Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Visiting Santiago!

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

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

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

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

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

A weekend and a mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Friday, October 25, 2013

Skip Bo

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

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

Changes in the kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New shirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alcoholism in my campo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Construye Tus Sueños

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lobo and Juliana. 

Conference Stuff. 

Erin, also from Colorado. 

Conner, paying attention. 

Announcing the winners. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My computer broke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Two sides to every story

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

Starting "malo"; Glass half empty:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trash pickup

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


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

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

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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Am I a feminist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Side note about flowers:

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

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why fitted sheets exist


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

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

And another... 

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

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

Also, this bit of cuteness happened. 

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

Amanda yawns... "Is it over yet?" 

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

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

Besides, the kids are about to dance. 

And this happened:

I should never go to bed again, ever.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I'm flattered, but probably not.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Soy malo

Since you are reading this blog you must speak perfect English.

Oh, you don't?
I didn't think so.

What I'm really getting at is that I went to an English Teachers Conference last week and some of what I learned came full circle tonight.

Starting with English.

The coolest thing I learned at the conference was the difference between "can" and "can't".
Now, I didn't actually go to this session, so I have another volunteer to thank for the details, but it sums up like this:

When native English speakers say can, they draw the word out, but when they say the word "can't" they pronounce it basically the same, but it is always a short almost harsh pronunciation.

Try it for yourself. Say, "I can speak English." And then say, "I can't speak Spanish." It's like your living my life through words! Try to simply say the sentence, but don't focus too much on pronouncing things "correctly". Did you hear it? Yes (good job). No (you're lying and you don't know how to speak English... Be better at English, you lying native English speaker.)

Okay, now I do the same thing with Spanish. A lesson in pronunciation.

I have heard more than once a child here will me reprimanded by their parent and the parent clearly says "soy malo". For those of you who know basic Spanish "soy" means "I am". So I have been racking my brain for about 2 months trying to figure out this "soy malo" thing people say to their kids. For a while I thought it was some kind of psychological way to reprimand by saying to the kid what they wanted the kid to think. I just didn't get it. I even mentioned it to my Peace Corps friend and he to was at a loss.

Well, full circle, I was coughing again (yes, Amanda almost always has gripe (gripe is flu like symptom illnesses) here. I wish I had some NyQuil to pass out with. Cherry if you're planning on sending or visiting, I love you, thanks), so I cough and my neighbor says "soy gripe". JUMP BACK. I can ask her about this because she understands how to explain language sometimes. So I explained to her about the kids and ask her why she said "soy gripe" instead of "Eres gripe" even though that didn't make sense either.

She went into a long discussion about basic Spanish pronouns and I went on to say okay, I get that, so why are you saying "I am flu" when for one you don't have the flu and that wouldn't make sense even if you did.

Well, it turns out she was saying "eso es gripe" which means "that is the flu". And the parents were saying "eso es malo" which means "that is bad". Which makes so much more sense. Also, it reminds me that sometimes it kind of sort of sounded like "Ah-soy malo" which is maybe where the first "e" in "eso" went.

So, a lesson in language:

Sometimes is sounds like "can" but it is really "can't" and sometimes it sounds like "soy", but it's really "eso es".

If you are ever teaching pronunciation, it's a good idea to know what people actually say, and not what they should be saying, as a way to teach the difference.

Accented English for the win!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Maybe it's time to start drinking

I had a bit of a rough day. Let's just say right now my community wants me here just about as much as I want to be here. It's referred to as the bad part of the service roller coaster that I am on.

To combat my down in the dumps feelings I decided to break out my bike. Hit up the Colmado that's a bit farther from my house, buy supplies for an upcoming project, and start drinking.

That's right. I busted out a yoga may and sat down with a big old bottle of Dasani and a pitcher of the pure filtered variety. I'm going to make little baggies of candy and pretend I'm back home preparing a craft for Halloween. Tomorrow I'll wake up and love my life again, but for today is cough drops we pretend are candy and suckers wrapped in plastic for Amanda.

I miss you. Call me. I'll have my phone next to me as I get water wasted!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Aralan or die

When you join the Peace Corps you think, "Woo-hoo. I'm awesome. I'm going to go be one with a new people and culture. I am the most invincible, awesome person in the world."

The American Government is thinking, "Oh crap. We have another reckless hippie who doesn't think malaria is a thing. If that idiot gets himself killed its going to be bad press on our hands."

Okay, so maybe they aren't thinking that, but the numbers don't lie (unless I make them up), and 88% (made up number) of Peace Corps volunteers forget to take their malaria medicine on the regular. The Peace Corps doesn't like this because if one of us were to die because of complications due to malaria the American people would be in an uproar because it's actually pretty easy to prevent through various methods. We actually have two options here if we don't react well to Aralan we can take doxy. It is part of our job to put pills in our body to prevent dying from malaria. Still, if we choose to ignore that and we still die, the American people don't see a volunteer who forgot to take their pills, they see a peace corps volunteer that died during service, then it leaks that we didn't take the pills and some Americans start to say, "oh, that sucks, but that idiot was a dummy. I would have taken the pills." Let me tell you, that's statistically not true. I made up that data and the numbers don't lie. People forget to take these pills all the time and for various reasons. (Forget isn't likely the word I mean. I probably mean "choose not to take" but I'm going to use forget here.)

Some forget to take Aralan because they don't believe malaria is a thing in the country they are in. Some others forget because they don't agree with taking an antibiotic (volunteers with no actual medical background told me it was an antibiotic, but I don't REALLY know what type of drug it is) for 27 months and six weeks straight with no interruptions. Still others forget because they actually forget, and then there is me.

Aralan tastes like crap. When Mawairwia Wednesday rolls around all I remember is that nasty pill that coats my mouth with the most disgusting taste I've ever had in my mouth, ever. That's after living with a doña that made me pig guts soup as some kind of delicacy.

So I was sitting in my kitchen doing what I've quickly learned is a Peace Corps habit, eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon. (Really, if you join the Peace Corps, you suddenly crave peanut butter. If you run out, it means a week has past and you are desperate to find another jar). So I'm looking at the jar, and listening to a song about Jesus which leads me to thinking about Aralan (*for full list of thoughts scroll to bottom of post).

I decided to roll the Aralan around in peanut butter and swallow it while it was still coated. Ba-blam, no disgusting taste in my mouth, only wonderful peanut butter taste. That's the new trick. Now I won't forget to take my Aralan ever again... Unless I actually forget.

Here's a cool photo I instagramed because I'm still hip even though I'm in the Peace Corps.

*song: Addison Road "What Do I Know of Holy -> "Oh, this was my favorite song when I was saved" -> I was reading the book of Matthew when I was saved -> I want to read my Spanish bible, it's been a while -> maybe I should read a book of the bible a month and study the Spanish in that book each month -> I should break out that KJV Josie gave me before I left -> that was a really nice gift she gave me, the journal is filled with my Aralan dreams -> I haven't had an Aralan dream in so long -> I should take Aralan today -> Aralan taste like crap -> this peanut butter I'm eating does NOT taste like crap -> why doesn't Aralan taste like peanut butter? Peace corps volunteers would PAY for that -> I bet I can make this Aralan taste like peanut butter -> isn't that what people do to dogs? -> okay... All I have to do is think of myself as a possibly smarter dog and it's cool. -> Let me find that Aralan