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Postcards from Last Week

April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 10th
It took an hour, but we eventually managed to split a group of 20 high school students into four groups with different projects. Ben, Tim and I are working with five high school boys to create a video with some kind of positive message. We’re the only all-male group, and it definitely shows. One of the kids drew something dirty on our brainstorming sheet, which we immediately called him out for. “Is that showing a positive message?” Everyone laughed, and we kept working. Progress on our project has been slow, and the occasional meeting-halting distraction of a girl entering the room is always an issue, but I think the kids are having a good time and learning something. Let’s hope we have a movie to show at the end of it.

Tuesday, April 10th
I’ve spent a lot of time this week reading. I prefer to think of it as recharging my introvert batteries and not being an anti-social nerd. I blew through Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and I don’t understand how I missed that book in high school. It’s an AWESOME story. I devoured a book of T.S. Eliot’s poetry; much of it went over my head, but what I did understand I loved. I even learned some new words! My favorite: velleities (n) — desires unaccompanied by any action attempting to make them become reality. I’m also working my way through Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which is a collection of essays on astronomy. It’s mindboggling. If I ever feel like my struggles here are too big that book helps me put everything in perspective. For example, I used the speed of light (186,282 miles per second) and the width of the observed universe (13.7 billion light years) to figure out the size of the universe in miles. Good news—it’s roughly 4,829,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles across. I never said I wasn’t a huge nerd.

Friday, April 13th
Today Ann, our boss, came to do more interviews with the aim of finally nailing down our site placements. In the morning she asked me if I would be okay with living in “a really rustic batey, with probably the worst living conditions of your group, but with a really motivated community and an exciting grassroots project.” I said yes, sign me up. Later that day she came to our Spanish class to do more interviews. She asked me if I would like “a marginalized urban community with a lot of Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans, a new literacy project in the primary school, work with boys’ groups, and a bunch of NGOs.” Ignoring that it was almost a complete 180° change from earlier, I said yes, sign me up. And with that, I had a project. And with some super sleuthing I found out from the Volunteer I’m replacing where exactly my site is, name and all. But that’s for another time—I’ve got to maintain some mystery here, right?

Sunday, April 15th
“Bump!” Ginny sounded the alarm, and in unison the four of us lifted our butts from the bed of the truck. The front tires rolled quietly over the speed bump, and the back followed with a lurch and a thunk as our things rearranged themselves around us. This process of trying—and frequently failing—to avoid personal injury repeated itself about a hundred times during our drive to and from the beach. The beach in question was Playa Esmerelda, close to the city of Miches. We spent the day splashing about in the waves, catching sand dollars with our feet and floating in the salty bay. Lunch was a pile of boiled yucca with grilled chicken washed down with rum and pineapple soda. I explored the beach, attempted to climb a palm tree, convinced a guard that we weren’t going to sneak into a resort, and got a wicked sunburn. I came back to my house Sunday night bruised, burned, and carrying a freshly-felled coconut, with a smile of satisfaction from ear to ear. It was a great break to recharge before a busy week.

Tuesday, April 17th
Youth groups are hard.

Wednesday, April 18th
Today’s my birthday! I realized last night that I will be 22, 23, 24, AND 25 while I’m here. Crazy, huh? I’m celebrating today by learning about first aid, rip currents, and alcohol abuse from one of our doctors, writing a script for our youth group’s movie, and constantly forgetting it’s my birthday until I’m reminded by someone. My host mom is way more into my birthday than I am—-it’s adorable, really. Tonight we might go eat chimis, which are basically Dominican cheeseburgers with a heavenly flavor and a mild to moderate risk of diarrhea. Stay tuned.

(If you made it this far and realized that this format is a cheap way to put up a blog post while suffering from horrible writer’s block, good job, you caught me. If you didn’t realize it, now you have. Sometimes trying is hard, okay?)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Robin permalink
    April 18, 2012 12:40 PM

    Great writing, Birthday Boy! Really enjoying it.

  2. Penny Rasmussen permalink
    April 18, 2012 2:38 PM

    Oh Brendan, happy birthday! Loving your blogs no matter the format. Always fascinating.
    Enjoy your chimis.
    Love, Penny

  3. TomF permalink
    April 19, 2012 9:24 AM

    Happy Belated birthday. Sou ds like the PC is all you expected, and more. Hope you enjoyed the chimis and figured out how to eat the coconut. I got to see the space shuttle on her final flight to Dulles / udvar hazy. Pop pop and Grandma had great success w open house. All offers at or above. Rosie says hi, and brummm brumm. Take care talk soon. Love, Dad.

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