Friday, July 11, 2008

incidents & accidents

Hello hello! This has been a fairly uneventful week for me, since my lab is still broken* and so I couldn’t do my technology camp even if kids had shown up. (I keep hearing rumors of kids who want to come, only they don’t know what time the camp is at, or what day it is, or whatever. At first, I was telling everyone to come again on Monday and we could try starting the camp over from scratch, but that was when I mistakenly believed that the inversor would be fixed this week. Instead, what happened this week was that the repairman came and told us we needed to buy new batteries for the inversor, for which there is no money.

*Here is the thing: only the inversor is broken, and by broken I mean the batteries only last maybe an hour. The lab would still be perfectly usable when there is electricity, but the nun refuses to let anyone use the lab. I could maybe understand this if the inversor were flat-out broken—because then when the power went out, the computers would just shut down and that’s bad for them. But the inversor has enough power to allow all the computers to be properly shut down after the power goes out but before the inversor runs out. Instead, the lab is remaining entirely unused.

So, since my primary project is not functioning, and when I stay at home too long I can tell that my Doña thinks I’m lazy, I’ve taken over an empty desk in the secretary’s office and camp out there from roughly 8am-12pm, then from 2-5pm every day. Here is what I do:

    Reach new personal bests at Brick Attack on my cell phone
  • Have long phone conversations with other PCVs about how little work there is for us to do
  • Thumb through my Dominican Republic guidebook and think about all the places in this country that are more awesome than the secretary’s office
  • Make small talk with passing teachers (including the creepy old man teacher who always tries to kiss me on the lips in greeting, instead of the cheek. I always try to turn my head at the last minute to avoid this, with a fairly high success rate, but once in awhile he slips through. Gross. Also, today he asked me to take him back to America with him and pretend like he’s my brother. I could not even make a joke in response, I just said NO.)
  • Steadfastly ignore the telephone. This is an issue; for reasons unbeknownst to me, the office’s sole telephone is on the other side of the room from the two secretaries. It is on the empty desk I have appropriated. I feel as though my proximity to the phone should require me to answer it, but I’ve never been told to do so and I’m not very good at Spanish on the phone. I tried to answer it a couple times when the secretaries had both stepped out, but I could not understand what the caller wanted and had to wait until a native Spanish speaker came back. Also, even if I could understand what was being said, the odds are good that I would not know the answer to the question. So, I feel pretty justified about not answering the phone here, but I also feel awkward about ignoring the ringing phone at my elbow and waiting for one of the secretaries to walk across the room to the phone.
  • Prepare elaborate construction paper-and-marker materials for my English class (which upped its enrollment from 5 to 6 this week! My friend Keane has 30 students in his class, but Keane’s project partner didn’t make him offer classes on Saturday morning. Also, Dominicans love Keane’s hair and he theorizes that many students are there to gain closer proximity to his shining locks.)
  • Stare into space
  • Frequently re-apply lip balm
  • Take over the other office computer to work on my diagnostic PowerPoint, which I will have to present at the beginning of August. I am severely missing my laptop right now, because my version of PowerPoint had WAY more clipart than this one does 
  • Take over the other office computer to write blog entries.

Weirdly, none of these activities were mentioned in the Peace Corps brochure.

Outside of the office, here is what I’ve been doing:

  • Taking walks when it is not too hot out
  • Nursing my walk-related injuries (severe Birkenstock blisters and a puncture wound from when I somehow stepped on a stick and flipped the pointy end of it directly into my shin)
  • Pre-lunch naps
  • Avoiding my host family’s dogs. The only female of the five is in heat, and the other four are all desperate to heed nature’s call. My family is keeping the lady-dog locked in the bathroom, which drives all the dogs crazy. They bark and howl all the time, and try to slide their paws under the front door in a doomed attempt to reach the object of their affections. Aside from the insane noise levels this creates, it’s also very hard to leave or enter the house, because any time you open the door, a herd of dogs attempts to slide its way past your feet.
  • Continuing to attend too-long youth group meetings. I’ve also started going to meetings for planning the town’s patronales (patron saint festival), not that I have anything to contribute, but it gets me out of the house and sometimes there are cookies.
  • Trying to use the Internet. There are now 2 Internet centers in my town. One is painfully slow, but is generally open. The other, newer one, is fairly fast, but has highly unpredictable hours. Granted, pretty much everything here closes down from 12-2 or 2:30 for lunch, but you’d think you could get your business back open by, say, 4pm on a weekday. Well, sometimes this place can, and sometimes it can’t. Same with the mornings…sometimes they are open, sometimes they are not. Also, the faster center only has 3 computers, so sometimes it is open but full. (The slower one has four computers, but is hardly ever full.) I shouldn’t complain, since most of the Environment and Health volunteers have to travel for like an hour to get to Internet at all. But most of the other ICT volunteers have free Internet in their labs, so I feel entitled to a small whine.
  • Playing Uno with my host family. Since there aren’t small children in this household, Uno fever hasn’t taken such a strong grip, but we still play sometimes. Also, this Dominican card game called Casino, which I still don’t understand all the rules of and which my host family thinks I am exceptionally stupid for not understanding. But then, I think they are kind of dumb not to understand Uno, so I guess we’re even.
  • Reading, although I try to pace myself, since my access to English-language books is relatively limited and I don’t want to run out.

Such is the exciting lifestyle of the Caribbean Peace Corps volunteer!

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