Well, Great Falls, Montana has one cool “brewery”, Bert and Ernies, even though they don’t make any beer, they just sell it from all over, mostly Oregon….hehe
Day 6 on the road today. We spent our first night in Couer d’ Alene, Idaho camping at a beautiful spot where bald eagles nested. From there we b-lined north to Canada and just had Banff on our minds. We arrived Saturday night to a rowdy group of college kids, by this I mean now that I’m becoming an old-lady, college is the new high-school. They seem soooo young and ridiculous. We spent two days and two nights doing great hikes and topping it off with sweet camp fires….and bull deer everywhere!
Then we cruised down to Waterton NP and fell in love!! The park was sunny, empty and mountains breath-taking. Canadian folks are seriously so NICE! We camped right on the lake and did some kick-ass hikes that kicked my ass. MJ took on the “best hike in Canada” and tackled Crypt Lake, aka “all Bussiness” while me and my blistered feet boarded the 80 year-old International ship for a cruise through Waterton and Glacier, sweet ride, minus the 100 other senior citizens averaging age 75 . Just kidding. We saw 3 moose!!!!! (did you know that moose babies can swim 2 seconds after they are born? and they can swim for 6 mph for 2 hours without stopping!) soooo cool, and a red cinnamon colored bear. Did you guys know that all along the Canadian/American border, where there is just trees, they chainsaw down a 15-foot wide path between the countries. Just a wide blank gap of nothing….they’ve been doing this since the 30′s and about every 15 years a group of men just walk the whole damn thing with chainsaws in tow. Pretty silly if you ask me.
Alright, enough fun facts for now…….
Today was my last day of a 3-day intensive training for my summer job. It was so many things, but mostly overwhelming…SO many amazing people who are from around the world, been around the world and still believe in a better way- For the world, for the youth. Adjusting back to the living-out -of-a-bag life has been a trip. Sleeping in a giant room with 50 others on mattresses in a school-gym, sharing my life, all of it , so different from my past 3 years. The women who run this program, are phenomenal. Strong, smart, eccentric and powerful. My soul feels foul today. It’s so refreshing after my last job, over the last year sucked it dry…hehehe =)
Anyways, all of the teams departd today ……to…Costa Rica, Peru, Virgin islands, Alaska, Dominican Republic….etc. me and the other Mississippi staff cleaned up and headed up to one of the VISIONS founders house ( Crispy) where she has this extremely incredible, funky, earthy, stylish house in the hills of this crazy rural Pennsylvania town and along with this house that has a humongous deck with pool, hot-tub, outdoor kitchen, tables, upper deck, sun-room you name-it we swam, watched the sun-set over the hills and then the lightening bugs began to glitter all through the fields and trees….It was magical. Kinda like paradise!!
Hope you all are having some summer magic too!
Well, I seriously can’t believe that it has been so long! my life in Portland now feels like an eternity away… as all of my energy is consumed daily by kids that need to be asked to sweep, taught how to hammer, supervised in a food distribution center, have aloe rubbed onto their sunburns, reminded to put on more sunscreen, bandaids over their blisters etc. etc. Not that I am complaining, they are GREAT kids and I have thouroughly enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them one by one.
For the most part they are all from the Northeast, most are in boarding schools or private schools, a few in prep schools. All are very well traveled and educated. The parents are either president of NBC or NYC tv stations, a commercial HANES ans Crystal Light actresses or a psychologist. They have done several programs like VISIONS and have a really interesting reality.
The work has been good. We’re constructing an outdoor classroom at the school we’re living at, to help promote environmental education and assist the communities goal of creating a greenway through “Turkey Creek”. I’m loving building again, I will also be heading up the mosaic designs for the ground, which should be exciting. We also head out into Biloxi and surrounding areas to help organize donation centers where people come for donated food…the kids love it because they collect all the people’s info like FEMA #’s and address and then prepare food baskets for them and hand them out. It’s very tangible results. Through this process , you find out if they lost employment or their house due to the hurricane and you receive some pretty amazing stories. It’s rewarding and devastating.
We have been adopted into a Baptist church, with the name of a preacher named “Big O”. We met him at his other job, pouring cement, as he poured the cement into our outdoor classroom ( that was REALLY hard work by the way…picture me in rubber boots raking cement) He’s by far the most colorful character I have met down here….and the competition is stiff. Within 5 minutes of our meeting he was calling me “BB” and talking like Ludacris and reciting his love for Fried chicken. I can’t quite explain his church services, but they’re incredibly fun, alive and full of singing, swaying and clapping Hallelujah!!!!!!
Today is my day off and I am in New Orleans. I love this city. The charm just sort of grabs you and won’t let you go. It’s hotter than an oven and I’m sweating balls….which isn’t helping my swamp ass syndrome. This is most likely way too much info…but I’d say 10 out of the 32 people I live with are all suffering….and you just have to swallow your pride and apply diaper ointments to your bumm daily to ease the pain. Sweating constantly + humid, moist air = swamp ass….if ya know what I mean.
Alright ya’ll, on that note….I’m gonna cruise. I do have good news. I received my Peace Corps placement last week; The Dominican Republic is where they have invited me to serve. I will depart on September 5th.
I’m done with Visions Service Adventures. We drove back from Mississippi on Thursday, spent the night in Tennessee and arrived in Penn on Friday. Saturday MJ and I drove to DC to visit some AmeriCorps friends ( wild and crazy 5amer time) and tomorrow we begin the New England adventure. Providence, RI to see Brown, Boston to drink big beers with funny redsox maniacs, and Brattleboro, VT to visit School for International Training ( my potential home after Peace Corps) Exhausting!!! but great all the same. I’m all about soaking up the states this last month before I leave for the Dominican Republic in September. Once I get back to Oregon, I’v got some serious packing to do!! of course after Victor and Rachel’s wedding in Bend, Ani DiFranco in Eugene at the Secret Vineyard and hangin with the folks at Hemp Fest in Seattle.
I’m lovin the humidity on the east coast…not so bad during the day, but hot summer nights are definately where it’s at. Of course, I’m sure I will be cursing them soon enough in the DR….I just wanted to give an update and write some, it helps to ground my existence. Hello to everyone.
Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying some hot summer nights as well!
Well, it´s been sooo long since I have written last and I think it´s about time to make an entry. I am here in week 7 of a 12 week Peace Corps training program. My group started out spending the first 3 or 4 weeks in Barrios of Santo Domingo, which was very urban yet very compact and doable. I got use to jumping in carro publicos with 7 other dominicans when hailing a taxi, blaring bachata music everywhere, at all times and everyday of the week. I still cannot figure out how one can possibly be in the mood for blaring music while drinking coffee at 6 in the morning, washing your car at noon and later while sipping a Presidente at the local colmado, but they are, they´re always in the mood. Variety, I always forget that is a granted privelage, I always have to get use to it when I enter a developing counrty…rice and beans…rice and beans…rice and beans….hey ya want some bachata music with your rice and beans??? It´s awesome. The good news is, that I like rice, beans and bachata music. It´s also a beautiful country…there is an array of diversity in the landscape that I know will lend me hours and hours of exploring and will definately nourish my soul over the next few years.Waterfalls, rivers, mountains and ocean to my hearts content. The people are wonderful, they open their houses up to us gringos as if we are part of the family and you really do become part of the family…and this is a very domincan quality. I love it, it´s beautiful.
Speaking Spanish, the last few days have actually been good in terms of I am finally beginning to understand what people are saying…can I always say something back ? nope, but I think I am improving….a little to say the least. I am experiencing the frustration that is intertwined with not being able to express yourself in it entirety….me gusta does not capture how happy I am when I get served deliciously fresh chinola juice…..and me me gusta does not even begin to explain my hatred for those damn platanos that have keep me away from the toiliet for long periods of time if you know what I mean.
What have I come here to do? good question. Silly me , at first I thought the Dominican Republic was goign to be an easy country to be in. I was so wrong. This country has got a list of problems so long and large I am overwhelmed by where we can even start. I want to teach the youth everything and anything i can, but will that end descrimination against Haitians?? not if they can´t read what I write….they go to school for 3 to 4 hours a day and receive only a an hour or two of lessons, which are usually entirely unproductive and involve rote memorization. They are very good at copying down the date and week. The HIV and AIDS problem in this country is also a large and towering issue that they are afraid to talk about……and where to even begin on gender issues, oh my gosh these women have got their work cut out for them….and like most places in the world right now….more women are receiving higher educations and yet can´t get jobs. Please don´t even get me started ont eh sexual harrassment in this country. The DR ranks number one on sexual harrassment in the world!!!! sweet! The blackouts here in the DR???? why and how to fix them??? those are the golden questions….so yes, this is a perfect country to have the Peace Corps in, or any development organization for that matter.
I hope to find out my placement in the country this Friday…..I am very anxious.
Until then, I hope you all are well and thanks for reading my post ( if you have made it this far)
Well, okay I’m definatley not the wrold’s best blogger, I’ll admit it. It’s been almost 4 months…jesus christ, I would ask myself where does the time go? but I know the answer. It’s in a plastic chair on the one road that cruises through my town practicing the Dominican national past time, which one Peace Corps volunteer calls the “Psychology of Sitting”. It’s really an event and activity, rather than “nothing” as most Americans consider it.
Alright, well I’v been in my site a little over two months….La Mina, Republica Dominicana. It’s about 10 minutes inland fromt the North Coast in the foothills of the Cordillera Septrinnial mountain range. It’a about 20 minutes from Cabarete the big, extreme sport capital of the DR, with surfing, kitboarding and windsurfing being very popular! and tourists from around the world visit. The culture in Cabarete, deeply influences my site just 20 minutes away.
My town is tranquilo, very easy-going, quiet, rural, isolated. It took some getting use to as the rest of the country is constantly blaring bachata and merengue, motoconchos zoom by, the noise is so prevelant all day. My family situation has been a nightmare and finally at the end of this month I am able to move out and get my own place!!! such a god sent after 6 months of Dominican Donas telling me what to do, how to do it etc. Whew…I can smell the freedom down the road.
My project is pretty fitting as I am helping out in a Montessori Kindergarten started by a German doctor, Gideon my counterpart and owner of Blue Moon. www.bluemoonretreat.com I have started teaching English classes to the community, will eventually be doing computer classes too ( I know me! ) and the goal is to develop the space of the school into a community center in the afternoon. We will work towards opening an internet center, then there are the volunteer groups that come and stay at Blue Moon through the DREAM Project ( Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring Project), which I will be planning service projects and cultural exchanges with the youth of La Mina with.
December was a tough month as the holidays were very uneventful in my town. The more rural and more poverty the less holidays are acknowledged, thus I was home alone all day x-mas and no one in town mentioned anything. It was strange. I was not having a good month in terms of trying to wrap my mind around the concept of living in this community for two years, still struggling with the language and just all around adjustment. January was better…I felt like I got some of myself back…met more people….began some classes….and then last week the volunteers in the north, had a meeting on the Smana Peninsula, BEAUTIFUL!!! my favorite place so far and we got to go whale-watching as the humpbacks are going through right now. It was great! I saw huge whales breaching about 20 feet away. Then they dropped us off at a tropical island in the bay with the most gorgeous beach I’v seen in the DR and we swam all day and finished it off with a fresh pina colada in a pineapple with some Brugal Rum….everyone’s favorite. So here’s to February!
Next week is a big event in the capital,,the Peace Corps is celebrating the 45th Anniversary of its presence in the country. We are going to the palace to meet the President. MJ is flying in to visit for awhile and my Dad and Denise will be here for the last two weeks as well!!! most importantly, I can’t wait to see some familiar faces. I will be moving out and going it alone!!!! I can’t stress the excitement there. I think it’s going to be a pivotol moment in my experience here in the DR. Other than all those highlights…I’m just living the Caribbean life….showering in the river, swimming in the ocean, killing terrantulas with Machetes, and eating pinas and avocados…..it’s not so bad….I’v been living the longest summer of my life..going on 9 months now. My brother Jamaal proposed to his girlfriend Des and they will be getting married in Yosemite National park on August 12th…so I’ll be making my first trip back to the states in August. Hopefully I’ll get to see alot of you.
Sending warm rays of sunshine!!!
All my Love,
Okay, well I think I was right. Moving out and living on my own was a pivotol moment for me here in the DR. The autonomy of living alone is fabulous and challenging in the kind of way, peace corps volunteers expect to be challenged. However, I must admit, I have it soooo much easier than I ever imagined. My vision of me was in the andes, lugging water to my mud-hut, no electricity…rice, rice and more rice. While, life here is still hard and challenging due to numerous variables….sporadic electricity, no running water, poverty, lack of resources, lack of education, lack of being able to culturally relate…my life is good. I live in the upper part of a cement house( for two months now)…built by a german guy who is friends with the German doctor who brought me into town. I have running water , thanks to the fact that he built and connected a pvc pipe from Blue Moon the tourist retreat in town to the house. I have a big from porch and amazing back balcony that catches this fantastic breeze off the foothills and is a god-sent on a hot caribbean day. Plus, the view rocks. Also, I can access my roof by stairs and watch the sun retrieve each night and gaze at the stars that only an August Montana night can rival.
I am really starting to love and enjoy the people in my community. The work and projects are picking up and so is my Spanish( comparatively). I just started a girls club to empower the females in the area and am very excited about the direction and motivation of this group. English classes are going well and I am getting prepared for 3 months of craziness as 25 American college students willl be in town from May18th- August 10th volunteering their services. I am almost for sure going to get a little boxer pup in the next month. I almost got one in the capital yesterday and a Domican snatched him up, I am very excited for this. I have no real adventures to share that I can think of, just alot of little moments that I have stored up in my treasure box of memories…like when the 3 year old that lives below me began looking through my Rolling Stone magazine that was sent to me, and found a picture of Borat in his infamous yellow uni-swim suit…and she asked me if that was a boy or girl? and why were they wearing that?? stumped. Or when some teenage boys come over to play their Hip-Hop cubano cd they got from god knows where on my computer and I hang out in the dark of my front porch bumping hip-hop cubano swatting cucarachas and cienpies fom my feet with teenage boys. It’s not so bad I tell ya, lonely at times, but not so bad. So here’s to hoping that I’ll survive the heat and the 25 gringos locos this summer! I hope you all are good. Lots of Love and un abrazo fuerte!!!!