Archive for December 2009

Chillin’ Out Max and Relaxin’ All Cool

December 14, 2009

Hey there.

So, I prestar-ed a computer from my friend and I´m happy to be sitting comfortably in the Cigar Family School  using free internet. I just had a meeting with about 12 jovenes, and they are PUMPED to do the Business Plan Competition. These kids are smart and motivated. My only concern is unfair pressure… someone stressed that they will participate and they will win.

Oh wait, let me catch you up a bit.

Every October, the Peace Corps and another organization put on the ¨Construye Tus Sueños¨ Business Plan Competition. CED Volunteers that choose to participate will form groups of jovenes (young people ages 15 to 24) to participate in the competition. This is one of my 3 main goals as a volunteer in Caribe. Starting in the Spring, I´ll begin a 3 month curriculum of business skills to teach the group. Then, we are going to put together a business plan to use in the competition. Basically, they will be judged on how thought-out the plan is, keeping in mind the needs of the communities, appropriate budget estimations, logo, advertising, etc. The winner of the competition will receive the funding necessary to begin their business! It´s a rare and unique experience.

My group is motivated and excited. My guess is I´ll bring the largest group. And what I´m especially excited for is that they are also judged on their presentation skills. This is where I feel a bit one up on the competition. I was a communication major, presentations were my life. I´m going to put together a presentation curriculum to gets the kids comfortable and familiar with how to present a powerpoint, how to speak in front of large groups, etc. It will be new, fun, and beneficial in many aspects of their lives… hopefully.

I tried to tell the kids that even if they don´t win, it´s still valuable information to know. I mean, as long as they have the skills, there´s always money to be found.

It feels good to be doing some substantial work that involves my future projects. I´ve been getting a bit anxious just hanging out. If I don´t do some legit, good work here I won´t feel like it´s worth it. No offense to anyone, I´ve made great friends, but I sacrified a few very important relationships to be here and work, one in particular. I want to feel like I´m doing more than just making friends and such. You feel me?

Speaking of future projects, I visited a volunteer yesterday that lives close to me. Her name is Shilpa, she´s a one-year-in youth volunteer. She´s done a lot of youth group stuff and is currently building a library. She gave me a lot encouragement and advice about my projects. As far as my already said projects go, I might also consider making a brand new workshop for the artisans, and putting together an art class. My artisans have a small shed and limited space to work and store their supplies. Also, though the kids have art classes here at Cigar Family, I have a few project ideas of my own.. ones that involve recycling material to create art (thank you Bette Porter for your passion and vision for why art is important,) painting murals from famous artists in the hallways of the school (thank you New Palestine High School for this idea,)  and a creative writing group (thank you Cole Farrell for your inspiration at Camp Barbee for this idea.)

I used a blanket last night cause it was cold. Can you  believe that? But I´m catching a bola home, cause it´s too hot to walk now. Ha.

Happy Holidays! I´ll be spending New Years on the beach. It´s true, don´t hate me.


Happy Bebe You You!

December 3, 2009


I hope this blog reaches you all enjoying the holiday season. I celebrated my first warm Thanksgiving last week in the capital with all the other volunteers in country. We rented out a country club and had a massive pool party, typical American Thanksgiving dinner, and quite the entertaining talent show. I even won a few pesos in a poker tournament (oops, can I say that?)

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a smashing success. I invited all of my friends in the community, and we had quite the turnout. Everyone pitched in and decorated my house with balloons, ribbons, and even bought me a beautiful cake. Another volunteer, Shilpa, and myself made banana bread and guacamole. It was the first time many had ever tried both, and they were a big hit. Thanks to everyone who attempted to call me and for those who wrote on my facebook. I felt very loved!

Dominicans like to sing Happy Birthday in english… but instead they sing Happy Bebe You You. I´m not really sure if they know it´s incorrect. Ha!

I was talking with my mom on the phone today, and she brought something up that I wanted to clear up.. I am not on vacation. Yes, I must admit that some days I do absolutely nothing, but let me explain how doing nothing is doing something. Volunteers work very hard. They accomplish many things in their service. Right now, I´m in my ¨project planning¨ phase. I´m doing different tasks to complete my community diagnostic, and with that I will plan out my projects. Right now, I´m making a map of the community and conducting interviews. I don´t work 9 to 5. I don´t have an office. Some days, I wake up late, clean my room, wash my dog, eat lunch, walk around, cut yuka, eat cacao, and go to bed after I play my guitar. But at this point, adjusting and integrating myself into the community is part of my goal in the first three months. Yesterday I had a birthday party and a lot of people came… people that I´ve gotten to know in just this one month. Just making friends is work. I´m integrating, I´m learning Spanish, I´m adjusting- work. There are some volunteers who are proficient in Spanish and have started a few projects like teaching english or whatnot.  But that´s totally the decision of each volunteer whether they want to do their diagnostic and juggle a small project at the same time. Hey, I made business cards this week for my artisans. That´s something!

My mom also wanted me to write about a few Dominican habits I´ve picked up. The first one, and my favorite, is the ¨lip point.¨ Dominicans usually don´t point with their fingers, they point with their lips. Pucker up in one direction, and that´s pointing. Another one that I have just started is the nose scrunch. If someone wants to ask ¨what?¨ ¨they simply scrunch their nose for a moment. My project partner kept doing it to me and I would scrunch my nose right back in confusion. She was asking me what? with her face and I was responding verbally with what? because I didn´t understand her facial expression. I get it now.  Another one would be the hissing. Psssttt-ing and Tssss-ing is mostly heard when a man is trying to get a woman´s attention. I get those alot, almost every day. But, they can also be used to get anyone´s attention. Saying psssst works a lot better in a crowded colmado than saying Hey! I love the psssst (but not from men.)

Life here is going well. After my first initial shock of being placed in my community all by myself, I found the strength to pull myself together and start working. I must admit, the first week or two is this huge reality check, and I practically cried every night. You ask yourself, ¨What am I doing here? Who am I going to talk to? Why did I leave my life behind for this? How do I do my projects? What if nothing works out?¨ Through talking with other volunteers, I quickly learned it was a shared feeling, and once I made friends and started working and planning, the feeling passed. It´s still hard to be away from those you love, but after spending time with my community, I feel a bit more at home.

Did I mention in my last blog that I almost stepped on a gigantic tarantula? Ew.

My doña loves my dog and it´s so cute! I mentioned that I wanted Ani to wear a bandana on my birthday, and my doña went all out making her THREE dresses and a pink bow! Ani was quite the hit at the part in her pretty dress and bow. I love her, she loves me. I´m teaching her to sit. She´s bilingual, you know. She is learning ¨sit¨ in english, but knows ¨come¨ in spanish. I verbally compliment her in english, but for the most part she hears spanish. Pretty neat, eh?

Wanna send me something? How about a mountain dew or some parmasean cheese? Hahaha, just kidding. (I´m not kidding.)