While sitting at the kitchen table with my host brothers on Friday afternoon one of them begins to shiver and proclaims, "Hace frío." I respond my laughing out loud, and we then debate what is considered cold and if it is fair for me to make fun of my host brothers for being cold when it is 77 degrees outside. Yep, my host family considers 77 degrees cold. To be fair my host family had the last laugh because in the evening I caved and put on a sweater.
During the past couple of weeks most of my time has been spent at the Peace Corps training center where I have learned how to: ride a motorcycle, recognize the signs of scabies (50% of Volunteers will get the critters), and cook campo (country) style. However, last week I got the chance to see more of the Dominican Republic during a four day Volunteer Visit. The Volunteer Visit is a chance for myself and the other trainees to learn what life is like for Volunteers in the field.
I visited a Volunteer, Charley, an hour from the capital in the eastern part of the DR. The eastern part of the DR is known for sugar cane and that was very apparent during my visit. Charley's site is the the campo in a town of 250 people and it is surrounded, as far as the eye can see, by sugar cane fields. The town itself has a colmado (corner store), one alcohol store, 5 churches, and a mosque. Charley is not sure how the mosque came to his community but it does have an active congregation, and a loudspeaker to announce to call to prayer 5 times a day. The town's main road recently was paved, and now the community considers themselves a city. Charley's home is made of wood and zinc with a cement floor, and has two rooms. He normally gets running (non-potable) water for a few hours in the morning and electricity for most of the night. However, both of these can be inconsistent or non-existent for periods of time. He has a tabletop stove and a mini fridge but he takes bucket baths and uses a latrine. He considers his living arrangements "deluxe camping."
|Cut Sugar Cane Field|
|Main Road in Town|
During my visit I played dominoes, learned how to make bread from auyama (similar to a pumpkin), and played with neighborhood kids. I also visited a batey, which is community created to house sugar cane workers who are predominately Haitian immigrants or Dominicans of Haitian descent. It takes an hour to walk from the main road to the batey. Along the dirt path you are surrounded by sugar cane, sugar cane, and more sugar cane. There even is a train sole purpose is to collect sugar cane. The batey is very isolated, all that is there are maybe 8 buildings split into 4 houses that hold 100 people. There is an outdoor communal cooking area and communal bathrooms, and that is it. I think I would go stir crazy if I lived there.
On the last day of my visit I got to go the beach and swim in the Caribbean Ocean. I also got quite a bit sun burnt, as in got blisters three days later. But on the plus side I got significantly tanner, enough that my host sister joked that I am now a Dominican.