Tuesday, September 30, 2008


we just finished a month, yes a WHOLE month, of learning school supplies.

i always try to make the first month of class focus on just one unit, simple vocab and maybe one or two grammatical concepts.

but really, if i never hear my students tell me "it is a pencil" again, i'll be happy.
they have their test on monday.
and we'll move on to the human body, the 5 senses and emotions.

a lot more words, a lot more grammar... a lot more fun songs.

and not so much, "is yu eppy ee yu nos eet, CLAP YOUR HANDS".
i love my students. i really do.
but the accent gets old after two days.
i promise.

Monday, September 29, 2008

it's like the energizer bunny

it's 9:56am.

i should be doing things. but instead i'm trying to figure out just how i can get rid of this nasty cold.

yep, i've still got it.
i felt better this weekend and yesterday i slept for a few hours in the afternoon.
today, i woke up with a nasty sinus headache.

i'm wondering if i might have a bad allergy to something?

we just got our camera back from maggi who was borrowing it to take pictures of her new baby. i'll get some pictures of samil up here in the next few days along with some more interesting posts than "i'm so sick"

Friday, September 26, 2008


there's a nasty epidemic of pink-eye floating around the island. so far it hasn't made it's way into our house...

but the kids downstairs have it.
and we've thought about putting a sign on the stairs to tell that mess to stay down there.

and although the conjunctivitis has missed up (so far, knock on wood)... we've been messed up by a nasty cold (samil), kidney infection (amalio) and a sinus infection (me).

we're scraping by, but we know that we'll only get better once samil does... since no one can get better on no sleep. and with samil waking up every hour except when he sleeps in our bed (kicking and punching and biting in his sleep) it's hard to get some shut eye.

so i'll be mia until we get better.
peace out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

hurricanes schmurricanes.

we're in another "red alert" here.

thankfully we haven't been hit hard this year - but there are still 4 weeks left of the official hurricane season... and what with the very real global warming situation, the danger of bad storms with probably last well into december. it did last year. and hundreds of people died.

i think what bothers me most about hurricane season is the "help" that comes to the islands that for the rest of the year americans forget about unless they're on vacation.

don't get me wrong. i think it's great that people want to help. it is just reminiscent of christmas in the states where everyone gets a bug in their pants to "do something" for all those poor old people in the "homes" who have no family.

and completely forget that they have no family ever. not in december, not in may.
but hey, it's christmas and those "poor poor people" are "all alone."

the real problem in the islands - dominican republic, haiti, jamaica, yes, even cuba - is a lack of infrastructure. can you really imagine homes being built on riverbeds in big cities in the states?
or driving past people living, yes living on trash dumps and landfills and not doing anything about it? can you imagine children not being allowed to go to school because their parents didn't bother to get them birth certificates? girls being legally permitted to marry and move out of their homes at 13 - just to give birth to more uneducated children with no food to eat?

sure. shit happens in the states. there are less than ideal housing situations, there are children missing the education because of governmental redtape and stupidity, there are girls having babies at earlier and earlier ages.

take that and multiply it. by thousands.

and throw in some hurricanes that wash out those less than ideal homes. blow off the roof, ruin the beds, tear apart the few clothes in the closet. knock down the schools where the kids aren't allowed anyway. babies with 13 year old moms who can't even defend themselves waiting in line for the very little governmental aid. pushing and shoving against hundreds and thousands of other victims.

it's not to say that it's the responsibility of americans, canadians and europeans to send their funds. it's not. and that's the point.

it's not your responsibility to feel bad one time in your life for people who live this poorly all year long. not just in hurricane season. it's not your responsibility to send food after a hurricane for people who don't have food ever. it's not your responsibility to send clothes, send books, send ANYTHING.

because it's not just now that it's needed.
it's always.

so, if you feel bad because of a hurricane. here, puerto rico. even louisiana.
think about whether your help might be better later. when there are no hurricanes and there are still people trying to get their shit together from the hurricane that hit 5 years ago.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

david foster wallace.

i was recently informed that DFW committed suicide.

it's sad that the english speaking world has lost one of its great thinkers, writers... a genius really.
but i'm kinda pissed about the reaction.

really, people? he KILLED HIMSELF. and left his hanging body there for his wife to find. is that fair?

great thinker? yes. phenomenal writer? yep.
good man? who knows.

and right now, i'm just sick reading the "fan" reports who are all "this is so tragic," and "we don't understand why it happened" because... well, not tragic.

tragic is getting hit by a bus. tragic is a long cruel fight against cancer. tragic is anything but suicide.

and what is there to not understand? he decided death was more desirable than life, tied a rope around his neck and jumped.

we are fans of his writing. and great that it was and understanding of him as a person that it might have made us feel, we didn't know him. only his friends, maybe his students, his family knew him. knew his struggles. knew why. and really, it's for them to understand not us.

and these feelings of anger toward his fans... well, they don't lessen my respect for him. as a writer. not a man.

rest in peace, dfw. your work will be missed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

international women's group.

recently i've been trying to get out.

it's hard because eventhough i have friends here, it's hard to find people who can relate to my peculiar situation. cultural nuances, language barriers... sometimes it is just a lot of work to be friends.

and for four years i've dealt with it, with one or two close friends my age and a few older women friends, but since the baby's come along, i've really felt the need to get out there. meet other women who are interculturally married and living here -- with no real intention of leaving.

quite a feat when your kid's not in school, you don't sit around waiting for a pediatrician frequently and ... well, you don't belong to a "club". but i've acquired some dutch students who study in bilingual schools... and by meeting them and their parents, i've been able to widen my circle just a little.

and today, monica dropped off max and invited me to attend a meeting of an international women's group here in santiago! who knew? the invitation came at just the right time, and from just the right person. and after the personal invite, i received the group invite and realized i even know (casually... and some just by name) some of the women. and they're women i like and admire.

i'm excited about it. i'm even willingly leaving samil with a sitter... and not for me to go to work!
i'll be sure to post about how it goes -- unless it's mundane and then i won't, because that would be boring.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


when i was pregnant i swore i was going to breastfeed for at least a year, wouldn't use a pacifier, would make my own babyfood and ::gasp:: would use cloth diapers.

samil weaned himself from the boob about two weeks before his first birthday, won't sleep without the "bobo", eats everything we give him natural or not (though almost all of his pureed food was homemade) and well, the cloth...

i was sold that although they suck for the environment and cost about $60US dollars a month that i needed to use disposables. i didn't like the idea, but we were blessed with a huge supply of pampers from my baby shower and we didn't even have to spend one peso for diapers until samil was seven months old.

however, our finances needed some tweaking this new school year. ironically we're making more money than before, but we have some big ticket purchases we want to make and we want to make it as easy as possible when it's time to buy.

what could i do to save some cash?

i dug out some of the cloth diapers i had - given to me with the idea that i'd use them as burp cloths - and bought a pack of diaper pins. it took me a few turns to get the diaper on correctly, to stay put and not leak. but you know what? it's not that bad.

the poop diapers are gross, i'm not going to lie. but really, not atrocious, no undoable. i just ordered more cloth. it was a little expensive for just 10 diapers, but i think it'll be worth it in the long run.

Friday, September 12, 2008


it appears that my computer is terminally ill.

it's currently in intensive care, apparently in pieces... with the hope, the small hope, that my lovely neighbor rene can replace a part that seems to be burned out.

we'll know tomorrow afternoon.

it's like losing a beloved pet.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

100 things.

1. when i was younger i swore i would marry someone with a last name much easier than mine - green, brown, white... SIMPLE.

2. i didn't. and even living in the dr doesn't help. i've been asked more times that i can count, "are you sure you're pronouncing that right," or "where is that name from?"

3. i should have changed my last name when we got married but i didn't. mostly because i'm too lazy to go through the paperwork in the states. and changing last names doesn't happen in the dr. i have to settle for being melanie DE a...

4. and the little bitty feminist inside me doesn't want to use the DE because really it's a possessive word... and i don't belong to anyone but god.

5. i'm not really a feminist. i believe a man should provide for his family and open car doors.

6. i also believe that there is nothing wrong with stay at home moms. raising children is a dignified and beautiful job.

7. that said, i work from home. and that's okay, too.

8. i just recently opened an english institute for children. it'll be the first time that samil has a babysitter. and even still he'll be at school with me.

9. i've turned down four more-full-time out of the house jobs in the past month because i need to be with my child. i think it's so important that i turned down a job that offered me triple what amalio makes monthly.

10. i have to make a list of chores to do every day or nothing gets done. i write the list on sunday giving each day a rotation of things that need to be done.

11. my house has never been cleaner or more organized.

12. the only bad thing about my lists is that the organization allows me the time to feed my law and order addiction during samil's naptimes.... when i really should be doing more productive things.

13. when i clean my bathroom, i need to change the sheets on my bed. it's a weird thing where if i take the first shower in a clean tub, i need to crawl into clean sheets.

14. i love clean sheets. especially sun-dried sheets.

15. we recently started using cloth diapers. it's something i wanted to do from the time samil was born, but there was so much opposition i couldn't do it.

16. i don't do it for the environment. i do it for our wallet. and i feel like that's okay.

17. while i breastfed for all the nutritional and health benefits, when nosey people asked me about it i told them it was because of money.

18. we went for a year before the baby decided he didn't want the boob anymore.

19. i would have kept going until he stopped. because i feel like it's that important.

20. however, i don't think it's that important that he drink cow's milk everyday now. a balanced diet is more important to me...

21. his dad, though, thinks he needs 87 ounces of milk a day eventhough everyone has told him he's wrong.

22. i get frustrated by other ex-patriates. especially the ones who complain about everything that happens here.

23. i like to complain, too. i find i'm more likely to complain if i'm around other ex-pats and that's the real reason they frustrate me.

24. i love to travel but i don't often get the chance anymore.

25. whenever someone comes to visit, i take that as my cue to turn into a tourist and head out for a place i've never been.

26. i have a trip planned to haiti, i'm just waiting for samil to get bigger and my dad to come along.

27. while i would have loved to meet my mother-in-law to see what she was like, i'm mostly okay with the lack of another opinion in our life.

28. amalio's step-mother is worse than 20 mother-in-laws... and i think that's god punishing me for not being more compassionate about his bio-mom.

29. i don't believe in punishing children for stupid things - i believe in discipline and teaching them not to do stupid things.

30. i think that if you're going to hit your kid, you oughta do it with your hand... if you're man enough to hit your kid it should be you, not a belt (or your flipflop)

31. when i was in mexico, i got a tooth infection. i went to the dentist, but when i saw the setup i turned around and walked out. i opted to self medicate and have a nurse inject my gum with anesthesia when it got really bad.

32. i drank a lot in mexico.

33. i also learned spanish. the damn teachers on the trip thought i was a lost cause. of the people on the trip, most no longer speak spanish. another girl married a guy from brazil, she probably uses her spanish a lot.

34. i don't have the same aversion for mexican doctors. in fact, i prefer mexican doctors to american ones. i saw some doctors in mexico - for everything from dehydration to headaches... and just for a note to get out of class.

35. i don't feel the same way about dominican doctors. i avoid them like the plague.

36. i did have a c-section in a semi-public dominican hospital and was impressed by the level of care. i mean, there was a lot lacking as far as cleanliness and modernity, but the doctors who operated were great.

37. a successful c-section doesn't make me like any dominican doctors more than before. right now i have a bad ear infection and am trying to find all ways to avoid a visit with a doctor.

38. just the opposite of mexico, i like dominican dentists. i've been to a few clinics here and have found them all to be relatively modern and impeccably clean.

39. i got a root canal a few months ago and i didn't even know it was a root canal until i went home and looked up the words. i guess i expected more pain.

40. i'm a snob. really. i am really picky about the people i spend time with.

41. i don't really have a list of qualities of people i like. there's just gotta be something that clicks. and you gotta have some common sense.

42. i love to read. again, i'm a snob. until i moved to the dominican i would only read things that were deemed "worthy" by my idols and/or mentors.

43. since i moved to the dominican, i read anything. anything. to alleviate the conflict, i've begun reading in spanish - which is somewhat of a struggle for me, but i'm getting better.

44. i studied french - against my will - from 7th grade through 12th. i read much better in french than i do in spanish.

45. for obvious reasons, i speak spanish better than i do french.

46. while i was pregnant i took french at the French Alliance... which i loved, until i had a putrid teacher who didn't like my accent. seriously? i was learning french via spanish! i stopped one month before samil was born.

47. if i didn't have such a fear of leaving samil with a babysitter, i'd go back and finish the french. i've only got 2 levels left.

48. we only leave the baby with 3 people. none of them are family members.

49. when i'm in philly, though, i'll leave him with anyone. unfair bias i'm sure.

50. i teach english to dominicans. from my house.

51. most of the time i dream about grammatical concepts and how to teach them without boring everyone to death.

52. i think education is vital to change under-developed countries. it's my soapbox and i'm sure most people are sick of hearing about it.

53. i was a vegetarian for all of high-school and some of college.

54. i preferred, though, to overlook the meat in chinese dim-sum because i loved it so much.

55. we still don't eat a lot of meat.

56. one of the reasons i started eating meat full-time again was because a poor family sacrificed a lot to buy a chicken for lunch when i ate with them. how can you turn that down?

57. i'm addicted to oreos.

58. but i kicked the coke (liquid, not powder) habit.

59. i'm annoyed by the new campaign for high fructose corn syrup. when i see it, i wish we didn't have american channels here.

60. i went to japan in 10th grade. i loved it, but i felt out of place because when i got on the train, i was by far the tallest person.

61. i don't understand the obsession some people have with japan. but i'd like to go back some day.

62. i made my husband apply for a scholarship for a post-grad program at the Academia Real de Lenguas in madrid so that we could live in spain for 8 months.

63. i also made him sign up for a free master's program that the school district is offering just in case he didn't get into madrid.

64. i always thought i'd be an uptight "don't touch my kid" kind of mom. but i'm not.

65. i have long hair - really long - but i never wear it out because i hate styling it.

66. when i do want to wear it out, i'll pay the salon to do it for me.

67. i bite my nails obsessively... except if i'm wearing acrylics. i always forget to get them filled in and then end up breaking off before i can get back to the salon.

68. i write down every cent that i spend in a notebook.

69. i organize all of my students' pay records in another notebook. however, this notebook does not coincide with the other - which drives me crazy.

70. i recently entered everything into the computer, but i don't like it. well, payments are one thing, but the budgeting is going to remain in the notebook.

71. my favorite colors are green and pink.

72. eventhough i know that i need to take a shower to wake up in the morning, i often wait until right before my first class.

73. i'm way more productive with a shower than without.

74. i worked in two bilingual private schools here before i decided it wasn't my gig. unless they offered me a job as principal.

75. at one of those schools the woman who did my first evaluation disliked me so much that everything i did was negative. including my use of the english language and spelling on the board.

76. i am a ridiculously good speller. except for necessary, and anything with an x.

77. i got parasitic dysentery once and they didn't want to admit me to the hospital because my tongue wasn't white enough (a sign of dehydration).

78. when i finally jumped through all of their hoops, it took 3 bags of saline solution to hydrate me back to health.

79. my biggest pet peeve is when people tell me that my students have "problems" eventhough their disability is physical... or even worse, if the problem is just that a kid behaves like a kid.

80. i went to college in chicago.

81. i saw a cubs and a bulls game my freshman year and never saw another sports event unless it was at the school.

82. and even then i only went if other people were going or if i knew someone playing.

83. i went to a lot of basketball games my junior year.

84. i worked in the library as a writing tutor. i liked it except when the esl students came to get their papers checked.

85. i'm still annoyed by other peoples' esl students. if they're mine or at one point in time were my students, i'm okay. but i usually elect to speak spanish with any non-native english speaker.

86. we live in an apartment complex and i can tell you whose baby is crying and more than likely why the baby is crying.

87. it drives me nuts when people ask me why samil was crying so much... when it wasn't even him. (it rarely is)

88. i learned to draw when i became a teacher. i couldn't even draw a flower before i moved to the dominican.

89. i'm not a world class artist, but i think i do a pretty good job.

90. i'm good at most things i try. however, i'm not good enough at any one thing to be an expert.

91. i love cheap television - especially the E! channels' reality series.

92. when i was younger i was really mean to everyone. it goes back to the snob thing. but i was worse then. there was no break between my brain and my mouth.

93. i'm a pretty good judge of character - most of the people i've named as assholes have turned out to be assholes.

94. my best friend in grade school was taiwanese. in middle school, i had a jewish best friend. after that most of my friends were more different than me in being than in color.

95. i love whiskey. but i rarely drink it.

96. we don't have a car. we haven't had a car for four years. there are a lot of factors playing in there, but the main one is that we want people to know that we work for what we get and just because my family is american, i'm not handed everything on a silver platter.

97. we're thinking about getting a car. it's been long enough.

98. i named my new english institute "new world" - not because this is the island where columbus landed, but because i really like the song "a whole new world" from aladin.

99. i take cold showers everyday because i'm too impatient to wait for the water heater to heat up.

100. i'm super crazy about the organization of pens, pencils and markers on my desk. they all have a place.


when i was little i had, like, chronic ear infections... to the best of my knowledge, i haven't had one since grade school - until now.

and to top it off and make it even more beautiful i've got a wicked cold - and it's raining. which means damp and gross.

luckily it's sunday and amalio is home to take care of samil. it's not 5:42 pm and i finally crawled out of bed.

i wish i had had the initiative to grab the camera. amalio does well when it's him and samil except with the dressing. i don't know if he's color-blind or just oblivious, but i woke up around lunch to samil with a red baseball cap, a blue and white fish printed onesie, khaki shorts and green socks. now, maybe if they had all been bold colors or all pastels i could deal. but nope. i didn't have the heart to say anything since amalio was so proud of getting samil ready all by himself and taking him to the store.

yep, they left the house like that.

and apparently the guy took one look at samil and was like, "huh, melanie's sick, right?"

Friday, September 5, 2008

let's get it started...

due to the recent imaginary storms amalio didn't have work these past three days and i've been able to get our house back in order and really get down to business with my new english project.

unfortunately for the school i'm renting from, their enrollment really went down this year. bad for them, pretty good for me as i'll now have my very own class room that i can lock up, leave things of the walls, decorate as i see fit... and not worry about people getting into everything.

so i've been lesson planning, making worksheets and posters and getting ready for the kids. so far i've only got 18 - but i've got faith that we'll grow and soon i'll be writing about hiring my first teacher! i've also been growing with my adult classes here in the house - my adult groups are packed with 10 students (a lot in my small dining room!) and i've got 8 private students and a couple bilingual school kids.

so, while it's been a busy three days - even with amalio home helping out - it's been productive and i feel really good about what i've accomplished. just a little more to go and i'll be ready for the first real day of classes on monday :)

happy quality friday!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

school's out, but so's the sun.

so, funny thing about meteorology here...

we checked the national hurricane page (US not dominican) two days ago and saw that Hanna had already passed us. somehow this information passed the meteorologists here though, because at 5 o'clock on tuesday night, school was cancelled for wednesday... and the entire country put in RED ALERT.

yesterday? not a drop of rain after 10 o'clock in the morning and even before that it was a only a slight drizzle.

when amalio got home at noon today i was little surprised - after all it hasn't rained AT ALL since yesterday morning... but school was cancelled again today.

just in case.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


we've been busy with visitors for the past two weeks. my mom and jenny have pictures from the birthday party so i'm waiting for them (hint hint) to post them here.

this week samil's cousin casmerly is here...

amalio doesn't think they look alike at all.

samil is getting better at standing by himself, but he's not walking yet.

his favorite trick? climbing INTO the box of toys. casmerly thinks he's a nut.

samil and his girlfriends - sara and genesis - after everyone else had left his party.

it's still raining, but it's not too bad. apparently we're in a red alert, but i'm seeing the clear skies and light breezes. we'll see if that's just one of nature's tricks!
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Tuesday, September 2, 2008


looks like we're getting dumped on this week.

please keep in your thoughts and prayers all people living on the riverbeds as hanna hits us...
so far it has only been rain, but they're calling for fastmoving winds and flooding.

we're okay. we live away from that, but not everyone is so fortunate.