Si Dios Quiere

It’s the tagline of every Doña and otherwise God-fearing person in the DR: Si Dios Quiere. Literally translated it means “if God is willing,” but it’s also a handy way to get out of doing things you would rather avoid… “Sure I’ll take your dogs for a walk, si Dios quiere.” The people here are so independent of time, that they even use the phrase when setting a time and place to meet up. While the tardiness can get old, I highly doubt this phrase ever will. It’s an elegant way of saying you might not come good on what you promised while still not claiming any culpability.

While the honeymoon phase may be past, I still find myself in awe at the beauty of this country and the people who have come to serve alongside me. It’s an amazing feeling being surrounded my so many like-minded individuals… It’s like having someone pre-select 32 best friends for you. The only caveat is that this is the last week of training here in Santo Domingo. Beginning next week, we will be separated into our sectors: Community Economic Development and Education. My group (CED) will be heading to a smaller town called Peralvillo where we will be focusing on the specific skills and training we will need to be effective volunteers. From what I gather, this community-based training will be much more intense and detailed than what we have experienced thus far. It is 5 weeks of presentations, hands-on projects and lectures. At any rate, I’m thrilled to see a new part of the country and meet my second (of three) Dominican host families. It will be a great test of how we are progressing, and we may even still have Internet and running water… si Dios quiere.

This last week has been quite a challenge. They tell you in training that the word diarrhea makes you giggle until it actually happens. Welp, it happened. Often. Some contaminated Chinese food that was catered in to our training site affected several of us. The worst seems to be over, but what made it really interesting was that this weekend, I had to travel waaayyy up in the mountains to visit a volunteer site to get an idea of the different types of projects CED volunteers are involved with. With my antibiotics and oral rehydration salts in tow, I managed to make a successful trip. I’m sure this will not be the last illness I will have while in the Peace Corps, but I will definitely remember it as my first.

Tomorrow is my first written exam and Spanish evaluation… So perhaps I should go crack open the books. Plus I just really want to go try and catch one of the many lizards who keep darting past me on the porch.

I love you all and miss you like crazy, but I wouldn’t change places with anybody in the world right now. I will try and give you one last update before I head up to Peralvillo… si Dios quiere.

Paz y amor,
-Andrés

Spit, Spit… Think about it, Spit

Well here I am… In the country I have waited for months and months to experience. They say that the DR is the third loudest country in the world, and I surely believe it. If people aren’t singing at the top of their lungs, they are shouting for their neighbors to come join them in a game of dominos or to have a little coffee and chat. If they aren’t blasting their bachata or reggaeton, the rooster songs take their place.

The very first thing we learned was how to safely drink the water… Which was basically not to at all. Even when brushing our teeth, we were instructed to spit twice and then come back to the sink later on to spit again just to be sure. So far so good! As long as I fill up my water bottles at the training center during the day, no pasará nada.

I have only spent 4 days here, but I already feel completely at home. Within minutes of meeting my host Doña, I was her son. She took me by the arm and proceeding to introduce me to all of the neighbors that would listen. Then, she asked me if I knew why she would do such a thing. She said that now if anyone gave me any trouble, they knew exactly who they would have to deal with as a result! I will never forget when she asked me which foods I prefer. I told her that I will eat anything that she prepares me and she began to chant and sing and dance wildly, saying “Andrés come de todo!!!!!” Evidently, all of the previous volunteers she has had in her house have been vegetarians… Something Dominicans do not understand well. But I promise you that the food here is FANTASTIC! I have tried yuca, plátanos hervidos, mangú, cacao, and so many new delicious foods that my taste buds are dancing with excitement. On top of all that, they have the absolute best fresh orange juice I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Maybe I will gain weight here after all.

I’m currently living a short 15 minute walk from the Peace Corps training center in the Pantoja neighborhood of Santo Domingo. Perhaps the most difficult thing I have had to deal with so far is simply hanging my mosquito net… Some instructions would have helped! Although everyone keeps remarking at how white I am, I’m confident that once I get a tan and learn to dance, I will fit right in. These are some of the nicest, warmest people I have ever encountered and I cannot wait to see where this adventure takes me next!

Until we speak again,

¡Nos vemos!

–Andrés

20130309-131525.jpg