12 Months Down

Sorry for the lapse in updates! Things were busy there for awhile.

At the end of July, my friend Shelby came to visit. Unfortunately our friend Joel was also supposed to come but missed his flight. Bummer! Shortly after Shelby left, I visited my family in Indiana. I was only able to stay for one short week. Most volunteers come back from the states with a healthy glow, a few extra pounds…I did not. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time! But with so much to do and such little time, I hardly slept each night which means I barely ate (I feel sick if I don’t sleep.) I’ve been learning not to underestimate the value of a good nights rest. Since I’ve been back, I’ve kept myself pretty busy up until this week. I’ve been to the capital way too many times- medical, green card, meetings, hang outs, visitors. The Cigar Family seniors just graduated, and I was busy putting together a display table at the graduation with information about my projects. The graduation was a success! We had a huge catered lunch and lots of guests. I was able to visit with Carlos Fuente and Eric Newman, two of the leading cigar producers in the world and founders of the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. Each of the graduating seniors that were in my “Construye Tus Sueños” class received a certificate of completion for my class included with their diplomas. They were really excited. The graduation was a huge reminder of the amazing changes within this community and the accomplishments of its youth. Once malnourished, uneducated kids are now healthy, capable young adults. The list of accomplishments for the students at the Cigar Family School is practically endless. Three students received a 97% or higher on their national exams after graduation, putting them within the top scores of the country. The senator from Bonao even came and surprised them with laptops! Such a rare, exciting opportunity.

My class has finished, and one of my groups followed through to turn in a business plan. The national competition will be at the beginning of October, and we volunteers are busy at work preparing. I will be in charge of monitoring a judging room and putting together a scavenger hunt game for all the participants. We’ll find out soon if my group made it in the top 20 plans to be invited to the conference.

I recently had another visitor. His name is Richard Sitler, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Jamaica 2000-2002 and Crisis Corps Jamaica 2006. He’s a professional photographer who’s making a book for the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps. The book will include photos and stories from volunteers all over the world. He’s been to over 20 countries in the past year, and I was the last volunteer he visited. The book should be out as soon as October. I’ll keep you updated with information on how to find it. I’m not sure which photos he chose to include, but I’m sure you’ll find pictures of Ani, my friend Chulo, and my muchacha Ambar. They are, after all, three of the biggest components of my life down here.

My work load is pretty light these days, now that my class is over. I’m working on planning the Construye conference, still trying to sustain my Caribe Clean project, and figuring out how to start a sexual education class, which will be my first cross-sector project and include my first ever grant money, si Dios quiere.

Lately I’ve been working on more personal projects. I’ve re-enrolled in Ball State to take an online microeconomics course to better my chances of getting accepted to graduate programs that interest me. I’ve also been studying for the GRE. (Who would have EVER thought I would be doing those two things? Not me, that’s for sure.)

On Thursday, I’m going to receive one of the new trainees at my site for four days! I had to do this as a trainee, and I remember it being really helpful in answering some major questions. I’m sure it will be a nice boost of confidence as she asks me questions and I give her tons of advice to help decrease her cluelessness as to what the heck PC service is all about. I was sitting in the office on Saturday as a few trainees walked in, asking just about as many questions they could think of. Once they left, I looked over at my friend Kenny as someone asked, “Aren’t you glad you’re not arriving right now?” Our response- “Yeeeeeeessss!” The hardest part of Peace Corps is training. You come down here when it’s blazing hot, everything is new, nothing is easy, and you’re always going to the bathroom when you don’t even understand how to flush the toilet with a bucket. I’m so glad to be over the transition period… SO glad.

Well, I’ve officially been in country for over a year, and the end of October will mark the end of my first year of service, which means only one year to go after that. In my next blog, I’m going to write down some reflections on my first year, so look forward to hearing about how much my life has changed.

*REMINDER* WE ARE STILL FUNDRAISING FOR THE BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION. IF YOU’D LIKE TO DONATE TO OUR PROJECT, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK INCLUDED IN MY PREVIOUS BLOG POST. THANKS!

-Sarah

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