Friday, September 19, 2014

When Moments of Panic Turn to Peace

This week was COPRS Forum. Basically it's just a set of two days with various meetings held by every sector here in Peace Corps DR. Any volunteer can go, it's not obligated, and attend meetings to reflect, plan, or learn more information about other initiatives out there. I left Wednesday and arrived around 3pm, taking the day to relax after the travel and see so many of my friends I haven't seen in forever. Thursday was the day of Education meetings. It was great. We've got plans to make an Early Childhood Manual for parents and teachers, we reviewed the recent Escojo Enseñar Conferences and planned for the next ones, and learned all of the successes of our fellow volunteers in their communities. Great, but also overwhelming. A big piece of advice always said by all (including me) is to NEVER compare your service with others. And I've always tried hard to abide by that. But oh the success stories, and the incredible initiatives and creativity. I lost it by the end of the day. On the verge of tears and feeling as though I've slept through my entire service in comparison. 
I never felt this way in my site. It was only going there and listening and drowning in it all that I was swept off my feet, and not in the love kind of way. I tried justifying it all to no avail. I tried using it to motivate me to do more, only making my heart race and stomach flip at the reality of my personal experiences and failed attempts. Tried convincing myself that what I'm doing is enough, but Washington and it's need for numbers hovered over my head, menacingly. 
But I carried on, enjoyed the time spent with my friends and meeting news ones who I hadn't ever seen before. I wanted to go to my old site Friday and head back Saturday but Linda never answered her phone. I didn't want to risk going out there, having her not be there, and not having enough time to get back to my home. So I left Friday morning with Matt and Kinnerly from my neck of the woods. I chatted with a decent younger man on the Caribe Tours bus, we made it to DaJabon on time to get the last bus to Mariano Cestero, and even through the hour and a half wait while they fixed the bus after it broke down in Loma, it all hit me again. As we weaved through the winding roads, rose and fell with the land, felt the air blowing through the windows fill my lungs with a purity I always miss when I leave, watched the boney cows grazing in the fields and between pine trees, and saw the familiar faces of my munchkins and old folks in my town, panic turned to peace. I made it back to my house and was welcomed with a warm hug from my Dominican mother, took a cold and refreshing bucket shower, drank fresh coffee picked, peeled, roasted, grinded, and boiled right from our backyard, organized and unpacked, and headed to see my sister, Casilda, and her son. 
I saw them all and forgot all that ailed me only a day before. I gave Casilda and her family a children's bible (just four stories written for kids and with beautiful drawings) and she cried with gratitude, saying she would bring it every time she went to hospital with her son. And as dinner was given to me, her little boy, with cancer eating away at his liver and tiny 2 year old body, came over to me and began to eat. He had apparently not eaten a single thing that day and hardly anything the day before. I placed him gently on my lap and he nearly ate my entire bowl of boiled guineos. I was humbled, honored, and so incredibly at peace, kissing his cheeks with every bite and soaking in his absolutely beautiful smiles and giggles.
I may not do all the incredible initiatives and programs and trainings as my counterparts. Washington may look at my service after two years and wonder why they even sent me here in the first place. I may not leave much behind when I go. But this life, this family, and this love I have felt here has forever changed my life and my drive. I may not know what's next but Lord only knows I would have left the pages of this chapter of my life empty and torn if I never came. I only hope and pray that those here feel just as I do and remember me. Always knowing that I truly loved them more than I ever thought possible.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stuck In Colder Weather

Things are slow moving. After the Escojo Enseñar Conference, I took my time getting back to school and didn't miss much. But the list of things I'll be doing this year only grew. 

1. English classes for 7th and 8th grade.
2. English classes in the community on Sundays-started last Sunday.
3. Literacy classes with Viviana-She's improving and I'm so proud.
4. Technology classes for 4th-8th grade- FUDECO sent 30 little keyboards that are kind of like computers. My director wants me to teach the kiddos how to type on them and how to use them.
5. Escuela de Padres y Madres-Helping the psychologist to plan. Though when I went to her house Sunday afternoon to begin, she simply had me cover her various notebooks with construction paper and draw pretty things on the covers... Gaining Confianza? 
6. Monthly Grupos Pedagógicos- this is me still fighting to find a way to teach my teachers from The Escojo Enseñar manual. I may have an in by starting to teach them how to look things up on the internet and print since that seems to be all I'm good for when I do go into the school as of late. 
7. La Biblioteca Tecnológica- we haven't heard from the president man yet so we need to call this week and get that going. I really miss Casilda and her drive... But this weekend is the raffle and comedy show to keep raising funds.
8. Literacy classes for 1st and 2nd grade. I'm putting that off for now but I'll start in October.
9. Yluminada- with her multi-grado, one classroom school, I'd like to do something better and more sustainable to help her. But I'm still struggling.

My heart isn't in all of these things but in some. But the wants of my community and school matter more, so off I go! Unfortunately I got my third staph infection just behind my left shoulder and it's been hell. The pain from this one was the worst and sleeping was impossible due to its location. I believe I've gotten the worst of it out, and just got my antibiotics, so we are on the road to healing. And I disinfected my house yesterday by washing every article of clothing, sheets, dishes, by dusting, and by cleaning the floors. And somehow it still doesn't feel like enough. But we're no worse off than we were before ;)

The water situation is worse, my director slammed the gates shut and hard so we are no longer able to go to the school for water. The closest river is either dried up or dirty because it seems as though people are doing their business in it. The next closest river is now a competition. Whoever gets there first, gets water. The next? Far and down a ridiculous hill... I had to stop and rest more than 10X to make it back to my house the last time I went there (having a bad arm, didn't help I'm sure) haha.

Much love and hugs are being sent home from the colder weather here in the mountains. I miss all of you back home lots. I hope you all know and believe that.

Escojo Enseñaring It Up

The last weekend of August was our Conference. I unfortunately wasn't able to have anyone from here go with me, but it was alright. There were teachers from Restauracion, Rio Limpio, Los Cerezos, Las Rosas, and Santiago. I teamed up for two charlas-Literacy and the importance of a "culture of reading" in the classroom, and the making and use of didactic materials. They both went so well but the second was my favorite. After the lecture part, we split the teachers into groups and sent them to stations where they had didactic materials laid out, a grade selected, and a lesson topic. They had to fill out a lesson plan and create a interactive, main activity using the materials. They were incredible in their creativity. When they presented, we lost track of time because I didn't want to stop them from sharing. It was sheer beauty and I had to be careful to hold back my tears of pride.

^^The wall we created with their ideas and some materials The girl at the top made of toilet paper rolls, hair of yarn, and eyes of bottle caps? Her name is Julie <3

The last day we wrote one thing we were going to take home with us that we got out of the conference on apples and taped them on a big tree. Most were technical things. Mine? "A passion to push forward to reach each teacher and child for our tomorrow." And when I shared and explained I said that even though I'm not Dominican, this is where my heart lies and this is why the tomorrow belongs to us.

I didn't take too many pictures due a craziness that was organizing and making sure things were running smoothly but on the Facebook page there are a ton. Check them out :)