Monday, August 20, 2012

A Sad Occurrence, or I am Heading Home

For the last two months every day after lunch, the only quiet time of the day, my mom and aunt have sat at the kitchen table with a notebook crunching numbers. Adding. Subtracting. Calling me in to do some high power multiplication on my cell phone calculator. They were planning for the annual resort get away. This was the 3rd getaway they were planning. They called the resort once weekly to verify costs, to adjust the amount of rooms reserved, to call just to call because it felt official. As the date approached everything fell together. The final count was 20 adults and 23 children. 

On the day we all crammed into a gua gua with no air conditioning and made our way up to Puerto Plata. The trip was not that far but it took us a few hours due to the road situation here in the RD. We sang, sweat, dreamt out loud of all the food we were going to eat. All was well. 

 Once we arrived I checked in and went straight to the beach with my little brother. We took some pictures by the water, ate some pizza, and then hopped in the pool. Later that night there was karaoke. I sang my classic California Love by 2pac and Dre. It was a hit and made my family and fellow Maoeños proud to be seen with me. After, we hit the discoteca. We got our boogie on to Merengue, techno, and Reggaeton. Out of nowhere we hear a named being called over the speakers. They are calling out for the wife of my uncle. We left to see what was going on. 

Outside we see my uncle with his fists clenched and squared up with a security guard wearing the goofiest smile on his face. It was clear that he was in bad shape. We were thinking he had simply drank too much. The thing with All-Inclusive resorts is that people can drink free all day. He was unable to walk very well and didn't know where his room was located. We brought him up to the room where my mom, dad, and brothers were staying. Once in the room he kept trying to leave but he was unable to stand on his own. He was falling all over place and knocking things over. His sisters bathed him twice since people here believe that cold water takes away the affect of alcohol. After 3 hours of trying to get him to calm down it becomes clear that he has not only consumed alcohol but also some sort of drug. Most likely cocaine which is sold and very available in our neighborhood. 

We finally were able to get in contact with his wife and get him to his room. Once in his room his sister is encouraging him to go ahead and just get some sleep. His wife is sitting down at a table outside of the bed room with their 2 year old son who has a fever. I am standing by the door on the other side of the table she is at. The uncle comes up to his wife and says "damn it why don’t you ever listen to me?! Damn it!" As he finishes his words he raises his hand as if to hit her. I shouted "NO"! and he lowered his hand. He paced back an forth and then comes up to her and says the same thing. This time I see in his eyes and body language he is going to hit her. As he swung on her I got in the way and pushed him to the wall. He gets up and rushes me. Not wanting to use my fists or hurt him I put him in a head lock and held his arms to prevent him from hitting me. I worked him into the bed room and threw him on the bed. Once on the bed I was on top of him holding him by his wrists. I kept repeating “I don’t want to fight! No more violence! Lets drops this!” He tells me “ok” and I release him. As I back up he throws a hay maker at me. I was able to side step it and throw/ push him to the ground. While he was down I tried getting his wife, 2 daughters, son and my aunt out of the room. While they are leaving he picks up a baby crib and tries throwing it at me. At this point since everyone is out of the room I leave as well. While all of this went down his 2 daughters were on the bed watching. It is painful knowing that. Once outside 5 security guards swarm the scene. I leave. My heart was pumping and I felt like an animal. 

I had to go back and explain what happened to Security. They were going to take him to jail but his wife pleaded that they let him stay. She explained that he gets like this when he drinks and will be fine in the morning. He apologized to me. The next day he apologized to me again. A man abused his wife and then apologized to me.

We get back to Mao and I begin to feel paranoid about if I am safe or not. People were saying it was cool and treating it as if nothing had happened. The uncle was acting fine towards me. But I couldn’t help but feel things would/ could escalate. This man got into a knife fight on Christmas Eve and lost. Now he isn’t seen with out his knife or machete. When intoxicated his desire to reclaim his masculinity is amplified. I can’t take a risk like that. Further, the truth is this was not an isolated event. I had been living in a place where abuse is normal. Hitting children is discipline. Women fight instead of talk. Men fight with guns, machetes, knifes, and fists. Once a week I went to bed to gun shots. I heard neighbors fighting. Saw men bleeding from machete wounds. In a place where male dominance is forged through physical violence, how can I ever feel safe knowing I emasculated (not my intention) a man in front of his family? The truth is once I decided to step in between a mans fist and his wife's face, I decided to come home because my beloved community was no longer safe. 

The problem was I had no way to express what happened to Peace Corps. In  IST we had a bystander training that said we were to never get involved in things like this. According to the Peace Corps I was to watch a man hit his wife and then go call security or the police. I had no trust in Peace Corps to hear what happened and support me. I feared telling PC would get me separated administratively (fired) so I said nothing. Without a reason, a site change was off the table. In addition, I don’t know if I would be willing to change communities. With so much connection in Mao moving seemed unappealing. I had more loyalty to my family and community members than I did to Peace Corps programs so the idea of moving sites seemed silly. 

Not the way I imagined ending my service. 

Peace to all until next time. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Golden Showers In The Dominican Republic

I arrived in my new neighborhood, Sector Don Bosco in Mao some time back in October.  By that point I had some time under my belt in the country. I was at a healthy place in my relearning of how to do everything; including/ especially basic tasks. 
When one enters a new living situation they normally take things slowly. This is the ideal. But when you are super sweaty (being in the Caribbean) and also have the bubble guts you are required to tackle the two perhaps most difficult tasks to do when new in a house. Shower and shit. I was familiar with the normal showering and toilet procedures in the DR. There was one thing I was not prepared for: the chamber pot. Normally homes with a bathroom inside of the house do not require a chamber pot. With latrines or living situations with out a sanitary system, yes. A house where the bathroom is the next room down, no. 
I enter the bathroom and begin my S and S. Successfully completing one S I moved on to the other. In the shower area there was a large bucket with the water in it. Normal. Accompanying the large bucket were two smaller ones used to dump the water over your head. One was smaller, metal, and had no handle. The other was larger, pink and plastic, and had a handle. I had all the information I needed. Obviously, the pink bucket was for bathing. I mean it was clearly the best candidate. Decided, I bathed happy that I passed my first bathroom encounter with no issues. 
That night as I am preparing to go to bed my host mom comes into my room. She says goodnight and I notice something in her hand. It is the pink bathing bucket. I ask her what she is going to do with it. Simply she tells me its the chamber pot. I smiled, wished her sweet dreams, and entered the bathroom to bath.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


 2da Conferencia Nacional sobre NNA en Situaciones de Alto Riesgo
                                                            Alele with professionals

                                                                   Blank wall
                                                              Wrecked wall props to pops
                                                                       Mask making
                                                                 Red team stand up!
                                                           After the obstacle course
                                                               Brother, me, cousin
                                                                       Los de Mao

                                                                           All of us
                                                                     My girls and I
                                                      My leaders, another volunteer, and I
                                                                    Leaders and I

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Gift In The Form Of A Story

One of the great Dominican pass times is porch sitting. This activity is performed just as it sounds. One sits in front of their house and watches for excitement. I remember I used to to this with my grandma on slow Missouri summer days but watching for excitement in Mao is much more...exciting. 
One night the fam bam and I were coolin out like we usually do. It was late so the excitement had all passed. The host father, the story teller/ “funny guy”, decided to fill this void with a story. This story I wish to share with you. 
One day two guys went walking in the woods. As they got farther away from town they sat down to take a rest. While sitting a snake slithers up the pants of one man and bites him in the testicle.  The man cried out and begged his friend to go into town and find help. The friend complied. Out of breathe the friend arrived to the doctors office in town and insisted the doctor come right away. The doctor who was preforming surgery couldn't go. The friend told the doc what happened and asked how he could help. The doctor instructed the friend to put his mouth on the wound and suck the venom out before it spread to the rest of the body. The friend ran back to his injured comrade. Upon arrival the injured inquired what treatment he was to receive. The friend who went to town told the man “Doc said there is nothing to do. You haven’t got much time left”. 
In itself this story isnt funny. But a few factors made it hilarious to me:
  1. it was told in spanish
  2. it was told by a 40 year old man which proves nut jokes never get old
  3. after receiving a luke warm response to the story pops decided to explain why it was funny
Until next time friends, PAZ!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Peace Corps Grown and Sexy Initiative Presents: A Lovers List

For about a month before my fiancée came to visit me the neighborhood was on fire. Any woman I was seen with between the ages of 20-60, who were not from the hood, were assumed to me my girlfriend. One day my 50 something year old Program Director came to visit. She had lunch at the house. We had a meeting at the organization to which I was paired up. We chit chatted and then she was on her way. Normal stuff. Between the time she pulled off and the time I reached the crib 4 people had asked me, with knowing excitement expecting a “si”, if she was my boo. 
As the days narrowed for Brittany’s arrival the mood switched from gossipy to helpful. Everyone had suggestions on what I should do to prepare myself. A neighbor gifted me 3 cans of spinach. She explained that it had been a long time since I had been with Brittany and I needed to be strong like Popeye when she came so she wouldn’t leave me. My mom and aunt here made me lot’s of oatmeal juice and lechoza smoothies to help make me strong. They also suggested that I not do any exercise the week before Brittany’s arrival as not to waste energy. 
While many provided me with wonderful advice, the words of one person stood out. A neighborhood family friend, La Chapia (her nickname is flat ass), dropped some serious gems on me. The following list of things to do were prescribed to me in a “therapy session” held in the kitchen over coffee. It is 100% real and may be intense for beginners. Parental discretion is advised. Or, take notes. 
  • Red man thong
  • Aromas
  • Flowers to spread over the bed in the hotel
  • Strawberries (I was to say “Toma fresa” in a seductive voice while feeding Brittany)
  • Tooth paste for oral sex
  • Miel de Amor (honey of love) which helps to make sure your lover only wants you
I intended to follow through with the list but life got in the way. I did get strawberries but ate them instead of using them as a tool for seduction. There is always next time. 
For any of you out there trying to prepare for a lover you haven't seen in hours, days, months, years, or haven’t yet seen; keep this list in mind and don’t be afraid to try it out!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Time I Got A Free Danilo Bizchochito

Today my family and I snuck into a circus. This sounds funny in my head as I write this and may sound goofy reading but its kind of serious. After the circus we went to a PLD (a political party) parade. The family is for another political party but we went for the spectacle. At this parade they had all kinds of goodies they were giving out to plug their presidential candidate. There were flags, hats, water bottles, shirts, stickers, and cakes. Yes, cakes. These politicians are spending money on Danilo snacks while my family is sneaking into the circus without money to pay. This world we have created and support is wild. WILD. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Somos Familia

Last week I had the opportunity to attend family camp with my host family and a few volunteers accompanied by families. We learned about positive communication, creating family rituals, nutrition, and a gang of other stuff. 
                                           The family after a meal
                                           We're reppin our new shirts with pride
                                          Moms and volunteers
                                           All of us