Wednesday, July 4, 2007

There and back again...

Hello from the states! As some of you may know, I have returned to Pennsylvania for good. After an incredible experience in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps, I have decided that it was in my best interest to come home. Besides a few run ins with parasites, health wise I am ok.

The Peace Corps is an institution that brings people of all backgrounds together, people you would never have otherwise met, for a unique life experience. I have lived with multiple families, all of whom were vastly different and from who I have learned a bit more about the culture and myself. I am able to have conversations in a language I did not previously know. I can dance the Bachata and Merengue and eat rice and beans every day and love it. I have lived in the Dominican Republic as a Dominican. And while I will forever be a rubia, Part of my heart is now a bit Dominican.
I will forever speak praises of the Dominican Republic and the Peace Corps. I am thankful to have met the amazing volunteers in my group and the Dominicans who have touched my life.

So I am sure you are asking at this point if everything was so good, why leave?
While there were good things... there were also things that were quiet the opposite. But they weren't the reasons for leaving. Its hard to explain... it was a feeling I had. Its not that I couldn't deal with the living conditions or the language... they made for some of the funniest stories. It was something in my heart that I had to trust, a feeling. I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I didn't feel as though this was what I was meant to be doing. So I listened.

Here I am. Back in the States. I am completely comfortable and confident that my decision was the right one for me. I do not regret leaving. I do not feel guilty or that I have let any one down. I actually feel a bit relieved. And things are really falling into place already, which reinforces that I am where I am supposed to be.

Thank you to all for you support and encouraging words. It was the experience of a life time.
And to the rest of PCDR 517... thank you for your friendships. You all are wonderful!

Now I am off to start the next adventure of my life... whatever that may be

"Eventually all the pieces fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason."

Monday, June 25, 2007

goats, people, gua guas, Oh My!

So... I was on the gua gua (which is the bus here but its not really a bus, its a van type thing that has 12 seats yet somehow no less than 24 people will fit in it) going into the city when all of a sudden this horrid noise echoed 
throughout the entire gua gua. I jumped and turned to see what it was... and what did I find? 
A guy with 4 goats tied up sitting behind me. Yes. Goats. On public 
transportation. Going into the city. Do you know what a goat sounds like, 
because I surely did not and it scared me. It is a terrible cry. But no one else saw 
anything wrong with this so I just passed it off as just another interesting 
experience in the DR .

I spent the weekend in Sabana de la Mar visiting Robyn. This is where I had my CBT for 5 weeks. It was so good to go back and visit. I saw some old friends, stayed with my old host family (where Robyn is actually living now), and saw 2 other volunteers. It was an awesome weekend. Sabana I think is my favorite town in the DR. Its such a friendly and comfortable place to be. And the people there are so nice. Plus, when you have a hostess like Robyn, you know its going to be great. (Thank you Robyn! You are the best!)

Thats it for now... I dont have anything profound. Just goats, people, and gua guasIm still in shock that I experienced it. A very profound thought for the day. Public transportation in the states gets better by the minute.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Stars in my room

Ive always been afraid of all the insects and bugs here. I sleep under my mosquiterro religiously and wear bug spray 24 hours a day. They are huge and scary and bit. Not to mention I do not want The Big D! (Dengue). But last night I was up, unable to sleep because its so HOT and humid, and I saw little flickers of light going on and off on the roof my house. Now I say roof of the house because no walls meet the roof so there are huge gaps between the walls and ceiling. Anyway, all over the roof there were these little flickers of light and for a moment I thought I was seeing the sky, but it was the flier flies. It felt like stars flickering so close to me, and I had a front row seat. It was pretty cool and for some reason at that moment it was very relaxing. I think those types of bugs I can deal with.

Its been a good week... well, its been entertaining. I went to visit Lori out in Luperon and had a fabulous time! She lives in a beautiful town on the ocean with mountains surrounding 3 sides and the water on one. People in her town are so nice. Shes got the life. Anyway... I arrived in her town and we visited a friend of hers who has internet and I was able to use some FREE internet! You all don't understand that importance of this. Internet and free in the same sentence is amazing. I surprised Keith and was able to talk to him for almost an hour! Even if our connection wasn't the best, it was amazing to talk to him for so long and really have a conversation that lasted for more than 2 minutes. He sounded great. After talking to him Lori and I met up with a friend of hers and we went horseback riding for 4 hours all along the mountains on either side of her town and through her town. It was sooo beautiful! But I think that I am still a bit sore from it. It had drizzled a bit on one of the climbs up a mountain, but it was so worth it. When we got to the top there was a rainbow over her town. It was beautiful. We also got in some beach time, which I am burnt from. But over all it was a relaxing and much needed trip. (Thanks Lori!)

School is out. No students. No work. No nothing. I am reading books like crazy. My family thinks that reading will make you go crazy, so they are always saying something to me as i sit out front in my rocking chair reading. But I love it. My family is crazy as ever. I dont even know where to begin with more Dominicanisms... Ill make a list later on. I just found out that the coffee that I am obsessed with is made by my Dona! They have land out in the mountains and coffee plants. Every so often the beans are collected and she dries them, roasts them, then mashes them up into coffee grinds and makes it in her crazy little coffee maker thing... which I cant even begin to explain. Ill have to post a picture. Im eating Mangos like crazy. i think there is a good chance that i will turn into one. Everyday someone is bring me a bag of mangoes. They are just so good and sweet. I love it. Plus its the only fruit I am eating. My diet here consists of: rice, beans, and every manner of cooking bananas and plantains (boiled, fried, or ripe). Its such a deliciously bland diet.

Im off with a friend now to eat some lunch and what not... anything besides rice and beans. Im thinking some American fast food will be great.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Long Over Due....

Hello! Its been awhile... I guess the lack of a post kinda signifies whats been going on and how Im feeling here... which isnt too much. So on with the updates.

Sabana-Yes, of course Im going to start with her. She is definitely Dominican. She eats more rice and beans and fried salami than I do. She is a begger and my Doñas little girl. My doña feeds her nonstop and I am always getting yelled at for not feeding her, even though I have cat food out for her. She needs real food according to my doña. My doña also talks to her like shes a little girl. I was in the kitchen the other day and my doña was telling my cat that thats not how little girls behave and she needs to stop. If you have a cat, you need to buy a mosquito net. It is the best toy I have ever seen. Besides the massive holes I can foresee... Sabana is loving it. I woke up the other day to her sound asleep on top of the net hanging down just over my face. She is always climbing and playing into... usually getting so tangled up I have to get her out. And speaking of climbing... she loves tress. She climbed up a tree the other dya and onto the roof of the house and got stuck. Some of the neighborhood boys went to rescue her. Besides that she is always getting into trouble and running into things and falling off of things. Not quite cat like, but always entertaining.

Me- Where to begin. I was on the phone with mom the other day and it was barely raining. I mean a few sprinkles here and there. My doña comes out from the house and puts a shower cap on my head and walks away. Yes, a shower cap. Like that is going to protect me from all the horrible illnesses that are in the rain according to her. Oh the things she says. Sometimes I have to just walk away before I laugh. Its our rainy season now and along with it comes the craziness. I have 3 little nephews at my house... 3, 4, and 6. It was pouring the other day, I mean POURING, and the 3 of them come running out of the house and hide along side this garage type thing. Next thing I know my doña comes running out of the house whipping her belt over her head with some sort of plastic lid over her head. She chased the boys up and down the street for what felt like forever yelling something at them. It truely was a sight out of a movie. The insects are insane. They are HUGE and every where. I have to put on bugspray even before I get into the shower. And the spiders are freaking scary. The biggest things I have ever seen adn they always show up unexpectedly in places I dont want... like in my helmet when I was about to put it on. My doña isnt the only crazy one... so is my don. He doesnt eat his food unless is prepared and on the table with a spoon in his dish. We all sat down at the same time and ate and finished before he even began, on time. He didnt eat because he didnt have a spoon, and the spoon was in the container infront of him. Its interesting. ANd he always tries to spoon feed me his half eaten food. It doenst matter if I am at the table or outside, he always comes to find me.

School- school is interesting. Its a place with a ton of problems and lack of respect for anyone. I am really struggling with what my purpose is here. I have a big need in me to teach... to have a room and my students that I know Ill see every day at this time, and thats not what Ill be doing here. I have observed tons of classrooms adn tested tons of students. I know what the needs of the school and I know what needs to be done... its just a matter of talking people into beliveing me. I began my week a few weeks ago with a teacher slapping a student so hard he bled. The interesting part is that she was accusing him of not respecting her, and he was explainging his side of the story when she hit him. Nothing has been done to punish her even though its illegal here to hit students. Even though that is one teacher and one example... thats really shows so much of what goes on. I was working with one student who did a great job and I put my hand out for a high 5 and said ¨dame 5¨(give me 5!) The boy was nearly in tears as he said ¨pesos? I dont have 5 pesos¨I had to let him know i didnt want his money. It was a sad but hilarious moment.

So those are just a few quick updates. This week is the last week of school, then next week begins testing. Im kinda at a lost of what I should be doing now, but thats ok. My plans for the summer are to do some one on one tutoring wiht some students who really need it, to help out another PCV with some of her teacher training for a week, and just to do some resting and relaxing and visiting. Im heading into the capital this weekend for some work and a mailcall! Im desperate to get some mail. Its been over a month since Ive been able to check my mail. So it will be a welcomed break and trip.

Happy belated birthday mom! I love you!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Test time

Please answer the following questions-

1. Leah is from which of the following countries-
a. The United States of America
b. New York
c. The Dominican Republic
2. True or false- A 1986Toyota Carolla is a 4x4?
3. True or false... the following foods can be fried...
a. Everything.
4. My name is-
a. Elia
b. Americana
c. Rubia
d. Gringa
5. The most recent juice I have tried was-
a. Tomato
b. Tamarindo
c. Sphaghetti
d. Cherry
6. Distances that are too far to walk, especially during the day-
a. 4 Km
b. the neighbors house
c. around the corner
7. Ture or false-
You will die if you drink liquids during a meal.
8. True or False-
Showering before 8am and after 7pm will make you sick and washing your hair everyday is just crazy.
9. Most common response I get to having a cat-
a. awww... how cute
b. eww... how dirty
c. OMG... get rid of it, cats prevent women from becoming pregnant!
10. When it is going to rain and you need to run an errand, which of the follow do you take to protect yourself from the water-
a. umbrella
b. rainjacket
c. plastic bag
1. New York. Yes, New York is a counrty, not the US. People dont understand when I say Im from the US... they say oh... but what part of New York are you from?
2.True... anything that moves is a 4x4 and can manover anything.
3. everything and anything.
4. All of the above. And if I dont respond they just yell louder.
5. Spaghetti... no Im not joking.
6. All distances are too far to walk.
7. True. I get yelled at when I have water at the table. They are affraid that Im going to drown.
8. true.. if you are Dominican,not sure how to explain it, but its what I hear every day.
9. C. I dont understand it. But apparently cats prevent pregnancy
10. A plastic bag. I dont get this either. But women walk around with plastic bags on their heads to protect their hair from the rain.
Oh the DR... the things that I am learning. Another example of something that I learned... all female babies have an operation as soon as they are born so that they can grow faster. But this only happens in the US. Its never a dull moment in my house. Crazy, but never dull. Between the 100 family members who are always over, there are about 6 neighborhood boys ranging in age from 6-13 who are always over and curious to know what I am doing. One of them is always up in a tree looking for fruit for me. One time One of them brought me a bowl of fruit, cherries, and told me I had to go make juice with them. i told him I didnt know how and he siad yes you do, just go to the kitchen and make it, You are a woman. He didnt mean any disrespect, its jsut known that the women here know how to cook and amke everything. I think Im a bit of a shock here since Im not quite the cook. The oldest boy was out one morning without a shirt and shows and as soon as he saw me he ran home and came back 5 mins later and appologized and said now he was proper to greet me. He put on shoes and a shirt and a belt. He is also the same one who walked me to the store one day with a big smile and had me hold his arm the whole way there and back. He was such a gentleman and it was adorable. I am always escorted everywhere I go, whether I want it or not. To and from school there is a boy who waits for me to make sure that I get there and back ok. There is also another boy in the neighborhood who is 11 and has never set foot in school. He doesnt have a birthcertificate, and bsaiclly acording to the DR doesnt exisit. The first thing he ever said to me was that he wants to learn. So he is my project this summer. Im going to start the process of getting him a birthcertificate and Im going to sponser him so that he can go to the summer school that I am starting. He is wonderful and always helping me with everything and has this big toothy grin that is just adorable.
As far as school goes... its interesting. That is my new favorite word here. Everything is always interesting. There are 2 sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, for 4 hours. Of those four hours, I have calculated that the average teacher teaches for less than 1 hour of those 4. They write a question on the board and thats it. But of course I am in love with every child. But there are 2 that have my heart. ONe in the morning... he always leaves his class and just waits for me outside of which ever room I am in. He doesnt talk, just stares. But now Im getting hugs every day from him and Im working one on one a little when I cant get him back to class. And there is one in the afternoon who doenst talk and often hides under his desk for 4 hours, that is if hes not fighting. I finally got him out of the room one day and was working with him in a quiet room, and he still didnt talk, but he smiles. I later found out that his mom died 6 months ago and that every month he has been living with someone else and that last month the person he was living with also died. And the teachers re`sponse to this is that he just has problems and doesnt want to learn. And this poor boy is only 6 years old. And Im madly in love with him. Which of the students am I not going to love?
Right now I am doing a Diagnosic of the school and students. I am interviewing the teachers, testing some of the students and just doing gerneral observations. I have a presentation in Aug. to PC over my findings and from these findings I can create my project for the nect 2 years. Also, Im in the initial process of creating a summer school for a few weeks for those students who are really struggling. Most of the students after 2nd grade are 1 to 4 years above greade level. Students are held back and fail grades like its nothing. Its hard to see a 14 year old in 4th grade. But these are all reasons why I am here.
Life here is very tranquilla... Im always drinking coffee somewhere and talking. Most of the time I know what is being said, which is pretty cool. But I do live half my life in the dark... literally. There is no light from about 5pm until morning when I wake up. Im getting used to life this way. Its kinda crazy.
Off to spend some quality time with my crazy family... in the dark.

Friday, April 27, 2007


1. Me being Dominican and eating sugar cane in the back of a pickup
2. Sabana!!!! Isnt she beautiful?
3 and 4. The tradional dancing that we had at the going away party.
PS... I have a cell phone now! So email me if you want it... I know you do.

Where in the World is Leah?

What a good question this is! And so many answers...

I have been missing internet for the past month. I cant believe its been that long! Time is flying by and they have been keeping me busy. So, the end of CBT, how was it? It was great! So much happened... I rode in the back of a pickup to Caño Hondo for Semana Santa and swam in the pools there, then after went to the campo and ate fresh sugar cane, tamarindos, and other crazy fruits. It was awesome. The other volunteers and I painted a mural of the Rights of Childhood (pics to come at another point). It turned out beautiful. Oh yea, I found a kitten! Her name is Sabana (since I found her in Sabana de la Mar) She is beautiful! Shes only about amonth old, but is growing each day. She is calico coloring. Her head is black and white and her body and all mixed. At the end of CBT the families had a party for us... they brought in a dance troupe that danced for us all night and danced the tradition DR dance in the traditional dress... it was amazing and so beautiful! I cant remember what else happened in CBT right now... so jumping ahead to life in the past 2 weeks. I finally got my site placement! I am in a town outside of Santiago. Im in the north... 30mins from the airport (hint hint) and less than 2 hours from the beach. I went on a 5 day visit there last week... and its beautiful there. I wake up in the mornings, not because I want to, but because life there begins EARLY, and drink my coffee (which is basically home grown, dried, and roasted, and STRONG) looking out at the northern mountain range, specifically Pico Pablo, which is the second largest point in the DR. Im so close that I feel like if I stuck out my hand I could touch the mountains. Real quick about the coffe... its amazing and its so strong, that Dominicans only serve it in these tiny cups like a shot. They think Im crazy when I tell them in the states we drink large mugs of coffee. Back to my site... its called Los Cocos. I will be working in a school with 1700 students. Doing what... Im not sure. But behavior and classroom mangagement are the 2 most needed areas of help. But I have a great project partner who is really supportive. My family is awesome too... I cant understand a word they say becasue people in the north have crazy accents (all r´s and l´s and switched for i´s). I live with a Don and Doña and their 27 year old daughter and her son, and a grandson who is 20. And all the neighbors are relatives (nieces, aunts, children) so at any point in the day there are at least 10 people in the house. Its insane. So to rewind and get back to the question of where in the world is Leah... here is my new address: 4th dirt road on the right after the 2nd tobacco field and in front of the pig pen. Its the yellow house. Yea... Im going to become a farm girl. I think I have a bit of adjusting ahead of me... but Im not too scared.

other exciting news... IM A REAL LIVE VOLUNTEER NOW! We were sworn in on Wed. at a wonderful ceremony. It was fast. And no, I dont feel any different. However, like good volunteers, we spend out first official day of service swimming at the Embassy pool and touring the Capital. It was wonderful.

I head out officially to my site tomorrow... so Im not sure when the next time Ill be seeing internet is... but keep sending the messages... I love them!

A more organized post with pictures to come next....