Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall is . . .

Just thought I'd put a request out there to my friends in the States actually experiencing fall.  I generally feel nostalgic on Sundays, and think of what people are doing back home.  And especially after posting about Fall, since there really isn't Fall here.  So I thought I'd pitch one to my readers.  Here's my interactive blog topic: When do you really feel like it's fall?  I used to feel like it was fall when I started going to the Friday night home football games in high school, but that was a really long time ago.  Right about now if I was in Philly we'd be going to Farmer's Markets and eating lots of apples and I'd be coordinating my local meat purchasing for our "co-op."  If you want to, I'd love to read some comments with what fun Fall things you all are up to.

Feeling Like Fall

Well, it was 90 degrees yesterday, and we had an awesome time swimming at the club we just joined. [ I know,"Who is the woman?" I hear you asking, "She drives an SUV and joined a club?"  The irony is not lost on me, don't worry.]  Well, the kids and I did--Owen was gone almost all week and gets back tonight, which made the very long weekend due to hurricane days off school a little less bearable.  Anyway, I digress.  The point is that it once again feels like summer.  But for a few days there it was cool, we wore jeans during the day, and it felt like fall.  During the stormy cool weather, the kids decorated for Halloween.  I didn't see that they have imported carving pumpkins in the grocery store ($5 for a tiny one) until we'd already painted pretend local ones.  Ours are some kind of squash (auyama, I think), I picked out the ones that looked the most pumkiny.  The kids wanted to keep going on the pictures, but we're running out of construction paper and I thought a dozen was enough.  

They have their Halloween costumes ready, and I have some expats lined up as trick or treat sites.  No one does trick or treating in this country, a fact of which my kids were informed, but my kids are very committed and unfazed by that knowledge.  I don't have the heart to tell them we can't go anywhere.  Their costumes: Jesse is going to be a bunny (because we already have the tail and ears), Abigail is going to be a pumpkin kitty (because we already have a pumpkin shirt and ears and tail), and Micah is going to be the ocean (because I really didn't think I could make him into a shark, but I thought we could pin his various ocean-related stuffed animals to a blue shirt).  Pictures forthcoming on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mountain Drive

One of my favorite parts of the area we live in is the mountains.  It is about ten degrees cooler at any given time in the mountains.  So while I live near beautiful tropical beaches, what I really crave a day trip to the mountains.  The only problem, as we discovered, is that it's tough to take a day trip there.  The mountains are not filled with paths and parking lots for hikers and there are no trail maps to be found.  So when I told Owen I wanted to go hiking in the mountains--Owen, as lover of maps and guide books and web pages, being, of course, our trip coordinator--he had to rely on descriptions of a hike from a guide book.  We told the kids we were having a hiking adventure in the mountains, packed a few granola bars and water (the guide book promised restaurants and shops near the hiking location), and headed off.

The drive is a mountain road which connects Santiago to Puerta Plata, a nearby beach.  It's a beautiful drive and we had a promising start to our day.  However, the guide book accidentally confused two "La Cumbre" roads and when we turned off of that road we had a terrifying ride straight up a broken concrete road (turns out this one runs on a fault line and is broken up by earthquakes) with an unbelievably steep slope.  I did not get a photo of this one because I was too terrified for photo snapping and we were too busy reading the owner's manual to make sure we had the four-wheel drive correctly engaged and to make sure that the picture-of-the-car-on-the-steep-downward-grade button was in fact the button you push when going down a .

We got back on track, through broken and insufficient Spanish, to find a more substantial-looking "La Cumbre."  When I say substantial, what I really mean is that this one was marked for tourists.  It was still unpaved and tiny.  This one looked more promising, as it led to a memorial to the Mirabel sisters (opposed to and killed by the dictator Trujillo); their death helped to gather even more support to Trujillo's overthrow.  The monument is constructed where their bodies were found in their car, and is truly in the middle of nowhere.

Here is the Davis family at the memorial; three of them have no idea what the memorial is for.

We got directions from there for the mountain hike near the amber mines (as read about in Owen's tour book), slightly vague ones, involving more driving up tiny mountain roads.  People kept vaguely waving us on ahead, and while we grew gradually less hopeful about finding a trail, people did seem to know something of the amber mines.  Eventually, some man looked at us curiously when we said we wanted to see pretty sites and go for a walk near the amber mines and waved us down the road a few feet and pointed off to the side of the road.  It did not look remotely possible that a trail could be where he was pointing, but I got out of the car.  I walked over to where he was gesturing and realized that he was pointing down into an amber mine.  I assured him that we did not actually want to take our walk in the amber mine, but said I wanted to take a picture.

After that, we had a good laugh, broke out the Nutri-Grain bars, and told the kids we'd just go out to eat, as promised.  I got some great pictures on the way down, which I must post here in order to justify making our car ride a little longer (I mean, for a family hike, this was turning out to be pretty sedentary and boring for the kids).

I had no idea that a banana tree flowered until I saw this

We made our way back to the main mountain road, and started to look about us for restaurant options.  There weren't any.  At least, there certainly didn't appear to be, and lots of people were staring at us as though we were a travelling zoo.  I'm going to just take a wild guess here and say that there probably aren't so many tourists going back to see the Mirabel sisters monument.  So we told the kids we'd stop at the "town" on the way down.  But the few stands there offered Snapple and a few fried meat products that looked unappealing and which I refused to feed my children.  So the rest of the granola bars were divvied up, and we started back down the mountain.  Owen wanted to stop at an amber store he'd noticed, so we unloaded the kids and went for a little mini-field trip, as it turned out (perhaps not so riveting for the early childhood age-group).  The tiny shop sold amber earrings and such, but what was far more interesting is that it also purchased amber.  And there were two men there selling amber in rock form to the owner--one of them even had a more rare turquoise-colored amber (the edge was amber, when he put the flashlight behind it it was the familiar golden brown color).  And, thankfully for all of my faithful readers here, they had no problem with me taking pictures of everything they did and all the different forms of amber.

The contender

A rare color of amber

Quality assessment and comparison


Filing it down a little

The merchandise

The pair I liked

Mommy's choice approved by all
Family hike, pretty much a failure.  But an interesting one at that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Got to Wear a Sweater Today!

OK, only for a little, but it was so wonderfully cool.  It was also a hurricane, and classes were dismissed early and school cancelled for tomorrow.  The cool breeze and wearing jeans and drinking hot tea tonight . . .  I can't even tell you!  So delightful!  And we painted "pumpkins" today.  I'll try to post pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mosquito Attack!

I don't know what is going on, because we have screens and haven't had much problem before tonight, but we just killed close to 100 mosquitoes, literally, mostly all in our living room.  They're landing on the walls, and sometimes we're killing two at a time with both hands.  Our living room floor is littered with mosquito carcasses, and our walls have mosquito marks on them.  We just drained a plant in the corner that had standing water in it, could that really have been the culprit?  The weird thing is that we really didn't get bitten much at all.  And that we seem to have gotten it back under control.  I can only find a few visible anyway after an intensive mosquito killing hour as I search the house.  It's too creepy, though.

Pray for us, that the mosquito infestation ends!

I killed a lot of mosquitoes on this Matilda library book.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Digno y Santo

We found a church we love last week and went for the second time today.  We sang this song there, that I have come to love as we've been living here.  In English it's called "Worthy and Holy" and it's so beautiful.  I'm putting a link to below (because it's the only place I know to listen to specific songs for free), and you just have to click on the first version by Kari Jobe (because that's the best one!):

Digno y Santo

Here are the lyrics first in Spanish and then in English for anyone who's interested:

Worthy and Holy

Kari Jobe

Digno y Santo el cordero
Inmolado en la cruz
Nuevo canto
Al quien su trono esta

Digno y Santo el cordero
Inmolado en la cruz
Nuevo canto levantaremos
Al quien su trono esta

Santo, santo, santo
Dios todo poderoso
Quien fue, quien es y quien vendra
La creacion te canta
Hosana al gran Yo Soy
Tu eres mi todo
Y yo te adorare...

De un arcoiris, estas vestido
Tu voz resuena como los truenos
Recibe Honor y Gloria
Poder y Majestad
A ti el unico Rey


Tan grandioso, asombroso
Con solo decir Jesus
Tan grandioso, asombroso
Con solo decir Jesus
Cristo tu nombre es grande
Fuerte inagotable
Tu misterio glorioso es

Eres santo

Worthy and Holy

Kari Jobe

Worthy and Holy
Lamb, sacrificed on the cross
New song, get up
to that in his throne this /
Holy, holy, holy,
God Almighty
Who was, is, and who will come
The creation sings
Hosanna to the great I am
You are my everything
And I will worship you
In a rainbow, these dress
resuenda Your voice like thunder
Receive Honor and Glory
and Power Majesta you the only king
Holy, holy, holy,
God Almighty
Who was, is, and who will come
The creation sings
Hosanna to the great I am
You are my everything
And I will worship you
So great, amazing
by saying Jesus
Christ your name is great
inexhaustible Source
Your mystery
is Glorious
Holy, holy, holy,
God Almighty
Who was, is, and who will come
The creation sings
Hosanna to the great I am
You are my everything
And I will worship you
I adore

Friday, October 5, 2012

Finishing Touches

This little end-table was refinished to match our dining room  table and given a new top (the other one was lost in shipping), originally made by my grandfather.

Homemade curtains: We need every puff of wind we can get, so the creative twist is the best option.  

My birthday gift, painted by the husband of a teacher at Owen's school.

My other birthday gift, from IKEA (well, we said it was, but we just needed a chair for the living room). 

Mother and daughter craft: My mom bought me the butterflies when she was visiting.  They're a local craft made from coconut shells.  We braided nine strands of twine and hot glued the butterflies onto it.  If my walls weren't all tile in the bathroom I may have mounted them individually, but . . . they are!

It's finally coming together!  I have to say, these little touches just make it so much homier!


Just had to share a picture of this.  These are pinto beans.  Fresh ones from my local grocery store.  Are they not beautiful?  I just don't feel like it's the same experience as getting them dried in a bag.


Micah has a loose tooth that is now sticking out in such a way as to make both of his parents shudder when they see it.  I told Micah that when people start calling you "Tooth" you might want to pull that thing out, and Micah said, "I'm pretty sure that the people I keep hearing saying 'Diente' around me are talking about me."  Si, es posible.  At least he knows enough Spanish to figure that out!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Visitor's Suite

So, though I had my skeptics, I did manage to get the laundry room looking like a reasonable guest suite.  I was given a huge boost by my neighbor who insisted that my parents shouldn't be sleeping on an air mattress.  She felt they'd be much more comfortable on the mattress from her spare room.  Hard to argue with that.  But imagine my surprise when Owen and another neighbor (apparently employed on our block for all small jobs--we've seen him on neighbor's roofs and walls harvesting mangoes and guavas) came in with the bed frame . . . and then the box spring.  Of course, when I asked Owen why he didn't tell her that we didn't need to take her entire bed, he pled language deficiency.  And when I told my neighbor that she didn't need to give us the whole bed, she scoffed (in Spanish) at the idea of my parents bending down to get into bed, thus defeating the purpose of the back support afforded by the real mattress.  Here's a little tour of the guest suite my parents stayed in last week, I forgot to include the pictures on my last post.

The "sans microwave, laundry tub, or washing machine" view

The guest bath

The "reveal all" view (well, almost, the water cooler and microwave are to the right behind that closet); we've getting a really good (and really affordable) local carpenter to make us a wooden screen to hide the laundry tub and washing machine (maybe in time for Christmas)

Had to include the inverter and battery pack on the wall.  I tried to dress them up with hanging baskets and a metal painted crab, but really, back-up energy solutions are just not too attractive.

Hmm, I realize as I label that last picture that I have neglected to explain how energy works here.  So we do have electrical power every day.  But at least a few days a week we lose power for anywhere between a few minutes to 12 hours.  When we first moved here, I thought that the power outages were a result of "Hello, you moved to a third world country, of course you lose power."  I pictured tattered wiring, storms blowing trees over, not enough power to supply the city, etc.  But then I was told that the "brown outs" are actually a retaliatory move from the U.S. and Canadian power plants who are owed around a billion dollars.  Dominicans (this includes me now, of course) pay some of the highest rates of electricity in the world--but since much of the money customers pay is going straight into the pockets of corrupt government officials here, we also have some of the worst service in the world.  The energy providers don't wish to provide energy for "free."

Thursday seems to be a big day for power companies sending the message "Santiago, pay up!"  Most people in Santiago (at least our section of it) do not have electricity (or water, as a result) on Thursdays.  The school Owen works for has provided us with an inverter, so we have battery supplied electricity during those times. We just lose power to the refrigerator, washing machine, microwave or other heating device (use of these would kill the inverter).  We can cook because we have a gas oven.  But it really does affect our way of life, if just because we can't count on amenities like we could in America.  And because we have to go food shopping almost every day.  Food is less chemically treated and often in really hot environments before being purchased, so it already has a short shelf life.  But I can't imagine that the refrigerator going out regularly helps much.  And you don't want much meat in a freezer that goes out all the time.  Our house does get water, thankfully.  I think if we lost power for long enough we'd lose it, but it can handle a half day's loss just fine.  Needless to say that I take the possibility of "National Emergency" very seriously and keep extra bottles of filtered water (and a water filter) handy.

Just a little glimpse into some of the more complicated facets of daily life here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Visit Con Los Padres

My parents just left after a wonderful week-long visit.  They came last Saturday night, we left for a resort nearby in the morning, came back on Tuesday so the boys (and Owen) could attend a few days of school and so we could show them our lives here, and then went to the mountains for two days before they left.  The kids were so excited to see Grandma and Grandpa, and we all just felt it was so, so good to be together.

Abigail was mostly excited to see Grandma and Grandpa--but she was almost as excited about getting the princess dress and Hello, Kitty! purse that she knew Grandma was bringing.

Here's the Davis/Frey crew in Sosua.  You can't see her in the picture, but Abigail is in an adorable fish inner tube that a boy at the beach lent to her.

Here are the Davis boys outside of the national park in Cabarete.  We took Grandpa there for a birthday gift; it was hot we were all tired, and having a power-outage inside the cave made it a different (and more harrowing) experience than when we went the time before.  But it was truly a glimpse of the country!

The beach at Riu Bachata was amazing.

I mean, seriously, is this beautiful, or what?

Beach time with Grandma.

You'd never guess, but this was about the 18th attempt.

The chefs at the restaurant carved local auyamas (pumkins) into cool shapes.

The fam.

Local restaurant--do you know how hot it is cooking here?  Very.

Cathedral in downtown Santiago's Parque Duarte.

Souvenier bracelets from grandma.  A really sweet older woman in a shop gave us these after we bought some Larimar jewelry (a pretty blue stone from the D.R.).

My mom took these pictures of the market at the end of my street where I buy a lot of produce.  I don't exactly blend there or feel uber-confident (where I could start snapping photos myself), so it was great to be able to ask people if my mom could take pictures to show her friends about her daughter's life.  People were more than willing to be photographed.

Coconut stand.  You can get him to hack the top off for you and pour it into a cup or you can be more sanitary and self-reliant and almost dismember yourself in your very own kitchen after buying it whole.

OK, so here you can see chayote (the light green crisp squash), yuca--or patatas (sweet potatoes), it's hard to tell--behind it, platanos (big, green banana-looking fruits that need to be cooked) on the ground, and me, in the distance, buying tomatoes for less than 50 cents a pound.  (Don't worry, it all evens out.  Anything processed or made of plastic costs two to three times as much as in the states.

In the mountains of Jarabacoa: the butterfly house.  Butterflies on the sides of houses are big here.  The smaller ones (not pictured) are made of coconut shells.  I'm guessing the big metal ones are a result of people wishing coconuts were bigger.

El presidente, the local beer.

Tim, the collie who "shepherded" my family the whole time we were in the mountains.  He'd lay beside our table for a meal, supervise our swimming (he almost fell in trying to protect Jesse at one point), and guard our cabin at night (we kind of wished at that point he'd find another family to protect).  We LOVED Tim!

The waterfall we hiked down to after our horseback ride.

The kids with Grandma.  Kids who helped us on the horses were leaping off those cliffs behind them while we took these pictures.

We feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful visit.  And having those we love from America come to see our new life made it more real somehow here, too.  See you at Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa!