Monday, November 27, 2006

Why the DR is like Little House on the Prairie

1. I teach in a 1-room school house
2. I read books at night by candlelight (when our power is out, which happens frequently)
3. My students sometimes bring me guayabas or oranges (apples, oranges, same thing right? I am starting to see why students gave their teachers apples back in the day)
4. We do not have hot water in the house (this has actually recently changed though)
5. Horses are used to cart things around and are a sign of wealth
6. People walk to the river to retrieve water in the villages
7. The kids play with marbles and jacks
8. People are married at a young age and start having babies (and therefore people cannot believe that none of us have kids at our age)
9. Things are bought only by using currency or trade (who ever heard of a debit/credit card or checkbook?)
10. It takes a million years to get anywhere in this country, we might as well be riding in a chuck wagon

Thursday, November 23, 2006

how haitian am i

Yesterday when I was walking back from the main road to the house after my classes were finished, I was having trouble juggling all of my bags and school materials. I then proceeded to put the bag of left over eggs from the food program on my head, so therefore only had my backpack and one thing in each hand. I did this partly because I was struggling to carry everything and partly simply to see if I could do it. Surprisingly, I was able to walk all the way to the house with the eggs perfectly balanced the entire time, I felt very Haitian. The funny thing was, it was the fact that I was white and not the fact that I had something on my head that made me stand out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

why today was a good day

Why today was a good day:

-Two of my kids in Chichigua (Emilio and Jes Marco) were able to write the letter D on their own.

-One of the older kids (Ernesto) was able to read complete sentences from a book.

-Seeing their expressions each time one of these three kids was able to accomplish this 'unatainable' thing.

-Extending grace to a troublemaker in Chichigua (Ornando), and seeing his reaction as well.

-Having both of my classes in Chichigua be calm.

-Seeing Cristina (my teacher's aid) speak and teach the class in Pancho Mateo, and doing it from the heart.

-Being able to talk and connect with the kids in Pancho Mateo about the death of Salvador.

-Having the afternoon class in Pancho Mateo be calm as well.

-Paying a woman in Pancho Mateo to cut my hair, and having her charge me a minimal price because we are friends.

-Having a father of some of my kids in Pancho Mateo make and write a thank you card that also says that we are friends.

-Knowing that tomorrow evening I head to Santiago to celebrate Thanksgiving the following day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

you can't always trust a clown

I think that I have mentioned this before, but a guagua is the name of a bus that provides public transportation. They remind me of a clown car at the circus, playing the game of how many people can we fit in this tiny space. They usually seat 12 people, and the most that I have counted (on the days that I have actually counted) was 30. Guaguas are like 15 passenger vans, but not as long. Take out the last row of seats and diminish the length, width, and amount of space between each row and you have yourself a guagua. Bodies are contorted to always make room for more, and men usually stand on the outside of it by the door (the door is usually never closed) if space is tight. It really is like a clown car. (Keep in mind that I am making this analogy without ever have gone to a circus, so in actuality it is what I would imagine a clown car to be). With this information known, let me tell you a story that happened yesterday.

Alexia and I, along with Sharla (our director) and the twins went to the beach on Saturday to celebrate Alexia's birthday (which is Monday). Sharla took the babies back to Santiago and Alexia and I took a guagua back to Puerto Plata to our house. After waiting a while, a guagua finally arrived a we hopped on. It was pretty crowded so Alexia got in the front seat, that was already occupied by the driver and two other women mind you, and I sat on a bench that is set up behind the driver facing the first row of people.

To my right sat two women and to left (really almost on my lap) sat an old man. The row facing us sat four men, two were older, one was a young Haitian, and the one in front of me was middle-aged. I sat as (un)comfortably as I could, with purse, towel, and water bottle in hand. On a turn I noticed that the man sitting in front of me was grabbing tightly onto my purse. I figured it was to keep his balance in this crowded vehicle, but made sure that I had a good grip on my purse nonetheless.

I was talking with the women sitting next to me about how when people get off we were going to spread out because everyone in the front was going the rest of the route into Puerto Plata. Finally some people left and I was able to move to a seat a few rows back, glad to be in a different row than the man who clung to my purse as well as to have a little more space. That man, as well as the one I was originally sitting next to got off shortly after that.

As soon as they did, the two women starting going off talking about how those men were trying to rob me and how they (the women) were trying to get me to sit somewhere else out of their reach. They talked the whole way (in voices loud enough for everyone on the entire bus to hear) about how they had recognized them and how they do that kind of thing often.

I was grateful for these women looking out after this 'gringa.' Fortunately, the men were not able to take anything. This is not to scare anyone, most everyone is very kind, but you do come across certain types of people like this, just like you would in any place that you live. Y por eso, you can't always trust a clown.

(Circus analogy borrowed from Donald Miller).

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Yesterday was a long and hard day for me. My first class had over 20 kids packed in the little school house. Throughout the class I kept thinking how great it would be to have only the kids that really needed help in learning how to read and write letters because when the class is so large it is hard to give that one on one attention that so many of these kids need. My second class had about 15 kids. They are a little bit older and therefore a little bit more opinionated. After class Cristina and I were a bit discouraged because they were a bit disrespectful. During the break that we have between the second and third class, the two of us were talking about vision for these classes and about the racism established in this country.

While we were talking, one of my students walked up to the school house and told us that a Haitian boy had just died. (He was one of my students). Cristina and I walked over the the Haitian side of the village. There was a huge crowd gathered around the house of the mother of the dead child (Salvador). She was wailing, as were other family members.

A day or two before someone had told us that two brothers were playing, Salvador and Jeffery. I don't know exactly what all happened, but a machete got stuck in Salvador's throat. Proper medical care was not sought out or given, and as a result Salvador died.

The family was wailing and all the people were gathered around. When Cristina and I walked over there, I found Jeffery and began holding him in my arms. I cannot imagine the guilt that must have been going through his mind. After a little time I walked over to the school house and cancelled the last class of the day. I walked back over to the Haitian side and sat on the ground were all the young Haitian boys and girls were sitting observing all that was going on. Jeffery sat in my lap, and some of the other kids (most all who attend my classes) had their heads leaning up against my body. Salvador had just recently started attending class, but I could not keep my tears from flowing down my face.

I sat there for a couple of hours with the kids, removed a little bit from the wailing family members. Jeffery sat in my lap doing a combination of resting, sleeping, and picking out the dirt from underneath my fingernails. I was still crying. (Yay for being given the most emotional genes in the world). I stayed in Pancho Mateo two hours more because I got Jennie to drive me home because I had all the leftover milk and eggs and other school supplies that took a couple trips to load up in the car. I left the village tired after everything had happened. I got home around 6pm, which is about an hour earlier than normal, but exhausted nonetheless. It was a hard day.

The funeral service is going on now. We had planned to go, but then realized that the immediate family usually doesn't attend. There also is (apparently) a strike going on today and tomorrow, so everything is closed down and no one is on the road. We decided then that it would be better not to go into Montellano for the service. I am hoping then that today I can just lay low at the house. Our director Sharla arrived yesterday evening as well, so we will probably spend a lot of the day talking and planning.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


We drove to Santiago yesterday afternoon for a quick trip to drop the car off for Sharla (our director), who will be in the DR for the next month starting tomorrow. However, there was also a suprise wedding shower planned for Jennie at the HUB. She had no idea and we had a good little time doing the fun girly things that you do at wedding showers. It was a very short trip, but still a fun getaway! :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

kids are cute and parties are fun

This past Sunday, Jennie, Alexia, and I went to Chichigua during their church service to make an announcement. I can't really say that we went to church in Chichigua, because the service begins around 8am and lasts until noon and it is in a language that I do not understand. We got their around 10 and did not stay until 11. Two of the little boys that always run up and greet me when I arrive to Chichigua (Abdias and Estiven) did the same on this day. Estiven rushed up and jumped into my arms, I carried him into the church and sat down. Abdias then saw me and came over to sit by me. It is pretty rewarding to know that these kids enjoy my company. While we were there, Estiven fell asleep in my arms. Some of the women noticed and were pointing it out. It was so precious to look at his little face, that was covered with perspiration, as he slept. I before we left, I took him to one of the houses and lied him down on a piece of foam mattress.

The purpose in being in Chichigua this Sunday morning though was to announce that we were going to have a feast in the village in a few weeks. With all of the clothing donations that we have received from groups, we had clothes coming out of our ears here at the house. We put a couple women in Chichigua in charge and gave them all the donated clothes to sell for super cheap to people in nearby villages. (We didn't like the idea of simply giving away all the clothes to everyone). This plan worked out so beautifully. The women brought in literally hundreds of dollars!! (Yeah, we had that many clothes here!) With a good chunk of the money, we are going to give back to the people there and have a big party in Chichigua the day after Thanksgiving.

I'm pretty excited about it. After it happens I can let y'all know all the details. Although Cristina (my teacher's aid) told me that I should wear my hair down for it. So I can tell you that now, the day after Thanksgiving might the only day that my hair is not pulled back because of the heat.