April 2, 2005
We’ve been in field training for about 3 weeks now. What a switch! Three of us are in a little town (2000 census counted 12,300 odd people, half under 18). The streets aren’t paved, and it’s very noisy with only one main street and motor bikes going by every five seconds. Veragua is a very poor town. The electricity runs maybe two hours a day, and half the time it’s in the middle of the night. Everyone leaves their lights on all the time, so half the time I wake up in the middle of the night with all the lights on.
The lady I am living with is 38, and she has a boy 12 and a girl 6. Her husband took off for the U.S. three years ago and hasn’t been back since. She thinks he has another woman there, so is planning to divorce him. The photo at right is Madeline (my host daughter) playing “kitchen” with a friend. They are using empty bottles and tin cans and having a great time.
The main meal is at midday, and we generally have some kind of meat (because volunteers like meat). Normally, these people live on rice and boiled bananas or boiled sweet potatoes or boiled yucca. Breakfast is a roll and coffee. The kids don’t seem to eat anything other than rice. They "pass" on the meat most of the time, and always pass on the vegetables (she’s really good at giving me vegetables at midday). Hardly ever get fruit. I get milk in my coffee in the morning, but the kids rarely get milk. Really sad. Ought to be good for my health, all that complex carbohydrate and no Ben and Jerry’s!!
It WAS good for my health! I lost more than 20 pounds while in the DR.
Our task here is to compress the experiences needed in the next two years into 6 weeks. So we learned to make a community diagnostic by doing one. We started observing in high school classrooms and next week will teach a class utilizing the computer lab (which has a whole 4 computers). These schools are incredible. The students stay put, and the teachers move every 45 minutes for three periods, then recess, then move every 30 minutes for 3 classes. The teachers carry around with them a chair if they want one, their personal chalk and eraser. There aren’t enough chair for all the students. I think my teacher isn’t average. She has a monthly lesson plan and seemed organized so that there wasn’t a lot of wasted time, but my two colleagues say their classes are a joke. My classrooms are all outside, roof and half walls with dirt floors. My teacher teaches “biology” which is, I think, actually science because she’s currently teaching “power,” i.e., Ohms Law. I found some neat stuff on the Internet on electricity that I think I can put on the four computers and actually show her how to incorporate computers in her classroom. Her other classes last week were “Orientation,” which apparently has only the one meeting once a week; this week they started “Human Sexuality.” So the beginning lesson consisted of her dictating the definitions and objectives of the unit. There is no book (although the science classes have a book). Interestingly, the unit will include something on behaviors good and bad. I also found some great stuff on the Internet for this unit.
We will be having a class or workshop for the teachers, probably next week. The last government gave all teachers the option to buy a computer at discount so many of them have them and haven’t a clue how to use them, turning them on/off with the electric outlet!
My companions all went to the beach this afternoon, but I went home after our meeting. My host “mother” took me to the beach nearby a couple of times. It’s so touristy I don’t care for it, but there are palm trees, sand, and a clean, warm ocean. This is across the street from my house where a man is harvesting grass for the horses to eat. He is waving to me! At right are some children playing in the nearby river.
April 24, 2005
Back in Santo Domingo yesterday. Field Training was really good, and I learned a lot about how education works here. I’m attaching a file of classroom observations for anyone who is particularly interested in the state of the art in DR. At the end of our stay I taught a small and short class, probably five hours, on how to write a business letter using word. Originally I was going to teach some stuff in Word, but it turned out that the kids (high school, so supposedly “advanced”) couldn’t even insert blank lines in a document. So I amended my plans and taught them how to insert blank lines, use the arrow keys, backspace and delete, etc. At one point I gave them the homework assignment to write a letter to a friend. It was funny because the night before while chatting with neighbors a man had said that Americans are cold—neither men nor women are romantic like Dominicans. Well, I think he may be right. When the students started typing their letters, I saw that one was really a love letter. Words to the effect, my dear friend Elizabeth, I can’t live without you, all I think about is you, etc. Can you imagine an American 16 year old writing a love letter for homework?