Sunday, January 19, 2014

A boat

So today (Sunday) I had to work. Not by choice but a lot of associations and organizations at a local level meet on Sundays because it's when most of their members can come. 
A little background. When volunteers arrive to the country for training we have no idea where we will live for the next 2 years. Don't know what out job will be or who the family is that we will live with for our first few months. And for all I know neither does my boss. Hah. 
To find projects for business volunteers there is a decent amount of (dique) sight development involved. The projects must be identified as feasible and workable an the community safe for a volunteer to live. Well 'tis the season. Another batch of business volunteers are arriving in March (yes, that means I've been here for almost a year. No idea how or when that happened) and they are in need of projects and sites for them. Peace corps reaches out to current PCVs for ideas and potential sites. 
So that's what I did today. Thanks to one of my coworkers from SODIN (the development organization I work with) I went out to a community called Boba which is located between nagua and cabrera to check out a fishermans association and ecotourism project in the community. The site is beautiful and right on the beach...
There's also a lagoon 

But the most curious part of my visit? This. 

A fishing boat, right? Nope. A fishing boat doesn't require this kind of security. 
He's a Dominican marine and that's an automatic weapon. 
So what is this thing?

It's a human smuggling boat. Someone back in the mangroves makes them and then they float them out to the ocean to fill with people who have paid roughly 1000 USD to go to Puerto Rico. The trip takes 3-4 days (without any complications) and obvi there is no bathroom on this ship. Give that some thought. The nice marine with the machine gun says this is a smaller boat designed for about 60 people. In that thing?! It's hardly 30 feet long. My family's boat is like 27 feet long and comfortably seats about 8. Do the math. 
This boat didn't make it. When they found it washed up down the beach it was almost empty. It had nothing but some gas tanks and an outboard motor in it. The marine says they don't know if there were ever people in it but that in his year of patrolling this part of the coast they have found about a dozen boats larger than this one that have either been abandoned at sea, caught leaving full of people or confiscated before finishing. 
So when the catch people everyone gets detained for questioning, mostly to find out who runs the operation, and are then let go. The bosses never go with the boats, there is usually a guide with a plan b if they get caught. The marine tells me they've never caught a boat with a guide in it. 
Tomorrow they will burn the boat and send pictures to their superiors as confirmation and it will disappear just like those peoples dreams of illegal immigration. 
All that to go to the US. And here i was thinking I kinda like it here? 
Going to the US is something almost every Dominican talks about. Everyone has a tio or a primo who lives "alla" in nueva yol. It's some peoples lifelong goal to get their kids there (by trying to marry me off to their kids and grand kids. Nice try abuela). Men marry American women to send money to their wives and kids down here. In fact, there is a song that's called "pa mangar mi visa" or "to get my visa" and the main chorus goes a little something like this: 
I want an American girl!
What for?
To get my visa x12
I want an American girl that doesn't understand me at all
I want an American girl who gives me everything I want
I want an American girl who will get me out of here
To get, to get, to get me my visa

For those of you who don't know, there is a huge Dominican population in the Bronx and Washington heights. And I mean huge. Supposedly there are as many Dominicans there as there are on this island. I think that's a myth. I'm anxious to go when I finish my pc service. 
I have a Dominican friend living in New Jersey. He moved to the US 5 years ago and talking to him about the cultural differences has been really interesting. Not to mention fun for both of us because we live in each other's motherlands. And bilingual people are cool. It's a little perspective for both of us. Hi Melvin :) 
If you're interested in learning more about the cultural limbo (if you will) between the United States and the dr (or if you have ever dated a Dominican man or ARE a Dominican man) I encourage you to read the works of Junot Diaz. They are so spot on that they have nearly brought me to tears and I don't cry much people. 
In the meantime I wish Dominicans wanted to stay in their own country to really make it the fabulous place that is has the potential to be. 


Paz y Amor for your motherland, Kaley 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Coming Home

Greetings loved ones, I'm back. Annnd it's halfway through January...when did that happen???

After a snowy, cold 2 weeks in the US I've now been back in the DR for about 15 days.

There was a lot of snow. But I got to see almost allll the important people in my life and it was great.

Our annual post-Christmas Chicago trip to shop and eat. 

I brought 2 full size jam-packed suitcases back with me (mostly clothes and christmas presents and stuff for volunteers who didn't go home for the holidays). Because obviously I wouldn't travel light. Not me, ever. But I will tell you my new clothes were much needed (

I must tell you I was a bit nervous to come back. Would I hate it now that I had been back in the first world enjoying modern conveniences, hot water, driving and throwing the TP in the toilet? Luckily my dear friend Sam and I (this is her blog) arrived to the DR almost at the same time, which was a fabulous culture shock/coping mechanism. We were greeted at the airport by some familiar faces and made our way into the concrete jungle of Santo Domingo. 
The truth? It was great to be back. We eased into the new year with a hundred something other volunteers in the beach town of Cabarete on the north coast and even though the weather wasn't ideal (rains in the winter here) it was great to see everyone. 

Sam and I
Kate Sam and I

Some people I like. 

Then we headed back to site on the 4th. I spent a couple days with my host family finishing out the Christmas season (which ends January 6th here because of the King's Day) and then...........I MOVED!

Yep. Move number like 15 since I've been in Peace Corps? meh. I moved into a rooftop apartment about 5 minutes walking from my host family's house...let's just say it's pretty different from my previous living situation. 

So that's it! 2013 ended a little rough, so I have high hopes for 2014. 

More updates on my projects and "work" coming soon. 

Besos!! Kaley