Thursday, December 13, 2007

flooding, part two

just two weeks after 200 people died in tropical storm noel, we got hit again - and hard - by tropical storm noel. official reports number only 10 dead, but in the dominican official numbers mean nothing. during noel and for days afterwards news reports put the numbers only in the 50s and 60s. once the water receded, dead bodies abounded. hundreds. and so many "missing." i don't think these poor citizens took advantage of a situation and ran away... these missing persons aren't angst-ridden teenage girls.

this time the people can really blame it on the government. noel, too, i guess. when he arrived the government and news agencies didn't even bother to tell everyone he was on his way. but even the dominican people said that if they had been warned they wouldn't have left. this time, the government warned of the storm but not of the fact that the overcapacity dam was going to be opened to prevent an even bigger catastrophe. yes, that's right - the flooding was caused on purpose!

apparently the dam would have burst. so they opened it. without warning anyone below. no news reports, no soldiers forcing evacuations. nothing. the national police and military showed up after the damage was done. people are angry. and rightly so. what would you do if there was a wall of water coming toward your house? the people most affected didn't have much to lose - perhaps a shoddily constructed, dirt floored, tin roofed wooden house. but they also don't have much to rebuild with. the conundrum of natural disasters in the third world. very much unlike the forest fires in southern california. while i feel for those who lost their homes in fires, i can't help but be angry at the injustice. at least they can rebuild.

my family has survived with little damage. my inlaws live high in the mountains and our extended family who lives in santiago are all accounted for. our street is a mess, but that's not new. i am worried about our students - mine and amalio's - many of whom live very near the overflown Rio de Yaque. school has been cancelled so there is no way to know if the students are among the missing. as amalio's high school has been flooded, it probably won't be until after christmas. nearly one month of waiting. unknowing.

since i am in the states, i want to do something. i will keep you posted when i decide what to do. people need food. they need everything. but we have no way to get everything to them. e

Sunday, December 9, 2007

before samil and i left to come home, i entered the bedroom to amalio and samil lying in bed trying to take pictures of themselves...
well really, amalio trying to take a picture of the two of them together.
didn't really work out. here are the results.

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You might not know that Amalio is a campesino... a farm boy from a small campo on the north coast of the island. his dad works as a landscaper and also owns a fair number of cows. they have land with coconut trees, bananas, mangoes and the typical dominican viveres - starches like potatoes and casava and a ton of other roots that i wouldn't know how to translate if i tried.

he made his way to santiago through the help of what he calls his patrones or benefactors. one of eight children - the first (and one of two) of the kids to graduate high school - amalio i guess showed potential for something. he's a hardworking guy and these patrones saw it. they pulled him out of the campo, let him live in their house, gave him a job working in the busstation they were (and are) the managers of and paid for his college.

he lived with this family for six years before we got married and they really are like his family. we try to visit, but schedules conflict and its often difficult. every christmas they put up their christmas village - and in order not to miss it this year, we headed over to their house tonight to visit and see the display.

Samil loved it. seriously. he was in awe. with the blinking lights and moving parts and the music he just couldn't keep his eyes off it.

my favorite part is their christmas tree. it's REAL! it's very fancy - not something i'd have in my house but in their sala it looks exquisite.

tomorrow samil and i head to philadelphia for three weeks. i'm really excited for the trip but i know amalio will miss us. we've got some running around to do in the morning but by 6:30 tomorrow night, we'll be back in the cold and ready to meet the family!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

public transit...

never did i think that i'd miss the SEPTA buses or CTA el-trains of my 'past life.' and really, i've dealt well with the public transit here in santiago until very recently.

latin american transportation leaves a lot to be desired. in mexico, old converted VW vans with the seats taken out serve as COMBIS, following planned out routes and charging very little. uncomfortable, but usually the ride is short and mexican people are small. in guatemala i took a "taxi" from one mountain town to the next. taxis aren't private... nor are they safe. this particular model was a mini-pickup with a metal beam in the middle of the truckbed about shoulder high. about 25 people piled in, grabbed onto the pole and we headed off. the front seat is reserved for pregnant or super elderly woman. it's a great way to see the country and even to meet people.

here in the DR, the preferred form of getting around are "public cars" referred to as conchos. think of the most delapidated car you've ever seen. take away any remnant of shock absorbers, springs in the seats and even the inside panel of the back doors. slap a "liscence" on the side and you've got a concho. in santiago the system is simple - each route has a letter and a basic looped route. depending on the neighborhood the cars enter the worse the actual car looks. it costs $12 pesos (about 0.30 cents), unless you're going to or coming from the airport then it costs more.

the backseat holds four and the front seat three. lap-sitters don't count. i've seen up to 6 "people" in the backseat of the busier routes.

i never really minded the conchos until samil was born. if i want to go anywhere, i have to pay two seats so that he doesn't get smooshed and i can never take a stroller anywhere. there's just not enough room. so we've started walking.


only a serious problem when it starts to rain.
like it did today. but with a stroller, a baby and some groceries, there was no way i could get my act together to get into the concho without dropping something (or someone).

it was the first, but probably not the last time i've blessed the subway designers in the states...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

something great...

i had something really fantastic to write about...

and then i forgot.

ashley always warned me about the "mommy brain" but i'm just now starting to recognize it's affect on my life. what a mess. i've begun to write lists - and i hate lists - just to make sure i get everything done.

samil and i are closer to the states than ever -- in 6 days we'll be packed up and headed home to visit (and in samil's case, meet) the family. my granmom even called today to offer me the use of her car for the three weeks we're home so that i can get around to see everyone.

since i forgot my exciting, interesting topic here's a picture of samil. sometimes he makes funny faces.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

where do we fit?

i'm constantly amazed at my procrastination skills. somehow i believed that after college i would stop putting work off... right.

i've been reading more about the dominican and its relation to the world community. i guess this doesn't really count as procrastination except that i do it in place of doing something that really needs to be done - like finishing the English Grammar Book that i'm supposed to be writing (and have had finished two weeks ago!!) or cleaning my house.

after hurricane noel - tropical storm? - i decided it was important for me to know our position in the universe ... mainly politically. so, i read some things.

did you know that the global poverty line is drawn for anyone living on less than one american dollar a day. in dominican terms, that's less than $30 pesos a day and less than $1000pesos a month. under this rule only the unemployed in america would count as poor or impoverished.

some 40% of dominicans live under this invisible line. but to me it seems that anyone who makes more than $30 pesos a day is rich. so not true. the cost of living on this island is incredible. in fact, it's the one thing that every ex-pat i know gripes about. when planning budgets, they always allot less money for food and transportation than necessary. add on 16% sales tax and forget about it.

a professional... let's say, a teacher (because i have direct experience with teacher salaries) makes about $400 US dollars a month for an 8 hour day (two schedules, morning from 8-12, afternoon from 2-6) depending on their education and who they know... with this money, there's food to buy, rent to pay and light and water to consume. 400 bucks might cut it, it might not - it's definitely not a richman's purse, but what happens to anyone who makes less than this? any maid, chef, taxi driver or other undereducated servant?

my brother-in-law lives with us. i'd been fighting it for ages, wanting him to get his own place, but it's almost impossible with the $150 he makes every month. he can barely afford transportation and the university as it is.

i get frustrated when i read reports. especially ones like this... no american is poor because they can never live under the global poverty line... but dominicans are rich because most live above it... maybe i'll frustrate myself into not being such a procrastinator...