March 10, 2009

cold weather and international women's day

It's cold here!

OK, so not really, but it's much colder than one would expect living in the Caribbean... I sleep zipped into a sleeping bag at night! I don't have a thermometer, but I think it gets down into the 50s sometimes. I know, that's nothing compared to the March snowstorm some of you East-coasters just went through, but it's still cold, especially since my house is definitely not insulated.

On Sunday my Escojo group (7 youth who did a course with me on life skills, sex ed, and AIDS prevention) and I hosted a celebration for International Women's Day. We had a march through the community; my kids gave a small talk about three women who were killed by Trujillo, the former dictator, here in the DR; I gave a talk about women around the world; and then we awarded certificates to 10 women for work they have done for the benefit of their communities. My project partner, who is usually a non-entity at any event or project I plan, not only showed up but really helped me out by providing a lot of energy and musical entertainment. I think we had about 100 people show up, including the 20-ish that my closest PC volunteer neighbor Lauren brought over from her site. I think the event went very well-- good attendance, not too boring, and with a positive message. Here are a few pictures:

this is me and my dominican doña, teresa, when she received her award

the musical entertainment: thanks to my project partner, the man with the guitar, and his makeshirt choir.

getting ready for the march

I have to head into the capital later this week, which is both good and bad... If I decide to shlep all my dirty laundry to the capital, I do get to use an actual washing machine and dryer and save myself at least a day's worth of scrubbing and wringing out and hanging up to dry. I also get to revel in the magic of running water, cell phone signal, and wireless internet, but I always spend wayyy too much money in the capital, and that can be very dangerous for someone whose w-2 from last year reported yearly income as $2700. No, I didn't forget to type a zero.

I've been wasting valuable internet time recently looking at job postings on, even though I still have 8 more months of service. I guess I just want to get an idea of what kinds of jobs I'd be interested in when that time rolls around, and what kinds of jobs I am even qualified to do. In completely unrelated news, a motorcycle just drove by with a washing machine tied onto the back. Impressive.

January 19, 2009

a day in the life

I was writing an email to a friend of mine who wanted to know what is it that I do every day, and I thought it would be kind of interesting to do the same here. Behold, my day yesterday, a fairly typical Sunday:

7am- it was raining since before the sun came up, so I woke up to the noise of rain on my tin roof and to my dog´s nose nudging me awake through my mosquito net.
8am- ate some banana bread for breakfast and then took a chilly bucket bath}
9:15am- headed to the school for a meeting, but after waiting for an hour only 2 of 9 kids showed up because no one does anything here when it rains. so I went home.
10:15am- did the dishes, finished reading {the great railway bazaar}, walked the dog, worked on a friendship bracelet, and studied for the GREs.
12:30pm- ate lunch at my neighbors house, which was chicken, rice, beans that I think might be called pigeon peas in english, and some shredded cabbage of doubtful cleanliness, which probably explains the intense stomach pain I´ve been in for the past 18 hours. after lunch, I taught my neighbor, who happens to be one of my favorite people here, how to make a friendship bracelet.
2pm- went home and took a short nap
3pm- kids club meeting, so I read a few books to about 15 kids, talked about manatees, taught some english vocabulary related to aquatic animals, and supervised a baseball game.
4:30pm- walked around and got some information from two of the families that i am trying to help out with their kids´ birth certificates.
5:30pm- the mother of this little girl that I tutor who lives a few houses away had asked me to trim her daughter's hair, because apparently I have "good hair" so me cutting the daughters hair will somehow pass along the good hair vibe. so I did it.
6:30pm- went home and drank a can of dr. pepper, the only kind of soda i like besides root beer. put on some music and mopped my house, then shaved my legs over a bucket and filed my nails. dinner was not in the picture due to stomach ailment. studied some more GRE vocab and worked on an article a friend and I are writing for the volunteer magazine
9:15pm- brushed my teeth, washed my face, and read a little bit in bed. Sleep

So that´s a day in the life of Lily, Peace Corps Volunteer in the DR. Enthralling.

January 14, 2009

quick pics

Since getting back to my site, I've been trying to go for a long walk every day with Fibi. I would like to say that it's part of some big plan or New Years' resolution to make sure I'm active every day and Fibi is too, but really it's just a good way to use up a good hour or two of my days. I've also been studying for the GREs basically every day, and I've read some great books (see the GoodReads link on the left). This Sunday my sex ed youth group hosted a visit from another group and it went really well-- in the morning we did activities like Jeopardy and mini-dramas, and in the afternoon we all headed to the beach.

This week I'm starting my second book club and continuing with the literacy tutoring I've been doing since the summer. I'm in town now and just spent 2 hours at the Oficialia, which is where you go to get birth and death certificates... I just had ONE question but nonetheless had to push and shove just to be heard, and even that took what seemed like forever. I'm going to meet with the families of 7 kids who still don't have birth certificates to try and get all the paperwork straightened out so that they can be declared--without them those kids won't be able to go to high school, open a bank account, legally get married, etc. And now I am headed to the supermarket to spend the equivalent of $2.50 (1% of my monthly salary) on one measly little chocolate bar. It's really good chocolate though, and I figure that if I have to splurge on something, it might as well be chocolate.

January 10, 2009

catching up

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


December 28, 2008


So I just realized that I haven't posted in, say, seven months, and apparently people actually read this. Sorry guys, I had no idea! I apologize profusely and promise to do a much better job. In fact, I have decided that I am going to write a book about my experiences. When I say book, I actually mean keeping track of what is going on in my Peace Corps life by writing it down. Because I seriously cannot believe that I have been in the DR for 15 months already, and I know that in a year or two I will be struggling to remember details about my life there that seem so everyday right now. So...keep your eyes peeled for my book. Maybe the NYT or the Post or even Oprah will hear about it and you'll see my mug on the cover of the book review. Maybe.

In other news, I'm back in the States for the holidays, and this picture pretty much sums up my favorite activity thus far--sleeping, particularly on other people's couches. It's great. There are no couches in the DR, at least not where I live, so I'm taking full advantage of all the cushy pieces of furniture I can get my hands on while I'm here.

May 26, 2008

creepy crawlies

so, things are hectic up here but overall going well. i've had some fellow volunteers come visit, which is always lots of fun and i get to show them all the pretty places near me. it's been really really hot recently, but just yesterday some clouds rolled in and i think it might be raining for a while now. in other news, two days ago i killed a huge tarantula that was in my house. remember those giant fuzzy ones that were behind the glass when you went on a field trip to the zoo or the aquarium? yeah? well here they like to come hang out in your house when it's about to rain (something to do with the humidity or the pressure or something) and it was very unsettling to see one just waiting to pounce on me. ok, apparently they are acutally really shy but they do bite. so then last night i was coming in from the backyard, carrying a bucket of water, when i noticed a big black thing on the outside wall of my house. i looked closer, and it was a SCORPION. or something that looks remarkably similar to a scorpion that has huge pinchy claws in front. i also killed that. hopefully today the streak will not continue because i do not enjoy those interactions. what else.. work is slowing down a little just right now which is great because i have a ton going on. i'm headed home for a week in august too, so that's something to really look forward to! i've got to go buy some dog food and then head back up to my community, but i'll try to post some more pictures soon.


April 28, 2008

a few pictures

my first english class graduated!
this is "my" beach, about 20 minutes from my house.
me and the mom