Monday, January 26, 2015

Hand-sized Spider

So, oops, we left the screen open to the window connecting the garage to the dining room a big crack . . . and the most enormous spider crawled into the living room while we were watching a movie on how beaver's are nature's super-heroes (worth checking out on netflix, truly inspiring creatures, beavers).  The spider was not hairy, thankfully, but it was literally the size of my hand.

Abigail was there, unfortunately.  She's been having nightmares about tarantulas, I can't imagine this will help.  They don't have tarantulas here in the D.R., but they have their equally scary-looking twins called catacatas (or something like that).  They're huge and hairy and their bite is like a bee bite.  But, seriously, they are creepy.

So it was not ideal that she saw a spider that size in our house.  We'll have to do a better job with the screens.  Sometimes when we push one side across the other end sneaks open a little and we don't notice.  This was great motivation to be more careful!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amazing Lentil Soup

Okay, admittedly, it is inexcusable that I have no picture of it, but I have to go ahead and post this soup recipe.  It was so amazing (see title).  We just polished off all the leftovers, and I feel like I have to share a soup this tasty and easy to make.  I don't know how these simple ingredients combined so well.

Amazing Lentil Soup1 package ham bones/smoked ham pieces
3 large carrots, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 package lentils
water (cover lentils, veggies, and ham generously)*
cilantro (added at the very end after you take it off the heat)
*honestly, I didn't measure this--just add more if it's too thick and leave the lid off if it's too thin
I cooked the first five ingredients in the crockpot and then stirred in the cilantro after I took it off of the heat (a good handful of leaves).  I will so make this again.  Even Owen loved it, and he is not a fan of lentil soup.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mini-orchids and Odd Complements


I wanted to post this picture of some orchids my uncle and cousin brought me from the mountains.  It took a year for them to bloom (probably because I didn't water them as faithfully as I should have), but now they are beautiful!

I also wanted to share a cultural observation.  In Spanish (at least here), everywhere you go people shower you with complements and "palabras de cariño" (expressions of affection).  "Hola, bella!"  (Hello, beautiful!)  "Hola, mi amor!"  (Hello, my love!)  "Que más, mi amor?"  (What else can I get you, my love?)  "Sí, mi corazon!"  (Yes, my heart!)  Algo más, mi reina?"  (Anything else, my queen?)  It is something that men and women will say to you at the grocery store, on the phone with the pharmacy or corner store, at church . . . nearly everywhere, with no trace of mockery or impropriety.

Well, recently a guard at the school started to practice his English on me.  And he would say things like, "Hello, you are very beautiful!"  And I realized once again that you just can't get away with translating everything directly from one language into another.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Paradise with Rats


Over break, I had another seminal Dominican moment.  We stayed near the beach up on an overlooking mountain.  It was only a 15 or 20 minute drive to get up the mountain from the beach, and it was breathtaking.  It was twisty enough that my mom and I arrived up or down very carsick, but it was gorgeous.  You could see the ocean from every room of the house, long stretches of ocean and the coastline.  The first morning we woke up in our beach house, we discovered that a large chunk of our loaf of bread had been eaten through the bag and that a banana had been gnawed through.  We asked people about it and they said, oh, well there's rats that live in the banana leaf roof.  So you have to put all your food in the metal storage closet outside overnight.

And we were like, oh, right!  Naturally!  Just what we were expecting from a luxury property!

The bedrooms had concrete rooms, so as long as we didn't come out of the room overnight we were fine and had no sightings, but it wasn't exactly a cozy thought.

It was amazing, it was beautiful, it was sketchy.  It was so D. R.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Grass Van



This is my favorite van.  Artificial turf glued all to the sides.  Love it!  I chased it in traffic once before for a picture, and didn't get one.  Well, technically, I think I got a bad picture on my very subt-par camera that was then stolen.  This time we caught it right around the corner from our house.  The man driving the van was very amused and happy for us to take a picture.  But then just as I was about to get one, a guard with a gun came running out of the house behind it shouting that I couldn't.  It was bizarre and slightly alarming.  I said I just wanted a picture of the van and he said No!  So we drove around the corner and got this shot.  And the man driving the van told me in English that that guard was crazy.  Then he wanted to know if we had followed him just to get a picture of his van.

Hmm, will his story include two crazies?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It's a hot, sunny day (like most days here), the bougainvillea is blowing in the breeze, a ripe guava fell into our yard yesterday, I took a new family to the downtown market today to buy produce--and I'm listening to some Scottish bagpipe Christmas number on Grooveshark.  We have our tree and lights up, decorations the kids made at school, and we're lighting our candle and doing advent every night.  I think I've accepted the tropical Christmas as a real Christmas at this point.  It helps that my parents come to stay with us over the holiday break.






We made gingerbread houses again this year, though technically, I guess you'd call them sesame cracker houses.  Our gingerbread houses collapsed the day we made them last year because they couldn't take the humidity.  But I spent a good long time finding sturdy crackers, so this year's are holding up much better.  My kids are so into their g
ingerbread houses that starting around Halloween they start hoarding pretty candy that looks gingerbread-house worthy.




[On a side note, the neighbor's house alarm has been going off for four straight hours this afternoon with little tiny breaks where it went off before getting triggered again.  It is currently quiet, and I am choosing to hope that the neighbors are back and that this is not another pause in the insanity.  Oh dear.  It started up again before I even finished getting that written.]





Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roach Invasion

Roaches are a problem in this country.  I've seen some really big ones in my house since I've moved here, and the kids love to reminisce about some of the times I've screamed upon finding a roach (well, mostly they loved my reaction when I found a big one in the back of their paper-stuffed desk).  But I've found that if I use traps sold in the U.S. (brought to me by my parents when they visit--thanks, Mom!) I can keep them under control.

But lately we had a big issue with roaches.  I don't know if it was the rain, but they got bad.  And let me tell you, it sure has tested my commitment to more natural solutions.  Because part of me just wanted to call in the guy with the scary chemicals to blast them all.  (And, let's face it, at some point that's what I'd have to do.)  But thankfully I've had some days now without any sightings or early-morning roach killings.  It seems as though the traps placed everywhere, along with borax sprinkled on my counter at the back edge, along with borax and sugar water-soaked cotton balls stuffed in random places, along with trying to keep the counters very wiped, along with prayer that God would get rid of our roaches--has actually paid off.  I did not have to call in the chemical guy!

It was a very embarrassing problem to have.  I didn't ever want to be one of those houses where each dish and piece of silverware had to be washed before using (which is a common practice here), but I was becoming one.

So thankful to be not seeing roaches!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Micah and Jesse Would Like to Share . . .

I guess Micah and Jesse have learned from watching their mother that important things make the blog.  So they both requested that the following receive a blog post:

School project: representation of Salto de Limon in the D.R. courtesy of Lego.  I liked how
Micah used all the half Legos to show that they were swimming in the water.


Jesse lost his top front tooth, and he's very proud.  It actually got very wiggly and turned gray and the dentist pulled it.
Incidentally, did you know the tooth fairy gives double for dentist-pulled teeth?  Micah gave me some dirty looks when
he found that out.  Jesse's teeth on either side of the hole are very wiggly.  He may soon have some trouble eating pizza.

Doctor Visits Can Trigger Culture Stress

I took Jesse to the doctor today and left feeling very frustrated.  It was not a unique experience.  This is how it often is when I leave the doctor here.  I think it's because what I expect as an American is not working with how things are done here.  There's something very different about how doctors talk to patients.  They do not like to be questioned, or maybe it's that they are so unfamiliar with it that they don't know how to handle it.  

In America, I now realize, we question our doctors.  If they say to use this cream and drink this medicine, we ask what it's for.  We expect them to in some sense educate us, to sell us on their diagnosis.  We realize that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and we'd like to know which method they're proposing.  And we want to make sure the skin really needs to come off, so to speak.  Dominicans don't, they just do what the doctor says.

If we are prescribed a medicine and it doesn't fully work, we expect some kind of explanation for why it didn't work or why he wanted to try it first.  We don't expect to be told that "no medicine is magic" when we say that it's not working (which is what he said to me).  

I explained that coconut oil seemed to work better and was prescribed another medicine.  I asked what the medicine would do, and the doctor said it would soften his skin.  I asked what it would do different than coconut oil, which was softening his skin, and he said it was designed for this skin condition.  This answer didn't really give any new information.  I tried again to see what it would do different than coconut oil, I asked leading questions about how coconut oil would maybe just mask symptoms instead of curing something, and he said it wouldn't cure anything, it would soften his skin.  He said he wasn't familiar with the medicinal properties of coconut oil, but that I was welcome to get a second opinion in the states.

I'm fairly sure there would be a least some medical argument for using his creams and soaps he prescribed, I just wish he would engage in a discussion about it.  If I have castille soap and coconut oil and they'll do the same thing, I'd rather go with those.  But the "less is more" attitude toward medicine has not hit the D.R.  The doctor looks at you with a quizzical look which says, "If you don't want my medicine and my diagnosis, then why did you come here?" which I must say is very effective for making me mumble my thank you's and take my leave.  Frustrated.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quotes from Abigail

All in the car on the way home:

A:  Mommy, why isn't X married?
V:  Because she didn't meet someone she wants to marry yet.
A:  But when you meet someone you should ask "What is your name?" first, then you can ask them to marry you.
. . .
A:  Mommy, do you know what I'm going to be when I grow up?
V:  What's that?
A:  A Mommy!
V:  Wow, that's a great job!  I love being your mommy!
A:  Yeah, but you're probably going to die before I do.

A:  Mommy where are you going to live when I grow up?
V:  What do you mean?  Am I going to live in the same house?
A:  I mean where will you sleep?  Because I thought I was going to sleep in your room when I grow up.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Today I feel like I live in a third world country . . .

I realize, of course, that I always do live in a third world country, but honestly, I am so spoiled compared to almost everyone around me that I don't feel too deprived.  But tonight, with my kids armed with flashlights and with candles placed strategically around the house, in a completely quiet neighborhood, I feel like I live in a third world country.




Every Thursday the power goes out.  There are surprise days here and there, but we can set our clocks by the Thursday power outages.  They start by 8 or 9 o'clock and go until around 3.  We have an inverter, so when the power goes out we still have lights and can use fans.  But it does usually mean that we don't have water during the time that it's out because the water pump doesn't work.  We also can't use the washing machine, the toaster, the microwave, a hair-dryer, or anything else with a heating element.  And we get to think of our milk and groceries in the fridge all going bad.  We're gone most of the time the water's out and typically not too affected by it, but it does affect our maid (who comes on Thursdays) when she's trying to clean and do laundry and sometimes can't do much of either.

Today when we woke up, the power was already out.  We hadn't noticed overnight because the fans switched over automatically to our back-up power.  That was a concern only because it almost never happens (and because we can't shut off the air conditioner in our room when the power is out--when it comes back on, so does the air).  It was also a bummer because our maid usually gets the laundry in before the power goes out.  But when I called her from the school, she told me that at least there was water to clean.  We realized that the maintenance guys from the school must have hooked our water up to our inverter, so the power outage affected us less than usual.

But when it reached 5:00 and the power still wasn't on, we started to get a little uneasy--well, OK, I did.  An inverter only lasts for so long before it needs to get charged again.  We've never been on it for a full 24 hours, and I really don't want to play the How long can this thing last? game.  It went out sometime overnight, and it's now 9:00.  We're approaching our longest time on the inverter.  And on top of that, the water pump has been coming on all day long and using the inverter power.  So we started switching off everything in the house.  We have 2 fans on upstairs for the kids, because it's hot with no breeze, but we made them read with their wind-able IKEA flashlights (best invention ever) instead of their lamp and we turned off every other light and fan in the house.

I don't know what noises we usually hear, but it's a marked difference tonight.  It feels peaceful and weird: I hear crickets and notice every car that goes by, and I hear my neighbors talking quietly.  Occasionally, the street dogs go crazy when someone walks by.  But the later it gets, the less that happens.

Probably the power will come on by morning, I pray that it does, it always has before.  But the thing about living here is that nothing ever feels for sure.  And we need to save our power as much as possible so that we can have water and fans--and our house alarm.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dog Update

So Grenade is now officially this dog's name.  And she hangs out outside our gate all day.  When our car pulls up she runs to greet her.  We pet her and then go in and wash our hands.  And sometimes we go out and pet her and give her a dog treat.  And sometimes she leaves and goes for walks.  But she hangs out near us most of the time.  We went for a walk with her the other day, and she totally knew what we were doing.  In the mornings we see her jogging with other people in our neighborhood or joining people walking their dog.  The neighbor across the street feeds her each morning.  But she guards our house and barks when people go by.

And she loves us, and we love her.  I'm thinking this is a great relationship.  She stays free, we stay free, and we can enjoy each other.  Not sure everyone will agree with me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Determined Street Dog


Today was rainy, and Grenade (as dubbed by Micah), the street dog who is not our dog spent much of the day on our porch and in our garage.  Eventually the heartless author of this blog and her heartless spouse put up chicken wire to block the low fence she was entering.  She licked my hands while I did it and laid her face in the way.  She was wet and smelly and very cute and she snuggled right up against me while I worked.  We are truly the worst.  I feel like the villain in a Disney movie.

Huelga Day and Rain

Today is exciting for several reasons.  First, it is a huelga day!  Which is like your northern snow days.  Unexpected fun!  The purpose of the huelga, of course, is more serious.  People in the poorer neighborhood near our school are striking to get paved roads and sewage repairs done.  Last time we held school on a strike day there was a minor incident with a small explosive being set off close to the gate of the school.  So the school is taking the strikes very seriously.

The rain effectively stopped the strike, so now we have no school on a day when we probably could have--but better safe than sorry.

With the rain comes wet-vacuuming.  The slope of our back porch angles toward the house, so water comes right into our office.  But it's totally worth it.  Because it's been cool and drizzly all day so far.  And that hasn't happened here in about half a year!

We've had a wet dog visiting already.  We really need to get up that chicken wire.  She's way too cute!  If we don't do it soon we'll lose our nerve.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Oops! We accidentally adopted a street dog . . .

I am famous at the school for my refusal to get a dog.  Most people here get them for security, but we've resisted (we did get an alarm system).  Everyone knows how much I don't want to get a dog.  But of course my kids are thrilled any time they get to play with a dog.  And this super friendly street dog appeared in front of our house the other day, well-trained and lovely.  So we gave it some dog treats (which we had for our old neighbor's dog, to make it hate us less) and some attention.

And it seemed to go well.  It stopped by from time to time, but kept to the streets.  But then today it got bold enough to squeeze through our gate and visit (after we fed it through our gate and gave it some attention).  And though we chased it out, we found it sleeping in front of our door when we got home from church.  Owen says it's a problem of our own creation: if you pet and feed a neglected dog . . .

Now we need to buy some chicken wire.  Because a dog living at our house is precisely what I was trying to avoid.  I don't want to hear it barking at night, I don't want to deal with fleas and vaccines, I don't want the puppies that will no doubt be forthcoming (it's a girl!), and I don't want to deal with what to do with it every time we go to the beach or leave for long stretches to visit the states.

Why does it feel just a bit unfriendly to put up chicken wire to block some want-to-be family member?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!


Here's ninja, Anna, and Owen
There's not really Halloween or trick-or-treating here, but we call up American friends and drop by in costumes (and they usually come up with some candy!).  These costumes were carefully planned months in advance.  We had a blast--our friends came through!  :)  Last weekend we carved our pumpkin (it was looking like it wouldn't make it to this weekend) and we have lots of pumpkin cooked and stored in the freezer.

Carved pumpkins last about 2 days in the D.R. because of the intense heat.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Motorcycle Accident

In front of the kids' school today at pick-up time, a motorcyclist passed the line of cars waiting to enter the school.  I saw him pass my car and a moment later watched as he crashed his motorcycle right at the entrance of the school.  The horrible part of the accident was that he wasn't wearing a helmet and I saw him hit the ground without it.  People came running from their cars to him and someone rolled him onto his back and I think shouted to him to see if he was OK.

 I think apart from how upsetting it was to see the accident, what really struck me was how everyone got involved.  People here have not been scarred by lawsuits here like in the U.S.  There isn't a fear that someone trying to help would be sued.  This is also not a country where ambulances are much in use; people scoop up strangers in their cars and drive them to the hospital after an accident.  The emergency number doesn't reach anyone, from what I hear.  And I have seen ambulances, but there aren't many, and I wouldn't imagine many people here could afford to use one.

It was a relief to see him move after the accident, though it was really serious and he was still lying there when I left the school with my kids (the school nurse and doctor were both with him).  Many people are killed here in motorcycle and car accidents in part because driving is less regulated, and in part because most people don't wear seat belts or helmets.

It was an intense afternoon for the whole school.  All of the parents and students leaving had to pass by the scene.  It strikes me that children are less sheltered here from violence just as they are less sheltered from everything.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Dog, Some Chickens, a Hose, and the Police: a Middle-of-the-Night Incident

So although our new house is beautiful and in a quiet part of the city, it is pretty lively in the middle of the night what with the roosters, chickens, and geese the neighbor across the street raises and his neighbor's yippy dog.  Two nights ago I realized that the two noise sources are connected.  One neighbor's chihuahua was chasing around chickens and roosters in another neighbor's yard--right across the street in front of our bedroom windows.  After being awakened at 4:30 and listening to it bark for an hour (when I just gave up and got up for the day), I decided that next time I'd take action.

Last night turned out to be next time.  In fairness to the yip dog, it all started with another neighbor's house alarm going off at 3:30 in the morning.  After the alarm stopped the dog barked for about 20 minutes straight, and no ear plugs or white noise could quite block it.  So I decided to go for my extremely long hose.  (Owen had told me to get a long one, but apparently he didn't mean it should wrap the whole way around the house.)

I first woke up Owen (who had of course slept through all of it) for a "crazy check."  I find it's always a good idea to get a second opinion with desperate middle of the night, spur of the moment decisions, I find.  But he told me to go for it.

So I went out in my pajamas and dragged the hose into the street--hissing and quietly shouting in Spanish at the dog all the while.  I couldn't quite see the dog, but judging from the aggravated noises it made I think I may have hit it at least once.  It ran around behind the house and came out on the other side barking, so I dragged my hose over there and sprayed.

Eventually it hid behind the chicken house, but I waited for a while because I was hoping to chase it back to its house.  Then I saw the flash of lights as a police truck pulled up our block and decided to get my hose back over into my yard.  I didn't try to run hiding into my house, as that seemed inadvisable, so of course the police stopped next to the crazy gringo in PJs and asked me how I was.  I told them.

To their credit, they did not mock or give me a hard time at all--they actually parked next to the chicken house and listened for a while.  In a country where anything goes and no one seems to care about things like nighttime noise, I found it gratifying to be taken at least somewhat seriously.  Of course, the dog didn't bark then.  But that was OK by me.  It was actually quiet (except for a few yips) the rest of the morning.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Update

So I know I will get in trouble from some of you that this post still does not contain photos of my new house--I so need to do that, I know.
 
But I must tell you all why I am having trouble blogging lately.  I'm more of a working Mom than I realized I was going to be!  I mean, I realize I'm only teaching one hour and a half class per day.  But because I'm writing the curriculum and teaching a subject I never have before, I'm spending hours and hours every day on these two every other day block classes.  

My day looks something like this:

7:30- Get kids to school, slather with sunscreen and bug spray, walk to class.  
8:00- Go jogging (3 times a week).
8:30- Clean up and change.  
8:40 to 9:30- Print worksheets and make photocopies in teacher lounge.  Grade papers and plan in library.
9:30 to 11:30- Set up for class, enter grades in computer, teach.
11:30 to 12:30- Grade and prepare for tomorrow's class.  Pick up Abigail at 12:30.
Nighttime- Make worksheets, review lesson for next day.

It's insane.  I'm probably spending 6 or more hours a day a lot of the time on teaching.  And soon I'll run out of the material I planned over the summer!  Then I'll really be scrambling.  I think I'll have to come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to be too great of a mom this year.  Don't have too much play in me.  Hopefully I will get more efficient (I'll just grow a new personality . . .)!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

97% of Dominican fruits and veggies tested as pesticide-free!

This is so great!!  I always have worked from the assumption that we were eating a lot of them--pesticides, that is.  I will say this is perplexing since I've seen plenty of farms spraying here . . .



El 97% de frutas y vegetales del país está libre de plaguicidas, dice estudio