Sunday, April 14, 2013

Balcony Nights

We replaced the plastic chairs on our balcony with some rocking chairs and a little table, and we put some flowers in pots, and I'll tell you, our balcony is our new favorite place to be.  The breeze at night out here is incredible (a lovely relief after the hot "spring" days of 90-something degrees), and the chairs are way comfier than their former hard plastic forbears.  I like to tilt one back until it leans against the window bars like a faux recliner.  We can tilt a lamp from the living room to shine out of the window so we can read out there, and we can still get movies to stream on Netflix.

It's almost like having a new room added to the house.  A room with a broad night view of palm trees and of lights on the mountains and the lit-up monument in downtown Santiago.  When the power goes out on our street, as it does frequently, it's really dark and quiet (most people don't have inverters like the school provides for us) and beautiful.  And one of our favorite things to do is watch the fruit bats swoop up to grab the small red palm tree fruits hanging right in front of the balcony--it gives us a delicious shivery kind of thrill.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Strategic Refreshment

"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."  -Hippocrates

I've heard that the average American adult eats 1/2 piece of fruit a day.  Actually, the way I heard the statistic, every other adult eats one piece of fruit per day.  But Dominicans eat fruit.  And they drink even more of it.  They make juice out of everything.  Pineapple, orange, banana, passionfruit (chinola), papaya, mango, strawberry, melon, cherry, lemon (which here really is lime), coconut, zapote, guava, watermelon, guanabana (a thick white fruit that is like nothing you've ever tasted outside of the Caribbean).

And fruit juices are seen to be basically medicinal.  Someone may be sick and mention to you that they're getting better because they're drinking cups and cups of cherry juice.  Or if someone gets Dengue fever people make them guava and red bell pepper juice.  There's a fruit called haguay that makes a juice that to my family tastes a little like paint-thinner that's supposed to be good for circulation.  I offered my maid a date the other day and she asked me what it's used for.  Health and fruit are closely connected here.  And I bet in some ways people are healthier here, even with all the poverty and American influence on the diet, because they drink so much fresh fruit juice.  I mean, the American diet is not exactly world-renowned for being healthy.

Next time you're feeling under the weather, try a piece of fruit.

I'm excited to have figured out a trick with picking watermelons here.  Farmer's don't wait for things to ripen here, but they also like to let things get large.  So a small watermelon is a much safer bet.  You can bet they ignored it for a while before picking it because it was considered too small.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Doctor's Visit

Today was one of those days, one of those very un-American days.

I went to the foot doctor this morning.  The school nurse drove me, even though it was my second visit, because I knew I'd never find the place--this is not a map-friendly kind of city--and because I didn't know if I could explain the pre-authorization requirements the insurance gave me for my orthodic inserts in Spanish.  I got there a little after 9:00 and put my name on the list for an appointment.  There are no appointment times most places here--it's like the deli, you get a number and wait and wait.  I was number 18.

Jesse's pre-school gets out at 11:30, so I needed to be able to leave by 11:15 or soon after (I can always, in a pinch, get Owen to pick up Jesse and keep him in his office for a few minutes).  Abigail had asked to stay with someone to avoid going to the doctor's office, which was actually surprisingly out of character for her.  She likes to stay glued to my side.  So I was hoping the doctor would tear through the 17 people ahead of me, but the school nurse knew to ask if the doctor was in the office yet, and he wasn't.

He came in after 10:00, right after Abigail had called to see if I was coming home soon.  It seemed unlikely he'd get through the 17 people ahead of me in an hour, so I decided to go get the kids and come back.

I had paid close attention to the streets we took on the way there and I tried to anticipate and troubleshoot for any problems I might have with the receptionist or doctor and . . . wait for it . . . decided to do my doctor's appointment alone.  (Well, with two kids).  I know, underwhelming, but it was actually really intimidating.

I was so proud of myself that I got myself (and my two pbj-smeared children) to the doctor's office by 11:30, and everything seemed to be going smoothly.  But when I got to the car garage, there weren't any real spaces left.  They told me I could park there, but I had to leave my keys.  To contextualize this, I should add that I had just paid 50 cents to park for the previous hour, and there were several people working there, so I could imagine that it could be pretty tempting to steal a nice new-ish SUV (we don't own it, I know, it sounds appalling).

And I thought, shoot!  No way!  It's not even our car, really.  And it would really stink if it got stolen.  And who knows if people from this country would even consider doing this (because, in my experience, our Dominican friends can be even more careful than we are).

And then I thought, what in the world else am I going to do?  So I called Owen and told him he had to sign off on it for me, so to speak, and he thought it was probably fine, and I handed over the keys.

So I went in to find out that they were on patient number eight.  Which was wildly depressing.  So we started with the bag-o-fun that I'd packed.  We played games, we read books, we colored, we crawled on the furniture, we played "tell Mommy what to draw, and make it silly."

Part-way through the fun I felt like I just had to check on the car.   So we went out and the car was there, relief. I told the two car attendants, who were dancing good-naturedly, that I wanted to get my iced tea out of the car.  They reached up into the tree above them to pluck the keys off a branch and I went to get the tea.  I figured it was a good sign that it was still there, and it can't hurt to have checked in, and I went back to wait another hour.

We didn't get out of the doctor's office until 2:00.  It was quite a day.  And then the car attendants wanted my ticket, which I assure you, I was never given.  That was a little tense.  I told them, in I'm sure perfectly fluent and self-assured Spanish tones, that the woman who had been there had just taken my keys and not given me a ticket.  Eventually they just took my keys back out of the tree and handed them over--and perhaps overcharged me just a smidge, but OK, it was still under two dollars.

Quite an adventure, just thought I'd share.