My Tranquil Mountain Village

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

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Saturday, April 1, 2006

Hi All!
Here I am in my new training site, so I thought I would give an update on my life here in the DR. I have been in El Ranchito, a small village of about 800 people, for two weeks. It is up a mountain from Santiago, the second largest city in the DR. We have beautiful view of the city on one side and a mountain valley on the other side. If you continue up the road from my village, it leads towards Pico Diego de O'Campo, the second highest peak in the country. I jokingly refer to it as "my peaceful mountain village," because it is such a change from being in the capital. It is quiet and there isn't a whole lot to do there. I am actually down in Santiago right now using the internet. All that there is in El Ranchito is houses, a school, a church, and 5 colmados (little tiny grocery stores that sell the basics). Oh, and let us not forget the local discoteca, which is only open on Sunday nights.
My new family is SO nice. My family consists of my dona, her husband, their 15 year old daughter (the youngest of their 6 kids), and a 3 year old grandson who live in the house (there are also some rodent friends, but I will get to that in a minute). They are awesome, and since day one my dona has been calling me "mi hija" (my daughter) and "mi amor" (my love). The 3 year old calls me "tia," which means aunt in Spanish. He also likes to announce to the whole house when he has diharrhea, which is pretty funny. Their house is cement block with cement floor and a zinc roof - pretty nice compared to a lot of the other houses in the community, which are palm board. We also have running water inside (a kitchen sink and a shower with a spigot below) and a flush toilet, which is unusual. Most people have latrines and store water in barrels for cooking, cleaning, etc. We have electricity about 6 hours a day, but it is not on a regular schedule. My family does not have an invertor or generator, so when there is no light we use candles, gas lamps, and flashlights. The electricity in this country is loco. No one pays their bill because they don't have service, and in turn there is not any service because no one pays their bill.
We have technical training in the mornings 2-4 times a week, and Spanish class every afternoon. My Spanish is coming along pretty well. It helps being in a place where there is nothing to do - I end up spending a lot more time with my family speaking Spanish, whereas in the capital I was with other volunteers speaking English. We had an "oral proficiency interview" the other day and I discovered that I am considered to be at an intermediate high level, whatever that means. I had my first dream in Spanish the other night, which I have heard is a good sign that you are absorbing a lot. There are two other trainees who live in my village, and the other four in our environmental education group live down the mountain in a community called Los Cocos. It is only 4 kilometers, but the road is bumpy, dirt, and steep as hell so we usually only see them at class and on the weekends. It is a little bit of a bummer because we are all friends, but again, probably the best thing for my Spanish to spend less time with Americans.
Life continues to treat me well. I still have not had a parasite or any other health problems (fingers crossed), so here's hoping my streak of good luck continues. This week was a little bit rough because it rained for three days straight, which meant that the road turned to total mud and we couldn't go anywhere. The things I take for granted at home, like taking a hot shower and snuggling under my down comforter when it is cold out, are just not possible here. Huddling in a damp, chilly house with two sheets and a half of a blanket just doesn't give you the same comforting feeling. Everything was just damp - my clothes, my towel, my spirit. Just kidding. Actually, my spirits were greatly lifted by a care package from my saint of a sister, which was loaded with easter candy, cocoa butter lotion, and hand sanitizer. I can't explain the feeling that a package from home brings. The best way I can sum it up is like a feeling of Christmas, a birthday, and getting a care package at summer camp all rolled into one. So far the rats and mice have not managed to infiltrate it. Again, luck seems to be smiling down on me. The rodents, do, however, like to scamper across my headboard while I am sleeping and the other night I know one was climbing my mosquito net. I was too scared to turn on my flashlight because I knew that if it was a huge rat I would have lost it. Ignorance is bliss. Plus, I was still hoping that the old "if I can't see them, they can't see me" rule would apply in this situation. I was talking to my friend Lindsey the other day and we were discussing that feeling you get on about day five of a week long camping trip . . . the enchantment starts to wear off, and you are ready to go home, take a hot shower, wash your clothes, and order some Chinese food. Well, this week during the rain that feeling started to set in . . . except instead of thinking, "I am going home on Sunday," I am thinking "I get to go home in 2008." But once the rain let up that feeling started to wear off, and I am happy again.
Overall, life is good. I think of you all often and look forward to my next shipment of love and care, in the form of candy, from home :) I miss you all! Take care.

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