Monday, December 08, 2008

The 8-minute 8-month Recap

I put layers in my hair, and no one noticed

These are the things I think about these days. Not so much the struggle with the language, not the tigueres calling at me in the street, nor the bugs that I pick out of my cereal. Why? Because I am used to it by now. These things are normal to me. I have been here more than two years, and am accustomed to life in the DR. Is this why I haven’t written anything for my blog in over eight months? Partly. Whereas in the past I often needed this blog as an outlet to vent my frustrations to an audience who understood me, now I don’t feel that pressing desire to rant about the “absurdity” of Dominican-isms straining my day-to-day life. Its not absurd at all. In fact, I love it here!

To be honest, it’s when I go home that I don’t quite understand things. “Since when do Americans wear tapered jeans?” “How can people get away with bringing their own bags to the store and it not be considered shoplifting?” “Who is Hannah Montana?” I sure have missed a lot.

The real reason for not updating my blog: I was busy. In fact, if you hadn’t noticed, I pretty much stopped visiting the Internet altogether. My service just got busier and busier as I went along. I organized some great projects and worked with wonderful people. Now, as I near the end of my service and continue thinking about the future, I have decided to stay a third year in the DR to work with Peace Corps as a Regional Coordinator. This is still a volunteer position that calls upon a third-year PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) to continue their service on a more organizational level. I have been working in this position since June (overlapping my normal service) helping to develop new sites for incoming volunteers. I love the work; it involves a lot of traveling and meeting new people, which is perfect for me. On top of that, it is my responsibility to visit each volunteer in my region, providing advice or assistance in projects, and to act as a liaison to the Peace Corps office. I moved out of my community in August and to a nearby city to focus more on the new position, though I continued working with my amazing sex-ed youth group, “Escojo Mi Vida” (I choose my life) in my old community until a new volunteer and already great friend named Regina moved in to take over for me in October, when she began her two years as a volunteer. Escojo Mi Vida has been my biggest project over these last months, and a very rewarding one at that.

There’s so much to say, let’s just sum it up in pictures. Here is a quick (VERY quick) re-cap of my last eight months, in chronological order:

I took two youth to the Escojo Regional Conference, where they learned a lot about AIDS and bonded with other youth from the north of the country. The kids came back and brought with them tons of motivation to the newly-formed Escojo youth group in my community:

Sparkle Motion, the unofficial Peace Corps dance troup which I am head of, performed its first of three performances this past year at the Escojo Regional Conference:

My Foundation held a ceremony to give the donation of books I had solicited to the town library. The books were so beautiful, they hadn't had any like it!

Enrique and I came in second place in a "Bola Race," a competition to travel from one city to another without paying. It was super fun!

And to do it I dressed like this, a Dominican housemom. Costumes were required!

My youth threw me a surprise birthday party in April. I had no idea! They went all out with cake, food, dances, and games. I was so proud!

I got down with Sarah at her and Michael's going-away party in May:

Baby in a bucket! Jenny's baby Angela takes a bath:

Our youth group hosted three other groups for a day of fun at the beach. The kids worked very hard to organize the event and prepare the food. It was a blast:

And of course, I danced!

The birth registration campaign continued to be a big project. Over the two years I declared 51 new citizens:

I brought two teachers from our Sala de Tarea (after school program) to a teacher training for three days, where they learned new and creative teaching methods. I also helped with coordination of the conference:

Manuel and I each taught a basic English class. Here we are at our graduation:

Manuel and Laurin, two volunteers who worked in my community for the past year with a German NGO, became not only great work partners but also great friends. They are my Hermanos del Alma - Soul Brothers! I miss you!!!

Our youth group organized and hosted the Regional Escojo Conference for all groups in the area:

Manuel and Laurin helped out, as well as Marin, who is also extending a third year to be a volunteer leader like I am. Marin is getting married to her long-time Dominican boyfriend this month!

Here I am with good friends Adrienne, Margo, Jonathan, and Iris at Jonathan's going-away party. He left early to study French in Quebec:

Our youth group had lots of fun together. Here we are hosting the regional Escojo coordinators at our beach:

I visited a few friends - here is Melissa in her site in the south. The water is much bluer because these beaches touch the Caribbean sea, rather than the Atlantic ocean:

I helped a few Peace Corps friends who held a cross-border camp with Haitian and Dominican kids in the south near Haiti. There were soccer and art activities for the kids all week in early July:

I visited a beautiful beach in the south for 4th of July:

The kids from our Sala de Tarea (after school program) had their graduations. Here is one of the two classes:

In July we had a ceremony to recognize the campaign we had to declare previously unregistered citizens. Fifty-one people were declared in all. Here I am with project counterpart Cristino from a neighboring community, Peace Corps Director Romeo Massey who was kind enough to make the trip for this event, and President of the Foundation Lesley Sosa:

Families of some of the 51 people we declared with our birth registration campaign:

The hard-working kids from our Escojo Mi Vida youth group at their graduation. The tie theme was their idea:

Our Escojo youth group took a field trip to visit another group near Puerto Plata, almost 5 hours away!:

I brought two girls from my Escojo youth group to the Celebrando el Cibao camp, which teaches kids about diversity:

My fellow youth volunteers at our close of service conference in September. Two years later - we made it!

Here's my cat Moreno sleeping on my bookshelf in my new apartment:

Here I am with the three youth I brought to the Escojo National Conference with our regional youth coordinator:

...I had brought them to the capital for the first time, so we took a quick tour!

My youth group gave their first official presentation as teen multipliers, teaching kids in a neighboring community about their bodies and how to put on condoms. It was a great success! They have continued with motivation ever since. Just last week they organized a march for world AIDS day:

Nurse Joan performed (translated for) hernia surgeries for a week in early November:

Fellow Vounteers finished their projects and went home. Here is Ben at the inauguration of the aqueduct he constructed to bring running water to three communities. Ben went home to marry his long-time girlfriend! Finally!:

Margo and I at the good-bye party for all of the volunteers we trained with. Margo and I are both extending our service:

David and I WOWed the crowd with a salsa dance at the talent show of our Thanksgiving celebration. I danced with another friend for the Merengue contest, we came in second (we won last year):

I managed a trip home in September as well!

Nicki got married:

...and so did Sarah:

Mary had a baby boy:

Marc and I played:

Crystal and I spent an afternoon at Tealuxe on Newbury street:

Jeff and I had coffee in Salem:

Cheryl and Alison and I dined in Swampscott:

And the family was together again:

I'll be back in July. Keep in touch!