May 8, 2003: Headlines: COS - Dominican Republic: Married Couples: Cody Enterprise : Peace Corps experience in Dominican Republic humbles Aaron and Krista Drendel

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Dominican Republic: Peace Corps Dominican Republic : The Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic: May 8, 2003: Headlines: COS - Dominican Republic: Married Couples: Cody Enterprise : Peace Corps experience in Dominican Republic humbles Aaron and Krista Drendel

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Peace Corps experience in Dominican Republic humbles Aaron and Krista Drendel

Peace Corps experience in Dominican Republic humbles Aaron and Krista Drendel

Peace Corps experience humbles Cody couple


After completing a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, Aaron Drendel says the volunteer organization should consider changing its slogan.

"Maybe it should be the toughest experience, not the toughest job, you'll ever love," Aaron said last week, two weeks after he and wife Krista returned to Cody from the Dominican Republic.

"The job was the easy part," adds Krista, who taught school in Sabaneta, a village of about 3,000 Spanish-speaking people not far from San Juan.

Aaron, meanwhile, focused on the environmental needs of villagers.

In all, the CHS sweethearts (class of 1994) who have been married two years say they learned as much about Dominicans and the native language as the natives learned from them.

"I was shocked by the poverty but gradually became used to it," Krista says.

"I couldn't believe all the noise, and there was no privacy," adds Aaron. "We were placed in one of the worst ghettos in the Caribbean."

Fortunately the Drendels were taken in by the BuenoBueno family, which taught them many of the mores of the village.

"If you visit someone and the man of the house is sitting eating a meal, he gives the plate to you, and the meal becomes yours," Aaron says. "My neighbors would do anything for me."

"There was a true sense of community," Krista says. "Kids are running free."

Some of these young people, however, would peer through openings in the windows and walls into the Drendels' home. So when they first arrived, the young couple would shut the doors. They soon learned, thanks to the BuenoBueno family, that closed doors are an indication to villagers of intimacy.

Aaron and Krista, both 27, speak with affection of the BuenoBuenos, who "literally adopted us" after we arrived, he says.

"They were so generous," Krista adds. "It doesn't matter how poor these people are, you walk into their house and they offer you food or coffee."

The couple, which graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1999, agree they didn't exactly miss many of the amenities they were used to in the U.S. and would travel to nearby cities for e-mail access.

"We experienced culture shock when we got there, and we're experiencing culture shock now that we're back," Aaron says.

They were evacuated to a hotel in November 2001 when Hurricane Iris threatened the island, which includes both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Krista says hurricane threats don't seem to be taken seriously by the natives, many of whom perished when the waters from Hurricane George topped a nearby dam in 1999.

Aaron and Krista say the people stayed in there homes in part because they misunderstood a Red Cross evacuation message made via a megaphone in the streets. They thought they would be robbed if they left the village.

After the flood, Krista said hundreds of people, entire families, were found huddled together, dead in their homes.

Learning about the history of these people and the pride they have for their culture is in line with the goals of the Peace Corps, Aaron says.

"It's important for us to gain an understanding of people less fortunate than us, especially given the recent state of affairs," Aaron says.

To further accomplish this goal and better educate other peoples about U.S. culture, Aaron will begin a master's program at the University of Montana in the fall. He and Krista, who is seeking a teaching job in Missoula, hope after a few years to start a family and return to Latin America.

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: Cody Enterprise

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



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