February 7, 2003: Headlines: COS - Dominican Republic: PCVs in the Field - Dominican Republic: Personal Web Site: Dave Hotstream in the Dominican Republic

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Dominican Republic: Peace Corps Dominican Republic : The Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic: February 7, 2003: Headlines: COS - Dominican Republic: PCVs in the Field - Dominican Republic: Personal Web Site: Dave Hotstream in the Dominican Republic

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Dave Hotstream in the Dominican Republic

Dave Hotstream in the Dominican Republic

7 Feb 2003 ...and that's when the C.H.U.D.s came at me.

>I know it's been a while. Stop nagging. It turns out that a whole lot of people are reading these things and I've been getting emails from total strangers wanting to know when the next installment is coming out. Which sometimes makes me feel all weird and self-conscious about writing about what I'm doing any more. Is my life really that interesting? Don't you people have anything better to do than read this? No? Good. Because I don't really have anything better to do than write it.

I wish I had a lot of exciting news to pass on, but the truth is that things have been really quiet here and not much has happened worth writing home about. Just the usual stuff. The mayor wants me to start a Boy Scout troop. The President of the DR visited Restauracion last week to dedicate our new high school that's only about half-built. The US marines are still on patrol. I recently spent an afternoon in a boat watching a group of mating humpback whales at close range. Josh is alive and well and back in the DR. Oh, and a shitload of gold has been discovered in our mountains and the government is going to start mining soon. With the help of certain American interests, of course. One of my neighbors is already preparing for a gold boom by converting the big shed behind his house into two apartments. He showed them to me yesterday with instructions to bring any American surveyors who might be looking for a place to stay directly to him. You know. Same old shit.

I watched the Superbowl in the capital with about 30 other volunteers. I think this was the first Superbowl that I've ever watched from beginning to end. It turns out the key to enjoying the Superbowl is the same as the key to enjoying merengue: first you have to get nice and pleasant drunk. While I was in town I also got to see the new Lord Of The Rings movie with subtitles, so I finally know the Spanish word for "dwarf."

The Haitian border has just been reopened and the Dominican soldiers are really cracking down on illegal immigrants. I've seen them drag a few Haitians right off the bus for not having papers. A few weeks ago they even went as far as asking Josh and Chrisie and two other gringos for their passports, which they've never done to any of us before. I was with them at the time but with my near-cancerous suntan and a baseball hat covering my straight gringo hair, I can actually sometimes pass for a really pale Dominican as long as I don't have to talk, and they didn't bother me.

We're trying to get the Dominican Secretary of Education to give us computers and equipment to open a lab in the new high school here. This is something they promised to do in the old elementary school before I was even assigned to this town, but which I had given up on ever happening until recently when the President and Vice-President started to take such an interest in us.

I had yet another college student (an American this time) show up at my door and stay at my house for a few days while she interviewed me and did research on third-world development. I'm still not sure when I became such an authority on this subject, but I am soon to be quoted in two published university theses. I guess it's true: Peace Corps volunteers really are the Green Berets of development work. And so in order to share my accumulated knowledge, and in the interest of fulfilling the third mission of the Peace Corps, which is to promote a better understanding of foreign cultures on the part of Americans, I now present:


1. If a Dominican repeatedly scrunches up his nose like someone just farted, it means "I don't understand what you just said. Please repeat yourself."

2. If he taps his raised right elbow with his left fist, it means "You are cheap."

3. If he points his lips at someone without breaking eye contact with you or moving his head, it means "Don't look now, but that person I just pointed my lips at is either stupid or crazy."

4. Pointing the index fingers straight up on either side of the head like horns means "Your spouse is cheating on you."

5. Making a grasping motion with the right hand means "Someone here is a thief."

6. Placing the right hand over the left and wiggling both thumbs like the flippers of an imaginary sea turtle means "Someone here is light in the loafers."

There you have it, straight from the PCDR Volunteer Handbook. Use one of those the next time you see a Dominican and make his day. Thanks again for reading still more crap about me. Please write, as long as it's not to tell me how much fun you're having at Mardi Gras or about the really good pizza you ate last night. I don't need to hear that.

December 11, 2002 Times aren't tough, they're tedious

I distinctly remember telling my recruiter last year that I would go anywhere in the world they asked me to, as long as it was someplace where it never got cold. You'd think it would have been easy enough to put me in the Gobi desert or something. I'm freezing my nuts off up here and it isn't even January. I may not be able to bathe again until some time next spring.

There have been rumors going around for weeks that the United States is sending a few thousand troops to the DR to patrol the Haitian border. I couldn't find anything about this on the CNN website or any American media, but it's been reported in the Dominican papers. One guy in my town who's usually pretty smart told me that this was all part of the United States "War on Terrorism." When I asked him to elaborate on that theory he told me very seriously "Yes, the Haitians are terrorists. They sneak across the border at night and steal our bananas." About two weeks ago President Mejia himself made a public statement denying that any American troops were coming. Then a couple of days ago my personal friend, the US ambassador to the Dominican Republic, confirmed that they were. This was further confirmed the next day by the US ambassador to Haiti. What has been reported even in the US media is that the shit is hitting the fan in Haiti once again and my own unofficial sources tell me that Peace Corps Haiti may even be evacuated within the year. Then again, my official sources say that everything is fine and we will continue to work more with PC Haiti than we ever have before. But what do I know. I'm just a tool of the U.S. government.

So meanwhile, it's a good thing I got to go to spend some time in Port-au-Prince when I did. Rick, the guy that I went with, was supposed to write a long description of the trip for me to include with this dispatch, but unfortunately he's even lazier than I am. It would have been good though. The climax was the two of us piling into a car to go to a voodoo ceremony with a Jack-Mormon LAPD cop, a professor who claimed to be the US's foremost authority on voodoo rituals, a teenaged Haitian prostitute and a voodoo priest named Bob, all of whom we met in the hotel bar. The ceremony was for Gede, the voodoo deity of both death and eroticism, according to the professor, and included a traditional song sung by the men to the women about "the futility of washing one's pussy." (Sorry Mom and Dad. I'm just quoting the professor.)

As I'm writing this, one of the teachers from the elementary school is here giving one of her own patented computer classes to a group of seven kids. Yesterday's lesson was "change the screen saver." It looks like today's lesson is "play solitaire for an hour and leave me alone while I smoke a cigarette." This is basically my problem: there are teachers here who are being paid to give 'computer classes.' As far as computers go, these teachers don't know their asses from a hole in the ground. I know I could be doing a much better job, but as an unpaid volunteer I would be taking work away from them, which wouldn't do much for my standing in the community. Such as it is.

So now I'm only teaching one small group a week and looking for other things to keep me busy. The good news is that in the meantime I'm getting a lot of reading done. And between my free subscription to NEWSWEEK and news on the shortwave radio, I'm more well-informed about current events than I've ever been in my life. Want to know how the current situation in Iraq is affecting unfair business practices in the oil export market in Angola, and more specifically, its breakaway northern province of Cabinda' Go ahead, ask me.

People here have never even heard of the Beatles. Or the Rolling Stones. I mean they've never even heard the names. One or two have at least heard of Elvis. I know, I took a survey.

My first Dominican Thanksgiving has come and gone. Sorry Rod, no donkeys. All 140 DR volunteers got together in the capital for turkey and mashed potatoes, followed by a talent show. Maybe this will come as no surprise to most of you, but something like nine out of ten Peace Corps volunteers play acoustic guitar and are really into James Taylor. A lot of them are really good at hacky-sack, too.

I came back to Restauracion after Thanksgiving just in time to learn about a delightful Dominican holiday tradition: setting off cherry bombs all day and night. For the entire month of December until New Year's, they tell me. Anything to make just a little more noise, I guess. They're setting them off outside the window right now.

Yesterday I took a guagua to Dajabon, and the DJ on the radio was playing a game called "Que esta cocinando'" ('What's cooking'') So all these donas were calling in to tell the whole country what they were cooking for lunch that day. 'Well, today I'm making rice, and, let me see, what else... oh yes, beans. Rice and beans today.' This went on for a good fifteen minutes. When I got back to Restauracion I tried to explain the humor in this to the dona that does my laundry while she made me rice and beans for lunch, but she just didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.

Josh has been medevaced in Washington DC for over a month now and they still don't know what's wrong with him. Some kind of serious intestinal problem. If they can't figure out and fix what's wrong with him soon he may have to leave Peace Corps and go home. Which means Chrisie will go home too and I'll be all alone. I mean except for the 4,000 Dominicans who also live here. And I just got word that two more members of my group were medevaced last week. At this rate there won't be anyone left by May 2004.

I hope everyone has a happy Christmas up there while remembering those who are less fortunate, like myself. Oh, and the poor people too. You should definitely remember the poor people. Send them some canned green beans or something. Poor people love those.

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.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

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



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