Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tito the Guard Goose

So I had this thought about sweetened condensed milk the other day: and this thought mainly was that it is ridiculously good. In Vietnam, every day we would drink Café Sua Da, a magical drink that tasted exactly like coffee ice-cream only better and in a drink form. The magic ingredient? Sweetened condensed milk. Then yesterday, allllllll the way across the world on this lovely little island nation in the Caribbean, I had one (ok, two) mango batitas (smoothies) that were so good I could barely breathe. The secret ingredient? You guessed it.

I refuse to look up the nutritional facts because I don’t even want to know. What I know is enough – it is the best thing since butter and Willis ranch steaks that a cow ever contributed to this world. It makes my life a better place.

Speaking of my life, it is about to temporarily change. Tomorrow we leave for the training site where we will be training about 30 staff over the next week. I am super excited – and exhausted already – and super excited again. I am excited to start training (In Spanish!) – to meet the staff, to see how all of our work comes together, to see the leadership team step into their roles.

And to see how the saga of Tito the Guard Goose unfolds.

I first met Tito a couple of days ago when we took a quick trip out to the training site. We were greeted right off the bat by Tito, a giant goose. It turns out that Tito is the .. pet(?) of the owner of the site. He is shockingly similar to a vicious guard dog. He sticks as close as possible to the side of the owner - When the owner goes upstairs, Tito goes upstairs, when the owner goes downstairs, Tito goes downstairs. It is very evident that the owner loves Tito very much, and pets and kisses on him and gives him little treats just like he was a beloved dog. I found this strangely charming until I found out the hard way that Tito is fiercely protective. When I made the mistake of crossing between Tito and his owner, I got bit! Tito came at me so fast I didn’t even have the chance to react, and he chomped on the side of my leg. It hurt! Needless to say he is effective, and I stayed a healthy distance from his owner for the rest of our time there.

However, our camp director didn’t learn this lesson quite as quickly. She was out picking cherries with a couple other people on our leadership team, an activity that Tito clearly did not approve of. He apparently thought that the cherry-picking situation was a large problem to warrant reinforcement, so he called in the back-ups. Soon there were about 6 geese in ‘V’ formation bee-lining for our camp director with wings flapping and necks swinging. The rest of us were still sitting at our lunch table, and heard a huge ruckus of flapping wings, honking, and our camp director yelling “AUXILIO! AUXILIO!” (Help, Help!) The owner had to run over and intervene.

I have no doubt that Tito will add a little bit of spice to our training, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, my Magic soap is still magic, chacos are still horrifically stinky (thanks for the advice though dad, if I can scrounge up some baking soda I am totally going to try it out), I am learning a lot of camp-y Spanish words, and I am on the lookout for more ways to incorporate sweetened condensed milk into my life.

ps – happy birthday ito ito ito.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Strong Bigote

I learned a new word today: Bigote.

I learned this word today on our drive to visit the site where we will be holding training next week.  It was a hot and sticky ride.  Up until today it has been raining, which though semi-depressing and soggy, also has meant that it has stayed pleasantly cool.  Today, not so much.  Its about a 45 minute drive to the training site from La Romana, where we are staying now.  Myself and my three gringo colleagues piled into the back seat of our camp director's sister's car for the ride over.  We used the "one butt cheek on the seat and one on the lap of the person next to you" method, and within about 2 minutes we were so sweaty that we were sticking together and anytime anyone moved an arm or a leg it was like pulling velcro apart. 

This heat also didn't do anything for my stinky-licious chaco sandals.  These things continue reek with a force that I never thought was possible. Our camp director (who is now one of my new favorite people - fiesty, spunky, about 4 foot 9 but enough personality to fill a football team) told me that I should hang my feet out of the window while we were driving.  It gets worse every day, which isn't the best news considering that they are the only shoes that I brought for the next three weeks other than a pair of shower flip flops. 

Anyway, while we were driving (and sweating, and smelling bad), a woman crossed the street right in front of us and came about 2 inches from getting plowed over by a motorcycle.  We all gasped and then watched as she proceeded to attempt to push the motorcyclist off of his bike.  He wobbled, but continued on.  This in and of itself struck us all as amusing, but really what was funny was that she had a very thick... bigote.  Let's just say that women don't usually have bigotes, at least not like this one.  This lady had a bigote that rivaled Groucho Marx or Sonny Bono (in the hayday).  I mean, we are not talking a few little stray hairs - we are talking a full fledged legitimate mustache.

As our camp director said: a very STRONG bigote.

.......Maybe you had to be there.

It was funny, trust me.  The strong bigote had us in fits of sticky hot laughter that got us through a good chunk of the drive to the training site.

Time for cold shower and bed. 
Miss you loved ones.

PS - Magic soap update: I brushed my teeth with it last night and this morning - and it wasn't bad!  It didn't even taste that bad.  It did foam like crazy - to the point where it looked like I had a small beard of foam hanging down from my mouth (which amused me for much longer than I would have originally thought and I even contemplated taking a picture ... )

Friday, July 23, 2010

Magic Soap, and other magic things.

Since I now have a life where I live out of a very small suitcase (read: carry on) about 50% of the time, I am on a personal quest... no, more than that.. an EPIC personal quest to reduce the amount of STUFF in my life that I need to lug around while at the same time make room for small comforts that make me feel happy, comfortable, at home in sometimes not so comfortable or at-homey places.

So in other words, I am trying to reduce the amount of un-fun stuff that I carry around so that I have room to pack fun things like... People magazines.  (I never said I was a good person.)

Ok, so the latest things I decided to eliminate: liquidy stuff... and underwear.. but the underwear I will save for another story.  (I know, you can't wait.  You are probably thinking this is the best blog in the world.)

Back to the point.

I bought magic soap.

For real.  Check it out: http://www.drbronner.com/.

It smells like peppermint and it has 18 uses or something...I don't know what they all are, but for my purposes, it is shampoo, body soap, laundry detergent (very importante when you are eliminating the number of underwears you pack...), and toothpaste.  Ok, I'll admit, I haven't brushed my teeth with it yet.  But I am going to, tonight.

This trip is its test run, so I still brought toothpaste and shampoo and stuff.. but if it works out... IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES!  Just one little bottle is all that I will need.  Think of how many trashy magazines could fill the space that all of those little miniature bottles of body wash/shampoo/conditioner used to take! (ok, its probably only 1, but still!)

I have been itching to share about this magic soap, so I appreciate the blog-world outlet.  My work companions are sick of hearing about this.  They haven't said so (they are very nice people), but I can tell.  To be fair, I updated them on the soap saga three different times today.  And the saga is not really much of a saga... its more like.. telling someone you just washed your hands/hair/face/underwear/etc.

Simple pleasures.

I hope you all find the equivalent of magic soap today.


PS - everything I own (including my clothes, hair and skin) now smells like peppermint. I am still deciding if this is an upside or a downside to this new system.

I Espeak Espanish!

Oh my goodness I forgot how much I love love LOVE spanish...

The fact that I walk down the street and hear it makes me happy.
And the fact that the signs are written in it makes me happy.
And the face that I remembered more than 3 words makes me happy.
And when I successfully have a conversation, I don't even know what to do with myself.

PS - the fact that the last 3 nights i have stayed up late reading the dictionary may mean I have hit a new level of nerdiness.
PPS - my chacos smell worse than ANYTHING should ever be allowed to smell.  How is it possible that two slabs of nylon and rubber could reek so much?
PPS - It has rained non-stop since I got here.  I could write an entire poem about how much I love my poncho.

PPPPS - Did I even say that I'm in the Dominican Republic??

A small mystery animal just ran across the floor.  I hope it wasn't a rat.
Although... there may be worse possibilities.  I'm not sure.
Let's hope for the best.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm back...

I'm back, but I'm also on my way out.
My legs are still itchy from the Vietnamese bug bites....
and I'm about to leave again.

Vietnam was INCREDIBLE.  So, so incredible, for so many reasons.  I have so much to share still about it...

Fast forward fast forward fast forward....

10 days between trips this time, and it went FAST.
Between a healthy bout of jet lag, lots of gear-up work for DR, plus some time in and around New Haven with wonderful loved ones... 10 days went by in a blink.

But in a good way.

Because I loved my time in Vietnam, I loved my time at home, and I am incredibly excited about what is ahead.

Right now I'm too sleepy to write coherent things, so I'll put up a couple of my favorite pictures of Vietnam..

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The kids are here!

They are the most precious little people I have ever seen.
I cried when they got off the bus because they were so cute.
I had a green grass skirt on my head as a wig, and I cried, even while I was jumping up and down and clapping and singing to welcome them.
Then I cried because of how much I hate HIV.
Then I cried again because they were so cute.

Its been a teary 24 hours.
They are napping right now.
I see what all of our work is for.

Status: thinking all of this is so so so worth the sweat and the bugs and the rice for every meal.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Is this really my life?!

For the moment, I live on a mat in a tent.  
I shower with frogs and geckos.  
I eat with chopsticks out of a little bowl.  
I sleep 10 inches from my supervisor. 
I lost count at 50 when trying to count the number of bug bites on one of my legs. 
I eat rice 3 times a day.
I sang Heal the World (in English) with a room full of Vietnamese camp staff last night.  
Then they sang happy birthday to American for us in honor of the 4th of July.  
Obnoxious drunk Australians were keeping everyone awake a few nights ago, but I watched as our logistics coordinator (the sweetest little lady you have ever met in your life) took a megaphone at 6:30am the next morning and blared it in front of their tent.  
My most valued possession at the moment is a racket - it looks much like a tennis racket - that is electrified and is used to zap mosquitoes in your tent.  
I find this endlessly entertaining.
I have been told more than once that I have a good Vietnamese accent, even though I can't even remember how to say "how are you?"  
I have worn a blue wig 3 times in two days. 
 Yesterday I had to teach our interpreter what "air quotes" are, after using them in an inappropriate story.
I have NEVER seen capacity building as successful as what is happening with this program here.
I am proud to be part of this team.
 We just finished a week of training staff.
The kids come tomorrow for their camp.
This is the coolest job ever.