We live next to the beach.

Hi All,

It’s been quite some time since we’ve written. I’ll bring you up to speed quickly.

First, we finished our community based training in Monte Plata. Between the 19 of us, we worked in 5 different schools.
Here’s what we did:
-Gave three presentations in Spanish, one a quick community diagnostic, the second to teachers about classroom management, and another about a literacy activity for a fair (more on this in a bit).
-Worked with kids in a school, helping teach the alphabet and other strategies for reading and writing.
-Completed an “Improving Schools Community” Project where we painted some murals at the school where we were working.
-Put on a literacy fair for community kids. Between the 19 volunteers we had 8 stations set up and had about 500 kids show up in about a two hour time frame.
-Learned about education in the DR (ranked roughly 130 out of 132 countries… which is why we are here), classroom management, teaching literacy, working with teachers/parents, etc.
-Had 3 hours of Spanish everyday.

CBT Training ended last Saturday and we all headed back to the capital. On Monday we were given our site placements. Keegan and I will be living outside of a community named Sosua, Puerto Plata. Our community has roughly 10,000 people, and only one primary school. The community is relatively new (20 years) and was started as public housing… it’s kind of like the projects of Sosua (but very safe, don’t worry). Sosua is a tourist spot, but if you come visit us in this part of the country we’d suggest heading to Puerto Plata or Cabarete instead.

Our job assignment is to work on literacy in the public school with 1st-4th graders. We will also be partnering with the DREAM Project (dominicandream.org), a non-profit organization based out of Cabarete. Part of our jobs will be helping train teachers in the community. We have an amazing opportunity to not only be working with the Peace Corps, but gaining experience from those at DREAM as well.

We got to our community on Tuesday, and have been hanging out and getting to know the place. We’ve been making many rounds through the community so people start to see us and recognize us. Pretty soon people will notice that we’ve been here for a while and start asking who we are and what we’re doing. This is how it all starts for us.

We head back to the capital on Sunday and swear in as REAL volunteers on Wednesday, the 15th. That means that we get bank accounts and start actually earning money. =] It has been a long road of training, but we are excited to get situated in our community and start working (did I mention the beach is only a kilometer away??).

We miss you all like crazy, and will try to keep you all updated as best as we can. We are pretty busy and have a job that we need to do well, though, before writing blog posts. Always feel free to email us. We have consistent internet now (and hot, running water!!!) so email will be a great way to stay in contact. If you would like our phone numbers, email us! Or just come visit. =]

Other fun facts:
We eat rice everyday.
We’ve gotten 4 packages so far (Thanks J&J, mom&dad, T&K, H&D).
We’ve tried probably at least 10 new fruits.
Everyday has been 80 degrees or warmer.
One person in our training group has already gotten Dengue.
We’ve both lost weight, but our new host mom is determined that I gain ten pounds and Keegan gain twenty by the time we move out in August.
Mangos and Avocados are wayyyy better here.
We’re entering the rainy season, which means every afternoon we get an hour or two of rain.
We’ve started reading the local newspaper to work on our Spanish.
We drink freshly squeezed juice everyday (lime, cherry, tamarind, guayaba, mango, papaya, etc.).
We now run almost everyday.

Love you all. Let us know if you have any questions!
Cait

P.S. Check out the new link “We Could Use…” if you feel like sending us some goodies!

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Me at the literacy fair, before the rush of kids.
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Keegan doing what he does best: magic.
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Me helping paint at the school.

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Yay! We graduated from CBT!

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And the winner is… JUDY & JOHN

Written by: Caitlin

We received our first package last week on Keegan’s birthday from John and Judy. It was a pleasant surprise to receive some mail! It made us feel important and very loved! THANKS J&J!!!

Keegan arranged a surprise party for me at our host mom’s house in Santo Domingo a couple of weeks ago. We went to the supermercado (supermarket) to buy something stupid (can you tell I didn’t want to go?) and when we arrived back at the house, it was full of most of our training group and some vecinos (neighbors). It was a pleasant surprise, and a payback from last year. Cervesas and Rons (beer and rum) were drank and we all had a merry time.

We have now been in Monte Plata for a little over a week now for technical training. Technical training consists of training over our sector (education). We spend four hours every morning in training, then head to Spanish classes all afternoon. Our Spanish classes are divided up into groups of 3-4 at each knowledge level. Keegan and I both have passed the Spanish requirement, but have much more to learn.

We had our first presentation yesterday completely in Spanish over Community Diagnostics. Overall, it went well (we are in the same Spanish class, and therefore were in the same group for our first presentation). It was tough to do a community diagnostic and use a tool in just a week and present on it, but we did as best as we could.

We will be spending some time in elementary schools training the next four weeks alongside our technical training. We will practice skills needed for the next two years, and work alongside teachers, helping them if we can and learning from them.

We have now been in the country for six weeks. It feels like much longer, but at the same time it has gone by fast. We are incredibly busy, and I feel as if our blog will be very sparse and uninteresting for the next five weeks until swear-in because of our limited free time. Feel free to email us or call us (message us for our numbers) because that will be a better way of staying in contact as of now.

Love you all. Need to head back home for dinner, then I have some homework to tackle. Happy Tuesday!

Fotos will come another day… maybe. =]

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

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

The Specifics

Written by Caitlin

What: Twenty-seven months in the Peace Corps

When: Our training begins on March 5th, 2013. We’ll swear in as volunteers in May of 2013. Our two-year commitment will begin then.

Where: Dominican Republic

Job Titles: Primary Literacy Promotors

Contact Us: cait.keeg@gmail.com Email us if you would like our mailing address or phone numbers!