Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Construir tus Sueños, Mango Festival and Patronales

A couple of months have passed since my last blog, and several things have happened. Beginning in April and ending in June, I taught a business class under the Peace Corps youth entrepreneurship curriculum of Construir tus Sueños (Build Your Dreams). There was a lot of interested youth in my community, so I formed two classes at the request of students, one section held on Sunday afternoons for four hours in the community center and the other section for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday nights in a community church space. The Sunday class was much calmer, with only six students sticking it out to the end from the initial 14. The Tuesday and Thursday group was a much rowdier bunch, with 15 remaining from the initial 25 students that showed up on the first night. Through hours of working through 14 sessions exploring different business themes from entrepreneurship to feasibility studies, business plans, marketing, basic accounting, budgeting, cost and pricing analysis, etc. In the end 21 students graduated from the course on Monday, June 13th. We had our last session followed by a party, giving out certificates, playing a common game El Secreto,  lots of photos, soda, salami, cheese and crackers. 

After completing the course, they now have the option to work on their business plans individually or in groups to enter into a national competition that will take place over three days at the end of September. If their plans are selected they will compete to win various prizes including the opportunity to have their business fully or partially financed. Many are up to the challenge and excited for the competition, and are working out the details of their plans that they started while in the course.
(Photo: Class of 2010, Constriur tus Suenos)


Another happening in June is the Mango Festival/Expo, that takes place annually in Bani. Sun Fruits Cooperative, Inc. (Fruticoop) was there selling their products, along with many other producers and stands. It is incredible I had no idea that there were so many varieties of mango—well over 25 (not sure how many exactly)! The festival was inaugurated on a Wednesday night, with traditional dance and costume performances by youth,  as well as colorful modern dance performances featuring booty shaking provocative routines ‘fit family fun’. Workshops, food, free coffee, mangos to your hearts delight, and live music. And let us not forget the inescapable heat of Bani! I worked three of the four days and we moved a fair amount of product, our new and improved mango marmalade was a big hit.

Photos: Band with traditional dance; Mango Madness at Mango Expo 2010; Mangos
(photos by Gabriel Socias):

It is Patronales season in Villa Fundacion, and the town is alive with nightly live music, DJs, dancing, and fritura (fried foods) on the central plaza. Patronales is an annual 10-day celebration honoring the town’s patron saint, San Juan Bautista. Every town has one that all fall on different weeks of the year. There are nine days of prayer or novena, starting two days before Patronales begins. So far we’ve had an array of musical guests, including Dominican singer Juliana, los Pepes, infamous for their hit single repeating Pepe over and over again with illicit undertones and double entendres. Still to come is Alex Bueno, who sings bachata, salsa, merengue and more, Los Años Dorados, Los Hermanos Rosario (merengue) and and bachatero El Chaval. Relatives living afuera (outside) in the US in NY, Boston, Florida and elsewhere sign into live video chats and feeds of the party, with a camera scanning the crowd and relatives greeting each other via live feed. All is featured on a large screen in the park.

Besides that, I have the usual trips to Santo Domingo to multi-task and get everything done at once.  Beach trips to Juan Dolio and Derrumbao, which is the Caribbean side of Punto Salinas that has beautiful snorkeling. Tarantula hunting in my house (they like to kick it at my place), this usually consists of me grabbing a stack of four or five books for the battle and hurling them across the room. Just living that relaxing campo life, reading, listening to the chorus of farm animals and working on projects. My project is up on the Peace Corps Partnership Program website, check it out and make a tax-deductible donation today to support the women of Fruticoop, Inc. working in dried fruit and marmalade production using solar technology: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=517-386.

Most of all right now I am looking forward to my visit to California in just one week! Cannot wait for a break and two weeks with friends and family!

Photos: On way to snorkeling spot Derrumbao walking past salt pools in Salinas, sand dunes of Bani in background in middle photo, man working in salt pools: