Peace Corps Blog, Dominican Republic, Daniel Wendt

It was such an honor to work an additional year with DREAM Project and their committed development professionals! 

This video was created for our A Ganar, vocational training graduates. Students committed 6 months and received instruction in HIV/AIDS prevention, workplace skills through sports, healthy decision making, goal setting, mathematics, nutrition, developmental psychology, home health care for the elderly, customer service, professional interviewing, resume writing and each student completed and 80 - 100 hour internships. Students have since found work in hotels, bars, restaurants, sales, day care centers, clinics and retirement homes. 

Needless to say, the program was involved and required superior commitment from our students. 

Congratulations graduates and my fellow professors! 

A new Peace Corps Volunteer wrote me asking for advice about living in a tourist zone in the Dominican Republic.

BK: 

Hey Dan,

Sorry it took so long to shoot off this email, it’s been a hectic week as you know. Like I said before, I was wondering if you had any advice on being a volunteer in a really touristy site. I feel like the challenges in a site like XXXXX and XXXXX manifest themselves kind of uniquely with regards to integration, maintaining a professional image, etc., and I just wanted to know if you had any particular insights that might be helpful. If not, no worries. After visiting my site most of my concerns were alleviated but nevertheless I figured you might have something to add.
Best of luck with life back in the states!  
Cheers,
BK
_____________________

I have added parenthesis to my response to help those readers who are not accustomed to our Peace Corps Dominican Republic language. 

My response: 

Thanks BK! 

Best of luck with your service. I think that you will find yourself balancing the Dominican v. Ex-pat social groups. Be on the Dominican side. Learn as much slang as you can. When someone gets on your shit about being too pushy say, "Lo que no grita, no mama [(The baby) who doesn’t yell doesn’t get to suck].” It gets a laugh every time. Go to church so that you can get to know people, but don’t be afraid to have a beer. Talk to people in the comedores (eateries) if you stop for a pico pollo (fried chicken and plantains). Roll around with Dominican music playing on your phone. Get a Dominican haircut without designs at first, then with, then without. Buy some chacabanas (four pocket man-shirts) for formal meetings. You will look like a Don-boss. Buy coloring books and crayons. Invite kids to come color. Post the pictures on the wall and simultaneously confuse Dominicans while looking like a sweetheart. Make friends with some neighbor tiguere boys (wise guys).  Show them that you can drink single malt scotch and dance bachata like a boss and still go to work like an hombre-serio (serious man). Don’t fornicate with anyone on your block unless you are serious about being campo married (yes, “married”)…but well, you know, make sure that you take time to enjoy the good things. Read the news, keep a schedule, and carve out your own existence. Invite as many female PCVs to come visit you and fish that pool (Having lots of Americanas coming to stay with you will give you mad credit with Dominicans of all ages and both sexes.). Hug and kiss the neighboring doñas (old ladies) on the cheek once you have some more confianza (trust). Buy a jug of Mamajuana (a traditional cure-all drink from the villages). With your project partners, paint and perfect an image of where you are going together. Empower them. Give them lists, hold them accountable and give them credit or let them take credit for your work. It will make them more effective leaders and make your service really effective. Say hello to everyone. Also, get really drunk after graduation and do an old volunteer a favor and make out with them. Heavy petting is encouraged (but be a gentleman). You will be the one looking for fresh meat in a year… or 6 months. So remember that.

 I can’t believe that I wrote this. hmmm bueno.

Attached is a document to help you with your tema tigueraje (theme on street smarts and Dominican slang). 

The door is always open. Best of luck! 

 Own it. 

 Dan

 _________________________

BK’s Response:

Wow, thanks man. That was awesome

__________________________

Have I made a terrible mistake? I think not. 

I came into Peace Corps with almost no Spanish. During training, I got up and studied before breakfast, talked with my host mom, studied before class, went to class, stayed an hour after in the center, ate dinner and then studied until bedtime. I have committed and I am hoping that I can find some work in the US that will allow me to continue using my Spanish. Pictured above is one of the hundreds of vocabulary lists that I have written. 
Next week, I am going to the Peace Corps training center to take my final Spanish exam that is based on the American Council of The Teaching of Foreign Languages. After the exam, they will give me a rating of 1 - 10 and an official certificate. 
Wish me luck on getting that 10!
_______________________________________

Update!
After 3 years of really hard work, I got that 10 out of 10 superior ranking!  
SUPERIOR
Speakers at the Superior level are able to communicate with accuracy and fluency in order to participate fully and effectively in conversations on a variety of topics in formal and informal settings from both concrete and abstract perspectives. They discuss their interests and special fields of competence, explain complex matters in detail, and provide lengthy and coherent narrations, all with ease, fluency, and accuracy. They present their opinions on a number of issues of interest to them, such as social and political issues, and provide structured arguments to support these opinions. They are able to construct and develop hypotheses to explore alternative possibilities.
When appropriate, these speakers use extended discourse without unnaturally lengthy hesitation to make their point, even when engaged in abstract elaborations. Such discourse, while coherent, may still be influenced by language patterns other than those of the target language. Superior-level speakers employ a variety of interactive and discourse strategies, such as turn-taking and separating main ideas from supporting information through the use of syntactic, lexical, and phonetic devices.
Speakers at the Superior level demonstrate no pattern of error in the use of basic structures, although they may make sporadic errors, particularly in low-frequency structures and in complex high-frequency structures. Such errors, if they do occur, do not distract the native interlocutor or interfere with communication.

I came into Peace Corps with almost no Spanish. During training, I got up and studied before breakfast, talked with my host mom, studied before class, went to class, stayed an hour after in the center, ate dinner and then studied until bedtime. I have committed and I am hoping that I can find some work in the US that will allow me to continue using my Spanish. Pictured above is one of the hundreds of vocabulary lists that I have written. 

Next week, I am going to the Peace Corps training center to take my final Spanish exam that is based on the American Council of The Teaching of Foreign Languages. After the exam, they will give me a rating of 1 - 10 and an official certificate. 

Wish me luck on getting that 10!

_______________________________________

Update!

After 3 years of really hard work, I got that 10 out of 10 superior ranking!  

SUPERIOR

Speakers at the Superior level are able to communicate with accuracy and fluency in order to participate fully and effectively in conversations on a variety of topics in formal and informal settings from both concrete and abstract perspectives. They discuss their interests and special fields of competence, explain complex matters in detail, and provide lengthy and coherent narrations, all with ease, fluency, and accuracy. They present their opinions on a number of issues of interest to them, such as social and political issues, and provide structured arguments to support these opinions. They are able to construct and develop hypotheses to explore alternative possibilities.

When appropriate, these speakers use extended discourse without unnaturally lengthy hesitation to make their point, even when engaged in abstract elaborations. Such discourse, while coherent, may still be influenced by language patterns other than those of the target language. Superior-level speakers employ a variety of interactive and discourse strategies, such as turn-taking and separating main ideas from supporting information through the use of syntactic, lexical, and phonetic devices.

Speakers at the Superior level demonstrate no pattern of error in the use of basic structures, although they may make sporadic errors, particularly in low-frequency structures and in complex high-frequency structures. Such errors, if they do occur, do not distract the native interlocutor or interfere with communication.

NAILED IT! Employment!
Every now and then a student just nails it. I mean nails it!
My vocational training students are job hunting and I am working with the team of teachers to setup 80 hour unpaid internships at hotels, bars and restaurants so that my students can get their foot in the door, get some more training, and get a positive professional recommendation for their resume (if not convert that internship into fixed work).
Kathy, the A Ganar program coordinator, in a stroke of genius sent each student to an assigned business with their resume and instructed them to get some face-time with the manager. The idea behind this was that the students would hear, “no” and the world wouldn’t end.
Impressively, one 17 year old student went to a restaurant, spoke with manager in a very mature manner, explained her training (instead of focusing on her lack of experience) and got an interview. The next day, she showed up 15 minutes early, she could tell that the manager wanted her during the interview. He proposed a schedule of 5 days per week and a monthly salary of RD$7,000 (USD $161).
The normal minimum wage is RD$8,000 but she is a minor so it would be really good money for her and her family! Remember, my students aren’t “well off.”
Instead of taking the first offer, she asks, “Does that include tips?” And the manager responded that it did. She then respectfully declined his offer and thanked him for his time.
“Wait, wait, wait. Ok, you can keep the tips.”
She then asked, “What is the average take home for daily tips?”
(YES! This is text book. Text book! You would be amazed at how often my students take the first offer. They have felt hunger and a job offer, no matter how one sided, often seems like the assurance that they won´t go to bed without supper.)
300 – 700 pesos!
Wait. My 17 year old student just went from RD$7,000. To RD$7,000 plus (300 tips x 20 days/month = 6,000) to (700 tips x 20 days/month = 14,000)!
Meaning that she could be taking home a monthly salary of RD$13,000 (USD$300) to RD$21,000 (USD$485)! That might be more than her parents make. That is way more than your favorite Peace Corps Volunteer makes.
Ladies and gentleman, in the Dominican Republic, that is enough to go to college, grow as an empowered and financially independent woman, support a family and get a modest house in a few years! Plus, she´ll probably be able to improve her English. 
She is my student, I helped teach her that strategy, I am so proud.
By the way, all of this resulted from walking into a business cold (with no introduction or phone call). 

NAILED IT! Employment!

Every now and then a student just nails it. I mean nails it!

My vocational training students are job hunting and I am working with the team of teachers to setup 80 hour unpaid internships at hotels, bars and restaurants so that my students can get their foot in the door, get some more training, and get a positive professional recommendation for their resume (if not convert that internship into fixed work).

Kathy, the A Ganar program coordinator, in a stroke of genius sent each student to an assigned business with their resume and instructed them to get some face-time with the manager. The idea behind this was that the students would hear, “no” and the world wouldn’t end.

Impressively, one 17 year old student went to a restaurant, spoke with manager in a very mature manner, explained her training (instead of focusing on her lack of experience) and got an interview. The next day, she showed up 15 minutes early, she could tell that the manager wanted her during the interview. He proposed a schedule of 5 days per week and a monthly salary of RD$7,000 (USD $161).

The normal minimum wage is RD$8,000 but she is a minor so it would be really good money for her and her family! Remember, my students aren’t “well off.”

Instead of taking the first offer, she asks, “Does that include tips?” And the manager responded that it did. She then respectfully declined his offer and thanked him for his time.

“Wait, wait, wait. Ok, you can keep the tips.”

She then asked, “What is the average take home for daily tips?”

(YES! This is text book. Text book! You would be amazed at how often my students take the first offer. They have felt hunger and a job offer, no matter how one sided, often seems like the assurance that they won´t go to bed without supper.)

300 – 700 pesos!

Wait. My 17 year old student just went from RD$7,000. To RD$7,000 plus (300 tips x 20 days/month = 6,000) to (700 tips x 20 days/month = 14,000)!

Meaning that she could be taking home a monthly salary of RD$13,000 (USD$300) to RD$21,000 (USD$485)! That might be more than her parents make. That is way more than your favorite Peace Corps Volunteer makes.

Ladies and gentleman, in the Dominican Republic, that is enough to go to college, grow as an empowered and financially independent woman, support a family and get a modest house in a few years! Plus, she´ll probably be able to improve her English. 

She is my student, I helped teach her that strategy, I am so proud.

By the way, all of this resulted from walking into a business cold (with no introduction or phone call). 

SOLD!

Although I have a long long time until I leave, I was all worried about selling the furniture that I have accumulated throughout the years… I mean, I ain’t just leaving that stuff for the next person like a sucker!

I wanted to get a head start.

I cleaned, I took photos, I measured the dimensions of a half-dozen things in centimeters, I posted to FACEBOOK, I wrote detailed descriptions in Spanish and English. I uploaded.

Within 17 minutes - I SOLD IT ALL. 

In one lot to my friend, who measures in inches and is going to let me hold on to the furniture for a while. 

DEALIN’ since 1985. PEACE KEEPIN’ in the Peace Corps since 2011. 

It’s the new A Ganar vocational training program recruitment video!

This course will be hosted at a north coast university and will focus on training sales professionals and administrative assistants.

 Way to go DREAM team. :-)

My head is finally back above water.

Yesterday, I spent half of the day recruiting students for our new class at UTESA University in a neighboring community. It was great. UTESA is letting us borrow a few classrooms and it is a wonderfully modern campus!

I had a big plate of rice and beans and then started writing 31 résumés for the students from my vocational training program at 2pm. I finished around 1am, stopping only to do another INSANITY workout video. Writing one résumé can be mind-numbing. 31 Spanish résumés resulted in me drinking two liters of orange soda, listening to 7 hours of The Economist audio version, making coffee at 10:30pm and storing the sugar in the freezer (yep, after two years with no refrigeration, I have a freezer and no shame about it). Although I was thoroughly confused and cross-eyed by the time it was over, I think that they look pretty good.

Today and Friday, we have practice work interviews with our students before testing their abilities with actual managers from local hotels, restaurants and shops.

Notice any differences between the normal Dominican résumé and an American one?

Let’s get these hardworking students employed! Peace Corps, Hoorah. 

Post Script Fun Fact About Spanish! Yesterday, I learned that Microsoft Word doesn’t handle semicolons and commas correctly in Spanish; instead, when using either, it is appropriate to put a space on both sides of the symbol.

Example:

Áreas : ​Primeros auxilios ; higiene y manejo de heridas ; cuidados generales del paciente geriátrico y recién nacido ; seguridad y prevención de accidentes en el hogar ; uso, preparación y administración de medicamentos (inyecciones, pastillas, catéter intravenoso) ; manejo de fiebre y deshidratación ; nutrición ; medidas de higiene y prevención ante enfermedades infectocontagiosas.

 

Now you can go on living your life. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7XfCQTNQJc&feature=youtu.be

What up?

Dominican Republic North Coast Earth Day Video in Spanish! I wish that I would have had this to show to my Brigada Verde students back in the village. In this video appear some of my neighbors, the director at the school where I teach and one of my coworkers at DREAM Project! 

Sweet!

Happy Earth Day! 
A note from the Peace Corps Dominican Republic Country Director

Teamwork:

This concept is defined in Wikipedia as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole”.  Delighted to report out this week on more evidence of teamwork here in Peace Corps Dominican Republic.  Tuesday morning, I arrived at the office to find three Peace Corps staff members—Juan Alberto Baez, Farah Canaan and Tammy Simo—in the Land Cruiser on their way out the gate to Clinica Abreu.  They explained to me that a trainee was taken to the hospital in the middle of Monday night, had undergone emergency surgery and had lost and received, an enormous amount of blood in that process. Evidently, here in the DR, one is only allowed to purchase from the blood bank if an immediate donation is given to replenish that which was used. PCMOs had alerted PCDR that a blood donation was needed at the hospital. These three Peace Corps Dominican Republic staff members donated their blood to make a trainee’s lifesaving operation possible.   When I thanked them personally for their help, they demurred.  Tammy’s response was simply this:  “Volunteers are the reason we are all here. Of course we do this for them!”  I also want to recognize the efficient and timely actions of the two trainers, Alejandra Saldaña and Asbel Trinidad, who brought the trainee the night before to the ER as the PCMOs requested.   Unquestioning. Ready. Selfless. Teamwork. More evidence that – volunteers and staff, Dominicans and Americans, counterparts and communities – together, we are Peace Corps DR.

WOW! INCREDIBLE! …In short, the Peace Corps Dominican Republic staff has our backs.

The winning video for the Peace Corps Week Challenge comes from Kyrgyzstan. http://kgisme.tumblr.com/ It is really great. I still wish that my friend Ryan would have won.

 

Here you can see 2 minute videos on YouTube from Peace Corps Volunteers all around the world: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLM0oh3lEA63HF4ATfGPUIG7WK-72PyELH

Pictured above are my home health aide students receiving training from the Puerto Plata Ministry of Health. The A Ganar team is working to train professionals who are capable of stimulating children using Montessori methods, move patients with correct ergonomics, understand proper nutrition, provide emotional support, assist patients with activities of daily living and administer medicine. It was very cool having our students receive training from 3 doctors, 1 nurse practitioner with 20 years experience, the Provincial Minister of Health and a few other allied health professionals.

Also, this week the Peace Corps Dominican Republic asked me to submit a quote about my service for their new website. Although I may not make the final cut for the actual site, I have posted it here: 

“As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I spent two years in a small village directing community projects with the neighborhood association, falling in love with Dominican culture and learning Spanish. “Come in, sit down. Have you eaten?” A lot can be learned from the manner in which Dominicans treat each other. After two years of learning to compartir, pretending to dance bachata, enjoying fiestas de palo and developing lifelong friendships, I wanted to continue serving El Pueblo Dominicano. I extended my service to teach customer service, mathematics and professional development in a workforce training program at an NGO. There, I created bilingual instruction materials, continued to learn about development and built relationships with local businesses so that they would accept my students as interns. As for feeling accomplished, imagine an unemployed single mother making a higher monthly salary than either of her parents after immense effort and a few short months of training.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, there were struggles. I spent 6 months confused by a new language, felt the pains of homesickness, cried alone at night under a mosquito net, and had to run outside to a latrine when I got sick. I learned to overcome adversity. I adapted to the culture, made best-friends with my Dominican neighbors, empowered my project partners, grew as a person, learned to tackle every obstacle that came my way, and worked to improve the lives of some of society’s most impoverished and vulnerable young people. I love the Peace Corps.”

-Daniel Wendt, RPCV Dominican Republic 2011-2014

DREAM PROJECT - Promoción A Ganar 8
13 plays

This just in: My coworkers at the DREAM Project are awesome and put together a radio advertisement for recruiting the next batch of students for our workforce training program at UTESA, a university that is on the north coast!

Also, click to see the flyer that I have listed as the album art. 

When I realize I have been translating a word incorrectly for months: