I took the GRE and I didn’t die. In fact, it looks like I am quite capable of going to to graduate school. I am glad that it is over and that I can start looking at programs for fall 2014. Who knows, maybe I will find some financial help. A special thanks to Barbara, who practically had to force me to sign up for a test date and put up with my anxiety all the while.
To celebrate our victorious conquest against the GRE, Barbara and I went out for sangrias and a make-shift bachelorette party for Christina who left for the US the following morning. We played mad-libs, retired some bottles of wine, ate falafels and a good time was had by all.
Next, Jason, Kayla and Barbara came to my village for a campo-vacation we drank honey mead, took naps on the porch, hiked to the river for a dip, and went out to see a local merenguero (meringue artist). We danced meringue/bachata, had our share of Presidente beers and devoured $1.25 chimis (hamburgers) that were slathered in processed squeezy-cheese. It was great.
Sadly, my friends had to depart. Kayla and Jason are heading to Iowa after two years without visiting the US. They have been model volunteers and I am proud to have served with them and learned from their example.
As you can see, I am too infatuated with the styles i n the DR. Here is my mohawk that when coupled with a mustache-less beard, is called the victorino. It is all over the DR and was made popular by you guessed it… a telenovela (soap opera) that I have never seen. Fear not cousin Erin, I have already gotten rid of it and I will have a professional haircut for when I officiate your wedding at the end of May.
Finally, ever wonder how a cement roof is made? It starts with a wooden mold. We are advancing and I am trying to get all of the materials ready so that they can pour the roof while I am in the US for a few weeks. AMERICA!
Environmental Education, Youth Leadership Development and HIV/AIDS prevention wrapped up into one conference with 60 participants over 4 days.
I bought a mask, snorkel, fins and diving boots from a volunteer for $50 and took a dip today. Although I am panicking about taking the GRE on May 2… life is great right now.
The two boys that I brought to the environmental education conference are brothers and they have been busting their butts working on the community center. Travelling farther than they every have, meeting new people and swimming at the beach is their reward for being so great.
A hell of a lot of sun burns, swear words, my neighbor’s home-made sweet potato ice cream, jokes, disagreements, hard work, begging, borrowing, water carrying and laughs later… we have a 1/2 building and a way to go.
Note that Juan-Andrea (aka abuelo, my 90 year old neighbor) is making sure that the blocks are level with my mason Marcoris. He is the man.
Dominican kids invent to coolest toys. Yeron and his step brother, chiquitin (chiqui-teen), took a handle off of an old cabinet and fastened it to a stick with twine. Next they put a match head in the back of the cabinet handle and then insert a nail into the metal tube. Slamming the contraption down results in an alarmingly loud POP!
To the displeasure of their mother, I promptly gave these boys an entire box of matches. As I write this I am realizing how irresponsible that would be in the US.
The sound quality of the video doesn’t do it justice. It sounds like a gunshot.
On Good Friday and Easter Sunday our neighborhood association made “Domplin” (Dumpling) Soup to raise money for our skilled laborers who have been helping us out with the community center. Domplin consists of making a bunch of dough and then rolling it into small balls before tossing them into the boiling water with celery, tomato paste, peppers, onions, fish, hot sauce and cilantro. It really is a nice, filling soup. I tried to find a recipe online to do it justice, but you just have to see it. http://www.caribbeanchoice.com/recipes/recipe.asp?recipe=394
You can see how many people we have throwing dough into the caldron. 12 pounds of flour is a lot and it took us some time.
We divided up into about 5 locations over 3 miles and my neighborhood kids helped make signs. It is a tradition that people go to the river on holidays and it is a fact that swimming makes you hungry. We made sure to take advantage of this information and sold out!
Also continued is games that Dominican kids play. For those of you that have been to the developing world, it will be no shock to see kids pushing an old bicycle tire with a stick.
Pictured is a home-made bow and arrow that Enyen (pronounced engine) made from scrap metal, rubber bands and an old antenna. He swears that he has killed an entire pile of birds with it. But let’s be honest, he’s a bultero!
Next you will see the MATCH POPPER! Which my kids actually call match thrower… or phosphorus thrower… anyway it is described in the video above. Enjoy.
Dominican boys are crazy, but look at how nice my neighbor girl is here sitting under the tree on a piece of cardboard studying social sciences while her brothers raise hell.
This is a stick ball / handball / horseshoes hybrid where each team has two people who are at opposite bases. In this case the bases are flattened coffee cans. One team pitches with the intent to knock down the can. If they succeed it is their turn to bat. If the ball is hit, then the team on offense runs to the center of the court and counts how many times they can spin in a circle and return to their coffee can (scoring points for each revolution) before the defensive them knocks it over with a well aimed throw.
I woke up to rain at 5 am and worried that we were not going to be able to pour the footer of the community center today. Holy Thursday was the perfect day because not many of my neighbors had to work. The rain was serendipitous because it stopped at 7 am, I collected a tank of water for washing clothes, we got to work under some nice cloud cover and the sand needed less water. I hardly make it to 2 pm working in the heat so the overcast was much appreciated. 5 of my neighbor ladies got together from the community and made la bandera dominicana (The Dominican Flag) which consists of rice, beans and meat for twenty workers. They also kept the coffee flowing which was nice. Monday we are going to start with the first rows of cinder blocks. Finally we are making some progress. To all of the people who donated to this project via the Peace Corps website (www.peacecorps.gov), THANK YOU for helping make our community center a reality!
Today my host dad and I carried PVC tubes for 1/2 a mile and made multiple trips. For 8 hours we burned empty cement bags, partially melted the tubes and inserted a stake so that they would fit together. We bought gasoline and carried a pump down into a ravine so that we would have water to mix 60 bags of cement for the community center. I got blisters on my hands, sunburned, poked by thorns, cutunder the eye, dehydrated and exhausted. Then the incline was too steep to send the water up. In a moment of complete failure and homesickness I told my host dad that in my country I would just turn on the spigot. He looked at me smiled and said, Danny that’s just how shit is here. I laughed and then several 5-8 year old boys helped me carry some of the little tubes back. Although I was dead on my feet I carried 3 of them up hill joking about how much they weighed saying that I was going to make a fortune selling them by the pound like cows. They ran off into the meadow and were happy to have helped their Americano. Sometimes a failure leads to a good ending.
Update: My host brother is a mechanic so we downloaded the manual, unscrewed a lock to release the throttle a bit and managed to send about 1,000 gallons up an even steeper incline. Win.
Here we are cutting and bending REBAR. You can see that the money that ya’ll donated is going to a good cause and soon we will have a library and real community center with electricity!
So what is happening here? Well take a look at my hand… It might not look that bad but let me assure you that cutting hundreds of pieces of rebar by hand takes its toll. I have a college degree, I manage the finances and logistics, I have hardly any comparable construction experience, Dominicans don’t expect me to work because I am educated and moderately useless, but I still I find myself compelled to pretend that I can work in 95 degree tropical sun like Dominicans. I can’t. I do however push myself because it lends me a ton of respect among my neighbors. Thus, I have been hydrating ever since and peeing florescent orange. Seriously, I cut one piece, lift one block and I am drenched in sweat. This happens when I exercise too. It is great if you are trying to slim down, not so great if you don’t like dehydration headaches.
In the last picture you will see my 90 year old neighbor Juan Andrea (abuelo) supervising. I literally can do no wrong in his eyes.
Closing note: it just started raining for the first time in almost 90 days. The water here comes out of the spigot every 8 – 16 days so water is always scarce. I am celebrating because this week I won’t have to decide between doing my laundry and washing my nalga.
Here is the best 9 second video that I have ever been a part of. Watch my buddy Scott nearly complete a double back flip during our Peace Corps Close Of Service weekend get-away to Playa Esmeralda.
Unfortunately it has not yet made its way to YOUTUBE so you can’t see it if you are not my FACEBOOK friend (and are not currently logged-in)… surely you are my friend… it just isn’t FACEBOOK official yet.
Daniel Wendt is an environmental extension specialist with the Peace Corps Dominican Republic. This blog is the intellectual property of Daniel Wendt and does not represent the views, opinions or policies of the Peace Corps or US Government in anyway.