A Random Slice of the DR

Trip Start Sep 06, 2005
Trip End Nov 23, 2007

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Saturday, February 11, 2006

Family and Friends-

Well, I have finally come down from my high of watching the Rose Bowl, and am thus able to write a travelpod entry. Before reading, I should warn y'all that there isnt too much interesting in store, but if you have some time to kill, read away....
So the holidays have come and gone, and life has returned to its slow, casual pace in Cacique. After about the second week in January everyone was completely broke, after blowing all their money on partying and toy guns. (Actually these toy guns were quite a source of unrest for me during the beginning of January, as every child under the age of 7 received one for Christmas and found it most entertaining to shoot me, or at least threaten to do so. Now my safetly certainly wasnt in jeopardy since these things have the shooting distance of about 10 feet, but it is uncomfortable when someone brandishes a gun in your face--whether it be real or fake. After talking to other volunteers, I realized that I was by no means the only one suffering from these "toys," and one volunteer even went so far as to frisk children for faux firearms before allowing them to enter the house!) Anyway, since there was no money, most people stayed at home during the month of January instead of going out. I say most people, because my host mom was certainly an exception to this rule......
What is there to say about my host mom, Belkis Altagracia Brazoban Manzanillo. The woman is a party animal! For instance, on the day of her son's graduation from high school, she decided that we should start celebrating immediately after the graduation ceremony instead of going home, eating dinner, and waiting to resume the festivities later that night. So the first round of Presidente came around 6 pm and the last round was finished around 4:30 am. Yes my friends, that is approximately 11 straight hours of Merengue and beer. And for a naive gringo like myself who is accustomed to nothing more than 3 hour adventures on 6th Street, it was like running a marathon. I dont know where all the energy comes from, but it is impressive considering her age and physical health. Even her son (the recent grad) couldnt handle it and had to go sleep in the car around 3am while his mom wrapped things up inside! Now I shouldn't knock the woman too much, because she really is great. She is a good friend and mother and very responsible for the most part. I think she just has to let her hair down every once and a while (and by "hair," I mean weave.)
But when I am not out with my Dominican host mom, I find other activities to keep me occupied. The youth group I started is progessing and we did have a very successful and entertaining digital-camera-scavenger-hunt last month. (Basically there were two teams, each outfitted with a digital camera and an identical list of tasks. They had to run around the community doing various activities and then taking a picture of said activity to prove they had completed it). I've included some of the pictures from the event to give y'all an idea. We are also raising money for a trip to the beach by selling menthol. Menthol is like generic Vick's Vapor Rub and the people here use it for everything--sore throat, headache, joint stiffness, chest pain etc.... If you would like to purchase a film canister full, please let me know as we do ship internationally. One tube costs 20 pesos (about 60 US cents) plus shipping and handling.
I am also teaching a TON of English. I teach two hours Monday, Wednesday, Friday to kids ages 5-8. Thus, I have sung "Head, Sholders, Knees and Toes" a ridiculous amount of times, and am now firmly convinced that teaching will not be my future profession (My apologies to my family for not continuing the legacy of public educators in the Haas/ Billnitzer lineage). However the hour and a half of English I teach Monday through Firday to the older students isn't nearly as rough and we actually are making progress. Of course if I don't enunciate every syllable they are completely lost, but there really are some hardworking, motivated students and I am convinced that after two years they will at least be at a conversational level.
Aside from that, I also just spend alot of time hanging out with people and relaxing. I still play basketball regularly and go to the river whenever possible. And lately I've been spending alot of time telling people that I dont work for la Embjada and thus cannot get a green card to the states for them.
Things with the host family are still going well, and although I could move out in February according to Peace Corps policy, I've decided to extend my home stay for the time being. This is quite rare, as most Volunteers desperately seek privacy and independence after 5 months of home stays (and I sure as hell dont blame them) but I get along really well with the fam. Plus, I figure I'de rather have too many people knocking on my door, than not enough, and in a household of 6 there is always something going on.
That about does it from here. Things have certainly slowed down since my arrival and the novelty of certain activities has worn off (IE: hauling water from the river to bathe in twice weekly) but so far so good. Several older volunteers warned us newbies that the first three months in site were rough, lonely and often boring and I'm starting to echo those sentiments, but I do get to see my mom and grandma TODAY so I know that will give me a jumpstart to keep chugging along!!
I miss you guys and hope everyone is doing well. Hope to hear from y'all soon.


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