Things have been crazy and up in the air lately but now that everything is settled, it’s time to share the news. I’m officially extending my service until May 2014. The funding for my final project has taken longer than expected to come through so for a while I debated staying or not but the funding is promised to arrive within the week (!!!) so I have opted to stay 6 extra months so I can finish everything I set out to do here. I figure I have the rest of my life to have a regular job and live in America but right now, even if it’s hard sometimes, I really do have the best job ever (except not getting paid…) and I’d rather stick it out a while longer than leave with regrets and unfinished business. So that means 6 more months to come visit me in the Caribbean! FYI, it’s whale watching season at my favorite beach in the country (Las Galeras on the Samana Peninsula, look it up!) in February and March. Make it happen people!
Between many trips to the capital to get my project and extension sorted out, these past couple months have been busy in my communities too. In early September we inaugurated the water system in my old community. After living there for over a year and a half and struggling to get the project going due to various issues with funding and land rights, I thought the project was done for when I suddenly had to move last winter but thanks to my PCVL Gabe, our tecnico Raul and my awesome water committee (and my new community for their patience as I traveled back to my old site so often!), we managed to make the project happen still. In late June the brigades finished installing all the pipes and we got the system up and running with plans to celebrate the inauguration in mid July but due to some issues with the electricity, the pump stopped running for a while and unfortunately we had to push the inauguration back. But in early September we finally got to celebrate the communities of La Guamita and Las Auyamas and their huge accomplishment of a potable water system. Many of my Peace Corps friends joined us for a ceremony, a delicious lunch and some dancing. We also took an afternoon trip to La Presa, a nearby beautiful lake with some of my friends from the community. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate the water system that the communities and I have been working towards for 2.5 years!
Cutting the ribbon for the tap at the school with the director of the funding organization, the mayor and the water committee president
Opening the tap… they sprayed us all!
Post-ceremony at the school
Peace Corps reppin’ hard. Thanks for the support, amigos!
To be honest, when I was site changing last year, I really only agreed to it so that I could stay in the country to work on my old project instead of coming home early and leaving the project to likely never be finished. I never thought my new project would mean as much to me and it almost felt like an obligation that I had to fulfill in order to remain in Peace Corps and be able to travel back to my old site. I really thought that I would feel a sense of completion in my service after the inauguration of my original project but I guess over these last 10 months my new community has found its way into my heart and after some hard thinking about if I wanted to stay for the duration of this new project, I really feel that I would regret not fulfilling my promises to the new community who has so graciously adopted me. So here I am, about 6.5 months away from finishing 3 years of Peace Corps service with un montón of work left to do. But it’s a good feeling. Both of the projects I’ve finished so far were huge struggles due to technical issues, living arrangements/commuting and working with the most difficult funding organization ever but I feel confident that this third time around will be easier. I will only have one open project instead of two and there will be no commuting involved other than the short walk to wherever in the community we are working that day, and the new funding org is much easier to work with. Plus I’m surer of my own abilities and this is the smallest/simplest system I have worked on yet. In addition to the water system, we are also in the midst of a trashcan initiative and health promotion activities, and we will be installing bio-sand water filters in all the houses early next year. I am also working with other water volunteers to plan a training workshop for the plumbers and technicians from our communities who will be responsible for maintaining our water systems after we leave. And I hope to visit my old communities as frequently as possible in my last months here. We’re planning a trashcan initiative there as well and some repairs to the community center, which is currently an open-air structure with a leaky roof. We will be putting in a back wall while leaving the other three sides open, fixing the roof, painting the structure and building a table and benches that will remain there permanently so people don’t have to bring their own plastic chairs for meetings. It’s going to be a busy 6 months but I’m excited for it. And I’m glad I won’t be readjusting to life in America during the winter now!
Some miscellaneous pictures from the past couple months:
I didn’t believe they could fit all 13 trashcans on one pickup truck but “siempre uno mas”
Kids painting the trashcans with Brigada Verde (Green Brigade… it’s Peace Corps’ environmental youth group) slogans
Thanks CIEE Service Learning!
View down the street from in front of my house
Best hitchhiking experience: the back of an empty safari guagua with ocean views in the distance
My Peace Corps issued water filter in action. Yes, the water from my tap really is that dirty sometimes (usually only after a big rainstorm that stirs up the river where the water comes from), but luckily it comes out of the filter crystal clear and potable!
Pictures + homemade frames for my Chicas Brillantes girls from my old site
Also, because my mom always asks about the puppy, here’s an update and a more recent picture of Maya! She is such a sweet puppy but also a bit wild and crazy, and quite the little weirdo with her crooked ears, which I need to capture a picture of soon before they change. She’s almost 6 months old now and getting so big, at least by Dominican campo standards (>20 lbs). Most of the other dogs don’t like to play much but it doesn’t seem to bother her and she still tries to play with any and all dogs she sees. Her best friends are other Peace Corps dogs so we visit them as much as we can for play dates. She loves toys and treats (thanks mom and Ryan!) and pieces of cow bones she finds out in the woods near the butcher shop. And although I feed her puppy food twice a day, in true Dominican fashion her favorite food is rice, which she eats at lunchtime daily. She is almost fully vaccinated now, just waiting until my next paycheck for her final round and next month we will hopefully visit a vet clinic that comes twice a year to a town just a couple hours away to get her spayed.
Very impatiently watching the trashcan painting activity… She just wanted to play!
With two of her favorites: a piece of cow bone and my yoga mat
With my site mate Jim (or Tio Yimi/Uncle Jimmy to Maya) who she loves so much that she’s always overcome with excitement and just can’t help but try to eat his hands every time she sees him