May 31, 2013


     I am now a full fledged Peace Corps Volunteer! Hooray!
Me and the other Education Volunteers lookin' spiffy at our Swear-In Ceremony

     So what have I been doing for the past two weeks in Samaná? Making observations. This is what I have found out:

- People here are super friendly and welcoming!
  • I have been walking around my community quite a bit and everyone always says hello. Whenever I stop by a house I am always invited to sit down and chat. Often I am offered food or given food as I walk by a house.
  • So far people have given me papaya, mangos, pears, bread, fried chicken, and a plate set. The last one was part of a Mother's Day event, even though I am not a mom I will be working with the community's kids so they felt I deserved a gift.

- Living without running water  isn't the hardest thing in the world.
  • Taking cold bucket baths in the cool mountain air is the hardest. Hence, I have started exercising every evening. I now have a group of four girls who exercise with me. One of the girls everyone calls gorda (fat) so I hope exercising will get people to stop harassing her and boost her self-esteem.  Side note - running up mountains is hard!
- Meeting start about an hour after they are scheduled.
  • I have been to at least 7 meetings in the past two weeks and none of them started on time. I even caught one of my project partners telling someone that a meeting started half an hour earlier than it was scheduled. When I corrected the time she said, "Susan, you know how Dominicans are with meetings!"
- When it rains things don't happen.
  • I went to school one day when it was raining and there were less than 50% of the kids at school. As a result, school was in session for only an hour and then everyone went home.
  • I waited an hour for a meeting to start with other members of the community but because it was raining not enough people came and the meeting was eventually cancelled.
Aetobatus Narinari aka Chucho aka Spotted Eagle Ray
- There is a diversity of wildlife here.
  • I have seen a ton of different lizards, some sizable spiders, and a sting ray just to name a few of the creatures I have spotted.

 - The school is in need of a lot of help.
  • There are no reading books, and sometimes not enough textbooks for all students. There are no English textbooks, and the teachers do not know English well enough to teach their students effectively.
  • The seats and desks are falling apart and like the textbooks there sometimes are not enough to go around. Some seats are made out of cardboard, others just have the bars.
  • Teachers sometimes spend half an hour on one or two problems.
- Students and teachers are motivated.
  • All the teachers welcomed me into their classroom and acknowledged the limitations of the school. They want the school to be better and sometimes get used materials from other schools.
  • Students asked me to teach them English. I now have a class on Saturday mornings. How many 9-15 year old American kids do you know would be willing to walk more than .5 miles to have Spanish class on the weekend?
  • The students love to read. I bring books (lovingly donated by the Peace Corps librarian) to the school everyday for the kids to read. There have been a few occasions where I have had to break-up fights over the books. Again how often would that happen Stateside? 
- There is a lot I have to offer the community.
  • Aside from my English skills there is a lot of stuff I know and take for granted that I can use to help my community. For example, my host sisters asked me to teach them how to use a computer. They don't know what Google is. Also, the members of my community's library committee have never been inside a library. That means they don't know what are typical library rules, how books are arranged, etc.
Overall, my observations have given me a lot of hope and inspiration of how I can help my community. Only time will tell what I am actually able to do but I have a lot of ideas so stay tuned!

May 12, 2013

Susie's in Samaná

                           Me: "Hola, mi nombre es Susan" (Hi, my name is Susan)
                           New Host Mom: "Suuuzzzaan"
                           Me: "O Susie" (or Susie)
                           New Host Mom: "¡Susie es preciosa!" (Susie is precious!)
View of Samaná from above

     And like so I have been re-named. To my new community in Samaná my name is Susie. Yes, I have arrived at my permanent site here in the DR, and it is in the lush peninsula of Samaná! I live in a small community of 800 people along the side of the road between the towns of Samaná and El Límon. I have already visited all the families in my community minus one or two. There are also two corner stores, a church, hairdresser's, a bar, a lottery, a community building and, a four classroom school. The homes are made of cement or wood, some have zinc roofs others cement. The region of Samaná is a mountain range, which means I can see the ocean from parts of town. The ocean itself is only a 10 minute drive from my house and happens to be the launching off point to go see the humpback whales which come to Samaná every January-April to find love.

Mural in Santa Barbara de Samaná
    Rest assured, live in Samaná is not going to be one long vacation for me (although you are welcome to use your vacation time to visit). My primary project is going to be establishing a library in the community. There is a space set aside for the library but it needs some TLC, such as a floor, a 3rd wall, and books. While I am not working on the library I will be working on other education related projects that are TBD. Part of the beauty of Peace Corps is that the first three months I am in my community I am supposed to focus my attention on getting to know my neighbors and along the way the strengths and weakness of the community.

     For example, while visiting my community I learned that there is no running water in town. All residents collect rain water and when that runs out they gather water from nearby rivers or pay for water to be delivered. My community is the only one in the area without water and they feel neglected by the government. Last year they held a peaceful protest about the lack of water and a man in the community was shot and killed by the police. My host sister said that the dead man did not approve of a policeman who liked his married daughter, and the police used the protest as an excuse to kill an innocent man. It made national headlines when it occurred. And you thought telenovelas exaggerated things. I would like to help improve the situation but I am not sure in what way I can be of best use for my community in this situation. Hopefully, I will figure something out in the next three months.

   To end on a positive note, next Saturday I am going here with a church group from my community:
Las Terrenas

May 2, 2013

Dominicanisms Part 2

It's time for the second installment of my Dominicanisms series! (Check out part 1 here) If you know of more please let me know!
  • Funda - bag (for shopping or a purse). Do not use “bolsa” it is a vulgar term (Email me if you want to know what it means. I have to keep this child friendly!)
  • Flow - Someone’s style. For example, my host mom got a new hair cut and she asked, ¿Te gusta mi nuevo flow? or Do you like my new flow?
  • Guagua - bus, also can be used to refer to SUVs, and trucks.
  • Guapo - angry, NOT attractive, which is what it means almost everywhere else Spanish is spoken
  • Guindar los tennis - said when a person has dies, literally they hung up their sneakers.
  • Hablador/a  - a talker, can also mean a liar
  • Heavy - cool or serious
  • Jevi - Awesome
  • Lambon - moocher
  • Luz - electricity. “La luz se fue” - the electricity went out, literally the light left. “La luz llegó” - the electricity returned, typically someone will shout this when the lights come on thus letting the neighborhood now they can go back to blasting their music and watching telenovelas.
  • Mangar - to obtain, a popular song has the line “para manga mi visa” referring to getting hitched to an American so they can get their visa to the States.
  • Motoconcho - motorcycle
  • Motoconchista - driver of a motorcycle taxi
  • No quiero morir contigo - jinx (what you yell when two people say the same thing at the same time), literally translates to “I don’t want to die with you.”
  • Pariguayo - party watcher, creeper
  • Pelota - baseball (the sport), or any kind of ball used for sports
  • Piropo - cat call
  • Pley - baseball field
  • ¿Qué lo qué?: Used as a greeting, especially among young people, equivalent to “What’s up?”
  • Rebulú - a physical fight with many people involved
  • Tapón - heavy traffic
  • Toyo - something that didn’t go well, something that fell, something written poorly
  • Tramposo/a - cheater (at a game) or sneaky. Example: grabbing someone’s
  • food when they are not looking.
  • Tiguere - gangsta, hoodlum, ne’er-do-well, delinquent, stylish male youth.  A tiguere is difficult to describe, I think of a tiguere as they guy who can be nice but also gets into trouble and spends most of his time around the neighborhood. Tigueres are very machismo, they hiss and throw cat calls at women passing by.  They also dress in a style similar to the guys on the Jersey Shore, dark wash jeans with details, and shirts with angel wings and rhinestones; only difference is tigueres tend to also wear baseball caps. Tiguere can also describe someone who is good at something. Sample sentences: “Mira, no andes por el pley de noche por que los tigueres te atracan.” = “Look, don’t go near the baseball field at night because the delinquents will mug you.”  “Jimi es un tiguere de domino!” = “Jimi is surprisingly good at dominoes!”
  • Vaina - Anything (an object, a situation, a behavior, an idea).  People use it to refer to anything they can’t remember the word for or to discuss something when they don’t want to name what they are talking about. Almost interchangeable with cosa (thing) except vaina can be considered vulgar. You would not use vaina in a professional setting. It is more commonly used in the countryside than urban areas.