November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks

I am so thankful for all these wonderful people

I have always felt I have a blessed life, but living in the D.R. has made me even more thankful to have grown-up in the U.S. with a loving family. This Thanksgiving I was able to celebrate with volunteers in the capital and reflect on all the things and people I have to be thankful for now that I wasn't even aware of 9 months ago back in the U.S. Here is a brief and scatter-brained list of some of the things  I will never take for granted again:
  • Running Water
  • Electricity
  • Books
  • Knowledge of the world
  • Trash pick-up
  • Dental care
  • The power of generosity
  • Child Protective Services
  • Car Regulations
  • Weather Reports
  • Noise Laws
  • American Hospitals
  • Leash Laws 
  • Microwavable Food
  • Single Serve Food
  • Cell Signal
  • Potable Water

November 22, 2013

Nuestra Alegría Conquista Todo
Getting your hair is a cultural event in the D.R.
During the summer ads on TV and Billboards started showing up with aliens arriving in the D.R. planning to take over but instead taking part in stereotypical Dominican actives. The aliens are shown playing dominoes, riding motorcycles, braiding hair, and being squished inside a public car. I find these ads hysterical because almost all of the activities were new to me I arrived in country. The aliens make the most of the new experiences, and I have tried to do the same. Like the aliens I boasted when I won at dominoes and felt oh-so-stylish after getting my hair braided.

The tagline of the ad is, "Our happiness conquers all (Nuestra Alegría Conquista Todo)." In the ad it refers to the happiness of Dominicans and their ability to surmount cultural barriers with most foreigners (Haitians are not welcome). On a greater scale I think the phrase portrays how Dominicans handle life. There are so many depressing things occurring in this country that if one were to think of them all the time, that person would be miserable. So instead of focusing on the negatives, Dominicans focus on the positive happy things going on in their lives. In general, I think this is a good idea, and I do try to reflect on the happy parts of my day rather than the sad. But I believe it is dangerous to ignore the bad. The bad things in life typically don't go away if you just ignore them (often they get worse). You have to take action if you want change to happen.

Apparently they don't make helmets for aliens.
Dominicans have taken action in the past and gotten results. During the last election Dominicans demanded more funding for education, and they got it. I hope during my time here I will see more Dominicans rise up and take charge of their country's future. One of the reasons why I support my community's desire to have a library is because a library provides access to the world. When talking to my students about life in the U.S. they were surprised that everyone in the States has electricity 24/7 (as long as you can pay the bill). They asked me why they didn't have electricity all the time, and I answered as best I could (not enough people pay for their power so everyone is punished / there isn't enough power in the country for everyone to be plugged in at the same time). My hope is that as Dominicans gain access to the internet they will learn more about the world, and in doing so learn how they can take action and make their country a better, happier, place to live.

Now what is the ad actually trying to sell? Soda. Country Club soda (owned by Coca-Cola) to be exact.

November 3, 2013


This week I am letting pictures do most of the talking:

 In English class we played hot potato while Romeo stood awkwardly in the middle.

Found a tarantula in my house for the first time. I think Pato killed it.

Pato is getting pretty good at killing things.
 I took kids with me to the farm where Romeo grew up. They got to wash horses...

...and conquer their fears about riding said horses. Some hand-holding was needed when riding.

Which one is the banana? Trick question!  - Neither, the yellow ones are rulos and the green are plantains.
 This week I have been cooking a lot of Dominican staples as my neighbors have been particularly generous. I have boiled ayuyama (a squash) and rulos (a cousin to the banana - very sweet), I have fried batata (white sweet potato) and plantains into tostones I also made lechosa batidas (papaya smoothies). All very yummy. If you come and visit I will cook Dominican food for you too!
Mmmmm tostones!

What happens when my neighbors give me a solid block of ice.

Dropped my ipod - please tell me it is not going to die!

Baby Ayuyama!
I am staring to garden! I planted the seeds from the ayuyama (squash) and papaya I was given. The ayuyama has already sprouted. I did some of the planting with my environmental group. The kids got a kick out of it - once their seedlings grow a bit I am going to let them plant them at home - we shall see how that goes.