La Republica Dominicana!!
Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
41Trip End Apr 06, 2008
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Do you like my Spanish? Well, that is all you are going to get for the time being, so I hope you enjoyed it! I have arrived in the Dominican Republic and wanted to update you all on my adventures. I was feeling a little down and tired when I wrote the last entry, but I am feeling much better now. We arrived in the DR on Thursday afternoon from Miami. And let me tell you, it is like a different world. It amazes me that a country so close to the US can feel so far away. We had been warned over and over again about the sexual harassment that we will receive from Dominican men, and sure enough, as I am going through customs . . . the lady in my line tells me that her coworker thinks I am beautiful, and wants to know if I am single! Another thing we had heard so much about was the power outages. Power is a HUGE problem in this country and there are outages several times a day. And sure enough, as we are waiting at the baggage claim, the power goes out and the airport goes into darkness! I thought it was funny how two of the things we had been warned about happened within my first ten minutes in the country.
After collecting our bags, we went to a retreat center to have some orientation, get our Peace Corps issued mosquito net, and take our first dose of malaria medicine. We had dinner and spent the night at the retreat center, and in the morning we were whisked off to the training center where we will be having our classes in Santo Domingo. Friday consisted of yet more orientations, training sessions, and a Spanish test to see what level we are. I thought I was done with Spanish tests after the days of Senor Malcom at Park Tudor, but apparently not. I don´t think I did very well on my test, and I am convinced that they will have to start a special remedial class for me :) Then, in the afternoon, we met our families!!
About my family . . . my Dona, or mom, is named Dona Senovia and I am convinced that she is the best Dona in the world. She was so warm and welcoming and very patient with my limited Spanish. She told me that her home is my Dominican home, and her family is my Dominican family. She is in her 60s, and her husband lives in the States and sends money home to them. She has a huge family and from what I can tell some live in the US, some live in Spain, and some live in the DR. There is a constant stream of daughters in law, sons, grandkids, and nieces and nephews in and out of the house. Her grandson Raoul lives with her because she does not like to live alone, which I thought was nice. He is 12 years old and he told me that he would help me with my Spanish. I am hoping me may teach me some baseball as well, which would be a funny sight for you all to see, I´m sure. Let´s just say that I was not the first picked kid for baseball teams in gym class.
About my house . . . I think it is pretty nice by Dominican standards. It is very clean, and there is running water and electricity. No hot water though. Dona Senovia takes great pride in the house . . . think embroidered toilet seat covers and things of that nature. The neighborhood is a working class-lower class neighborhood with lots of dogs, roosters, stray animals, motorcycles, barefoot kids in the street, and music blaring at all hours of the day and night. Last night, the reggaeton was blaring until about 2 am, and then the roosters started up when the music went off! I was glad that Paula had the foresight to give me earplugs and a mask or I have a feeling that I would be getting very little sleep. But apparently, according to my Dona, her street is ¨muy tranquila,¨ or calm. I would hate to see what the rest of the city is like!
About the country in general . . . for being a tourist destination, it is extremely poor. There is a tremendous amount of trash, stray animals, broken-down cars, and the like. It is not uncommon to see a large gated home with basically a dump next door. The contrast between rich and poor is striking. Despite all of this, I love it here. I try to avoid sweeping generalizations or cultural stereotypes, but all of the people I have met are friendly and just really happy. Dancing and music are an important part of life here, and people tend to be VERY close to their families. For example, my Dona has children, grandchildren, sisters, cousins, etc all within walking distance of her house. Despite the sometimes extreme poverty, there is a beauty and love of life which I find touching. I hope to learn as much from the Dominicans as I can.
As for myself, I am happy and doing well. My group of 28 volunteers has made fast friends and I feel really comfortable with them all already. We have a range of ages, interests, jobs, but we have all found a lot of common ground and I think we will all be extremely close at the end of this. There are 3 or 4 volunteers that live in my barrio so we are going to try to go dancing and do some things together.
Well, that is it for now. I hope this gives you an idea of what my life is like here. I will post again as soon as I can! I miss you all and think of you every day.