Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Ok so I think I have mentioned before that Dominicans say “Si Dios quiere” (meaning God willing or if God wants) ALL the time. At first it really bothered me because I would say “I will see you at the meeting tomorrow!” and everyone would respond “Si Dios quiere” or in other words “maybe” or more likey “probably not”. I always wanted to respond with “No! If you want to go you will go!”. However, recently I have developed a newfound respect for this phrase. My friend Norma says that I have turned into a “Dominican catholic” because I attend too many catholic functions here. She thinks that I am now a slave to “catholic guilt”. All I know is that I have never attended a catholic service in the US, and I have found that participating in church events here has really helped me to integrate. Anyways, I am going to share two recent experiences with you where a Dominican catholic would say God taught me a lesson.
The first one starts out with a conversation I had with other Peace Corps volunteers. They were all telling me that, compared to them, I attend too many velas/valorios. Now for those of you who don’t remember, the Dominicans treat death a lot different than Americans. When someone dies they spend 9 straight days mourning the death with mini services every day in the house of the deceased. After that they have a “vela” or mini-service/gathering every month on the day the person died , for a year. After that they do the same once a year, on the day the person died, for 7 years. Seeing as my community is very large, we have a lot of these and I usually attend them. They can be very boring and uncomfortable for Americans because there is a tone of screaming, crying, hugging, singing, chanting, etc.
 So one day when I wasn’t feeling so great and I had a lot of work to do I decided not to go to a vela…. BAD IDEA. I think God got mad. The next day someone in my community died. I ended up going to all 9 days of the celebrations, not by choice, by pure coincidence (all for choosing not to go to ONE vela). On the 9th day I was spacing out, as I usually do at these events to keep my sanity, and I realized all of a sudden that my mouth was moving and words were coming out of it. I was so shocked! I realized I was saying the rosary in Spanish. I don’t even know the rosary in English! Anyways, long story short I will not be choosing to miss any velas anytime soon!
The second story has to do with my rural health promoter and teenage peer educator graduations. I have been teaching courses in 6 communities for about 6 months. We have now finished the coursework and exams so it is time for the graduations. I made these really pretty certificates on my computer, and I was so excited to print them out when I went to the capital for Thanksgiving (more on t-day later). However, I was unable to print them out due to the fact that I was not paid on time and had absolutely zero pesos. So I ended up having to wait until I went home to my campo to print them out. Now this is a problem because I cannot get nice things printed in my community. My nearest pueblo is Luperón which is a 25 minute moto ride on a good day, 1 hour on a bad. However, I never print stuff there because they charge up the butt so I have to take a 45 min long carro publico (public transportation= little Honda with 6-7 ppl smashed in) ride to Imbert. Now the day I decided to go it started raining which means the dirt road was all slick mud, and it took me 2 hours to get to Imbert. I went to the shop where I usually get stuff printed ( I like to go there because they have a little gas-run generator so they can print even when there is no electricity). Unfortunately they didn’t have any ink cartridges so they couldn’t print them out. They sent me to another print shop down the road. At the second print shop the guy put my memory stick in his computer and somehow deleted everything on it, including my certificates. I was very upset because this meant that I was going to have to make the long, EXPENSIVE trek home empty handed. I got the email address for the shop and told them I would email them the files and come back to pick up the certificates the next day. It ended up raining on me, a lot, and I had to pay the moto driver extra to take me home on the slick mud road. The next morning I repeated the long, expensive trek and went straight to the second print shop. The boy told me that he had not received my email and therefore had not printed out the certificates (I don’t want to call him a liar but by the look on his face I think he just forgot). So I gave them my memory stik, this time I brought two just in case, and they started printing out my certificates. An hour went by and they had printed out 10 of the 72 certificates when the electricity went out. This print shop did not have a little generator like the other one so they told be they would not be able to finish until the electricity came back which would probably be in the late afternoon. I could not wait until the late afternoon because I had a graduation that day… and I needed the certificates. I went back to the first print shop in hopes that they had gotten new ink cartridges… but they hadn’t. So I bought a whole bunch of nice cardstock and went home. When I got home I went to the internet hut in my campo (literally a small hut that has 3 computers in it- I think one works) but the guy that runs it was out of town. I had to beg his mom to give me the key so I could get in and print out my certificates on the cardstock I bought, before the graduation. I ended up getting it done, but his printer is not very good and it only prints in black and white. I was so angry, frustrated, tired, upset, and annoyed. I did all that work and spent all that money only to have my certificates look ugly and cheap. I went to the community where I was graduating 9 rural health promoters feeling defeated. As we were doing the ceremony and giving out the certificates each women decided they wanted to say something. Most of them just thanked me and my regional coordinator, Luz Maria, and talked about how much they had learned. Finally, this woman named Silvia, one of my favs, got up to say her thanks. She said she was 67 years old and had never graduated from anything. She thanked me for taking a special interest in her (I stayed after the meetings to help her with the stuff she didn’t understand, and I dictated the exams to her because she could not read or write) and said she wouldn’t have finished the course without me. Then she started crying and said the certificate was so beautiful and she was going to put it on her wall. Boy did I feel silly for getting so worked up and disappointed about the stupid certificates.
Anyways, call it catholic guilt or whatever you want… I definitely think God taught me two very big lessons, and I will never look at the phrase “Si Dios quiere” the same EVER AGAIN.

1. MACLA Medical Mission- I worked as a translator on a medical mission. A group of plastic surgeons came to do reconstructive ear surgeries. It was an AMAZING experience and it reminded me how much I love working in a clinical setting. I got to get to know a lot of really cool patients and watch as their lives were transformed by these surgeons. I also got to observe a ton of surgeries and even scrub in :)

They put us up in a REALLY nice hotel

One of my favorite patients. She gave me a really pretty hair clip.

My English soccer buddy. He gave me these awesome soccer scrub

Two other PCVs and a Dominican doctor.

They took us out to a lot of really nice dinners too!!!!
2. One year celebration- To celebrate our one year of service mark my group of PCVs and I rented a really nice house on a cliff in San Rafael right outside of Barahona. It ended up only costing us $50USD a night, and we split that between 16 of us! It was beautiful and we had a lot of fun.
The view from our porch.

The beach.

Our fried fish and plantain lunch right on the water.

front yard.
My friend Hillary and I "sitting" in the cold river that leads into the ocean.

Enjoying a fruity concoction on the porch.

Scuba buddies and I on the beach.

The whole gang.

3. I went to a stove training to learn how to build improved cookstoves. I brought one of my jovenes as my mason and we had a lot of fun. I am hoping to build about 40 of them in my site!

4. Halloween- We had a nice little halloween get together/ celebration in the capital for the new group that just swore in. We health volunteers went as Mad Cow Disease with our pesky prion.

5. We had our 1 year of service training. There are only 8 of the original 12 health volunteers left so it was very small, but we had a lot of fun. One night we had to write all of our challenges for the upcoming year on a wood board and break it. I helped James break his after he failed the first time.

Health PCVs Group 517-11-02 with our PCVL

6. Thanksgiving- Since Dominicans don't celebrate Thanksgiving we always have a big Peace Corps Thanksgiving in the capital. We have a cocktail/ swim hour on the rooftop of a nice hotel and then we move down into a conference room and have a big traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The food usually isn't that great but it is nice to be around other Americans for T-day. We also do a big talent show after dinner that is always a lot of fun. Last year I did a spoken word piece by myself and this year everyone was bugging me to do another one. I didn't really feel up to it ... so as a joke my health group and I did a very dramatic spoken word/ interpretive dance piece. Then after the whole event there is always an after party in the colonial zone.


rooftop pool full of volunteers


7. World AIDS Day- My teenage peer educators and I planned a big event for World AIDS Day (December 1st). We did a big parade/march from our community to the community on the beach (3 miles). We passed out candy, condoms with information taped to them, and red ribbons. Once we got to the community on the beach we had a little show in the park (which we decorated in the morning) where each group gave a little lecture, demonstration, drama etc. about HIV/AIDS. It was so much fun and I was so proud of all the work my teenagers did! All the way home (in the back of a truck) we sang Feliz Navidad and they let me have a solo on the english part of the song.
taping informative papers to condoms.

candlelight vigil at the hogares conference.

preparing all of the signs and decorations

decorating the park

some of my Barrancón teens and I

My rural health promoters participated too!

The girls and their ribbons

passing out condoms

one of the rest stops where the teens read out statistics about HIV

One of the presentations

Another presentation

How to use a condom demonstration.

How to get tested (complete with a mini clinic)

A play about tolerance.

the teens.

me in the back of the truck caroling all the way home


No comments:

Post a Comment