Friday, November 27, 2009

Ten

I'm writing this by candlelight. Just like dead people used to do. This may confuse you because the internet can't run on candlelight. But I'm writing this in a notebook. Then in the future (right now) I will pass it to the internet using the fancy technology one finds when he descends from his backwards mountain village.
So I struck up a conversation with a deaf/mute guy on the guagua (public transport) the other day. My spanish is OK now, my sign language is limited to spelling my name, but somehow I'm pretty good at communicating with deaf spanish speakers (not actually a spanish “speaker.”) But anyway Alejandro the mudo lives in Pedro Garcia with his two sons. The smaller one is also mute. Dad is alive. Mom is dead. Six brothers. Three sisters. Afraid to fly in airplanes. Then he gave me his phone number which isn't that weird here normally but he's deaf. It took about a minute of silence for the irony of this transaction to dawn on me so when I started laughing I just looked like a crazy person laughing to himself. Later that day I was propositioned by two hookers in Puerto Plata. I told them “No” in English, Spanish, and sign language all at the same time.
The family that I eat my meals with has a kitten. It's very small and it licks my toes when I'm eating. I'm not sure if my feet taste good or it's just trying to clean them for me. If you're thinking that it sounds nice, it's not really. Cat's have dry tongues. And foot fetishes are weird. So I end doing a little dance under the table with my legs while I eat to avoid the cat. Kind of like one of those russian dancers who kicks his legs out while in a seated position but his upper body doesnt move. Except I cheat and use a seat. And I don't flail my arms out because I'm eating.
I just finished a 500 page book about modern philosophy but I don't feel any smarter. Philosophy seems dumber though.
Did you know that 17% of professional baseball players in the United States are Dominican (includes the minors) but 39% of professional baseball players who test positive for steroids are Dominican. (I would site my source but I don't feel like it. Anyway you can't accuse of me of plagarism because I'm in a different country where it's probably OK.) Some of them don't even know it because they're managers just shoot them up with lots of crap and say it's B vitamins. I think the root of the problem is the lack of potable water in this country. That's not true at all but I just realized I was talking about something that doesn't directly involve me and I got bored. One of my volunteer friends is working with youth baseball players here along with a Domincan Red Sox pitcher who comes here during his off season but whose name I don't remember. Anyway I practically am almost friends with famous baseball players.
I finished the surveying of my pipeline. It is very long and very steep which has resulted in a budget that is very expensive. I met with a representative from the local government who didn't promise me any money but promised to help me find some money. That was friday and I still hadn't heard from him by Tuesday so I went to his office to ask him what was up and he was not very happy to see me. He told me he would arrange something for when I get back in a couple days. I'm not going to keep my fingers crossed. He doesn't seem very fond of me. You'd think he would be since it's aid workers like me that relieve him of the responsibilty of developing his own country. But I shouldn't start bad talking too much in case he actually comes through and I have to eat my words.
Well I'm in the capital for a couple days for thanksgiving. We're having a big gringo get together with turkey and fun and games. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, especially Cameron's grandparents, the Schlarbs. This thanksgiving I am thankful that I was not sent to a muslim country where alcohol is prohibited. Check ya later.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nine

I did it. I'm a real live Peace Corps volunteer. We swore in last week, had a little fiesta, and shipped out to our sites, never to be seen again. Until Thanksgiving. Plus there are volunteers that live near me. And I have cell phone service. So it's not THAT extreme but I am living without running water, electricity, internet and English.
My site is very pretty. I'm still not quite used to the idea of walking out of my house and seeing mountains and the ocean but I like it. And I'll be taking it for granted soon enough. It's very quiet here. There are no colmados blaring loud bachata music, ruining the tranquility of the campo, like there was in training. I sound like a cranky old man when I say that. But let's face it. I'm 24 years old and I;m not getting any younger. It's time for me to grow up and start dissapproving of the things I used to do in my youth. Like drinking. I tested the waters on that subject by saying that I drink A beer with freinds on special occasions. They just stared at me so I decided to leave it at that.
I think it's because they're so religious. They trapped me in one of their religious get togethers yesterday. It's the kind where they are so thankful to God that they start mumbling all at once and then they work themselves up into a fervor and they're all yelling "Gracias a Dios!" and then they climax and start to calm down and mumble some more. Then the men pass out and the women try to cuddle with them. All but that last sentence is true. It scared me a little bit. Does religious tolerance mean that I can't make fun of people's religion like that? I think that's religious sensitivity which I'm not obligated to practice as far as I know. Immediately after the service ended they all walked outside and gave numbers to some guy for the local lottery. So much for waiting 30 minutes after church before gambling. They're all going to get spiritual cramps.
Afterwards I started making a community map to get a better idea of where all the houses are located and how many people this water system is going to serve exactly. As such I had to stop in each house and try to make awkward conversation. Luckily they're all extremely nice. And they all offered me coffee and I didn't want to decline so I drank way too much coffee and now I'm wired and writing this and pausing to do push-ups every couple minutes. I probably won't sleep tonight.
Besides coffee they also give me way too many oranges because they all have lots of orange trees. I eat oranges all day and drink orange juice with every meal. It was awesome for the first two days but now I have to make excuses for why I don't want oranges. I really like oranges. There's no reason I should have to be afraid of them. Can you get Vitamin C poisining?
I've been doing a lot of machete practice recently. I wear it in a leather sheeth attached to my belt with my pants tucked into my rubber rain boots. Just like a Dominican. I even participated in some authentic Dominican deforestation the other day to clear way for my garden. I was really excited but full of guilt. Tomorrow I'm going to collect cow poop from my neighbors' pastures to improve my soil. I think it will be a good conversation starter. "Howdy Neighbor. Just here for some cow shit. Coffee and oranges!? Sure!"
As far as the aqueduct is concerned...first of all I know that aqueduct is not the correct term but here that's what they call it so I'm just going to continue saying it. You know what it means. As I said I started visiting all of the houses in the neighborhood to get a count of how many people are living in the two communities. I'm making a rough map at the same time so that I have an idea of where the pipes will go from the water source. Monday we are going to go search for a second source because I did the calculations and the first source that we found isn't going to provide enough water for both communities. So I'm going to find a second source and take water from both and run it to a single storage tank. After the visits are finished and I have two good sources I am going to begin surveying the route that the pipeline will take so I can start designing my system. We are trying to get this done early so that we can develop a rough budget to request some funding from the local government. They have to have it by December to add it to their budget for next year so we are pretty rushed. But if it works out it will be nice to have some of our funding already and to make the local government take at least some responsibility for the development of their province. If I am able to do all that by Thanksgiving then I have all of December and January to do whatever I want since I can't start construction in the first three months. I guess I would spend those months working on my design, looking for further funding, and pursuing other small side projects.

One of these side projects will be teaching english classes which you know is pretty absurd if you have witnessed my public speaking abilities. But we are fairly close to the beach and a lot of the youth here want to learn English so they can work in tourism. So I'm going to start in a couple weeks and see how it goes. Speaking of which I'm retyping this in an intenet center near the beach. So I'm going to leave here and go to the beach. Suckers...