Saturday, September 26, 2009

Waterfall Excursion

We drove up a mountain, hiked for 15 minutes down to some waterfalls, spent the morning and part of the afternoon down there playing on the rocks and in the water, and then hiked back up to our cool truck and driver that were waiting for us. The hike up was a killer! But the day was fun.

This was the cool truck we went up and down the mountain in. The air really felt good after our long hike up!

View from somewhere on the trail.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Last night, my dad decided it would be fun to write and illustrate Bible verses on construction paper. We spent a good hour just sitting around the table doing that. Darell woke up sometime in the middle of it, so Dennisse made him a sandwich. Turns out, he really likes butter :P

I'm now a real Dominican because I took three helpings of rice today at lunch. Or at least that's what my dad said. Also because I like concon (the hard rice that you scrape off the bottom of the pan). I don't particularly prefer it, but I don't mind it mixed in with my other rice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The days are beginning to run together. Every so often, someone from our team will try to figure out how long we've been here. I'm tempted to not believe it has only been 2 1/2 weeks. Time goes by so much slower here, but the days also seem so much fuller. I've never spent so much time getting to know people and just talking.
Today will be the fourth day my house hasn't had water. We have plenty to drink and cook with, because my parents have to buy purified water for Dennisse and I so we don't get sick. But we can't do our laundry and we've been having to take bucket showers with about two gallons of water/person. I'm realizing just how much water I waste in the U.S.
One of the hardest things to get used to the very first week was throwing my used toilet paper in the trashcan, not the toilet. It's second hand now. I'm wondering how easy it will be to go back to flushing it down the toilet?
Friday evening, everyone from Bethel plus Josh and Vicki (our student directors from SI) went out for pizza. I've never enjoyed pizza so much in my life.
On Saturday, all of the students went to Santiago. We visited Centro Leon (an art museum) and Santiago's historical monument. It was kind of humorous to listen to our tour guides try to give us tours in English. They all did really well, but it made me realize how funny I probably sound to Dominican's when I speak Spanish.

I was able to move up to level three in my Spanish class. I was originally in level two, but things were moving really, really slowly and I was pretty bored the second day in. Level three overlaps level two a bit, so I didn't miss anything by jumping ahead. The biggest bonus is that level three moves a lot faster. I'm definitely being challenged a lot more.
I had my first Dominican style taxi experience Sunday on the way to church. We stuffed eight people into a five person car. And when we almost got there, we came to a road the was completely torn up and blocked off by some guys pouring concrete. So, we walked the rest of the way to church. I love that when things like that happen here, it isn't a big deal. People don't get stressed out, they just roll with the punches.
Yesterday, skipped class and took a field trip to a book fair in La Vega. It poured most of the time we were there, so we really couldn't look at too many books. My class ended up standing in a booth for about 45 minutes, talking to the vendors and waiting for the rain to stop. It was still a good experience, just not exactly what I was expecting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's already Thursday, I can hardly believe it! An annual festival started here last night. The first couple of days of it are centered right behind my house. Then I think it moves to another location? I hope anyway. Music was blaring from the time we got home from classes until midnight. It was literally shaking our walls. The festival lasts for 9 days ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One week

A week ago today I met the family I'm living with now. It feels like I've known them forever and that I've been in the DR for a month. I'm really enjoying my time here, but I've also had times where I wished I could be home. The one thing I would love to have most days is chocolate. I don't usually crave chocolate, but the food here is very bland and seasoned with salt, if anything. I like it a lot, but sometimes you just need sugar! I think my body is finally starting to adjust to the food ... this is the first day that I haven't been constipated or had diarrhea (sorry if you're squeamish).
I've been asked if bugs crawl in my ears at night. The answer is no. But mosquitoes and little tiny bugs do somehow manage to get into my mosquito net, so I have bug bites all over my body. I'm just hoping my malaria pills actually work.
My dad here is very interested in my Spanish progress. He tell me every day before I leave for class to learn a lot and then asks me what I learned when I get back. He isn't very good at carrying a conversation though ... he talks a lot, but not really with you, more at you. But I'm learning nonetheless. Dennisse is a great help. When I don't understand something that was said in Spanish, she explains it to me ... in Spanish. I love it when one of my vocabulary words comes up around the table; I feel like I'm actually progressing in my language skills.
I'm dying to climb a mountain. I see them everyday, but I haven't had time to actually go to any. I believe one of our Saturday excursions entails mountain climbing though. This past Saturday, we went hiking in one of the rivers here. In some places it was nearly impossible to keep your footing because the water was going around rocks so quickly. But we made it to our destination without very many injuries (a few people busted their knees). A lady met us in Los Higos and made us a rice/bean/chicken meal over over an open fire. It was pretty amazing that she could whip up a meal like that ... outside ... for about 30 people.
I'm enjoying my Spanish class for the most part. I have two teachers. One is my classroom teacher and the other is the grammar teacher. I really enjoy the grammar teacher, even though she gave our class 14 pages of homework on the first day. She's very easy to understand and explains things very well. Basically, she makes me excited to learn.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I met my family last night. I have a two year old brother and seven year old sister. Our dad was very excited to see us ... "I have three daughters now!" Our mom is kind of quiet, but still very sweet. We're moving in with them this morning. Spanish classes start this afternoon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Today was mostly filled with orientation stuff. We learned about the history, current society and different education systems of the DR. We did have time to do some exploring in the town surrounding the base. We walked down the main road leading from the base to downtown Jarabacoa. We didn't go all the way into town, but a few of us girls did visit Halto Viejo, the town most of us will be living in the next several weeks. While walking, we met up with a school boy who took us up to the top of the road. We were able to see into the valley.

Lunch was amazing. It consisted of a meat/egg casserole topped with cheese. A variety of toppings ... tomatoes, salsa, lettuce, ranch dressing, corn ... were available.

I may be addicted to coffee by the time I get back. I really don't like it, but the coffee here is different. It is sweetened as it brews, so "black" coffee is similar to American coffee that has been doctored up.

This afternoon, we went into the main part of Jarabacoa for a photo scavenger hunt. It was kind of stretching to go out into a town where Spanish is basically the only thing spoken. I realized I knew a lot more than I previously thought. We were also able to exchange some of our money for pesos. We ate at Pico Pollo, a little outdoor restaurant that serves mainly chicken fingers. I also got fried green bananas which taste quite a bit like french fries, especially after you put salt on them. A stray dog sat under out table while we ate. Somebody must have fed him, because he followed us for a couple of blocks after we left.

I saw my first lizards today. They are all over the outsides of the buildings and boy are they fast!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

la republica dominicana

We made it safely and mostly without incident to the DR. We left Bethel at 7 this morning and headed to Chicago. Our plane boarded on time, but we ended up sitting on the runway for almost an hour. Turns out the original flight crew for our plane was delayed, so a replacement crew had to be found. A lady was also escorted off the plane, which took some time. Apparently she was intoxicated and causing a bit of a scene. Because our flight was delayed, our layover in Miami was a bit shorter. We had plenty of time to get a bite to eat and contact people for the last time via cellphone. It was quite the feeling getting on the plane leaving Miami, knowing it was going to take us away from our country and into a place none of us had ever been to before. Our flight was a bit turbulent ... at one point, we even saw lighting. Unfortunately, it was pitch black by the time we landed so we couldn't really see much of Santiago. However, we'll be visiting it during our travel week next month. We got through customs and baggage claims without a hitch and quickly met up with the man in charge of Students International (I don't exactly know his name yet ... :P). We piled all of our luggage into a trailer and then piled most of ourselves into a fifteen passenger van and made our way up to the mission base in Juarabacoa. We are staying here for the next couple of days while we go through some more orientation. I was told we will be seeing lots of lizards and possibly cockroaches & spiders. Me and rodents are going to have a whole new relationship by the time December rolls around. It's pouring down rain right now. I understand this is a normal thing in the tropics.