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.
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 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.
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.