Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Water and Softball. What Could Be Better?

15 de febrero 2014. 
I slept last night!! And woke up all on my own at 8am :)
Llegó el agua!!! And Pipe was gone so I got to help carry big jugs full of water from the neighbors house to ours to fill the tanks 100X. Yay manual labor!! Seriously. Was so happy. And about two hours later? Water gone. Short lived but so worth it. I was dancing and singing while fetching water and my Doña got a kick out of it :P
Found out that Nena didn't feed her kids in the morning and didn't feed TinTin (my favorite despite being quite the trouble maker...) in the afternoon because he didn't go fetch wood for the fogón... I was gonna keep eating in the afternoons with her because of how hard it is to cook in between tandas, and find time to travel to another town for the market to buy food when travelling is already hard, and so on. But now? I'm not so sure how I feel about that. Even her own mother found out about it and flipped with me. Said she's gonna investigate and find out the truth. Because a mother's job is to feed her children. She can find other ways to punish them without withholding food.. I agree. I ate half my food and gave him the other half. Oops.
Laundry day! Though I upset Pipe. Cuz it's Saturday and according to the Bible, God prohibits us from doing any work on Saturdays. Which may or may not have been why I did it specifically today. So that I could do it on my own and he couldn't help me... He wasn't happy. And afterwards, I wasn't too thrilled either with the awful burns I've got on my fingers now...but! It had to be done. And I was happy doing it all on my own.
Softball practice! And it was legit! Three hours worth and starting out with running, exercises, and drills before scrimmaging. The coach is awesome and plays for our men's team :). I had a blast, made some good plays and some bad ones, and my body is beat.
Finished my clothes, played cards, ate dinner, and went to bed. Bam!

18 de enero 2014. So Sunday we had our big baseball game! First Pipe and a bunch of my munchkins took me to the river for the first time. Here's some pictures:

We made it back by 2 and this place was already packed with people and only got more packed. These two games determined the winner of the trophy and marked the end of the season. And we only had to win one out of the two to take it. The first game? Lost. Second? The other team got one of our best players kicked out. We think they schemed that ahead of time. The crowd went insane and I thought for sure we weren't going to keep playing at that point. We continued, however, and WON!! Holy celebration. It was so insanely awesome. Lots of screaming, running, chanting, hugs, you name it :D 
I went with Nena to learn how to cook Harina, which I love. Got very overwhelmed with the energy level of her kids and how they act but dinner was delicious... I went back and the party continued in front of my house with music and lots of drinking and dancing. I hung out for a little bit, got more overwhelmed for many reasons, and finally got so cold that I left. 11pm, I went to bed with music still jamming. 

Monday was a bit rough and I'd rather not explain why. But some good came out of the day. I talked to the director about my idea to motivate the kiddos to get to school on time, and he loved it. So I got started on that. Also that night I FaceTimed with my family. 

Tuesday I got my ass out of bed after my internal debate and walked with Lucila :) And of course, was very happy that I did. I went to the school and kept working on my project. I left a little early to keep working in the house, had Yoselin (one of the teachers) come over to use my internet for class and we hung out during the break. In the afternoon, I went back and helped set up for a little gathering since today was "El Dia de los Estudiantes." We simply brought the kids into one room, listened to music and watched videos together. 
Afterwards, softball time. God I love that we play everyday. The game was a blast. We were losing 11 to 24 and we play to 25. Nena had given up but her eldest son goes, "No! You never know, let's just see!" The other team was up to bat with only one run needed to win. 1, 2, 3 outs in a row followed. Our turn to bat. BAM. 14 runs almost in a row! Hahahaha and we won! So freaking awesome. I was flying high on happiness and energy so I put music on with my speakers (no luz so the neighborhood was dark and quiet at this point) and danced with little Alejandro and Antony on my patio. So funny. Dinner (yucca!), mandarin oranges, coffee, bath, games on my tablet (may or may not have let my boys play a little haha), and blog updating. Time for bed! Anyone wanna come give me a back massage though? Could definitely use one ;)
Buenas noches!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Days of Love and Progress?

14 de febrero 2014. Well, first things first. Felicidades! Hoy es el dia de San Valentín! Same as back home :)
Now let's back track. Wednesday, Ann came! And with Laila! Sadly, Ann could only stay for a few minutes and then booked it to do site development. But Laila stayed with me :) We chatted a bit, walked around my community, ate homemade coconut ice cream at Lucila's, visited Altagracia, ate dinner, and got to work. The beauty of the work? I feel like I have more of a purpose here now. They're calling my community a, "Next-level Community" because of how many things that are already incredible. But then we discussed what could be better and I feel better. I think it will just come with time now that I completely accept being here and leaving KM59. A library is probably not in the future though...a bit disappointing. But ah well... We did a lot of planning, showered, and then headed to bed.
After not sleeping a wink, we headed to the school for 8am-late because Pipe made us coffee right at 8am. But when we got there, three teachers were gone at talleres. And they have no substitutes. So I was put in second grade. And while only 4 kiddos showed up, my panic mode flipped on just because of what it has been like before. Laila just sat back and I fumbled to figure something out. But I did it. It could have been better but the kids were great, Laila left at 9:30, we did math and Lengua Española, and they said they loved it all :). Still don't like doing that but it is refreshing to remember that I'm okay and that I do love teaching (feels like it's been forever since I've actually taught.
In the afternoon there was a meeting. What meeting you ask? An "Escuela de Padres y Madres." What is that you ask? Exactly what I wanted to do back in Villa, but couldn't. The director and school psychologist invited parents to come and this meeting was about the importance of parenting and how to be effective in raising good kids. There will be a meeting every month and will feature a different topic each time. Oh. My. God. Now, I'll admit, they lectured and I was bored to tears literally from yawning so much. But it exists! The director is passionate about it! And about 20 parents showed up! AND. When I mentioned to the psychologist that I have a manual with dinámicas, fun activities, and all about families, she got really excited and accepted my offer to help plan with her! Oh baby!
Afterwards I met the new preschool teacher. And guess what? She's the teacher in Vara de Vaca that I've been wanting to meet. I found out that she's the sole teacher there and teaches ONE class of 39 students who are all in first, second, and third grade. Again, ALL AT ONCE. I asked her how that was and she laughed and said, "An absolute headache." I told her I'm coming to visit and we are going to see what I can do to help :D
Seriously such a productive two days despite not really doing anything lol. That night I ate dinner, visited Altagracia with Pipe and his kids, went home and threw up (what??) and went to bed early cuz I felt like shit. So random.
Then today, Valentine's Day, I woke up feeling fine lol. So I walked with my ladies (+1-Dominga!), made posters in the morning, worked on our conference charlas, had sancocho (Mmmmmmm) for lunch, and in the afternoon? Hung out with Yoselin in third grade and then played volleyball during recess. And may or may not have had a TON of energy and fought angry, competitive kids with excitement and happiness and made then calm down a bit haha. Seriously. They're so bad when they play sports; yelling at each other, getting angry, and just being down-right nasty. So I went crazy running around, laughing, getting pumped up, and harassing them a little. And it got better ;P After school we played baseball so we could practice more. It was messy and with a ton of age groups but way too much fun. 
And with a much needed shower (got a damn blister on my toe!), some hot chocolate for dinner, Casino, music, tea, and coffee, I'm off to bed!
Buenas noches!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Terrible Bolas for the Happy American

09 de enero 2014. Bueno. So Friday morning I arose to coffee and tea made for me. Two full mugs worth. Normally, that would have been so phenomenal! This time, however, I was about to embark on my first journey to the city of Santiago on a bus with no bathroom and that only stops to pick up and drop off people. And it would take roughly 5 hours. And if y'all reading this know me at all, or my bladder rather, you know it SUCKS. haha. So! I made it to the Cruce (with Pipe's help, of course), got on the bus and not even an hour later, had to go. Bad. Luckily one stop did have a bathroom (if you could call it that...) so I went. After that? No such luck. Four hours of iPod music to try and distract myself from my screaming bladder and one taxi ride later, we made it to the hotel we were meeting at and away I went to my room for the bathroom. Sweet sweet relief. ;)
A bunch of us volunteers headed out to explore a little and find lunch. We settled on Pico Pollo which if I haven't ever explained, is basically Dominican fast food. And delicious!
After we ate, we had our official "Mini VAC" meeting and parted ways. I met a bunch of new volunteers as well as old ones. We bought some chocolate milk and just relaxed in the hotel for a bit. Then we decided to go get pizza from a place owned by a guy who lived in NY for 20 years. And knows how to make pizza. I was skeptical because thus far, the pizza in this country hasn't been so awesome. Especially when there is corn on it... Haha But! To my delight, it was incredibly delicious! And I was a happy American.
We then ventured out with our chocolate milk to a monument that sits high on a hill in the city. And although it was nighttime, the view was incredible. We just chatted and drank and eventually headed back to the hotel.
I finally couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and left to shower and go to bed. Having running water may or may not be even more of a thing now since we never (just about never) have it in my site so yes, the tears flowed with it's wonderfulness. And the hot water did last for about two minutes. And I wasn't scrunched in a shallow bucket that I don't fit in trying to pour water over myself without spilling too much outside of it... So again, happy American. And as I settled in with the TV on (another luxury!), the movie "Anacondas" came on and I was both horrified and amazed that I actually loved that movie when I was little. How it didn't give me nightmares, I'll never know. But it was awesome :D
In the morning, we met in the lobby and headed out in a few busses to a place called the "27 Charcos."  It. Was. Awesome. Sadly I couldn't take pictures because we were in water almost the entire time. But I should explain what it is and you should look it up and see pictures online cuz it's beautiful. Charcos refer to pools of water that are really deep. So we hiked for about an hour first and then followed a stream through 27 Charcos with waterfalls, nature-made slides, and cliffs that we could jump off of into the water. So flippin cool! Afterwards we had lunch there and I ended up having to leave alone. No one from my neck of the woods was heading back that day and everyone else lived close enough where they could leave later haha. I could have stayed but I really didn't want to pay for another hotel night (although missing out on more running water and TV...? Yea...) and I actually did want to get back to site. I made it to Caribe Tours in Santiago, met a man going to Loma de Cabrera also and we spent the entire next 3 1/2 hours talking about everything under the sun. It was wonderful. 
Pipe met me in Loma de Cabrera and it was already dark. That winding, hilly road at night is a whole new ball game. And I loved it. We stopped at his uncle's house where there was a huge party going on. That guy I met before who said he's super famous and has a ton of fans (not sure if I mentioned him before or not)? He was singing and playing the guitar and his band was awesome. We only stayed briefly for exhaustion was settling in hard and heavy. I really wish I could dance like the Dominicans and get rid of this vergüenza. I'm pretty sure it's the only thing I still have vergüenza with. Damn.
Home, tea, coffee, bath, bed. Perfect.

I arose today and never wanted to get out of bed... But tea, coffee and another bath were waiting for me at 10am courtesy of Pipe. We hung out, I met people that live a few towns over (and will be going to visit them for sure to see if there's anything I can do in the school-they are so fun), and at 2pm, was off to the baseball game in Restauración! Getting a ride there was difficult and then was followed by the worst bola I've ever had or ever imagined having. I have no idea how we fit that many people on the back of the pick-up truck. I was sitting on the edge, an older man stood on the back bumper and held onto my opposite shoulder, I held on below on my right and onto a kid on my left and had someone on my lap. My entire body shook as I lowered myself from the bed when we finally arrived. But! The games were awesome cuz we won both! Woo Mariano! The celebration was insane-Dominican women get crazy, I'm tellin ya. Sadly, another painful bola was our ride back. I'm almost would have rather walked if I can be honest. But they were screaming and chanting the whole way home with the wins and that made it all worth it :)
Dinner, hanging out, and facetiming with the fam closed out the night and with continued exhaustion, off to bed I go.
Buenas noches.

Let Them Get Busy!

10 de enero 2014. Today I awoke at 6:15 and headed for my walk with my ladies. I really wish I could wake up happy and excited to do it but that seems impossible no matter how early I go to bed. Lol but I ran a little ways at the end to have more time to get ready and ended up being late anyways. Oops!
At the school I was FINALLY able to do more evaluations! Mostly fourth graders but they were incredible. Not one couldn't read. And many read with fluency, something that is a rarity here... I decided to switch things up at the end since they could read and give them the choice to read the "Palabras Estrellas" as their final test or read a book I had. To my disappointment, many chose the flash card words over a book... I just don't think they have experience with them so much...(*librarypossibilityinthefuture??*). We are still on strike apparently so away we went around 10:30am. I did talk with the director and he's happy about me helping the first graders in small groups and still really wants me to help with English classes in the older grades. 
I may or may not have then slept before and after eating lunch and arrived late yet again for the afternoon tanda. Oops (X2). But I knew I was just going to be making more crafty things for Ilda since she booked it to buy more materials. So I spent the afternoon doing hearts, cupids, and posters for San Valentín. An exciting thing did happen, however. A lady came who works in the district with the beginnings of a literacy competition coming up in April. Starting now, all kids in 5-8 grade have to practice reading a book. In about a month, someone from the district will come through and pick the best readers to form teams from each school. Then in April there is some sort of conference where the teams will compete against each other somehow in the form of reading. She took my number and the director put me in charge of helping out the kids! He also then spoke of a teacher conference in the beginning of March that is focused on literacy, classroom management, and didactic materials. Which is all that our Escojo Enseñar Conference is but at the end of March. Haha So many many mixed feelings going on now.
Afterwards the women who will be making up our women's softball team practiced. And I was one of them! I did alright but could've done better. And I do have to say, our gloves are pretty bad.. Lol
Relaxing, dinner eating, tea drinking, and porch sitting followed until I was ready to bathe and head to bed. Which is now! But that wasn't until after I sat with Pipe in my house and watched two giant spiders trying to get busy on my wall and kicked a cat out of my house that somehow snuck in under my door lol (DON'T TELL MY MOM ANY OF THIS GUYS-she's supposed to come visit me in May). We decided to leave the spiders be because after all, they are "man's best friend" killin the Mosquitos and all. So hell, why not let them get busy in my house?!? ;)
Buenas noches!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Venga que lo Venga

30 de enero 2014. So forgive me please but today's post might be a bit bitter. I know part of my job is to make sure I'm painting the right picture and not tainting the views of the country I'm in but I also believe in reality. And today, I'm frustrated with reality so I'm just going to be real. Hopefully everyone reading this knows now incredible these people are but recognize that no matter where in the world you are, there are faults. Even (especially?) in the good ol' US of A, the problems are pretty severe. Amongst all the beauty of the world, humans exist. And where humans exist, so do faults. And with my current negative attitude as one, here I go.

2 de febrero 2014. Well. That was the start of that post. And as you can see, I didn't finish (probably for the best). I'm still feeling quite frustrated but have a much more level head now. So with that in mind, I'm going to present the not-so-good-stuff in a different way.

1. Sleep. It just hardly exists. I have never been so exhausted as I am for such an extended period of time. Since last March to be exact. And here, with the rooster hut in the backyard, the damn puppies and dogs that fight, bark at a passerby, or literally howl for 20minutes at a time, and the nonstop music when there's luz, sleeping is a joke. 

**Then an American volunteer (though not PC) who's job is medical here in the area brought me ear plugs. And I've actually gotten a few full nights sleep for the first time in I don't know how long. Even had some seriously vivid dreams in there! I'm still exhausted for whatever reason but it has made a world of a difference just to be able to muffle the damn music in front of my house, the dogs, and the roosters. Thanks Jake :). Oh and side note. When I first met him and he said his name? My eyes watered up and I said, "That's my little brother's name. Can I hug you?" And he let me :D
And walking in the morning with my ladies. Again, exhaustion and most mornings I wake up angry. Haha but I force myself to go and ALWAYS end up laughing hysterically and coming back in the best mood possible despite only having 10 minutes to then get ready for school!

2. Two fights broke out the other day. One was right after school in the afternoon and it was two boys. I ran over following an older man walking briskly as he proceeded to take his belt off. I got there, pulled the one kid away and the other took off running. The one I had got himself free from my grasp and ran after him. And the 20 bystanders (kids) ran too. Cheering, screaming, and laughing the whole way. Unfortunately my leg had been causing me problems and that day it was the worst. So chasing after them was hopeless. I don't think it continued though...
The second one? Two sisters. And one with a bat. The kids again were cheering and dying of laughter, enjoying every threat and every swing and miss made. I ran up, chased after the girl with the bat and took it away. She then got a ball and threatened with that but nothing more happened. They had been playing baseball but I took the bat with me to the house where it's stored and ended their game quickly. They were laughing at me now when they saw how mad I was...

**But then there's Nini and Julibay (spelling?). They're young and every night that there's music, they dance. And it's hysterical.
And hey, there's fights here but it's still not like Villa was.

3. The huge gash on the forehead of a little boy. Upon inquiring what happened, figuring he had just fallen, he told me his mother hit him with a stick in the face...

**But there is the love that Pipe shows his kids. And Papito. And Lucila. And I get to see it all daily.

4.  Alejandro sobbing because he didn't want to go to his mother. Her and Pipe fought outside over it amongst their many many problems.

**But Alejandro fell asleep peacefully in my arms that night. I had picked him up to rock him and we laughed together, ate a lemon, and I watched his puffy eyes droop and drift off to sleep.

5. Pipe being controlling. I love him and he takes such good care of me. But there are times when I really want to do things on my own. And I can't. Take Saturday for example. I knew I was headed to DaJabon with Ryan, Allison, Lula, and Greg. The bus (and only bus) that passes my site to get there passes by at 7:30am sharp. I planned on walking the 20 minutes to get to the Cruce that morning to catch it. Pipe insisted on taking me on his moto. We argued a bit. I finally gave in. So that morning I was ready to go by 7am. 7:15 rolls around... I call him. No answer. 7:20. A text. 7:25. Another text. Nothing. I finally head out, first thinking I'll walk to the Cruce but then realizing there's no way I'd make it. So I go to his house. I yell his name and ask if he was still planning on taking me. Sleepily he answers yes and I hear him rummaging around. 7:30 he comes out and asks what time it is. I tell human and he says matter-of-factly, "Oh, well the bus is already gone." He takes me anyways and a guy there says the bus just passed. I try to convince Pipe to take me up the road a ways because the bus stops a lot and on a moto, we could catch it. He says there's no way we could... After waiting for 20 minutes for some other bus or truck to pass that I might be able to grab, he says he'll take me to Loma de Cabrera which is a bit far but there's always busses leaving from there to DaJabon. We set off but only with the promise that I can pay him a little for gas....

**But just up the road, a pickup truck is pulling out onto the main road headed to Loma. Pipe talks to the guy and I hop in the back in the flatbed, leaving Pipe behind. Hood up and freezing my ass off, we wind through the mountains. I make it to Loma, find the bus and within minutes, we are off. Not only did I make it to DaJabon just as my friends did, it was $50RD cheaper cuz I had gotten a bola halfway :) We spent the day there, first eating breakfast at an awesome restaurant, roaming around and learning where everything is, buying this:

To organize all my school and artsy stuff which couldn't have made me happier, and then buying this:

We went to the bridge over Massacre River which divides the DR and Haiti. After talking with a guard, we sent a moto into Haiti to buy us Haitian beer. Haha it was sooo good. Maybe just cuz it was different than Presidente or Brahma but either way, happiness in a can. And? Despite him being overbearing, I was grateful that Pipe was waiting for me at the Cruce when I got back so I didn't have to lug my new organizer into my site. I hopped on his moto, put it on my lap, and we were off!
I also know where I'll be getting my mini fridge hopefully soon. I really miss drinking cold water.

6. Not being able to do my evaluations. It's been two weeks and I've been stuck making posters for all the teachers. The Director also doesn't seem to care that I'm here. And what the hell is my job here again?

**I feel more welcome and loved by kids and teachers alike. Though I'm not doing exactly what I want and as fast as I want (Ann is coming next week with a request for a plan...uh...shit?), I am learning each day and there does seem to be something for me to do. It just might not be what Ann wanted me to do.

7. Shitload of work to do for PC and haven't done enough home visits. We have an Escojo Enseñar Conference that I'm helping with two charlas for. Gotta plan. And we are rewriting our manual for teacher training too which I've been roped into writing a session for. With being at the school both tandas, I get home at 5, eat dinner and don't want to leave my house and family... I get stuck and haven't met nearly enough people or done enough informal interviews.

**Today I worked on a few things for the conference and manual and feel good about it. I actually missed lesson planning and doing technical stuff like that like way back in my college years. And although I was so exhausted I couldn't see straight, I did check one visit off (got homemade coconut ice cream out of it!) and made plans for another one with someone I really feel like I could learn from and even work with. He has so much passion.

So for now, I'm content. Not overly happy but not utterly depressed like I had been in Villa. Things will come in time. And all will fall into the places they should. Even if I don't realize it in the moment. Venga lo que venga, right?
:) Buenas noches.