Thursday, January 3, 2019

Investment in the Future

When I was a kid, my grandmom played the lottery. A dollar here and a dollar there, some scratch off tickets that she let us scratch. I never learned all the ins and outs of the different ways to play the lottery, just that the line was often long in the deli because there was only one machine to process the numbers.

I also learned that it is really exciting to scratch the paint off the scratch off cards - carefully deciding which spaces to reveal first. Sometimes I'd scratch them fast and furious, but sometimes it was really hard to pick.

There is no control in a scratch off - there is no skill, no strategy that will actually help you win. It is a game of pure luck.

 I've been scouring the internet ads looking for leads and today my husband, neighbor and I went to a car dealership to see some of the options. We didn't have any luck at all finding a car, but Amalio found a 100 peso coin* on the ground and decided it was lucky. So lucky, in fact, that he and Joel needed to play the lottery because of it.

There is a banca on seemingly every corner of every poor neighborhood and campo in the Dominican Republic. There is no need to wait in line in the deli anymore, the lottery has their own set up - little "houses" with permanent electricity and a computer to sell "the numbers." The banqueras - bankers - are usually young women, often attractive, and always poor. Their sole purpose is to get you to play your numbers, preferably in their banca each time you play.

I still haven't learned the ins and outs of the lottery system, but it seems similar to the numbers my grandmom played when I was a kid. There are straights and doubles and triples, scratch off cards, mega loto with a huge jack pot and more.

Undoubtedly, the major commonality is hope.

Every single time I scratched a ticket as a kid, I hoped that I'd win something - even just a dollar! And today, when the guys stopped at the banca to play a number on the coin they found, they hoped to get me more money for my future car.

Looking at all the bancas around me sometimes makes me sad: poor people pouring money into false hope. I've had people tell me that you have to invest in the future, and that playing the lottery is a type of investment. I usually want to roll my eyes. I want to scream that education and training and healthy meals and exercise are investments in the future, not a game of luck. But, I get it.

When there is little opportunity for investment in your future, you invest in the ways that are possible. You buy into the idea, the hope that you'll make it big and that your little investment will turn into something big. 20 pesos here, 20 pesos there. It's not much different than the dollars my grandmom spent on the state lotto.

There are so many things to be hopeful for. But, it's never as easy as scratching off a box on a piece of paper - and it's never as easy as a simple financial investment of 20 pesos here or a dollar over there. Maybe I've become more optimistic in my years here, but I do believe there is a light at the end of every tunnel, but we won't get there if we don't work towards it. Sure, it'll cost some pesos or some dollars, but it'll also cost hard work and determination and faith.

How are you investing in your future?

Saturday, December 22, 2018

back in the saddle again.

It has been more than four years since I've opened the "new post" tab on this blog. Four years full of life and struggle, of work and love, of travel and adventure and more...

I stopped writing here for a few reasons - number one being that I had recently had my third child and was overwhelmed. Whoever says that the switch from two to three is easy is lying. It's not. Or at least it wasn't easy for me.

Writing didn't flow. It seemed more like a chore than an outlet, and it was one of the things I had to say no to in order to survive every day. Recently, however, the itch has come back to share about my life here on this island through words.

To be fair, I'm not sure what direction this will take. When I started writing, I was a new mom, living the expat life and still finding so much novelty on the island. I've been here 14 years, and while life is adventurous, I have a hard time finding it novel. My oldest son is eleven - I'm no expert mom, but the kids are not excited to have all of their life events published for public consumption. So, what do I have to offer?

In the past four year, Futuro Lleno de Esperanza has grown. Working in faith based development has given me insight into the heart and soul of this island, and while I try not to share other people's stories, I do share my own.

I've been involved in the craziness that is the educational system in the DR, diving deeper in my own formation so that I can share with others - I guess I feel the most invested in this country that I ever have, and three kids (plus 60 at the school who feel like they're "mine") in the system makes me want to make it better.

I don't know how many of my old readers will be interested in what I have to offer nowadays, but I'll be writing anyway. As a release. As a comfort for myself. As a way to stretch my fingers on the keyboard again.

Look forward to seeing you around the blog!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

social media.

my maternity leave came and went in a glance - i head back to work tomorrow.

i was mainly in my house, taking care of my family and haven't really had anything very interesting to share on the blog. i hope that will change once i am back en la calle (in the streets) every day with fun things to see.

despite not having blog worthy content, i am pretty active on the instagram under @girlinthedr, or just click on the little camera box there.


you can find me there, and under the hashtags #adayinmydominicanlife and #islandliving. If you're interested in pictures from Futuro Lleno de Esperanza, you can find those under the hashtag #futurollenodeesperanza.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

dude, where's the driver?

I have been a terrible photographer lately - I used to travel with a smart phone in hand to snap pictures of the random things I'd see around town. I've caught overloaded motorcycles, car accidents and funny clothes worth of "what not to wear." I've gotten plenty of funny house-moving trucks, overloaded with furniture and often with someone sitting in a lazy chair on the top.

Of course, whenever I don't have my camera ready, I see the best things - once, there was a truck transporting corn-grains (not on the cob) and the trap door open, emptying the corn onto the highway. There were people with bags, buckets, cans all collecting their free corn.

Sometimes, though, things are so common place that I don't even think to take a picture to share with you, readers. I'm sorry. I've been here so long that I just forget that somethings are novel to the rest of the world.

Last week, I was sick. My fever, at one point, hit 103.9 and I knew I needed to go to the doctor's office. I couldn't go by myself - for two reasons: 1) I had to take the baby since he doesn't drink from a bottle yet, and I didn't know how long I'd be gone and 2) I was kind of delirious. The fever had me loopy and I didn't want to do anything ridiculous in the street. So, my dear, sweet friend Andrea offered to come with me. Added bonus? She's just about to graduate from medical school. If anyone can handle my hypochondria, it's her.

After me dawdling around and trying to avoid the doctor, we finally got out of the house and into a public car. We thought it would be smooth sailing since it was 10 am, but in front of the free zone, the traffic stopped. It was like a parking lot - which is not normal at any hour. We notice a large group of people in front of the police headquarters - police and civilians alike, in some sort of altercation.

Finally, the traffic started to crawl past.

We're not sure if the jam was caused by the rubber-necking to see conflict with the police or if it was caused by this public car.

Abandoned by it's driver, completely filled with paying customers. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.

It's the little things, folks. I thought i was hallucinating, but no. This car was chauffer-less.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baby-brain eating witches.

Right now, Adiel is outside with his two uncles and a cousin. Amely is running in and out, and Samil went to the corner store, colmado,  to buy some yucca for dinner. I'm trying to get some work done (obviously. That's why I'm writing a blog post).

It's dusk. So, that's dangerous, and I shouldn't even allow the baby to be outside. In fact, the cousin was concerned when she picked up the baby and said she was going outside.

"Eh, this is okay, right? He's not going to get sick, right? I can take him with me, right?"

It's very important not to take your children outside after dark - and I've come to realize that the witching hour is the worst. The northern wind blowing from the sea can really do a number on the baby's digestive system - everything from the pujo to the green poop. And, since we're such bad parents and have neither put  azavaches -charms- nor bracelets to protect our kids from such things, I have to be really careful about green poop.

You may remember our community witch, Luisa. I hadn't seen her in awhile, but the other day I took the baby to school with me. I had a bunch of things to do (like hand out Student of the Month certificates and eat candy), and the students were bugging to meet Adiel.

Luisa showed up.

She looked at the baby carefully, but never asked to carry him. "Oh, he's so big, God bless him." "Oh, he's so handsome, God bless him." "Oh, look at that hair, God bless him." I think she could tell I was getting frustrated with her accolades for things that we really have no control over, so she decided to explain to me. "If I don't say God bless him, you will think I'm jealous and trying to give him the mal de ojo - evil eye. And I know what people say about me around here."

She finally reached out her hand to touch the baby. She grabbed his ankle, and then his wrist and wanted to know why he had no protection. I thought she meant socks. Silly me. She meant protection from curses - protection from the people who do not follow every compliment with "God bless him," because they are, obviously, trying to give the baby mal de ojo. "You need to get this baby santiguado right away, he has no protection! You need to go to someone who knows about this and have the prayers said over him!"

Luisa then asked me if we had "thrown water" on the baby - a home baptism of sorts, an added layer of protection. We haven't. And we didn't "throw water" on our other babies either, so I think we're okay. But, Luisa is sure we need to do something because we haven't done anything. Do we know the danger we're putting our children in by not protecting them from brain-eating witches? Surely I didn't know, you know as a foreigner, the absolute terror of having the local witch swoop down and suck the brains right out of my baby's head during the night.

There are a lot of things to worry about with a baby. Is he clean? Is he healthy? Is he sleeping too much? Not enough? What's that lump on his head? Is it too hot to go out? Is it too cold to go out? Is the crazy northern wind going to give my baby the bad poops?

I'm not sure that Luisa got the irony of her, the renowned community witch who tap-dances on roof tops, giving me advice to protect the baby from... well, from the community witch. But I like her, she's an eccentric old woman who seems to want to protect people around her. God bless her heart.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


April, 2005.
In the Episcopal Church, children are confirmed somewhere between the ages of seven and ten - or, at least, when I was confirmed, that's what it was. You spend weeks learning about the faith with other similarly aged children, learning the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed and what happens during mass and why. If you're really lucky, Mary Wood will teach you about everything on the altar and the different vestments. (But, let's be honest, if you're really lucky at all you get a Mary Wood, "Mean," in your life at all). And you get a Mrs. Knapp to teach you the rest. That is luck.

At the end, you get to wear a pretty dress - mine was pink, if I recall correctly - and the bishop comes to your church. You say all of the things you've learned and the bishop smacks you. Or at least that's how the story goes. Our bishop had a pretty strong reputation for smacking. I'm pretty sure that he didn't smack us.

When I arrived to the Dominican Republic ten years and one day ago, I was living in an apartment on the third floor of a church. Like, I had to walk through the sanctuary to get in if I forgot the side key, and even with the side key, I was walking right by the altar to get in. There was nothing, nothing, in my confirmation classes that could prepare me for living and working in the Dominican Republic under the auspices of the church. I had prepared the best I could, but to be completely sincere, the whole experience was a smack in the face. **

I don't mean that to be negative. At least at confirmation we were expecting a slap.
I had no idea what a ride I was in for.

Ten years and one day ago, I arrived to Santiago, eyes wide and wonderous. I had a plan. I had a job. I was here temporarily. Ten months and out. Maybe, just maybe, I'd give it two years. There was a lot of work to be done after all.

Ten months turned into ten years, and here we are.

There have been ups and downs. It's been happy and heartbreakingly lonely. I've been self-employed and have worked for the "most prestigious" university on the island. We've celebrated all of the virgin-protector-saints of the island and American Thanksgiving. We've gained friends and lost friends. I learned how to frieve from afar, and how to mourn up close. I've learned to trust in friends and family and who my friends and family truly are.

One marriage. Three kids. Two dogs and what seems like a million chickens later, I am still here.
Three apartments and one house, two cars (and only one terrible accident), ten years has been, overall, good.

The good has outweighed the bad. The happiness has outweighed the sorrow.
But I've learned that without the bad, there is no appreciation for the good and without the sorrow, happiness is hollow.

I don't know where the next ten years will land me, but I'm thankful for the past ten and hope to learn and grow just as much in the future.

Cheers! Salud! To life! To the island!

** my dear, dear friend, Father Rafael de la Cruz has since been interred in the sanctuary of that church. It's been a few short weeks since his death and I miss him and his presence in my life. Still, I'm not sure how I'd feel living in that apartment with someone buried in the church.

***** a few pictures from my first year in Santiago - top: me and two kids (I think the girl is Rosy) during one of the camps that happened; middle: Noemi and Ruth and their dear parents Jose and Maria threw me a little birthday celebration. It is, to date, one of the best I ever had; last; a mission group from St. Peter's Church in Florida, The three little girls are the children of the priest who were my little lights of joy. Of that group,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Typhoid Mary

As an American - raised in a country where certain illnesses have been eradicated and medication has done a great job at squelching others - there are some words that make my skin crawl. Scabies. Ringworm. Scurvvy.  Some words scare me. Tuberculosis. Leprosy. Cholera. Typhoid.

I never in my life imagined that the creepy-crawlies affected people in real life. Scurvy? That's for pirates. Leprosy? Biblical. Tuberculosis? Doesn't happen anymore.

There is no "prick-test" for TB in the DR. I guess it is assumed that most people have been exposed at some point to TB, so the standard is a chest x-ray. There are still tuberculosis wards in public hospitals.

In my ten years here, I have witnessed - but luckily have not been infected with - outbreaks of both measles and mumps. The entire country was re-vaccinated for rubella (german measles) and for tetanus in the past three years.

I had scabies once. And a really crazy rash on my stomach - one which local folk-belief says is a worm that spreads only around your waist. If it makes it all the way, you'll die. So, in order to prevent your (imminent) death, you draw a circle around each outbreak and separate each outbreak by drawing a cross in between each circle. And pray. A lot. Because you could die.

Speaking of prayer, we prayed through the cholera epidemic. The dengue fever outbreaks and the chikungunya.

These diseases are not extinct. We have not eradicated them.
Sometimes, though, I forget that. It's been awhile since some medical term popped up in the news that made me, a developed-world native, freak. This week though, Samil has had a fever. It wasn't terribly high, but it wouldn't go away - not with cold water showers, acetometaphen or ibuprofen. So, he was taken to the ER to get blood tests done and a shot to bring down his fever.

The doctor has diagnosed him with typhoid fever. La fiebre tifoide.
I laughed when they sprung out that word. Surely typhoid does not exist anymore. It has been wiped out with vaccines and medications and such. None of our family thought it was funny. Apparently typhoid is serious, especially if not treated with strong antibiotics.
Antibiotics were prescribed and Samil's fever went down. I'm actually pretty confident that he did not have typhoid, but when I think about it, it's better safe than sorry. His fever was consistent, and there was some alteration in his blood test to indicate infection. He's better now, but many children are not. People still die from typhoid. Still. I laughed because, for me, it is non-existant. I mean, who has hear of a case of typhoid?

But. Who had heard of active cases of cholera so close to home until cholera hit Haiti and we were cast into the times of love in the times of cholera.

Even after ten years (today!), it's easy to forget that the rules of childhood health and wellness are different here. It is so comfortable to pretend that we all have the same access to health care and medications to cure these things.

Luckily, and thankfully, Samil is fine. He's playing a baseball game on the computer with his uncle and happy as a clam that he didn't have to go to school these past three days!