28 October 2001
Today I got up late; it was 7:30 or so. Breakfast consisted of a cheese sandwich and two coffees. I hung around a bit, feeling bored. R put on music and so did A, thus causing that oh-so-familiar-but-unpleasant trainwrecking sound. I practiced guitar.
It’s notable to me that people here with what they have. People may only have one tape of merengue or bachata to dance to, but they turn it up and listen to it over and over again. Papito said “Dominicans like a party.”
We had hoped to get away from this today by going to a waterfall and swimming. What happened was a little different. A called a taxi driver who is her host dad from Navarette. I don’t know exactly what the process of researching the supposed waterfall was, but when the driver was asked if he knew where we were going, he seemed unsure.
We stopped in Navarette to buy groceries. I ate a chocolate ice cream bar and bought some soap. I was annoyed that when I was standing in what I thought was the line, at least two or three people cut to the front. I noticed that the checkout line even had a “please wait your turn” sign. What is different about this culture that allows cutting in line to be a possibility for grown adults?
We proceeded towards Mao. In Mao, the driver asked the owner of a colmado for directions. Soon, we entered a long dirt road through flat farmland. Eventually, we arrived at the river. It wasn’t what we expected.
First, there was no waterfall. Second, the access point was full of people dancing to two different and very loud sound systems. My companions seemed flustered. E commented that the water didn’t seem fast flowing enough. As such, she declared she would not get in and risk vaginosis. We had to explain the situation about the noise to the taxi driver, who probably thought we were a little weird not wanting to join in such an amazing party.
I felt a little put off by what I felt was my compatriots’ hesitance to accept the situation as it was and make the most of it. Eventually, however, we put the cooler down amongst a crowd of Dominicans, all of whom turned out to be acquaintances of a woman who works at CIMPA. Small world.
I got in the water, crossed to the other side of the metre-deep, five-metre-wide channel, where A and the taxi driver were. A told me about her frustrations: how the waterfall trip she’d worked on turned out not to go to a waterfall, how many of the trainees speak a lot of English even though her ideal is to always practice Spanish.
I walked upriver and tried to float down, but the channel wasn’t deep enough. I half floated, half crawled back down to the area where everyone was picnicking.
I conversed with ME, the CIMPA employee, about her studies. She’s older and has a grant to work at CIMPA half-time while pursuing a degree in agricultural engineering from ISA. She is a nontraditionally-aged student— 38— and most of her classmates at the party were young enough to be her children.
I danced with several of the young women. They were attractive, and best yet, well-educated. I found myself doing what I would think of as flirting.
I prepared a sandwich, ate it, and went for a walk to get some time away. It was truly gorgeous farmland. When I got back, E, one of the guys in the ISA group, offered me this tasty, but very greasy, chicken dish served with víveres. It came to be time to go. E had gotten in the water, vaginosis be damned. I had flirted with the women. If we’d stayed any longer, N would have been obliged to dance again with this one guy who wasn’t taking “no” for an answer and I would have had to improve my social skills to make small talk and get some phone numbers.
Other than that, today I had a very meaningful conversation with D, 49, and M, 34, about what it means to get older and what they’ve been proud of in their lives. A key point from our talk was how things get deeper and more meaningful with time. Roots take a long time to grow.
Things about myself that I’d like to work on changing:
- body image
- the way I talk a lot and embarrass myself
- my skills in dealing with large groups of people
- my need for other people to affirm me lest I think they hate me
- my tendency to say the wrong thing to the wrong people at the wrong time
This is a review of my personal journal from my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in 2001-2003. Even if I feel differently now or found out later that I what I wrote was factually incorrect, I haven’t changed what I wrote then. Part of the joy of reading old journals is seeing a story arc where I’ve learned new things.
Names have been shortened to initials to provide some privacy. Even though those who were there may be able to use these initials to figure out who I wrote about, please remember that my journaling is not about other people or their experience.