Peace Corps Blog, Dominican Republic, Daniel Wendt
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.

…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
6 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:

Life in Peace Corps has not been easy. It has however been pretty diverse, rich and satisfying.

 

Take into account the various tasks that I will be or have been undertaking this week:

·         Teach memorization techniques to 21 workforce development students.

·         Complete 5 Insanity work out videos.

·         Visit two Peace Corps Volunteers and butcher their goat.

·         Recruit business owners to accept my students as interns.

·         Assist a volunteer with writing a grant and budgeting a construction project.

·         Run 12 miles, barefoot on the beach (during 3 consecutive days).

·         Have a romantic churrasco dinner on a dock overlooking a lagoon.

·         Fabricate hotel, restaurant and sales dramatizations for my customer service students, practice, advise and evaluate with a rubric.  

·         Help guide a group of 100+ volunteer study abroad students.

·         Drink a bottle of whiskey that was smuggled over the Haitian border with Arthur on his fare-thee-well visit to Cabarete.

·         Apply for summer internships with the US Department of State

·         Teach 31 students how to develop a 4-6 minute informative speech.

·         Schedule decommissioning processes with Peace Corps (1/2 a dozen exit interviews, medical, dental, language competency evaluation)

·         As the Officiant, plan my brother’s wedding ceremony.

·         Hassle the admissions department at Bowling Green State University about the paperwork regarding funding for my master’s studies.

·         Hug my 75 year old Dominican neighbor, Oro.

·         Zipline into a spring-fed lagoon and CAVE SWIM.

·         Go snorkeling and spend the day at a pristine rural beach on the north coast.

 

“…Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.

But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Establishment of the Peace Corps (March 1, 1961)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Do you ever reflect and think, “Did I really do that?”

Last night I was on the phone with Rinnie, a fellow Ohioan Peace Corps Volunteer who was assigned to my old village. She is great and has agreed to undertake the task of finishing the Library/Community Center. For an hour we worked on a budget for a grant that she is writing to pour a floor, install an electrical inverter, put up shelving, organize a library, build a latrine, paint and landscape around the building.

Deep-down, I feel I little guilty that I couldn’t get all of these things done despite extending my stay in the village. 

Suddenly, I had a realization. Never have I been a foreman, an engineer, a mason, an estimator or a fundraiser. Still, with the meager plans that I have posted above (1 drawing, 1.5 page material estimate), immense help from my community, some calculations from an off-site engineer, the knowledge of my masons and a ton of blood/sweat/sunburns/pulled muscles/tears/blisters/dehydration headaches; look at what WE did.

There is a great Dominican adage that goes to the tune of: 

Falta de pan, casava dice el pueblo. Literally it means, “If you don’t have bread, eat cassava (a starchy root) says the community.”

O sea: If you have a goal, make the best with what you have, 

Photos of the Finished Project Soon To Come. 

Watch 7 seconds of me being awesome on a zip line at Laguna Dudu. 

This just in: Underwater cameras are pretty cool.

Last Sunday, I took some R&R and I went to Laguna Dudu with Yulia, Kirill and Olga. Here I am doing some of my favorite activities: Cave Yoga, Cave Swimming, Underwater Superman and talking about non-point source pollution and soil types while walking down the beach.

#schwing

"Nearly all Dominican women straighten their hair, which experts say is a direct result of a historical learned rejection of all things black."

The Dominican Republic is rich with culture and people who are as beautiful and varied as their natural resources. My parents taught me to respect people of all races, cultures, disability status, ages and religions since childhood. I majored in sociology so you would think that after talking about race/class/gender in an academic setting, broaching the subject wouldn’t be so precarious for me in the Dominican Republic.

You would think.

Then, I spent a month resisting my 12 year old neighbor Christopher’s nickname. You see, no one knew who Christopher was. In fact, his own grandmother might ask who you are talking about unless you refer to him by his house-name, “Negro.”

Follow the link below to keep reading about race in the Dominican Republic.http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/afrolatin/part2/#storylink=cpy

Are you looking to nerd-out?

This is for you international development minded individuals who are interested in knowing how the United States government is working with the Dominican government to help mitigate HIV/AIDS transmission, implement better democratic practices, improve equal-rights public services, foster government transparency, promote a sustainable economy, encourage disaster preparedness and response, reduce the flow of illegal drugs through major ports, and attack nonpoint source pollution problems.

Go-Go-GADGET-Pocket-Protector

Huh?

Agreed. 

This is a great video that exaggerates (but only slightly) what it is like to ride a motoconcho (motorcycle taxi) in the Dominican Republic. 

Seriously, they drive poorly. 

In the DR, I have personally known many people who have been in motorcycle accidents because they were either driving drunk; operating like an arrogant, macho, aggressive idiot; or, they were just simply unlucky.

This is going to sound too harsh for someone who hasn’t seen it so prepare yourself. The other day, I saw a motorcycle accident and didn’t even flinch. I didn’t feel bad, I didn’t feel anything. A part of me has been jaded.

Before you judge me, take a look at the picture in this article. Think for a moment about what you would do if you saw your brother, his wife, two kids and their groceries all crammed on one motorcycle just rolling down the highway. No helmets. I am fully aware of my cultural bias. It is still dumb and child endangerment. It is quite possibly a form of technological natural selection. Recognize that this isn’t the United States. You don’t need to own a car to get around. Public transit exists nearly everywhere making this type of risk, slightly less than necessary.   

You are thinking, ‘ok, this is just regional.’ Nope. They are some of the deadliest drivers on a global standard. Note that many of the fatalities are alcohol related. 

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/09/19/global_traffic_fatalities_map_africa_is_deadliest_region_dominican_republic.html

Quoted: 

"It’s not unusual in the Dominican Republic to see up to five people, including babies, scrunched atop a motorcycle, or for drivers to carry all types of cargo, including heavy gasoline tanks, atop their bikes. Motorists also dodge hundreds of dilapidated cars and trucks as they zoom across lanes without warning, fail to stop at red lights and go against traffic, often at high speed and sometimes even taking over sidewalks.[…]

Dominican officials believe a lethal mix of alcohol, speed and blatant disregard for traffic laws is to blame. On a recent weekend, police stopped more than 460 motorcycles and 170 cars in the capital of Santo Domingo, issuing tickets mostly for driving the wrong way or running red lights.”

To my knowledge, the Dominican Republic is the only Peace Corps country that allows us to ride motorcycles. Because we work in rural places with a typically lower human development index, oftentimes there is no form of public transit other than paying a motoconcho. So there is a need, I just wish that they would go about it a little better. 

It has been a great week for the A Ganar vocational training program! Yesterday Villa Taina, a luxurious European standard hotel in Cabarete, gave our customer service students a tour. The hotel is located right on the beach, has 50+ rooms, pool, restaurant, bar, yoga studio, gym and wind/kite surfing school. This experience was illuminating for my students’ development. Of 21 students, only three have ever stayed the night in a hotel. Imagine learning English and trying to work in hotel reception without ever having entered a hotel.

After the tour, Villa Taina gave us juice and took the time out of their busy day to have a Q&A session with the lead receptionist, customer service manager, restaurant manager and a gentleman from the maintenance department. My students asked our hosts about professional development, learning English and certain customer service scenarios. We learned that many of Villa Taina’s guests return year after year. Also, the hotel employees attempt to learn the name of every guest.

One student asked what the hotel does when they are full and someone wants a room. Marleisia, the customer service manager, explained that when they have to recommend another hotel, they don’t recommend a direct competitor (for instance: one that is of similar price, on the beach, has breakfast included and a kite surfing school). Instead, they recommend a non-competitor such as an all-inclusive resort so that competitors don’t have the chance to snag potential clients from the same market.

These types of strategies are the things that only a professional can teach.

Also pictured above are some of my students practicing professional scenarios that may occur in hotels, restaurants, bars and shops.

Enjoy!

When I get back from Peace Corps, I am going to build a standing desk for graduate school. This plan has legs made from galvanized steel pipes and looks like a good, minimalist way to go…

There seem to be many benefits of standing while working. Hyperactivity makes sitting for a long time a real challenge for me. I hope that this strategy will help me burn some energy while pour through books for the next two years.