Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Español Dominicano

This post is for my Spanish speakers. 

As y'all know, I came here already speaking Spanish. On my first night in country I quickly learned that they don't speak Spanish here. They speak Dominicano. 

The Spanish language and I have a relationship. Some days I have no problems whatsoever. I understand all of the dirty jokes between my friends and complex topics in meetings and classes. Other days I struggle. I don't know what it is, but there are days when I am just not articulate. There are times when I can't remember words in English and other occasions where I don't know the word in Spanish. I suppose my first experiences really speaking started in Spain but I can really attest most of my development to my last job working with two piece of work salesmen in Mexico and Colombia. It's always interesting explaining where I learned Spanish to Dominicans. 

At the first women's meeting we had I stood up, introduced myself to 100 women in my community (who I will be working with for the next two years), explained why I'm here an what I'll be doing...in Spanish of course. When I finished, a woman in the back raised her hand and said she didn't understand me and that I need to learn dominicano. I'll tell you what, it's a lucha to not let my Spanish change too much but there are some things I just can't help and other things that are necessary for understanding. Now that I'm in my site, I'm going to learn Kreyol too. 

For now, I'd like to share a few of my favorite words and phrases in Dominican  Spanish with you all. Obviously some of these words are used in other places but they are clave parts of the lingo here. 

Si dios quiere - can be used as a nice way to say maybe, but is generally used for saying you're going to do something in the future if you get around to it. I tell my project partners nos vemos mañana y me responden si dios quiere o si dios lo permite. 
"Mañana si dios quiere voy a lavar."

Un chin - I have used this in my first post here but it means un poco... O hasta un 
chon de algo.

Uepa! - a general greeting or response to someone who is saying hello to you. Also can be used interjected in sentences. Here's a pic of a peace corps sticker I have on my computer. 

Chapa - there is a very popular song out right now here called "Manea tu chapa" and in this case is means butt cheek. Google the song. A chapa can also be a alie or a portion of something. 

Jevy - another word for cool or bien. 

Vaina - I know vaina is used in other countries. But here you can have entire conversations using "vaina" and never once specify the noun you are actually talking about. The best part? It's so versatile that it can be used offensively tambien. Score. 

Que lo que?
Dame luz
Dime a ver - all three are very common greetings and ways of asking what's up or how are you. 

Pero ven acá - hold on a second, wait a minute, explain that to me

Hablador/a - someone who tells tall tales. Or blatant lies. 

Tiguere - a young man or joven who dresses to the nines with his hair in braids and is usually an abusador. Always tiraring piropos at any girl that walks by. Not really interested in you, just your visa. 
Also can be a compliment, that you are in the know about something. 

Oh oh! - used as an interjection when you disagree with something, cant believe something, something bad happens or when you have something to say about that vaina. 

Pinta o ponerse en pinta - formal clothes for going out on the town. Ponerse en pinta means to get dressed up real nice. Don't you worry, there's a blog post coming on Dominican fashion too, I just have to gather enough pics. 

Pa'lla o alla - this, my loyal readers in referring to the good old US of A. And not just that, unless you specify it will be assumes you're talking about Nueva Yol. 

Ahora vs ahorita - this was the absolute hardest for me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in every other country ahorita means right now and ahora means in a little bit. In the DR, it's the exact opposite. 

Now, there are also some very bizarre names for common items: 

Lechosa - papaya 
Aguacate - avocado
Guineo - banana
Habichuela - frijoles or beans
Mata - tree or arbol 
Guagua - bus
Fria/novia - cold beer 
Concho - someone who drives for a living 
Guapo/a - angry 

I'm sure I'm forgetting something here. And when in doubt, people here invent words like its their job. Also peace corps volunteers have their own language and lingo too that potentially could warrant it's own post but I won't bore you with that. 

Ya tu sabes, Kaley 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Día de las madres

So it's mother's day here in the DR and I think in most of Latin America if I'm not mistaken. 
The women's group I work with is 19 women who tend to the fish farming project. They are part of a larger (100 women to be exact) association that meets every Saturday at 4:30 in the afternoon.
 I'll take this time to inform you all that meeting etiquette here is a bit different-there is Dominican time and gringo time. If a meeting starts at 4:30 in the US, you get there at 4:15. 
Here, 4:30 means si dios quiere, after you do your hair, once you feed your kids, after you iron, and if the water has just arrived for the first time in days, well, let's be serious no one is going. If you arrive early you are a fool and people who are walking by are gonna look at you weird. Also, since everyone's phones are pay as you go for outgoing calls, if a phone rings the recipient is obviously going to answer because obviously the incoming call is free as opposed to the minutes they would have to use to call them back after the meeting. 
Honestly, all of this is fine with me. If you know me I'm late all the time as it is and the cell phone thing just means I can answer mine whenever I want because mine too is prepaid. 

Anyway so today we began around 5:15 and the meeting was centered around a 200 peso gift exchange between the people who chose to participate. The goods:
I too participated although I am not a mother and I don't know all of the women. I was gifted a cute coffee cup set which I shall be using once I have my own place! 
The two girls to the left in this picture (Mairenny sitting and Mimi standing) are two of the leaders of the group. 
Celida's daughter Iris reading a poem she wrote for her mom. 

I'll tell you something. These ladies are sassy. If someone spent 150 pesos instead of 200 they were getting an earful from their recipient. If the wrapping paper was not up to par or if it didn't have a bow, there were complaints. Go big or go home right?

I'll end by saying feliz de de las madres to all of you moms out there for your hard work and to my own mom who is the best in the whole world! Thanks for everything you have taught me and for supporting me in this one of a kind experience. Love you!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Host Families

As I write this on the guagua back to my site from Santo Domingo, I am reminded of what it feels like to have someone "pendiente de mi" or waiting for my arrival. I am now living with my third host family in 2 months- I had one in Santo Domingo, one in Peralvillo for technical training and now one here in Bombita.

Host families cook 3 meals a day, clean, do laundry and most importantly keep you up on all of the neighborhood gossip. Just kidding (not). They're actually a great resource for getting to know a community, finding out where to get things, how to get around and who to stay away from. Most importantly, they care for you as one of their own. I am referred to as "mija" or my daughter. When I'm sick, they take care of me (even if this means attempting to drown me in vick's vapor rub because, well, didn't you know it cures everything??!) and when I miss my real family they remind me that I have an amazing family here in the DR. A family that consists of two hundred something volunteers, staff, and of course, them.

I admire the Dominicans who take volunteers into their homes and treat them as a family member from the very start. I know that may sound easy, but I'm here to tell you it's not. Imagine yourself in your house or your parents in their house. They have their lives, diet, schedule etc. Then they decide to take in a complete stranger from another country. Someone who is unfamiliar with the culture, customs, food and in some cases speak none of the native language and probably do really weird shit. I'm guilty, Dominicans think my electric toothbrush is the most ridiculous thing ever and I'm pretty sure my first host mom thought it was a vibrator. I'm sure some of you reading this right now know someone who has taken in an exchange student or maybe have even had the experience in your own house. I commend you. However anyone reading this has much more than any of these Dominican families who take in volunteers. Imagínate, my family in Peralvillo didn't even know they were going to be compensated for my 5 week stay. My host mom moved out of her bedroom and into her 3 daughters bedroom so I could live with them. She has 3 kids attending the university and one at home and told me she didn't really know how she was going to afford to have a volunteer in the house but that she trusted that god gave her this opportunity for a reason. I'm sorry, if that were me and I did not have the financial means or the space to take someone in, there's no way in hell I would do it. Obviously when she found out she was being compensated she was relieved. For 5 weeks, I felt completely at home. Their house was my house and I was treated as one of the siblings. I had a curfew (lame but necessary), I was looked out for and I looked after my little sister. Sure, the first few days are a little awkward, especially because they've never had an American living with them and clearly I have my way of life and electric dental appliances. At the end of those 5 weeks I wiped tears (and sweat, obviously) from my face as I boarded the bus back to Santo Domingo.

For my host mom in Santo Domingo, I was her fourth volunteer. She is 78 years old and has 12 kids, none of which live with her but she is the strongest and wittiest 78 year old I have ever met. MOST importantly she never repeated meals (hallelujah) and was an absolute boss when it came to doing laundry. When I left her house yesterday and said my final goodbye, she cried in my arms.

In my site I am living with a lady named Maricusa. She does not have any children but has many brothers and sisters who live close by. As of right now I don't really know her that well and were still in that awkward stage... But I will be living with her for 3 months, and after that I will be getting my own place.

After living on my own since I was basically 18, it can be frustrating to have no control over my diet and to be held accountable for my whereabouts 24/7. In all honesty, sometimes I even forget that I need to let them know where I am. Whoops. Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts about these brave people who take in crazy peace corps volunteers. They are truly saints and I hope my experience with Maricusa is just as great as the others. To my family at home- y'all have not be replaced by any means. I have an arsenal of pictures that I show to everyone and constantly talk about you guys in my many hours spent on front porches drinking coffee and eating mangoes. That's part of my work here too; sharing American culture with Dominicans and I am a product of my American family, so you guys are just as much a part of it as I am. I shall take these last few lines to thank all of my families both Dominican and American for supporting me and spending lots of money on Skype credit and phone cards to keep in contact with me. It means the world. Also- mad props to the people who take in exchange students and foreigners in the US. You all rock!

The sign in the picture below hangs at the door of my house in Santo Domingo and I think it says everything I mean to say here: "God bless those who enter this house, protect those who leave and give peace to those who stay."

Un fuerte abrazo a todos, Kaley

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Terribly sorry for the delay in news! I've been on my site visit for the last 5 days. I found out my site location last week and I have to say I was not very excited about it...which may have had something to do with the delay. I am the only business volunteer from my training group living in a batey. This post is wordy but it's necessary if you want the lowdown on where I'm going to be living for the next two years!

What's a batey? A batey is a community where sugarcane grows and is picked to be processed. They are some of the poorest communities in the Dominican Republic and consist of mainly Haitian inhabitants. Tio google is your friend if you would like to learn more about the history of bateys in the DR. For now, lemme tell you about my batey and my project.

I'm living in the south in a batey 5 miles west of the bay of Neiba and about 20 minutes north of the city of Barahona. If you look at a map, you will see the city of Barahona. Just north of that is Jaquimeyes and I live about 2 km north of Jaquimeyes. Bombita is surrounded by cane fields and awesome mountains. If you saw my pics and post about my volunteer visit, ya tu sabes how beautiful the south is. Bombita consists of about 1500 inhabitants and around 300 houses. The river and beach are both close by and thank the lawd so is my dear friend Kate. She's living just down the road in Pescaderia. I live in a cute little house. When water comes, there's running water. My bathroom is inside, which is also really nice. The electricity schedule is spuratic but is here maybe half of the time. Learning Haitian Creole is next on my peace corps bucket list (more in this list to come), as just about everyone here speaks Spanish and creole.

I have two project partners or "sidekicks" as my friend Rafael calls them, Celida and Yasmirys (Mimi). They are the two leaders of my project, which coincidentally is the bomb. The batey is called Bombita because the community pumps water from the river into reservoirs to irrigate the sugarcane. In these reservoirs you will find my project. I am working with a group of 19 women who grow and cultivate tilapia fish for retail sale. This business is no small thang. They have 16 "jaulas" or hatcheries which are square floating docks with netting in the center to hold the fish. The fish are fed in 2 shifts each day and monitored constantly. The entire project is staffed by the women's group. My role here will be to assist them with expanding their market and increasing sales, marketing and profitability. I have to admit I am pretty excited to continue working in the agriculture industry (shout out #2 to my poultry industry people!!) and I'm going to see if I can get involved in some egg production projects in local towns and bateys.

Mimi says I could not have arrives at a better time, and definitely agree. The president of the Dominican Republic was in my site back in February as a result of a government loan that my women's group received to expand their business. THE president. That's a pretty big deal. During this visit various incredible things began. I the 300 houses here only about half have bathrooms with toilets. Now, anyone who wants a bathroom with a toilet is entitled to one. They are also building a high school and a basketball court, which are both needed. My host mother Maricusa gives a literacy class on her front porch 3 times a week for 2 hours to women in the community who want to learn to read and write. Unlike most bateys, they are paving all of the streets. Super awesome bonus? My batey has cell phone service 24/7 AND wifi for about $5 a month. I'm either going to get my iPhone up and running with Claro (local service provider) or tune into that wifi. Either way I am about to be dialed in at just about all times, hooray for technology and more frequent blog posts!

Maybe the second coolest part about this project (after the association of women) is the foundation that supports it. Fundación Central Barahona is the community development arm of the sugarcane company, which works to improve living conditions in the communities that grow sugarcane. They provide funding, transportation and basically whatever these women need for their project. In fact, the foundation solicited me for my community as well as Kate for hers. Since she and I were solicited by the same foundation and live so close, we are going to be able to do a lot together as volunteers. On Friday for example, we were on the radio in Barahona talking about peace corps and what we will be doing as volunteers. The hour-long program is funded by the foundation and focuses on development in the sugarcane regions.

Let's get serious here for a hot minute because I know sometimes one might think that a blog is just a happy lampshade for a very dim lightbulb. This is not the case here people and I'm trying to be as honest as possible. Want the truth? There is nothing that makes me smile bigger or feel more at home than bachata music blaring from the speakers of an outdoor bat, the sun shining just about all of the time and the warm welcome I've received from everyone I have met. It does not suck that there is cold beer and beautiful turquoise water and white sand beaches readily available. It's official, I love this country.

On the other hand, I know the next 2 years are not going to be easy and I think that's a given. However I do find that it's the people and communities who have the very least are the ones that give the most. The people who have been given absolutely no opportunities in life are the ones who are willing to help you with whatever you might need and support as many people as possible with almost nothing. If that's not hope, I don't know what is.

Besitos, Kaley

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pics for your enjoyment!

Just wanted to put some pics up from our last few days in Peralvillo. This morning was a teary goodbye to my host family- but I will definitely be back to visit. Tomorrow is the big day! I will be finding out my site for the next 2 years, so I'll be sure to post again with the deets. Much love!!! Kaley

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Take a hike

I hiked a mountain. Yep, you read that correctly. My host brother built a church in a far away land way up a mountain top and he hikes the peak usually once a week. I hiked it with him, Nelson, and Gabriela. When we got to the top we cooked lunch (plantains, tubers and chicken) and continued hiking. Here are some pics!
Ps the DR has SUCH an extreme variety of terrain... Check it out!