Friday, December 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 1)

I'm sorry I've been so pathetic about updating this blog. If you're still around to read this, thank you for sticking with me!

In order to cover all (ok, some) of the things that have happened in the three months since I last updated, I'm going to have a:

— 1 —
As most of you probably know, I had my first trip back to the US from Oct 20 - Nov 7. I was home for both of my parents' birthdays, Halloween, the dedication of my youngest goddaughter, and an early Thanksgiving meal with our neighbors. I kept telling people that the two goals of my trip were to see lots of friends and eat a lot of good food, and I was successful on both fronts! At final weigh-in, I was almost 8 pounds heavier than when I first arrived home (I had lost a lot of weight in the PC, so I needed those 8 pounds back). Some friends were busy or far away, but I got to see most of the people I wanted to. Overall, it was a very good trip. I would have liked to stay longer, but I got my vacation's worth, so I couldn't really complain about coming back. Especially since I got to have another warm homecoming with all the kids here!
— 2 —
Thanksgiving, being an American holiday, is a time when all the Peace Corps Volunteers get together to celebrate. We went in to Santo Domingo, swam in a fancy rooftop pool, ate traditional Thanksgiving food, had a talent show, spoke English, and caught up with friends we haven't seen in months.
— 3 —
Before my trip home, my major focus was teaching English and computers to 5th-8th graders in the local school. Computer classes weren't bad, but we only had 8 computers for about 150 kids, so they each got to share a computer for about 20 minutes, and theres only so much anyone can learn in 20 minutes. English classes were worse, because most of the students didn't actually care to learn, so I got the 'substitute teacher treatment' and nobody learned anything. I gave a test the week before I left and caught about 10% of the students cheating. About the same number of students passed. I was thinking of ways to rework the classes by selecting out the students who actually cared to learn, but when I talked to the principal, she just had me drop the classes altogether. Also, she didn't want so many students in the computer lab, because she didn't want anything to happen to the computers, so those classes were dropped too.
— 4 —
I was perfectly happy to lose English and computer classes, because that left me free to focus on what I really enjoy: children's literacy! I used to go in to 3rd grade once a week, but now I have time to visit 2nd and 4th grade as well. I sit in the back with some reading books and the teacher sends students over one by one. We read a few pages together, and that's the only one-on-one work many of these kids get. They love it (and fight over whose turn it is), and I've seen real improvement. Most of them won't ever use English, and those who have access to computers mainly surf facebook, but reading is a valuable lifetime skill. And I'm nice when I'm working one-on-one, but I had to get mean when I was dealing with mobs of students cheating right under my nose.
— 5 —
As of yesterday, I have a kitten! His name is Jerónimo, which is the Spanish variation of Jerome. Saint Jerome was a contemporary of Saint Augustine, so Jerónimo and Agustín go well together! He's tiny, and I have to wonder if he was ready to leave his mother, who lives with my former host family. They've been saying for about a week that he was weaned and ready, but he spent a lot of time hiding and yowling. Recently, though, they've changed from lonely yowls to demanding yowls, even after I give him chicken and salami to complement his cat food (most cats here get fed rice, I hope he knows how luck he is). Also, he's come out of hiding and started getting into trouble, so he seems to be growing up just fine. As soon as he gets a bit bigger, he's going to take charge of Homeshed Security and secure our borders from unwelcome rodents and arachnids. He's got the claws for it...take it from one who picked him up before he was ready.
— 6 —
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, despite the warm weather and the fact that almost nobody here has ever even seen snow. There aren't many evergreen trees around, but some of the families get small fake trees, and lots of people put up lights. I'm happy to learn that most Dominican Christmas songs are just the classic English Christmas songs translated into Spanish. So there are glowing Christmas lights and familiar carols playing, and it's just enough to put me in the holiday mood.
— 7 —
I've learned how to make pickles. They're expensive here, and one of the PC doctors is from Bulgaria, and she told me the traditional Bulgarian method for making pickles. It's surprisingly easy, provides me with tasty veggies, and is a lot cheaper than buying them in the store. Now the Dominicans are getting interested, so I guess pickles will be one part of international culture that I share with my batey.

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