Friday, October 17, 2008

A Surreal and Unforgettable Year

Saludos! Once again, I’m being bad about remembering to update my blog more often. I apologize. I can’t believe fall is here again and that it’s been over a year since I arrived in the DR. Wow, time flies by! So much has happened in the last year. Here are a few things to sum the year up...

~ Prayed for lots of guidance from our good Lord above
~ Watched my 70-year-old Doña kill a gigantic rat with a high heel and then do a victory dance around the house
~ Graduated 11 outstanding youth in a HIV prevention youth group to start promoting in the community and high school (One of them even received Multiplicador of the Year at the National Conference. Yay! I’m so proud!)
~ Graduated 11 incredible women from a nutrition course. We are now working on reproductive health and planning campaigns.
~ Graduated 15 bright youth from an English course
~ Drew a map of the community, interviewed 120 women in their homes, and took a population census (793 people live here in 215 houses...FYI)
~ Became part of a huge, incredibly kind family
~ Drank 1,463 cafecitos while sitting in plastic chairs
~ Ate pig intestines, chicken feet, and countless ants
~ Thought seriously about legally changing my name to Rubia, Kimba, or Americana
~ Weighed lots of babies and children under 5
~ Learned to dance Merengue and Bachata
~ Wrote grants to support the youth groups, start a school library, and build cleaner stoves
~ Worked with a mining company and elementary students to start a school garden
~ Worked on getting birth certificates for some of the kids
~ Sweated more than I thought humanly possible from May-Oct
~ Raffled off an umbrella
~ Lost count of marriage proposals after 184
~ Survived Dengue Fever
~ Took Anti-Malaria pills
~ Rejoiced every time the electricity came back on
~ Fed milk to baby piglets
~ Read the New Testament and Psalms in both English and Spanish
~ Stared a lot up at the stars
~ Became a “photographer,” “doctora,” and a “tia” (aunt)
~ Ended my phobia of spiders
~ Received countless oranges, pineapples, avocados, coconuts, mangos, etc.
~ Made squash bread with green leaves (actually delicious) and baked a cake
~ Rode on motorcycles, back of pick-ups, jam-packed buses, and in the back of chicken trucks
~ Made Super Eggs, Super Salad, and Super Soup with the women’s group (I’m super creative with my super recipe names)
~ Started to actually crave rice and beans for lunch
~ Wore flip flops everywhere, even to meetings
~ Fell a few times in the mud
~ Slept under a pink mosquito net
~ Helped in a cock fight fundraiser
~ Learned some Spanish
~ Read about 50 novels
~ Visited a few white, sandy beaches with turquoise waters and palm trees
~ Bought a hammock that I have yet to put up
~ Took over 300 ice cold, bucket baths
~ Started working on the nearly impossible task of finding $200,000 to build a much needed bridge (People get trapped inside the community during big storms; sometimes for days...Have any suggestions??)
~ Swept water out of my house during Tropical Storm Noel and bathed in the rain during Ike
~ Let my host sister put my hair in “tubies” and rollers and paint my nails with fancy designs
~ Hitchhiked for 2 hours to the capital with a friend
~ Started a war with the ants and cockroaches and mosquitoes
~ Lost 15 pounds
~ Learned the words to my favorite Bachata song: “Es Tan Dificil”
~ Used my pee pot on a nightly basis
~ Attempted and failed to teach a 14 year-old how to swim
~ Cried only once (Christmas Eve)
~ Played countless games of Uno and Old Maid
~ Sort of figured out the strategy to Dominoes
~ Held morning dance parties in my room with my 2 year-old host sister...the girl has got some serious moves
~ Thanked God every day for giving me this amazing opportunity

So that’s some of the stuff I’ve been involved with this past year. It sure has been an adventure. At the moment, I’m really working on trying to get a lot of bigger projects started. I think my parents are trying to help me collect and send donations of Spanish books, sports equipment, etc. If you would like to donate, please talk to them. Also, I’m working with the community to get them special wood-burning stoves that direct the smoke through a chimney-like tube. These stoves are much cleaner and safer for their health and the environment, as they use less firewood as well.

If you would like to contribute to the stove project, please visit the Peace Corps website at Click on the Donate Now tab on the left-hand side. Then click on Donate to Volunteer Projects and type in my last name... Dykwell, in the keyword search box. My project is called Improved Clay Stoves. The families of my small community and I really appreciate anything you can contribute, even if it’s just a few dollars. It all adds up. Inhalation of smoke during cooking has been a major cause of Acute Respiratory Infections for a long time in the community, and this project is a way to help reduce the problem. It also teaches some members of the community new skills, as they will be the ones building the stoves. Your money will go towards buying the materials and bringing in a trainer to train the community. The community’s job will be the physical labor, cooking lunch for the workers, and transporting the materials. Without your support, the community won’t be able to do this project. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You’re the best! Y un gran abrazo a todos! (And a big hug to all!)