Friday, December 27, 2013


I have a countdown on my phone and I have it set to the day we arrived in country. Today it says nine months and twenty days. I want to point out that most women are pregnant about this long with their babies and also that my mom was pregnant with me for longer.

Never have I appreciated just how long 9 months can be for one dramatic thing. Way to go pregnant women of the world, and also, my mom, who did it longer to bring this awesome piece of work into the world.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Getting crafty

It's almost the new year. Christmas is over and it's time for me to start thinking about fresh starts. It probably doesn't help that I've spent the past few days with a bottle of wine and two of the best chicas on this little island. When the girls get together the gabbing is in no short supply!

Because of all of the future talk, and all of the fresh startness I am doing we decided to be crafty on out last night. We have some charla paper, and we are going to work.

Ashley and I are making sort of hope, dream, or happiness boards, while Conner is doing a more exotic piece of realistic artwork.

The crayons are out and "Don't stop believing!" is blaring through my iTunes so I guess it's time for me to feel powerful and write something wonderful to inspire 2014 to be as wonderful as 2013. It may have been a year of firsts, a year of development, a year of the highest mountains and the lowest valleys, but that doesn't put any of it in short order. I love my life, daily, and I expect 2014 to be just as exceptional.

Christmas in the Campo

This was my first Christmas out of the good old United States of America.

Now, I wouldn't say I come from a huge background of tradition. Let me explain before my wonderful family full of tradition jumps back in shock. We do have very many traditional things that we do and love to do. I have had Christmas trees, ornament traditions, mornings with stockings and cousins and even pajamas and light viewing. What I mean by not having tradition is that my Christmas is always simply based on where I am and who I am with. When I think back to the past 23 Christmases in my life I have stints when I am with the same people (The beginnings are Mom, Gabby and I in a little apartment spending the season together, that is followed by another wonderful stint, this time in Colorado with the cousins, quiche, a blue penguin, a magical giant Christmas tree, and baking cookies with my aunt, and finally, the mystery years, I had no idea what I would do or who I would be with in the years that followed. Last year was a movie with my sister and I didn't even put a tree up. Because of this lack of tradition, I wasn't as sad to be away from home as some of my friends. Some other volunteers have spent 20+ years in the same house or with the exact same people. My life just hasn't been like that. I didn't even think about heading back to the states. I miss the Christmas season. I miss my mom. I really miss my sister. Other than that, a new type of celebration wasn't all that strange.

I started my celebration with a trip to the capital. I was going with another volunteer, Sara (she's the cutie in the coral dress in the group photo I keep on my blog), to visit a third volunteer, Ashley, in her site, Boyá. I left my host family house around 6:45 in the morning to make my way to caribe tours. I took a giant bus to the capital and met Sara at the metro stop. We took the metro to the end and went to La Sirena for lunch and to purchase supplies. We crossed the street, or should I say river of black water, and finally made our way onto the most overcrowded bus I've ever been on. I got into a verbal fight with a Dona over the course of the two hour trip and we finally landed in Boya.

In this country, it seems that the Christmas eve dinner is the most important part of the holiday. They roast an entire pig and dig in. We had rice, salads, and a few other choice Dominican dishes. The holiday felt very different, but the pig was great. I love pork and therefore I love this holiday tradition.

On Christmas morning the three of us woke up, forgot and then remembered and then forgot again that it was Christmas, and watched a few holiday episodes of FRIENDS. Later we went back down to Ashley's friends house and tried to get our internet to work enough to talk to our families back home. It didn't really work, but it's the DR, what can you expect?

That afternoon we made eggless cookie dough batter (thanks for the inspiration Gabby!) and watched movies while drinking wine and talking. I got a lesson in how to knit, and gave a crap lesson on how to crochet, because I only had a knitting hook, and that doesn't really do what I want it to.

Today, the 26th, we are going to go on a hike, and tomorrow we are going to try to go to some after Christmas sales in the capital and then I will head home. I think I'm just ready to jump head on into my new project and life. Things are looking up for me in this world after a lot of time spent in limbo.

The new year is coming and with it many new beginnings.

Know that I love you and miss you all, and while I would love nothing more than to spend next Christmas in America, I can't say that I know where this world is taking me. I do know that I have a long list of friends and family that I miss this season, but let's get real, I miss you all every day that I am not with you, and that doesn't' just include this time that I am spending in the Peace Corps. You are my life my world.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peace Corps changes

I'm going to subtly jump back into a life of blogging. For now I'm just going to give you a list of the good, the bad, and the interesting from my new site.

1. My "Dominican" host family is a Hatian woman, a Canadian man, a combination of kiddos and me, an American girl. We speak a combination of English, Hatian creole, Spanish, and French. No one speaks every language, but it looks like we are going to get this communication thing accomplished.

2. My new house is wonderful. Not only is my family great, but they prepared me my own room, living room, and bathroom. The electricity is all the time and so is the water. I think I've fallen in love!

3. I was on a moto the other day. It was darker than I would have liked. This was confirmed when a dead Labrador appeared out of no where and we ran over it. I was convinced I was about to experience paralyzingly road rash, but the dog was merely a speed bump. Thank you moto driver for not swerving.

4. I went to an English speaking church that was only 40 pesos away. I really enjoyed worshiping in English, but I think a closer more Spanish speaking church may become the permanent home.

5. I just listened to the entire Miley Cyrus CD... Did you know her album has a version of the "N word" openly stated on it? I guess that's the new Pop style! Ha ha.

6. I now live in a world where other PCV's are 10 or 15 minutes away... As is a grocery store... As is a book store... As is a Chinese restaurant. What is this life? I guess this is the new Peace Corps style.

7. Goats are funny.

8. I have been openly hit on three times in my new city. I guess I'm better looking the closer I get to the ocean.

9. I live real close I the beach. I wish I cared about it more.

10. It's Christmas and I'm on an island and I haven't bought a single present.

11. I just realized I lied. I bought one gift. I forgot. ... You know who you are. You should feel so lucky. My pesos are valuable and I spent some on you, so that was a thing.

Okay. That's it. I promise to write more. I just didn't have anything to say about sitting in the capital and watching the calendar fly by.

One last thing. My Spanish is getting better which means more people think I'm Dominican every day. This is a whatever thing, but I will say it helps me not get overcharged and I'd say it adds to my safety in tight spots. Yay for genetics and being a bit of a middle man.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Off the radar

Okay... I've been a little of the radar. I've moved and am now living with my new host family in a new town near a great city. I'll let you in on it all when I have more time. For now I'll just tell you I've lived a perfect Amanda day.

I woke up and took my time doing it.
I dressed for church and took in breakfast with my family.
I caught a crowded guagua to a new church.
I took another crowded guagua into the city and got out when it felt right.
Now I'm sitting in a little Chinese restaurant sipping sangria and reading a book.

Don't try to tell me my life isn't great!

I miss casual Sundays. I think I'm going to bring them back into my life.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving in the Dominican Republic

Before I left for this country I was an avid Peace Corps blog reader. I read so many blogs I felt as if I had already lived a Peace Corps service. Though many of the blogs were very different, one thing they all had in common was praise for the Peace Corps Dominican Republic Thanksgiving. Having experienced this myself now, I have to say it was a blast!

I want to start out by thanking any friend and family of mine (Erik :-) who donated money towards the Peace Corps thanksgiving.

Having Thanksgiving so close to Christmas puts many volunteers in country for this holiday. Since most people have chosen to go home for Christmas and it isn't feasible or sensible to be home for both holidays, most volunteers are in country. While some choose to use this time to teach their communities about our beloved holiday, most choose to go to the all-volunteer fiesta hosted in the capital.

It starts with a team of volunteers who "volunteer" to run Thanksgiving. That three man team which this year was lead by Turner, Courtney, and Erin. This team of three was leading a baking team and a talent show team. We were funded through donations from generous family and friends back in the states and that allowed the volunteers to only have to spend RD$1000 pesos... aka only 1/10 or so of our income. Some other "donations" to our effort included the embassy families who volunteered to host the different Thanksgiving teams at their houses for a week so they could bake and plan and put together.

The day started out like no other. The night before was filled with all of my friends making it to the hotel I was already living in (site change in progress). We stayed up very late and the 6:35 bus felt very early. When I woke up at 5:30 ready to take a shower, the three hours of sleep I had the morning of felt like nothing. The only reason I was able to pull myself out of bed was I knew Lobo was expecting me to walk to the bus as well. I couldn't leave a man behind right? We called Andrea, who was also leaving from the same hotel to see if she wanted to walk with us. She said she'd be down in five minutes. It turns out she had been asleep as well and only decided to come after we called her. Needless to say, the volunteers were a little sluggish for the morning sports and 5K turkey trot.

I was tired as we pulled into the wonderland of a park in the middle of the city. There was loud outdoor ZUMBA and cool outdoor exercise machines. The music was up loud and the energy was rocking.

Volunteers that had more energy than I ran 5K and the rest of us simply chose to walk down the path.

Then, in true thanksgiving fashion, we pulled out the football. We played the "classes" against each other, which basically means I am a sophomore, because there is a new group that swore in on Halloween that took away my "newbie" status. We went by the name "Rumble butts!" and spend a lot of time "rumbling" our butts. It was a rockin good time and the sophomores beat the freshman. 

After that game we played a bit of volleyball and they definitely beat us... I think, but then it was time for us to take on the Senior class. It was looking good for us early on, but the seniors had a quick play at the end and brought the game to a tie. After some overtime we promptly kept it at a tie and our hungry stomachs lead to a fast vote to end it there. 

The bus took a while and we spent some time decompressing while we waited for a guagua. 

Enter a thanksgiving like no other thanksgiving I have ever been to. We were at a roof top pool party. How often does that happen? Basically never. 

I sent this picture in a Thanksgiving message to one of my favorite people in the entire world, but I thought it was cute enough to post on the internet. 

A wonderful bunch of people who really do make my life a happier, funnier, more sarcastic place to live. 

After some of the shenanigans upstairs (I won't say any names, because I don't know them, but the drinks were not in short supply and the effects were apparent in some) we took off for the big thanksgiving meal downstairs. 

I had such a nice time catching up with my friends. 
The meal was followed up with a talent show that was quite entertaining. 

One of my best friends, in Peace Corps and now in life, was involved in the talent show, and I have to say, despite everything, I've heard many great things about the performance and I am proud to say I thought it was top notch and I obviously agree. 

I eded my time at this event with a little dance with my Peace Corps curly cousin. Chris and I are kindered spirits of the hair world, and I thank him kindly for adding to my bachata abilities. I can not seem to get anyone to teach me any bachata, but I took note of a few volunteers with skills and plan on abusing my fellow PCV power and asking them for some practice time in the future. 

After this I fell asleep in Catching Fire after a mad dash to get to the theatre late. The highlight of that particular trip had to be either falling asleep in the theatre (it felt just like home), or when the screen went blank and the entire thatre shouted "Se fue la luz!" Now you don't hear that much in the capital! 

At the end of the day, I am very thankful for the life I am living. I miss my family and hope to see them all again soon. I'm tryin y'all. Sallie Mae and the rest of them may prevent me from getting home when I wanted too, but I'm going to work it all out somehow. 

I want to end this with a huge thank you to anyone who donated money for us to have this thanksgiving. We all admitted that it didn't exactly feel like thanksgiving, but that it felt like a wonderful gathering. Exactly what we needed. We were with our friends and it was great. It wasn't our mother's pumpkin pie or baked macarroni and cheese, but it was the fuel volunteers need to keep going. I appreciate the baking team (oh, those brownies!) and appreciate the work that went into making thanksgiving the event it became! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm still in the capital

I've spent the past week in the capital waiting for the upcoming circus that will be my life. Exactly one month from now is Christmas Eve. I'll be here, hopefully sitting around with a group of friends taking in the holiday season on an island. Before that though, I have the next month to get through.

1. Skype date with Taylor
2. Thanksgiving on Thursday
3. Ten A.M. Bus ride across country for scuba certification
4. End scuba on the 3rd. Stay the night with a PC friend. 
5. Wake up on the 4th for "THE SUPER EXCITING THING I"M WAITING FOR" (AKA. My first visitor. I think my PC friends are tired f hearing how excited I am)
6. Make plan, catch a bus, do something the day my first visitor leaves to get myself to the capital for language training. 
7. Study spanish and catch up with all of my other friends who don't speak spanish. 
8. Get a site. 
9. Go to site. 
10. Leave site all the time.

Gosh, I used to have fun punchy post with actual things going on in my life. I had readers. I had a following.... Now I'm just turning into one of those awful Peace Corps Volunteers that doesn't post anything, or if they do post, it isn't anything worth reading about. 

I'll get over that when I get another site. For now, I leave you with a set of pictures from my stay in the capital. Don't worry though. The next post is going to be a real post because I'm typing it in word and I plan on editing it. It'll be about the site I went to visit that I hope is my site. 

Monday, November 18, 2013


I haven't been writing much lately. I haven't known what to say because I was in the middle of a bind. 
In the end I think for this stretch of time I can only leave a few photos and mention that I am getting a site change. I don't know where the site will be and because of the holidays it will probably be a while. I'll get into more later, but for now I leave you with the knowledge that I am still here and still moving forward. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I'm a real black girl

A Dominican asked me if I'd been to the salon to have my hair done. I was super proud to say that I hadn't, that I had fixed my hair myself, and that it was in fact, easy.

First a compliment on my makeup and now on my hair... It looks like this Americana is getting fancy in the campo.

Sometimes-bike trail

It's really nice that my iPhone can also be my sometimes-bible, sometimes-camera, and sometimes-iPod, because today I took myself down to the sometimes-horse pasture, sometimes-baseball field, and sometimes-bike trail for a few laps in the sun.

My life is always happiest when I have a bike to hop on. I've tried my hand at being a runner. That will never catch on. I only ever accomplish being a sometimes-runner or, more accurately, pretend-runner. I pick a playlist, grab my shoes, and become bored by the second lap. Biking on the other hand, biking always feels like an adventure, even if I'm just going in the same little circles.

Remind me when I get back to America to get a hold of a bike, someone may have left the one she was sharing with her sister (after her cute white basket bike was stolen) at a Safeway in Colorado when she decided to do her grocery shopping via bicycle in the dead of winter.

One day I'll get it together.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I'm in the Peace Corps

Peace Corps spent so much time in my life being a dream that I sometimes forget to stop and realize I'm living it. I am "one of those people that joined the Peace Corps."

I'll admit that it is NOTHING like I expected it to be, but maybe that's okay.

However it ends up, I'm glad to have the patch on my shirt that says Peace Corps and have it mean something other than "this shirt was found at a GoodWill".

Thursday, November 7, 2013


"God gives people money to see how you're going to handle it", [Leigh Anne] said. And she intended to prove she knew how to handle it.-The Blind Side

When I read this quote four months ago I thought about the wealth the Tennessee family had, I was encouraged by their desire to use what they had to make a difference, and I decided I didn't have enough "financially" to give to anyone. (Sure, I try to give of myself in terms of time and energy. Volunteering is a hobby, and now a job!)

This isn't going to be a post where I tell you all to give money to some fund, or make us all feel some kind if American guilt. I look at that like I look at campo guilt: unnecessary. It is going to be a post where I talk about realizing I had more wealth than I realized and just hoping I use it correctly in this different cultural setting. It's also not a post for everybody, so that's a thing.

First, my iPhones... Yes plural. I've talked about this before, but it still throws me when people know I have two and ask about it. Long story short, I bought the second one right before I left because it was one dollar and the other one was three years old and on its last leg. It Has recently entered hospice stage. My phone was OLD, and my new one was CHEAP. This is what I tell myself, and this is what I still believe. That is not what it feels like to my neighbors when I tell them. They ask me all the time how much my stuff costs. I told them the truth that is cost me a dollar (RD$40) and I tell them that I wouldn't have spent full price right before I left, but somehow I can still feel the judgment through their laughs. "Yeah, Americana. An iPhone was cheap. Don't patronize me." Do I hide it because the likelihood of them having the purchasing power for an iPhone anytime soon is almost impossible, or so I share it with my neighbors when they come over to listen to music or play games?

The same thing happened recently with my Kindle. "How much was that?" I feel like I have to justify the fact that my Kindle was also three years old, that it wasn't a touch screen, and that it was a gift (thanks Mom!), but I still had this pit in my stomach when I went to explain it to my neighbor. She is a 16 year old girl who brings me random food and reads Harry Potter in Spanish with me out loud off of the Kindle. I appreciate that I have the technology for us to read this book together, but I hate that it comes with this awkward backlash. I can't tell if it's awkward for her, and it's only awkward for me because I think it's awkward for her.

What wealth have I been given here? A Kindle, and many other electronics that have me praying for the electricity to come back on. Am I using that wealth in the right way? I hope so. I haven't decided.

I also feel like I should point out, because of the subject of this post, that I recently heard Andy Stanley talk about the parable of the three men with the bags of money. "What will you do with what you've been given?" At the end off all our lives we have too look at that. So I say to me and I guess to you:

What has God, life, or however you see the world given you? We have time, space, opportunity, family, friends, hope, love, sacrifice, and yes, stuff and money. What are you doing with what you've been given? Are you making you a happier you with what you've been given? Were you given a wealth of time (Amanda) that you aren't using to study Spanish? Were you given a wealth of opportunities to spend time with your family that you are wasting away at something else? Were you given a chance to go to school to study something you love, but are squandering it by complaining you don't have the abilities? Do you have the ability to save a horse and ride a cowboy, but you haven't taken the time to learn what that means?

Worst of all (Amanda), are you too busy whining to yourself that you don't have enough, that you can't make use of what you have?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Visiting Santiago!

I have a friend in the education sector that lives in the second capitol, Santiago. 
His name is Christopher and he is happy. 

My experiences with Christopher tend to revolve around our curly hair. We are the "Curly Cousins" of our Peace Corps training group. We both experienced unwanted shortening of our curly locks just before coming to to serve. 

I also have a few things to say about visiting education volunteers. 
(Keep in mind, this is opinion based on my experiences and observations.)
1. Education Volunteers are happier than Business volunteers. 
2. Educations Volunteers Language Level increases much more rapidly than Business Volunteers Language Level. 
3. Education Volunteers work a lot and they work very hard. They are tired, but rarely bored. 
4. Education Volunteers are a lot less likely to be on informal ET watch. 
5. The life of an education volunteer might make you hate your life if you don't prepare yourself to realize their experience in the Peace Corps is very different from your own before hand. 

All of that aside, I loved the chance to see Santiago from a volunteer perspective. It was nice to see the school. It was interesting to realize we went into the city from the site 3 different times in one night without batting an eye. I appreciate the hospitality I was given with my friend. 

Thank you Chris for being able to understand and relate to my natural hair talk. 
Thank you for the tea. It was wonderful. Really, wonderful enough to mention. 
Thank you for just being you, and letting others be them. 

A weekend and a mom

My friend Courtney had a visitor this weekend and she let me tag along for the ride. 

We had a lot of fun with Shell(e)y, Courtney's Mom. Together, we experienced what it's like to actually drive in Santo Domingo for the first time. We spent time in a cute hotel in the Zona Colonial. We went back to a little restaurant on the Conde where I have had drinks a few times. Sometimes it's weird when I think about how familiar this city is becoming to me. It was really exciting to be able to explain the city and explain some of the history of this country. I hadn't realized how much ownership I've taken for this country being a home of mine. 

We also spent time doing with her mom what girls and moms do when they get together. We went to the mall and went SHOPPING! How fun is that. I picked up some cute things in light of the fact that  my first visitor will be here in just over a month!!! (I am so excited if you can't tell.) It felt just like being back home on regular shopping trip.

After a little shopping we went to a little bakery restaurant and let me tell you, the food was AMAZING. I don't know if I've ever appreciated delicious food this much. At least I know I will be able to leave Peace Corps with a better palate. We decided to wait thirty minutes for a little extra special desert. WOW! It was amazing. It was delicious. It felt normal. It was fun.

After that we went to see that movie with Jennifer Aniston "We're the Millers" and it was hilarious. I've always been one to fully take in a movie. I always feel as if I'm there. Therefore, I was laughing, annoyingly loud probably, the entire time. It was just really nice to be at a movie with a friend and her mom for a simple girls day. Really, girls need these kind of days to survive. 

The conversations were flowing. The motherly advice was flowing. The desert was on point. It was just a very nice day. I don't think daughters ever get too old to love a day spent with a mother. 

Thank you Courtney for sharing you Mama with me for a day. 
Thank you Shelley for letting me experience you even though time is limited. 

Thank you Santo Domingo and the DR for continuing to surprise me. 


I'm just glad I got to encourage interesting topical conversations Courtney hadn't yet had with her mother. 


Friday, October 25, 2013

Skip Bo

My neighbors came over. They are excited to start a girls group. One of the sisters asked me if I would have a class on how to do "maqiaje"... That was me spelling make-up incorrectly. I didn't think I would ever hear another girl ask ME how to do make-up. Especially such a cute young teenage girl. Who knows, maybe this girl who almost never wears the stuff will have something to offer in the way of beautification of the face.

Now we are playing Skip-Bo on my yoga mat because I still haven't bought a table or chairs. I should really get on that if I want to have some girls over to my mansion in the campo.

Changes in the kitchen

As you may or may not have seen, based on how my email decides to upload the text and pictures, I have made a few minor changes in my kitchen and living style.

For one, I now buy fruit out of the back of a truck. I used to miss the truck, because I didn't know what to look for and my neighbors buy vegetables and sell them to me later, so it wasn't a problem. Now, I've decided I don't want to live on this island and not take advantage of the fact that an entire pineapple is less than one dollar. I was hesitant at first because my neighbors say nobody here buys fruit. This is true. Many people have "orange" trees in their yards and coconuts available to them at times. We can grab mangos when they are in season, and occasionally... Really occasionally, papaya. Well, neighbors, that's cool and all, but I've decided to be uncool, when the vegetable truck drives down the road with melon, water melon, pineapple, and other random fruit, I am going to be the weird Gualetion and buy some... I'll spend my living stipend, on living with fruit in my house.

The other new addition is that I am braving a new-old cooking style. When I first moved out on my own I used to buy random vegetables and add a base and some season to try and come up with food I liked. Usually I was lacking in the flavor department. I still haven't found a way to mix flavors well. Here in the campo I've been sticking to what the doñas cook... Rice and sugar. I don't have to be a doctor to tell you that living on carbs and sugar would not be the best path for my two years here, so I've decided to pick back up my old style. I made orca and peppers with onion and a rice base. I used a red season that I thought would have a flavor. Spoiler alert, it didn't. Either way, I had okra and peppers for lunch instead of rice and sugar, so my life is looking up.

Fast forward to rewinding to yesterday and we have my new trash can. You may remember from my house reveal I've decided to use two liter bottles to make everything in my house. My silver ware holder, my toilet paper holder, and now my kitchen trash can. I was getting flys and wasn't happy about it, so I stared at a bottle for an hour until the design came to me.

Basically, just like my cutlery container I made one even cut right where the bottle starts to dip in to create the funnel. I popped in a little plastic bag and popped the top back on over everything. The size allows for a pretty air tight seal. I usually have to pop in one of the edges with my thumb to break the seal when I go to use it. I haven't had any flys hanging around my trash, and when I open the lid I've yet to find any gnat type buggies, so Amanda is pleased. This is something I need to suggest to my friend Lobo. Since he reads my blog I just did, so I'm off the hook with that one. Really though, it beats keeping a fridge full if trash to keep the bugs out and works better than traditional cans in my opinion, because of the seal.

I still can't cook. Lord help my future family. The good news though is that I CAN follow a recipe, so when I get back into a world with constant Internet and access to cook books I will be back to cooking tasty food. It'll just have to be someone else's recipe, I can't do it on my own very often.

(With the exception of black bean, pepper, cream cheese, spinach and tortilla wraps... Those were bomb and I came up with that one all on my own.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New shirt

When I'm in America someone giving me a basic Old Navy shirt probably wouldn't make it on my blog, but in the DR it does.

Antonio's mom was wearing this shirt last week and I told her I liked it. He said she was going to give it to me. I tried to say no, but she said she was going to wash it and give it to me. She said it was for a younger lady. Okay. Fine.

I actually forgot about it until I went back to visit and she pulled it out for me. (I want to say that it's now ironic that I spend so much time saying I'm not from New York and now I will be sporting a "New York" t-shirt.)

It reminds me of the generosity I experienced in Germany. I told a woman I liked her purse. The first time I was able to leave purseless, but the second time I mentioned it she literally dumped her purse out and pushed it into my hands.

With all these wonderful examples of generosity, I have to wonder if I am as generous with my things. Are they even mine? Sure, I "earned" the money to buy the things, or acquired a generous friend who gave me the object, but is that enough to say that the object is mine from here on out?

I buy copies of my favorite book so I can give them out, but that's really for me. I think the book is great and when others read it and agree I feel good about picking a good book.

That very purse I was given was really hard for me to give up. I would tell the story and still feel good about keeping the purse.

I'm not going to jump into some long story about how I feel like a monster for not being more generous. I'd be lying for one and it would be pointless for another, but when I think about the joy I felt when these two women from two very different cultures gave me literally the clothing off their backs, I have to wonder if the culture I've ingrained in myself allows for the same kind of generosity and what kind of person I want to be.

I'll include a picture of the shirt here and it'll probably shift to the top of the blog, because that's what my emails seem to do.

I'll also ask, ladies, when you are taking a picture of your shirt on your body do you always feel like you are just taking a picture of the ladies, or is that just me? I took the picture like 7 times and it still feels like a tit shot. I almost took the shirt off and took a picture of it hanging up or something, but I also don't like getting dressed more than once, so I left it.

Whatever, that's the shirt, ignore the girls attached to it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alcoholism in my campo

Warning: this blog post may contain sweeping generalizations about the effects of alcohol. I don't have any data to back up thoughts, just observations taken over the past few weeks in my campo. I don't admit to understanding alcoholism at its core, because I've never experienced it. I am also not a doctor, so I'm not claiming that. I know that this can be a sensitive issue for many people and I want to be up front that I don't have answers just observations and a pondering mind.

I didn't realize alcoholics scared me until I met one I didn't know.

I've had a few interactions recently with alcoholism in my campo.

The first was the day I was waiting for my friend Antonio before a celebration in the "play". I stood waiting while an extremely drunk man got in my face and repeatedly asked me to go to the celebration with him where he would buy me drinks and dance with me. I told him no, but he kept insisting. I'll let it be known that I wasn't scared. It was the middle of the day and we were in a very public location. He is a known alcoholic and it was more annoying than scary. He was antagonistic with me later during a rain storm and the frustrating part was that everybody just let him keep on with me instead of redirecting him to someone he knew. It wasn't a real problem though. Where the issue can rise is when he gets drunk at night and decides to enter my house. (This recently happened to a friend of mine in a different campo.)

The next situation was during a rain storm. I was walking near a house I've been to many times when the storm kicked up. A drunk man invited me to sit on the porch. I was timid about the decision. I have never seen this man sober. On the other hand, I've never actually seen him take a drink. He reeks of alcohol, and he is very nice. My timid comes in because I don't actually know this man. I decide to sit with him on the porch because he was with three other sober people. (Why do I always end up with drunk people in the rain?)

Now, a conversation about how alcoholism effects me in my life here in the campo.

Basically, it doesn't, any more than it would back home. I've decided that alcoholics only make me nervous when I don't know them. We all can probably name an alcoholic in our lives. Because we know them, we usually aren't scared or nervous around them because we know their drunken habits. Is this a drunk who is lovely when sober, but going to punch me in the face because he is drunk? Then avoid conversation topics of significance when drinking with this person. Is this man pleasant when sober, but a plotting house intruder when drunk? Well, keep your doors locked and don't hang around him at night. Is he going to ask me to dance all night when he's drunk and do the exact same thing when sober. Well, lace up my dancing shoes. Is he going to tell me things that make me feel bad about myself, my appearance, and my life choices? Well, consider what they said, find the truth if any, and don't drink with this person, probably ever, because you need to love yourself and alcohol isn't a good reason for being mean.

I've thought about alcoholism before I came here. I don't think you can grow up in this world, well in America, and not see it and hear about the effects of it. It is something that scares me. I avoided alcohol in college partially because I didn't want to fall down a dangerous path that almost felt inevitable. I still try to hold back now because I worry about ending on that dangerous path. Alcoholism isn't really a decision you make in my opinion. I think it sneaks up on you and before you know it you are walking around the campo, no longer holding a job, and everybody just knows you as the funny drunk guy that messes with the American volunteer. It's typically an illness, and should be treated as such, but since it is generally brought on by drinking a lot and being depressed, it's probably best that I avoid drinking while being depressed.

I recently heard a young girl say, "Sloppy girls drink and if don't want to be sloppy."

Now, I don't think everyone who drinks is sloppy. I had a great night recently with a good friend and a bottle of wine. I'll admit, alcohol makes me sloppy. I become someone I don't like when I drink past a certain line. I think some of my PC friends have learned that the line for me isn't very deep. You just need to know your own limits and stick to them. Everybody is different.

I was recently talking with the doctor in my town. He said that his biggest issue is the hundreds of people who come to his door each week early in the morning banging for assistance with alcohol gone too far at the disco. This statistic was actually very interesting to me and another PC volunteer because as we both noticed, there aren't very many people whom appear to be alcoholics here. Also, the people who are drinking seem to hold their alcohol pretty well. (America, we are much sloppier at the disco than they are!) It seems to me that most people here drink a steady amount and are mostly fine, but then one or two hit the line, or maybe the wall, and can't go a minute without the bottle. After that it seems you live your life in a constant state of drunkenness.

The two drunk guys in my campo seem happy enough. One has a family and a life of sitting on his porch talking to people all day. The other walks trough the campo with a drink in his hand. I don't see him often, but when I do, he too seems happy enough. I guess what I have to wonder though is, are they?

After my friend called and said she was being sent to the capital for a few days I really wondered about the bottle. Her campo beat the guy up who was banging on her door in the night and he is being sent to jail. She said he probably just drank a little too much and she's not even sure he knew where he was. She doesn't think he was trying to hurt her. Now, this guy who drank too much may have to spend significant time in jail. She wasn't even sure if she should involve security at first. A drunk guy bangs on your door in the middle of the night and eventually goes away... Is that a security problem?

Alcohol is cheap in the DR.
When people are depressed they often turn to the drink. (Assumption)
I know I have the tendency of the person above, so to combat that, I avoid drinking a lot, and rarely, if ever alone.
I think alcoholism in the DR is the same as it is in America (but I have no statistics to back this up).
I didn't realize alcoholics scared me until I met one I didn't know.
When I first started drinking I was terrified I was going to become an alcoholic, but have since realized that occasional drinks aren't a problem for me.
Alcoholics in the campo are annoying in the day and scary at night.
I rarely see alcoholics here drinking, you just know, the smell, the actions.
Most alcoholics are really nice. (Assumption)
Alcoholism is a sickness, generally, and probably requires professional help. (Assumption)
I can't sense what Dominicans think about alcoholism and wonder now what they think.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Construye Tus Sueños

The Community Economic Development sector of Peace Corps Dominican Republic hosts a conference for young people every year. This conference is called Construye Tus Suenos which basically means building your dreams. This conference is the culmination of a business class taught throughout the year by the business volunteers. I am hoping to start teaching this class in January and was a worker at the conference this year. 

I just have to say, I was a little jaded by the internet at this wonderful 4 star hotel the conference was held in, but I did try to really see some of the students and recognize potential. 

The main reason I am trying to put some life into Construye for myself is my friend Antonio in my site has expressed interest in the course. Because Antonio is one of the few people in my site who seems to value me as a person, I want to show my gratitude by helping him get ahead in something. He has told me some of his ideas and I think they have possibility. I don't have perfect language skills, and my business knowledge is basic, but I am excited. 

This year the presentations I saw were pretty great. It was exciting to see that all of the winners this year were girls. REPRESENT. (In honor of my recent "feminism"). The students work really hard all year writing lengthy business plans which they go on to present to a panel of judges from banks and businesses across this country. They are coming from an education system that likely hasn't ever had them write a paper that long. The volunteers struggle all year teaching business skills, but they also have to teach writing skills as well as presentation skill along side mission statements and budgets. 

Either way, I am hoping I can feel like a useful volunteer once I get started. I felt a little useful during this conference, because my official work title was "Dora's Bitch". Dora was the leader of this conference, so I had a few "official duties. 

For your viewing pleasure, I will post a picture of Sara and I. I will warn you, the hair is a little big and I am a bit sickly, but whatever, we are Peace Corps Beautiful. 

Okay... and then I decided to post more pictures. 

Lobo and Juliana. 

Conference Stuff. 

Erin, also from Colorado. 

Conner, paying attention. 

Announcing the winners. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My computer broke

I may or may not have mentioned, but my computer broke about two weeks ago. I decided not to stress about it because I was at my site and there wasn't anything I could do to change the fact that it was broken from there.

I had heard that there was a quality Mac store in the capital close to the Peace Corps office and I decided to check it out.

When I left it was raining and the moto tried to up charge me 75%, but I won that battle with a free ride. I made it to the store wet, and ready to tackle fixing my computer.

I walked in and was greeted by three "saludos!" I looked to a happy faced man and told myself, "Amanda, you have to do this, and you have to do it in Spanish."

I proceeded to explain what happened with my computer completely in Spanish. The computer man was dry patient and gave me the classic line, "Your Spanish is better than my English." (I have no way of knowing if this is true or not.)

So we walked through a bunch of things to fix my computer. Accepted the fact that I was probably going to have to erase my disc and start over, and we watched blue lines show downloading progress. As each attempt to fix my little warrior showed signs of failure we frowned together. Ultimately it was decided that I needed to leave my computer overnight.

This cool guy Abraham fixed my computer and he gave me a wonderful price. So far so good, the computer is working.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Two sides to every story

So, I did it. It is over. I brought together 45 students and 2 Banco Ademi guys. Since I thought about it in two ways the entire time, I will show you both sides of this story.

Starting "malo"; Glass half empty:

The Banco Ademi guy called me yesterday to tell me my kids couldn't go on the bank trip because we live so far out it is therefore too expensive. I arrived sweating, having carried fake gold made out of rocks all the way to the school. The Banco Ademi guys showed up, having driven an hour and a half to get there and it started to rain. It was raining so hard, nobody was having class. The director, who was meant to unlock the classroom and most importantly, provide the kids, wasn't there. When it was almost forty five minutes late, we finally crept into the class and the kids were ready. I blazed through what was supposed to take and hour and a half in about forty five minutes. The kids weren't super responsive and the Banco Ademi guy had to translate some of my Spanish into better Spanish. The Banco Ademi guy took his turn and the kids were obviously more responsive. We gave out certificates and the kids left.

Now, for the glass half full version and the one I want to remember:

Because I did my best, 45 kids were able to hear a wonderful charla. Because I did my best, 50 kids went home with a book about finance, written at a basic level they can understand. Because I did my best I have now gotten over my fear of speaking Spanish in front of 50 people at once. Because I did my best, 45 Dominican kids have certificates, and Dominicans LOVE certificates. Because I did my best, 50 new Dominicans have a reason to start a conversation with me.

The professional Banco Ademi guys were great presenter and would qualify as a great speaking group to bring in. A messy American was just the icing on the cake.

It's easy in life to look at what went bad. It stands out and brings big emotion. What I try to do and plan to continue with is finding the good. Where did I succeed. Where was a "failure" a new opportunity for success in the future. A "gratitude" list as Oprah would encourage.

What is life if we can't find the good?

Any way, I did it, it's over.

Trash pickup

I've told you guys before that at my old house we threw the garbage in the back and called it a day. I also may have mentioned that I've asked my neighbor what I should do with my trash. She told me to burn it. I've basically been putting it in a sack and watching what the other neighbors do. I've smelled it burning. Well, this morning the neighbor shouts at me through the window that I needed to get the trash in my yard and put it in a sack for the trash guy.


Some guys were driving a truck and putting the trash it in. What is this world? I asked her later how often they come and she told me, "Todos Los jueves."

Are you kidding me? I've been in my house for 6 weeks and didn't know that apparently every Thursday some dudes drive by and pick up the trash.

It really is a different world I live in in this part of town. Seriously though, it could have told me when I asked.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Am I a feminist?

I have always thought of myself as a little anti-feminist. Not that I don't appreciate what those women way back then did so I can vote and fight and basically do whatever I want and feel equal to men. Buuuut... I don't really feel like I have to rip off my bra, lace up my boots, and argue the issues right now. (Yes, I know, there are still career lines where women still aren't paid equally and issues people shout in my ear, but I just am not bothered enough to join in a protest today. I think we've hit a mark where people can say, "That guy isn't treating that woman equally." And the rest of society will agree, "What a douchebag!" I'm okay being in that spot.)

On the other hand, today I decided to do some yard work and realized some of the feminist in me may have come out.

The "grass" on the side of my house has gotten really tall and I've been wanting to cut it for a few weeks. It was four feet tall in some areas. I just am not ready to open some mosquito breeding ground or random animal habitat in my only bit of yard. This especially comes now, because I am still looking into planting a vegetable garden and have started a little spot in my yard to prepare for future food.

It was around three in the afternoon and I was with my neighbor for lunch. I was asking around for a machete or some other tool, because I wanted this "grass" cut. The women who were there all agreed that I needed to tell some little kids to do it for me. So the women call over a group of boys that had been playing in and around our houses and told them they needed to cut my yard. It was decided that they could, but it wouldn't be until tomorrow... The sun was peeking.

I had also been told by my old doña that I needed to have my land lord do these types of things for me, but his dad just died and I don't have time to bug him or wait, so I looked elsewhere.

My neighbors daughter came around so I basically asked her for some tools and set to work. The girl I was meant to be teaching English never showed up and I didn't want to waste another afternoon, so I set to work. I changed my shirt grabbed the tools and hit my yard.

The guys drinking and playing dominoes at the Colmado started babbling about the Americana doing yard work while the sun was peaking. I want to point out that this American from Colorado knows how hot this island is. The sun was not even out. There was actually a nice shade I was fully enjoying.

So I cut and raked and cut and raked. Every so often a neighbor would stop by and say something about having someone else do the work, or that if I waited I could have a man with a different tool do it later.

Later does not help me keep insect and mosquito levels low. I don't want to get dengue because I have 5 feet of weeds and brush in my yard. I also noticed that my neighbors had started throwing their trash over the wall and into my yard, which does not make me feel better about the trash clean up I did when I first moved in. A trashy place just looks like a place to leave trash, so I am determined to clean my yard up.

It was only a little frustrating when around six o'clock my neighbors came out and started curb appealing the front of their house. I guess try were keeping up with the Americana. Maybe that's why I'm here... To inspire yard work.

Anyway, as these people kept telling me to wait for a man I just kept thinking about how I may be a bit of a feminist after all. I don't have time to wait for a man to show up. Does a girl like it when a man offers to do something for her, sure, but you better believe I'm not waiting around for you to think the weather feels pleasant when I am clearly capable of moving a rake myself.

So in the end, I'm definitely not one of those girls who says things like, "Don't bring me flowers! I'm strong not delicate!" I definitely am capable of gettin' stuff done when I want to.

Side note about flowers:

No one, besides my mother, has ever sent or given me flowers. I was dating this guy for about a month that I was convinced was going to bring flowers. He used to say things like, "It is a man's pleasure to treat a beautiful woman to a nice meal and a fun date." Okay, I'm not that drastic, but wouldn't you think a guy like that would have brought flowers to one of our seven dates? If you can't get flowers from a guy like that, you probably can't get flowers from anybody.

Are flowers just a movie thing? Have flowers lost all their luster? Do any of you still, or did you used to, get flowers? Where did the flowers go?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why fitted sheets exist


So, we're waiting and we're waiting and we're waiting. I was told I should go to the fiesta tonight, an being as it was told to me by my awesome neighbor I thought it would be fun.

Now I'm sitting in a big truck surrounded by standing children. At least 50 kids are standing in this truck like cattle. They are mumbling in Spanish and they shout every time we hit a bump. I do understand the consistent use of "coño" and "diache" though. It's packed to the brim... Yet I'm blogging in here. Who am I?
Here's a photo op.

And another... 

I'll add later if there's anything worth saying.

I found out what the party is for. It's for the patron Saint Mercedes. She protects Gualete. I haven't really find out what from, but I guess that's and she is doing her job. 

Also, this bit of cuteness happened. 

I love my new neighbors. I love my neighbors adorablef daughter. I love that she does things with her hair that are different from the norm. I better get back to a great evening.

Amanda yawns... "Is it over yet?" 

With traditional Amanda-style I am put having a good time, but the clock is striking 8:30 and I wish I were in bed instead of "having fun" with friends. 

I think the truck will come back to take all of those kids home. Maybe Dominicans want their kids in bed at a reasonable hour as well. I wonder what constitutes as a reasonable hour here... Being as some of these kids don't go to school until 1400, this fiesta con niños may go way into the night. So, these are my options, walk the three miles home in the dark and remember that this is a campo so nothing bad can happen (please don't read too much into that security, find a moto (oh wait, I am sin cosco), or stick it out (Amanda, this is by normal people join the Peace Corps, quit laying in bed all night.) 

Besides, the kids are about to dance. 

And this happened:

I should never go to bed again, ever.

And now I am watching 7 year olds have a dance off to Amara... A grind off shout I say. I don't know I I love this country or I lust it. I think that is the only way to live your life here... Constantly lusting something.

And my 7 year old neighbor won the dance off and I was beyond impressed... And jealous. I've never had moves like that, in or outside of a bedroom... I think I need to jazz up my home life a bit, do you think she'd give lessons?

Amanda is beyond exhausted. My knees are tired of standing on rocks in bad shoes.

I will also like to point out that the two foreigners are standing together speaking English over the loud Dominican music. Both are so bored they have begun to kick rocks. My bed... Why is it three miles away? 

Okay. The 16 year old boys are out. We just made them watch a bunch of young girls pop it for the past three hours and they are ready to play. Someone did something to my behind. It's time to go. They may have thrown a rock or a hand or 10 pesos, either way they all passed blame so I know it was a group effort. Good night. I'm headed home.

Maybe I'm flattered, but probably not.