Feliz Coffee-Años

Coffee. One of the basic necessities of my life. Thus, one of my biggest disappointments in the DR. Oh sure, they drink coffee. It’s usually nice and bold and piping hot. So why am I complaining? Unless you buy it at a restaurant (and sometimes even then), the coffee is served as a tiny splash in the bottom of your cup. How on Earth does anyone in this country get motivated to do, well… anything… without at least a full cup of joe in the morning? As far as I can tell, they are all just naturally morning people. People are routinely out and about, up and at ’em, twisting and shouting starting at about 7. I imagine the main reason behind the eagerness to get out of bed is because it is by FAR the coolest part of the day, and any self-respecting person would like to get all of his or her errands done before 10am when the sun starts to really get in the way. Quite a smart plan if you ask me, because afterward they Doñas can relax at home with plenty of reason to take a nice long nap after lunch (but only if there’s electricity and you can use your fan).

Aside from being severely under-caffeinated, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the rest of my service here. My project partners are great and very well-connected and have taken me in with open arms. Plus, I set up wi-fi for my office. (Yes, I have an office.) What’s not to love about that?

I’m getting started on my Community Diagnostic, which is a volunteer’s first responsibility. It entails getting as much information as possible regarding the different aspects of the site by interviewing, chatting, sitting and observing with your neighbors. On the surface it sounds like a great way to get to know more people and the lives they lead, but more often than not it turns into them asking me to fix their garbage collection schedule or complaining to me about the neighbor they had 30 years ago. It’s a very slo o o o w w w w w w process since to get them to really open up to me, I’ve got to spend a few afternoons just sitting with them and taking the tiny coffee shots they make for me before I can begin to ask them about their income and what they would like to see developed in Monte Cristi.

It is ONE WEEK until my birthday. Most of the volunteers in the DR all meet up to celebrate Independence Day so I will get to be with some good friends when I cumplo años. Where are we meeting you may ask? This year we are going to the Samaná peninsula… Supposedly the most beautiful part of the island. Getting there will require no fewer than 4 buses as I am located on the exact opposite side of the country. All I know is that based on what I’ve heard from the locals, this trip is going to be well worth it.

I suppose I should get back to interviewing… I’ll write again soon. Promise.

Happy Early Independence Day friends!

–Andrés

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Teach Me How to Creole

For a little more than two weeks now I have been living full-time in Monte Cristi and seemingly every day I find another reason to appreciate this place even more. While I don’t have Internet at my house, I am adept and “stealing” wifi from hotels and restaurants. Keeping in touch with the happenings in the States (not to mention the French Open!!!) is most assuredly maintaining my sanity. During the past week and a half, the city has been celebrating its Patronales festival. Each town has its own patron saint (ours is San Fernando) and it is basically an excuse to have non-stop fun for 12 days. There is live music, food, games, and even a Ferris wheel! I managed to make friends with a vendor who teaches tennis in Santiago, the second biggest city in the DR, and it paid off since he was always willing to give me several extra splashes of rum in the drinks he was serving. All in all, I survived the first Patronales here and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

This past week was a tremendously interesting one. A group of about 25 doctors, pediatricians, optometrists, pharmacists and med students came as a part of a program called Timmy. They save up equipment and medicine all year and do pro-bono work in the poorest areas of the country. In the three days I assisted them as an interpreter, we went to different bateyes (very rural, isolated, poor, agriculture-based, communities) and I got to experience a new aspect of life here. I was honored to be asked to help and I am very glad I went. The entire week we saw 553 patients, some of whom had very serious maladies, and were able to provide some of them with the only access to healthcare they receive. On the last day, the majority of the people who came to the clinic were Haitian, which took our translating to a completely different level. For example, imagine trying to get a medical history on someone when you need to first have someone ask the question in English for me to translate into Spanish so that another interpreter can ask the patient in Creole… Only to go back through the chain in order to get the response. Stressful? Yes. Amazing to take part in? YES! I’m really excited for them to come back next May and do it all over again. It was the first point in my service to date in which I felt like what I was working on was directly benefiting someone else. Instant gratification goes a long way in terms of motivation.

On a different, more sobering note, last weekend I went swimming in the ocean with some friends with my phone in my pocket. And a few minutes later got knocked over by a wave and lost my glasses. It would seem that when you are in a beautiful place with beautiful weather and beautiful people, you tend to overlook the small details. Thank goodness for my second pair of glasses and the fact that the Peace Corps gives me one more phone… But this one has to last me the next 23.5 months, so wish me luck. Entonces, this week I will be making a trip back to Santo Domingo (about a 5 hour bus ride) to get my new phone and my green card. Yeah, I will actually have residency here. Score!

In case you were wondering, yes, it is still really stinkin’ hot here. All that stuff I said about getting used to the heat? Nonsense. Still sweating all day errrryday. But at least now I have a beach to be on while I’m complaining.

I miss you guys! But, in all honesty, I just remembered that I had hidden some Oreo’s in my luggage so I’m probably just going to go stuff myself with them and forget all about you.

Peace, love, and Oreo creme,
-Andrés

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