. All in all it was a successful event, but it definitely makes me reconsider wanting children.
LESS FIREWORKS, MORE BEACH: 4th of July in another country is kind of a strange experience. No one else knows why you're in a huge group of American volunteers in the first place, let alone on your countries day of Independence. It's kind of like a secret let out of the bag, in a way. We all went up to one of the prettiest spots in country (Samana pennisula) to celebrate and it was a hell of an event. Over 60 volunteers showed up and we were able to enjoy each other's company while giving thanks to our forefathers at the same time. It's just so different with no fireworks but then spending all day on a beach you only see on the back of your computer screen. However, different is oh so good sometimes.
LUNGS & LETRINES: What a week! We had a group of Americans come in for an entire week of medical missions and letrine construction. The group had come last year for a one day medical mission in my site but this year we were constructing in Los Blancos, another volunteers site down the coast, and then medical missions in three different communities. We split the groupinto two to make it more efficient and worked from 9 to 5 every day. All of the doctors, nurses, students, and every one else that came down were great and we had a fun time working together
. It's always interesting working with groups that have never been to a developing country or met Peace Corps Volunteers for that matter. I always forget that we become this source of information for anything and everything Dominican Republic. Yet, the funny thing is, we really do know so much about this place now. The most flattering part was hearing from the Americans just how inspired they were by the work we do here. Even just living here for that matter. The last night the whole group came through my house not unlike a tour and could not believe that I lived with such basic conditions. The other PCVs and I had fun working with such a motivated and energetic group (especially one that bought us dinner and drinks after a hard work day). The week was very successful as we saw over 1000 patients and built over 26 letrines!
NOT GOOD ENOUGH?: After all that work - medical missions, letrine construction, art camp - it apparently hasn't been enough. I guess it's just kind of a let down to hear that one of the community leaders thinks that in my last two years here I didn't work as well with the community as I should have. It doesn't matter that I've been meeting with my 3 youth groups over the course of my service, planning youth conferences, working with my artisan association, taking kids to camps, teaching countless classes, planting trees and doing beach cleanups...just to name a few things
. Unfortunately, most Dominicans don't see the value in what I do; that something can be important and valid even if it's not tangible. It really hurt me to hear that but after talking to my mom and a couple of other volunteers, it doesn't matter. If one person or even everyone in my community thinks that I'm not doing anything here, I can't change their opinion. However, I know that I've accomplished so many goals in my two years here and still have some time left to make and reach new ones. Most people in my town don't see the kids putting together puzzles and drawing in my house or see my interactions with the teenagers I hang out with when we talk about education, politics, and travel. People are blind to the intangible because here, where people live day to day, it's not worth much to have a degree if there is no food on the table. My conversation with this guy, who I thought was my friend, really made me think about my time here and how I've spent it. I work hard. I've always worked really hard. To hear that I haven't worked hard was almost a slap in the face. And however strange it is, poverty gives people a sense of entitlement. That for one time in their lives, they have a choice. So by not doing exactly what they've chosen makes it a little frustrating. Maybe something that I saw as important, such as sex education to youth was not as important as building a fence around the school. Or teaching a youth business course was not as valuable as soliciting funds for a community ambulance
. Whatever the case may be, I know I'm making a difference here, even if they can't always see it.
CELEBRANDO EL SUR (YOUTH DIVERSITY CONFERENCE): After months of planning, organizing, making phone calls, writing emails, meeting, budgeting, and stressing, the youth conference, Celebrando el Sur, went off without a hitch! I couldn't be happier with the outcome and even though I was still nervous/anxious during the 3 day conference, everything worked out well. The kids had an amazing time and learned a lot of valuable information and discussed themes that they really hadn't put much thought into -- immigration, gender, biodiversity, HIV/AIDS and sexual health, geography, socio economics, among other topics. It was great because in addition to all of that, volunteers brought their kids from all over the southern region so the kids were able to talk about the differences of life even here in the Dominican Republic. Plus, at the end of the conference they did not even want to leave! I had a lot of help from the wonderful volunteers that participated and it was necessary with the 61 participants that attended the conference! I'm happy that it is over because now we have our COS (Close of Service) conference and then my group and I are celebrating two years in country by going to an all-inclusive resort. And what day will we get there? AUGUST 6! MY BIRTHDAY!!
DRAW, PAINT, AND YELL: Dealing with children, I feel, has been something that I've learned a great deal about in being here for almost 2 years. The kids are great sometimes and then you turnaround and the devil comes out in them. I put on another art camp for the summer in my town that lasted a week, which by the end I was absolutely out for the count. Every day I would come back more tired than the day before. The first day was overwhelming because as I walked up to the school there were scores of children waiting that all cheered when they saw me come up with the art materials in hand. There were about 5 scores to be exact so we had to split up the kids into two groups and have them come on alternating days. Luckily I had help from friends in the community but it was still a lot of directing and control on my part. We did drawing exercises, painting, making cards for Father's Day, and so on. It was just difficult dealing with the kids that didn't want to share (there clearly weren't enough materials for every kid) and the ones that just kept screaming my name to get my attention