April 28, 2013

Painting the School Red (And Blue, Green, Yellow and White)

     I have difficulty painting within the lines. For example, within the last year my dad offered to pay for me to get my nails done because he thought I had done such a terrible job painting them myself. It therefore may be a surprise to many of you that I was entrusted with painting an alphabet, the Dominican Flag, the world, and values on the walls of the school where I have been working the past month. Luckily, I was not along in my endeavor, I worked with six other trainees to complete the project. Nonetheless, I still managed to make some mistakes, such as painting a letter in the alphabet the wrong color. But we were able to fix that, and I have to give a shout out to Julie and Caitlin who touched up all the letters of the alphabet I painted! I have to say, I think we did an awesome job. Especially considering before the walls had graffiti, as well as, Santa and the 3 Kings.

    On Tuesday night I was at the school for another project, a presentation on classroom management. As I mentioned in a previous blog post some of the teachers at the school lack any significant control of their classroom. So, the workshop was needed. The teacher workshop was attended by 22 teachers and focused on classroom management. My co-presenters and I did a skit of a classroom without any rules or organization and another that utilized classroom management strategies. We then had the teachers discuss what they saw and then come up with more strategies they use and explain why they are important. Then we went over other strategies such as using positive reinforcement, having a  behavior scale that holds the entire classroom accountable, and how to implement classroom rules (many classrooms have rules but they are not followed). We ended the presentation with a raffle with educational prizes, flashcards etc. Dominicans love raffles our technical trainer thought that was the cherry on top of our presentation, "The presentation was great, the teachers were involved, and when you mentioned raffle at the beginning, oh my god even I got excited!"

    This week I also had a cockroach in my room and it was FLYING! Thank goodness I was underneath my mosquito net! At one point it decided to land inside the metal barrier of my fan, which is right above my bed. I debated for some time about if I should turn my fan on, which might kill it but also left the possibility that I would be splattered with cockroach juice. Luckily it decided to fly away before I took the risk of turning on the fan. However, that night I had a dream that I was baking something and when I opened the oven door a cockroach popped out and hopped all over my body. Since it had been in the oven the cockroach was burning hot, which caused me to wake up in the middle of the night. Fortunately I had no trouble going back to sleep.

In other news:

  • I am slowly learning the bachata; I'm glad I have two years to perfect my dancing skills.
  • I ate all my rice at lunch for the first time this week!
  • My freckles have become so numerous that I remind myself of a speckled pony when I look in the mirror; they are even covering my ears!
  • For those of you who love to read manuals (a rare breed of person) the Peace Corps has great resources on their website including: how to start a library, classroom management strategies, female empowerment, environmental lesson plans, the world map project, and much more.
  • In nearly a week I will know where I will be living for the next two years! 
  • Tomorrow is the Dominican equivalent of labor day so I will be spending at a river, and enjoying Dominicans staple river/beach day lunch of...spaghetti. The reasoning is you can make a lot of it for cheap and eat it cold, still I think sandwiches are a more reasonable choice. I'll let you know if my mind is changed tomorrow.
  • I would love to hear how all of you are doing! I am writing this blog to keep you all up-to-date with my life, so don't forget to let me know what exciting (or mundane) things are going on in your life!
  • Lastly, Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced a bill that would expand Peace Corps Volunteers health insurance to include abortions in the case of rape, incest, and when the health of the Volunteer is in danger, a policy that is covered by all other federal employee health plans. I support this bill, because Volunteers are federal employees and we deserve the same access to healthcare as those in the States. Furthermore, I hate the idea of a Volunteer, who after experiencing such a traumatic event and making the decision to have an abortion, is then put through even more stress because she cannot afford an abortion and will therefore have to terminate her Peace Corps service. (For a variety of reasons female Volunteers cannot serve if they become pregnant.) If you are interested in learning more about the proposed bill, and/or how to help it get passed, please click here. On a final note, I realize abortion rights is a very sensitive topic, and I have respect for both sides of the debate. - Sorry to end this post of such a serious topic.

April 24, 2013

Dominicanisms Part 1

I have lived in the Dominican Republic for 49 days. In that brief period of time I have become acquainted with A LOT of words and phrases that are almost exclusively used by Dominicans. Below is an alphabetical list of the Dominicanisms I have so far discovered, it is so long I am splitting it into two parts. Enjoy!

  • Amarrar la chiva- goes to work but does nothing while there
  • Apagón - blackout
  • Avion - plane, slang for a promiscuous female
  • Baboso/a - someone who talks a lot
  • Bola - a free ride
  • Bandera - flag, but also refers to the traditional Dominican lunch. Consists of rice, beans, meat, and a salad on the side.
  • Banca - a store where bets can be made on the lottery and other things
  • Bipear - to call someone but hang up once the phone rings, this causes them to call you back and you save your phone minutes
  • Boltar el golpe - when you go to the bar straight from work
  • Buen tiempo - good timing, said when a visitor arrives as people are eating
  • Bulla - loud noise
  • Cañada - stream that swells during heavy rains, these can be very dangerous as they often become impassable and can swallow up nearby pathways and flood houses.
  • Chapa - butt cheek, a current popular song is called “La Chapa” and is about shaking it
  • Chévere - cool
  • Chin - a little bit
  • Chulo - cool
  • Cocina - kitchen, slang for the back of the guagua (bus) because it gets so hot
  • Cocotazo - the smack a kid receives on the head when they behave poorly.
  • Conjo - esaid when something bad happens, sometimes yelled
  • Crillollo - natural to the DR, typically refers to fruits, vegetables, or traditional meals
  • Cuero - prostitute, literally means leather; “quema de cuero” - muffler burn
  • Diablo - damn, typically yelled while in pain or surprise, literally translates to devil
  • Echar un boche - describes the action of doing something to make another person yell at you, such as when you step on a clean floor in muddy shoes or grab some cookie batter without asking your sister’s permission…
  • Estoy harto - I’m full or I’ve had enough of a particular person/thing. This term is considered vulgar but is often heard in the countryside.
  • Flojo/a - lazy person
  • Fulano/a - John/Jane Doe, used when you don’t want to name a person, such as Fulano told me you went on a date with Jerry.

April 20, 2013

Routine Interrupted

     Life here in Monte Plata has been pretty hum drum the past week or so, but that ended when I learned about the events still unfolding in Boston. Hearing about the attack, first from my host mom and then from a Dominican news program was surreal. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected. I knew big events would occur but what happened in Boston is not what I expected.

     Onto happier things, I received some more hints about where I will be going! I was told that I would be working on constructing a library, possibly helping with establishing a pre-school. My community will be in the campo (countryside) and there will not be other education volunteers nearby (volunteers from other sectors). However, I was told that I shouldn't worry about other education volunteers not being nearby because they will all want to visit me because my site is in a pretty awesome location. Crossing my fingers that means a beach! Still have to wait another 2.5 weeks till the big reveal!

     My literacy pull outs have gone well so far, myself and another trainee teach 4 3rd graders for an hour followed by an hour with 4 4th graders. The biggest difficulty we have so far encountered is determining what to teach. The majority of our students do not know the alphabet so ideally we would go through the entire alphabet but we are only here for 2 more weeks so we have decided to focus on the vowels first and take it from there.

    On Thursday myself and the other education trainees were reunited with the business trainees at a health and safety seminar and then got to enjoy a pool party in the evening. It seems like education lucked with our technical based training. The business group says they always have homework and they are learning pretty dry business things plus because they are in a new training site some of the house families are less than perfect. They also have to walk up and down mountains all day. None-the-less they seemed OK, and it was great to catch up with everyone.

Random Thoughts:

     On Tuesday I will be giving a presentation on classroom to 30 teachers at the school I work at with 3 other Volunteers, I have the highest level of Spanish, I am surprisingly not nervous about it.

      I frequently see people on motorcycles with gas tanks, long PVC pipes, washing machines, sometimes a horse roped alongside, and there is a 12 year old kid I know who rides one around town.

April 13, 2013

Electrical Shock

      It is five in the morning and suddenly the light turns on in my room, the power is back on for the first time since the afternoon the day before. At the same time I realize that the power is back on I hear a cat scream from the roof and then a thud of something cat sized hitting the ground after falling from the roof. My light was the only one on the house (I know this because the walls to not reach the roof so I can see all the house lights) this means I may have electrocuted a cat. I emphasize the may because I didn't check around the house, and nothing has begun to smell, so I think I am in the clear.

     Aside from possibly electrocuting the cats that roam my house's roof my living situation has been great. My host family continues to be great, so many fresh juices of fruits that I do not know the names of in English nor have I seen anywhere else. Also have had pineapple and rice based drink, it is really good! The rice and pineapple boil together in water, then you blend it and let it chill.

     The summer rains have arrived here in Monte Plata, it has down poured every afternoon this week which has been messing with the town's electricity. However, it's a good thing because the farm animals have been looking a little skinny of late. Also means I have gotten the chance to run around in the rain and play a muddy game of tag at the baseball stadium that also holds my classes. Downside is that students who live outside the town don't come to school because some roads become impassable when it rains too much.

View of the Baseball Field from Stadium Classroom

Highlights from the week:
  • Swam in a river
  • My Spanish level has increased by .5 now a 6.5 out of 10!
  • Presented a community diagnostic in Spanish
  • Made didactic materials for literacy instruction
  • Put my hair in rollers for a skit (Photo to Come)
  • There is a Den of Tigueres across of my house - their piropos are getting old real quick

Girls Creating a Map of their Community
House of Chickens (See previous Post)

April 6, 2013

Can We See Your Chicken?

    Upon arriving in Monte Plata for technical training myself and 18 other education trainees were sent on a scavenger hunt. My group was determined to win but we could not find a rooster roaming the streets. So, we did the logical thing and followed the cries of a rooster until we determined it was in a backyard. We then asked a woman sitting on her porch if she had a rooster, and if we could take a picture of it. She did not have a rooster but she immediately got up and walked us down the street to house which did have roosters. We were instantly let into the house and lead to the backyard, which was filled with roosters. We were ecstatic, and then we became shocked. There was a shed filled with roosters in cages. All of the roosters were being trained to fight. The people of Monte Plata are a friendly and welcoming bunch, but culture differences remain. Sometimes they are amusing, such as when Dominicans point to things by pursing their lips at the object. Other times they are depressing, such as when one stumbles upon a fighting rooster farm. FYI my team did win the scavenger hunt and was rewarding with cookies! - we were nice and shared with everyone.

    While I am in Monte Plata I will be learning a lot about education, such as how to: implement a literacy program, assist teachers in improving their classroom management, increase parental involvement, and much more. Part of my training will involve working in a local school as a literacy instructor for students in the 3rd and 4th grade. This week I got a peek of what I will encounter in my school. I observed two classes for 30 minutes each. The first class (4th grade) was well run, the teacher had a well thought out lesson, encouraged student participation, and checked student work. However, it was hard to hear people talk due to the noise from the street (motorcycles), and the other classrooms. The second classroom (3rd grade) I observed was pretty bad. The class was supposed to be working on math problems but many students did not even have their notebooks on their desk, many were talking the entire time, even passing notes between the cracks in the wall to the class next door. The teacher did nothing to reprimand the students. When she called one student to solve a problem on the board he just stood there for at least 5 minutes, staring at the board. Eventually she had him sit down but did not show him how to solve the problem, and the student went back to talking with his friends. I doubt I would have learned anything in the class. Talking with other trainees they also seemed to have had a mixed bag of good and bad instruction/classroom management.

    Side note for education nerds:  I am working on literacy with 3rd and 4th grade students because in the DR it is against the law to hold a student back in the first and second grade. In theory this is supposed to prevent the student from gaining a low self-worth. In reality slower-paced students do not often receive the support they need to catch-up and reach the 3rd grade unable to read. As a result, the 3rd grade is a mix of students of varying ages and abilities. This would make instruction difficult in any situation but is made worse in the DR where teaching is one of the worst paid professions, students are in school, at a maximum, 5 hours a day, and there are often few resources,  such as textbooks, available to students and teachers. If you want more details about the education system here let me know!

    Some tidbits of life in Monte Plata:
  •     Training is held in the VIP lounge of a baseball stadium
  •     Corazón Valiente is on TV here! That would be the novela I watched in the US. I have not watched a whole episode but my neighbors watch it and I end up hearing the majority of the episode as I fall asleep.
  •     Rain makes a lot of noise on a zinc roof.
  •     I have started taking mini showers when I come home for lunch. I just pour cold water on myself to cool off. It still is not summer here.
  •     My host mom told me I will not leave her house one pound less than when I arrived.