The time has almost come. Tank build, check. Pumphouse, check (mostly). Water inauguration next weekend!!! Here is a copy of my “COS Survey” (Closing of Service Survey) that I submitted for our bi-annual newsletter/yearbook of sorts about a month ago. Apologies in advance for repeat stories!
Name: Joshua Kennedy
DR apodos: La mona, Josué, José, el gigante, el Español
Site location: Las Barreras, Los Ríos, Baoruco, Middle of Nowhere
Program: AT (Appropriate Technologies)
Build a sustainable, pristine, water system for a beautiful, cooperative and supportive community. Also train already-existing, strong, willing water committee to take over project.
Step 1: Convince everyone that what they really need is water, not electricity or a road that’s useable.
Step 2: Focus the design around an untested, unproven pump that doesn’t exist (yet) in this country.
Step 3: Convince everyone that yes, water will magically pump uphill without using electricity or gasoline.
Step 4: Look for a large sum of money (uhh where?)
Step 5: Wait for said sum of money to actually show up.
Step 6: Wait some more. “Any day now, I promise.” Start a Superman boys group.
Step 7: Wait some more. Empty promises. Build 50 latrines.
Step 8: 10 months later, money shows up. Now I can finally see if this thing actually works…
Step 9: Build. Hope people show up to work. Community meeting. Organize. Threaten. Repeat.
Step 10: Finish? Extention? Hopefully not option B!
Most useful thing brought into country:
Spanish. Guitar. Leatherman. Jenga. Love of camping. Love for kids. Faith in God.
Least useful thing brought into country:
Stubbornness. Love for spicy/flavorful food. “Business casual” clothing (c’mon Peace Corps).
Best “I-know-I’m-in-the-Peace-Corps-now” moment:
It was probably my first month in site. To get down to the pueblo I had to walk 45 minutes to la parada, wait 1-2 hours for the Daihatsu truck to leave and take a nice 3 hour truck ride down a horrible, bumpy “road”. And there was only one truck a day. Pain in the butt. Anyway, I am always one of the first ones on and generally grab a decent seat on the edge of the truck-bed near the front. This day was no different. Unfortunately, the entire loma was going down to the pueblo this day. And they were selling all of their possessions or something, because each person had like 5 sacks of crap with them too. All said and done, by the time the truck had traveled the first 3 miles down the road, there were at least 40 sacks and 30 people on the back of this truck. I had been squished up against the front railing with my legs hanging off the side of the truck to optimize space. People toward the back were precariously bouncing around while holding belongings above them or over the edge. As we began to pass through the last town before our major descent, I was thinking “there is no way we could possibly fit any more people/sacks in this truck”. 15 minutes later, I found myself sitting on top of the truck’s cab, having my legs squished horribly by some old woman’s behind, holding a 1 year old Haitian baby. There was literally nowhere else for this baby to sit. Not one of the now 40 people had a free lap or 5 inches of space to spare for the little guy. Peace Corps.
I knew I was Dominican when:
My natural response when surprised became “diache”. OR, how I kept scrunching my nose at people when I was home for Christmas; they were very confused.
Funniest experience in country:
Pasa, but not the raisin kind. So. My host dad and I walked to my friend Rudie’s site, which is located yonder from mine, and decided to stop at the colmado on the way home. We buy the normal things to account for every healthy human being’s balanced diet – eggs, rice, tomato paste, sugar and sazon. But, as you are now thinking, one thing is missing: pasta. My host dad doesn’t really think we need anything else, but I know better, so I ask the owner if he has any pasta, since I don’t see it behind the counter. The owner looks at me with his face kinda messed up and I know something is up. A great misunderstanding has come upon us, and so it begins… He says “eh?” I say “pasta”. He says “como qué, de qué tipo?” I say “para comer”. Now my host dad chimes in – it appears that with their teamwork I might finally accomplish my task. “Pasta de dientes!” he says. Still a little ways to go, I tell myself. “No no, es duro y parece así” (I stick my finger in the shape of macaroni). This is clearly not working. “Ahh! Pasas?” Raisins. He grabs a few boxes. I am tempted to just take the boxes of raisins, but I decide to persist. “No no, se hierve y se come con aceite o salsa” – I am basically teaching the man to be a chef now. Finally, several minutes later, after dancing like a monkey and performing a few magic tricks I hear the magical words I have been waiting for: “Wait. You don’t mean ‘espaguetti’, do you?” ‘Espaguetti!’ Duh. Apparently the word pasta only means “paste” in this country. We celebrated, we laughed, we cried. It was as if we understood each other for the first time. I, being flabbergasted by the whole ordeal, proceeded to ask the store owner if spaghetti, macaroni and all other types of noodly goodness that exists in this country are really not called ‘pasta’. “No,” he said at first, but then he turned all pensive and suddenly changed his mind. “No, not pasta, its ‘pasa’”. ‘Pasa.’ A poorly pronounced version of ‘pasta’. Great.
Most memorable illness or injury:
Was rounding a nice gravel-coated curve in the road on my bike and the back tire abruptly slid out from beneath me. One moment I was happily enjoying the ride, the next my chin/face decided to become close friends with a very large rock conveniently placed in the middle of the road. I must thank whoever so opportunely placed the rock there… I rushed to the loma health clinic, got my chin stitched back together (about 15 in all), was taken 2 hours down to the nearest pueblo, was taken to the capital in a shoddy ambulance (broke down 3 times), and discovered I had a minor skull fracture. I was fine though. The worst part was being in the hospital and later realizing that several of my teeth are now crooked (and 2 were chipped). Stupid rock.
Most Dominican habit you’ll take home with you:
Sitting with other people, not talking and not feeling uncomfortable. Nose scrunch?
Most beautiful place in country:
The Salto de Aguas Blancas in El Convento, Constanza. View from the top of the loma behind my house. Bahía de las Águilas.
Most creative way you killed time in your site:
Painted dots on the kids’ foreheads and had them perform a bollywood film.
What Spanish word or phrase have you made up during your service and what does it mean?:
Trancoline. Think of the song: “Trampo trampo trampoline, trampoline, trampoline.” Then think about dominating someone in dominoes. And replacing the lyrics with the new word. Oh, also: Bacalazo.
How have you changed during your service?
More introverted / able to be alone. More independent in my faith in God. I’ve learned to truly appreciate Papa John’s. I can more fully appreciate the value of community. I am quicker to yell at people for being completely useless. I think I am more decisive. I love my family, my friends and my girlfriend bunches more. I am less quick on the puns (so sad).
If your service were a book, what would its title be?
Mountain man. Transformation from grizzly beard to girly hair.
What books/podcasts did you read/listen to during your service that you’d like to recommend to other Volunteers?:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (I know, but still). Life Together by Dietrich Bonheoffer. The Holy Bible by God. Malcolm Gladwell books.
What are you glad you did here?:
Live campo life. Interact with Haitians / learn a little more Hatian Creole. Have boys groups/Superman. Essentially camp for two years while living in the middle of nowhere. Backpack from Ocoa to Constanza. Spend a lot of time with Rudie and Carrie. Keep my girlfriend back home.
What do you wish you had done here?:
Made more Haitian friends. Explored more. Taken my community to the beach. Learned to dance better.
What will you miss six months from now?:
Complete freedom. No accountability whatsoever. Being real poor. My Dominican family. The muchachos. The volunteers. FRUIT. Jugo. The music. Spanish. The weather.
What won’t you miss six months from now?:
Complete freedom. No accountability whatsoever. Being real poor. Being so far away from everyone I love. Trying to get people to pay water quotas.
Living in San Fran. Being close to my girlfriend. Grad school for Civil and Environmental Engineering at California Berkeley?
Big plans for your readjustment allowance?:
Bike. Motorcycle? Camping gear? Traveling around the states in the summer.
Advice to a new Volunteer:
Don’t worry, be happy. Don’t fret about your project site; give yourself plenty of time to adjust and you’ll feel at home in no time. Be open to difficult circumstances; its amazing what us volunteers can handle. Don’t be afraid to speak honestly and tell that doña that you don’t want to eat what she is offering you. Create a tight community for yourself, be it with Dominicans or volunteers.