June 14, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Dave Hotstream, Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Dominican Republic: Peace Corps Dominican Republic : The Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic: June 14, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Dave Hotstream, Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic

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Dave Hotstream, Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic

Dave Hotstream, Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the Dominican people respect your "personal space"?
Personal space is an alien concept to Dominicans. I attended a meeting at the office of the Dominican Secretary of Education and the woman sitting next to me, who I had not even been introduced to, spent the entire time using my leg as an armrest. I've reached the point where I barely even notice things like this any more.

Will you get your own horse?
Don't know yet.

So what will you be issued?
Peace Corps dog tags (who knew?), a motorcycle helmet, a really hard-core medical kit that includes instructions for emergency self-surgery and a list of all the excrutiatingly painful diseases I can catch just by walking around barefoot here, and, uh, a Peace Corps keychain. But did I mention that the keychain glows in the dark? I think that's so when I'm assigned to my post I can trick the natives into worshipping me as their god or something.

Are you worried about diseases?
I've been vaccinated for rabies, typhoid, meningitis, polio, tetanus, and about ten other tropical diseases. They also make us take Aralen once a week, which is supposed to keep us from getting malaria. It also causes you to have really vivid, crazy dreams the night you take it. I've started to look forward to my Aralen nights.

What about insects and other pests?
Screen doors and windows (and glass) are luxuries for obscenely wealthy capitalists like yourself. So whatever's crawling around outside is going to come in. Which is why the deluxe mosquito net is the best thing Peace Corps issued me. Even better than the dog tags. As hardcore as I like to imagine myself, I don't think I would sleep too well with roaches, mice, spiders and lizards crawling over me all the time. When I'm awake I don't mind so much.

Do you have to bathe in a ditch?
I myself do not bathe in a drainage ditch as a rule. There's a drain in the floor of our bathroom and I just dump cold water over myself from a bucket. It's better than coffee to wake you up in the morning.

How do you get around?
Usually it's pretty easy for gringos to catch a bola (free ride) out in the campo, especially if one of the female volunteers is with us. It's not a bad way to travel, as long as you don't mind sharing the back of a flatbed truck with a few dozen Dominicans, a ton or so of produce, or whatever livestock is being carried into town to end up on your dinner plate that night.

Are there ever chickens on the bus?
Yes. Sometimes there are chickens on the bus.

What kind of foods have you been eating?
harina (it looks and tastes like sweetened kindergarten paste; don't ask); fried salami; Pizza hut (blew one weeks pay but it was worth it!); Grape Fanta; rice and beans; oj con sugar...

In Heaven, there's way less diarrhea.

Greetings from Paradise,

Big News: I finally got my first real Peace Corps illness. Josh and I ate some bad arrepitas (corn fritters) and spent two days puking our guts out. Yay! We'd been hanging out in the park for Restauracion's Patronales, which is the week-long celebration of the town's patron saint, San Jose. One of the high points was the opening parade, which basically consisted of about a hundred citizens listlessly wandering through town in their street clothes. I think a couple of them were waving little Dominican flags. Oh, the pageantry.

I've moved into a new house in a pasture where I have no neighbors except for cows, horses, pigs, goats and chickens, all of whom are a lot quieter than my old vecinos. And the latrine is a beautiful concrete-floored, zinc-walled palace. Being sick in there was almost a pleasure. The latrine even has a plastic seat. It's like a dream. Well, except for the part about having no running water and the electricity being almost nonexistent. Eri, who collects garbage around town, came over to my old place with his truck one day and helped me move all my stuff. And Chrisie and Josh have just moved into a house right on the other side of the pasture from me. We're in shouting distance of each other, if we shout really really loud. I also have a barbed-wire fence around the yard to keep the muchachos out, or at least the less determined ones.

Among the more determined ones, and by those I mean the ones who have not finally realized how boring I actually am and started ignoring me, is Yonatan, who some of the vecinos have started calling my hijo because he follows me everywhere. "Ah, here comes Daniel and his hijo Yonatan." Yonatan is twelve years old and has appointed himself my sidekick and personal assistant. He's the only kid I allow free reign in my house and to stay as long as he feels like. I give him geography and English lessons which he then passes on to any other kids that happen to show up for a visit. He shines shoes for extra money and sometimes I dirty up my one pair of dress shoes, which I never wear, out in the yard just so I can give him some money to shine them when he comes over. Because, you know, I'm such a philanthropist.

Another hanger-on is Jose, who I pretty much hated from the day I met him. He's the same age as Yonatan, and the most hyperactive and obnoxious kid I'd ever met, even by Dominican standards, which is saying a lot. I've had to throw him out of my house more than once for rummaging through my things, demanding money from me and generally making a gigantic pain in the ass of himself.

One night I had bought some chicken by the park and Jose came by and told me I should buy him some too. I told him he should go home and get his mom to make him some food. So he asked for my leftovers. I told them there was nothing but bones left, and he needed to go away and stop bothering me. He grabbed the plate and ran away, just to piss me off like he always does, I thought. A little later I saw him in the park, gnawing at the bones like a dog.

A few weeks later I went swimming in the river, and there was Jose, being his little hyperactive self, yelling his head off and asking me for money. And I just told him to go away again. Later when I was walking back home with a group of friends, I felt someone grab my hand. It was Jose, and he had just quietly walked up behind me. He didn't say a word, he just walked alongside me for two miles, holding my hand. When we got to town he let go just as quietly and walked towards his house, all shy and subdued all of a sudden.

And that's when I realized that my wallet was gone. No, no, I'm just kidding about that part, really. But since then he's been a little calmer and I've tried to be a little nicer to him. Really. These things don't happen overnight.

Another nice thing about my new house is that a I have a yard that I can plant a garden in. So I went out in the pasture one day and collected enough dirt and manure to make a compost heap behind the latrine, which I was throwing all my garbage into so it would decompose into fertilizer. After a week it was about knee high, and I was understandably very proud of it. The next day it had disappeared without a trace. I mean, I know my neighbors are poor, but stealing a mound of rotting trash and horse poop seems pretty low.

Speaking of poop, I was invited to one of the tree nurseries of the reforestation project last weekend to eat some goat. It's not a party here until someone kills a goat. It was already dead and decapitated when I got there, and Dona Angela, who does my laundry, was hacking it up with a machete. She called me over and told me to come grab the carcass by the front legs and hold it steady so she could "sacar la mierda" ("get the shit out.")I thought she just meant it as an expression but sure enough, she took a coffee can full of water and started scouring the dookage from the, er, cavity, with her hands. When the goat was done cooking I asked her to be sure to give me a piece from near the front. Oh, but I crack up the Dominicans sometimes.

I hope you all enjoyed last week's special guest dispatch from the field. Like Hooker said, one of the nicest things about being in the Peace Corps really is hanging out with other volunteers and bitching about work. Because there's nothing like hearing someone describe contracting tapeworm by having a sick pig projectile vomit into his face to put your own work troubles in perspective. Even after you've spent the day shoveling horse poop into a sack.

For those of you counting, my one-year anniversary in-country just passed on February 18th. Which means I've got about 14 more months before my sentence is up. See you then.

Saca la mierda, Dave

P.S. Since I don't actually live on anything that could be called a road anymore, my new mailing address is:

Daniel Hotstream
Provincia Dajabon
Republica Dominicana

My new landlady works at the post office so she'll make sure the mail gets to me. Anything bigger than a manilla envelope should still go to the PC office in the capital.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Dominican Republic



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