Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some Blizzard Warmth

I'm so concerned about all my friends back home freezing in your blizzard, I decided to cobble together another blog story to warm you up. So here is a mix of small topics thrown together into a single story.

A lot of Americans think we are the only country that provides foreign aid around the world. That is simply not true, and is very much evident here on my island. China is a major donor to many projects here. Cuban medical staff play an essential role at the hospitals. Support from Canada, France, Great Britain, Venezuela, and other countries have been visible, especially after Tropical Storm Erika.

Recently, an SUV from the Ministry of Education pulled up at my school with this U.S. Agency for International Development sticker plastered prominently on its doors. It is one of the only times I have seen any outward signs of American support here. I'm not complaining, nor am I trying to make any sort of political statement (because I'm more worried about our deficit spending than most of you). However, I am interested in clearing up the misconception that America takes care of the world. Also, a final thought on this complex topic—I think it makes it even more important that the Peace Corps supports this island, as we become the public face of American support to Dominicans.
Another recent event at my school was a clean-up day. This is the second time so far this year that the afternoon was devoted to tidying up the school grounds. This picture above was taken from the second floor looking down on a small flower garden that needed sprucing up. The picture below is further to the left, and shows the hillside of rock that borders our school.
One of the things I had to get used to right away when I came to the Caribbean was seeing folks (even women) walking around with machetes. In America, if someone is walking down the street with a machete, you might be intimidated. Here, a machete (which is called a cutlass down here) is just a fact of life. Children learn to use them at an early age. The two fifth grade boys shown below used the two cutlasses the principal brought to “cut the hay” growing on the back hillside. Most Americans would be taken aback to see these kids swinging these long sharp blades, but nobody blinks an eye here.
Meanwhile, some fourth grade boys were swinging small hand spades like cutlasses to give the hillside a close shave in the picture below. A string trimmer would make the job a lot quicker, but those are few and far between down here. Plus, it helps give the students a sense of ownership by caring for the school grounds.
Changing topics, I noticed that this seems to be the season for baby goats. Here are a couple of cute pictures of my host sister's new goats. There were five born this month in her goat herd, plus there were other baby goats born belonging to other folks in the village. I'm sure some of you think they are very cute! Just be aware that most goats here end up as goat meat (goat soup is called "goat water").
I got an invitation to visit the old estate house that was built about a century ago, and is still occupied by a relative of the man who once owned most of the property in the area. The mother of one of my students works as a house cleaner there, and it was a fascinating place to visit. In the picture below, my student points out the beautiful view of the ocean from the backyard of the house.
While visiting there, I also got to see this caterpillar, which was about six inches long. I'm not sure what it will turn into, but it was the biggest caterpillar I had ever seen. It had pretty much eaten all the leaves from this small tree.
Finally, I had to leave you with some beach pictures. Portsmouth (about a half an hour bus ride from me) is the second largest city on the island, and another Peace Corps Volunteer works there. I occasionally go there to the market on Saturday mornings (which is quite an experience itself). On this day, I left my backpack loaded with food supplies at her house and we walked to a new beach I had never visited before. These last two pictures are from Douglas Bay on the Caribbean Sea. You can see how placid the water is on the Caribbean side. The first picture is actually showing the back side of the Cabrits National Park (see my previous story here).
The final picture is from the same spot but looking in the opposite direction. It is a beautiful beach area, but I'm glad I landed on the Atlantic side of the island, where I can enjoy swimming in the waves and listening to the surf—especially while there is a blizzard going on back home!


  1. Yes the goats are really cute but it is understandable that they are food for so many people in different countries. That caterpillar looks like it will become a 747....LOL!....The all the pictures especially the beach is beautiful....Thanks for sharing.

  2. You consistently not only show what is positive, but what is beautiful! Thank you!