Friday, July 31, 2015

Rooster Update

So I have heard through the grapevine that there are those who want to know what's up with the roosters.  Having paid the neighbor to get rid of the worst two roosters (who started crowing loudly each morning at 3:30 a.m.--prompting me to drag a mattress into the bathroom to escape them some mornings), supposedly along with all future roosters, we waited to see if they would actually disappear.  They were still pretty much there by the time we left for the summer, so Owen asked him to get rid of them before we got back from visiting the U.S.

Imagine our surprise when we returned from our summer trip and found our neighbor moved out of the house--having left the chickens behind.  The owner is fixing it up (it needs a lot of work, I think the fowls did nothing for the yard and the house was in some state of disrepair) and plans to rent it out again soon.  But the now wild chickens have kept to their familiar residence, and though they get around during the day, early early morning finds them in their former yard outside our window, greeting the dawn.

So we went to the Ministerio de Ambiente (Ministry of Environment) to report the rogue chickens and we shall see if this government branch is willing and/or able to do something about the chicken situation.  Our most recent morning wake-up was before 5:00 a.m.

I'll keep you posted.

Only here . . .

Only in the D.R. can you randomly pass a dead hedgehog in the road while jogging--not because they're native to the country, they're not, but because you just never know . . . anything is possible here.  I passed one while jogging and could not believe it--and yet was not surprised at all.  I'm putting a picture of it at the very end of the post because my husband and good friend assure me that it's in bad taste to paste a picture of a dead animal, even if it's cute, and so you can skip the picture if youwant.

On my hedgehog-spotting jog I brought hot pepper spray with me for the first time.  It really isn't the safest place to jog, mostly because there are dogs in the street a lot of the time, and since the loss of my jogging partner (Grenade) I have felt nervous.  People have told me that you're fine as long as you're not afraid of the dogs--they can tell if you're afraid.  They say that about horses, too.  Here's the problem.  I am afraid.  It probably doesn't help that we used to have a nasty pit bull next door in Philly that snarled at me when I picked veggies from my garden.  Either way, I am, and they know.

I realized I was at least as likely to spray myself with the pepper spray as I was to get bitten by a dog, especially because I have trouble picturing myself calmly aiming and spraying while getting rushed by a dog.  I decided I needed to at least test the spray once and see how it worked.  It was breezy, I thought I could risk it if I pointed downwind.  But I could not get the "liquid fire" to spray no matter what I did and ended up going home for a stick.

So it's a good thing I didn't encounter a rabid dog, because really, what the world will I do with my stick?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Black Eye, Better Sleep, and Dairy-Caused Fatigue

We have been having so much fun with family!  Seeing the grandparents and cousins is a highlight of our year every year--along with all of these lovely days off school!

Two interesting discoveries this summer I thought I'd share:

Micah got a shiner the other day on the Slip n Slide when he collided with Jesse.  He started with a huge lump over his eye (which we did ice, to no great effect) and then yesterday morning when he woke up his eye was swollen shut.  (He reminded me of how my cousin, Devin, looked as a child when--if I remember correctly--he slipped in ice and fell against the trailer hook or something metal on the truck in his driveway.)  Micah was miserable--there's not a whole lot you can do in that state, he found.  And we were trying to get him to ice or put other things on his eye, which meant he was one-armed and one-eyed and bored sick.

Eventually we hit on a solution that worked like magic, that I thought I'd share in case anyone else has a shiner to deal with.  We took a handkerchief and tied a cucumber to his eye (to free up his hands), switching to new refrigerated slices every 20 minutes or so.  Within a few hours ALL of the swelling was gone and we were left with just a dark stripe above his eye.  It was amazing, so extreme of a reaction in a relatively short period of time.

This is what he looked like after the swelling went down--now it just looks like some dark purple eye shadow.

The other discovery I had was a breakthrough on my sleep issues.  I started taking Oona (an herbal supplement) for hormonal balance (since hormone changes are what mess up my sleep) and it's really helping.  I'm also jogging every day when I wake up.  I've had much better sleep than I've had in ages since I've started taking it.  

The surprising thing was that I still have been feeling tired all day, and I had to make one more change.  What I realized with the help of a friend (thank you, Sarah) is that milk is affecting my energy levels.  

A lot of the time I get what I call foggy brain, I just feel exhausted and like I can't think straight.  And I thought it was related to not sleeping well.  But I spent a day at Sarah's on a dairy-free diet and she mentioned that I should be avoiding dairy if I'm having hormonal issues, which served to bring dairy to the forefront of my mind.  And after 24 hours off of dairy I realized I felt way more awake than normal (3:00 in the afternoon driving I felt great, and I never feel great while driving in the late afternoon, especially after sleeping badly the night before).

I really like cheese and ice cream, so I wasn't motivated to stay off of dairy for long, but as I added more and more back into my diet I realized I was feeling worse and worse.  And after a seriously tired and foggy day I decided to try cutting all of it again.  And it really does make a huge difference!  I've heard a rumor about some home-churned ice cream being at our picnic tonight, so I may just be groggy tomorrow, but in general I think I'll have to cut out some of my favorite foods because I feel so much better without them!

I will say this, if chocolate is ever to blame for any health issues I rather just not know . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Velveteen All Night Cry Fest

So we just watched The Velveteen Rabbit, a version that I can't say I liked too much, though the kids loved it.  In this version, for whatever reason, they have the little boy's mother dead (at her funeral, actually), the father avoiding him, and the boy living with his mean grandmother--so it's off to a running start.  Then he switches to this wild cartoon pretend-world with lots of flying and singing and the kids thought it was great.

So I wasn't too worried about anything but my own boredom every time it switched to cartoon, until the little boy gets sick.  And the animals in cartoon world tell us he's dying, and in the cartoon tree house the lightening strikes the wood and it starts burning, and the bunny has to sacrifice himself to the flames for the little boy to be pushed off into the river below.  Very strange and disturbing.  At this point, Abigail was hysterical; had I known it was coming, we wouldn't have watched it.

So then the boy wakes up and then we really have problems.  Because the boy's father takes the bunny downstairs in a sack and immediately starts a bonfire (whatever happened to the gardener waiting until the next day and the fairy coming overnight to take the rabbit away?) and tosses the sack in.  And they actually let us watch the sack burn, it was unbelievable.  I didn't turn it off because I kept telling them it was going to get better and end happy, but it was a bit of a train wreck.

So there is a redemptive ending, in which the dad and now happy "Nana" play baseball with the boy, and a real rabbit watches, but we had trouble getting past the burn pile.

So I lose one of the boys to wild tears because the movie is so sad--and then he remembers his lost monkey from years ago that he periodically mourns (our best guess is that it was in the little storage container of his broken rider tractor that broke and got thrown out) and vows to go searching for in the dump.  So he came unglued for a good 15 minutes.

Then I lose the second one because he feels so bad for his brother that he can't stop crying.  And even though I read them the book so they'd know the real ending, I find that for some of us, The Velveteen Rabbit is just too sad.  And also, I'm a little jealous of daddy having to work tonight.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Question after Church

Mom, at night does Jesus come to get the offering?

[Are we having tooth fairy confusion?]

Friday, May 22, 2015

Solving the Rooster Situation . . .

So, roosters have been an issue ever since we moved to our new house.  They generally start crowing at 5:00 in summer and 6:00 in winter--or sometimes if it rains or is unusually cool they are quiet.  But lately it has been hot and dry.  And my neighbor's roosters (which are constantly being sold and then replaced by new hatchlings) are early risers.  For the last three or four weeks they've been waking up around 3:00 each morning.  Needless to say, since I have sleep issues to begin with, it has not been ideal.

We had talked to our neighbor before about his roosters when they were waking us up before 5:00, but he insisted that his roosters sleep until 6:00--He laughed and offered to tape their mouths shut at night.  I was excited until Owen assured me he was being sarcastic.

So a few months passed and the early risers came.  There have been a lot of jokes about chicken soup and dead roosters at our house.  Micah took to lurking near them with a metal bat, hoping to kill them.  We thought of paying a rooster hit man to kill them for us (because honestly, we're too citified to do it).

A few weeks ago we met with the neighborhood association president and he assured us that rooster ownership was illegal and he'd be meeting with our neighbor.

Today when Owen called him back he told us that yesterday they'd elected a new president so he wasn't going to get involved, but that we could go to the ministry of environment about it.  Sounds promising.

So Owen went to talk to our neighbor once again and try to make him an offer he couldn't refuse.  But we aren't exactly tough guys.  And our neighbor seemed very surprised and skeptical at Owen's statement that it was illegal to have roosters in a residential area.  He had to be assured of this fact multiple times and wanted to know where Owen heard that.  Then he told Owen he'd make sure they didn't crow at night (although he'd already admitted that he doesn't hear them).

So the result of our talk was our neighbor telling us that these are valuable fighting roosters and the best he could do was sell them to us.  Owen said, "Well, are you just going to raise more?" and the neighbor assured him that he will raise no more roosters.  Owen told him his price seemed a little high, since he considered sleep more of a right than a privilege and tried to talk him down.  So the neighbor offered to sell us one at that price.  Owen said he'd talk to me and get back to him.

We decided to tell him we'd buy the two he has if he promises to stop raising roosters and to get rid of any of the chicks he has if they turn out to be roosters.  And he agreed.

He said we could make soup out of them.

Owen said we really don't want to deal with killing them, so he could do whatever he wanted, he could even sell them and get paid twice for all we care.  We just want them gone.

He said they'll be gone tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

God and a Scruffy Orange Soccer Ball

Jesse came up to me at school today and said, "Mom, I need to talk to you.  There's a problem.  I put my ball with our class's stuff when I went to chapel, and when I came back it was gone."  And he started crying.

This is not just any ball.  He brings it to school every day and about 20 kids play with it every morning and every recess.  He brings it with him when we go to pick up his brother from practice so he can kick it against the wall.  He tries to kick it around the house until we tell him to take it outside.  It's almost like his pet.

Jesse and Micah have been through any number of soccer balls here.  We have spiky plants here in the DR that puncture balls the day we buy them.  It just takes one misdirected kick.

But this particular ball kept its shape and bounciness after being punctured.  And because it is so beat up, it is the perfect ball to bring to school.  We thought it wouldn't be a big deal if something happened to it since it is virtually worthless.  But I underestimated the sentimental value of the ball and the fact that this ugly little beat-up ball is the only one we've had that just won't die as a result of thorns.  It also solved the sad scenario Jesse was facing each day on the playground.

Earlier in the year, my determined first-grade son approached the soccer games of the older elementary students (big 3rd and 4th graders, mostly) each recess wanting to play.  And although his older brother didn't mind him playing, and although, frankly, he's really good at soccer such that Micah's coach wants him to play on the older team, a few of the older kids would shout at him or taunt him until he stopped trying to join the game.  When he or Micah would tell them to let him play, they'd say, "It's my ball."

Not knowing how to resolve the situation and not wanting to get too involved if I didn't have to, after a few weeks of hearing these stories I told Jesse to bring his old orange ball to school and start his own game with that.  Surprisingly, the older kids loved Jesse's smaller ball and started using his instead of theirs.  And then when they tried to tell Jesse he couldn't play, he told them it was his ball.  Problem solved.  The ball that has given Jesse great recesses for the rest of the year.

So I decided to take the ball search seriously.  I talked to a teacher who saw high school boys playing with it.

I asked some guys who said, Oh, yeah!  I was playing with it.  But no one had it.

They asked, Is it flat?  Is it little and orange?

Yes!  Yes!  Flat and orange, that's our ball!  I realize it looks like trash but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

Finally some guys narrowed it down to one classroom, but I didn't see it in there.  Owen went so far as to call a teacher with kids on a bus on their way to a soccer game.  And those kids told Owen it was in the recycling box on top of the cabinet in the Sociales room.  And it WAS!

And I was so happy!  I may have been almost as happy as Jesse was.

And I thought, this is what it is to be a parent.  To get really excited about a ball that really needs to be thrown out it's so ugly.  And then I thought, this must be how God feels about me.  The things I get so worried about and wrapped up in and that I think are so important . . .  How many times has God answered a prayer that someone else might think was so ridiculous that I should never have even asked in the first place?

 But I think He might feel like I did when I handed the ball to my son and watched him light up.

Dreaming in Spanish

I've heard that you know you're bilingual when you start dreaming in your second language.  I'm not sure if that's true, but I have had dreams since I've moved here where I've spoken in Spanish with less then more accuracy.

I remember being suspicious when I first moved here that I wasn't exactly speaking real Spanish in the dreams.  Just Spanish-like talk.

But the other night I discussed flooring and how I wanted something arranged in a random pattern with a builder of some kind in my dream.  And I don't know that I know all of the words needed to intelligently have that full conversation, but I woke up in the middle of the night and knew I'd been discussing it in Spanish with him.

And I was very happy.  :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Street Dog is Gone

I haven't seen Grenade in 3 or 4 weeks, and while she's disappeared for a week or two at a time, she's never been gone this long.  I was getting suspicious that something happened.  Tonight I heard a dog barking outside and went out to investigate, hoping it was her.  I ended up talking with a Haitian man who gardens an empty lot near me and who was training his dog.  I spoke with him about my missing dog and peeked in my neighbor's yard to see if the bark I was hearing was Grenade.  The neighbor came out, too, and I was asking the two of them if they'd seen Grenade.

At first I didn't understand them because I didn't know the word for poisoned, but since it contains some form of the word "venom" I figured it out.  Apparently she was poisoned by someone nearby.  And I'm sad.

I totally understand why someone would want to.  She barked super ugly at Haitians walking through my neighborhood, she chased motorcycles (and cars, from time to time), and she barked and followed the ice cream man.  She was lovely to our family, but not so lovely to others.  And I had recently seen someone throw a rock at her because she was barking at him.  I guess someone got fed up.

Some would argue that this is why we should have officially made her ours and brought her inside our gate, and they'd have a point.  But what I loved about Grenade was that she was free and she chose to be our friend.  We could go away for a week and she'd be fine.  And then we could go for a jog when I got back.  She wasn't pooping all over our patio (which has no grass), she wasn't keeping me up at night barking (usually--she still chose to guard in front of our house a great deal and would sometimes keep me up), and we loved her visits and giving her our leftover chicken bones.

I know, you're not supposed to do that, but a street dog isn't picky.  She loved them.  And our slightly outdated lunch meat, too.

But I'm really sad knowing that she is dead.  She was my doggy friend, and I don't really like most dogs.  She was my one exception.  And I'll miss her.

Monday, April 13, 2015

No Water Day

A very D.R. sort of scenario developed for us today.  We realized the water was gone in our house, which has never happened before.  And when the guys from the school went over to look into it, we realized that a combination of forces was keeping us from our water.  Interestingly, here it is common for home owners to put in illegal water lines in addition to the legal paying line.  So that much of one's water, then, is "free" (stolen?).  So we knew previous owners had put in a second line at our house.  What I found out today was that that was the line they had running to the cistern.  The main water source for the house.  And at some point, a while ago perhaps, the water company cut off our illegal line.  Which I say, Great!  Let's be legal!

But we knew neither that they did anything or that the main water supply to our house was affected.  So when the wonderful fix-all-problem guys from our school re-routed the problem, it fixed for the long-term but not for today.  Because today I learned what our cistern is protecting us from.  The street water is turned off I guess a day or a few days a week, just as they do with the electricity.  And what happens if you don't have a functioning cistern is that you don't have water until they turn it back on.  Which I was told may happen tomorrow?

So I thought: I have three small kids, one smelly from soccer practice.  Plus, I'm hot and need a shower.  It's like 90 here every day.  Also the toilets all are waterless and I don't know what to do about dishes.

I decided to scavenge around the school for a solution.  Thankfully, there are showers at the school, which I decided to use after soccer practice pick-up, and I got the athletic director to lend me a big water cooler.  I lugged it home, filled all my toilet tanks, packed shower kits, and then we had a Davis family shower in the locker room after soccer ended.  Then I brought the refilled water cooler home so we could wash hands and dishes.

I feel so resourceful.  Also I feel like I live in a third world country.  Some days I don't, but today I do.  :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Un-American Story

Yesterday I was stopped at a traffic light waiting for the light to change.  I noticed in my side mirror that a moto was approaching on my left.  And then I watched as a woman stepped out from behind my car, crossing the street through the stopped traffic, and got hit by the motorcycle.  I opened my door to go see if she was okay or if anyone needed my help--only to see a group of Dominican men already gathering and shouting at the driver of the moto.  One of them hit him on the side of the head, shouting what must have been the equivalent of, "What on earth were you doing?" The moto driver picked the woman up off of the street and they stood there in an embrace while the group around him all yelled and took care of the situation.  I later saw the driver drop the woman off on the other side of the street on his motorcycle, and I guess then it was over.

I just felt strongly that there couldn't have been a less American way of handling an accident.  I felt like I was watching a presentation on Dominican culture: "and here you'll observe through this minor accident something of the culture--chaos, warmth, expression of emotions (both negative and positive), protectiveness of women . . ."

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!