Saturday, September 17, 2011

Making Friends in Moca Part 2

Aneudy's wife, Estefany is seven months pregnant. He told me it was going to be his first, so I was surprised when I met a little girl named Alayony at his house. He explained that his best friend had left her in his care while on tour in Puerto Rico with his basketball team. Unfortunately, an accident had befallen his friend from which he never recovered. "Alayony," it turns out, is a version of the name Hermione from the Harry Potter series.

Enormous grasshopper creature I found

After a short visit, we took to the road in their Carolla to drop off Alayony with an aunt, but were stopped short on a hill on the north side of town when the car ran out of gas. While Aneudy hiked to the gas station I had an opportunity to get to know Estafany a little better and I learned she is the niece of the couple who live across the street from my apartment.

Downpour at the clubhouse

Once again mobile, we dropped off Alayony and made our way to one of Moca's main intersections, in front of the Palacio de Justicia where we lounged in the patio of a place called Drink King and chatted until late.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making Friends in Moca Part 1

On the bus from Santiago the night of the art show, I met a merchant from one of the local hospitals who expressed interest in my classes after I explained what I do. In Moca, I found myself on the walk from the market to house, talking to a rather personable young Doctor named Aneudy Rafael who cares for couple of patients in Santiago and commutes every day to his home in Moca.

Aneudy invited me to his home, and since the neighborhood it's in is generally safe and well-lit, I decided to see where the night would lead. It turns out his house is opposite the large open lot behind my house along which I ran every day during my time at the Henriquez house.

Inside my tiny bathroom

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Visit to Santiago Part 2

I decided to follow Mike, and after a few minutes in a colmado on Las Carreras I found myself in a hotel room with Ari, Tim R, Will, Mike, Ryan, and Tim D. After an hour or so of catching up and watching football, I managed to convince everyone to join me at the Centro Cultural where a member of Megan's host community was showing his paintings.

The view from the window of my new apartment

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the event was over. The paintings, abstract and expressionistic, were still open for viewing. Next to each of them were two or three titles, chosen by the hosts of the show, that had been submitted by people in attendance.

My little kitchen sink, counter and cupboard.

By the time we left, it was getting late. I had asked a fellow passenger on the bus into town and learned that the last bus for Moca left Santiago at 7:00. When I looked at my watch it was a little later than 6:30. So, after a hasty goodbye, I briskly walked the five blocks to where the first Moca bus first stops en route to my home town.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Visit to Santiago Part 1

It was Saturday and thus a day for scouts, except one of them had lost his father recently and so the caminantes (teenaged scouts) left early the attend the funeral. I too left early because I had an art show to attend in Santiago.

The start time was officially 3pm and since the last time I arrived on time I ended up waiting two hours for the art show to start, I decided to get there some time around five. At about 4:30 I found myself on Avenida 30 de Mayo making my way toward Calle Del Sol when the trajectory of my evening took an unexpected turn.

Coming in my direction was Mike, an AT (Appropriate Technologies) volunteer who I hadn't seen since July. Mike had found himself in Santiago following a training on how to build ecologically-friendly latrines. He explained that five others were waiting in a nearby hotel while he made a run for soda.

Calendar of scout activities. Examples include "Nature Path" and "Fire Prevention"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Signing The Lease

The first dribbles of Tropical Storm Irene splatter from the sky as Pablo and I roll up to an office building in downtown Moca. Pablo's attorney, Rosa, has a small air-conditioned office at the end of a second-floor corridor lined with doors labeled with names of different licensiados and doctorados. As she labors over the changing of names and details on a boilerplate lease agreement, I wonder vaguely how hard it could be to get lawyer's credentials in this country and what lifestyle it would afford me.

Scouts learn to type with hand-covers made from latex glove boxes gathered at the hospital

The lease is remarkably similar to the other three I've signed in my lifetime. There is a clause against subletting, a clause against pets. A modest penalty is imposed if I am late paying rent. Pablo says he'll give me five days grace before he enforces it. Fortunately, the payment falls two days after my paycheck always arrives.

Completed surveys from my community diagnostic

The rest of the day, Pablo runs me around Moca for free. While the rain becomes progressively harder, I buy some essentials for my new apartment, window curtains, shower curtain, pillow. When we eat at a local comedor, I insist on picking up the check. Pablo, it turns out, has more than one iron in the fire. In the mornings he works as a motoconchista. At night he cleans at Megatone, a local shopping center I go to for wifi and beer from time to time. In addition, he manages eight apartments and four pensiones (rooms without kitchens) in the building where he and I live. The landlady is a school teacher who lives in Miami. I wonder how much she knows of what goes on here.

Henriquez kitten nurses

The building where I live housed an escuela de primer nivel, an elementary school called CEPBIEN before it was moved across the street. I mentioned to Pablo my interest in farming the empty lot adjacent to it and the very next day he told he'd gotten us permission to plant there! I wonder what it will be like to be a sharecropper in the DR. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Las Lagunas Again

Professor Juan has me in checkmate. I started strong, but gave up my queen in a clumsy move early on that drained what interest I had in the match. Juan is one of the more interesting characters I've met so far in the Peace Corps. He's spent much of his life in the military and much of our chess match using the board as a visual aid in his explanations of dominoes strategy and how that game offers insight into the Dominican mindset. He says that at Dominican chess tournaments, players use signals to help their teammates play. It's yet another example of tigueraje, a catch-all term for a Dominican doing whatever it takes to get what he or she wants and to hell with the rules.

Juan clearly has respect for the rules, though, and for sportsmanship. Sabrina explained that he comes to this school in her site every Sunday to teach chess just because. There is another man who is teaching music and Sabrina and I sit in and watch. I came out to Las Lagunas last night to celebrate with her and Masa my new freedom.

In conversation with Masa, I learned he and I ran in the same circles at Oregon State during the time we were both there (he enrolled as an undergrad like me in 2002 and continued in grad school there until 2008), and I even had a radio show adjacent to Glitter Bomb, the one he shared with his best friend whose name I dropped when remembering KBVR people. I also knew of his drag persona, having been loosely connected to the OSU drag show scene. We even went to the same parties and yet somehow we had failed to connect during those five years.

At the school, having been beat by Juan, I watch music lessons for a few more minutes and take my leave of him and Sabrina. As always, it has been a welcome respite to come out here and get away. As ride home I am pleased to think how soon I will be able to return the favor.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Moving Out Part 3

The Prior tenant moved out days ago. While I am checking it out, another party, a mother and three daughters, come to see it as well. Pablo says they are the third to come look today. The mother balks at the fixed utility cost, complaining that it is too high. Compared to Portland utilities, it is a dream come true, even on my income. As soon as she leaves, I tell Pablo I'll rent it. We go to an ATM, I withdraw three months' rent (first and last month plus lawyer's fee), and Pablo hands over the keys. I am glad I have pinched every penny possible since the beginning of March. Even after this hefty payment I am little worse for the wear.

Back at the clubhouse I tell Pablo Ovalles that I've found a new home and that I'd like to move in as soon as possible. He tell me he can haul my stuff there today. Back in my old room, the fan has chosen this moment to break down again. I cram into bags and backpacks everything that hasn't already been made ready to move, suffusing my shirt and jeans with sweat in the process. Outside it has begun to rain, and by the looks of me you would think I was out in it.

A handful of caminantes (teen-aged scouts) files in and leaves with my things, piling them in the back of Pablos pickup. We pull away from the clubhouse and I breathe a sigh of relief. I am no longer outstaying my welcome. I have a place to call my own.

Scouts take a class on WordPress

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Moving Out Part 2

While I wait, I call Sabrina. Her sunny greeting breaks me in two. I have to tell her I can't come with her and Masa to the beach. They are taking advantage of the weekend the precedes a trip to the capital and I had hoped to come along, but I can't afford to miss any housing opportunities. She is understanding and sympathetic, but it hurts all the same. Volunteers like her and Masa won't be around forever. They arrived a year before me and will be gone by next summer.

Jose and Oswaldo hang at the clubhouse

Because it's Saturday, the scouts have their activities at the clubhouse. It is a welcome refuge from my home life and I take advantage of the opportunity to announce my upcoming class schedule and plead my case with Pablo Ovalles, leader of the Moca scouts. He says that he will try to help me find a temporary home while I continue to seek housing, but I am doubtful. An hour or so into the scout meeting, I run home for my camera and am greeted by the other Pablo, who now has a key and wants to show me the apartment.

A chart of scout activities planned out through December

The second-floor apartment in Los Cácares is very humble. A thin wooden wall divides, more or less evenly, a space 16 feet deep and 14 feet wide. A tiny, doorless bathroom (5.5 x 3.5 feet) has been fashioned in a corner of the bedroom out of the same concrete blocks as the floor, ceiling and walls. The kitchen consists of a small plywood counter with a tiny sink that leaks. Nonetheless, I am impressed. All the light switches work and the place smells like fresh paint. Furthermore, the price is right.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Moving Out Part 1

"¿Estás usando el escritorio en la habitación?" Flor asks, "Are you using the desk in the room?"

"Es de Francia, y ella lo está necesitando." The desk in my room at the Henriquez house where I have lived since May belongs to Flor's daughter and she needs it back. It is a gentle threat. In this culture where everything is said without saying it, Flor wants me to know he's going to begin taking the furniture from my room whether I move out or not.

This morning, I finally got some help from his wife, Doña Antonia in searching for an apartment. She pointed me to a guy in the neighborhood who brokers houses and apartments. An hour later we went to the corner where I he introduced me to a motoconchista named Pablo. I went with him to a building in the nearby neighborhood of Los Cácares, brightly painted in primary colors and suspiciously resembling a grade school. Unfortunately, Pablo, who is the property manager, neglected to bring the keys to the room so he brought me back to Villa Carolina with the promise of returning soon.

My room at my host family's house