Sunday, March 23, 2008

feliz pascua!

Hola a todos! Hope you are all having a happy Easter! Here in the DR, the whole week leading up to Easter is a holiday, “Semana Santa,” or “Holy Week.” It especially starts heating up Thursday afternoon, when all businesses close down, but kids get the whole week off of school. Also, most kids tend to take the weeks before and after Semana Santa off, too.

There’s no Easter Bunny here,; the only Easter celebrations are religious. However, a lot of people use their long weekend to visit family or go to the beach. My host family is staying here. I believe we’re going to a church service this afternoon, but I’m never really in the loop about our family activities, I just follow along when one of my sisters yells my name. On Friday morning I followed thousands of people in a caminante, which is a Good Friday cross-carrying procession. Pretty much the whole neighborhood turned out for this four-hour, slow-moving stroll throughout the streets, headed up by a group of people carrying a giant 15-foot long cross with a dangerous-looking barbed wire circle on top. Also, every fifteen minutes or so—guided by some cue that I never really picked up on—everyone stopped, knelt, and made a cross on the ground with their thumb.

Yesterday, some fellow PCTs and I took advantage of the relative quiet of the city for a trip downtown. We visited the Museo de Ambar (Amber Museum), which was small but interesting. Did you know that Jurassic Park was filmed (partly) in the DR? I did not!

We also followed a tip from an older PCV and found an awesome falafel restaurant downtown. Eating falafel and hummus after weeks of cold rice and vegetables was pretty much the most delicious thing in the entire world. I was also introduced to the world of Yogen Fruz, my new favorite frozen treat. It’s kind of a combination of Cold Stone Creamery and a Blizzard. You get to pick three fruits or toppings, and then the toppings and some vanilla frozen yogurt get run through a blender/soft serve machine, and it comes back out as a custom-flavored frozen yogurt. I had strawberry, cherry, and Oreo and I would heartily endorse this combination. Afterwards, we walked along the Malecon (a long beachfront walk). It was an excellent day, which I particularly enjoyed after a few particularly stressful days with my host family.

Although I’m very grateful to my host family for having me, I’ve also been having some minor difficulties with them. In general, I feel as though I’m coming along pretty well with the language. On Wednesday we had our 3-week language test, and I was told that I reached the level of Intermediate Mid, which is the level PC requires all volunteers to reach by the end of training. I find that I can talk pretty well with most Dominicans I encounter, and I can get along pretty well in society (I can buy groceries, get around on public transportation, get directions, etc.). However, my Dona is very hard for me to communicate with—when I don’t understand her, she repeats the same thing louder once, then gets frustrated and gives up. I’m sure it’s hard to have someone live with you who doesn’t understand you very well, but for me it’s intensely frustrating to live with someone who makes little effort to help me understand them.

But tomorrow morning I’m moving to a new community, so hopefully I’ll be better able to communicate with my new family! We’ve concluded our first stage of training, and now our group is splitting up and moving on to Community Based Training (CBT). My group, Information Communication Technology, is moving to a medium-sized town in the eastern part of the country, where we’ll start getting training more specific to our project areas. We’ll continue our language training and start learning more technology-specific vocabulary, and we’re going to have mini internships with one of the town’s computer centers. I’m definitely excited to start getting some training that will help prepare me for my project, and although I’ll miss a lot of people from the Environment group, it’ll be nice to get closer to the people in the ICT group.

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