Monday, March 2, 2009

A Clear Vision

Here´s another example of just how amazing medical missions are. The last mission I worked with changed lives in just a few hours of surgery. Dominicans´ faces, mouths, arms, hands, and feet were made functional once again. Parents were so thankful for all the miracles the medical team performed in those short two weeks. Peace Corps volunteers served as translators for the dominican patients and the American doctors and nurses. We were all glowing with pride at the end of the mission, seeing just how much our hard work had paid off.

Peace Corps accompanies seven medical missions throughout the year ranging from general health to plastic surgery. Currently there is a mission near Santiago performing various types of eye surgeries, regular checkups, as well as giving out glasses for those who need them. For the past year I had been waiting for this mission to come back to Santiago to see if they could help my little vecina, Yisneris. She was born with estravismo, basically cross-eyed, but more everywhere unpredictable eyes. In order for her to focus on anything just a few feet away, she would tilt her head back and look down her nose. The local doctors were worried that if they didn´t operate soon she would end up with some form of brain damage. At 3 months, they gave her an eye patch with hope here eyes would correct themselves, but 2 years later and her they are still as crooked as when she was born. So we jumped on the chance that this mission might be able to squeeze her in to their schedule. After a month of e-mails and phone calls we made the list. I accompanied Yisneris and her mom the day of their surgery and que emoción. To see this little girls life change in just a short hour. Of course, Yisneris could really care less now, but it will make all the difference once she starts school. So many kids are made fun of their entire lives for something that could be fixed in just an hour.
She went into the OR screaming and came out pissed (she wanted her leche) but her eyes were perfectly striaght and moving in unison. Increíble. We are all so grateful for the organizations who work together to make missions like these possible.

Happily Ever After

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1 Wonderful Year

That´s right. Johemi is 1 year old. I feel like we´ve been talking about this birthday for so long. Jan. 16 we celebrated with an Hora Santa, an hour of praying and giving thanks for Johemi´s year with us. When Johemi was born, her mother Sugermi (my good friend) made a promise to God that if her daughter made it to her first birthday she would celebrate with an Hora Santa. The local kids came over, we sat in the living room, prayed, sang songs, then drank ginger hot chocolate.

The next day was the wild party. We blew up balloons, made a piñata, cleaned, decorated, and watched Johemi fall in love with all the colors around her, that is until balloons started popping.

About 25 kids showed up, although half were not invited, and we played games, sang, ate and ate cheetohs, cake, icecream, cookies, chocolate, popcorn. A piñata to boot. Dios, those kids ate a lot. And Johemi kept right up with the best of them. I thought for sure that little thing would be sick by the end of the night. Nothing. Nada. She obviously has built up the tough dominican stomach.

Johemi became a little braver that day and started walking everywhere she could.

I loved being the photographer for that day. Trying to capture all the angles that would should the true nature of her first birthday. We put her next to the cake hoping she would climb right in and devour it. She was a little worried at first of being so high up on the table, but once she tasted a little frosting all fears were lost. Oh, there was cake EVERYWHERE.
Great Photos. Great Times.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gobble Gobble

Thanksgiving. A day of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, friends, family, and thanks. We went around the table and shared what we were thankful for, just how I make my family do at home. Did you do it in my absence, familia? De verdad, I have much to be thankful for. This past year was a big decision year. Family visits, Mom´s first trip out of country, My wedding, Dad and Dave´s Weddings, Enamuel´s visa, Him stepping on American soil for the first time, NY. Huge Year. And truely I can say we made it through with very few bumps in the road or turbulance in the air.

Thank you for lending us your gaurdian angels.

My friends here have been my family. I love them all and am very thankful for all the memories and laughs we´ve shared. I will miss them. I´m thankful for having a husband who adores me, a supportive family to go home to in April, and that I don´t have to pay rent for the next few years :)

I am thankful that you have been a faithful reader of my blog, my life here in the DR.

Thank You.

Our Clan: Alyssa, Wilson, Ruth, Me, Betsy, Travis, Colleen, Allen, and Jake (Jeff, the photographer, missing from picture)

Peace Corps Thanksgiving has a few more twists in the mix. All of the regulars listed above, but think bigger. 150 people bigger. Swimming pool, Costume Turkey Trot, dance contests, talent show, dominos tournament, lots of rum, and Kentucky, our fine arts dance troop. ( M.C. Hammer´s "Can´t touch this" was interpreted as "Kentucky" by a local dominican, therefore becoming the name of our dance troop.)

Check out the video on youtube
under the name Kentucky meets Peace Corps
John on drums
Jake on Confetti
Besty on Tribal moves
Ryan on Bumble Bee act
Enrique as Turkey
Rachel sings Turkey song
Kevin, Zoe, Ruth, Alyssa, Jeff, and I bust out the moves, and I had the pleasure of being choreographer. (I´m the one with the black hat. keep watching)

Alyssa and her boyfriend, Wilson. His first Thanksgiving.

Yes, we were very happy!

Ruth accompanied us for the big day. Her first Thanksgiving as well.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NJ visit

The last hugs from Francis, Yere, and Ramonita. It was sad but still exciting. His family is happy for Enmanuel and his new opportunity. Yere, his daughter, doesn´t quite understand what going to Nueva York means. She wasn´t nearly as sad as she should have been.

We arrived in one piece and with all our luggage still filled with all the crazy cheeses, avocados, and sweets Ramonita send over to her family. (I was sure they´d all get swiped in immigration)

Enmanuel loved it all. The plane ride, the sites, the beautiful lights, the paved and organized roads. Isn´t America wonderful! But very Chilly! We toughed it out for a bit, but then we had to go back inside the airport to wait for our ride.

Welcome to NJ Enmanuel. His aunt Sandra and uncle Williams came to rescue us from the airport. We arrived at their apartment and shortly after arrived all the visitas. Aunts and Uncles, Cousins and friends. Grandma Carlilin is always there for a huge, loving, welcome hug.

Downtown Paterson. A day of window shopping.

Our first, but not last, Broadway Musical. Merry Poppins. It was worth every cent.

A typical Sunday afternoon with the Duran´s in NJ. Everybody gets together at Enmanuel´s Uncle´s house and dance, play, chat, listen to music, and run around. His family is very Unido.

2nd National IT youth conference

First place winners for the Movie Maker Video Contest.

Hurry. Find a boat of 4. Sorry Lori, you´re out of the game.

How to manage their labs. Who will make the most funds?

Our local super heroes. Aqua Man- cleaning the water and talking to the fish. Super Belleza- turns everything she touches into somthing of beauty. Helmet Man- Protecting people from falling objects, etc.

Isn´t Photoshop Fun!

Birdie in a Perch. Avita Ramita.

Second National Encargados del Futuro conference put on by us Peace Corps Volunteers was yet again a success. I would say an even bigger success. The tech classes were interesting for the youth, and the games blew their minds. I rocked out all the dínamicas (icebreakers) I could think of . There was hardly ever a dull moment.

The youth learned about Robots, Photoshop, Lab management, Publisher, Excel, and had a great time being creative in the digital scavenger hunt, talent show, and their home videos made with Movie Maker (way impressive). Check out the video my youth put togther for Las Uvas. They won 2nd place for all their techi tricks.

We finished the 3 day conference with certificates, prizes, and a surprise 1gb flash drive for each youth. They were ecstatic.

Another special visit

Face off. The best in Las Uvas vs. the best in Fargo. Chess, connect four, and ping pong. Who won? Let's just say Enmanuel has some practicing to do before he heads up to Fargo. We'll have a rematch.

It was just like Alice in Wonderland. Why is everything so big? No, Dave and Enmanuel didn't shrink if that is what you were thinking, but it was like we were warped into another world. Just beyond a few giant concrete walls was paradise, a place most inlanders never catch a glimpse of, a place known as Playa Dorada. The games were giant size, the drinks were free (well, prepaid for), the pools were clean and beautiful, and the people were mostly white. Were we really in the DR?

Of course, Ramonita's cooking was a hit, again, with the new visita.

Why rent a car when you can have great carro publico photos like these!

Free but very expensive prepaid for drinks.

The hippest Merengue, Bachata, and Salsa discoteca in Santo Domingo. Everyone was out on the dance floor that night.

Practicing the Dominican Lifestyle.

We saved the best for last. 27 charcos. Wow, what an experience. It was an absolutely beautiful, breath taking (meaning exhausting), hike up the mountains and into the waterfalls of Imbert. Note our helmets and life jackets- yeah, they were a necessity for this rough and tough adventure. Our well trained guide pulled us up waterfall after waterfall. He was one strong man. By the time we got to the twelfth waterfall, my legs were frozen and my knees were shaking. We then turned around and had options of sliding (if slideable) or jumping down the 12 waterfalls. However, after Enmanuel made his first jump of his life (take a look at the video below) and forgot to plug his nose and swallowed a gallon of water, he managed to find a way to monkey down the side of the rest of the falls.

All made it back to their homes alive that evening, but we were exhausted and I had a very sore tailbone from jumping off a very high cliff and doing a butt flop. Now, a month later and I still can't sit right.