What? Chicken butt.

JugoYa! is my favorite commercial here in the Dominican Republic. That is really all I have to say about that. I will find a youtube link later and post it for your viewing pleasure, and many of you will be like, “I totally get it”, and watch the video 10 times in a row trying to figure out why you hate and love the overly excited woman with the blond curly hair. The rest of you will be like “what the f$@# is he talking about.”   Anyway, here we are, smack dab in the middle of the urban sprawl of Santo Domingo. We just returned this weekend from a volunteer visit, where we stayed in a batey with another education volunteer. A batey  ( BAH-TAY-EE) is a sugar plantation, either currently functional or long since shut down, populated largely by Haitian migrant workers or their heirs. Often times it is difficult for Haitian Dominicans or Haitian migrants to get a passport, legal papers, therefore legal residency and or any type of propelling education. I will post more about this later when I have more experience/ understand the process better.

Our trip went well, I have mounds of respect for the volunteer we visited, who held an open door policy with the kids of the community who now have access to his small but potent library and who also have access to their own private teacher whenever they feel like their 2.5 hours of school a day is not quite cutting it. I was floored when I saw two 6 year olds set up a chess board and start playing together. They made less than accurate moves as they sat snickering on the floor with their pieces, but they did have the L shape move of the “burro” down pat. It was a good to see what life might be like after we regain our adulthood, begin cooking for ourselves, do our own laundry, and stay out past curfew 🙂 I kid! I kid.. In our home stay, we are living with a very wonderful woman who reminds me of a perfect mixture of my grandmothers back home. And for those who know me, I truly am a grandmas boy, and I come home and give her a sloppy kiss on the cheek every day. It helps a lot having a strong cultural knowledge base and a safe haven to creep back too after being in the city and/or pummeled with new Spanish vocabulary and Peace Corps training concepts all day. This woman will truly be missed by Caitlin and myself when we leave next week for the campo (country) to start our technical skills training and resume a regimented 3 hour a day Spanish class for 5 weeks. Although we have a small language barrier, which gets smaller everyday, I feel like I have known her for a long time and we understand each other perfectly.  Also, she is keeping our belts tight and my undies clean:) It is culturally inappropriate for anyone to wash another woman’s undergarments, so Cait has gotten good at hand washing her delicates while she showers.

Well, I have lost my steam now, and am going to leave you with this. I have snuck the name of three candy bars into my blog, and the first person to find all three will receive a snail mail package from Caitlin and I! So have at it you virtual voyeurs, and I hope to have some more experiences worthy of posting on the internet again sometime soon!

Also google 1st semester Spanish love song.

Love,

Keegan

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We Made It

Written by Caitlin
Current read: The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

We have been here in Santo Domingo for almost two weeks now. PCDR has a training center in Pantoja, where we spend our days. We live in a barrio near Pantoja with a Dominican Doña in her late fifties. She is amazing and has a lot of family that lives nearby, which means her grandkids (17 of them) are normally running through the house at all times. We have two small dogs, Okie Dokie and MiMi, three iguanas, and 8 pariquitos del amor.
We are currently in Core Training. So far during training, our days M-F consist of leaving the house around 7:30, walking underneath the highway to catch a carro público, and arriving at the training center shortly before 8:00am. We then have class until 4:30. Our days consist of about 4 hours of Spanish, cultural training, medical training, and learning about PCDR. We have an amazing training and medical staff, as well as current volunteers that explain what our lives may consist of and look like for the next two years.

After training and on the weekends, we spend our time with our host families, practicing our Spanish (our family speaks no English), and learning about the culture through our families and their friends. Here, it is normal to greet everyone you walk by, and to stop and have a conversation with those you know. We are very comfortable in our barrio, and it seems that everyone knows the “Americanos”.

We spent a day last week visiting Zona Colonial in the city, and visiting museums and learning about the history (once again, all in Español). We visited Catedral de Santa María la Menor, which was built in 1523, the first cathedral in the Americas. Keegan and I were able to learn more about the public transportation and learning how to catch certain guaguas and carro públicos to get to where we need to go.

On Thursday we are heading to a batey outside of San Pedro de Macorís to spend the weekend with a current Education volunteer. It will be our first time traveling outside of the capital and learning public transportation on our own. I believe it is only a couple of hours to the east, but it is hard to tell by looking at a map. The Dominican Republic is roughly a quarter the size of Nebraska, but public transportation takes much longer than hopping in your own car on the highway in the states.

That is all I have to report now. Hopefully we’ll post about more interesting things like the rich history of the Dominican Republic in the future. This really is an amazing country, and I challenge you all to read some of the history and learn about the struggles and victories this country has had. There is much more than the resorts and golf courses many of you are all familiar with. =] Once I hear of books to read or films to watch I will spread the word. My mom has a copy of In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. It takes place during the Trujillo era, and although the book is fiction, it is loosely based on the Mirabel sisters, who had a great influence on the people shortly before Trujillo was brought down. Read it!

Also, photos will be coming soon (and by soon I mean hopefully in the next month – we don’t have much tiempo libre).

P.S. We can receive snail mail! Email us for our address: cait.keeg@gmail.com