Life outside the crap-hole…

It has been a little while, but not without thinking of all of you. I am currently living in Manabao where our Peace Corps issued phones don’t get service and internet is an unknown commodity. Thus, I have stayed mostly out of contact with the exception of my wondrously slow Kindle internet…

If you do feel the desire to bless me with your voice, I got a new phone which works up here – my number is 849-852-3491 (the provider is Orange).

Recap:  Josh (currently known as Josue – new nickname ideas welcome) found himself in a beautiful new country amidst a people that spoke some strange form of Spanish with 51 other incredibly un-Dominican individuals. He survived the heat and ambiguity of core training by clinging to the hope of a better and brighter world during technical training. What happens when you throw a ton of American volunteers onto a Caribbean island with very little supervision and a ton of responsibility?? Find out next…

So I succeeded not getting shot so far. That was a big goal of mine coming here. Check. The next big event for me was the “volunteer visit”. Each Peace Corps trainee is basically set free to go find his/her current serving volunteer and spend 3 days with them. I had the pleasure of visiting Duncan. He lives in the Cordillera Septentrional (sp?) – the mountains in the north – in the middle of nowhere. Literally it’s a “town” with <100 people on top of a small mountain. No electricity and until recently, little water. From there you can see the ocean and several beautifully green valleys. It actually reminded me quite a bit of where I stayed in Haiti. Just a bit greener. Oh nostalgia. I spent the weekend figuring out what a “real Peace Corps experience” looks like. In his village we spent a lot of time sitting and talking and walking and reading. Yep. He said that was about all there was to do there. People become content with these simple things when there is nothing else to occupy time. It was amazing seeing the work he had done on the water system for the community and was quite inspiring. Got me pretty stoked to get my feet wet. Like, I’m actually going to bring people water to their back yards. It was also a bit difficult seeing the chasm that exists between volunteer and community. Due to the socioeconomic and educational differences between Americans and middle-of-nowhere-Dominicans, the idea of creating real peer relationships with people seemed like it would be a big challenge. This was a bit disconcerting, but then I ought not make any assumptions, especially not negative preconceptions, about my own experience-to-be. For as a wise poet and friend once said: “You neva know”. I am here to spend time with the people in my village and make available my skills, talents and time. I can only hope that this will foster something beautiful and amazing. Anyway, the visit was real neat-O. Duncan was legit and honest and shed a lot of light on real Peace Corps life. He also took me to the beach. Being on the beach reminded me that this might not be such a bad place to live for the next few years… it also reminded me that sleeping under a blue tarp on the beach without any other camping/sleeping supplies is not very comfortable.

Now, currently two weeks after the volunteer visit, I am in Manabao. Despite the slight inconvenience and lack of American connectivity I love the seclusion up here. I’m at 3500 feet in the central mountain range of the DR; only an hour from the base of Pico Duarte, the tallest peak in the Carribean at 10,000 feet. All this is to say that it is incredible how much more beautiful and comfortable this country is once you get out of Santo Domingo. The crap-hole of the Dominican Republic… at least according to its commonly-held nickname. That I just now decided to give it. It’s beautiful here. Mountains everywhere, rivers everywhere, 10 degrees (or more) cooler than the capital, and pure tranquility.  I live in an amazingly beautiful house which I would call more of a hacienda with its beautiful handmade wooden porch, rocking chairs, grass front yard and view of the mountains. This is the kind of place you would come to retire. And these guys get to live it their entire life. The people here have been noticeably more friendly and my host family has already accepted me as another son/brother/cousin/nephew/etc. They are truly amazing and I feel at home with them. We have already gone on several adventures into the mountains together and continuously talk about future escapades. I have also gotten the chance to play some Dominican card games and taught a few family members hearts and backgammon. My favorite evening was when my cousin came over with a very excited look on his face and asked me if I had ever heard of the game “Connect Four”. We played for two hours.

Coffee is a big part of life here in the DR, and this is no exception in Manabao. For the sake of the Peace Corps and in an attempt to avoid ruining an innumerable amount of Dominican relationships I have begun drinking coffee like once every other day. Despite my convictions. Got to get used to the awful taste somehow I guess. And I can’t tell if it’s the fact that my host mom picks the coffee beans from her backyard or the incredible amount of sugar added to my tiny cup… but it’s not the worst thing in the world.

I also trekked up into the mountains and walked for two hours up a creek bed last Saturday during the middle of the night. We were looking for fresh water crab; “Jaiba”. We caught about 15 lbs. They taste pretty good – basically like regular crab.

I just hope I am not let down once I am placed into my site, because I love living here. I have been teaching people how to play ultimate Frisbee, working out a bit (trying not to kill myself) and just spend a lot of time hanging out. We also got to go to a youth camp Saturday morning which got me excited to start youth clubs once I am placed in my site. This pumps me up too. Building a water system and playing with kids. I mean, c’mon.

Thanks for praying and thinking of me. I am doing the same for all of you – I miss you all dearly. Love and hugs!

Here are some pics from the beach and my home in Manabao. The bottom one is my dog Chiquito. Yay!

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3 Responses to Life outside the crap-hole…

  1. Anne says:

    JOSHUA! I am so happy I finally found your blog I can relate to everything you’re going through…minus the beaches and mountains. What’s funny is that my training host community was called Santo Domingo too AND the most popular beer here is Brahma, crazy right?

    Your experience sounds positively optimistic so far and I am so excited for you to find out your site soon… another month of training or so, right? My group is getting ready to COS in 2 weeks, I can hardly believe I’ve been in this country for 27 months already! Don’t blink cause it goes by WAY too fast!

    I will try and write you a real email soon, though I totally understand how precious internet time is and totally understand if it takes forever to get back to me hehe.

    My advise for you: say “YES” to everything! No matter how tired or sin ganas you may feel sometimes, never refuse an invitation to coffee, an asado, or a forest adventure. I know you will make the most of your experience and your community is going to be SO DAMN LUCKY to have you!

    love and miss you, warm and positive thoughts always coming your way

  2. Kevin Kerr says:

    Hi, Josh! Jessica will be happy to hear you’re joining her on the “dark side” drinking coffee – I think I’m the only one left who doesn’t (even Daniel finally gave in and had a cup or two). Sounds like you’re having an amazing time already – looking forward to hearing when you are placed in your own site. Praying for God’s continued protection over you (just don’t take any more guaguas than you have to!) — Kevin

  3. jkennedy87 says:

    Sorry for the late reply Kevin, but thanks for the comment! I think I will be drinking even more coffee up on my mountain…. every family picks and brews its own coffee and there’s no getting around it. Thanks for your prayers and support, I hope the family is doing well!

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