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Meet Yessenia

7 Aug

High school in the Dominican Republic starts again in 11 days and I just found out that my host sister, Yessenia, will not be going back this year after she failed her third attempt at her sophomore year.

Yessenia

Yessenia is pretty reserved, super petite—she is only 4’10” and maybe weighs 90 pounds—and has the most infectious smile. She also is the mother of the cutest little boy, Yerdy.

IMG_3252

I recently went and celebrated Yerdy’s second birthday and of course photographed every moment. The day was filled with lots of little people, cake, games and even some dembow dancing.

Yessenia & Yerdy

Little People

Yessenia is only 20 years old and is one of many young single mothers in this country. Teen pregnancy in the Dominican Republic is a huge problem. We’re talking 23% of Dominican girls will be pregnant before they reach the age of 19.

Yessenia is lucky enough to have a very supportive family to make up for Yerdy’s very absent father. Yessenia’s mother, Virginia,helps out financially and watches Yerdy a lot, primarily so that Yessenia could continue studying. I think it is safe to bet that many girls do not have this luxury.

But now that Yessenia is dropping out of high school, what will her and Yerdy’s future look like? Is she destined to spend her days cooking and cleaning like the majority of the women in my campo? Stay tuned to here about Escojo Mi Vida and my attempt to make a dent in this problem in my campo. 

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Meet Marisa

14 Jun

I know most of the people in La Lima and I think it is pretty safe to say that all 200 residents know who I am. But one thing that I really struggle with in Peace Corps is not having people that really know me in my community. Marisa is probably the closest thing that I have to a real friend in La Lima.

Mariza

Marisa is 27 years old and has three children under the age of seven. She has been through more before the age of 30 than most people experience in a lifetime. By the time Marisa was 15, her dad had died of AIDS and her mom had died of a heart attack while she was seven months pregnant with what would have been Marisa’s only sibling.

Ariaddy & Ariandy

After a brief stint in the sex industry in the capital, Marisa decided she wanted to turn her life around and moved to La Lima to live with her grandmother. She quickly fell in love and into an abusive relationship with the father of her three children.

Marisa was one of the most standoffish people that I encountered in the community and I originally thought that she didn’t like me. I now equate this to the fact that, unlike most Dominicans, she needs more time to open up to people. I showed up at her house one day because I knew that she was baking a cake and I wanted to help. After we finished baking, I stayed at her house for hours and we talked about everything but mostly her past relationship and how she finally got out of it. Even though it had ended a couple of years ago, she had never told anyone before me what really happened.

Marisa is crafty, bluntly honest and funny. She and I share a love of cooking and constantly share recipes and freshly baked goods. I am currently teaching Marisa how to knit and she is teaching me how to sew. It is crazy to me to think that she is only a year older than I am and how different our lives are and always will be but at the end of the day, I’m glad I have her here as my home girl.

Meet Effie

3 Jun

Effie

I recently adopted a dog. Another volunteer found her a couple hours away from me, dumped behind a colmado because she was the only female in her litter. She is about 3 months old, part-pitbull, part-mystery. And crazy. Or maybe I’m just new at this whole being a dog owner thing.

Today alone, she…

  • Got peed on by another dog
  • Got scratched by a stray cat
  • Bitten by a turkey
  • Choked herself on her own collar after getting hooked on barbed wire
  • And, peed in the house. Twice.

I not only am quickly learning how to train a dog but also that people from the United States have much different ideas about the word pet. I am definitely in for a challenge and more responsibilities having a dog. I now have to find someone to look after her every time that I leave my site and have to haul her on the back of a motorcycle with me to get vaccinated at the nearest vet an hour away. I also have to protect her and make sure that neighbors don’t feed her chicken bones and that little kids don’t kick her.

People in my community think that I am crazy that I give Effie so much affection, let her sleep inside the house, feed her dog food and buy her toys. It is also really hard to explain to Dominicans that it is easier for me to bring a dog back to the United States than it is for them to get a visa.

All of this being said, having a dog rocks and the best part is that I now have someone to help me out with the laundry…

Effie & Laundry

 

 

Meet Virginia

4 Mar

DSC_1068Virginia is my project partner and my host mom (for the next 2 weeks) in La Lima. She is a tiny little lady at only 4’10” but has a lot of spunk. She and I have really gotten along since the first day we met but it has been a bit of an awkward start trying to find the appropriate division between needing her support with work and also living with her.

The other day we were at a neighbor’s house finishing up our final interviews for our community diagnostic and we were talking about how common it is in the community for women to lose children. Virginia quietly added, “Like how I gave birth to 6 children.” This caught me off guard because I live with her and know that she only has 4 children. There was an awkward silence and I knew I needed to be the next person to say something. But what is the appropriate response?

I finally said, “I’m so sorry Virginia” and she just looked at me and nodded and then I added, “What were their names?” This seemed to be the right response. She smiled and told me both of their names and said that she had pictures of them that she would like to show me later.

Virginia lost her first child when he was only 7 months old and later lost her 10-year-old daughter. Her life was dedicated to her daughter and after she died, she decided to dedicate her life to the development of her community. Since then, she has involved herself in every initiative and coincidentally is the reason why there is a Peace Corps volunteer in La Lima.

Meet Carmen.

8 Sep

A very happy birthday to my home girl and host mom, Carmen, who turned 59 today! She is my first host mom in the Dominican Republic and she is awesome.

I am the 5th person that she has hosted but the first Peace Corps volunteer. I feel really lucky to have been placed with her but it is also interesting that they opened up a new house in Los Alcarrizos. They are trying to phase out that barrio because it is super sketchy compared to the other neighborhoods. In fact, one of my friend’s doña’s told her not to go to my house because I live in the caliente (dangerous) part of the neighborhood. But not to worry, I feel safe and my doña definitely takes care of me.

I am also my doña’s source of entertainment. Everyday when I come home from school (training), she always asks me what I learned. Last weeks’ entertainment consisted of me showing her my amazing merengue and bachata dancing skills and the Dominican slang that I learned. She mostly just laughs at me and then insists that I show her friends.

I also always go running after training but my doña never wanted to go with me until last week. I got home last Tuesday and she was decked out in athletic gear and decided that she wanted to start exercising with me. We’ve gone everyday since and also recruited one of her friends.

I will have two more host families after Carmen and let’s just say that they have big shoes to fill!

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