Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twenty-Two

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Feliz Kwanza! Happy Winter Buddhist Holiday! And so on. How about just Happy New Year! We’re all on the same calendar right? At least as far as business affairs go. And let us not kid, I mean business.

First off I want to thank everybody who donated to my project. You filled it in just a week. I still don’t know who you are but as soon they send me the list I will thank you personally. Because of your donations we were able to get water to everybody’s home for Christmas. Well I think we did.(updates soon[ish]) There was one little job left to do before we could release the water but I had to go the airport to come home for Christmas so I left it to them. But I called them from the airport and they said that water was arriving. I don’t see any reason for them to lie about that. So I’ll be back on the 27th (weather pending) to see the water come out of the tap and jump up and down shrieking and flapping my hands like they’re on fire. They’ll all have seen it already so they’ll just be like “Silly gringo. He gets excited about running water.” It’s true though. I’ve been taking running water for granted for 25 years but I’m pretty excited about this particular water. Funny how things are so much more interesting when my ego is involved.

We’re having the official Inauguration for the system on January 8th. We’ll have a ceremony and people will pray a lot and thank God. Maybe they’ll thank me as well. Usually there is a party afterwards. Unfortunately the guy who likes to party the most in my community lost his mother a couple weeks ago so he is supposed to mourn for a while and I think he’s a little bummed out about it. (His mom dying and that he can’t party.) It’s funny how Dominican’s treat death. They spend tons of money they don’t have and tons of time mourning dead family members. At the same time they tried to not connect water to this one guy’s house because they think he’s going to die soon. When he complained that that was unfair they said, “Fine but we’re not going to bury the pipes deep because when he dies we’re going to dig them up and use them somewhere else.” Now I know I have to be accepting of other people’s cultures and beliefs and all that but it seems to me that they should show a little more consideration to living people. That way they’ve already got a head start on appeasing the dead person and they don’t have to mourn for as long.

The United States is pretty cool. It’s really comfortable. I’ve been seeing a lot of people here. Some of them are people I know so I stop to talk with them. They’re all like “Hey, how’s the Peace Corps?” and so I’m like “It’s good.” And like a lot of other cool stuff has happened too.

A bunch of us volunteers are going to get together for “Campo Christmas” when I get back to the DR. They’re all coming up to my community for a camping trip. We’re going to sacrifice a turkey and some vegetables. And then we’re going to camp in tents. People in my community think it’s weird when we camp I think. They don’t really get it. They just don’t see what’s so fun about sleeping somewhere with no electricity or running water or a cement floor and cooking on an open wood fire and just hanging out with people and talking without the distractions of internet and television and iPhones. I really hope that with my guidance they’ll eventually learn how to appreciate nature like us Americans do.

And there’s your quick holiday post. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TwentyOnePointGiveMeMoney!

Hi everybody! You look really nice today. Did you lose weight? I really like your haircut. Speaking of haircuts I need $2,000 to finish a water system. Oh and that shirt looks really good on you.

Yeah. It’s that time. This is the problem with knowing people who work in grassroots development. They always ask you to just give away money. They’re a bunch of frickin’ communists if you ask me. But still…..please?

(If you've never heard about the project skip to the blurb at the bottom and then come back up and begin here.)

With this Peace Corps Partnership Program I’m trying to raise $2,000 to finish the project. The other money has come from various other grants but we’ve come up $2,000 short. This money will be used to build one more tank and tapstands. The blurb on the website for donating is a little outdated. There's a joke about the local government giving us money. Didn't happen. Also I wrote it when I thought I needed $5,000. So you guys are getting a really sweet deal because now I only need $2,000. To help you decide whether you really want to donate to this project I will give you the PROs and CONs and you can decide which outweighs the other.

CONS
- There is a crapload of aid in the Dominican Republic. Every high school student and his fat friend want to come down here to help poor people for a week because it’s pretty nice for a poor place. The Dominican government loves it because tons of international money pays for the development of their country and they can continue to pay for hookers, mansions, and big signs with their faces on them.

- There’s no guarantee that I won’t take all of this money and go live at an all-inclusive resort for a month (Actually there is. I have to produce receipts and write reports on where this money goes).

- If you have 4 apples and give one apple away then you have 3 left. Three is less than 4. Money follows these same principles.

PROS
- I’m tired of getting jerked around by politicians.

- The government is never going to help them because they have no votes to offer, they add very little to the local economy, and they have no political connections. They’re nice people though.

- International aid is not going to help them because the houses are so spread out that this system is not cost effective. There are billions of people in the world that need water and aid organizations are going to choose the places based on cost efficacy. This has logic. But it still leaves my community without hope of water. Luckily I have the ability to ignore logic.

- Cost effective or not I’m still going to be able to provide water for about 200 people for $14,000. That means that $70 can provide a person with clean drinking water for the rest of their life. That’s a pretty good deal if you’re into that kind of thing.

- All of the money donated will go directly to the project. If you donate to big organizations half of the money gets lost in bureaucracy and administration. But I’m my own administration and I work for free.

- All donors will be offered an all expenses paid trip to the Dominican Republic (Does not include airfare, in-country transport, food, alcohol, or any lodging which is not my house. Also if you don’t donate you can come too.)

- It’s tax deductible. Stick it to the government!

OK well the results are in and there are 7 PROs and 3 CONs and everybody knows that 7 weighs more than 3. Looks like you’re going to have to donate. Do it here:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=517-406

You have to copy and paste it into your thingy because I can't figure out how to make it a link.

In all seriousness this is a very good project. The beauty of the Peace Corps is that the volunteer lives where he is working and can monitor and evaluate the project for two years. The volunteer gets to know the community and can provide them what they actually need rather than what some big name economist who has never been to their country says that they need. The result is a much more personal type of aid that, though not as grand as big aid plans from the UN or World Bank, is way more efficient and effective for the population that it serves. (If you’re interested more in this idea read White Man’s Burden by William Easterly.) But all academic, international development bullshit aside, these people could use drinking water and we can make that happen at very little expense to us.

Here’s a quick summary of the project that I did for some other proposal, for those of you who don’t know what it’s all about:

The two communities, El Brison and Las Batatas Arriba, are located high in the Cordillera Septentrional in the north of the Dominican Republic. They have neither running water nor electricity, and access to the communities is difficult or impossible by automobile depending on the weather conditions. As a result the communities have been largely neglected and remain completely without infrastructure, apart from a one-room elementary school.
The communities have determined that the most pressing concern to be addressed is the lack of access to clean drinking water. As such they have requested the help of a Peace Corps Water and Sanitation Engineer to help in the construction of a gravity-fed water system with a stream catchment to provide drinking water to 49 homes. The water system will be complemented by the formation of a community water board to govern the water system and health and hygiene promoters to teach the community how to use the water responsibly to improve their well being.
The water committee is comprised of two men and three women who meet biweekly to discuss the construction and maintenance of the water system. The committee has implemented a monthly quota to be paid by each household for the lifetime of the water system which will be used towards the operation and maintenance costs. Two plumbers will be trained to be the main caretakers of the system and will earn a small stipend for their work. All of the manual labor for the project will be provided by the community members themselves who will be divided into five work brigades. Each brigade will work one day a week on the water system until its completion.
Upon the completion of the water system seven women will be trained and certified as health and hygiene promoters. They will visit the rest of the homes in the community to teach mothers about health and hygiene practices for themselves and their families.
The project takes a multi-faceted approach towards improving the health of the community through organization, infrastructure, and education. It will serve as an example to the community for all subsequent development projects.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Twenty-One

Happy 21st blog! Finally I can get rid of this fake blog ID. I just tried to think of a creative acronym that is like the DMV but its where you get your bloggers license but I didn’t think of one. But imagine if I did. I’m drinking an American beer right now to celebrate this 21st blog. It was donated to me by a visiting fan. American beer is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread which was soaked in water and then allowed to ferment in a sanitary and temperature controlled environment with hops; thus producing beer.

I’m almost done with my water system. Kind of. Like, by Christmas all of the houses will probably have water but then there will be several kinks to work out before we can really call it a finished product. But nearing the end of this project has made me reflect back on this past year. And I’ve realized that, in a way, building this water system has been a lot like raising a child. I know what you’re saying. “Duncan how do you know what raising a child is like when all of your children are illegitimate and you don’t even pay child support because you’re a “volunteer”? Well I know because raising a child is a lot like building a water system and I’m doing that right now.

You see in the beginning I was like, I’m ready to build a water system but I just don’t know if I’m in the right financial position for it right now. So I waited till I got some money together and then I started the project. It was a boy! We named it Acueducto after its Roman grandfather.

So we started with the basics. Gluing pipes together. As the old saying goes, “You have to glue pipes before you can build a ferrocement water tank.” The workers had no idea what they were doing at first. They made lots of mistakes. Granted, I also had no idea what I was doing. This was my first water project. But I pretended like I knew everything and my word was the final word. Funny thing is they bought it. Or at least I was the bread winner in this project so they had no choice but to do what I said.

But eventually they started to get the hang of things. And with that they began questioning my authority.

- “Have you really built one of these before?”

- “Yes.”

- “But you’re so young and you’re still in school. Did you have pre-graduate constructions with another community?”

- “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

These were the beginnings of the teen years. They started to realize that I wasn’t as all-knowing as I pretended to be. They stopped showing up to work. When I told them I was disappointed in them they screamed, “I wish this project had never been born!” And it hurt. But I pushed on, knowing that this was a phase and eventually they’d come around.

And they did. Eventually they began to take more responsibility. And I began to trust them with things that I wouldn’t have previously. Sure they still showed up drunk every so often but who hasn’t showed up drunk to work before. It probably happens at NASA all the time. They began to appreciate what I was trying to do here and realized that it wasn’t so easy. Even if it was obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing every step of the way, I did a pretty good job in the end. (Props Mom and Dad. I was just kidding about the illegitimate children thing.) And soon will come the day when I have to let them go. They can basically build this thing on their own now. They come to me every so often for advice or bail money. But it’s time to let them screw up and learn from their mistakes. And then forget what they learned and screw up again. And so on. And then they’re 25 years old and living in a third world country and I have no idea what happens after that. But I’m excited.

We got “consolidated” a few weeks ago because of a hurricane/tropical storm that was passing by the island. To me the word “consolidation” is closely related with “efficiency.” One consolidates in order to become more efficient. Not so with the Peace Corps. This consolidation, which was meant to save us from a hurricane, ended up being nothing more than five days in a nice hotel with three buffet meals a day all to avoid a little drizzle on the fifth day. They pretty much spent on me four months salary in five days. Now I’m not complaining. I don’t bite the hand that feeds me. Because it’s my own usually. I mostly just wanted to thank you, the tax payers of the United States, for paying for my vacation. You really shouldn’t have. Like seriously, it was unnecessary. But I’m glad you did.

You know what would be a fun thing to do hypothetically? To collect the wristbands that tourists wear when they’re at all-inclusive resorts. Then tape them onto your wrist and go and pretend to be a guest at the all-inclusive and drink and eat for free all day and swim in the pool and act like a tourist. I suppose if I did do this I would pretend I didn’t speak much Spanish so as not to attract too much attention to myself. Sometimes for my own entertainment I would speak really bad Spanish (“Yo quiero un glasso of wino, por favor.”). Also I would probably spread out my visits so they didn’t start to notice me as a regular. Wouldn’t that be neat? If it wasn’t so dishonest I would totally do that. I don’t though. But if I did actually do it sometimes and I was just pretending that it was a hypothetical situation even though it was actually a real situation I would wink at you right now. But I’m not WINKing at you.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Twenty

I know this is Twenty and I never did a Nineteen but I did start a Nineteen but then I decided it was stupid so I saved it with the intention of going back and unstupidifying it. But that never happened so I finally just decided to abandon it altogether. But it was already saved as Nineteen in My Documents and I didn’t want to erase it but I also didn’t feel like renaming it something like “Aborted Blog” because that sounds like something that would get me in trouble if super conservative, pro-life space aliens ever got a hold of my computer. So I just called this one Twenty. Nineteen will someday be discovered and released on the DL as a rare previously unreleased blog and hipster future kids will get their pretentious hands on it and say things about how this was from way back before Duncan Peabloggy sold out and had something real to say. Which is a ridiculous claim because I’ve had absolutely nothing real to say from the start.

I start a lot of sentences with "But". I think it's just to stick it to my grade school teachers who said I couldn't. I guess I use the word "but" a lot in general. Like inside of sentences too. I like buts.

But so even for Twenty I couldn’t really think of anything to write for a blog. But it’s been almost a month and I like to try writing at least one blog each month. So I’m going to try to force this one out. And as we all know you have to be careful when you’re forcing one out because it could come out like shit. Usually one idea pops into my head and inspires me to start writing and then the momentum carries me into a couple more ideas. No such luck in September. Not a creative thought in my head. So I am turning once again to my muse. That stupid f’ing cat in my house who is bothering me as we speak. Or as I blog.

My cat is the proud new father of at least one new kitten! How do I know? Well my cat has no tail. And it was the only one on my mountain without a tail. The previous owner told me it was because he was born that way but I always just figured that he didn’t want to tell me about the sadistic six year old who cut off its tail with a machete when it was a kitten. But then a new cat was born up the mountain recently without a tail. Scandal! It seems my cat is a bit of a Catanova. But my cat doesn’t spend any less time pestering me and laying around my house so I guess he’s embracing the Dominican tradition of making babies and then not caring for them ( I’m still not going to cut his balls off. It’s not right.). Anyway I asked my friend Google about these cats without tails and he referred me to his buddy Wikipedia who, contrary to the slanderous claims of that asshole Academia, is a very reliable source of information. It turns out my cat is a Manx cat. His family tree has ventured all the way across the Atlantic, beginning on the Isle of Man between Great Britain and Ireland, to end up in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. And now the tree has grown a new branch. You’re intrigued by this, I can tell. I’ll continue:

“The Manx (Manx: Kayt Manninagh or Stubbin) is a breed of cat with a naturally occurring mutation of the spine. This mutation shortens the tail, resulting in a range of tail lengths from normal to tail-less.

Just fascinating. According to the Cat Fanciers Association (that’s a real thing!) Manx cats are very rare. The white ones can be worth over $4,000. You know, if you fancy that kind of thing. Mine’s black. Worth about a dollar.

“The Manx tail-less gene is dominant and highly penetrant.” Hence the new tail-less kitten. “Kittens from Manx parents are generally born without any tail. Having two copies of the gene is semi-lethal and kittens are usually spontaneously aborted before birth. This means that tail-less cats can carry only one copy of the gene.”

And so on. If I write any more about this my head will explode from the excitement but I encourage you to look into this more and perhaps take up Manx cat breeding as a weekend hobby.

The highway that runs through the nearest town to me sucks. Like it’s in incredible disrepair. So nobody likes to drive on it. Especially big trucks that need to deliver materials to me. And because the highway sucks so badly that the government has to protect it from overuse because they wouldn’t want it to get damaged? So there are soldiers from the National Guard at the entrances on either side of the highway and if any trucks drive past their checkpoints they have to show a permit to enter the highway. But as it turned out one of the trucks delivering pipes to my site got stopped and did not have a permit to pass. So I had to go out there to try to convince the guards that these materials were for a good cause and they should let the truck pass. Yeah right. Plan B: “I work for the Government of the United States! Let me pass!” That one made them laugh. And rightfully so. Because, though I do technically work for the US government, my position gives me about as much power as a mail carrier. Plan C. Bribery. It’s the only one that ever works. (footnote) So the driver had to pay the Guards to pass and then I had to pay back the driver. I wasn’t sure at the time why it had to be done that way. We finally arrived at the police station in town where we leave the tubes because after all of that I didn’t have the energy to try to convince the driver to head up the mountain. And I was talking to the police guy who I’ve met a few times and I started asking him why the Guards charged me $3000 pesos because that seems like a lot to me. And as soon as I started asking the driver starting yelling at me, very urgently, to go to where he was. So I went and he very slyly placed $1000 pesos in my and said kind of threateningly, “We’re all set now. Do you understand?” And I did. I was being bribed not to tell the policeman about having to pay a bribe. And I think it was because the driver was in cahoots with the Guards and they were both ripping me off. And if I told the policeman he would probably make the driver bribe him to not tell anybody about the bribes. So instead the driver bribed me back with a third of my own bribe to them. It was all very exciting because I had never been bribed before. Except for I guess maybe my parents bought me ice cream when I was little so that I would shut up. And I’m sure those bribes were accompanied by a few threatening words as well.

Footnote: Yes I am copying David Foster Wallace. But it’s fine because I paid him off. So back in the day when I was a wide-eyed but tail-less Peace Corps newbie I would have gone a on a diatribe about how bribery and corruption are what is keeping this country down. Engineers bribe politicians to give them government contracts. Politicians bribe law enforcement to look the other way while they bury dead hookers. Dead hookers bribe some guy in hell to sneak them into heaven because business is better up there. But now that I’ve been here for a year I don’t think that’s really what the problem is. It’s mainly gravity that’s keeping this country down. But until they get some significant results from that hadron collider in Switzerland we’re going to have to leave Gravity be. The thing is that corruption is so widespread that there’s no way to eradicate it completely. So what we need to do is take a page out of the book of those hippies who want to legalize marijuana (if they haven’t already torn out all the pages to roll joints with) and legalize corruption so that we can then regulate it. Am I right? Or did I take the wrong page out of that book? I’m hungry. I wish there was a Taco Bell up here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Eighteen

Due to the overwhelming response to my question and answer session and the realization that some of my family members don’t know the difference between a question and a suggestion (when you say “just a suggestion” that usually infers a suggestion) I won’t be able to respond to all of the questions. But all of the questions were excellent and I encourage all of you to keep on keeping on and stuff even if you’re a reject. So I am going to answer Kyle and Lily’s questions because I thought that they showed the most thought and interest and existence.

Kyle of Guildford, CT says: “What is the scariest animal you have seen in your village and what did it have for breakfast?”

Great question Kyle! Well the scariest animal I have seen would have to be the town drunk on a rainy Sunday when he stumbled into my house and kept saying “I’m too much man!” until he passed out sitting up a chair. And despite his claim of being too much man I found him to be more animally. And judging by the vomit pile it left on my floor it must have had fried eggs and boiled plantains for breakfast.

Lily of Chatham, NJ says: “How's your project going? What stage you at now?”

Well Lily your first question was quite good. Great use of the contraction. Your second question, however, is not a full sentence. Anyway my project is coming along pretty well. We are in Stage 3: Bargaining. We should reach Stage 4: Depression by October.

I knocked my friend Justin’s tooth out a while back. It wasn’t on purpose. We were playing tackle football and my elbow apparently collided with his two front teeth. I didn’t feel it so I still don’t think it was me but they claim the two teeth marks dripping blood on my elbow were evidence enough to convict me. But really those could have come from anywhere. Anyway it wasn’t really a big deal. He looked up a little shocked and short one front tooth and everybody started pointing and laughing at him. Because we thought it was funny. But then he had to go making a big deal out of the whole thing being like, “Dude, my tooth is gone. It won’t grow back! That one was supposed to last for the rest of my life!” You know just being a real downer about the whole thing.

But so the thing is that since I’m in the Peace Corps and they’re part of the US government, kind of, they like to know where I am at all times. But they don’t have a really big budget like the Department of Homeland Security so they can’t bug our phones and houses or follow us in surveillance vans disguised as dry cleaning trucks. Instead they just ask us to call this voice message system and let them know our whereabouts and stuff. Pretty reasonable, right? Except on the weekend of the tooth-elbow collision I didn’t call in. And so when Justin explained the story behind his missing tooth to the people in the Peace Corps office my name surfaced as suspect numero uno. And the Peace Corps staff put 1 and 6 together and got 7. But then they realized that I was away from my home without calling the Whereabouts line. Busted. So now I’m on double secret probation in the Peace Corps. Now I know that some of you might call Justin a snitch for leaking my name. But those are your words, not mine. I would use the word “rat.” Luckily our friendship is much stronger than the root on Justin’s right central incisor so we’re still best buds. In a way it’s poetic. I ruined his mouth and his mouth ruined me. Not that he really “ruined” me per se but it wouldn’t sound poetic if I used two different words in that sentence. And I had just told you that it was poetic.

This double secret probation thing got me to thinking. In the last quarter of my quarter century of life I have had trouble being a part of any type institution without being put on some sort of disciplinary probation. And this leads me to one very obvious conclusion: that institutions are stupid and I am a recurrent victim of power abuse and conspiracy.

Speaking of conspiracies have you guys heard of this global warming thing. Usually I never trust a scientist but I think they might be on to something here. It’s flipping hot. If I hadn’t been born in August I would say this month has to go. I have to pretend that all my shirts are a few shades darker than they really are because they’re completely soaked by the time I get ten feet from my door. The hard part is when I wear a white shirt and have to explain why I’m wearing a see-through shirt. I’ve seen some guys with mesh tank tops. They’re kind of like fishnet stockings for man torsos. Pure class. I think I’m gonna get me some.

I heard a new Dominican superstition that I really liked. One of my work brigade leaders said he doesn’t let his wife wash his underwear if she’s sick. She can wash everything else but if she’s sick he’ll wash his own underwear. I think he's right. I've started taking my Doña's temperature before she does my laundry.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

SeventeenPointPictures




Sometimes we camp.













Brainstorming with Matt Damon over an ice cream cone about our next screenplay.








As you've probably already guessed I can jump a lot higher than most people.













My cell phone came with a Miley Cyrus ring tone.



Sometimes we cook in the middle of nowhere and pretend we're a group of wandering nomads. Gnome ads. No mads. Words are funny.











Haha. Who IS that guy!?













Oh yeah I work too. We dig the trenches. Then we have water.












>













But we dig a LOT. About 9km. That's European for 5.7 miles.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Seventeen

I just returned from the Duncan Peabloggy Tour 2010 in the United States. I visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and New Jersey and did some readings and signed autographs for my fans and stuff. I seem to have a large following with cashiers and bartenders because they were the ones asking for my autograph the most. I hung out with Matt Damon in LA. We’re looking into writing a screenplay together.

I met with one of my fans in New York and he told me that he thought there should be pictures on this blog. I told him to shut up if he knew what was good for him. But an idea occurred to me. Ask other people if they have suggestions for the blog. I know what you’re thinking. “Duncan, how could WE possibly improve on YOUR blog?” A valid question. But one thing about the pursuit of perfection is that nobody is perfect. Unless one person steals ideas from other people and passes them all off as the ideas of one single man and then he looks like he’s perfect. So from now on if you have any suggestions for how my blog could be improved please list them in the comments section and I will see to it that each and every one of them is given the careful consideration that it deserves and then I will steal it and pass it off as my own.

On second thought, scratch that idea.

I will put up some pictures though. As soon as I take some. They won’t really have much to do with what I’m writing about though because most of what I write is lies.

When I joined the Peace Corps I had these illusions of being like one of those really passionate and stubborn development workers in the movies in poor places. Like that lady from that one movie where she’s like “Hey pharmaceutical guys! Stop testing those drugs on poor African people!” Remember? Except she got killed. I think my biggest problem is that I have no big corporation to fight against. I think Dole did some bad stuff in this country with banana farmers or something. But maybe that was Panama. (My research assistant quit.) I’m at the top of my game when I’m trying to do something illegal or defy some authority figure. But here I don’t really have any adversaries except for the mountain. And people like mountains and nature these days so nobody would take my side in that battle. I guess the mayor could be my adversary but he’s not hindering us so much as just not helping. Plus he’s so fat and looks like a frog and I don’t even know who would play him in the movie about my story. Obviously Matt Damon would play me. I’d throw in some Jason Bourne type stuff. Beat up some secret agents and shit. But unfortunately I just have regular problems like there aren’t enough donkeys to bring up all the cement and space aliens stole all my pipes.

I think my cat is agoraphobic. That’s the one where they’re afraid to leave home right? It never leaves the house. I think in the US there are lots of agoraphobic cats that they just call house cats. But they don’t exist here. Kind of like ADD is rampant in the US but here those kinds of kids are just “bad at school.” Sometimes when it’s bothering me I throw it out the door and it turns around and runs right back in like I just threw it in a pool of acid with acid-tolerant piranhas wearing acid-proof cat lasers and previously regular, but now acid-washed, jeans. My cat hates acid-washed jeans. Sometimes I play a game with him where I throw him out the front door and shut it really quickly and then we both sprint to the back door to see who gets there first and if it’s me I close and it. We always have a good laugh after that game. At least I think he’s laughing. It’s a whiny, crying type laugh.

Another idea that I had that was completely mine and not a suggestion from anybody else and especially not from my friend Kyle was to do a question and answer thing. I thought that was a good idea that I had because I’m completely out of material and am back to talking about my cat. So from now on if you have questions about what I’m doing here or what I would do with a million dollars if I had to spend it all in one place then you can ask me in the comments section. It doesn’t have to be interesting. What did I have for breakfast? You won’t know till you ask. It was an apple. Shit.

Pictures to follow…

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sixteen

In the development world, Haitians are the new black. (Pun intended, but not in a racist way.) Helping the Haitians is sexy. All the celebrities are doing it. You no doubt know this from the headlines on all the development mags in the check-out line at Shop-Rite. But if donating to Haitians is fashionable right now then donating to the Dominican Republic is kind of like wearing shiny MC Hammer pants and LA Gear shoes that light up when you walk. There are a few people who still do it. They started doing it back when it was “in” and they continue doing it because they’re too legit to quit. But everybody else knows that it’s just not cool anymore. They invest their money in whatever fashion (third world country) Vogue (Bono) tells them to. The Dominican Republic is the fat, loud sister in stretch pants and an oversized sweater from Marshalls while Haiti is Kate Moss, cocaine-chic, dressed in Calvin Klein. (Or something. I only really know what ISN’T fashionable.) So if the fat sister wants the guys (donors) to hang out with her she has to invite Kate Moss. And I think this is exactly what my boss was thinking when he decided that we would disguise the construction of our water storage tanks as a training program for Haitians. And we got the funding. So now some Haitians will come to my tank construction (dressed in Calvin Klein I’m sure) and we will teach them with the hope that they will go back to their country and build more of these tanks where they are badly needed. What, you think that’s a dirty trick? Well to that I say, “Can’t touch this.”

If you’re offended by my comments about fat people then I’m sorry. Well actually I don’t care. Here pointing out that a person is fat is like pointing out that a person is tall. One thing I like is when I’m on the Guagua and it’s full and a fat woman waves it down and everybody groans and says, “Oh c’mon! She’s way too fat to fit in here.”
And she gets to the door and a guy says:

“Lady, you’re pretty fat to fit in this Guagua.”

But she just smiles.

“You’re right, my fatness sure is inconvenient in situations like this. “

And then she squeezes in and spills over the guy next to her and he turns to his friend and laughs:

“Man she sure is fat.”

And then everybody drives away content. In the US that same situation ends with a slap to the face or a lawsuit.

Now that I’ve started working everyday it’s hard to look at the bigger picture. What am I actually doing here? (Saving the world, duh.) If I just gave you a quick rundown of my average week it would go like this. I start digging trenches with eight Dominican men at 7am and finish at 3 pm. Then I go home and shower and cook dinner. Then I read a book or watch a movie. Then I go to bed. On the weekends I usually go and hang out with Americans at the beach or in the city and we drink beer and chat about stuff. Assuming I work everyday that’s a 40 hour work week. My monthly salary is US$333.33 which means I get paid US$2.08 and hour for my manual labor job.
Now let’s consider a hypothetical situation in the United States. I work a manual labor job in New Jersey where all of my co-workers are Hispanic men who only speak Spanish. We work from 7am to 3pm. Then after work I go home and shower and cook dinner. Then I read a book or watch a movie and then I go to bed. On the weekends I go to the beach or the city with my American friends and drink beer and chat about stuff. I get paid US$10 an hour. Now obviously anybody who took economics in college knows that I have to account for more than just income to compare standard of living. Here rent on my house is US$55 per month and includes laundry service, house cleaning service, and lunch. Additional groceries and goods cost US$80 per month (ish). Total monthly expenditures: US$135 (This doesn’t take into account the weekend stuff). In the US a house of similar quality rents for US$0 because it is some guy’s tool shed. But for the sake of our comparison let’s say I find a rat-infested, two room, shanty for $200 a month. Then food and laundry are an extra US$300 a month bringing my monthly expenditures to US$500 a month. When I plug these numbers into the equation used in the internationally respected Duncan Peabody Living Standard Index, the Dominican Republic rates 0.405 and the hypothetical US situation rates 0.312. (First one to figure out how the index is calculated wins a candy bar.) I’m pretty sure lower is better in my index so the hypothetical US situation wins.

Right here is the part where I explain all the beautiful subtleties of life here in the Dominican Republic which render this study null. But I don’t feel like it. I’m pretty sure there are a million reasons why this is better, right? Or maybe at least six. Obviously I’d rather be here helping these people build a water system than in the US helping a rich guy get a beautifully landscaped yard. Plus this looks good on my resume. A guy just gave me some bananas. That never happened in New Jersey. And also….hmm…..Shit. Well it’s better, OK? Just trust me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fifteen

I had a rat problem in my house so I got a cat. It was a hand-me-down from another volunteer. Now I have a cat problem. It’s not that I dislike cats, its just that I don’t LIKE cats. (There’s a subtle active vs. passive distinction between the two phrases.) Now you might say, “Fine you don’t LIKE cats, but on a relative scale of 1 to LIKE, a cat would certainly rate higher than a rat.” Cats don’t cause leptospirosis and they’re much more cuddly than rats. But recent discussions on Haitian vs. Dominican relations have gotten me thinking about the unconscious stereotypes that shape the way we think about other beings. Now I paid very little attention during these discussions so I can’t tell you very much about Haitian-Dominican relations. But I think they probably said something along the lines of “Dominicans have been given more opportunity to develop, blah, blah, blah, I’m boring.” This same school of thought can be applied to cat vs. rat relations. Ever since that little incident with the Bubonic plague rats have gotten a bad rap as being “dirty” and “diseased” whereas cats are referred to as “domesticated” and “kitty”. But we have to analyze the underlying causes of these differences, the largest of which, I would argue, is the difference in the distribution of aid. Now aid to cats has been approached in a decentralized manner where hundreds of millions of aid workers around the world care for a cat or two (I think more than 3 make you a “cat lady”). These cats are provided proper sanitation (litter boxes), clean drinking water, and a nutritious diet (Meow Mix). They grow up with love and encouragement to learn new tricks and play with balls of yarn. They receive sexual education (castration) so that their population does not get out of hand. Rats, on the other hand, have received very little aid over the years and thus have to fight to get by. They leave turds all over your clothes because nobody ever educated them about hygiene and sanitation. They steal your food because they are starving and have families to support. They are diseased because they don’t receive proper health (veterinary) care. So the vicious cycle persists. And we ignore these facts. Because we don’t like the way rats fit into “our” world we support the cats so that they can continue to commit genocide against the rat population. The same tactics that powerful governments and large corporations use to oppress populations who oppose their interests in other countries. So next time you’re deciding which animal population to support with your hard earned money, consider the rat. Is it really “bad” or is it just a victim of foreign (species) interventionism and disproportionate distribution of resources?

You will notice that my previous two blogs have contained sections in which I compare and metaphorize( when you turn off spell check every combination of letters is a real word!) animal and human life. It’s part of an animal rights campaign I have started called “Animals are people too.” My next project is a multi-species production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

On a more human note I have received a donation from a human stranger in California for the water system that we’re building for the humans that I live with. I don’t know who he was but it was awfully nice of him to do that. What he doesn’t realize is that I now have to begin work on my system. This will severely cut down on my beach time. I think I will write him a thank you note. In it I will not mention this blog because I don’t want to ruin his illusion of having just sent a large sum of money to a serious and responsible water engineer. If he (you) does happen to stumble across this blog then I’m sorry but I already spent the money and you can’t have it back. I’m actually a semi-capable human being, I promise. So May 31st is the first day of work. I just went to the tube factory and gave them lots of money in return for hundreds of long, plastic cylinders. Now we will bury them all in the ground and shoot water out of them into peoples’ homes.

The translation for the verb to borrow in the dictionary is pedir prestado which when literally translated means something like “to ask to lend.” This implies that the person borrowing a thing asks permission. But Dominicans’ idea of borrowing is pretty loose and sometimes borders on theft (which is basically just borrowing without the returning part anyway). But I don’t really care because it’s usually just pens or paper or peanut butter and it’s happened in every house I’ve lived in thus far in country so I write it off to a cultural difference. So sometimes things are “borrowed” from my house without permission but I want them back. But if I say “Hey did you ask me to lend you my scissors” then that sounds accusatory when really I just want to know if he borrowed my scissors because now I need them to make paper snowflakes. And so…huh…well I’m not sure where this is going. Basically some ants just bit me and I want to ask my host-brother whether he borrowed my ant killing powder but I don’t want to sound like I’m accusing him of stealing.

I used to eat all of my meals with a family. Then I told them that I just wanted to eat lunch with them and I would cook breakfast and dinner on my own. The idea was that way I could stop eating the starchy roots (viveres) that they served me every morning and night. But to them it’s not dinner if there aren’t any viveres. So I cook eggs or something for dinner and I’m satisfied. But they’re horrified. So around 9pm there’s a knock on my door:

Dona: “Duncan are you sleeping?”
Me: “No, I usually sleep with the lights off.”
Dona: “Oh ok, I brought you these viveres.”
Me: “Oh well I already ate. Thanks though.”
Dona: “Oh ok well I cooked these and then I brought them to you.”
Me: “Yeah but I already ate and so I’m full. With food.”
Dona: “Right well I’m just going to ignore everything you just said and put these viveres on your table and you eat them, ok?”
Me: “OK thanks Dona.”

And this happens every single night. So not only do they take without asking. They give without asking (or listening). People who are different than me are crazy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fourteen

I witnessed a territorial dispute between two dogs the other day. A bigger dog came into a smaller dog’s territory and started peeing on his stuff (a tree stump and a bush). The smaller dog came over growling and started peeing on his own stuff again to cover up the pee of the first dog. It went back and forth like that with dogs lifting legs until the invading dog couldn’t pee anymore. So he lost the battle and left. So it turns out that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but rather the size of that dog’s bladder and how much water he drank that day. Which made me think that if humans settled territorial disputes this way we’d have much less blood shed and the winner of the battle would have nutrient rich soil from the all of the urine, which would lessen our environmental impact due to the extraction and processing of phosphorous. Also we would completely eradicate the weapons trade and instead develop stock holds of water and beer and the most efficient diuretics, which is really just good practice anyway. If anybody happens to be at the next World Summit on Peace (Or War) you should mention this idea. One suggestion would be to leave out the butt sniffing part because our senses of smell are really not good enough to get any substantial information from that.

I'm not a cheek kisser usually. I'm not opposed to the custom but I don't initiate the cheek kiss salutation. But one of the ladies here did initiate the cheek kiss and once you do the cheek kiss there's no going back to handshakes. And now all the other ladies see that she does the cheek kiss and so they're like “Oh, he's a cheek kisser” even though I'm not. And so they start doing it. Then I'll give one a cheek kiss and their friend is there and it's really awkward because I haven't established a cheek kiss hello with that friend yet but I just cheek kissed with the other lady so if I don't do it with them does it mean I don't like them as much? So the cheek kiss has spread like wildfire and now I have to cheek kiss all the ladies. And some of those old ladies are aprovechando (taking advantage). The kisses are getting wetter and trying to steal some lip. I just want to go back to the weird handshake where you grab each others forearm like some sort of Asian wrestling (Why Asian Duncan? I'm not really sure).

Yikes. Kissing old ladies and peeing contests. They told me living in the campo might screw with my head. Let’s see if I can find something less perverse to talk about.

Last week I participated in a hitchhiking race across part of the country. I’m going to leave out some details about some of the rules of the race so as not to disgrace myself and the Peace Corps. I’ll just say that sometimes Peace Corps volunteers need to partake in some harmless, self-destructive behavior which is in no way condoned by or affiliated with the United States Peace Corps. But basically the point is to begin in one part of the country and hitchhike in pairs to another part, preferably one located on the beach. Except you cannot tell the driver that you are a Peace Corps volunteer. Also you are encouraged to dress up in costume and invent reasons for why you are hitchhiking. So this is how I ended up on the side of the highway in biking spandex telling strangers that we needed a ride because our bikes got stolen. The first ride we got was from an ambulance. The ambulance had its sirens on and was on its way to the hospital with a patient but decided that it was worth it to stop and pick up two gringos in spandex. It’s a very relaxed culture, even in emergencies. There was only one empty seat up front so I rode in the back of the ambulance with a doctor and a mother and teenage boy delirious with dengue fever and hooked up to various IVs and apparatus. Needless to say they did not seem to think the situation was nearly as funny as I did. But my point is that an ambulance on its way to the hospital is probably the best way to win a hitchhiking race. I didn’t win though. The next ride was from two French, book publishers. They were much more entertaining than the kid with dengue but they didn’t drive as fast.

I thought it would be nice to expose the people here to some Dominican cinema (while simultaneously cheating Dominican cinema out of money) by purchasing some pirated Dominican movies for 50 pesos in the city. So I brought them back to the campo and showed them to the muchachos and they didn’t want to watch any of them. They did however want to watch a Jean Claude Van Damme movie in English without subtitles. (As I later found out they cannot read subitles anyway.) In fact they will watch anything in any language as long as it has “fighting or shooting.” I’m pretty sure that it is the dream of every male in my community to marry a rich, white girl and move the United States and become a real life Dominican Chuck Norris.

Hmmm...well that's all for now I guess.

Monday, April 12, 2010

ThirteenPoint5

I have about 8 years experience in journalism. Or I had an experience in journalism about eight years ago. I wrote an article for my high school newspaper about the Dave Matthews Band. I took a brief 8 year hiatus after that article because I was having trouble dealing with the fame. But recently I decided to come out of hiding and write an article for the Peace Corps magazine. Except it was rejected. And I deal with rejection even worse than I deal with fame, so I'm afraid that my journalism career has finally come to an end. But before that I will allow you to read the article that ended the long, illustrious journalism career of Duncan Peabody. Because let's face it, if you're still reading this blog after 7 months you either enjoy my sub-par writing or you've continued to read it because of some feeling of obligation. And frankly I'm OK with either of those scenarios. So here it is:

I hate cliches more than you do. It's true. Especially the one about people going to the Peace Corps to find themselves. That's what some people said I was doing when I told them I was going to the Peace Corps. Except they said it more like “stupid child doesn't know what to do with himself” more than “how wonderful, he's embarking on a journey of self-discovery.” Anyway I didn't want to believe it. But as I've found out you can't very well be thrown into a radically new situation like this and not learn at least a few things about yourself. That goes especially for somebody as self-absorbed as myself.

In this case the radically different situation is a campo in the clouds. Before this I was living in gigantic strip mall called Tampa, FL. My closest experience to rural living was a failed attempt at growing basil on my balcony. To counter the urban sprawl I decided to try to be super green. In Tampa it was easy to talk about being green. I did it through Gmail chat on my computer in my cubicle in my windowless office lit by flourescent lightbulbs. All I had to do is say “Man when I get out of Tampa I'm gonna do this and the world will be better because of me.” I just had to finish my Masters first so I could be pretentious on two counts. “Yeah I'm gonna save the earth but I'm gonna do it much smarter than you because I have a higher education.” (followed by a smug smile). In Tampa being green meant going to the local farmers market for half your food and then buying the rest in the grocery store, imported from Sri Lanka and Nicaragua. I conserved electricity by turning out the lights, if I remembered, when I left the apartment. I conserved water by leaving piss in the toilet until a bacterial growth started on the toilet bowl and I had to make excuses why a girl had to use my roommates bathroom instead of mine. Ha. Just kidding. Girls never came over. But pretty much I was single-handedly saving the world from being destroyed.

But now I've been sent to the middle of nowhere where the topic of conversation ranges from corn to cows and then inevitably strays towards the weather. Eating local means bountiful harvests of carbohydrates. Conserving water means bathing with the last half gallon in your bucket because you're too lazy to walk down that stupid muddy path that always make the front pop out of your flip flop and then you trip and spill half the water and swear that next time you won't wear flip flops but then you do. Conserving electricity is easy because there is none. So now I'm living green for real but not in the sexy way that movie stars live green but in the impoverished way that poor people live green.

So I guess I have in fact learned a few things about myself over the past four months. Mainly that I'm not nearly as badass as my Gmail chats would have you believe. I need to charge my cell phone so that I can talk about something other than animals sometimes. Or at least about different animals that they don't know about here like deer and kangaroos and panda bears.

Also I like movies and they require technology and electricity. Sometimes you just need to curl up with a romantic comedy and have a good cry. But that's because you're a sissy. I eat steak and watch Rambo and lift heavy shit up and down.

And even though I want to get closer to the earth I don't want my floors to be made of it. It makes my pants dirty when I put them on. Or it would if my floors were made of dirt, but they couldn't possibly be because that's against PC policy.

Eating local is easy enough. Drinking local is not. Stop arguing about which Dominican beer is better. They all suck. The bread is bad here too. The yeast must be infected or something.

So it turns out I din't have what it takes to be green. I bought a little solar panel and a toxic lead-acid battery to charge my computer and phone. If I didn't already have floors made with atmosphere polluting cement (But I do because it's against PC policy to have dirt floors. I just told you that.) I would be planning on putting them in soon. I cut down a bunch of trees to plant a garden so that eating locally didn't have to include all the local health problems as well. And as long as I'm at it I'm going to go ahead and build a gravity-fed water system with lots of petroleum based plastic so that I can have running water. I still don't know what to do about the beer.

I guess you could say I went green and then took a few steps back to a more yellowy-green. Chartreuse perhaps. Somewhere in the space between the Y and the G in ROY G. BIV's signature. But I'm not yellow. If you call me yellow I'll beat you up.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thirteen

Talk is cheap. And the Dominicans that I live with are poor. So they talk a lot. At first I didn’t really understand them so I figured they had a lot to say but as I start to understand them better I realize that they say in 20 minutes what could be said in two. It’s just wasteful really. Maybe if they trimmed the fat and spoke more efficiently the market price of talk would go up and the things they said would be worth something. That was kind of a cheap shot, but seriously they are professional liars here. Except here lying is not the moral no-no that it is in the US. In the US we have the decency to hide the fact that we’re dishonest. Not so much here. Let’s see some examples:

Example 1:
Motorcycle driver: That will be $70 pesos.
Me: No it will be $40 pesos.
Motorcycle driver: Oh, I didn’t realize you knew the price. OK $40 pesos. Hey do you want to be friends?

20 minutes later:
Me: The moto driver tried to rip me off.
Neighbor: Oh yeah that’s because you’re white and he thought he could get more money out of you.
Me: Right, I got that. But shouldn’t you be enraged that your fellow countryman was trying to rip me off even though I came here for two years to help you have running water?
Neighbor: No, you see, you are white and he is Dominican. So he lies to you to try to get more money because he thinks you don’t know what it should cost.
Me: OK, bye.

Example 2:
I’m walking up to teach Spanish and I stop by one of my student’s house to wait for him.

Student: Just give me one second, I have to finish copying the homework.
Me: Oh, ok. But shouldn’t you be more secretive about copying the homework that I assigned you for the class I teach?
Student: Well I didn’t have time to do it because things here in the middle of nowhere are very busy and there’s just no time to do a five minute homework assignment within three days.
Me: Well don’t bother copying it. You won’t learn anything unless you do it.
Student: But I’m doing it right now.
Me: No, you’re copying your sister’s homework.
Student: Yeah. (Looks at me, confused, as if I might be retarted and he’s trying to decide.) Do you want a banana?
Me: OK, bye.

My new light bulb has made me the most popular guy in my community after 7pm. I always had light bulbs in middle school but I never had any friends. But here when the sun sets the neighbors flock to my light bulb like moths, mistaking it for the sun. Also these moths bring uncharged cell phones with them. Being popular is nice and everything but nighttime was the time when I practiced useless hobbies like juggling and yo-yoing and learning Spanish. How am I supposed to learn Spanish if there are Dominicans all over my house. And how embarrassing will it be if I return to the US in two years and I can’t even juggle well. There’s two years of my life down the drain.

Me: I built a gravity-fed water system in the mountains of the Dominican Republic.
Potential employer: Mmm hmmm, that’s nice. How are you at juggling?
Me: Oh, well, um…..you see….i got this lightbulb…and…well not so good.
(No longer)Potential employer: Yeah well I’m afraid you just don’t have what it takes to work in this engineering firm.
Me: I understand completely.

It seems I am writing a lot of dialogue. I don’t know why. Maybe I should do screenplays. For crappy sitcoms.

There is a serious fire ant problem in my house and my garden and my current country of residence. My shack is home to many critters including rats, tarantulas, and lizards but none of them bother me so much as the fire ants who’ve decided to make their homes in my floor. Contrary to popular belief, fire ants are not named fire ants because of their fire fighting abilities. It’s actually because it hurts like a bastard when they bite you. The other day they decided to go exploring in my clothes so when I put on my pants they started biting me. I had ants in my pants. I also had them in my bed and my food but bed and food don’t rhyme with ants. So that’s unacceptable.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Twelve

Happy Valentines Day! Well for some of you anyway. For some of you it was probably just depressing. Cheer up though. You're bringing me down.

One day I was in a taxi with some other volunteers and a Polish tourist. He was talking about how fast he could run, like Polacs always do. I told him that I could run faster than him. He was so outraged that he made the cab driver pull over right there and then and we raced in the middle of the street. It was about a 100 meter sprint. I stumbled out of the gate and ended up losing by inches. It was a hard defeat to take. But the one thing about racing european tourists in the Dominican Republic is that there's no do-overs. A few weeks later we spotted a european tourist (nationality unknown) in the park in Santo Domingo and I raced him and won. It was a little too easy. So now I'm 1-1 with momentum in my favor. If you know of a european making his way down to the DR who is looking for a race let me know.

I think I might have made a couple of friends my age in my community. And by friends I mean they found out I can watch movies on my laptop and now they hang around my house a lot till I ask them if they want to watch a movie and they say “Oh yeah, well sure I guess, I hadn't really thought about that but if you're offering then I guess I could find the time.” But I'm not complaining. We're using each other and that's what friendship is all about. It's not that I didn't enjoy hanging out with middle aged women and four year olds but it's nice to talk with somebody my own age. Not that we have a whole lot in common either. They're super nice. The problem is that they don't really do sarcasm or cynicism or self-deprication and I don't communicate very well in other ways. I can hardly blame them. It's hard to be cynical about life if you didn't have a comfortable childhood in the suburbs and parents who paid your way through college as you did your best not to graduate. But saying what I actually mean just doesn't feel right. Without the sarcasm it's just complaining.

I am an English teacher now. I'm not sure if I'm very good at it. I think it's good to try teaching first in a remote community in the country that has the worst education system in Latin America because expectations are lower. Then as I get more confident I'll move to the 2nd worst and eventually I'll teach in Cuba.

There's a goose that hangs out in the street sometimes and bullies me when I walk past him. He hisses and then lowers his head and starts charging at me. I run backwards and kick at him so he won't peck me. I hope nobody has ever seen me do it. I don't know why he picks on me. I think it's a defense mechanism that he uses to protect himself from ever getting close to somebody because he's scared he'll get hurt. But I wish he would stop because someday somebody is going to see me running away from a goose.

There's a water volunteer in the community near me. Both of our communities are part of the same district so we're working with the same Mayor to plan a party to raise funds for our projects. So we want to have a joint party. But the leaders of her community said we couldn't go to their party and then my community crossed their arms and turned around and started pouting and said “Fine! I don't want to go to your stupid party anyway. Jerks.” But we told them tough noogies, they had to learn to share. So if this engineering thing doesn't work out at least I'll be qualified to be a nursery school teacher. Luckily our Mayor has come through for us 0 out of 3 times so far so it probably won't happen anyway.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eleven

Happy New Year! I disappeared. Now I'm back.

A lot of people have been asking me recently where my inspiration for these blogs comes from (that's a lie). And I say, “I don't know, Franklin, because I pay a team of writers to blog for me.” And then they look at me funny because I don't know anybody named Franklin. But I asked my writers where their inspiration came from and they said it was from the money I paid them, which is really the purest form of inspiration there is.

I got to play baseball with the muchacos in my town the other week. The guys from my community go down to the lower community and have a baseball game in a dirt field surrounded by barbed wire. So I showed up and tried to get myself on the team. They just laughed at first until they realized I was serious. In the Dominican Republic, I've discovered, you are incompetent until proven otherwise. So they gave me a quick batting test and I passed and they let me play. The first ball hit went right to me and I caught it and everybody was very surprised because they hadn't given me a catching test. The second ball was not to me but nobody else was running after it so I thought I would run over and make a really impressive catch and everybdy would cheer and lift me up on their shoulders and name the field after me. Except instead of that I ran into the barbed wire fence and sliced my arms up and got caught. When I finally got untangled I was covered in blood. But since this was my first tryout I couldn't leave so I just walked back to my spot and kept playing with blood dripping down my arms. I thought maybe if I tried to act like it was nothing it would erase some of the embarrassment of running into a barbed wire fence. But I think the bloody white kid in the outfield just made everybody uncomfortable. The rest of my performance was mediocre.

Campo Guilt: A feeling of guilt resulting from spending extended periods of time away from your Peace Corps community; the time is generally spent with gringos.

So whenever I leave my campo I'm supposed to feel guilty the entire time. It's part of the Peace Corps experience I think. I don't know why we're supposed to feel guilty. My community got along fine before I arrived. I think If I'm only there 25 days a month instead of 30 they will continue to be ok. Anyway sometimes spending 30 days out of the month there is impossible. Did you know that in the Dominican Republic and a lot of other developing countries they only have 28 days in February. It's really sad. Anyway, I've yet to find an issue so pressing that it couldn't be solved the next day or the next week. So I am unable to feel campo guilt. A friend pointed out to me that psycopaths also don't feel guilt. So I might have that to look forward to. But sometimes I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I think with so many Catholics in my family it makes me guilty by association.

I went to Florida to spend Christmas with my family and celebrate Charlie Peabody's defeat of lymphoma. We stayed at a place with a golf course and lots of old people. I played golf. I don't like golf. DISCLAIMER: If for some reason you have it in your head that I have never partaken in any illegal activities in the past then you're right, I haven't, and you should skip to the next paragraph. If you are an important Peace Corps person monitoring blogs then you should also skip to the next paragraph because you're wasting tax payers' money and need to learn to skim. I find a lot of similarities between golf and marijuana, and not just because the word green is often used when talking about both of them. I used to like to do both of them pretty frequently. But at some point I realized that I didn't really care for either golf or marijuana. They're both expensive and just make me feel awkward. And I'm pretty sure people are laughing at me the whole time. So I usually just turn either down when it's offered. But every couple of years somebody will offer, and it's been long enough since the last time that I convince myself that maybe I might like it this time. So I do it but then immediately I just want it to end. But it lasts for hours and there's no way out. So if you ever see me about to do either of these things, please stop me. Not to mention that golf can get you in a lot of trouble with the law. I wonder how awful it would be to play golf high.

I helped out as an interpreter in a medical mission near my community. A group of med students and doctors from the University of Southern Maine came down for two weeks to give clinics in the surrounding communities, but most of them don't speak Spanish so that makes me an expert. One day I got to interpret for Dentist Dave. Patients would come in with rotting teeth and Dentist Dave would shoot them up with novacaine and yank the teeth out with a set of pliers. This is how dentistry must have done back in the 1800s. Except Dentist Dave told me that they didn't have novacaine in the 1800s. Apart from rotting teeth they all pretty much have high blood pressure and diabetes from the awful diet here. Unfortunately they don't have a Whole Foods in the area to buy overpriced health food. I interpreted when the clinic went to a community near mine and some of my neighbors showed up for consultations. I won't go into details but I had to ask them some pretty uncomfortable questions about very private things. I hope it won't make things awkward between us. After dinner every night we had story time where the students could talk about their experiences from that day. I only have mean things to say about that so I just won't say anything.
Very early in my time here in this country somebody asked me a question in an email. If I was forced to choose between only using a spoon or a fork for the rest of my life, which one would it be? I picked spoon. I think it was the right decision. Give it some thought.