Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On the effing rocks

I can't do it. I just don't understand. The little girl was crying (a new little girl), and her mother grabbed her by her arm and dragged her toward the drive way. I didn't quite understand what she did. I usually don't. The girl is crying and the mother is screaming and pointing to the ground. She can't be more than 4 years old.

"What did she do?" I pondered.

Then she punched the girl in the back. (WTF was that????)
Actual balled fist.

Then, she grabbed the girls little denim Capri pants and began to roll them up. What is this?

Then she made the girl put her knees in the rocks and hold herself there while she cried in pain.

Seriously: WTF!

So I just stared, motionless. What do I do? So I looked on.

The new cleaning lady came by and picked the little girl up and toweled off her knees. I was glad the kids appeared to now have a Dominican on their side. Then the mother was yelling from in the house. The little girl went back to the rocks and the other little girl, the one I've mentioned before, joined her. I thought she was showing some kind of moral support.

The cleaning lady came back and picked up the little girl. I had walked over to her to ask what happened. Trying to find some way to show I disapprove. Can I also just pick the kid up and say no, that this will not happen?

The older girl, the one I thought was giving support stayed in the rocks. I asked the cleaning lady what was up. She just said that the other girl was older and could handle it. Apparently she has also done something to deserve this sentence.

Again. WTF?

I just leaned by the wall. "What do I do? Do I get in the rocks with them?"
Really, I was two seconds from doing just that. If the cleaning lady hasn't asked me what was up in that exact second I would have.

She just looked at me as if everything was normal and said, "Que fue?"

I just looked her in the eye, said "No!" and made for my room.

I can't watch this $4!7 much longer.

What do I do? As in literally. What would you do. I know it happens here. It's been happening here. It was mentioned in training. It being child abuse. I just don't remember what I'm supposed to do about it. Ignoring it seems like an awful plan.

It seems such a hard topic in the states where it's not even legal. Here it's totally fine if a parent wants to kick the life out of a kid. So what do I do?

I know one thing. If I see this crap in the states, watch your back, I'm calling the numbers. I suddenly don't care about what it would do to the emotions of a parent to have their kid taken away. I wish I could take these kids away from their parents. You don't take your kid, your four year old little girl, and make her put her entire body weight in a pile of rocks with only her knees to support her. I don't know. Spanish is suddenly not the hardest part of living here. The child abuse is driving me crazy.

I mean really. Try to name one thing that little girl could have done to deserve that treatment. Once you thought of it I'll tell you this. 1. She didn't do that. 2. She still wouldn't deserve that kind of treatment.

I've been trying to avoid vulgar language in this blog, but I'm just going to say it;

This is bullshit.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Burros have bingos

Dominican-American children flock to the DR in the summer. It makes sense. Where did I always go in the summer? Off to visit an aunt or a cousin or something. Summer was the best. You had a month in an exotic location (California, Alabama, Wyoming, and Texas were some of mine), and your parents get like a month without kids!

It's almost the worst time to be here though. The month has been so hot I literally don't want to function. I'm trying hard to work on a presentation, but in the morning when it's over 100 degrees I tell myself I'll work in the afternoon when it's cooler. I guess I forgot it would be hotter.

Back to the kids though. They have been floating in and out of my life for the past two months. They usually stay over a month here in the campos with their parents and end the trip with a week or so at an all inclusive resort before jet-setting back to the land of hot water and Netflix subscriptions. (Did I tell you I can't even convince the CBS website that I'm in America. Isn't Florida close enough to count?) These kids are really interesting to me because many of then were born in the states and their English is pretty good, but they still ask me things like, "Is Colorado in Texas." And when I say no and ask why they thought of Texas they respond with things like, "Well, Texas is a pretty famous country."

Okay. So you're American, because you were born there, and you have been in American public school, because you told me you didn't want to go to the charter school, so what does that mean?

When did I study the states in school? How do these kids still ask me if Colorado is a country? Have I been misjudging Dominican children, do the American children also have no idea what a state and what a country is?

Here I will admit; I'm not totally sure what's up with Puerto Rico and the whole territory thing. I googled it when I was in the capital, but I still don't quite understand. I'm going to need to order a book for my kindle to understand that one.

Any way, these kids have me thinking.

And my food arrived so I should go. You know the food I didn't order, but if I sit at anyone's house for too long I have a plate or 5 in front of me.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

August

You know how "they" say August is summer? Well, I never believed "them", because school started in August, and in May I had already given up on school, so summer was May, June, and July.

Then I moved to the Dominican Republic. The days are getting hotter and hotter with no signs of slowing down. It's like I signed up to live close to the equator or something.

Really though... I will forever contribute to the "August is in the summer" way of thinking, because I may drown in my own sweat while sitting in front of a fan in a dark room.

Why don't more cold countries request PC services? How do the hot stay poor? I bet it's because it's hot. There are just so many hours in the day when people would rather not do anything. Including me.

In other news, I think I found the house I want to rent. I was back an forth on the staying with my host family thing, but some days I can't handle living with housekeepers and a little girl who is basically a slave. I want to pick up a broom to sweep the floor and not have all of the condescending eyes on me, and I want to be able to walk away when the hitting kids culture gets out of hand. The house is in the middle of the part of the campo I like and no one lives in it, but the owner is an old lady who moved to New York years ago. I have to look to her remaining family to find out about maybe renting it for almost two years. Surely someone could use the money.

The good stuff about it is I heard it has an indoor kitchen and some furniture already in it. Hopefully if I can rent it I could walk in and not have to buy much. I'll keep you in the know.

When Harry Met Sally

Why didn't I see this movie before I was 23?

Also, this conversation:

Her: You're from New York?
Me: No.
Her: Where are you from?
Me: Colorado.
Her: *confused eyes* Is that a country?
Me: No, it's a state in the United States.
Her: Oh! It's a state in New York!
Me: No. New York is not a country. It is also a state in the United States.
Her: Oh. So why are you here?

Dominican Republic, if so many people are going to leave here and move to the United States can you please include a geography lesson in you education plans?

I at least Googled your country before I moved here.

I think I'm becoming an angrier person here. That I have to stop.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Playa

We went to the beach today. Really it felt like we stopped by the beach. You can do that when you live pretty close and have access to a car. I learned a few things from this trip to the beach.

1. You know how young people love loud music and lots of people dancing and beer and placing all of this on sand? I don't like that. The last two times I went to the beach the beach was mellow, the beer was subtle, and the sand spacious. Today it was one person per square foot. I dramatize, but go away, you're taking up my space. I'm about to become a hotel beach goer. From what I hear you don't have to fight for the space as much. Also, I'm basically 23 going on 77.

2. Dominicans pose with everybody like they are dating. I took a picture of my friend with this lady I just met. She's on vacation from the states and her husband is there. They posed all sexy like a couple. I have no reason to believe they are. They barely even looked at each other during the other parts of the trip. I took a picture with the same friend. I was smiling like someone who finally wasn't sick anymore and had a nice day at the beach. He was leaning all in holding a beer and looking like Rico Suave. I decided it wouldn't be posted anywhere. (Later, when looking through the photos he will ask if he can post them to his Facebook. I will decide to hide those before it comes to that.)

He also posed with a beer bottle, and later filled two bottles with water so they'd look full and posed with them too. I love Dominicans with cameras.

(Update: we went to the river and the wife finally revealed her bathing suit. Beautiful, by the way. She wore it to pose in the river. Again, Dominicans have too much fun with cameras. I love it!)

3. People in the DR will throw trash anywhere. As in literally in the ocean water as they swim they will throw the wrappers from their candy, the plastic cups from the Presidente (beer made in the DR that I don't hate, but is probably garbage) they just finished, and the paper plate they just ate some delicious fish off of. I think the trash thing surprises me everyday.

4. You can bring glass onto Dominican beaches. Now, I know we've all snuck some wine bottles onto the beach, but about halfway through the trip I remembered that glass is normally a no no. I think it's because I was at that point thinking about all of the trash and hoping I didn't happen upon a broken bottle. (Don't worry. I'd say that that it rarely if ever a reality.) When I remembered, oh wait... That's why you don't bring glass to a beach.

5. Bilingual children. I met some of my first bilingual children. Not like the other kids I've met whose English level is as good as my Spanish level, but truly interweaving-both-languages bilingual. I am going to have to get me some of those. It's also interesting to see what language they use when. These girls were speaking Spanish most of the time, but when one was really frustrated she would look at the girl and give her crap in English. It was like this, "Spanish, Spanish, Spanish. STOP IT! Spanish, Spanish, Spanish. I MEAN IT, QUIT!" Fascinating. Bilingual kids have interested me ever since I was in Germany. (If I were on the Internet and not typing an email to post this I would direct you to my blog about living in Germany for that post. I'd put a nice link here and everything. But the reality is that I am sitting in a rocking chair typing on an iPhone that is so far away from wifi or 3G its forgetting what it was like to be American.)

Anyway. Wonderful day!

Trabajadora

We got a new cleaning lady yesterday. I don't know what happened to our other second cleaning lady, but one day she went to visit her family and the next she was no longer here ever. When I ask about her people avoid answering, so it's probably a sticky situation. Either way, she's not talking crap about my laundry or offering to paint my fingernails anymore, and a new nicer version has arrived.

I can already tell this lady is great. She has the worst campo-Spanish I've heard, but she still tries to have actual conversations with me. That's nice. Most other people float around me telling people I don't understand any Spanish. That's a lie, but I'm going to let it slide. (When I do finally learn Spanish and the day comes when I pretend I don't speak English, is that wrong to do?)

I started thinking about her life. She's from another campo, so she sleeps here. She will work for 15 says and then go home for like three ish. As in every other weekend she will go home. She has a spouse and a 16 year old child. The son is in Santiago right now for summer vacation. She has had other jobs like this one in the past. One for the past four years. I couldn't help but wonder what kind of life that would be. To live most of your time away from our family and the people you love. The people you are basically working for.

Then I realized that was exactly what I was doing and I had to laugh. I mean come on. I am spending two years working in a country and I have two vacation days a month and two R&R days a month. Now, grant it, I do have friends here, but I'm sure she will have friends too. I plan on being friends with her... She's funny.

So, the cleaning lady at my house is basically a Peace Corps volunteer, but she probably makes more money than I do.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

@sshole

Not at all kidding

Does anybody know what Spanish word sounds like the American word "asshole" and would make sense to be shouted every time anybody makes a goal at a basketball game?

I mean they shouted it three times while I wrote this sentence and I have no idea what it means.

None of the words I looked up for "goal" or "score" or "point" were correct, and now it just sounds like the announcer lady doesn't like anybody to score a goal. It may have become one of those things I can't unhear like "quizás".

Also, mom, or anybody, is that how I wrote military time? Should there be a p.m? Do I negate the colon. I never really learned that, I just make half of the stuff I do up as I go along.

This isn't a movie.

It's night time and we don't have any electricity. I went to my room to get a flashlight and change into shorts that I couldn't find. I assumed they were under my bed. They were. I looked up and saw my light "kind of" on. I went to the hall where the switch is and turned it off (you know save electricity we don't have). I leaned back in to be sure the light was off. It was. I quickly pulled the door shut and walked back outside. Then I went to sit down in a chair. Right before I did that I did that thing where you check for that one important thing you think you forgot, but never actually forget. You know, your cell phone, your wallet, the keys to your bedroom door... Okay, they weren't there. I ran back to check the door... Locked. Crap! How did this happen? I didn't even know if a spare key to my room existed. 

Good thing I wear bobby pins. Every time a movie star grabs a bobby pin and puts it in a key hole the door opens. It works more often than "alohamora". Too bad I'm not a movie star and all I did was wiggle a bobby pin in a door. (This one time cakesniffer and I looked up on YouTube how to open a locked door from the outside. Too bad that was with a screwdriver and a different type of lock and my phone is no longer connected to the Internet) All the while I'm holding a flashlight into my lock in a very dark hallway trying not to let anyone see that the American, who can barely speak, has now also locked herself out of a door. 

Okay. This is fixable. "Amanda, where is the key?" Well, very likely sitting on me bed attached to the big blue lanyard where I threw it as I entered the room to rip off my skirt. (That'll teach me to take off clothing so hastily!) 

"Well, why don't you just go to the window and get it?"

I was, for the first time, excited to know there was a rip in the bottom right corner of my window screen.

So there I go. Flashlight in hand trying to sneak past the crowded house through some rocks. Too add to the great sneaking skills I had removed my Chacos and they were now locked my room with the key. 

So there I creep to the other side of the house, not using the light, and with my shoes off in moist earth. Then I see that the window is twice as high on this side of the house. 

I sneak back and get a chair.

Second try. I get up to the window and take a peak inside the metal Dominican window vents. THE KEY!

Wait, why is there a second screen in this window? I don't want to break a second screen. What is with this... Why is it so flimsy? Oh! That's my mosquito net. Which I now have to try to get ahold of. I'm pretty sure a ghost is pulling at it pretending to be a breeze I know does not exist in that room. 

At this point I have my left arm holding the vents so I can see, my right arm semi holding the net, and a flashlight (as big as an Arizona Tea can) in my mouth. I don't look like a burglar at all. 

Maybe I can just reach my hand inside this... Ouch! Okay. No reaching inside with the arms. Not anorexic enough for that. Also, left go-go-gadget arm in the 90's. 

So I look around for a stick. Yay. Okay. On the chair. Looking in the window. Using part of my had to hold up that stupid mosquito net, and I have the stick close to the keys. 

It bends. What kind of lame stick is this? I pull it out. It's from a banana tree. Least useful stick ever. "Get away from me you worthless piece of crap!" 

Okay, another stick. I am literally in a tree grove, surely there is a stick someplace... Or ... Not. How is this real life? 

Walking. Walking. 
Almost at the neighbors.
Still trying to not get caught looking stupid by my host family.
Where is a stick long enough and hard enough to make my night get a lot better? 
Come on. 

Okay. I found one. (Later the random dirt particles are going to get on my face and hands and bother me the entire time I write this post.)

Okay.
Back on the chair.
Left arm with stick kind of in window. 
Right arm trying to hold back mosquito net. 
Mouth holding flashlight at the angle of visibility. 
I'm inching towards the keys. 
I have hooked the keys. 
They keys fall off! 
What is this The Sand Lot? 
Okay, otro vez.
I have the keys.
Slowly lift arm. 
Don't let keys fall behind bed and onto floor.
Pulling keys toward right hand. 
I HAVE THE KEYS! 
Wait, my hands are now interlocked in the window.
Okay, slowly transfer keys to other hand. 
Now the stick doesn't want to come. 
Okay. 
Everything is out! 

Quick, grab the chair and walk back to your room like nothing is different. 

Open door.
Write blog. 
Wipe dirt from eyes a million times. 
Dream about taking a long, warm bubble bath in America. 
Be excited to wake up on an island. 

Bug zapper

Can I get a bug zapper mosquito net? Is that a thing?

I'm sure after I get used to the light and the noise I'd like it.

#totallyworthit!

I have Peace Corps skin right now. My legs look like junk. It's really like the same skin I had as a child. I have a big gash in the front of my left leg from the river, mosquito bites up and down both, and a weird roughness on my feet I didn't know was possible.

When do I get my regular skin back? It does come back right? RPCV's you have to tell me, do the scars go away and the softness come back after you return to America, or is this some kind of battle scar I'm going to claim forever? And really, I can't figure out the feet. Is that my lack of hot showers?

The scar from being a doofus pre-PC during a softball practice is still taking up a significant portion of my left leg, so maybe this is forever.

... They should have put this is the pre-service email.

Warning: skin will never again look the same. (Hashtag) totally with it (exclamation point)

The Peace Corps diet

I've had my first real taste of the peace corps diet, but I don't think I lost any weight, just shame. My doña thinks I'm dying. I'm not dying. It just that I'd rather lay in bed and drink oral rehydration salts than spend any amount of time with people.

Also, she likes to inform the people, including my project partner, exactly how many times I left my room during the night and what I ate and drank during the day. It's cultural. People here talk more and I am waaaaay more interesting here, being as I am from America and don't speak Spanish.

It's just I don't want to discuss this with my older man project partner when I'd rather lay in a comfortable bed in the fetal position with the sound of FRIENDS on in the background. So that's what I did. I was sure to remind my doña that I had great doctors in the capital I would call if I needed them and a great medical handbook which I was reading and consulting throughout this entire process.

Just so we are all clear, my temp never went above 38.3 and my number didn't hit 5 in 1, so I'm safe. Pretty sure it was viral, and it has run it's course. The medical handbook in pretty sweet.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

One of those Americans

I read Veil of Roses today. It was written by Laura Fitzgerald. 

"God, you Americans, you make me crazy! You think everything's so easy. And maybe it is for you, but for the rest of the world, you know, well, lots of us struggle just to get through the day alive, and then we wake up to go through it all over again another day. Our lives are like a nightmare that never ends." -Tami

I am one of those Americans. I, con frecuencia, tell people that things are simple. Usually, I am talking to another American. I tend to think things are simpler than other people. When I studied abroad people told me they wished they could do that, but that they could never afford it. That's probably not the whole truth. The whole truth is that they didn't want to put the effort into finding a program they could afford, or simply start by believing they could find a program they could afford. Also, when I saved money to have a savings account, people say they can't ever have a chunk of money set aside, but really, they don't want to give up something they already have in their life. I don't know. To me, things are sometimes a lot simpler than people let them selves believe. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I've been a cushioned American for too long, but I think some of the "I can'ts" that make people so sad in life need to go. Make it happen. I think we were given life to live it mostly in happiness and when we find excuses for not having happiness it's just sad. Happiness can be simple. 

I guess the reason I wanted to explore this thought now is because I am early in my Peace Corps service (and I read that quote today), and I'm hoping my thinking will be challenged. When I look back at this post in two years, I hope that, changed opinion or strengthened, I hope to have had something force me to look at myself and my thinking. 

What do you think? 

Is happiness hard? 
Has my life simply been too easy? 
Does everything just fall into place for me?
Why is it so much easier to accept pain and sadness? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wifi

The Internet lady likes me. I say in her house for close to four hours today reading blogs and updating my Internet life.

When the hour of comida came she asked me if I wanted some food. She gave me lunch, gave me Internet, and let me just sit in her house all afternoon and reconnect in a silent English environment.

Being as I'm PCDR she is likely to become one of my favorites. I'll be at her place con fercuencia. We are more connected than the traditional PC volunteer. My inbox was full of PC emails I hadn't read. I foresee passing the days at her place having or waiting for Internet.

Also, those of you with iPhones, get Viber. I've gone through a trial period, using it to call my mom and sister and even a cousin and the connection is pretty great as long as you aren't in a basement of a hospital (Gabby) or something.

Also, why didn't I bring my pink pants to this country? They would have been perfect. I may ask my first visitor to get them and bring them. Please? I (almost) know exactly where they are.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weird update

So I have been letting my doña's grandkids play with my cell phones. I know I know, whatever. Other people here have cell phones and I let kids in the states play games, and I play games in front of them, so whatever.

Well, tonight I was letting the little girl in my house play Sudoku on my phone while the grandkids played the racing game on the other. She was sitting next to me playing. I was actually pretty excited she wanted to play the game that challenged the mind a little more.

Well my doña came over and asked her what she was doing. Asked whose phone she had. Said some things in Spanish I didn't understand and the girl gave me back my phone. She didn't even leave to go do any work or anything. There wasn't something else for her to do. I don't like it.

I didn't want to have the other kids playing while she watched. I felt like that would involve me too much in this weird form of slavery. I walked over and nicely asked for my phone. I told them we weren't playing any more. When the granddaughter asked why I said that if all of the children weren't allowed to play nobody was going to play.

I don't exactly know how to approach this situation culturally, because it is a cultural issue. It's not that she is necessarily mistreated, just treated differently. In American culture it's unfair and neglect is considered abuse, but most kids in campos here are "abused" by American standards in one way or another. She isn't allowed to play with the kids sometimes. Often she has work to do when other kids are playing. She is in some way paying her way for a house and food. If she were 16 would I feel differently? At what age would this not bother me? Is it because she's 9 and not 13? I'm not here to change the culture, but I sure hope at some point I can make at least one person think differently about this. And, I won't stop trying to educate her in her free time. We are going to read and talk about math and school and higher education and give this girl a dream of at lease getting out of this weird form of slavery.

In the end, there are just some things I'm not going to sit by and watch and seeing my stuff used as a pawn in something that promotes this differentiation is one of them.

I knew I was in PC when

These are the not super PC but I've-been-here-for-four-months PC related things.

I walked 15 minutes to see if the electricity and cable were on so I could use the Internet.

When the Internet was out and I thought, "Well, at least I can sit in this chair for an hour and wait for the unlikely luz to come back. Something interesting will probably happen and if I sit long enough someone will give me a soda." (Update: the soda came in 30 minutes. This time they added crackers to the mix. My life is so healthy.)

I started wearing shoes in the shower. (I didn't even do that in college.)

I was surprised when my Doña squeezed a lime on my daily lunch of rice. "What is this FLAVOR your trying to add to my happy bland existence?"

I chose cheese that had been sitting in the sun in its own juices all day over fresh eggs for dinner.

I chose to NOT shave my legs but to go ahead and wear shorts anyway.

"I know it's been 4 months and my mail isn't here yet, just give it time Mom."

That chicken jumped up and bit me.

There's a bunch of mold in my shower. It's whatever, just wear shoes.

I automatically put my toilet paper in a trash can now instead of the bowl.

A guy told me the bread was going to make me fat while he handed me a cup of sugar and a drip of coffee.

I stopped thinking the cow walking down the street alone was loose. Someone will find it eventually and more than likely it'll head home.

I chose to sew my flip flops that were 4 sizes too small and broken instead of buying new. ($200 pesos is just too much. That's like 5 whole American dollars.)

Changing fractions into decimals is university math.

He didn't have change so he just gave me three pieces of candy.

This conversation:
"I don't like greased food."
"That's not grease. It's run off from when I fried the egg."
"Oh. Well, I don't like that either."
I
I asked to help with the dishes and I was demoted to "rinser". The job you give a kid you don't trust to actually get anything clean.

I always pretend it isn't weird for me when I see people naked. Oh, your helping that guy pee on the front porch. Not weird. Oh, your naked in the front yard? Not weird. Oh, just heading to the outdoor shower? Not weird. Oh that child is playing with his junk in the street? Not weird. I also try to pretend it isn't weird when people see me naked. Oh, you're coming into my room while I'm getting dressed. Not weird. You just wanted to give me some hot tea? How nice of you. Yes, those are my breasts. This isn't weird at all. Will you hand me that bra?

I'll just say this. Before I was in peace corps I was kind of proud of the small number of people who had seen me all or part naked, now, it's whatever. People are naked sometimes and sometimes they aren't and at times other people see them. It's really no big deal. (Until I'm back in America that is. I promise it'll be weird again.)

What's your limit?

I've decided that when choosing to live in the DR for two years you have to use your first six months in country to figure out what your limit is, and when it comes time to choosing a place to live for the rest of the time you have to choose a place that doesn't make you hit that limit. 

My limit?: cold showers. 
I hate them. Actual hate. I know that because every time I dump a cold bit of water on my head I say to myself, "I hate this." 

Now, this is Peace Corps. I signed up to live like the people and darn it if I didn't plan on living like the people. I took cold bucket baths for four months. 

Then I walked into the bathroom and saw a STEAMING bucket of water. The cleaning lady ran in and removed the bucked and said it was for one of the old dudes baths. Well. Well. Well. If hot showers are an option I am signing up.

I asked my Doña one night if it would be hard to get some hot water and she said no. You see, Amanda does know how hot water happens. Put a pan over something hot and voila. I was just thinking that would seem a little posh when everybody else is using cold water so I didn't do it. I was still, "living like the people" as they say. 

Not anymore. That's my limit. I don't like cold water. I'd take almost anything over cold showers. I'd lose the running water we have. I'd walk a mile to a river twice a day to obtain half a bucket of cold water to heat up it that's what it took. I'd climb into a dark cave and chip a hunk of ice off of a glacier and wait two hours for it to heat instead of taking a cold shower. I'd shower with three other people instead of taking a cold shower. I'd give up a toilet that flushes. I'd shower while a creepy guy watched me. I'd shower without soap. Really, almost anything would be better than a cold shower. I hate them.

 I think the only thing about my site I wouldn't give up for a hot shower is the fact that I am a ten minute walk from wifi when we have electricity and cable. 

Now, when I want to shower I ask no questions. I simply walk into the cocina, grab a pot, and heat some water. Cold showers can suck it. I'm not doing it unless all of the DR decides to give them up too. 

Riding cows



Can I ride a cow? Is that something people do?

(I'm laughing at that joke too you know.)

Right now I am looking at three cows. Two look so skinny a parakeet would crack their bones, but this one, he or she looks ready to be mounted. It's laying here on the ground, chomping away at the grass and probably thanking God for a slow metabolism. It's young, but if its not eaten any time soon I may try to ride this thing before I leave the country.

Trash



I spent the better part of two months not knowing what to do with the trash at my house. Now, how did I go that long in the dark? Well this is the story:

When I first arrived I didn't know the method and I thought I would watch other people to figure it out. I figured there was some kind of burning method I would come to know.

I put a plastic bag in my room and whenever I had trash I threw it in there. Well after a month it was full and I still didn't know what to do with the trash, so I just dumped my entire bag into the little can in the bathroom. I thought, surely I'll know soon... Nope. I put it all in the bathroom again, this time with a fuller bag.

Now I know what you are thinking, "Amanda, why didn't you just ask?" Well, lovely reader, after you've been somewhere for two months it feels strange to ask something as basic as, "now, where in the heck do I put all this garbage?".

One of my lovely Peace Corps friends, (Lobo), suggested I walk along the road and slowly dump the bag out. I won't lie and say I didn't consider it, but that too felt strange.

Finally I had a moment. I had used a bunch of cotton swabs to clean my nail polish bottle that exploded on the plane ride over here and the little girl in my house was sitting with me. I asked her where I should put the dirty swabs. She told me to throw them. Now, I think I would have noticed it my yard was FULL of trash after years of people living here and just "throwing" garbage. So I asked for a confirmation. She said that yea, I was meant to throw it. She stood and waved me over. We waled behind my house and a little down the hill. This is what I saw:


Saturday, July 13, 2013

They're on to something


Did you realize that when its hot you can life your shirt up and this will cool you down? If, when in the DR, you see ladies, dudes, or children walking around with their shirt up its not because they didn't notice. It's because they are cooling off. I'm about to throw modesty out the window, because I heard that the real heat isn't here yet... It's coming.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Copy work

I was reading a home school blog written by a lady who was having a hard time teaching her kids English lessons. They just weren't catching on very well (they are native speakers, this is just the regular lessons we all went through.) The lady decided to teach her kids using a method I now employ in teaching myself more spanish: copy work.

She had her kids sit for something like 15 or 30 minutes each day to copy out of a book. I have a kids Spanish book that I've been reading and now copying. It really has shown me marked improvement. (And by marked I mean I haven't marked a single thing, but my study time has focus and I am learning so it feels good.)

For any of you out there working on a language, native or foreign, copy work really helps. It forces you to look in at the language and see what your eyes sometimes miss when you are only reading.

Say my name.

I try to use people's names as much as possible. It started when I heard that a persons favorite word to hear is generally their own name. I felt this was true, but didn't really experience it myself until recently. This guy, Antonio, uses my name all the time. To top it all off, I "taught" him how to say it "en ingles", so it actually sounds like my name. In a world that can sometimes seem so lonely, it's nice to know someone is trying to know me.

Also, new events in birds. Did you know that chickens go to bed and to top it off they go to bed in trees. There was a ladder going into a tree that I have been trying to figure out for two months. It turns out the chickens line up and walk themselves into that tree just before dark every evening to sleep in the tree.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jerk

A rooster jumped up and bit my elbow today. <insert profanity here>

Walk away you <insert same profanity here>.

More than three days later:

His name is Trevor. I named him after he bit me.

I've watched him from afar and decided he is a rotten jerk.

He sees food coming, grabs it in his mouth, and then takes off running with a group of ladies chasing behind, too slow to catch the GIANT hunk of bread that rotten scoundrel can't share.

Today he walked up and took a banana from me that I had sitting on the side table. Good thing I didn't want it since I had just eaten two. I was a little happy when the ladies showed up and the jerk tried to run, but since bananas weigh more than bread it kept breaking and falling out of his mouth. He was forced to share if only for simple physics.

Jerk.

I've decided instead of thinking we need to eat him next I'd like to keep him around. If only for entertainment purposes.

Jerk.

Pollo


A non-exhaustive list of things I didn't know about chickens but now do:

1. The roosters are sometimes as big as small turkeys.

2. They bathe themselves in dust and later will flap their wings and send dust flying.

3. They will taste anything, but generally don't like eating wet food, like cherries vs corn kernels. Kernels bueno, cherries malo.

4. Pollitos (chicks) die a lot.

5. Pollitos sleep under their mother hen even after they've hatched.

6. Mother hens are protective like a mama dog. They basically bark and growl if you come near their babies.

7. They don't run away. They will walk around in the same yard all day and never run away.

8. They have personalities. I can tell them apart because they all act so different and actually look really different.

9. They will jump up and bite you in the elbow if you are eating bread.

10. They will take bread directly out of your hand if you don't shoo them away in time.

Chickens, hens, roosters, and chicks are basically the dogs of the DR.

Side note about turkeys: the boys have a weird thing hanging from the front of their bodies called an Escoba, which is also the word for broom.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ups

I've been having more ups than downs lately. I feel in charge of my movements. I feel in charge of my words. I feel in charge of my work.

For those of you curious about the PC path I am currently in my last month of the diagnostic phase. I have been able to get away with doing NOTHING and still call it work. Okay, I'm walking house to house ish and talking to people. I'm figuring out the beat of Gualete. I'm visiting the river. I'm remembering names. But. I'm also deciding at the beginning of a day that instead of seeking out that guy to work with I may just go to the river and talk to him tomorrow. Or I'll decide to hang at my house with the out-of-campo family. It's a really work and not work kind of life. They tell you in training it'll be like that. That is should be like that. But living it you still feel like the biggest slacker in America. (Amanda, you aren't in America...)

Other than that I'm okay. I'm happy to say I do feel like my campo is home. I don't miss my Cuerpo de Paz friends every second of the day. They are simply fond memories I look forward to seeing when I can. Incidentally that'll be this week. Get ready! I'm pretty sure Lobo and I are going to go see Monsters Inc. it'll probably be in Spanish. Maybe that'll make it funnier.

Also, my legs look awful. Not that they were in magazines before, but they looked like normal legs. Now, the Dominicans all point out the mosquito scars from my first months in country. I don't get bitten as much now, but the scars are still there.

Administrative separation

I found out today that someone who came in with my group was separated from PC.

I was shocked because, as I told one of my Peace Corps best friends, this person was literally the LAST person I ever expected to be administratively separated from PC. When I looked at her I always thought, "She is so Peace Corps." She had the clothes and the attitude and the unexpected Spanish skill set you need to be in the Peace Corps.

My friend and I were speaking in general about separation from PC. I don't want to be separated because if you are add sepped from PC you can never do it again. He doesn't want to be add sepped because it looks bad on a resume.

He thinks its crazy that my reason is because you can't do Peace Corps twice. I only kind of care about my résumé.

What do you think? Which category do you think you would fall into? Why wouldn't you want to be administratively separated from the Peace Corps.

Also, to my friend who is back in America. Man! I'm really going to miss you. I literally still owe you RD$20 I planned to go visit your site to get library advice. I was literally in disbelief when I found out. I'm sorry it was you. I'm going to keep track of you via the fae-bú and I hope you find what you're looking for post this situation.

Vacation

I've decided my Spanish vacationing host family have the right idea. They are vacationing here for a month.

My Project Partner have me a tour brochure in English. I actually live in a great vacation spot, especially since they've rented a car. The one place I've really wanted to go to (27 Charcos) is less than an hour from my campo. Even if we took public transportation its super close. There is a beach within 30 minutes via car. The Brugal factory is close, so people who are into that can go for a tour. And, I live close to resorts type places, tambien. One of the veteran volunteers whose blog I devour went to a resorts type place close to here for US$24 a night with her husband for their anniversary. They had beach front bed things and good food. I'm pretty sure they had hot water too.

Moral of the story. Come visit me, rent a car, and we will tear Puerto Plata up!

You'll have to do all of the driving though. PC volunteers are not allowed to drive and I'd be scared... No joke.

Tramposa

So this kid was cheating at SkipBo.
I half way called her out.
It's kind of funny, because I was going to win.
She has never even come close to beating me.
Then, the other girl cheated on accident.
This was her first time playing and she didn't know the rules.
Maybe that doesn't actually count as cheating.

Well the first girl tried to sass up and call the second girl out.

Oh no. The mean American stopped that.
"Um. You cheat all the time. You were just cheating, right?"
I explained the exact cheat she did and then made her say that yes, she had just cheated.
Thus, I said, relax, and leave this girl alone.

She had her head down a bit, and I felt a little bad about that, but just because people are mean to her doesn't mean I'm going to tolerate her also being mean to others.

I'm sure part of it is the kid in her, but living in an environment when you are meant to feel like less that others very likely leads to you trying to find little wins anywhere you can.

That part does suck.

Question of the blog: should I let the Dominicans win more? I don't even put effort into winning. Americans are just wired differently after all of those critical thinking school we are put through. I am seeing advances in Blokus though.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday


Sorry I didn't say anything about your Independence America, but I did mention it to a Dominican. Forgiven?

Have you heard "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars? If you have, think about that song as you read. If you haven't heard it google it and listen then get back to me. (Mom, that means go to YouTube or something... Really. I mean it. Do it. You will appreciate this better.)

That was my day.

...despues.

I did get up at 5:50 like every other day and put on clothes. I may have walked outside in my bra and undies to see if the exercise clothes I had washed dried overnight. I was hoping the entire time that nobody would find me, but being as it was 5:57 a.m. I felt pretty safe. They were still damp. I sat on the edge of my bed for no less than four minutes and considered falling back asleep. Then I remember my walking partner who was an 8 minute walk from me and I didn't have another way of telling her I was bailing (how I miss text messages sometimes.) I guess I had to walk to her house and start my day. I found different, dry clothes. I was at her house by 6:13.

We walked the 15 minutes to the pley, and walked around 10 times at 2:40 each. I didn't really put effort into the walk, but really, how hard is it to walk? (Remind me I need new shoes. The 7 year old pair I currently have does not prevent me from feeling every road rock, though my friend says their perfect since the pley is dirty. I don't think she understands foot support.) Also, I thought about everything I don't need to think about. You girls remember pulling off a flower petal at a time and saying a little rhyme? That is my life. Also, I want more tall socks. Otherwise the Mosquitos sample my skin and blood during the entire walk.

We stretched. Well, I stretch. She does exactly whatever I do as I do it. If I wipe my hand she wipes her hand. If I crack my knuckles she cracks her knuckles. It is the time in my day I feel the most awkward. Why are you literally doing everything I do? Okay, so we stretched.

We walked home. Well, we walked to her house. That was 15 minutes. Her father in law rubbed my arms down with cigarettes and alcohol. Just kidding... He greeted me by touching my arm, but I'm pretty sure it's the same thing. He's really nice, but the man could probably lay off the boos... It was 7:37 in the morning and he was planning on touching me. That combination should mean less boos the night before.

So I sat for 15 minutes and played with her niña whom finally allowed me to hold her today. She's cute, but I cut it short because she only wears diapers at night. During the day it is only panties and she is 1.5 years old. Bad combo when she is sitting on my lap. Cute as can be though.

When I left my friend wanted to say "va temprano." Which means I am leaving early. Everybody says that when I leave. No matter how long I sit there. Yesterday I told her that it didn't matter what time I left she was still going to say, "tempraaaano." We laughed about it, and today when I said, "Okay, Me Voy" she just looked at me and we both laughed. It was early I guess, but I've taken to getting out of there before her mother in law makes me a full breakfast. I don't like the fried eggs and green bananas and I would regret wasting any of their food, because they are pretty pobre (poor).

So I went home. I had a large glass of water waiting for me (as in I wanted to make one, my family doesn't greet me with ice water after exercise. Ha ha that would be nice though). They do greet me with bread and coffee though, which I drink and eat occasionally. I walked to my room to grab my current book. (Today it was the autobiography of Santa Clause.) Then I sat for an hour on the porch with the old dudes in my house. I read, they sat. Occasionally we would chat. Then I sat some more.

Sounds like a lot right? Maybe you're thinking, Amanda, that wasn't lazy. Well, wait until you hear the rest of my day...

There isn't any. That's it. I got out of bed. Took an 1.5 hour walk, and then I sat in a rocking chair. I'm actually in the chair right now, though I did take a nap between sitting.

Like the song says, "Today I don't feel like doing anything. I just want to lay in my bed."

I don't have a phone signal, so that part was out. I don't have MTV or cable, but I do have a MacBook Pro and all 10 seasons of FRIENDS in my iTunes.

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Tomorrow... I probably won't meet a girl who will tell me "oh my god this is great." And I already have a college degree. So my parents can be proud of me... Does that mean I get to be lazy tomorrow too?

I just lay in my bed. The fan was out because the luz was out and the sun was high.

I didn't comb my hair.
I didn't go any where.
I may have put on my birthday suit.

You know how you sometimes take a shower and then you just stop the getting dressed process? Well, I didn't even do the take a shower part. Literally nothing.

I read the Christmas chronicles.
My computer watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas while I took a nap.
When the luz (electricity) came on I stayed in my bed but now I had a fan pointing at me.
I ignored a knock at my door. Let them think I'm sleeping. It's whatever today. I did eat lunch. That was a break in my nap. The ice cream man was at my house too, so I guess I'll buy some. Then I went back to my room. My computer watched Matilda and I joined it for maybe half. I started the second book in the series entitled "How Mrs. Clause Saved Christmas." Then I just stopped reading.

Around 5 the little girl asked to play cards. That was too much effort for this day. I told her half an hour. She came back. I played cards. (I've mentioned how important the little girl is to me. I try not to ignore her too much especially when she doesn't have work and actually can play for a bit.)

Dinner showed up.
We played SkipBo.
We played Blokus.
She had work between and during.
I listened to music.

Now I'm sitting.
My project partner showed up.

(That relationship is getting better. We are scheduling things together better.)

Maybe I'll go back to bed soon.
It's 7:38 now and I have to be up at 5:50... Wait. No I don't, my walking partner told me this morning she doesn't want to walk on Saturday mornings anymore...

Two lazy days in a row probably wouldn't be healthy for me right now, but one is highly recommended.

My Doña just brought me tea.
I should take a shower, but I don't want to. Why ruin a nothing day with cold water? I could boil some, but that may be too much work for today. I want to be asleep in 1.5 hours.

So.
I need new shoes.
I want more socks.
I am thinking a lot about Christmas a lot week.
I'm going to miss looking at Christmas lights this year.
I am sometimes the laziest government employee in the word.
I still don't speak Spanish.

I'm sorry that was so long.
Leave a comment!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

And I don't even speak Spanish!


So I taught someone something and a few days later they taught someone else.

So you know how I love the game Blokus? (I you didn't you so now... Lets play!)

Well I taught the little girl in my house how to play and I was able to teach her, in Spanish, some of the strategy tips for winning.

Well tonight I taught this 24 year old guy how to play too. He was pretty good. Well, he was playing against the little girl and I saw a move he had, but it was a tricky explanation and a multiple move gain. I was pondering if I should tell him, but decided it wasn't the right time. Well he made the "wrong" (strategically malo) move and I was going to let it slide.

Imagine my surprise when the little girl fooled us all and explained to him that if he moved that piece he would later be able to play a better piece and thus have a better score.

Now what was that they said in training? Because of the learning style a lot of kids don't have critical thinking skills? Well, that is actually very true, but tonight I learned that those skills aren't gone forever, just dormant.

Now, I'm not STOKED right now because I taught Blokus. I've taught a few people, I'm excited because I was able to teach strategy and have it passed along... In SPANISH!


She lives with me and we both like "azul y verde". 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

C25K


I started over tonight. I've been walking with a mujer every morning I sleep in Guelete, but lately it just hasn't felt like enough. I've wanted to run. At the end of the day I like to use every last piece of energy I have by running like I'm mad at something. I had a lot of things get in my way of being home at a decent hour for the run, but I had a lot of things going in my favor also. I said To myself if I make it home by six I am going for a run. After a bola (free ride) went out of its way to get me home I looked at the clock and it was 5:58. I took it as a sign and threw on my running clothes real quick. I walked down to the play (baseball field), which took longer than I thought it would so I threw in a run every now and again. Then I started running for real. Then I wanted to give up. When I would tell myself reasons to quit for the night I would follow with "Excuses" and remind myself of at least one reason why I really wanted to start running again. The gist of which is to feel better, but specifics aren't being stated. So half way through I was determined... And the app told me I was half way through so it was like, "Okay, Amanda. Why give up now?" So I ran my heart out, and it started to rain... Now, rain is no joke. Especially when you are a 20 minute run from your house and you are already exhausted. No bueno... So I decided I would head for home and finish the run in the street. Well, then a bola showed up and when a bola shows up and sweat is literally dripping off your glasses and it's raining and you have your iPhone on you... That tends to be a case for, "okay, I'll run for real tomorrow."

Now I'm sitting in the driveway of a dude I met once. His lady (I don't know if this is his wife or his daughter) gave me some jugo (juice) and the rain stopped. I should head home, but whatever. This is my life and I like it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer days

Okay, picture this:
You're naked.

... Okay, okay. You're fully clothed, but I did bring some spice to this otherwise vanilla blogging.

Okay, so you are wearing clothes. Possibly even your jeans. You are walking in a river bed that recently has water in it. Thankful you spent US$100 on Chacos before you left America. Those things really can go from land to water and back again. (If only they could invent a pair that doesn't allow little rocks to get stuck under your feet. The shoes are strapped to your feet so well that you can't seem to get the rocks out once they are in...)

Okay, so your in the river. You walk and walk and walk. You are following a bunch of screaming children looking for the perfect place to "bañar". (I still don't quite get why we are using the word for bath when we are swimming, but maybe it's because after the swim most people actually do bathe right there in the rio.)

Here, the rio seems so natural. The water is so powerful that after a rain the river really isn't in the same spot as is was yesterday. Men are filling sand bad and creating little pools to swim in. Because the water is currently dirty from the digging the group walks a little way down to a better spot.

Here you wonder if the cliff you are jumping off of would meet any cliff diving regulations. When your feet hit the bottom post jump you decide probably not, but you don't fail to jump at least 30 more times that afternoon. "As long as I stay feet first." You tell yourself. "Hey, the Dominicans are doing it."

Also, you take this point to wonder how you landed on an island full of people who can't swim. It really is 50/50 here.

As the day moves forward you are laughing a lot. It's less and less obvious everyday that you still do not speak Spanish. Whatever. Communication is so much more than language.

At a point you regret not bringing your camera, but then you just say, "Hey, this is what memories are for."

When I'm senile and can no longer remember this day that'll be fine. I'm sure I'll have a lot of others in between now and then to fill it. Who has time to remember the past when the present and the future are so great!

This is one thing this country has brought back into my life: spontaneity.

People of my life, let's be spontaneous together.

Young Dominican girl

If you weren't seven years old I would bet money that you were moonlighting as a striper who was on break from her prostitution job.

Nice dance moves though. I'm only like 40% jealous.

I do know some Americans who would want to challenge you, but I think you'd win the prize. Natural rhythm... It helps.

Sleepy

I like to go to bed early. This stems from my inability to sleep in and also, it's actually really difficult for me to stay awake after nine. This can be noted by the number of movies and dance clubs I've fallen asleep in. If I'm up past 9 with you I suggest you smile. The only reason for this is that I really really like you. I always count the hour until six when I fall asleep, because I will be awake. Oh well, life is real.

You're 16... I'm not interested

Sometimes, your at the rio, and a 16 year old boy will touch your legs under the water and claim its an insect in the water. Later the insect will be a fish. Here you ponder how attractive you must be to the animal kingdom. The boy will tell you this with a smile. You know the smile. It was the are-you-into-me-like-I'm-into-you smile. You will try to use all of your telekinesis power to let him know that you couldn't be less interested.

Also, please don't touch. My legs aren't exactly shaven, and this is getting awkward. In my old life it would have been awkward 3 days ago.

It's true what they say. Being an American makes you automatically more interesting. If I were Dominican he would probably be looking at the 14 year old instead. Also, if he were American, he just wouldn't be looking at me. It's almost comical every time I remember... You're 16! Ha ha. Really, walk away little boy, walk away.