Usually I get reminded how long its been since I’ve written a post when I get an email update from fellow PCV James’ blog: http://jamescorps.wordpress.com/ . I feel as though he articulates well many of the feelings and experiences common to most PCV’s, so I encourage you to check out him out, especially during the lulls between posts here.
That said, I figured an update here is over due. It is a sort of strange in-between time with most of my groups, as my Construye Tus Suenos business class has finished, as has my Chicas Brillantes group, and my Escojo group is also nearing its graduation. Although I didn’t really want to teach English again, I started a night class on Tuesdays for some of the neighborhood kids who really want it.
My main focus recently has been on organizing the sports programs in the community, starting with a basketball league for 10-12 year olds. We had our first practice to evaluate skill levels of the players this past Sunday, and I am excited to both have a league up and running for the youth in the community as well as have the potential to teach certain values and lessons which I feel can really be driven home through sports (teamwork, dedication, sportsmanship, responsibility, punctuality, etc.). Currently the youth lack pretty much all of these skills necessary to succeed in any team sport and pickup games are spent equal parts arguing and playing. One of the issues which came up at our last practice was that a few youth didn’t want to play on the same team as others who they thought were less talented.
Even though he retired before some of the kids were born, the majority still claim Michael Jordan as their favorite player (my favorite spelling of his name during our registration: “Maico Lloday”). As very few youth actively follow the NBA here (more due to a lack of available media than interest), Jordan is one of the few household names from the NBA here (along with Lebron, Kobe and to a lesser extent Durant) which probably explains his “popularity”. Nonetheless, since most of the youth claim him as their favorite player, we had a brief lesson about how Jordan was not only a great player himself, but how he brought out the best in his teammates, elevating their level of play as well. He didn’t look around at his team and say “I’m better than all of you, so I don’t want to play with you”, he stepped up as a leader, rose to the challenge and ultimately won 6 championships. I’m hoping that having the opportunity to be part of a team for the first time, will allow the kids to get over some of the petty differences which they have when playing pick up games where an inferior player is instantly kicked off the court for the next kid and teamwork and sportsmanship are blatantly absent.
In other news, this weekend my group of volunteers will be celebrating 1 year in country by heading to the beach in the South. It should be a lot of fun, and I will put up pictures when I’m back. The following weekend we have the Construye Tus Suenos National Conference, where selected youth will present their business plans in a competition to win funding for their ideas. While my joven wasn’t selected to present, we received positive feedback on our business plan and were told that since the business is already up and running, we would have the best chance to secure a loan from the micro financing organizations which will be present at the competition. The possibility of securing a loan to grow the business (they would like to purchase a second oven and a mixing machine to be able to produce larger quantities of bread to meet the market’s demand, as well as add cakes to their variety of products) is exciting and a nice consolation to not competing for the prize money. The competition is supposedly moving towards a focus on micro finance and small loans versus free prize money, so it is additionally exciting to be part of the project which is pioneering the Peace Corp’s relationship with these lending organizations.
One last short story: I recently completed the medical and dental exams which are required for us one year into service. While at the doctor’s office, the doctor struck up a conversation on who I thought would win the NBA Finals this upcoming year. As it came to the part of the exam to turn your head and cough, he walked across the room and noticed my Licey (my favorite Dominican baseball team) hat sitting on the counter top next to his gloves. He asked me if I was a Licey fan and I told him I was and asked if he was a Licey fan too. He shook his head in disgust and said he was an Escogido fan (the other team from Santo Domingo and one of Licey’s main rivals), then as he snapped on his gloves added “this is not good for you, since I’m about to touch your testicles.” In USA terms, this is roughly the equivalent of a Red Sox fan/doctor literally having a Yankee fan by the short and curlies.
Anyways, I’m off to take care of a few errands and build a second table for my house this afternoon, before heading to my Escojo class tonight where we will discuss a design for the non-violence mural we plan to paint in the community.
A few pictures from the bakery which we are trying to get funding to grow to meet the demand for their product in our community: