Monday, February 9, 2009

I want to be a Doctor!

Volunteers always talk about how amazing it is to work on Medical Missions, but I was still surprised by how incredible it really was. The first day, I worked with a doctor in triage, selecting the patients that they could help and having to turn away those who didn't qualify. I was a little overwhelmed by the number of little children who came in with severe burns, cleft lips and palates, and other birth defects. There were young people who were burned from throwing gasoline on burning garbage, women whose ex-boyfriends had thrown acid on them, and men with scars from bullet and knife wounds.
On Monday through Thursday, however, I was able to see the amazing operations that the MACLA doctors performed for FREE in order to help such patients. I spent most of my time working with the little kids, keeping them calm and talking to their parents until it was time for me to carry them into the operating room. They were often REALLY scared (as I would be!) but I was able to keep my composure because I knew that, when healed, the kids would discover that their lives were greatly improved. Many kids regained function in their hands and arms, had their cleft palates closed, and had unsightly tumors and keloids removed.
What most amazed me about myself, was that I DIDN'T pass out and die the minute that I saw peoples' bodies being cut open. I was still a little uneasy...but I actually stuck around! A few years ago I couldn't handle a PIG dissection! And I was so in awe at how much the recovery nurses were able to comfort the kids after their surgeries. So now, in ADDITION to wanting to be a teacher, psychologist, and public health worker, I also want to be a nurse! :)

Shameless Solicitation

My last major goal in my project is to renovate our school library. It has been a dream of mine since just about the very beginning of my service, but it has proven very difficult to realize. I finally have the grant proposal posted, but need your help! We would like to use the money to purchase a photocopy machine, so that teachers can actually print worksheets (instead of CONSTANT boardwork) and copy exams without having to spend large amounts of money. We also want to build some better shelves, tables, and chairs. And, of course, we want to purchase as many grade-appropriate books as possible! The teachers and I are really anxious to create a functioning resource center and would really appreciate any possible help. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit our website at
Muchas gracias!!

Close of Service Conference...already??

April 24th. The day that my group is officially finished with Peace Corps service in the DR. Can you BELIEVE it?? I feel like it was not all that long ago that I stepped off the plane and thought, "Oh God, what have I gotten myself into?" Now my two years FLEW by and I am expected to figure out that ultimate question....what's next? The Close of Service (C.O.S.) Conference held by Peace Corps was really great. We learned about stuff that we probably SHOULD have known about years taking out loans, applying for grad school scholarships, saving/investing money, searching for jobs, working internationally, and improving our interviewing skills. Though I still have NO clue what I want to do next, I gained a little bit more confidence and perhaps courage to pursue things that I previously thought were beyond my reach.
We also learned about the very beauracratic process of leaving the country, including the infamous week-long medical exams. Good news for us, however! The doctor was able to get take-home poop sample jars so now we can gather up our first "specimens" in the comfort of our own homes!
As a group we celebrated our completion of service (almost) at Blue Moon Resort in Cabarete. A beautiful, isolated hostel in the hills outside of Cabarete, we enjoyed a world-famous meal of what they call Indian-Caribbean infusion. The food was served on large banana leaves and we ate it with our hands! Felicidades to all the amazing accomplishments of my peers!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Life in el Barrio is sweet...

As I mentioned in other entries, I have had a great few months here in my little barrio. Life isn't EXACTLY as it is in Chicago, but I am enjoying it for what it is. The rain has kept us indoors a little more than we would like, but we have still found plenty of time for sitting around talking, telling stories, and just making each other laugh HYSTERICALLY.
Our other major pastime is beauty. We wash each others' hair, blow it dry, straighten it, put in all sorts of weird things that we think will make it healthier, and then wrap it up a night....just to do it all over again. Not to mention the sweet manicures and pedicures that are SO imperative. I, unfortunately, cannot stand having really long fake nails..otherwise I would be rocking acrylics just like those pictured below.
The little kids in my neighborhood are full of fun and love and energy, and come up with endless hours of games for us to play. Whether with or without electricity, I am never at a loss for things to do. What am I going to do when I don't have 10-year-old neighbors to play tag with me in the streets?? Life in America is definitely going to be an adjustment!

Happy New Year, Dominican Style!

Wherever I may be at the end of this year, I sincerely hope that I can find my way back to Puerto Plata to celebrate the New Year. I thought that, as usual, we would quietly sit at the house and have some beer while listening to merengue and bachata. About an hour before midnight, however, one of my little muchachitos stumbled over to Pilar's house and began demanding beer. "Angel!" I said, "Are you drunk?!?!" Angel, who is 8-years-old, replied, "Yes, my dad gave me wine!" I nearly fell over. I have never seen an eight-year-old drunk in my life! Then I decided to see what else was going on so I wondered over to where my beloved "son" and his cousin were hanging out on the bridge. They ran over to me, also stumbling, and I thought, Oh, how cute, they are pretending to be drunk like Angel. Imagine how shocked I was to discover that my beloved hijo was NOT pretending!!!! I laughed hysterically and then dragged him home to show his parents, who also started cracking up. The entire NEIGHBORHOOD was drinking!
When midnight came around, we all started running around the barrio, hugging, kissing, and saying "Felicidades!!!" to everyone. We started dancing merengue and bachata in the middle of the street and all the kids did, too! We never even left our neighborhood but it was one of the best times I have ever had. There is such a sense of community here; all of us neighbors are like family and I was so happy that this gringa could be a part of something so Dominican. I was even dressed for the part! Have you noticed my bright blue SEQUENCED turtleneck sweater (a present from my host mom)!??! I'm truly a fashionista, eh? But seriously, New Year's Eve 2009: DR, anyone??

Feliz Navidad

This year, I was a bit nervous about being away from my family for Christmas (for the FIRST time!). Though I didn't get my annual snowfall or Christmas tree, I really enjoyed my holiday season. For one thing, there was NO school and so I had tons of free time to read, relax, and hang out with my muchachos. For nine days leading up to Christmas day, we got up reaaaaally early in the morning (with the help of baseball player Ramon Ramirez and his BLASTING Christian music from his jeep) to go to church, sing, and drink hot ginger tea. The traditional Christmas food is pork, so I had the great fortune of seeing WAAAY more piggies roasted than I could ever desire. One day they roasted FIVE in one day....right in front of my house! On Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), I had like half the families in the neighborhood trying to shove pork, rice and peas, and potato salad down my throat. One neighbor even made special "American" dishes that she learned from her gringo husband! It was a low-key Christmas for me, but I spent more time with all the little would-be-delinquents in my town than I ever had before and now love them more than EVER!

OMG Being V.I.P. is SWEET!

As my Dad informed me, I must be rather sheltered because I had NO idea how awesome all-inclusive resorts are. Thanks to Robyn's family, I not only got to enjoy the luxury of all I could eat and drink on a BEAUTIFUL beach, but I also got to be V.I.P.! We had our own special area with BEDS overlooking the Caribbean!!! How AMAZING is that?? We also ate delicious Italian and Mexican food in the restaurants (no extra charge to us) and had options of ANY alcoholic beverage we desired. Unfortunately, we had a little toooo much champagne and now may never drink it again :) Bayaibe was incredibly gorgeous. The water was literally like a SWIMMING pool! I could see my feet!! Since I am such a bleeding heart hippie, I am sure that I will never have enough money to be V.I.P. ever again, but it sure was sweet while it lasted :)