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! 

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