Saturday, September 28, 2013

700 something miles and a lot of sol

Well, we did it. My first set of visitors have come and gone. Lexie and Natalie just left for the airport from the Peace Corps office here in Santo Domingo.

Although it was somewhat difficult because I don't have a community or a project to call home right now, they got to see a ton of the country and met all of the people that are near and dear to me in this country. There was drinking of brugal (duh) mamajuana, plenty of arroz con juandules and lots and lots of fresh seafood. They learned Bachata and drove on the crazy calles of Santo Domingo...if that's not culture then I don't know what is. HA.

We started up in Puerto Plata at a nice all inclusive (VH Gran Ventana, I highly recommend)...

They got to meet fellow PCV John and we had a little malecon adventure

Next up was a little mini tour of the south- San Rafael, Los Patos

Then we headed down to the south to visit these lovely people in Pedernales

(Disclaimer: All of these photos are without filters)

Then we took off for Bahia de las Aguilas...which is hands down the most beautiful beach that I've seen thus far...

Ugly, huh? Then we packed up the car and moved back toward Barahona for 2 nights on the Bay of Neiba. There was motorcycle riding with my dominican friends and lots of plastic chair sitting. 

Yesterday we arrived back in Santo Domingo and today they left for the US of A. 

So what now? I'm in what we like to call limbo. I have no site or project soooo I will be traveling and visiting other volunteers to kill some time. 
On October 5th I will be headed up to Santiago to translate for a medical mission put on by ILAC for a week...more info here: 

Sigh. Hope you all are well! Besos, Kaley

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blog post without pictures = -1000 words

Right? I mean I know when I was scouring Peace Corps blogs to try to figure out what my service was going to be like (HA, like I could have ever even guessed...) I would get absolutely furious when people only had posts with a bajillion words and no pics. WTF people? And here I am, 2 posts in a row without pictures. sigh.

Anyway I'm back in the capital after yet another security incident in my site. As previously stated I could have NEVER guessed that my Peace Corps service would be anything like it has been. In both good and bad ways. The last 2 weeks have been extremely trying and have really made me question much of what I thought was general understanding of this culture and life.
So why does this stuff happen?
It's no one's fault that my community is the way it is and unfortunately it's a vicious cycle. Poverty and lack of education here make it so people think they have to steal to live. If there was better education I can't help but think things here would be different. I also never understood hunger until I lived in Bombita. People are genuinely scared of starving. Typically in the DR there is food everywhere you go. If you walk into someones house they are definitely going to offer you some kind of food and drink. In Bombita, it's not always like that. There are days when kids don't eat because there's no food at their house. It's no mystery why the children in my site are much smaller in size than other children their age.
Kids raising kids is another factor. Women here get pregnant extremely young and although they think they can take care of their kids, they can't. Seriously, if you are starving and can barely feed yourself, what makes you think you can feed another mouth?

But then there are relationships that I have unexpectedly made that give me hope and make me want to go back to my community. One thing I have learned about this culture is forgiveness. It's evident everywhere. You can screw something up real bad and you will always be forgiven. The kid that robbed my house? I forgive him. It's not his fault. He's also robbed countless other houses in the community. I hope that some day he can leave all of the terrible things that he's done behind him and find something he's really passionate about in life. In fact, I'd love to sit down and talk to him. I'm confident he wouldn't ever come near me again when we're done talking.
I have been welcomed into multiple homes as family and I am always taken care of. I think it surprises them too. I don't think my host mom (who has no kids) ever thought she would live with a (foreign) stranger in her house who would later be like a daughter to her. I am so grateful for her I don't know what I would do without her. She even continues to do my laundry! If that's not love, I don't know what is.
My project partner and I have some very different beliefs in regards to many things but she is as blunt and honest as I am and for that reason our friendship works. I tell her everything and she always tells me the truth. The women of my project have become like 19 aunts, always checking up on me and sending their kids to see if I need anything. And these women are dedicated. Living in an impoverished community and working for a women's project that doesn't always have steady income takes integrity, courage and pride in a male dominated society. 
Then there are the guys in my community who have become like my brothers. They take care of my house when I'm not there, (and clean even though they don't know how) do of all of the handy work around my house, take me places on their motorcycles, teach me to dance salsa (not quite there yet..) sit with me when I'm upset and even come all they way to the capital when I can't be in Bombita. When I get home they are at my house within minutes. One of them usually goes around to tell the others that I'm back and before I know it I have a house full. It's a kind of unconditional love that I sometimes take for granted but I would be totally lost without them.

Saturday night was absolute madness. For the first time since I've been in this country I felt like my life was in real danger. Around 8pm I was sitting in a plastic chair (obviously) at my house with one of my friends talking about who knows what and drinking a jugo when all of the sudden my host mom's nieces came running to my door to tell me that the community leaders had caught Luigi, the kid who had robbed my house and several other houses in the community. My friends hugged me as I smiled, thinking that finally all of this was over. I made a mental note to call the safety and security officer, Mayuli, to let her know that they were taking him to the police. Or so I thought.
A large crowd formed around the mayor (who is my host mom's brother) as they walked to the entrance of my community to take Luigi to the police. To arrive to the entrance, one must pass by my house. I stayed inside as the crowd approached. I saw my project partner and various other people I knew coming to talk to me as the crowd grew bigger. I called the safety and security officer to let her know what was going on. I also asked her to notify the police and have them come here as I began to worry if he would actually make it to the police station. As Luigi (who I had never seen before) came into view two of his friends arrived armed, demanding that they let him go. Shots were fired into the crowd in front of my house but no one was hurt. I quickly shut my doors and windows and headed for the back of my house, following Mayuli's instructions. When the crowd calmed down I came out of my room to let my project partner into my house as I could hear her calling me. When I opened the door, the mayor and Luigi were in a scuffle on my front porch. Struggling to keep control of him, someone had the bright idea to put him into my house so he couldn't escape. I screamed as my front door was forced open and people flowed in behind them. I hung up my call with Mayuli. The crowd pushed him into my spare bedroom while they continued to struggle. As one of my friends pulled me out of my house by one arm, he was stabbed in the ribs with a kitchen knife. When they finally got me outside I was absolutely terrified and sobbing. A woman told me not to worry, that they would keep him in there until the police arrived. Keep him in my house, of all places?! Can we put him in your house then!? As my friends tried to keep me calm I screamed at the people in and outside of my house, telling them it was an incredible lack of respect and that I could not believe this was happening. Then I heard a loud cracking noise and saw Luigi jump out of the window he had just broken in my extra bedroom and flee. As I panicked in the arms of my friends, Mayuli called back. I explained what had happened and she instructed me to pack as much as I could and that the police were coming to get me. Around 10:30 the police arrived and took me to Barahona to spend the night. I left for the capital the next morning.

At first I was angry. Angry that my community let it happen and angry that they couldn't possibly understand why I felt this way. I was ready to leave. I cried, not because I wanted to go home but because this is not how I imagined my Peace Corps service. Not. Even. Close. It's disappointing to invest so much time and energy into a community where I have to constantly worry about my safety.
But then I had a very interesting conversation with a girl who was a volunteer at the school in my community on Sunday morning. She explained that things like this are everyday life for the people in my community and if I leave, I'm giving up on them. Giving up on the development and all of the good things and people in the community. I had so much hope for Bombita. So much planned, so much excitement for what I thought would be able to happen in my two years there. I have seen things here that make me wonder where God is in all of this, why are there such terrible things and people in the world?
These events make me think that it will be extremely difficult for the community to advance, but I know that it's part of progression. The community taking the initiative to find Luigi (he's extremely good a hiding) which is progress. The police were in my community last night, something they would have never done a year ago because of the reputation Bombita had. Yes, he escaped. Will he continue to steal in the community where he is from? I don't know. Bombita is reeling right now and it breaks my heart to not be there.
I also don't know what's going to happen with my service. I am sure a site change will be recommended as this emotional roller coaster is nowhere near over. And some of you probably think I'm crazy for wanting to stay in Bombita but I can't imagine starting all over in a new community and I am not ready to go home.
I'm not giving up.

Obviously more on that to come. In the meantime I'm here in Santo Domingo and Lexie and Natalie will be arriving on Wednesday. I cannot even tell you how excited I am to see them and enjoy a few days of vacation. Although I want them to see my site and meet all of my friends, I unfortunately don't think it will be possible for them to stay at my house.

If I had pictures to post, I don't even know what they would be of. Maybe of my friends, of my families or of the people who have supported me in the last two weeks. But now that I have scared the shit out of all of you it's probably better that there aren't any pictures, hah.

Huge thanks to my Peace Corps family and my family at home for all of their support and late night phone calls and prayers. You guys are the best :)

Siempre pa'delante, Kaley

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New house nightmare

Well, I have officially become that volunteer who totally neglects their blog. It's with good reason, I swear.

First, I'll start by informing you all that I did in fact move into my new house about a week and a half ago. After about 4 days, I had everything moved in and my water situation all figured out. I really do love my house though and I am super happy to have my own space.

Buuuut on Sunday night I decided to go out for a couple hours with my host mom and one of my friends. I left my house at about 9:45 PM and came back at 12:30 AM to find my front door wide open. I knew immediately I had been robbed. Turns out they bent open the metal shutters on the side of my house to get in and walked out the front door. The thief made off with just about every valuable item in my house. Laptop, tablet, iphone, external hard drive, perfume, watches etc. Yes, it was awful. I cried. A lot. Told my friends I wanted to go home.

But now a few days later I realize that I don't want to go home. If I go home, the punk that robbed me wins. Through the entire situation I have come to realize that I still love my community and that I am lucky to have such great friends and project partners. As I write this from my office in Santo Domingo, sicker than a dog with a cold I can't help but think about how much this experience has changed my life. On Saturday I will have been here for 6 months and I would not trade those 6 months for anything.

IN OTHER NEWS. I will be receiving my first visitors on the 18th, for which I am VERY excited!!!
Also, my project is going super well. The new office for the women is almost done, I wish I could post pics but I no longer have a device to do that.
Also we just finished a grant application for the American Chamber of Commerce to purchase some water quality control equipment for the project. More on that to come.
Once I get back online with some sort of computer I will hopefully be able to get started on some other things like a girls youth group (chicas brillantes) and some business technical classes for the women in my community.

Like I said I have no picture taking devices so you'll just have to deal with some photo-less blog posts for a lil bit.

Love from the DR, Kaley