I’ve decided to play catch-up with this blog. The summer went well, although it was a little slow because many Dominicans aren’t motivated to do much during the summer. Or during December and January. Or when it’s raining. Nonetheless, I started tutoring a few kids that were behind in reading, and it’s been quite fulfilling. I’m very proud of one little girl I’ve been working with since June who also happens to be my neighbor; even her teachers are impressed by how much she has improved. I also started a book club with four ‘tweens’ from my campo, and that was great. We read Charlotte’s Web over the course of two months and three of the four girls read the assigned reading every single week without fail. This month we are going to add a few more members to the club and begin reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The sex ed youth group that I’ve been working with since May graduated in September, participated in a national conference and a one-day regional workshop, and in December gave two talks about AIDS to their peers at the local high school.
So there was the work catch-up in less than 200 words. Personal life: I went through a really rough patch this past fall. There are plenty of reasons why things weren’t going so great down here, and I won’t get into them now, but suffice to say I was just not feeling it. I didn’t really think I would leave early (ET in Peace Corps lingo) but it was comforting to know that I could always just leave. In early December, all of the youth volunteers who arrived in Sept. ’07 had a 3-day training session, and I left feeling a lot better about my work. It was helpful to get ideas from the other volunteers, and even more helpful was the chance to vent about everything in my site to people who could understand what I was talking about.
In mid-December I left for a three-week long trip to the States, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was starting to feel more positive about things here in the DR, but was also seriously lacking energy for the year ahead. During my trip home, I spent a lot of time with my family, reconnected with old friends and made new ones, and generally reveled in all things American—electricity, hot water, great food, a work ethic, music in English. I feel like I now have a lot more perspective thinking about my life here in the DR...not everything is as important as I maybe thought it was. My time here has flown by, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. The 10 months I have left are a drop in the proverbial bucket of my life, and I need to take advantage of every day for whatever it is… even the days when by 3 o’clock in the afternoon I’m wondering how to keep myself occupied until it’s socially acceptable to go to bed. Maybe a little cliche, but also very true for me right now.
I was a little apprehensive about returning to my site because I had had such a great time in the US, but so far it hasn’t been too bad. I would even go so far as to say, it’s been pretty good, but I don’t want to jinx anything as I got back less than a week ago. Things weren’t looking so great when I stepped off of the plane and into the DR; within four minutes the sleazy airport employee taking bags off of the carousel mercilessly hit on me. I thought, “This cannot be a good sign.” But, I kept my chin up through the adjustments to non-potable non-running water and to throwing toilet paper in the trashcan and to fire ants who’ve made a lovely home in my dogs’ food and to huge spiders inside my rubber boots and to five hours of electricity a day. My spirits could not HELP but be uplifted by the warm welcome I received upon returning to my campo--my dog licked my face nonstop, everyone commented that I looked as white as a piece of paper, and I was told to be a little more gordita than when I left, here a serious compliment. In the span of about two hours, I had fifteen visitors to my house and gave out about twenty-five hugs. The hummingbird that frequents the banana trees in my backyard even made an appearance to celebrate my return.
Things have calmed down now that it’s been a few days since I got back, and I’ve been working on my annual plan for the year that lies ahead. It’s been great to organize my ideas and think about how to direct my energy and about what I can actually accomplish in the coming months. My goal is to work on the following projects by November ‘09: help construct a basketball court, plan and run a sports camp with other volunteers, teach soccer, host a dance workshop (not taught by me, don’t worry), paint a world map mural in the school, continue working with the kids’ club, expand the sex ed group and have them give more talks, paint an anti-AIDS mural in the town park, organize a parenting class, help some families get their children documented, organize a campaign for International Women’s Day, do school gardens, continue literacy tutoring, start a second book club and continue to work with the first, help write a project plan and grants for a community center/library, and carry out some basic income generation projects. It’s a lot to aim for, and I can almost guarantee that I won’t get it all done, but with the participation of the community (there’s the hard part) I think we can accomplish at least three-quarters of these projects.
At this point, this blog post is definitely long enough to make up for at least one or two months of my not writing! I’d like to end with two unrelated thoughts:
1) Come visit! Three weeks away helped me to recognize, once again, how lucky I am to live among such beautiful surroundings and people.
2) If anyone has any of the newest albums by the following artists and wants to share them with a Peace Corps volunteer who goes by the name of Lily, please let me know and I will be eternally grateful.
a. Vampire Weekend
b. Andrew Bird
c. Blind Pilot
d. Mates of State
f. Brian Eno & David Byrne