The time is coming.... November 21st I will be an official RPCV (returned peace corps volunteer) kicking up my feet and living the good life near my parents fridge. I have actually just completed my medical clearance to return. I was poked, prodded, scraped, and had samples taken of way to many things to mention. It was by far the most thorough exam I have ever had- and probably will ever have. Best part is all is clean and clear. Not even a cavity! Life is good....
I had an incredible summer! So often in this line of work you experience so much frustration- so many road blocks. Very rarely do you get those 'warm, fuzzy' 'i did something right' moments. It can be terribly stressful and most volunteers feel this frustration for the majority of their service. This summer I had several oppertunities that lead to to those 'warm, fuzzy' 'i did something sooo right' moments. I got to throw a graduation for my english class; finish a book club; participate in translations for a medical mission; and thanks to all of you who donated- act as a counselor in a summer camp for disadvataged youth. In these events there were plenty of eye-opening experiences all around.
The english class graduation was rediculous and Dominican, as one would expect. The 11 graduates arrived in their sunday best to my house. I passed out dipolmas. We took photos. They picked at (because NOONE here actually likes my cooking) the truely american mac and cheese and rice chrispy treats I made. It was just relieving to see something I helped accomplish (as clearly THEY are the ones who truely accomplished it).
The medical mission was heart-breaking and inspirational. My friend Bill, who also attended the mission, and I were recapping some of the cases we dealt with last night (over pitchers at the american sports bar in the capital) and he broke out in tears. The case he broke down over goes a little something like this- he was translating for a nurse and doctor doing a home visit in a rural community. The family presents a tiny TINY set of twins babys that are clearly suffering from mal-nutrition. Bill translates for the doctor "how old are the babies" the caretaker stumbles back about them "cumplir-ing" (having thier birthday) the previous month. Now Bill's not very confident in his spanish and these twins are so small that they could not possibly be over a few months old so he continues to question and ask for elaborations for a while before calling over a different volunteer, Jessica, with more confident spanish to take his place. Jessica discovers Bill was translating correctly these babies are a year old and so severly mal-nutritioned that they have actually stopped crying because they lack the strength. The worst part about the whole situation comes down to that all this was caused by mis-education! The family was feeding the babies regular powdered cow's milk, not even baby formula which they could afford! They didn't understand that babies needed special nutrition and mother's milk is best- infact formula is viewed as a status symbol here and; therefore, better than breastfeeding. The babies were taken care of by the doctor- given plenty of formula and the parents given new education about baby nutrition. My most moving experience of the med mission was helping a 19 year-old boy with horrible bed sores. The boy had been paralyzed from the waist down for 2 years after falling out of a canape tree why collecting canapes to sell on the road. Well the poor boy fell victim to bed sores that put him in the hospital 3 weeks prior that just wouldn't heal dispite the dedication of the family and neighbors who had been vigilantly caring for him and cleaning his wounds like the doctors prescribed. They had been cleaning his wounds with too much iodine that they couldn't heal. The doctors taught a new way to create a better cleaning solution to promote the healing along with a really cool hanging chair swing- that Bill created out of plastic chairs- to take the pressure off the sores.
Camp Glow presented an amazing oppertunity to empower teenage females- a very unempowered population here. The most rewarding moment for me was one night during 'small break down sessions' in which we discuss what the girls enjoyed about camp that day and anything they were thinking about in small groups of 5 girls to 2 counslers. One of the girls in my group was asked "what was your favorite part about camp?" and she thought then replied "this group. Noone ever asks me how I feel and what I like. Noone really listens like you. I just go to school, clean and take care of my brothers. Here I've been heard." The girls loved camping in tents (slightly amusing considering their daily lifestyle is considered 'camping' to many americans) an experience they've never had before. They were taught to plan life goals. When discussing this in the nightly 'break down session' one girl informed me that her goal is to buy her house before she marries. That way when the husband cheats on her or starts to treat her bad she can kick him out. She will still have her house and in that way be protected. Ouch! Sounds strange but thats what my host mom did here. Some parts of this culture hurt.
There was another situation in my site that I want to write about but this post is already really long and I'm in the capital and thinking about the rare oppertunity I have to eat pizza right now. I think I will go take advantage of that now.