There are indeed no words

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
Trip End Apr 06, 2008

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Monday, February 20, 2006

Saludos Family and Friends!
I am back at another, less ghetto, internet cafe. I am lucky to have two close to my house in my barrio so hopefully I will be able to post a lot. So much happens here that I feel like every day lasts a week. Today was a trip, but I will get to that in a moment.
First, the weekend. On Saturday we had class in the morning and had the afternoon free. I spent it with my family and studied some Spanish. I am determined to learn as much as I can during training so I donīt look incompetent when I am assigned to my site. On Saturday night I was exhausted and went to bed early. I have been so tired . . . I think it is the effort of having to think and speak in Spanish all day. It takes a lot of brainpower. On Sunday, I went to the campo (countryside) with Laura, another volunteer, and her family. We went to a town called Banao, which is about a 45 minute drive from Santo domingo. Banao is very beautiful and there is a river where you can swim. It was also a real eye-opener as to what my life is going to be like for the next two years. After seeing some of the houses in the campo, I realized that my house in the barrio is a palace compared to how most people in this country live. Most of the houses have 2 or 3 rooms, and are made out of cement (the nice ones) or wood and scrap metal (the not as nice ones). People here are so so poor. Unless you have seen it, it is literally unimaginable. Inside, all of the rooms are divided by curtains. Most people own their clothes, their pots and pans, two beds, a few lawn chairs, a table, and not much else. I felt guilty when I realized that the camera I had with me was probably worth more than everything most people there own. Lauraīs dona has family in Banao and we were able to change into our swimsuits in their house.
We went swimming in the river, which was nice, although probably infested with the many diseases we have been warned about. Just to paint a picture for you . . . we walk down to the water and there are a bunch of old men in the underwear drinking rum, naked kids swimming, and a bunch of boys playing baseball on the sand. It is also the community bathing spot, and all of the old men were sharing a bar of soap and washing their hair. The Dominicans seems extremely concerned that the gringas didnīt know how to swim, and started yelling at us if we ventured into more that two feet of water. Meanwhile, the local boys were jumping off of a HUGE rock into what looked like pretty shallow water, and no one seemed overly concerned about their safety. This little boy jumped and I swear he was two feet from cracking his head on a rock, and everyone was laughing and cheering. Then they started climbing a tree and jumping out of that too. Laura and I thought that they were probably showing off for us a little, so we decided to get out before we had to take responsibility for any deaths. I had a little laugh because if the same thing happened in the US, everyone would have been arrested for loitering, trespassing, public drunkenness, indecent exposure, and the kidsīparents would have been arrested for neglect! It made me realize, however, that we miss out on a lot of the simple things in life because we have so many rules and regulations.
After swimming, we went to visit some of Lauraīs Donaīs friends, and I became very popular with the kids when I let them take pictures with my digital camera. One little boy was really insistent and didnīt want me to leave! There was one little girl who was tiny and so adorable. I took her picture and let her look at it, and just couldnīt get over how cute she was. I found out later, however, that she has AIDS. I seriously wanted to break down and cry and it hit home how much suffering there is here.
Today was more Spanish lessons, and an orientation to the public transportation in Santo Domingo. Dad, you would have died! There are two main modes of transportation, carros publicos, or guaguas (buses). The carros publicos are tiny beat-up junker cars that carry 6 passengers plus a driver. Two people in the front passenger seat, and 4 across in the back. And we are not talking Lincoln Town Cars here. Think Ford Fiesta. No seatbelts, plastic sheeting for back windows, that type of thing. The other option is a guagua, which is a public bus. For ten pesos, you have the pleasure of riding to your destination crammed in with a mass of humanity. Some poor Dominican woman got my butt fully in her face for the entire ride. The guy who takes the money literally rides hanging out the door and yelling the destination, and cramming more and more passengers in. There are some seats, but most people ride standing up and clinging on for dear life to anything that is bolted down. Public safety is not a big concern here, apparently. However, it seems to work and everyone gets where they need to go! Again, you have to see it to believe it! It is hard to decide which mode of transportation is worse, but my vote is for the guagua. Not to mention, we learned the many scams and pickpocketing schemes that happen on public transportation, and we must be constantly vigilant for.
That about sums up the last few days of my chaotic life here. I am learning to sleep through thumping music and crowing roosters, and have re-learned the past tense in Spanish so I can actually communicate about things that are not happening in the present moment! Live and learn. I hope that all my loved ones are well. I can receive phone calls at my Donaīs house, but stupidly forgot to bring her phone number with me so I canīt give it to you now. I will try to get back to the internet in the next day or two so I can post it, and everyone can call me. I miss everyone, and am looking forward to the many letters that I am sure you have sent me :)
Adios! Hasta as soon as I can get to the internet cafe again!

Lots of Love,
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