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.