Friday, January 15, 2010

Checking In

Well it has been a long while since I’ve updated everyone; this whole not-having-internet thing is really killing my blogging output. Let’s get to it.

The biggest news to develop of late is that I finished my community interviews and put together a list of potential projects for the next year. I split them up into an “us” category—meaning we have control over starting them, we just need to be organized—and a “help from outside” category—larger scale projects that require resources we don’t have here in the batey.

Sexual Health Course
Organized Sports/Girls’ Sports
Hygiene Demonstrations
Environment Clean-Up and Education
Talent Show/Music and Dance Club
Book Club
Sala de Tarea
Chess Club
Business Plan Course
Parent-Teacher Group
Dominican-Haitian Relations
World Map Mural
Handwashing Bottles
Money Management

Help from Outside
School Transportation
Citizenship Declarations
Computer Lab
Extend School to 8th Grade
English Course
Latrine Project
Water Access in Every House
Paved Streets
Clinic/Medical Mission
Reduced Smoke Stove Project
University Assistance

Last Sunday at our youth group meeting I presented these potential projects and had each youth vote for their three favorite “us” projects and two “help from outside” projects. The winners were Sexual Health, Organized Sports/Girls’ Sports, English Class, Music & Dance Club/Talent Show, Computer Lab, and University Assistance.

I also added three very important projects to the list, a Sala de Tarea, basically an after-school program with alternative teaching methods for struggling students, a Latrine Project, and a Citizenship Declarations project, because the majority of people in the community are not Dominican citizens despite being born here and in some cases being part of a family that has lived in the country for generations.

If you aren’t a citizen you can’t go to school past 8th grade, you can’t vote, you can’t get a bank account, a loan, or a real job. You’re basically screwed and guaranteed a life of poverty from which you can’t escape no matter how hard you work. And it is a vicious cycle because kids can’t be declared if their parents aren’t declared, and parents can’t be declared if their parents aren’t declared, etc. etc. The problem is that declarations are basically a bureaucratic and xenophobic clusterfuck for anybody who looks Haitian or has a Haitian last name, which is pretty much everyone in my site. Trying to help people get declared is very arduous, but so important that I will undoubtedly be working on it throughout my two years of service.

So the first projects I will be starting on in mid-February are:

Sexual Health Course
Organized Sports/Girls' Sports
Talent Show/Music & Dance Club
English Class
Sala de Tarea

Help from Outside
Citizenship Declarations
Computer Lab
University Assistance

Over the next two weeks I will write a community diagnostic report, using all the information I’ve learned about the community over the past three months through informal conversations, formal interviews, and youth group meetings. Then, based off the report, I have to prepare a presentation in collaboration with one of my project partners and present if first to the community and then in front my bosses and the other youth volunteers during our 3-month In-Service Training that is happening the first week of February in San Cristobal.

So that’s how the “professional” part of my life is coming along here in the Dominican Republic. I’m excited to be done thinking about the community diagnostic and presentation and actually start working on the things I’m here to do.

On the personal side of things, everything is pretty good. I can move out of my host family’s house at the end of January so I’ve been looking around for places to live, though that has been kind of disappointing. I have one place available if I want it, really it’s the only option, but it doesn’t have a latrine or place to bucket bathe. I have a good situation with my host family so I could continue to stay with them, but I am ready to have a little more space and a little more privacy, and a lot more time away from 9-month-old baby, so I would really like to move out on my own. I have been living with host families for the past five months!

Don’t get me wrong, all three have been great, but I couldn’t even live with my own family for five months. So I will probably move into the only option place, and then continue to do my business in my host family’s latrine on the other side of the batey and bathe in my boxers outside my house. Though one potential problem I foresee with that plan is if I get hit with a bout of stomach problems in the middle of the night and have to try and run across the community while trying not to shit my boxers, a very real possibility.

Though actually my health has been great, knock-on-wood. After a rough start it seems as if my body has settled in here very nicely.

Let’s see, what else is there to report… well I spent Christmas Eve here in my site, Eve is the big deal here, not Day. My host “mom,” she’s only 21-years-old, made me a special dinner that was very good, fried chicken, fried plantains, and spaghetti. Then I met up with a bunch of volunteers in Cabarete on the northern coast for New Year’s Eve, which was amazing. Other than that it’s been same old, same old here in the site; a lot of reading, basketball when I’m not being lazy, growing a beard that I have since shaved, English class, and trying in vain to learn Kreyol. Mwen pa kapab aprann Aysian! That means I can’t learn Haitian, which is what they call Kreyol in my community. And they call Spanish Dominicano, apparently forgetting the 15 or so other countries that speak Spanish.

That’s all I have for now, I hope everyone is well. And if you have any extra resources, i.e. blood, money, clothing, food; try and find some way to get it to Haiti. I assume the Red Cross and other similar organizations have a way you can direct where your donation goes. Man is that place cursed. If you want to be depressed, read the Wikipedia entry on the history of Haiti.

On that cheery note, I bid you all adieu!