The answer was animals.
So it's the tranquilo life in Santo Domingo right now, partially because it's Day of the Worker (or, it was yesterday, and everyone's still hungover) and partially because my project is failing and I don't have that much to do as it is. Ohhh, burn. I really don't know what to do about the failing environmental certification project, except to regroup with my counterpart once he gets over his hangover and see how I might compromise continuing work with it and doing something that has a chance of being satisfying over the course of the next six months. I'm thinking promotion of compost sales in nearby caserios, maybe some gardening with the Association of Women, and of course, more trash education as soon as I get my 12 public trash cans in. The time is coming when I need to assess the progress I've made and whether or not I've built enough for a replacement Volunteer to work from. I'm currently feeling very detached from the whole deal and, if I had to make the decision right now, I would cut SD off of environmental Volunteers for good. But this is the Peace Corps, and things have the amazing ability to turn around faster than you can say "Volunteer malaise," so I guess I'll refrain from snap judgments.
The general "meh"-ness of things around here has been broken up by a couple amusing events as of late, mostly involving animals. I have been bored enough lately that I actually illustrated some of this in Paint:
This is my house. You may notice that it is two stories but has no staircase. This is a topic of perennial frustration to me.
Recently, a rat started coming into my room at night. This was upsetting for obvious reasons, not the least of which was that he didn't seem to be eating any of my food. Why wouldn't a rat be eating my food? It's delicious! Finally, after much frustration and untouched traps, I realized that the rat, like any reasonable being, was annoyed at the lack of staircase in my house, and was using my room toward those ends, like this:
So I'd come to the conclusion that there was no choice but to borrow my neighbor's cat. She's a good cat caretaker, so she informed me that her cat "does his necessities" in sand. Accordingly, I filled up a little bucket of sand and put it in my room. Her cat, however, ran away en route to my house, and I guess putting a cat somewhere he doesn't want to be isn't something you try twice, so that was that. I was so frustrated at this point that I was about to tie a knife to end of my broom and spear the rat myself at 3 a.m. As cool as I would be if I could make that plan work, I soon realized my smarts and not my latent spearing abilities were the only thing that was going to get me out of this. I thought hard and realized that there must be a hole in the storage room through which the rat was climbing, or else he wouldn't be running up the hammock strings and not (as far as I could tell) down them. And hey, I had that sand still. I knew at the time that cement, plaster, or even play-doh was more up for the task of filling a hole than sand, but I was desperate, and the sand was there. So I went nuts on every hole in the backroom floorboard (there are a lot of them). Eventually I found one that must have been it. This is what I thought I was doing, for some reason.
Yes, just pouring sand into some sort of inexplicable wall-hole. When the sand just kept pouring, however, I used some part of my brain that has remained unused since the SAT and thought about where that sand was actually going, and realized it was probably more like this.
Yes, just pouring sand into my roommates' room. I should note here that my roommates, Ada and Carlo, are new, they just moved in while I was in Cusco to study at the tech institute in Santo Domingo. They're brother and sister, from the campo, probably about 19 years old, and while Ada is nice to me and keeps me company while I wash dishes (the supreme form of female friendship here, I think), Carlo generally doesn't look me in the eye.
After I realize that I have just been pouring sand into my roommates' domicile, I sort of pack sand around the top of the hole as best I can and weigh it down with a brick. Get in now, rats, I dare you. Following this small, hopeful satisfaction, I head down (downstairs would obviously be a misnomer, I followed the dirt trail along the side of the house) to the corral and the entrance to their room. The interaction goes something like this:
Me: Hi Carlo, good afternoon.
Carlo (not meeting my eye): Good afternoon.
Me: Say, did I just pour some sand in your room? Like up in that corner? I had this rat and I was filling and hole and I...(trailing off due to apparent nonrecognition)
Carlo (meeting my eye for the first time ever): Yeah, some sand fell. But just a little, miss, don't worry.
Me: Yeah, I really want to apologize for that.
Carlo: Just a little sand, miss. Don't worry.
In other animal news: So when campo people come to the house, they generally tie up their donkeys right outside my door. I mean, right outside, like if I leave my door open, a donkey nose will generally occupy that space. I don't mind, I've got a soft spot for donkeys. They are nice and gentle and funny-looking when they eat and they don't make a lot of noise (except, of course, when they do). My sitemate Rachel was over one day last week, and when she opened the door to my room to leave, she abruptly said, "Alyssa, come here, you've got to see this."
What she saw, of course, was a donkey eating a cardboard box.
I mean, eating the crap out of it, not just munching: hungrily tearing off pieces of this cardboard box, quickly chewing, and contentedly swallowing.
The funniest part of this whole occurrence, however, was what followed, when we saw my host brother Cesar sitting on a stoop across the street, clearly overseeing the donkey's consumption of the cardboard box.
Rachel: Why is that donkey eating a cardboard box?
Cesar (without missing a beat, or any traces of sarcasm): Because he's hungry.
Rachel: Of course.
Can't argue with logic like that. You can, however, start your own line of "why did the chicken cross the road"-type jokes.
And the last animal-related hilarity can be told in a sentence, without dramatic paragraph breaks or Microsoft Paint: a flock of chicks visited my room yesterday. I had my iPod on and my back turned, and when I turned to walk out, there were 8 chicks and a mama hen, just cheep cheep cheeping all over my floor. Cutest surprise ever. Brett points out that with the time a cat fell through my roof, the rats using my room like a staircase, hungry dogs coming in whenever they want, and the occasional flock of chicks, I am well on my way to a Chinese calendar. If you need me for the next six months, I'll be warding off the dragons and oxen.