Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lather, Rinse, and Repeat Every Day

July 31, 2013. 

    "To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived-
                             This is to have succeeded." 

I recently wrote about 6 inspirational quotes on white paper in colorful marker and hung them on my grey, cold, cement walls. I was getting desperate for something to boost my spirits since not much else has been working. I found them in the book, "Start Something That Matters" by Blake (forgetting his last name and don't feel like getting out of my mosquitero to look...McKoskie?) who is the founder of Toms shoes. Phenomenal book by the way, even if you don't want to start your own business.
But I found the above quote at the end of the book and literally almost dropped the book to the ant covered gallery floor... The other quotes I had we're great ("The more you give, the more you live" "Imagination is more powerful than knowledge" etc). But this one was different. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Exactly what I need to embed in my head and heart while I'm here fulfilling my service in the PCDR.
Each day I fill my head with uncertainties and worries that I haven't done enough. This damn Community Diagnostic has me going completely crazy. And while that is all on me, it's going to be okay. I'm pretty sure the Peace Corps isn't going to send me home if my presentation isn't perfect or if I didn't do enough interviews. 
So today I had my last day of summer classes. Knowing that only one kid from each class was going to show up, I decided it would be a fiesta day. I bought soda, suckers, and gum and brought books, puzzles, cards, Dominoes, paper and crayons, and a memory game. My plan? Refreshments, read aloud the book I love about a boy who eats books until he gets sick and then begins to read them, and play whatever they wanted to play. I also made silly little certificates congratulating them on passing summer classes :P

Alex came early so Samuel had a buddy to play with for his class. The three of us played for two hours straight. And for about a half an hour, they begged me to read more books aloud to them. 

Juan José came at his time and totally came out of his shell he had been hiding in all summer. His competitive nature busted through as he owned me in cards. Then Neftali (fifth grade) chose to read a book aloud himself. One that was above his reading level and quite long. Without a single complaint he continued to read each page and with a fluency I hadn't witnessed from him thus far.  After almost twenty minutes he finished and I could have broken down in tears (but I didn't!). With how short and infrequent the classes were, I hadn't expected to actually see much improvement from my students-which was okay since I'll be doing pull-outs during the school year to help more. But I saw it in him. And though he may not feel it yet, I hope that my (possibly over-) excitement made him see a little of the incredible spark he has inside him. 
We played Dominoes with Lili and David (Neftali then staying an hour after his normal class time and where he showed his insane mental math skills), I cleared out the classroom and headed home with my heart full. 
Or at least, I thought it was full. And then I ended the night with that quote. 

So the days when my vision and focus are on the looming task ahead of me and the cultural barriers that lie in-between me and reaching the sustainability goals of the Peace Corps, I must remember the little ones. With their Julie-melting smiles, contagious laughters, yearn for positive attention and love, and joy of the simple things in life; they are what matter in the end. If I only help a handful in two years, that's a handful more than if I would have stayed in the states... And with how I felt with the little improvement from Neftali? Wow... Here comes an emotional next two years.
Dad, I know you say this to me nearly everyday. I guess sometimes I just need to hear it, read it, forget it, live it, read it again, and listen to it 100X before it sinks deeper than my head and settles into my heart. And even though it hit me hard today and is happily sitting heavy in my chest, I know I'll need to be reminded again throughout my service.
So for my own sake, here it is again:

   "To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived-
                             This is to have succeeded." 

Lather, rinse, and repeat every day.

Buenas noches.

I Can Walk Around Naked!

July 30, 2013. So today I spent most of the morning doing my PowerPoint Presentation for August's Community Diagnotistic shenanigans. I may not have done enough interviews yet but I certainly have enough information already. Around 4, I headed over to see Linda and do my interview with her. First we visited a neighbor who was making arroz con leche in a huge pot over a fire in a half-built house. It was delicious, by the way, but my main focus was-wait, house being built? Can I rent it? When will it be done? I'm still happy with Dulce and Moreno but I've been itching real bad for some privacy lately. Being woken up constantly at 5:30am by Moreno showering, grossly (like, seriously disgusting) hacking and spitting, and making breakfast. And then feeling guilty when I want to talk to someone back home a little later than normal at night and they're already in bed. Also. Sometimes I just don't want to eat. So when I'm on my own, I won't have to. And I can willingly wake up at 5:30am like I've wanted to to start running. 
I asked Linda and she said they're building about 4 houses but renting halves. Meaning I'd have to share the house. Nope. As we walked back, however, I saw the house that Lucy (family of Dulce) lived in. They just moved to Santiago but had quite the decent house here. And written on the outside? "Se vende o se alquila" (which means "for sale or for rent") with a phone number!!! Ah! Linda and I excitedly talked about the possibility and she seemed to understand why I want to live on my own. The dialogue even went here...

Linda: And you could walk around naked! Be free! You understand.
Julie: Yea! With the windows shut!
Linda: (with a "Duh, Julie" face) Well, yea.

Listen Linda. My Spanish is limited. Sometimes in conversations, instead of saying whatever I want or whatever comes to mind (cuz 90% of the time, I can't), I sit and there and go, "Okay, what do I know how to say that would work in this context..." So in this case, I knew how to say, "With the windows shut." So I said it...knowing how incredibly obvious it was. Hahahaha
But anyways! Fast forward to the 31st for a hot second- I asked Dulce about the house and they're renting it for $1,500RD a month. Hahaha what a joke that sounded like since I'm currently giving Dulce $6,000RD a month. For one room and food... And I could get an entire house with three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and INDOOR bathroom for $1,500? How does that make sense? Doesn't matter, I'm sold.
...until later that night when Dulce softly pulled me aside and goes, "You know, what we were talking about earlier... Is it mandatory that you move out? (Shoulda said yes...) Cuz if you're comfortable here, you're more than welcome to stay." 
AHHHHH Even they know how to guilt me here!! Totally not what she was doing but I know how much $6,000 monthly helps out here... I graciously knodded and thanked her but didn't say anything else. I kinda just wanted her little self covered only in a towel to go shower so I would say, "Okay...I'll stay."
I'll probably just wait a few days before asking how I can go about renting the house just to soften the blow a little...
I will miss a lot here and on the days I don't feel like leaving my room, the kiddos always save me and get me out into the world again (even when in the moment I might be pissed, it's a good thing). And I'll certainly miss not having to cook for myself. And the pride I feel every time Dulce says something and I actually understand it. But alas, I'm not moving into a different campo. I will just have to get out and visit a lot. Especially on the days I really don't feel like cooking ;) 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My First DR Proposal

July 28, 2013

Man: How is everything? And your children?
Me: My children? I don't have children.
Man: No? Why not?
Me: Because I don't have children... (Great answer, I know)
Man: You have to have children now. You need to get married. Marry me and have children with me?

First proposal in the DR. To be flattered... Or bothered. That is the question.
Hm...Nope, not flattered lol.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Have You Ever...?

July 26, 2013. 

Have you ever seen 4 grown men chase after roosters for about an hour trying to catch them? Crawling through barbed wire, climbing trees, diving in the grass and rolling with rooster finally in hand? 

I have.

But Hey, I Love Roller-coasters

July 25, 2013. Trip tooooo...the capital! To get a green card... What? Haha feels funny to say that. I awoke at 5am and was heading out the door by 6am-perfect. Until my host mom called out from the kitchen, "Wait! Your tea is almost ready!" Haha she woke up early just to make me tea! They also yelled at me around 5:30am saying, "Um, Julie, there's luz, ya know." I had been using my headlamp to get ready cuz I didn't want to wake them lol. I explained that but she yelled at me to turn it on :). So of course, "your tea is almost ready" meant 15 more minutes. And then trying to gulp down scolding hot tea which is also the kind that bites your throat if you drink it fast (what the hell kind of tea am I drinking here??) was... Difficult. 
So out the door I went at 6:30am. Needed to be in the office by 8. I have to wait by the thruway to pick up a bus which could come in 2 minutes or 30. And it takes an hour WITHOUT morning traffic. Cutting it pretty close I'd say. I stood by the Duarte, nerves pumping, and hands sweating and not 5 minutes go by and a mini van slides up. Normally those are for Villa but the guy called out, "Rubia! Capital?" I've never been so excited to be called "Rubia!" Haha I got in and was off! My next plan was to get off early and take the Metro the rest of the way to avoid traffic in the capital itself. I think it was a smart idea based on what we hit before the Metro stop but then on the metro I missed one train cuz it was so full and then was so packed into the next one, I didn't have to hold onto a bar as we took off from each stop haha. Then power walking through the sticky, unbearable air of Maximo Gomez, I made it to the office panting at 8:14am. And I wasn't the last one! Hahaha WIN.
I greeted friends who I hadn't seen since the 4th, soaked in the speaking of English, filled out an application for the green card, found 2 padded envelopes in my mailbox and two letters that said I had packages waiting as well. I headed to that office and it turns out there were three. None of them were listed on the sheet I had to sign and one said I had to pay $100RD.  One guy called the other guy confused, that guy went through the same confusion and eventually threw all the boxes in my arms and said in Spanish, "Just take them all! Don't pay and just go." Haha I literally ran out laughing and saying, "Okay! Gracias!"
I began opening them in the lounge and was completely overwhelmed. Too many people were there though so I was able to hold back the tears. I can't describe the feeling I used to get in the states when someone would do something or buy something for me because no one understands it. It was bad then, and I guess got worse here. Acts of service and gifts are certainly not one of my love languages. So while I'm currently not speaking to my parents until tomorrow:
1. Sharing a box of my Reese's Pieces with the Peace Corps family was a blast. And the other two chocolates with my kiddos back in site was adorable.
2. Walking up to the finca in my new, durable, comfy sandals made a world of a difference. Even though they may have looked ridiculous with my skinny jeans, I couldn't have cared less, it was that good of a feeling for my feet and legs.
3. Seeing those Toms I had eyed just before leaving the states was... Indescribable. I know, they're just shoes. But they're orange with suns. They're me.
4. Cats in the cradle to give my hands something to do when the words just aren't there? Already a success once. And Lili loves doing it too.
5. And 100s of packages of those damn tissues? More of a life saver than you can understand and in many ways. Even now when I ran out of gauze for my sores, I had something to use.
6. Bug spray that actually might work so I don't have to wear pants everyday?? (Though getting more pants was super exciting too so at least it's not the same three pairs everyday...). Ugh.
7. MY HAMMOCK!! Need I say more?
8. Those stupid Dollar Store solar powered flowers and the hula girl. Oh. My. God. The happiness I felt was ridiculous with that. Every time I look at them on my nevera, I'm taken home and in the best way possible. Gram, I got a kick out of telling everyone how much you love those things and how happy they made me. And watching them run out into the sun with them to see them in action was hysterical.
9. Real triple antibiotic ointment? Yes.
10. And the letters in each box. Perfection and the icing on the incredibly delicious cake. Wow. 

There was probably more that I missed but with every direction my head is in at the moment, that's all I've got. Just amazing. I'm am so beyond blessed with the family love and support that I have back home. It's indescribable. And is the main reason (and biggest struggle at the same time) that I am able to be here, doing what I am doing.

Moving on... We headed out in a van to the Migration Office and waited for two hours. Took a picture which I didn't smile for and received my completely unattractive green card-which is literally green! Haha back at the office, I went in to see Maria, the doctor. We chatted but it was more like her laughing at me for cutting the top of my head on barbed wire, and she checked out my sores. And said... "Oh. Julie.. These are a lot worse than you made them seem." hahaha Oops? She took a culture, cleaned them, put a gross black, smelly cream from Bolivia on them and dressed them in gauze and tape. Then handing me all those things, ordered me to repeat every morning and take antibiotics for the next 10 days. And no river bathing until then :( Lame. But she's the best. 
In the lounge, I organized my things (more like stuffed everything in my book bag) and Cory, Samuel and I headed to America! We had sushi for lunch (haha yup!) and shopped around Jumbo. I got some school stuff and other necessities (including a baseball-he volleyball will just have to wait, it was too pricey) and then wandered around and got frozen yogurt. A wonderful break just before going back to site. From there I hopped back on the uncrowded Metro, and just missed the Villa bus by two seconds (I watched as it pulled away as I was on the stairs from the walkway haha). I wandered for a second trying to ignore the calls of the cobradors of all the other buses and then saw a car with the sign-Villa on top. I asked the driver to be sure and about a minute later, I was on my way out! Perfect! I made it home around 6pm and emptied my stuff with Lili, David, and Alex- who are always here when I return from the capital cuz I always have new stuff lol. We spent the rest of the night hanging out (I told them no Internet or computer tonight) and my day was complete.
Emotionally it was a rollercoaster, as per usual. But hey, I love roller-coasters, right? :D Buenas noches.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

For A Special Someone Back Home

July 24, 2013. So back to this day. I was sitting in my classroom waiting for my next class to begin when my phone rang. And my phone read: Gram Irene. My heart pumped with excitement because this special lady was celebrating her birthday today and I had wanted to call her. We chatted, her always asking way to many questions about me and not talking enough about herself but goodness do I miss her.
Let me explain why. I am reminded of this woman everyday I spend here in the Dominican Republic. And in many ways:

¥ While I soak my feet in this burning water and getting ready to dress my sores all by myself, I'm reminded of the 100s of times the nursing side of her shined through and took care of my careless self. Even when I may not have needed it... Always passing out pills or patches or coming up with a homemade remedy for a staph infection (which freaking worked by the way!). 
¥ As my Doña boils water for my hot chocolate and prepares to start making my lunch, I'm reminded of the billions (and billions) of meals spent at my grandmother's house where I always ate much more than any normal girl my age should (since I was an infant-and yes, I remember that long ago, thank you). 
¥ The hospitality of the Dominicans is impeccable, even when they barely have anything to give. Every visit I make, I'm gifted with mango, juice, coffee, avocado, a hair clip, nail polish, or something. And even when I beg not to be fed for the third time before noon, the food is shoved down my throat. Sound familiar? "Gram, please I don't want anymore mashed potatoes," PLOP! Second heaping pile added to the plate. But with 1,000lbs of love along with it.
¥ The complete reliance on God and his will is impossible to miss here. "Gracias a Dios," "Si Dios quiere," "Vaya con Dios," etc are phrases used on the regular. Granted, sometimes, "Si Dios quiere" simply means, "I really don't want to and probably won't be there so God must not have wanted it." But hey, it's still there, and I think of the many ways in which she taught me and reminded me that I do have the big guy upstairs at my side always. I hope and pray that one day my faith will be as unshakeable and beautiful as hers is.
¥ Family is everything here. My host mom's mom lives arriba. Her nieces and nephews too. Then her sister lives a street over with more kids. Another sister just moved but not too far. And her daughter, son-in-law and grandson live on aquel lado. You feed anyone who is at the house. And anyone can show up whenever they want and they're always welcome. Coffee is made for guests. And even if all you have is a cookie, it's split however many ways there are people. Need I say more? Grandma's house with Grandma's ways.

I love you more than you can imagine Gram. And while you always tell me how amazed you are that I can live this dream of mine, I fully believe that it's partially because of you that I can. You taught me to love everything and everyone with all that I am. You taught me to serve others without asking for anything in return. You taught me to pray and keep the Big Man in the forefront for strength. And you taught me that family provides all the love and support I will ever need to go out and chase my dreams.

Happy Birthday.
I miss you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

River Escape, Long-Awaited Visitor, and Students!

July 22, 2013. Well today was a day of waiting for casi nadie. I went to the school, prepared the room, and sat and played the damn snake game on my phone for about and hour and a half. One of my students showed up and said, "There's no class today, right?" What? He wouldn't answer when I asked why he thought that... But. He left. Alex came for my second class which was good. But then Lili, David, More, and Alex all begged me to come to the river with them. And as much as it killed me at the time, I said no. That my class was more important and I needed to be here even if only one more student shows up. And one did :) Juan Jose (love him, by the way) came at 11 and I made it home for lunch by noon. Which I was starving for cuz for once I didn't eat a breakfast of pasta and yuca or sardines and platanos! And loved it haha.
At 2, I ventured back to finish off my last class. The whole group passed the school, yelling for me to start walking with them to the river. But I couldn't. And one more student showed up :). He and I worked together until 2:45 and I decided that I still really wanted to go to the river. It is quite a walk with a group pf people so walking it solo? Hm...
But I really wanted it lol. So I went home, changed, tried to tell Dulce I was leaving but she was sleeping, and took the trek through the woods, under the Duarte, and illegally through the orange tree farm until I heard the screams and splashing of my group :)
It was worth it (despite getting picked up and thrown twice and being told I weight a lot) and my host mom got a kick out of telling people I walked it all by myself (even the next day to two people I had never met before) haha though I'm not sure if she was impressed or thought I was crazy :P The rest of the night we all just hung out here at the house and had lots of laughs at my expense. A good night :)

July 23, 2013. Today my plan was to relax all morning and be alone-ish. But alas, I was awoken by Moreno at 6am and then 7am by David knocking on my bedroom window... Haha I then tried to chill in the room with my book bag pushed up against it to keep it closed but was repeatedly pushed open by one kiddo or another. Haha and I was asked numerously, "Why is the book bag there?" :P so I spent the morning saying no to playing my computer and hanging out on the porch with new and old family of Dulce. I also did some planning for class Wednesday.
In the afternoon, Lili and I played cards and a woman came over to give Dulce some sewing work. Dulce wasn't here though so she and I chatted for a while and I think I understood 95% of what was said! Woooo.
Then at 5pm I headed to Juana Iris to observe her adult literacy program. It began with her and two older men screaming about where class should be-in the school or in her house.  Two out of the six adults came and I watched and then was pushed to help. First of all, the book makes no sense. It's government issued because this is a nation-wide movement to improve literacy-which is incredible! But it's way too complex for beginning learners. And Juana Iris was just giving them the answers (because they couldn't read the questions or sentences) and telling them what to write. I grabbed my literacy stuff to show her thinking she would want to make copies and use some but it turned into me working with an older man and giving him some of my materials. That's not what I meant when I said I wanted to help but I have a feeling I'm going t have to be more specific.
On the walk back my name was called out from a distance behind me. When I looked, the pastor was walking my way! Oh I was so happy to see him after trying far too many times to visit him :D he had a free moment and knew I had gone to his house multiple times so he came by to visit me! His passions flew as he talked my ear off about the education system, El Batey (the other side of the thruway), my summer classes, his busy schedules, etc. He invited me to some sort of worship hour in el Batey Saturday morning, and I asked when I could visit next to do an interview with him (Sunday morning). A win and I didn't even have to leave the house this time :D
The night ended skyping with my family and getting an incredibly sugary dessert of some kind! Didn't need my peanut butter! :)

July 24, 2013. Well the search for the school key failed and of course with that luck, I had 4 kiddos show up for class in the morning-and on time! Hahaha We headed to Dulce's house since she was in Villa to have class in the gallery. And since a lot of my materials were in the classroom, I had to make up plans on the spot haha. It went okay but I wish I had more time with them. One girl that came had never come before so it was hard starting in the middle with her... The key was found after that class so I was able to then move comfortably there for the rest of the day :) One student for second grade, and one for third. Win? Haha  

Monday, July 22, 2013

How To Cure...

July 20, 2013. After losing luz super early Friday, Saturday I awoke and immediately started my laundry. I had to wear my bathing suit top since I had noting else at the time... Haha In the afternoon I had English class where... no one showed up. I promised Linda I would visit (because her brother was visiting and she wanted to meet him) but she wasn't there so I did interviews with my host mom and dad. Then I ventured out to interview Juana Iris! Finally haha. I also got more info on the adult-literacy program she teaches and am going to observe a class on Tuesday :) I then tried, yet again, to see the pastor but he wasn't there. But I saw Linda who was on the way back from the river with her family. I told her I'd stop by later. Which I did but her brother had already left... Oops. We hung out, played cards and started watching a movie but I headed out around 7. Dulce called me on my walk back and wanted to know if I wanted to go to Angie's house for un ratico. Ha! This time I knew what that meant! Fancy clothes, drinking, loud music, and dancing, and for way more than un ratico. So! I changed for the occasion and we headed out together. It was early so I sat in the salon with Angie for an hour and a half before Dulce came and retrieved me haha. What a process hair is. The rest of th night? lots of chocolate milk mixed with an energy drink aaaand... Dancing. Oops? I just couldn't watch anymore hahaha. So I danced. And had a blast :D 

June 21, 2013. So how do you take your mind off the day-after-drinking-too-much-chocolate-milk sickness (it's a real illness, you know...)? You get up early to go to a "loma" with the kiddos to find mango and avocado. You find none. But soak in this:

And this:

And enjoy them:

Still felt pretty awful the whole time but wow. It was incredibly beautiful we walked up and down 100 hills just to find mango and avocado (did I mention there were none? Mango season is almost over :( and avocado season is on its way) I learned how out of shape I am. I cut the top of my head on barbed wire (cuz that's what fences are made out of here but that doesn't mean you can't crawl through them-except I'm bigger than all of them...haha). I drank river water. I sweat a lot. It poured on us for a bit. And we starved because we arrived back late. I loved every minute of it.
When I arrived home, I ate, and laid in bed for a while. And the rest of the night I hung out with my family here. Perfection :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Know, I'm Quite Impressive ;)

July 18, 2013. Well! After constantly getting made fun of, today was a much needed day! And I didn't even do anything spectacular! Haha
I was awoken by Moreno getting ready for work around 6am (normal) but then again by Dulce at 7am who was heading off to Villa. Once she left locking the front door behind her, I settled comfortably in my bed thinking I was alone in a house and could just sleep for a bit longer :) A wonderful idea. Until 7:30 that is, when I was shaken out of my bed by the screams of David in my window and Lili and Alex banging on the front door haha. They were sent to get me for breakfast arriba. But first we had to find leña for the fogón. We went up a hill where a ton of trees were cut down and machete in hand, started chopping. There were three piles so I took one despite Lili calling me crazy. I guess cuz I'm American, I don't know very much and am not strong. So to prove myself worthy of a campo-vida, I picked up a pile and carried it way arriba (including through a little river!). You know how it is ;)
When we made it, my host mom's mom and dad were going on and on about how incredible it was that I could do that. They laughed, fed us breakfast, and then had us go out for another set. This time upon returning, however, they demanded a picture of me holding it all. They took my phone, I reloaded my arms (since I had already threw it all down), and they took a photo. And later, raved to Dulce about it and showed her. 
Next impressive Julie move was when we went to go help Dulce with all the things she brought from Villa. We met her by the thruway and she had four huge bags filled with groceries. Following Dabid's lead, I picked one up, threw it up on my shoulder and started walking. Twice Ducle made me lower it so she could take something out to help with the weight but they got a kick out of the fact that I was able to carry that too. And I thought I got stares from the community before? Hahaha oh no. Now if I'm feeling self-conscious, I'll just carry a big bag on my shoulder through town ;)
Next (yup, there's more!)! After lunch we were hanging out, bored, with no luz. Lili had a big stick and I said jokingly (but hopefully), "Vamos a jugar pelota?" And to my delight, she said yes! But was half joking because she followed up with, "Tú no sabes como jugar pelota." I laughed at her and said, "Let's go, then! I'll show you!" She and I were a team and David, Alex, and another boy about 10 years old (who's name I don't know cuz I haven't seen it written down yet...) were the other. Dulce, her mom, and her dad came outside to watch. We played till 10 home runs and Lili and I won :D I think I had 8 of those points Haha we used a thick stick for a bat and a ball made up of the strands you can pull from a corn sac. The last inning before we won, the boys were bating and I was pitching. They had two outs and the boy was up to bat. I pitched, he swung, he missed. I pitched, he swung, and hit it hard and fast just out of my reach on my left. I threw out my hand not thinking I would make it in time but just as he cracked the ball, it hit my hand. I stood there arm extended for a second, not believing myself that I had just caught it. The boy took one step towards first base and as soon as he realized I caught it, stopped, and his jaw dropped. Hahaha soooo funny. That was the talk of the next twenty minutes. I can't tell you how good it felt to finally be good at something in front of all of them and to actually do something active!
To celebrate we went to a river, swam, wrestled, and ate mango. I was very happy. I may sound like I'm boasting but seriously, I really did nothing spectacular. But it was so funny how I impressed they were. And don't worry, my head shrunk back down later when I went to go visit Linda. She, another woman, and I were chatting on the porch and they noticed the ugly cosas on my feet. They were talking and I thought the lady was asking me about the sugar I put on them. So she asked, "¿Azucar baja or alta?" Not really understanding, I answered, "Crema" because I had put brown sugar on them which is called Azucar Crema. Well. They just about died laughing. In fact, the lady was laughing so hard that she farted. Twice. Hahaha what she was asking was whether I had low blood sugar (baja) or high (alta). Oh man it was the best. But despite them laughing at me so much they were kind about it. Once they settled Linda said, "It's nothing, Julie don't you worry. You've already learned so much so fast. You'll keep learning everyday."  :)
And for the rest of the night I just listened, understanding hardly anything (except for the twenty minute speech about how something is coming to the US, the DR, and Puerto Rico (why only those three? I don't know); a huge wave sent by god; and everyone needs to proclaim aloud that Jesus Christ is their Savior in order to be saved from this wave... including me because she doesn't want to get sent to heaven without me because she cares about me so much, and it will save my family too, and... Yea haha), and watched the sky light up pink with lightning and daydreamed back to this morning where I was finally seen as a capable human being who could also play baseball ;)  And I was content.
Buenas noches.

A Break Between Nothing

July 15 & 17 2013. Monday and Wednesday were classes. Not a ton came. Some came late. I feel like as much as I've tried not to have to make plans up on the spot, I have to anyways. When you plan for 5/6 and 1/2 show up... And you want to save your best plans for when they're all there? What else can you do? It's just rough when that one awesome kid shows up every time and you do things with them and the next class he/she is there again but the other students are too. So you have old plans for them... But what for that one student? It's certainly not fair. But I also can't blame the kiddos for not coming. #1. It's summer. #2. Lots of their parents work so they have no one to tell them to go. Yea...
It'll be better during the school year. This is like a trial run, right? Right. 
I then visited Linda and we just hung out. Her kiddos weren't in class both days this week because she forgot.. 

July 16, 2013. Tuesday I went to Villa to visit Lula and Greg! I successfully made it to their place with no issues (yup-still feels amazing). They have a gorgeous apartment on the third floor of a building (after many many issues were resolved). Oh and I've claimed their second bedroom as my own ;). We just hung out, talked (a lot), drank coffee, I met their director, we got lunch, I took out money for rent, payed for my Internet, and we went to a "bakery" and bought awesome bread. I bought one to bring home to share too :). All and all just a great day spent with a wonderful couple. They certainly have their work cut out for them in the next two years...  But It was a appreciated break between... well. Between nothing. 
I made it back by 7 and was spotted by Lili who was in a Comlado. We walked back together (through the freshly cut Play! I cannot wait to run.,,) and I spent the rest of the night planning for Wednesdays classes (despite knowing how it was going to turn out lol). 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

And Then... I Snorted

July 13, 2013. So today I didn't do any interviews... but! I went way arriba to visit a family I haven't seen in a while. I was fed three times before 1pm and then rushed home to prepare for English class. only had 7 kiddos come but that's okay. Afterwards, I went to see the pastor but of course, he wasn't there. Haha but at least he knows I've tried to visit twice now! On the way back a lady called me into her gallery and we chatted for a while. Now I feel more comfortable going to her for an interview later since I've at least visited once :). And she invited me for a meal sometime. Yay? haha I then went to visit Linda despite wanting to call it a day. We chatted and then I witnessed beta-fighting at its finest. All the boys in the area came to watch the fish fight and money was put down for bets. Crazy... Lol The fish destroyed each other :/ I managed to skidaddle early without being fed there and ate at home. And I got my first aguacate!! (Avocado) I ate it right from the skin and they made fun of me hard cuz I didn't put it with my food or put salt on it. But! I stood my ground and said, "Well! I am American, ya know!" Lol It was so good, I cannot wait for the season to start (soon!)!  Then I just relaxed with Niño, Fredito, Dulce, and Moreno chatting and watching YouTube videos of animals doing funny things (mostly cats) and people playing pranks on each other. My stomach hurts from laughing so much :). Which is good, gotta work out this fat that I'm accumulating.

July 14, 2013. Today I went arriba to snag Lili. The plan? Sneak off to the finca where we could steal mango and limón. It was a secret mission that almost failed haha. We went and the guy that works there that told us to come early in the morning wasn't there. We back tracked and threw rocks to get a few mangoes and I climbed the tree to help out (don't know why but climbing a tree made me really happy). Soon after, however, the roar of a moto gave away his whereabouts and we returned to the farm. He let us in and bags in hand we wandered the whole farm looking for ripe mangoes and lemon. The bags were so huge we had to double them up and even then, mine broke while trying to hold it like a baby. But with much sweat, mud, and blood, we made it back without letting one fruit get left behind :). Mission accomplished. Mangoes for at least two days and jugo later. Win.
I then went back home to change and with a promise of going to the river, I excitedly put on my swimming clothes (we don't wear bathing suits for that). I ate and we waited for the rest of the group to come. But then... Lili said she didn't have permission. So we went up to ask (of course I had to since I'm the American) and of course, she said no... Instead we went to the smaller river close by where Lili bathes everyday. We swam, ate mango, and I got made fun of. A lot. I've noticed this is a thing they love to do. Whether it be for my mosquito bites, white skin, how I'm getting fat and have bigger hips now (that's a popular one), how I wet my hair everyday, how I eat mango wrong, how I eat avocado, how I'm always saying "Me gusta," the Spanish words I say wrong or simply my accent... I could go on. They particularly attacked me today at the river; not quite sure why. I started to really feel it... Tears threatened to come but I kept myself under control and just sat on a rock silently while David played with my hair. I guess they didn't notice since they continued for a while but then Lili started laughing. Like a witch and was purposefully obnoxious. For whatever reason I thought this was funny and started laughing. Hard. And then... I snorted. WELL. As if they didn't have enough to pick on me for, I just handed them another on a silver platter. And you know what? I kept laughing. But this time at myself along with them. Seriously. I'm an American living with Dominicans who have only ever heard of (or seen on TV) people like me (or maybe passed by one). But now they've had one in their community for about two months and she half speaks their language, says she's here to help teach, sits in chairs funny, likes everything, laughs a lot, says thank you too much, is often silent, plays a lot of cards, has white skin, and is attacked my mosquitoes. How could they not laugh? And how am I not laughing at this fact every single day here? Haha  Honestly. As soon as I snorted, it was like I slapped myself in the face and said, "Julie. They're not making fun of YOU. They're making fun of the idea of you because you're foreign to them." They don't know me yet and don't understand me enough to make fun of the actual me. We've got two years to fix that. And if they continue to make fun of me then, at least I'll feel at home since that's what it was like in the states, anyways ;) And by then we'll be enough like family and I'll be fluent enough to dish it right back. 
Yea, it'll still bug me from time to time; I don't think I can fully heal from that reality. But I just have to remember that it is pretty funny. The whole idea of me being here. I love them all just the same and I hope they feel that way too (or eventually will). 
Buenos noches.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A New Dream Within My Bigger Dream

July 12, 2013.  Ugh, I DID IT! Entrevistas!! Wooooo 4 in one day! And all by myself! And it wasn't too bad! Lol okay let me calm down... It's not that hard; trust me, I know. I'm not sure why I've struggled so much. But the fact is, I have struggled. But I'm done. From here on out I'm gonna kick ass (uh oh, I just made that public so now I can't fail...). 
Some good things came out of it. Some I didn't understand (one of my biggest fears) and some, I don't know if I can help with. Also lots of things were left out... What I mean by that is that many parents/community members don't see what I do in the schools... Hm. Also I'm faced with a big challenge because this school is going through so many changes. The director is new and possibly temporary, all of the teachers but one are new, and everyone hated the previous director so their new prespective is super honeymoon-like because anything is better than she was. Thus, I don't feel like I can judge too hard or determine the needs of the school just yet... It's in a transition phase...
But one thing was brought up that is now a huge goal of mine. I'm not going to put it here until I research the possibility a bit more. But my heart literally beats noticeably faster and harder when I think about leaving with this goal accomplished after 2 years. Vamos a ver. I now have a new dream within my bigger dream of being successful here in the PCDR...
So in the morning I did two interviews. I returned and did some research on the program, "Chicas Brillantes" which is a program for young girls in communities. It's geared towards raising self-confidence, teaching sex-ed, and having fun! From the little bit I've gathered it's needed here. Lili was there with me reading the manual and she got really excited about it so I got pumped too :D
After lunch I went to talk to Juana Iris about possibly having a community meeting soon but she was heading out. Her mother was there though so I did an interview with her. She's the one who filled me in on all the drama of the school... Then I went to visit Manuela. 
She and her older daughters gave me a TON of good stuff. So as much as she makes me uncomfortable, she's quite useful ;). So there is an Asociación de Padres (like a PTA in the states) a Juntos de Vecinos (community group), and Quisqueya Aprende Contigo (adult literacy program). This is great! Now I just need to see some meetings and classes! Oh and they are also where I got my big dream from...
They also told me that mass was today so I went home to get ready. But first... The director's son (from the other side) found me... Haha he had called many many times in the week to see if I could come to visit Villa again and I...avoided it. Lol! He said he just happened to be close by so he wanted to say hello. And ask why I hadn't been answering his calls...Oops :P 
Also random thought for today: Why does the damn dog at the neighbor's house bark ALL DAY LONG? Who is he mad at? And then why does my host mom's dog take over in the night?? It's like they have a pact... To drive me CRAZY. Well. That's just too damn bad for them. Cuz I already am crazy :)
Anyways. La misa at 5! Except... The preist is apparently on vacation haha. We waited in the classroom on the other side for a half hour and then China called and found out he wasn't coming. So we read the readings and had a discussion and left :P
Lili and I bought chocolate bars (for 5 pesos!) at a colmado and ate them on the way home :) and then I had yet another woman tell me I'm getting fat and ask me if my mother from home tells me that when we video chat... Yay.
Oh and my host mom pulled out quite a large dead rat from behind her dresser and just goes, "Mira Julie!" (Look!) with a huge smile on her face and a laugh :). Love her.

All in all I'd say today was pretty damn fantastic. Except for the fact that the water returned and then se fue as soon as I went to shower. I have to say I'd take water over luz any day (except for maybe then losing Internet...). But alas, I shall sleep and start de nueva mañana. Buenas noches.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pool and School in the Rain

July 9, 2013. Yup... Fail. But it wasn't my fault! Haha I studied in the morning with the goal in the forefront of my mind for after lunch. But as soon as lunch was ready, talk of going to a pool for a birthday party was brought up. I tried to back out saying I need to start my PC project but of course, "You can start tonight when we come back!" Lol They won. Heading out around 1pm, we caught a free bola on the back of a pickup truck going 80mph on the Duarte :) Pretty crazy. We made it to the pool; Dulce, Lili, Yasmelin, Victor, David, Alex, Margerita, the birthday girl, and I. They swam and my plan was to not because of my disease. Buuuut yet again, fail. But again, a good fail :)  There was rain, chocolate milk, teaching them Marco Polo (so funny), birthday cake (!!), weird cheese, crackers, salami, and friends that came who spoke English. The little girls were 7 and 9 and the boy was 13 years old. They were born and raised in the states but their father is from Villa so they come every summer. They were adorable and it was so funny to watch them speak English and have all of my Dominicans just stare uncomfortably. For the first time since I've been in site, it wasn't me who felt lost and unsure. Haha The rains came hard around 6 so we left in the back of another pick-up truck. Seriously though? Rain freaking hurts when you're cruising that fast! 
We of course had to go arriba first to let Dulce's mom know that we were alright because she called 10X. Then we doubled back, went home, changed, and ate tostones and salami :). Exhausted and happy I went to bed.

July 10, 2013. Well. The tropical storm hit a little today.

This is me walking to the school.

And this is me waiting in the school.

:) I'll be honest. I thought about skipping. Hell, everyone else does it. But I didn't. I got my ass out there, retrieved the key, and set up my room. A half an hour later, two kiddos showed up. One student would have made it all worth it and I had two. I couldn't tell you how excited I was :D. We ordered the alphabet together (they knew maybe two letters out of 27), and I had them write it in their notebooks. Their homework? Read the alphabet to someone in their family and have that family member sign below. We'll see how that goes. It's just as much for the students to practice as it is an experiment for me O:)
Since that took so long I scratched the rest of my plans and took each of them home with my umbrella. The next hour and a half was spent reading, listening to the rain, and looking at all the pretty materials that the school got. Lili and Alex came by to get me (sent by Dulce) because it was raining. I told them I was going to stay because if just one more student showed up, I want to be there. They need to know that I care. So they left me. To which the thought followed... "Wait. Alex is in my class. Why can he walk down and cross the river to go to Dulce's house while it's raining but can't come a little further to class?"  *sigh*
But at 11:15, Genesis came :). She and I worked for a while and then she wanted to draw. As much as it pained me, I said no because I want to make sure she knows that she can't always draw... But I will be sure to use her strength of art in my future plans with her.
Dulce brought me a mango (in the rain!) so after class I ate, packed up, and walked Genesis home. She then greeted me with hot soup for the rainy day-yesssss. How did I get so lucky with this family? Even if some of them are apparently theives... Lol. I decided against the afternoon class but with much guilt... But it was raining really hard and if the street was that flooded in the morning? Ugh, just trying to make myself feel better... But seriously it stormed and I laid in bed for the next 4 hours and it never stopped. One thunder boom scared me out of my sleep haha.
So to save you from boredom, that's how the rest of the night went. Rain, dinner of yuca and eggs (can't wait to be on my own so I can make a ton of coffee on days like this), rain, reading, rain, not understanding my host dad explain something off in the distance with a tree, rain, hot milk and galletas, rain, bedtime.
Buenas noches.

Monday, July 8, 2013


July 7, 2013. Today I arose late after a late night out with Dulce, Moreno, Joan, y Niño. But they got up late too :). At 11, Laila came to visit. It was great to have her come and justify my many
concerns about my site. She made me feel less crazy (though now I know for a fact that these next two years are in fact going to test me) we laughed a lot, ate a lot, and shared a lot. She also convinced me to call the Med Office about my many non-healing gross-looking cuts (fast-forward: to which they told me to put brown sugar on them... So I'm currently patched up in 6 different spots looking ridiculous). I walked her to the thruway and on the way back, the guy from the colmado that Linda goes to called me over. I did not have the energy or courage to stay and chat but he was persistent. And I'm glad he was. We sat outside with a man that lives in Villa and a few others and just chatted. I felt really good about the amount of Spanish I understood and how much I spoke. After the rains passed, I headed back home. Mayelin showed up and had Dulces to sell from her momma. So I went with her, met a new family, convinced a few muchachos to buy some with my fantastic looks ;) and showed my face abajo (for the third time in one day!). What a great day. And to end it? I hung out with Niño, Angie, Fredito, and FaceTimed my family. I was up until midnight and loved every minute of it. 
Until I woke up the next day...

July 8, 2013.  Haha joke, I promise. But when my alarm went off for my first day of summer classes, I wasn't completely thrilled :P Figuring the director was going to be late, I took it upon myself to find the key to the school which could be in one of two houses. And good thing I did because she didn't show up until 9 and my classes started at 8am haha. Buuuut Samuelito was the only one who showed up on time. I already figured this could be a reality but about an hour later more and more children showed up. At 9:30 I had about 6 kiddos from all different grades. I clarified the times for them (quite sternly I might add...) so hopefully Wednesday will be better. Also, I'm so glad I had what I had planned for the first day because it was easy to do with mixed grades and at separate times since they all came when they wanted to. See below!

First we did handprints to make what you see above. There really was no purpose but just to ease the munchkins in and make them feel comfortable. They were all nervous and timid at first but thought this was really cool. It was perfect. You can't see it but I wrote their names on their handprints too.

We talked about the rules of the summer classes (which seem silly with such a small amount of kids but I really want them to know that I mean business from the start. So they won't try and pull stuff on me later...). Instead of writing, "Las Reglas" at the top, I put, "Prometemos" which means, "We promise" and at the bottom, they all signed their names.
Then we did the infamous "¿Quién Soy?" sheet. Man oh man was it hard to tell them they need to stop drawing... They could have gone for over an hour but it was wonderful. We presented them to each other started with "Luces...Cámara...Acción!" And ending with different applauses. They were shy about it but as we continued, they let loose a little more. And loved it. I'll be sure to continue doing those things so they know that they're allowed to have fun! (After all, that's rule #5-Divertirnos!). 
I had a few older siblings helping me out which was good and bad. They helped translate if I was sucking at explaining things but they also were talking when I was trying to talk and being too harsh (it's a cultural thing that isn't terrible but I don't like it). I was able to start correcting them too and so hopefully if they return, they'll learn how I want them to act too. Haha wow, I sound like a witch :P But I learned quick that you have to be stern with these kids (not their fault but I won't say who's it is...) and they will listen but also respect you more so you can have fun with them-Win.
In the afternoon all of the kiddos came from the 4th and 5th grade class. And I went and retrieved Genesis who was supposed to come at 11 and didn't. She lives right down the road from the school and I know how much help she needs. So I went before lunch, told her mom she was supposed to be there but said she could come at 2 with the next class. But then I drilled into her that class on Wednesday is at 11. And for now, if I have to go to her house again, I will. She hates school (for good reason) but a huge goal of mine for summer (along with many others, of course) is to have her love learning again (or for the first time). 
I finished hanging things up, cutting out the hands, and making the suns and I headed out. I showered, dressed my wounds (minus the damn one under my nail=6 patches) with brown sugar and went out to Linda's. One patch got ruined within minutes as I lost a chancleta in the mud. and I couldn't avoid it this time. I've never seen that road so bad :/ Linda was quiet today but we chatted, played cards with her family, and they made me a mango batida with milk, sugar, and ice. Soooooo damn good. I left early-ish without getting fed (!!) and have just relaxed here at home. 
It's rained on and off all day and a tropical storm is predicted to hit us Wednesday. Bring it on! Let's see what a storm here is like when all I know are snow storms :P I feel good about today despite not having all of the kids come (I've got two years... This is just the beginning). I've gotta adjust some of my plans for Wednesday but not too much. It's just going to be evaluations through games so I can figure out where they are all at (though I already know that about 4 kiddos can't write their names yet...). Tomorrow, I have one goal to meet (starting small so I can work my way up) and I'm not going to fail this time.
Buenas noches :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013


July 6, 2013. I can look each and every one of you straight in the eyes and tell you I would have never imagined doing what I just did the last three days when I knew I was joining the Peace Corps. What I could imagine, with a very limited understanding of what my service would entail, never once included vacation with friends, beaches, dancing, music, and chocolate milk. And while part of me does have some guilt for doing so (I can't ever seem to escape it), I couldn't be happier that it happened and that I was so incredibly blessed when I received this placement. And blessed to have been ignorant to the possibilities because it just makes the moments that much sweeter.
I left my site on the 4th of July and embarked to the capital at 7am. I managed to snag an awesome air conditioned bus (with the help of Linda and another community member who told everyone on the bus to take care of me :D), make it with time to grab breakfast with Cori and make the 10am guagua to Samaná. Two and a half hours later we made it and with the help of a man without a leg, we got another mini guagua to Las Galeras (one more hour). Oh, and after I argued with a taxi man who wouldn't let us be, trying to get us to pay RD$300 a person when the mini guagua cost RD$100. Ha. I was quite proud of myself... :) 
We arrived here:

And had an apartment-type room. There was a double bed, two benches with cushions in the living room, a kitchen, bathroom, and patio area. We fit 9 in there (some sleeping on the cement floor...but it was cheaper and way too much fun with all of us together!). 
That night entailed cooking tons of pasta, chocolate milk, beach, buying a new dress, and going out to dance at a restaurant on the water. About 100 volunteers were there (Dominicans too) and there was a  huge bonfire to end the night at 1am. What. An. Incredible. Night. (maybe except for my chancletas breaking and having to walk over 1km barefoot on rocks...Yes, they're still hurting). 
The next day was arising at 7:30, egg sandwiches, coffee every few hours, relaxing, interneting, beach right next our place, getting lunch out, and then returning to this beach from the night before: 

With this behind us (the restaurant and volleyball net which I did get to play on :D)

Until this time of night:

Returning to our place we spent the night tranquilo ordering four pizzas to split (first halfway decent pizza I've had in-country!), hammocking, chatting (in English!) about our lives (or about nothing at all), and eventually sitting on the beach listening to the water crash into the sand and staring at the stars waiting for another to shoot across the black sky. Just... Paradise. We didn't go to bed until 4am knowing we had to arise at 7:30am and it didn't matter one bit. 
What an incredible group of people. An incredible place I get to call home. And the incredible ability to take advantage of moments like this to remind me that every little thing is going to be alright (Bob Marley is always with me). No I haven't moved forward with things I need to get done in my site but getting away, being with friends, and soaking in the water that surrounds this tiny island brought me back to the present. Reminded me to breath. And told me that I do have what it takes to turn this around. I've gotten this far. The only thing stopping me is me. But I've got too much around me pushing me forward. So why continue fighting back?
Arising from my corner on the floor I packed my things and headed back to reality with Cori and Sarah; going in and out of having to speak Spanish and I have to say, doing it quite well. Trying to sleep on the guagua was a fail but closing my eyes and shutting out the world was a perfect way to switch my mind back to my actual home. I skyped with my family at the office, got letters from family (some from April and some from May), got empanadas for lunch, and headed to the Metro.
Flawlessly making it home (I can't tell you how good that feels still) I was greeted by three of my girls with big hugs. I unpacked, showered, had fritos y salami (Mmmmm), and I swear I understood everything my host mother said haha.
Laila (my Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) is coming to visit tomorrow to see how I'm doing. So with a fresh mindset washed over me with the waves, I will express my concerns and hopefully her years of experience will provide insight for me to move forward. And tell the tiny part of me that is screaming from a distance, "You are doing more than okay!" That it is right. 
And with that, Buenas noches.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What's Left of My Heart

July 1, 2013. 

Cross your fingers this may be my puppy :) They wouldn't let him be so I could get a good shot of his face though lol I wanna know what kind of dog he is!

And these are the boys that currently have what's left of my heart (the other parts of it are at home in the states). Linda's sons. Wish they had smiled though; you all would have melted to the floor like I do whenever I see them.

That is all :) Buenas noches.