Halfway?

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My backyard. Well, 30 minute walk down the road.

I feel compelled to write something captivating, exciting, interesting, shocking. But, as I wrote before, I’ve discovered that the “shocking” realities from a year ago are now everyday events, normalcies and stories worth telling your roommate when you get home but not necessarily worth writing home about. In other words, I’ll see if I can do some remembering and piece together some interesting/important words for you to read about my life.

Took a while for routine to take over again after returning from the United States. Picking up where you left off is tough when your projects depend on an ever changing community that plugs along while you are gone. I returned to my site, after being gone for several weeks, with a new volunteer from this year’s group. Yep, I’m no longer a Freshman, a newbie, a… etc. I’ve actually officially passed the halfway mark in my time here. Exciting/nerveracking knowing what work needs to be done still. Regardless, Tal (the guy that visited) was really cool. Pretty quirky, but he’s a Civil Engineer so what do you expect. He was so excited about everything and everything was so new to him. It was weird. It made me feel like it was so long ago when I was in his shoes. And it showed me how steep the learning curve is to really feel comfortable here. You feel lost for 2-3 months, get thrown into a community where you feel more lost for ~3 months, and if you make it to that point you are pretty much good to go. It was interesting looking into the past at myself a year ago though. I was probably that curious and nervous and scared about Peace Corps rules at the time too. Well, maybe a little less. With all that in mind, I do feel like I’ve got a groove going on. I know the system fairly well, feel pretty comfortable, have a somewhat set routine. Yeah.

SO, work. Of course I returned to Las Barreras with the information that the spring feeding our water system had dried up. Like a bone in the desert. Bones aren’t really that dry – at least not when they are in the body… well, I wouldn’t think so. All (most) problems have solutions, so I figured out what to do quickly. But while the figuring-out happens quickly, the carrying-out does not. So, a month later, we are still working on it. If only materials could appear instantly from helicopters or miscommunication didn’t exist. As of yesterday half of the materials I need are in site.

Other excitement has included the recent involvement of two development organizations in Las Barreras. “Hope Without Borders” and the UN’s “Program of Small Subsidies” (PPS) have been quasi working together to do a reforestation project and a hydroelectric project in the area. The reality is a bit more complicated, but this is the gist. Both organizations are focusing on the idea that these small scale farmers cannot pull themselves out of poverty by farming the crap out of tired soils year in and year out. Beans and guandules just don’t cut it. They are high-risk, low-reward crops. Coffee is better but it’s not widespread enough. SO, the goal is to diversify their sources of income by looking to agroforestry. (a) Plant trees, (b) wait, (c) sell wood or fruit. Simple. There is actually a direct tie between wealth and forested land in this country, according to several studies done by people working for PPS. It’s been cool seeing different people come from local towns and the capital to teach community members about this idea, trying to change the way they earn money from their land. It’s exciting too, thinking about the hope this gives my people for the future. The other side of the coin is that if we don’t reforest the land about the water source, we could be without water and therefore without electricity within 15 years. Might not look too good for the water system either… AKA, let’s hope they buy into the plan.

Lots of stuff going on.Water project, electricity, reforestation and latrines. Yet at the same time not so much. The whole community is busy clearing land, burning debris, spreading herbicide and planting beans until May-ish. The exciting news, though, is that thanks to some of you beautiful people and my parents, we have enough money to build everyone in Las Barreras a latrine! Yay! Still waiting on confirmation of all the money and transfer, etc, but I hope to get this project moving at full swing within the next month. The community keeps asking when we’re going to start, and about 10 people have already dug their hole in preparation. So yeah, they’re a bit overzealous but VERY excited! Hopefully within the next 2-3 weeks we will also have water pumping up 170 vertical ft to the road.

So there’s my update on WHAT I have been up to. This week I am also going to a boys camp called Camp Superman with two 15 yr old boys from my community. We’ll be camping out in tents, swimming in the river, singing songs and doing lots of fun games/activities. Should be a blast. And I’ll be doing a hike through the central mountain range afterward for a few days.

As for everything else, all is well. God has blessed me with discipline in my site to stick to a routine of reading the Bible and devotionals daily – I have a new goal to finish reading through the rest of the Bible by the end of my service – which has been a blessing and even something to look forward to. I find this helps to cope with the isolation and loneliness that try to creep in on me. I’ve been learning some Bachatas on guitar which is also fun, and spending time with the kids, which can be difficult when all they want to do is play Candyland (bleh). If I ever have kids I’m teaching them cribbage at age 3. None of this Candyland crap.

That’s me. Love to all back home and/or abroad.

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The kids thought I looked like a goon. So they took a picture.

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2 Responses to Halfway?

  1. Peter Albee says:

    J.
    You write a great blog. Makes you life sound like a slow adventure. You must be excited about getting close to pumping that water up the hill. Will the volume be such that every structure will have water? Or will there just be a central source? Glad to hear the outhouses are getting there. Send a picture.
    Your mom is having two parties for her birthday and we won’t make the Sat. one as we are getting ready for Sister Mary Beth memorial on Sunday.

    Love, G’pa Peter

  2. Melinda says:

    Very cool. The travel bug is coming over me and was looking into the Dominican Republic. I’m a RPCV from Guinea (Africa) and stumbled upon your page. Congratulations on making it half way through! And your projects sound GREAT!! Keep pressing on my friend!

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