I’m full. But not just full, I’m STUFFED. I’m full of joy, dominicanisms, love and new knowledge on my way back from Manabao. I just got back on Saturday and have been reflecting on how it has been good to me over the last five and a half weeks. I was accepted as part of the Carmona family, treated as one of their own sons and was learned on some valuable phrases such as “canta culo porque ya no tiene luto” and “hasta el topete”. The latter means: “I’m really really stuffed.” The former, of course, means “let the butthole sing b/c it no longer is in grieving”. A very useful phrase for my host family, let me tell you.
Really though, training was incredible. It was a fine balance of time with my work, host family and other volunteers, but I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture. I spent many nights simply sitting on my front porch talking with my host mother, brother and cousin, which was surprisingly fulfilling in addition to being peaceful and relaxing. I also taught them some of my favorite pastimes from back home – aka, games. We taught my brother and cousin hearts, backgammon, cribbage and Settlers of Catan. Yeah, that’s right, we somehow got our hands on a Settlers board game. Another favorite of my cousin and I was Connect 4. Yeah. One night I showed up after work and he told me he had an awesome game which he sometimes plays at his house. I said “OK”. He pulled out Connect 4. Tougher than I remember, let’s just say that. It really was amazing how easy it was to become a part of the family and have conversation with my host family there. It broke down a lot of fears and doubts I had going into a host family and, by doing so, showed me what my fears really were: inability to relate, educational differences, poor communication, different social cues, etc. I hope this allows me to enter my final and longest host family experience with an open mind and more confidence in our abilities to integrate. I still feel pretty nervous though.
Being back in Santo Domingo reminds me what a paradise Manabao was. I already miss the rivers, the mountains and my host family. They invited me to come for Christmas. It made me really happy, because the entire family is amazing.
I think I’m going to start calling everyone “mi amor” also. This is a very common thing to hear in the campo (country). People in the capital all look angry. And don’t say hi to each other. And look at you weird when you do.
I find out where I will be going for the next two years this morning. Pretty weird, and a bit upsetting at first, thinking that this decision is in the hands of two men who don’t really know me that well. They probably know more about me from what is on paper than personal experience and conversation. But then again, it’s not about me, what I want or what placement would make me most comfortable and happy. A bit selfish. No matter where I end up there will be a community that is in need, which has real people with whom I can make real, lasting relationships. I pray God is in control, since I am not. And I pray that I don’t get caught up on myself, my needs and my comforts through my Peace Corps service. I’ve already caught myself doing this a lot, and I’d like that part to come to an end. These thoughts are being amplified through some books which I have been reading: “Utmost for His Highest” and “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. God has helped put me in a challenging place where I have been and will be encountering people with new and difference social, financial, and religious perspectives… I think I just need to use the opportunity to learn and grow in the way I interact with Him and with the world. Please pray for me in this.
Change of subject. Grifo is a man who lives just outside of Manabao. He has helped to install 12 water systems and two hydroelectric power plants in the area over the last 15 years and essentially donates his time and experience to the Peace Corps whenever he can. During our training, he helped us organize materials, organize the community and construct a water tank, spring intake and pipe canyon crossing. All for free, for a community 30 minutes from his own. I thought he was just a pretty nice guy that liked to help out and share his extensive knowledge. Turns out he is a man who believes in the Peace Corps and what they do. He gave a few impromptu words at our Goodbye Celebration and almost had me in tears. He went as far as to say “I have been working on water systems for a long time, and the only organization that reaches out to the people that really are in need is the Peace Corps… I would swear my allegiance to the government of the United States of America if I could, because of the things that the Peace Corps has done for this country.” It was incredibly intense, and gave me a sudden respect and appreciation for the organization that I am a part of. It also became apparent to me what a man of God Grifo is, with his “Con Dios Adelante” attitude (with God ahead/first). Dios le bendiga.
The rest can only be explained with pictures. Or a lot more words which I don’t feel like writing. Love you all. I will let you know where I am heading soon (:
Dios les bendiga a todos ustedes,
*UPDATE* I know where I am going!! La Barrera. A few kilometers north of Los Rios, near Lago Enriquillo, at 1500 m altitude. No water, electricity or latrine. BUT its beautiful, lots of fruit and coffee and I might be able to get a horse. Real Peace Corps experience, here I come…