Monday, March 31, 2008


i'm always amazed by my friends with artistic ability.
when i first moved here, i couldn't even draw an apple. seriously. i had to practice tracing somethings, and then copying and then drawing and now i have a fairly basic repertoire of things i can draw quickly and use often in my classes. but by no means am i an artist.
we just received a painting from our friend nestor. he is an artist. and an amazing one at that. he's preparing some paperwork to prove that he's a painter - (it's a little complicated to prove self-employment here, it involves lawyers, bribes, portfolios, bribes, business plans, bribes) so i have some of his pictures on my computer. and for lack of anything really interesting to write about, i thought i'd showcase some of his work for my faithful readers (all 5 of you).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

no more worries... here are the pictures

i hijacked the chip from my neighbors' camera... they're worse about sharing pictures than my dad is, so i took advantage that they were here and loaded them up. here are some of my favorites from our impromptu photo shoot for samil's 7 month birthday and sarah's 15 month shoot (they were born in the same hospital, by the same doctor 8 months apart... we've already got them married off)

sarah loves to pet samil's head. he learning how to duck out of the way

in case you still haven't caught on, samil's a ham. he sees a camera and starts posing. sarah is just concerned about samil stealing her toys.

despite it all, samil loves sarah. and she loves him. she screams "Ah---meeeel bay-bay!" and she also tells him "te amo" (i love you) and calls him "amor" (love) he smiles and yells in his baby gibberish when he sees her.

like i said, samil's a ham.
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Samil's Seven Month Stats.

so it's sunday. and as i promised before, it's sunday for samil. unfortunately i don't have any really new pictures to post - we took a bunch on friday night, but with our friends' camera and amalio snapped some the other day, but cara borrowed our camera to take some pictures of nestor's paintings.
i don't even have samil's stats. i still haven't found a pediatrician that i like, and i refuse to sit in the clinic's peds department for hours to have a doctor tell me that samil is healthy, how much he weighs, how long he is and how absolutely large his head is. i already know that stuff. i also refuse to have someone tell me that samil needs, that right, needs formula becuase it has - wait for it- more nutrients than breastmilk. yes, friends, a doctor told me my milk was not good enough for my son. a doctor. one that samil won't ever see again.
i just don't agree with stupidity.
so if you're thinking samil sunday is a bust today and i'm not going to get you up to date... well, think again
samil is currently weighing in at 19.5 lbs. i weighed him on the baggage scale in the airport when my parents were leaving. i figure it might be a pound heavier but it seems right on the mark.
he's crawling. and eating. and by eating, i don't mean nibbling every once in a while on some baby puree. no no, samil eats. and a lot. everything. we haven't yet found something he's not fond of.
he stands if we put him up and stays put as long as he's got something to hold onto. and he takes steps if he's holding hands. what else? samil has the most amazing belly laugh which he shares with anyone who: a) dances for him, b) tickles him or c) throws him in the air.
and a picture. just for fun. love you all. have a great week.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

it's not easy being green... or is it?

our cable provider *StaR Cable Dominicana* offers a lot of english channels. that's actually why we use them and not *AsTer*. we get NBC and ABC, CNN, TBS, TNT, SPIKE, FOX, MTVla, and a ton more. i keep up to date on things that are happening in the states, and we get the best of spanish programming, too.

with earth day right around the corner there's been a lot of stuff going on in spanish and english tv programming. it just makes me laugh how different it is.

i get frustrated with things - like how kids aren't taught to throw things in trashcans (schoolyards often look like landfills after recess) or how teachers are expected to be in charge of the lights and fans... and mostly forget. but there are other things that amaze me. like, the other day i was watching FOX morning news (the one with Mike and Juliette) and they were encouraging people to buy the efficient light bulbs.

i've never, never been in a house where people have regular light bulbs here. it doens't make sense. sure, you pay a lot in the beginning, but the bulb lasts forever and it cuts your electric bill.

turn off the water when you're brushing? always. water costs a lot. especially clean water.
hang your clothes on the line! not a problem for us, we don't even have a drier.
reuse. i've learned how to reuse virtually everything. and since we cook from scratch we often have much less waste than i would have had popping in a microwave dinner or eating takeout.

a lot of our dominican friends laugh - chuckle a little - at how i have to make a conscious effort to be "green." it's easy to be green if you don't have any money. no need to make an effort if it's always been your way of life.

just a thought, i guess, that i needed to air. what do you do to be green? or does it even matter?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

one of those days...

my brother-in-law spent the morning doing laundry.
only to have the sky turn pitch black as he was walking up the stairs to put everything on the line. so, he came back down, hamper in tow, 4 hours ago.
it still hasn't rained.

and seeing as how i'm not really finished with all of my cutouts and art project preparations for my class, i kinda wish the sky would just open up.

90% of my students stay home when it rains.
but since it looks like its just going to be dreary, and samil is taking a nap, i better get back to work. more cutting, less blogging.

Monday, March 24, 2008

to every thing a season

i've written some about here in santiago. basically, i teach english. i love my job, i really do. but everyday i can't help but think there is no advancement for english teachers here. maybe that sounds drastic - like being a teacher is not fulfilling... it is. but there really are very few ways to move up.

i teach in a little institute that annexed off of a pretty popular private school. the school is great. the teachers are well paid (and therefore happy), well educated and overall enthusiastic about teaching. the school is organized with vice principals, coordinators, gym teachers, art teachers and computer teachers - a rare find in a middle-class school. the owners are fantastic. a big - ok, HUGE - part of the reason that i'm still there is becasue the owners are that great. i'm allowed to do whatever i want in my class, organize activities and anything. they throw extra money my way occasionally - especially when i'm not expecting it.

the problem? the institute is not organized. the coordination is pretty inexperienced and in order to keep things running, i usually have to take the reins. horrible? no. just not ideal. theoretically, the coordination should be my job. it was offered to me. but i was pregnant and didn't know what i'd be doing. theoretically i could take the job in june. and move up. but then what?

i'm working on my business plan. but its a big jump. with no net. right now we make enough money to pay our bills. we put money away for samil and try, really hard, every month to put at least 5% of our money in the bank. my job at the institute guarantees the water, electricity, apartment maintenance and telephone being paid every month. and while i have 30-some students in my house, that money isn't always sure. i get new students, lose old students... people sometimes can't pay. tons of things.

i need to make a decision soon enough to give my little job notice. am i going to go at my own institute full-time or do i need to keep my two-day-a-week gig? deep in my heart i know that i need to go at it full-force, follow my dream. everything points to "yes". but it's a little nerve-wracking to give up my only steady, sure, source of income.

what do you think? to jump right in? or take baby steps?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

winding down

holy week vacations always seem too short. there's always so much to do in the precious few days we get. compared to christmas break it just seems like a rip-off sometimes. we started with a new tooth - one i was eager to have pop through before my parents and sister arrived for cacation. we've been lucky with samil's teeth - a little whiny, a little fever but nothing severe - nonetheless a whiny, teething baby is not one you want to take to the beach. we headed to an all inclusive resort on the north coast of the island. we spent three days laying poolside - poolside because the waves at the beach were 15feet tall. we made a short trip to cabrera to meet amalio's sister's newest arrival and then spent the last two and a half days here in santiago. my dad built me some shelves for our pantry and laundry room and we visited the monument and cathedral - both big tourist draws for the city.
it was a good week - tiring, long - but good. i'm ready to get back to work, get samil back into his routines and start working on more solid plans for my institute.

aunt lizzie and samil - trying out his new sunglasses
samil at the pool with grandpop

samil ate so much this week. seriously, he probably gained 2 pounds.

this is me with casmeri - amalio's newest neice. she's a month and a half.

me, ayendy and elizabeth at the monument infront of a statue called: Campesino Guererrilla (Guerilla fightter)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Getting things done...

My parents and sister arrive on Sunday morning, so I'm trying to get some last minute cleaning out of the way. Mostly, ridiculous things like cleaning the windows - only to have samil beat on them with his dirty, little fingers as soon as i finished. or, changing samil's sheet to have his diaper leak during his nap. It's true. Twice in one day. What a mess.
so, i'm not really doing much. samil is sleeping and i'm looking at my list of things i could be doing. writing a test, working on my business plan, typing up amalio's review for his 12th graders (all 8th and 12th graders in the country, public and private schooled, have to take national exams that i think are harder than the MCAT) or brainstorming more on the institute's semester evaluation for students and parents. i could also be cleaning my room - its a mess.
but, instead... i took some pictures of samil and this little video of samil banging on my clean windows. now i'm sharing it with all of you.

samil L.O.V.E.S shoes. especially flip-flops. but these sneakers are lookin' pretty good, too. gross. my feet really smell.

i wanted a video of it, but even if i got it, i wouldn't post it because my dad says its mean. samil chased this ball all the way from the living room to the kitchen and back to the dining room until he trapped it on the corner. the beauty of ceramic floors is that everytime samil touches the ball, it rolls away. but like i said, my dad says it's wrong to make him do silly things just for the video.

samil is crawling more normally now, and with great agility, but he still is more like a worm that a cat. he gets himself into this frog position though and laughs alot.
the word crawl in spanish is gatear - which comes from the word gato which means cat. one of those language things i find interesting. comparing babies to cats.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

a new adventure?

since i left my "full-time" job in december of 2006, i have been teaching english as a foreign language in my house. its something that i enjoy, i can choose my students and i make my own rules. i had some issues with bilingual schooling - the biggest being that their were no consequences for the students, and the administration would always take the side of parents instead of teachers. it is a sad situation for me that education here is looked on as a lucrative, money-making business. instead of offering quality education, they offer fancy things to draw the (mostly) under-educated "middle-class". a school with computers, or an art program will get more "wealthy" students than a school without them... and it doesn't matter if the computers work, or if the kids learn how to use them. and art, well that's just a joke. bilingual schools are the most expensive - offering english to kids whose parents don't speak the language. the problem? here, in santiago, at least, there aren't enough qualified teachers who really own english. its one thing to speak english, its another to teach science and math in english. so, most bilingual schools have teachers who have no teaching experience, no teaching degree, and, usually, poor english. when i tutored kids afterschool, i would read the 1st and 2nd graders notebooks - you know, where the teachers write the homework to save time - and there were mistakes that not even an english speaking kindergartener would make. i guess i'm a quality snob. and i think education is important. especially in a developing country. i really believe that education is the only thing that can raise a poor family out of the trenches. that said. i have been teaching at home - setting my own prices, making my own program and doing my own thing. but, we've since outgrown the small space of my dining room and we've been receiving a ton of calls for class. right after easter break i will be taking my business plan to 3 local schools in a plan to rent their space in order to grow our little english program. we have a big long term dream, and this would be just a little step in the big scheme of things, but we never thought i'd have to move out of the house so soon. i'm excited and nervous - and writing the plan... completely in spanish. a big challenge. next week my parents and sister are here and then we'll see where we go with this. i hope you all have a great end of the week! (my return key is stuck... sorry about the lack of paragraphs)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sundays for Samil

**NoTe** i wrote this post on sunday... then we lost power -- and internet connection... our electricity came back, but the internet did not... so as not to wait a whole week to post, just pretend that today is sunday.

i've been a pretty sporadic poster lately. i started this blog as a way to continue my communication with friends and family in the states - mostly because i'm really bad at email. when i was in the church, i would send out updates and occasionally after amalio and i got married i sent them out. life in another country is new. not always exciting but often interesting.
all that said, i started the blog to continue the updates without clogging in-boxes. i'm sure all of my faithful readers (who i think include at least one more person than my brother and parents) are interested in the new things - but i know that at the very least two of those faithful readers who i call mom and dad are more interested in pictures and news about samil. so, i have decided that sundays are for samil. pictures, videos and news. that's not saying samil isn't going to make more appearances on the page. i'm just saying that i'm going to make a conscious effort to post every sunday. so if the week gets busy and i can't get around to i can assure some treat to begin the week.
so. here. we. go.

Samil loves oranges. Usually we put them in his little sucker-thing, but he uncle Isaias didn't know that, popped out the seeds and we all enjoyed watching samil go to town.

samil loves crackers. when he's not feeling well he loves the bobo. he was teething the day we took this picture and just couldn't decide which he wanted more - the crackers or the pacifier.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

one for all...

my high school french teacher was a bit of an armchair psychologist. eccentric, weird... and the complete opposite of the type of language teacher i tend to think i am. if i learned anything about teaching from him, it was what not to do. at the very least i learned to read and write cohesively in french... understandable in speaking, but my most recent haitian teachers have done way more for my accent and my fluency than i ever thought possible.

however, i did learn a lot from Mr. Joseph. we made fun of him a lot, complained about him. he tried to get me kicked out of the japanese exchange program for cutting his class. tried. unsucessfully. i went to japan - but i learned my lesson, i never cut again.

joseph would tell stories. over. and over. and over. i can still retell them. well, a lot of them. he would tell us of a time he was in france and two american women tourists entered a parisian restaurant. it must have been their first night in paris, and we in awe of everything they saw. and as most of us tend to do in foreign situations, they began to make generalizations. i don't remember the specifics of the generalizations they made, but it had to do something with the ice and how it was shaved ice and perhaps being used to keep the salad chilled. the details aren't important, the fact is that the women - quite loudly according to joseph - were declaring how quaint the french were with their cute food habits. my teacher had never seen this ice-trick before - in paris nor any other french city, country or town.

on thursday night, we traveled to santo domingo. amalio had an appointment for a non-immigrant visa and samil was going to social security for his own number. (it's on its way jackie, but who knows how long it will take!) since we're not permitted to take anything into the consulate with us, we traveled in the clothes we would be wearing the next day and had thrown some light pijamas in samil's diaper bag. we were pretty dressed up - dress slacks and a button-front shirt and shoes for amalio and me in a skirt and top. we arrived at the bus station early, so we crossed the street to Pollo Victorina where a huge group of american high school seniors were eating. they were on some sort of bizarre mission trip and were stopped in santiago between bus routes.

we ordered our food, amalio sat down with samil while i paid and wiggled through the americans. and then their teacher. yah, their teacher, says:
"look how cute. dominican people get dressed up for fast food. what a treat for them to be able to eat out. see kids, you don't realize how lucky you are, they probably had to save up for a month for this little family outing."

their teacher, obviously, never had culture lessons from my teacher. it took everything in me to just smile and laugh.

assumptions and generalizations are... well, just that. and we all know what assuming does. if you're traveling abroad, be careful when you speak english, you never know who understands - or who you might offend.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

staying at home.

i received another call from a bilingual school the other day. a few months ago, the first school i worked at here after getting married was calling because they needed a social studies teacher. for the life of me, i couldn't explain - or make them understand - that i want to stay home with my baby. it was pretty frustrating, especially when the director told amalio that i would soon tire of being at home and be chomping at the bit to take their job. his cockiness pissed me off. sure, there are days i wish i was working - surrounded by adults, having conversations about things other than samil. but my life is varied enough that i'm just not bored.

i work two days in a language institute - 6 hours a week. and at the end of every class, i thank heavens that i get a break before the next one. i love teaching kids. and i think i'm pretty good at it. but i have them an hour and a half, twice a week. no behavior issues. and they're genuinely happy to be in class. but, i set a precedent when i started to be the "energetic" and "creative" teacher... and most of my classes include tons of "total physical response" methods. tons of jumping, bouncing, running, skipping, crawling. its tiring. i couldn't do it everyday. in the evenings, amalio takes the baby and i have a mini-institute in the house. i have 27 students - some kids, some teenagers and some adults that study english with me. i teach everyday, sometimes with samil is tow - mostly hanging out in his walker or crawling around. thankfully he is well behaved and my students love him. plus, they understand that i have a kid that is my first priority. thats why i don't charge them a ton of money.

so when the school called today, while i was quite flattered that my reputation caused them to seek me out, i was a little frustrated having to explain myself and our family situation. someday, i told them, i'd be back in work. but right now, i need to make sure samil is good.

i like my time with samil. i like the freedom of being (mostly)self employed. i have friday off. we walk everywhere. we go to museums, stores, to visit friends. i can pay my bills and put some money in the bank every month.

i might get bored. permanently. but it hasn't happened yet, so we're going to keep on keeping on. sorry, bilingual school, but i can't come work for you. i'll give you a call in a few years.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


i can't say that i missed a week of blogging because i'm been so busy. it's just not true. i had a lot of things happening this past week, but nothing out of the ordinary or beyond normal capacity. i guess it just wasn't anything to write home about - taking care of samil, clearning, teaching. i did have a really long meeting with my boss on thursday that in the end helped me feel a lot better about staying in the language center at least until june. then we'll see what happens.

since we moved into our apartment i've wan ted to paint the crownmolding but i never got around to it. last night i pulled out the paintbrushes and did the living room and hallway. i've got to touch it up and this week paint the dirtydirty walls, but i think it looks nice. its hard to diy here because we don't have many tools - well, really we've got some screwdrivers and a drill, so we can do some stuff, but we don't

samil and i just got home from the most boring "family day" ever where we left amalio because he was "working"... i had an interesting conversation with his co-worker that began like this:
"i'd like to marry a foreigner"
"ummm... ok."
"well, yah, i need a man who respects me for being independent"
"ummmmm... OK"
"i mean, i've never livedby myself, i live with my parents. and i still follow their rules. but i'm really independent."