Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In which Tim has visitors...

As Peace Corps volunteers, we are encouraged to have folks from the States come visit for short periods of time, to experience a new culture and see life as we see it down here. I was recently privileged enough to have three of my oldest and greatest friends from home come spend a week and a half with Kim and I. It was an epic experience. There was comedy, tragedy, action and adventure. It's a shame we did not have a film crew with us. Here are some of the highlights:

-The Car: Getting around where I live is not easy due to what can charitably described as ''rough'' roads. I encouraged my friends to rent a vehicle with four wheel drive, which they did their best to do. We picked the SUV up at the airport, and drove it across the country thinking everything was fine. As soon as we tried to cross the first river, though, we discovered that the vehicle was NOT 4wd. We got stuck many times, and probably did significant damage to the undercarriage of the SUV that wasn't really an SUV. Fortunately we bought the insurance, and it gave us many laughs as we got pushed, pulled, and rescued multiple times by more capable vehicles.

-Chickens: My host mother asked us to bring home some chickens to cook up for my friends. This was my first time buying chicken, since I usually let the host fam do it. So buy them we did, alive, because it is cheaper. We had to carry them up the hill, so we lashed these live birds to the front bumper of our incapable SUV. My friend David later had the honor of killing one of these chickens before eating it. My neighbors are still making fun of his poor knife technique. There are photos on facebook.

-Rats: My home has rats. Quite a few of them that like to come out at night to play. Kim and I have gotten used to this. We tuck in our mosquito nets, hide the food, and think nothing else of it. We didn't realize that most Americans are not so content to live with creatures of the night. My friends were disturbed. Deeply. We gave them pills to help them sleep, and fortunately I was able to kill one rat by doing a flying leap with machete in hand to bring it off the wall. I was proud, they were amused, but I think happy to leave my house for the pest free beach hotels.

-European style beaches: We went to a beach town that is largely inhabited by Europeans. The Dominican vendors were constantly trying to speak Italian to us, much to our amusement. The dress code on the beach was also considerably more R rated than anything you see in the great lakes. It was a cross cultural experience.

I think the most interesting part for me, though, was seeing my friends enjoying and experiencing the things that have become normal to me. Bathing in rivers, going to beaches, eating beans and rice, speaking Spanish, dealing with street punks, and dealing with the unpredictability of life in a developing country are all things that I have stopped noticing. I do it every day, so it's not that weird. But having friends here, and coaching them through all of it reminded me that I am living a rather bizarre and wonderful experience that few people get a chance to. It made me thankful.

I am so glad my friends came. It was a great adventure and I will never forget it.

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