Hello! Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. Things have been crazy here. Let’s see… CBT in Constanza was amazing! It was such a beautiful city and I miss the fruits and veggies. We Youth volunteers had a great experience, our technical trainer, Emily, was incredible. It was her first training group and we all thought she did an outstanding job. She was a volunteer here a few years ago and decided to come back and do training. She was so honest and supportive through out the entire process, we all hope she gets offered the job for the next session so she can stay in country. We came back to Santo Domingo on the 16th and that night we all met up at the Carwash (carwash by day, discothèque by night) with the other training groups. It was so nice to see everyone again after five weeks. I still think the Youth sector had the best training experience. That night Kaila slept over and we woke up at 5am to go to Isla Saona with some other volunteers. No words can describe that trip but I will try just to make you super jealous. We rented a guagua and drove to a port on the east side of the island which took about two and a half hours. Then we got on a speedboat that took us half way to Isla Saona. The boat stopped and let us get out and swim in the shallow waters. We got some cuba libres (drinking at 9am… this is how PCVs become alcoholics) and we swam around in the ocean which seemed more like a sandy swimming pool. We found some beautiful giant starfish! After about an hour we got back on the boat and continued to the island. When we got there, there were not even five other people on the island. We ordered more rum and cokes and played cards and went swimming. After lunch I decided to swim out toward a catamaran that was anchored further out. The guys on the boat were diving for conches and they let me get up on the boat and dive off… they also gave me one of the shells after they cut the critter out. We hung out on the island until about four then we all got on the catamaran and went back to the main island. The boat went slowly so we could all dance and enjoy the view. Overall it was a perfect day. Check facebook for the pictures!
On Tuesday we had Project Partner Day which was nerve-racking and awkward. We went to the retreat center that we spent the night in on the first night in country. There we met our key contacts from our project sites (thank goodness I speak Spanish or it would have been even more uncomfortable) After an hour or so once everyone arrived we started a few “getting to know you” activities and we went over a little bit of what our site visits were about. After lunch my project partners, Santiago and Iris, and I went to my project site! It is about two and a half hours from the capital. To get to El Guineo I have to get a guagua from Santo Domingo to San Cristobal, and then in San Cristobal find the stop for Los Cacaos. On this first trip we found a guy with a pick up truck then strapped my bags to the roof and rode in the back with six other people. It was a great way to see the view going up the mountain. My house is on the top of a mountain and my community grows coffee beans. In the five days that I got to visit I went all over the town meeting people and I had to awkwardly introduce myself at the schools to every single classroom. I have noticed I have no fear of public speaking when it’s done in Spanish which is really interesting because had I had to do that to groups of teenagers in the States I might pee my pants. Wednesday the Pastor of the Evangelical church gave me a surprise spaghetti dinner for my birthday which was super nice and also extremely awkward. He brought me to his house on the back of his motoconcho where there were fifteen people I’d never met waiting for me. They sat me on the couch and just stared at me for a while…again, super thankful I know Spanish! The spaghetti was an awesome change from rice and beans. Saturday I went to the rio for a little while then learned a new card game called Briska. My community in El Guineo is very poor but there is sometimes luz (light/electricity) and running water. There is a lot of potential to work with the youth in the town and luckily there are three schools (in most towns there is not even one and the kids have to walk far distances to get to school everyday… one day I might write a post about the Dominical school system but I’m not in the mood to be depressed right now). On Sunday I had to get myself back to the capital which was quite an adventure but I managed.
We had our last two days of training Monday and Tuesday mostly just administrative things like opening bank accounts, last minute reviews of Safety and Security, and filling out the Emergency Locator Form. I was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer yesterday! It was a nice little ceremony with all the volunteers, training staff, the Country Director, Chris Lampert, and our Donas. Afterwards we went to a bar in the city where we had PC Homecoming which is a party for the volunteers who are COSing (close of service) and the newbies who just swore in. It was hard to talk to anyone because it was so loud but coincidentally due to the horrible situation in Haiti all the PCVs in country are being consolidated (one of the steps in the Emergency Action Plan, Alert-Standfast- Consolidation-Evacuation). Consolidation usually means everyone is to go to a predetermined hotel in their region. But this situation is serious enough that they are bringing us all in to the capital. We are not in any immediate danger but the Country Director wants to be sure everyone is fully aware of how serious Cholera is so we can protect ourselves and pass-along the information to protect our communities. He calls Cholera the scourge of god; it really is something you only hear about in the bible… it kills a person in 24-48 hours and there has not been an outbreak in the Caribbean in a century. However, it is very preventable and treatable if you get proper medical treatment in time. Cholera is a bacteria that is spread through contaminated water or anything you put in your mouth. Since none of the water in this country is potable we just have to continue monitoring where our water is coming from, then boil or purify it. It kills through severe dehydration. It can be treated with something as simple as Cipro to kill the bacteria.
I am in the capital until Saturday then head back to the campo. I have no internet close by and cell reception is poor but I can get texts! Email me if you want my phone number. I am over an hour from the closest volunteer from my swear-in group and 45 minutes from two volunteers in Cambita so I can imagine the campo could get lonely so call me anytime even if its just to say hi!. Thanks to everyone who texted/called me on my birthday, they were the best presents. Speaking of presents, don’t send me big packages because they charge me to get them out of customs. And don’t send anything that can’t sit in mail space for a few months. Ok I think that’s all for now, I hope you feel caught up on the last month’s goings ons. I miss you!