Well, December has come and gone, and with it, my first round of holidays in the Dominican Republic.
My parents and brother spent a week here. We saw sights in Santo Domingo, played games with kids and compartired with my neighbors in my site, and relaxed at an all-inclusive resort in La Romana. It was great to see them, but time flew by and before I knew I was leaving them at the airport to go back to Baní.
I spent Christmas in my site with my host family. Honestly, it was sad. On Christmas eve my neighbor sent over the typical Noche Buena dinner, which was spaghetti, moro (rice with guandules in it), bread, roast chicken, and potato salad. Apparently times are hard this year, so my host family couldn’t celebrate like they usually would. I went to sleep at 10:00. On Christmas Day, I woke up and it felt like any other day. My host sister was doing laundry. At night everyone got dressed up in their new Christmas clothes and drank. Even the kids drank. Then it started pouring rain out of nowhere. We waited under the roof of a colmado for it to stop, but no luck. I ran home in the rain, watched Love Actually, and went to bed. Merry Christmas.
For New Years, a lot of volunteers got together up in Cabarete, a ridiculously touristy town on the northern coast. It was my first time up there, and it was weird. Apparently the hotel we stayed at was in “the Dominican part of town.” It felt normal to me. Colmados blasting music, street dogs barking, the whole thing. The tourist part of town was what really felt strange. I actually ran away from a bar on the beach because the waitresses spoke perfect English and the menu didn’t include tax or tip. It was strange to be in a place as a white foreigner who, instead of being a wealthy tourist, was a poor(ish) volunteer living here. But I had lots of fun, and it was great to spend time with my friends, many of whom I don’t get to see nearly enough. We rang in the new year by popping champagne on the beach and giving hugs all around.
We celebrated the Epiphany, Día de los Reyes Magos, yesterday. This is the day that Dominican kids get presents instead of Christmas. I gave my goddaughter a package of diapers and two cans of milk (she is 2 months old). The parents who could afford it gave their sons trucks and guns and their daughters dolls. Apparently one of the rich people in town (a senator I think) had a toy giveaway, but the toys ran out by 6:00 in the morning. Kids greet every adult (or maybe just me?) with “Y mis reyes?” Where are my toys?
It’s been strange to come back, like it usually is. This week school officially starts back up, but the kids won’t come until next Monday. I’m preparing for a Peace Corps conference for educators this weekend, which I’ve been looking forward to since getting to my site. After that conference I can start my teacher training course in my school. I’m also looking forward to getting back to work with my literacy groups and my boys’ group. Also in the works are starting a youth group about healthy choices called Escojo Mi Vida and possibly a girls’ group.
2013 is going to be a good one.