Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eight

Two posts for the price of one! I wrote the post below a week ago but I never posted it. So read it a week ago. And read this one today. Today is Sunday. A good reading day.

I got back from my site visit yesterday. The site is pretty spectacular even though it's not on Pico Duarte. I'm way up high in a mountain in the north but I'm pretty close to the beach in Puerto Plata so I have huge panoramic view of the ocean and the city below me. Cars and motorcycles can't make it up that high, or at least I've yet to see one up there, so it will be interesting carrying all of the aqueduct materials up on mules. I've got my own little casita next to the family of my water committee president. I would tell you that the the casita has dirt floors but it's against Peace Crops policy for volunteers to have dirt floors so I don't have dirt floors.(wink) We had a community meeting while I was there and I gave a less than impressive speech. Those of you who know me well know that I'm the worst speech giver in the East. Well I'm even worse in the Carribean. They speak spanish here. FYI. But anyway we got our water committee formed and things are underway so I'm excited.

I don't know how much people actually care about the actual work I'm doing here so I'm going to write about it in it's own paragraph in italics so you can skip it if you want. So a provisional water committee has been formed. This is basically a group consisting of a President, Treasurer, Secretary, and two people called Vocales who do very little as far as I can tell. My presidenta is a Woman named Maxima. She's awesome and is super gung-ho about the project and also wants to do some health promotion stuff so I think I'm going to do a gardening/nutrition program with the women there. So in the next three months I will go around to each family in my community (actually two different communities, 68 houses in all) and interview them about health, water, sanitation, etc. I will also determine my water source(s) and make sure it has sufficient flow. And then I will start my topographical survey to make sure that there will be significant pressure in the pipes for water to arrive at each house. As soon as that is all complete I can begin designing my system. It is going to be challenging because the communites are really spread out so I'm not sure where to run a main line yet but as I get to know the community better this will become more evident.

My house brother is really into cock-fighting. He has a cock that he's training right now that lives next to me and wakes me up at 5 am. I think I might fight it. He plucks all the feathers off of the cock's legs and back because he says it makes them look better or fight better or something. I think it looks ridiculous. Then he chews tobacco and spits it under the cocks wings. I haven't figured out what this does yet. His name is YuÑo. The guy not the cock. The Ñ is actually lower-case but I can't figure out how to do that one. But if I just wrote Yuno it would probably completely change your opinion of him so I'm going to stick with YuÑo. YuÑo is 25. He and his father have land where they plant corn and lots of fruit trees so I have fresh fruit juice with every meal. And avocado. I'm not sure I've gone a day in this country without eating avocado. But it's ok because Nurse Jo says avocados are healthy fat so we can eat as much as we want. But Nurse Jo is Canadian. Like Mike Myers and Pamela Anderson.

The first night I was there YuÑo handed me a bowl with ten oranges in it and a knife but didn't say anything. So I stared at the oranges for a bit and then I asked what he wanted me to do with them. He just looked at me like I was an idiot and took the bowl away. Then he started peeling them and halving them and handing them to me. So I said, “Should I eat them?” and he looked at me again like I was an idiot. So I ate three of them. I was pretty sure he didn't expect me to eat 10 oranges because that's a lot. So I stopped at three. Then he made juice with the rest of them. I still don't know if I was supposed to eat the three oranges but I think it was a test and I think I failed miserably.

But things got better the next day. We were building a little caseta behind my casita for me to take bucket showers in. I proved to him that I know how to nail stuff so he lets me nail stuff now. He still doesn't trust me with the machete. Somebody who can't peel oranges obviously can't cut down trees with a machete. Also he tells me not to go into the forest because I'll get dirty. I just go anyway. So I think during thefirst few weeks at my site I'll have to prove to my host family that I am not completely imcompetent. They let me go to the bathroom by myself so I think I've made a good start.

I'm back in the capital for a week now wrapping things up. Wednesday we have our swearing in ceremony where we officially become volunteers. It sounds like a bunch of pomp and circumstance for nothing but I've been told recently that I'm too cynical so maybe it's nice. Then thursday we're going to get down and party. One last dose of gringo before we head out to our site for good.

Do something out of the ordinary this week. But not cock-fighting.

Seven

And I'm back. In the capital. It's hot and stupid here. But its great to see everybody again after five weeks of sector segregation. We went to the Car Wash Saturday night to celebrate our return, with Presidente and dancing. Great fun.

Training wound up very well. We taught the Donas how to cook pizza on stones, over a fire. It was a pizza marathon. Eleven pizzas in all. It was a great success. Until the next day when my Dona made me dinner with the leftover cheese that had been sitting out since the night before. That made me vomit four times. But nobody said bringing pizza to the Dominican Republic was going to be an easy job. Pizza Corps.

Oh and we also did some work on their water system while we were there. But that didn't make me vomit so it was much less rewarding.

One day we hiked for 6 hours to get to another town that was slightly less interesting than the one we were living in. Then we hiked back. But the in between parts were really beautiful. Every couple hours it was like we were in a different country because the landscape is so diverse. And we passed the town where the guy was murdered.

Oh yeah, a guy was murdered near us. He got shot. Apparently he was suspected of a different murder but he got let off, but the family of the dead guy still thought he did it so they came and shot him. They brought the body down through our town because you couldn't reach that town by car. It was wrapped in a sheet but the foot was sticking out. I didn't see it but Justin saw the foot and he confirmed that the foot was in fact dead. As for the rest of the body we'll just have to assume that it was dead by association.

We had a going away party with the community on our last night. They got some traditional drums called palos that they banged (banged? it's definitely not bung. but banged sounds funny) on and people chanted. It was cool. And the thing about the campo is that when people hear about a party, word spreads at the speed of sound. It would spread at the speed of light but they don't have the internet. So pretty soon the small community of thirty houses was swarmed by motorcycles and trucks and horses and it turned into a really big party. I don't think most of the people there knew how it started or even realized that there were six gringos there but it was fun nonetheless.

And now we're back in Santo Domingo again. Tomorrow we're getting cellular telephones. Have you heard about these things? Really impressive. So now you will be able to reach me by phone. If I give you the number. And tuesday we're going to visit our new sites for five days. My site got changed at the last minute so I am no longer going to be in a beautiful mountain town near Pico Duarte. I'll tell you about the new one when I get there. It's still on a mountain I think.

I've also developed ridiculous dreams of bringing soccer to the mountains of the Dominican Republic. It doesn't make any sense culturally or geologically. But culture and geology are just imaginary barriers engrained in our minds as young, impressionable children. We need to do away with the cultural stereotype that soccer balls don't roll up steep inclines.

I posted some new pictures from Training in Mancebo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/42992225@N06/

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Six

Okay. So I realized that my character development has been lacking. I think I should introduce you to the major characters in my story thus far. We are six water volunteers in total. I´ll describe them briefly and assume that they´re ok with it. Plus they´re probabaly fed up enough with me from the 12 hours we spend together everyday so I don´t think they´ll read this. So we have, in no specific order: Gabriel (Grabiel), lived in Ghana, Egypt, Nicaragua as a youngin, hydraulic engineer, pretty much a poster child for the Peace Corps Water volunteer. Jennifer, history-poli sci major, enjoys sharing her feelings and hugging people. Ryan(Bryan), appears to be your average environmental engineer just out of college but then he plays the guitar and dances like a latino. Justin (Yotin), civil engineer but you wouldn´t know it, likes the guitar, beach, beer, babes, San Diego, etc. Amy(Emily), small in stature but the strong, outdoorsy type . Me (Donkey). OK now I can use their names and you´ll kind of know who I´m talking about.

So first off the big news. I got my site assignment. I´ll be spending the next two years of my life up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. Well not really, but kind of. My site is equidistance between Pico Duarte (highest point in the country) and Jarabacoa. The closest town you might find on a map is called Manabao. It is supposed to be incredibly beautiful there so I´m pretty excited. The only drawback is that all of the other water volunteers are going to be living up north near the beach. But I´ll get to visit them and go to the beach and it´ll be lots of fun and stuff.

We decided as a group to see how long we could go without speaking english. It´s kind of like fasting except you´re allowed to eat but only food that you don´t know how to cook that well. So you´re still getting the food you need but it doesn´t taste so good. Maybe that metaphor sucks. Well anyway it kind of turned into more of a Ramadan fast because we´re pretty good about speaking only spanish during the day but if it´s just us americans hanging out at night English starts to find its way into the conversation. But Ramadan is cool too. And my spanish is improving maybe.

Thursday was Amy´s birthday. We cooked pancakes and went to the colmado and drank Presidente and danced. Amy danced the entire night because there were three women and 40 men there. Except she likes the guy who wears the blue shirt who is named blue shirt guy, I think. Last night they may or may not have kissed. I´m not sure if that´s a ridiculous invasion of privacy to share that with a bunch of people but you don´t know her so it doesn´t matter really. When you spend all your time with the same people you just start to talk about their lives as if they were your own.

Other than that it´s just been a lot of building stuff. We built a springbox last week and started on a water sedimentation tank. We´re going to finish that up this week and start on the aqueduct river crossing. I´m learning a lot and hurting my back carrying cement and gravel. My two year old host sister continues to yell at me while I eat. Some poeple reading this have told me that I am being too mean to the children. But I really like all the other children in the town. I just happen to have gotten stuck with the most obnoxious ones.

OK happy autumn. I hope you are all psychologicaly well and practicing good hygiene. Until next time.