Sunday, December 27, 2009

simply having a wonderful christmastime

I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas! Mine was very nice, although it got off to a rough start. It was raining really hard in the days up to Christmas, so my apartment kept flooding. We coped, however--I kept mopping, and Duarte learned how to wait on the bed until I got up, and then to jump onto my hips to get rides across the apartment so he didn´t have to get his little feet wet. He is the smartest, cutest kitty ever! Objectively speaking. Then on the 23rd, I went to drop Duarte off at my friend Judith´s house while I went on a Christmas excursion. I had a backpack and a giant totebag, plus Duarte´s cat carrier. I got on the back of a motorcycle taxi, since it was a little far to walk. Plus, it was raining. I´m fairly comfortable on motorcycles, but with my enormous bag in between me and the moto guy, every time we went up a hill I was pretty sure I was going to fall off the bag and die. Plus, about halfway there, Duarte figured out how to stick his head out of a tiny gap in the cat carrier and I became terrified that he would leap off the moto, so I had to use one hand to try to shove Duarte back in the bag and the other to cling to the moto guy´s shoulder AND try to hold my big tote bag. Also, did I mention that I didn´t really know how to get to Judith´s apartment? I had some super vague directions and assumed that we could get to the neighborhood and just ask around, but since it was raining, no one was out on the street to ask. So we circled around for a ridiculously long and terrifying time. But, in a Christmas miracle, we found Judith´s place and all arrived intact. Hooray!

Free of my clever escape artist kitten, I went onto Santiago to meet with my friends Jen and Karina. We spent $3000 pesos (about $100 US--goes far in the DR) on groceries and went back to prepare a fabulous Christmas dinner! Actually we just ate Chex Mix that day. Christmas eve, we went over to Karina´s neighbor´s for a Dominican celebration, which included some of the fanciest of Dominican foods arranged in a pleasing salad: cut up apples, marshmellows, grapes, whole nuts, and candy fruit slices. Another Christmas eve highlight was me trying to avoid her neighbor´s son, who dated the last Peace Corps volunteer who lived here. He told me, "You remind me of {the last volunteer}... I like bigger girls." It was awesome.

Christmas Day we woke up and had some classy beverages--mimosas AND coffee with Bailey's! (Don't judge us, we´re spending Christmas in another country.) Our friends Jenna, Chris, Joel, and Brittany decided to come at the last minute, which was exciting! But also we had to figure out how to double the amount of food we were making. Which we did, and we had the following awesome dinner:
Deviled eggs
Hummus with carrot sticks
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potato casserole
Green bean casserole

Sadly, during the last course I got a migraine and had to go lie down. But I still wanted to hang out, so I just curled up on the couch with a pillow over my face and occasionally yelled out borderline-delirious comments. I recall being very worked up Britney Spears' latest song "3". (My stance, then and now, is that it is an awesome song and Britney is so comnig back.) Also, since I had the pillow over my face, I had no idea where anyone was and got kind of confused. Oh well!

Anyway, even though I missed my family and American friends (and Duarte), it was still a great Christmas. Now I'm getting ready to head back to Cabarete with Jen for some beach time... I mean, there are perks to a Dominican Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

State of the Kitten

Greetings, my fellow Americans, Dominicans, and other citizens of the world. I have come to this blog today to discuss a very important topic: the state of my kitten, Duarte.

Health and Hygiene:
Duarte has been de-wormed by the nice vet in Sosua. His fur is growing back, and he has a lot of energy. Sooo much energy. He is also using the litterbox with high levels of accuracy, although sometimes there are still accidents, often tragically involving my comforter.

Cuteness levels are extremely high, rising to dangerous levels when he tilts his head at me. He often seems to have a disapproving look on his face, which is ADORABLE.

Rest and Recreation:
Duarte likes to sleep on top of me, even when I sleep on my side. This is also ADORABLE. Duarte also likes to wake up every few hours and and seek attention, which is slightly less adorable.

Duarte has proven himself to be a top contender in all internationally-recognized kitten sports, including the high jump, the pounce, the 5-inch string chase, hide and seek, and the bedsheet climb.

Controversial Issues:
The Renata-Duarte household is extremely divided on a few key issues. For example, the game “Bite Renata in the Face While She is Sleeping” is beloved by 50% of the population, but despised by the other 50% (margin of error +/- 3%). Another divisive topic is that of canned cat food. Again, 50% of the household finds it to be amazingly delicious, while the other half believes to to be “fucking disgusting” and “make[s] the whole house smell bad.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

i hate it when cliches are accurate

So, as I may have mentioned, I've been a little stressed out the last few weeks. My attitude might perhaps have been best described as "over it." But things have been improving the last few days, and on Wednesday night, all the DREAM volunteers went out to dinner with a visiting Christian basketball team here to do basketball-themed charity. I was eye-rolling a bit about the entire concept of Christian basketball-themed charity (they are donating a bunch of basketballs and stuff to local kids and also leading free basketball clinics/games at some local courts, in case you are wondering what exactly "basketball-themed charity" consists of), and, I'll admit it, I inwardly eye-rolled a bit when one of the high school boys stood up to say grace.

But he said, "Thank you for the opportunity to be here and to serve," and it really clicked with me. Yes. This is an opportunity. Thank you for it, whoever is responsible for it. Thank you, Peace Corps bureaucrat who put me here. Thank you, parents who occasionally send me money to buy fancy condiments with. Thank you, Peace Corps friends who keep me sane via free cell phone calls. Thank you, DREAM, for giving me a place to teach kids. Thank you, high school boy, for your super trite yet super true words.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

december already?

Whew! My mom's trip ended happily, although she enjoyed her Dominican car wreck so much that she got into another one within her first week back. Ay. She survived, albeit with a few broken bones, so if you could direct some prayers/healing vibes her way, they would be appreciated.

I've been back to the grind at DREAM, which has involved a little bit of inter-NGO tension that I don't even want to talk about, but my stress levels have risen to the point where more hair than usual is coming out in my hair brush. Luckily, winter break is approaching, so I should be able to maintain the majority of my stylish tresses. Plus, I just read in Cosmo that center parts are coming back into style, which I did not even know they were out of style, so anyway I should be good to go.

The brightest spot here has been my afterschool blog club, which has been really taking off. I've (somewhat awkwardly) translated all the entries, so even the most gringo among you can check out our Blog de Sueños (Dream Blog). The kids are getting into it, especially the photography. However, when pressed to "Write more details!" they usually just tack on another sentence saying exactly the same thing as the first sentence, leading to some awesomely circular logic, e.g. "I took this picture because I like the car races and because I know how to drive vehicles because my father taught me how to drive but without him, I would not know how to drive vehicles." Also of note: this photo, in which I am inadvertently making some kind of pin-up girl pose in the background. (This kid took ten different pictures of the garden, including ones in which I was posing nicely and ones in which I was not at all visible, but he chose that one to post. Sigh.)

Anyway, tomorrow is our last day of blog class before Christmas break. We're going to have a party and blog about our favorite foods! Mmm. (Class favorite foods tally as of yesterday: plaintains, 2; soda, 2; chips, 1; cookies, 1; undecided, 3.)

PS: I would like to say that it is never, ever too late to send your favorite Peace Corps volunteer a letter or care package! My address here is
451 Avenida Bolivar
Apartado Postal 1412
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic

And I will happily receive just about anything, but especially: vegetarian boxed dinners (like Tasty Bite or Annie's pasta), dried fruit (I have a lot of nuts, I'd rather have just fruit), and pretty much any American candy. Or British candy. I'm not picky, as long as it's not gross, sticky, too-sugary Dominican candy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

on the road again

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! The Peace Corps party was great, but I got some kind of 24-hour bug and threw up all my vegetarian stuffing. And all four kinds of pie. Ughhhh. But mustn't dwell!

Instead let us turn our attention to post-Thanksgiving travels. Mom, Duarte (we renamed the kitten Duarte since all the volunteers kept accidentally calling him that anyway--Juan Pablo Duarte was one of the founding fathers of the DR and absolutely everything here is named after him. Including my cat), Karina, Jen, Jenna and I headed down southwest to a little artisan workshop where you can pick your own piece of larimar (a semiprecious stone found only in the DR) and turn it into jewelry. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived on Saturday, they were closed, so there was nothing to do but head further up the mountain to a beautiful hotel/restaurant called Casa Bonita.

We got some food and drinks and enjoyed the view.

The sun set, and we continued to enjoy the view.

Here's a picture of my mom hard at work on her larimar.

Here's my finished product! It's... not that impressive, but I made it. With a liiittle help from some Dominican artisans. And also geology.

Here's Baby Duarte looking super mad. And adorable.

Now my mom is at the Puerto Plata International Airport, soon to be heading back to Nueva Yol (aka Illinois). At least I'll have baby Duarte to keep me company... and look! Look how totally non-malnourished he is now. Fatty little Duarte.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Let's be honest, the holiday season tends to inspire a lot of lame, cliche-y blog entries. And why should I be any different? What, do I think I'm better than everyone? So, here are some things I am thankful for.
  • My family! (Awww.) I'm especially glad my mom could come visit again. I am also thankful that she brought down an entire suitcase of candy.
  • Baby Cat--who, surprise, is a boy. And it turns out I'm unwilling to name him Billy Ray, so right now we're going with Dante. He has a little goatee!! Just like Dante from Clerks.
    (You can't really see his goatee in any of the pictures I have of him so far. But he has a little patch of white just on his chin. So cute!)
  • Maru, who brings so much joy to my life with every awkwardly-phrased update.
  • My site change! Although my job is a little bit stressful, I love my great co-workers. And I love living a 15-minute walk away from the beach, even if it does get invested with giant turkeys around this time of year.
  • The fact that I still haven't drowned or been eaten by sharks while surfing!! I don't want to jinx it though :/
  • The Internet! I am so thankful that I can keep in touch with all my lovely friends and family so easily thanks to emails, blogs, Facebook, Skype, and the like. Hooray!
  • Friends! Of course, the Internet wouldn't be that fun if I didn't have all of you guys to keep in touch with in the first place.
  • ZooBorns. It's a website of all baby zoo animals!! LOOK HOW LITTLE THESE TURTLES ARE. BE THANKFUL YOU GOT TO SEE THAT.
  • Three nights in the Santo Domingo Marriott! You guys, there is air conditioning and hot water and the room is bigger than my whole apartment!!

So, happy Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you all have as many things to be thankful for as I do.

Monday, November 23, 2009


"Mom, if you tell everyone that the best part of your vacation was getting in a car crash, everyone's going to think your trip sucked."
"What? No one got hurt, and it was interesting!"

Interesting, indeed. On Friday my mom and I ventured out in our tiny rental car, heading west to Dajabon for the market day. We picked up my friend Mica and two girls from her town--Mica was taking the girls to the dentist in Santiago, which was basically on our way. Driving in the DR is crazy--there are motorcycles zooming in and out everywhere, a frequent lack of taillights/headlights, barely-paved roads, and a general disregard for traffic laws. But mom assured me she was up to the challenge, and the trip had been going pretty smoothly so far. So, of course, a giant truck with no taillights stopped abruptly and Mom gently rear-ended him. The truck just drove off as if nothing had happened; we're not even sure if the truck realized it was in an accident.

So: right after the impact, the two girls in the backseat are screaming, Mica is trying to console them in Spanish, I'm trying to find my glasses, the kitten is crying, Mom is crying, and like six Dominican police officers are tapping on our windows. It was hectic.

Honestly, the whole thing went fairly smoothly. I have no idea why there were so many police officers just hanging out at that intersection, but they were. I think before yesterday I have maybe seen six police officers during my entire time in the DR. Weird, but helpful. They ushered us out of the car, pushed the car into a nearby parking lot, and got a ride to take Mica and her girls to the dentist all in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, my mom consoled the kitten (still unnamed, but our faithful travelling companion) and I called the car rental company, called the Peace Corps doctor, and argued with the police officers. They wanted Mom to go to the hospital; she didn't want to go. Finally we convinced her that she should go to the hospital. Then the police wanted her to go to the public hospital; I said no. They told me that if we wanted to go to the private hospital they wouldn't help us, we'd have to take a taxi to get there. I said fine.

So, we took a taxi to the hospital. We're carrying five large bags and one tiny kitten, and both of us are bleeding. The receptionist tells me that the kitten can't come in the emergency room. Understandable I suppose, but what are we going to do with the kitten? We don't have any kind of carrier for it yet, we've just been keeping it on my lap in the car. It is finally settled that I will wait in the waiting room with the kitten while Mom gets stitches done by an English-speaking doctor. While I wait, a police officer asks me questions about the accident/hits on me. I call a friend to chat so I have an excuse not to talk to the police officer anymore.

Here is perhaps the most startling part of the whole day: Mom got 10 stitches and IV and local anesthetic in less than an hour! And it cost about US$100! So fast and cheap! Ridiculous. And then our car rental company (Budget! Big ups to them) sent over a driver and a new rental car right away. I started thinking crazy thoughts like, "Wow! Maybe we can still make it out to Dajabon today!"


Anyway, the new driver took us over to the police station. We had to wait a long time, still holding the crying kitten. I managed to get some yogurt from the police cafeteria, which we gave to kitty via eyedropper. Finally, I got to talk to a police officer and describe the accident to him. He told us we had to go to the hospital. "Oh," I said, "We just came from the hospital. We're fine."

"No," he said, "You're both injured. You have to go to the hospital and have them fill out this form saying how injured you are."

"But I only have a minor cut, and my mom already received treatment. I don't understand why you need this form filled out."

"Yes... many people do not understand why this form needs to be filled out. But these are the rules." I spent a few more minutes engaged in a Kafka-esque debate, but finally conceded to be taken to the public hospital. Sadly, we arrived around lunchtime and all of the doctors were gone, so we waited about an hour for the doctors to come back. Then we waited another hour while all the people who got there before us got to see the doctor. Then we saw the doctor, who gave us each a cursory glance and spent about thirty seconds filling out a form that said, in essence, "Cut lip" and "cut elbow."

We then went back to the police station, where I had to re-explain everything to an extremely fast-talking, mumble-y officer. (Do you know Boomhauer from King of the Hill? This was basically the Dominican equivalent.) So I kept telling him, "I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING" and finally another police officer translated for me, from Spanish to Spanish.... he just repeated everything Dominican Boomhauer was saying and I understood. Sadly, what I understood was that we were being sent to the Traffic Justice of the Peace. So we drove across town, waited in line, handed over some forms, got a stamp on the forms, got the forms back, and drove back to the police station. Like, seriously? You guys couldn't just keep one of those stamps at the police station?

Anyway, then we were free! Free... to go to the Budget Rent-a-Car office and finalize our change of car!

And then free to check into a hotel in Santiago and die of exhaustion! And also eat pizza. And also to promptly return our new car to Budget because the brakes were fussy and we were fearful of a repeat incident.

By the way, it is important that when you read this entry and envision our trials, you NEVER FORGET that the entire day has a soundtrack of "MEW! MEW! MEW! MRAAAWR!" from a grumpy, hungry little kitten. Not that I blame the little guy.

(PS pictures of Baby Cat soon, I promise! Also soon we will take her or him back to the vet and find out the sex for sure, and then I can officially name Baby Cat something besides Baby Cat.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

what have i been up to?

More like, what haven't I been up to!

The weekend before last, my friend Trina stayed with me!

We went to the Cabarete Jazz Festival and saw some festive jazz.

Then we went up a mountain to a restaurant/retreat center called Blue Moon to celebrate Jenna's birthday!

We enjoyed the mountaintop view.

And the pool.

And of course, the highlight: Indian food served off of banana leaves. Mmmm.

After that, I went to the annual IT youth conference. All the IT Peace Corps volunteers (well, almost all) came with a few kids from their town for three days of workshops, games, and ridiculousness. I brought two girls from my center, one of whom had never ridden a bus before and threw up the entire two hour trip. But she felt better once she got there, and I'm really glad I was able to give her that opportunity. (Even if when, the next week I asked her to write a paragraph about what she learned at the conference, she claimed not to remember anything that she learned.)

The second night we had a big carnival. My friend Ruth and I were in charge of the cakewalk, which was awesome.

The kids had a great time, and so did the volunteers...

And, most importantly, we all received certificates of participation.

After the conference, I had to scurry back, drop off my girls, and go meet my mom! Yay! We spent the weekend at a posh resort in Sosua. I referred to our activites as "snake-ing"--"We just eat a lot, then go sleep in the sun and digest it, then slither back to the buffet for the next meal." It was pretty great. I didn't even touch the water all weekend. (The water was really rough so the resort closed the ocean. Yes. They closed the ocean. With yellow caution tape. I wish I had a photo, but they are all on mom's camera.)

This week, I've been working at ~*DREAM*~ and mom had been keeping herself occupied with shopping during. (Those of you who know my mom will not be worried that she is bored. My mom could probably spend a month shopping in Cabarete without getting bored.) Yesterday, mmom got a new project--I found a tiny baby kitten on the street. It was clearly in rough shape, so I picked it up and took it to work with me. I kept it on a towel outside and gave it some milk. Mom saw it when she came to pick me up for lunch and she decided to take it to the vet. The vet said it was extremely malnourished, and mom has been feeding Baby Cat a special formual via eyedropper the last few days. Baby Cat is very very small and cute, but she (or he--it's too small for even the vet to tell sex yet) has a propensity to poop on me. Like ten times she has pooped on me, and never on mom.

This morning I went to have breakfast with some embassy officials (who were going on a little tour of the North Coast and wanted to meet some PCVs) and Baby Cat pooped on my khakis just as I was heading out the door. However, I did not notice that Baby Cat had also pooped on my shirt until I got to breakfast. I pretended like I had spilled syrup on myself. I hope they bought my story!! Even if they didn't, they still bought me a delicious breakfast, so, score.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

can you tell me how to get to ocho center?

So. One of the more frustrating types of conversations I have here in the DR are ones where someone tells me something in Spanish, and I understand it all except ONE WORD. I ask them to repeat the word or define the word. Instead, they bring over someone who "speaks English" to explain it to me because I "don't speak Spanish." Except this person just repeats the same word to me. Right now, for instance, I'm sitting here monitoring the computer lab. Occasionally people ask me questions about how to use the Internet or try to trick me into doing their homework for them.

A young man walks up to me, hands me a pencil and piece of paper upon which is written, "September 11, 2001. Osama Bin Laden." He says, "Escribame Ocho Center." (Write for me "Ocho Center".)

I say, "Ocho Center?"

"Ocho center."

"What is Ocho Center?"

"You know... Ocho Center. Osama Bin Laden... it's like the White House."

"The White House?"

"But instead of the White House, it's Ocho Center. Osama bin Laden lived there."

"Ocho Center."

"Ohhh, you don't understand. Let me get my friend."

So the friend comes over and says, in English, "He wants for you to write down the words 'Ocho Center.'"

By this point I am losing it and cracking up, and my friend Rachel comes in.

Me: "Rachel! I don't know what they are talking about. They want me to write something about Ocho Center. He's got this paper... it's something to do with Osama bin Laden I think."

Rachel: "What's Ocho Center?"
Two Dudes: "Ocho Center!! Exactly!! Renata doesn't understand Ocho Center and we want you to write it down!"
Rachel: I don't know what Ocho Center is either.
Dude 1: Osama bin Laden!
Dude 2: It's like the White House.
Rachel: You want me to write down White House?
Rachel: ... Barack Obama?
Dude 2: It's the building that was destroyed on September 11. In New York.
Me and Rachel: ....
Rachel: The WORLD TRADE Center?
Dudes: Yes! Ocho Center! How do you spell it?

Oh my God. I was hyperventilating with laughter by the end of it.

(Also, yes, in retrospect, given "September 11" and "Osama bin Laden" and "Something Center" you'd think I would have been able to come up with "World Trade Center." But it was just bizarre. Also, the White House stuff kept throwing me off.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I just uploaded some photos from this weekend. It's been a good few days--between Halloween and my friend Kathy's birthday, there were a lot of volunteers in the capital. Here are a few pictures from Halloweeen--which, for the record, Dominicans don't dress up for, so when we went out on the town, we got a ton of weird looks. More than the weird looks we usually get just for being a large group of white people.

Jeff (Frog Prince), me (I went as the Peace Corps lounge Lost & Found), and Justin (Karate Kid) having a prop battle.

More detail on my ridic costume.

The 80s girls!

Fun group shot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

see you never?

The Dominican accent tends to drop a lot of "s"s, and since I am speaking Spanish primarily with Dominicans, I've started losing my "s"s too. For example, "adio" instead of "adios," or "no e' facil" instead of "no es facil." But today I heard myself tell another volunteer "no vemos!" instead of "nos vemos!"

For those of you rusty on Spanish, "Nos vemos" is literally "we see each other" but commonly used as "see you later."

"No vemos" is "we don't see each other" or, I guess, "I won't see you later."

Cultural intergration is one of Peace Corps's primary goals, but still, maybe I should work on keeping my Dominican accent in check, just un chin.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

presenting gringo and the gritas!

So, I've been in the capital all week working on the PCDR magazine, the Gringo Grita. (We all know what "gringo" means; "grita" means "yelling.") I'm serving as editor this time, which basically means it's my job to stay around until the whole thing is finished. As always, it's been a super fun (but tiring) week.

A few highlights:

Pretty Much Everyone Who Passed Through the Office Ever: RENATA! Did you know that the Jonas Brothers are coming to Santo Domingo?? Are you going to go??
Me (sulkily): Noo, I'm not going, it costs 1700 pesos.
Justin: We should have a fundraiser! I would put in 200 pesos for you to see the Jonas Brothers.
Me: Aww, that's sweet. But ridiculous.

Joel: Look! A Jonas Brothers poster!
Me: Are they on the MOON?
Joel: It says "world tour," not "intergalactic tour."

Joel*: Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are like the Simon and Garfunkel of folk-rock.
Me: Aren't Simon and Garfunkel the Simon and Garfunkel of folk-rock?
Joel: ... point.
* I orginally typed that Chris had said this until I received this message from him: "I totally didn't say that about CSNY, Simon and Garfunkle can barely rock at all. Digo yo." So... I think it was Joel? I had this conversation with someone, if not Chris, whose opinions regarding CSNY/S&G I now know.

Me: Let's read this out loud. In Batman voice.*

Me: Remember that time when we read everything out loud in Batman voice? (In Batman voice) It was EPIC.

* Christian Bale Batman voice, which is super gravelly and low. It makes anything funnier!**
** This entry would probably be funnier if I posted a video or audio of us doing Batman voice. Alas, I am not quite that dedicated to my blog; you'll just have to use your imaginations.

Also, there was the time when we went out to a hipster bar that has the video game Rock Band on Tuesdays. We were really excited about it, but most of us hadn't played it before. This was in stark contrast to the small crowd of Dominicans who clearly go there every week and were all beating songs on Expert level. We went up and failed Oasis's "Wonderwall" on Easy. Twice. (I was on vocals! I failed out first! Both times!) But hey, we had a good time. We played (and passed) a few more songs later in the night. However, our best time was probably had when a group of Dominicans went up to perform "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. We got super into it and sang it more loudly than their actual vocalist. Unforunately, these were the only Dominicans we saw fail a song all night.

Joel: Don't stop! Don't stop believin'!

Our Rock Band night also inspired our themed Grita staff photo. We decided to pose as a band called Gringo and the Gritas. We are all extremely excited/angsty/angry about our band photo shoot. I hope that you think this picture is as hilarious as we think it is. We are all kind of obsessed with it.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

let me tell you about a volunteer way more hardcore than me

I'm in the capital this week working on our esteemed volunteer publication the Gringo Grita. We hole up in the library most of the day, editing and laying out and slowly going crazy. Then at night we go out to dinner and hang out with whoever happens to be in the capital. It's a fun way to meet new people. Last night, my friend Jen and I ate some fried rice with a Water volunteer named Bill. Water volunteers in the DR are known for being the most hardcore of all volunteers--they usually live in the most remote sites and are working to build aqueducts, so they lack running water and electricity. (Compare this to my studio apartment with a water tank and air conditioning.) Here are a few excerpts from our conversations:

Me: Hey, what happened to your finger? (Which has a splint on it.)
Bill: Well, I smashed it with a hammer a few days ago working on laying some pipes. I kept drilling into it to drain the pus, and it was fine, but then I mentioned it to Lissette (the doctor) while I was talking to her about something else, and she freaked out and told me to put a splint on it and come into the capital immediately. So I got some popsicles* and taped the sticks to my finger.
Me and Jen: ...
Bill: But it's fine, really. In fact, I think I'm going to take it off right now. (Untapes the popsicle sticks to reveal a horribly swollen, crooked finger.)
Me and Jen: OH MY GOD.
Bill: It's fine!
Jen: It is definitely crooked.
Bill: Yeah, Lissette says I need X-rays.
Me: Put the splint back on! I'm eating.
Bill: This is nothing.

* This is my favorite part of the whole story.

Bill: I've been waiting on funding for my aqueduct, so I've spent like $500 of my own money on it.
Me and Jen: YOU WHAT?

This morning we also experimented with the Peace Corps Challenge game on the PC website. It's purportedly a game designed to simulate the Peace Corps Experience (tm) but it's a way more hardcore experience than ours. We wanted to design our own game, where you sit around the Peace Corps office and have to decide if you want to have pizza or sushi delivered to you. Then, you try to get the office WiFi to work so you can check the movie listings and figure out what you want to see that night. Be careful not to pick something dubbed into Spanish!! When you walk to the movie theater go in a group so you don't get mugged. Also, watch out for potholes in the street! Minus five points if you get garbage water in your flipflops :(

Saturday, October 17, 2009

on shaming children

This week at DREAM we had "community service week" in our afternoon program, wherein we had a variety of different activities instead of regular classes. The first day was the only day that really had "community service"--we did a street cleanup of the barrio. Some of the older girls insisted to me that they couldn't possibly pick up garbage because it was too shameful. One girl insisted that she couldn't pick up trash because her mother-in-law would see. I said, "What? You have a mother-in-law?" and she gave me a glower and told me I didn't understand anything. Fair enough, teenage girl!

But most of the kids were enthusiastic and we picked up a TON of trash, which is great. (The DR doesn't have any kind of anti-littering culture. Kids, grownups, everyone will just toss trash into the street without a second thought.)

The rest of the week the kids got increasingly worked up about the change in routine and we had more and more behavior problems. After classes, some of the other volunteers and I talked about how frustrating working with Dominican kids can be. One of the biggest cultural differences we've noticed is how shameless Dominican kids can be. Most Dominican kids are huge cheaters--and don't get me wrong, American kids cheat too! But American kids will usually try to be smooth: writing on their hands, notes under the table, at the very least they'll whisper. Dominican kids lack any kind of subtlety in cheating. They will talk at normal volume levels about the answers to tests. While the teacher is in the middle of giving a "no cheating" lecture.

Or take the T-shirt painting activity I led. I started off by explaining that "Some very nice people donated a bunch of T-shirts to us! Wasn't that nice? Now we can give everyone a T-shirt as a gift. The T-shirts are pretty big, I'm sorry. But a big T-shirt is better than no T-shirt, right? So we don't want to hear any complaining when we pass out the T-shirts, okay?" To which all the kids replied, "Okay!" And then literally the second I pulled out the first T-shirt, all the kids immediately started whining about how big and ugly the shirts are. Of course, American kids would have whined about the shirts too. But I estimate that lecture would have shamed them into at least five minutes of silence before the complaints started.

This shamelessness can be super frustrating to American teachers. Like, the kids don't even respect us enough to fake listening for five minutes? But on the other hand, it's a little refreshing. What you see is what you get, even if what you see is sometimes kids who are cheating off of each other, talking over your frustrated lecture about how rude it is to talk when other people are talking, or making out in the library during class.

Luckily, these kids don't speak English, so if you occasionally have to mutter to your co-teacher, "I am going to KILL ALL THE CHILDREN," they are none the wiser.

Friday, October 9, 2009

do i know how to throw parties or WHAT?

Since the other DREAM volunteers have bigger apartments than I do, we always hang out at their places instead of mine. But on Wednesday, I decided I wanted to entertain. I invited a few friends over with promises of homemade banana bread & a freshly-downloaded episode of The Office.

I tidied up, even going so far as to actually make my bed. I figured that we would all just sit on my bed, since I don't have a couch. Or other furniture. All went according to plan: my friends arrived just as my banana bread turned a lovely golden brown, and we all cuddled on my bed-couch. A few minutes into The Office, however, we all hear a crack. We look around and notice nothing amiss, so we don't think anything of it. You hear a lot of weird sounds living in the DR. Soon, however, we hear more cracks. And then the bed collapses.

We all flail about for a few moments, then manage to lift up the mattress and check out the frame. One piece of wood is cracked. We have no idea what to do about it, so I run next door to my landlord/neighbor's house. The landlady says, "How did this happen? Did it happen last week when you had THREE friends over? Three people can't sleep in that bed." "No, no," I assure her. "It was just now." She shakes her head. "My husband will have to see it."

He comes over to survey the damage, shakes his head, and magically gets two muchachos out of nowhere. The three of them take off my mattress and drag my bedframe out into the street. This naturally draws a crowd, and we all speculate what the neighbors must be thinking when they see five hot gringas and a broken bed in the street.

Then, magically, the muchachos immediately return with a new bed!

It was ridiculous. So unexpected, too, since things here are often... inefficient. But apparently when a lady needs a new bed, a lady gets a new bed. Awesome.

A short photo essay:

Oh dear.

"Fun party, Renata!!"

Magic new bed! (A mattress arrived shortly after.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

permit denied.

Remember Anderson, my student who wanted a permit to be my friend? After I failed to respond to his e-card, I've received these messages from him:

hi Renata
this is your pupil Anderson , how was your week end. i hope you had a good one .for me i am doing very good but i do miss you a lot for the last week i didnot see you .please i hope to hear from you too.
your friend Anderson

hi my friend
Are you good today?i am sending you some emails but i dont receive your answer .do i am so unfair to receive your email or to be your friend?i hope to hear from you for this moment
take care


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

great googly moogly

In my afternoon computer class we're continuing to focus on Internet research. After more or less completing last week's dictionary worksheet (you know, the one where words were frequently defined as "noun" or "verb"), we've been working on an Internet scavenger hunt using Google. By the way, Dominicans (and I suppose all Spanish-speakers) pronounce "Google" as "Googly." And they have no idea what I'm talking about if I say "Google," so I'm always like, "So, let's go to Google... (blank looks) sorry, I mean, Googly." This cracks me up. Also, like 5/6s of the sounds are the same between "Google" and "Googly" so you'd think they'd figure it out. But no.

Anyway, here are some highlights of student answers to the scavenger hunt, translated to English for your convenience.

What is the capital of India?

What is the population of China?

What is a traditional African food?

What is a type of traditional Japanese theater?*

Find a photo of traditional Mexican clothing.

(I mean, yes, technically this is Mexican clothing, but seriously... you couldn't find a PHOTO? No, you can't, if your entire Internet strategy involves clicking on the very first thing that comes up. And also if rather than use Google Images [I mean Googly Images], you type "Find a photo of traditional Mexican clothing" into Googly.)

* "What's your favorite kind of Japanese theater?"
"Noh theater."
"You don't like any Japanese theater?"

Friday, October 2, 2009

more tales from this dominican life

Thank God it's viernes! A few anecdotes for you:

  • Yesterday I introduced my classes to the online multilingual dictionary I gave them a worksheet with some English words and some Spanish words and asked them to find the word in the opposite language. This activity was a little bit high-level for a lot of the kids, who just haven't been taught many reading comprehension skills. So I'd look at the worksheet and see that kids had defined words as "verbo" or "sustantivo" (noun). But my favorite was one student who defined "reirse," which means "to laugh," as "to laugh at grammar." Wouldn't it be great if English specifically had a verb that meant "to laugh at grammar"? I would use that verb all the time. I bet German has a word for it.
  • The standard demand in my computer classes is "Juegos! Juegos! JUEGOS!" (Games!) The kids want to play computer games. Understandable, but whenever I give them a little free time to play games, it turns out... they don't really know how to play computer games. So they call me over to show them how to play whatever Flash game they have encountered--assuming, naturally, that I automatically know the rules to every single Flash game on the Internet. Usually I can figure it out, and then they don't even want to play the game. They want to watch me play the game. So I have 10 kids all going, "Sssst! Profe! Sssst!" urgently calling me over to play Internet games for them. Which, I mean... there are worse jobs.
  • DREAM has a pretty good database of all its past and present students, often including observations from teachers and parents. Today I looked up a student and saw that under "Parental comments" it said "He is not good at anything." WOW. I called everyone else in the office over to look because I thought it was so hilarious. And so sad. And also, can you ever in a million years imagine an American parent telling their child's teacher, "Oh yeah, he's not good at anything"? I mean, there's a good chance that the Dominican parent honestly meant for "he's not good at anything" to be a helpful comment. Like, he should take all the classes... because he's not good at anything.
  • I realized I never really updated my blog about my health--I'm totally fine after my week of near-constant sleep. However, I'm bitterly disappointed that my diagnosis was "a dengue-like viral infection." Come onnnn, I couldn't have gotten regular dengue? I had all the symptoms, but now I don't get the badass points of being able to say "Yeah, I had dengue fever. No big deal." "I had a dengue-like viral infection"? LAME. I also technically can't say for certain that I had a parasite. "I had a long-running stomach ailment that resolved itself after I started taking anti-parasite medication, but I didn't go in for a stool sample so I can't conclusively state that I had a parasite." All I wanted from my Peace Corps experience was one impressive-sounding tropical ailment. Is that so much to ask?
  • Also, the electricity situation has been better. I opened my milk box and it hasn't gone bad yet, hooray! Next to the fridge, I did discover a banana that I left at my house the entire week I was gone being sick. It was basically liquid, but strangely didn't smell bad or have any flies or ants on it. (It was in a plastic bag, but that doesn't necessarily keep bugs out in this climate.) Interesting. I wonder how long I could potentially have rotten fruit in my house before I would notice.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

i don't even know, you guys

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted about a student's email to me? It was very sweet and high-level.

Today I received an eCard from the same student, which I'm choosing to share with everyone because it is amazing. Haga clic aqui.

I really recommend that you follow the link, since the image and formatting are also key, but in case you don't have that kind of time I'm going to archive the text of the card here.

my best teacher Renata S-

Hi teacher
how are you today? i hope you are doing very good.I am your student Anderson I send you this flower just to prove you how i appreciate the manner you teach me and sincerly i am very flattered that i have some one so special like you as my teacher .iwant to ask you this question but i would like you answer me about it:can you give me permit to be your friend ?i hope fully you will let me hear from you very soon.take care of your self and i wish you a perfect time here in Dominican Republic.
your student Anderson
Your sweet student Anderson

Also, a quick GChat my friend Keane & I had on the subject:

Me: i just wish that the image was actually the cover of twilight like i thought it was at first
Keane: it's so deep
Keane: so are you going to be friends with him?
Keane: he wants your permit.
Me: i think i'll give him a learner's permit to start

It's such a fine line between "sweet" and "a little creepy." But I'm going to just go ahead and give him props for the effort. And the correct spelling of my email address. Peace Corps is truly offering me the opportunity to be an agent of change in the Dominican Republic.

Monday, September 28, 2009

out of the sickbed, into the fire

Not really a fire, just back to Cabarete, which is swelteringly hot. And I think I've had about half an hour of electricity since I got back on Saturday night. It was from 8:30am-9am today.

The main reason this is annoying is that my milk goes bad. Dominican standards for milk are different from in the US. Here, whole milk is the norm. You can buy whole milk in little juice-box sized boxes. This way, you can probably use it all in one day before it goes bad. But whole milk is gross.

You can buy 1% milk at the big grocery store, but it is only available in big boxes. I think they are a liter or something. Anyway. When the electricity is being normal (a few hours on, a few hours off) you can buy a big box of milk and it will probably be okay.

These boxes (of all milk, not just the 1%) are hermetically sealed so they don't go bad. So right now I have an unopened box of milk in my fridge. I am afraid to open it because I don't know when the luz will come back and I don't want to waste a 45-peso big box of milk.

In summation: life is hard!! Wah!!

But on the bright side... I'm feeling better! I got out of my medically-mandated hotel room! Hooray!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

looking on the bright side of things

I was going to write some kind of funny blog entry about how I've been sick for the last four days but actually I'm just pretty tired. Yesterday I came into the capital to see the doctor. We're waiting on some bloodwork to come back to make sure I don't have anything too weird like dengue. Mainly I've been sleeping a lot and only occasionally surfacing to eat crackers and watch reality televsion.

But on the bright side, at least I didn't get tuberculosis* like a friend of mine did! He's in quarantine for like three weeks now. We've decided that he should release an emo album based on the experience entitled Within the Quarantine of my Soul. It will include tracks like "The Empty Calcified Pocket in my Lungs... and Heart" and "I Miss You Like I Miss Not Coughing." Trust me, TB is going to be the next big thing.

* You might be thinking, "I didn't even know people got TB anymore!" Well, they do, but it's pretty rare in developed nations. He'll be fine, though, he's getting antibiotics. And is in quarantine.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

haga clic. haga clic. haga clic. jesus christ, DIJE HAGA CLIC.

The above was pretty much what I was chanting all day today and yesterday as I tried to coach kids through creating email accounts. I realized that I waaay overestimated these kids' skill level. They are extreme beginners, although they are very enthusiastic. Also, the Dominican school system does not emphasize creativity, but rather rote memorization. So, for example, when I was trying to explain the concept of a "user name" I said that usually people do something like their name plus a number or a nickname. Then I said, for example, my email could be "Renata50 at". Then I walked around and realized that half the students were trying to register the account "Renata50@gmail". Not quite, guys. The other half put "Cabarete, Callejon de La Loma" for "desired address."

Anyway, as if this weren't complicated enough, our Internet kept cutting in and out and resetting everyone's work. And then Gmail decided that we had registered enough accounts for one day, thank you very much.

BUT ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, one of the few students who successfully created an account sent me an email to practice his English, and it reads as follows:

Subject: Saluting
Hi Teacher

How are you ? i hope you are very fine.My name is Anderson , i am a student at dream Project .i am 22 years old ,i am intersting very much for the manner you teach me and sincerly i appreciate the computer class so much , i hope fully that i will have a good experience with you at the computer.take care of yourself and God bless you.

your studant Anderson

So, you know... could be worse.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

a brief interlude from peace corps stories

Advise me on my grad school/GRE dilemma, blog readers!

The gist of the dilemma is: Waaah I'm lazy and I don't want to take the GRE. Should I suck it up and do it anyway?

The deets: I am applying for library/information science masters programs. My top two schools, U of Illinois & U Wisconsin (Madison) do not require the GRE. U Iowa and U Washington, which are my... third and fourth choices I guess, DO require the GRE. U ILL says a good GRE score can help an application. U Wisconsin doesn't consider the GRE (right on).

It is possible to take the GRE in the DR, but it's kind of a pain. And expensive. And also I don't want to study for it.

I think I am probably already a pretty good applicant without the GRE. I also think if I suck it up and study I could probably get a pretty good score normally. I have also been having these anxiety problems lately so maybe I would actually just tweak out about it too much. I'm not sure.

Also, if I don't take the GRE it looks like I'm only going to apply to two grad schools. Is that okay? I don't want to flip out and apply to a billion schools or anything, but should I apply to more?

Any input would be appreciated!

Monday, September 7, 2009

surfing photos

I took my camera out to the beach this weekend! Here are a few shots.

Seriously. Not allowed.

Me showing off my board. And by "my board" I mean "the communal beginners' longboards."

I couldn't even tell who I was taking pictures of. I'm pretty sure these are strangers, but just pretend like they're my friends. Or, hey, pretend like one of them is me.

Kicking it on the beach.

Kadi, me, and Surfcat. AWWW.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

awkward conversations with my landlady

Landlady (who I also pay to do my laundry): I’m sorry, when I did your laundry I got bleach on some of your underwear. It’s just that there were stains. You know… blood.
Me: Yeah, sorry… um… it’s fine.
Landlady: Oh, are you embarrassed to talk about this because there are other people here? Don’t worry, they’re my family!
Me: No, no… it’s fine.
Landlady: These are women’s things. We can talk about them.
Me: Yes. Anyway I have to go, bye.

Scene: In front of the small surf boutique my landlady owns.
Landlady: Renata, come here! I want to show you something!
Me: Okay. (Enters store)
Landlady: (Picks up a stack of panties) Look, these are very nice. (Begins showing me each individual pair) These ones have lace… these ones are pink… they are very pretty, right?
Me: Yes, they are very nice. But I already have enough underwear, thank you.
Landlady: Yes, I know. You have a lot of underwear.
Me: …. Anyway I have to go, bye.

Landlady: Do you want me to do your laundry?
Me: Oh, no thank you. I know you are very busy, and my other volunteer friends told me about a Laundromat nearby.
Landlady: You can’t go to a Laundromat! They don’t care about your clothes there! I care about you!
Me: Well… it’s just that the Laundromat is very cheap, and I am a volunteer and don’t have that much money.
Landlady: But I wash your clothes with love!
Me: Well… thank you.

Landlady: Did my girl do a good job cleaning your apartment?
Me: Yes, thank you. How much do I owe her?
Landlady: (Hands up in surrender gesture) It’s up to you.
Me: Well, I thought four hundred was too much. The other volunteers say it costs them two hundred to get their apartments cleaned, and their apartments are much bigger than mine.
Landlady: My girl will not want two hundred. It’s not about money. She cleans your apartment with LOVE. She is not some person who is only interested in money. She has a good heart. She will want three hundred pesos.
Me: … okay.

*Previous awkward conversation involved her talking about “her girl” and me not realizing that she was referring to her middle-aged neighbor who was sitting there the entire time. She convinced me that I should pay “her girl” to clean my apartment because she is so poor and needs the money, even though I feel awkward about the whole idea of paying someone to clean for me. But also I don't want to be overcharged for it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

in case you thought my life was just all glamorous surfing and whatnot

Here's how I've been spending my morning:

Attempting to partition a hard drive and install Windows on it. This is a pretty basic task but I keep getting weird error messages and having to re-install. I have re-installed three times. The power is out and the computers are running off the inversor, but the fans don't work. It is hot and I am frustrated.

Also, I made new cards to number the computers and taped them up on the wall behind each computer. Even though I used the paper cutter, none of my cards are quite identical. Honestly, I'm not even sure how I achieved some of the angles involved with these "rectangular" cards. Good thing I'm not the art teacher I suppose? (Although maybe I would just teach the class about modern art, and how what a rectangle means to me is maybe not what a rectangle means to you. Suck on that.)

This afternoon we start teaching! Our Estrellas Juveniles (Young Stars) program is pretty cool. There are three rotating groups. I'm co-teaching "Computers & English." The others are "Reading & Writing" and "Math." It is kind of a cool program because if a kid just wants to take, say, computer class, he still has to take the other classes and learn even more things. Also, our classes are free.

Anyway, we plan to use these ESL flash games in our class, and they are really fun and I've been playing them all morning even though I already, you know, know English. Also, some of the other volunteers and I have gotten really into the typing games at ARTypist (it's a bilingual site) and are now pretty competitive about it. Right now my top score is 17,000 in the ghost typing game. I was briefly the champion but Roger just blew past me with 19,000. That... might not be as interesting to the average reader as it was to us at the center.

In slightly more exciting news, I went surfing again on Saturday and totally didn't drown! I'm also still totally bad at it, but, as they say, Rome wasn't surfed in two lessons.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

i, like, totally surfed!

It's true! The verb "to surf" is one that I never thought I'd be able to accurately conjugate in the first-person past-tense, but here I am. I surfed.

Okay, fine, I never actually stood up on the board. (Which most people don't their first time, apparently.) But I got up on my knees a few times and it was super fun!

A local surf shop donated a free lesson to all of the DREAM volunteers because we are so awesome. I was intimidated about it, since I'm not as athletic as most of my fellow volunteers here. Also, I fear sea creatures.

But it was awesome! I think I am going to sign up for a whole year of surfing, since the same guy is giving us a really good deal on it. (When I say "a whole year of surfing" it includes a few more lessons and then unlimited board rental. And rides to the beach.)

Anyway, that's pretty much my big news for right now. Other than that, it's been pretty chill, non sea-faring workshops and the like.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

non-verbal communication

I'm preparing a few worksheets about Dominican culture for the new DREAM volunteers who are coming next week. (Peace Corps gives us three months of cultural, language, and specialized skills training--DREAM gives its volunteers a week!) Anyway, I thought this handout about non-verbal communication might also make a good blog entry.




Finger-wag back and forth


This is very commonly used and is not rude. Use it like you would a head-shake no. It’s especially useful on the street—finger-wagging should put off most vendors and motoconchistas.


“I don’t understand”/ “What?”

If someone does this do you, start off by repeating whatever you just said.


“Look at me/listen to me”—attention-getter

Again—not at all rude here, although it may grate on American ears. You may grow accustomed to ignoring it, since it often comes from tigueres, but sometimes a Dominican friend will say, “Hey, I saw you in the street yesterday and you ignored me!”

Hand to opposite elbow


A little rude. A seller might use it if you are bargaining with too-low prices. A Dominican might use it to you to refer to someone else.

Lip-point (looks kind of like a kiss)

“Look at that” (whatever the lips are directed towards)

Not sexual or kissing-related at all. Just pointing, like with a finger.

Tapping temple


For example, if a student has a really good idea you can say “buen idea” and tap your forehead for emphasis.

Rubbing index fingers together, or one index finger on the thigh


Usually a man will do this to a woman on a bus or something. It’s a gross gesture; don’t acknowledge it. It could also be used in conversation between friends, like “Eh, Juan y Maria… (rub index fingers together)?” I.e. “Do you think Juan and Maria are hooking up?”

Use index finger to scribble in the air

“Check, please!”

Use this after making eye contact from afar with your waiter or waitress at a restaurant.

Congratulations! You have completed the equivalent of 20 minutes of DREAM volunteer training.

Monday, August 17, 2009

cheer up, tropical depression ana

Well, hurricane season is starting up again with Ana, Bill, and Claudette partying in the Caribbean. Right now Tropical Depression Ana is causing a gentle rain to fall upon Cabarete. (Yesterday it was Tropical Storm but it's already been downgraded.) Bill and Claudette aren't even supposed to affect the DR. (Southeastern Americans, though, watch out!) Anyway, just a reminder that Peace Corps DR has an excellent storm warning system and I'd already gotten two emails, a text, and three phone calls about Ana before it even started raining here.

This weekend I failed to round up a group to go to Santiago to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Harry Potter y el Misterio del Principe--Harry Potter and the Mystery of the Prince, not quite the same) but I'm going to try again this weekend. Unless we get put on Standfast--Peace Corps code for "it's raining, or might rain, so everyone stay home." But si Dios quiere, I'll get my British wizard fix soon.

This weekend I did go to Sosua with my friends Asahi and Nate, which was remarkable for two reasons:
1. I ate some really greasy French fries and got spectacularly sick. (I'm fine now.)

2. I got one of the more hilarious pickup lines I've received in this country. Let me recreate the scene:
Asahi and I are walking back from the beach. We weren't swimming, so we're wearing normal clothes. The street to the beach is lined with small stores, all selling the same touristy crap. Asahi and I are talking to each other and trying to avoid eye contact with the sellers.
Che Guevara T-shirt wearing seller (in English): Excuse me.
Me (avoiding eye contact): No, gracias.
Che guy: Please, I do not want to sell anything to you. I just want to ask one question.
Me: ... okay.
Che guy: Where are you from? Are you from Canada?
Me: ... I'm from the United States.
Che guy: I'm from Haiti.
Me: Hm. (Tries to walk away)
Che guy: Wait, wait! I saw you before when you were walking to the beach, but I didn't call out to you because I thought, they are going to the beach. But I like the way you carry yourself.
Me: Um, thanks.
Che guy: I want to see you again.
Me: ....
Che guy: I want to see you again every day for the rest of my life.
Me: .... (Trying not to laugh)
Che guy: Let me get something for you. (Reaches out and wipes sweat off my cheek.)
Me: UM, GOODBYE. (Walks away and cracks up)

I think I might be leaving out a few pieces of the conversation, but I definitely remembered all the best lines. I want to see you again every day for the rest of my life. Nice one, Che guy. Nice one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

the pit of despair and other landmarks

Hi guys! So, not that much is new with me since the last update. I’ve been settling in at the DREAM Center, working on updating the manual for computer classes and a grant application. I now have some pretty bourgeoisie problems to deal with: my manual is for PCs and we have Macs! The lab doesn’t have air conditioning! But these are both kind of important, since Macs are different enough from PCs that the manual needs a lot of work to be comprehensible for beginner computer students. And without air conditioning these new computers are going to get super effed-up by the heat here. (That is not the exact phrasing I am using in my grant application, but you get the gist..)

I’ve also been getting to know my new fellow volunteers. It is funny: we go out to Happy Hour after work, like we are in America or something! Better than America, even, since Happy Hour is on the beach. Uh, where even am I? Am I still in the Peace Corps?

Perhaps most excitingly, I have been walking home from work. This is exciting because the last few days my street has been ripped up by a big earthmover. Apparently they are fixing some pipes down there or something, which is good since our water situation has been dire lately. (Like, half an hour of running water a day, which I have to obsessively monitor and then fill buckets when it comes.) But now, since the entire street has become a Pit of Despair, I have to scramble home over a very narrow strip of sand. Although “strip” sounds misleadingly flat—it is a narrow series of piles. Of sand. That I scramble over in flip-flops. Meanwhile, neighbors helpfully call out “Cuidado!” (“Careful!”), as if I am not already painfully aware that one misstep will send me straight down into the Pit of Despair. (OK, it is like five feet deep and I probably wouldn’t die. I could probably climb back out again. But it would be so awkward.)

Also, I have prepared for you all a small photo tour of my new barrio and apartment, including the Pit of Despair! Enjoy.

Here is the earthmover responsible for the Pit of Despair.

I am not sure if you can accurately detect the depth of the Pit here. Oh, it is deep.

This child is far better at navigating the edge of the Pit than I.

After successfully crossing the Pit, you arrive at my apartment! Not pictured: my apartment extends for about three inches past the door on the other side, but I couldn't get it all in the frame.

Here is my kitchen area! I put the cutting board on the stove to make a counter. One day I will probably melt my cutting board.

I thought about cleaning up before doing the photo tour, but then I thought no, you should see how I live! Thus, here is my bed/couch/table/nest, unmade. But the table is set for lunch, which inquiring mothers will be happy to note includes a fruit AND a vegetable. (Perhaps this is only detectable in the large version: it's pineapple, carrots, and a falafel wrap that I made myself because I am awesome.)

The front half (third, really) of the apartment. The TV doesn't work, but the ceiling fan does.

Here is the DREAM center! Perhaps it is not that exciting to look at. Dreams are invisible.

Oh hey, here's Playa Cabarete. I can walk there in about fifteen minutes. Just sayin'.

There are some more pictures at my Flickr. My dad particularly will be interested in the additional shots available of the Pit of Despair and related equipment.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

roughly 7000 words

Hey, gang! I survived my trip to the capital and I'm back at the DREAM Center now. (I love that my place of work is called the DREAM Center. It sounds like I should be in an office full of Care Bears.)

Anyway, I uploaded a new batch of photos to my Flickr. Here are a few favorites:

One of the hikes we took with the Constanza youth camp. I held up the back of the line.

A muchacho with a hilarious attitude.

Chris, me, Malia, and Kathy on the top of a mountain called La Ochenta. (The 80. The name is unclear to me; it is more than 80 feet tall but less than 80 miles. Whatever.)

One of the views from the top of La Ochenta.

Julie's body art in progress at the DREAM art show fundraiser, which featured face/body painting.

A couple kids rocking their face paint.

One of the pieces of art for sale at the DREAM event.