Saturday, December 27, 2008

and now it's over...

samil was a little afraid of cleo at first... i mean, she is h.u.g.e. but now he's obsessed with her. he gives her his food, tries to ride her and every once in awhile will find her muzzle and try to put it on her. the dog is good with him, too, so we're lucky. it could be disastrous if she hated the baby and he loved her...
samil got a christmas suit this year for christmas eve at church and he wore it to the family on christmas day. i think it'll be nixed once he gets big enough to actually play with the other kids but it was pretty damn cute this year.

samil loves to read. but he doesn't really like to be read to. he'll open the book and read out loud and point to the pictures, but if you're reading to him, you might get a page or two at best before he shimmies away. here he is learning about santa - who he of course hated in person.

it hasn't snowed a day since we've been here. in fact, apart from days 1-3 where i was deathly ill with some fatal flu and grossness and it was like 0 degrees outside (correlation there?) it's been in the 50s. but since we have no need for fancy snowboots in santiago, he's been wearing them almost every day.

we're headed home on tuesday. well, technically we'll be home wednesday morning - it's one of those nasty jetblue redeyes that are actually nice because i think he'll sleep the whole way and because they're cheap and jetblue staff tends to be nicer and more relaxed than say, american. we got everything we could possibly want for christmas - i got a new camera (though these pictures are from my mom's camera), a lot of new clothes, some books, and the steam iron i've been coveting for awhile now. samil got... everything.

now i just have to figure out how to get a toystore into my suitcase. they dont' weigh much, but plastic doesn't smush well and so it's a space thing. we'll see what happens.

i've got a ton of things to blog about, but i just dont' have it in me to do now. perhaps when i get back to santiago...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

merry christmas!!!

we wish you a happy holiday, filled with happiness and joy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

samil's vacation

we're not really accustomed to the winter clothing...

had fun at the please touch museum... seriously, check this place out

Saturday, December 20, 2008

mail order.

i'm supposed to be headed to my mom's school so that her co-workers can see samil, but he's asleep and when i just went in there he didn't even blink when i pushed the playpen across the floor so i could get his clothes out of the dresser.

so, i'm playing on the computer.

i don't think that i ever wrote about it before, but there's this mail-order bride service that operates one of its offices out of our apartment complex. it kind of makes me sick but provides a lot of hilarity, so we deal with it. and it's not nearly as burlesque as, say, a cabaret or prostitute-for-hire night club, both of which abound in the dominican. and the woman whose husband runs it is pretty nice, so who am i to judge, right?

what irks me is that we can't see the site in the dr. if it's a legit business shouldn't the women be able to see it themselves? especially if they could understand the ridiculous-ness of the things that are written.

like this site i came across today - not the one from our complex - that had a funny Q&A section. why should i marry a dominican? because these women are looking for love, they are not at all materialistic, they live in poverty. PLEASE COME SAVE THEM! why can't these women find men in their own country? well, they could, because they're the best women you're ever going to find. they're high-school educated, love their families and are highly religious. dominican men do not live up to their standards. AMERICANS AND EUROPEANS ARE THE BEST MEN EVER! why not american women? (and i quote) the only people who are against our sites are unhappy married men and angry american women. the men realize they could have done so much better. WHAT?

most of the women i know in these programs are lucky to have a sixth grade education, most have children (most more than 1) and are looking for a way out of poverty. dominicans are religious, but not necessarily spiritual. there's a big difference between following a ritual because your culture dictates it and doing it because you believe deeply in jesus. there is a woman who lives behind us. she has a dominican husband who lives with her until her american husband comes to visit. they move all of his things out and pretend he doesn't exist. she's a nice lady, but i doubt she married the 65 year old american guy because she loved him.

poverty is crippling. it's amazing the lengths that people go to get out. and not necessarily out physically. but if a foreign husband - real or fake - is able to send some money every month and provide a little more, than why not? right? i don't feel for the women. and most of the time i don't feel for the men. but when i read the lies that are spewed on these websites - preying on older men, desperate for company, i do feel bad for them. i mean, deep down they must know they're being duped, but maybe some of them don't?

Friday, December 19, 2008


i'm still feeling kind of gross. samil is feeling better. thankfully he's got two inexhaustable grandparents and an uncle in the house to play with while i lay around doing nothing.


well, i did mention a brief foray to the store the other night where i finished my christmas shopping and most of the "things i need to buy before i go back" list. i still need underwear (line drying underwear will wreak havoc... but that's another post for another day) and some little things for amalio and isaias (my BIL who lives with us). most everything else has been taken care of.

we also made it to the please touch museum. unfortunately we didn't take any pictures - my camera is dead and my mom's needed to be charged. but let me tell you, the new place... amazing. go. if you haven't been yet, go now.

tonight we're going to zern's - a huge fleamarket/market/i don't really know what it is - to look for a radio flyer tricycle. i saw them there this summer for 15 bucks. and i'm not crazy about buying brands, but the trikes i've found in santiago are super expensive and made of plastic. which means they'll last about a day. maybe two. so radio flyer it is. if i can find an affordable used one. tomorrow i'm headed out with my dad to finish mom's christmas shopping and to eat lunch and who knows what else.

i have not done one craft project. not even bought what i need to finish them.

so. there you are. the most boring update ever.
have a nice weekend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


the one thing i'm really missing...

those "I've got small children" or "I'm pregnant" parking spots that abound in the dominican republic. seriously, every store has them. and granted, i've been pretty sick since i've been home and haven't been out shopping for real but ikea doesn't have them and neither does the metroplex.

Monday, December 15, 2008

we have arrived.

after a non-eventful, extra leg-room, entire row of seats to ourselves flight and a drive from new york, we have arrived in philly.

i've developed a nasty cough and runny nose but samil's everlasting cold seems to be doing a little better. other than that and the cold weather, we're doing good.

my blogging will most likely be sparse as i have tons of commercialism to catch up on and people to see. not to mention a few crafting projects and some baking to get done while i a) have a sewing machine at my disposal and a good friend to help with the sewing and b) well, i'm signed for a cookie swap so the baking, while it happens in santiago, is a little bit larger scale here. and thanks to a bigger over, hopefully will be a little faster than baking 12 cookies at a time. x20.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

almost ready.

so i leave in about 12 hours. and i'm almost done with the monstruous to-do list. but i'm not almost done with all the stupid, last minute visiting. stupid because i'm the one who leaves it for last minute. not because the people i need to visit are stupid, but rather the idea of running around like a chicken with my head cut off while i still have to finish cleaning the kitchen AND pack my bag is a little insane.

why all the cleaning? the house was A MESS. i've been feeling pretty lazy for the past, oh, month or so, and have done nothing. which means that amalio and my brother-in-law were left with the cleaning. and. let's just say that two men who grew up in a house with a latrine and a river for bathing are not really very efficient at cleaning the bathroom. and cooking with firewood in a cement stove doesn't really leave much room for cleaning a more modern kitchen. they've done a decent job considering the circumstances, but... it was pretty gross.

but now it's clean and sparkly and should be easily kept up while i'm gone and i won't return to a huge, nasty mess.

anyway. i leave at 6am on jetblue and should be in philly by lunchtime. i'm home til the 29th (for all intents and purposes) give me a call, because you all know how horrible i am at calling./

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Do List.

as you've been reading throughout 2008, i've become a master list-writer. and, while i hate be one of those bloggers, i'm going to have to post this to-do list on my blog as sort of an accountability with myself.

see, i get things done better and more efficiently if there is some sort of public shame that could come from things not being completed. it might explain why i worked so well under a deadline when i worked on a newspaper. if i didn't finish, everyone would know about it.

so. here it is. the housekeeping that needs to be done before i leave for philadelphia early, early sunday morning. (bold items are completed)

----- load 1 of laundry. washed, hung dry, put away (or packed)
----- load 2 of laundry. washed, hung dry, put away (or packed)
----- load 3 of laundry. washed, hung dry, put away (or packed)
of course it started to rain when i put samil down for his nap and completely missed it and have to wait for the clothes to dry - again.
----- load 4 of laundry. washed, hung dry, folded, put away (or packed)
----- load 5 of laundry. washed, hung dry, folded put away (or packed)
----- load 6 of laundry. washed, hung dry, put away (or packed)
**common bathroom (clean tub toys)
**principal bathroom (organize shelves)
**kitchen (defrost freezer)
**put away papers, books, etc... organize desk
**dust dining room and living room
**samils bedroom (put away sheets, towels: store toys: sweep and mop)
**our bedroom (change sheets: dust: dresser: diaper stand)
and mop house
**balcony (take care of plants: store samils toys)
**grade final exams & finish report cards
**pack samils clothes for trip: pack my clothes for trip
**supermarket trip (candy, coffee, rum, diapers)
**raymundo tutoring, yc tutoring(thurs. fri. sat.), max tutoring, claire&tiffany tutoring (thurs. fri. sat.), catalina evaluation (SCS)
**dinner at minerva's

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

undercover paparrazi?

fashion eludes me. i'm a jeans and tank-top kind of girl. flip-flops and a ponytail and i'm done.

but i try to look nice if we go out. i'll blow out my hair, maybe even put on a skirt and makeup. and maybe it's just because i'm so far out of the fashion world that i don't understand the clothes that some people wear. i posted about this before. the funny fishnet shirts and too-small pants and... well.

so, i've been pretty sad without the camera because even if i don't share my pictures on the blog, i've got some friends who get a kick out of what people wear

some are funny, some are sad. like the pink, lace camisole NIGHTGOWN that a woman in our group was wearing on saturday night. or the performer in a long, denim LAYERED skirt.

my favorite funny clothes this weekend though was the 10 year old boy in brown pants and white shirt. his tie was a little small, but it could just have been tied wronged. the funny part? his black suit jacket that was so small he couldn't raise his hands. or straighten his arms. or eat. or drink.

we had a blast imagining the conversation in the house before leaving.
- mom, my jacket doesn't fit.
- i told you to put on the jacket. it's not that small.
- but mom, really, i can't bend my arms.
- i told you PUT ON THE JACKET NOW!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

lost art of dancing...

there's a very small rock-n-roll subculture in the dominican republic. you probably wouldn't know it with the merengue and bachata at full blast all.the.time. but there is.

you can catch glimpses - a teenager with a skull&crossbones leather band on their wrist, a geeky kid in vintage tee-shirt and buddy holly glasses - but mostly the culture is homogenous. different is, well, different. and even more so than in the states, anything out of the normal social boundaries is frowned upon.

so, saturday night we were invited to a singer/songwriter competition by one of amalio's coworkers. a free night out? sure. we didn't really have high expectations since the "inviter" isn't such a great singer and we expected more of the same, but a night out is a night out, right?

what a surprise! the room was filled with such a bizarro mix of people - from those rockers to reggaetoneros (similar to rap, but worse) to all of the spanish teachers dressed in suits and ties.
there were some very old people, who i can only imagine were the parents of the rockstars, and a lot of small children. we, of course, were in the very back - those old people at a show for kids - with our kids running around, drinking insane amounts of soda.

the music ranged from rock to romantic ballads to bachata and most was pretty good. there were some christian musicians, too. at the end, when the judges were meeting a typical merengue band took the stage along with a group of bachateros - the two main music groups of the dominican republic.

and that's when things got interesting.

you see, americans have a reputation for not dancing. and for not knowing how to dance. i'm not talking about hip-hop, shake your butt dancing or white-boy club dancing. i mean real dancing. boy-girl-one-two-three-one-two-three dancing. spins and dips and twirls and fancy footwork dancing. and it's true. americans don't dance. it's a lost art form. and much less will you see punkrockers and rap stars break out their dancing shoes with their parents.

and that's just what happened. this really absurd group of people started dancing. suit&tie teacher with rockandroll princess. old mom with 14 year old son. real dancing. no jumping around, no head shaking butt wiggling movements. dancing. one-two-three turn, twirl... fancy dancing.

it's one of the many things that i love about this country.
now, if only i could get amalio to get off his butt and dance more often, we'd be doing something.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

samil 15 month update.

samil is finally walking and much as we expected, once he started we can't slow him down. he loves to carry things, especially humongous things - like the empty 5 gallon water jugs, his oversized babybottle piggy-bank, cardboard boxes, couch cushions.

we've noticed a lot of linguistic understanding, but everything is still mommy. and by everything, i mean everything. sometimes, if amalio is lucky, he'll get a poppy. like when he (three months late) took him to get vaccinated and samil looked at him and yelled POPPY. and, if we leave him in someone else's house, when he gets tired of being there, he'll stand at the door and say "amos, amos" (vamos in spanish is 'let's go').

he is understanding both languages - as much as any 15 month old listens and follows directions. "give me that," "where is the...", "put that down," "come here."

nothing has changed in his appetite. he eats, and eats and then eats some more. his particular favorite foods are bread, oranges and bananas. and he likes to eat marshmallow cereal, but only picks out the marshmallows and leaves the the rest in the bowl. he is starting to eat more with a spoon and fork and is pretty adamant about us not feeding him.

he likes to read books and play with cars. he'll lookt at the tv but isn't real interested in watching tv. he is starting to develop preferences for clothes and often brings us clothes from his room and pulls at the clothes he has on until we change him. he loves to talk on the phone, even if no one is there. and he absolutely thrives on being around bigger kids. he's not so much into kids his age, but my students are always a hit.

our camera is still on the blink, so there are no really recent pictures. hopefully we'll be rectifying that situation when i get home to philadelphia and you can all see how much samil has grown!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

waiting game...

my friend emily is pregnant. and by pregnant, i mean very pregnant. as in past her due date pregnant. and since she doesn't have any family here, we're in the waiting game with her. who will stay at the hospital? who will be there when she goes into labor? who will send the pictures to her parents? who will...

i don't remember being nearly this anxious about samil being born. or worried. concerned. i mean, i just wanted him out and 42 weeks is a long time to wait for a baby, but that's another story for another day. but i wasn't worried about the logistics. and now, i'm kind of glad that someone else was there to take care of all that mess for me.

i don't think i could ever handle being a gynecologist, sitting around waiting for my patients to give birth. it's just... i don't know, annoying.

hopefully she'll get this baby out in the next few days before they schedule a c-section to alleviate the wait - which for some reasons i think would be easier, but the logistics of coordinating more than one night in the hospital and the aftercare that it would require kind of makes me want to pull my hair out.

and to add to the real-life waiting, samara is also waiting for a baby. unless she had it and hasn't posted yet, but if you're up for it, stop by and give her some love. those last days of waiting can be brutal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


we've had this little problem in our common bathroom for a little while now. it's a little problem because the people who live upstairs don't generally use that shower, so the leaking that their showering causes is minimal.

until last week when crazy nanny decided to leave the faucet open for TWO HOURS STRAIGHT. now, if i was her boss that would be reason number 1,345 to fire her sorry... but i digress. water isn't cheap. and in these apartments abusing the water can lead to no water at all. so when it rained buckets from our ceiling for what seemed like forever, i was pretty pissed. i mean, how hard is it to turn off the water?

but. this isn't a post about crazy nanny. it's about the plumbers. and our plumbing problem. much less entertaining for you all, but writing about crazy is just too frustrating for me.

anyway. the ceiling leaks any time they turn on the faucet. consequently, the master bathroom of the second floor apartment below us leaks when we fill up the tub to give samil his bath in there. so we called a plumber. and he's here now.

**okay** he's just informed me that the problem is apparently so simple and we're dumb. but that's nothing compared to the fact that it took him 20 minutes to take the paneling out of our plastic, drop ceiling.

he's gone now. cost $450 pesos. for a new little tube and to clean out my drains. i figure it's a fair price considering we were expecting damage in the thousands. and that not only did it take him 20 minutes to get the ceiling out, he had to call in reinforcement to get the ceiling back in. and even then, he spent a half hour in there.

at least it was good for a laugh.

confused much?

we don't really put samil in front of the tv to watch it by himself. i mean, i would, but samil doesn't really like it unless he's sitting with one of us and i'm not trying to turn him into a couch potato if he's not really interested.
however. i love clifford. mostly the books. but the tv show is nice too.
i mentioned to a casual acquaintance the other day who wants her kids to learn english that clifford has a fantastic ESL series that paired with some other methods could be successful for their situation.
know what she told me? she doesn't like clifford.
it's too much fantasy for her.
this from the woman whose daughter's favorite movie - played continuously - is cinderella and whose son's favorite is cars.
a big red dog who plays with his friends - too much fantasy. talking mice, abused housekeeper turned princess with the help of a fairy godmother. not so much. talking cars with lives like humans. neither.
maybe i'll just never understand.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


thanksgiving isn't the same here.

more often than not there is not turkey. and when there is, it turns into a late-night, post-work light supper. so far today i haven't even talked to my family and i have no idea what their plans are.

before i knew. there was a set date for dinner at my grandparents in jersey. but grandmom died and things change.

when i was in college i never really missed thanksgiving. my mom's sisters lived close enough to school, and there were always plenty of invites for dinner with families that lived in chicago. senior year, we made our own thanksgiving dinner. and it was delightful until i found out that a dear, dear friend of mine had been killed in a car accident thanksgiving night.

you never miss the holiday stuff until it's really gone.

so, today. i've been teaching, but most of my bilingual school students have off today so it's been a light load. our friends are baking a turkey but it's a crapshoot if we'll go or not.

have a happy thanksgiving. be thankful for traditions and family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the most wonderful time...

i kind of have a hard time getting into the christmas spirit here. i mean, i know i'm still one day early, but it just... i don't know.

here in santiago there are a lot of christmas lights, decorations. but it's warm in the day. no smell of snow in the air, the music at the stores is just mixed with some (little) christmas music. i'm not a big fan of the christmas music, but you get used to that when you're christmas shopping.

and the decorations. well... they're weird. i was equating them yesterday to what you might see in a wealthy, new england neighborhood. big, fancy. themed. immense trees covered with ribbon. i don't know. maybe it's just not my style, but it seems a little out of place in the carribean.

today we're baking cookies. cookies that it took me four supermarkets just to find chocolate chips for. not to mention real brown sugar and not just organic cane. (and by real i mean, probably realy really overprocessed domino sugar). i'm hoping they come out - or that the cookie sheet i had to buy fits in our mini stove because i haven't tried it out yet.

and i'm really hoping we don't run out of gas before we finish.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



send me your email. melanie512ATgmailDOTcom
i appreciate your comment, and you've got a hyperlink on your name, but it takes me nowhere.

and ps. i know the girl you are thinking of. but the one i posted about lives in nagua. they have similar situations. except that her boyfriend (i'm not sure they're really married or just juntados) was an animator in a resort and has even pulled the " i need a thousand bucks for my mom's kidney operation" scam that i never really believed existed til i met this couple. but the girl in santiago (i know who it is because a number of people mentioned me not knowing their situation) is really nice and i wish her all of the luck in the world back home. from what i understand they're going to get their master's or something.

Monday, November 24, 2008

gettin' ready.

last night i pulled out the flannel sheets and our one, lone afghan. they've been hidden away in a rubbermaid tub since last december, so they really should have been washed, but it's been raining for days here. and it's cold.

since they were washed before we put them away last year, we just sprayed some room freshener and hoped for the best. samil got his flannel sheet and fleece blankets out, too. they were in a pile on the floor and he just kept laying down and rolling around in them. i've been pretty surprised that the blankets actually stay put until he wakes up.

it's months like december when i miss carpeting. cold ceramic is even less forgiving than cool ceramic. i also miss a heater, but it's really only cold for about 40 days - and really only during the night, unless it's raining so it might be a little excessive to have even a space heater.

the up and down of the weather is what is bad. it can be 90 during the day and drop to 40 at night. i know, i know. you all are living with sub-zeroes. but really. 90 to 40? that's a pretty big deal. and a big shock to the system.

my toes are cold and i've finished my morning chores, so i'll be crawling into bed to take advantage of samil's longer napping this morning. who doesn't like to sleep when it's chilly?

this week looks less busy than others - just my regular classes and getting ready for our trip to philadelphia. no crazy errands to run, no vaccinations, no bizarro shopping trips... hopefully i'll be able to take advantage and organize some closets and get things moved into school that have been sitting in samil's room for 3 months now! wish me luck.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the in-laws.

i've got this problem where i tend to attract the kind of crazies that in my ideal life, i would never be friends with. like recently i've met a ton of young american girls married to or dating dominican men.

not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. i mean, really, who am i to talk about marrying a dominican?

i just think, in my limited experience, that there are things that just shouldn't happen. or things that wouldn't happen if you were married to an american. limits. boundaries. things that just would be taboo.

it's not the relationships that are so much the problem as the extended relationships that result from the marriage. you know, the friends you'd have or the family you acquire. and again, i'm biased. it's kind of a darkjoke that i only married amalio because i'd get no mother-in-law in the deal. (joke's on me, his stepmother is worse than any mil... ever). but i'm not sure that even with a huge language barrier i'd ever take my mil to the gyno with me. like in the exam area. especially not if my husband is already there. i understand the translation necessity, but what's the mom's deal? moral support?

or, if you move to a country where english isn't the language you should probably make an effort to not be completely dependent on your significant other. or... work your butt off to support a husband who isn't working, or studying or who conveniently lost a job right before you moved down.

i don't know why or how i get involved with people whose lifestyles i don't really understand... or that i don't really have anything in common with except a marriage to a dominican. i wish there was a between. a midway. not the gullible, naive, i'm-so-in-love and in nine months i'll be back at home because this just didn't work and not the country-club, expensive gym, international privateschool type either.

Friday, November 21, 2008


here's my ridiculous confession of the week.

sometimes i lie awake at night, unable to sleep because i don't know what i'll write about on my blog. really.

will i write how i have been having really, really weird dreams - like the one where my childhood friend flew me to the cayman islands in his private jet to deposit a large sum of money in a mutual friends get out jail bank account... or the one where i am living in mexico selling dominican rum to tourists.

or should i write about samil's newest trick. you know all the minutia that us parents (and grandparents) love to hear about but everyone else in the world couldn't really care less about.

the list goes on. and on.
and really, i've got nothing. i baked some brownies this morning and i'm boiling some red beans to make rice and beans for lunch, waiting for samil to wake up from his morning nap. that's life right now.

nothing super exciting to write about.
check back soon to see if that's changed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

sometimes i wish i was 13 again...

i've been tutoring these korean kids for about two months now. i like them, and i kind of feel bad for them. it must be difficult to live in a country away from their family and their language and culture, study in english and function in spanish.

i mean these kids have a deck stacked against them. the two girls i have are living with an aunt. barely speak english and their spanish is non-existant. they're in the only all english school in santiago and they can't even get in a taxi without help. at least the aunt speaks spanish. because the boy, his family doesn't speak english or spanish. they're missionaries, just arrived from korea and it's been a struggle for them - with everything from getting an electricity contract to picking up their kid from school.

all in all, they're good kids. disciplined in their studies - mostly - and just trying to be their best. sometimes they're so formal. well, most of the time they're formal. they bow when i answer the door, remove their shoes and it's just now they're beginning to speak before being spoken to and asking questions about things that confuse them.


and sometimes i forgot that they're just really young adoloscents. so when i heard them all giggling like crazy on saturday afternoon, i had to check it out.

there they were. remote control in hand, replaying a butt scene in TombRaider over and over again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the trick about buying abroad...

so i bit the bullet and decorated.

and of my students was just like "it's about time."

i'm making this wreath to hang in our threshold and just haven't had the time or energy to finish it, but the idea is to hang the wreath and our 4 stockings around it. but i can't find the stockings. why?

because i bought them at crackerbarrel last christmas and left them in philly. and then completely forgot about them until now. unfortunately it happens a lot. like, with underwear i buy when i'm at home because i absolutely need new underwear. and then i end up just bringing the old stuff back with me.

the new suitcase restrictions aren't helping much either, considering a plane ticket costs an arm and a leg. luckily i don't pay for it and i still get one suitcase free.

i'm headed home december 13 and i'll be around until the 31st. i'm pretty free, but if you wanna see the kid, you'll have to fight with my parents.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

christmas wish list.

anyone who might be interested in helping...

i'm looking for some gently used clothing for two families this christmas. i'm not going to lie, one of the families includes some of our neices and nephews who are having some struggles right now, with a father out of work and mom doing her best to make ends meet in an ugly economy - but the others are a local needy family who has hit quite a hard spot this year with the unexpected birth of a new baby, a growth spurt of the older girl and a construction worker father. construction has really hit a bump in the road as costs go up and less people are building.

if you happen to have or know anyone who has some nice (but used) clothing in the following sizes that you'd like to help with, i'd really appreciate it.

Girls Sizes 8 and 10
Boys Sizes 4T through 6T
Toddler Shoe Sizes 3-6
if you're able, let me know by emailing me at melanie512ATgmailDOTcom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

those lists again...

i mentioned last week that i had strayed from my listmaking-organizational-newyearsresolution. i can't really say i've been any better at it this week since i've made a ton of lists only to leave them half finished when other stuff comes up.

like who knew all the stupid paperwork you need to own a car here? and nothing is in the same building. and the insurance people have sent us FOUR, yes FOUR insurance cards all with our last name spelled wrong. and one (the fifth) with amalio's first name spelled wrong. then they call like it's our fault!

and besides that running around, i'm getting ready for the little christmas celebration and pagaent we're going to have at school.

and really, i guess i could put all these things on my to-do list and make it seem like i've done something but up until a few days ago, my house was a disaster, there were piles of laundry and a super disorganized desk. not to mention the christmas decorations to put up.

and i've just been tired. really tired. we're back to samil's newborn habits where i sleep when he does. and therefore get nothing done.

but NOT ANYMORE. this past weekend i tackled the laundry, cleaned our closets and got rid of clothes that need to be donated, scrubbed the kitchen, bleach treated the bathrooms (because of the humidity we got some nasty mold), washed the curtains, diapers and bathroom rugs, dusted and put up the decorations.

and eventhough i've got a list left - a long list - i'm feeling a bit more accomplished and ready to take on the world this week. just one more month and samil and i headed to philly and i can't leave all of this mess til the last minute.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

just something fun...

for those of you who are interested in samil's development... here's a video of him talking to my mom on the phone this afternoon.

how early is too early?

i love christmas decorations. i like to decorate my house as much as the next guy but i'm a little thrown off on the timing of christmas here in the dominican republic.
there are tons of cultural christmas stuff i don't get - you know, like the absence of santa and the presence of the kings, christmas eve celebrations and christmas day recoveries... but that's besides the point.
here we don't celebrate halloween. at least not in grande. and thanksgiving, well, some people have a turkey party, but it's not the same. and so, from the start of the school year until december there are no BIG holidays.
and that means christmas starts in october. the beginning of october. and not just in stores. because if it were just piped-in elevatormuzak versions of what child is this and jingle bells, i could handle it. but of the 126 apartments in our complex, at least 50 have their christmas lights out, wrapped around the ubiquitous irons bars with an artificial tree visible through the window. not to mention the neighbor who has a huge and hideous santa clause on her balcony.
we have a little tree (and by little i mean less that 18 inches tall) and some simple decorations. but frankly, we're too cheap to put the lights on the balcony - and we're scared samil might try to eat them - and i think it's just too early.
i thought seriously about taking out the nativity set this morning, a little step toward the holiday. but even that seems a little overboard for me.
i was raised to wait. thanksgiving morning you can start the music, put up the lights, pull out the trinkets. but with the temptation i don't know if i'll be able to.
so please. don't say anything if i break and tomorrow my house is covered in garland and fake poinsettias... i just couldn't handle it anymore.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


if you live anywhere in a three-five mile radius of our house, you'd know us. not because i'm overtly friendly. i'm not. but because i have this monstruous, red jogging stroller.

that's not weird, you say.

oh, but if you only knew. strollers in the first place are bizarre. walking. now that's just insane. and at noon? god forbid. i might give my son sunstroke before we get back to the house. and he must be so uncomfortable. that's why he's laughing and smiling in that, that thing.

for all the walking that samil and i do, i should be a size 0. i'm not. not even close. but, due to our lack of motorized wheels and the discomfort of public transportation in santiago, i really just would prefer to hike 1.8 miles to the grocery store and then pay a taxi on the way back. can't afford a taxi both ways. in fact, we often walk both ways.

with the adquisition of our new wheels last week, i've felt a kind of freedom. a stupid feeling considering i don't even drive the stupid thing. but it's the possibility of just going. not thinking about how long it will take, is it too hot, is it going to rain. amazing.

and this weekend, we visited the in-laws. a 3 hour trek up the north coast of the island, that i swear just for the view is worth the 87 converted VW minivans with wooden seats it takes to get there on public transit. and eventhough before samil was born we made the trek fairly frequently, we've been like twice since he was born.
have you ever travelled with a baby not in a carseat? on a bus with sixty three other people? and no airconditioning? yah. no so much fun.
so. while i never thought a car could make me feel so... i don't know, free, it's happened.
note: i wrote this post at the beginning of the week and just finished it. i still haven't really been out in the car, but the feeling is still there.


so remember that to-do list i had been doing so well at?

it's out the window.

i just looked in my agenda and realized i haven't written a list in, oh, i don't know... two weeks.

and i've got lots to show for it. my house is a mess, i haven't really planned for my classes and instead of actually doing things, i take naps with samil.

tomorrow we're back to the list.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

let's re-visit.

i just wrote a whole post berating a comment i just received.

and then i realized it doesn't really deserve a response.

there's a lot of things going on in the world right now. a lot of people hating on other people because of the color of their skin, the country they come from, the language they speak.

hate away.

our hate only makes us worse off. hating or wishing harm on another really does nothing to the other person. it just makes us miserable.

i hope to raise my dumbinican son to be better and happier than those children not privileged enough to have parents who love them, a rich bicultural background and just a more healthy outlook on life.

have a nice day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

locked up.

on our trip this weekend, we headed to nagua - a small town north of the even smaller town where amalio's family lives - to see my brother-in-law juan.

juan got into some trouble a few months ago and landed himself in jail. i don't at all understand dominican justice system, so i'm not even going to try to explain the little that i know. the main idea is: there was a fight, with knives, and someone died. did juan do it? apparently not. but he was in the fight and turned himself in when he found out.

it's not something anyone is really proud of. how could you be proud of that?
but he's there.
at least until the 25th when he'll go to court and a judge will decide how much longer he'll serve.

when i understand more about the process, i'll let you know.
but i've got to tell you about the prison.

i've always heard horror stories of developing world prisons... i imagined them to be something horrid, dirty and scary. i think, though, that what we should be scared of is the justice system and not the actual jail.

there were no metal detectors to pass through. no real examination. we even took food - that was examined with a fork. kind of. despite the lack of real security to enter, i wasn't going to be allowed in because of my bermuda shorts, and another lady because of her platform shoes.

i explained that i was a foreigner and unaware of the (silly) nuances of entering a prison in the dominican republic and the captain allowed me in. i passed through a door that was manned by the only guard i saw the entire time we were there. no bars. no heavy iron gates. nothing.

the beds are private and prisoners are able to have anything they want inside. in juan's cellblock there is a tv, dvd player and a small fridge. the little commisary sells straight razor blades - yes, straight razor blades - so that the prisoners can all give each other haircuts. i asked and was told that in the past few months, the fights that have broken out don't include the razors because the prisoners prefer shanks. go figure.

it's not a pleasant place. not at all somewhere i'd want to be locked up. but amalio and i both wonder what prisons are really doing. there is no "re-education," no help for the prisoners and little hope that these people are coming out any different than they went in.

we're hoping that juanito comes out and changes his life. stops drinking. maybe goes back to school. stays out of trouble. but we'll see.

we'll see.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


did anybody else ever notice the chamber pot in mary poppins?

it threw me off when i was watching with my students today, i don't think that i ever realized that that's what it was.

it just seems so... i don't know. dirty.

are there toilets in other disney movies?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

proud new owners...

we are the proud(?) new owners of a car just like this...
this, however, is not our car, it's just a picture i got off google. ours is much cleaner.
we're pretty excited about it. so excited that we're trying it out in the mountains of the dominican republic tomorrow and then to the beach on monday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

enough of that mess...

so, i'm on my way out the door...

i'm headed to the longest-line waiting bank in santiago. it's not my bank. so why would i go there, you ask?

well. i need to take a large sum of money out of my (US) bank account. and there's a funny little rule at the ATMs here that would only let me take out $300 bucks at a time. which means i'd have to make quite a few transactions and get charged quite a few times.

insane, really. so this massive bank does money transfers. and i'm sure they do a lot of other shady things, too, for drug dealers and pimps seeing how every time i go there there is a wait of at least 40 minutes and only 3 people in line. we're talking wacky and large sums of money changing hands here. and who else has that kind of money?

anyway. as soon as i go there and get my money, i'm going to buy a car.


it's our first car. not my first car. i had a great car in college. but this will be samil's first car... and i'm praying amalio won't bust it up seeing as he doesn't know how to drive.

if you're in santiago, stay off the sidewalks.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


on the same vein...

i've read about 20 blogs by republican, obama haters that talk about how now that obama gets his security clearance he'll have to reconsider because of course he'll know how bad things really are...

because somehow all of those joe schmo republicans somehow know MORE than a senator on what was happening --- enough so that that they're certain once obama finds out he'll have to change his tune.


i'm done with politics.
(i promise)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


i think that i would be much happier with the election results if everything i've seen was not based on obama being black.

look at the first black president!
oh, wow. i voted for the first black president!
check out all the BLACK people celebrating.

i blogged a little about the election... i voted.
i voted for who i thought would have the best foreign policy, the best ideas about immigration for my family and who had a good running mate. because, honestly, either of the two candidates can die in the next four years. it's a very, very real possibility for both men.

and i did have a hard time deciding. because i wasn't going to vote for barack just because he's black. nor was i going to vote for mccain just because of his experience. i think that mccain's experience could have brought wonderful things to the white house - a decent perspective on the war, innovative ideas for change. but i also relish obama's lack of experience. i used to strongly believe that that's what washington needed. someone who's not a politician. but the truth is, obama is a politician. and while it's great and wonderful to have someone so passionate and excited and hopeful about the future of this country his inexperience mixed with the fact that he is, in fact, a politican and lawyer can be scary.

it's an exciting time for the united states. and at times like these, i think about moving home.

i just hope that everyone who voted - for color, on principal, whatever - understands the liberty that they have, the freedom that comes with being able to CHOOSE a president and be done with him if that's the need.

there are some crazy political things brewing down here - things that will (for you conservatives who hate Hugo Chavez, i happen to like him) make venezuela look like an inviting and wonderful, non-dictatorial state. i'm hoping the dominican people - especially the congress - are able to fight off the changes our president is trying to make.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


i'm currently trying to decide whether i should cancel my classes tonight and head to a little, impromptu election party or not.

i'm not really all about the election so much as the opportunity to eat pizza though.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hair Cut.



Posted by Picasa

attention span.

i'm not really into reading books about how to be a good mom, or really about how-to anythings because i mainly think they're ridiculous... but.

i do tend to read other people's blogs for ideas on things to do with samil during the day. i mean, i would love to have no responsibilities and be able to play with him for hours and hours, but that's not reality. mostly because i work. and he needs to be independent, too.

i have a real problem with kids who can't entertain themselves unless they're watching tv.

and that's the problem. i don't want to plop samil down in front of the tv when i've got things to do and he's getting to that point where he doesn't need two long naps a day (though he still does need two, just the morning one is way shorter than it used to be). of course, there are times where i throw in a movie and hope for the best, but i guess because it's so rare, he's not really into it.

he likes the music from hi-5 and if it's on, he'll go about his playing and dance along. he likes the music from backyardigans, but i doubt he'd know who they were if there was no music. and that's about it.

so anyway. i've been reading other momblogs. and i really loved the idea of a set playpen time everyday. i started him at 10 minutes a day - which is kind of long, but samil chose the time... he didn't start whining until around minute 9. and we're not up to 25 minutes a day. i throw in all of his toys and put the thing on the balcony so he can still see everything that is happening. it works like a charm.

why i really like it is because it's teaching him that he has limits, that he can't just do or go wherever he feels like it all the time. the independent play is nothing new, though, for an only child not in daycare. he's quite the independent player with or without the playpen.

it also helps him to just be. and it's helping him to be able to sit still. in collaboration with the playpen time we've been leaving him in church longer. the church has a really great nursery with a lot of toys... but if we're getting up to go to church on sundays with one of the reasons being that we think it's an important routine for samil, he needs to be in church with us. at least for most of the service.

we've been going to an evangelical-ish baptist church - which means no liturgy, just some free-form worship and a sermon. (i'm getting to be okay with that... i like the music and the pastor is good, so i deal with the compromise... it could be worse, it could be pentecostal or one of those churches where women have to cover themselves and aren't allowed to speak...) so we leave samil in for the singing and now we're trying to get him through the sermon.

no pews, but lots of plastic chairs... and you can bet that after about 5 minutes of the sermon, samil got down on hands and knees and made his way all the way to the pulpit. and started talking to the pastor. i don't know how he made it so far so fast without getting stuck in people's feet, but he did it. and it was hilarious (i know you're not supposed to think those things when your kid does something like that, but it was and he's a baby, give him a break).

so much, i guess for limits.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Poppa Joe.

as always, i'm quite the slacker and waited til the end of the day to post this... when i should have posted it yesterday and scheduled it.

today is my dad's birthday.


Saturday, November 1, 2008


awhile back i opened my comments to accept all comments, even from anonymous.

i, by no means, believe my blog to be so popular that there are so many lurkers, but i wanted to give some of my friends a chance to leave messages.

besides. i like to hear from people, see what they have to say about what i write.

but since then the only anonymous comments i've received are negative and contradicting or challenging my post. now. go ahead challenge.

you flush your toilet paper? that's great. tell me who you are and where you live so that i can tell you why your situation is different than ours. trilingual kids are a possibility, just check out this link? did YOU raise MULTILINGUAL kids or are you showing me internet how-tos... because, shoot, on paper and in theory communism looks pretty darn good to me.

that all said. please leave a name.

Friday, October 31, 2008


some of my students. about 10 didn't come to the party.
don't worry, we only put samil in that costume for the pictures. it was HOT.

making mummies.

apparently samil loves apples. he ate three that day.

bobbing for apples

this girl never stops laughing.

pin the nose on the jack-o-lantern

and back to regular scheduled programming...

we're raising samil bilingual. i'm no expert on bilingual children at all, and to be honest, i probably didn't do all of the crazy research that most parents do before they decide to do something so big for their children.

for us, it's a necessity that samil is completely fluent and literate in two languages. there's really no option. it's not just some fun thing that were are doing to, say, enhance his brain activity or raise his math scores or make him more "worldly."

he is a bi-cultural child with grandparents that are unilingual. all of them. i mean, obviously we will enjoy the benefits of having a child who speaks two languages, the added boost in his academics from the supposed increased logical and critical thinking ability.

that all said.

i cannot imagine trying to raise a trilingual or quadralingual (is that the right word?) kid and expecting him to be fluent in all.

i'm tutoring some kids right now that study in english. play with their friends in spanish. and there mom is just a little concerned that they're not fluent in korean. seriously?

you're raising your children in a spanish speaking country, send them to an english only school... they spend 8 hours in school, 4 hours in afterschool... not to mention the time they spend with me... and you are upset that they don't speak your language?

how much can you really expect from your kids? can you push them so far to make them learn? or are you really just setting them up for failure?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

and while i'm at it...

i've heard from a few people - in philly, in chicago, and in some other largely african-american cities - that if obama doesn't win we're going to see some rioting, a la rodney king.

obviously the people with these ideas are white.


do you really think that the entire african-american population is so stupid? so unrational? that there will be RIOTS because a black man doesn't win? really?

barack is also supported by millions. yes, millions of white folk as well. latinos. asians. so why. why in the world would we just look to one part of the barack-loving population to cause violence?

this is what i hate about this election. it's what i hate about america. that everything still revolves around race. oh, it's hidden. it's hidden real good. but it's still there, make no mistake. white people hate black people. black people hate white people. white people hate latinos. latinos hate black people. black people hate latinos.

and the circle goes on and on...

i'm just scared it's never going to change. no matter who is president.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

i know what i said...

i'm completely aware that i said i was done with politics after my post a few weeks ago. i'm sorry. but i'm a little pist off about the attacking that's going on -on both sides.

but ... i expect it from uneducated, immature idiots. people with some (highschool?) education, a little bit of life experience and some sense of respect for others should be able to discuss the upcoming election in a civil manner.

can't we just trust that people can make their own decision instead of jumping down their throats? i don't really care if sarah palin is ugly stupid just because you tell me so. i want some informed information about the situation. not lies. not mudslinging. not pure petty, childish, bullsh*t.

so. i think i might have to unplug the tv and internet until wednesday morning and just hope for the best.

that all said. i already voted.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


here's the thing... i'm not one for making excuses for people. but i think there are explanations for things that happen, the way some people live and a lot of times, a need for a solution. not just complaining. or criticizing.

recently we've been bombarded by some more "comfortable" friends with questions about why we would work with poor people and not create some high class educational establishment... because you know, poor people don't appreciate anything, they just want to take advantage of other people's goodness.

in fact, the owner of the school i rent space from gave me a huge lecture about how dominicans just want to be handed everything. how they don't want to work. bla bla bla.

poor people have too many babies. poor people don't like to work. poor people expect to be given to without given. poor people don't educate their children. poor people are useless.

it's sad to me that we actually have to defend this.

it sucks to be poor. it sucks to have nothing. and it, i imagine, is quite easy to make a lot of excuses about how you deserve something because you're poor. but, not all poor people are lazy. in fact, in my limited life experience, i find that there is a small population of lazy poor people. a lot of undereducated poor people, down on their luck. but lazy? i don't think so.

it's frustrating that money and greed fuel life. that if we continue to work with poor people we're never going to be rich. which in turn probably means we're never going to be happy. because you know, money = happiness.

we don't really even try to defend our work. we don't argue either, because frankly there are some things that don't deserve a response. we just remember that although we might never be swimming in cash, we're making a difference and that's what is really important.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ch-ch-ch changes...

it's been a few days since my last posting, but no worries. everything is fine here.

we've been making some changes around the house, the business and just doing some in general cobweb cleaning of routines and such. moved some furniture, organized the closets... revisited the idea of painting our room a million times.

the big change?

we've decided that samil is going to go to daycare a day a week. ::gasp:: it's a hard decision, but one a necessary one for a ton of reasons. now, the reason i haven't been back to work fulltime is because of this daycare situation and actually finding a place we like and agree with philosophically has been quite difficult.

i posted about it before, i think. i don't believe the children in "school" before the age of four are any more intelligent, any more stimulated, any more creative than kids who enter school in kindergarten. and in this country there is a school frenzy. it's kind of counter-cultural to the "who cares about education" mentality, but it exists none the less. "pre-schools" offering classes to 1 year olds exist. they sit the kids at a table, give them a crayon and mostly stifle any creativity that might have blossomed in the potential educational environment. there are few schools that actually understand the way children learn - through play and pretend - and most that do are SUPER expensive.

but. that said. we'd not been able to find a daycare. school, yes. a stimulating, fun area with responsible adults and no classes? not so easy to find. however, we did the impossible and found one. with a nice owner who is understanding to our situation, won't charge us a month's "tuition" (for lack of a better word) for 4 days and is 100% daycare. not school.

we need samil to learn to socialize with other kids his age. he's great with adults and older toddlers, but not so good with other babies. i also need time to clean the house, because as samil gets older it gets harder to do everything i need to do, plan for my classes, run the business and keep him entertained. and in this sliding economy i'm not really able to give up any of my classes at least until after christmas when we've got some money stashed in the bank.

so. he starts next week, hopefully. i've got to go back and check the place out one more time before we make anything final, but i'll be sure to keep you all updated how things go.

Monday, October 20, 2008

clothes pin crisis.

we hang out clothes to dry for two reasons: one, we don't have a dryer. but two, even if we did, it's hot here all year long, and sun dried clothes are delicious. (yes, that's right, delicious.)

you might know that we live in an apartment. you might know that our neighbors have a crazy cleaninglady/nanny. and the entire apartment building has the right to hang clothes on the roof. there are about 15 clothes lines - supposedly enough for at least a few families to do their laundry at once, right?

well, when crazy nanny washes she takes over the whole roof. we still havent' figured out how. both neighbors AND their daughter wear uniforms all day. and mostly the re-use the same clothes in the afternoons for at least two days. people, underwear does not take up that much space!

instead of changing the sheets - replacing the dirty with different, clean sheets - she takes the sheets and washes them. every OTHER day. and the comforters. and the curtains. i really don't know why. it's kind of wasteful, but she's not my employee so i don't really get into it.

but. yesterday amalio did laundry. a lot of laundry. like everything i haven't washed in a week and a half. and sheets. and the comforter. and samils bedstuff, too. now, we just bought clothespins LAST WEEKEND. 75 of them.

somehow, he ran out of pins. i don't know, on top of the 75 new pins we had quite a few old ones.

so he goes to the neighbors and asks to borrow some of their pins. she pulls out her little gallon jug of pins only to find out she's got about 20 left. from a jug that was full about two weeks ago.
next neighbor. same problem.

apparently we have a clothespin thief. i don't want to point fingers, but i'm pretty sure it's the crazy nanny. why?

because she's a nut.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

the mundane.

i'm off my soap box for awhile. at least the one i like to stand on to shout across the internet.

samil is in his crib, absolutely refusing to take a nap, but it has been such a long day i just need him to at least be calm. and he is. he really is a good baby.

saturdays are long for me, it's the only day of the week that i work a "full day" - and by that i don't mean eight hours, i mean i wake up early and don't finish until 5. it's all broken up with like one hour classes, but its a pain.

and by the end i pray that samil takes a nap. but most of the time he won't.

so i put on the annoying discovery kids shows that i hate and throw myself on the couch.

probably shitty parenting, but sometimes it just needs to be done.

private school.

i mentioned the over-priced private school that most ex-pats send their kids to here in santiago.
when i was writing about how expensive it really is, it piqued my interest and i headed to their webpage to check it out.

we have plans to send samil to public school. what? yes, public school. because we believe that education happens more in the home and that the responsibility falls on the family more than on the state. and that school should really just reinforce what happens at home.

now, if you believe the state is responsible for every facet of the education of your child, public schools in the dominican republic are not where you want to send your kids. the country recently just scored dead last in a study of central, south and caribean american school systems. it says that students lack logical thinking skills and are the least prepared for the real world than any other nation.

cuba and argentina are at the top of the list. venezuela is pretty high up there, too. in fact, even haiti is above the DR.

but, there is a disconnect somewhere. a lack of understanding on both sides as to what education is. the schools say that those logical thinking skills come from home. and so do moral values and beliefs. families say, that no, those skills need to be taught in school. it's a pass off that is killing the future of the country.

there's something to remember in all of this though - that same cultural disconnect happens in private schools. most of the time, the very same teachers who teach in the public school spend at least one tanda (school here only lasts 4-5 hours, most teachers have two jobs: one in the morning, one in the afternoon - to complete their day) in private schools.

there is no regulation to who teaches. or even to who OPENS a private school. we owned a school for awhile. and right now, my english program is in a private school that is just bad. i have second graders who don't know how to spell their names. or even recognize basic sight words.

but they are in private school. and that's the important part for most people. the appearance that we have money to send our child not to public school. it doesn't matter that the private school sucks. or that it costs more than we could ever afford. or that our kids are learning anything.

it's sad. but it's a reality. and frankly, the school system in the states is not much better. sure, there are more supplies, better trained teachers, money from the government that at least helps...

so for all of those reasons, samil will go to public school. his day will be completed with some old-fashioned home-schooling in english so that he will be as competitive as any other american child if he decides to go to school in the states for college.

all that said, we had discussed pretty seriously sending samil to at least two years of pre-school in a bi-lingual private school. i could easily get a job even at that fancy-schmancy school and he'd go for almost free, or at least a comparable cost to other, lesser quality, bilinguals. or that's what i thought.

but, when i headed to the site to check out the prices, this is what i found - in US dollars.

Pre-School, with all enrollment, new student, tuition and miscellaneous fees would cost: $2462. that's a little less than what i've made so far this year.
now, if i worked there it would only cost about $60 a month, which is not bad, but it's hit or miss if i got a job there.

here's the scarier numbers. for a high schooler with all fees included it would cost: nearly $6000.
the minimum wage in the DR is something like one hundred dollars a month.

i don't get it.
obviously, we've got a few years to think the pre-school thing out. but right now it seems to me like i need to start planning my own pre-school... or we'll go broke just on pre-school... which means college is out the window without a scholarship!

Friday, October 17, 2008

cookie cutter.

remember how i recently decided i needed to meet some other ex-pats?

and how i went to the international women's group meeting?
at. the. most. expensive. cafe. in santiago?


this was group of women who are either here with their husbands, are missionaries or... well. that's it. their husbands are CEOs, CFOs, big shots of all sorts in the Tax-Free Industrial Zones (zona franca). or their husbands are missionaries.

sure, they all talked about what "they do." the "good deeds" that they are able to do because they don't work.

all the while living in their huge mansions, driving their brand new SUVS (jeepetas) and sending their children to one of the most expensive schools on the island. in fact, this school is on par with american private schools.

they're not earning a dominican salary.
i liked the women, i did. but i can't hack it with the talk about the country club and going to the gym or how much they have to pay their live-ins: nannies, housekeepers, chefs, drivers...

i don't know. i'm still trying to figure it out.
i'm in a lot better position friendship wise than i was when i first got here. in fact, i'm even better than i was a year ago. i've opened up, made more of an effort and am learning not to be such a snob.

but it's hard.
culture often wins out when it comes to friendship. and, to be honest, there are cultural things here that i will never understand. and i'm sure it's the same for my dominican friends with me.
what i'm seeing though, is that i don't fit with the temporary foreigners either. i'm not in that circle. and quite, frankly, i don't want to be one of them.

i want a quality life. where i take care of my own kids. and my own house. and my own business. no gym? that's okay. no fancy school that costs a fortune? that's fine.

i just gotta keep looking for the niche. find where we fit.
i think its worth the effort.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

completely different theme :)

i've bored myself with both the political and economic situation in the states.

i informed you all awhile back that we were going to be using cloth diapers for samil.
i had really wanted to use cloth since he was born, but some people convinced me not to. that, and we had been gifted enough disposable diapers to last until samil was about eight months old.

i spent about 50 dollars and bought the cheapest, traditional diapers - diaper service quality. and some diaper covers.

i was really only concerned about a few things: diaper rash, soaking through and my house smelling like a diaper pail.

i'm pretty diligent about changing diapers since samil is what they call a heavywetter. but, in efforts, i think, to save money, you will see a lot of dominican babies running around with diapers FILLED with pee. ask my mom, she'll tell you. diapers down to the ankles from the weight of urine. at least with a disposable the baby stays moderately dry, but with cloth that wet just rubs against the butt. sad.
so, in order to combat that, samil is in cloth only 95% of the time. the two days a week that he goes to a babysitter, he wears a disposable. i'm okay with that, because honestly, we're in cloth for the economy not the environment (though the GREENness of it is a benefit).

we've gone from $42 dollars a month to $9 a month on disposable diapers.

i also kind of hate changing sheets on samil's crib. it's a mini crib and a pain to get the sheet on. don't get me wrong, i change his sheets frequently. i just was scared that with cloth, he'd soak through more and i'd have to change his sheets like everyday. these fancy diaper covers are beautiful. but i don't really trust them at night. so theresa, my dear friend emily's mom, sent samil some "rubber pants" awhile back, and he uses those at night. we haven't had a leak yet.

fancy in the day. useful in the night.

here's a kind of gross thing you might not know about underdeveloped countries.
you can't flush the toilet paper! so, we empty our trashcans in the bathrooms everyother day, if not more. if not, the house smells gross. add some poopy diapers in there, and the odor is nasty.
but, for some reason, i'm not nearly as grossed out by a poopy smell as i am by urine.
a poopy smell could be anything. someone farted? okay. left something out of the fridge and it went bad? okay. but urine is very distinctly urine. and for me, a house that smells like pee is just not clean. with cloth, we eliminate the extra poop smell by dumping it in the toilet - what a novel place for it, eh? - and then rinse the diaper and throw it in the washer. every two or three days, i turn the washer on and voila! clean diapers. and with a little bit of powder soap in the washer, there's no urine smell.

so, basically i'm pretty happy with the situation. and our wallets are much happier.
now, if we could just get samil walking...

a break from the writing marathon.

i've been really wordy lately and have a few more wordy posts lined up here.

i know there are a lot of half-readers out there... and a lot of people just looking for pictures of the babe. but i never expected such a response from the lengthy posts i've recently published.

but, just to break the words up - put some more white space on the page and give your reading
eyes a little break. some pictures.

when samil was born, i was so good at taking pictures all.the.time. in fact, we have so many pictures it'd be insane to even think about printing them all. and even then, they used to be all so neatly organized by month on my computer.
i took this picture about three weeks ago, messed around with it and am still concerned that you can see the grossness in the background that is our un-cauked where ceramic meets tub nastiness of a shower.
apparently i had the camera in the bathroom for awhile longer than i thought. it's the easiest place to get good pictures of samil because there is relatively little space for him to run away. i mean, he can't play in the running water and hide his face forever!
i have a thing for babies feet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

economic crisis.

as i mentioned in my last post, the economic crisis hitting the states hasn't hit us yet. and economists say that with a little exception in imported goods, the dominican peso should stay steady.

when i first moved here, the dominican was experiencing a very severe economic crisis. the peso had flown to nearly 60 per US dollar. and considering that minimum wage in those times was about 100 US dollars per month, there was a lot of hunger happening.

i'm not really sure about the specifics and so i'm not going to write something super un-informed. but the long and short of it is that the national reserves were emptied - probably into some politicians pockets - and the dominican people had to pay the price.

the difference between here and there? well. here it was not about whether people were going to lose their homes. it was about whether their children were going to eat. it wasn't about whether people were going to lose their cars. it was about whether their children were able to get to school. it wasn't about whether people were going to lose stuff. it was about losing their families.

we get some american television channels. i'm so amazed by how it's about stuff. STUFF. sure, my dad will tell you how much he has to spend for food nowadays. how much it takes to fill their gas tanks. how hard the situation has gotten.

but they can still buy food. fill the gastank. and have money left over. not nearly as much as they did before. but they're by no means floundering.

they still have stuff. and as far as i know they're not really in any danger of losing it.
and for that i'm grateful. because i benefit from their stuff. i talk to my family. a lot. and usually its mom who calls me. and their computer helps us send pictures back and forth. so they can see their grandson. their cars take me places when i visit. and their "surplus" of money? flies me home at least once a year.

what scares me is not my family. it's the others who are doing everything in their power to keep their stuff. i see stories of families who are re-organizing their budgets and instead of taking out some of the stuff, they're just taking money away from education, food, their children... all to keep that brand new car, laptop and designer clothes.

i'm detached. i don't see it happening. all i've got is the news. the internet. and maybe i'm way off base. but i think maybe it's time for americans - me included - to take a look at where we spend out money. how far out of our means we are living. and start fixing ourselves before we expect the government to fix everything for us.

Monday, October 13, 2008

4 years.

4 years ago this week, i boarded a plane in tampa international airport headed for the dominican republic.

not really my choice of post-college work, i was going to work in the episcopal church teaching elementary school kids. i had other ideas of what i wanted to do, but god opened the doors for this. i did what i needed to get here with some support from people in florida and a generous donation from my hometown bishop...

had i known what lay ahead of me, i never would have come. at least not in the context that i did. i am episcopalian. i love the antiguity and solemnity of the church, i love that there is a focus on social and human rights, i love that... well, i just love it.

i came with ideas of that work, plans to form programs for the poor. for the illiterate. for the young. for the old. not my own ideas. these were the programs the church wanted. the things that i was told were needed.

imagine my surprise to find a church closed to the community. a private school supposedly meant to offer a better education than the public system at a cost low enough that even very poor people could afford it that charged more than most other private schools in the area and offered no scholarships.

imagine that when i wanted to start a science program, an art program and a choir for the church i was told i needed to CHARGE the students to attend. because without the responsibility of paying for something they wouldn't appreciate it... imagine that these same kids have parents who bring in less than $300USD a month.

when asked why the church wasn't growing the priest in charge and his wife threw around accusations. "the catholic church is running an anti-episcopal campaign", "the young people all use drugs," "the prior priest ruined the community spreading rumours."

i did what i could in the 11 months i was there. i taught. i didn't charge - no matter how many times i was scolded. i played. i opened a basketball program. the church was still empty. but it's not about that.

it's still not about that.

during my employment with the church, i not only learned a lot about the church that i didn't like, i learned a lot about myself, about my faith and about mission. i wasn't there to fill a church. i wasn't there to raise money. i wasn't there to make anyone rich or make anyone elses job easier.

i was there to be. an example, the best example i could be, of christ. of love. of acceptance.

who imagined that i would meet my husband? or that when i decided i didn't want the church job anymore that i would stay here. that my heart, my passion would remain? it would be easier to pack up my family and move home. find jobs in the states that pay more than $500 USD a month. buy a car, a house, send samil to quality schools.
sure, we could leave. go home. but it's not in the cards - at least that hasn't been revealed to us yet.

we live close to the church. not close enough that we are seen, but close enough that we know what happens. it hurts my heart that this denomination i love so much is not what i always thought it was. it hurts at the same time that i can't change it.

but i've learned in these past 4 years that we're not meant to change the church. we're meant to change ourselves. god gives us what we need. and we need to pass that along to others.

had i known i would end up so disappointed i probably wouldn't have come. but look at all that i'd be missing out on? the love of my life. a purpose. joy.

4 years under the belt... who knows how many more?

Sunday, October 12, 2008


in my recent efforts to meet some other ex-pats living on the island, i've learned a lot about myself and where i stand on the future of "my country."

first being that i hate when people refer to anything as "my country." especially americans talking to americans. as if one has more claim to the US as theirs. i know a girl who every time she argues with her husband brings up things that are different in her country.

---- hey, babe. you can't run that red light.
---- sure, i can. in the dominican republic it's okay as long as there are no cars coming.
---- well, in MY country, you'd go to jail.

and i know another man who, although he's been here for over 20 years, still compares everything to the dollar.

--- this peanut butter would only cost me 1 dollar on sale in MY country. but here i've got to pay 3 and it's not even name brand.

i think that, for me, in moving away from the states in what seems to be a permanent - or at the very least, long term - decision, i no longer really have the right to compare. i love MY country. i do. but can i really consider it MY country if i no longer play an active role in the day-to-day of it? i'm not sure. but i know that as long as i try to compare, i won't be happy here. as a matter of fact, i wouldn't be happy there either if i sat around all day comparing, for example, my rent, my electric or my water bill to the (respectively) $200USD, $15 USD and $6 USD i pay here.

that being said. i have every intention on voting in the upcoming election.
i wasn't sure if i was going to. i wasn't really sure how i felt about voting for a president in a country in which i don't reside.

and the conclusion i came to is this:
what happens in the US affects me. everyday. from the price of gasoline to the whackedout dominican/american subculture that is slowly penetrating the culture here. the idea of a president with worse foreign policy than bush scares me. a president who feels cuba is a huge threat might take over Santo Domingo (the island, not the city) and that's a scary thing for those of us living here.

am i going to vote based on the war? probably not. the economy? the crisis has not trickled down to the carribean and doesn't seem like it will, so that probably won't affect my vote either.

i will be voting based on a candidate who is going to be the best foreign politic. who is going to be strick on immigration, but not so strick that everyone is denied. and who plays well with others. and doesn't try to be the bigger man just because he is the bigger country.

i'm still doing my research. i don't know who i'm going to vote for, just what i'm going to vote for.
and no, i'm not going to argue with you.
i don't think that politics are worth straining relationships over, especially when our situations are so different - i live here. and what effects me as an american if very different than what effects you as an american.

i just hope that everyone will vote for what they believe in and not buy into stereotypes or hype. that people stick to their principals. and that the best candidate win.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

being a gringa.

it never ceases to amaze me.

just because i am a woman... a foreign woman, does not mean that i know nothing about anything. especially construction.

we try to do all of our "send out" work with people we know, or who come recommended to us by people we trust. everything from sewing uniforms to fixing shoes is done with people we trust.

about 6 months, i had samil's closet fixed by a carpinter. he installed shelves - long shelves, short shelves. fixed some of the doors and a few other things that needed "carpintery". and in holy week my dad installed some shelves in our laundry area and pantry.

i really liked the work the carpinter, sandy, did. he did a really good job at a really good price. and on top of it, he bought his young son along as an apprentice - and gave him a part of the money. i like that.

but, he lives kind of far, and the nanny who takes care of the girl upstairs told me the other day that her husband is also a carpinter. and while i don't implicity trust the nanny (that's a post for another day) or even really like her, i know that she is in a tough spot economically and decided to call her husband for a job i've got in the school.

a little, itty-bitty cabinet with a locking door. less than one sheet of ply-wood. i'm looking for utility, not beauty. i just need to lock up my chalk. because if one more student writes penis or poop on my board, i'm going to go mad.

the work should cost about 1,500 pesos. about 30 bucks. or less. in fact, all the work sandy did in the house cost 2000 pesos and it took a lot more wood than we're talkign about for this cabinet.

so, i take the husband to the school, explain what i need and why. he tries to convince me that i need pine. not plywood. for a million reasons, none of which made sense. or at least i didn't care. i was very specific about what i wanted. plywood. doors. a lock. three shelves.

not pine. not fancy. no paint. i'll paint it myself.

the price? 4,000 pesos. about 150 US dollars. for plywood. and nails.

unfortunately it happens a lot. i don't know if he thought i didn't know about wood. or about haggling. or that even in the states 150 dollars for what i want is a little much. too much. a rip off. highwayrobbery even.

and even knowing the tight economic spot they're in, i wasn't about to allow myself to get ripped off - becuase sometimes i knowingly get ripped off , it's a bleeding heart thing. i just couldn't handle that this is someone i know. personally. not a friend of a friend.

and it pissed me off that he wanted to charge so much. so i told him no.
and of course he lowered the price.
and lowered the price.
all the way to what i told him it was worth.

but i told him no anyway. because i think it's important to take a stand against con men. and i know that he'd be pissy about doing the work anyway, since he apparently thought it was worth so much more and i'd end up with crap in the end.

i like sending stuff out. getting things fixed. getting things made just for us.
but really, i can't wait for ikea to get here.

sweden in a box.
i'm ready.