A rite of passage for every Volunteer about to leave the Peace Corps D.R. is to complete an exit survey for the unofficial magazine the Gringo Grita. I have worked on the Gringo Grita for the past two years, and so it was a bitter-sweet moment when I submitted my own survey to the magazine. You can read my submission below (Warning it is filled with Spanglish.):
Name: Susan Stine
D.R. apodos: Susi, Profe, Fea (only used by my 10 year-old BFF).
Site location: A campo with views of the Bay of Samaná.
|The library full of students|
Project reality: Built said library. While waiting for construction permits and políticos to keep their promises I taught kids their vowels, partnered with a técnico to present Escojo Enseñar, and ran Chicas Brillantes, Me Toca a Mi, Chicos Superman, and English clubs.
Most useful thing brought into country: My ability to sleep no matter how loud the colmados blast bachata. Runner up would be my incredible immune system, which has prevented me from getting diarrhea, parasites, and amebas.
Least useful thing brought into country: Concealer. I tried to use it for Swear-In and I looked like a ghost. Freckles and concealer do not mix.
Best "I-know-I'm-in-Peace-Corps-now" moment: On my first day in my community my 13 year-old host sister took me around to visit our neighbors. While visiting one neighbor she informed me that she was sick and had to go to the capital the next day for treatment. I asked her what was wrong but instead of responding with words she unbuttoned her blouse to show me a two square inch open wound just above her left nipple. She then threw some brown sugar on the wound and buttoned her blouse back-up. I looked over at my host-sister and was relieved to see she was also in shock about what just happened. I knew everything was going to be OK that night when I called my parents and they were not shocked by my neighbor’s actions but instead explained that brown sugar is good for keeping wounds clean. Oh, and in case you are worried, my neighbor is still alive and healthy.
|Nana cleaning out my water tank|
|Nana lecturing me during Monopoly|
I will also always have fond memories of re-hashing NYE 2013 with Amanda in the waves at Playa Grande. That’s when our friendship went to the next level.
Most memorable illness or injury: Following the 2013 holidays I went into an emotional slump: my family had left, it was rainy, and I felt like I had achieved next to nothing after my first 9 months in site. I tried to distract myself by reading Orange is the New Black but instead I wrote up a list of all the ways Peace Corps is like prison. (FYI Piper Kerman would not have survived PC.) When I shared my list with Sara Conners she bluntly told me, “Peace Corps is going to be a long f**king time if you think of it in those terms.” That’s when I realized I had a problem and with the help of family and friends, and starting to find some success in site I was able to get out of my slump. But it isn’t so easy for everyone. I encourage anyone reading this who is unhappy to talk to someone about what is making you feel that way. It doesn’t have to be a PCMO, but if the person you talk with says you should seek professional advice heed their help. Peace Corps isn’t about who suffers the most. It is about helping others, and if you are in a bad place mentally you won’t be able to do your job or enjoy the fruits of your labor.
|Tough to beat this kind of view|
Most beautiful place in country: My community and the view from the back of a pick-up truck.
Most creative way you killed time in site: Sewing opaque curtains so the tigueres couldn’t stare at me, along with other home improvement endeavors aided greatly by my hot glue gun.
Best transportation story: Once in the capital I had the honor of going out dancing with Brendan, Connor, and Andy. As the only girl in the group I got to dance the night away. However, the next morning I quickly learned there are consequences to going out with just boys. I was so exhausted that I was positive I was not going to be able to walk from the Bella to the office with my bultos. Thankfully, while buying Gatorade at the nearby colmado I was able to introduce myself to some policemen who had a car. They kindly gave me and the other girl PCVs a bola to the office. The boys had to walk.
What Spanish word or phrase have you made up during your service and what does it mean?: I haven’t made up any words but I really wish Dominicans used the Chilean pronunciation of WiFi, turning those English i’s into Spanish ones.
How have you changed during your service?: I have a lot more freckles. I am much more willing to share. I am less judgmental. I have adopted a sense of Dominican over-confidence in my abilities and my beauty (Thanks piropos!). My stress levels are way lower and the bar for me to become stressed is much higher. I now know I could adopt a child and love it as my own. I consider myself a dancer. I am more focused on doing things that make me happy. I am happier.
If your service were a book, what would its title be?: Letting Things Slide
What books did you read, tv shows did you watch, and/or podcasts did you listen to that you would recommend?: I LOVE podcasts. They make cleaning the house an enjoyable event. Here are some that don’t get enough PCV love: The Bugle, Global News, Fresh Air, Planet Money, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, and Welcome to Night Vale. Read In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Álvarez and then ask older Dominicans about what life was life under Trujillo. I also recommend you do not read The Time Traveler’s Wife nor Orange is the New Black, especially if you are the type of person prone to getting emotionally involved when they read a book, like I am.
|I'll miss the lizards|
What do you wish you had done here?: I wish I had been able to work more closely with the teachers in my community’s school, painted a mural at my library, and climbed Pico Duarte.
What will you miss six months from now?: The lizards, my neighbors, playing with Nana, hearing the rain as it travels across the valley to my home, listening to grasshoppers as I drift off to sleep, being within walking distance of beautiful views of the Samaná Bay, making my own schedule, being able to go to the beach whenever I want, the flota, randomly receiving fresh food and drink from neighbors, the creative piropos, running in shorts and a t-shirt all year round, and not having to pick-up my dog’s poop.
|The weather is always right for running...and beers|
What's next?: A European adventure with my siblings, learning how to ride a motorcycle, finding a place to dance bachata, getting my freckles checked-out by a dermatologist and eventually a job too.
Big plans for your readjustment allowance?: A blow-out trip across Europe with my sister and brother. Eight countries in three weeks.
Advice to a new volunteer: Always wear your helmet! Don’t get kicked out for stupid reason! It doesn’t matter who is driving the motorcycle, there will always be someone on the road drinking and driving who is liable crash into you. Be safe! Remember to be patient but proactive. For example: Wait the extra hour for a meeting to start but before the next meeting remind everyone individually about the actual start time of the meeting. Also, the squeaky wheel gets the grease! If you have a problem don’t grouch about it – tell someone! PC staff are at the office to help you, but they can’t do much if they don’t know you need help.
Algo más?: 517-13-01 it has been a blast. You all have expanded my horizons in so many ways, thanks. I look forward to SnapChatting with you all in America.
Gringo Grita want to know, would you rather spend the rest of your life in the D.R. without ever being able to go to the beach, or live in America but the electricity is permanently out in your apartment?: Not even a hard choice. As a Jersey Girl I can't live without the beach! Plus, while I love the D.R., I can't imagine living in the D.R. for the rest of my life. I don't even think living in the U.S. without electricity would be too bad because I would have no shame in charging everything at my job or the Starbucks down the street. Even buying groceries on a daily basis wouldn't be too bad because I would be doing so in America.