light would be out which I felt bad about the days I went to bed early. But now?? There's a light directly above my room, one in the bathroom, and one in the living/dining room. It's wonderful! And my Don is fixing my door so I can have a lock for it :D So if I tally it all up? I have my own light, a new table, and a lock in my door. I feel as though they might not mind as much that I'm here like I thought :)
But now that it's 10pm which is not early like I wanted, I'm headed to bed with a full heart, calm stomach, and somewhat rationale mindset (for now). Buenas noches. 


Embrace Them And Wait It Out

May 17, 2013. I've found that sometimes you just have to wait out the nerves. I don't know how to get rid of them yet. Words of encouragement from loved ones help, friends experiencing the same helps, and breathing deeply helps. But the flutters always seem to remain and the slight panic washes over anyways. But I think I've realized that they're okay and maybe even good. I need to accept them. It means that whatever I am nervous about, my whole heart is in it and I care a lot about it.  Maybe they're even preparing me to not just succeed, but excel. My senses are heightened and I'm ready to try 101X harder.  And then when they finally subside, the feeling of accomplishment is even greater because I had to overcome the nerves that pricked my body and go out into my fear anyways. And possibly it's one less thing I will need to be nervous about next time.
I awoke this morning at 6:30am (after getting to bed at 3:30am after our party) and couldn't fall back asleep. My mind spun and spun with things coming up. Going back to my site. And for good. Meeting more people. Only having Spanish as a means of communication (verbal). The community diagnostic. Missing my family. The reality of two years. Etc. I felt more than just the hangover (oops, I said it) and the nerves settled back into their home in my stomach and head. We slowly arose around 8:30 and played Internet for a while. Eventually we got breakfast right in the hotel and it was delicious (and cheap!). I tried to distract myself, talk, eat, laugh but I had a constant reminder. We finished packing and took a taxi to the bus stop. In the taxi, Susan and I barely spoke. She felt it too but there weren't words to help. It just was what it was. We made it and I found out that there was no bus there that went to Villa Altagracia. I was pretty sure I could wait for a bus on the street so we parted ways and I waited. After a bit, I finally asked a security guy. There was no bus there for me. He got me a taxi to take me to the right bus stop but that cost me RD$250. That's more than double what the entire trip should cost me and I hadn't even taken the bus yet. Then that bus was going to the actual pueblo Villa Altagracia (I paid RD$140 and I found out from Lula it should have only cost me $70. Asshole.) and I needed to go about 10km further. So I would have to take a carro the rest of the way; paying more and I had no idea how to find one.  I was pissed. But Susan and her infinite wisdom said, "You live and learn. Next time will be easier and think positive: you're on your way! Every adventure has some bumps but that's what makes it an adventure!"  She was absolutely right. I know now (at least, I think I do) what I need to do next time and I won't have to pay as much. I also managed to speak in Spanish and ask the security guy for help, converse with the taxi guy and a lady on the bus, explain to a cobrador my dilemma with needing to go to Km59 and not the pueblo, ask where I can find a carro, ask the carro if he goes to my campo, and go (with my hiking pack, a bookbag full of children's books, and another bag). Some parts with the whole Spanish thing were messy but I did it. Holy shit. 
I got to my site and two women got out with me. They apparently live in my campo and the one is the niece of my host mom. Oops, didn't recognize her lol. On the way, my host mom ran over and took my bookbag of books. I tried to argue, explaining that it was super heavy and that I could carry it. She proceeded to tell me that she's carried much more than that before and that she was fine :). She's just so damn tiny, the bag was at least three times her width.  Anyways, we got to the house and I started to unpack (with all my new things I bought which made me super happy! i.e hangers, a soap dish, toothbrush holder, writing utensil holder, peanut butter, y más. It's the little things, right??). Then she brought me milk and added a little coffee which was strangely good. As I busted out all my books she goes, "Oh! I have a table you could use! It's super ugly but we could cover it and you could put your books on it which would be better than the floor." She grabbed it and it's perfect. She went on and on about how ugly it was but I seriously couldn't have been happier with it (see below). 
This was when I thought all those things I put above. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't nervous anymore and in fact, I felt very calm.  I couldn't pin point a moment when the nerves went away. And it wasn't like I completed all that I was worried/nervous about. All morning I had stressed, felt cloudy, and struggled to eat my delicious breakfast because of the butterflies. But, they got me through a crazy, expensive trip, lots of Spanish, and the reunion with my home. And then they went away and I was at peace. Sometimes, you just have to embrace the panic and wait it out. It's all good.
Mayelin came over and helped me with my room again. Then Juana Iris and Linda (that crazy lady I said I couldn't wait to get closer to) came over. They bought me Ritz crackers with cheese and a grape soda :D. We sat outside and chatted about my trip, my family back home, my boyfriend ("Is he begging you to come home yet??"), their week, and the Avon catalog that I think my host mom has to sell product. They also asked if I was going to have classes over the summer. I said I wasn't sure yet but I thought about doing a few things with those students that need a little extra help in literacy; but I needed to talk to the teachers still. I'd like to do more but I'm not sure where I'll be at with my Spanish or what resources I'll have (location and materials). I didn't say this but I'd love to have a family reading event where parents and kids come and read together. There could be a mini talk in the beginning about how important it is to read with your children and maybe we could have a snack as incentive to come (Dominicans love that!). 
At one point I dropped my soda, waited for a bit, and opened it. I didn't wait long enough. It exploded all over me and a little on Juana Iris. Oh man that was a good laugh had by all :). Eventually they left, I finished my room, and Lizbeth came over. We played cards, a few people came over and said hello to me, the kids and I spread all my new books out and read for a while, I had tostones (with ketchup!) and salami for dinner, we drew more things for my room, I hung my cards around my one window (with my new clothespins), and yea.  There was no luz all day so Mayelin and I went outside for a bit where it was a little brighter. We talked about the weather, the capital, school and what she learned, New York, dancing, and her family. The crickets chirped, some dogs would fight every now and again, and the stars whispered a calming tune. I felt so great. And not one moment of silence felt awkward. 
My host mom returned from another random trip and she had that awesome corn bread (with sugar and coconut) from her mother. She gave us some with milk :). Finally I told Mayelin that I needed to shower (my new plastic, rectangular bin for my shower stuff was genius, btw) and go to bed early since I was super tired. Oh! And the luz came back! And my host mother showed me the new light system in the house. Before, there was just one light in the middle of the ceiling which served for my bedroom (where the switch was), the bathroom, living room, and dining room. They had a light in their bedroom. The bathroom was always dark so showers were interesting, and when I went to bed, the majority of the light would be out which I felt bad about the days I went to bed early. But now?? There's a light directly above my room, one in the bathroom, and one in the living/dining room. It's wonderful! And my Don is fixing my door so I can have a lock for it :D So if I tally it all up? I have my own light, a new table, and a lock in my door. I feel as though they might not mind as much that I'm here like I thought :)
But now that it's 10pm which is not early like I wanted, I'm headed to bed with a full heart, calm stomach, and somewhat rationale mindset (for now). Buenas noches. 


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Life Begins at the End of our Comfort Zone

May 16, 2013. A cheese sandwich and hand-written card from Paola and my host mother sent me off to the capital and served as my final goodbye to Pantoja. And I will admit, I did actually feel a bit sad.  No, they weren't my favorite host family to live with after experiencing two others. But they were my first. And as a first love always has a place in your heart even if you weren't meant for each other, Paola and Carmen will have their place too. They allowed me into their home with a gorgeous room and my own bathroom, always had a chair for me to sit in, had a glass of fresh juice on ice every time I walked through the door, and taught me card games I can take anywhere in the country. Paola was my saving grace those first few weeks when I was a newborn baby in a foreign country with her smile, patience, love of volleyball, and infectious laugh that echoed in the neighborhood. I just lost that drive to try with my host mom and found that I resorted to my room this last little bit with them. Maybe when I return in three months, however, and I'm more comfortable in my speech, things can be different. I left them a note in my room and promised to call when I arrive at my site tomorrow. 
The four of us called a taxi since our weight in luggage would have probably gotten a carro stuck on a speed bump. We drove out of Pantoja and a cloud cleared in my skies though another loomed in the distance. But with the comfort of training gone, comes the adventure of freedom and the ability to create change. A good friend once wrote me, "Life begins at the end of our comfort zone." (you know who you are). Here's to believing.
We made it to the PC Office, went to a Dinámica session, did a lot of Internet, got empanadas for lunch, set up online banking, and headed to our hotel. It has a clean room, air conditioning (I was the coldest I have ever been in these last few months and I loved it!), cable, wifi (got to see my mom, dad, and munchkin!), crazy awesome running water with pressure (but no hot water which I actually wanted once I got in), and a comfy bed. Ugh, so amazing. I feel super wealthy (though see below, we were super messy rich people). We went to go get food at some point but took it back cuz we didn't want to leave the room :). And tonight? Shipwrecked Prom!! I've got my bandana, eye patch, and belt for my pirate outfit. It's gonna be soooo good. Haha but since I'll be coming back very happy and late, I'll post this now.
Tomorrow, I'm off to my home for good. Again, I won't have Internet for about a month so this is my last post until then (I lied last time I said that). Love you all so much and miss each and every one of you (Yes, even you). Can't wait to porch sit and coffee drink with all the locals and hopefully get goin on this Spanish thing ;). But I will always have your love and memories with me in those moments.
¡Nos vemos en un mes!

So Help Me God!

May 15, 2013. Today was the last day at training. What an insane thought. And while I'm ready to go out and do the things they've taught us, I'm going to be real and admit that I'm scared to lose the structure. It's such a safety net here; they tell you where to go and when and are always there if you need something (and in English). I know we have support always when we're in our sites but it's not like they will be there everyday like they are now.
But alas, we had a session on medical reminders and then all about money since we got our debit cards. After that, we found out all of our scores throughout training and "if" we passed (no one failed and we knew that already lol). When my name was called, I walked over and before I sat down Jennifer said, "Congratulations, you made it to a 5." I immediately told her to shut up and started walking away haha. I came back and sat down and she went through my scores and sent me on my way. The tears welled up, of course, and I had to repeat to myself that I had made it to the level 5, which was required for swear-in. It may be out of a 10, but that's what I needed. And while I personally don't feel I'm at where I should be, I did it. And I can go into my site and become fluent on my own.
We hung out at the site for a while just talking and playing cards. No one said it, but I don't think we wanted to leave quite yet. We do have one more day together tomorrow but then that's it. It's on us to visit each other and keep in touch. Until our three month IST, of course. At noon I headed out, ate lunch with my Doña, and went in my room to rest. My dad called and I got to tell him my news. It was kind of awful not being able to tell my family right away so I was super happy and emotional (what else is new lately?) when he did. We talked for a while, I watched a bit of Bridesmaids to celebrate, and started getting ready. Tonight was Swear-In. And I have to say, I did my hair and make-up and for the first time since I've been here, I felt pretty. All ya'll are gonna shake your heads or think I'm being egotistical; but it just felt nice. 
Aaaanyways. We took tons of pictures (see below-fake cake, Lobo, Andy, some education girls, CBT Spanish class with David (pronounced Dah-veed), Pantoja Spanish class with Marcia (!!), my host mom and Paola, and the whole education group!). We had our ceremony all in Spanish except for our Peace Corps Oath; which I will end putting here at the end because it gave me chills reading it aloud and sounds super fancy and official. Dad, it made me think of you and your service in the military (thank you for that, always)  and how I always wanted to do that too...
But before I do that, I'll finish the night. We had refreshments and a slideshow of pictures from training. I ate two pieces of cake. We had a beer at a colmado to celebrate (but saving ourselves for the party tomorrow that's going to be a crazy, hot mess). I headed home and had my last dinner with Paola (for three months anyways) of eggs and plátanos. I talked to Jen, packed my bags (tomorrow's and Friday's travels are gonna suck alone) and now I should head out to say goodnight to the Dominoes crowd.
Pero primero:
I, Julie Pangborn, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps. So help me God!

Buenas noches and look out KM 59, a new volunteer is comin!!








Wednesday, May 15, 2013

AMURICA!

May 14, 2013. Phew! Today was crazy but fun. We headed to the PC Office early in the morning, which was an hour drive (and shouldn't have been) of Andy and I singing songs from a US radio station dramatically to each other on the bus :).  We arrived and in shifts we got another tour (I understood it all this time!!), went to the bank and received our debit cards (with money!!), learned about the computers available to us there, and got our key for our mailbox.  I got mail from my family from the beginning of May which was much faster this time! It had my new debit card from home (bam!), letters from my mom and dad, and dinosaur pictures from Jake (which are totally going to be hung in my room!). I was almost in tears at that point and then there were melted Resee's that I devoured in minutes. THEN I got a big bag of children's books and puzzles in Spanish from the volunteer that I went to visit in the mountain since she's heading out. That's when the tears came. But super happy and overwhelmingly loved ones :). There's also a really cool room at the office that has an entire wall of books; you can leave some and take some. I got a book in English and one in Spanish (which I've been wanting). There's also a system to leave things for other volunteers for extended periods and there are boxes of free stuff where people can put clothes they don't want anymore. Apparently it's hit or miss but hey! A hit would be worth going through a few misses since it's free! I'm so cheap :). 
After that we had pizza which was finally a decent pizza; I guess the third time's a charm! A big guy from the US Embassy came and spoke to us about safety and dangers here in the DR. Apparently it's not at a crazy level but it's on the rise with the rise in drug trafficking. He was super blunt, dry, but strangely funny so it wasn't so bad. I'm just gonna suck at the whole, "Don't resist" when getting mugged or something... He said that here he has never had someone with an injury who just gave up their things when asked and didn't resist. Damn. :P
Once that was over, we were free! A group of us took the Metro (brand-new, gorgeous Metro!) to the mall (big and super fancy!). I got jeans!! Finally! And sandals that don't fit but were cheap since I'm afraid mine are gonna die pretty soon (already). Lol buuuut... I already spent some of my money from the PC. Too much for comfort right now but I'm sure I'll be okay lol. Just wasn't sure at that point if I could safely use my card from home without them freaking out that money was being spent in the DR. It's all good though. 
I also talked to Amber and she said she is going to give me her hand-me-down Fly Box from the cell company, Orange. This will plug into my wall and send out a Wifi signal! This box has been passed down three times now and I'll just have to take over the payments and not have to worry about filling out all the paperwork for a new one. It'll be $1,300 (pesos) a month which sounds like a whole lot to me right now (but if I'm doing it right, it's only like $35 (dollars) a month which makes it sound like nothing). But they said if I budget, it's doable. Plus they were able to stream movies, watch YouTube, and Skype with family back home easy with it, so it's worth it. And I'll be real, that will mean the world to me if I can talk to my family and friends in the states. I'll skip breakfast if I have to, damnit. The only downside is that I won't have it until the beginning of June. But we planned a day in the capital already for me pick it up and spend time with Amber and her man before they head out of the country and leave me (ugh, bittersweet). 
We ended the day we called, "AMURICA," (singing songs in English, debit cards, notes from home, Resee's, pizza and Coke, the Metro, mall, jeans, promise of wifi) with a McFlurry with M&Ms and caramel and headed out. The guagua we took was so packed we had to stand the whole way and my leg fell asleep in between people along with my arms that were trying to hold the flat ceiling for support haha. I came home to fried cheese and potatoes and chinola juice.  I showered and stayed in my room again, almost with no guilt this time. But I'm sleepy from the craziness and reminders of home. Entonces, with a smile and excitement for tomorrow, buenas noches.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My New But Not Completely Strange Necessities of Life

May 13, 2013. Woo! I got breakfast! Never thought I would miss my cheese and jamón sandwich in the morning :). Today was a ping pong game of me freaking out and then yelling at myself for freaking out. So many things went through my head as we walked around and learned about the other PC sectors here in the DR and how we can tap into them for secondary projects. Super cool but super overwhelming. Do I start these things now? How do I do them? Wait, what about my diagnostic? Shit, how do I even do that? Who am I going to do that with? Etc... Then I'd talk to an experienced PCV and they all said the same thing, slow your roll. Every volunteer comes in and expects to do crazy things right out of the gate and it just doesn't happen. Even if they do, they regret it and wish they had just relaxed in the first three months and got to know people. Then I'd go off and think, but I don't have the Spanish. How am I supposed to even do these things I want to do in the future? And they'd tell me to chill, it'll come, and your projects will come into view too. I won't have to look far and people will come to me with things they'd like to see or change. And the Spanish will come. I just don't understand it. How does it come when you have no one to explain what someone says as you stare at them blankly after getting not a single word they just said... But I guess that's how we learned English right? We went from nothing when we're born to talking fluently by young ages just by listening... Before you even go to school... I just don't get it. But I have to remember that I will.
I also had my interview with Ann and she made me feel so much better. After leaving my site I realized I was super confused about my purpose there when so many other volunteers seem to already have a grasp. Apparently AMCHAM DR has a focus in 9 schools and 2 of them are the ones I'll be working in. And they haven't been seeing the results they want to see. I'm there as the "on the grounds" person to see to it that changes are made. The director of the other school is apparently going to be rough to work with. But Ann is going to come to my community the first Tuesday I get back and have a meeting with everyone and explain my purpose, my first three months, and so on. This is wonderful since I don't think anyone in my community knows and I can't quite explain it. She also said that if she had had more time to plan this, I wouldn't have gone there because the schools are so early in the development stage and they need a lot of help. But, I'm there and she's excited for me. This was two-fold for me because that's exactly what I wanted, a challenge and high-needs area. But seeing it in real life and briefly seeing the lack of motivation or care in the teachers? Woo. I asked for a lot lol. Hopefully after two years though I can say, "You did it." To some extent since the PC has a goal of 6-8 year projects in these same areas. So when my 2 years are up, another education volunteer will swing in and continue the work, and another after that. Ad since I'm the first in my community, it's gonna be a lot of base work and maybe not as many results. But we'll see.
After that and lunch and a few more technical things, I had my final Spanish interview. I'm not quite sure how it went but I did the best I could... I was nervous not because of what my level is at for them, the PC, but for me. I know they're not going to send me home and tell me I can't do my job so that's not the issue. I just want to be further than I am. So I was nervous and frustrated walking into it. I'll find out my level Wednesday. 
Once I was done, a bunch of us headed to La Sirena for all my new necessities of life. I needed shampoo, face wash, deodorant, and a few other things and I ended up spending way too much lol. But I think we get more money soon? I hope :P. I also got hangers (definitely needed those), clothespins (for clothes or a literacy game), pencil sharpener and eraser, more tape and that awesome tissue paper I love (! I'm such a teacher...), a small plastic thingy to carry my shower stuff in and out of the bathroom (cuz having it all in a bag sucks), hand sanitizer (for the 100s of times there's no water or soap), and more... Also, there was a ton of talk about getting Internet and a lot of people got their Internet sticks. I can't do that with my iPad so I need to look into getting wifi with a hot box or something. I'm gonna talk to Amber and hopefully she'll help! So this week at some point I'll go from not thinking I was going to have Internet at all in my site, to having it! ¡Vamos a ver! That's also going to be an expense... But worth it :). 
Tonight was also a mini birthday party for Susan. I bought her M&Ms at La Sirena since she's allergic to gluten and that's all I could think of lol. It was chill and a good time to relax after my mentally hectic day. After, I got to talk to my man and that was wonderful too. I miss him.
And now, I must sleep since I have to leave a bit earlier tomorrow. We're gonna learn about banking and how we get paid (yesssss) at the PC Office in the capital. Buenas noches.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wish I Could Pick an Emotion!

May 12, 2013. Have I mentioned how much I love Nati yet? Ugh, she is phenomenal. She arrived at my house at 9am sharp which shocked me because that's exactly the time she said she'd be there lol. I had hot chocolate and bread and we were off. About 10km down the Autopista Duarte, she lives with her three kids. It's a really far trip to have to take every morning and night... I met lots of her family, headed to the supermarket, walked around a park, and saw lots of Villa Altagracia. It's super similar to Monte Plata and probably has everything I would ever need so I won't need to go all the way to the capital! I'm pumped about that. I'm also definitely going to buy jeans from there since it's 10X cheaper at those privately owned shops that are everywhere than La Sirena. We returned to her home, I played Jax with her kids, talked with her son who is 7 (Jake, he made me miss you terribly), ate lunch together as a family (!!), watched TV, and just chatted. Nati is a wonderful mother; full of life and humor, I just love it.
At 3, I had to head out, sadly. She brought me to a carro público and it took me passed my stop because he couldn't leave me on the opposite side of the Duarte. Luckily, a man in the car with me took me to the overpass, asked around for a car to Pantoja and led me in the fit direction. Super awesome. But then he gave me his number to call when I arrived safe. Haha good one. Not falling for that! ;). I made it back squished with 3 other people and my huge hiking pack, and my host mother greeted me with chinola juice, my favorite!
Now I'm going to head out to Susan's to finish our ELF together and post these blogs. Hopefully my family will call tonight! I kinda just want to go back to my community though. I think that's a good thing :). But! Graduation first! And then I'll go back and stress more while also being happy. Haha wish I could pick an emotion and stick with it for more than 5 minutes :P Nos vemos!

With All My Heart and Liver

May 11, 2013. Today I spent most of the morning studying, reading, playing cards with Lizbeth, and working on my ELF (which is so not completed...). I don't think breakfast is going to exist here so my plan is to buy peanut butter in the capital this week. Though at 10am, my Doña came back with this weird hard bread that's super common here and she made me coffee.
Lunch (see below). Yup, if you can tell, there's totally a heart there and, I think, a liver. I ate the rice, habichuelas, and the chicken around that stuff... Then at 2, I went to the Play for the tournament. So many people were there! It didn't start until 3:30 (gonna have to get used to that) and it went until 5:30 almost 6. It was fun to watch and I really hope I can join somehow someday. I'd love to play :).
Afterwards, Mayelin and I went to my house and we played cards with Lizbeth. Then we went up the mountain a little to an area I hadn't been yet. I met a new family, got to hold a baby, taught the girls a bit about volleyball, and took pictures of the view. Incredible. I still can't quite believe I get to call this place home.
Back at my house, my Doña made me yuca, platanos, and salami and again, I ate it all. I really need to start running. Mayelin, Lizbeth, And Kendris made more things to decorate my room :). I then showered (we haven't had running water now for like 3 days and the bathroom is starting to smell like a latrine which is spreading to my room. Interesting...), packed my bag and now it's time for bed. Mañana? Back to the capital! Buenas noches.