Black and Yellow, Platanero

Last night, Brian and I held a Spanish-English language exchange session for some of the kids in Las Lajas. Even though school is finally out for the summer, the kids were really enthusiastic about augmenting their English vocabulary.

To make the lesson more interactive, Brian showed a music video, Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” We paused the video every so often to point out various objects in the scene and teach the kids the English names for the items.

Of course, chief among those items was a variety of Pittsburgh sports gear; now there’s a whole new Pirates fan base in the D.R.. I think this may be the .500 season faithful Pittsburgh fans have been waiting for!

“Black and Yellow” is repeated quite a bit throughout the song and by the end of the video, the kids were all singing along with the refrain “black and yellow, black and yellow, …” This phrase sounds similar to the word “platanero,” which is Spanish for banana vendor. My younger brother, Cristiel, created his own remix of Wiz’s song by alternating “black and yellow” with “platanero.” I’m biased, but I thought his version was pretty catchy.

Hasta luego yinz,

Maria

 

My Hips STILL Lie

Until this morning, it had been a while since I’ve cried. But today, my lacrimal glands became extremely sensitive and lo and behold: a water show that would put Shamu’s routine to shame.

We left Lajas this morning and saying goodbye to the people there, especially my family, was a lot harder than I expected. Who would’ve thought that a mere 10 days in this community was enough to sprout a love and connection to its people. Needless to say, I cried real hard when I had to say goodbye. Of course, it’s not a forever goodbye because I will be returning someday soon to see “my people,” but it’s still sad to be leaving. I’ll miss the kids so much. I worked with them a lot because of the documentary on the artisan school (it’s hilarious and needs to get on this page immediately) They are precious. Especially all the annoying little nuggets that kept calling me Andrea or Carrot. I’ll miss Mariel a lot. She’s Maria and Alex L’s cousin and as crazy as she is, I love her. Even though she teased me more than all the other kids combined. Speaking of Maria and Alex’s family,I’m going to miss Tati, their sister, a ridiculous amount. She let us come into her home and talk and talk and talk about nothing and gave some pretty sweet advice. Saying goodbye to her and the rest of that house was almost embarrassing. Alex Hunt and I cried like newborn piglets. But so did they which shows that they really do care about us.

Saying goodbye to my family was pretty tough too. I’m going to miss my “mom” and “sisters” a lot. Though we did form a great relationship, I’m really sad that I didn’t spend the time that I wanted with them. But, I worry no more since I will definitely maintain contact with them and, God willing, stay with them on our next trip.

Being in Lajas was such an amazing experience, but I do have one regret: not learning how to move my hips the way I was apparently born to do (as a Dominican) The lack of power in our household on most nights hindered me from learning great moves from my sisters. Unfortunately, Shakira’s hit single does not apply to me as my hips, do in fact, lie.

Though I still flail around like a fish out of water on the dance floor, I’ve enjoyed every moment I’ve spent with the people of the community and I’m excited to go through all of my jottings, photographs, and interviews and take the next steps to fulfill our Que Lo Que mission.

It’s been a great 2 weeks on the island of Hispanola and thank God I get to go back home to a bunch of Dominicans and more delicious food. America, I’ll see you tomorrow. I might have to stop at Wendy’s real quick to get a burger, though. I did kind of miss American grease.

Peace & Blessings,

Gwen

My other home

We spent ten days in Las Lajas, now another home for me.  As we got there we were greeted by many community members.  Many of them which i become very close to.  During my time in Las Lajas i can say that these was no better family that i could have been placed with.  Starting with my grandma, she was the most caring person that i have met in my life.  She became the one that took care of us, made us tea when we were sick, gave us umbrellas when it was thunderstorming, just like if were (Ben and I) were her own grandchildren.  Another family member who I became close to was my grandpa, personally i had never had what i want to call grandpa interaction since my dad’s dad died when i was five years old, and my mom’s dad has never been around.  Spending time with my grandpa Felix was the best moments of my stay here, in Las Lajas.  Papa Tony was not around as much since like a father and man of the house he went off every morning to bring bread to the table, but just let me tell ya that he has got the moves, he was a dancing pro. Last but not least, and of course the most important person, the one that keeps this whole family together is Mama Morena.  She was not just a host whose house I stayed at, she became my “Mama Dominicana.” She took care of me when i got sick, showed me off to her friends, and even took me out for a swim at the rich guys house ( that’s another story for another time) and made me cry this morning when we were saying our good bye to each other.  I fell in love with the way that they treated me and will always be greatful  for all they gave me, which was a great experience and love which i know came from the bottom of their heart.

Love my Domincan Family with all my  heart.

Lupe ( in the Dominican “Lupe Brito”)

 

 

Muddy treks

 

 

It’s been 6 days in the campo of Las Lajas.  The days are starting to run together, but in no means is that a bad thing.  I think I am finally used to the environment here, the blistering heat, and the everyday summer showers.  My skin is finally darker, which gives me a little less of a “white boy” look.  My feet have the complexion of a Dominicans, but thats only because of the dirt that’s accumulated on them from my 10 minute muddy trek to town every morning, afternoon, and night.

We have been interacting a lot with the kids of lajas, which was expected.  We just finished a painting on the new Artisan School in town, which went very smoothly and looks great.  I’ve done several projects like this with kids in the States of the same age, but this experience has been different in many ways.   The main difference is that the kids here are much better behaved, staying attentive and respecting our presence.  It may be because we are foreigners and they are more in “awe” so they are trying to be respectful.  Or, it could be because they simply are better behaved.  It is something to think about.  Another difference is that these kids are very attentive and less distracted than children in the States.  Maybe this is because they are brought up in a less fast paced environment then we are.  They don’t have the distractions, such as technology that we do, and to be honest, that may be a better thing.  Who is it to say we are happier or enjoy life more as Americans, the people “blessed” with life’s “pleasures”.  I think in a lot of ways the Dominican people of Lajas are blessed with the lack of our so-called “pleasures”.

But this idea is a little extreme.

A kid named Fraline has told us several times that he wants a computer.  A part of me would love to give him a computer and another part of me says no, he is fine without one.  A computer would be beneficial in so many ways such as education through the web, or creation/design, but it could also be a distraction from the world, life, and the things around him that we as Americans have lost interest in.  But really it’s about balance.  Technology doesn’t have to be good or bad, it really depends on the person and how they use it, whether It is to benefit themselves/others, or not.

It’s amazing how much you can learn while travelling.  When I become a physician, I want to blend both Eastern and Western medicine because I believe they both have strengths where the other has weaknesses.  I also believe that when it comes to different cultures, the same is true.  This is why travelling and learning from your experiences can be so beneficial, you are able to take the strengths of both worlds and make them your own.

 

Buscavida

We’re already in Lajas, so I’m a little late on this one since it’s from Puerto Plata.  Better late than never :)

If the energizer bunny was reincarnated in a 6 yr old Haitian’s body, he would affectionately be named Buscavida. Well, actually he would be affectionately nicknamed Buscavida aka “Looking for Life” aka “Mooch”,  because of his innate ability to walk into any house in town and dance or puppy dog face his way into acquiring food.  I met this rambunctious people climbing kid in Puerto Plata with Que Lo Que and Andres, a peace corps volunteer who’s been in the same inner city barrio for the past year and 7 months.  Andres was kind enough to keep us busy engaging with the projects he’s been working on the past few months, learning and playing with the local kids, jumping off 27 consecutive waterfalls (YESSSSSSS), and experiencing Puerto Plata.

Every night ended with a parade of local kids launched a tactical assault of giggling mayhem on Andres’ small apartment.  I witnessed Buscavida, the unofficial general of the bunch, strut into Andres’ apartment with a mischievous grin on and one mission: to fill our room with the furniture shaking bass of “I like to move it, move it” or “Smooth Criminal”.  You see, Buscavida, along with being Jet Li’s protegee has many other hats.  One has a crooked nose,  is a musical genius, and may-or-may-not-have-kind-of-allegedly liked little kids.  In any case, Buscavida used the room’s table as a stage to showcase his Michael moves, complete with “OoH!”s, moonwalks, and crotch grabs galore.  More than anything, I feel like his genuine happiness infectiously spread like a rumor in a room of 13 yr old girls.  It’s hard to express with words just how happy this little guy was because “Happy” just doesn’t do him justice.  Especially if you’ve seen him moonwalk off a table into a spinning, jumping “OoH!” that makes an entire room of college kids and Dominicans erupt in hysterical laughter.

If you think about it, everyone’s been touched by a kid like this in their life.   Now, it may not have been a 6 yr old–TONS of kids that inhabit the bodies of gray haired men– but you know what I mean.  This experience was special for me, not because it was new, but because of the genuine joy Buscavida brought every time he entered the room.  He was a rambunctious, fun, ridiculous 6 yr old who, along with having an affinity for sharing his dancing booty with every person and inanimate object in the room, also shared a human love for being ridiculous and making people smile.

Here’s to crazy little kids.

Cheers,

Kevin