My new home sweet campo
Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
41Trip End Apr 06, 2008
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Hope everyone is doing well in the US of A. I am back in Santo Domingo after spending five days visiting the site that I will be calling home for the next two years. On Monday we received our site assignments and on Tuesday we left with our project partners. My site is called Rio Grande Abajo, and it is a little campo of about 500 people. The closest town is called Altamira, a 15 minute motorcycle ride away. I will be putting the old Peace Corps helmet to good use in the next two years. Altamira is halfway between Santiago, the second largest city in the country, and Puerto Plata, the primary tourist destination in the country. Altamira is about 20 miles from the beach, which was music to my ears. I think it is an awesome location - quiet and peaceful, but close to a big city and the beach when I feel the need to escape. Also, two of the girls from my group are close by (less than an hour) so they will be around for moral support when i need it. The town has a primary school, a discotech, two churches, and five colmados. The principal activity in the area is growing cacao, and the farmers sell their cacao to an American company through a cooperative. So the next time you bite into a chocolate bar it may have just come from my little campo. We are in a little valley surrounded by lush mountains, and there is a river that runs nearby that is deep enough to swim in. I will be living with a family for the next three months, and the situation is pretty sweet. I have my own room that is separated from the house by a little walkway, and my own bathroom. They have running water inside the house and electricity almost 24 hours a day. The family is pretty well off, relatively speaking. They have a motorcycle and a pickup truck, a computer, and a tv. Let us just take a moment to be happy that I am not, in fact, in a mud hut in Africa! Unfortunately I did not take any pictures, so I will do that when I go back and post them as soon as possible.
As far as the actual work I will be doing . . . My project partners are a Centro de Madres (womens group) and a municipal committee for health and the environment. They want me to do a water filter project, a latrine project, a ceramic stove project, an organic garden project, and teach English classes. I have already decided that I am not going to spend the next two years building poopers, so what I will probably do is have a workshop and build a demonstration latrine, and then teach the community members to write a grant to solicit money for the supplies to build their own latrines. I am also really excited to start a Brigada Verde group, which is a national environmental youth group. My host sisters are 15, 13, and 9, so I am going to start with them and some of their friends and build the group from there. I swear in as a volunteer on Friday May 5th and head to my site this weekend. At times two years seems to stretch out interminably ahead of me, and at other times it seems like hardly enough time to do all of the things I want to do. I will have to make the adjustment to living on my own without the support of other volunteers and without anyone to speak English with. All in all I know there will be up days and down days, but I am hopeful that I will be able to make some positive changes in my community that will be there long after I leave.
SO, on that note, as opposed to my usual shameless ploy for care packages, I will end with a shameless ploy for visitors! After August I can start taking vacation time, and my site is convenient to both a major airport and the beach, so no excuses from anyone. Start searching for those tickets asap! Miss you all and think of you often. Take care!