Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy Easter!

We just had the best Spring break trip to Cabarete!  We stayed in a really quiet section on the outskirts of the beach areas in a house with a view of a tropical garden out front and a basically deserted beach.  Our friends joined us for most of the time we were there, and we had a blast! 

Family beach shot

Chilling in a hole

Jesse buried
 (I forgot my camera on the beach, so these are taken with Owen's phone, excuse the quality.)

Happy Birthday, Owen!

Y Feliz Cumpleanos, Diana!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spanish Fatigue

I am tired from Spanish.  Not "of" Spanish (though I have my moments), but "from."  Little every day interactions like calling the corner store for water, greeting the neighbors, answering wrong number calls on the phone, asking where things are at the grocery store (which is not arranged intuitively), listening to the sermon and talking to everyone in Spanish (more or less) Sunday mornings, and reading signs are all exhausting when added up in time over time.  Not to mention converting pesos to dollars!  I have to do this in my head with every price because I still need to know what it would be in dollars to know if it's expensive or not.  And since there are about 40 pesos to a dollar, it's some pretty tough math.  Sometimes I'm like, wow, that's a thousand pesos??, only to realize that that's $25.  Or if I'm shortchanged 10 pesos I can remind myself, OK, we're talking a quarter here . . .

But it's interesting, I think culture shock is mostly having to notice more around me than I would in my home culture (because things are different and I have to analyze it and think, for example, wow, is it a good idea for him to be carrying a propane tank on the back of a moto?) and having to think more than usual to talk or perform daily interactions.  Just a lot of energy.  So still wanting to learn a lot of Spanish but not wanting to make much effort these days.  Just want to become fluent without trying.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Open Market

Tiny peppers

 One of the more interesting, and, perhaps, overwhelming, sections of Santiago (for me, anyway) is the Hospedaje (the open markets).  My brave mother wanted to go see it when she and my dad were here a few weeks ago, though it is not a place frequented by tourists.  I just discovered the pictures on my camera.

Lots of varieties of peppers, okra (back right), carrots and eggplant (top center), chayote squash (the green pear-shaped squash top right), cabbage, cilantro and other fresh herbs

You can get fresh coconut milk on the street, you even get a straw.  My kids like it, I might if I added a bunch of sugar or something.

Parts of it are out on the sidewalks, for blocks and blocks.  And then parts of it are in storefronts or tucked away into small alleyways.  Spices and grains, for example, are often off of the street a little and sometimes down an alley.

Cinnamon sticks (front bottom), slingshots (top middle)--I bought the kids slingshots for Christmas but they were confiscated at the airport when an x-ray machine started beeping: "This woman has plastic slingshots in her bag."  "Um, actually, they're metal."  "You have metal slingshots in here?!" . . .  I bought them another one before I took this picture.

We had such a nice adventure, I'm glad my parents are so fun!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Ill-Fated Garden Patch

The story of my garden is one that perhaps will illustrate some of the aspects of my life here in the Dominican Republic.  While still in the States, I dreamed with high hopes of my lush Dominican garden that I was told would be of such fruitful soil that if you throw a handful of beans over your shoulder and wait three days you'd have a vine.  

Somehow my arrangement and facilitation of the process of digging the garden, having a fence built around it to keep cows, dogs, chickens, and even people from walking through it, and "preparing" the soil took seven months.  I will say that serious heat was a deterrent until about October (when it was still seriously hot), but this whole experiment (which may have come to an end) has really been too comical.

Here's the timeline:
  • I started begging kind people we knew at Owen's workplace (with way more important things to do) for a fence for my hypothetical garden
  • suggestions that perhaps a square of prepared soil would be a good start to getting the fence led to many thoughts of, "Hmm, perhaps I will pay someone to turn the soil for me; this heat and humidity does not exactly call my name and get me outside into that little wilderness outside my window . . . once it's a little cooler perhaps."
  • in October, I paid someone to turn the soil
  • a few weeks later, someone took all of the topsoil I had so handily left turned over and exposed without a fence
  • several months later, a fence was built
  • a week or so later, I tried to work in the garden (with my lovely gardening assistant, Abigail) and discovered that the soil that was there was very similar in texture to modeling clay--it made formidable balls, repelled water, and had to be hacked at with a sharp object to "turn" it
  • a day or so later, I resumed begging, this time for some topsoil I knew about that I hoped kind people from Owen's workplace (with more important things to be doing) could be induced to deliver for me
  • a month or so after that, without my knowledge, topsoil was delivered for me by kind people from Owen's workplace (who still had much more important things to be doing) and placed right outside of the fence
  • a few days later, my much-improving but still imperfect student of the Spanish language husband informed me that the downstairs neighbor told him that someone had stolen the topsoil that had apparently been delivered without our knowledge
  • a few days after that, the neighbor's wife informed me that now the topsoil was actually stolen (Owen had misunderstood his interaction a few days prior to the theft: the neighbor was telling him that many people were trying to steal our topsoil but he had chased them off multiple times)
  • a few weeks after that, the owner of the land, who had given permission for the said garden, came and put up a nice new "For Sale by Owner" sign
  • a few days after that, I found out that the enormous garden a neighbor has right next to my tiny one is now going to be removed in respect to that "For Sale by Owner" sign and I may have to remove my fence
  • Current day:  I give up!  Good thing local produce is cheap here!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To Have . . . and Know It

One of the most striking differences for me since I moved here is that I now know myself to be wealthy in a way I did not before.  Owen makes less money here than he did in the states, but here it is far more noticeable that we have so very much.  I think the reason I notice it so much more here is because 1) unlike in America, the poor are not separated from those who have enough to be comfortable, and 2) there is no social safety net in the Dominican Republic and so poverty is much more severe.

I wanted to mention two different common occurances here that I find so shocking to my American sensibilities.

The first I see every day.  Men with severe handicaps or severe deformations (something we are not accustomed to seeing with the medical system in the U.S. intervening when children are very young) beg at busy intersections to make a living.  Almost all of them have such a serious physical ailment that they are unable to walk well and/or have such deformed hands (or, literally, no hands) that they can barely hold the cup to receive money.  With no welfare or public assistance of any kind, these men are at the mercy of drivers to provide for themselves and, possibly, their families.  Many drivers keep change handy to give to these men.

The second has happened more infrequently, but enough times that it is not wholly unexpected to me now.  People will ring the doorbell to ask if we have any food.  I don't know why I find that so shocking, but somehow it is one of the most un-American experiences I have here.

I will say that the one benefit to the government/societal systems here is that there is a lot less confusion about whether or not to give to the poor.  Yes.  Obviously, something far more comprehensive and long-term is needed, involving education and health care and governmental reform and many things I'm sure I am not even aware of.  It just feels more personal when there aren't organizations taking care of it for us.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gotta Be Proud!

Our boys with good friends of our good friends here in the D.R.  It's a dangerous thing when boys are left unattended for a few minutes!  We have been so blessed by good friends here, God is good!  We feel very blessed.