The good, the bad, and the ugly

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

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hi everyone!
It has been quite a while since I have posted so I will do my best to catch up on what has been going on. It is hard to believe that I am in my last week of community training. On Monday, I will be receiving my assignment and find out where I will be calling home for the next two years! I also get my Peace Corps issued cell phone, which will hopefully make communication a lot easier.
SO, as far as what is going on here. My current activity is planning and presenting Earth Day activities at the local school with two other trainees, Lindsey and Lindsay. We are working with the sixth grade class on the theme of water. Today we gave a presentation, tomorrow we are doing a river clean up, Thursday we are painting a mural, and Friday we announce the winners of our poster contest and do a wrap-up. Then Saturday it is back to Santo Domingo! Time is absolutely flying by and I really can't believe that I am almost done with training.
One of the saddest experiences I have had since being in the country was when we visited the Santiago city dump. There are people, who live literally on the edge of the dump and make their living by scavenging metal, glass, and other items from the dump and selling them by the pound. Some of the scavengers are kids who are trying to contribute to the family income and so instead of going to school, they spend the day in the dump. It is a really poor neighborhood and the health conditions are unimaginable. Running right behind their houses is a stream, if you can call it that, that is technicolor from the toxic sludge. The people who make their living in the dump start fires to burn off the paper and other non valuable items, so every day of their lives they are breathing toxic fumes from burning tires and trash. It is hard to imagine anyone being desperate enough to live in those conditions. Not to fire off a total cliche, but seeing that made me realize how good we have it in the States. While American children are off at piano lessons and ballet class, there are little kids in the world who don't have clothes and whose living comes from gatherine garbage. Kind of makes your head spin to think about.
On a less depressing note, last week we had our gardening workshop and learned to build terraced garden beds, make compost, and use organic pest control methods. We also got a chance to relax and have some fun in our free time. Two Saturdays ago, one of the other groups of trainees came to visit us and we all hiked to some waterfalls to swim. We have also taken advantage of being close to Santiago, which is smaller, cleaner, and less overwhelming than Santo Domingo, and have made a pilgrimage to eat Pizza Hut and see a movie in air conditioning. Things that I take for granted at home are all of a sudden a huge luxury and a rare treat. We had Friday off because of Semana Santa, Holy Week. Dominicans seem to celebrate by watching Jesus movies on T.V. and eating habichuelas con dulce, a traditional food that is made from beans and a ridiculous amount of sugar. Lots of family was up to visit in the campo, so it was fun.
I am happy and doing well. I am excited and anxious to get to my site and start doing "real" work. After all, that is why I joined the Peace Corps. It will be an adjustment to get along without the support of other trainees, but I feel like I am prepared. The hardest thing will be having no one to speak English with, but it will probably be the best thing for me as far as my Spanish is concerned.
I miss all my friends and family and look forward to hearing from you soon! Take care, and a happy belated Easter.

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