Hello everbody! I am back in the capital after spending 5 days at my new home in my site! The past few days have been pretty intense but also amazing. Tuesday we met our project partners and spent the morning making awkward conversation and doing different activities. I was one of the last people to meet my partners and was getting really nervous and anxious, but when I met them they were the nicest and warmest people and I felt so much better. There were two people there for me- my official project partner (Ramona) who is the directer of the high school and also the district director of information technology (Francelis). His family lives in my site (he lives the nearest city, about 25 minutes away) and so has a special interest in the town. They were both so welcoming it was unbelievable. She, the high school director, is super outgoing, works all the time, is go go go, always takes longer than expected, so talkative, and already gave me her jewelry. I think the closest comparison I can make is Sue. So yeah, don´t worry-I´ll be taken care of. Anyways, Tuesday afternoon we arrived and even though I was tired, they took me to see the high school. On the way over, Francelis asked me if I cry easily when I am emotional. I didn´t really know how to answer or why he was aksing me that, but when we pulled up to the high school and I saw the 150-200 people waiting for me there, I got it. As I stepped out of the car, I was introduced to so many people including teachers, priests, policemen, and other community members. Then, a group of young kids dressed up in matching (marching band-esque outfits) did a whole baton routine. After that we all moved inside where a table was set up in front for me and other "important" people to sit at and everyone else took seats in the audience. There were so many people that people were standing outside peering in the windows. They proceeded to call people up to the podium to give speeches, present me with flowers, sing songs, and there were 4 or 5 choreographed dance routines performed by high school students as well. Of course, I also said a few (very few) words. It was increadible and I almost did cry. They kept talking about how momentous it was to have me there and how I was now part of their community and all the great things I was going to do. I felt so welcomed and loved and also realized how much hope and faith they have put in me. I almost felt sad that they feel so unable to change their own circumstances that they are putting such blind faith in an unkown person, a foreigner, to help them. It is a lot of pressure and I hope I can live up to it. It was a moment of realization about what I am doing here, what I represent to them, etc. and a day I will never forget.
Over the next few days I talked more with the teachers, was introduced to each classroom of students, visited the elementary school, saw the University in Cotui, went to the baseball field (the one and only form of diversion in my town) and shared with my new family. The family is very very nice...the father is an evangelical pastor and they have two daughters, one about 8 or 9 and a 17 year old who is already married and lives in her husband´s house. The house is nice too- definately nicer than a lot of other ones in town, but has no running water and electricity only a few hours a day. The father told me he didn´t think he would be able to have me live there because of the conditions, because Americans aren´t used to living like that. I feel bad that they are...not embarrased, but not proud of the conditions in which they live. They always apologize for the lack of electricity and I try my best to explain that it´s ok and that I´m used to it now. People also talk a lot about how the DR is not developed and that´s why things are the way they are and that the US is a developed country and that´s why things are better there. The town as a whole is pretty poor and basically every family has someone who lives in the US and sends back remittances. There are not a lot of opportunities for work there and I think a lot of people live off the remittances. Everybody wants to learn english and keeps asking me when I will start giving classes (and is dissapointed to hear that it will be a little while). There also aren´t many diversion activities (just the baseball field, as I mentioned) so I think one of the goals of having me teach computers is to offer a productive activity for the students to participate in outside of class (and also give them an employable skill). I have to say though, I am a little nervous about the state of the computer lab. The computers are super old and only have 3GB of memory on the hard drives. I won´t go into how much that is...but it´s nothing (iPods have 15-20GB). The power situation is also a little tricky but is hopefully being fixed now. They currently do not have a lab teacher for duing the day, just one at night, but he seems really motivated and bright and we will hopefully work well together. SO...we will see!
I feel so much better after settling in a little in my new town, meeting people, and knowing what it is like there. The people are so warm and friendly I know I can rely on them for anything and that makes me feel great. I am also excited to be back here and to hear about all the other volunteer´s sites and experiences! Wednesday is swearing in (yay!) and then Saturday I think I head back out to my site for good...
I miss everyone and send my love...keep writing! (I will pick up mail periodically in the capital, can check internet at my project partner´s house...I think possibly the only internet in town, and will hopefully be getting a new cell phone so that I can have coverage there...the one I have now doesn´t work there. Communication possibilities are looking up.)