Sunday, July 4, 2010

I thought about starting this blog again when I was asked on June 22, 2010 to work with the Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (a Bill and Melinda Gates Project) in India. I was elated. After having the rug pulled from under my feet in regards to working abroad a couple of time, this was exactly the opportunity I had been waiting for.

Three days later on June 25, 2010 we found out that dad had cancer. Suddenly, the urgency to be with family had overwhelmed my longings to work internationally. I have always been a daddy’s girl and it appears as though this is now truer than ever.

So, rather than writing about travels to exotic places, I would like to capture some of the sweet times and moments with my dad and family and to document some of the stories we reflect on from the past.

The title of this blog, “Asi es la vida” (such is life) continues to be a theme in my life. The human experience, though ridden with injustice, suffering, and loss; has enough beauty, joys, and love to make it worth the while.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Change of plans

To avoid explaining my current situation multiple times and creating multiple versions of it, I am pasting an email that I wrote to my fellow PCVs.

As many of you know, I have had some increasing trouble with my back over the past four weeks. I have had trouble in the past with my back and I was beginning to feel all too familiar sensations in my legs and back. ( A little background info: 3.5 years ago I herniated a disk while in Costa Rica. I had surgery went back to Costa ica and applied for the Peace Corps. Five months later, it herniated again. I had to
withdraw my PC application and have a second surgery. I went to graduate school instead of Peace Corps and was hernia free for about 3years). Last Friday I had an MRI and I was on medical hold in the capital waiting on the results to come back. On Tuesday the MRI results showed that the disk had herniated again. The neurosurgeon that I saw here seemed to think that waiting on an operations would be my best option, so it seemed like there was a possibility for me to stay. On Wednesday we sent a consult to Washington to see if I should be medically evacuated to see a doctor in the states or if they agreed with the doctor here in the DR. They replied on Thursday that it would be best for me to be medically separated. Yesterday I went to Batey 9 and gathered my things and said good bye to my community. Tomorrow
(Sunday) I will fly back to the States.

Needless to say things have been a crazy whirlwind and quite overwhelming. I still have not completely processed the fact that I have herniated this damn disk for the third time, let alone that I am leaving the DR and the Peace Corps. However, it is in many ways relieving to have a clear answer and to know that this is the best route for my longterm health. I am ready to fix this thing and be done with it!

I wanted you all to know what a priviledge, honor, and blast it has been to know you all and share these past 12 weeks with you. In addition to being terribly fun and delightful people, every one of you are also incredibly admirable and inspiring individuals. I am very sad that I am unable to continue with you. However, I feel quite positive and bright about what lies ahead and hopeful to find a way to serve that is fitting with my health. I am truly grateful for having this time in the Dominican Republic. I mean my Spanish, bachata, and merengue skills are at an all time high and I can make my own tostones and pollo. What else did I need to learn in the DR???

I hope to return for vacation within the next two years and I would love to see you all then!

Best of luck, hang in there, and keep up the good work!

Katie Massey

P.S. If anyone knows of fun job opportunities in the states, please let me know.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Officially PCVs

Pictures from our swearing in ceremony.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No longer Americana

I finally got the complete chicken dinner experience. Here we are at the beginning, a step we never get to see in our chicken dinners in the states.

Bertania (the cousin that lives in my house) just held the chick by its wings and wacked it on the back to kill it and then stuck the chick in boiling water to aid in the defeathering process. Just a daily household chore.

Ready for cookin!

My little sister and brother. So adorable!

Three and a half days in Batey 9 and suddenly my future two years hasvesome texture and form. After not knowing where I would be and what my work and life would look like for the next two years, we have finally seen our sites and can now begin envisioning with a little more than just speculation.

My site:

There are miles of sugar cane fields and it is much greener and more beautiful than I ever expected. It’s hot and dry, which is actually a nice change from the hot and humid. I think I am sweating a little less here. Everyone is Haitian or of Haitian-Dominican descent. Creole is the dominant language. I no longer hear "Americana", but "Ameriquen" as I walk down the street. Though school and business is all conducted in Spanish, conversations with neighbors, friends, and family are all in Creole. Many families I visited spoke very little Spanish. These are often the neediest thereby making it all the more necessary for me to learn Creole. While there is very little community organization in Batey 9, there are several strong community leaders. It is extremely poor. The level of poverty here is, in my opinion, on a whole other level than the pueblos and even the isolated campos I have visited and heard of. There is an abundance of opportunities for public health initiatives and I am delighted to be in the midst of the most marginalized.

My family

My family here is really wonderful. My Dona, Rosa Helena, has a daughter (7 years old), a son (4 years old), and a cousin (18 years old) that live with her (It feels strange calling her my Dona since she is so young, so I will just use her name). Rosa Helena teaches first grade at the local school and teaches an adult literacy class. I feel very comfortable in the home and I enjoy the company there.

My work

The first three months of service are devoted to doing a diagnostic of the community. I will interview a sample of homes and then we will make a plan of action from the findings. Also within this time, I plan to devote myself to studying Creole (Que Dios me ayude!).
Though my work will not really begin until after the diagnostic, there are a few things I will be doing along with the diagnostic for the first three months. The first day visiting my site, I was asked to teach English to the sixth grade class and I agreed. This will be a great way to get to know the youth in the community and to begin collaborating with teachers. Also a volunteer in Batey 8 (just a few kilometers from B9) began a cement floor project in Batey 9. Since he will be finishing his service in a few weeks and does not have adequate time to complete the project, I have agreed to help him finish. This will be an excellent introduction to building projects so that I will be ready to go with my own when the time comes.
Public health challenges and needs abound in the Bateys in this area. It is exciting to think about the project possibilities, though at this point that is all that they are …possibilities. Hopefully, at least some of them will become reality at some point within the next two years.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

more pictures!

Community Based Training is COMPLETED! We are all happy to pass this chapter and to get ready for the next. Monday we get our official placement sites and then Tuesday we leave to visit them for five days. After that we swear in as Peace Corps Volunteers and off we go to our sites....all by ourselves. It is somewhat frightening, but inevitable and part of the experience. Here are some more pictures from CBT.

Playing duck duck elefant (I couldn't remember how to say goose).

Reading to kids at the school.
The books for the library that I was working to get actually did arrive. Just in time, the day before we left.

Yes, that is me breaking the ground with a pico.

This is our little test garden we made in training.

At the beach our last weekend of CBT. We had so much fun jumping off you would have thought we were at a theme park.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Second photo is from the beach we have been going to on the weekends, Salinas. This is the salt flats at sunset.

Top pic is for my MCH lovers! This is in my neighbors front yard and its a common site. Pigs and goats and chickens running around are as common as dogs and cats in the backyard.

Thanks so much for all of the Birthday wishes. It is wonderful to know that you all are still thinking about me!!!

This week we have been covering youth sexual health. Peace Corps Dominican Republic uses an integrated life skills approach that covers a range of topics including self esteem, communication, negotiation skills, reproductive organs, STIs, and family planning. The program is called Escojo Mi Vida ( I chose my life).

Though we have not officially received our placements, we all have a good idea of where we are going. My placement, unless something changes, will be in Batey 7 or 9 in the province of Bahoruco. Bahoruco is in the southwest peninsula, the poorest and hottest part of the country. A batey is a community that has been set up around a sugar cane company. They are typically characterized by a larger Haitian population, a higher HIV/AIDS prevalence, greater poverty levels, and a plethora of public health challenges. My project partner or counterpart is World Vision, an international NGO. I am excited about my placement thus far as it presents many opportunities to work with Haitians, learn a little Creole, and get my hands dirty in one of the neediest places in the country. My only concern is that creating my first garden is going to be a bit more challenging in this desert-like climate.

After two weeks of emotional recovery, I am now able to openly say that I had scabies. Though it was awful disgusting, and incredibly terrifying, I can say that it was not as bad as I imagined scabies would be. Needless to say, I beg all to pray that it does not return! My poor Dona was mortified. Literally, she was more upset and distressed than I was. I have no clue as to how I got it. Though the families I have lived with are very poor by most of our standards, it does not mean they are dirty. My Dona cleans more than I would EVER think of cleaning my own home. It’s crazy! It is like the equivalent of spring cleaning twice a week.

New developments:

I have become a professional mosquito killer.

As I walk down the street instead of hearing hissing noises and “Americana!”, I now hear “Hola Kati”. This is incredibly gratifying and warming to my soul!

We have two new volunteers with us who transferred from Bolivia. One of them is also from North Carolina and will be placed very close to my site. I am excited to get to work with her and we are happy to have new members on our shrunken, but still strong, team.