Monday, May 7, 2012

The Last Letter

What have I been up to lately you ask?
Nothing. I have been wasting your tax dollars sitting in my apartment watching heat waves kill pigeons. But really. I have been wrapping up my service here. I have been closing down most of my projects. I just finished the last round of cement floors/bathrooms on Sunday. I am really happy about how this round turned out. We were able to put floors in 8 homes and bathrooms in 4. A great note to end on. I attended a few more camps as well, most notably camp superman! 4 days camping in the woods, we zip lined, rock climbed, obstacle coursed, swam in rivers....and taught young boys a lot of very important things, of course.

Other than that, i have just been hanging out with friends and neighbors, just saying goodbye, selling all my worldly possessions for pennies on the dollar and all that jazz.


This will probably be my last blog...who am i kidding....this is my last blog.

So this is it. I leave this Friday. 27 months ago I arrived on this island with severe abdominal pain, continued to lose 15 pounds, got robbed at gunpoint, kicked a naked bum out of the house after he pooped and peed on the couch, met the most incredible people and acquired a family i could never have dreamt  of.

It is hard to know exactly how to feel after 2 years here. On one hand, i am very happy to be going home and seeing my friends and family, but on the other hand, i am leaving my friends and family behind. It is the definition of bitter-sweet. I have realized that i am truly blessed and rich in love. Most people i know here do not have much, yet they are happier than most people i know in the states. Yea, they do complain a lot, they ask for a lot of handouts, they get angry.....some have robbed me........this is taking a different turn.....ha, with the exception of a few people everyone has made me feel like the richest guy in the world (except for the people who assumed i was rich.....and stole from me.....:)

Basically, i am very glad i made the decision to be a Peace Corps volunteer, im glad i stayed the whole time, im glad i had a lot of hard times, im glad i had a lot of great times. I like the person i am better than looking back on who i was. This country has changed me. I will never be the same.

I would like to say thanks to everyone who has read this blog. Thanks for supporting me. I wanna shout out a few peeps too:
Mom and Dad: I would not have even arrived at this point in my existence on earth if it weren't for the relentless support you have poured into everything I have ever done. I love you guys!
Grandma/Grandpa/Carrie/Kim/Gator: Thanks so much for the emails, calls, visits, cash, everything haha. You guys don't realize how much i appreciate just knowing that you guys care.
Stephy: Thanks for visiting me! You and Jeanne actually followed through on your promise. Meant a lot to be able to share a little of my life with you. Im glad you got to meet my family here. Hope you had a good time!
Jeanne and Matt: Whatevs Gene.
Just kidding! I knew you guys were sure bets to come down. I hope you know how much i appreciate the follow through. Its nice to know that no matter where in the world I go, you will start saving that dollar to come visit. And i can always expect mail from you Gene,.....even if i don't want it :) but secretly love it, ha. Love you guys.
Chase, Matt, Cam (whole MD crew basically): Thanks for making it such a seamless transition when i visited home. It was like i had been gone a day. Thanks for making time to hang out. Wouldn't be the guy I am today without you bros.
Josh, Matt, Cory, Cousin, Steph (Tampa Crew): Thanks for staying friends with me, ha. I was worried that when I left for Peace Corps we would all drift apart, but 2 Christmases ago when i got to see all you I knew we would be stuck together for a while. Im pretty pumped about it. I am especially pumped that I get to see you all the day after i get back! I can't believe you guys are coming to the MD. I really appreciate all of you.
Babe: i will try to remember my spanish, ha! You're awesome. Christmas club saved my life.

You guys are all reasons why I am who I am(take it or leave it :). I hope to make each and every one of you proud with whatever I do in life, because without the support and love I would be dead in a ditch somewhere, or hanging out with that bum, or shopping at Jos. A Bank. Thank you for that .

You guys rock!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Whoopsie Daisy

I can see the finish line....

As of tomorrow i will officially have 2 months left until i touch down on American least for the immediate future. It has been a looooong and EVENTFUL 2 years. I still cannot believe i have lived here for that long.

Anyways! This past week i helped out at a general health mission in Cien Fuegos with a group from Purdue University. I helped translate and triage patients. We pushed at least 300 people through the door each day. Very cool clinic.

Other than that i am just waiting on grant money so i can complete our cement floor project. Oh!! My school finally fixed their generator batteries and we have 24-hour electricity!! 2 years of fighting with the Ministry of Education to have them come fix what they installed, and they finally responded! Everyone at the school is ecstatic. We have so many resources to integrate technology into education, but we have been unable to take advantage of them due to the light problem. So, i have decided to extend for an extra year to help the school learn how to utilize these materials appropriately.............just kidding. But they will be just fine without me.

I am job searching, keeping my eyes open for different opportunities. Hanging out a lot with my neighbors and the kids in my community. Everyone is asking me for my stuff. I plan on selling just about everything i own. I like to travel light.

Stephanie was here recently and we were all over the place. We wen to church at the HUB, we got to supervise a few of the cement floor projects that i was in charge of, which was really cool. We were offered all kinds of food, juice, coffee. We went to the 27 waterfalls and jumped off cliffs as high as 25 feet. We went to Carnaval, which is a huge celebration all over the country the whole month of February. She got to meet some of my neighbors and played (and beat) some of the kids, including myself, in basketball in my community. It was an awesome trip and im so glad a friend was able to come down and share this crazy life with me.

Jeannie and Matt are coming this saturday! They will be here for a few days then i am going back to the US with them for a few days to be in Matt and Ashley's wedding!

Wish i had some more exciting news to tell ya.....but thats about it....:)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

rapid fire

So here is a lightning update of what has been going on here.

- 50th anniversary celebration went really smoothly. Saw over 200 former and current volunteers, heard lots of cool stories, everyone loved it.

- Finished the water system in Alta Gracia, so know everyone has water! People are starting to put faucets in their homes, which is really cool.

-The director of the grant which i applied to complete the water system visited the project and was very impressed. So impressed that he encouraged me to apply for a follow up grant to satisfy some other obvious needs the community has, like cement floors and tin roofs. Currently working on that right now.
- NExt week is our close of service conference. Administration goes over all of our final steps in order to leave this country in one piece. We will update our resumes, do all kinds of paper work, medical tests, etc. It is a 3 day ordeal, but should be fun because we all
get to stay at the Quality Inn!
-After the conference Stephanie is coming to visit for about a week! Fun times! Pumped about that.

HEre are some photos!

Brand new faucet!
One of our projects. Complete this bathroom. Imagine having diarrhea here. Everyone can see.

This is my favorite street vendor. Joel Flow!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Water and baseball

woo been pretty busy. Spent a week in La Vega at an orthopedic surgery mission, as a surgeon...i mean...translator? Thats was fun. We also took my class to a local baseball game. Well, it was kind of like the wild card playoffs for the Dominican League. Our team won and all the kids were so excited, most of them had never been to a game.

We also started construction on the water system i received money for. That has been a blast. I spent this past weekend starting and finishing it basically. It is just a small extension of a pre-existing water system, but it will have a huge affect in that it will serve over 20 families that did not previously have water. The only thing i was in charge of was buying the materials. These dominicans wasted no time, and had the entire trench dug out in 4 hours. Of course, i bought one wrong part so we had to wait until the next day to actually put the tubes in the ground. My one job, right? We got the part and they put all the tubes in right away. These guys know exactly what they are doing. It is crazy. Also, i have a confession....i have never swung pick-axe. I came to that painful realization when i began digging out some of the trench and another worker came over and send, "Here let me take that, Americans are really good at supervising." Ha! Another one of those humbling moments....i AM really good at supervising :) It has been a really positive experience. The community has taken all the manual labor upon themselves, even some of the women are providing meals for the workers. They are collecting money from each house that is receiving water to put in a fund for future projects such as quality electricity cables. It is crazy how sustainable this one little community on a hill is.
The children that live on the hill have been the most excited. They have been running around screaming, "we are gonna have a faucet in the house!!" When is the last time you heard kids screaming that in the suburbs? ha. Before this project, these people had to create this elaborate contraption of hoses and tape, basically a hose long enough to stretch a football field, in order to fill their 50 gallon tanks with water once a week. From the tank the fill buckets to bath, cook, flush the toilet, etc They were not only bathing with this water, but drinking it straight from the hose. We were able to solve both of those problems by 1) extending the water system to this community so they can have running water 2) installing bio-sand water filters n the houses so that they can drink purified water. It has been a blessing to see this community work together and get everyone involved, even the kids carrying shovels, in order to make this project go as quick as possible. Sometimes it is just a lack of resources that prevents the most basic of services from being offered.

Other than that, just going to the school everyday and getting ready for the 50th anniversary celebration stuff. I am helping organize some of the presentations for this fancy shin-dig in the capital for a bunch of returned Peace Corps volunteers. I will be in the capital from Feb. 7-10 doing stuff for this bash, which i think is gonna be pretty cool. You can see more about what we are doing at the conference through this link
Josiel and I will also be representing Fondo Quisqueya grants, which he applied for and received to study english. He will have to present himself and what he has done through the grant. It will be a great opportunity to rub shoulders with some bigwigs and make connections with some organizations.

Then, on the 11th i am hosting the director of the organization that granted me the money to complete the water system. I have to take him through the community we worked in and just show him where the money went, basically.

At the end of Feb. we have our Close or Service conference, which talks about life after Peace Corps and begins to phase us out, haha. Then Stephanie Dutka is coming to visit!!! My first friend to bite the bullet and make the trip down! Thanks a lot guys, 2 years have gone by and i haven't seen any of ya! just kidding, ha.
Well thats about it! enjoy the photos!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Que pasa!

So, not too much going on here. I just got back from a trip to Yasica to help translate for a medical team that comes up twice a year from Maine. This trip is always fun because we usually hike to different villages in the mountains to administer care. These people are the primary car physicians for over 15 different villages. Anyways, this time i got the opportunity to hike up to Los Hobos with a team of students, nurses, doctors, etc. This was probably one of the more challenging hikes i have ever been on. First we drive a few km's up the mountain, then we get out because no vehicle is capable of scaling what we are about to climb and descend. The trail is one of perpetual mud...up to your knees kind of mud. Not even 2 steps in and i am halfway in the ground. It was tricky trying to avoid the big holes, which you cannot see very well with the nude eye. We had a pretty pleasant hike up to the village, but the whole time your hiking this challenging trail you begin to wander if these people ever come down off the top of this mountain. We hiked at least 5km's up to the top in very wet mud. This is not mud that dries when the suns out, it goes so deep it is always muddy. At the top is this tiny village of no more than 60 families. It is so pristine and the air is so pure. The nearest car is a few miles down a mountain. Now, think about a village this small, so secluded from the rest of the world that most of the people have never left. There is constant running water because they live at the source of a river, but they have never had electricity....ever. No blaring music, no tv, no motorcycles, no cars. It was so interesting, and so beautiful up there. With these tiny populations come other problems, too. There is a substantial albino population, which the nursing staff informed me is due to incestual relations. You think you grew up in a small town? Ever date your sister? I don't know this for sure, but i imagine it was out of necessity, maybe to sustain the population, that certain people had to do this. I did not get a vibe that incest was frowned upon in the village either. Maybe im just an idiot, lol. Anyways, the trek down was even harder. I did it barefoot for a while because my shoes kept getting stuck deep, but after a mile or so i put them back on because i was stepping on sharp rocks, lol. It starting pouring rain the second half of the hike, so that was fun. Just another cool experience that ill never forget.

Other than that, my life is not that exciting. Francisco and I are taking my class to see a baseball game! Saturday we are going to watch the Aguilas vs Licey, which is like Red Sox vs. Yankee-type rvialry here. Not to mention this is a playoff game. The kids are really excited, and it should be a cool experience. Some of them have never been to a game.

Thats about it, just had some free time thought id write a little diddy.


Oh! I went exploring the other day and found this cool park area under a bridge. It goes back about half a mile into the woods right along the river. It is really really nice and quiet. Every second of every day is filled mith revving motorcycles, blaring bachata and screaming children. Here.....nothing, just the babbling of the brook. Here are some photos:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Photo entry

Francesca and me at the end-of-the-year dinner for the teachers from my school.

Famous Christmas pork! BEst meat i have ever had....

I chewed on the tail....still some hair on it.....

Francisco and Ari masters of the pig

Case presenting Francisco and his daughters with Christmas presents!

At the Monument for New Years.

Just some photos, enjoy :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Naked bums and hybrid diseases.

Finally! Something to write about. I will spare you guys my witty intro banter and get right to the meat......i walked in on a naked bum sleeping on a couch.
So many questions right? Your heads must be reeling....When did you get a couch? How did the bum get in there? Why was he naked? Is nickel heavier than copper? What did you do?
Relax, all of these questions and more will be answered. So, Heather and I had been switching off house-sitting at the HUB while the owners were in the United States. This means we had to check-in guests, help orient them to the city, clean up a little bit, etc. (some of you may not know what the HUB is, house church on Sundays and ex-pat hostal) So, i was on duty one night. I had been working late in my site installing filters so i didn't arrive until around 9 pm. I unlock the 3 separate locks, open the door, set my stuff down on the table and take a look around and i saw this large shape on the couch. I took a closer look, because the room was really dark and i thought it might be their dog. As i get closer i realize thats a human being, naked, curled up in the fetal position......what? Chills rock my body. I don't know if this joker is dead or alive. How on earth did he get in? and why is he naked? I grab my stuff and walk slowly out the door and close it softly (because i don't want to wake him?) I was quite terrified to be honest, so i called Heather and she called one of her friends in the area to help me out. I meet up with the guy and we call the police. By this time a lot of neighbors are outside their homes because we have been conversing with the bum. He has woken up and wont let us in the house. Every time we unlock the doors he locks them from the inside. He claims he is presidential candidate Danilo and this is his house. It is obvious that he is out of his mind. Ten minutes go by and 12 police offers are banging on the door threatening to break it down. Im just thinking to myself, is this really happening? What a ridiculous situation. Anyways, the guy opens the door a crack and some officers force themselves in and force the guy in a corner. The whole lot of people spills into the house to watch the show. As we all pour in everyone is smacked in the face by a terrible oder....the bum pooped and peed on the couch. Yea....this is real. The police tell me to give him some shorts. I don't have any clothes there, its not my house. So, i go and look for an extra pair of underwear i brought with me and reluctantly throw it at the bum. He slides them on. Out back his clothes are strewn about. So, he arrived with clothes, but took them all off before he entered the house....makes sense. I turn around for a second, turn back and they are dragging him outside of the house and onto the street where the bum scurries away. The police shrug their shoulders and drive off. The bum lives to see another day. Still confused as to how he got in, must have been through the back door.
I go back to my house to sleep because i don't want him to break in again, lol. I arrive the next afternoon to check on things and i see the same bum! sitting in front of another house hugging his knees.....wearing my green boxer-briefs....True story.
Its moments like this when i realize i gotta get outa here haha.

Outside of that, my brother just left to go back home. He spent the past few days with me at my site. It was pretty cool. It started poorly as i threw up all over the bathroom after our first dinner. I proceed to live out the will of the hybrid flu/parasite inside me for the next 4 days. We were not able to do a lot of the stuff we wanted to but we made the best of things. We played stick ball in my community, basketball, dominoes, met neighbors had coffee, soda, saw some water filters, visited the poor community next to mine, participated in my class graduation, ordered room service at a hotel, went to the movies, met a bunch of volunteers, enjoyed a hot shower, enjoyed a cold shower, among many other things. I think he still enjoyed his trip even though we didn't make it to the beach. I could not retain anything i ingested, so it made things a little tricky. It was really nice to have him here, and share this experience with him.
We spent the New Year up at the Monument in Santiago with Francisco. The firework show is known around the country as one of the coolest things to see on new years.....the clock strikes midnight.......pppppssssssuuuuuuuuuu........pop.......done. One firecracker. Literally. It. So dissapointing. Luckily its good for one hardy chuckle. Since there is a one hour time difference, we were able to get back to the hotel and watch the ball drop in times square(on tv). Double the celebration.

Well that is about all the hoopla here. Now im at the Marriot in Santo Domingo enjoying my last relaxing evening until i go back to the craziness! I will post pictures later.