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.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

what i blog about when i blog about blogging

Keane: I don't really get all these volunteers who have blogs. I mean, my life is not that interesting. I don't know what I'd blog about.
Me: Yeah, once in awhile I actually have something interesting to post on my blog. The rest of the time I just put stuff about, like...
Keane: That Japanese cat blog you're into?
Me: YES.
Keane: Haha.
Me: No seriously, I wrote like a paragraph about it last week.

(God, it's still the cutest blog ever, though.)

Anyway. Right now I am at Keane's site kind of helping him fix a computer. Also kind of blogging and making fun of other volunteers' blogs. (JUST KIDDING ABOUT THAT LAST PART, OTHER VOLUNTEERS.)

Yesterday I went to an Art Night at a hostel in Santiago. It was a lot of fun to connect with other volunteers and hear their music and poetry. Plus, Keane and Shilpa made Indian food and it was amazing. I brought a new friend from DREAM with me and I think she had a good time. We had previously bonded with each other over the fact that everyone else at DREAM has already bonded over the summer. But now, the two of us have an Art Night bond!! Hooray, friends. (Please imagine those last few sentences being spoken by Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama if you are familiar with that show. If you are not familiar with Futurama, just know that I do realize I'm being a little pathetic. Friends are fun!!)

Anyway. I am extremely excited that tomorrow I get to pick up my new glasses! (You may recall the broken glasses saga of two weeks ago. I have been wearing my old backup pair since them. They are almost the right prescription, but a little too weak, so I've been getting some headaches and eyestrain after I look at too many things. Tragically, nearly all of my job assignments and hobbies require looking at things. It is also making me really appreciate proper optometry! I know for a fact that when we gave out free glasses at the med mission I did a few months ago it was really hit or miss; we just gave each person the closest glasses we could find to the prescription the person actually needed. I am sure many of those people are having these kind of problems all the time. And I'm sure they are excited to have imperfect glasses, which are surely better than no glasses. And all you lucky chumps with perfect vision should take a moment right now to appreciate it.)

Now that I've finished reminding you decadent First Worlders of how good you have it, I'm going to go back to trying to fix this computer. (We've just made the executive decision that we need to open it up and swap out the sound card. This requires us to literally break a seal that the Despacho de la Primera Dama has placed on the back of the computer to prevent a person from opening it. Breaking the seal on a Despacho computer offers an IT Volunteer the same kind of mild illicit thrill as ripping off a strongly-worded mattress tag.)