Monday, December 10, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

death

I was thinking a few weeks back on things that I have seen over the past 16 months. During that time, I was told that the older brother of three of my students was killed while riding on a motorcycle. Though he was significantly older than his younger siblings, I still saw him quite often in Pancho Mateo.

Many of you who have been down here know the Martinez family, David, Damari (otherwise known as Cindi), Daribelto, and Danilo. It was their brother Kelvin that died, he was 14 years old. Kelvin had gone missing for a few days and so his death wasn’t confirmed for a while because it happened in an area closer to the capital. An 18-wheeler and his moto crashed, instantly killing him and the person he was with. I went to visit his mom, Charito, a few days after I found out, it seemed kind of surreal to see an old picture of him and a few lit candles in the house, but then I got to thinking about it.

I have seen more deaths this year than I have in my entire life in the states. Little boys with tetanus (Salvador), neglected infants, old men and women, young men and women, the dad of Fiordalina, Rosa, and Felix Manuel in Pancho Mateo, Papo the uncle of Delvin and Daniela in Pancho Mateo, the witch doctor in Pancho Mateo grandmother of Marta one of our preschool students, Cristina’s cousin and her baby, Evelyn’s husband and dad to Yunior, Ernesto, Yes Marco, and Ambiolix in Chichigua. People’s husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, cousins, grandparents, all people that I knew or related to people I know. And this is all as of recent.

Two weeks ago there was a young man in Tamarindo that lived two houses down that died. The last pathway to get to our school was filled with people gathered visiting with his wife, people playing dominoes to keep the energy up because that’s what they do, his body in a casket in the house with a glass door so you can see the face. He was young. Last week they had a little ceremony at the house when they took the body away.

There is a woman in Chichigua that has AIDS. All of a sudden last week her health went downhill and was immediately on her death bed, lifeless for days. I went to Chichigua to see for myself, everyone telling me she was just waiting to die. I saw her lying in her house, sleeping, looking dead with the exception of a snore that I heard every once in a while. She died a few days ago. I knew her, and she is now dead, a mother of a little boy that is about a year old, precious as can be.

Why is it that death is so prominent? Why is it that my students who are 3 and 4 and 6 and 8 and 10 years old come up to me and tell me that their brother or father died with a big smile on their face?

And why is it that little Bienvenido always wants double of everything he eats at lunch at preschool? He raises his scrawny little arm asking for more whenever we say there is extra. Why are his arms covered with really bad eczema and just this past summer it was covered with second and third degree burns from a boiling pot that knocked over? Why is his brother Gerald’s head covered with scabies? And why do people not really say anything about it?

It is common. Everyday occurrences that happen to all families. Death. Sickness. Poverty.

I was thinking about all this, as I am thinking about it now. I am so thrilled to go back to the states, and literally count down the days. Why do I do that? I know that it is Christmas, and I am homesick. I wonder though, am I getting away because I miss family and friends or is it to escape the surroundings here that are so harsh. I hope it is the former.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

coffee farm

video

thanksgiving


I almost forgot to tell y'all about our Thanksgiving. Last Thursday we were all in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and trying to make our house seem more like being home. We made a turkey and dressing, potatoes, green bean casserole, pecan pie, the works!

It was the five of us that live at the Makarios house (me, Robin, Cara, Kate, and Sharla plus the twins of course), Weston, Jennie, Miguel, Miguel's nephew Blady (who they have been taking care of), Ben White who came up from Santiago, Cristina who works with us at the school with her husband and children. So we had a full house!

Though, I must admit, nothing like being at home with family because when we all get together for holidays the number is closer to 50!


Here we are all sitting down together in the picture above and below is a picture of Cristina's family: Junior, Cristina, Armando, Ruth, and Claudio.

The rest of the weekend was really enjoyable too. We went to Jarabacoa which is in the mountains and stayed with a couple named Chad and Krista and their two girls.

Chad and Krista started a school in Jarabacoa and they also have a coffee farm. The coffee that is grown on it is what is used at the coffee shop Dominican Joe in Austin, TX that Sharla opened last year. It was really cool to see that property and all that was on it. We were also able to see some actual work on the coffee that was pretty cool too.

Below are some pictures from the weekend.

christmas time


Every winter here in the DR (or for at least the ones that I have been here) local vendors have stands selling grapes, apples, and nuts. The fruit and nuts dangle from the tops of the stands, filling the area with completely with their colors and fragrances. I like to call them Christmas stands. They are everywhere, but only during the weeks leading up to Christmas and look beautiful at night.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

beach


After our back to back groups, we were able to go to the beach for a little relaxation. Our first group (the medical one) paid for us to stay at the beach in a hotel, we traveled there with the second group and they decided to stay there too. IT WAS SO WONDERFUL. We were all ecstatic about the hotel, and the opportunity to spend some time at the beach.

The day was so nice, that all of us decided to splurge and pay for the second night. There is something so rejuvenating about the beach that I can't explain. We all had a fabulous weekend, doing nothing really, and it was great. We all stayed Thursday and Friday night. When Saturday came around, I wasn't ready to leave and neither was Kate. The two of us ended up staying until Sunday. I guess you sometimes just have those kind of weekends. It was really nice and very much what we needed, though I think both of us could have stayed there for another week!

paint


While this Westlake group was here, they painted the alphabet on the classroom walls, other need to know information on the classroom tables, a mural on one of the walls, the name on the outside of the building, and so much more.

Shelves were also built and grass was laid in the back to provide a better area for the PE classes.

The kids walked in the next day mesmerized by all the things that they saw.

Pictured is the school with "Makarios" painted on the front.

an early christmas


The following week after the group of medical staff came a group from Westlake in Austin. They have brought several groups down during the time that I have been in country, and therefore many have been able to see so many things about this country and what it is that we do.

The night that they traveled to the north coast and met up with us, they showered us with gifts for the Makarios house. They brought down sets of plates and bowls and glasses, which match! They brought down foam and material to make cushions to sit on when we have a full house, games and movies and TV shows on DVD’s (including the first two seasons of The Office, I was ecstatic!) Not only did they bring things down for the house, but personal things as well. We each received food that we missed from the states, luxury toiletries, and other fun things.

They used the pieces of foam they brought down (which will eventually be cushions) to build a Christmas tree in our living room. It was so special, so special to receive some comforts of home, especially being so close to the holidays. I’m pretty sure that all of us at some point laughed, cried, were in shock and in awe.

It was not just the gifts, but we really enjoyed their company, their service to us, and their friendship throughout their whole stay here and were so grateful for everything.

(Pictured above is our Christmas on November 5th).

diori's abscess


During the last week of October, we had a group of nurses come down. They checked out a few of our students and were able to provide medicine and other treatments for the kids that needed it. During their time here they also taught the Makarios staff specific medical and first aid information and tactics. This includes things from how to treat a burn to seizures to infections. They spent their last day with us teaching us this basic must know information before their beach day.

The very next day when we were at the school, we found a large abscess on one of the neighborhood kids who is always hanging around the school, Diori. Though this medical group had already left Puerto Plata, we were able to help Diori because just the day before they taught us the exact procedures for getting rid of an abscess.

An abscess looks like a giant pimple on the skin. It's middle is filled with puss and debris and apparently is very painful. It cannot be cured by antibiotics alone, but must be opened and drained.

The following video is of me and Elizabeth popping his abscess. Just to warn y’all, it is a little gross so watch at your own risk. I just wanted to share with y’all though the neat story of being able to use what we had learned from this group just the day before.

And, I will have y’all know that Diori’s arm is no longer big and swollen and is healing rather nicely. Elizabeth and I have given each other several high fives since that day.

On a side note, for those of you that have been here and know Diori, he is now enrolled in our classes and comes every afternoon to our program. On another side note, there was a little girl the very next day who abscess I was able to pop.

Ok, I am having video trouble. Here is a picture for now, and hopefully I can get the video posted soon.

Friday, November 02, 2007

night in the hospital

The night before Halloween, I took Robin to the doctor because she had been feeling pretty ill for the past week. She had already made two other trips the week before but had never really recovered. When we were there the doctor said that she would have to stay the night at the hospital with an IV because she was dehydrated. The thought of staying overnight in a hospital in a third world country sounded anything but appealing to her, so I decided to stay the night with Robin.

We went back to the house and grabbed a pillow and some DVDs and headed back to the hospital that Tuesday evening. There were no basic rooms available, our options were the emergency room or a suite. Robin opted for the suite and we made our way to the room. It was actually really nice. She had her own private bathroom, there was even a couch for me to sleep on instead of a chair.

We had a fun and memorable time bonding in the Dominican hospital. I carried Robin's IV around if ever she needed to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. We joked about where we were and what we were doing. It was actually quite comfortable, with the exception of course of Robin being sick.

In the morning I headed off to the villages, but returned in the afternoon. She was finally able to leave that evening around 7pm. A funny thing though that happened was that they wouldn't take out her IV until she had paid her doctor's bills. So, I went down and paid and then the nurse came in and removed the IV from Robin's arm. We headed back to the house and she was so thankful to have her own bed and things near her.

Her health is still in the process of recovery, but I trust that she is almost there. After some more rest over the weekend, she should be good to go come Monday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

halloween

We had a group of seven come down yesterday, which included a 4 year-old daughter named Jenna. She was pretty sad about missing Halloween at home, so we had our own here at the house. Jenna went from door to door trick or treating. Kate, Elizabeth, Cara, Sharla, and I decided to make it fun and dress up for it. I think we had more fun than Jenna did! Below is us pictured in our costumes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

just for kicks

no school

So, Noel is here and has made himself comfortable. The rain has just been crazy. We ended up canceling classes today because of the inclement weather. It just poured and poured. This morning water started flooding into our bedroom from the balcony door. There is a drain, but it was clogged, so water kept collecting outside and therefore decided to pay us a visit. Fortunately we were able to unclog the drain on the balcony so water stopped coming into our room.

We are all safe here, just lots of rain. I had mentioned to many of you before that this part of the island only receives the rain when hurricanes and tropical storms pass by. We did have to cancel class today though. This however did not prevent me from leaving the house nor from getting work done, we made a couple trips to the hardware and grocery store and cleaned the whole house top to bottom.

Below is a link updated on Noel's progress here in the DR, the capital was the area most affected by the storm (about 5 hours from us).

miss sass

Friday when we were at the school cleaning, Cristina had some attitude and it was hilarious! She was asked to go to the capital over the weekend by her brother to spend time with her family, and she was so excited. She was kidding around and acting like a pre Madonna, all dressed up and going to the big city. She would turn out her hips as she talked as she informed us of her plans for the weekend. I love getting to see the depth of her personality!


Oh, and I talked to her today and she said that she had a great time there!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

noel

So, we have been getting a lot of rain in the past couple of weeks. I started to think that perhaps there might have been something brewing in the Caribbean. I just looked it up on line, and it turns out that there is. Tropical Storm Noel. Bienvenidos a la isla Hispaniola Noel! So, yeah, we are all doing great, just lots of rain. No rain now, but when it rains it pours.

Read more about Noel here.

school or day care?


One day a couple of weeks ago, two infants tagged along with their aunts to school. I was so confused whenever I saw these babies being held whenever the kids were in line to enter the building. Apparently, for both cases, the mothers were not at home when it was time for classes to start. So, each of the younger siblings brought their little niece and nephew to class. It was kind of humorous to see babies brought to class, kind of frustrating because one in particular cried the whole time, but also endearing because the kids decided to come to school with the babies as opposed to not at all.

Pictured are David and Elizabeth holding Tony and Katiana. Tony is the nephew of the Yoslena and Francesa (plus all the other Betran family kids that we teach) and Katiana is the second cousin of Tericia.

baseball


A couple of weeks ago, one of my students invited us to go and watch his baseball game on Saturday morning. Though it was at an hour I didn't care to see on a Saturday morning, we decided to go anyway and cheer him on.

There is only one word that I could describe this game, Dominican. There were actually two games going on at once, one on the actual diamond and another in right field. We couldn't see any adults at all on the field, just about 50 kids. (Later we did see one coach though). A couple were standing on the pitcher's mound playing "ump," kids would line up on the fence next to the on deck circle getting ready to bat, and everyone was wearing some sort of uniform regardless that not a single one matched with another.

They only played 4 innings which ended up being about the perfect timing. However, the chalk to chalk the field arrived at the 3rd, so right before my student batted (Natanael) the game was paused to chalk the 1st and 3rd base line, batter's boxes, and on deck circles.

Natanael didn't get a hit and their team lost in the last inning, so he told us not to watch him anymore because apparently it gives him bad luck.

The smaller kids that were playing their own game in right field were pretty cute. There is one boy from Tamarindo that I recognized. He was playing catcher. Every time his team would take the field, he would yell my name from right field back to where we were sitting (3rd base side) and wave his arms to show us that he was playing. I told him earlier that catcher was the position I used to play and he got excited.

I was going to try and upload a few more pictures, but the connection is pretty bad right now so one will have to do. We had a pretty fun morning watching the craziness that is Dominican baseball.

Friday, October 12, 2007

internet and house

Within the past seven days, our internet was out for about five of them. Earlier this week after class one day we all decided to go to a place that has wireless internet so we could catch up with emails and such. So, the only place in the city that has wireless and is somewhat close by is a sports bar called Hemingways at a beach resort, so that is where we went! The connection wasn't working for about half the time we were there, so I was able to send out a total of one emails. We did however have an enjoyable time, and spent some time playing Nertz, which is always fun!

A few things have happened in the past couple of weeks with our staff here at the house. Cara, an intern who has been here since August, is now back in the states for a friend's wedding for a couple of weeks. Also, this past Wednesday Weston moved into a host family's house in Montellano to be able to work more on his Spanish. He is living with Dona Luz, an older woman who comes and cleans our house whenever we have groups here. But there still always seems to be things happening here at the house, our friend Ben is down nearly every weekend to help build something for the school or fix something at the house. Kate's boyfriend David flew down on Sunday to visit, and Sharla flies back down on Saturday. She has been in the states fundraising for these past three weeks.

Stay tuned for kid and school updates!

Friday, September 28, 2007

second week thoughts

It seems that I always have a story once each day has come to a close, though time permits me in getting something posted every evening. Below is one highlight from the week.

Each child is required to pay 50 pesos for registration. This is the equivalent of $1.50, and is really just to show us that the parents are willing to give to help in the education of their children and show that they are generally interested and will make the effort. The finances in which we use to purchase supplies and school materials comes from you people who make donations from the states.

Our preschool children have already received a backpack and school uniform (which includes Makarios shirt, khaki pants, and underwear). Every child in our programs will also receive a tooth brush and notebook, in addition to a snack each day. As of right now, we do not have enough funds to run each of our programs so we are using the dollar fifty from each child.

On Wednesday two of my older students, Francia and Yoslena, approached me while we were crossing the river to go to class. I had warned them the other day that if their parents do not pay the 50 pesos that they could not continue coming to the school (trying to teach responsibility is such a pain). Francia told me that she and Yoslena had collected bottles and turned them in for change, and she handed me some coins and some small bills that amounted to 50 pesos, 25 pesos per girl, that they had made so they could come to school. I was so touched.

I was perfectly content with allowing that to be sufficient, but on Thursday the girls turned in the other 50 pesos. There are 6 children in Yoslena's family, and not all have paid. It has been two weeks into the program, and we are not wanting to cut kids from the list, but there are a few parents who have not completed their children's registration by paying the fee. We will see what happens come Monday.

Monday, September 24, 2007

first week thoughts

Thought Number 1- PE classes taught in English

One day last week when my class was outside with Weston during P.E., he was teaching them how to play "Red light, green light." One way that we are implementing English into the school is teaching classes in English, as opposed to having classes that teach English. Physical Education is one class that we decided would be appropriate to teach in English.

After using colored construction paper to show the colors red and green and what each color signified, he had them line up and yelled out in English if they were ready. Most at the kids starred back at him not having a clue what he was saying. However, one of my students, Sili, who knew a little English, and coincidentally the phrase "I am ready," stood in a position ready to run with a big smile on his face and yelled out the English phrase, "I am ready!"

Weston had to explain to the rest of the class that "ready" meant "listos." All the kids yelled out "Si!!" and he corrected them by saying "Yes!" While the class yelled this out, which sounded more like "jes," Sili yelled out the phrase, "I am ready!" again with a big smile plastered on his face.

As the game continued and each new round started, when Weston yelled out, "Ready? Are you guys ready?," Sili responded "I am ready" as he stood in the ready position with a huge smile on his face. Each time Weston asked, Sili replied the same three words over and over again. Are you picturing this?

It became a sort of constant (and humorous) beat:

Weston: Ready?
Sili: I am ready!
Class: Jes.

Weston: Ready?
Sili: I am ready!
Class: Jes.

Weston: Ready?
Sili: I am ready!
Class: Jes.

We should write a song.

Thought Number 2- Why the Dominican Republic still reminds me of "Little House on the Prairie"

Each day for each class, we walk from the school to Pancho Mateo to pick up the kids. We have not gotten enough sponsorship for each child, nor funds in our budget to pick up and drop off the kids for class. A river separates Pancho Mateo from our school house, so six times a day we hike up our pants and skirts and cross the river round up the kids, then walk them to the river. Once we get to the river, one of two things happens. One, we form an assembly line across the river and pass off each child one after the other until reaching the other side. Two, we put one or two kids on our backs and cross the river carrying them, drop them off, then return to carry more. If only we had a wagon to ford so we could all cross in one trip!

Speaking of wagons, the transportation of Chichigua kids is just as humorous. Chichigua is not walking distance to the school, and therefore we were concerned about how to get the students there. Chichigua sits about a mile off the main road down a small rocky road that puts a lot of wear and tear on our guagua (van). This also costs a lot of valuable time and money (on gas) to make three round trips. For a little while we did not think that we would be able to bring the Chichigua kids because of this financial reason. My heart was sad because I knew how excited all the kids were to start class. We collectively decided to bring the Chichigua kids and trust that finances would come. Here comes the funny part. Since the guagua is not in the best condition and since gas is expensive, we jokingly talked about having a horse drawn buggy of some sort cart the kids to the main road so picking them up would be a lot more convenient! This joke soon began to sound not so silly and we mentioned the idea to the parents. It is a project in the works!

Monday, September 17, 2007

grandma is off her rocker

because classes have begun!

los dientes de un cerdo


While picking up trash and tree branches in the back of the school property to clear a space to have PE classes, I found this on the ground. They are teeth from a pig. Yeah, that's right.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

progress








Here are some pictures of the progress of our school and the people helping to build it. Classes were tentatively supposed to start on Monday, we are hoping though to open a week from the 10th if not the following week.

Monday, September 03, 2007

lil' abner

As many of you know through your experience here or because of the stories I have told, our car that we drove this past year was not quite up to par. I don't think that I have ever mentioned much about our Pathfinder on the blog, so I will do that now.

We have given the name Lil' Abner to our wonderful jepeta, not Abner, not Little Abner, Lil' Abner. You see, our land lord is named Abner and he is an interesting character. He gives us some problems on occasion because for a while there he never paid any attention to all the problems we raised about the house, for example awful filtration problems. So, we kept paying rent each month and he would never come and fix the things he was supposed to. Essentially, he gave us problems. Now, our car did too. Alexia and I paid rent on him each month, but things kept going wrong so he was always in the shop. Hence the name, Lil' Abner.

Also, I might add, during the time we chose the name, we were on a musical kick (and maybe still are...) and would often times break out into song throughout the day. For those of you who don't know, Lil' Abner is the name of a musical. The character Lil' Abner is strong and handsome, but is dumb and lacks any sense of emotional ties (particularly love) because of the medicine he takes daily. He can easily be paralleled with our jepeta in that the Pathfinder is a pretty big car and looks pretty, but like the musical's character is completely annoying and frustrating. Lil' Abner, where's the love?

With that being said, I would like to discuss the character traits of our own Lil' Abner. Here are some precautions if you ever want una bola (a ride) en la jepeta:

1. beware of getting bonked in the head, the trunk does not stay open unless you hold it up
2. prepare for a little accapela, the radio does not work
3. like every other place in the country, there is no working AC
4. ten cuidado when you are driving because the horn no sirve, but no worries we have an air horn
5. hope you are flexible because the driver's door doesn't open so you have to climb through the passenger side
6. the driver's side window used to not roll down, then it wouldn't roll up, now it is cracked, being propped up by a stick
7. therefore don't offer to drive because the driver gets no air circulation and when it rains you get a little wet
8. the outside handle of the driver's door broke off, so even if it could open, you wouldn't be able to from the outside
9. know your numbers, we have to count off before unlocking the door, if you're not quick enough the doors will lock back before you can get it opened, so get the rhythm down to a t.
10. the emergency break stopped working, so don't park on a hill
11. going into 1st gear is like arm wrestling with Hercules, pray that you've got strength because it is dang hard to move
12. the gas door sometimes doesn't close, which is fun because it gives the car wings (well, at least one)
13. the gas gage is always on empty, hope you don't run out
14. it is likely you could star in a motion picture if in proximity of the car, remember our rendition of Little Miss Sunshine?
15. basically if you can drive this car, pat yourself on the back because you got skill

people that have learned this skill in country: alexia and camille -> constance -> robin -> weston (sort of)

As you can see, the problems have accrued to such heights that it is really not wise to drive it, not to mention pretty dangerous. This past weekend when most of us were in Santiago, Phillip, Kurt, and Andy were at the house. They planned to go to 27 Waterfalls on Saturday. However, on the way Lil' Abner died and was towed to the mechanics. I think that was the last straw because we are not going to pay to get it fixed, so we have seen the last days of our lil' friend.

So, here is to you Lil' Abner, as we bid you good night.
"So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
Goodbye... goodbye... goodbye..."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

living large

In addition to the people in the house now, there has been one other. Andy is in his late thirties and came down once before with his family in June. He is here for a week to help with the construction of the school building in Tamarindo, sadly his week is nearly at its end. Last night after the guys got back from the work site and we picked Kate up from the airport, we went out to eat instead of cooking at home. We went to a fun place right off the malecon (sea wall) that had tex mex, believe it or not. Andy had wanted to treat us all to dinner, it was such a thoughtful gesture. Jennie and Miguel joined the group, as well as Vlady, the boy that they have recently taken in to help raise. We all had a great time, and it was so nice to get out of the house in the evening and dress up a little.

After our dinner out on the town, today was another fun adventure. We had an orientation for the new staff and talked through a lot of the things for the vision of the school, which will be called Colegio Makarios. The catch is, we had all of our meeting at the beach in Cabarete! It was such a beautiful day. The water was the awesome sky blue and the sand was white and vast, an ideal backdrop when talking about the Dominican Republic! Cristina came to that meeting as well, which was fun.

Tomorrow morning we are headed to Santiago to visit a preschool and talk with the director to get some ideas for our program. We are staying the weekend, I will let y'all know all that happens as it comes.

ya tenemos todo!

Yesterday afternoon we all went to pick Kate up for the airport. Our staff is now complete!! Woo-hoo!

Kate will be a teacher at the school house along with me and Cristina. The other staffers that are here for the year are Robin, who will be helping us out specifically because of her bilingual education experience and Weston, who will be teaching PE classes, among other things to the kids. And of course, there are Jennie and Miguel who live here. Cara and Elizabeth are two interns here for the fall to help out wherever.

We met Kate at the airport all wearing matching bright green hats, it was quite fun!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

back in the DR

A few weeks in the states and now I am back here in the DR. Let me update you on what all has been going on.

Right before I left the country, Robin and I made a slide show of pictures of the kids throughout the year for Pancho Mateo and Chichigua. They LOVED it!! Even the parents were squealing as each new picture popped up! We made popcorn the morning of, so it was like their own little movie theater in the village.

After saying some goodbyes, I flew into Houston the night of July 25th and spent 3 1/2 weeks in Houston and Austin. I was able to attend the wedding of two good friends, Michelle and Miah, catch up with friends and spend time with family, went to a few stores to stock up on things to take back, saw a couple of movies, and ate some good old Tex Mex.

I arrived back in the Dominican Republic on Monday night and was met by Teresa White and Robin in Santiago. Robin and I did a lot of catching up, after several big hugs of course! Since we were staying at the Whites in Santiago, I was also able to see the twins, Jacob and Isaac. I cannot believe how big they are getting and all of the things that they can now do!

Robin and I headed back to the north coast on Tuesday and met up with Phillip and Kurt, who are here helping out until mid September, as well as Weston, who will be here working for the year. We went to Tamarindo and I was able to see the progress of the education center. I was also greeted by the kiddos and got a huge running jump hug from Diori, a sweet and helpful seven year old that lives there. Miriam found out I was back as well and we met up and gave each other a big hug. (Miriam is one of the women whose house flooded in Tamarindo).

We walked over to Pancho Mateo since it is just across the river to show Weston the area and to reunite with the people there. It was so great to see all the familiar faces as we walked up and down each pathway of the village.

The new school is planned to open mid September if construction is finished at that time, meanwhile we are starting to plan for meetings and registrations for our potential students.

Last night, after several power outages and lack of internet, Robin and I introduced the card game “Nertz” to Phillip and Kurt, and had a blast. Things have been a little low key today, which has been nice, especially for Robin who has been extremely busy these past several weeks. The two of us took Weston to the grocery store and the fruit market, while Phillip and Kurt worked at the land, and now we are just doing some planning for when we meet with parents this week.

I will keep everyone posted as things progress, as of now, I am happy to be back and excited for the year that lies ahead.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

evelyn and maria

Last night I found out that the husband of a dear friend in Chichigua passed away. The woman is named Evelyn, she shares her name with my sister. Evelyn is a mother of four; all of children come to my class in Chichigua.

She works in a salon in a tourist beach town nearby, and so is able to support her family. I had never met her husband because he was always working when I was there teaching. Evelyn also attends Alexia’s English class regularly and the two of them have established a great friendship.

We went to her house today to visit her. She was inside on her bed just sitting there. When she saw us, she said in English, “my husband is dead.” It broke my heart.

The last time I had gone to Chichigua prior to today was Sunday for church. A woman named Maria who I know pretty well pulled me aside to tell me that her husband let her. He packed up all his clothes and left, leaving her with nothing really because she does not have a job and therefore no money.

Maria is sometimes a little out of it and I don’t think enjoys her life very much. She has AIDS (but will not admit to it) and is always sick and weak. Please pray for these two women and the direction that life is taking them.

dancing tops

Several weeks ago I went to Tamarindo, where the guys are working at the land. I was watching the kids play with tops. Do you remember those tops that spin? They had these plastic tops with a piece of string wrapped up around it, then they would place the top on top of an empty water bottle, pull the string down and lift the bottle up. The top would jump out and spin around on the ground.

What I thought was interesting about it was that whenever someone was about to release the top, all the kids would shout out “make it dance! Make it dance!” I have never thought of a top dancing, just spinning, and so I smiled when I heard that expression for the top.

I called out to them to see who wanted to dance like the top, so when the little boy Reyni made the top “dance,” we all started dancing with it. There were about eight kids and then myself spinning around and around like the top, dancing. I loved it!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

dominic

On Tuesday of this past week, I spent the day in Pancho Mateo with Rebecca, Leticia, Alexia, Rose, and her kids. We didn't have class that day, so I was able to walk around and spend some time with the people that lived there. Jennie had mentioned a couple days before that there was an old Haitian man living in his own waste, deteriorating away, unable to do anything on his own. On Monday, Rebecca and Brad went with Jennie to his home and brought some pampers, protein powder to make drinks, and a foam cushion and bed frame because he had been sleeping on an old mattress on the floor. His name is Dominic, and he has a younger brother that lives near him but does nothing to help him.

I wanted to take advantage of the free day I had to go and meet him. Rebecca and I walked through a very narrow area in Pancho Mateo where he lives, walking between small houses made of pieces of tin that seemed to give off heat like nothing else. Rebbecca brought sheets for his bed and a set of clothes. We had to ask a child to show us where his house was because there was so much winding in and out of narrow pathways that it was hard to remember the way.

We arrived at his house, a tiny shack made of tin that made up one part of a long row of small tin houses. The door was open and I walked in. His house was split in half, you walk in to a small area and then immediately have to turn to go into the second room which was just big enough for a bed. The only light was coming from the front door, so the back room hardly gets light at all.

I walked in, and turned to look into the back room. It was so dark that I couldn't see anything, I thought that no one was there. Then I slowly started to see the outline of a small, dark figure hunched over at the foot of the bed. I was startled that there was in fact someone there. I walked in and saw an old man seated basically in fetal position, his body all contorted. He was just skin and bones and he had no clothes on.

The small room smelled awful and then I noticed that the newly delivered bed as well as the newly cleaned floor had large amounts of poop sitting in areas near Dominic. What the interns had cleaned only the day before was already back to how it was. Jennie had warned the interns what to expect before going on Monday, but when I went in that day I did not think that it could affect me in the way that it did.

We went and looked for his brother who Jennie had given the diapers and protein powder to. I then found a neighbor who helped translate because he spoke Creole much better than he did Spanish so it was hard to communicate. After much struggle, the brother and neighbor, along with myself and Rebecca, were able to put his diaper on. I gave him his protein drink that Rebecca had made and he drank it all down so quickly.

After we had done everything I stood there looking at him, wondering if he felt humiliated and hopeless because he was completely exposed as we all tried to put his diaper on, the whole time his brother yelling at him for not cooperating. My eyes filled with tears and I could not stop. His family and friends and neighbors were not doing anything for him, and he just sits day after day in his own filth.

I have been back twice since that day, and both times Dominic has been without a diaper, sitting on the floor in his own waste, and each time I have sought out a neighbor to help get him back onto the bed with a clean pamper on.

My heart breaks every time I see him and in his unchanging condition.

summary of the past couple weeks

The week after my family came to visit, another group from the Austin Stone came. We divided them up into three smaller groups. One group worked at the land in Tamarindo, continuing making progress with the education center, another group did English camp with Alexia, and the final group was with me in the kids classes. Some of my really good friends came on this trip, so it was so good to see them here, and we were able to spend a little time catching up in the evenings which was great. There was so much progress made while they were here. Much work was done at the land, getting it one step closer to being ready by the fall, and many of the group members really connected with some of the kiddos.

The following week was a little more low key. Two teachers that worked with Makarios last year, Brian and Bethany, were in town for several weeks. We teamed together and taught classes in Pancho Mateo and Chichigua on Monday and Wednesday. Thursday Leticia and I did a lot of organizing and cleaning up in the house, and later I tried to sit down and figure out which kids would come in the fall to the classes at the education center (which is not an easy task). (Look for another blog soon to come about what happened Tuesday of this week.)

Thursday night Alexia, Leticia, and I went and met up with Rose and her kids at the beach and stayed the night with them there. It was great to relax some, as well as do some brainstorming for the next group that is coming.

On a sad note, three more of the interns have come and gone. Barrett, Drew, and Holly who have all been here for quite some time help. The picture below is one last group photo prior to their leaving.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

we are family...

i've got all my sisters with me.
we are family.
get up everybody and sing.

The last day that the Westlake women's group was at the house, was the day that two of my sisters arrived. Yes, my family came down to visit me and it was so great! Thursday afternoon after our day at the beach with the kids, I went to the airport to pick up Rachel and Meredith. It was so good to see them. We went back to the house, and the next day they came to the villages with me.

Since the group had left, we tagged along with Alexia and helped her and Holly (one of the interns) with English camp. We first went to Chichigua, where we spent our time playing with the kids that weren't in class and helping out the adults put together phrases in English. The village was pretty calm the day we went, but it was great to show them where I taught and a few of my students that come to class.

We continued on to Pancho Mateo in the afternoon after eating lunch at a parada, which is kind of like a rest stop. Ask Meredith about the tostones because she was obsessed. Pancho Mateo is a lot bigger than Chichigua, so we spent all of our time playing with kids so that they would not be a distraction during English camp. After giving them the tour, we went to the basketball court (otherwise known as la cancha) and had relay races, played games like "duck duck goose" and "ring around the rosy" (all in Spanish or course!), they even got coerced into having their hair braided by the little girls. I think that they really enjoyed seeing everything, even though they weren't used to all the heat. Rachel and I laughed at how often Meredith took naps!

The next afternoon (Saturday) my mom, step dad, and youngest sister Evelyn arrived. We took a cable car up the mountain that is behind our house and spent some time walking around the mountain, exploring the different pathways as well as the cool weather.

The next day we drove to Jarabacoa and went white water rafting, the rapids were really good and our two guides were great. We also saw a couple different waterfalls in the city; the size and power was so incredible to see. After staying a night, we continued on to Santo Domingo (the capital), where we saw some sights and did a little shopping. Our hotel was a 16th century building renovated into a tranquil bed and breakfast, located right in the middle of the colonial zone. Very cool.

For the next 3 days, we stayed at a resort on the east coast of the island. It was a complete change from everyday life, but so good to rest on the beach and by the pool and hang out with family. We had the opportunity to go snorkeling, and saw some really cool things. I held a sea urchin and it suctioned itself to my hand, touched a sea slug, and saw a lot of beautiful coral and fish.

After spending a long 8 hours driving back to Puerto Plata on Friday, Saturday morning I was able to show them a glimpse of Chichigua and Tamarindo before heading to the airport. On a funny note, we all got to know our driver Juan really well during the week, that when they left he gave everyone in my family and hug and a kiss and we got a group picture! It was so good to get to see them, and for them to see a lot of the country.

Friday, June 29, 2007

jump ropes and beach balls


So, I realize that it has been a ridiculously long time since I have posted on the blog. If you recall my last entry where I spent time with a woman named Miriam in Tamarindo (the area where we are building the school house), well many things have happened since then. Over several entries I will try to update you on everything that has been going on this month, so bare with me.

We had a women's group come the first week in June, three mothers and four daughters. They brought art supplies to the villages the first couple of days to make bracelets and sponge paintings, and nail polish to paint fingernails, as well as jump ropes and kickballs, which the kids loved! We spent time in Chichigua and Tamarindo (our first organized activity there). It was a success. Then, on the third day, we took the kids from Chichigua to the beach and spent a good chunk of time there. We brought a giant parachute that the kids played with in the sand, and had fun times tossing balls back and forth in the water. There were two high school volunteers that came down for that week, Christy and Blake, who were great with the kids as well. We all had a really good time, and learned a lot as it was the first group once having the interns in country.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

weeping

On Monday I was able to return to the land where the educational center is being built, the neighborhood is called Tamarindo so I am going to start calling it that (even though somehow it got designated as "el boss" by summer staff). Anyway, while in Tamarindo (or el boss) I saw Miriam sitting on a foam pad outside across from her house sorting through books and papers that had been damaged in the flood. If you don't know who Miriam is read "lots and lots of mud."

I walked over and sat with her to see what she was doing. I began to help her peel apart the notebooks, but most everything had to be thrown out. Behind her though she had laid out some birth certificates and other important documents to dry. She started going through some books she used when she went to the university. She was studying to be a nurse, but quit 2 and a half years in for financial reasons. While she was flipping through the pages, she began to teach me the information she had learned and then threw the books out to be thrown away. Then she just started weeping.

As she wept, she told me that her parents were dead, her husband had left her, and that her family consisted of her kids, some of her neighbors, and God. As I listened to her talk, I wept with her. It was so amazing that an older woman with four kids would be so vulnerable before someone she didn't even know all that well and who wasn't even in that stage of life. It was very humbling for me.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

fist pump

Today Yoslena gave a powerful fist pump when I looked her direction when she discovered that she could come to the adult English camp and would receive a notebook to do the work. It was very enthusiastic.

(read 'another humorous incident' if you don't know who Yoslena is).

Friday, June 01, 2007

lots and lots of mud


Yesterday was a day like no other. Constance and I were driving Drew to the land to work with Miguel where we are building the school house, when the car died. After some funny moments and success in car fixing, we made our way into Montellano. We got to the land and walked around some while waiting for Miguel to come. I'm glad that we did because I wouldn't have seen the land and everything that happened there.

The night before had rained so much that the river rose and flooded all the houses for several blocks, as high as 4 or 5 feet inside the homes. There was so much mud everywhere that I wished I had big rain boots, but my sandals had to do. A woman said that in the 17 years living there, she had never seen a flood so terrible. Miguel was even surprised that the river had risen up to where our land was.

We walked to another street where the houses backed up to the river. Families were surveying the damage and sweeping mud out of their homes (to the extent that that is possible). Miguel, Chris, Drew, Constance, and I each went to a different house to help in whatever way we could. The home I went into belonged to Miriam and her children. It was a three room house made of sheets of tin and plywood. She gave me a broom and I began to push the slushy mud out of her home, mud so deep that just like walking outside, your foot gets stuck like a suction cup and you can't get it out. Pictured above is her home once we removed most of the furniture.

We decided to take everything out of the house so that we could get all the mud out. I helped some of her little boys carry out the little Dominican stove and washer they had, along with a table and some chairs. We filled containers with mussy clothes, sheets, a nd things that had literally become unidentifiable. I stood there gathering up the clothing, wanting to mourn with this woman over the things she had lost.

Our house in Houston flooded a few years back during Tropical Storm Alison, and we were out of our house for 6 months. It was a hard, and sad, and expensive time, now we are doing just fine, but this family does not have the resources that we did.

There was a package of salami partly still in its wrapper that I picked up off the floor in the bedroom. I sat it down on a pile of other things, but one of the boys took it to his mom and they all proceeded to eat it because it was what they had. I couldn't believe it.

The song Turn! Turn! Turn! (to everything there is a season) came into my head, and I thought of Ecclesiastes chapter 3. "There is an appointed time for everything..." I wanted to cry in that moment.

We stayed there all through the day not stopping until after 3pm. I made friends with the kids, particularly with one little girl named Ariana who asked me twice if I would be her mother (no joke). Miguel wanted to do something for them, and decided we should at least get some food for them so they could have a meal today. While we continued working, he went to the store with Constance and bought enough chicken, rice, beans, tomatoes, and oil for about 15 families.

After English camp today, we were able to drive by the area and a lot of the land had dried up, which was great.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

little miss sunshine


Yesterday we all piled into the jepeta (actually its a pathfinder, but everyone calls SUVs jeeps in this country!) and headed into the villages. Constance has been learning how to drive a standard, so I have been on the teaching side of things which has been fun. We dropped off Alexia and Carley off, along with 3 women visiting from Austin (I'll save that for another blog) in Chichigua for English camp. We had planned to return to Chichigua after dropping Drew off at the school land in Montellano to work construction with Miguel, but the car died prior to getting there.

I had thought the night before that we might be short on gas, but then remembered putting $30 worth in two days before so didn't bother with it. Constance had been driving and the car was doing weird things. It died on the main road and so there was nowhere to really pull over.

In an attempt to get the car out of the flow of traffic, Drew and I got out and pushed while Constance steered. A man on a moto pulled up behind us and lifted his foot to the back of the car as he drove to help us push. The car was really picking up speed, and Drew and I were really no longer helping in pushing the car but rather running with it.

Drew suggested us hopping in since the car was picking up pace and see if we could get it started. Not really thinking, I said ok and began to run up alongside the car to the passenger door. As I was doing this, I felt like the family in Little Miss Sunshine and their Volkswagon van. I opened the door to the car (still running with it mind you), and Constance shouted out the same remark about the movie.

Two thoughts on this: (1) trying to get into a moving vehicle is much more difficult than it appears and (2) that the little girl has got some mad skill to be able to do it.

I managed to hop in, but our efforts were in vain because we didn't gain that much more ground. I looked back and saw Drew jogging up back behind the car when we again came to a stop. We weren't sure what the problem was, but the man on the moto drove Drew up to the gas station to bring back some gas. We were all hoping that this was the only problem.

They came back and the guy rigged the tank using a stick and a broken water bottle to pour the gas in. We got pictures of this and also reenactments of our own little miss sunshine. We were able to make it to the gas station and filled up the car and everything ended up being just fine, after of course having a really good laugh!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What’s the deal?

OK, so I realize that I am out of the country and can’t really keep up well with the Astros, but I do what I can. Who can tell me what in the heck is their deal?! I mean really, we are on a 9 game losing streak, apparently everyone has forgotten how to use a bat! I thought we might have had this past game, but it’s not going to happen when Lee hits into a double play in the bottom of the ninth with two on and down by one. Hopefully we can get things together.

Despite this nasty streak, I have been on a hunt for an Astros cap. Baseball is really big in the Dominican Republic and caps are sold everywhere (mainly just the Yankees though), but I am determined to find one. Miguel is helping me with this mission! Hopefully I can be successful, as can the ‘stros.

before and after

Check out the Makarios blog for my most recent post. It is pretty exciting!

makariosjournal.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 27, 2007

summer fun


Last week came the first round of interns. Monday and Tuesday were my last two days of class. We had a party, complete with juice and cookies. Tuesday morning while I was in Chichigua, Sharla drove the van down with the interns (we have a big van now for groups) and met up with me and Cristina during the second class. Thus far we have: Constance who will be in charge of everything as it relates to the groups, Carley and Drew who are interns, and Barrett who will be helping out with all sorts of things. There was also a guy named Logan also came down for a week, but left today. It has been great fun getting to hang out so far with everyone, and discover the dynamics of the group.

Constance, Jennie, Alexia, and I have been meeting with Sharla to discuss summer plans and the like. While the guys, plus Carley, have been with Miguel working on the land where the new schoolhouse will be. I don't remember if I had mentioned this before or not, but the land has now been purchased in Montellano to build the schoolhouse. They have been using machetes to cut down overgrown grass, plants, and trees, as well as knocking down walls from a partially built building already located on the property.

More summer staff, interns, and volunteers are coming within the week prior to the first group, and then more come throughout the summer. This past week has been great, so I am excited to see the dynamics when the house is full.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

another humorous incident


Today during the break between two of my classes, I was grading exams that my kids took inside the school house (yes, my kids had final exams, and yes, the year is coming to an end! crazy!). Alexia and I were sitting inside, amazed at how calm the atmosphere was around us. When, just then, Yoslena walks in carrying a little friend of hers who couldn't be more than 18 months (both pictured above). Yoslena is about 14 and likes to pretend that she is an adult and doesn't have to listen to the rules we give the kids, but rather enforces them on the little ones around her. Sometimes she is a help, other times a handful, and often times makes us laugh.

Well, she comes in today carrying this little girl, sits down picks up a book and begins to "read" it by saying the words of the pictures she sees. She acts as if she knows how to read, which she doesn't, and then asks the other kids to read the words in the book and laughs when they just shrug their shoulders. (Oh, this book also happened to be in English, which she cannot speak, let alone read).

Yoslena then walked over to the white board in hopes of writing my name out. She asked me to say each letter, and then consequently asked me how to write each letter. As soon as "camila" was written on the board, the easel it was sitting on begins to fall. She picks up the board and holds it over her head as she also trys to straighten the easel so it stands properly. She obviously cannot balance it all and orders Sandi (an 8 year old) to grab the board from her, as it is literally about to fall on the ground.

Alexia and I start laughing at the scene in front of us. As Yoslena is trying so hard so show that she has everything under control, juggling a falling easel and dry erase markers. She then turns to the one year old she carried in who is sitting helplessly on the bench, and yells out, "why are you just sitting there? Get up and help me get this thing straight for crying out loud!" I just loose it and am laughing so hard that I can't breathe. The little girl just stares back at her, too small to acknowledge the problem and hand and to get herself down from the bench, let alone help someone set up a board and easel!

Ohhhhh... I guess you had to be there, and I guess too that you probably need to know Yoslena.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

happy mothers day

I sent a e-card to my mom that had phrases of what the kids say and what the mom hears. You know how it goes, "Why, yes Mother, we would love to clean our rooms, they are very unkept," and what mom hears, "WHAT?! CLEAN OUR ROOMS, AHHHH!!!!" Well, I had a similar exageration today with a couple of my students (not quite to this extreme).

A little girl named Jeidi told me that Gregorio was climbing up in the guaya tree next to the school house in Pancho Mateo. I told her to tell him "no". She then turned to him and yelled out (in Spanish), "Camille said no, get down, or she is going to give you a spanking." She said that exactly! I couldn't help but smile at how she manipulated my words!

Oh, the joys that are to come when I get to experience this regularly when I have kids of my own...

Friday, May 11, 2007

pan con mamba


In Chichigua for the past couple of weeks, Wisly's mother (Guerda) has had homemade bread and peanut butter to sell to people passing by the village on the road. She set up a little table next to the church, which is where we have class, because the church sits on the edge of Chichigua right next to the road.

It reminded me some of kids who set up a lemonade stand outside of their house for the passerbys. 25 cents a cup, remember those good old days? Guerda sells her bread for 3 pesos a piece and her peanut butter for 3 as well. So, a freshly made roll covered in homemade peanut butter can be yours for the mere price of 6 pesos, about 18 cents.

That particular day when she had her bread and peanut butter out to sell, our food program bread was looking a little skimpy. I decided to say all that we had left for the last class in the afternoon in Pancho Mateo, and buy this homemade treat for all the kids in Chichigua to go along with the other food we were to pass out.

This was a huge hit. All the kids were so excited to have peanut butter with their bread, and it also gave Guerda some income to financially support herself. People in the Dominican Republic use the word "mani" for peanut butter, so somehow that transfers to "mamba" when it becomes peanut butter.

Pictured above are some of the kids in my oldest class excited about their pan con mamba.

9 days and counting


For the past 9 days I have had a new friend, a ringworm, that has decided to make his new home on my arm. It is a perfectly circular, bright red, elevated ring that is itchy and peeling and highly contagious. A ringworm is a fungus, and lots of the kids have them. Their's however are white and found mainly covering their heads. It's hard for people to get rid of them, ringworms will often spread to other family members or children in the villages. I'm hoping to rid me of mine soon though, I bought a cream at the pharmacy, and Katy in Pancho Mateo made me a home remedy that she used before when her son Ismael had 2 on his arm.

My friend Kathryn has been in Argentina for the past 8 months or so and has a ringworm as well. Though most people at first ask if I burned myself, people ask Kathryn if she has a hickey because hers is on her neck! Read her story at:

http://whatsupwithkathryn.blogspot.com/2007/04/i-hate-mushrooms.html