Things go well enough for me here, though I am discouraged about (lack of) projects. There are going to be Fiestas Patronales in El Pinar from Nov 15-27 and I will be giving a medicinal plants charla with a lady from El Pinar who went with me to the workshop.

We'll teach people how to make soaps and syrups and the like with medicinal plants, as well as some fun cures and preventatives. The fiestas patronales generally involve a lot of drinking and loud music during the evening, and then going to church related activities during the day, as well as informational charlas.

So my community will probably get electrified soon. They have had the wires up for a while and the posts up for years and are now adjusting and connecting things. They say we will have lights for the fiestas patronales, but I will believe it when I see it. And not before. Anyway, it is nothing to get that excited over.

Other than that, Angel and I replanted the garden... lettuce, cilantro, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, beets, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, okra, chives, mint, fennel, oregano, lemon grass, passion fruit, papaya, anon, celery, oh yes and marigolds. We'll see what sprouts.

The avocadoes are in season and quite tastey, though not as good as the ones native to Mexico. The criollo avocadoes can be quite bitter and watery, but they break the monotony of rice and beans and the occasional boiled green banana. I eat batata leaves and encourage community members to do the same, as well as squash and yuca leaves (boiling the yuca twice, of course).

There is not much to do, and now the holidays are upon us, so people are even less apt to organize for meetings, and they were never hot for charlas in the first place. The two times I did my nutrition charla, only about four doñas came, and the rest were kids.

My community just isn't given to development work, and that's just the way it is. I get discouraged when I think of the work that the two previous PCVs in my community did: the tree nursery, the Lorena stoves, the world map mural on the side of the school, the chicken projects, the rabbit charlas... and nothing is left to show for it; no surviving animals, not a single stove in use, you can't even tell where the nursery used to be, and to top it all off, they put a giant chalkboard up right over the mural on the outside of the school. what NERDS! coño!!!

And so you see that I am not inspired to start any more chicken projects or murals or anything because I knoooow how it is going to end, with people eating the laying hens and letting them die without care and vaccines.

Silly silly people, but as they say, you can lead a horticulture but you can't make her facilitate "development work". (Originally: You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think).

Am reading the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn... a trite vacuous thing, but regardless has some points about what humans are and should be about. Other good books read recently are The Poisonwood Bible, coupla books by Tom Robbins, by David Sedaris, by Carl Hiaasen (thanks for turning me on to him Dad) the Satanic Verses, Memoirs of a Geisha, She's Come Undone, The Kitchen God's Wife, stuff by Robert M. Pirsig, by Douglas Adams, by Jeanette Winterson, by Hermann Hesse, By Dave Barry, blahbity blahbity blaahhhh even Harry Potter... so as you can see I have plenty of time for reading.

Also am macromaeing some cool stuff, a bracelet for fellow PCV and closest neighbor David who is in turn making himself a rag rug. Yeah, there is a lot of time in PC for invention... I have long since folded all my training notes into 120-sided solids, finished that chess set out of bottle caps and nails and caulking, made rope out of twisting palm leaves to crochet around a broken piece of mirror, and am still sewing a long braided rope of cast-off material into a spiral rug.

Yup yup, gotta keep busy, send those development statistics into PC Washington and say yaaayyy Peace Corps. But really, I wouldn't have anything better to do in the States, and por lo menos I am getting a great experience out of the deal, living in the Caribbean subtropics with my garden and animals and Angel.

The rabbit! AHhahah great story... the rabbit I have had for a good five months gave birth a few weeks ago... to twelve little rabbits! And the funny thing is, I never mated her and she has been seperate from the male for more than a month. So I asked Angel's uncle if they had put her with the male, and he said yes, jokingly, apparently. Because they actually hadn't. What actually happened was that Angel's aunt had EATEN my pet rabbit, placed her pregnant look-alike sister in my cage to take her place, and allowed her to give birth without a birthing box.

When rabbits give birth, the momma rips the fur off of her neck and stomach to make a nest, and Angel's aunt let her give birth right over the mesh of the cage floor and all the soft hair fell through, and the little blind newborns could have easily hurt themselves breaking legs in the wire mesh, and anyway it was so not cool.

That mean woman was choking with cigarette-rasped laughter as she explained the remarkably rude trick she played on us. So much for five months of taming a rabbit.

That and the dog being poisoned and the cat being killed (twice) with a couple of trucks running over it, I am just a tad disenchanted with the whole pet scene. Bad luck with black animals.

The little black dog we have now we caught in the mountains and have tamed, after a month of being loose in the community and starving and a month being tied to a coffee tree yapping its head off, I can now pass my hand all over him and he comes when I call, but is still afraid of the general population and remains malnourished.

The rabbit is black too, and the cat was black and white just like Panther. I have contacted the lady in the capital who is the owner of Gussi's calico mother, and I will soon bring home his little brother. He is black as well, and perhaps can help fill the void in our hearts left by the effusive fluffy Gussi.

Speaking of beings in my life, Angel is back from the Military Academy with a "sprained" foot sustained while running with a firearm in Dajabón. He got two weeks of medical leave, but is now going to ask for his "baja" and get out of the deal.

The Academy is no joke. Out of the 300 recruits in his promotion, 110 left after the first week of Center, and at the end of the second week, only 15 were left, eight of which were in casts. A guy even died while doing the exercises; apparently he had a heart condition and the cadets refused to give him water when he kept asking for it, and as he fell faint to the ground, two guys lifted him up and let go to see if he could stand up and he fell and hit his head, and then they lifted him up again and let him fall a second time. When he started bleeding out of his nose, they finally took him to the hospital but by that time it was too late to save his life.

And the maldito militares lied about people coming out of the Academy being professionals... the only materials they give are military classes. And sooo... Angel is back home and of course none of us are going to let him go back, even if he wanted to. He might go to a university in the capital come January, but he needs to speak to Senator Pedro Alegría first about financial help.

Angel, Angel, Angel. By far the best boyfriend I've ever had. We pass many good times together, but we get in our occasional fight as well. It makes life much more complicated to have to report to someone about every place I go and every thing I do, but it is at the same time nice to have someone dependable who I know will be there for me when I need him.

Risking liberty for security, but things work out in the end, and even if our relationship isn't forever, it is great while it lasts. A great educational opportunity for the both of us.

Angel has asked me over and over again when we should get married, and I keep telling him the 5th of May of 2005. Hey, I say, wouldn't it be special to put 05.05.05 on the invitations and have them be able to be read correctly both in American and in Dominican notation? And Angel gets upset because he thinks it is too long to wait. I ask him, if that is too long to wait to get married to me, how are you going to hold out for all the time in the world you are going to stay married to me? He agrees, yet presses on the issue.

He is not sure he wants to live in the USA, though he would definitely like to travel to see it and experience life abroad. Every time I think of staying in the DR and becoming a doña, washing his jeans by hand and boiling roots and white rice every day, it makes me nautious and nervous. What the hell am I agreeing to by saying that I want this human in my life, at my side, always and in everything?

Well, just that. And no matter what I do or where I go, I always hold the right to change my mind, change my life, and though it may be hard, I can always cut loose. After all, marriage is a great reason for celebration and bringing the family together and killing a cow and a pig and a couple of goats and some chickens and rabbits and eating it all while slamming down the dominoes and throwing back the rum with coca cola.

It could coincide with my despedida next fall, and would make a great birthday party. So Sept. 15, 2004 there may very likely be a big party, celebrating any number of things, and of course you are more than cordially invited. Marriage isn't so scary, in fact I am already married by campo standards and have been since January, but the paperwork presents a problem: nationality issues, visas, taxes, government bullshit. I wouldn't get married on paper at all if it weren't for immigration issues. Everything is still up in the air, flying around on paper wings.

Well, I am going to my One-Year-In-Service-Training in Rio Limpio of Elias Piña near the Haitian border. It starts the 12th and goes through the 15th, us Agriculture Volunteers talking about our successes and challenges, and planning for our next year of service.

I am looking forward to the bitching and moaning session and comiseration with fellows about people not coming to charlas and projects not being successful. I have a few "tools" and good stories as well, and I hope to be inspired and motivated by others. Pats on the back to all of us anyway, because this is the Peace Corps, and as long as we are here and promoting world peace via mutual understanding and sharing, well hey, then that's great.
And "development work" does seem rather high and mighty anyway.