On Monday I didn’t have service because it had been raining so I had the morning to catch up on my homework and stuff that didn’t get done over the weekend. That afternoon we went to a school to teach to 2nd graders. It was a really interesting experience and a nice change of pace. The education system here is so much different in the US, one of the kids through his desk out the door in the middle of the lesson and the teacher continued putting on her makeup. After we treated ourselves to drinks and dinner out at Puerta de Sol.
We had class in the morning with Kyle. The dean was here to see the program so me and 3 other girls got the opportunity to go back to the Campo and show him around, introduce him to our families, and tell him about that aspect of our experience. It was so great to see my family again..I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I went back to see them again. I got to go to the school and see my brother..and my sister told me that he cried for three days after I left. It broke my heart!
I went to service at Sala de Tarea in the morning and then went back to the school in the afternoon to teach again. It was a better day at the school and we worked with 3rd graders which I think really helped because they are a little bit more mature.
In the morning we had class and then my charger stopped working for my computer so I had to go with Karie and a driver from ILAC to get a new one. While we were driving Karie mentioned that she had always wanted a monkey..and guess what..apparently in the Dominican Republic you can buy monkeys off the street. The driver pulled over to this random house and there was just cages of monkeys, birds, and parrots sitting there. It was definitely an interesting experience. That night we went to La Sirena with Kyle to get stuff for the climb up Pico Duarte.
We got up at 4am to begin our adventure to the peak of Pico Duarte. The tallest mountain not only in the Carribean but in the Western Hemisphere east of the Mississippi River. 10,000 feet. 36 miles. 13 members of our community. And a whole bunch of chocolate (ancient Peruvian culture says it’s a must..and since Kyle spent 2 years in Peru we have to follow what the Peruvians say). We all got into the gringo bus and embarked on our journey (starting with lil wayne of course). We got to the bottom of the mountain at about 5:30 and the hike started. We went up, and up, and then up some more and finally reached base camp about 2:30pm. It was about a 12 mile hike to base camp. Once all the groups got there we sat by the campfire to try to keep warm because it was really cold (about 45-50degrees). As soon as the sun went down we went to bed to prepare for our climb up to the summit the next morning.
We got up at 3:30am to climb to the top of the mountain. It was a rough climb in the dark because we didn’t have enough flashlights and there were a TON of rocks on the path. We made it to the top at about 6:15 am..just in time to watch the sunrise on the mountain. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. We were up above the clouds so it was clear and we could see for miles. After taking pictures and watching the sunrise we made our way down the mountain. We got to the bottom of the mountain at about 3pm and Elfie was waiting to take us back to ILAC. After a quick shower and a little bit of unpacking we headed into Santiago to have a celebratory dinner. We were all too tired and sore to follow through with our plan of going dancing and we were all in bed at 10:30.
Us on top of Pico Duarte
I slept in until 9:30 which felt really good and then I went to study in the city to get some homework done. I actually ended up getting more shopping than homework done..but that is just how things work in this country..and I am okay with it!
Last week was a pretty normal week. I got a some more marriage proposals, went to class, “built lots of character” (procrastinated), hosted a sleepover with the entire comunidad nueve in our room, stayed up WAY too late talking..typical week in the Dominican Republic.
Friday we had class and the morning and then left for Jarabacoa which is a resort with tons of outdoor activities availble. We got there around 3 on Friday afternoon and then had time to lay by the pool and hang out. We had dinner and then after dinner played cards and watched a movie. It was great to just spend time with my community and hang out with nothing to do!
Saturday we got up early and went horseback riding to a beautiful waterfall. A couple of us went rock climbing to the top of the waterfall..which seemed like a good idea until we were about half way up and realized we were in swim suits, with no shoes..but we made it! After our horseback ride we spent the rest of the afternoon laying by the pool and then headed back to Santiago! Saturday night we went out to Monte Bar to dance and saw the Dominican music group “Revolucion”.
My horse, Pancho, and Me
Sitting at the top of the rock after my climb
The waterfall..the rock/overlook at the top is where the last picture was taken
Comunidad Nueve <3
Sunday we got up and went to 27 waterfalls which is a peace corps project where they turned this area with a ton of waterfalls into a tourist attraction. We got there and hiked up the mountain..which took about an hour mas o menos. Then we got to jump/slide down all 27 waterfalls! It was so much fun! I am so glad I got to do it! I came back and was exhausted so napped for a couple hours and then tried to do homework but just ended up getting a lot of procrastination done.
The view from the top of the mountain
Climbing up the first waterfall
After jumping off a waterfall
jumping off the waterfall!
This morning I got up to go to service, but it rained last night, por eso everything is closed down..aka no service so I am trying to get caught up on a couple thing before the rest of comunidad nueve gets back from their service sites and I utilize them to distract myself. We are going to teach in a school here in Santiago for a our Spanish class this week so I am really looking forward to that! Not much else is new..just living the dream and loving it! Getting ready to climb Pico Duarte..the highest mountain south of the Mississippi next weekend!
Claire and I got up and went to the grocery store to stock up on groceries for our vacation. We came back and had lunch and then Camille and I started our journey to Cabarete. We were expecting a struggle because apparently all the Dominican’s go to the beach for the long weekend but luckily the patron saints of traveling were with us. We got to the bus station at 1 and they told us the next bus leaving wouldn’t be until 4:45..but as we were sitting settling in to wait 3 hours some guy said there were 2 extra seats on the 1:15 bus! So we got to Cabarete about 4..took a gua gua, checked into our hotel and then went to the store to pick up a last few minute things. We started making dinner and finished up just in time for Claire, her sister, and Mary to arrive! That night..since it was midnight by the time we finished dinner.. we just stayed in, played dominos, and had a few drinks.
The weather was beautiful so we spent the entire day at the beach! After we got ready, did some shopping, and headed out for dinner. While we were sitting at dinner we got invited to go up to the VIP stage so we spent a couple hours talking to these guys that lived in the DR but were from Canada and the US. It is against the law in the Dominican Republic to play music on Good Friday so at midnight there was a huge party and concert so we hung out there for the night.
I ended up getting food poisoning from the night before so I spent the morning not feeling so well. By the afternoon I was feeling better so I headed out to do some shopping while the other girls were at 27 waterfalls. They came back and we had a little snack, did some shopping and then went to dinner.
We got up and had breakfast at our hotel and then we started our 45 minute walk to church. After church we did some shopping and then headed back to Santiago around 3. We got back, had some dinner and then just hung out for the night
Today I spent the day catching up on facebook, homework, emails, and everything else I have been neglecting since before the Campo. We start classes again tomorrow..which will be a little bit of a struggle considering we havn’t had class in a month now..but it will be great! Last session of classes!
On the beach after a night of going out!
The kitchen where my mom cooked. Kitchens in the Dominican Republic are usually not attached to the rest of the house. That chair is where I would sit everyday after work and tell my mom about my day and hear about hers while she cooked dinner for the family.
This is how my mom did laundry. In buckets outside and then hung it on a line to dry.
This is my Dad, Me, my Mom and my niece.
The view from my house where I would brush my teeth every morning.
One of the school houses they were using.
The other school house they were using (school was in session when this picture was taken)
The school when we got there.
The kids watching us work during their recess
Getting a shovel to dig the hole!
Pico-ing the hill..
Two of my buds at the worksite (and kids I may or may not kidnap before I leave)
Me reading to the kids on dia de los ninos
Playing Simon Says with the kids
The sunrise over the mountains. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen
Me climbing the orange tree to get a fresh orange :)
One of my favorite babies :)
My 102 year old Grandma and Me
My niece and Me
The waterfall I showered in everyday
Our group with Carmen (like the mom of the whole community)
Fresh cocoa- cocoa beans before they are dried to make chocolate
We arrived in La Penda around 3 in the afternoon. When we got there it was raining so we had to sit in our dining area until it stopped raining for our families to come and pick us up because of course..if it is raining the world cannot go on. The Campo was gorgeous, it is up in the mountains and you could see the mountains for miles and miles. I came home to 2 sisters, their babies 3 babies, and my cousin. My sisters were 16 and 22 and both weren’t married. It still shocks me how fast they grow up in the Campos. After dinner my friend Savanna and I went for a walk through the Campo (which isn’t as easy as it sounds because to get to your cousins house across the Campo you have to climb up a mountain..can you say struggle?). This Campo was a lot different from the last..they were so much poorer. I had classmates that I had to sleep on cots in the kitchen because there was no extra space. Many of the houses were only 2 rooms- a sitting room and a bedroom that the whole family shared-and then a kitchen and bathroom out back. It is amazing to me to compare this to our houses in the United States..and how much space we think we need. The other thing that amazes me is that these families don’t have running water. Their whole house could honestly probably fit in my bedroom. That night I played Dominos with my family
I woke up this morning at 7 to a beautiful sunrise as I brushed my teeth outside on the mountain. My mom brought out a chair and some coffee and we sat on the hill and just talked and compartir (translation: there isn’t a direct translation in English..the best word that fits is share..but it means so much more than that.) After a little while my sister came from her house arriba (above) to take me to the rio (river) to take my first rio shower! Of course..like so many other things here..it was not what I expected..we took a hike down the road, through the neighbors chicken yard, over the barbed wire fence, through the field, up the mountain, through another barbed wire fence, through the baca (cow) pasture, over the rocks and finally to the rio. The river that they brought us to was so pretty! I was amazed by the natural beauty that was so untouched unlike in the United States where they make everything an attraction. It’s weird to think that they get to..but at the same time have to.. bathe in the rio everyday. After I got back I sat with my mom for awhile and then she asked me if I had a camera, after telling her I did the chaos began. They wanted to take family pictures, which the Dominican Republic entails ever person in the family bathing, changing, putting on makeup, and doing their hair. 4 hours later we started the family photo shoot. 2 hours later we were done. I think I got 6 pictures. This is life in the DR. After we took family pictures my sisters wanted me to take pictures of my nieces and nephews so they could have them to show them as they grew up. This is the only way they are able to get pictures of their family members because they don’t have cameras or access to a machine to get pictures printed. We went to church that night with our families and then played Dominos after.
On Monday we started our first day of work. We are building a new school for the community because 10 years ago the government recognized that their 2 room school house that was falling apart wasn’t a desirable place to learn. The government gave them the money for the school, hired a contractor, and after starting the school the contractor took the money and left so the school has been at a standstill for 10 years now. We macheted all the weeds that had grown on the hill and in the classrooms, began digging the hole for the latrine, and started cleaning up the big mess that had been left behind. After work I went to the river to shower and then talked with my mom until dinner time. After dinner we played Dominos by candlelight. There is rarely electricity in the campos..we only had it one night the entire 10 days I was there so after about 8 you have to do everything by candlelight.
I got up and had coffee with my mom and then headed off to work. We moved rocks from one side of the school to the other..which doesn’t sound like THAT much work..but when it is a huge pile of rocks..and you have buckets to move it instead of bulldozers it takes all morning. We pico-ed the hill..which I don’t even actually know the word in English..like chopped at it to loosen the dirt and began leveling it out..again it could be a really easy job but is so much harder without modern construction equipment. After work I showered in the rio, talked with my family, had dinner, had a reflection and then sat on the porch with my grandma all night. I learned so much about her, and her life, and her past it was so cool to be able to talk to her and understand her and actually have a really good conversation in Spanish. I learned that she is 101 years old! And she still gets up and walks around and is so healthy! Although she does smoke something that is not tobacco..and makes her giggle a real lot. In reflection we talked about a lot of the hardships these families face..some families are so poor they literally run around naked because they cant afford clothes. When I asked my mom to write down her phone number for me it took her literally 10 minutes to copy down the numbers from the phone and to write her name. They don’t have access to schools, education, or jobs so this is their reality. Another thing is the “toys” that the kids play with. They don’t have gameboys, or American Girl Dolls, or even Barbies like we do. They have knives they picked up from the kitchen to carve things in the dirt, they have tires and sticks that they chase around and try to keep the tire up right while rolling it down the hill, they have the same cups they drink out of to build “dirt castles”. One of the great things about the Campo is the sense of community they have. Literally every person that walks by they invite to come in and have a cup of coffee. Carmen’s house..where we eat..is a 3 minute walk, but takes over an hour because you have to stop at every house on the way and have a cup of coffee, or a snack, or just sit and talk. Melissa’s family doesn’t have a shower so Melissa showers at the neighbors house because the river is too far. I think it is so funny to imagine these things happening in the United States. If someone in your neighborhood sat on their porch and everyone that walked by got invited in for a cup of coffee that person would be the crazy neighbor and everyone would avoid that end of the street. If you did go in you would have your speed dial ready in case you needed to call 911. Think what your neighbor would do if you headed over there with your towel and your flip flops and asked to use their shower..
I got up and went to work. We worked on flattening the hill some more and painting the tin for the roof. In the afternoon it was our groups turn to go and visit the sick in the community and take the afternoon off of work. The first house we went to was way up in the mountains and it was a sick women who had high blood pressure. In the United States this would not be a problem at all, but since she cant get the medicine she needs and cant afford to go to the doctor it is slowly killing her. After we went to my house to visit with my Grandma. Since my mom is always really busy with washing clothes and doing household chores she doesn’t get to just talk to people very much so she gets lonely. We mostly just sat and talked, and did a little singing and praying with the sick, but I really feel like it brightened their day a little bit. We also got to try raw cocoa fresh from the tree which was a really interesting experience. After I showered in the rio and had dinner and then went over to my friend Sarah’s house to play dominoes with her family. At dinner my friend Katie, whose Grandpa in the Campo, has a bee farm brought us honey and honey comb to try. My mom also washed our entire group’s dirty clothes today..which is a big job if it is in a washing machine..but doing it by hand..I am sure it took her the entire day. My white clothes have never been so white.
At work we tampered the floors to prepare them to be cemented and moved some more rock. After work I came back and went to the rio with my sisters and cousin and then went to dinner. After dinner my sisters brought me to their house and we just sat around and talked all night long. I had a conversation with them about how it is their dream to come to the United States. They think the US is this wonderful place where all of their problems will be solved, what they don’t realize is that they will be working a minimum wage job and possibly living worse off then they are now. On top of that they wont be able to speak the language. Its frustrating to me to try to explain to them that the United States is not what they think it is.
Today at work we threw cement on the walls- which is a technique they use to get the cement blocks smoothed out. We went to Stations of the Cross Dominican style today..which includes starting at the top of the mountain and making our way down to the church at the bottom of the mountain acting out each station. It was so cool to see because there was so much of their culture present in that 2 hour thing. After I went to the rio with my sister and cousin again, went to dinner, and then after dinner went up to my sisters house to make friendship bracelets. It was so great to be able to do something so easy with them that made them so happy. They just wanted to make friendship bracelet after friendship bracelet. The simplest things make them happy. Another example is when we pulled out the bubbles with Kristina’s 3 year old sister. She had never seen them before and at first she was almost scared of them, but after we weren’t able to put them down until she had finished the entire bottle.
At work we moved rocks and cement all day. There wasn’t really a lot that the untrained gringos could do so we ended up standing around talking a lot of the day, which was a nice break from all the work we had done all week. After lunch we had a little “dia de los ninos” for the kids to get to know their new school. The theme of the day was “respect of the school”. We had a dance station, a perro, perro, gato station (like duck, duck, goose), I was in charge of the reading station, a jump rope station, and a coloring station. The day turned out really successful. We ended up having about 120 kids there which was a great turnout for a Campo of 96 families. That night after dinner we had power at our house so I watched a Spanish version of Peter Pan with my family.
I got up at 6 to watch the sunrise over the mountains..it was so pretty! Honestly one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. At work we moved dirt and mixed cement again, and then we got to lay the floor in the first classroom! After lunch I went to the rio to shower and then sat with my family until it was time for church at 3. Palm Sunday was so neat here! They all make their own palms with flowers and they are so pretty. They also start at the top of the mountain and as a community walk down to the church together. After church we came back to my house and did another photo shoot with my family. Then I went to dinner and after dinner I went to Camilles house so that Mary, Camille, and I could all make friendship bracelets with our sisters. Our little party of 7 turned into a party of about 20 and Mary, Camille, and I making bracelets for what seemed like the entire Campo. But it was really fun and I felt like we were able to really integrate ourselves into the community.
I got up and went to breakfast and then we worked on laying floors all morning. Padre Bill came from ILAC today for mass so we took off a couple hours in the afternoon for church. After mass the entire community came to see the school and how far we had come on it. I took my last shower in the river after dinner tonight and I actually think I am really going to miss it. At dinner we literally got every kind of fruit we had eaten the entire immersion from the community. Avacado, oranges, manzanas de agua, zapacota, cocoa, pineapple..enough to feed an entire army. After all the families came up to Carmen’s house and we had a little ceremony where the families were able to speak about their experience, then I went home with my family. We had a little dance and just sat around and talked.
I got up to watch the sunrise again this morning. After I said goodbye to my family which broke my heart because they were all crying and asking me when I would come back, if they would come with me, and when I would move into the house that my cousin was building for me in his front yard. Apparently he is now my husband..news to me. We walked to Carmens, had breakfast and then waited for Elfie to get there. After a 2 hour bus ride we arrived back at Santiago, had about an hour to repack, and then headed for our retreat at Puca Mima. We spent the night doing 2 sessions one on community and the other on necessity. Then we hung out, played some games within the community and went to bed.
Wednesday March 31
I woke up this morning at the retreat center, headed to breakfast and then prepared for 2 more sessions this morning. My group did a session on suffering and the other group did affirmations. Padre Bill came out to the retreat center to do mass this afternoon. After lunch we left to head back to Santiago. Once we got back a small group of us went out to get some Ice Cream and catch up on facebook and email..it is amazing how overwhelming it is to come back from having no technology in a place where they don’t even know what a computer is to hundreds of emails and notifications. After we came back for dinner and I think tonight a couple of us are going to go out to celebrate Anna’s (our intern’s) last night here. I will be headed to Cabarete..a cute little beach town..for the weekend tomorrow but will update again when I get back! I will try to upload some pictures of the Campo before I leave!
Hey everyone! Sorry I have got so behind on my blog..Here is the majority of what I did. Sorry there aren’t very many details..I will try not to get so behind anymore!
On Thursday we had Kyle’s class in the morning and then right after we packed up and headed to Dajabon. We stopped about halfway and had a picnic for lunch. For the majority of the ride I took a much needed nap so I didn’t really get to see much of the drive. When we got to Dajabon we walked around the city to see where the market was going to be and just observe what was going on. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are separated by a river. If people have the proper paperwork, which very few do, they can cross the bridge, pay a tax, and get into the DR. If they don’t have their correct paperwork they are forced to wade across the river or pay someone to carry them and then pay a bribe to the military guard on the other side of the river, who will let the Haitian into the country to do their shopping. Haiti has essentially no resources, the trip into the Dominican Republic is necessary to their survival, they need to buy their most basic needs and they can’t get them in Haiti. We saw bribes being made right in front of their eyes. At first I was frustrated, but later I realized that the guards need the bribes for their survival. They only get paid about $30 a month. It is impossible to live off of that much money so they depend on the bribes from the Haitians to feed themselves. That night I stayed in and played cards with Alfie, our bus driver, who told us so much about the things that go on “under the radar”, the culture, and history of the area.
Friday we went to the market. We split up into groups; I went with Padre so when we passed the church of the rosary we had to stop into see his friend. “Stopping in” turned into going into the church and have a long conversation and of course, coffee. Finally we moved on and went to the actual market. In the market there are people that are selling things everywhere. There were Haitian women walking around with big buckets on their heads. We saw eight year old kids pushing around wheelbarrows 10 times their size. They had everything from oranges to underwear to kitchen tools in the market. We walked onto the bridge and talked to one of the guards and he told us some of the acts of desperation he witnesses everyday. After the market we went to a local radio station where we were able to see a radio commercial being recorded. We drove the international highway between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It was amazing to see the contrasts between the green Dominican Republic on one side and the brown dirt of Haiti on the other. Seeing the kids that lived in the towns along the international was something I really struggled with because there was so much poverty.
Saturday we came back to Santiago and went to La Campana, a restaurant with wireless to do homework
Sunday was a pretty low key day we had a philosophy test and then I went for a long 10 mile run in the afternoon which felt great just to have some time to think about everything I had seen that weekend. I worked on homework in the evening and just hung out.
The week was a pretty typical week:
Monday I went to sala de tarea for service. I had a really good day there. It was one of our community member, sara’s birthday so we had some Ice Cream to celebrate. I had a Spanish quiz and had philosophy in the evening.
Tuesday- I had Kyle’s class in which we discussed our vocations and figuring out what to do with our lives and post-Encuentro Dominicano Program a little bit. We had philosophy right after and I worked on some homework that night.
Wednesday- I went to Sala de tarea and had a little bit of a difficult day. There was some stuff going on with one of the families there and it was just hard to hear about the realities of the kids because they are just so young. I did get a nice, much needed, nap and another long run in that day.
Thursday- We had EDP and talked about discernment. Then we had philosophy and I did some homework. That night we watched in the Time of the Butterflies in preparation for Friday
Friday- We went to the Maribal museum. The Maribal sisters were 3 women who stood up to Trujillo, a dictator, and were killed because they stood up for their rights. After they were killed they turned their house into a museum so we went to learn about what happened during that era and see where they lived. That night I stayed in and worked on some homework.
Saturday- My friend Mary and I went into Santiago and went to a coffee shop to study and try to get some of our paper done, of course, like how most things go here, we didn’t get as much done as we had planned. That night it was our intern, Anna’s, 22nd birthday so a couple of us went out with her and met up with some peace corps workers. It was great to talk to them and hear about their experiences, what it takes to get into the peace corps, and what their job is all about.
Sunday- We didn’t get back until about 3:45am on Saturday night so Sunday I slept in a little bit and then Mary and I went back into Santiago to get some work done “for real” We had this great plan to get on a gua gua, ride it until we found a good place to stop and then yell out the infamous “dejanos aqui”. Of course, things don’t always go as planned in this country so we got to the end of the gua gua route and started walking in search for a place to study. Long story short 5 locations later, 6 hours later, and a lot of diet cokes later we found a place with both internet connection AND a plug in. Of course when we ordered our coffee they put alcohol in it..but you cant win every battle.
Monday- Went to Sala de Tarea..pretty normal class day. I decided to try to get caught up on homework so I pulled an all nighter..until I fell asleep about 5:30 in the morning and woke up to Kyle waking me up and sending me to my bed about 6
Tuesday- Kyle’s sister died at about 6:15 this morning. It was a really rough day for the community. He is heading back to the states for a couple weeks and will be back after Easter
Wednesday- Went to service this morning and had a really great day. Here they teach the kids to add with tallys instead of their fingers. This one boy was really struggling with the tallies so I taught him to use his fingers and I have had to reteach him every time I go how to add using his fingers and today he finally remembered!
So I keep getting these questions so I thought I would answer them for everyone..
What we actually complete in the Campo last time we were there:
We got 11 latrines (outdoor bathrooms) built, 6 floors layed, and 2 houses built
What our classes are like:
We only have 3 weeks of classes at a time but for those three weeks we have to fit in a TON of material for example due by Friday I have: 3 books to read, a 2 page paper to write, a 20 page paper to write, a quiz Thursday, a presentation in Spanish to do, a Spanish test on Thursday, a philosophy presentation to do, a paper to write and a test on Saturday. We have our DR class twice a week for 2 hours and then our service every Monday and Wednesday morning is part of that class. We have Creighton professors that come down every session and we do a class in 3 weeks (my philosophy class) and then we have Spanish everyday for an hour.
What I am going to do when I get back:
I have no idea. I don’t know where I am going to live this summer, I don’t know what my job is going to be, I don’t know what I am going to major in or what I would like to do for a career. I am not sure what I am going to do after undergrad. Peace Corps? Grad school? Kyle Corps? And I am okay with not knowing all that..ill figure it all out eventually. This whole experience has really put things into perspective for me. The nice, organized life plan I had before is now scattered everywhere and a HUGE mess. But like I said it’s a good thing.
Ill try to update one more time before I leave for the Campo for immersion again on Saturday morning!
Our first night of spring break..and the friends we met!
Me and My parents at the Brugal Museum
Learning to roll a cigar! With the creepo
Trying to wind surf..and struggling
My dad and I sailing
Monday- I began my adventure at about 8:30 in the morning. As I left the gates I immediately began my struggle. They are tearing up the street by ILAC to pave it, so there was about a 4 foot hole in the middle of the road. Of course there was a Dominican man who was more than happy to pick me up and carry me, my duffle bag, and my huge purse down into the hole. And then he proceeded to walk me all the way to where I needed to get out of the hole and then carried me out of there too. I went to the gua gua stop, where I met up with Katie and her family who had left a couple minutes before me and were still waiting for a gua gua. Gua gua after gua gua drove by and all already had people hanging off the side and we had acquired a group of about 8 people at this point. So finally a gua gua stopped that only had about 20 people on it. So me, Katie, her dad, her grandma, and aunt, along with a couple Dominicans hopped on! We ended up really having to pack that gua gua..I ended up sitting on Katies grandma’s lap with my legs draped over her aunts lap, and her dad sitting pretty much right on top of me. I was welcomed to that family real fast. We finally made it to the bus stop, where I bought my ticket and then got to sit and wait for the bus. Just as I was starting my book for class a women that had been working the desk came over and asked if I spoke English, after I told her I did she ran back to get something for me to translate for her. She was applying for a Visa to the United States and they had sent her all the paperwork in English. This was so frustrating to me because this poor women is trying to get into the United States to find a better life, has all the requirements but they put this big obstacle in front of her. So after I had translated that for her I got settled back in and just as I had opened my book a group of about 4 Dominican men came and sat down next to me and wanted to have a conversation, luckily after about 30 minutes, just when it was turning into “Puedo ir los Estados Unidos contigo” (translation: Can I come back to the United States with you?) “porque no? Podemos casar” (translation: why not? We could get married)Claire and her family showed up! So we got on the bus, made it to Puerta Plata safely, I got in a taxi and headed to the resort! Once I got there I just wandered around for awhile, met my new “mejor amigo” (translation: best friend..we were so close he called me Wendy..thats sarcasm by the way) Steady Eddy. We were less than 5 minutes into the conversation before he asked me to bring him to the U.S. This is something that is really frustrating for me because I would love to bring back everyone that asks me to to the United States, but it really just isn’t possible. It makes it so hard that the one thing they ask for from me, after giving me so much, I cannot do for them. It was also interesting to see the drastically different culture of the Puerta Plata (which is largely resorts). There is so much diversity there..people speaking French, German, English, Spanish and a variety of other languages I couldn’t even discern. My parents finally got to the hotel about 2:30 and we had some lunch and then spent the evening exploring, walking on the beach, watching a show, having a couple drinks and just catching up.
Tuesday was the beginning of our beach days. We got up, got some breakfast, and spent the morning on the beach. My dad and I did some Kayaking, I read a little bit and really just relaxed. Then in the afternoon we decided to go find my friend Stead Eddy to take us on a tour of Puerta Plata. He took us into the town, we went to the Amber and Larimar (a stone only found in the DR) museum, a tobacco museum (where I learned to roll my own cigar!), the Brugal-which is the national Rum- museum, some shops, and the town square where they have their city hall and a big cathedral. We also walked down their “Ocean Boulevard” and looked at a military fort. Tuesday night we went for a little walk and explored around our hotel.
Wednesday we got up in the morning, went to the beach, then got cleaned up and walked to Hemingways, a restaurant near our hotel for lunch. We were going to go to ride a cable car up to the top of a mountain, but it was too cloudy to see anything. We hung around the resort until dinner time, had some dinner and then we walked down to a little strip mall near our hotel and did a little bit of shopping.
Thursday we got up and went to the beach and spent pretty much the whole day at the beach. We did some more kayaking, windsurfing, reading, and walked along the beach.
Friday we headed into Santiago so that my parents could see where I live. We started the trip from our hotel, got a taxi..my parents got to experience the no-rules driving of the DR a little more. We got to the bus station and got our bus tickets and got on the bus. After the drive to Santiago we got off the bus and they decided we should take a taxi instead of a guagua, so we hopped in the taxi and headed to ILAC. Once we got to ILAC the street was STILL all torn up so we had to get dropped off about a block away and they had to make their way through the huge hole as well. I showed them around ILAC, and they got to meet some of my friends, Karie, Padre Bill, and some of the people that work at ILAC. After we headed into Santiago to see the monument and have some lunch. After they saw the monument we called the taxi again and got some Helados Bon (Ice cream) and went back to the bus station. The bus was sold out so we bought the tickets and then had about 2 hours to do some shopping. Of course, as Dominican Time goes, the bus was about an hour late, but finally we got on and headed back to Puerta Plata.
Saturday we got up and my mom decided she wanted to do some souvenir shopping so we headed to the mall filled with gift shops. We got some good souvenirs and then headed back to the hotel. We spent the afternoon laying around the beach and my dad and I did some sailing. Saturday night we played some cards and had some drinks and went for a walk on the beach. We also saw Michael Jackson! I know that many people in the United States thought he was dead..but he sure isn’t! He is just hiding out in our resort in Puerta Plata. Rumor has it he also made an appearance at Carnival in La Vega earlier that day.
Sunday we got up and went to the pool in the morning, then we had some lunch and decided to head into Puerta Plata to see Carnival, which is the national Independence Day celebration. When we got there it started raining so we decided it would be a good time to go in and tour the military fort. The military fort was built by Columbus’ soldiers in the 1500s. It is amazing to me that it has stood that long and is still so stable! After that we went out to try to find the fiesta, which was non-existant at that time during the day. My theory is that people were still recovering from the night before, and the party didn’t start until about midnight on Sunday night. It started pouring rain so our handy dandy taxi driver showed up to take us somewhere dry. We headed back to the mall near our hotel and tried to get into somewhere to have a drink and watch the hockey game. But apparently since the DR is a huge tourist destinations for the Canadian every restaurant was pretty much full. We ended up going to a little Irish pub to watch the game and have a couple drinks. We were seriously outnumbered by Canadians..and when I say outnumbered I mean that we were the only Americans in the bar. At about 5:15 I headed back to the taxi to begin my venture back home to ILAC. I got to the bus station and was waiting for my bus when the announced that they had oversold the bus so I would have to wait. Long story short I ended up waiting around until about 9 to get on a bus and ended up not getting back to ILAC until pretty late. I also remembered when I got back to ILAC that I had a philosophy class that began the next day and had no idea what time it was, who the teacher was, if we had any homework, or where we were meeting. Needless to say it ended up being a pretty late night.
Monday I got up early to go to Sala de Tarea, my service site and I got there and it was closed. While inquiring why it was closed I got a variety of answers from Carnival was the day before, to it had been raining the day before, to the teacher couldn’t get there because the road was dirty. So I headed back to ILAC and used the much needed time to unearth my desk..which had my swim suit in the drawer and my sundresses draped over all possible places, and try to get caught up on some homework. Of course I ended up getting caught up on facebook instead. Monday night ended up being a really late night too because I didn’t do ANY homework over the entire spring break. Kyle finally came back to us on Monday night after a loooong trip to Omaha and Boston.
Tuesday the day began with breakfast; at breakfast we decided that we were all going to wear blue to Kyle’s class to see how long it would take him to notice. So we all headed back to our rooms to change into our blue and headed to class. The first half of the class Kyle didn’t notice our blue, but did inform us that we would be his last semester of Encuentro. We continued class..giggling every couple minutes because he STILL hadn’t noticed an hour into class that we were all wearing blue. During our break Kyle was talking to a group of students when he decided to inform us that “he was starting a new chapter in his life” I was in my room and all of a sudden I heard screams and people jumping up and down. So I ran downstairs and long story short while he was in the United States he got engaged! Once we got back to class we decided that we needed to make it a little easier for Kyle, so we arranged ourselves in shade order of blues..just to help him out a little of course. So he comes back into the room, we are all begging him to tell us the story of how he got engaged when FINALLY he said “There is a lot of blue in this room” So then Justin started the “I’m Blue” theme song. We had to wait until we had got through all of our class material before he would tell us the story, but we got all the juicy details eventually. And hopefully there will be a “comunidad nueve trip to Boston” in December! After class we followed him around like 19 little ducks so we could hopefully see everyone else’s reaction as he told them, but unfortunately this thing called Philosophy class got in the way. We did finally get to see pictures though! Pretty sure Kyle has 19 new wedding planners.
Wednesday I went to my service site. I had a really good day at my service site today! I felt like I actually got somewhere with a couple of the students and I was surprised at how much better I was able to understand the students and the teacher after immersion. While I was there one of the neighbors came in and told the teacher that she was pregnant, which started the conversation if I had ever been pregnant? Why not? Did I have kids? Why not? Where was my husband? And about 8 billion other questions. After the day had ended I went outside and a Dominican man was apparently waiting for me to walk me back to ILAC. Turns out he was a friend of one of the security guards here at ILAC and we actually had a really good conversation. I still am taken by surprise how genuinely nice people are here. They are so patient with me and willing to help when I can’t come up with a word in Spanish. And the man helped me over ever little bump of the messy road and through the obstacle course of the construction. After lunch we had a community meeting and had ice cream cake to celebrate Kyle getting engaged and talked about what was coming ahead for the month of March. I can’t believe how fast the time is going by!
We are headed to Dajabon tomorrow, which is a city on the boarder of Haiti where they open up the boarder for a market for the Dominicans and Haitians to trade. So I will be back on Saturday! Miss you all!
P.S. Rumor has it my parents are going to do a “guest entry” on their travels here..so when they get that to me I will post it!
P.P.S. here is a video my friend Kate did on Carnival (the nation-wide Independence day celebration) in La Vega.
P.P.P.S (last ps I promise..here are some pictures!)
This is my baby!
This is my sister and her friend the first night.
This is me working on the house with the Dominicans
This is another baby right at the top of the “babies to kidnap in the darkness of the night” list..
This is the cockfighting ring
The view from Boba’s house of the rice fields and the mountains in the distance
These are the kids all in their uniforms headed to school..they only go for like 2 hours either in the afternoon or morning. And a lot of them skipped school a lot when we were there which made me so sad. Many of them drop out by the time they are about 12.
Ali..another potential on the list.
Juan. The number tied for number one baby on my list.
Another potential..I just realized this is turning into a list of the kids I am going to kidnap.
K no more babies..These are my sisters and my brother.
This is our group right before we left for the Campo!
This is Estiline..He is one of the babies at the top of my “kidnap in the darkness of the night” list.
After about a 2 hour scenic bus ride up and over the mountains we pulled up to Boba’s house in the Campo of Hato Viejo. We were greeted by about 100 people yelling, waving their arms and jumping up and down. These 100 people became our friends and family for the next 10 days. We got off the bus and sat down at the table under the temporary shelter they built for us and we were immediately served freshly squeezed pineapple juice. This was just the first of millions and millions of acts of kindness and gratitude I would experience. Kyle then started the “auction” where we are assigned to our families. As my name was called 2 girls, a little boy, and their mom stepped forward. We grab mythingsf and started on the short walk to my new home. I learned that I had a 12 year old sister, Kactiusca, a 8 year old sister, Rosi and a 4 year old brother named Seragusto. When we got to my house I met my dad. My family was so nice and welcoming. After I set down my stuff we went outside and they pulled up a plastic chair for me. I had heard about the “culture of plastic chairs” but this was really my first experience with it. Plastic chairs are a staple in the furniture of Dominicans. They use them in the living room when they are watching TV, they use them outside where they sit all day long and play cards, dominoes, and enjoy each other’s company, and they use them to sit on while doing work. When you are sitting in a plastic chair there really is no sense of time or nothing you have to be doing. As soon as I sat down they asked me if I was hungry, we were told we shouldn’t turn things down because it is rude and is considered an insult to them, so when they asked me if I liked bananas I said sure, my mom disappeared into the kitchen and I was expecting her to come back with a banana..but nope she came back with a full plate of 8 bananas. And expected me to eat them all. About half way through my second one, I knew that I could not eat another bite so I got some help from my sisters and cousins and the dog when my mom had her head turned the other way. Eventually after about an hour we polished off the plate of bananas, just in time for me to go back to Boba’s house for dinner. Again, we were served more than enough food. After dinner we had a little dance to get to know the community members a little bit and spend time with them. After the dance I went home and spent some time with my family. The power went out about 10..which means its bed time. My family had a pretty typical house; it was built out of cement cinder blocks, they don’t have air conditioning, and the walls only go up about 7 feet instead of the whole way to the 10 foot ceiling which means you can hear absolutely everything. When you walk in the house you walk into the sala, which is like the living room and dining room combined into one. The sala is about 8 feet by 5 feet..tiny! And than you walk into the kitchen, which was probably about 8 feet by 7 feet. Off of the kitchen to the left was my parents room and the bathroom and than to the right was my siblings room. All of them shared one room and had 2 beds between the 3 of them so I shared a bed with my sister Rosi. I was shocked at how small their home was. I kept asking myself, where do they put all of their “stuff”, but then it hit me that they don’t have all of that stuff. Their entire house is smaller than my basement alone; this was a really big culture shock for me.
I woke up really early in the morning because there are so many roosters around, and once one person gets up in the house, everyone gets up in the house, because like I said you can hear everything. So I sat with my mom and just talked and drank coffee until it was 7:45..breakfast time at Boba’s. After breakfast my bother and sister took me to the park and we played basketball and just sat around and talked with the Dominicans. I brought my camera along, and since the kid had never seen a camera before I had about a billion pictures of cows and basketball hoops. We had lunch at Boba’s again..and then I went back and played dominos with my aunts and uncles and parents. Later, I went to my very first cockfight. It was really interesting to see because it is such a big part of the Dominican culture, usually only men are allowed in the cockfight areana, and it costs about 100 pesos, which is a days wage of work for most. But since we were gringos we were all allowed in for free. We stayed for a little while, but it was bloody and kind of gross, and you can only watch the other men make bets for so long. After that we went to church, it was really cool to see a real live community celebrating mass in Spanish..and I was even able to understand most of it..and I got to see a baptism! The little girls wear pink when they are baptized here. That night I played dominoes with my family.
My mom had a conversation with my neighbor, who is her sister, while they were both in their own separate kitchens today. That is how non-sound proof the houses are here. I also woke up to the family chicken in the house. We started working today too, so after breakfast until 12:30 I worked on the house, and then we had a 2 hour break for lunch, and then went back to work until dinner. We got the cinder blocks for the bottom of the house laid and started the scaffolding. I spent the night hanging out with my family.
I got up, went to breakfast, worked, went to lunch, then worked until dinner. There wasn’t very much work that the gringos could do on the house so I helped lay some of the floors in the already existing houses. At night I spent the evening playing cards with my sisters and talking to my aunts and uncles.
I spent the day working on the house again, we got a lot of the scaffolding done and all of the pieces for the roof measured. I spent the evening with my family just talking and watching a telenovela (which is like a Spanish soap opera). I really started to experience the guilt, because we have 3 meals prepared by the community for us everyday, and there are people in the community that aren’t even getting one meal a day. I just felt so guilty for all of the material things I have in the United States, and even back at ILAC. We had a retreat that night with our group right after dinner and just talked about our experiences and what we were feeling. It was great to be able to know that I wasn’t the only one that was feeling way and to be able to talk through the frustrations with other people. I am so lucky I have 18 other people that are going through this with me.
I got sick during the night, my mom was great and when I asked her not to go get Kyle, she didn’t so I didn’t have to go through the stuff that so many of my friends had to when they get sick in the campo. Pretty much everyone got sick at some point because our bodies just aren’t used to the food, and working out in the sun for long hours.
What happens when you get sick in the campo:
You will probably have leaves shoved in your face..apparently it is some herb to help with nausea. And if your lucky some perfume or rubbing alcohol.
You will be stripped of your clothes..if your lucky you will get some older womens nightgown to wear..if your not you will sit there naked with people surrounding you…you get real close real fast
They use latrines..which are like outhouses..and you cant go outside in the night “because you don’t know what is out in the darkness” so you are given a bowl to go to the bathroom in…
You will probably have the sign of the cross traced over your body repeatedly for 15-20 minutes.
Your dad may wave down Kyle, who will come into the house right as you are being swept into the middle of the street to “cool off”..only when you are in the middle of the street does Boba realize that you are in a sports bra and sweat pants..and what is her reaction..to hike up the pants to the sports bra and shout to God why isn’t this child wearing any clothes
You will probably have an army of women praying to Altagracia that you wont throw up
You will probably ALWAYS have someone praying the rosary over you…when your sick and just want to go to sleep..this isn’t quite as peaceful as it sounds.
You will probably have numerous strange women climb under your mosquito net and into bed with you to spoon and rub your hair and your face.
Luckily I only experienced some of these things since I told my mom that being sick was going to be our little secret. So I left the next morning with Kyle, since the campo is about 2 hours away by the time we got close to Santiago I needed to go to the Emergency room and get an IV because I was dehydrated. I spent Days 6, 7, 8,and 9 recovering. They figured out that I got a parasite..so I got some medicine to clear that right up.
I got to head back to the campo for my last night and to pick up my stuff! I didn’t get to work because I was still a little bit sick but it was great to just spend time with the people there. The campo is like one big family reunion…there are billions of kids running around, no one really knows exactly who they belong to, and you will probably be handed kids left and right..I cant remember anytime the entire time when I didn’t have a kid touching me in some way. Even when I was sleeping my sister would spoon with me..and her arms around me. That didn’t quiet amount to the most restful sleep..but it was okay. I got to hold so many babies and toddlers and got to play with so many kids. It makes me want to take them to the United States with me so bad where they can have opportunities and where they can go to college.
We got up and left the campo this morning. It was so hard to leave them behind. My family gave me a ring and a picture “to remember them by”. I had such a hard time taking it because they have so little but they give so much. That was probably their only copy of the picture they had. We got back to ILAC, had 2 hours to get stuff ready to go and then headed off to a retreat in the mountains. The mountains were so pretty! It was the perfect place to talk about our experience, talk about how we were feeling, and what we saw, and to get ready to go back to modern life. I had time to run up the mountain which was so great to be able to go for a run after so long not being able to. I also had the opportunity to walk up in with friends and just talk a couple times which was nice too. And it was so gorgeous!
We got up and had breakfast and played some Dominoes, since it had been raining the gringo bus couldn’t make it up the mountain so we had to walk down. We had a beautiful 2 hour drive back to ILAC and then I spent the rest of the day and night just hanging out, writing a paper, and headed to bed early.
Today I am planning on going into Santiago with a couple friends and doing a little bit of shopping and walking around the city. My parents are coming into town on Monday and I am so ready for a little bit of Minnesota loving! So the next couple days I am just going to spend catching up on sleep, laundry, maybe work on a paper, and hanging out with my friends here! Miss you all tons and tons!