Is reverse culture shock possible if you are in the same country but in a different area? The last week and a half has been super intense for me (in a good way), which is why I ask. I have come to realize that I made the best decision by moving to the capital and adjusting to this before returning to the United States. I think that living with other Americans and also adjusting to a more "consumer" society you could say will make my transition to the States much less shocking when April arrives.
I do have to say that one of the most enjoyable parts of being in the capital is not having to feel the need or obligation to socialize with my neighbors constantly. Don't get me wrong, I am a social person but I think 2 years of campo socializing was about all this girl could take. I realized that now that I am living with people that understand me, where I come from and people with many of the same values that I have..I am so much happier. I can finally laugh constantly throughout my day to jokes in English..really, long, hard laughing. I get to play scrabble with my friends in English and finally get to break in a Scrabble dictionary that I got.
We were all talking about it the other evening and someone said "We can never see this but any outsider who comes realizes quickly that volunteers as a whole are depressed". I agree to a certain extent..you definitely are leaving a certain part of you, your sanity and your happiness upon your decision to join Peace Corps. I don't think that I quite realized just how much I need other like minded and awesome individuals in my life until just over the last week and a half. I feel like a new woman.
So. Living in the capital has been super interesting because the view behind our apartment is an impoverished neighborhood (barrio) and the street next to us is an extremely wealthy area (I mean..were talking 5 minutes walking from Louis Vuitton..and tons of other designer type of things I have never heard of). I have had Krispy Kreme donuts twice and Burger King in the last week..I don't even like those things all that much but it was so incredibly wonderful. Burger King was just an all around terrific experience..and it wasn't just the food. Friday night 4 friends and I were hanging out at the apartment and we decided lets go to Burger King..little did we know how incredible burger king is now! We go in..and the first thing I notice is, WOW this is spotless clean. It isn't that cleanliness isn't common here in the DR but in most business it isn't exactly up to par with U.S. standards. Then, the kids play area--incredible. Brilliant. They had super cute big couches in the place..genius. THEN, I am wondering--why are there no salads on the menu? Well..it just so happens that there is a flat screen television, yes..a flat screen television, with a menu that is constantly changing and I just hadn't seen the salads. I was completely blown away. I feel crazy finding all of these different things crazy, but I am not.
So, other businesses within walking distance from the apartment.
-2 shopping malls--not just any ordinary Iowa shopping mall..were talking like wow..I didn't even know Dominicans could shop here. Did I mention that the food courts have cinnabon, sbarro, sushi, papa johns..ect the list goes on.
-2 grocery stores..with mostly anything that I could ever dream of.
-5-6 liquor shops..
-A Naturalizer shoe store..still can't stop thinking about the shoes that I tried on last week that were soo comfy (and all of my shoes are broken except 1) but oh so almost half of my Peace Corps monthly pay.
The list could go on and on.
American society and the way that we live is absolutely insane and out of this world. I am not saying it is a bad thing..I was quite excited about all of the wonders in Burger King, trust me. It is bad that it has let some of us become these greedy, unconscious human beings.
Why is it that I feel ashamed/guilty about feeling the consumer and wanting feelings for the first time in so long? Even wishing that I made more so that I could get the things that I want. Not just the things I want, but need as well. I barely get enough money to get all of the food I need here in the capital let alone get shoes that I am in need of. I can't help but feel that it is wrong to feel this way toward things after seeing some very impoverished parts of this country, and people that struggle to put food on their table or don't even have a bathroom or running water.
Work is slow but coming along. I am currently working on a budget to submit to USAID to get money to train volunteers, their masons and health promoters on composting latrines and health promotion. I will be sending that to a contact that I made at a tourism fair last week to see if there is funding available. Also, the toilet bowl mold that we have been working on since we first started developing the composting latrine project is FINALLY perfected and the AT PCVL Mark and I mixed up some cement and poured a toilet bowl at the office today to test it out. I am super excited, because now there are going to be around 5 volunteers doing this project and they will all have actually cement toilet seats with real toilet seats and lids for these latrines. :)
In a few days my director, the PCVL and I are headed out to the border near El Cercado to an AT volunteer's site that is going to begin a compost latrine project. Over the next few months I may get the chance to go to Isla Saona and a few other places to help out another volunteer with composting latrines which would be incredible.
Other news..chopped a good 13-15 inches of my hair off for Locks of Love. No regrets, it is so refreshing to not have to worry about all that hair! :)
and best of all.. Coming home for Christmas on December 20th-January 7th.