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.