Sunday, July 29, 2012

Drinking from a Fire Hose

There has not been much coming from me these days via post.  And let me say, it is not from a lack of material!  In fact, it is more the reverse.  There is so much to write about that I don’t write anything, if that makes sense.  There is an overwhelming amount to learn and adjust to for us here.  The learning curve is steep.  It's like drinking from a fire hose, as a friend of mine here likes to say.  First of all, almost all of my interactions all day are in Spanish.  I think I somehow underestimated how much I'd be needing to speak in Spanish, because I knew we’d be around so many gringos.  But the grocery store, church, travel, my maid, calling for a water delivery . . . all in Spanish.  And somehow speaking in Spanish exhausts me even more than the manual labor.

A steer wandered into the cul de sac outside of neighbor's house.

Daily life tasks take twice as long here.  Our water is delivered in big 5 gallon botellones.  When we run out I call our local Colmado (corner store) and a man on a moto brings it to our house in somewhere between one minute and an hour.  I then have to go downstairs to unlock the two locks on our gate (I always try to make it seem smooth, like I totally know which two of my keys from the ring go to that gate).  Then he comes up the stairs, puts it in our pantry, and takes the old one.  The water is about $.85 unless for some reason you don't have the old bottle to give him, in which case it's $5.00 for a completada.  I couldn't get any today or yesterday from our normal guy, but we had two big ones going into the weekend and I'm trying to hold out until tomorrow.  We did find the fresh squeezed juice section at the grocery store and between that and the limeaid our maid makes so deliciously (called limonada, they don't have lemons here as we know them, limes are lemons) we are drinking lots more juice than we used to.

Not being able to drink the water from the tap and having to treat all fruits and veggies as potential transmitters of cholera means that preparing food involves soaking ingredients in filtered, treated water for 15 minutes.  I have switched from soaking them in Clorox to using Purissimo, a European product (not sure if there's much of an essential difference there, but here's hoping).  The essential problem with the soaking, apart from the inevitable nutrient loss in our food, is that I have to plan ahead and know that I'll need an ingredient 15 minutes before I'm ready for it, which is not the way I work.  I am excited, though, about the greens and herbs I started on my balcony in pots (I'm hoping to avoid that soaking step with those).

I bought some plants and soil yesterday, so now it looks more like home.  I put some bougainvillea (here called trinitaria) and I don't know what the white flower is (it looks a little like clematis, anyone know?) on my front balcony.  And then I put another pretty pink flower (again, I have no idea what it's called but would love to) on the side balcony along with my pots of soil with seeds: cilantro, mint, basil, and arugula.  The "potting" soil was heavy and clayish, but was all the garden center had, so here goes nothing!  The soil here is supposed to be some of the most fertile in the world, so I guess they know what they're doing.

It's funny.  We alternate between working twice as hard to having these wildly exciting tourist adventures.  We took the family vacation I wrote about the other week to Cabarete.  I actually must interrupt my narrative to give some pictures of the drive from Santiago to Cabarete.  We drove over mountains to get there.  I loved the paint colors and roadside stands.  Since we didn't bring a lot of artwork with us, my plan is to paint some of these pictures.  I actually did a small watercolor of one of the roadside stands for the front of an anniversary card for Owen (9 years!).  So here is your picture tour of the drive over the mountains:

Even in the mountains, sometimes you need a basket of fake Gerbera daisies.

A pretty tree here, the one I call the yellow one. 

One of the many Colmados we passed on the way to the beach.  The corner store concept is as big in the mountains as it is in the city.

I know you may hear otherwise, but I honestly can't tell any difference in the taste of bananas here.  But let  me tell you, I never tasted a pineapple nearly as good as you can buy here in the states.  They're not even the same color.  More of a rich yellow-orange color--on the outside!

That dark brown fruit that looks like a potato is called a zapote, and tastes very distinctive.  We're getting used to that and the papaya taste (more acquired tastes than some of the others).

My favorite tree here, flamboyan.

Would love to know what it hanging on that tree that looks like hot dogs . . . fruit?

Last weekend we went on an orientation trip to a tiny sandbar a few miles offshore to go snorkling.  We set out just when the sky was looking especially stormy but it thankfully never turned into anything.  We had fun snorkling, it was pretty shallow at first, so good for getting the kids out.  Even Abigail got to see some fish from above the water.

Micah and Jesse have a teeny tiny spider-sized gecko living in their lego castle.  Oh dear.  They did.  I just went to see if I could get a picture of it and it wasn't moving.  Maybe we should have realized that such a tiny one needed easier access to water and ants.  We were catching the geckos and taking them out of the house until my friend told me the Dominicans send their kids outside to catch some and bring them in for mosquito control.  We are excited about these fun pets.  Jesse is getting quite masterful at the gentle gecko pinch.  We'll have to get some pictures later.

And that's all for the Davis update!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ta Da: The Photos!

Departure Day!

Getting ourselves together . . . 

Here we go!
 So I spared you all, and my self-respect, by not photographing the scenes of terror when we first arrived and had boxes and mess everywhere and this looked nothing like a home.  I do have to take more shots of the rooms as we get them finished up (mostly our bedroom and connected "nook" room still need some arranging).  But we are mostly unpacked at this point.  I thought it would be nice to show some daily life scenes in our new place.

Our dining room table (the kitchen and dining room are separated only by a counter) is where we eat our meals now.

Abigail doing paint by number--I was so proud by day three or four to have things unpacked enough that the kids could have more "normal" days.

The boys in their room with their legos.  They pretty much like it here because their legos are here.  We got back from vacation today where the kids had a blast on the beach, and Jesse told our downstairs neighbor, "It was a little bit fun, but not really fun, because there weren't any legos."

The boys with lego creations.

Abigail trying out things in her new room.

Abigail and Daddy post bath in the hall. 

The view from our kitchen window the other evening.  I saw a neighbor in one of those trees picking mangoes recently, it was so surreal.

Monday, July 16, 2012

En Casa (At Home)

We moved to the Dominican Republic a week and a half ago.  It is very beautiful and very overwhelming so far.  We had a very stressful week of unpacking and staying up late (and getting used to roosters, dogs barking, and our new neighbor's car alarm).  Cloroxing lettuce and many other veggies to make salad or stir fry (soup or something to be boiled doesn't need it) is not an easy adjustment, nor is the concept of "dirty" water coming out of the faucet.  Kitchen tasks are taking literally twice as long in trying to adjust.

We're on vacation right now in Cabarete and just went to a national park with cold water in a cave that we could swim in and a tour that contained cotton plants (the size of small trees), almond trees, mahogony trees, avocado trees, cocoa plants, coffee plants, coqi frogs, etc.  Yesterday I went with two other friends who are visiting to 27 waterfalls, a Dominican attraction just like a natural water park, with "slides" down rock and jumps and amazing views.  It was incredible.

We go home tomorrow to our beautiful apartment and lots of hard work.  :)  I do have someone come to help me twice a week (a concept that I will admit is very difficult for me to get used to, but was very strongly recommended to me by people I trust; a new relationship and power-sharing opportunity that I hope to get more comfortable with as the weeks pass), which means that I don't have to ignore my children all day long in order to do what I now realize I was able to do fairly easily in the states by comparison.

I got my cell phone the other day, and it took, literally, the day.  Lots of standing and negotiating and ridiculousness and waiting.  :)  And an intriguing plan it is, too.  For example, I get three people that I can call up to 500 times per month (total).  However, each call must stay under 5 minutes, because the calls to those people cannot come out of my total number of calls for the month.  If I go over 5 minutes on a call to one of those people, I will have to pay extra per minute over per call.  I can text 2 people a ridiculous number of times per month (I forget the number), but they cannot be people that are already on the frequent call list (which means I cannot make Owen a frequent call and frequent text guy).  If I need to make changes to my account, I need to find the man (in person) who I worked with all day on it.  He will remember me and allow me to make changes.  Anyone else would not allow it since it has to be in Owen's name since I am "extranjera" (foreigner) with no proof of income for me personally.  And I spare you some of the other complicating details.  I have to go once a month in person to pay my bill, and it has to be on time to avoid late fees, but apparently I will have to just remember on my own since I will receive no bill.

The kids are loving the beach and will, I imagine, be little fishes within a year or two, given the amount of in the water time they've had even since we've come a week and a half ago.  They've adjusted well, overall, and were thrilled to have their toys again (they were waiting when we arrived).

I have been amazed and excited by the amount of Spanish that was apparently stored away in my head.  I read some books before I came on Spanish verbs and I tried to review a lot over the last few months, and it was all worth it.  I'm able to understand a lot of what is said to me, a church sermon, some of what Dominicans are saying to each other, and am able to get across my ideas/comments most of the time.  I actually have the most trouble understanding the woman who comes to help me twice a week, b/c I think my education's emphasis was more on public life than terms used in the home--words to help you more when traveling or studying or out with others to travel or hang out.

My biggest frustration so far, which may or may not be surprising to those who know me, is how difficult it is to do things "naturally" here.  Everything that can have a fragrance, sugar, chemical, etc. added, does.  Toilet paper even has fragrance here.  And to buy otherwise is to be "elite" and to pay really high prices.  I'm searching wildly for sources for more natural living.  I will give more specifics on this later.

Water is delivered daily when I call, and is less than a dollar for a 5 gallon bottle.  Most of our other purchases are significantly more expensive than in the US.  We hope to become more informed consumers, because we can't afford to live this way long term.  Somewhere, I'm fairly confident, we'll find what we need, but we may need to shop in many different places to pull it all together.

Pictures are coming, I don't have the cord with me on vacation, but I have taken many, and they are so beautiful!  :)