Long Hair and Four Square

Long time, no see.

I promise I didn’t forget about you guys. Things move so much slower here, and it only seems natural that my blogging frequency goes right along with it. Some aspects of this culture make it so easy to live that you may never want to leave, such as being able to walk ten feet to the corner store and get just 5 pesos (12 cents) of sugar or even just asking for something on the premise that they know you’ll pay it back… Eventually. If somebody sees you walking home at midday, they will give you a ride just because being in the sun is simply unacceptable. Everybody always greets everybody. Always. On a bus, in a store, on the street, it doesn’t matter… You have to say hello. Or else.

However, after being here for almost 7 months (only 20 more to go!), certain things are bound to start to get annoying. Primarily, the absolute disregard for anything resembling customer service. If you don’t have the patience for the guy behind the counter to finish talking to his cousin about that baseball game or that group of old women gossiping about who that one lady was walking down the street with yesterday… You’re shit out of luck. Perhaps the most frustrating is when it’s finally your turn, and then someone else walks in and the whole scenario plays out again. Can’t a guy just get a Wal-Mart greeter around here? I don’t usually spend a great deal of time reminiscing about the U.S., but the President of the group I work with just got back from a trip to California and he was more than eager to swap stories with me. He started talking about all the clean bathrooms, the air conditioning, the well-maintained (and safe) roads, the giant supermarkets, the fancy restaurants (read: Applebee’s), and the great weather. While I may not agree with his supposition that the U.S. is the best nation in the world based on those criteria, I have to say it did make me think a lot about home and just how comfortable I was there.

Then I snap back to reality and remember that this is exactly the kind of challenge I signed up for. And even though I sometimes have days where I feel jaded and frustrated, I still feel extremely lucky. Living a twenty minute walk from the beach is great therapy, I promise you.

This past weekend, I was able to get away from Montecristi and head down the coast to visit some other volunteer friends. I can now cross off Puerto Plata and Sosúa off my list of places to visit… Although I definitely plan on more visits in the future. It’s just a great feeling being able to spend time in another volunteer’s world. Meeting their old host families, seeing their houses, and getting to know their community all help you get a different feel for your life here. Sometimes you get some ideas from them, and sometimes you become immediately grateful for getting the site you did. (Because I totally got the best site. Ssshhh don’t tell them I said that).

In other news, this past Tuesday was a national holiday… Day of Mercedes or Day of the Virgin Altagracia… Nobody really seems to know, but they did know that they didn’t have to go to work! So being the good Dominincan-in-training that I am, I followed their lead and didn’t do much of anything besides stay out of the sun. In the afternoon, some of my friends called and said they were going to the Orphanage to play some basketball with the kids and asked me to come. When we got there, I quickly realized the basketball was actually an intense, all-adult, all-out game. Naturally, I decided that I had best not participate. Plus, that would mean another shower. I ended up starting a pick-up game of four square with some of the younger kids. And they were definitely better than me. And yes, I sweated profusely and had to shower again anyway. We ended up playing for something like two hours, and it turned out to be one of the best afternoons I have had in this country. Not only being able to revert to childhood, but to just to spend time with such amazing, adorable, happy-with-what-they-have children. Nobody was trying to cheat, or fight for their turn in line, or calling each other names. They simply enjoyed playing and sharing and being with their friends and feeling cool enough to play four square with some adults! Afterwards, they all wanted their picture taken. And I, the brilliantly unprepared person that I am, only had my stupid Peace Corps phone that takes horrible photos. But I snapped several pictures anyway, and when I figure out how to upload them on there, I will! Those kids wiped away any sort of frustration or lack of faith in humanity that I had developed and I can’t wait to go back and lose at four square again!

I love and miss all of you!

Hasta la próxima,
–Andy

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