Hola mis queridos amigos y amigas de los Estados Unidos,
First off, thank you to all who wrote to me and to my family expressing your concern about my safety during Hurricanes Hanna and Ike. The DR in general - and my community in particular - were indeed hit hard by the storms, but, unlike what I saw in the news about Houston, my community only received damage to roads, bridges, and water systems caused by heavy rain. We got no wind from Ike and only mild gusts from Hanna, so any damage we incurred from the back-to-back storms can be repaired over time and with minor effort. Unlike Tropical Storm Noel that hit the DR last October 2007, no additional homes were lost in these storms, thank goodness.
My personal experience in the storms was somewhat typical of most Volunteers: Due to the lack of reliable transportation and continuing heavy rain even after Ike's trip through the island, I was trapped in my community for a few days with no way to get out. However, I was not worried as my house was well stocked with food, water, and reading material to see me through the storm. As the storm raged outside, I was actually very cozy in my little house, wrapped up in a blanket, sipping hot tea and laughing to myself as I read through a book of short stories by David Sedaris.
In the morning on the third day of Ike, and once the rain had let up a little, my neighbors and I took to surveying the damage and making repairs as best we could. Last week was spent clearing branches and debris from the roads and from neighbors' yards, making provisional repairs to the three small bridges that were washed out, replacing damaged pvc pipes in our town's water system, and checking in on friends and neighbors in the community to see if anyone needed assistance.
After a few more days -- and once the three battered Land Rovers that serve as our communication with the outside world started arriving through the mud and puddles -- we were more or less back to normal. Well, as normal as life can be for a tall, bald, gringo Volunteer in this remote mountain community of the DR...
Other News: Believe it or not, yesterday (September 13, 2008) marked the one-year anniversary of my arrival here in the DR as a Peace Corps Volunteer in childhood nutrition, women's reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS prevention. I am stunned to think that a full year has passed by in what seemed to be such a short time. To paraphrase a saying I've heard several times about Peace Corps life: "the days can drag on forever, but the months and years just seem to fly by."
There have been a few bad times here and there, including some times when I thought about quitting and heading home to the U.S., but overall, I look back on the past year with a deep sense of pride at what I've been able to accomplish with the support of my community.
Here's to a great first year, and looking forward to continuing through the second year and finishing strong in November 2009!
Best wishes to all of my loved ones back home...