So I saw that my friend Jonathan posted a list of the books he has read while in the Peace Corps on his blog a while back, and I thought to myself, that's a good idea, I should do that as well. So without further adieu, here is my list, in chronological order:
Under the Banner of Heaven - John Krakauer
Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence - Paul Feig
Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter - Adeline Yen Mah
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
Suite Française - Irène Némirovsky
Dreams From My Father - Barack Obama
Why the Cocks Fight - Michelle Wucker
Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder
A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
What is the What - Valentino Achak Deng as told to Dave Eggers
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The White Man's Burden - William Easterly
Consider the Lobster - David Foster Wallace
Cocaine Nation - Tom Feiling
The Professor & the Madman - Simon Winchester
Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation - Joseph J. Ellis
A Heartbreaking Tale of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers
Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine
- George Dohrmann
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris
- Mark Kurlansky
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
The Other Wes Moore - Wes Moore
Not as numerous a list as I would have predicted while preparing to depart almost two years ago, but I'm going to go with the quality over quantity defense.
Also, reading books and watching tv shows and movies on my hard drive are in direct competition with one another, so that has cut into my overall reading output.
I recommend all the books on this list, so if you are looking for ideas, pick one up, and the send me your thoughts upon finishing it.
Note: We just finished the Dominican-Haitian Relations Conference this past weekend and I think it was a success. The conference's theme was "Mobilizing Marginalized Populations" and its goal was to give volunteers and community counterparts specific ideas and strategies for projects they can do in their communities that include all members of the community: haitian immigrants, women, undocumented children, informal sector entrepreneurs etc.
One thing we wanted was for the conference to be practical and concrete, as opposed to theoretical and abstract. While it is important to understand the larger political and historical factors behind the current crisis of undocumented people in the Dominican Republic, instead of focusing on that big-picture we focused on tools and strategies for starting documentation projects and how to navigate the process to actually get people their birth certificates.
The same was true for the other mini-workshops and presentations. For education, rather than talk about the larger scale problems with public education in the Dominican Republic that are beyond our abilities to address, a great volunteer shared tools that she has been using for the past year and a half in her community to teach literacy to a small group of students. There were also presentations about youth initiatives, which include the sexual health course Escojo Mi Vida, girls club, organized sports, and environmental education. There was a health presentation about higiene and nutrition, which included a demonstration of a simple handwashing device made out of a soda bottle, especially important now because of the risk of Cholera. There were also healthy recipes using local ingrediants and tips for how to start a community garden project. The fourth presentation in the afternoon session was about doing a latrine project, focusing again on specifics, like how to organize the community and educate everyone on how to properly use and maintain latrines, and where to find funding to carry out the project.
The final presentation of the day was about the youth business plan competition, in which youth 16-29 receive business education through a course called Construye Tus Suenos, and upon completing the course write a business plan that is submitted to a group of judges for evaluation. The best twenty plans are invited to a competition where the kids make a professional presentation of the plan and budget in front of a panel of dominican professionals. The three winners are given the start-up capital for their business. Two youth who won the competition last year spoke about the experience and how the business is doing a year later. It is a great project for the rural areas because there aren't many jobs available and many people in our communities don't have access to traditional lines of credit, either because they are to poor to give collateral, or don't have citizenship.
Those were the meat & potatoes of the conference, in addition there was fun as well. Some of those include a photo exhibition from each community that was on display throughout the conference, a presenation about the history of Dominican-Hatian relations dating back to the 17th century, a Kreyol lesson, a movie, "Glory Road," to spark a discussion about race and discrimination, an immigration activity, reflection about the issues of race and disrimination through art, poetry, and drama, and guest presenters with experience in immigrants rights and working in local politics and non-governmental organizations.
It was a long three days, but the participants were very engaged and enthusiastic, and really embraced the planning session at the end. Each group walked out of the conference with at least one project in mind to begin implementing as soon as they arrive back in their communities.
I don't have my camera cord with me right now, but I will post pictures from the conference the next time I have internet.
Until the next time!
Jiska pwochenn fwa!
Hasta la proxima vez!