This week is semana santa (holy week), but because of the predominantly Catholic population, it is also vacation week. None the kids are in school and starting at 12 midnight Thursday night (as we found out) the stores, bars and restaurants all close down for Good Friday. The really crazy thing was how different the surroundings game when the clock hit 12:01, one of the loudest countries in the world suddenly became quite!
Our Thursday night was found at the Carwash, which in the Domincan Republic doubles as a Discoteca. The name of the Carwash was Soberbia, which was clever to a bunch of Americans for all sorts of reasons. We were celebrating the March birthdays with some serious bachata-ing and almost all of the volunteers made it out, even those with the stomach parasite (not so much fun I hear). One guy, however, has a nasty fever and was sent up to the campo early so his new family could take care of him, I wonder if its Dengue, the warmer weather brings more mosquitos and the mosquitos bring what the locals call “breakbone fever”… I can’t wait. This week has been a big week all around with injuries. We had a girl get a corneal ulcer (I guess its bad to leave the contacts in for too long), a guy had some acute tendenitis (he was walking around with a crutch all week), a girl showed up with a big cut across her face where a piece of rebar caught her on the walk to school, and on the same day a girl fell into what we like to call “the pit of death” which is a 3 ft x 5 ft hole in the middle of the sidewalk on the walk to Entrena (school) that is about 8 feet deep and filled halfway with some pretty scary black water and pieces of loose rebar! Cathy is really careful on her walk to school now. (I’ll try to get a pic of the pit)
Anyway, Thursday night was cut short because of the holy weekend and we ended up for the first time returning to our houses as if we were back in the states, sneaking in quietly and hoping the parents didn’t wake up. It was a lot of fun to have the barrio to ourselves, and luckily right before it closed we found a little sandwich shop that sold us chicken sandwiches called “chimis”. . . at least I think it was chicken.
For good Friday, the LA barrio decided to take to the Beach. We returned to Boca Chica, the beach that we went to two weeks ago, to find that it was a completely different place on good Friday. The sad part was this time it sucked. There were tons of people there, giant inflatable beer bottles and rum bottles and more Europeans than you could count. They had an international beach volleyball tournament that was kind of cool because we got to see people from all the other Caribbean countries. I think the Jamaicans ended up winning, but I am just guessing, they were the tallest. I ended up getting pretty sunburned despite the overcast sky, which I didn’t expect. Ouch. The ride back was interesting, two of us took off early because we couldn’t handle much more sun, when we were riding back there was a guy next to me named Jorge who looked a lot like a Dirty South Rapper, he had on stunner shades (big sunglasses), a gold chain, a backwards hat, four or five homies and two half gallons of whiskey sitting on his lap. Our conversation went as follows, in Spanish of course:
“Hey American, five people can sit in the row” says Jorge, he motions to the row of us.
“What?” I say, I was confused because there were five of us.
“Five people, this row, five. Five.”
“Right, there are five of us, and there are five up there.”
“Yeah, good. What are you here for?” He asks.
“Me and her” I motion to my friend “are in the peace corps, we are here for two years”
“Peace Corp, is that a religious group?
“No, it’s through the United States Government”
“Oh good, do you want some of this whiskey”
“sure, thanks” After taking a drink we became best friends and he told me all about his job and what busses I would need to take to get home. After a few stops he and his four or five friends got off the bus and went to wherever they were going. And so my first taste of Domincan whiskey was on the back of a bus on Good Friday. I was thinking about why I took the pull of the whiskey, and if that makes me crazy. My conclusion was that I am not crazy, and that by taking a drink with this guy I was building a little trust with him, and that is what they have been trying to teach us for the last 4 weeks. The biggest point they have stressed to us in training is that we have to first build “confianca”… which I can barely pronounce, but I think translates to trust. I am finding everyday that there are situations where my rational decision as an American could be seen as completely irrational to a Dominican and seemingly irrational choices made by the people I encounter here are completely acceptable and correct according to this culture, for instance; drinking on a very crowded public bus.