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?