Friday, August 1, 2008

I Get By With a Little Help From my Friends

Hello, all! I haven’t had too many blog-worthy adventures at my site lately, although I am preparing to move into my house soon. So I thought I’d take a moment to blog about some of my fellow volunteers, my wonderful network of friends who are like Army buddies, except we don’t kill people. Instead we call each other up in tears because our committee meetings got cancelled again, in laughter because we’ve shit our pants (according to the close-of-service surveys, this happens to something like 90% of volunteers… the combination of sketchy food and sketchy access to the bathroom leads to a number of unfortunate accidents), or in desperation because we need to know the Spanish word for “Q-tip.”

I’ve definitely mentioned them by name, and posted many pictures of them, but I’ll give you a little introduction to all of my nearest and dearest, from the Peace Corps DR class 08-01. (We’re the first class of volunteers from 2008. The second class arrives August 21st, meaning my group will officially no longer be the baby volunteers!)

There are 36 of us—36 of us came into country together and we’re all still here, which is somewhat remarkable. Usually by this point at least a couple volunteers have dropped out, but we all seem to be going strong. My class of volunteers consists of 15 ICT (Information Communication Technology) volunteers, myself included; 2 Special Education volunteers (the special education program is being phased out); and 19 Community Environmental Development volunteers. (In the DR, Education and Environment volunteers arrive in February, and Youth, Health, and Community Economic Development volunteers arrive in August.)

My friends and fellow volunteers include:

Karina, a fellow ICT volunteer. Her father is a development worker and her mother is an international schoolteacher, so Karina grew up in Uganda, Cypress, Jordan, and at least one other country I’m forgetting. She was my closest neighbor in Santo Domingo, at least until I moved away from my emotionally abusive doña, and she is hilarious. She is also a champion player of Race 21, an inspiration to us all with a score of over 12,000. (My best is 10,500.)

Arianna, also ICT, is from Florida but moved to LA after college, where she experienced all the glamour of Hollywood while working as a production assistant to a variety of shows, notably Supernanny. (Supernanny, apparently, is an unpleasant woman who refers to herself in the third person when she wants something.) Arianna is my closest PC neighbor and we meet up in La Vega fairly often to use fast Internet and complain. Arianna’s Spanish skills jump up a notch when she is angry and needs to tell someone off, particularly if they have been attempting to rip us off.

Stephanie, also ICT, is from Iowa and knows where Grinnell is. In college she studied veterinary science and art history and Islamic culture and Latino literature, and when she graduated she started her own florist business. She is also an excellent seamstress and has fixed nearly everyone’s clothing here. Stephanie is a volunteer who is most frank about bodily functions, which says something because we all talk a lot about them.

Asahi, also ICT, is from Hawaii by way of Japan. She is smart and blunt and knows how to make hats out of palm leaves. She used to be a social worker, and she also used to work at Disney World, where she was alternately Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, and I think also Chip and Dale. Did you know that to be Mickey or Minnie, you have to be under 5 feet tall? And to be Tinkerbell you have to weigh in between something like 93 and 97 pounds. Apparently if you are too light, you won’t fly right on the wire. But if you are too heavy, you will break the wire. For this reason, Disney World employs many Tinkerbells, in the event that some of them gain or lose weight. I talk to Asahi about things besides Disney employee trivia, but for now I’m just sharing the Disney trivia.

Keane, also ICT; is from Hawaii by way of India. After college, he made his living as a jazz guitarist/social activist, while studying Brazilian jujitsu on the side. Somehow, he is the head of our Peace Corps modeling ring. His shiny, lustrous hair makes him the best fake model and attracts the envy of Dominicans everywhere. Awhile ago I told Keane that I didn’t really think we’d be friends when we first met because he was always all, “Blah blah blah, global development is serious business.” And he said, “Well, it is!” And then we pretended to be sorority girls.

Trisha, also ICT (aka Pa-TREE-cee-ah, Dominican style), is from Kansas and used to be a social worker. Like most of us ICT volunteers, she doesn’t really know why she was placed to work with computers. She knows that the secret to happiness is making fun of The Secret.

Justin, also ICT, is from California and he is the only one of us to have a degree in computer science. Despite this degree, before Peace Corps he was making a living as an aikido instructor. Thus, he knows more about both computers and ass-kicking than the rest of us do. He is the official paparazzi of the group and has been known to take hundreds of photos in a single night out.

Ben, also ICT, is from Ohio and has a degree in electrical engineering. The rest of us suspect that this makes him more knowledgeable about computers than we are, but he denies it. Ben’s time in the DR has rapidly transformed him into a dominos shark, and he no longer has enough patience to play with lowly domino novices.

Tim Beard, a special ed volunteer, is from New York and has a beard. This has earned him the creative nickname “Tim Beard,” or occasionally “Beard Tim.” Tim Beard enjoys wearing Birkenstocks, tie-dye Grateful Dead shirts, and his beard. Last week Tim Beard had a small spot of benign skin cancer removed from his beard. He was concerned that the doctors would make him shave off his beard; they did not. Tim Beard is engaged to another volunteer, Anne.

Anne is an environment volunteer from Colorado. She is engaged to Tim Beard, but is planning to keep her own name to avoid becoming “Anne Beard.” Once she was describing her high school to a group of us, and someone said “I wish I had gone to your high school!” and Anne said, “I went to Columbine High School,” and Keane said “This is the most improbable conversation I’ve ever heard.”

Chris, an environment volunteer, is from Oregon. During staging we did an exercise where we had to write 5 words to describe ourselves and everyone else did adjectives and Chris picked nouns, earning him the nickname “Snow,” which was one of his nouns. (Chris likes snowboarding, which there’s not a lot of here.) He is a SCIENTIST who worked on curing diseases and making ink before he came here. Chris was in my Spanish class in Santo Domingo and once described baptism as “bañando con Jesús,” “bathing with Jesus.”

Jen, aka JT, is an environment volunteer from New Mexico. This confuses Dominicans, who believe that she is from Mexico. She has alarmingly blue eyes. At present I cannot think of any charming anecdotes about JT, but know that she is hilarious.

Jenna, an environment volunteer, is from Pennsylvania. She was a model before Peace Corps, and still dresses like one, to the amusement of all. She still gets down and makes compost piles with the rest of the environment volunteers, but she does it with style. Jenna does not like to watch the show America’s Next Top Model because “all those girls whine like being a model is so hard. It’s the easiest job ever, you just sit around and usually you get to keep the clothes.”

Joel, an environment volunteer, is from Pennsylvania. He is a former college football player and fratboy and, contrary to stereotype, is one of the most friendly and likeable people I’ve ever met. He was a camp counselor during college, and we like to talk about how awesome being a camp counselor is. Joel and Jenna both have weirdly intriguing Pennsylvania accents. I didn’t used to think of Pennsylvania as having its own accent, but this sample size of two proves that there is one.

There are more awesome PCVS, of course, but I’ve probably gone on long enough about my new friends, the ones who are here with me trying to stay sane while creating some sort of sustainable development in a country that often seemss only half-interested in developing itself.


sophia said...

1. I thought of you today when I saw a preview for HSM3 and was unable to explain to my father why I was laughing hysterically.

2. Next time I happen to be around a Natural History Museum giftshop (a regular occurrence, of course), I will buy a million packets of instant snow for you so everybody can go snowboarding.

Julia said...

Do your Pennsylvania friends say "arnge" when they mean "orange"? Because that's the only Pennsylvania-y thing I can think of.

It sounds like you have awesome people around you!