miércoles, 15 de agosto de 2012
Profe in the DR 42
Friday morning, Profeta, the 22 year old baseball coach, decided to do a huelga (strike) all by himself. He blocked the main road that goes by the batey with rocks and thornbush, and stood in front of his roadblock with two large stones in his hands. He managed to back up traffic a good ways. The drivers threatened him with all sorts of bodily harm, but he stood his ground, banging the rocks together in response. Eventually the police came over from Batey 3, and asked him what he wanted. He wanted the Sugar consorcio to bring a bulldozer over to help clean up all the garbage people had piled up around the backstop of the baseball field. He refused to move himself or his roadblock until they came. The Sugar Cosorcio sent a bulldozer to the batey and cleaned the entire infield and around the back of the backdrop.
I spent several days in the capital last week. I had a 3 day medical exam which is required to leave Peace Corps. On Saturday we had an away soccer game against Batey 8. We swung by Batey 5 on the way and picked them up to take them to Batey Cuchilla. As they were getting on the bus, Nicole, the volunteer in Batey 5, showed me a razor blade she had confiscated from one of her girls. She apparently had it hidden in her bra in case she got in a fight. Luckily the other kids told on her.
Batey Cuchilla’s girl’s team couldn’t play Saturday, as half the girls were at a funeral in Batey 2. So we decided to have the girls from Batey 5 play against Isabela, and then Isabela would turn around and play Batey 8. Everyone at Batey 8 was saying that there was no way the girls from Isabela could play two times in one day, but I knew my girls were tough. Although the games ended in ties, the girls from Isabela dominated both games, with countless shots on goal, and most of the time played in front of the goals of their opponents.
The boy’s team from Batey 8 showed up with more men than boys. I spoke to the coach and the men themselves prior to the game, giving them plenty of opportunities to quietly step out and give their uniform back to one of the boys, less they have to forfeit for having played someone over the age of 17. They continued their farce, so I let them play, knowing that regardless of the outcome of the game, it would be a loss for Batey 8. I also knew my boys could handle the men, which they did very well. Despite the game ending in a 0-0 tie, it was very much a one-sided game, with Isabela taking it to Batey 8.
I was sitting on the floor the other day typing on the laptop when I felt something scratchy on the outside of my thigh, practically at my hip. It felt like something was in my shorts, and when I touched there I felt a lump. I quickly stood up and shook out my shorts, only to see a large cockroach fall out. He was not long for this world after that violation.
Thursday I went to Pedernales with a few other volunteers. Pedernales is the most southwestern point in the country, on the ocean and the Haitian border. We stopped by the Haitian market on the boarder where Haitians can walk across a bridge and sell things in the market without having to go through immigration. The market is fenced off. Three of us decided to cross over the bridge into
and walked around the town on the Haitian side for about 15 minutes before heading back. The biggest difference between the two sides was the use of Creole on signs, and there being a soccer field in the town instead of a baseball field. Haiti
Later we went to
Bahia de las Aguilas. It is a large secluded beach, part of what I believe is a national park. You can get there by boat, but being poor volunteers, we all walked 45 minutes over the rugged terrain. In all my travels, I have not seen a cleaner beach, there wasn’t any garbage floated up on shore. There were only about 8 other people there besides us. After swimming, I decided to jog the length of the beach, but it turned out to be far longer than I thought, and it took about an hour to do so.
That evening I watched the Olympics on a channel from
. As you can imagine, they showed a lot of boxing. Cuba
Monday I cleaned out my house and sent most of my stuff off with Cortney the volunteer in El Palmar. I packed my suitcases and once again boiled my life down to two suitcases and a carry-on. Tuesday at 9am after saying a few quick good-byes, I left Batey Isabela, and headed to the capital. I spent the afternoon and most of today getting final paper work done so I can head back to the States. It is very difficult leaving all the kids I worked with. They have come so far. I had to make a lot of sacrifices (and my wife even more so), but I am very pleased with what I accomplished here in my two years, and feel it was worth it. I thank everyone who has supported me in my second Peace Corps service, especially Kaori.
On to my next adventure…
Publicado por Dan en 13:49
miércoles, 25 de julio de 2012
Profe in the DR 41
July 22, 2012
Saturday the 7th, both teams from here traveled to Batey 5 to play soccer. The wind was quite strong and kept kicking up the sand from off the field. The girls tied 0-0, and the boys won 2-1. The kids cheered and sang the entire way back in the bus. (The Sugar Consorcio has been providing the transportation for the league this time. They have several old school busses from the US that they use to transport workers to various fields to cut cane.)
My time here is almost done. I am planning on returning to the US on August 19th. I had a bunch of vacation days still unused (always hard to find time to get away) so I used some of them to get in one last bike trip. Paul, Justin and I took a bus up to the far northwest corner of the country and spent the night in Monte Cristi at a fellow volunteer’s house. (Monte Cristi is the first place in the DR that Columbus came across. There is a flat-topped mountain that stands alone by the sea that Columbus named Monte Cristi.) The next morning we went to see the mountain that the city is named after, and also to swim a little in the sea. We didn’t get started on our bikes until noon. We traveled along the coast on dirt roads, passing tons of rectangular ponds where they were evaporating sea water to get salt. For the first few hours it was fairly flat, but extremely hot and dry. We were surrounded by thorn bush and cactus, and lots of dust. The majority of houses we came across were recently abandoned and we were told it was due to lack of water and no schools nearby. As the day progressed the road became mountainous, nothing of any great height, but often quite sharply inclined. We could see a huge storm in front of us and we eventually rode into it. The rain was moderate, but there was a lot of thunder and lightning. Just as I reached the top of a hill, lightning struck very close by, (I just saw blue light) followed almost instantly by a tremendous crack of thunder that scared the life out of me it was so loud. As we descended the back side of the mountains we started encountering problems with mud. All three of us almost bit it going down one slope that was so muddy that I ended up going down part of it sideways, tires skidding the whole way. Just shortly before it got dark, we rode into our destination, Punta Rucia, soaking wet and bikes covered in mud. We stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by a German who was quite good cook. The next morning after cleaning up the bikes, we set out for Puerta Plata. We stopped by the beach in Punta Rucia, which sits in a large bay, with large boulders to the right side, and a beautiful sandy bottom. It was Saturday and there was a fair amount of Dominicans enjoying the beach. There were a good dozen or two stalls off to the right side selling drinks, and food, but the beach still hasn’t been developed for foreign tourists. As we headed out, our road turned to pavement, which after the mud the day before, Justin and Paul were both glad to see (I prefer dirt!), but as the day heated up, and reflected off the asphalt, they quickly changed their tune. After about seven hours we rode into Puerta Plata and spent the night with another fellow volunteer. Sunday morning Paul woke up, walked out the living room, felt a little dizzy, and promptly feinted, falling flat on his face, cutting his chin. The cut was big enough to need 3 stitches which Paul had done at a local clinic. Since it was Sunday, the clinic was not able to get payment from Peace Corps so they held onto Paul’s ID until the next day. So instead of heading out on the bikes, we went to the beach. It was a local beach, nothing special, lots of seaweed floating in the waves. We mostly sat and talked while seated at a table in the shade, enjoying the view and ocean breeze. We set out on bikes on Monday after Paul got his ID back. We continued up the coast a few hours to Sosua, a town originally founded by Jewish settlers. The bay was very beautiful with sandy beaches and rock cliffs on both sides. This was one of the earlier beaches developed for foreigners, with condominiums and hotels hanging over the rock cliffs, and dozens upon dozens of stalls lining the beach. The town has a multitude of restaurants and bars, and a Jewish museum. The majority of the people we saw at the beach however were Dominican families. Justin had to get back to the capital to teach a class the next morning so we hung out at the beach until the last bus at 6pm. Paul and I spent the night and headed up the coast the next morning. My bike was giving me problems that we couldn’t fix, so we decided to stop and spend the night in Cabarete. This is a very popular beach for kite boarding, sail boarding and surfing nearby. It’s a wide sandy bay with hotels, resorts and restaurants coming right down to the beach. Unfortunately with all the kite boards and sail boards zinging all about (I counted 76 kite boards at one moment) it is not such a great place to swim. There were a lot of tourists; we met several people from the States, Europe, and Russia, and everything was quite expensive. The next day, after Paul got back from surfing, we headed back to Sosua to catch a Carribean Tours bus back to the capital. (They are Pullman style busses and can put the bikes in the compartments underneath the bus, much safer.) It was a great trip, and I got to see a bunch of places I had never seen before. This was not just my last bike trip in the DR, but also my last bike ride here. Once back in the capital, I sold my bike to another volunteer so I would not have to deal with trying to get it back to my site, then in less than a month, back to the capital. So once again, I am in that awful state of bikelessness.
Saturday the 21st the soccer teams played Batey Cuchilla. Because Cuchilla didn’t have enough players, we combined the boys and girls teams and played mixed. Isabela beat Cuchilla 2-0. Both the boys’ and the girls’ teams are tied for first place in the league.
Publicado por Dan en 09:56
viernes, 29 de junio de 2012
Profe in the DR 40
Today is Kaori and my 14th wedding anniversary. I really wish I was with her to celebrate it.
Working on getting ready for the new summer soccer league. We are adding Batey 8 to the league and on Friday Nicole and I went there to make sure their teams are ready. The boy’s team has been practicing but the girl’s team is still not together. We spoke with the coaches and hopefully motivated them to get the girls team up and running. Girl’s teams are harder to form since girls have to help work around the house more than boys, and some girls won’ t be able to get permission to play. They are also harder to keep going since they will often lose a couple of key girls to early marriage and then the team falls apart.
The boys here had there first workday on the field of the new league. We worked on picking up glass (It is mind blowing just how much glass is embedded in our soccer field!), cutting back thornbush and burning it. We will continue to work on the play every Sunday until the end of the league (end of August).
I had left a half opened package of re-hydration salts in my food bin figuring nothing would touch it since it wasn’t food. I merely just folded over the top of the foil envelope twice and called it good. Yesterday after a baking hot hour and a half mt.bike ride in the sun, I unfolded the foil envelope and poured its contents into a cup, but instead of white fine salts coming out; small roach like bugs came out instead. I guess I wasn’t the only one in need of re-hydrating. (It has been quite hot and dry lately.)
On Tuesday I was in the capital. On my way out, my bus was passed by another bus on the busy 6-8 lane 27 de Febrero. As the bus flew by, I noticed that there was a man in a wheelchair hanging on to the back bumper behind the bus. I watched the bus until it was out of site, and the man was still hanging on last I saw of him. It was definitely one of the crazier things I have seen in a while (and I have seen a lot of crazy things here!)
I forgot to tuck my mosquito net in last night and had a cockroach try to crawl in bed with me. Its pillow talk just wasn’t that good so I had to kick it out of bed. (Then smash it!)
I just walked into my bathroom now and discovered that ants had built a nest in the base of my toilet. I have been suspecting this for some time now as I keep finding dead, drowned ants in the toilet bowl, but never new where the nest was. Just now there were hundreds of ants coming out from where the base of the toilet hits the cement floor. Once again I called on chemical weaponry and blasted them with nerve gas. Luckily you can buy that in spray cans (AKA- Insecticide.)
Last night around 9pm, two pickup trucks full of about 25-30 policemen in bullet proof vests and carrying automatic rifles came barreling into the batey, quickly passing by my house. People’s reaction to them was quite interesting. Upon seeing the police, many people ran away, fearing trouble. Once they left, everyone came back out and was talking excitedly about them for some time. It is rare to see police in the batey, especially in such force. According to my project partner, they were going after people selling drugs and arrested 3 people. It seems that drugs are becoming a bigger and bigger problem in the bateys with more and more people selling and using. Just more evidence of how important my work here with the youth is.
Saturday we had the first games of the new soccer league. I was a little worried that the Sugar Consorcio wasn’t going to come through with the transportation, but the old school bus showed up 15 minutes early. The soccer field in Batey 9 was all messed up after the latest rain. A bunch of cows got onto the field while it was muddy and tore it all up, and then it dried that way, full of large hoof prints. Since it wasn’t safe to play on, we took all the kids to Batey 8 and used their soccer field. With the new summer soccer league, we have separated the genders. No more mixed teams. The girls wanted their own teams because the boys didn’t pass them the ball enough. Both teams play the same day in the same place, first the girls, then the boys. Isabela’s girls team had 13 girls ready to play, but Batey 9 unfortunately only had 4, so we divided Isabela in two and added two girls from Batey 9 to each side and played a game like that. Spectators from Batey 8 were impressed with the level of play. After the girls finished, the boys had their game. This was a battle between the two strongest teams in the league and it was a great game. Unfortunately, by the end of the game, not a single goal had been scored, and it ended in a tie.
Batey 8 did manage to get a girls team together, and traveled to Batey 5 to play. Both the boys and the girls teams lost, but you would never have guessed so by the way they were cheering and singing as the bus pulled back in to Batey 8.
The players in Batey 7 are all Seventh Day Adventists and can not play on Saturdays, so their game against Batey Cuchilla was Sunday. The cell tower nearby my house isn’t working again so I haven’t had any cell phone service for the last week, and haven’t heard who won.
The European Cup has been going on the last couple of weeks, and the games have been televised on local channels. This has been the first time since I have been here that the kids have had a chance to watch soccer on local TV. They have been enjoying watching the games, and have been slowly learning the names of different countries in Europe. They have all been rooting for Spain (wise choice) and are looking forward to Sunday’s game, as Spain and Italy play for the cup. Hopefully there will be electricity in the afternoon so we can watch the game.
Publicado por Dan en 12:14
jueves, 7 de junio de 2012
Profe in the DR 39
Today marks 21 months in country for me. My life here in the batey has not been easy, and I have had a lot of injuries, but the hardest thing has been not having Kaori with me.
Peace Corps is on Standfast because of the elections. Things have been a little crazy this week, and I am told that things can get violent after the elections with people getting upset if their candidate doesn’t win. Yesterday the other major political party, whose color is white, held rallies all over, including marching on the capital. The US embassy sent Peace Corps staff home early. Here in the batey, a very large parade of hundreds of people in cars, vans, motorcycles and on foot passed through the main streets and right by my house, everyone yelling, waving white flags, revving motors, honking, and raising a ton of dust. The whole batey seemed to be in an excited state after that for the rest of the day.
The white party is the preferred party in the bateys by a ratio of 2:1. Their presidential candidate is predicted to win. The other party has been in power for some time and the people want change.
Yesterday we received soccer nets from a donor in the states. Some doctors from the US who frequently do medical missions to Batey 9 had found someone to donate the nets, and brought them down with them on their visit Monday. Another volunteer then brought them here from Batey 9 yesterday. We have been trying to get nets for so long, so the boys and girls were extremely excited. They quickly laced them on the goals and started to practice. It was great playing with nets. We could easily tell when a shot was a goal or not, no more arguing, and a lot less chasing after balls. To whoever you are that donated the nets: Muchísimas gracias!
Yesterday I saw a young boy with an old bicycle who was using an upside down coffee can as a seat. Now that’s hard core!
Well, the elections are over. Sunday, the day of the election was fairly quiet. I don’t think that the bars were allowed to be open, so there wasn’t even any loud music. As evening came on, people were getting more and more excited, and wanted to know who won. Finally around 11pm, people started yelling and chanting that the purple party candidate scored an upset win, and started demanding that the bar next to me play music and sell beer, which they did until midnight. The next morning, the purple party supporters started celebrating at 8:30am in a big group, drinking beer and continuing until midnight. The white party supporters were also drinking early in the morning, but they were drinking rum quietly and in small groups in the shade here and there. The white party candidate accused the purple party of buying votes (not that the white party didn’t, just that the purple party did it better.) There were talk of problems, but so far nothing happened, and things seem to have calmed down.
It seems that the discs in my back are herniated again. I didn’t lift anything or ride on the back of a motorcycle with a loaded backpack or anything this time, so I don’t know why they are out of place. I was quite frustrated when I notice that my left side of my foot is numb again. I went to see the doctor on Thursday. She wants me to wait until I go back to the states to do physical therapy. She doesn’t trust any of the Dominican physical therapists here. (She is a Dominican as well.) So I am back wearing the back support. It is extremely uncomfortable, especially in the heat of the summer.
This weekend I helped put on a 3 day conference on mobilizing marginalized populations. The conference went great, but I hardly slept the whole time. The bed I had was sagging in the middle and didn’t fair well with my back. Also, seems there was something with the food, as just about everyone had stomach problems after the conference.
This is the last week of classes for the students. The school year doesn’t actually end for another week or two, but no one seems to care what happens in the bateys, so the director is ending school early.
This weekend I helped put on a 3 day soccer leadership conference, an idea I had for quite some time. I am still trying to recuperate from the conference the weekend before, and have had a cold all week. This conference was for teenage boys from nine different communities, four of which traveled some distance to attend. In total we had 36 boys, 8 volunteers and one guest participate. We taught about leadership, teamwork, positive attitudes and speech, etc. and also about AIDS/HIV. We also taught some soccer skills and drills they could take back to their teams. We held the conference in Batey 9, and for the boys from non-batey communities, it was a bit of an eye-opening experience. They were surprised by the living conditions, and the fact that many of the boys from the bateys didn’t have shoes. The difference in the education levels was quite notable, for example when I asked the boys to sign a card, the non-batey boys quickly wrote a well practiced signature, while the batey boys struggled just to print their names. It was quite expensive inviting the outside communities, but the interchange of ideas it created was worth it. My four boys came back from the conference all excited and quickly started sharing what they had learned. I have let them run the practices the last two days, letting them teach the rest of the team the new drills they learned. Papito began teaching younger boys about HIV/AIDS, and started back up coaching the little boys’ team. Planning and implementing the conference was a lot of work, and my back was killing me the whole time, but it came out great, and I am very pleased at the results I am already seeing. My team is already working on creating a more positive environment within the team, and are trying to support the girls team more.
Yesterday, Shawn, a PCV living in Batey 7 came by and taught my kids karate. They loved it. Afterwards, he took on a few boys in chess. He squeaked by one of the younger boys, but was taken to town by the older boys. Shawn considers himself a very good chess player, and was quite impressed with the level of play of my boys. Jairo and I are now trying to see if we can get a few boys to a regional or national competition. We are also trying to get a chess clock so they can prepare themselves for tournaments. I have come across the clocks in the capital, but they are quite pricey.
Publicado por Dan en 14:14
jueves, 17 de mayo de 2012
Profe in the DR 38
It is a campaign year and that means the local and national governments doing a lot of last minute construction projects to win votes. (They do nothing for 3 ½ years, then try to do everything in the months before the election.) Here in the batey they began to work on our streets. Talk was of sidewalks and asphalt. They put in cement curbs, no digging, simply pouring the “L” shaped cement about a foot above the current level of the street. When they finished with the curbs they just disappeared. Since the election is Sunday, I am guessing they are not coming back.
The first week of May we received a fair amount of rain, slightly inundating the batey. The curbs had been put in with little or no thought to drainage routes and as a result blocked or redirected water flows, filling up the streets, or flooding people’s houses. With all the standing water everywhere, mosquitoes have been abundant and aggressive.
Lately Profeta, the baseball/softball coach, has been helping me out at night when I am busy. He has been opening the refugio so kids can read in the library or play chess in the other classroom. The other night he opened things up and I arrived a half hour later. As I walked in the library, there were eight kids seated at desks, all reading intently, not a single peep to be heard. No one does anything quietly here, so to see them so engulfed in their books was wonderful.
Last week though, Profeta did have a small incident at night at the refugio. He was inside playing chess when he saw someone outside near the latrines “smoking drugs”. He went out and proceeded to kick this young man out of the fenced off area that makes up the refugio. The young man must have been smoking drugs because he started to try to fight with Profeta (who is quite big and muscular.) People came running to see the fight like sharks to blood. The young man grabbed a large rock to throw at Profeta. He in response pulled out his pistol. Now the crowd was running in the other direction. The young man’s parents got involved; lots of yelling and screaming, and after about ten minutes, Profeta came back into the refugio like nothing happened.
Last Tuesday I planned to head down to Los Patos about 2 ½ hours from here to pick up some books from fellow volunteer Sam. He had received a very large shipment of books for his library and had four boxes of doubles to pass on to me. Jairo and I rented a small pickup, and accompanied by the pickup owner’s son, headed towards Barahona. Jairo was stopped at the police check point for not using his seatbelt, and we quickly realized we didn’t have the registration for the truck. The police tried to fine us several hundred pesos, but Jairo talked him down to just one hundred. From there we went to fill the truck up with gas. The owner had done a homemade conversion job on the truck so it could use propane. After filling the old tank sitting in a box in the back of the pickup, we couldn’t get the truck to start again. We tried push starting it numerous times, but it was clear the engine just wasn’t getting gas. The owner’s sun and Jairo then played with all the valves, hoses, and anything else that might help. (I stayed off to the side a bit so in case they blew up, someone could call an ambulance.) The owner’s sun was using a pair of pliers to open and close the valves, and apparently too much force, because he ended up breaking off one of the valves, and we couldn’t get it open after that. We ended up having to get a mechanic, who ran a hose off of the valve for filling up the tank, problem solved. Meanwhile, Sam brought the books an hour and a half up the road, meeting us in Barahona. On the way back, as we passed over a speed bump in Batey 3, we heard the transmission hit the ground. I called the only other small truck owner in my batey, and had him come pull the truck, us and the books back to Isabela. The trip ended up taking a lot more time and money than planned, but everyone was very excited about the new additions to the library.
Today in the afternoon, in the middle of a reading class, some 40-50 cars, vans, pickups and motorcycles carrying people dressed in purple, their political party’s color, drove into the batey and started doing laps around the park, yelling, honking, and revving engines. It was quite a show that lasted some 15 minutes. People here take there political party quite serious.
Publicado por Dan en 16:40
jueves, 3 de mayo de 2012
Profe in the DR 37
The week after Semana Santa ended up being kind of slow for me as far as teaching. The kids all took an extra week of vacation even though they were supposed to be in school. This happens here all the time. I used the free time to get a bunch of work done that had been piling up.
My mother and her husband flew in to the DR on the 17th. I met them at a resort in Punta Cana. It was the first time for me to travel to the east side of the island. The east side is flatter with very few mountains, and far more trees. They raise cattle and sugar cane. I noticed that they did not irrigate the sugar cane fields. I assume that is because they have sufficient rainfall. In several places I saw them pulling the large sugar cane carts with oxen. The closer I got to Punta Cana the more built up for tourism it seemed to be. As the bus passed through towns, you could see people dressed in various uniforms of cook, maids, waiters, etc., waiting for transportation to the different resorts in the area.
It was also the first time for me to stay at an all inclusive resort. We stayed in the Barceló which was absolutely humungous. It was one of the earlier built resorts and so had an extremely large amount of land, 2 km of ocean frontage and its own golf course. There were tons of large 3 story buildings for guests, 8 or more pools, a gym, large theatre, a dozen or so restaurants, a couple dozen stores, tennis courts, its own soccer field, a church, bars, and so much more. It was quite impressive in its size.
The guests were from all over. You could hear all sorts of languages, French, German, Chinese, Russian, Italian, and many more. Europeans seemed to be in the majority. One Russian woman I spoke with said she had a twelve hour flight to get to the DR. She and her husband just wanted to go somewhere warm because it had been such a cold winter in Europe and Russia.
After more than a year and a half in a dirty, dusty batey, it was nice to be somewhere clean for a while. I enjoyed hot showers, good food, and a decent bed. I swam daily, trying to strengthen and stretch my left shoulder, which I injured about a month ago. I also ran on the beach and in the pool, and racked up several hours on the exercise bike in the gym. Despite all the good food I actually left the resort weighing less than when I arrived. (Not an easy feat at an all inclusive.)
It was good to see my mother and her husband Larry. Larry got three days of golf in and my mom joined him for one. They also spent a lot of time just relaxing on the beach. I taught my mom how to play the card game Casino and we played each night. It was a nice peaceful week, but I really wish that my wife Kaori could have been there with us.
It was hard coming back to the batey, especially since it had rained hard the night before and the whole batey was flooded and full of mud. The kids didn’t go to school the rest of the week because of all the water everywhere. I fixed the brakes on my bike yesterday and headed out for an hour. I got to test the new brake pads out when a large swarm of bees crossed my path. I noticed them just in time to come to a screeching halt right at the edge of the swarm; having only a few of them bump into me as I quickly backed up.
Publicado por Dan en 11:43