Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Read in Case World is Ending and You Need Food

June 25, 2013. Cards all morning arriba cuz Dulce went to the capital to get her grandson.
River! Lots of tag. I'm exhausted. And very full. Which also currently means fat.

June 26, 2013. Went arriba with Dulce's grandson, Joan, after we finished our hot chocolate and bread. I was left alone yet again but this time, I moved. Three times. And each time I traveled to where the group was, within minutes, they would move somewhere else... I know they all had stuff to do but man did that feel awful. Am I really that much of a burden? Is my Spanish really that bad that I'm not worth conversing with? Is my iPad that much better than me that when I'm there without it, I don't deserve any sort of recognition? Yea, the last one is probably true haha my iPad rocks.
So I left to go back to the house, Dulce was watching her novella, and I drowned myself in my awesome iPad until lunch. With a firm promise to myself that I would go see Linda later. I figured that would lift my spirits like it always does. Buuuut it rained a lot. Damn.
Also got my settling-in allowance but am not allowed to move out for another month and a half. Lame...

June 27, 2013. Today I traveled arriba yet again with Joan. We watched some TV and then a friend of the family who is some sort of lawyer came. They were chatting and suddenly my host mom went outside and retrieved two hens and they discussed which would be better to kill for food. Lili was super pumped and wanted to be the one who killed it. Thus began the second slaughtering I've seen here in the DR. Below you will find the step-by-step process of killing a hen for dinner in case the world is coming to an end and you don't have grocery stores or someone else to do it for you like normal. You're welcome.

Step 1: Retreive hen and feel around her parts to see if she has eggs all up in there. If she does, toss aside. If she does not (or at least not many), proceed to Step 2 ignoring the terror you see in her eyes as if she knows her fate. (though she kinda looks bug-eyed normally...)
Step 2: Place hen in a sac and hang on the wall like a hidden trophy until ready.
Step 3: Build a fire in the fogón.
Step 4: Place a giant pot with water over the fire and wait until boiling.
Step 5: Sharpen knife on the corner of the fogón.
Step 6: Find a bucket large enough to fit the hen inside and a lid.
Step 7: Remove hen from the sac (again, ignoring the bugging eyes full of fear). Grab the wings with left hand and pull behind her back. Then grab her head and pull backwards and tuck in between her wings so her throat is stretched and ready. Hold all with left hand and place knife in your right hand.
Step 8: Hover the hen over the bucket without the lid. Slice the kneck swiftly and drop quickly in the bucket. Just as quickly, place the lid over the bucket and hold down while the hen fights for her life, screaming (in a strangely human-like way) and eventually seizuring.
Step 9: When movement and noises cease, remove lid and drain the blood into the bucket. Then place back in the bucket with her head up.
Step 10: Take the boiling water from the fogón and pour over the hen. Swish and rub the hen with the water.
Step 11: Remove the hen from the bucket and place on a table. Peel the feathers off of the body (should slide off easily because of the boiling water) and the extra layer of skin off of the feet.
Step 12: Marvel at how fat she is and get really excited.
Step 13: Starting with the legs, begin to slice up the hen. Cut off the feet (and then each toe nail), the legs, then the wings in two, etc.
Step 14: Cut off the head and throw into fogón fire (the eyes no longer have life and thus no fear in them).
Step 15: Pull out the esophagus, and heart with it and toss.
Step 16: The stomach, liver, and intestines to follow. Save for mondongo (or however you spell that delicious delicacy). 
Step 17: If there are some eggs (may vary in size and be yellow or orange with veins), remove and place aside. Don't exclaim too loud that there are some because the kiddos will come running excitedly and want them. But you must save them. For what, you ask? Use your imagination. I have no idea.
Step 18: Continue to cut up the rest of the meat, breaking the bones when necessary.
Step 19: Place all meat in a pot and rinse with water. 
Step 20: You are now ready to cook and enjoy! Congratulations! 

Buenas noches!

Monday, June 24, 2013

50 Learned Things

June 24, 2013. Entrega de las Notas. Simple enough, the kids got their grades and were told if they passed or not lol. It makes sense since they don't have mail here so they have to show up to get their grades. Duh. You certainly learn something new everyday but here? It's like 50 new things everyday :).
So that's Learned Thing #1
#2. The day to receive grades is also a day to look your best and bring gifts for the teachers. The kids were all in their "best" today (with heels, shiny white boots, dresses, vests, ect) and it was adorable (but also sad in a few cases...). 
#3. Being told you're getting fat in the cheeks is a good thing. And biting my tongue from saying, "No! I don't want to be fat!" is really hard because I would definitely offend... Many.
#4. I can in fact walk arriba alone and it impresses my host mom's family.
#5. I can in fact say "No" and stay strong when the kids ask to play with my tablet 100X in a half an hour (I'm not exaggerating). 
#6. I have an incredible amount of patience when I want to get something done (today I did more stuff for the summer classes). Though wanting a break from having to deal with Niño helps quite a bit to maintain that patience.. O:)
#7. I can eat fish with it's entire body (fins and scales included), head, and eyes staring up at me from the plate. And it wasn't fried this time. Delicious as it was, picking the tiny bones out of my mouth between the meat was slightly annoying (Don't tell Peace Corps on me though...)
#8. I realized today that while my Spanish isn't significantly better, I take much less time to think before speaking. Before the process in my head was quite agonizing but now, it's much less so. I don't have to build up the courage as well as translate before I open my mouth. Most of the time now, I just open my mouth (and make the same amount of mistakes faster!). 
#9. My little munchkin has grown at least a foot :(  I saw a picture of him with my babygirl for her graduation...
#10. I like coconut. Real coconut. Still unsure about the fake-ish coconut shaving things back in the states though.

Okay so that's 10, not 50. But the 40 others definitely lie in things I heard and understood in Spanish today so yea, 50. Win! Until tomorrow, Buenas noches.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Prideful But Wanting Home

June 23, 2013. Today is going to be a bunch of random things on my mind:
I have to say, finding little rat poops on my bedside table in the morning sucks. You are WAY too close to my face Mr. Rat! Ugh. So I did laundry and "cleaned" my room today (if you can call it cleaning...).
Another thing that sucks, and I'm surprising myself with admitting this, is that I still have damn pimples on my face at the age of 24. AND I don't even wear makeup! I get all the time here, "oh! And the mosquitoes get your face too? Don't you have a mosquito net?" I have purposely not looked up the word for pimple and just chosen to let them believe they're mosquito bites. But it's still lame. I'd like to have a gorgeous, clear face like my momma sometime. Yes, this first world problem still exists for me here in a third world country... Does that make me a bad person? 
They're building a church just at the end of the street right by Dulce's house! They cleared out the field super fast and I have no idea when they're going to start building it but that's exciting :D It could also end up being a good place to hold community meetings or events too; if it's bigger than one of the school classrooms... Oh I wish they could build a big room off of the main part for a community center that could act as a place for the kids to hang out too... 
Ah yes, I think I've discovered that I am having a reaction to the food here. Let me explain. I thought it was weird that I haven't gotten sick of eating rice, beans, and meat every single day for lunch and then víveres every day for dinner. Then today a strong craving for something more hit me after stuffing my face full of arroz y habichuelas. I've had the craving before but not that strong. And I wasn't hungry, so why did I want something more? Because I wanted something more but different. So when I snuck my spoon into my room and ate a tablespoon of peanut butter on a full stomach, I understood this time :)
I didn't see Linda today but we did go to the river which, of course, was amazing. It was so hot and then it downpoured on us but I didn't mind. I jumped from waaay (I thought it was pretty damn high) up in a tree this time :D Also on the way back I saw China (church lady) and she invited me to a pool Saturday. Where? No idea. Can I wear a bathing suit this time instead of shorts and a t-shirt? No clue. But win anyways :)
I then got to FaceTime with the fam tonight and instantly started crying when my sister showed up in the video with her cap on. Oh man, crazy. Couldn't be any more proud. I love you babygirl.
And with a heavy heart (full of pride but also desire to be home), Buenas noches. Tomorrow is Entrega De Las Notas which has to do with the kids getting their grades at the school but I don't get what that means yet lol.  ¡Vamos a ver!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Took a Deep Breath and Smiled

June 22, 2013. I haven't written in a few days for a few reasons. And I think those reasons will stay with me. Nothing crazy; I'd just rather have it that way.
Yesterday was a much better day considering I could really only go up. I awoke, had bread with hot chocolate for breakfast, Dulce left, and instead of turning arriba to meet her up there, I walked abajo. Manuela wasn't home and neither was the pastor. I knew Linda was working so I was running out if options with my level of courage. I decided to make one more different turn on my way back to the house. Outside of one house there was a bunch of kids playing this marble game that I keep seeing (and still don't fully understand it). The old man that seems to show up everywhere was outside watching. He greeted me with the normal gigantic hug and kiss on cheek asking the usual, "Y usted, ¿cómo está todo?" I answered and told him I've seen this game so many times but I still don't get it. He laughed, got me a chair and I sat down outside to watch. The women that lives close to Dulce was there and had a few kids run and get me mango. I ate, made a mess, and watched. No one spoke to me but I was there, at a new house, with new people :)
I left eventually, tummy full of mango juice and teeth full of strings. Niño came over and I hung out with his Mom, Angie (who's probably my age). She got to playing my iPad and they played for hours. Around 4, I left with some more random courage to go visit Linda. Perfectly enough, she had just told Dulce to have me come over. And perfectly enough yet again, as I turned down the muddy path to her house, she was coming my way. We laughed, a man with a deep raspy voice said he wanted to be mine (with various other things thrown in there), and we imitated him the whole way to the colmado, continuing to laugh hysterically. She bought things on a promise to pay the man back (and she said I could do that too haha) and when we stepped out under the sky, it opened up. Haha we turned back quickly and hung out until it died down. The guy at the colmado was super impressed by my Spanish since I've only been here for three and a half months. That felt good to hear... We finally left for her house, she cooked yuca and salami and washed clothes while I hung out with her little ones; reading with Eddi, listening to Ricki, and later watching her novella. I felt like I was a part of the family... And she affirmed that feeling saying how happy she was that I'm here and a perfect fit in her family. Seriously, my heart was pounding with joy...
At 9, I figured I should head out and just as Ricki was getting ready to walk me home, Moreno called asking where I was haha. When I made it back, Dulce said he was worried about me because I am never gone at night :). Pasta was waiting for me on the table so I forced half the bowl down my throat and headed to bed (I'm gonna start running eventually, I swear). 
Today was another phenomenal day with Linda. I headed to her house first thing in the morning and we sat and chatted a bit. Then she brought me to another farm I had not seen yet where her husband works. Then to his parents house which is the house Nati and I visited when I first arrived with the 100 different animals. We porch sat and chatted (I listened, rather) and got that red fruit I love so much and don't know how to spell. Then, a journey to the other side, El Batey. Win Linda! I always seem to see something new or something I know I should revisit when I'm with her; without fail. We stopped at a house where a woman was doing nails (good to know :P). Then left when I swear I thought she said she needed to buy something haha. Go Spanish.
I headed home cuz I needed to do laundry but the luz was still out at Dulce's house (but nowhere else). I hung out for a bit, ate lunch, shucked habichuelas, and Angie played on my iPad again until the battery was dead (luz went out last night so it didn't charge much). I completely forgot about English class but thankfully Lili and the older woman were the only ones to show up! Haha I helped them out with the parts of the body a bit but that was it. Linda called again so I went back to go see her. 
Then the drunk came. Haha oh man. That was an adventure. Linda, her husband, son, and I went abajo and the drunk followed. We wondered, talked to a bunch of people, sat under the huge mango tree on the other side waiting for a mango or two to fall, and talked about where I will be living in the near future when I move out. There seems to be a few possible options :D We headed back (after getting water and soda bought for us by the drunk), ate, and played with her puppies. She also gave me a gift! A small fake rose inside of a clear plastic bulb. Her husband said that she always likes to get gifts for the teachers for the end of the year and since I am a part if the family now, they got one for me too :D Ugh. She didn't want me to leave but it looked like it was going to rain so I headed out. With a big, comfortable smile on my face.
Just as I arrived, Dulce was getting all dolled up with makeup and heels. I asked where she was going and she said abajo to buy some stuff. She asked if I wanted to go and I said yes, despite part of my screaming, "Ya! Enough today!" Haha we visited Moreno who was playing Dominoes (it was a very serious game), I saw Juana Iris, and then the grand adventure of trying to find plátanos began. We went to every colmado on this side of the thruway and ended up crossing asking everyone we saw who sold big plátanos haha. Four colmados later, we found them! And along the way, a ton of the neighborhood kids yelled my name! I hadn't been to that school much so that surprised me but man did it warm my heart. I will still admit that I'm so glad I don't live in that side though... Haha but I'll take a win for that feeling :) 
Back at the house, Eddi fixed the luz, and this puppy is currently charging as I type. 
Mañana holds a possibility for a trip to the river again which would make me really happy. And now that there is luz, I can wash my clothes (boy do I need that!). I looked around at the mountains and the dark clouds mixed with white ones as Dulce, Lili, and Niño walked across the Play and a quiet voice reminded me, "This is your home." And instead of freaking out like I probably would have two days ago, I took a deep breath and smiled.
Buenas noches.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Don't Have Too Many

June 17 & 18, 2013. So this is now the third time I've had to type up this blog. Maybe that's a sign so I'm going to change quite a bit of what I had. In all honesty, it doesn't belong here in a public forum. 
I visited Elva yesterday and spent the night. That's all I'm going to say. Oh, except-having air conditioning in the room I slept in was pretty cool...(haha good one). She wants me to come back and stay at the end of the month for four days. I don't think I can do that so I'm going to have to tell her I can only stay two days or something...
We came back today and there were national exams going on at her school. I met her boss and then a fancy guy that I think works higher up for the Ministry of Education. Not going to lie, though, my attention span was shot today. I missed a lot of what was said. After waiting in the kitchen for over an hour, I finally worked up the courage to say I wanted to leave. And I did. I returned to an empty house and literally jumped on my bed with excitement. A much needed shower followed and then... The river again!
A bunch more kids went-including Samuelito! He doesn't leave his house much... His mother said no but I went over and told her I would watch over him and help him swim when he needed it. She said okay and he was ecstatic :D He is actually an incredible swimmer and I didn't have to do anything lol. I was a little uncomfortable this time because of how many people showed up that I didn't know. I hung with the little little kids mostly and when I got cold (after 3 hours in the water), I sat up on the rocks in the sun. Wasn't as awesome as last time but still a much needed release (yikes, yet again!).
I got back and rinsed the sand out of my clothes and played cards for the rest of the night. Moreno fixed the luz! There was a wire chewed up (he thinks by a rat). Y ya. Not much else. I definitely need to venture out tomorrow though since I feel like I've been gone forever (it always feels like that when I leave for just a night...weird). Maybe I'll visit Linda when she gets out of work and she can show me around her neighborhood.. 
A wild mix of ups and downs in these two days. All I know at this point is that I'm happy to be in my bed under my mosquitero (maybe that's why I couldn't sleep last night! I didn't have one). I think I've learned here that sometimes it's best not to have too many expectations. But always hope for the best. I may have already said this but I guess I need reminders sometimes since I'm living an entirely new life from the one I knew for 24 years.  Buenas noches.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Magic River Water

June 16, 2013. This morning I hung out on my own for a bit. Then a girl about 13 years old (who is an absolute sweetheart which makes me feel so guilty never remembering her name) came by and brought me to her house. She lives waaaaay arriba by the mountains. So yea, remember when I said I thought I had seen pretty much all of my community? I lied again... Not many people live up there but the road just keeps going! And there's an absolutely gorgeous house that belongs to a farm owner (but like the others, doesn't live there). It's got three floors, a paved driveway, and a pool! I thought about how perfect it would be to do my running up there since it's hilly but also secluded and so tranquilo. Though the people here will probably tell me that it's too dangerous... We'll see :). 
We hung out with her family, I barely understood a word her father said (and they saw right through my fake "I totally understand what you're saying face." Damn), we explored their yard (which is breathtaking), and played dominoes. Of course, my feet and the mosquito bites were a topic of conversation once again but! Her father put some wood in a beat up paint can and started a smoke fire which he set near me. And se fueron the mosquitoes so long as the smoke was blowing towards me! It was such a wonderful release and the smell brought me comfort from the bonfires we would have in Alleghany, The Land, or our own backyard at home...
With plans to go to the river, I was able to leave without being forced to eat (for the third time by noon); although her mother tried hard to get me to stay (so hard that she ended up bringing food down to me tonight-which is now in my fridge). When I got back, they were all waiting for me haha. And early! Looks like the Dominican way is to always be late unless it's for the river!
I changed and we headed out (God my legs are so grossly white when walking with a group of Dominicans... It's been a while since I've worn shorts). We headed the back way through the woods with mud galore, through a few small rivers, under the thruway, and through a field of orange trees. Then slipping down a small cliff off to the right, we made it. It was beautiful and pretty damn deep. The guys dove from super high up in a tree and the two times I tried to swim to the bottom, I failed. Haha We were there for a few hours and it was a blast. Swimming, wrestling, eating fruit from the trees, jumping, having splash wars, etc. We made plans to go again Tuesday. I really hope that's true. On the walk back we got rained on, and when I say it was raining, it was more like down-pouring. We walked along the Duarte (pretty scary but quicker) as they sang Spanish songs. Here's one picture, but the rest are the girls being model-like (like they always do when the camera comes out...) which I'm not really a fan of haha The video of the guys jumping is pretty cool but I can't post that :( oh and random note, my feet look so much better after the river. Magic water that heals mosquito bites and brings joy to an emotional American? Yup, we're going again Tuesday.

I got back and changed since I was freezing (!!). Eddy and the drunk were working on something in the street in front of Dulce's house. Something with the water pipes I think but I'm not sure. I ate, hung out with Niño, went to Lucy's house briefly with Lili and then worked up the courage to go visit Mauela. I had told her at church on Friday that I would visit her today and I almost bailed... I really didn't want to go but I didn't want to have to explain why I didn't show up. So I went and it was alright. She fed me a donut and gross mango juice (how is that even possible??). There were many times I didn't understand her or her daughter and I could feel the frustration from them. When they raise their voice but still talk just as fast as before or say the exact same thing only louder, I'm not sure how that's supposed to help me understand... She also asked me how I'm supposed to meet people and get to know people if I never leave the house... That hit a nerve since it's exactly what I've been struggling with lately and I didn't need her telling me that (plus I told her at church that I had been in the capital and then pretty sick for a few days. Plus, how does she know I don't ever leave? I don't live near her and the times I have passed her house, she wasn't outside to see me anyways).  I decided to defend myself even though she was mostly right; but only out of luck. I told her I do leave; I see Dulce's family all the time (truth), I visited the pastor (or... tried to) and I visited Linda (truth) this week. She just nodded and said, "Ah, okay." Lol humph. On a good note, I did talk quite a bit, shared more about my history of education, Spanish knowledge, and family. Then having an excuse to leave (to call my father for Father's Day- ugh, thank you Dad! Haha), I headed out. 
I FaceTimed with my family until the luz went. Oddly enough though, we lost luz along with two other houses, but the street light was still on and so was luz at Samuelito's house. Looks like another wire problem. Eddy, our handyman! Come back! :P
Haha so it's one of those nights with nothing to do since no one can see anything lol. Entonces? Buenas noches. I should sleep so tomorrow I'll be well rested to hang out with Elba all day in Villa...
Oh one more thing (promise). I made these today too lol

Cucharas del Alfabeto!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mi Hermana!

June 14 & 15, 2013. The 14th wasn't a crazy good day so I'm combining blogs. I visited para arriba. Did literally nothing in a chair. Came back to my house and made a game called, "Barco con Cargo" or "Ship with Cargo" which will be for reading comprehension with the kiddos.
Mass was at the school where they talked about building an actual church in the community. But next week is the "the other side's turn" for mass lol. Apparently they switch. Dinner followed. The homemade coconut ice cream (mmmmm). Then I got to end skyping with Nate which was wonderful of course.
Today I arose a little before 9 (so incredibly lazy :D). Dulce bounced pretty quickly and said if I wanted to leave, she had her key. That was it. Exactly the kick in the ass I needed. I ate my sweet mush for breakfast outside and Ramona (older woman, not the teacher) came to visit for a moment. She said that she works everyday during the week until night so that's why I haven't seen her (perfect! Cuz I didn't try to visit... But she doesn't know that cuz she was at work! Haha I'm terrible...). She left, I swept a little (the other half of me trying to hard to stay put), I locked my bedroom door, and then the house door! And started walking...
Plan A? See if the pastor was home first. He lives the furthest away so if he wasn't there, I at least walked past a bunch of people and said hello to them all. Turns out he wasn't there haha. I got to eye the house I think I want to get when I can move out and headed back. Plan B? Linda. I walked down the muddy street to her part of the community and as I approached her house I heard, "Mi Hermana!!" Which means, "My sister!"  Ugh, so perfect. We hung out outside with her five baby puppies (she may or may not have said she was going to gift me one!!) and chatted. Then we went inside so I could watch her cook and learn and she offered to teach me more formally one time. Her 3 year old son talked my ear off and slide around on the wet, muddy floor naked. And I did a lot of puppy holding :D She fed me, of course, even after I tried explaining that Dulce would have food waiting for me at home haha. I also expressed my desire to learn more about the people that live around her (since it is so cut off from the rest of the community, I don't know anything about it) and the other side of the Duarte as well. She offered to show me around both! Progress in the right direction! What in the world would I do without my new sister?
I left around 1 (though I didn't want to) since my English class was at 2. Dulce hadn't cooked yet (THANK GOD) so I made 25 "About Me" sheets for the first day of classes so I can learn a little more about my kiddos. English class went well enough, more people showed up, and they didn't want it to end when I did haha. Afterwards we played cards, I gave them all suckers, and I got a bag of mangoes from one of the girls :D Fresh Fruit? Best gift ever in my book.
Dulce, Lili, and I headed para arriba and this visit wasn't so awkward, boring, or lonely. I sat outside with Fredito, Dulce, her mom, and Lili and we chatted. I saw a pig they're raising (probably for another slaughter! Yippee!), watched them grind coconut for Arepa (Mmmm), and ate my first pear in country Fredito got from a tree. We also made plans to go to a big river tomorrow on the other side of the Duarte! I'm so incredibly pumped to go swimming and appartently jump from a tree into the water :D 
I got home around 6 and ate what was supposed to be my lunch for dinner (second day in a row I've done that and I already miss my yuca :P) with Moreno. Then I got to Skype with my long lost friend Mike! I only had two friends for company during this session though lol. 
So now that I can hear you all at home saying, "I told you so" I can tell you to shut up. No, I didn't see anyone new but I ventured out and it was perfect. I think I need to plan days out in advance because when I had an idea of who to visit today since I'm visiting Manuela tomorrow, I seemed to have more courage or confidence as I locked the front door. So despite there never being any sort of agenda here, if I make one for myself, I feel better about it. Pues bien, I need to go to bed though I don't want to haha. Buenas noches.
Oh! And side note. The son of the director (from the other side) called tonight and I'm going to visit her Monday :/ and I had plans with Linda... Damn. Cross your fingers or say a prayer for me on that one!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Settle, Love It, Then Regret It

June 13, 2013. And while I loved the do-nothing about yesterday, today, it got to me. I'm sorry for the repetition but I just can't figure out how to work up the courage to just go out. I've been successful before, why can't I drop the fear and take a step? I'm beyond frustrated with myself because I know the answer: Just do it. But something stops me every time.  Now it's mid-June and I have two more months (one month gone) to get my diagnostic going. I pictured this all so differently at training. I was going to spend the first month sitting on tons of porches and drinking coffee; chatting about nothing. Then the second month, I'd maybe consider getting my butt in gear and form some meetings to do the silly projects that The Peace Corps suggested for the diagnostic. Month 3, prepare with my project partner our presentation. At this point, I can't imagine trying to get people together to do something because I haven't developed enough confianza or know enough people. And that's on me... Plus my one project partner now works everyday except for Sunday (when she then cleans her house and takes care of her kids) and the other, doesn't live in my community. So I'm completely on my own for now. 
Today I got up and went para arriba with my host mom. I was fed yuca and plátanos with peppers and onions but couldn't eat it. My host mom's mom yelled at me to eat but I told her about my stomach. Her solution? Squeeze a lime, a ton of salt, and water from the faucet. Shit it tasted awful. And wasn't such a good idea with the whole water thing. I hung out with Lili, went to the river, and then got called away to the farm. None of us knew why but slowly, a bunch of kids started showing up. We sat and waited and as more came, they started handing out arroz con leche, juice, cookies, bread, candy, and a muffin. For what? I still don't really know. But it was so much! And there were so many kids! When I got home and told my host mom about it she just laughed and said sometimes they like to do that haha. Hey, I'll take it though I don't understand it. It was awesome. I just wish I knew where the money came from (or who) to do it.
I laid down for a bit, Dulce disappeared, and I finally got up, ready to walk out the door. I latched my bedroom door, closed the kitchen up, and walked towards the front to head out to I don't know where. Aaaand Lili and Fredito showed up. Fredito had gotten that fruit that I can't spell but from a place pretty far and it was the bigger kind (see below). Oh man it was so delicious :D so we all hung out on the porch, listened to music, and played iPad. 

Around 5, the lady from the church wanted me to come to the school. Her and Manuela's daughter were preparing for mass which is tomorrow at our school (definitely gonna say a few extra prayers). We went through the readings and chose the songs to sing. That was nice to be a part of... Also, there was an adult literacy class going on. I didn't see any of it but the fact that it exists is really great. 
We headed back and I skyped with Rhianna! I missed that gorgeous face :D I had an audience with the kids surrounding me and watching lol. They thought it was so neat and just listened quietly. I asked if they understood anything afterwards to which they all said, "Nada" (nothing) haha. 
We hung up, they left, and to feel somewhat productive, I sat on the porch and organized my binder with teacher stuff (page protectors and everything!! Funny how those little things make me super happy). I also started planning for the summer classes (Day 1-done! 7 more to go). My host mom made me Mangu which was great but after telling her I only wanted un chin because I wasn't that hungry, she gave me my normal, huge bowlful. I ate half of it...
So yes, I did stuff but it's with the same group of people that I see everyday. I need so badly to get out there but there's always an excuse not to. And I settle into that comfort zone I've created for myself, love it in the moment, and regret it later...
Anyways. Below are some pictures I didn't add to earlier posts but wanted to. Enjoy. Sorry about the negativity of today. Tomorrow will be better.  Buenas noches.

The cana they found in my hair yesterday! :( I fake cried, begged them to pull it out, and said "But I'm not old yet! I'm still so young! They just laughed at me :)

More things for the kiddos in the summer. Especially the cursive since again, we don't have any materials made from previous volunteers for that. Also, I didn't finish the cursive uppercase sheet cuz either I don't remember how to do the letter or I've seen a few different ways to do a letter here lol.

I Can Only Learn So Much If...

June 12, 2013. Today was a lazy-do-almost-nothing-and-love-it kind of day. I finally arose around 9 and spent the morning on the porch with Moreno. He even cut up mango, pineapple, and banana for me for breakfast :). My stomach allowed me to finish the bowl but provided a constant reminder all day that it still wasn't too happy with me.
I'll be honest and admit that I totally crept in and out of my room throughout the day to test out the wireless, as if I didn't believe I actually had it yet lol. But! With much exploration I finally found the spot for my FlyBox. After like twenty failed FaceTime and Skype attempts with my mom, I climbed on my totally unstable table in my room and placed the box on top of the cement wall that doesn't go all the way to the ceiling. And BAM! Perfect, flawless video chat with momma and Jake! They met Samuelito and Moreno! Moreno bragged later to Dulce (who was in Villa at the time) about how much Spanish my munchkin knew :D. But if course, se fue la luz y se fue mi mamá (Samuelito thought that was so funny lol). 
The rest of the day was as follows: play cards, talk a lot with Moreno (and learn a bit more about his history), check Internet (luz came back), do puzzles with the kids, lay in bed when the tummy got bad, eat food cooked by Moreno (and he made sure everyone knew it!), play games on my iPad, explore Lili's house next door and wrestle with the munchkins for almost an hour, let the girls do my hair (3X), read, and chat with Andy. 
I was so pumped to Skype with my baby tonight but as I was showering... se fue la luz again. Guess that's what I get for having luz nearly all day today lol. Moreno and Dulce laughed at me as they heard me laugh trying to shower in the complete darkness (I dropped a few things). Then all the mosquitos came down and Dulce was getting them in her nose and mouth and we were all dying in separate rooms at each other. Maybe this whole click thing is real and something actually did switch yesterday. But I'm trying not to jinx it.., haha I still make crazy mistakes that I realize after I've opened my mouth and spoken but that's a good thing, right? I can only learn so much if I stay silent...
Buenas noches :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Two Loves of My Life Here: Amber & A Hot Shower

May 10 and 11, 2013. So I was reading up on other volunteer blogs and I realized even more than before how much mine sucks. Haha theirs were witty and cleverly written. Damn. Entonces, as a promise to my loyal readers, I'm going to try and be more witty and clever. After this post. And if I fail? Oh well. Guess you will all have to keep suffering :). 
Today was wonderful. I waited an hour for the guagua, sat in the cocina (the kitchen literally but is the way back of the bus where it's the hottest), got hit on by a 19 year old and the only thing that I thought about was how happy I was that I could understand him enough to blow him off :D I saw a sign for Amway that I had never seen before in the capital and now I know where the office is! But after that, things that were familiar were no longer in sight. So my heart stopped, I yelled for the chofer to leave me at the corner which I thought was the right one. Turns out I was quite a few blocks too early. Luckily with the grid system I knew where I needed to head to make it. But that entailed a lot of walking in unfamiliar streets. Eventually I made it down to 27 de febrero, took a carro público across to Máximo Goméz and as punishment for being antsy, forced myself to walk down to Ave Bolivar. Which wasn't terribly far but far enough where I broke a glistening sweat. I tried to pretend I was a pretty vampire with glittery skin in the sunlight... So, after leaving my site at 8:30am, I arrived safely at the office and glittery at 11:45am. I was damn proud :)
I played Internet for a while and met with Ann. I expressed my concerns about the aquel lado and she was super understanding. I won't do this, but Ann gave me the go ahead to drop that community if I needed to. But like I said before, that director isn't going to win. I'm just going to be very busy... Lol
Amber came, we went to Chinatown with her man and another couple for lunch. The Chinese food was awesome and the dessert? Butter cookies from the bakery next door. Oh my god how I love the way they melt in your mouth... A splurge maybe, but well worth it. We went back to the office so they could finish some work up and then we were gonna do some of my shopping together. But the skies opened up and altered our plans a bit. And I couldn't be happier that it did.

Amber offered to let me stay with them in a hotel. For free. That way we could have more time together and finish up the shopping tomorrow. So we headed out late, got Pizza Hut for dinner, she had an interview for a job in Africa (!!) at 9, and we talked the night away. And as if it couldn't have gotten any better... I skyped with Nate and...(sorry baby, you're important but this was nuts)...
I had a hot shower for the first time in 3 months. Remember last time I said I didn't think I wanted one? Oh. My. Word. I got in, got a quick chill and slowly turned the knob... Apprehensive as if it was going to  make some sort of monster reach out and grab me from the faucet. I stood still as it took its time warming up and... Heaven came down to my level for a moment. I just froze (but wasn't frozen) in shock and let the heat burn my skin. I wanted so many layers to fall off so I could start fresh but even still I could feel the dirt buildup of three months just melt off. I washed up and proceeded to stay for a little while longer; I wasn't ready for it to end. It's just incredible the little things that you would think you would miss everyday but you don't. Until you have it again. No, cold bucket showers aren't pleasant but when it's hot or as long as I hurry, it's not a big deal. But once I got into that shower and the water rose in temperature, I realized how much I missed it and how good it felt. Incredible. 
I woke up in the morning and took another one. Shamelessly. I went down and had free coffee and bread with jam for breakfast. I don't know when it started but my stomach just shot pains inside and I spent the entire day not feeling so hot. We left our things and headed to America (Agora Mall) via Metro (did I mention that it's so clean and beautifully new?). Amber helped me with the Spanish to pay for my first month of Wifi and we went to Jumbo where I loaded up on materials for my summer classes (and next year too). I wish I could make a list of what I bought but I won't remember it all. In pesos, it felt like a ton but in dollars, it turned out to be around $50 for a crazy amount of stuff. And that's also something I'm forgetting here. I'm not here to save money. The money I get on a monthly basis is to spend each month. Granted, I should be saving a bit for when I move out to compensate for the lack of the Settling-In Allowance, but other than that? It's there to spend. And in my site, I rarely spend money. Maybe RD$5 on a Ducle from Mayelin's mother but that's just cuz their freaking delicious. So yea, I spent a lot today, but it's for the kids and I'm still alright if there is some sort of emergency and I need something :) okay, now that I've justified it all to myself, I'll continue.
We ate yogun fruz (Amber thought it might help settle my stomach) and then went to Ikea (MOM!! There's an Ikea! And it's JUST like in the states! But in Spanish). There, they have the infamous charla paper. A huge roll is about RD$200 and should last me a long time. After, we headed to The Conde to meet up with a friend of hers for lunch. I drank chinola juice... 
After, we sorted through our stuff back at the hotel and with my book bag and new, giant, stuffed blue Ikea bag, we parted ways. It's only been three months here and I had to say goodbye to an incredible friend. I just hope she knows how much she did for me in such a short time. Amber? Good luck in all you do. Though with your personality, infectious smile, and talent, you won't need it. Keep in touch always.
I was a little nervous about the trip back but I found out through taking the Metro how to get to my bus stop, and it was easier and cheaper than by car. I made it, tried to find a bus to Santiago to make my life easier but didn't see one. I turned and a bus to Villa was pulling out. I booked it with my heavy bags and yelled for them to wait for me. He stopped the bus and said something which I didn't understand. When I boarded (or tried to), however, I got it. The bus was jammed packed and we had to stuff my things down by a woman's feet and I stood in the doorway with the cobrador for an hour long trip. I had to climb up and lean over some women to let some people out and pretzel my way through seats when one finally opened up. Then I got to talking with an old man and a woman maybe in her 30s in front of me. The one thing I saw and loved with Amber and Fabian was the way they were with people. Wherever we went, whatever we were doing, they were meeting people and learning their stories. It reminded me of you Gram Irene, and how I always aspire to be like that. I believe it's a beautiful gift and something that doesn't exist enough in this world. And here, it's so common, so easy. You're squished on a guagua for hours possibly, where personal space is unheard of and you just start talking. I love it. But my lack of confidence in my Spanish has left me silent thus far. On that bus to Villa, however, something switched. I don't know if it'll be permanent (cross your fingers!) but it lasted the rest of the day (and after speaking just English for two days!). The woman asked if I lived in Villa. Asked what I was doing there. She knew of the Peace Corps. I told her about my job, people I knew, how long I had been there, etc. The older man was difficult to understand but I managed to understand him. They complimented me on my Spanish. And wished me well as they got off. And when I got off? It was the right stop. Not a walking-half-hour early stop. There was a car waiting, I put my things in, engaged in conversation with the women in the car, and we stopped at the Fundación Rica so a woman could buy orange juice (lol). We made it to my stop (the right one again!!!) and I booked it home in the rain. Tons of people greeted me from the safety of their galleries, told me I was gonna get sick from being wet, and laughed at me as I said, "I'm walking as fast as I can!"
I walked up to my house, Dulce greeted me, and I talked a bit with Moreno about his leg and joked around with him. He's doing better :). I unpacked my things and shared them with 5 kids that came over. They were in awe of all that I bought. It was so cute to watch and I managed to explain so many different things in Spanish that I am planning on doing with it all (so much foreign language poured out of my mouth and fairly easily!). I told my Doña I didn't want dinner because of the way I felt, she made me juice and brought me galletas anyways, and I fired up my Wifi for the first time in my room. Man, that's an incredible feeling too. To not be completely disconnected from home... Skype/FaceTime didn't work with my family but I'm hoping it's just cuz of the rain... Well try again some other time. The good thing is that the contract ends in August so if this doesn't work out, I don't have to renew it. I can try Claro instead of Orange.
So with my hard stomach still giving me pains but my heart pounding from the excitement of a much needed escape and a return of a brand new Julie (at least for the day), I'm headed to bed. Buenas noches.

Un Rato

June 9, 2013. Today I woke up to Moreno fumbling around a lot. I came out and he was limping, and limping bad. He needed to hold onto the wall for strength and the scrunch of his face screamed of so much pain. He had been limping a little all last week but nothing like that. So most of the morning, I tried keeping Niño out of his hair while he rested. Dulce made some weird amazing corn mush for breakfast with scrambled eggs and something that tasted like beef jerky poured on top lol. I studied a bit, created a sheet where I can log my kiddos' progress for the summer classes, wrote a to do list for the capital tomorrow, etc. 
Lili came over and we headed up to the farm. One of the guys that worked there said we could come back and steal some more fruit :). But when we went no one was there and the guard dogs are gorgeously scary lol. So we hung out at a house nearby and I got to hold a three month old baby boy for a while. Ugh. Love. Eventually we got tired of waiting and we left. Lunch was ready by the time we got there and the girls played on my iPad. We had luz all day (:D) so the excuse of it needing to charge failed lol. Gotta come up with something else since I feel like some of them only come to see me cuz they want to play it :/. 
Afterwards, I laid down for a bit and nearly fell asleep. But 2 came super fast and I was supposed to meet Linda at her house. It started to rain though so I sat on the porch and waited. Dulce and Moreno left for the hospital in Villa right around then too which I was happy for. I'm worried about him. At 3 I headed out and woke Linda up from her nap-oops. Haha secretly I was super glad though because I wanted so badly to use the rain as an excuse for me not to go entirely but I forced myself out of the house and it paid off.
I met a ton more people and handed out the papers with the dates of the summer classes on them. I know where a lot more kids live and they now know me a bit more. We even went to the other side of the thruway because a few kids live there (this was a moment when my Spanish pissed me off because I was able to ask, "Why do kids cross the thruway still if there is a school on both sides?" But then couldn't understand Linda as she got real serious and answered...). I think I've officially seen the majority if not all of the streets on my side now. And I briefly saw the pastor again! Gotta visit him soon... :). Afterwards Linda asked if I was going home and again, part of me screamed "Yes!" But instead I said, "Well, I've got nothing to do.." So she invited me por abajo for un rato (which literally means a little while but here always means at least an hour or two lol just like un chin (literally-even less than a little) always means another full glass or bowl). We went to a colmado and she sold those hotdogs on a stick (remember those? I sure did). I saw lots more people including Juana Iris! I told her I was so sorry that I hadn't seen her but I have wanted to. She said she works everyday until night except for Sundays and that I shouldn't worry at all, she's super busy. That felt great to hear cuz I was worried she might be upset with me. I also met the drunk of KM59 (I think there's at least one in every campo) and another man I'm going to try and avoid. Juan José (third grader) also came around and kept trying to hide from me so I started playing around with him and would sneak up behind him to scare him. He'd just run off laughing hysterically and hide somewhere new. Have I mentioned yet that's it's always the kids that remind me why I'm here? 
Eventually her and I headed back to her house to see a movie. I saw Dulce on the way and she said Moreno was resting, got one shot pretty much in his butt and has three more to get. I didn't understand what exactly for though... Linda cooked me dinner and I got to watch and learn! I now know one way they make pasta here (hers is the best I've had yet) and tostones! Which are one of my favorite things here :). I hung out with her sons and we watched King Kong. At 8 my munchkin called so we chatted and then I told Linda I'd like to head home (she had to walk me since I can't do it alone here lol). It was pitch black out and the road back was so muddy. I think I managed to hit every puddle there was haha. She wanted to see pictures of my family and Nate so I showed her on the porch with Niño on my lap. And by the way, she raved about how beautiful my family is and how strong Nate looks ;). She's certainly right about both! My family called back which was something I needed lots (i seem to need a lot these days, huh) since it had been about a week and a half since we'd talked last (missed you Sammy). They said all the things I needed to hear and after tomorrow in the capital, I think I'll be ready for another week. Love you all and Buenas noches.

Hija y Tía

June 8, 2013. After being woken up at 5:30 by Moreno, I laid in bed awake until nearly 9. Dulce was still sleeping and I didn't want to wake her showering so I just stayed there. And... loved her a lot for sleeping in. We arose together but separately, I showered, and she said she was going up to visit her mom and simply said, "Ven" (come). She didn't ask if I wanted to join this time which would have been the norm; it was expected. And that felt wonderful. Like I was a part of the family who would of course go up without question. We walked por arriba and she said to her mom, "Look who I brought to visit!" Lol I was fed pasta and yuca by 10am and we sat and chatted. Dulce and Lili found mangoes, they made fun of me for not being an expert mango-peeler, and we watched pigeons fight over something for about 10 minutes. I interacted little but it wasn't so bad :). My feet got eaten up by mosquitoes but around 11:30, we headed back home. There was luz and I had dirty clothes! 
Dulce cooked and she actually let me help with my clothes! I rinsed and hung them to dry. I cleaned my room too which felt sooo good. I can't wait to have my own house to clean. Seriously mom, it's so therapeutic here cuz everything is so dirty allll the time lol. Halfway through my clothes, se fue la luz. So we ate, I read a bit, and then Moreno came home early and bought a beer for us to share. Llegó la luz so I finished up my clothes by my informal English class was supposed to start. The lady I spoke to yesterday was there and my girls (now 10 of them) were about an hour late. I gave the lady my English notebook and let her copy while I helped with her pronunciation. When the girls came we did a few things but then reviewed. I made Lili and Yoleni do a skit and they did super well! It was so cute :). 
Then Niño came! He's so freaking adorable (except for when he slaps me in the face really hard). Him and I pretty much played all day together as kids came and went. Dulce and I looked through some catalogues and the rains came hard. Two men stopped by to escape the floods and as they entered the house, Dulce introduced me as her hija (daughter) :D I can't tell you what that meant after being so unsure of how I was going to develop a relationship with a woman who was always coming and going (and fast) and always talking in, I swear it, another language (and fast). Niño (who is the son of Dulce's daughter) has also taken to calling me Tía (aunt). 
It hasn't even been a full month yet (which is an insane realization) and I'm starting to feel like a part of their family here. I can understand Dulce more. She let me help with my laundry. I interact more with her now. She called me her daughter and taught Niño to call me Aunt. Moreno and I have gotten to chatting more as well. And have had some pretty serious conversations. And he shared his beer with me :). So no, I didn't go abajo like I should have but damnit it was worth it. I worry myself so much when I think about how I don't want to have any regrets (so I have to do anything and everything RIGHT NOW). And the constant fight for bravery in my head blocks those seemingly insignificant moments which actually mean the world... I miss more than anything my own family back home and while this family here can't replace them, feeling a part of them provides a comfort I have definitely been missing. And while I can't wait to live on my own, I realized today that I'm not quite ready for that yet. And that's okay.
Buenas noches.

Freedom!!! Shit.

June 7, 2013. Woo! The last day of school!! Which totally excites me and freaks me out all at the same time lol. Now I'm free to do whatever, whenever I want. But that also means I have no schedule... And no one to take me around the community. So I'm on my own with whatever level of bravery I happen to have in a daily basis haha. In other words: Wooo freedom!!! Shit.
The kids arrived at school and were pretty much immediately sent off for summer :). Lucky them! The director and I then spent the next three hours completely cleaning the school and rearranging the classrooms. We cleaned out the bookshelves, organized the books and materials, moved those heavy things around, moved desks, swept floors, took everything off the walls and ya. Like new but a little bit uglier without color on the dirty, paint-chipped walls. 
I was exhausted afterwards but went home and worked on my English journal... I had another woman come find me today and ask if she could join my English class that I do with the kids on Saturdays. I tried to tell her that I was going to have a more formal class for adults when my Spanish is better and that what I do now isn't much and super informal... But she said she'll just come to the classes now until I start the official ones. Lady: 1. Julie: 0. We'll see how we do on space in Dulce's tiny porch since word is spreading quickly lol. I may have to start the formal class earlier than I want. Have I mentioned yet that I seriously have no idea how to actually teach English? Oh Por Dios.
Anyways, at 2 I headed back and helped monitor the kids for their last exam-frances. Lots of help was given out lol but yea. I hung around for a bit while they graded, exchanged numbers with Nati so I can go visit her in Villa sometime next week (:D), and headed out. At home I worked on more sheets for the summer camp (see below) since I realized that the 4th and 5th (and possibly 3rd) graders write in cursive and need help with their penmanship. And I have no materials from the PC in cursive... And currently no ideas for fun ways to practice writing. Handwriting lessons suck. But vamos a ver. Monday I'll have Internet which will think better than my brain all by itself.
Oh! And the director of the other school came by! What?? All of a sudden I walked out of my room and she's sitting in the living room with her two sons. She came by to see "How I was doing" (she cares??). She thought I was going to be at the school today but I told her Manuela said there were no classes in the afternoon. She nodded so I think she actually understood lol. She asked when I was going to come to visit her in Villa so I asked if she wanted my number to call sometime in the summer (great). She made me give my number to her son (sneaky woman since she apparently wants something to happen between him and I. Yuck) for her to use. And then she left! Ugh, she's not a terrible person and the visit was fine but just the way she talks to me and the feelings I get around her... I just don't like it. Something about her rubs me the wrong way lol. And she kept calling me her "son." Literally. Cuz that's what she though hija was in English. Ay Santo.
I read on the porch for a bit afterwards, chatted with Fredito and was pretty successful again which felt great.  Again, didn't want to go to sleep but Dulce and Moreno were headed to bed and I didn't want to keep them up. They're great but oh how I cannot wait to live on my own. Granted, having my meals made and made deliciously for me three times a day is pretty damn awesome but to have my freedom completely back? Oh man, I might not know what to do with it when I get it. It's been so long lol. But enough drama! I got to talk to my baby for a while and now I can go to bed with a smile :). Buenas noches.

A Day Without Cards Gave Me...

June 6, 2013. Well. So much for not having to teach anymore haha. The first and second graders don't have tests yet and the director asked me to pass out the snack and then go to second grade because Linda was going to be late. Oh boy. I passed out bread and hurried to the classroom to try and find something in some book somewhere while they were eating. The kiddos were pretty much done by the time I got there so fast thinking was on the menu but I didn't have enough money to buy. 
But. I saw a box of habichuelas (dried and multi colored) and upon opening the 2nd grade math books, I saw a bar graph. That's it! So, I told them we were going to do something fun with math but they had to promise to behave and not throw the habichuelas (there is quite a few trouble makers in that class too and just about 20 of them in a cramped room). I passed out a bunch to each child. We sorted them by color, counted each group, and wrote how many we had in each in notebooks (they all had different numbers, obviously, which is what I wanted).  I then drew a graph on the board and used my beans as an example. They were then to create their bar graph with their own individual numbers. It went pretty well. Not all of them really got the concept and had interesting looking graphs but they were into it, and trying. And with no plans and no real grasp on their developmental level, enthusiasm and effort were exactly what I was praying for.
We finished up and I quickly looked through their 2nd grade language book. I found a paragraph about laughing. So. First, I did the dínamica, "Honey if you love me, give me a smile." Not all participated but they all loved watching :). I then wrote the first two sentences of the paragraph on the board that said, "Something delicious is a laugh. To laugh is good for the lungs, the eyes, and the muscles of the face." The kids copied it in their notebooks and then we read it together. Except after "delicious," we rubbed our bellies and said, "mmmmm."  After "a laugh" and "to laugh" we laughed obnoxiously. After "lungs" we took a super deep breath together. After "eyes" we batted our eyes. After, "muscles" we flexed our arms (their favorite part). And "face" we circled our face with our hand. They loved that lol. Then I did an activity with letters. We circled the Aas, underlined the Oos, squared the Ees, and squiggle circled the Lls. We did one at a time (them individually in their notebooks) and after each one the kids came up to the board and helped me with my sentences. Also after each letter we did a different aplausa (de lluvia, huevos fritos, and hon run) which they got a kick out of. At the end, we sung Alele because they had heard from the third graders that it was awesome lol. 
No, I had no plans.  They didn't completely understand the bar graph. Mini fights still broke out. They were still somewhat loud and crazy. They weren't happy with me when I didn't call on them. And they didn't always understand my Spanish.
But. They enjoyed having the habichuelas as materials to interact with. I think I taught them something new. They loved the dínamicas. Every single one of them read the paragraph with me and did the body movements (all 10 times we did it). They did an incredible job finding the letters on the board. Most listened when I said I wouldn't call on them unless they were sitting in their seat, hand raised, and silent (that's going to be something close to impossible to change since they're all able to scream repeatedly "PROFÉ" and the teacher responds- it's the norm). They had a blast with the aplausas. They understood enough of my Spanish to do what I wanted them to.  The director watched a bit of the math activity and nodded and smiled. Then Linda came in the middle of the language activity and her and the director watched me from the other classroom act crazy doing dínamicas, applauses, and funny body movements and died laughing :). 
When I finished that activity and we did Alele, I walked out and said, "Ya! Linda that's all I've got!" and handed her the chalk. Lol she laughed and they tried to tell me to keep going. The director asked the kids if they wanted me to keep teaching. They screamed yes... Lol but I stood my ground and said no because I had nothing left in my idea box and pointed to my head lol. Linda continued with the class.  ¡Gracias a Dios! Buuut she put words on the board, told them to write sentences and walked out to sit with the director and I... Haha so much for leading by example.
The rest of the day was spent making what you see below. Lol 8 hours total so I hope it's worth it. I've just noticed that many of the kids I will have in the summer know the letters (or at least, most of them) but their penmanship isn't so hot. Linda actually went on and on about how horrible a boy was at writing today with him standing right there. He went back to the classroom completely defeated and upset. I pulled him aside, told him how smart he was, and that if he'd let me, I'd help him in any way I could... He nodded and turned up his lips just slightly. We have worksheets already made in a booklet we received but I found those pictures of the letters in a different book which I liked a lot too. And the sheets I made incorporated three separate things into one piece of paper (since I have to make copies myself..): a visual for the kids to recognize and relate to a letter, big block letters with arrows to trace with their fingers for muscle memory, and then space to practice. Say a few prayers (or cross your fingers) for success for me? 
Ah, I also had a "meeting" with the teachers today. It didn't go as planned really but since none of them live in my community, I had to do something now since classes end tomorrow. I wrote questions on separate pieces of paper (What are the strengths of this school? Weaknesses? What do you need from the community to be successful? What are your visions for me as your volunteer? etc) and wanted them all to write answers for each. Instead, they were working on grades and one person took one sheet and just answered that sheet. I'm satisfied that I have something though.  Since they don't think they have any weaknesses in the teaching area (the only problem is with parents), my focus will just be the students (and maybe an attempt at community involvement-though I have no ideas yet) to start off with next year. I've gotta figure out sustainability somehow but that will have to come with time...
And as soon as I got home at 5, I continued working on my sheets until 9:30pm. A day without playing cards, you say?? I know! Haha but a day without cards still gave me a good teaching day, worksheets for summer, a meeting with the teachers and... as I finished up my worksheets on the porch, Fredito came over and we chatted for a long time and about a lot of different things. It was actually wonderful because it felt like a normal, smooth-flowing conversation. I understood most of what he said and was able to answer, ask questions, and give my opinion on things too. Crazy. Lol
Now it's 10:45pm and though I'm physically tired, I don't want to go to sleep. But today was a very very good, very very needed day :) Buenas noches.

Update:  So, not wanting to sleep turned into not being able to sleep. Around 1am I heard rustling of papers a bit on my floor. I figured it was a rat but felt strangely safe in my bed. About two minutes later, however, the supposed rat jump up on my bed in the corner by my head, hit my mosquito net and fell back down. I officially freaked. I scrambled to get my iPad flashlight app up and my glasses on. Which of course did nothing because the thing was under my bed at that point. I scanned around the perimeter and eventually reached out cautiously and snagged my headlamp from my bedside table. With it on, I waited to hear more. Nothing. I laid back down but curled up in a ball in the middle of my bed, headlamp clutched tight in my hand as if it was a weapon. Every noise (including the sound of concrete pieces falling from the walls which is totally normal) opened my eyes and clenched my hands ready to press the button (as if it would do anything? Apparently I just really wanted to see it since I still don't know for sure what it was). I finally got so uncomfortable that I stretched back out but laid diagonally so as not to have any extremities touching the mosquitero (after ferociously tucking the net into the mattress on all sides). All I could see when I closed my eyes was the rat jumping again but managing to jump up under and make it into my bed. And then me freaking the F out trying to get out of what now became a cage and no longer my safety net. Lol oh man.. The last time I saw the time it was 2am...

They're Not Going To Win

June 5, 2013. Bueno. Today was the meeting with the parents. Or... Was supposed to be. I spent the morning observing another test and then home making 110 fichas with the sillables on them (i.e. ma me mi mo mu) and taped them as lamination. Moreno watched a bit and them became super passionate about what I was doing. He went on and on about how his teacher when he was young had things like the fichas, told me all the activities she would do with them, and how now, not a single teacher uses them. They simply write things on the board and the children copy. I know it's a blame game because the teachers will all blame the parents and the parents will blame the teachers but there was passion there. It's something. I can work with something. 
At 2, I went to the school, passed out the snack, and the director, Linda and I walked over to the house of the President of the PTA for the meeting. One parent was there at 2:30 and her son wasn't even on my original list. 20 were invited. One more showed up 20 minutes later so we headed back to the school. After an hour and a half, I met maybe 5 mothers, got three kids added to my list, and have 15 more papers still in my folder... Linda even said she went around and reminded people about it. Incredible.. But. They're not going to win. I talked to Linda and she knows where pretty much every child lives. I asked her if she'd be willing to go for a walk. She agreed (I think she's going to be one of my saving graces despite how she's so not a teacher and it shows when she substitutes lol. But she also said she'd come to help with my summer classes a bit. It's funny cuz she's the one I wrote about in here the first week I visited this site; the lady who I couldn't wait to get to know more cuz "she seemed crazy and fun." She calls me sister and hugs me all the time :) ). Sunday at 2pm, her and I are going to personally walk to every house of those parents that didn't come and hand deliver the sheet with the dates on them. After that, I can't do much else. We'll see then if the students actually show up.
Before leaving, Ramona asked me what I'm doing in the other school over the summer. With a sad face I told her "Nothing" and then explained. The director only let me observe twice a week. Only in the afternoon. And she was there only twice when I was. I told her I didn't know what to do. I wanted to help, but every time I tried explaining why I was here, it felt as though she didn't believe me. Ramona then told me why. The director thinks I'm pretty much a spy for the Ministry of Education. She told Ramona that she thinks I'm here to observe and then report back all the bad things I see... Ramona tried to explain to her that that wasn't the case but she's not sure if she believes it yet or not. At least I know it's not just me the director doesn't listen to... I don't feel so crazy now but that kills me. You couldn't pay me enough money to leave my home and family to go spy on a tiny school in a campo in another country and tattle on them. But she's not going to win either. She's missing out this summer and it's going to take that much longer to get going with anything next year. So when she sees or hears about what I'm doing with the school on this side, I hope she kicks herself (my feelings, not the PC). And kicks herself hard.
Anyways, I headed home, finished my fichas with an aching back, ate a china (sweet orange) Dominican style (!! Oh yea!), and ended up playing cards for the rest of the night which I didn't mind so much. I learned a new game! I ate dinner around 7:30, read a little on the porch, got attacked my mosquitos, showered, and am off to bed with demasiadas cosas running through my head. Buenas noches.

A Bit of Productivity (But Not Too Much)

June 4, 2013. Nati came back today! The poor thing is still really sick but Lordy I missed her. I watched the social studies test with the third graders (the questions were as follows: Write the names of following modes of transportation and then had illustrations of a plane, car, train, etc. List 5 methods of communication -like telephone, mail, Internet. Yea). They finished super early so I went to talk with Nati about the meeting with the parents which is tomorrow (!!) about classes in the summer. We talked dates and I decided on Mondays and Wednesdays in July starting on the 8th. The first graders (8 of them) will come from 8-9, the second graders (7) 9:30-10:30, and the third graders (5) 11-12. She then asked when I wanted to have the meeting with the teachers. I wanted it after I went to the capital so I could get charla paper but it needed to be this week since this is the final week. So, Thursday it is! Lol. 
I went home early to get started preparing. I made sheets for the parents (see below) with the dates of the classes for their child. I'm going to do a simple dínamica with them and then just share who I am, how I want to help, and, give them the information on who, when, and where. Nothing crazy but I'm a bit nervous... As per usual :P I then just wrote the questions I want to ask the teachers on separate pages so they can write their responses for me (which is why I had wanted big charla paper).  I had a little extra time after lunch so I then made another set of alphabet fichas that I knew I would need in the summer.
After lunch I headed over to the other school. Aaaaand the director wasn't there again. I'm at a loss with them. I feel bad that I know nothing about them and am doing a summer camp on this side and not theirs but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do here. She's never there, only let me come observe twice a week, and the two days she was there she just told me over and over again how much I don't know Spanish and how she doesn't understand what I'll be doing for the next three months (despite me explaining multiple times the answer to both). I need to include them in my diagnostic for August but I don't have anyone yet who can take me over there to gather information... And the only teacher that works there and actually lives in KM 59 is Manuela but she lives on my side. Aye Dios. Maybe I'll catch Ann at the office when I go into the capital... 
Anyways, Manuela and I headed back together and it started to rain shortly after. My host mom wasn't there so I read a book in the gallery. In English. And despite the tiny pains of guilt, it felt amazing. The book totally sucked me in and calmed me. It was perfect. Lili and Alex came over, we played cards, and then were joined by Eddi and his work partner (who is apparently only 17 but looks older). They were waiting out the rain but Lili and Alex eventually left and Eddi too. The kid and I talked a bit on the porch. This time my lack of Spanish wasn't awkward, it was him lol. But we conversed! Woo! He split, I read more, was joined my Mayelin who read some of my children's books beside me, and llegó la luz :). I had yuca and eggs for dinner, I'm pretty sure Mayelin stole 10 pesos from my table in my room (you live and learn), we played cards, and then I headed in for the night. 
Nothing crazy but preparing for the meetings tomorrow and Thursday actually made me feel like I was doing something productive (though not too productive :P). That's a good feeling. And then getting lost in the pages of a book I don't have to look up every other word in was an escape I needed as well. I'll take this day and count it as a good one. It's always going to be the little things. Buenas noches.

Casino (No Gram Irene, Not THAT Casino)

June 3, 2013. Today was the start of exams! Third grade through seventh all week. I sort of helped manage/sit there and watch while they took the tests in the morning and afternoon tanda. Once they finished, they could leave. But for some reason, they wouldn't. So it was a mad house with kids everywhere and lots of assistance given by the teacher... In the afternoon I watched a few of the fifth grade tests get graded and let's just say I saw lots of 60s, 70s and a couple 40s... Today was math. Vamos a ver for the rest of the week! 
Since we finished early, I had lots of free time tonight. Lili, Alex, Mayelin, and Samuel came over and we played cards and they played on my iPad a bit. Then I asked if a colmado here sold bigger paper. I meant the cheap, thin stuff that wouldn't cost me much and can be used for anything but Lili thought I meant cartalina paper which is thicker and in colors. I did want some of that too so she said yea, at the one colmado at the thruway. I was pumped to go there since I think it's bigger and I wanted to see what else was available right here in the community. We went, the group of us, and chased each other and jumped on backs. It was a blast and I showed my face por abajo! Lol finally. I also saw Manuela and told her about what happened last Friday (O:) oops). She didn't really seem to care that I wasn't there haha. But then Lili stopped at a colmado before the big one and asked about the paper. Of course they had it... Haha so I didn't get to see the one I wanted to see. Oh well; next time. I bought some paper and some soda to share which always makes the kiddos super happy :). 
We came back, drank the soda together, and chatted. Lili and Alex left and shortly after, Mayelin too. Samuel and I played more cards until Moreno (my host dad) came home. Him and I haven't interacted too much but I love the way he is with the kids. Super funny, harasses them a lot (gives them hard slaps on the back and blames the mosquitos lol), and is so loving with my host mom. He walks up, pulls up a chair across from me and says, "Okay, let's play Casino." He knew I knew a little so he started to teach me. After the first game I really got it. I just laughed a ton because he whooped my ass. The second game I won and he absolutely destroyed me in the third. Haha I joked as much as I could, made faces, and managed to asked questions that he understood and answered :). My grandma called in the midst and then my host mom made me dinner so we stopped last game at him: 19 and me: 4. You play to 21...but we're gonna finish tomorrow! Lol I ate, showered (with running water! And there was luz pretty much all day!), talked to my gram (Love you!) and Nate (and you!). 
It was a really great end to the day and something I needed desperately. It may have been a simple card game (well, the game itself is actually pretty complicated) with Moreno but I felt included, a bit more like myself, and that I took a step in the right direction with someone "new" (you know, even though I live in his house... Lol). Here's to hoping for one more step tomorrow; just one at a time. Buenas noches.

Alcohol For The Mosquito Bites

June 2, 2013. Not feelin so hot so I think I'll just put pictures of the farm here. We went again so I could bring my camera and take pictures. Lili also recorded a pretty funny video. I wish I could post it but it's so long lol. I didn't go abajo like I said I needed to but I did visit for a bit with a family by the farm. My mosquito bites were yet again the topic of conversation and she put something called "Alcohol" on it from a spray bottle. Not sure what it was exactly lol. They said I could come back anytime to pass the hours :). See below and Buenas noches!
View of the mountains.

My girls Lola and Lili


Sugar cane-Which is delicious by the way.

A view of the farm with the huge house that is now 5 years in the making and isn't finished lol

Gonna Live On A Farm

June 1, 2013. Today I arose before Dulce which felt strange. I studied for a bit and then she invited me up to her mom's house so I said I'd go with her. We hung out there, drank coffee, tea, they fed me, and I watched the boys play a marble game. Nate called which was wonderful because I missed his call last night. 
Back at the house I helped wash vegetables, cleaned my Toms, played cards, and hung out in Lili's actual house which I didn't realize was right next door. Her mom is in Spain right now which is why she's living with her grandmother. After a bit, Lili left but her friend came over within ten minutes of her leaving. We were supposed to have English class (I forgot too) lol. We sat and waited for a bit and eventually I decided I wanted to walk so we went looking for her. Turns out she was por arriba at the end of one road I hadn't discovered yet. And it was a huge, gorgeous farm. Mimingo showed us around with all the pigs, beautiful huge dogs, peacocks, and tons of land with fruit trees galore. There's also a super fancy, modern area with tables and chairs, a kitchen, and bar. No one in the group knew what it was used for but man I'd love to take advantage of it! Gonna try and rent out the massive farmhouse when I can live alone in 2 1/2 months ;). But none of them knew the owner of the farm either lol. We walked a bit, gathered a bunch of this awesome fruit that I don't know how to spell and there isn't any of it in the states, and headed back. 
I taught family members, pronouns, numbers, and random words they wanted to know. Hearing them speak English is so freaking adorable. I hope they think the same about my Spanish...
Afterwards I wanted to go down and see Juana Iris or Manuela or the pastor since I haven't been por abajo in a while... But I got trapped in playing games with the kids and watching the rain. Oops :/ Tomorrow, I have to go. I'm trying to remember that school ends soon too so I'll have more time during the week to make more visits. It's just hard now when my week is full and then I just wanna chill on the weekend. Anyways that was my night. Playing Dominoes or cards, retelling words in English and just hanging out. Not too shabby though I wish I could talk more as always. And now it's late but I don't want to go to sleep lol Damn. Maybe I'll try to turn my brain off and watch Bridesmaids :). Buenas noches.

Tomorrow Is Saturday

May 31, 2013. It's incredible how fast things change on a day to day basis here... I awoke with my alarm, half-showered, and ate my cheese sandwich with hot chocolate. I arrived at school and Linda told me Ramona wasn't going to be there (the teacher of the third grade class). And the director wasn't there either. So I went in again with no plans but my question was, what would they have done if I wasn't there? Oh yea. They don't care. I told the kids they would get the prizes later and that we would do points again. This time it would be for more recess since I don't have money to always buy prizes. We then did a dínamica which was fun but they wanted to do Alele again so we did. I then tried to popcorn read a story from their Spanish workbooks and then do a mini lesson. Not so much... I lost control, the kids fought, talked back to me, and yea. Etc. Endy went to tell on another kid to Linda and she came in and started screaming at him. He screamed back. It got out of hand. And he didn't stop. Eventually as it started to rain, she came back in and sent one student (who was also causing me problems) home since he's been sick. She also sent the other home because of his behavior... That's not what I wanted... But again. I've got nothing. He was also one of the ones that was supposed to get a bigger prize from Wednesday. I gave up and just wrote words on the board for them to write sentences. My favorite. I told them I was sorry. That I wanted to teach better but I didn't have the Spanish and it was difficult for me. I was nearly in tears. I don't think they understood how I felt or why I was apologizing.
Recess. I just let them go. I then did a mini English lesson since I had no strength or idea of anything else. It went fine.  At around 10:45 it started to downpour. The kids all got their backpacks and wanted to leave but Linda and the other teacher said they should wait until it died down a little. The kids went wild. Running around. Screaming. Playing a game where you chase each other and slap the backs of each other's heads. Tripping one another. Etc. The two other teachers just sat in a room together and talked. I sat in another and pretty much became one of them. I just sat there; maybe stopping a few. But no matter what I said or did, there was no response from the kids. They were gone. And I just watched; numb.
At 11:20 the rain slowed and we left. Mayelin said she was going to go home, change, and come over but I told her I needed to rest... I went in my room and just laid in my bed before and after lunch. I didn't cry. I didn't read. I didn't play games on my iPad. Just stared and the zinc roof connecting the holes like constellations and wondered if I could get away with skipping the afternoon session on the other side. Hell, everyone else does it here.
So... I did. I came up with a Spanish lie (that I was sick and didn't have minutes to call her) for when I see the director next (ugh, this is horrible I know). In reality I still am not doing so hot with this stomach thing so it's not a complete lie. I put my mosquitera up, shut my door, and tried to sleep for the next two hours. It didn't work but it felt pretty good. I could hear the kids screaming from the school. Crazy. Eventually I went out. Lili was there, niño, his mother, Dulce, Alex, and Samuel. The kids and I played cards a bit but I kept having to excuse myself to the bathroom. Then I would lay in bed a bit more until I got strength back to go out. Mayelin came too at one point so I gave her the prize that I didn't give earlier. She loved it and it lights up which I didn't know lol. Then for the next hour and a half I chatted with niño's momma (she's my age), she couldn't believe I was going to be living here for two years, and we watched Eddi play with the electrical wires. Apparently something was wrong in two spots which is why we didn't get luz today when everyone else did. He climbed trees, I saw sparks, he cut wires lol. It was crazy but he did it! 
Dulce made me dinner, I showered, and am heading to bed. Tomorrow's Saturday which is wonderful and next week are exams so I won't have to worry about teaching anymore. Gracias a Dios. Now I need to focus on what I'm going to do with the summer camp. Cuz I'll have a lot of those kids that have given me lots of trouble... And I gotta start making materials from... Stuff?  lol. Sorry about another depressing post. Tomorrow will be better. To help, see below for an adorable baby photo (totally can't remember what day this was from so I decided to put it here because she's so beautiful and I need some beauty for this day :) ). Buenas noches.

Día de Fiesta y Greg & Lula!

May 30, 2013. Día de Fiesta! And it certainly was! I rose around 8:30, had yuca and eggs for breakfast (!!) and played cards with some kiddos until 11. At that time, backpack in hand, I headed to the thruway, waited for a half hour and flagged down a car. I told him where I needed to go and paid. All by myself! Lol And at the corner waiting for me stood Lula and Greg :D It was so good to see their faces!
They took me to their house, gave me a tour, and we went into their room which accidentally had air conditioning haha. Oh god that was wonderful. We ate lunch, chatted, and I stole some wifi. I had 54 emails waiting for me lol Then I got to FaceTime with my family! And for quite a while :D Have I mentioned that I can't wait to have Internet nearly everyday? 
We went outside (I saw the biggest rat of my entire life run across the yard) and chatted for a while but eventually made our way out. I needed to take money out for my rent for June. Luckily my monthly allowance already went in for June so there enough for me to do so. Now I don't have to worry about it later which I'm happy about. We also stopped at the supermarket and I picked up suckers for the kids I taught and three bigger push-up pop thingys for the winners. When we got back there was talk of going out. I wasn't sure if I should go back late but they offered to drive me. But also...I have this fear of talking on the phone in Spanish because I can't see their faces to read expressions or lips. So after building myself up for 10 minutes I finally called her. And could understand her! I'm sure my Spanish sucked cuz I stumbled big time but I asked and she said I could come back whenever I wanted :D. 
Then Nate was home from work!! And I got to see his face too for the first time in what felt like months! There was no luz so I tucked myself in by the one window in the room but it kept getting darker and darker haha. But oh man he was clear and handsome as ever. Miss you baby. And love you like crazy.
We ate breakfast for dinner (oatmeal type thing) and headed out with two of their Dominican friends. We left Villa, went past my campo and to the next one to a pretty nice bar. It wasn't too packed, the music was amazing, and the lights were pretty lol. We drank chocolate milk, screamed to chat, and danced a little. The guy we were with noticed how much I loved this one song and about twenty minutes later the DJ said my name and played the song again hahaha. So funny.  It was a perfect, relaxing way to end a nearly perfect day.
They drove me home, my Toms got destroyed with mud since I couldn't see where I was walking and it had downpoured shortly before, and I made it home safety. I entered quietly but my Doña woke and asked me how everything went from her room. Then I just headed to bed with no energy to do anything since it was 11:30 (probably the latest I've ever been up here lol). So from today(the 31), I'll say "Buenas noches" for last night.