June 21, 2013

Going to the River

 "Suuuuussssie can we go the the river PLEASE," pleads my host sister
"Okay," I say
"I LOVE YOU," screams my host sister and she hugs and kisses me and the other neighborhood kids cheer.

     If you couldn't tell by that brief conversation, the river is the place to be once school is out for summer. But most parents don't let their kids go to the river without supervision, hence the kids always ask me to take them to the river. Getting to the river is an adventure in itself. The path to the river winds through cow pastures which mean in addition to dodging cow pies,  I also have to carefully cross several barbed wire fences. Sometimes there are gates, sometimes we have to get creative, and sometimes we get sliced.
That barbed wire will get you!

     Once at the river, the coolest thing to do is to tirar, literally throw yourself,  off a ledge. It's not that high, but the kids were really impressed when I tirared for the first time without hesitation. Their minds would be blown if they went to an American amusement park.
The River
Climbing up the ledge

     Before you leave the river it is expected that you whip out your soap and start scrubbing. Since there is no running water in my community and trip to the river kills two birds with one stone; you get to play and you save water. I am not super knowledgable about the environment but I still feel a little uneasy when I see people putting all those chemicals in the river. I also learned that people use the river to clean out cow intestines for the classic Dominican dish Mondongo. I laughed when my host sister told me she was grateful that I don't like Mondongo because she helped was the cow intestines once at the river and she has never been able to eat Mondongo again. Sister Solidarity.

Also going on:
     I am very grateful for my mosquito net:

I have several of these guys in my room.
      The Governor kept one of his promises; bags of food were given to every house in the community. Apparently the bags typically only arrive when politicians come to town, so basically right before elections. Also, the desks at the school are being repaired. Hopefully the Governor will keep up his promise about funding for the library. Keeping my fingers crossed.

 Showing off their rice and beans.

June 14, 2013

The Governor Comes to Town

     "The governor will be here at 5pm so let's start the meeting at 4pm to make sure everyone arrives before him." - Mayor

    And so it was that a little white lie was spread around town ensuring a packed room to greet the Governor of Samaná, Enriquillo Lalane. Some people were so excited about the governor's arrival that some people arrived early. I had never witnessed Dominicans at an event early; having the governor visit was a big deal. When the governor arrived, on time, there were over 40 residents present to discuss the needs of the community.

    The first concern brought to the governor's attention is the lack of running water in the community. Water is by far the top need in the community. As I have previously mentioned, everyone here collects rain water and when it doesn't rain people either have to carry water from rivers or purchase water, which many residents have told me they consider expensive. Unfortunately the governor's response to this need was not the most compelling. He said there are engineers investigating the issue but as my community is at the top of a hill, water would need to be pumped up hill, so its going to take some time. One resident after the meeting told me he was, like many, unsatisfied with the governor's response. He said if the government truly cared they would have fixed the problem already. He noted that the president travels around the world for meetings and that the money spent on his trips could do a lot of good inside the country.

    The governor was also vague on some of the education issues presented such as the lack of reliable and affordable transportation for high school students (HS is 5km away), and the condition of the chairs at the primary school, which are falling apart after 17 years of use. He said he would call the Ministry of Education and see what they can do. Regarding the library project the mayor forced the governor's hand on this point by presenting a letter from the previous governor pledging his financial support, which never came through. The governor said that the letter embarrassed him and he pledged to fund the repairs to the community building where the library will be located. 

    The governor's response to other community concerns were much better. The governor promised to provide funds to repair a local road, fix several houses, and supply food baskets to all families in the community. I was actually surprised by the level of support offered by the governor. I had been at a similar meeting in the town of Samaná the week before and he did not pledge any concrete action to the concerns presented. I think the meeting in my community was more successful in part because the governor grew up nearby; many residents are family friends and/or were taught by the governor's mother. He probably doesn't want to let people down that can trash talk about him to his family and friends. I am hoping that the local factor will ensure that the governor will come through with his promises but only time will tell.

     In other news:
  •  People cannot stop giving me food! In one week I was gifted the following: 2 bags of mangos, 1 bag of passion fruit, branches of limoncillo, toasted corn on the cob, cacao, some leaves for tea, dulce de coco, and coconut water (straight from the coconut).
  • My family has a new baby kitten, my host mom says that our other cat isn't a good mouse hunter but she is going to train the kitten properly. I also got to see 10-day-old kittens at a neighbor's house and was told I can have one when they are bigger! Yay for no rodents! For the record I have yet to see any rodents here but I don't want to take any chances.
    Newest Member of the Family
  • I rode on a motorcycle without holding onto the driver but don't know how if I am willing to try riding side-saddle.
  • I am teaching my host sister how to use a computer. Before we started classes she only knew how to turn a computer on and off. We have yet to have a lesson with internet, as I do not have access at my site, but I am excited to show her Google and Wikipedia - she does know what Facebook is and she really wants to make an account. I'll leave you with a photo us taken while playing with Photobooth.
    Funny Photos are a Hit Everywhere