Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Aqui en La Lucha

En la lucha, reading in my hammock

The title of this blog is a dicho (saying) Dominicano that I have come to love and use freely. It translates literally as “here in the struggle”. It is a common response to Como estas? (how are you). The struggle can refer to something specific: washing clothes, cleaning chicken, sweeping the patio or something more general: living in the campo, raising children, facing the day. Viewed from a first world point of view life in the campo of the Dominican Republic really is a lucha or struggle. Speaking from the standpoint of my campo in Judea, we do not have running water, the aqueduct brings us water once a week. We have electricity only at night. The roads are not paved and turn to thick mud if it rains. The mosquito swarms are as thick as an angora plush sweater. The government does not pick up our trash. There is no sewage system and many families lack a latrine or indoor bathroom. With the lack of rain and our desert climate, little grows other than bananas, plantains and rice. Cholera is a real and present threat to the health of the community. Other than work in agriculture there is no job market for young people.
However, although people tend to luchar physically more than we do in the United States, the mental lucha does not seem as present. People in my community seem more or less happy with their lucha. They struggle with daily annoyances, but at the end of the day, they are with family, with community, and have copious amounts of time to reflect and enjoy life. We talk a lot about the fact that my family and friends in the States live a more comfortable life and yet there hardly seems time to enjoy those comforts because they are working so much. To some extents, this is true. The difference in culture cannot be glossed over; rather, it accounts for a difference in priorities, in free time, and in feeling satisfied. I cannot help but hope to bring back a bit of the Caribbean mentality of taking time to enjoy life and enjoy family and friends home with me.

I am including some photos taken during the second week of Eco-Baño construction. I could not be more pleased with some of my community members. My health promoters, especially Digna, have really stepped up in ways I could not have foreseen. They show up every day of construction to make sure everything is running smoothly, that the beneficiaries have breakfast ready for the masons and workers, that the families have the materials at their house the night before, in other words they are running the show. Most importantly, the health promoters are each in charge of doing 9 different family visits to teach the family how to use and care for their Eco-Baño. I feel that this education component is missing from most NGO latrine projects and that is why I have seen so many eco-banos that are no longer being used because families did not understand what taking care of them entails.
What makes me most proud is that if I were to disappear tomorrow I am sure the project would still run smoothly. The goal of sustainability and community ownership of work is at the heart of all of Peace Corps projects. At times it seems an elusive goal and can be extremely difficult to break through years of a community conditioned to accept foreign aid and handouts without having any agency in the direction and planning of community projects. As a volunteer, I always have the question in the back of my head, but will this be sustainable?, in other words, when I leave, will the community continue the work we achieved together or will everything fall apart as they wistfully remember an Americana that once lived among them. The problem with sustainability is that you can only hope that it will continue working when you are not there, but one can never be sure.

ok, so a little tongue in cheek, my neighbors and I love to express all of our actions, even the fun easy ones, as being part of the lucha or struggle.

tiny little cucumbers in the street, I luchar to get veggies in my diet

some of my trashcans I painted, I luchar a lot with waste management

Blue, en la lucha

Morning in the Campo, even the gato is in the lucha

Putting on the finishing touches: Rafael en the Eco-Bano lucha

Rafael, one of my two masons, building the caseta of the latrine

The ladies proving to the men that they can mix cement, luchando

Josue, loving the camera

Adorable little Salvador watching the action; he is always smiling

Maximo y Altagracia, two of my good friends, looking on as we build
at their house

Salvador's Great Grandma

Maximo posing with his "sombrero" the bottom of the fiberglass toilet bowl mold, siempre en la lucha!

1 comment:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favour:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Dominican Republic? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Dominican Republic in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and a original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog, where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely