What Robertico Told Me When I Went to Buy Dos Panes, Una Rasuradora y Seis Pesos de Salami

Congoses are so stupid. Here we are, all of us, wanting to leave this evil batey. I’m going to play baseball, God willing. I’ll get my break soon, and then I’ll be contracted. Cheyito is working in the zona and saving up money to build a house with his woman in San Pedro. The rest of my buddies are trying to be cops, except for Frede, who is stupid, just like his Haitian dad.

No, Frede made some girl’s belly swell, and now he drives a god-damn tractor. He says he wants to stay here with his family, the whole lot of the patois gurgling stupids. Which is pointless, shit! There’s no life living here. That’s why I’m going to make a break. They’re going to sign me, and then I’ll have some money.
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Wassup with America? Post-9/11 reflections for Stephanie

I, along with 35 other aspiring Peace Corps Trainees,spent September 11, 2001, in an airport and then in a posh hotel. (1) It was a personalized limbo, that pastel lodging, halfway between home and our new lives as PC-whatevers in the Dominican Republic.

We could turn on Miami cable and see the “planes going in and the flames shooting out.”(2) We could switch stations to change the angle, or even, given that this was Miami, to change the language between Spanish and English. Thus, our limbo was perfectly situated in between the generalized Anglophone United States from whence we were gathered, and the specific Spanishspeaking place towards which we were bound. But, in fact, we were not going anywhere fast; due to the unavailability of flights to Santo Domingo, or anywhere, for that matter, we were guests of honor in a five star hotel for a full week.
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Touring the bateyes

 
8:43
16 Nov 2001
Consuelo, Distrito Escolar

Yesterday, I arrived at the District Office at 8AM. E was not there. Crescencia put me to work sorting and counting textbooks. We did this for about two hours until E arrived and we got in the Jeep for a tour of the different facilities in the care of the district office. E is still in her “I’m-not-really-talking-to-you” scene, which I accept, albeit reluctantly.

In each place, we spoke with the director or directora about the programs offered.  Later, I got on the back of a motorbike with Jean Luis, a bilingual Spanish/Haitian Kreyol educator. He took me home for almuerzo at 12:15. This consisted of fish, rice, lentils, and some stuff I’m forgetting. When I was done, the woman of the house commented that I didn’t eat much of the fish and I told her I’m just now adapting to such rich food as meat. “But fish?” she asked, and I said “Ni pescado ni productos animales comía.

I’d like more of a partnership with E because apparently she had some information I was missing– namely that nothing that we had planned for the afternoon was going to happen. Since I didn’t have that information, I got on a motorbike back to the district office and waited. First I had a conversation with this one woman who said she didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. Then the office secretary put me to work filing old bills by year. (My thought was “wow, what a piss-poor accounting system!”)

Sooner or later, I went back to Mierna’s house where Josecito conversed with me about his boredom; without electricity, he can’t play Nintendo. I finished The Tao Of Poo and started reading  Robert Penn Warren’s wordy and lengthy novel All The King’s Men. Remember that students only attend liceo morning, afternoon, or night. Mirielli was out working on a project with a friend, but Jose was home. I tried to nap, and after the attempt, did sit zazen for a decent period.

For some reason, Mierna served a different dinner to each person. To Mirielli, it was fried plantains and hot dog pieces. She served me two hot dogs in buns. And Andrez got lunch leftovers. Bored, because no hay luz, I went to bed around 8:30.


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 it is I wrote about, please remember that my journaling is not about other people or their experience.

The causes of noise

 
House, Consuelo
7:35
15 November

At the office of the school district, I met C, an education volunteer. At first, because she’s dark-skinned, I wasn’t sure if she was a volunteer with the Japanese Volunteer Corps, so I talked with her in Spanish. It was a nasty shock when I realized her Spanish was not as good as mine.

She seemed so young, too! I know she’s 22, but she could have been 19!

Anyway, E went her separate way off to the entire house that’s being provided her (I think?) while C and I got in a Land Rover. The roads were flat, unpaved, but somehow rockier than those in Aguacete. We were driven to the Rotary Club training center. La directora, whose name I’m still self-conscious about forgetting, came out and introduced herself in a mix of Spanish and English. She took me off to her very well-appointed concrete/zinc house. I talked with her, her daughter, Mirelli, and her son at some length about language learning, dating, and lifestyle choices in the US. We also talked about recent tragedies involving airplanes and tall buildings.

I was impressed by the level of education. Mirielli is going off to UASD next year. Her older brother and sister also went to college. The house is full of nice furniture and appliances; there is water running in the pipes.

I also noticed that Mirielli was a hottie. It’s that whole bustiness thing I’ve mentioned. This morning she put on a school uniform. Nothing beats a 19-year-old in a school uniform! At any rate, it doesn’t really matter, but I notice that I find her appealing.

Dinner was the richest meal I have had in years. It consisted of fried pork ribs and french fries. Not so sure it settled well, but whatever. My host and I also discussed her opinion that bulla and low socioeconomic status are correlated. She’s correct that when people live in middle-class neighborhoods, they put up with less noise than people who live in poorer neighborhoods. I still want causation instead of correlation.

I had a disturbing dream in which someone told me, convincingly, that I am fat and unattractive. Subsequently, I was unable to do anything to change these facts. This seems to be an ongoing fear that I have, to wit:

  1. that I am somehow-or-another deficient, and am unaware of my deficiency;
  2. that everyone else, furthermore, knows about my flaw;
  3. that this widely-known flaw is being kept from me, even by my most trusted friends;
  4. that I acted like a fool due to my ignorance of my flaws;
  5. that, after learning the exact nature of my defects, there would be nothing I could do to spare myself eternal shame.

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 it is I wrote about, please remember that my journaling is not about other people or their experience.

Meeting my host agency for the first time; visiting Consuelo

 

14 Noviembre 2001
6:00 PM
Somebody’s house, can’t remember name
Consuelo, San Pedro de Marcorís

I meant to get up early. By now I’ve realized that my alarm was set for five in the evening instead of five in the morning. I tossed and turned, not being able to decide whether to get up. At 6:30, I finally got up, jacked off violently while fantasizing about this one busty trainee who has flirted with me, and then took a bucket bath.

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Chasing waterfalls and Mao

28 October 2001
CIMPA

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:

  • Self-hate
  • 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.