Monday, September 19, 2011

Home sweet home!

This week I finally moved into my own place.  Living with a host family has its advantages, but it also has plenty of downsides, and most volunteers move out after 3-4 months.  In my batey, there are very few available homes, but a friend managed to find me a place: their neighbor's toolshed!  No, seriously, he was using it to hold his tools, but it's nicer than your average toolshed.  He cleaned it up, painted it, put in a new door, and here I am.  It's about 12x16 feet with two doors and two windows, and it's connected to his house.  He ran me a line from his inverter, so when the power goes out I still have a working lightbulb (which is plenty to light up my single room.

I build a table, a bed, and a shelf a out of cinder blocks and boards, and bought a table from a former volunteer, and that's enough to give me a kitchen, closet, sleeping area, and enough storage space (although I need to get around to organizing...I'm still in a just-recently-moved mess).

It's small, but it's a lot bigger than where I was living before, and I have more freedom.  And after months of rice and beans, I'm happy to be cooking for myself.  After some bean burritos, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and my beloved oatmeal for breakfast every day, friends are already commenting that I look fatter (that's a compliment here in the DR).

The major downside is that there's no bathroom.  They have a latrine, but the walls and roof blew down, so it's 'open-air' and not available for use.  Until that gets repaired, I have to find other facilities, like the school where I work, the church across the street, or inside my landlord's house when they're around.  I have a tub inside where I bathe, and that works for me.

Overall, I'm pretty happy in my converted toolshed.  I've never needed a large or fancy home, and I can do without most creature comforts (that's why the Peace Corps was a good match), and my relationship with my host family wasn't great.  My landlord and his wife are wonderful, and already feel more like family than my host family did.  She brings me lunch, fresh bread, or ripe bananas, none of which is necessary, but it fits with Latin American hospitality.

Speaking of hospitality, I need to start entertaining, but my place is small, I need to practice my cooking, and I just moved in, so I haven't had many guests so far, except a few who came uninvited.  First there was a large frog, then a huge moth, and finally a gigantic tarantula.  Killing them seemed to go against the PC ethos, so I shooed them all out alive, but if that tarantula comes back he probably won't be as lucky the second time.  The thing was enormous.

Some pictures.  Pardon the mess; but given that I'm a bachelor living in a toolshed, it's really not that bad!
Before moving anything in, setting up my table.  I'm standing in the front door.

View from the opposite corner (my closet).  The door on the left goes outside, and the door on the right goes into the other part of the toolshed (still used for tools), and then outside to the backyard.

Most of the roofs in town are zinc.  Since this picture, I added a tarp to avoid leaks and try to shield some of the sun.

My first guest.  Dominicans are scared of frogs.

I don't think they're very scary, so I put my foot in the shot for scale.

I haven't done much to make my place feel 'homey,' but I did get these dishtowels, which reminded me of a little girl I know who loves cows.

My second guest.

I shooed him outside three different times, and he kept finding his way back in.  I finally caught him in a box and didn't let him out until I turned off the lights and went to bed.

My kitchen: gas stove, bottled water, a cooler, and a bowl of soapy water.  What more do you need?

New view from the front door.  The kitchen is to the right.

My bed.  Netalie and I have now lived in four different homes together.

My third guest.  I was literally sitting at my computer editing the pictures of the frog and the moth when this guy came in.  God has a funny sense of humor.

I put a can opener in the shot for scale, because I, um, didn't feel like using my foot.  He's the biggest tarantula I've seen in the country, and I think that makes him the biggest spider I've ever seen in person.  Have I mentioned how much I love my mosquito net?
Fortunately, he didn't move very fast, and when I started taking pictures he decided to find a more peaceful place to sleep and creeped his way out.  Actually, he was just going to wait in the corner, but a long broom and I encouraged the rest of the way out.

Actually, I have had other guests: when I moved the table in, it came with a flock of six children who helped me organize and sweep and eat my chocolate.  Actually, they managed the chocolate by themselves, but that's ok.  Apparently, most of the town avoids my (former) host family, so people are more comfortable coming to visit me now that I'm not with them.

There it is!  Home sweet home.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Singing in the scattered showers

In honor of the latest storm that's passing through, and of the rainy season in general, here's a quick post to present:

Four Reasons It's Better to Shower in the Rain
  1. Conserve Water.  Around here, the water isn't treated, it can give you nasty diseases, and it's free, so it's not exactly precious.  However, saving water is a good habit to get in, and it would be embarrassing if your bucket ran out of water halfway through bathing, so rainwater is a great way use less of the greenish stuff from the bucket.
  2. More Privacy.  My shower has a window at about head level, and there's an excellent view of our front gate.  Even if they can only see my head, there's something awkward about making eye contact with someone while I'm bathing.  Fortunately, nobody goes out in the rain, so rain showers are pleasantly solitary experiences.
  3. Cooler Weather.  Most of the time, it's really uncomfortably hot down here.  And most of the time, I'm sweating.  Like, almost constantly.  It's frustrating to dry off from a bath and immediately start sweating again, but the rain brings cooler weather and that means I feel clean for longer!
  4. The Real Shower Feel.  It may be a bit chilly, and it may be open-air, but if you close your eyes, you can almost convince yourself that you're enjoying the luxury of a cold shower!