I’ve officially been living in the capital for a month. As much as I would love to admit my days are completely full of work, I will admit guiltily that this month has served more as me adjusting to life in the capital. I’ve realized that my Spanish is slowly going out the window, due to speaking mainly with just Americans. My clothes are getting looser as I sweat my way to the Peace Corps office nearly every day. Walking a lot more and getting away from arroz and habichuelas (rice & beans) will make that happen apparently. I have officially lost all of the weight that I gained here in the Peace Corps. I do not want to lose any more--so pass me my presidente, that blue cheese bacon cheese burger at the embassy that I had for lunch last week and a chocolate bar por favor.
Speaking of food.. The other night I made a delicious eggplant tomato pasta..just throwing everything we had available into it. It turned out well considering the ingredients on hand..I believe it was a success and could tell by the quiet but very happy munching that was going on. Our apartment has an actual oven as well so I’ve been doing some baking as well, my banana bread and brownies have been mastered without a measuring cup. Cooking with friends or for friends is so enjoyable. Cooking is meant for more than one person and eating with other people is probably one of the best things in life. On my list of things to buy this payday—a large baking pan.
The Metro. Phil showed me a new way to the Peace Corps office. I can take one public carro (carro public) down to Maximo Gomez, where there is a metro that drops me off 4 blocks from the Office. The other way is taking 2 different carro publicos. I like to switch it up, but this morning I took the metro. I’ve road metros before but something about this morning was different for me. It was a great morning. I left the house around 10am and took my carro to the metro. I realize I’ve forgotten the IPod..but, that’s okay, I have a song in my head (It’s a Brand New Day-Joshua Radin) and hum it the whole way there. I look around at all of the people, everyone from such different backgrounds, everyone with their own lives and problems and I am just another person riding the metro and walking on the sidewalk. I look up and trash is blowing in the air. Somehow even that is beautiful to me at that moment. When I look around it kind of makes me feel bad for getting stressed out about my own problems because God only knows that everyone has their own issues that they are dealing with. I am one person and when I am gone, the world will keep spinning. And trash may or may not continue to fly from the tops of buildings like rain drops in the Dominican Republic.
Music. An typical night in our home consists of Phil rapping strumming a few strings on the guitar or to mixed beats that he creates on his computer, my attempts at the guitar (which…is actually decent, even playing a little bit that I’ve made up myself), teaching Marite the little I know on the guitar (and she is sounding pretty damn good I might add). Gabe, Marite’s boyfriend just moved in and we really would like him to pick up the harmonica so we can start a band here at the house..but...unfortunately he does not think that this is as great as we do but we have decided that we can totally picture him out on the field building water systems in the middle of nowhere and just whipping on his harmonica to play a tune… I think we all have a little bit of talent that is going to be unleashed throughout the months to come.
Water. The water situation here at the house is unpredictable, a reminder that I am still living in a developing country. Last night there was no water. We have two big tanks in our bathrooms to fill with water and last night we hardly had any in our tank but needed to do the dishes. My friend Jose and I washed the dishes with the absolute minimum of water and I am thinking—this is a skill that if for some reason the electricity goes out in the states for longer than a few days and there is no water, I will be the first to step up to the plate and show everyone how to minimize their water consumption and get their dishes spotless.
Reading. I find myself being able to focus more and read guilt free. Well..mostly guilt free. My director overheard me talking about a few books I had read and I quote him, “If you are reading that much..you aren’t working enough”. I laughed. He laughed..kind of. A good book recommendation for anyone interested in learning a little more about China’s Cultural Revolution should consider reading Life and Death in Shanghai. I haven’t finished it just yet, had to put it down a little over halfway through and start something a little lighter. It really makes you feel like you are there as you learn about one woman’s (who is considered capitalist because of working for Shell) experience.
Laundry. Laundry is a half day event. It might be another reason for the pounds shedding away because it consists of going up and down 5 flights of stairs with the laundry basket. Between that and mopping the house I think that my arms may get some definition over the months to come. Vamos a ver. My roommate Marite was a little appalled by me putting my underwear into the laundry machine. I was surprised because I didn’t know that it was all latinas (she’s Cuban) that handwash their underwear. I thought it was a Dominican thing. Well…now that I read that aloud she says it could be just a Carribean thing. Regardless, I am done hand washing my underwear after leaving the campo…I paid my dues and lived like a latina for long enough. Sorry Marite. I know you still love me.
Closing our service. Things are going to start feeling different around here as some of my group is already beginning to leave. We had a few early COS-ers, including my roommate from my hotel room at staging. We still have memories from our first weekend together and it was strangely unreal saying our goodbyes. I hope it is not forever. I admit that I teared up the other night thinking about another friend leaving me. I expect that we will have a reunion all together within the next few years even.
Work. As I look at all of the things that I would like to accomplish, 5 ½ months is a very short time. I am pondering a 13 month extension instead of my original 5 ½ months. I am not ruling it out, but am waiting a little longer to make my final decision. I have around 10 volunteers that are going to be working on composting latrines, although a few of these will only be constructing 1-2 at their sites to get the idea of excrement composting in the air, and to better determine if this project would be a success.
Monday we traveled to Bonoa so that I could meet Yovanny, the man that is designing and making our molds for the toilet bowl. He is doing a great job and we finally have the mold we have been perfecting since I first started this project. I will be coordinating with him and other volunteers with the ordering and transport of the molds to sites.
This weekend I will be headed out to a campo outside of La Romana to present the project to a site that is in need of composting latrines. There is no projector so I plan to just put together a small photo album of pictures for people to see and an informational handout.
I submitted my proposal to USAID to hold three training conferences over the next months in Samana. I have a feeling it is going to be awhile before I receive any support, so am planning to hold training in the South with some left over grant money of another volunteer.
The construction manual for the project is looking sharp and my goal is that anyone could pick this up and build one with these instructions. Another goal of mine for the months to come is working on a video project for the compost latrine. I am going to be collecting footage of the construction, the swivel toilet seat (a new invention that the AT group came up with during training), health promotion and the actual removal of the compost. In December, we are planning a trip out to Los Miches to see the removal of the compost from one of the composting latrines from my project.
Fun. Peace Corps “Homecoming” is this next week and we are also going to have a little Halloween celebration at our house. My sister is coming down next week and I am so excited to spend time with her and share with her everything that I have learned about navigating in the capital.