Planning, Meteors, and Moving
The first three months at my site I spent visiting houses, getting to know people, and nosing out what kind of projects might be possible in the next two years. I was briefly in the school for the week or so before it let out for summer, and the rest of the time I spent talking with my neighbors and playing with children. All that was part of my job, but it probably looked to my community like I was just a lazy jaragán who played lots of street baseball and walked too much. But it was all in preparation for my three month in-service training. Each sector got together with their program directors and trainers for a week of planning and training sessions. The water and environment people got to go to President Balaguer’s mansion in the beautiful La Vega. Education, my group, spent five days in a conference center surrounded by cabañas. (For the uninitiated, cabañas are pay-by-the hour hotels that advertise their hot tubs, stripper poles, and erotic chairs; I’ll let you guess what goes down there.)
On the first day we presented our community diagnostics to the rest of the group. I was really worried about mine, but it went fine and people seemed impressed. The next day my project partner showed up and we spent the whole day learning about vision statements, objectives, goals, and annual plans. It was a LONG day and lots of work, but it felt good to be making solid plans for the upcoming year. We also did a lot of fun dinámicas—it wouldn’t be a Peace Corps event without them! On Wednesday the project partners left early in the morning, and then we switched to English and dug in for two long days FULL of information. We learned about adult literacy, teacher training, applying for grants, safety, and health. Going from the slow pace of life in my site to the fully-packed all day schedule of Peace Corps training was tiring, but good. And it was wonderful to see the people in my education training group again!
The day training ended most of us stayed for an extra night in the Capital to relax and catch up. I was definitely not ready to get back to my site. We saw the new Batman movie, which was AWESOME. But the power went out in the middle of it and we had to wait while they filled up the generators with gas. The next day it poured rain so we went to IKEA. I’m usually overwhelmed by IKEA in America, but I was even more overwhelmed after living in poverty for the past 5 months. To cope, I drank coffee nonstop. That ended up making me even crazier. My IKEA Santo Domingo experience ended with me dashing through the decorations section to the warehouse, my vision fuzzy from caffeine, trying to find a bathroom. The only thing I bought in the store was a chocolate bar. It was a weird day. Then it was back to my site to start work
The whole next week was full of rain. We’re in the middle of hurricane season here in the Caribbean, and storms kept coming and dumping on us. I went to the school a few days to talk with the teachers and see how the planning was going. I also spent a lot of time on my new house—buying furniture for it, scrounging up stuff to borrow, and getting stuff to cook with. I took a night out of my site to see the Perseids meteor shower on the beach with a few other volunteers. The beach was great and the meteor shower was awesome, and it was good to relax with friends before getting back into my site and starting all the hard work ahead of me.
In the middle of this past week, I finally moved into my own house! The electricity got hooked up, my bosses inspected and approved it, and I was in the clear to move in. Four kids in my host family helped me move all my books, art supplies (thanks Miram!), clothes, and random other things into the house. I gave them Reese’s Cups (thanks Taylor!) and set to work organizing everything. It feels really good to have a space of my own but still be living with my host family, especially because my neighborhood can be a bit dangerous and it’s nice to be surrounded by people who are always looking out for me.
So that’s been my last month. I promise not to let the blog fall behind again. Look forward to updates on how my projects are going as I finally start them!