May 26, 2014

Food, Glorious Food

In less than a week I will be in America. My mind is already there, and the rest of me can hardly stand the wait. I have had a countdown going since I requested my vacation in February. I plan on seeing people and doing fun things, but most of all I plan on eating. A lot.

Doughnuts are my version of a nightcap.
The Dominican Republic isn’t so bad that I have gone without fast-food and sweets. Typically when I am in the capital I hit up McDonalds and eat a few donuts. But when I am in my community I definitely suffer from cravings that I am unable to satisfy. No bowls of ice cream or chocolate chip cookies for me.  My local grocery store doesn’t even regularly stock butter, just margarine that you don’t have to refrigerate (a great selling point here). Overall, I am probably a healthier person for not having access to as much junk food, however, when given the opportunity I will binge eat.

For example: Only once have I seen bacon at the grocery store. There was one package, and I bought it even though it was turkey bacon. I ate the entire package over three days. I ate it so quickly because 1. bacon is delicious, and 2. I was afraid the bacon would spoil because my house only has power 50% of the day.

As I count the days until my arrival in the U.S. I have been making a list of all the food I want to eat while I am home. The list is now over 20 items long and includes everything from risotto to Mallomars. I expect to gain at least seven pounds during the two weeks I am home. I know a Volunteer who gained five pounds per week, so I know my estimate isn’t ridiculous.

I am telling you all this so you can prepare for my arrival. I apologize in advance if I talk about food too much, or if I already did. However, I promise not to take pictures of every food item I eat, unlike another Volunteer I know.

One last thing: While I am in the States my community will still be working hard on our library. Please help us out and donate here. Thank you!

May 23, 2014

Why We Want the Library

My entire community is working to build the library. But you have only heard my reasons why you should donate to our project. Now, I am giving the mike to some of my neighbors. Here is why they want the library:

Karen at the library construction site
Karen, library committee member and mother of three – “We need the library for the development of our kids. There are many poor people in the community who don’t have access to the Internet. They have kids in school and no money to pay for extra costs, like materials for class projects.”

 Emely, library committee member and in the 7th grade – “I want a library so I can research information for my homework. Right now, I can’t do all of my homework because sometimes I have to go to town to use the Internet. A trip into town costs too much money for me to go every week for homework. A library would make my life better.”

Jose and his sister Ari

Jose, 5th grade – “My mom says we need a library because I get in too much trouble when I am not in school. I want a library so I can read books.”


Darilyn, library committee member and in the 11th grade – “Every community needs a library because every community has students. The library will help us with our studies, and we will learn more.”

 Maurcio, library committee member, farmer and grandfather – “The library will help the community, especially the youth, to become more educated. The library will also provide economic benefits for the community. Parents will have more money to spend because everything their children need for school will be within walking distance.”

Clariza, Library Comittee President, hair stylist and mother – “The library is needed by the whole community. For example, parents who can’t provide their children with school supplies. Also, there is no recreational center in the community. The library will be a safe place where the youth can hangout. It will keep kids off the street.”
Daneisi and Daniela

Daneisi and Daniela, kindergarten and 1st grade – “We want to learn to read.”

Ready to donate? Click here!

Mil gracias, a thousand thank yous to those of you who have already donated. Please continue to spread the word to family and friends.

Just a reminder: All donations are tax deductible, and 100% of donations will go to our project. 

Also, you can donate offline. Although donating on-line is the fastest way for projects to get funded, you may also donate by mail or over the phone:

Send a check to:
Peace Corps Headquarters
Office of Gifts and Grants Management
1111 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20526

Please make check payable to Peace Corps Partnership Program
Please also note the project number (14-517-025) in the memo section of the check.
(Please print and mail this donation form with your check, so Peace Corps can contact you with information regarding your donation, if necessary.)
Call the office and Peace Corps can take your credit card information over the phone at 855.855.1961 x2170.

May 16, 2014

You Can Help

“Oh my gosh, what you are doing is sooo great! How can I help?” For the past 15 months I have heard family and friends ask me how they can help, to which I have responded, “Eh, its kinda tricky to send things to the D.R., Ill let you know if something changes.” Well, family and friends, the time has come to step-up to the plate. My community and I need your help!

The library will be on the right-hand side.
Since 2011, my community has been working towards building a community library. I arrived one year ago to help the library become a reality. Construction began last month, and we need your help to close our funding gap. My community has already fund raised $23,728.42 via donations of construction materials, books, labor, land, grants, and cold hard cash. We just need an additional $5,628.09, to help cover our remaining construction costs.

You can donate to our project by going to our project’s webpage on the Peace Corps website. Or you can look up my project on Search via my last name, Stine, or my project code, 14-517-025.

The leaky zinc roof will be replaced by a cement roof.
Many readers are probably thinking, “Why should I donate?” Here are some reasons why:

- The idea to build a library was developed by my community not by an outside group.
- The average family makes less than $125 dollars a month, and yet the community has fund raised 80% of the library costs, $23,728.42.
- None of the three local primary schools has a library. The closest childrens library is located in the capital, an expensive three-hour bus ride away. 
- Classrooms at all grade levels do not have enough textbooks for every student, if they have even have textbooks.
- The library will provide community members with access not only to books but also to computers. Of the 151 houses in my community, only 47% have a book in their home, and less than 10% have a computer.
After 7 months of cutting red tape, the bridge is functional.
- We spent seven months fighting, successfully, to get a permit to build an access bridge from the road to the site of the library. We will stop at nothing to make the library a reality.
- My community and I had to submit a lengthy grant application, which includes: essays, goals, monitoring and evaluation plans, a timeline, and a detailed budget. If you want any of the information we submitted please contact me at
-Check out our project’s webpage for even more reasons.

Now that you are convinced that my communitys library is a worthy cause, here is some information about the donation program, the Peace Corps Partnership Program:

Reading with a neighbor.
 - Every penny that you donate will directly fund my project. No part of your donation will be used to cover staff or overhead costs of running the Partnership Program, as the office is supported by congressionally appropriated funds to the Peace Corps.
 - All donations are tax deductible! Once the donation has been processed a thank you letter will be sent, which can be used as a tax receipt. The name on the tax receipt will reflect the account owner on the credit card or check.
 - You can donate offline. Although donating on-line is the fastest way for projects to get funded, you may also donate by mail or over the phone:

Community member repairing library walls.
Send a check to:
Peace Corps Headquarters
Office of Gifts and Grants Management
1111 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20526

Please make check payable to Peace Corps Partnership Program
Please also note the project number (14-517-025) in the memo section of the check.
(Please print and mail this donation form with your check, so Peace Corps can contact you with information regarding your donation, if necessary.)
Call the office and Peace Corps can take your credit card information over the phone at 855.855.1961 x2170.

Many, many thanks to all of you who donate funds. My community has a lot of dreams, especially for their children, and with your help we can begin making them a reality.
The Library Youth Committee meeting (in my house).

May 9, 2014

Go with the Flow

Ahorita in most Latin American countries means, right now, as in you want something done immediately. In the D.R., however, ahortia can refer to something that will occur or already occurred but it never ever refers to the present. So when you ask someone, “Have you bought cement?” and they respond with “Si, ahorita” it may mean that they have bought the cement, or that they are planning on buying cement in the future. For Dominicans, ahorita is a sufficient response. However, I always end up asking a bunch of follow-up questions because as an American, I need to know an exact time.

Dominicans have picked-up on Americans’ fixation with time. Tiempo americano means “American time” and it is what Dominicans say when they want you to arrive on time to a meeting. Otherwise, it is completely acceptable to arrive whenever you want. An hour or two hours late, it’s totally acceptable. I have even known Dominicans to lie about a meeting start time in an attempt to prevent lateness.

Dominicans are much more laid back about time. Nobody stresses about arriving on time or complain when a meeting begins two hours late. Being a typical time obsessed American I have struggled with accepting this “go with the flow” attitude. However, after the teachers’ training I presented at last week, I realized I have adjusted more than I thought. Not once did I complain or stress-out about the time and/or people’s tardiness. Here’s the run-down of what happened:

8:00am - I arrive on time to the bus stop where 40 teachers and I are supposed to meet so we can travel together to the training. There is one other teacher waiting. I start reading.
8:30am - We learn that no one reserved a bus, even though we hold the training every third Wednesday of the month. No one is too concerned. I keep reading.
Singing School Children
 9:00am - My co-presenters arrive. I say hello, and do not mention that they arrived an hour late. There still is no bus available so some teachers go off to run errands.
9:30am - A bus has been found and we set off for the training.
10:30am - We arrive, and everyone enjoys some snacks, slowly settling into their seats. The school hosting the conference then has several presenters talk about the history of the school and community.
11:30am - 2.5 hours after the planned start time, we begin the teacher presentations. No one mentions possibly shortening presentations or speeding things along.
12:30pm – Lunch!
A Great Presentation, Sadly Cut Short
1:30pm - I am invited to go for a walk with some teachers to a friend’s house. We visit for nearly an hour, but I am not concerned about time as I know that the head trainer is also still out visiting friends too.
2:15pm – We arrive back to find that the presentations have resumed, teachers continue to trickle in after us, including the lead presenter.
3:00pm – The conference ends. Since there was only two hours of presentation time, less than half on the intended material was covered. The other presentations have been pushed to the next month’s conference. I consider the day a win because I was able to present 50% of what I wanted to cover that day.

There were multiple times during the day when I silently laughed thinking of how people back home would have freaked-out about the delays. I’ve learned that worrying about the time won’t make anything happen faster. Instead I bring a book and, more and more often, I also arrive late.

Let's Talk About Sex

Making Condom Balloons
It has been said that you are not a true Peace Corps Volunteer until you have shown your neighbors how to properly use a condom. When I heard that I thought, “Psh, I am going to be working with small children, no way will I end up doing a condom demonstration.” Then last week I held a Fiesta de Cóndones (Condom Party) at my house with over 30 kids screaming, “I want a condom!” Kids as young as 10 made condom balloons, played games to learn about the risks posed by HIV/AIDS, reviewed how to use a condom, and, of course, practiced putting on condoms with the help of some plantains, a carrot, and a wooden phallus I was given by Peace Corps for just such an occasion.
Interviewing President Condom

Many readers back home are probably shocked at the notion of 10 year-olds practicing putting a condom on a vegetable, but I have received no complaints from parents about the event. Why? Because parents here know how important it is for their kids to receive good sex education. Sadly, the D.R. has the highest rate of pre-teen pregnancy (kids 12 years-old and under). News stories about pregnant 9 year-olds are not uncommon. HIV/AIDS is also a big problem in the country. HIV/AIDS is the number one killer of women age 15 to 24 years old.

I don’t want to see any of my young neighbors become pregnant when they themselves are still children. Nor do I want to attend any of their funerals. I will never know how my sex talk impacted all of my students. But I hope it will help them to resist peer pressure, and instead make informed decisions about their sexual lives.