Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life in Sweat

Saludos everybody!

I made it! I´ve been here for 2 weeks now, but it feels like soooo much longer. I have never done so much at one time in my life. My training group is really, really nice. There´s 52 of us in the group with four different sectors (health, water and sanitation, community economics, and youth). There are 12 of us in the healthy families group. We´ve been training everyday in Spanish, culture, history, safety, and technical training. All of the trainers are wonderful at what they do. The training is quite intense, and we´ve just started discussing our project plans. My Spanish is coming slowly, but hopefully it will pick up once we leave in a couple of weeks for our Community Based Training. This consists of 5 weeks in a rural area near the southern coast. I´m secretly hoping for a little beach time too!

As for living conditions, it´s a major transition, but I´m adjusting like a camelion. It´s soooo incredibly hot here. I have a layer of sweat on me at all times. The temperature on my alarm clock reads from 80-90 degrees, so you can imagine that the fan has truly become my best friend. During training, I´m living with a 30ish year old woman and her 7 year old daughter. Her mom (my Dona) makes me food and washes my clothes. If I don´t gain 100 pounds, I´ll be really surprised. She gives me two mounding plate fulls at every meal. I feel bad when I can´t eat it all. The food is pretty good though...lots of rice, beans, platanos, bread, and cheese. Good thing I love carbs! The house I´m living in has electricity most of the day, but it goes out from 7-11pm. I´m also growing quite fond of my pink mosquito net and cold bucket baths. Next time you´re taking a nice, hot shower, please think of me. I even saw a cockroach for the first time in my room a couple of nights ago! I was on the phone with Jackie, so she got to hear my surprise. :)

Well, tomorrow I´m leaving for the mountains to hang out with a volunteer who has been volunteering for 2 years. Hopefully I´ll get a true sense of what it´s going to be like. I´m a little nervous about using the crazy transportation system, so please pray that I make it there and back to Santo Domingo on Sunday. Unfortunately, the girl I was supposed to visit alone became sick with Dengue Fever, so now I´m going with another trainer to the cooler mountains. I can`t wait to stop sweating for once!

Well that´s about all for now. Right now, there´s an internet cafe close to my house, but the computers are really slow and from the 1990s. There´s also only 4 of them, so it´s sometimes hard to get online for a long time. Right now, I can´t download pics to it, but hopefully I´ll find a more modern internet cafe sometime in the next two years. Otherwise, I´ll have a bunch of pics to show you all later.

Thanks to all of you for you support and prayers. How is everyone doing back home? What´s going on in your lives??

Well take care for now and God bless!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

6 More Days...

Well, as most of you know, I leave in just a few days to become a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic for the next two years. I'm really excited, but nervous at the same time. My flight leaves September 11 from Grand Rapids to Washington D.C. There, I will meet the other volunteers in my training group (about 45 volunteers), take care of any business that still has to be done in the states, and attend seminars to get us started. Then we leave in the middle of the night on Sept 13 for the DR.

I'm not exactly sure what to expect right now, but I guess that's the real adventure. My job title is a Community Health Extension Volunteer in the Healthy Families program. I will be working with local leaders, youth promoters, and health promoters to give information, conduct training, and provide health services directly to mothers (ages 15-44), children (under 5), and youth (ages 15-24). According to my Assignment Description, here's some things I might be involved with in case you were wondering:

a. Conducting community health diagnostics
b. Developing a community action plan
c. Promotion of mother/child health care interventions, including weight control of children less than five years old, and control of diarrhea and respiratory infections
d. Training of community leaders
e. Improvement of family nutrition, including training in principles of nutrition, promotion of food rich in micronutrients , and conducting nutrition workshops
f. Small-scale food production including organic gardening, chickens, and rabbits
g. Conducting presentations on health problems related to the reproductive system
h. Teacher and leadership training
i. Organizing youth groups
j. Training youth as HIV/AIDS peer educators
k. Project monitoring and evaluation
l. Construction of sanitary latrines

And, if I have time, other secondary projects might include teaching English, making map murals, teaching literacy, developing a community library, forming summer camps, and computer training.

Right now, it all sounds very overwhelming. Hopefully, after training, I will have the technical and language skills needed to do an effective job. My training is ten weeks long and starts in Santo Domingo, where I will have language, technical, and cultural training each day. Hopefully I'll be able to say more than "Hola, Como estas? Me llamo Kim" after four hours of Spanish every day. If I pass training (keep your fingers crossed), then I will go to my site, which will become my home for the next two years. I will be living with a host family throughout my training and at least the first three months at my site.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. You don't know how much they all mean to me. I will try my best to keep you all informed on what I am doing. I'm not sure how often I will have Internet access, but hopefully I'll be able to post every now and then. Please feel free to write me letters or send me an email or make comments on my blog. I'm sure there will be times where I feel really, really lonely, so I'd really appreciate hearing from you! Also, I would love visitors! Visitors are allowed three months after I get to my site, so March is probably the earliest anyone can visit me. Email me so we can make plans. As for packages, the Peace Corps recommends that packages are sent in padded envelopes if possible, because boxes tend to be taxed and opened more often. The mail system takes about 2-3 weeks.

Well everybody, wish me luck and take care of yourselves. Thanks again for all your support and prayers. Without them, I'm not sure I'd be able to do this. Oh, and please write me letters!!! You may be my only connection to US news, celebrity gossip, or what's going on at home!

My address:

Kimberly Dykwell, PCV
Cuerpo de Paz
P.O. Box 1412
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic

My email:

My photos: