Thursday, August 20, 2009

Healthy Homes

So I´m starting a big, new, and exciting project and I need YOUR help! Here´s a copy of an email that I sent out explaining the project and how you can help.


As some of you may know I am now volunteering with Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. I am a health volunteer and have been placed in a community in the eastern part of the country called Villa Hermosa. I still have more than a year left to my service, but it has been quite an experience already. Between learning Spanish, getting used to the food and heat, and adapting to a new culture, there have been many challenges. On the other hand, we have been able to form lasting connections in our community during our time here and through the projects that we´ve completed so far. So far, Trenita and I have formed an after-school program for the kids in our community, taught English classes, and taught a sex-ed class for teens, among other things.

Right now, I´m working on project called “Healthy Homes Villa Hermosa.” This project includes the construction of as many as 30 latrines the community of Villa Hermosa, as well as hygiene classes for the beneficiaries and other members of the community.For those of you who have never heard of a latrine, it is something like an outhouse. To build one, a whole is dug and cement is pored to line the whole, and as a foundation and platform for the latrine. Then, a wood and zinc structure is built around the whole for privacy purposes.

Villa Hermosa is a community where many people, who do not have indoor plumbing or toilets, depend on a latrine as a means to dispose of their waste. Many of these latrines are in very poor condition, old, and overflowing. Even worse, there are many people who can´t even afford a latrine at all and dispose of their waste in fields or behind their homes. Needless to say, this has caused an unhealthy and dangerous situation for the community. Worms, bacteria, and parasites are a few problems that this health issue has caused, and are most dangerous for the children who play in the areas where people leave their waste.

The good news is that there are means by which we can work with our community to fight this problem. The Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) is a type of a grant system where volunteers like us can create a project along with our communities and get assistance to carry out that project from friends, families, and organizations back in the U.S. All donations are tax deductable, and be made either online on the Peace Corps website (faster and easier), or checks can be mailed to the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

My project can be found at

Also, general information about the Peace Corps Partnership Program can be found at

So, please donate, organize a fundraiser, or at least pass on the email. If there are any questions or if any of you have good ideas for fundraisers, (car washes, bake sales, etc.) feel free to call or email me. My phone number is 809-723-9881 and my email address is

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.



We have some pictures posted from our time here online at

Check´em out!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Weekend in the Capitol

Right now I'm in Santo Domingo at the Peace Corps office. We came in this past Friday for what PCDR calls committee weekend. They designate a weekend every couple of months for volunteers to come together in the Santo Domingo to meet and plan for different committees and events. I'm participating in a committee that works developing programming that focuses on gender and improving gender relations. There are also committees that meet to plan camps and different events that are scheduled to happen this summer. Trenita and I both had a few meetings we wanted to attend this weekend, and we also needed to print, make copies, and make manuals for projects that we're about to start. There were meetings on Friday, Sat., and Sun., but most of the meetings were on Sat. We arrived Friday morning though because Trenita had an early meeting that day. She did her meeting and later on that afternoon we went to a salsa class that volunteers had organized to be held at the embassy. Things were going well until after the class when we returned to the Peace Corps office.

We were kind of milling around there, using the free wireless, deciding what we were going to eat when someone started pulling clothes from the "free box" in the lounge. The free box is something we have in the lounge where people can put things they don't want or clothes that don't fit, and other people know that these things are free for the taking. Well, Trenita found a pair of pants that she liked in the box. If you've seen pictures of her, you'll understand that she really needs some pants that fit since she's lost about 25lbs since coming to the DR and most of the pants she brought fromt he US don't fit anymore. So she went to the bathroom in the lounge, which you have to step up almost a foot to get into, to change into the pants to see if they fit. And fit they did. She was so excited about the prospect of free pants that fit that she jumped for joy and for the effect of showing off the treasured find to everyone who was hanging out in the lounge, out of the door of the bathroom. The only thing that was missing was an exclamation of, "TA-DAAA," as she leapt from the bathroom, face beaming with the pride that only free pants can give.

I would have no idea that what happened next was so serious until hours later. As she jumped from the bathroom she landed on the side of her foot and appeared to have rolled her ankle. I immediately left for ice and pronounced the injury a simple sprain(I AM a health volunteer. I know about these things). Trenita, however, insisted that it was more serious. She said that she heard a crack, and later others sitting near the bathroom said that they heard it too. So we decided to call the Peace Corps medical officer, who suggested we wait to see if it felt better, then go to the emergency room for an X-ray.

Things were suprisingly smooth at the emergency room. It was almost empty and we were seen pretty much immediately, and taken back for the x-rays. Once the x-ray came back it was obvious that her foot was in fact broken.
Even though we could easily see that it was broken, the surprise didn't come until an hour or so later when the specialist showed up and told us that she would need to have surgery! We were caught off guard, but they assured us that it was a simple surgery that could be done right here in the DR. They wrapped up Trenita's foot in a temporary cast and scheduled that operation for Monday.
After that, the weekend actually kind went on as planned. We went to our meetings and even went to Friday's to celebrate Trenita's birthday, which was the 22nd. Besides the whole broken foot thing, it was a pretty good weekend. Peace Corps even paid for our room for the weekend and gave us money for food since Trenita's foot was broken.
The actual surgery was yesterday and everything went well. The surgery itself only took about 30 minutes, but we did plenty of waiting and prep at the hospital before that 30 minutes. The doctor told us that they only made about an inch-long incision, set the bone and inserted a small pin to hold everything in place. We spent the night at the hospital last night. It was a pretty nice room with cable and air conditioning. We checked out of the hospital this morning and are back in the same room that we were in before the surgery for tonight. We should be heading back to our site tomorrow morning.
Overall, things went pretty well. Peace Corps definitely did a great job of making sure we had everything we needed. Now the challenge for Trenita is going to be just getting around at our site. The roads are mostly unpaved, rocky, and with lots of pot-holes. Also, our apt. is on the 2nd floor.We'll see how it goes. We'll keep you guys updated.

Speaking of updates, I just realized I hadn't put any pictures up on here for a while. Trenita has a lot of pictures up on a picture website you can get to through her blog, but here are a few from the past few months...

AIDS Walk way back in December for World AIDS Day. We didn't have a lot to do at this point since we were in the middle of a site change. It was nice to be able to get out and be involved in something. There were Escojo (Peace Corps DR youth HIV edu. program) groups from all over the region and lots of good energy and excitement.

Some of our new family in Villa Hermosa on New Year's Eve. We had only been there for a couple of days, but they did a group job including us and making us feel welcome right from the beginning.

We took a river trip with the family about a month ago and this is a picture of the dominos game they had set up in the middle of the river. They sat out there and played all day.

Me fishing by hand in the river. I didn't catch anything.

The flag at the base of the flag pole at the school in Villa Hermosa. Dominicans love their flag!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Coming Up For Air

I´m back! I´m now in my new site and things are good. Things have been pretty busy though, since we were trying to squish everything that we would have done in the first 3 months in a site, into the one month we had before our 3 month in service training. That´s the conference where we present our results about our community. We just had it this past week, and we presented resources and necessities of the community in general, and I also presented results from the health surveys I did in the community and ideas for future projects based on the findings. Everything went well, and now we are gearing up to really started with these projects.

In other news, we´ve finally moved into our own place. After 6 months of living with families, in the U.S. and the DR, we have our very own apt. once again. It´s not fancy, but it´s ours. We´re now in the process of getting stuff to put in it, since Dominican apts don´t come with things like a refrigerator or stove or anything else you might think is automatic. But we´re having a good time figuring things out and trying to find some kind of normalcy in all this.

Gotta go, but you´ll hear from me soon!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A New Site For Christmas


The waiting is about to end. Or at least we’ll be waiting somewhere else. It’s been almost 4 weeks since we found out about our site switch. The knowledge of our move put things on hold for us, so we suddenly found ourselves with A LOT of time on our hands. Since then, we’ve been trying to take advantage of the time—studying Spanish, attending a World AIDS Day march, visiting La Romana—but those activities didn’t even come close to filling up this amount of time. After mastering all the various forms of solitaire that our computer had to offer, we still had time on our hands. After reading all the books that we could carry back from our last trip to the Peace Corps office library in Santo Domingo, we still had time. After spending countless hours people watching in parks in 3 different cities, we still had time. And after rationing out episodes of “House of Payne” and the “The Shield,” and watching “My Best Friend’s Wedding” in English and in Spanish, we still had time. After making this:

(I call it “Llegò La Navidad,” or “Christmas has arrived” in English), we still had time.

After all that time waiting and preparing we thought today was going to be the day that we were going to move to the home of our new host family in our new community, but, alas, today will not be the day. The good news is that we are, in fact, going somewhere, just not to our new community. Turns out the family that we were going to be staying with is going to be out of town visiting family for the holidays. Since we already told our current family that we are leaving, we would rather not take it back at this point. I feel like they’ve been very patient. We’ve been telling them that we are leaving for the last 2 weeks or so, but we haven’t been able to tell them when. With Christmas coming and family coming to visit, we’ve been kind of leaving them hanging. I was glad when we could give them something solid, and it wouldn’t be good to have to take it back. So, we will be spending Christmas in the Capital! That has a nice ring to it I think. We were definitely excited to meet our new family and spend Christmas with them, but I think it will be considerably less awkward with just the two of us than it undoubtedly would’ve been in a new family, in a new community, trying to get to know them, they trying to know us, all in the hubbub that is Navidad in the DR. This puts things off a little more and creates more time to fill, but I think it will be for the best. After Christmas, we’ll go to our community, meet everyone, and get to work. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Really Long Post


I’m addicted to Spider Solitaire. I must be. I can’t stop playing. I sat down to start writing this about 30 or 40 minutes ago. Who knows how long it’s been. I lose time when I’m in the world of Spider Solitaire. I kept saying to myself, “one more time. I’ll just play one more time, or just until I win one.” When I won though, I didn’t want to stop because I obviously had things going my way. I can’t quit while I’m hot!

But here I am. I’ve finally torn myself away. Hmm…maybe I should play a little Hearts, or Free Cell while I think about what I’m going to write. No, No, I should get to it.

Ok, so I’ve decided that I will begin journaling electronically. Not a blog exactly, but an electronic journal. I tried doing a handwritten journal, but that didn’t work for me. First of all, the journal I bout was terribly small and hard to write in. Also, my handwriting is painfully sloppy. If I concentrate enough to make it legible, even to me, then I have to write very slowly. It takes forever. I get frustrated, and end up playing Spider Solitaire. There’s also my blog. I started blogging and it seemed like a fantastic idea. It is a fantastic idea. The problem is that I don’t a ton of internet time. So when I get to an internet café, or make my way to Santo Domingo and use the wireless in the Peace Corps office, I always use all of my time checking my email, checking Facebook, or catching up on the news. In this way, my blog has been neglected.

Initially, I planned to do both a journal and a blog. I planned to use the blog to keep people up to date on actual events and things that I’m doing here, and use the journal for my own reflection purposes. Turns out, that’s a lot. Not gonna happen. So, my new plan is to keep an electronic journal that will melt both the journal and blog into one. I will type it out on the laptop and then decide what is worthy(coherent) enough to make it onto the blog. Then I can save those entries on a memory stick and quickly paste it on my blog when I get time for internet. If this works (not making any promises), there should be a lot more blogs coming your way!

So what’s been going on here in the DR? I’m not sitting in front of my blog at this moment, but based on my calculations I haven’t posted a blog since September. September?! Not sure on that, but I am sure that it’s been a while. So what have you missed? Where do I start?

How was training? Training was good. I learned a lot about the DR, its culture, and doing health promotion here. And of course there’s Spanish. I have so, so, so much more to learn, but I do feel like I’ve come a long. As much as I hope and pray that it will happen, I’m most likely not going to wake up one morning, magically having learned all the Spanish I need to know. The whole two years is going to be a learning experience. It’s still frustrating at times, but I think I’ve come to terms with it.

Training was 10 weeks total. The first 3 weeks was spent in Santo Domingo. During the 5 weeks in the middle called Core Basic Training (CBT), all the sectors were split up and sent to various campos (rural areas) around the country. The health sector was located in Las Tablas, a small town in the southwest part of the DR. It was not easy, but in the end this part of training turned out to be really good and I learned a lot about health and being a health promoter in the DR. The only bad part was that we lost 3 of our 11 members in the health group during that time.

Hightlights of CBT:
Super giant pigs/hogs/monsters

Beach trips

Playing dominos
KFC delivered on motorcycles

Visiting Dominican hospitals, clinics, and nutrition centers
Bucket Baths

River Trips
104F temperature, headache, body ache, vomiting
Diarrhea for 5 weeks
Spanish class
Wonderful scenery
Crazy kids

After CBT we only had 2 more weeks of training left. That was kicked off by us meeting our project partners and going to visit the towns that would become our homes for the next 2 years. Who your project partner is can range widely, depending on the sector, the town, what organizations are present, and which of those organizations has the time/capability/motivation to work with a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). A project partner could be anyone from the president of a small women’s group in town, up to a larger NGO. PCVs are supposed to integrate into their community, get to know people, and build trust in the community before they start doing anything else. The project partner


Not sure what happened. As you can see above, I stopped in mid-sentence the last time I was writing. I guess I was boring even myself. Either that, or Spider Solitaire snuck its way back onto the screen. Oh, and now I’ve managed to master Free Cell also. I had played before, but I never had the time or interest to really get into it. Ok, where was I?

Project partners are our link to the community. So with only 2 weeks of training left we found out our site and met our project partners, who then took us to our sites for a 3-4 day visit. Trenita and I were placed in Guaymate, which is a small pueblo 30 minutes north of La Romana, in the eastern part of the DR. Even though I am in the health sector and Trenita is in the youth sector, we were both assigned to a youth group in Guaymate for our project partner. Because they were a youth group interested in health issues and health education, they were able to be a match for both of us. The visit went well. The town is an interesting place. It’s bigger than a lot of other sites. It’s actually an ideal site for us. It’s not tiny, but it’s not as big as some of the sites people in more urban or touristy areas have. It’s definitely not touristy, but it is 30-45 from the more touristy places of La Romana, Bayahibe, and their surrounding beaches. Also, there is a lot of need in Guaymate. This is pure speculation, but it seems to me that Guaymate probably used to be a batey, but has grown and become large and established enough to become the municipio or small pueblo that it is today. There are smaller bateyes in the area, it’s surrounded by sugar cane, and there are barrios within Guaymate that have the physical appearance of a batey. Bateyes are generally the poorest parts of the DR. They are really small and are built by the companies that own the sugar cane fields. People who live in bateyes are usually Haitian or of Haitian descent. There are many bateyes around Guaymate, and at least one barrio that’s actually in Guaymate looks much like a batey. Guaymate, on the whole, is definitely poor and seems to be an interesting mix of Dominicans and Haitians.

After our visit to Guaymate, all that was left were a few things to wrap up training and to prepare for being a real life volunteer. That time flew by and induction was there before we knew it. Trenita was selected by the other volunteers to give a speech at the induction ceremony in Spanish. She did a fantastic job of course, even though the American Ambassador showed up with his secret service and a little added pressure. Everything went well, though, and we became official Peace Corps Volunteers! A couple of days after that everyone said their goodbyes and we all went off on our separate adventures in the DR.

What’s Happening Now
Our project partner in Guaymate is a youth group that was formed almost a year ago through one of the many evangelical churches in town (most of the DR is Catholic, but Guaymate is one of the places here with a growing number of evangelical churches). They are a young (12-19yrs old) and energetic bunch that seem to genuinely care about their community and helping their neighbors. They are outgoing, smart, and have a lot of things going on outside of this youth group. They have school (at times at a private school in neighboring La Romana), jobs, and other clubs or groups. This part has turned out to be an advantage and a disadvantage. Because the youth in the group are so busy they have not been able to really focus on their partnership with us. They haven’t had time for meetings or to help in the community diagnostic, and most likely wouldn’t have time in the future to help us with our projects. For all of these reasons, it has been decided that we could have more of an impact in another community. It is very important for Peace Corps Volunteers to work and do projects in partnership with the community. Since we are only here for 2 years it’s necessary to form solid partnerships in the community, so that our projects can continue after our term of service is over.

We received the news about our site change almost 2 weeks ago and there is a meeting coming up on Dec. 17 where Peace Corps people are going to be meeting with people from a potential community in La Romana. If all goes well, we could be moving into our new community and into a home with a new family as early as next weekend. La Romana is much bigger, but it seems that the community that they’re considering is kind of on the outskirts of La Romana. Our work would be concentrated to that community. At this point we don’t have many specifics about what things could be like there. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more after the meeting on the 17th. We’ve been a sort of limbo for the last 2 weeks, and we are both ready for some stability.
In other news, the diarrhea that I experienced for most of the 5 weeks during CBT is no more. That’s the good news. The bad news is that for the past month I’ve been dealing with the opposite – constipation! After about a month of each, it’s a hard decision, but I’d have to say I’d rather have diarrhea than be constipated. When I had diarrhea, at least I felt fine for most of the day, excluding the 3-5 times of day when the urge hit me. With constipation though, I feel crappy (pardon the pun) most of the time, which doesn’t do anything for my appetite. I’m up to about 25 pounds lost since I arrived in the DR. I’m not sure exactly what the problem is, but I think it’s probably the lack of vegetables, and especially fruits in my diet. In Las Tablas I ate at least 3 servings of fruit about everyday, whereas here I’m lucky if I get 3 servings of fruit in the entire week. It just doesn’t seem to be as available here. It could be the area, or it could also be the time of year. It was the end of mango season when we were in Las Tablas and there were mangos everywhere. I miss the mangos…

I just considered that poop talk and the discussion of diarrhea and constipation might not be norm for you guys back home. Sorry if you were grossed out. I’ll try to keep the poop talk to a minimum in the future, but I can’t make any promises. It seems to be part of the Peace Corps culture here. Most of us have stomach issues of some kind, especially in the beginning, and we get used to talking about it in rather specific terms (number of poops per day and consistency of poops) with just about anybody who’ll listen. While I was in Las Tablas and the diarrhea had really ramped up (7-8 times a day), I knew that my doña, her daughter, and mother knew all the specifics of my problem. They were always there, every time I looked up, offering me food or something else they thought would help me. What I didn’t know, but what I found out after the worst of it had passed and I came out of my cave, was that pretty much all of Las Tablas knew what was going on with my bowels also. Everywhere I went, people were asking me if I was better now, and telling me things that I could do to help my unsettled stomach. Needless to say, this sort of thing helps you get over the embarrassment or grossness of talking about poop. As I said before (after which I told you another story about poop, so you can see how this is going to go) I’ll try my best to spare you guys back home.

Ok this is going to be a super-long entry and I may lose some of you guys in the part where I stopped writing mid-sentence, or the parts where I spend entire paragraphs talking about computer games, or in some of the parts about poop. I offer my apologies. Hopefully in the future I’ll be writing more often so that this craziness can be spread out into a few posts instead of jammed all in one.

Blog Change

Welcome to my new blog!
It's always a little annoying to switch a blog site, but I definitely like the format for this one better. For those of you who haven't seen the old site and would like to catch up (don't worry, you haven't missed much) the link is .
Oh, also the link to your picture site is .
And without further ado, I bring you "No Hay Luz!!!!"