Friday, November 15, 2013

New Life, New City, New Country

Brink Of Eternity

In desperate hope I go and search for her
in all the corners of my room;
I find her not.

My house is small
and what once has gone from it can never be regained.

But infinite is thy mansion, my lord,
and seeking her I have to come to thy door.

I stand under the golden canopy of thine evening sky
and I lift my eager eyes to thy face.

I have come to the brink of eternity from which nothing can vanish
---no hope, no happiness, no vision of a face seen through tears.

Oh, dip my emptied life into that ocean,
plunge it into the deepest fullness.
Let me for once feel that lost sweet touch
in the allness of the universe.
Rabindranath Tagore 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Get ready to fall off you chair laughing!

This is going to be a long one but sooo worth the read!!! I promise. This is for all of you that wonder if those Peace Corps stories are real. This happened to one of the guys serving in the DR. He is just completing his service.

I was out on a Sunday night in my campo, the music was blaring and the female attire was at it's bare minimum. A typical Sunday night in the DR. There was a local lady named Mami who sold fritura. The spot was infamous for it's lack of sanitationand she was know for her disregard for personal hygiene. A real gem.
After a long night of fermented beverages I got hungry. There  were no other options but the roach coach. I pounded like 5 Johnny Cakes. I went home and my night was concluded.

The next day I had to travel into the capital to meet a family member. I got up realy early in order to catch the 7 am bus. As I walked to the bus my stomach started to rumble. It felt like someone was playing marbles in there. I thought to myself, "We stop in like a couple of hours, whatever, I can wait." Twenty minutes later the cobrador (guy who takes money on the bus) told me we weren't going to leave for another 2 hours. There weren't enough passengers he said.  I couldn’t wait that long so I decided to get off and take a car to Las Martas de Farfan. They have buses that leave all of the time. By this time my stomach had settled down, along with my nerves.

I arrive in Las Matas and quickly jump onto the bus. Fifteen minutes later we take off. I’m excited about this trip. I got a good seat, no one is sitting next to me, and the AC is blasting. Yea boi. From Las Matas it takes about 4 hours to get to the capital. If my stomach starts acting up again, I always have the stop where I can use the bathroom. 30 minutes into the bus ride my stomach starts to hurt again. On top of that I feel like I am going to crap my pants if I do not get to a bathroom within the hour. “Good thing we have that stop coming up,” I thought to myself. One hour into the travel everything starts to get worse. Let me give you guys an analogy so that you can picture my situation with more clarity. The sensation of crapping my pants was coming and going like a set of waves. At the moment the first set had come in and the crest of the wave was about to break.

I am not a very religious man by any sorts. But, when the crest of this wave was peaking, I began to pray to every existent and non-existent deity. The only thing that managed to calm me down was the fact that the stop was coming up. I managed to survive the first set of waves, how, I do not know. Praise the Lord.
A fair amount of time had passed and I could feel the next set of waves coming in. This time, I knew I wasn’t going to survive this one. The bus was now packed, the AC was now puttering and I was going to crap myself. YAY!! The wave was rearing its ugly head again and I was using every sphincter muscle in my body in order to not withdrawal any unwanted currency. We were about 5 min away from the stop and I was sweating. It was so bad now that I couldn’t put any pressure on my butt. I was pushing myself up with one hand on the seat and the other on the back rest of the seat in front of me. ‘Yes, I can see the stop, thank you God.” As we got close to the stop I start to stand up and prepare to casually walk off the bus. The next thing to happen would change my life and the lives of the people around me forever. I noticed the bus wasn’t slowing, eventually realizing that it wouldn’t slow down as we flew by.

I had completely forgotten that I was on the bus from Las Matas de Faran, they stop in Bani, which is basically in the capitol. I WAS GOING TO SHIT MY PANTS.

My arm is hurting from holding myself up and we are stopping every 15 feet to pick someone up. On top of that the lady’s daughter next to me just vomited 7 meals. The wave is at its peak and people are complaining about my farts. I join their rate and blame a group of gentlemen that just got off.  Somehow I still haven’t soiled myself. We are nearing Bani, I can see the entrance to the town. If Bani doesn’t have the most potholes in the entire country, then I don’t know what city does. As we drive through the city the dang driver seems to be intentionally aiming towards the holes. I cannot longer hold it in anymore. I don’t want to get up and ask them to stop because the second I stand up straight I will crap myself. And, I know they will not let me back on. They’ll just throw my stuff out the window and yell, “Diablo.”

We are about to exit the city, I am relieved. My hiatus is abruptly ended when I see a pot hole deeper that Ekwow’s laugh. Deep. The idiot bus driver is not slowing down. I don’t know if he is blind in one eye or mentally incapacitated, or still hung-over from the “mamajuana” he drank last night. He goes right through the hole and all hell breaks loose in my pants. I crap myself completely. Good thing Prince Royce was singing about his last card in the background, or else everyone would have heard what was occurring.

From the exit of Bani to the stop it is about 10 minutes. People are immediately complaining, “Diablo, huele a pura mierda,” says the passenger behind me. I could care less about him since he was being racist when some Haitians came on the bus. I open the window to try and aerate the bus. “No, no, cierre ese cristal que el olor viene de afuera,” says some dona. “Ay si, tiene razon,” I exclaim. Now the crap smell has melded with the vomit smell. I kid you not, the smell is so bad that my eyes start to tear up.

We pull up to the stop in Bani. Usually the entire bus gets off when they get to the stop. 3 damn people get off. I am sitting all the way in the back and have no idea how I am going to get off without everyone knowing it is me. I have no escape, unless I want to jump out the window and there is no way I am doing that. I get up and look down, there is a puddle on my seat. My jeans have filtered all of the solids. There are so many people on the bust there are legs in the passageway. I am going to have to shinny out. “Which way am I going to face my butt, right of left? I am defiantly facing it towards the left. That lady and her vomiting daughter are disgusting.” This is all going through my head and I start to walk off.

During this entire experience I did not feel a bit of embarrassment or shame, nothing. When I started to shimmy out of the bus some of my senses shut off. I couldn’t hear, smell or feel. It’s almost like a defense mechanism my brain turned on in order for my ego and self respect to survive. I got to the toilet and immediately took off my pants and boxers, threw them In a corner and called the lady who was cleaning. I said, “Deme 3 rolos de papel y traigame el zafaco para botar esta ropa.” Instead of doing that she decided to be a hero and call the security guard. He walked in and I told him what was happening, “Estoy infermo, tengo diarrhea.” The dona then did what I asked of her. She also called the cobrador on my behalf. He walks in and says, “Quien se cago aqui, quien esta infermo?” I poke my head out of the stall and raise my hand. Then I tell him to bring me my bag. Luckily I had an extra set of clothing. Now I am sitting in the stall with crap almost half way up my back and halfway down my thighs. “How am I going to clean this stuff off of me, I can’t walk out naked and clean myself with the sink water, they’ll defiantly kick me out.” I stand up, look down and do the unthinkable. I remember hearing somewhere that toilet water wasn't actually that dirty. Soooo, I start to dip into the toilet and use the water to clean myself up and put on a fresh set of clothing. That ladies and gentlemen is my story.

I had to share this cause I was laughing the whole way through and this is not the first time I have heard a story like this. I hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Peeling back the layers

So, this past week I have had the opportunity and sadness of seeing some of the bad side of the situation here. I have always known that there are tensions between the Haitians and Dominicans here in the DR, but I have not seen it openly.

I have been teaching English class 5 days a week to a group of Haitian youth. There are between 4 and 7 that come everyday. These guys are great and have such motivation. They work hard and want to learn. We have fun in class and are making progress. We have been meeting in the local school, which is pretty much the only place with space and a blackboard. The teacher had given us a hard time for "leaving a mess" etc. I had however made sure that we always leave the school in as good or better condition than we found it in. The teach never talked to me directly, only through kids or other members of the community. Well, 3 days ago now she said that we could no longer use the school because we were stealing the milk and juice that is for the school students. That of coarse was not true. I came to find out later that day that she came to that conclusion because a boy in her class made that accusation. This boy openly hates Haitians. There was a Haitian boy in the class that protested what was being said and the teacher told him that he was only protesting because he was a dirty Haitian too. Mind you, these kids are between 6 and 9 years old. I was soo angry when I found this out. Especially because the boy who accused us of stealing had asked if we could take the milk and juice and I said no.

I knew these things existed here but this is the first time I have really felt them. In a way I feel like I am experiencing what life was like in the US back in the 50's for the Blacks. The living conditions are poor and the diet basic, there is share cropping and a large house where between 20 and 100 men live. They come to pick coffee. There are many similarities. I know that I am not in the same position as the Haitians but the hatred is being directed at me too because I am helping them. It is interesting that the Dominicans feel so cheated or offended by the Haitians receiving education when I have offered many times to help Dominicans learn English as well. They all say that they want to learn but they never come.

The other thing is that Dominican culture is very machismo. Meaning that the men are very aggressive and vocal about their desires. They seem to think that they can and should have everything that they want, or try to get it at every opportunity. Which means that I rarely talk to any of the Dominican men here and when there are parties and dances I only stay for the first little bit. Things always get worked into a kind of frenzy. Granted this is coming from a girl that almost never got attention from men in the US. My perspective is a little different. Nonetheless, it is a difficult thing to deal with all of the time. I am learning more and more everyday how to approach this issue. On the other hand, the Haitians are not aggressive and seem to be much more friendly without have other motivations, at least openly. I feel much more relaxed when I am in the Haitian side of the community. That doesn't mean I am not cautious but they have smiles on their faces and talk to me like I am a person and not a piece of meat.

I am sure there will be more realizations and clarity to come on this issue and others. Feel free to comment. I welcome thoughts on this issue and others.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What up!!

So, I have been trying to upload some videos of my campo so that all of you can see where I live, but alas my efforts have been futile. It seems that the elements have been converging against me, bad internet, ghetto camera and fate I guess. Well, maybe one day right before I leave to go back to the states it will work. Haha.

Life here is a crazy roller coaster. I keep hearing that it will smooth out at some point but I am not feeling that as of yet. It's cool I like roller coasters. Let me give you a short up date on some of the things that have happened.

A bunch of other volunteers and I went to carnival in La Vega the other weekend. It was a crazy fun time. There are people dressed up in amazing elaborate costumes that hit you with these cow or pig blatters, who knows. It really hurts and leaves bruises. So, there is crowds in the streets dancing and them the guys in costumes come through hitting people and everyone starts running. Quite comical really. We all came back with bruises.

This last Sunday 3/3/13 (disclaimer: when in the Peace Corps nothing is off limits in conversation) I awoke around 5:30 am and proceeded to poo my guts out. I had diarrhea 7 times before 9 am. Clearly something was out of sorts here. I called the doc in the capitol to ask her what she would have me do. She prescribed a poop sample. So, I headed to the local public hospital to poo in a cup, oh what fun. I had never done that before. It turns out I had an over abundance of bacteria in my system. What a surprise in this country eh. Got me some antibiotics and am feeling better, well until the next spell. We all know it will come again. Oh, the life of a Peace Corps volunteer.

Maybe I should write a little about the work too. So, I have been working on team teaching English with a Haitian. I have been learning Creole at the same time. It has been fun and exciting. The health classes on the other hand have been a flop so far. No one wants to come to class. I shall soldier on however and teach the 1 or 2 that come to class. What can a girl do?

Well, it has been lovely talking to you all. Write me soon and I will fill you in on more details, if you want them that is. Haha

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A trip around town

Since I don't have tons of time to use the internet very often I am going to share little tid  bits about experiences that I have had. I will try to include illustrations.

Ok. A couple of weeks ago our health training group got to go into the capitol to go to the Peace Corps office and look into some of the NGO's in the city. This was an exciting day for us because we had been in a very small campo (village) of 30 houses or so for a few weeks. The office has internet and there are several stores around the office. It is always good to communicate with people back home (hint hint) and  stock up on chocolate and peanut butter. We were in the city for about 8 hours or so. We hired a guagua (transport van) to drive us from our campo into the city and then home again. We were heading home during rush hour. Which by the way is not bad compared to a lot of places I have lived but here its is filled with a lot more pollution and stops.
After the first break down we all thought that we were going to be stuck for awhile but the driver got out and did something underneath the guagua.  

While we were waiting we were solicited by a couple of men selling plantains. Although we all wanted more plantains (sarcasm) we passed on the offer. 

The second stop was near a park. It was a nice view while the driver once again fixed whatever was wrong, or just jimmy rigged it. After we were on our way with no more stops. Yay!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Holy Shnikies!!!

So, I don't have the internet very often as you all have probably noticed. So, I will share a few short things with you. Life here in the DR is fun and crazy and hard. I was living in the capitol for a few weeks and now I am out in the Campo for 5 weeks. Whaen I was in the capitol I lived with am awesome family. With me there were 8 of us in the house. We had a scragly little chiwawa that was the ugiest thing I have ever seen. He is cute though. It is funny how things grow on you. The grandma that lived there and ran the house is supper cute too. I never understand a word she says but she has the best smile. She has 2 brown snaggle teeth on the top and a few on the bottom. She makes me smile everytime I see her. She is a very hard working and kind 75 year old.
Here in El Careto, outside of the capitol, I have had some interesting experiences. The first nine days we were her was patronales. It is the celebration of the Saint Mercedes. Basically everyone in the town and sorounding areas party and drink every night until 3am and then get up and do it again the next day. It was fun and exhausting. Also, on the 3 or 4th day I was here I had some crazy stuff go down in my insides. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was going to throw up when in fact I stood up ans almost crapped my pants. I struggled to get around the motorcycle in the kitchen and open the back door. I ran across the muddy back yard to the latrine. I made it thank goodness because that was one big wave. After the visit to the latrine I chilled outside for a while because I still felt like I was going to puke. The dogs the desided that I was no longer welcome there and started closing in and barking. Luckly I was able to get back inside because the dogs have bitten people in the community before. The next day I was still feeling sick and chillin outside with some of the other volunteers when I was not feeling so well. I went into a friends house and puked and the proceeded to sit on her floor for the next 3 hours while my stomach and all of my insides spasmed out. I feel like I know a little bit about how much it might hurt to be in labor. Crazy!! I then had a fever later that night of 101.1. By the next morning I was feeling better. I have no idea what it was but it is gone now:) I will post pics later.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pre Peace Corps Trip

I spent some time in Southern Virginia, northern Virginia and Philadelphia. It was a whirlwind of a trip but was wonderful. It was just the right amount of time to get my head in the right place to come to the DR. This journey is going to be hard at first. I am nervous about learning Spanish but I am excited too.

I got to ride on a train, see the beauties of southern Virginia, have some adventures to Middle Earth to pick berries, see the oldest street in Philadelphia, do the Jersey shore and most importantly be with people I love. Friends and family make the world wonderful!