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Packing Take Two

31 Jul

A new group of health volunteers arrives in just two weeks which means that I have been in the Dominican Republic for almost a year. What?

One of the newbies recently reached out to me asking for packing advice, which is completely warranted. In our Peace Corps orientation packet, we receive very vague packing instructions that mostly encourage us to dress in conservative business-casual clothes. So, here is what I think about my packing list from a year ago…

Things I’m glad I brought in country:

  • Hard drive—trust me. You will want all of the movies and TV shows your hard drive will hold!
  • Food staples—spices, coconut oil, hot sauce and almond butter
  • Nice knives
  • Set of double sheets
  • Headlamp
  • Hammock
  • Lots of pictures to hang on my walls
  • Map of the world and the United States
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Canvas reusable bags
  • Also, I’m really glad that I packed all of my stuff in Tupperware and dry bags—great for organizing!

Things I’m glad I’ve accumulated since being in country:

  • Ipad—much easier to travel with than my computer and wifi is (sometimes) easily available
  • Bag for weekend trips that holds a lot but won’t hit everyone on a guagua
  • New portable speakers—my awesome solar powered speaker broke a few months in L
  • Yoga mat
  • Knitting essentials
  • Seeds!
  • GRE study materials
  • French press

Things I could have done without:

  • Sleeping bag/sleeping pad—I only used my sleeping bag for about two months during the winter 

And finally, dos/don’ts for clothes…

  • Do pack cute clothes—the tighter, the brighter, the better.
  • Don’t pack a ton of business casual clothes—jeans = fancy.
  • Do pack a lot of sandals.
  • Don’t pack anything too revealing—Dominican women show it all off but (unfortunately) we have our reputations to uphold.
  • Do pack your favorite bathing suits—you are never more than a couple of hours from a beach!
  • Don’t pack anything you want to bring home after two years—inevitably, all of your clothes will be stained and have holes from barbed wire.

Garden Days

10 Apr

I live in a food desert. On an average day, your options at the local colmado are an assortment of viveres (yucca, potatoes and green bananas/plantains), salami, cheese and eggs. On a good day, you can find cabbage and eggplant.

On a completely selfish front, I recently launched a garden project with the women in my health group. I couldn’t imagine going the next two years without access to veggies. Can someone really survive on squeaky cheese and salami for 27 months?? We built a community garden with 14 raised beds in my project partner’s backyard and planted eggplant, beets, onion, lettuce, tomato, cilantro and pepper seeds.


Although I live in an agricultural community, gardening has never been that popular in the community because seeds are difficult and expensive to obtain. I convinced the Ministry of Agriculture to give us our first batch of seeds and since then, the gardening project has spread like wildfire. Not only do we have a community garden but also all of the women in my group have built smaller gardens in their own backyards. Advice to future PCVS: START A GARDEN PROJECT! Seriously, Why wouldn’t you??

Carmen y Laura

Next steps:

  1. Farmer’s Market! Once all of our crops have come in, we are going to start a weekly farmer’s market to sell our bounty. Added bonus—the profits are going towards the women’s micro-finance project that I am helping launch.
  2. We need more SEEDS! My parents unsuccessfully tried to bring seeds when they came to visit me a few weeks ago. (Apparently this is illegal?) Does anyone know of any organizations that would donate seeds??

Answers to Alex’s Questions

1 Mar

Meet Alex.


She is one of my best friends since the 6th grade. She and my other BFFs recently sent me the best care package full of sweet treats, knitting materials and other fun surprises. Enclosed was a letter from Alex asking questions about what exactly I am doing in the Peace Corps. Perhaps this will shed some light to some others as well ☺

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Typical Day:

-7:30am: wake up

-7:45-8:30am: Work out (currently doing Insanity videos)

-8:45am: breakfast

-9-10am: phone time on my hill

-10-12am coffee dates with neighbors

-12pm: lunch (always the bandera—rice, beans and meat)

-1-3pm: knitting/napping/charla preparation time

-3pm: women’s health group meeting

-5pm: volleyball or dominos playing time at my neighbor’s house

-7pm: dinner and telenovella time

-8:45pm: retreat to my bedroom to watch something on my computer or read

-10:30pm: lights out

Are you working on any specific project?

For the past 3 months at my site, I was working on a community diagnostic that included visiting every house in my community to do interviews on what the needs of my community are before actually launching any projects. As of now, I am finished with my diagnostic, have submitted my work plan for the next two years and I am focused on three main projects: 1) Hogares Saludables: Working with women in my community to become health promoters for a house-to-house campaign to teach everyone in the community about healthy health practices (hygiene, women’s health, domestic violence, etc). Side projects: community garden, improved cook stoves and USAID water filters. 2) Banco de las Mujeres: This is technically a subset of Hogares Saludables but is a pretty big beast so I am counting it as a separate project. I am working with the PC health director to launch a countrywide women’s microfinance project. I am creating manuals and leading trainings on financial literacy and creating sustainable small businesses. 3) Escojo Mi Vida: Working with youth in my community to become health promoters on HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy prevention. Side project: environmental initiative to help the huge trash problem. Technically, I am doing all of this x 10 because there are 10 other communities that I have to start working in on these initiatives in March. Wish me luck!

Do you get to take regular Spanish classes?

Not anymore. The first 2 1/2 months in country were training and part of this included pretty intensive Spanish language training. Depending on the level that you “graduated” the training with, Peace Corps offers another training over the summer. I try to study/practice on my own but mostly I’m just learning to talk like a campesina ☺

Hopefully this gives you a better insight into my life as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Have any more questions?? Send them my way!


6 Dec

I’ve been down for the count with gripe the past several days. Gripe directly translates to the flu but it is basically a common cold. I think that maybe it was a mixture of me never getting sick and the lack of hygiene in my town (everyone showers multiple times a day but hand washing is not really a big thing) because gripe really hit me hard and I didn’t really leave my bed for several days.

Everyone knew that I was sick and was ready to offer up as many home remedies as they could think of…

  • Pineapple with honey
  • Tea with lemon and cinnamon
  • Tea with ginger, cinnamon and the leaves from an orange tree
  • Tea with passion fruit, onion, cinnamon and lemon
  • Coffee with lemon
  • Coffee with ginger
  • Honey with lemon
  • Sweetened condensed milk with fresh orange juice

So maybe it was the home remedies that made me better? Or maybe it was the 12 hours of sleep that I got for 3 nights in a row? No probably not. It was probably avoiding laundry, riding in the back of trucks and sitting outside after dark despite the temperature remaining above 70. Is gripe going around anyone else’s town?? Hope not. Sleep and lots of tea 🙂



Packing Perfection

19 Aug

For those of you who have ever had the pleasure(!) of traveling with me you know that I am anything but a light packer. A  weekend trip means at least 6 pairs of shoes, 3 bags and I am still grabbing things to bring as I run out of the door. How does someone like this pack for 27 months when my limitations are 2 checked bags that weigh no more than 80 lbs combined??

Well y’all, here it is, my Peace Corps packing list..


Technology Things 

  • Laptop: charger, external hard drive
  • iPhone/iPod: charger, arm band, head phones
  • Kindel: charger
  • Camera: case, charger, extra battery, extra memory card
  • Eton solar powered portable speaker
  • Head lamp
  • Surge protector


  • Hammock
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Favorite spices: sriracha, Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, cayenne pepper, garlic power & ginger
  • Kitchen supplies: vegetable peeler, can opener, measuring spoons/cups, wine/beer opener
  • Ear plugs
  • Alarm clock
  • Water bottle x 2
  • Scissors, duct tape, string
  • Leatherman
  • Quick dry towels x 2
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • Tupperware
  • Baby wipes
  • Tide sticks
  • Pictures of family and friends
  • Sunglasses x 3
  • Glasses x 2
  • Purse and wallet
  • Watch
  • Books x 3
  • Journal and Pens
  • Deck of cards


  • Start up supply of shampoo/conditioner, body wash, face wash/lotion
  • Hair supplies: dry shampoo, curling gel, pony tails, clips and bobby pins
  • Travel size toiletries
  • Perfume
  • Nail polish and remover, finger nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Make-up


  • Bras (2 reg, 1 strapless, 2 sports bras)
  • Undies x 14
  • Bathing suits x 3
  • Tank tops x6
  • Short sleeve shirts x 6
  • Long sleeve shirts x 6
  • Sweatshirt x 1
  • Sweaters x 3
  • Raincoat
  • Shorts x 4
  • Jeans x 2
  • Linen pants x 3
  • Dresses x 5


  • Sandals x 3
  • Havianas
  • Tennis shoes
  • Vans