Ramblings from September & the beginning of October

“Madrina” and “Padrino”

Craig and I were asked to attend a graduation ceremony for two youth in our community. Altogether four youth in our community were graduating from World Vision’s youth multiplicador or multiplier program. During the summer these four students along with several other students from neighboring communities went around to each house, did a survey about on what the people in the house know about HIV/AIDS, and then gave the family an informational flyer. The youth also held a class during the summer teaching them about STI’s, pregnancy prevention, and  HIV/AIDS. It was nice to see some of our youth honored along with about 20 other youth from neighboring communities. It was also an honor to attend the ceremony as a “God-mother” for one of the youth that participates in just about everything we do and Craig as a “God-father.” After the ceremony we had a delicious lunch of la bandera or rice, beans, and chicken then returned in time for the youth to go to the high school.

Some of the youth from our community

Some of the youth from our community

The Ceremony

The Ceremony

The Graduates

The Graduates

The Head Table

The Head Table

The Ladies

The Ladies

The Men

The Men

Me and My "God-Son"

Me and My “God-Son”

Cake!!!

Cake!!!

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Super busy yet not busy at all  or A typical day as a PCV

I don’t know if I can ever say there is a “typical” day as a PCV. Maybe if I was a volunteer with an organization and had set hours like a “typical” 9-5 job I might have a “typical” day but, when living in another country and having various projects that depend on community partners it seems as though I never have a “typical” day.

At times it seems as though we are super busy and our heads are spinning from everything that we are doing or had done in a day…while at other times it seems as though we are sitting around with nothing to do. This past week has been especially busy.

Sunday- We started the week on a high note with our youth group meeting. The youth have lots of ideas for this semester. They want to do a short play…they are hoping to do The Little Prince in Spanish of course. We need to finish our worm compost project. We are hoping to have a fogata or campfire for Halloween. We told them they need to wear masks or dress up as someone else in order to attend the fogata and then we’ll give them candy. After Halloween, we have two conferences to attend in different parts of the country two weekends in a row.

Monday-We went to the place where our bank is to get our grant money wooohoo!! And buy parts to repair the aqueduct finally!!! We also got to enjoy some wifi, a bola or direct free ride back to our community with the hardware store truck delivering our materials. We also got to enjoy a delicious chicken sandwich with cheese at the café that has wifi. We normally don’t eat meat in our community because it’s hard to butcher, expensive, and difficult since we don’t have refrigeration.

Tuesday-We went to the closest pueblo to pickup books for the library. World Vision decided they could help by donating books to our community’s library however they would be unable to deliver the books (??!) so we had to go get them. We got to see the World Vision office and pick out the books that we thought would be good for our community…most were books donated from the McGraw Hill Company.

Wednesday- In the morning, the youth from our youth environment club came over to clean a space to build a nursery. In the afternoon we did various tasks-Craig made brownies and I prepared for my girls group on Saturday, but mainly we went to several houses to check on their filters.

Cleaning a space for a tree nursery

Cleaning a space for a tree nursery

Cleaning a space for a tree nursery

Cleaning a space for a tree nursery

The whole group of youth that helped clean the space for the tree nursery

The whole group of youth that helped clean the space for the tree nursery

Thursday was patronales or the day of our community’s patron saint-Saint Francis of Assisi. It was pretty cool when we arrived and learned that our community’s patron saint was St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was one of my mom’s favorite Saints and it is the saint at the cemetery where she is buried. Our community celebrated patronales or our saint’s day with a mass and baptized several kids. There was also an agricultural meeting at the same time as the mass so I went to the mass to take pictures and Craig went to the agricultural meeting.

Let the baptism's begin!

Let the baptism’s begin!

Ready to be baptized

Ready to be baptized

The God-Mother's and God-Father's with the children ready to be baptized

The God-Mother’s and God-Father’s with the children ready to be baptized

The kids!

The kids!

baptism nusery stars 055 baptism nusery stars 061 baptism nusery stars 028

Friday we had a visit from Rossy, the director of the biosand water filters project. She said we did a good job installing the filters and educating people about their use. Currently all the filters that are left are reserved, so pray that rotary gets more filters or that a community decides they don’t need the filters so we can install 40 more.

Saturday we did laundry and I had my girls group

Sunday we had our youth club again. I got sick…I kept having this weird sickness where I would have sulfur burps, throw up everything in my stomach, then have diarrhea and then be fine the next day. So we called the doctors and they said to come into the capital.

I went to the capital and gave the obligatory poop samples and they said they couldn’t find anything but decided to treat me based on my symptoms. The doctors figured that whatever it is probably was not in my poop by the time they collected the samples since we live so far and asked if our rural clinic does poops samples. I returned to our community and asked the local clinic nurse if they test stool samples and like I thought,she said, “No”.

A look at another week-

Friday I taught art in the school…I had the students draw and label parts of trees as here October is reforestation month and I’m an environment volunteer so I want to incorporate the environment into art at least some of the time.

Saturday morning I planned on doing a lot of laundry. Laundry consists of first collecting water, if the water is on, filling up buckets with said water, putting chairs behind the house for a bucket and to sit, organizing laundry based on colors, putting laundry soap into a bucket, y ya you’re ready to start hand washing all the clothes! We wash all of our clothes by hand, only on rare (only twice have we done this) occasions when we have a lot of laundry do we cart our laundry down the hill to our neighbor’s house to use her washing machine. In order to use her machine we have to pay for gasoline to run a generator and as I’m sure many know nowadays gas ain’t cheap especially when living on an island where gas is imported. So, back to Saturday…I planned to wash all our dirty clothes and our sheets but in order to wash all those clothes I need to have space on the laundry line to hang them out to dry. Well, our neighbor who also uses our laundry lines beat me to it and took up about 2/3rds of the laundry lines leaving us with a chin chin or a little bit of space to hang the laundry. Needless to say, I ended up washing only what would fit on the laundry line that was available and will have to wash more later in the week. While I worked on laundry Craig built a new area to put our chickens. I found two eggs in the chicken cage. We used the eggs in squash/pumpkin bread.

Saturday afternoon I had my chicas girls group…it either last an hour to an hour and a half depending on if the girls arrive on time and what the subject is. The girls in my group are eleven to sixteen (the age range was 10-15 when I first started…most have had birthdays) and some topics are a little difficult to get through in one hour. That ended then I returned to the house to help Craig cook dinner, eat, do dishes, then watch animanicas or something random, then go to bed or call family in the states.

Watching "Animaniacs"

Watching “Animaniacs”

Sunday morning we took time to clean the room where we were sleeping while we waited for the safety and security officer to deem it safe for us to sleep in our house at night, cleaned our own house, played solitaire, hung the laundry up that was still drying, made lunch, ate lunch, went and visited our host mom. She was away in Santiago

Sunday afternoon we had our youth club. We are preparing a charla on reforestation for the fifth through eighth graders this Wednesday. Our joven really want to do a play so I downloaded two scripts in Spanish-el Principe feliz and scrooge. They decided on el Principe feliz and are going to start practicing tomorrow night.

Monday was national hand washing day…I told Lourdes, our host mom and the director of the elementary school, about this idea of painting kids hands and putting them on a cartulina or poster paper so they have to wash their hands and she liked the idea so I went to the school to help out with that. I also helped one of the ladies that is studying education with her English homework.

The sixth grade girls with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The sixth grade girls with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The kindergarteners on World Hand-Washing Day

The kindergarteners on World Hand-Washing Day

World Hand-Washing Day

World Hand-Washing Day

The kindergarten students girls with their World Hand-Washing Day assignment

The kindergarten students girls with their World Hand-Washing Day assignment

The 8th graders with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The 8th graders with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The fifth grade girls with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The fifth grade girls with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The seventh grade girls with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

The seventh grade girls with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

Some of the seventh graders with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

Some of the seventh graders with their World Hand-Washing Day poster

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Biosand Water Filters Round 1

As of _March 31st, Easter Sunday!,__ we have finished installing 40 biosand water filters in 40 homes in our community! It has been a long but rewarding process. We started by going to a training in Santiago at the beginning of March 2012. We were required to take a member of our community to the training. We decided to take the plumber of our community to the training. We were a little nervous to take him because he doesn’t know how to read, but the weekend went well despite that small detail. We even think he felt more empowered after the training. The first day of the training was all about what the filter is and how to install it. The next day we had a practice installation at the retreat center  then we went out in teams into the community to install in houses.

The biosand water filter is a filter that has two different types of gravel and one 110lb sack of sand with water. To install a filter is a very specific process. Overall it takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending if the house gives you coffee or not ;)

We have been very busy since March (2012) with visits from family, friends, visits to the states, one year in-service training, a trip to the beach, and so much more so finally at the beginning of July we were able to submit our request for 40 filters. After submitting the request in July after a wonderful visit from our friends Stephanie and Mary, the filters were delivered to us. We held three meetings…the first informational meeting about how we were receiving filters, the next  meeting with the first group of 20 houses and the a second meeting with the rest of the 20 houses to explain what a filter is, how to use it, and how to properly care for the filter.

Overall the filter project has been an enjoyable and rewarding project. It is nice to do a project that is physical and has physical effects, meaning that people in our community are healthier because they are drinking clean water.

We are hoping to install at least 40 more filters before the end of our service as we have a list of 46 people who want a filter! Vamos a ver si Dios quiere, we’ll see if God wants it we’ll be able to install more!

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Celebrando el Cibao

We recently participated in a weekend conference for youth called, “Celebrando el Cibao” which means celebrating the region in the DR known as the “Cibao” which is where we live. The conference was about celebrating where we live as well as celebrating diversity. We were able to take two youth from our community to another community up in the mountains about 4 hours away. We brought two youth who had never been to a conference before which was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time because we weren’t sure how these two youth would act. At the conference all the Peace Corps Volunteers that attended made posters and taught youth about different countries. I made a poster about Venezuela. A lot of kids knew the name of the President of Venezuela but nothing more! There was a very interesting presentation from a Dominican who is homosexual. When the guy disclosed his sexual preference, the girl that we brought gasped very loudly. There were presentations about Haiti-DR relations, an explanation of what diversity is, yoga, and much more! The first night we had art activities and I learned from how to make super cute fabric flowers that I hope to make with my Chicas group to raise funds!  Overall it was a fantastic conference with a great group of students and volunteers!

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First Visitors!!!

Well so technically we have had visitors to our site…but we had our first non-family visitors! Our dear friend Stephanie, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and one of the main reasons we decided to join the Peace Corps, and her mom Mary came to visit us this July.

They arrived in the capital so we spent one day doing the typical tourist activities like seeing the oldest cathedral in the western hemisphere, checking out the rest of the buildings in the colonial zone, going to the Peace Corps Office, and ordering our favorite pizza.

The next day we headed to our community, where they spent the majority of their time. Stephanie was quite popular with the girls as she brought her super awesome hula hoop. The kids came just about every night to hula hoop. During our time in our community we decided to visit the town close to us that has a waterfall. It was a little bit of a crazy hike as Craig and I forgot the pathway to the waterfall but we made it there and back! After a good week in our campo we went back to the capital so we could head over to the east to visit the untouched beach. We stayed at a super cute eco tourist place where a group of Doña’s cooked delicious food. On their last full day in the country we went on a chocolate tour where we learned how they make chocolate from planting the tree to making the chocolate that you eat. It was really cool. We were really thankful to take a little break from summer to show our friends the DR. 

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Camp Hope and Joy

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A Dominican volunteer and Craig welcoming the campers!

We just finished spending about two weeks helping out at a camp here in the DR called Campamento Esperanza (hope) y alegria (and joy). It was a rewarding, yet challenging experience.
The first two days we arrived we had training and “mini camp” where we had different sessions but the camp was run as if we were the campers. We have never been around a group of such enthusiastic and energetic Dominicans before! There were about 10 or so Dominican volunteers, 2 American volunteers from the states, and about 7 Peace Corps volunteers (including us). During the weekend before the kids arrived, we decorated the rooms and areas.
The camp is a camp for kids ages 5-18 infected with HIV. The camp was started as a project under the Clinica de Familia-a clinic that serves people in the area of La Romana in the eastern part of the country. You can read more about the clinic here: http://www.clinicadefamilia.org.do/
The camp is split into two weeks, the first week is with the little kids ages 5-10 who are unaware of their status. The second week are adolescents ages 11-18 who are aware of their status. The first week was very fun I was a tia (Aunt) so I was in a room with 12 girls and 4 other Tia’s. The Tias consisted of two Dominican volunteers who had been to the camp before, one American high school volunteer, and another PCV. It was fun getting to know my fellow tias as well as loving on the girls. Craig was an activity leader the first week so he led the nature activities and the second week he was a Tio (Uncle). The camp has four main acitivities during the day-nature, culture, habilidades para la vida or like tools for life, and sports. During the day we were split into groups of mixed boys and girls to rotate around to the different activities. Some other activities we did were swimming in a pool, water games, talent show, and so much more. The second week there was a night with different stations such as reflection/art activity, true/false games, and a station to talk about taking medication regularly. Another neat activity during the camp was watching the first two parts in the telenovela (soap opera) that other PCV’s are working on. The telenovela is called, “Me Toca a Mi” and deals with topics such as sexuality, health, and consequences of decisons. They are doing a great job and I hope to see more of it. They are planning a premire of the 10 episode telenovela for World Aids Day December 1st. So exciting!
The camp was challenging because of small inconviniences like the water and/or electricity going out, mosquitos, flies, and eating lots and lots of Dominican food. Despite the challenges, the camp was really rewarding. Most of the kids cried when they left which was hard watching but they can look forward to next year!
During the weekend between the two camps we took a day to go to the capital to use interent, eat American food (Wendy’s), and were able to meet up with my Tia, Prima (cousin), and her fiancee who is from this country. It was really nice to meet up with them even if it was for a very short reuion!
If you have any questions or comments about the camp let us know! We’d love to tell you more.

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Crazy Cats

A month or two ago the one-eyed cat, who lives in the “colmado” or general store in front of our house, gave birth to three kittens. She sadly only has one eye because some unknown person poked her eye out.

Recently the kittens have been visiting our house providing lots of entertainment. We are debating on names…since there are three of them we were thinking Larry, Curly, and Moe or Hewie, Dewie, and Louie. What do you think?

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A Day At the Beach

Not everyday in Peace Corps is a day at the beach even though we live on a Caribbean island. Each day in Peace Corps presents new and different challenges. A few Saturdays ago we had the opportunity to actually have a day at the beach.

When we first started our youth environment club we made it a goal to take a group to the beach to celebrate the end of the year. After some fundraising-a raffle for a deck of cards with pictures from our home state on them and we made and sold two cakes-and several meetings to organize…we were ready to go to the beach. We rented out a gua-gua…think of a mini-bus and made plans to bring 12 youth, 3 parents, plus the driver and his wife.

When we actually got in the guagua in the morning there surprisingly were two extra girls who hopped in the guagua. We packed 21 people in a small mini-bus and headed to the beach about 2 hours away. In total we spent about 6 hours a the beach. It was really neat to take a trip to the beach considering some of our youth had never even seen or swam in the ocean before! We got a little sunburnt but overall the trip was well worth it.

Here are some pictures! Enjoy!

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