So I have been down in the Dominican Republic for about a week and now that I finally have a strong enough internet connection I can share some initial thoughts and observations of the D.R.
Well to start, it's really hot and and extreeemely humid. I was bracing myself before I came for a lot of humidity, and because I am a desert kid I figured it would be a rough adjustment. But it is like nothing I have ever experienced. You just sweat and sweat and sweat, and since everybody knows how I am about showers and cleanliness, one would think I would be having a hard time with it. Really what you have to do is not think about it. Do not think about the sweat dripping down your face and through your shirt, your pit stains and backs stains and front stains, or the swamp in your pants (in Dominican culture men are supposed to wear long pants, all the time, regardless of the heat). And luckily I managed to do so rather easily, I have completely let go of apprehension over sweating constantly, I am sweaty, every one else is sweaty, that's life.
After a long day, class and training starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., a nice cool shower would be nice. But since my house doesn't have any running water that is not an option. Instead we take "bucket baths." Basically you stand in the shower with a big bucket of cold water on the floor and you take a smaller bucket, fill it up, and pour it over your head. Then you lather up, fill up the smaller bucket again, and repeat. You do this as needed until you feel clean or the bucket is near empty. Again, it is one of those things that, given my great affinity for showers, should have been difficult to adjust to. But it is quite the opposite, "bucket baths" are actually incredibly refreshing and it is amazing how little water you need to feel clean.
My host family is very nice, but I do not have a really close relationship with them like I did in Chile. I am gone all day at training and when I get home I am usually really exhausted from the heat, from the long day, and from the mental exertion of trying to think and speak in Spanish. I tend to go to bed pretty early and not sit out with them on the porch for hours which is considered pretty unfriendly in this culture, but I am just so tired that I basically look forward laying on my bed with the fan on high and pointed directly at me, listening to music, and reading before falling asleep. Then I wake up and do it all over again the next day. But I hope as my Spanish improves and I get more energy as I adjust here I will be able to connect with them more, but we are only in the capitol for about two more weeks. Though I did go to church with them on the first Sunday, they are very religious and attend an evangelical church in our neighborhood, and it lasted for three hours! It started at 5 p.m. and the first half wasn't bad at all, there was lots of singing and music, there was a full drum set and an assortment of Dominican instruments, but then the second half was just a guy preaching and it dragged on like no other. I am not religious but I went because they invited me and it was a good thing to do with the family and experience at least one time. They go to the church like four or five days a week but I have turned down every weekday invitation since, and I think one Sunday service was enough. But it was a unique experience to say the least and I'm glad I went. The country is still almost entirely Catholic but evangelicism is spreading fast and they tend to be more passionate. I'm getting kicked out of our school that has the wireless but I will try and update soon. Paz!