This weekend I went to visit another volunteer in the East Region of the Country. After all the training descriptions of how volunteer service will be, it was very useful to see and experience the way it actually is. Over the course of the weekend, I met 5 volunteers who live and work in 3 communities: 2 pueblos and 1 campo. They work on projects in Economic Development, Environmental Ed, and Special Education. I went to a meeting of a Brigada Verde group (environmental youth group) to see how things are run. I met some members of a Guiding Association for one of the National Parks. I listened to people talk about their primary projects and secondary projects. It was amazing how each person had a totally unique situation, despite similar project descriptions and similar location. I talked to a couple of project partners. That was exciting, since the project partner is the person who works the most closely with a volunteer, at least initially. The men I met seemed supportive and enthusiastic, which was reassuring. Best of all, I successfully communicated with various Dominicans of different ages and backgrounds. There is hope for me, even if my Doña still doesn't understand that I don't like sugar in my coffee. Additionally, I successfully got myself to the campo and back. By myself the first time, and with a fellow Aspirante the second. Since transportation in the DR is not the easiest for a notably white foreigner to navigate, this is a point of pride. I will not fail while on my own in this country.
The East is a well connected region, everyone who I visited had electricity and water most of the time. This made it one of the better places to get sick the first time, or at least one of the more comfortable. However, I recovered from my 12 hour illness in time to participate in a PC visit to a beautiful beach. The sand was white, soft and clean, the water was clear, tuquoise and warm, and there was even a reef farther out for the more adventurous among us. One of the volunteers also pointed out the cacao tree, heavy with yellow pods that are currently ripening. Inside is a sweet, fruity pulp, and the true commodity, the beans. However, they have to be dried, or even better, fermented, before they are ready for processing.
Now I am back at the home base for one more week before we go off into the mountains for technical training. However, it's Semana Santa, or Easter week, and I look forward to experiencing the Dominican traditions for this holiday.