September 27, 2013

Where in the World is la República Dominicana?

My new living room and kitchen
How old were you when you learned that the U.S. was a country? When could you find the U.S. on a world map? What about finding your state on a map of the U.S.?

I have been thinking a lot about these questions recently because in my new home I have several maps on the walls on my living room. I have a world map, U.S. map, and a map of the D.R. Due to the near constant presence of children in my house I have been able to quiz many local kids on geography. Typically the kids cannot decipher anything on the maps. Also, when I ask them what country they live in they frequently say Samaná. Their lack of geographical knowledge has lead me to wonder at what age could I find the U.S. on a map? At my elementary school fifth graders learned about the U.S. And in sixth grade the focus of social studies was world geography. But did I know basic U.S. and world geography earlier? Maybe; as a child I used to play with a puzzle of the U.S., each state was a different piece. I really wish I knew when kids in the States learn geography. If you'd like to help me, start quizzing your young relatives and send me an email with the results.

Aside from quizzing kids on geography I have also been evaluating the literacy of students between first and fourth grade. Over the summer I had a literacy camp to work with kids who where behind their peers, and now I am restarting the program but as an after-school activity. Right now I have 12 students, six in the morning and six in the afternoon (schools in the DR have two shifts; this is slowly changing to full-day schools but only in higher populated areas). In the morning some kids come to my house and I visit the houses of other kids who live farther away. In the afternoon all the kids come to my house. A high-school student from my English class offered to help in the afternoon so I am going to try and find more students. The students have a variety of weaknesses but they all need help with spelling, penmanship, and reading fluidity.

I haven't been doing much else in my site this month because for two weeks I was in the capital. The first week was for a Peace Corps conference to discuss national programs such as youth groups and medical missions. It was nice to see friends and it has gotten me excited about starting my own youth groups. The second week I was in Santo Domingo to edit the Gringo Grita (the shouting Gringo), the Peace Corps D.R. bi-annual magazine. I had a great time getting to know the other staff members, who are all volunteers. I would tell you the theme of the issue, but it is a secret! I will say that I have an awesome half-me half-ocelot picture on the staff page, and I am now reading a book series every chance I get. Can you guess the theme? Side note - all the time in the air-conditioned Peace Corps office has made it seem much hotter back in my site. Also, everyone talking about sweater-weather of Facebook has also made me realize I will be sweating it out here for a very long time.

Pato seems to think this curtain is a protective shield.
 In pet news: Pato (my cat) is growing and he likes scented candles. My bed has two drawers underneath and one day as I opened a drawer I found Pato inside! This occurred several more times so I cleared out the drawer and put a towel inside to make it cozy. Pato then started to use the other drawer, which was filled with things I didn't want him lying on like my phone charger. This box also had the scented candles that had been in the other box.  I put the scented candles back in the drawer with the towel and since then it is the only box Pato seems to yeah, Pato likes scented candles.
Pato loves his scented candles