Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Angels are Everywhere

16 de Abril.
Backtrack- Last Wednesday,  I successfully had both literacy classes! The breeze proved difficult yet again but my munchkins weathered the storm with me and left one by one after great big hugs to say their goodbyes.
Thursday- I went to the school in the morning to plan for Friday's English classes. Upon my arrival, however, I was thrown into taking 15 kiddos to Restauración for a Medio Ambiente and Educación Artistica activity. A little distraught with what was a great responsibility, I put my commander boots on and herded the kids into the truck. The activity to follow was beautiful. A little unorganized but I was in love watching the kids draw, paint, color, and imagine a clean, healthy world to live in. 

And in the end? Two of my boys won prizes (money!) for their artwork! 

I was a happy camper :)

After the mess that was finding our ride back, we made it by 2pm-just in time for Kevin to come pick me up. We were headed out to basically beg for money and find a truck to take our softball team to DaJabon Saturday for a game. He never showed up...
Friday- I ended up with no English class in the morning because after all, all of next week is vacation so why go to class Friday. Right...? But luckily in the afternoon, I did have class with my 7th graders.
I then hung out with Yosi during the break, and Dominga later in the day. Those small moments really are my favorite and I forget that sometimes.
Saturday- Kevin came and got me so we could do last minute begging. He's an incredible guy so thankfully, everyone loves him and we were able to get enough money and a truck to go! Coming back, I ate, changed, and it was time to go get the guy with the truck. Turns out, the job they were supposed to have started was being started right then and there. And wouldn't be done until two hours later. Por lo menos... No truck. But with the help of an angel and the generosity of another, we got another one! And almost two hours late, we were off to play! The baseball feild was gorgeous (in comparison) and we had music, fans, and as night fell we even had lights! We lost the two games but played significantly better than last Saturday. So with celebratory beers, Pica Pollo, and chanting, we headed home around 10pm. 
Sunday- While I was gone for my crazy aventura last week, a man in my site passed on to become an angel. Sunday was the 9th day which is of major significance in this country. So I got ready early and went to find Nena. Her and I walked out to the Cruce and up to the house where there were tons of chairs, tarp, benches, and people. Arriving at 10am, we did a lot of sitting, eating, drinking coffee, and just talking. Multiple moments of prayer services were held throughout. I also ended up meeting Damion, another PCV up in this area but who has just completed his service and is staying in the country with another job. We sat and talked for hours. Around 4, the final "mass" was being said. During the procession, however, the wailing began... Two women ended up passing out. I wasn't sure what exactly was happening because I know sometimes here, people are "overcome by spirits" and such. But these women were absolutely gone. I was worried they weren't even breathing at one point... They carried them outside and put them in chairs. Fanned them. Crumpled leaves of a certain tree in their faces for the aroma. Slapped them. Begged them to come back... After twenty minutes or so with no responses, they were rushed to hospital. I've never seen anything like it. So at 4:30, I walked home with Francheska crying in my arms and TiTin holding my other hand.
Monday- At 7:30am, I was off to Santiago for a follow-up meeting for the Escojo Enseñar Conference. I arrived, went to the hotel I was staying at, showered with cold but running water and headed to the meeting. Afterwards, the day was filled with friends and pizza that in the moment was the best decision ever and then for two days after? Worst decision ever. As for the night? Ended with Cory and I watching Pitch Perfect, a beer, and jamming out to music until 2am ;)
Tuesday- We had breakfast and then headed our separate ways. When I got to caribe Tours at 10am to catch the guagua to Loma at 10:15am, the bus was already full. And the one for DaJabon as well. The next bus wasn't scheduled to leave until 4pm which would be I possible to get to my site at that hour. Damn. I left and headed to the street where I thought I could grab a different guagua to DaJabon. Four or five passed me and didn't stop... I was very confused. Then another and as he finally pulled over for me, I noticed his bus was empty. He asked what I needed and explained that the stop for these busses was up the road a ways. And with a total stranger's kindness, offered to take me to the stop for free. We chatted a lot and when we arrived, he showed me which bus to snag. An angel in disguise. So, bus to DaJabon, caught another to Loma and then a truck to my site before the final 30 minute stretch on foot; arriving around 2:30pm.
I immediately went to eat, then slept a while, awoke to dinner and dominoes, and caught up with Kevin. We only talked for a little over a half hour but I swear we covered everything. From last week's game to universities, to travelling, to September 11th. I'm so grateful for him and his family. And with his goodbye-a promise of practice tomorrow, and a game Saturday. Ojala que si!
Buenas noches.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

We Only Sweat When WE Want to

8 de Abril, 2014. Finally! My morning walk again! This time it was with Altagracia, Lucila (the norm) plus Maria, the doctor, Viviana, and Julio's father. And now starting at 6am because the sun rises earlier and Altagracia hates sweating with the sun. She'd rather "sweat from only the hard work she's doing and not with the help of the hot sun."  So fun.
At the school I was put in charge of helping an 8th grader type up about 30 pages worth of information for a literacy event she's going to. Not so fun. But hey, I'm here to help, right? :)
During that time, I got a call from the DaJabón woman who wants me to play softball Saturday. I had been told we were playing with them this Saturday so I was quite confused. But she never got a confirmation call from Kevin so they were going to accept another team's offer to play and wanted me to be there. Haha but! I talked with Kevin after my afternoon classes and we are headed to DaJabon to play Saturday! I'm pumped.
I then found out that there's a possibility of Luisa and Live leaving forever this summer-commence immediate tears. Remember the star from the Escojo Enseñar conference? Where we had to write the name of a student we have that might be a bit difficult for us, a challenge in one way or another? I had written Luisa. She's not really one of my students but she was my new goal here. To love up on her and help her see things more clearly. Because the road she's headed down looks scary to me and I find myself getting so frustrated with her at times. But she was my new passion. To break through the hard surface and release all that she holds inside and isn't even aware of. Live is the same way but a little younger. And I've already cracked her a bit and get wonderful hugs regularly now. Luisa wasn't going to be easy. And now she's leaving before I'll get the chance...
Lunch, coffee, and then off to my afternoon first grade classes. Total success here in town :) Some of my kids seemed to make the click with the first few letters we have worked on! Aaaand then fail in El Cruce. One girl showed up after I made these adorable reminder notes:

Adorable right?? Yea... So we didn't have class. Afterwards it started to rain so I hung out on the porch of Dominga's house with the beautiful Naomi. And then went to my house to work for a while. Everyone (seriously, it felt like the whole town was gone) went to the Cruce to visit the family of the man that passed and so I spent the night with my front door shut and back door open and FaceTime-ing my parents. 
Lots of randomness, my apologies :)
Buenas noches.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Persevere, Climb, and Conquer (and keep playing somewhere softball in between there)

7 de Abril, 2014. Bueno. So Friday I arrived around 3 after 5 1/2 hours in the guagua and 30 minutes in a pick up truck with an empty stomach and heavy shoulders. Thank GOD someone found me in the walk from the Cruce and brought me to my house. As soon as I arrived, I unpacked, swept, and organized while getting visitors left and right seeing that I had arrived well :). And then passed out until 7ish. Dinner was waiting for me, I ate and showered, and took care of TiTin through his two panic attacks... Around 8:30, I passed right back out till Saturday. Woo! 
That morning I slowly arose, and just hung around until 11:30am where I went to eat lunch early.  Cuz we had a softball game with DaJabon at 1pm (!!) and were supposed to practice at noon.  Of course practice at noon turned into at 2:30 and the game started around 3:30. And we lost both games... But to be honest, it really was taken by their pitcher. She was incredible and we don't have anyone like her. So the odds were stacked against us there. I think my girls got nervous because some that really know how to play, played horribly haha. But! Alas, every game has to have a loser. 
Afterwards, we raised money to treat the DaJabon team to chocolate milks but what I didn't realize was that not our entire team was going to. I went to my house just to sit for a second and all of a sudden, Kevin is calling me and saying, "Let's go!"  I got roped into the group going with them. I stopped, hesitated, and blurted, ""¿Pero asi, nos vamos?" As in, "But like this, we're going?" Meaning all sweaty and dusty from the game... And he just goes, "Yup! Súbete!" So in the back of the pick-up truck, we were off to Restauración!  And despite being super embarrassed by my clothing and undone hair (it's official, I've become more Dominican), I had a blast. Of course chocolate milks were poured by the plenty and I even got two more cartons bought for the whole team from a stranger haha. I also may or may not have danced which has completely spread around my town already despite the fact that only four people from my community were there... Bueeeeeno. But I also got invited to play with the DaJabon team :). I told them I would absolutely love to play but only if we don't have a game. Because Mariano Cestro is my team first and foremost. But if we aren't playing? I'm there :) 
Stumbling through dinner, a FaceTime date with my beautiful cousin Marissa, a shower and climbing into bed, I slept hard :) and emerged from my house Sunday at 10:30am. Oops?  The day was simply filled with planning, getting water (!!), hand washing my clothes, more planning, an Hora Santa for a man that passed away in my community while I was gone, and some adventures to end the night. One of those adventures involved a nighttime ride waaaay into Vara de Vaca where I've never gone before and seeing the horrible road conditions and the distance some of my munchkins have to walk to get to their school :( and even the lack of road through the woods that leads to Haiti where some kiddos also come from. It's insane. I had to walk both ways to Vara de Vaca this morning for my class and I almost caught myself complaining while sweating in the heat of the sun. But now that I know better? I can never complain again.
Today was Monday and we are back in the swing of things. The competition wasn't done while I was gone. Yoselin didn't talk with the director about the conference and some of our ideas like we talked about, and I "Les hacia falta" but I'm pretty sure it's only because we are a week late making the "Valores del Mes" on cartulina... But! We persevere, climb, and conquer. I made my side comment about how the competition won't succeed without the support of the teachers and director. That if it doesn't matter to them, it won't matter to the kids. I did the monthly values. And Yosi and I are going to talk with the director about doing some of the charlas from the Escojo Enseñar conference tomorrow. 
Here's to conquering :) 
Buenas Noches.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Que Dios Me Los Bendiga, Cuide, y Proteja Siempre

3 de abril 2014. What a day. I'm still sometimes amazed at how fast my mood and emotions can change in the span of 24 hours in this country. Or less. 
This morning I arose and arrived at the dentist on time. I didn't have to wait long, Gracias a Dios and planned on only talking in English por si acaso. But the dentist was wonderful. And I understood her completely. Immediately she put on music in English. Chill music like Celine Dion. But we talked only in Spanish and come to find out, I got two cavities. Aaahhhh. My first cavities EVER and I got TWO while in country. Oh well :P But she was concerned about time and her next appointment so she wanted to fill them later in the day. I passively fought back. Saying I really needed it now because I had special plans to meet my godson and I live so far away and needed to leave tomorrow tempranito. And she caved for me! I was so grateful despite walking out of there with half of my mouth feeling like it was drooping from the anesthetic haha. And she drilled out half of my one molar... Rushing to get to the office in time for my regular check up with Boriana, I received a phone call from the med office assistant. The doctors went into a surprise meeting right at 11am (my appointment time...) and she wasn't sure when they'd be back. I'd have to wait... We both thought it would be possible still to make it before their lunch break. All I cared about at that point was making it to KM59 with enough time to visit. So I sat in the office until noon. Still no doctors. I left with the request that she call me when they arrived. Eventually hunger struck so I left to get food. At 1pm, they arrived but needed to eat lunch... So in the lobby I sat, defeated and the tears started welling up. With an hour trip to my site and another hour back, I was losing time. And fast. Finally at 2pm (three hours late), I was in with Borianna. She knew the situation because she saw me crying and made my appointment fast, being sure to hug away the pain before and after. So at 2:40, I was off.
I sped walked to the Metro, made it to KM9, got in a car and we slowly made our way. Of course I got the chofer who wasn't in any hurry... But I made it to Villa and then made it to the next car that would take me to my site. I arrived at 4pm. Stopping for hugs with my kids all along the way, I went to the school first. I saw Natividad, Ramona, Yokasta y los demás. And holy shit did my munchkins grow!! And it's only been two months! It felt like a year.
I then went to Dulce's and was greeted with coffee. Lili and I made our way arriba to visit her grandmother and for a while we sat and chatted. Eventually Fredito made his way back from the river. It was great to see him. Then off to los Solares where immediately upon seeing my old house I lost it. And hard. I couldn't continue walking and had a hard time breathing. I knew it was going to be difficult but man... Then? I was able to collect myself. And saw my baby boy for the first time. He was sleeping on the bed and as soon as I held him, more tears. Linda looked great. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck twice, just like me. Now, three weeks after his birth, he weighs 9lbs. This beautiful little man with tiny feet and hands was warm in my embrace. And she made sure to put the shirt on that had the American colors and stars haha. 

Can you tell I'm crying there^? Haha. My heart was full. I stayed for about an hour but knew time was running short. The clouds were rolling in and darkness started to fall. I said my goodbye with a promise to be back in a month with my parents (!!). Back at Dulce's, I got to see Moreno. He had been out of work for a month with his back and leg bad yet again... But he's better. As I was about to leave, Dulce offered me tostones and salami. Oh I couldn't resist. But of course, by the time it was made and ate, I was leaving after 7pm (don't tell PC) and in the dark. Fredito walked me to the thruway after stopping 100X to say goodbye to people I didn't see before. Such a crazy, rushed visit. And as fast as the seconds passed, the emotions flowed through my body even faster. We waited a half an hour for something to pass by. I was getting scared and my heart responded with faster and harder beats by the minute. But a guagua finally passed, I got on and though I had to pay extra because it was night time, I was so grateful. I chatted with an older man who was so sweet and interesting. Back at KM9, I luckily got to the metro with enough time to make it to my stop closest to the hotel. It was like each step was a sigh of relief but only momentarily as the nerves would course through me because I had yet to arrive at my destination. Making it to Gomez, I now had to walk a few blocks. And with crime against volunteers specifically on the rise lately (so bad that they've been having lots of meetings at the PC office to try and figure out what to do)? I was feeling fear which rarely happens nowadays. But as I took each step towards safety in the light of the capital and moon, I chanted softly, "Que Dios me cuide. Que Dios me proteja." Over and over again until the big yellow hotel greeted me as if to say, "Everything's alright. God brought you to me safetly." 
And though I have to leave early tomorrow, I went up to the roof to calm my breaths and soak in what was a stressful and emotion-filled day. I already know sleep won't come easy tonight. I really do think about 59 everyday still. The pain still exists when I think back to leaving them behind. And while I truly am so much happier in my new site, I don't think I'll ever accept that I had to go. Linda said that the problems between my director and teacher still to this day exist. So I know I would've been a mess there. But my heart was changed there. I grew there. My first real family was formed there. And my first real home amongst those incredible people will always remain back there.

Que Dios me los bendiga, cuide, y proteja siempre. Los extraño muchísimo. Y como ya dije, nunca los puedo olvidar. Cuídense. Y piensen en mi solamente con felicidad.
Buenas noches.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Entire Last Year in One Week

2 de Abril 2014

So Sunday night was our arrival. I got to my Doña's and her grandkids were just there. The ones I used to play with? They stopped what they were doing, looked at me for a second... And then... "JULIE!!" With running attack hugs. SO GOOD. We immediately started playing volleyball in the street and another form of dodgeball. And then my new favorite phrase which has been said a lot to me lately: "Oh, but why do you talk like us?" Talk about swelling heart and big head haha. When my Doña arrived from church I shouted, "Mamá!" And she responded, "Mi hija!" And we hugged. I begged her for forgiveness for not calling her and she said there was nothing to forgive. We talked all night and it was beautiful. Apparently she said to the new volunteer staying with her, "Julie is coming. I had her a year ago. She didn't talk much Spanish but I liked having her around." Haha I'll take it! :)
Monday was my first charla with the newbies. Unfortunately it was 2 hours of heavy information and they were getting sleepy at the end, understandably so. But they were such a good group. And thanked me afterwards. What?? Haha I also distinctly remember, back in training, when I watched old volunteers teach us. They always tripped over English words and use Spanglish. I remember thinking, "Wow. If only someday I could get so good or just talk so much Spanish that I'll be forgetting English words or talking in English with random Spanish words thrown in. That would make me so happy. Proud."  Guess what? I did it without even trying. And it was just as awesome feeling as I thought it would be. I couldn't for the life of me think of the words "Upper case and Lower Case" letters haha. I started dying laughing in the middle of my talk and told them why. And gave them a brief, don't-worry-about-your-Spanish-level speech :D
Later I had nothing to do because they were in Spanish classes. So I walked around town. I visited the Doña where I had Spanish classes and she was hysterical! Super excited to see me. Immediately busted out her phone and took a picture of me to keep and said she was always asking about me and how I was. And then: MARCIA. My old Spanish teacher from training. My saving grace and angel. The one who cried with me one day with frustrations had crashed into the zinc roof of our outdoor aula. She teared up upon hearing me talk... Ugh. No words.
I met up with Brendan after who is the new PCVL (taking over for Laila and is like Amber was for me in CBT). I took him around and showed him the ropes because he had never been to Monte Plata before. We took a break and got ice cream Mmmmm.  We decided to eat it in the park but we were met by a man speaking absolute jibberish. We had no idea what he wanted. Then I saw him reach into his pocket and slip out a knife... Midday. Brendan didn't do anything. The knife went back in his pocket but then he sat down next to us, still talking nonsense. I looked over at Brendan and simply said in English, "I think it's time to leave." He looked at me funny so I told him that the guy has a knife in his pocket. His reaction told me that he hadn't seen it. So we simply got up and walked away. Safetly haha. Oh the life in the DR :P We finished off the day with coffee in a hotel lobby and walking in the rain.
That night we also hung out with some trainees and shared stories. They were wonderful.
Tuesday I had nothing to do so I went to an English class in town with an old friend who I played volleyball with last year. The teacher was great and spoke very well. Afterwards I went with the trainees to visit their schools that they will be working in. I went back to my old school and our painted walls are still intact and decent looking! If not just a little dirty :P But the director recognized me and a teacher greeted me with a huge hug too :D Raini and I then went to the training center to set up for my next charla Wednesday morning. A few chocolate milks and Dominoes with some Dominicans followed and I went to bed tipsy and riding in the clouds. 
Wednesday I got ready, and backpack on and bags in the hands I looked and my Doña and just made a pouty face. She goes, "You're leaving me all over again, aren't you?" I nodded. And she says, "I'm going to miss you all over again." We hugged and she watched me walk away from her porch...
At the training center my session was way more fun. We created example activities for different parts of the literacy wheel. We then talked about limited resources and what kinds of materials can be made in the campos where there isn't much and still be effective. We then spent the rest of the time simply making those. Fichas with the alphabet, vowels made out of sandpaper, and home-made clay. I loved it :). At the end, Brendan and I had to book it quick. But as a going-away-thank-you, Raini bought me a belt that is a bright blue with jewels on it. LOVE (I think I'm becoming Dominican...). She then had my name written vertically on charla paper and the trainees came up with adjectives for each letter to describe me. Oh. My. God. I was almost in tears. And even after they finished and were able to go home and eat, they came up and wrote me little notes all over it. I asked Raini to save it for me :D 
Grabbing Pico Pollo and making a bus wait for us, Brendan and I were then on our way to the capital. He split to go somewhere else and I made it to the office sweating and shaking with the weight of my bags. Haha I got my paperwork for my dentist appointment tomorrow, checked my mailbox, and chatted with a volunteer who is COSing in a month. It was interesting to see the new trainees, me being a year in, and then talking with another who is just about done. Whirlwind. 
I got a taxi to the hotel (so worth it) due to a rise in crime in the capital. Unpacked for the 100th time and immediately headed out to run errands. Got some body wash (exciting right??), headphones (lost mine...), charla paper (IKEA!!) and presents for Dulce, Linda and... my godson!!! Cuz tomorrow I'm going to my beloved KM59 to visit! I'm so excited but also nervous. When we passed my site on the way to Monte Plata my heart sunk so hard and fast. I'm not sure how to describe the feeling but the tears welled up and it was difficult to hold back. 
When I made it to the hotel I called Dulce and Linda to tell them I was coming. Linda's reaction was the best. She screamed so loud I had to pull the phone away from my ear :D. 
So tomorrow I have my dentist appointment at 9am, check up with Boriana at 11am and I'll head out right away for 59. I'm only going to visit for the day though because I've got the hotel room another night, gracias a Peace Corps (and your tax money ;) ). And it will be 100X easier to leave from my site on a direct guagua from the capital early Friday morning. And I'll make it back for the softball game we apparently have Saturday with DAJABON. Kevin, our softball coach, called me begging me to come back for the game haha. I wasn't going to but it seems to be working out better that way. Staying at 59, would've been wonderful, but would've complicated things. 
Phew! That's a lot of random shit. And though not entirely all fascinating, I felt bad for not writing in so long. And I can't contain all this excitement and renewed positivity and confidence... This week has literally been like a recap of my entire last year. And I was able to truly see the difference between last year and now. Things are looking up. They have, in fact moved forward. And I'm more ready than ever to keep them moving forward.
For all of the love and support I get from back home? Thank you. I know I went MIA for a while there but I never once forgot about you or stopped feeling the prayers rolling in each day. I love you all.
And with the broken TV in my room (damn it, I was so pumped to watch at TV haha), I should sleep. 
Buenas noches.

Just Some More Updates

12 de marzo 2014. 

I'm the new go-to-girl when a kid is bleeding from the foot. Three times now I've been fetched from my house or the baseball feild because some munchkin stepped on something and is losing lots of blood. One was pretty bad- carried him to the med office and held him tight to my chest as he screamed bloody murder with the anesthetic and then got three stitches. The other two weren't so bad but one was a rusty nail so she got it cleaned up, got a liquid med to take, and a slip for her momma to buy a shot just in case. Her mom doesn't have the money :( It's interesting though. Ever since the first one, they always find me to help one child who is crying here, or one that's bleeding over there. It makes me happy that they do, absolutely, but I know that means they do it because I'm the only one who will go and help.
The last one? First grade munchkin ran head first into a cement corner in the cancha. Was pouring blood from the forehead. He got four stitches but handled it like a champ. Limp and quiet afterwards, I asked him if he wanted to me to pick him up and carry him home. His mother who didn't want to sit with him through the stitches told him no way, he could walk. But I just looked at her, turned my back and said to him, "I'd love to carry you home if you'll let me. Right here in my arms so you can just rest. What do you think?" I got a faint smile but an absolute nod. I nodded back, winked, and carried him in my arms all the way to his house.

Whole tons of walking lately but I've met a bunch of people as of late and finally gotten out and around El Cruce which is another part of community quite cut off from us here in the middle. But my first-grade classes started. Here in the school first with 6 kiddos and then out in El Cruce after where the first day? One little girl showed up. And I went house by house and talked with each parent and handed them a slip with all the information needed THE DAY BEFORE. And reminded them all one by one in class that morning. haha I decided against giving the class to just the little one and went back to each house to find out what happened. One grandma didn't know where he was. I found him later and he said he didn't know where the class was (I asked each and everyone of them if they knew and they all said yes lol). One girl left with her mother for Santiago (but didn't tell me the day before that she wouldn't be there?). Another was in the capital but I knew that. And the other? Adorable, big eyed beauty softly said, "Oh, that started today?" And told me her mother was out somewhere so she didn't know. Trust me, if you saw her face, you wouldn't stay frustrated either ;)

A big fight broke out last week. I wasn't there but a girl, about 12, was beaten badly... Yesterday, my director talked to each kid involved. And took one into the office, removed his belt, and whipped him 8 times in the back. Hard. Because the boy had been involved. And I'm supposed to teach the power of positive reinforcement and discipline to 70 teachers and directors at the end of this month...

Going to be teaching a literacy session to the new group of volunteers that just arrived. At the end of the month, I'll be headed to Monte Plata (where my favorite Doña is!), and giving the charla for 6 hours. Haha. I'm excited and honored to do it but holy workload!

Chicas Maravillas Conference. Incredible. Joe is an old PCV that lives in Restauración but now works for a medical organization called FIMRC (algo asi). He's basically a boss who gets volunteers and tells them what to do :). They travel around the area (big difference? With money...) and do charlas, start diabetes clubs, hold medical conferences and he does what we in Peace Corps call "Chicas Brillantes" or "Superman" groups. They groups for young girls and boys where you play, do activities, and teach lessons on health, self-esteem, sex ed, education, etc. So in our area, he's had about 6 Chicas Brillantes (he calls them Chicas Maravillas) groups in 6 communities. 
Entonces, here in mid-May he calls me to request help for a conference he's having with the girls. At 7:30 I was cogering all my girls and despite some of them being late, we made it to the Cruce when the big pick up truck arrived. And it was already packed with girls. Worst truck ride of my life. I was facing out standing with my arms behind me holding on to a group as every curve we took, pot hole he hit, and hill we climbed was a nightmare of girls shifting in groups nearly throwing off those sitting on the edge. My entire body was shaking like crazy upon arrival.
But the conference was amazing. Over 100 young women attended and we took pictures, danced, heard from various DOMINICAN professional women giving inspirational talks, sang, did presentations, and chants all with a focus on sex-ed and health in general. Beautiful. Thinking about whether or not these girls would have experienced these things without Joe and his crew? Had me in tears knowing each of my girls just a little bit, where they come from, and their abilities and power. At noon (short conference), my heart was full, my face was wet, and my legs were already shaking again with the anticipation of the same truck ride back... And I was happy.

My Starfish and Newly Lit Flame

31 de marzo 2014. So this past weekend was the second national Escojo Enseñar Conference. Wow. I'm still at a loss for words as to describe the weekend and it's almost midnight Monday. We arrived late Friday (damn transport in DaJabon) but safetly. Scarfing lunch down, we then made our way to the room and began with a Dominican guest speaker who was a teacher and also helped in the founding of a teachers university here in country. She. Was. Amazing. Powerful, positive, real, and empty of excuses. The things she said to the teachers were all that I've wanted to say since my arrival but knew as an American without much confianza, I couldn't do. She eliminated their excuses. Talked of dignity and honor. And was engaging and honest. I was in love. She then gave the charla on Classroom Management which was the one I was supposed to give with Ryan and Cory. We worked our asses off so while that was hard, it was absolutely worth throwing it all away. She did an incredible job. And when these things come from a Dominican? Not an American coming into another country trying to tell them how they should change (this is just how they see it, naturally, despite our intentions only being good). The day that we have only Dominicans leading and running the conferences will be the day we can truly check off success. believe.
That, dinner, processing, and then more work for just volunteers? Went to bed at 1am and was eating breakfast by 7am a Saturday morning. That day was JAM PACKED with charlas on brain development, literacy tools and practices, positive classroom environment (me, Andrea, and Susan!), parental involvement, and special education. Our charla on the power of positivity went really well. Even when about 20 teachers corrected me on my pronunciation of the word "estrategia." And I was so grateful for it! But the difference between how I felt speaking in front of a room full of Dominicans compared to the last regional Conference? Night and day. What a confidence booster. And I was able to be me, throwing comments out here and there, joking with them, being witty with them, sharing my passion, and just plain having a personality. I can't even begin to describe how that feels. The process of Spanish was one of the hardest things I've ever done for reasons I know I've already explained plenty and the depression from it was something I never could have anticipated. But now? While I do feel as though I've plateau-ed a bit, I feel incredible. I engaged in conversation, real conversation, with so many teachers. We talked about problems, passion and hope. One teacher was there from Carrizal which is down the road from me but she lives in my site. And she's the wife of our softball coach who I love. Her and I talked for 2 hours the one night and cried together. Her raw passion is something I don't see much of here but hers is the mirror image of mine. I started noticing through the conference that her and I would start tearing up over the same things, laughing at the same things, and loving the same things...
Like with the story of the Starfish. We first all received a star and had to think of one student that was our trouble-maker, difficulty, or whatever it may be. We wrote his/her name and then listened to this story:
Había una vez un escritor que vivía a orillas del mar; donde pasaba temporadas escribiendo y buscando inspiración para su libro. 
Una mañana mientras paseaba a orillas del océano vio a lo lejos una figura que se movía de manera extraña como si estuviera bailando. Al acercarse vio que era un muchacho que se dedicaba a coger estrellas de mar de la orilla y lanzarlas otra vez al mar. 

El hombre le preguntó al joven que estaba haciendo. Este le contestó: 
- “Recojo las estrellas de mar que han quedado varadas y las devuelvo al mar; la marea ha bajado demasiado y muchas morirán”. 

Dijo entonces el escritor: 
” Pero esto que haces no tiene sentido, primero es su destino, morirán y serán alimento para otros animales y además hay miles de estrellas en esta playa, nunca tendrás tiempo de salvarlas a todas”. 
El joven miró fijamente al escritor, cogió una estrella de mar de la arena, la lanzó con fuerza por encima de las olas y exclamó ” para ésta… sí tiene sentido”. 
El escritor se marchó un tanto desconcertado, no podía explicarse una conducta así. Esa tarde no tuvo inspiración para escribir y en la noche no durmió bien, soñaba con el joven y las estrellas de mar por encima de las olas. 
A la mañana siguiente corrió a la playa, buscó al joven y le ayudó a salvar estrellas…
(Look it up, it's worth it)
And of course, I was crying by the end. Filled with motivation, love, and renewed faith (it's been getting renewed a lot lately haha). Yoselin (my teacher that came) and I spoke a lot of things I didn't know as well from our school. Obstacles that will be difficult (some things that hurt and were difficult to hear) to overcome but we spoke of them, learned more, and filled our drive to make a change. I can't tell you how many teachers brought up their love and appreciation for our positive environment talk so I hope and pray something really is done with it. Us as Americans sometimes just don't think that they've never been taught these things. So while we get mad and upset with the teachers when they react quickly and poorly? It's sometimes unfair (though I still refuse to completely comply with it due to ignorance for many reasons I won't get into-wholeeee nother Julie speech haha). But they've literary never thought of that being wrong or harmful...
On Sunday with the starfish activity and another motivational activity, Yoselin and Noemi were supposed to leave early at 11:30am. But they didn't want to leave early anymore! So they stuck it out, got certificates and ate lunch with us :). And got home safe-I made sure they called haha.
Brendan and I got a bola to the capital (yesssss) then made our way to Monte Plata for CBT! (See next blog entry for more ;) ) haha
It was just an incredible experience. It was run smoothly, motivated the teachers and directors alike, and help bring about more information and desire for change in my site, por lo menos. And I have to say... I've got a new dream to run something like that. Knowing me I'm not sure I'd be so good at it and that's not a put-down for myself, it's just a straight up fact. I'm not the best at organizing things like my Mom. But oh baby I think I'm going to have to work on that. Because a flame was lit in my heart. I feel it. And when I think about putting something like that together for my region? Inviting all the schools in my area, with or without a volunteer? That flame swells and burns all the more. And I can already say ignoring it won't be an option.