Sunday, June 30, 2013


I think this is the kind of post I am supposed to write for my readers. I'm going to put a picture of a pig being cut open and if you don't want to see it... Don't look.

So I was painting my uñas when I heard a pig squealing. I thought the guys were taking it on a walk (they do that here). Then all of the kids were running over there so I decided that something more exciting must be happening.

After my uñas were a touch dry I walked over to see what the fuss was about. I came upon this site:

They were watching the guys slaughter a pig. I didn't know this at the time but it atarted with cutting all of the hair off of the animal. Apparently all you have to do is pour hot water over the area and run a machete over it and and the hair basically falls off. 

After that process which took about 30 minutes the guys cut the pig open. I'll put a picture of that here. 

It started by cutting the tail and doing something that was either cutting out the vagina or the butthole or a combination of both. I think this has something to so with pulling out the entire digestive track, because when I got to thinking about it there would need to be an end that was cut otherwise it would be like turning the pig inside out, which you can't really do... 

Any way, the heart came after this and there was a lot of blood and I have a picture, but I don't really want to post it. Ask for it when I'm home.
I pretty much left after that and met the Mr. Branstetter of the DR. A Dominican down the street who studied and lived in the United States. He looks and speaks a lot like my favorite religion teacher at SCC. Really, one of my favorite professors ever. The classes were great.
Back to the pig.
That night my host family served me pig organs for dinner. I didn't really like them. At first it was okay, then it was weird, back to okay, and ending with I don't want to eat this. I didn't finish.
The next morning I woke up and the pig was in a big vault on wheels with the heat on top. I thought about taking a picture, but my camera was in my room and I was in line for a juicy piece of pork face... So...
Anyway, we ate pork all day. Sometimes out of the pan of meat and sometimes off the carcass.
I didn't mention, the pig was for the little quince party we were having for the granddaughter of my doña.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Three days

Hats how long it takes for me to read every new blog in my blog roll and feel done with wifi. Good thing we leave right now.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I feel I should apologize for how much I blog. If I had Internet all the time it would be a real problem, as seen during the times when I actually have wifi!


You know how sometimes you are leaving the grocery store and all you want is a hot corn on the cob? You are already in your car, but a guy standing on the corner with hot corn is just the ticket. Block the exit, roll down your window and ask for two hot cobs. One with salt and one without. Don't worry, he has handy plastic baggies to put the corn in... And off you go. Happier than you were two minutes ago and eating something you didn't realize you wanted when you weren't even hungry.


I drink it in the morning and way it at mid day and my body turns all of the food I eat into it. Really, "Do you want coffee?" Means, I'm going to sprinkle dark water over four tablespoons of sugar and offer it to you with a piece of bread. I appreciate the hospitality, though people don't appreciate that I say, "gracias" so much.


That is the pudding type dessert that I have grown a taste for, but can feel my blood sugar rising as I eat.

I have to start exercising in the evening instead of just the morning.

Home wifi, I do miss you.

So, you know how sometimes you get all excited because to know you are going to be he first person awake, so you get excited about having Internet to yourself?

It's 6 a.m. And you've watched one video at lightning fast speed. Then the Internet does something funky. First, you turn of your wifi for a second and reconnect, that doesn't work. You think about shutting down your iPod, but decide to forget the network and reconnect. First you double check that the password that the girl showed you was in fact written on the bottom of the router like she said. Yes, it's there. Then you try to reconnect. "Incorrect password." WHA-WHAT? Try again, maybe that 1 is an L... Maybe the 0 is an O... Nope, something is afoot. There must be an addition or something you don't remember, because you can't get in. Okay, I'll just wait for someone to wake up and in the meantime read a book and eat some yogurt... Man... Fail. And the Internet was soooo fast!!!

Translation: Amanda is a product of her generation and would love nothing more than constant access to the Internet. Lobo, Serpas, if you ever read this, I am jealous of you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I actually am employed...

For the first time I really felt like I was doing work. So far anything I've done that could maybe qualify as typical work has really just felt like humanitarian work. Now, I did something that felt like honest to goodness work.

I looked up a woman I know who is involved with two of the groups I am meant to work with. I was focusing on the women's bank. I asked her a lot of questions and was able to find out a bunch about this group. I still want to find the president and sit down with her, but I took a notebook, prepared questions and had a nice discussion. She also gave me lunch and we chatted about life... Maybe I don't work.

Oh, all of this was done in Espanish, so that's a thing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Missed connections

Older dominican man. I saw you over there. You were smoking a cigarette and attempting to catch my eye with yours. Those tricks you were doing with the smoke as you blew it out of your mouth would have been cool if this were 1914. I'm sorry to tell you that when I turned my head away and had a look on my face that you thought was flirty, that was actually me attempting to hold my breath and avoid your draft. I also haven't learned enough spanish to tell you that I don't know what your saying... You may misinterpret my laughter as interest. Sorry to say, not interested, though I may take dance tips if I ever decide to become an awkward stripper.

Take that cigarette else ware,

A good day

It's a good day when I've gone on my morning walk, conducted some business, read some of "The Winds of War" by Herman Wouk, and made it home in time to see the niños dancing like European women make love.

I mean, I can only imagine what a good day back home felt like, but success is different here.

Oh! And they just shouted through my door, "Amanda, Va por rio?"

Don't mind if I do!!!


My Spanish sister provided me with wine last night. Don't get excited it was Californian. Still. I miss wine. Here, it's bad or expensive for a Peace Corps salary.

Can that be brought in on a plane? Who's my first visitor going to be...

Bucket Baths

Is it weird that I'm now considering bucket baths in America? They really so save water and when the waters warm it's not bad at all.

I could just do that thing they say to do where you turn the water off in between things, but come on, I know I'm not going to do that. Once I sit down under that nice warm stream I'm likely to just fall asleep there.

If I have one of those big showers that's basically a stall and I leave a bucket in there I could do it...

Why am I thinking about this...?

(Probably because a warm bucket bath sounds exponentially better than letting cold water hit that one spot on my back that I still hate letting cold water touch. I avoid it.)


I saw pictures of Spain last night. My host sister was showing me pictures from their house.

This is what I learned:
1: Spainish houses look like more colorful German houses.

2: Spanish people are white.
(This may or may not be confirmed by a visit in the future)

3: Spain has hot water and showering styles I am used to.

4: My kids may have white people hair if I have kids with a white guy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The sit

Dominicans can sit for hours. They tend to think something is wrong if you aren't sitting. When I arrive at a house; new, old, mine, a friends, I am offered a chair. If I stand up from the chair I am told to sit down. As soon as I get to the house of the girl I walk with in the morning, her neighbor goes to get a chair from inside his house for me to sit in. The is despite the fact that I am already sitting on a decently comfortable ledge.

This used to be frustrating because I actually like standing more than I realized, but I've decided to stop fighting this one as much and just sit in the chairs.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I am finally feeling up to writing about something I haven't quite figured out yet. I've simply decided to state that I don't quite get it. Having reread "The Help" yesterday, the push to say this has reached the limit.

I want to state early that anything I wrote that makes someone seem mean is situational. Literally, other than everything I say here, people are really nice. It's kind of like when your parents have to use their phone voice in the middle of yelling at you.

I live in a house with servants... Sort of.

My Doña raised 9 kids with one husband and the children are now spread throughout the DR, the United States, and Spain.

My Don had a stroke some time ago and needs the assistance of a hired aide. His brother also lives in the house with us.

My family is wealthy and owns a lot of land and animals. The kids are all doing well and have luxuries like iPads, cell phones, and the ability to speak some English. (The visitors, not the constants.)

Also in my house is a little girl about the age of 8. She has lives here for at least three years since her Mom died and she and her four other siblings were split among different families in the country. One of her sisters still lives in this town and comes over about 3 times a week with the woman she lives with. When I ask about her treatment I hear its because she's poor. How can a child be poor? I will explore this thought the rest of my time here.

We also have a woman who comes Monday through Saturday to do the cooking and cleaning for the home. This woman is the maternal grandmother of the little girl who lives here. She is also the niece of my Doña. So the little girl is actually family.

A Haitian man lives here too. He told me he's been in the DR for three years. He takes are if the animals and lives in the shed.

Now that all the background information is there we can jump to the things I don't understand.

1. My Doña calls the girl her hija, so for a while I thought she thought of her like a daughter. I don't think that anymore.

2. Anyone and everyone who ever comes to the house has taken to yelling the little girls name when they need or want anything. Even people from other countries that haven't been here in a few years. Neighbors call from across the road and she goes running. Late at night, early in the morning, anything and everything she is called to do.

3. The nurse aide that was hired to help the Don arrived a day before I did. She and her four year old son sleep in the room with my host parents and she cleans and cooks with the other lady all day, yelling at the little girl the whole time.

4. When we all went to the to the river the little girl was told she could go next time we just didn't have... Surely not space. Maybe she meant room. Maybe she meant the girl had more work to do with lunch.

5. When I went to the capital, and came back, no one was home, because EVERYBODY, including the little girl, went to the river. Why this time? Why the little boy without his mom? I don't always get it.

6. When I went to the beach, the girls and her sister were sitting watching as the car rolled away. The son of the nurse was allowed to go. I think they were going to cry. I felt guilty, but I also wanted to go to the beach. Does that make me an awful person?

7. I'm pretty sure the cleaning ladies job is to walk around with a cigarette in her mouth yelling at her granddaughter and throwing water on things. She intersperses this with ripping off her shoe to hit kids with. (She is an acceptance to the rule I stated at the beginning. I'm pretty sure she is mean all the time.)

All of these leads to what I don't understand. Where is the class line? The little boy, who is unrelated and also poor is treated better than the little girl. Is it simply because he's a boy? I sometimes wonder about why the nurse came to live here so suddenly. I'm pretty sure there is a backstory I am not privy to.

Also, why is the grandmother so awful? Did she get the girl an in at this house and feel responsible for her?

Also, bathing...

We have running water and toilets in the house, but I've never seen the Haitian man who lives here use them. We have a latrine too, but I don't plan on using it when we have two perfectly good bathrooms. I've never seen him use it, but I wonder if he does. We also have showers, but the little girl and the Haitian man use the cement slab surrounded by car hoods to shower. Do they have to or do they choose to? Is it my thinking that makes these showers the sub standard choice, and would Dominicans who have been showering this was for years not think of it that way?


Are treated awful. By animals, I mean dogs. I was recently told that its been said that you can tell how advanced a society is by how they treat their animals.

The little boy smacked a little piglet who was eating a mango the other day in the back with a big stick. It appears this was just for sport, because he wasn't trying to get the pig to do anything special and the pig wasn't doing anything wrong.

It's a system, all the ladies here smack this kid for seemingly no reason, so he does the same thing to animals.

At the end of the day, these are just observations. No matter how gray the lines seem to me, when I was at the beach and I saw the little boy standing alone at the edge of the water for 20 minutes, I took of my shorts and shirt and walked over to him in my swimsuit. I stuck out my hand and walked with the frightened boy into the water. He laughed and smiled (until he had salt water in his eyes) and I feel like I broke down a wall. If abuse patters start from above its not enough for me to be nice to the dog, I have to find a niche with the boy and his mother too.

I've taken to playing with the little girl when she has some time. We play SkipBo which I brought with me and Travel Blokus (Thank you Linwicks), which is a hit with all the little Dominican kids I know. She and I also read the children's book I have in Spanish together. It has a short story for everyday of the year and she really likes it. She's often called away during the game which makes it last a LOOONG time, but I'm learning or practicing patience.

She's not like Annie. If she's kind of playing and cleaning it seems to be okay. She sings a lot as she washed the dishes after this full house and when asked says she's happy. Maybe she just doesn't know.

I've also learned that only certain people will accept help when asked. If the Haitian man is putting beans or something and I offer help he takes it. If the little girl is washing dishes and I offer to help she takes it. If my doña is washing something and I offer to help she usually says no, the little girl will do it. It the cleaning ladies are cleaning and I offer to hep they say no. I think it's because they see me as either above them economically or incapable of cleaning properly. Neither is 100% true. Kids and Haitian workers just see that something needs done and another hand makes things faster. They aren't phased by the idea that I am a rich American who can pay her way into this family and shouldn't have I lift a finger.

They let me wash my own laundry though...

Also, I wonder where I fit on the list with different people. Mostly, I wonder what my doña thinks. She buys me things to make me happy like fried pig skin and washing soap, but she doesn't make the cleaning ladies wash my clothing. Who am I in this rainbow of class?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I read a lot

I went to the capital yesterday and brought back a pillowcase full of books.

I'm moving to Alaska

Okay, so I don't actually have any plans to move to Alaska, but wouldn't it be cool if I were actually moving to Alaska?

I've read three books recently that were set in Alaska. The nonfiction novel about Haines, Alaska written by Heather Lende makes me want to pack up and go to Alaska. The scenery sounds beautiful and the people sound wonderful. It appears to be a certain kind of lifestyle that I don't think I'd hate.

On the other hand, I live on an island and my American home is in Colorado. I can do a lot of Alaska-ish things in Colorado, like snowshoe and cut down my own Christmas tree. It would be expensive and harder to have family and friends visit than if I live in the same state... Maybe I'll reconsider.

Alaska though... Alaska.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Black girl pass

I used my black-girl side today! A girl liked my hair and asked me to do hers the same way. I started and had to take two breaks in between. One break was to eat, the other was to go to the river for about an hour. If that's not like a black girl I don't know what is. At least I know one thing, when my hair gets a little longer I'm really going to like my style.

*any feelings of racism are unintentional.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My favorite Dominican

Mas o menos 9 July 2013

This is the coolest little Dominican boy. I don't know if it's because he requests to play Blokus, because he has blue glasses, or because he talks to me all the time, but I absolutely adore him. I'm actually quite sad that he is moving to the states on Monday. He is the youngest of the brother pair that lives with their grandmother, my Doña. He'll be with the rest of the Dominicans in New York and New Jersey. Their parents are awaiting their arrival.


You know how sometimes you're teaching someone how to say snail in English and it comes out like the sound a cat makes if the m was an n? Well, if you don't know, generally after this happens you tend to think, "Is that what I sound like?"

Yes, this has happened with many words. They have nothing to go on, and they are mimicking me, so that must be what I sound like.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Water into... Refresco.

Sometimes, like today, I sneak into the kitchen and try to get a GIANT glass of water. Generally, my doña grabs my glass and fills it with soda or juice or coffee... I'm going to have to figure out an easier way to turn down soda. No is never the right answer.


6 June 2013
(Yes, I know... I really need to get better at dating these posts since you tend to get a bunch on one day. No promises, I'm too human and imperfect for that.)

I made an impromptu visit to Santiago. I was reading an email the other day from a COS-ing volunteer. He said he had a bike and the first to stake a claim could have it. I talked with my project partner, we called the volunteer, and the next day I was on a 6 a.m. guagua out of Guelete. (Here I will mention that guagua sometimes simply means pickup truck. In the campo, guagua really kind of means vehicle)

We drove for an amount of time. Arrived at the casa, and I was able to pick through the discarded things of two volunteers. I also scored a map of the United States, but the funny thing is that it is actually a map of all of the Cracker Barrels in the United States.

The other good thing to note is that here the guagua driver knows where you live and offers to drive all of the crap to your house so you don't have to transport it all over the city for two days. When I get home I will have a bike, some journals, two sets of shelves, and a few new books waiting for me.


Also, my Mom called me.
I love calls.
My sister might also call me.
I don't have service in Guelete.
If anyone is curious I have a scheduled city visit on the 19/20th of June so if anyone wants to call me or send mail or... Facebook chat, or whatever... Just let me know and I will plan time for you.

Also, always accepting emails at I can typically answer those within a few days.

Also, of anyone wants to mail me dark chocolate or words of affirmation I take those tambien. Please note, I am writing letters all week to send to 'MERICA. In theory, if you read my
Blog and comment every now and again, I am sending you a letter. Unless I don't have your address... Okay. That's my update.

Finally, here is a picture, because I probably don't provide enough pictures.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Do you ever feel as if all your doing with your day is accidentally catching domestic birds pooping on the patio?

... I do.

Roller coaster

I've been trying to remember the roller coaster of emotions I'm supposed to be going through. I'm pretty sure the first six months were full of ups and downs. Days when you were so excited that your life was on this wonderful island and other days when you want to catch the next plane, ferry, helicopter, land bridge, cannon shoot, or zip line back to the United States. I think today I fit into a bit of the latter category. Now. I don't think I'd catch a cannon shot back even today, and I know I would take a zip line even on my happiest day here, because come on... Who wouldn't want to do that, but today, a plane or a long boat to the good old U S of A sounds great. I'd even take a nice shot of my American Peace Corps Volunteer friends, but I don't have a good reason to go to the capital. I guess this is why Peace Corps has R&R days.

I know the struggles are worth it, but the roller coaster makes me wonder if it's all worth it. (Yes, I know that last sentence didn't make sense. It wasn't meant to.)

It's just that honestly, some days you look around and think, "What was I thinking?!" Sometimes, Peace Corps feels like the craziest thing you ever got yourself into.

Song of Songs

I don't want my wife to look for shade in another tree.

This isn't a post for everybody, but some of you may appreciate it.

I've been feeling really nostalgic lately. Some of you who were in Wired with me might remember when we studied Tommy Nelson's Song of Songs study. When I was in college I downloaded the podcast to keep in my iTunes for a while. It's free, so I suggest those of you who may want it look into it. Well, I ran into it the other day when I was cleaning up my computer.

This study is a sermon series about marriage. Tommy Nelson is a pastor in Texas. I think that what he has to say is true, but I know a lot of people who may be able to benefit from the information would shut off right away because its Christian.

Why do we do that? I know I shut off right away when an idea is coming from a certain type of person, but what can be so bad that it makes everything a person has to say wrong. Nothing. I think that's the answer. I think I need to find better ways to internalize information I get from different sources and find what is relevant for me. What did you say that can actually improve my own situation? That may be the key.

This post has lost it's purpose, but I'm just going to say if you are thinking about getting married I suggest you check it out. If you are married, I'd love for you to take a listen to the podcast (It's six lessons I believe) and tell me if you think it's relevant. Am I a day dreamer with antiquated ideas, or Song of Solomon as relevant as I think it is?


I asked my project partner of the little girl in my house was an esclava. I knew she wasn't exactly, but I was right in knowing it would start an interesting conversation.


Anyone who remembers when my sister tattled on my cousins for talking about "S-I-X" may appreciate this story.

My project partner kept asking me if he was saying "sex" correctly. I was confused. Then he pointed to the number on the book. The more he said it the more it sounded like "sex". I told him you can't say that as a number. I made a long drawn out "i" sound... it didn't do any good. Finally, I looked up the word sex in my dictionary and showed him the Spanish translation. Needless to say, we had a good laugh this afternoon.

Also, it got me to thinking, "Gabby. Maybe we did speak Spanish as children like all of those people used to claim."

Sometimes, life picks up and humor takes over.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Laundry... It literally took all day

So in the Dominican Republic there are washing machines, but they are not at all like the ones you are likely picturing. For one thing they are so light that they are usually taken out of a closet or storage space on laundry day to be used. That is, if the luz isn't "se fue".

Since I had such an awkward time with laundry last week I decided I would do my own laundry this week. Cuerpo De Paz does pay our families to do our laundry (or teach us how to do laundry with the different system), but sometimes it's just better to do your own laundry. Also, I was hoping washing my own clothing might just earn me some respect with the cleaning ladies.

Well, this week, just as I went to turn on the washing machine the luz went out. Well, I had a full washer and the soap was already in so I just went ahead and started using my hands. Well, that didn't go over well. Everybody told me to just wait for the luz. If I wait for the luz then it's just me sitting around longer while the cleaning ladies talk about how strange my ropa looks and what a weird American I am.

First I washed all of the light weight items and now I'm just waiting for the luz to come on so I can let the machine do the heavy duty items like jeans and sheets.

Luz still out. Project partner shows up to say hi and tell me he is bringing someone to talk to me at some point and he thinks I look rígido. "VERAD, project partner. I am stressing lately."

Luz still out. I think I'll just sit in my room and watch a movie until its back on, and by a movie I mean "Sister Wives."

Also, just to mention. I think my skin is allergic to this country. It itches more than it should.

I hear the Washing machine and a knock on my door. "Amanda. Luz."
Time to jump into action before it goes se fue again.

You know how three months ago I said I would never hang my laundry on barbed wire?

Well, it turns out three months living in the Dominican Republic will change a person.

Also, I'd like to note that the angry cleaning lady helped me with my ropa at one point today. Maybe we can be friends... Maybe she does like me. I like that she wears a skirt and a "Claire's" t-shirt almost every day. The American shirts people wear here crack me up.

I'm sitting here watching my laundry dry in the sun. I've literally spent an entire day washing what would be two loads of laundry in the states... Three if I washed whites separate, but lets face it, I stopped doing that after college.

Some of you know that since college I've always hung dry most of my ropa when possible. That usually meant having shirts hanging from my shower curtain (which my sister later broke). Now that I spent an entire day doing laundry I have to say look out to whomever I live with next. Attention future room mate, husband, lover, family member, pet, wife, kids, or mail man: I will be hanging my laundry when possible from now on.

I've always taken satisfaction and pride in certain domestic work. I like the thought that I am saving money and doing something with my time that isn't watching television. I can't exactly say washing laundry this way is a time saver, but I'm not going to jump to say that in the states it would take much longer. The washing machine would be just as fast, the only additional time would be carrying and hanging the laundry instead of dumping it in the bin next door.

Part of me thinks that if I hadn't ever been to the states I would have made a great Dominican doña. Now that I've had Internet and access to intellectual conversations about books I don't think I could ever turn away from the states long enough to be considered a convert. What I have gotten out of a day of laundry is reaffirmation in my life goals. Let's just say I don't think that at the end of my life I'm going to put my career credentials down as something people will remember me by, and that's something I can definitely live with.