Monthly Archives: September 2012

Improved Cookstoves Project

As I mentioned in my previous post, my first major project as a Peace Corps Volunteer will be an improved cook stoves project. This first project will be a project of 30 stoves equally divided amongst the three communities that I work in. This will put stoves in about one third of the houses in my communities. I was recently awarded a grant from the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, a state department initiative aimed at renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation on macro and micro scale climate in the developing countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. My project fits into this initiative because the stoves that Peace Corps are building reduce wood consumption by up to 40% and thus are reducing carbon dioxide emissions on a micro scale. Other added benefits include the removal of the thick smoke from cooking via a chimney, which will improve pulmonary health of the beneficiaries.  My grant paperwork is currently with the powers that be in Washington and I am waiting for my project funds to be wired to me so the process can begin.

            I have already selected a mason, selected potential recipients, and formulated work contracts that I plan on maintaining both with the recipients and my masons. This is a bit of a formality but it makes everyone involved realize this is legitimate and that they should take it seriously. The project involves community contributions as well as contributions that I put up using funds from the grant I was awarded.  Each recipient family will put up a non-refundable deposit for the program as well as several easily sourced, no cost construction materials as well as an able bodied person to learn how the stove is built so that they are experts on their own stove and can better troubleshoot problems later on down the line.

            I am extremely excited to get started with this project and am doing everything I can to get this project off the ground. I will update you all as of my progress once the funds arrive and the initial work can begin. 

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Update has been a long time coming

It has been quite some time since I have updated this blog. I guess you could say I was busy for a while, and then things slowed down but the blog slipped my mind. Let me take a walk down memory lane and see what we can rummage up to satisfy all the eager readers….

The most appropriate place to start would be the week leading up to the arrival of Marie in the Dominican. This was the week that I finished preparations for my new house and I moved out of my host family’s house. In a word, FINALLY! I was absolutely elated to have some independence and privacy of my own. Not to mention having complete control over the kinds of foods that I was eating.  It was a little unnerving the first night I spent by myself but I slept with my machete close to my bed and everything was ok! Here are some pics of the awesome new backyard hang out spot that I built. Its a gazebo with a concrete floor complete with posts to hang my multi-purpose hammock!



            At the end of that week, I went off to my 3-month In Service Training located at the Guagui Center in La Vega. It was a beautiful conference center placed high up on a mountain, which gave it a nice sense of peace and tranquility. This training was for environment and water volunteers. We all brought our project partners with us to present our community diagnostic findings. This is the investigation we each performed of our communities in our first three months of living there. Mine went off without a hitch, but I really wasn’t that worried. My level of Spanish fluency has long stopped being a hindrance to my work. The rest of the weekend was comprised of organizational and grant workshops. To put it nicely, they were semi-helpful. Being a bit over eager, I had already found which grants were applicable for which projects I wanted to do.

            The first project I will be working on in my community is an improved cook stoves project. These improved cook stoves are designed to reduce wood consumption by up 40% as well as remove the thick smoke created by wood burning fires. The idea is to combat the rampant deforestation that is present here on the border with Haiti by reducing the overall wood consumption of the community. Additionally, by making each stove with a chimney it will help mothers and children stop breathing in the thick smoke of wood burning fires and thus dramatically improving their pulmonary health. These cook stoves are a great idea and I am super excited about the project but more on this later.

            After IST, I went straight to the airport to pick up Marie!!! I had been eagerly anticipating her visit by counting down each and every day until I hit zero. Giving her a huge hug and a kiss at the airport was absolutely incredible and very emotionally intense. It was however the most joyous of reunions and I was absolutely elated to see her. The two of us had decided to take a couple days for ourselves by sneaking away to a resort for a few days on the North Coast in Puerto Plata. This allowed us a chance to spend time together, alone, without everyone in my community coming over to find out whom the new Americano is.

            We spent 4 nights at the Lifestyles Resort and it was pretty fabulous. For me it was a dream come true; hot showers, endless cold beer, and cheeseburgers. Everything that I had been missing that I really wanted all in the same place. And I got to have Marie! We spent our time sitting in the pool, swimming in the ocean, going out to dinners, and just really enjoying each other’s company. After our stop in the resort we stopped a fellow PCV’s site on our way back to my site. We spent a night there and the next day we all went out to this amazing ecotourism site called 27 charcos. This is basically a river that has 27 waterfalls connected together by deep pools at the bottom of each waterfall. You then jump or slide your way down from the top of the mountain all the way back down to the bottom.  I have an awesome video I shot with a waterproof HD video camera that I will try and post up on this blog.

After our pit stop at Walker’s and subsequently Barbara’s site, Marie and I made our way all the way back to Dajabon, which for all intents and purpose is at the end of the world.  Marie spent 9 days here in my site of Tamarindo.  We had an absolutely incredible time here. It was really nice being able to cook, play board games, go for walks, go swimming, and all the other things that we loved to do together.  I also took Marie to El Morro, a National Park in Monte Cristi with a beautiful coastline and sheer cliffs that fall into the ocean; we spent a half-day there on the beach. It was a week and a half I will surely never forget.  It was really incredible to me how easily Marie adjusted to campo life. I think a lot of that has to do with the six months she spent in Costa Rica. Not to say that the cultures are the same but they are more similar than campo life in the D.R. versus life in Washington D.C. We both truly enjoyed each other’s company playing scrabble, dominoes, watching movies and playing with the muchachos. In that time period we also got a new kitten for the house! Her name is Squibbles and she is absolutely adorable. I was torn about getting an animal for a while but I’m glad that I eventually settled on a cat. They don’t have very much maintenance and can be really awesome pets to have. This is actually the first cat I have ever had so it has been a bit of a learning experience for me.


          Image  Unfortunately, Marie’s time did have to come to an end here. It was an incredible, unforgettable two weeks that I shared with her here but at the end she did have to go home. Here graduate program in Education was starting and she needed to prepare herself for the very intense yearlong program she was about to start. We spent the night in Santiago before her flight to make her fly out day less stressful. We spent our last night out enjoying each other’s company in a city that I really do like a lot.  It was however, very difficult to see her go. I was very upset watching her go through security at the airport. But I knew that we would see each other again very soon and that we would never have to spend six months apart again.


The transition back to being alone in this country was just as hard, if not harder than saying goodbye to Marie in the first place. Two weeks is enough time to get used to someone else’s presence in all the daily tasks of life. So when you return to doing those tasks by yourself, it makes it very hard. Immediately upon Marie’s departure I headed to Santo Domingo, I had to turn in paperwork for a grant I had been awarded to start on the improved cook stoves project.  Once I made it back to my site, I found the silence deafening.

It was really, really hard to be alone in this house. I had my brand new kitten to keep me company but still Marie’s presence could be felt on every item in the house. We even painted the walls together, which gave the house a totally new feel and very clearly left her brilliant, dynamic, fun loving mark on the house. In time it all became ok or at least what you tell yourself is ok. You tell yourself that because you know you will see her again soon and that in the mean time, phone calls, Skype, and good old fashioned hand written letters will keep you connected until you can see the bright, shining, smiling face again.

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