December 5, 2009

Donde esta el bano?

I live in the second story apartment above a colmado. It is normal for the people’s voices and street noise to travel though my back window. One night recently I was laying in bed, trying to ignore the passing motochonchos I hear a man singing. Just as I was starting to dismiss the man’s song I noticed it was getting closer. He was not on the street but under my window. I have heard of other volunteers complain about men, usually drunk, serenade them at odd hours in the night, but never did I think it would happen to me. The men that frequent the two colomados around my house are watchful of me and never step over the line. Which is why I was surprised on this particular night. It made me smile though. I knew I didn’t need to acknowledge his presence under my window because that would only provoke him. As I listened closer I noticed and extra stream like sound that did not match the creek that runs parallel to my house. Indeed, the man was only singing while he peed from the side of my house into the creek. When I realized he was relieving himself I remembered that his was not the first time that this particular spot was used as a men’s urinal. Oh! The people here in the DR just use the bathroom whenever they feel like it.
In most towns here in the DR, there are select corners or alleys that are makeshift bathrooms, not only men but the women too are guilty of peeing where they please. While my parents were here in September we spent the last few days in Santo Domingo. There is one pedestrian/ tourist trap in the Zona Colonial called El Conde. We were walking along this street looking for dominos that had the flag of the DR or something, but when we couldn’t find any we headed back to our hotel. Taking a turn just off the street I saw a woman squatting between two parked cars. In the middle of the day, maybe even mid morning, there she was taking not only number one but also number two! I immediately slowed down so as not to have my parents see her in the act. Unfortunately my mother asked why I suddenly changed my pace. I could only then explain as the woman stood up to pull up her pants that she was using the bathroom and I didn’t want to disturb her. She had zero shame, looked me straight in the eye as if it were a normal thing to shit right there. I’ll give her the benefit of being high on crack or H or whatever Dominican’s shoot up here. But seriously nothing is worse than walking on the street and noticing that you just walked through the public and I mean very public bathroom. Oh the things we see.

November 27, 2009

There was turkey!

Tis’ the season to reflect on the past year and be thankful. I have played around with how to express the many blessings that have presented themselves to me this year. My family is surely at the top of the list. All the support and love that has been sent to me via phone calls, emails, facebook posts, and their two week visit has been enough to keep me strong while dealing with the challenges of living out of the country and working with my campo. Second - my new family, those other volunteers who came at the same time as I, and my adoptive family here in the community. I have a second mother here in Baitoa and she takes care of me just as my mother would, but with a little less verbal suggestions. My new sisters, the volunteer females who have answered my daily phone calls and talked me through boredom, stress, frustration, and saddens. I thought college is where I’d make lasting friendships, but i feel these women will be in my life forever and I am very grateful to be part of theirs. Oh, yes the friends back in the states too have been encouraging too and as always i am thankful to share their friendship.

In less meaningful, yet very important ways I am thankful for (after living here in the DR) running water and indoor plumbing, 24 hour luz, health conscious living and the stores used to promote it, Kombucha, Stella Atouis, Austin, wireless internet in the home, somewhat well funded education system, teachers who care about their students (like Kay Birdwell), and huevos rancheros.

November 10, 2009

La Agua

When living in another I country I found that it's the little things that make me smile most. Like turning on the faucet and finding "clean" running water to brush your teeth and then having all barrels and buckets full of said clean water, cause you know it could be a week or more until the next time it comes. Taking a walk by your favorite colmado and the owner giving you the thumbs up 'cause they have your favorite kind of Dulce. Or the group of 10 year old girls that you walk by and they call your name just so they can see the Gringa wave. These are just a few of my favorite things. Again, like walking up to Altagracias house and the three year-old neighbor girl saying in the cutest little voice "hola, helen".. it is music to my ears and never fails to make me smile and feel warm inside.

Nothing sums up my life more than cleaning my underwear in the shower. It comes habitual. The women in this country don't usually put their under garments in with the familial wash. When going through training we were told this, but it never came up for me because my host families were all about cleaning my underwear. However, being in my own apartment now and doing my laundry elsewhere, I thought I would respect the local culture un chin (a little). So daily, after going through the regular process of the shower the last step is washing my underwear from the day before. Standing at my work table that is the cover of the lot-O gallon barrel in my shower I take my beloved Dr.Bronners and scrub away at my ever fading Calvin Kline undies. I've watched the Donas here, I know how they do it. Hell, I've watched my mother my whole life.. but nothing makes me smile more than standing naked in my shower washing my underwear. I think to myself, is this something I'll take back with me when I go back to the states? Part of me hope's so but with out the makeshift work table, who knows.