Friday, June 27, 2014

Community Walk and Location Dispute

26 de junio. Yesterday was beautiful. I've started running with Maria, the doctor, in the mornings and then with an App she's got on her phone, we do exercises on certain muscle groups. So four laps later and abdominal work, we parted ways. I cold-water bathed and read my Bible, the daily devotional, and the daily missal (thanks, Charles!) in the peace of my closed house. When all this was done, it was still only 8:30am! Haha I was exhausted still, yes, but that seems to be my norm. I spent the rest of the morning hanging out and walking around with my girl, Naomi. Side note: Found my camera!! Must have slipped it into a pocket of my suitcase below the one I normally put it in. I didn't know that pocket existed haha. But goodness did that make me feel better. I just didn't want to accept the fact that someone in my community stole it or that I was dumb enough to leave it in the capital hotel room.
After lunch I spent time with one of my Doña's daughters that was visiting. At 1:30 the rain clouds were rolling in and the thunder was threatening our afternoon plans. I went and sat with Dominga and Naomi and waited, convinced my Committee wouldn't come from the Cruce with the sky looking like it was.
And at 2:06, I was proven completely wrong. Their heads rose up over the hill of the dirt road and they were ready, interview and pen in hand. I was so proud (and feeling slightly guilty for doubting them). So the five of us, Casilda, Kelvin, Kilvio, Marizol, and I began our trek. We went to every single house here adentro and then out in the Cruce. We had simple questions for everyone as to just bring about awareness of the project and see how the community felt. Do you feel it would be of great importance to have a Biblioteca Tecnológica? Would you be willing to offer your support in the development of the project? Would you allow your children to use said center? Would you, yourself use it? For you, which is better: that your children are expanding their conocimiento in the center or running around, causing trouble in the streets? 
The last one was my favorite since most people just answered with a laugh. But to literally go to each home, speak with adults and jovenes alike, see their excitement and listen to their responses? Absolutely beautiful. Sure, not all really understand its benefits. Not all will take part and help us. But they are now aware. And so many said such powerful things in response to our efforts. Like Lucila, one of my favorite women here in Mariano. She said that this project is the most beautiful and most impactful project that she has ever seen here in Mariano. Wow. Thank you, Lucila. And here's to keeping that motivation and determination alive for the rest of our lives.
Another reason I fully believe in our committee and their perserverence is that we didn't finish until dark-8pm. When we made it out to the Cruce, I thought for sure we would do half and quit. Again, proven wrong and feeling guilty, we finished at the last home at the tip of Mariano's borders. I was exhausted but completely satisfied. I had no part in this. This was all their idea and they owned the execution entirely. So with about 75 signatures and 100% support, we've invited them all to the meeting today (Thursday) and I've got planning to do. It's now 8:30am, I ran and did leg work with Maria, and I'm going to shower, read, and start. An update on the meeting will come tonight!

So the meeting. We invited every single person from the community, right? Said 2pm-HORA AMERICANA, right? And the committee planned to meet at 1:30 to divvy up the presentation I made and make sure I didn't miss anything, right? Right. So I go to the school at 1:15 to start setting up the computer, TV, chairs, posters, etc. 

Finished, and sat. 2:15 rolls around, not a single person is there-not even from my committee. I lock the door and go to my house to grab my phone... And as I was leaving to walk up the hill and see if they were headed this way yet, sure enough at 2:30, there they are, begging for cold water, Popsicles in hand, eating. Cool.
We get to the school and finish setting up the chairs and talk about the presentation. By the time 3:30 comes, we've got maybe 15 people and decide to start. 

I did a dinámica, we shared info, and the group got weary fast. Then the location struggle. We've got two possibilities. And though I started to realize it before, I now know for a fact that the majority of my committee is manipulating their way into getting the center out in the Cruce because it would be closer to their homes... When maybe, a more central location, near the school would be best for all? Anyways, we've now got our group name, a vision, mission, and valores. 

The next meeting is set up and at 5, we cleared out the room. But the arguments began between committee members on whether or not we should start soliciting for money even if we don't have our location set. This was draining. And when I finally made it home, the conversation continued with Kelvin about location... I'm a little stuck as to what to do. I did see Sandro, however, who has connections with the person who owns the office here, near the school, and is going to give him a call. I'm gonna leave this one in His hands here cuz it's much bigger than me but do all I can to try and make sure the best decision for the community as a whole is made.
Friday update since I didn't do this blog last night? No running or exercises because I woke up sick. Again. It's been over a month now with different things every week. It's certainly getting old.. 
But alas, we push forward even if that currently means pushing forward in my bed at 11am :P 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Go Ahead, Call Me Crazy

24 de junio 2014. 

Maybe I shouldn't write this blog. Maybe I'll write it and decide not to publish it once the luz comes back. Maybe I'll do it anyways but look back in 11 months and go, "Julie, were you on drugs last summer?" Maybe I'll get criticized, cast away, and medically confirmed as insane. Maybe this is just hormones. Or what comes with a current lack of work and ample time to sit and think. Or maybe I am, indeed, certifiably insane. 
But maybe something happened today. Something crazy, life-changing, and beautiful. I've fallen in love. Many of you know this already but to the extend to which I feel it, no one really understands. My mom came close. When she was here and a certain young girl latched on to her within the first day, she looked at me and said, "Julie, is it possible to fall in love in one day?" I told her she has no idea. And even I can't contain the feeling, condense it, and form cohesive thoughts to express what my aching heart cries out each and every day. But I when I look at him with that look and he knows he owes me my daily hug, or I let him lie in my lap and just let him fall asleep, or I tell her that I love her and she says nothing back but the smile alone tells all, it's just there. Yes, I've fallen in love three times over. One is 11, another 13, and another 14. And while 11 months remain in this life surrounded by mango trees, zinc roofs, and merengue music, when I think about the day I leave, my face swells up, the tears test my strength, and I want to throw up. Literally. The big blue Peace Corps invitation envelope didn't prepare me for this. No one did. No one could have. My heart belongs to each child here, yes. But these three have absolutely seeped their way into my blood. Becoming family without even trying.
So the research has started. And if you haven't already guessed it, I'm looking into adoption. Certifiably insane, I know. But when an idea imprints itself in my heart before anything makes sense logically in my head, I have to do something. Even if that means looking into it without any real possibility of it becoming reality. But I've looked at PC's policy, the DR's policy, emailed my boss (yup, true story), and spoken with my parents. All of that in one day. And I still feel like I'm going to explode. Or throw up. Take your pick. I almost wish at least one would happen to release some of the pressure. 
What is wrong with me? How would I get them to the states? With what money? Where would we stay? How would people look at me? Am I ready to take on three children at 25 before even having my own or even a husband? Is there even a man out there who would look at me and take on such a responsibility (ha. I find this question funny in the sense that I feel like it should matter more than it seems to)? How could I afford to raise them? What if I want to go back to school? How would they go to school? How would they adjust to life there with the language and culture completely opposing all that they know? Would they miss home too much and regret coming? What if they hate it? How in the world do I even approach their mother about this is the first place?? My life and theirs would be changed forever. And it certainly wouldn't always be easy.
But then I think of my future. With them. And it's so much easier than you think. Being with them all the time. Riding bikes. Going to the movies. Buying them new clothes. Being with my family, them included. Loving them each and every day and showing them that love. Drowning them in it. Coming back to the DR to visit every summer. Teaching them English. Maybe even home schooling them. Waking up in the mornings with them. Providing them with opportunities they could never even dream of. Showing them things they never knew existed. Giving them a future outside this world with dirt roads, latrines, and fights... Most of these are little things. But they seem to easily tip the scale and make all the prior challenging questions fall into insignificance...
Part of this is completely selfish and I will openly admit to that. I always hate the line "I don't know what I'd do without you" when it comes to relationships but I'm telling the truth when I say that I don't know what I'd do without these three. It's almost as if my future is now fuzzy unless they're included. Where did this come from? Yet again, should I be seeing a shrink? 
But you know what? Go ahead, call me crazy. Because when I think of providing this life for them and never having to say goodbye? The peace, joy, and excitement I feel is indescribable. It burns. And I love it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The River is my New Best Friend

22 de junio 
Blog update!
I went to the river three times this morning to fill two big gallon jugs of water each time. Dique our water system is broken so this is now a regular thing haha.
I'm whooped.
And I visited the new couple in Restauración. They're great :) And met an American teacher who has plans to come back for some projects in January with students from the States. We exchanged emails to keep in touch and possibly involve my campo and others in the area. 
It was wonderful :)
And now time for sleeps.
Que duerman bien!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Softball Fever

21 de junio. So Monday was our arrival. Tuesday I awoke feeling slightly off. Some body aches and stomach issues. But alas, I hung out in the morning and waited for softball practice in the afternoon. Practice was 3 hours and difficult. Again, not sure as to why but my strength was slowly draining and the body pains, rising. At 7pm, we finished and I collapsed on the floor of my patio. Within minutes, the fever struck. With the help of Yoelbi, I made it to my bed, shaking with chills. The rest of the night was brought on by 102 fever, chills, body pains to the point of tears, headache, nausea (dry-heaving for a half an hour cuz I hadn't eaten since noon), and a weakness that hit so hard, I fell to the floor in my house trying to make my way to the latrine (yep, those kinds of stomach problems too). Yoelbi got Tylenol from the clinic around 11pm and my fever finally dropped and I was able to at least rest. But I spent the majority of the night into the madrugada tossing and turning in discomfort. Absolutely insane.  I was trying not to, but I couldn't get the thought of the Chimichunga out of my head.
The next day I awoke but stayed in my bed (mostly) until well into the late afternoon. I had no fever but the body pains and weakness lingered (no Chimichunga!). At 4pm, however, we had the committee meeting and I didn't want to miss it. I got a ride to the Cruce, thank god, and made it through the 3 hour meeting. We have made up a letter soliciting institutions and individuals for help, dates set to meet the first group, the next community meeting rescheduled, and a possible second location confirmed. The first location seems to carry many challenges and the second one is now becoming more ideal. But more details to come when we have more information. We also have an interview that we will be doing with every single community member to spread awareness and also gauge the conocimiento of what it means to have a Biblioteca Tecnológica (new name!). Next Wednesday all 5 of us will be trekking the neighborhood to complete it :). Not my idea-and I love it. **Also, forgive me for not writing about the day we visited the Internet Center in Hipolito (built by the community and a PC Volunteer, Damion. I've been trying to find a way to get the pictures up here on my tablet from a camera that's not my own and without the adapter... Failing miserably. It was a great trip though, we learned a lot of needed steps, and I got home at 10pm with a belly full of mangoes and an energy level through the roof with excitement :) 
Thursday was game day! I spent the morning washing my clothes by hand (after two river-trips), collecting money from my girls, and donating quite a bit more so as to ensure our truck ride. At 2 we were off, jam-packed in the back of the small pick up truck. Sadly, we lost all three games we played... No shocker but I also batted horribly. Talk about embarrassment when the few Dominican men from DaJabón  come up and ask why I sucked so much that day cuz normally that's not the case haha. Of course, me being me, I just wanted to get out of there and never play again. Haha but I probably will continue :P
Just as we finished up a huge construction truck shows up with, I swear, half of my community. The men were up next to play and so I changed and stayed to watch. Aaaaaand.... They lost both games too. Damn. But it was way more fun and impressive watching them play than us.
At midnight we piled into the truck and uncomfortably (very) headed home. The driver was insane (not sure if he was sober...) and we were quite scared on every twist and turn he took with acceleration instead of with breaks. Gracias a Dios we made it injury-free and off to bed I went.
Friday was quite uneventful as I awoke late and proceeded to pass out shortly after with TiTin a donde Nena after lunch. I finally got my ass up and went home and forced myself to at least start organizing the boxes of books Ann brought me so I would at least feel like I'm doing something productive! So far 87 books have been counted, organized by category and written down. I've got the other box to do today (Saturday) and eventually I'll make tags to be placed inside each saying who it was donated by. 
I do feel better despite minor aches and the remaining bathroom issues so mañana I'm headed to Restauración until Monday to help out the gals from FIMRC.
Much love and besos. 

A Time Machine, Family, Breaks, and a Gunshot

19 de junio.  So last Saturday we were off to La Cumbre for the family reunion of my Doña's family. Nena, JuliBey, Regge, and I.  Francheska tagged along and was dropped off with her aunt to spend the summer (me hace mucha falta!). We made it to the Cruce a pie by 7:30am after a quick warm-up of old coffee (cuz you cannot go on a long trip on an empty stomach!) and headed to la cocina. Six of us squeezed into the back and the 7hour trip in a guagua that stops every ratico was off. We picked up one of my Doña's grandsons along the way and when a family of 7 (a mom and 6 little ones) boarded, I snagged the little 3-year old boy and put him on my lap. He was adorable and there were no seats, after all! That is one thing I love about this culture is that you can leave your child with strangers-it's normal and parents don't freak out. Him and I chatted about the houses that were ugly and the houses that were beautiful as we passed them and he eventually passed out. At one of the regular stops where you can run out and get food, one woman ended up taking too long and despite us screaming to the driver to wait, he left. Leaving her behind after she had already paid... Crazy. I'd like to say the rest of the trip was uneventful but after hitting Santiago and a random traffic jam, the people in he guagua started getting up and saying "ay Dios mio" covering their mouths at the site of something. I'll save the details but the young man must have died in a moto accident right then and there. The site was indescribably difficult. The guagua was silent for a while there after... Que Dios me lo cuide en el Cielo.
We arrived at 2:30 in La Cumbre and it was then I realized how close we were to my old home. I knew I somehow had to get there. We hung out and visited random family members, ate, and figured out sleeping arrangements. At night, Nena, Ramón, an older man from there, and I headed to a place that apparently had music, food, and dancing. When we arrived, it was a little dead. We stood around for a second, chatting, scoping it out, when suddenly, someone familiar walked up to us. I literally had to double-take to believe it. It was Fredito. We hugged and 5 other guys from 59 came up behind to say hello. What a whirlwind. Unfortunately, my group wanted to leave so we weren't left with much time to hang out and catch up. But I told him I'd see him the next day.
Sunday morning around 7am we were up and sitting around. I was itching to leave but wasn't sure how to go about doing it. I finally asked my Doña what the day's plans were and if it were better if I left then or later. She said right then because the reunion was later. I booked it. Waited on the side of the thruway just like old times and at 10am, arrived in 59. Passing many along the way, I made it to Dulce's. The poor thing had gotten surgery two weeks prior and was still hurting. Moreno is also not working due to his physical health suffering. But we drank coffee, chatted, and laughed at how bad my Spanish used to be. I then went up to her mom's and saw Fredito, David, Alex, and Lili. Eventually I went down to see my godson. Linda wasn't there, sadly, but I got to hold him. And... He cried the entire time. Haha. I did get to see his beautiful eyes this time, though. 
At 1pm, I knew I should head back-or that I already should've left :P. Fredito took me back and the reunion had already started. Luckily they were just eating and a plate was saved for me. We ate, every click introduced themselves and the head family members that planned it all shared their purpose. They only ever reunite in tragedy. It was time to reunite in alegría. And the next one will be in 6 months. It was short lived but beautiful. Cousins got to meet cousins for the first time. Aunts and uncles met grandparents and nieces and nephews. And I spoke with two older women who spent 12 years working in Argentina. After the clean-up most people left with plenty of time to make it home. We went back to the house we were staying at and hung out, eventually ate dinner and just chatted. I loved it. Around 9pm another surprise showed up. Fredito. Haha He said that a few people that weren't there that morning were in el Puerto (a little bit closer than 59) and asked if I wanted to see them. Of course! I left with him and saw Luis, Domingo, and the father of Lili. We danced and shared some more of our distant lives that used to be so close. I didn't want to leave.
That night after going to bed late, the Doña of the house getting up at 4am to make yucca (????), and again at 6am for good, we were all up. At 11am, the same bus that goes all the way to Restauración was scheduled to pass where we were. After long goodbyes (just like our family!), we made it and my legs cramped up before even sitting down. Haha The bus was already packed so my Doña and I headed to the cocina again with three Haitians and three roosters in sacks. An old man boarded and had to stand due to a lack of seats so I gave him my seat and happily stood. Hours later a seat opened up and I sat next to an old Don. He was amazing. Talking about the loss of love and how much it hurts him to see young couples lacking in affection (all the while grabbing my hand and pulling it close to his heart to show me how things should be). He is more in love with his wife now than he was when he married her. Faith? Revived :). In Santiago he left me and I stood again. Between there and DaJabón I went between sitting and standing. When we arrived in DaJabón, the noisy roosters left with one of the owners throwing up in the back as he stood to get off. Mmmmm. There were seats but again, I was happily stretching out my legs in the aisle. Until.... BREAK!!! goes the guagua as to not crash into a woman crossing the street and flying backwards I go. I landed hard on my left ass cheek. Of course with embarrassment filling my cheeks, I shot up and sat down as a pain in my left leg started to creep down to my foot. Not five minutes later, BAM!! I swear it was a gunshot right next to me as I saw every head on the guagua duck down and get covered by hands. It wasn't a gunshot after all, but  one of the tires directly under my seat that had blown. In Loma we changed it and arrived at 5pm in the Cruce of my site. Wow... Talk about an adventure.
Immediately upon arriving, I limped to the river to fetch water. I hadn't bathed the day before due to a lack of water at the house we were staying at and after that long trip? I was desperate to clean myself of the weekends events. I then got word that a softball game had been set for Thursday-the day of our next community meeting about the internet center/library. Planned by Kelvin, our VP of the committee. Haha. I went back to the Cruce and talked with Kelvin and Casilda. We came to the conclusion that no one remembered the meeting (it was planned on a holiday-had no clue) and that softball games are already impossible to reschedule so! Crash! goes the meeting. But it's okay :) It's still early in the project and the board members and I still had our meeting planned to keep moving forward. 
Finally, exhausted and overwhelmed (not all bad), I fell into my bed and slept.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Orange Yucca and Pringles

7 de junio 2014. Well first things first, it's been a while, eh?
Officially had our one-year conference in Jarabacoa. First night there I got pretty sick so I sadly spent the week sleeping and not eating. I was able to make it out to a beautiful waterfall with an insane hike back up so that was awesome :) Speaking English, friends, and motivation were other highlights of the week! Also breaking wood with our hands to metaphorically represent kicking ass in this last year! 
I came back Saturday and this is what happens to yucca when you leave it for a week:
Pretty orange, huh?
I then slept and though I felt better, I was exhausted. Sure enough, Monday, I arose again sick. Though It's been two weeks now, I'm just grateful I don't have the Chimichanga :P 
It was the last week of classes, and I gave my English exam on Friday. Almost all failed... I'm such a good teacher!
It also rained a lot this week:

Thursday (jumping around here, forgive me), we had a meeting about the possibility of an Internet center/library in my community. We've got the location (don't have to build from the ground up!), a committee with a President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary, and about 15 other motivated people. Next steps? Secure that the location is ours, find other organizations willing to help, solicite government help, and for me, start on the grant application. Our next meeting is in two weeks. I'm overwhelmed with the work and worry of only having one year to do this and make it sustainable but I'm so excited. This was something I saw/wanted since day one of arriving but it just wasn't the right timing yet. And I've been searching for a real purpose since for five months now, only to discover that this really was it! I just had to wait (welcome to development work). I have day dreams every time I close my eyes of what it will look like and how it might function. As many prayers and good thoughts as possible are welcomed to my little home of Mariano!
So back to Friday. After my exam, I realized how bad my breathing was getting and had Maria check out my lungs. Yep, got fluid in those suckers...Mmmmm :) so of course, the battle to find meds began. I called a friend in the closest town and she graciously went to see if they had them. They didn't. One trip saved. She was then going to go to DaJabon the next day and said she would look. But I decided I wanted to hit up the grocery store anyways so I set out at 7am this morning quite grumpy and only wanting to sleep. Three pharmacies and a moto guy running out to find it for me later, I got the meds, finished at the grocery store (Pringles on the list of top buys for the day) and headed back. I ended up having to wait in Loma for an hour and a half for the truck to leave (he wanted to have more people) but I made it back by noon. Aaaaand proceeded to eat and lay down which somehow turned into 5pm. And I'm still exhausted. I guess when every breath you take feels like you're drowning, your body just kinda shuts down haha. Hoping the meds kick in and quick! There's talk of a river trip tomorrow with our softball team (since Kelvin promised us a game this weekend and didn't deliver) where we will go in the morning, cook lunch by fire, and spend the whole afternoon :) A moment I really wish my camera would magically reappear... Having a hard time excepting that it's gone.
But alas! We carry on :) 
Take care all, much love.