Friday, March 28, 2014

Do Peace Corps volunteers get paid? Or do they at least cover all of your expenses?

Peace Corps Volunteers don't get paid in the traditional sense, but we do have some disposable income.

Those of you Americans that pay your taxes contribute to our income each month, so thank you for allowing me to eat, work, and visit other volunteers.

Each Peace Corps site has a budget to work with, and that site chooses how to use that budget. In the Peace Corps Dominican Republic, the volunteers and staff are all paid out of that budget. The money is also used to keep us safe and healthy.

For our part, we a placed in a site and that site determines how much money we "earn" each month. It is a number determined by surveying volunteers in the area and in a similar living condition. We are allotted enough funds to live and work in similar conditions as others in our community. In the D.R. there are typically four "levels" of pay: batey, campo, pueblo, and capitol/tourist. Our site is selected and rated on one of these levels and that determines how much money Peace Corps drops into our local bank account each month. We are paid in local currency, and it is considered a stipend and not a paycheck.

Another fund we receive is our Settling-in Allowance. This is a one time fund meant to afford us bedding, cookery, and make the deposits on our living arrangements. This amount is, too, dependent on where we are living. I will actually receive this twice, because of my site change, but the second time it is only half the amount. The idea there is that we have been in country long enough to have built up some things we need, but we still may need deposits and things for our new location.

We receive other money in our accounts as well, but they are on an as needed basis. As example, when we come into the capitol to see our doctors, we will receive our transportation refunded on the condition that they asked us to come in for treatment. PCDR assumes you will come into the capitol once a month to take care of routine things, and that amount is considered to already be in our stipend. We also receive refunds for things like broken phones (one per service) and doctor prescribed medication.

We also receive money at the end of our service equal to the number of days we served with Peace Corps. The purpose of this money is to "readjust" ourselves to America. It is logically called our "readjustment allowance."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The old people versus stuff debate.

I've inherited a lot of things recently. Specifically, I've inherited a plethora of unique spices and a lot of margarine. The kicker is, to inherit all of this, I had to lose three friends over two days. There it is. Of course, I'd rather have either of these people than some paprika with which I can make better hard-boiled eggs each morning.

The first loss was my room mate. I introduced her to you in a past post. Her first name is my middle name and that made us instant friends. Both being younger sisters of a much cooler older sister brought more bonding. Living in the same house for 10 weeks without any conflict means we were meant to be. Now she is back in the D.C. area and I am still here. I remember the time I told her I would still have a year here after she left. I'm here to say that as of today I will actually have OVER a year left.

Living with Michelle taught me a lot about myself. Mainly, I like to wash dishes more than normal people. Also, I clean a lot, but my house doesn't look any cleaner. Mainly, she taught me that I talk about cleaning A LOT. Weird cleaning.... like, I'm going to scrub the stairs. I mention it again the next day. Three days later I wake up at 7 a.m. and I begin scrubbing the stairs on my hands and knees with a toothbrush scrub brush. I have weird habits.

She is also the person I discovered my new city with. We moved into the house I live in on the same day. One of us didn't want to sleep alone in a weird new house, so we decided we should just sleep in the house together from then on. Tonight marks the first night I am sleeping in my home alone. Weird.

Michelle was also my peek into what a new PCV must feel like. She wasn't a volunteer, but she went through the same cultural shocks I did when I first arrived. Sometimes volunteers have access to a newbie volunteer, but that is typically only for a weekend. I was able to watch her develop from, "Hey, so this is a carro. You should expect three people to sit in the front." to "...we could probably get a fourth in there." It was wonderful, and funny.

She was the person I developed an acceptance for cats with, and the first person I've shared a pet with as an adult. Adorable. We are super cute. I miss her already. The time was too short. She better have a couch for me to sleep on back in America one day.

The other friends I lost we some of my favorite people I've encountered in life. You know how they say you should appreciate your grandparents? Well, I never really had grandparents, so I was always jealous of those that did... I now see why they are so important. (Seriously, Dads and Grandparents... and Mom's. Make sure you appreciate them if you have good ones.) 

Hannah is a German born beauty who immigrated to Canada with her load of children many years ago. There she met Tony, first generation Canadian from Canada (I think that's how I should say that), who came with three little bundles of his own. Together the pair has traveled the world and collected enough stories to keep you busy for an afternoon. I spent many a Sunday traveling to Sosua to hear their tales of gorillas in Africa, golfing in Canada, and great wine in Italy. They've ridden camels, trekked through Chinese cities, and had their shorts stolen by an animal in Africa.

Knowing Hannah means knowing generosity. She also makes me want to learn German so we can watch the German Judge Judy together. Knowing Tony probably means I drink wine more often, but it is so worth it. A gentle man who holds so many ideas in his mind. I think there is something to hearing the lessons of life from those who are older than you. They have listened to my many thoughts and shared their opinion. They have encouraged me to be a leader in life, saying I am in charge of my own future. They told me they expect me to have as many stories as they do one day. What I love about their life is they had many children... I want to say 10, and they still found time to travel in life. They found time to be involved with the global community. What respect I hold for them. I hold them very high in my books.

Basically, I think people are going to come and go in my life. That is a part of it. What I think this means is that I have to appreciate the moments we do have. When I was with Hannah and Tony I couldn't help but set down my phone, listen to their stories, and ask questions. Be present. They remind me of that constantly.

Now, I guess I'll just have to remember to enjoy their memories when I use my new cutting board and think of Michelle every time I kick the cat out of the house.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Do you speak english?

Race and color come up a lot more in my life now than they ever did. There is a group of PCV's that I have involved myself with who hold the purpose of discussing minority issues. I also spent some time on Sunday with my room mate discussing my race, her race, and what it means for life here and in the United States. The only purpose of this post is to describe some scenarios that are common in my life here and I may throw some in for back home.

As my room mate and I walked with a Dominican man who was guiding us we discussed with him where we lived and where we were from. We both stated that we were living in Muñoz now, but that we were American. He said he was full Dominican. He also asked me, "pero, eres todo Dominicano, verdad?" I told him that no, I was America. I said that I was pretty sure my mom was of German decent, though we've never really talked about it, and that I had no idea where my father was from, but that I knew he wasn't Dominican. The guide was shocked. I guess here you tend to be one of three things, white, Haitian, or Dominican. That's probably a very broad generalization, but it seems to fit in many cases.

That in mind, this doesn't tend to be a serious matter for me. I told my room mate that i just use my skin color to my advantage when I can, i.e. I will keep my voice down in guaguas when I'm alone, so nobody questions my Dominican-ness and I don't have to haggle for a fair price. I also have times when I know white skin would make life easier, i.e. No one in my site gives me a bolla unless I have a white person with me.

I was also telling my room mate that the subtle-differences that take place because of race are hard to notice unless there is a way for you to flow between the two. I've had that chance in life here as well as back home. I'm grouped with whoever I am with. If I am with a group of mostly white people, servers are nicer, I'm more likely to get a simple advantage like a bolla down here or an on the house muffin at Mimi's in the states. If I am with mostly darker people, that stuff is less likely to happen. When I am in the gift shop down here with my room mate, people walk in a speak English to me and treat me like an America, when I am down there with just the Haitian guy I work with people walk in, stumble over spanish, and offer to pay me for a simple Google search. "I have money. I'll just have to go get it. Would you Google something for me." Race difference is subtle my friends, but it is real, tough often accidental.

I'm not pushing some kind of race issues. I actually think it's not that big of a deal. The mind works by generalizing things that make sense. It makes sense that a brown girl in the Dominican Republic would be Dominican and would therefore speak spanish. It wold make sense because that is likely what people have encountered on their entire trip. It would make sense for them to stumble over their spanish to try to communicate with me. It also makes sense, and is quite funny, when I speak english and throw this Canadian guy off so much that he doesn't understand my english to be english.

Okay. This is getting long. In summary. I'm not white. But I'm not black either, and sometimes the results are funny and sometimes it means I have to walk when white skin would have earned me a free ride, while other times it just means Americans, Dominicans, and Canadians are confused by my nationality an language skills.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Handsome dogs Biting

I learned what little spanish I know in the Dominican Republic. This tends to mean that the spanish I do know is filled with slang and misuse. Because my spanish skills aren't great, I often stress about using words incorrectly in front of people who actually know what they are saying. My confusion was put to the test recently when I was walking a fellow PVC's dog. I was with my roommate and I told her to tell the dominicans we passed that the dog, Diego, was not guapo. 

The following is the accepted translations of the word guapo. 

1: handsome, good-looking, attractive
2: elegant, smart
3: familier: bold, dashing

Amanda: Just let them know that Diego isn't guapo. Just say, "No, esta guapo."
Michelle: But, guapo means handsome. 

She may not have seen it, but my eyes were HUGE. My internal thoughts were going wild. 

Amanda's internal mind: Guapo means handsome? Am I saying the wrong word? Am I using the word incorrectly? Have people been complimenting Diego all day and I just thought they were asking about his aggression? Why don't I speak spanish. What is this world coming too? She's probably right. You know what... roll with it and just find out later. It's not the right time to look like an idota in front of the roommate. 

Amanda externally: Yeah. I don't know. Maybe it has two meanings... 

Later I asked another PCV about dog culture. 

Amanda, indesperation: Hey, Meagan, do Dominicans use guapo to mean angry?
Meagan, with a big smile: YES! They do. It's just a Dominican thing. 

When others in the office agreed I felt pretty relieved. I had learned a word correctly, but now I know I am going to take this word home with me. I am going to call mean dogs everywhere "handsome" for years to come. 

Saying Goodbye

Living in the area I live, and working with the organization I work with has lead me to making many new friends from America. One such group of people was a wonderful family from Ohio.

I met Lisa when she came to Project Esperanza at the beginning of this month. She had her three children and a family friend in tow. They spent a week working with Project Esperanza and I was able to get to know them during the week while they lived in the house. We spent some evenings playing spades and gabbing while I gave them bad directions to 27 Charcos and ate all of their Twizzlers. I definitely got the best end of the deal. Lisa is an obvious mother, granting me much appreciated motherly advice about some of my future goals and planted in me a new reason to visit Ohio! The oldest, Camden, reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age. I rarely saw him without a book in his hand. Megan reminded me of my sister a bit. Typical teenage girl. One super cool thing about her: She is a pole vaulter! How cool is that. Lauren, the youngest, also reminded me of myself, but more of myself now. She likes to tell stories and you can see how anxious she gets to finish. We just want to be sure everybody knows how the story ends! She is a lot of fun and makes me realize how exciting it must be to have younger siblings. They are a fun family and are, in my opinion, an example of why homeschooling is a good example for some families. 

After they left the house and went out east to Samana I had hopes of seeing them again. As luck and mutual want would have it I was able to see all of them many times since then. They stopped back in a few times to drop things off and volunteer more of their time with the schools. I'm not very involved with the volunteer aspect of Project Esperanza, I just have the luck of spending time with the volunteers when they are here. 

For my part, I was just glad to have access to a wonderful family and exciting conversations.

Michelle and I went to visit them yesterday before they head back to “The Promised Land” tomorrow. We chatted, played spades and spent time in a clean pool. I am so grateful to Lisa for passing on her life advice and hope to cross paths with them again sooner rather than later. I am also glad that the main reason I decided to live in the volunteer house, access to meeting new and interesting volunteers, paid off. They are wonderful and I wish the time we had together were longer.

Have a great time back in America. Good luck with school pole vaulting and exploring this great big world we live in! I’ll miss you guys.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dos Borrochos y una Mesa

My new site is a lot different from much of the rest of the country. I am right on the north coast which is tourism and voluntourism central. Not to say that this is a bad thing. I have been able to meet a lot of great people because of this factor. The hard part is that I haven't found the best way to integrate in my community. In my old site people invited me in all the time(isn) and in friends' sites that is how Dominican culture typically runs. In my new site things are a little different. I feel as if I am just another white person trying to do something with everybody's time. I've been trying to combat this by starting a youth group and getting out more, but it hasn't felt like enough. Also, I miss walking up to random colmados and playing dominos. I just don't see people playing as often here. 

Well, when I came home from some time in the capital I decided I was going to integrate in my community. I was going to ask someone, maybe the old guy I've been stalking, to play dominos. 

As luck would have it, when I went to the colmado tonight, some of the local hombres borracho were sitting there. They shouted some things at me, offered Brugal, and said hello. I took my chance and inquired about a mesa de dominos. We chatted about how i knew how to play, wanted to play, and lived across the street. I headed home to wait. 

As I chatted with my room mate I heard someone enter my house. The guy had found a dominos table and was going to buscar another dude to play dominos with us. My room mate had her heart set on watching another episode of Shameless, but i figured it would be good for both of us to spend the evening chatting with the local old dudes in spanish. 

We played a few games and had a good time. I turned up some of the Dominican music I have and impressed them with my spanish. The funny thing is, no matter how many times we told them that Michelle was fully capable of speaking spanish, and no matter how much spanish she spoke, my partner continued to say "di le a ella". He did not trust that she could speak, even though we have gone over and over how her spanish is better than mine. I guess this brown skin is doing more than protect me against the sun down here, it actually makes me easier to understand in spanish. Thanks, skin! 

For now, I am learning to love my new site. I want to look back on my time in Peace Corps and think fondly of where i live. I want to think of friends I made while I was here, but I won't be able to do that if I don't get up, get out, and find where these friends are located; even if i do have to start with the guy that's probably had one too many. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

What is your schedule like?

This question comes from my sister, Gabby. Who is one of the two most important people in my life right now.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems to fly by and sometimes it seems to drag on. Volunteers are constantly working on projects. Finding good projects, avoiding bad projects, and finding a way to make our current projects work. When we think about going to America for our first visit two months seems really soon, when we think about the time spent waiting for a grant two years seems like an eternity.

My timetable, which is mostly based on my old site since I am still in a bit of a transition in my new site, looks like this:

Yearly: I have two years in Peace Corps. I am either in the first or the second. Right now I am in the first. That means i have a whole 'nother year to get it right.

Monthly: This is probably how I most look at my schedule. At the beginning of each month I look at what conferences and Peace Corps activities I have coming up. What I have already committed myself to at my site, and when I want to fit in my R&R days. It's best to link up travel with other travel and find a way to get someone else to pay for it. I keep everything linked up in my calendar on my computer and my iPhone so I can plan better.

In my old site some months were conference and travel heavy and others found me sitting in my old campo watching gallos for days at a time. I am still finding a rhythm in my site. Now that there is actual work I can do I am trying to find the balance between Peace Corps initiative and life, and life and work at my site. It doesn't help that I moved into a site during the holiday season, right before I use all of my vacation days at once, and right before I have a bunch of PC things for my one year in country. After my one year In Service Training I think I am going to have a lot more going on each month.

Weekly: I have certain things I try to do every week. As example, I started a Chicas Brillantes group with my roommate and this will continue after she leaves. That means I have a group of girls, and one boy, coming to my house every Tuesday night. I also use the Peace Corps initiative "Me Toca A Mi" in the Puerto Plata school for my organization every Friday. I go once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I try not to have anything specific for the weekend, because that is typically when Peace Corps events come up and I like to feel free to go to those. As example, I took two students from The Puerto Plata school to a youth sports event in the capital one weekend. Those won't be every week, but I can generally count on them to be on the weekends.

Now is when we get into the secret of a Peace Corps life.

Daily: This is much more random. Sometimes I teach in the morning and when that happens I am up, dressed, and ready to go by 0830. If I don't have anything to do I get up and mosey into the world around the same time, but I won't rush the being dressed process. All of my free time is spent watching a new t.v. show, reading a new book, or crying because I don't speak spanish practicing spanish. I spend time talking with my room mate and making plans to get things done. Sometimes I spend the day washing my laundry and sometimes i spend the day getting something done, but each option seems really go with the flow. Sometimes I take a car into town and go grocery shopping. Sometimes I work on spreadsheets or lesson plans. Sometimes I feel like all I did was call my other PCV friends to talk.

The thing about my days are, I tend to have things that need to be done during the week, so when I wake up on a day I can choose to get my stuff done, or walk to the beach. I can have plans do my laundry, wake up to a rainy day, and choose to watch every episode of Homeland instead. The laundry will come tomorrow. I can get work done in the morning, grab a car into town for groceries in the afternoon and not know what I'm doing in the evening.

The thing about thinking about Peace Corps on a daily level is you only think about what you did that wasn't work. In Peace Corps, the work get's done in the week, but there just isn't the same amount of work type things to do cada dia as there were in the states.

When we think about the day we think about nothing, when we think about the week we think about getting things done, and when we think about the month we think about being super busy or flojo, and when we think about the years we think about how much or how little time we have left.

All that said sister, I can pretty much be available to FaceTime, Skype, iMessage, or Viber call you anytime you want.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dominican Culture

If anyone was curious about Dominican music or attire, I think this is an accurate representation. I kind of really want the sparkly shorts.

Milka La Mas Dura - Sin Compromiso

Do you ever feel in personal danger, being a young woman in a foreign country?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that I think men and women are different and because of that I would say yes.

Don't get me wrong, I tend to be the last person who remembers that it is possible for volunteers to get robbed or worse on the streets of the colonial zone at night. I tend to be the person who says she is going to walk home alone and Gracias a Dios I have friends who stop me and remind me that danger does exist. I'm stubborn enough to say a woman should be able to be alone in every situation when a man would be alone, but I'm smart enough to know that this is not the case.

I don't think that being a young woman in the Dominican Republic is any more dangerous than being a woman in the United States. I would want to walk around alone at night in the U.S., but I wouldn't always feel safe and I want to walk around alone at night here, but I also know that this isn't always safe.

This is mostly related to women being more likely to be assaulted or robbed because they appear weaker or as an easier target.

One thing I need to do is I need to change my mindset. I suffer from the typical "It can't happen to me" mindset. I've said, "Why would anyone want to assault me?" more times than I care to admit. I think that going through scenarios in my head as I walk is sufficient preparation for when someone actually pulls up on a motorcycle with a gun and demands my purse. The thing that actually scares me is that I know I am one of those people who does NOT want to give up my things. I don't want my passport to get lost, I don't want my actual bag taken, and I don't want some creeper having a piece of me. Any time I run the scenario in my head I tell the thief to "shove it" and I hit him in the face. In my altered reality of this situation he is so shocked by my denial that I have a window to escape. In reality, I'm not so sure this will work.

Another thing to note is that I did get a site change and when I tell people about my site I always say, "My site wasn't necessarily bad, but it would have been better if I were a guy." I also say it's a fine project to send another volunteer to finish, it would just have to be a guy. It was awful being in my first site for those 8 months. I stress called my best Peace Corps friends and staff constantly. I was anxious and upset for 6 straight months. I also think all of those things wouldn't have happened if I were male. The uncomfortable actions that were taking place either wouldn't have happened, or wouldn't come across as inappropriate if I were a man.

In the end, being a woman in a foreign country is different from being a man, but at the same time, being a man in a foreign country is different from being a woman. This is to say, it's all the same. We just face different issues.

Question Time!

I've decided to start answering questions on my blog. Some of them I will take from the internet and some of them will be from comments on my blog. I recently found out that people actually read this blog that aren't my Mom and a few select friends, so I am going to try to up the content.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What do you call this... washing machine?

I'm at a hotel this week. I am working on the Gringo Grita, which I may do a post about a little later. For now I am going to talk about my first case of "reverse culture shock."

The hotel I am in has a washing machine. You know, one of the "real ones". One of the ones that is stacked and has a dryer on top.

I was trying to figure out how to work the machine with another PCV. "Wait, what... what are all of these settings?" It turns out that neither of us have used a regular washer in over a year.

Don't worry, I figured all of it out, and my clothes went into the washer. I am going to figure out the dryer later, but for now I'm pretty sure the clothes are washing.

It did give me a little taste of what my life is going to be like when I make my first visit to the motherland IN APRIL!

I can't wait, and if you want to visit me... my sister and I are going to be crossing the bottom part of the states, including the GRAND CONYON, and are ending with my mommy in Indiana.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Peace Corps News

I spend a lot of my time reading up on Peace Corps news these days and I wanted to pass on a few links for you to peruse. Hopefully this'll be short. 

1. Peace Corps Ukraine. 
    What with the world being what it is these days, the Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine were evacuated recently. Peace Corps has given this official press release about the evacuation and there is also this page

   I've been trying to follow the news of this even through PC twitter accounts. My interest is two fold. One, I had been considering applying for Peace Corps again and pushing for Ukraine, but also, fellow Peace Corps Volunteers were serving there among the chaos. 

2. A Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia died. 
  It surprises me how close to home these type of memos feel. As if I knew her. I think that is what everyone means by the Peace Corps Family.  

3. There is no 3, but I once heard that a list can't have less than 3 so I am adding a third thing to my list. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Baking in the Dominican Republic

I've heard rumors of a device that allows you to bake on the stove top. From what I hear this this is called a "Dutch Oven". 

When asking the dictionary programmed in my computer what a dutch over was, it replied as follows: 

Dutch oven
a large, heavy cooking pot with a lid

chiefly historical a large metal box serving as a simple oven, heated by being placed under or next to hot coals. 

Because my pan is neither of those things I don't know if the thing I have is a Dutch oven or not, but I do know that I am now baking cakes and making brownies on my stove top and with a little trial and error, these things are coming out edible. What follows is a somewhat lacking-in-pictures description of the time I made a carrot cake from scratch on the stove. 

I should also use this time to thank my friend Andrea for showing me this pan. It had been previously described to me as looking like a bunt pan, but being as it is capable of miracles I thought the packaging would be much better than it is. Turns out it is just sitting on the shelf at La Sirena looking like a bunt pan… 

When I started the process of making things in this pan I started with brownies. Following the advice of Andrea I turned my gas way down so as to prevent burning. Turns out I turned it down so low that the stove actually turned off… whatever, I turned it on again, checked the brownies a lot, and had prefect brownies really soon. I actually finished them just as the volunteer family was leaving and I was able to share the spoils of now owning a magic pan. 

The next time the pan was used it was with my room mates sister trying to bake a gluten free chocolate cake. We turned the stove down really low, but the thing still cooked in about 10 minutes with the bottom burnt and the top cooked. We cut off the bottom and enjoyed the cake, but I was still determined to make a cake that allowed to eating it in its entirety. 

The next day I made a blueberry muffin mix and poured it in. I still turned the heat down low… it burned again. I left it covered on the turned off stove for a while and when I came back the top portion, which was previously undercooked, was cooked to perfection. 

Now I had a plan. I wanted to use the idea of the brownies… when the stove turned off and everything was perfect, and the muffins, in which they continued to cook when I left the top on and walked away. I was going to make a carrot cake, from scratch, and force it to cook without burning. I found a recipe and was on my way… 

First I went to the store and bought a bunch of stuff I never buy here. I bought carrots, powdered sugar, cream cheese and other cake type products. The one thing I didn't buy was baking powder. That stuff is expensive here. If someone knows where I could purchase it for cheap I would appreciate the advice. Let me just add that to the list of things to remember to get when I visit AMERICA! (BTW I am really excited to visit my homeland.) I also picked up a grater and measuring devices, because I decided it was time to invest in my kitchen again. 

Long story short, I grated carrots for a while, mixed things together, and eventually poured the batter in the pan. I turned it real low and when the lid was too hot to touch I turned off the fire. I went at it like that about five or six times. 

While I was playing the fire game with my pan I was also making cream cheese icing from scratch. I am so Betty Crocker now. Actually, I always thought that cream cheese icing would be hard. Turns out you mix cream cheese, a  bit of margarine, vanilla and powdered sugar together at room temperature then put it in the fridge… What world am I living in that I didn't already know that? Come on world, the art of cooking needs to be reintroduced into the American home. I haven't decided if it is cheaper than buying a container, but it is definitely more fun and works the brain more that popping a top. Pictures to prove how fun it is! 

Seriously… delicious. 

So I made cake and I made icing. As I was back and forth to the pan I was reminded of the holidays back home. I chose to stay here this past year for Christmas, but I don't know if I can do that two years in a row. The pumpkin spice seasonings were getting to me. 

Okay, so the batter was cooking, but I couldn't tell if it was done. Eventually i decided to eat some and bake one more round of turn on the fire, turn off the fire, wait for cooling. 
It was still very moist, but I gave some to my room mate to test. She too couldn't really decide if it was cooked and just moist, or undercooked. 

The next morning, after the cake had time to sit, it was a lot more solid. It was apparent that the cake was done. It was even better after spending some time in the fridge. 

The recipe I had was also enough for two cakes, so I am going to make a second one tomorrow for my first Chicas Brillantes meeting. I am excited. Hopefully the kids don't let me down the way the adults sometimes do. Kids tend to be a little more honest. They say they are coming. Let's see if they show. I'm confident. I don't want my planning and preparing to go to waste. Plus it would be nice to have some friends in town that don't ask if they can buy my things all the time. 

So that is my life as of this week. Cake, cake, and more cake. I am in love with the pan. It will be going to America with me in 2015. I could have used it in my studio apartment that didn't have an oven in the Springs. I also could use it if I don't want to make the house super hot by turning on an oven… 

okay, I am really done this time. I will stop talking… now.

I'm a business volunteer

It only took a year, but I finally feel like a Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer.

I'm giving one on one classes with a man in my site. This morning we covered the basics of excel. By the end of it he was able to create, from scratch, a table that would convert dollars to pesos. He was even able to change the currency symbol to match the country of origin for each currency type.

Sure, it took us two hours to get to that point, and I could have opened Excel and made that table in less than two minutes, but I finally feel as if I am doing something Peace Corps brought me in to do. Peace Corps is not about seeing what I can do, it's about making sure whatever it is can be done when I leave.

My job is about training and passing on skills and I'm glad to at least have spent one day doing that.

We have plans for more classes, so I will keep you informed. I'll also mention that I love playing with Excel, so I'm having a great time.

I'm off to make the next lesson plan!