The next step for us is Community Based Training. The education group is in a city called Monte Plata and we are in a city called Peralvillo. It’s a smaller campo outside of a mid-sized town of around 20,000 people. It’s a good fit because there are fourteen of us and if we were to go train in a small rural area we would be way too visible, not that we’re tough to miss here. Everybody seems to like their host family setup. Some are having withdrawals to not having wifi, and power and water are even more intermittent here than in the city. As I sat to start writing the lights and fan clicked off. It’s an extremely common occurrence with the electricity being off more than it is on.
Our training sessions our pretty similar to the way they were in the capital, however in CBT they are concentrated more on the business development aspect and less on overall Peace Corps rules and processes. Somehow, I ended up in the highest level Spanish class, which I’m happy about even though I’m on the lesser skilled end of the spectrum there. Because we are already qualified linguistically we spend the majority of our classes discussing borderline inappropriate topics (our loves lives, and whether or not animals feel pleasure while fornicating (one didn’t lead to the other)). Each class is doing a mini-community diagnostic. It essentially consists of examining the community, conducting interviews with people from different demographics, and researching how the community functions. The point is that during our first three months in our sites we will perform a more extensive community diagnostic to address the needs and strengths of the community.
So much happens every day here that it’s difficult to accurately track time. It feels like we’ve been in the country for months but it will be exactly one month this weekend. From my point of view a lot of us have bonded really quickly and really well. Some of us click and converse with such comfort; it’s as if we’ve been friends for years. I think we make a solid effort to keep clicks from forming, however, we’ve had to strike a balance between including everyone and rolling 33 deep to events, and choosing to attend activities separately.
During volunteer visits, we went to visit seasoned volunteers at their sites to see what the life is actually like. My situation was rare and exciting. I went to visit Andy who I also happened to go to college with. I had found out he was here just after I got my acceptance letter. We spent a couple of days at his site, which was, informative; then we proceeded to fuck off to the beach. We met a group of about 6 other volunteers and spent a serious amount of time drinking rum, swimming, and beating up on Argentinians on the beach volleyball court. The thing about Peace Corps Dominican Republic is that it hasn’t really felt like the Peace Corps yet.
Don’t get me wrong, out in the countryside, away from the major cities, people live in rough conditions. The Haitians are particularly susceptible. Disease, poverty and lack of infrastructure are endemic here. Tourism has become a massive part of the economy here, but like in many developing nations that rely on tourism for growth, problems arise. Pollution, labor exploitation, inflation of prices and property all put stress on the local population while foreign investors manipulate local laws and accumulate wealth. However there are opportunities for Dominicans and I am incredibly excited to be a part of the growth of this country for the next 2 years y pico.
Looking back CBT was the best 5 months of training. Life slowed down a bit and living out in the country-side was so much more relaxing than in the busy, noisy capital. Without internet and all the distractions of the outside world, we had nothing else to do but bond with friends, new and old. In our free time we would swim in the river or have bonfires on its banks, play basketball and dominoes, and go to the “Bomba” which was a gas station by day and the only club in within reach by night. I would also estimate that I spent 25 percent of my waking hours sloppily learning to dance Batchata and Merengue. My beautiful and very professional dance instructor Addy assured me that I was a level 9 by the time we went to leave. In Santo Domingo I knew exactly one of my neighbors and it was because she ran the small store that we drank beer and played dominoes at all the time. In Peralvillo we all knew each other’s host families and their friends. The town was small enough that everyone knew us along with all the other residents. Many of us made connections that will draw us back to Peralvillo; some of us more than once.