Home Sweet Barrio

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

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Hello All!
I am sure you have been languishing away waiting for my next blog entry so here it goes. I haven┤t been able to do much internet-wise because I was away from Santo Domingo for a long weekend. Yesterday, when I was online trying to catch up, the power went out and I lost it all. Naturally, I had just finished typing a long email and was about to send it when Ęse fue la luzĘ as they say here in the DR. Classic developing country moment. I was so annoyed that I had to break into my precious stash of Moose Munch bars and eat half of one to recuperate. But alas, I am going to have to learn to roll with it if I am going to survive here for the next two years!
So, the update. Over the weekend I went to visit Mariel, who is another environmental education volunteer who has been here for a year. She lives in a tiny little campo with about 500 residents in the northwest of the country near the Haitian border. I spent a day and a half at her site and visited the nursery, which is her main project, and some gardens, which are her secondary project. The nursery is trying to raise avocado and citrus trees that they will sell and hopefully bring more income into their community. She has a wonderful and really motivated youth group and I got to meet some of them. It was great to see how a real volunteer lives. She has a tiny little 3 room shack, and I do mean shack. The walls are wood, but the planks have spaces between them and any mildly motivated person could peer through and see everything. She has a latrine and an outdoor shower. It didn┤t have electricity or water when she moved in, but she installed both. She also has lots of rodent roommates, that like to run along the rafters at night and scare the bejeezus out of the poor trainee sleeping below!
After visiting her site, we went and met up with some other volunteers in a place called Rio Limpio, where there is an ecotourism resort, if you will. It is not exactly a resort in the sense that I don┤t think they actually get any visitors aside from Peace Corps volunteers, but it is incredibly beautiful with views of the mountains. It was fun though, we hiked down to the river and swam, and a merengue band from the town came to play music and many locals came out of the woodwork to watch the gringos try their hand at merengue and bachata, the two national dances of the DR. It was a lot of fun, and it was good to have a reminder of why I am here. Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down in the tedium of technical training and Spanish verb tenses. The highlight, or possibly lowlight, of the weekend was when we had 14 people plus all of our luggage crammed in the back of a not very big pickup truck. Things were so tight that I had to ride in the tornado position for half an hour. I also got to take my first motoconcho ride, and I of course donned my Peace Corps helmet. I will have to take a photo of me in it so you can all have a good laugh. I was on the back of a motorcycle behind a large Dominican man, and our moto stalled every time we had to go up a steep hill. It was a riot.
I am back in training in Santo Domingo this week, and then I leave on Monday for Duverge, a town in the southwest of the country. The other six environmental volunteers and I will be there for a week on a retreat type thing, along with our trainer and two Spanish teachers. After that, it is back to Santo Domingo for a day or two, and then we head to the north of the country where we will be doing 5 more weeks of Ęcommunity based training.Ę So I will have another host family and more Spanish and technical training classes, plus lots of workshops on things like gardening, etc. I have heard from a lot of volunteers that the community training is a lot better than being in Santo Domingo. Not that Santo Domingo is bad, but I am itching to get into a more rural area. Plus, the sitting on folding chairs 8 hours a day is taking its toll on my rear end.
I am well and happy and think of everyone a lot. I truly love this country and couldn┤t imagine being anywhere else. There is nothing quite like waking up and stumbling in for your cold shower, only to feel your feet being tickled by a giant cockroach. No, in all seriousness, I am happy as a clam. I miss you all!

Lots of Love

P.S. I decided to give shout outs to those who send me snail mail, so a big thanks to Paula for the card and pictures, and Grandma Kirlin/Aunt Jean for the letter! I know you are dying to see your name in lights on my blog, so get to it!
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