Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I forgot to mention in our last post that Scott and I now have a puppy! Her name is Peachy. Sometimes we call her Princess Peach when she's being a brat. But usually she is the nicest and cutest puppy you can imagine. We got her from one of our neighbors whose dog had a litter of tiny puppies. We started taking care of her at 4 or 5 weeks, so now she's just at 2 months. She's grown a lot in that time. She was about the size of Scott's foot when we got her. Now she's almost 3 times that size and growing more every day. Life is never boring with her around. As you can imagine, she loves to follow us around the house all day and play.

Pictures of Peachy:

She loves to sleep on top of backpacks.

Always begging for food

When we first got her, she could fit into this tiny bowl!

Jackpot! Dirty laundry!

When we first got her - how tiny!

Her favorite sock

Stretched out in her "bed" - a plastic bowl

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Photos

Really cool looking caterpillar at our neighbor's house

The community carpenter building our house!

Beginning stages of construction

House with zinc roof and posts

View from our kitchen window - beautiful!

Our new kitchen

Our living room

The view from our front house - you can see our neighbors house (they were the ones who built our house)

Party at the end of our nutrition course

All of the wonderful, healthy food that our women made!

Women of the nutrition course explaining how the meals they made incorporate food from 3 important food groups

Graduates of the nutrition course

March 11, 2012

We’ve had a very busy couple of months here which is why this is our first blog post in quite a while. We spent the latter end of January finishing up our community diagnostic and preparing for our 3-month in-service training conference (where we presented the results of our diagnostic). Then we spent most of February working on getting moved into our new house and planning out our work for the next year. Only now have things started to calm down a bit in the sense that we have time to focus on other things.

So, we are very happy to announce that we are FINALLY moved in to our new house. We made an agreement with one of our community members a couple of months ago that if he built us a house, we would rent it for the 20 or so months we have left of our service. It seemed like a great plan until the costs of building the house became more expensive week after week and the people building the house continued to push back the deadline. In the end, we had to pay over twice the amount we expected to pay to build the house in the form of an advance on our rent, and we had to wait 2 weeks later than we expected to move in. The good news is that now we have a nice new house and don’t have to worry about paying rent! The house is certainly a lot nicer than we thought we would have in the Peace Corps.

In terms of our work, we’ve started our health groups – one for adults and one for the youth. We are having a lot of fun with both of them. The women are very interested and motivated to learn about how they can improve their health and that of their families. We have a good group of youth too who have a lot of fun participating in our class activities. Hopefully we will be able to get a good amount of promoters from both of these groups.

 Now that our health groups are off the ground, we’ve started working on some other potential projects as well. We had a meeting with the community several weeks ago in which we asked them to list and then prioritize their top desired projects for the community. Of course, they chose a paved road first, which unfortunately is not something we will be able to do in our time here. But another high priority they listed is the building of a clinic, which makes a lot of sense for a community with two Peace Corps health volunteers. And luckily for us, we already have a head start.

About ten years ago, one of the political parties started construction of a clinic in our campo. But after losing the national elections they left the clinic unfinished. So we basically have the unfinished structure of a clinic with just walls and a roof. We had a civil engineer come out to check the building a few days ago and not surprisingly, he said it had some structural problems. So it looks like we will have to do some repairs on the structure that we already have. The good news though is that it is still safe enough to use as the frame for building the new clinic. This will definitely save us some time and money.

So this will probably be the focus of our work in the coming months. We are also contemplating starting some small income generation projects and business skills workshops with the women’s group here but that will depend on our time and resources.

We know this blog post is already very long but we also wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who has been sending us packages. We can’t tell you how nice it is to receive gifts and news from home! Those small gifts help us make it through the day sometimes. So thank you and keep them coming! J

Until our next blog post!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rain Rain Go Away

January 11, 2012

Rain, rain, rain. That’s about all we’ve seen here for the past week. Which means that we have plenty of time to blog but very little in the way of updates to blog about. So instead of telling you all the boring details of our week, I chose to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the daily routine of our family.

As we may have already explained, our host family is composed of 6 people, not including us. First, there’s the mother and father, Doña Ena and Don Patricio. Then there are the two daughters and one son – Paula, Yubrelis, and Carlito. They also have a grandson living with them named Manuel, and occasionally their older son Bienvenido (literally meaning “welcome”) stays the night with the family.

Like most of the women in our community, our doña is the “ama de la casa,” or a housewife. Here that basically means she works harder than anyone else around here and doesn’t get much appreciation for it. Doña Ena is usually the first or second person to wake up for the day. Sometimes Patricio gets up first to go to the fields to work with the crops. The first thing our host mother does is make coffee, usually in time for the men to drink a bit before heading off to the fields. After that, she sweeps the whole yard with a broom to move the trash away from the living areas (imagine someone sweeping dirt around the yard and you’ve got the picture). That might sound strange but people here do not use trash cans, and therefore just throw their trash on the ground when they’re done with it. After that Doña Ena starts to make breakfast for the day – usually hot chocolate with bread. After that she starts on the real chores of the day, which can range from sweeping and mopping the house, doing the laundry by hand (this takes most of the day), or going to the fields to harvest guandules (a type of bean that has to be shelled after harvesting – it kind of looks like peas). She starts to make lunch at about 12 o’clock and usually finishes by 2 pm. Then, if she doesn’t have any major chores left to do, she usually has a little bit of time to rest. Some of the other chores that she works on daily include: feeding the pigs, shelling the guandules, working in the garden, collecting and chopping firewood, and taking food to the fields for the men. At night she usually makes something small for dinner and lights the fire. We all end up sitting around a campfire for an hour or two before turning in to bed.

While Doña Ena is working at the house, Don Patricio spends his morning working in the fields. He does all of the regular things you would imagine a farmer doing – planting, weeding, and harvesting. The usual crops he works with are yucca, rice, auyama, batata, and sugar cane. He grows other starchy vegetable crops as well. As Don Patricio is a little bit on in years, he has to hire help (usually from one of the Haitian families that live here and don’t own land) to work with him in the fields. While Patricio sometimes spends all day working in the fields, he usually comes home at about 12 or 1 o’clock in the afternoon and is then free to hang around for most of the rest of the day. Sometimes he does other chores in the afternoon like drying and pounding the rice and fixing tools. Around evening time, Patricio usually leaves the house and visits the nearby colmados to hang out with his friends and relax. He then comes back at night and spends some time with the family around the fire before going to bed.

Like their parents, our host sisters also work very hard. When they are not in school, they usually spend most of the day helping Doña Ena with the chores. This includes sweeping and mopping the house, cooking the meals, washing the clothes, and doing any of the other numerous things that need doing. Even when they do go to school, they usually leave at about 7 in the morning and come home at about 12 in the afternoon, so they spend the rest of their day helping with chores. They often leave around evening time like their father to spend some time with other teenagers in the campo and come home a bit later.

As for Carlito, our host brother, he is actually quite lucky in that he is one of the few people in the campo to have a full-time job. From 9 to 4 Monday to Friday he works for a government organization called Brigada Verde that works on reforestation projects in campos like ours. Therefore he spends all of his morning and afternoon planting pine trees in various locations in our campo. He often comes home to eat lunch with us but besides that we don’t get to see him that often.

And what does Manuel do then? Well, he spends his day terrorizing the chickens and generally being a nuisance to everyone around him. He’s really not that bad, he just has a bad case of ADD. He does actually help a bit too. He runs to the colmado occasionally to buy food or sometimes he even works with Patricio in the fields.

While this is a typical day in the life of our host family, rest assured that none of this has been going on for the past week. Unfortunately we’ve all been cooped up in our rooms hoping that the rain ends soon and the sun comes out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

January 3, 2012
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Rather than travel elsewhere within the country for Christmas, we decided to stay with our host family and experience a Campo Christmas.  This was good in that we got to spend time with much of the extended family and meet a lot of people.  It was, however, challenging in that we had to spend time with much of the extended family and meet a lot of people.

Many people come to visit the families in our campo for Christmas and New Year’s.  This is because many of the people who grow up here eventually leave to attend school or find work.  Frequently they get married to someone outside of the campo and start a family in the city.  It would seem that all of them return for Christmas, and I would venture to say that the population of the campo doubles.  We had 15 people living in our house for the Christmas holidays, which extend to about a week and a half or two weeks here.  As I mentioned previously, it was very nice to meet all of the relatives and spend time with our host family.  However, that many people living in one house for such a long time can make you go crazy.
Additionally, it turned out that our house was a top visiting spot for everyone in the campo.  I would say that there were two main reasons for this.  One, we have two teenage girls in the house who are a magnet to young bachelors from all over the region.  Two, our family has two Americans staying with them that apparently are remarkably entertaining.  I’m not sure why, but it is a rare occasion when visitors from outside the campo want to talk to us.  They would much rather stand right in front of us and talk about us with other people.  This can be frustrating because they do this even after they find out that we speak decent(ish) Spanish.  I think this is partly because they just don’t know what to make of two Americans living and working in the campo.  Anyway, the large groups of gawkers that we encountered did little to make us feel comfortable.

Christmas Day did not feel very much like Christmas, but it was still a good enough day.  There were no decorations, presents, nor carols, but we did have a nice meal with pork, rice, and beans.  We were a bit spoiled with meat during Christmas as it is generally a once-per-week occasion.  On Christmas day, we went to a Palos party that was pretty neat.  Palos are sort of like large African drums and people dance to the playing and singing of some of the community men.  The dance itself is not very complex and I would describe it as fancy shuffling.  Everybody wanted to see us shuffle, though, as we were constantly encouraged to dance more.  I believe that while this may be for the pleasant intention of them wanting to us to share in their culture, it’s more likely that they find our dancing to be extraordinarily entertaining.  We had some very tasty refreshments at the party as well, including an orange-flavored juice and the stale hamburger bread biscuits.  We would regret the juice around midnight as it turned out to have been made from unpurified water and we spent the rest of the night clearing our systems.  Yay!

We did not stay up for New Years.  We did go to a New Year’s party at the brand-new colmado recently opened by our project partner.  We did not stay long though as people were mostly sitting around and talking amongst each other.  And, if you recall that people in groups prefer to talk about us rather that to us, that wasn’t very exciting.  We went home and watched the Lord of the Rings on our laptop with Spanish subtitles.  I probably didn’t learn much Spanish, at least not useful Spanish. You rarely get the opportunity to say things like ''Find the halflings!''

Right now we are getting ready for our courses and writing up our diagnostic report.  It’s a bit quiet but we are pressing forward.  We are also excited that it looks like the foundation will be poured soon for our house!  As much as we love our host family, it will be good to have some space and privacy* to ourselves.  Here’s to the start of a new and exciting year!

*on privacy: It is unlikely that the word “privacy” has a direct translation to Dominican Spanish, because it does not exist here.

December Pictures

Host father proudly sporting a huge Auyama (starchy vegetable that we eat a LOT of here)

Scott playing with our host brother Manuel

Festival of Palos

Meg and one of our pals from the community

Making juice for the Palos Festival


Baby of a different sort!

Our host family´s pig

The pigs apparently don´t mind if Manuel rides on their backs

One of the streams we have to cross to get to one of our communities 

More dancing at the Palos Festival

Meg working on the health diagnostic

Pictures - Garden and Host Family