Sunday, February 24, 2008

samil's super sunday.

samil has been slithering around for awhile now but he's so in love with the camera that i never really can capture him. as soon as he sees the lense, he forgets everything else and starts cheesin'... finally today, after lots of prodding we were able to get this short little video.

in january my friend cara and i began advertising for our english classes. this past week we had to open two more classes because of the demand. my dream is to someday have a learning center here in santiago that offers english classes, pre-school or day-care, homework center, tutoring and some other things. the classes that we're offering in our homes is like a test-run. i'm really excited about how popular they are and how much response we're getting. we only advertised in 2 areas and seriously hung up maybe 25 posters total.

samil and i went to a softball game yesterday to cheer on Papa Disla who was playing with a team of teachers against the team from the teachers hospital where samil was born. it was an exciting match, and we even got invited to the team dinner afterward.

video

Saturday, February 23, 2008


so, thursday has come and gone - samil obviously wasn't feeling good at all. he didn't even have any energy to cry. he just kind of whimpered. he even fell asleep on top of his toys on the walker.


today we've got our baby back. he's smiling and laughing... and going to town on that cracker.
his tooth popped through and doesn't seem to be bothering him at all.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

long day.

i work in an english institute on tuesdays and thursday. i've been working there for two years now and i love my job. when samil was born, i was going to leave because i didn't have anyone to take care of him for me. so, we made an agreement that he could go to class with me. he has a playpen and my students - mostly teenage girls, but even my three boys LOVE him - he mostly plays and sleeps... and before and between classes he gets a lot of love.

some parents were concerned that he'd be a distraction - maybe he was in the beginning but the kids are used to him now. they were also concerned that i'd miss a lot of class due to samil's non-consumption of baby formula and because he doesn't have a permanent babysitter.

today.is.the.first.day. that i will miss class because of samil. i'm both proud of myself and sad for my baby. proud that we've made it to school every class since he was 1 month old (i didn't really take maternity leave) and sad that my baby is not feeling good.

it'll be over soon, hopefully.
afterall, it is just his first tooth.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

for your viewing enjoyment...

i love that i've figured out this video camera on my regular camera. now, i just need to get samil to do some great tricks like sarah suggested - reading poetry, perhaps. until then, samil is becoming more and more curious each day. he's learning how to play with some of his more "complicated" toys. (like his turtle... but of course as soon as he sees the camera, he's all smiles... he loves his picture taken). he's also beginning to start moving. i won't say crawling because he's still more like a worm. if he wants something, he gets to it. ... and gets it right to his mouth.




video

Sunday, February 17, 2008

peanut, peanut butter and... apples?

amalio was in the supermarket on saturday night and he saw a student we both taught in the episcopal school. the mom says hello and amalio asked the little boy if he remembered him.

amalio: hey, buddy, do you remember me?
boy: no. nu-uh.
amalio: do you remember melanie?
boy: yah. that was my best english teacher.
amalio: she's my wife. (he was probably proud that i was the best).
boy: oh yah. now i remember you... (pause) did you know that your wife is
weird?
amalio: oh yah? why?
boy: well... she eats apples with peanut butter. that's gross. see ya later!

i'm choosing to focus on the best teacher part instead of the "she's weird" part.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

uphill battles are worth the fight

living in a foreign country is hard. mix in a "native" husband and a "bicultural" baby and you get an eyebrow raise from almost everyone. i stay at home. we can't live completely on amalio's salary... so i teach in my house. but my family is my priority. i feel like i spend most of my days defending our decisions in parenting. samil goes everywhere with me. i rarely leave him with anyone, and when i do, it's someone we really trust. there's a culture - here and even in the states i suppose - of kids being an inconvenience. an obligation. it's amazing how many women tell me that they have children because that's what they're supposed to do. it's the woman's job. in most of the thirdworld or developing countries that i've been in, children are the priority, they are the hope of the future. someday they might rise above the mess and poverty and improve their quality of life. however, the dominican republic has a funny identity. developing, yet not. third world, but not quite. this paradox creates a bizarre mix of values... a life stuck somewhere between tradition and modernity. a life somewhat dominican with a lot of "western" influence. my relationship with samil is curious for people from all spectrums. wealthy women - who often stay at home - often have nannies and maids to raise their children. no cooking ,cleaning or childrearing for them. middle class women, in an attempt to give their child a better, longer education, send their children to daycare -- non-regulated sites often filled with 25 or more toddlers for two teachers -- and poor women who send their children to grandmom while they head to work. of course they are generalizations. and generalizing is rarely a good thing. everyone does what they can, what their situation allows and what they think is the best for their family. amalio and i are doing what we can, what we think is best for our family. we have to defend our decisions frequently - to both dominicans and americans - as we try to blend two cultures, two languages and two countries. in the end i'm sure it will be the best for samil, and that's what we're really out for. Some of our "questionable" decisions: -- we're raising samil bilingual. that means both languages - AT THE SAME TIME. I talk to him in english and amalio is spanish. we'll probably focus on the english since... -- samil will attend public school. yup. we know he's only 6 months old, but we are both of the philosophy that public schools will never get better if the people who have the resources to change them send their kids to private schools. amalio is a public school teacher and he believes strongly in the education that he gives. -- however, we want samil to have a full education in both language and since school here is only 4 hours long, he will be supplemented with homeschooling to complete his schedule. -- samil is breastfed. and will be exclusively breastfed until at leastone year or there is no milk left. as long as there is milk, he won't be given formula. i don't feel like it's necessary. -- i make samils food. well, most of it. it's cheaper and healthier... eventhough sometimes i wish i had a jar of gerber's lying around for moments of panic. -- we don't believe in physical punishment. i think that punishing children with violence doesn't help them understand the issue ... or how to deal with other people who treat them wrong. violence begets violence. ...ontheotherhand...i understand why parents spank, and i have no problem with it. it's just not for me. -- i carry samil in a carrier. no, he's not uncomfortable, his back isn't going to break and he will not become pigeon-toed. --we're just now night-weaning samil. if the baby is hungry, he's hungry. but now he eats semi-solids and has slept throught the night frequently. and so, he will continue to sleep through - whether he likes it or not. -- we didn't make a schedule for samil, but he has routines - like bathtime, bedtime and eating routines - that make my life easier. -- samil plays independently and is not picked up at the first sign of crying. he goes to school with me and plays in his playpen by himself. at first he would cry, but he's since learned his school-time routine and is pretty happy about it. -- we let people carry him. even my 12 year old students. as long as someone is with them. we're not concerned about him getting sick. it's natural. -- he will not have the chicken pox vaccine. that's dumb. -- samil is currently learning to drink from a sippy cup. i don't like bottles. it's personal. and i hate when i see 5 years olds drinking milk from bottles because their parents never took it away from them. he does a good job. -- samil uses a pacifier (BOBO) to go to sleep. we're in the process of weaning him from that too. phew. that was long. and not even half of the things we get asked about on a regular basis. what do you think? suggestions? i guess really, we have our ways but are open to help from people with more experience than us.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

bag check.

all the stores - even the small boutiques - have this fantastic bag-check system. i'm sure that it was implemented more to prevent shoplifting than for my convenience, but seriously, i.love.it.

there's this great grocery/department store on the exact corner of my bus stop called el encanto. when i taught in the city, i would abuse the system. between classes, i would do my shopping, bag my groceries and on my way out of the store i would check my bags. no lie. i'd come back to get them when my last class was over. even now, if i have time to kill - like if i 'm in the city getting photocopies, the bane of my existence, or picking up something from the used book store - i'll drop off my notebooks and hurry along to take advantage of having two hands.

i never really thought about it. the cost of living here is expensive, with a 16% salestax on everything - big stores have the most inflated prices. especially after the storms that left the country with almost.nothing agriculturally. it's better to shop at small, familyowned stores to avoid middle-men and even still fresh produce and quality meat is hard to come by.

at least at prices we can afford

so, all that said. i take advantage of the system because they charge me an-arm-and-a-leg.

yesterday, however, i went to the city with cara. we hit "Green Wednesday" - all produce 35%off - at one store, hopped in public transportation to the city and dropped our bags off at el encanto. i, of course, didn't think twice. we walked out, heading to the copy shop, bank and lunchspot.

cara however, seemed a little wary of tricking the store. she asked a billion questions and then, cara looks at me. "i feel like i just stole something."

am i a bad person because i felt and still feel no regret?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

samil's singalong

okay, i don't really know how to do this... but i'm trying -- mostly for the sake of the grandparents. samil loves this leapfrog singalong ABC thing. he goes nuts.

video

Friday, February 8, 2008

biting my tongue...

i've come along way from the mouthy teenager who would say the first thing that entered her mind without considering the feelings of anyone. it's something that i've worked on... you know, thinking before i speak. since samil was born... well, even before, i suppose, i've had to bite my tongue so much it's surprising that i have any tastebuds left. people stop me on the street to tell me how horrible i am for carrying samil in a snuggly or taking him out after dark. today, on our trip to the supermarket, i was just sad. and i couldn't bite my tongue. for better or worse, i've learned to let 'bad mommy' comments roll off my back, but i hate when people degrade their own culture. it's common here. i deal with it daily. and it still bothers me. from the 'why would you marry a dominican?' questions to the 'this country is horrible' comments to the 'why would you have a baby in this country if you have other options' curiosity, it stings everytime a dominican insults their own people. the cashier looks at me, with one of those long up.and.down looks and asks "why do you carry him in that?" excuse me? "yeah, why do you have him there? and he has no socks on." it's 100 degrees outside, i promise he won't freeze. i look back at her and politely explain that carriers do not deform babies legs, make boy babies infertile nor are they uncomfortable and samil cannot, i promise, fall out. she stares. i stare back. she mutters something about me being irresponsible. i seethe. i'm sure it was visible on my face. so, to "save" both of us, the bagboy chirps in "don't worry, they're tourists!" huh? "yah, only foreigners always take their babies everywhere. i mean, where's your kid? running around at your moms. you're so dominincan." which was worse? that now i'm a tourist or that he completely insinuated that dominican women don't take care of their own babies. i don't get it. maybe i never will. but we each have our own needs. i don't need to leave samil with a babysitter, so i don't. but most women here need to work, so the kids get dropped at grandmoms. not necessarily a horrible thing. it's not like they're leaving them in the street. seriously.





Friday, February 1, 2008

in a funk...

lately i've been kinda down. not depressed, just... well, un-numb. i've found that after living here for 3 years i was beginning to not see what was going on around me. we live in a beautiful apartment (which is, gratefully, rent-controlled) and both have good incomes. our street leaves a little to be desired (okay, a lot. but we don't have a car that is destroyed everytime we go out, so we can't really complain about the street). i work in a private school so it's rare that i see kids in real need. even when i make my weekly(ish) visit to help out at amalio's public high school, i tend not to look at what is happening. recently, i guess the last two weeks or so, i've been opening my eyes - for better or for worse. i've been visiting the local public elementary school, chatting with the director about some program we might be able to start for volunteers and proposing a project to the government on behalf of amalio's school. yesterday, i went to take the pictures that will today be presented to the president of the republic - leonel fernandez. i don't know how i missed it. two and a half years in what is rated (academically) as the 3rd best school in the city of santiago is falling apart. literally. not only is the school overcrowded - up to 60 kids in each course - there aren't enough desks, the rooms are super.small. and well, falling apart. bravo to the teachers who have made it number three despite horrid surroundings and poor work conditions!!! and thanks for this project that helped open my eyes to the poverty of this country again.
See that wood "paneling" up there, that's the window. and where the kid's head is sticking out... oh yeah, there's nothing there. just a hole
This is the roof in a classroom. hilariously there is a fan... hilarious because the school on has electricity for about 2 hours a day. usually in the middle of the night.
here's a packed classroom of 9th graders sitting under the leaking, wood roof. when the windows are open, the glare prevents reading the chalkboard... when they're closed it's too dark to do anything.
this is the bathroom door. please note that it's falling off its hinges.
This is the amount of space between the school and the next house. this is where these kids are supposed to have gym class. yes, i'm serious.
This classroom doesn't have any desks, so the kids all chipped in to buy some plywood and made benches to sit on.
a wall dividing two classrooms and missing ceiling panels.
This hole makes me laugh. mostly because the director is (to use kind words) an idiot. he locks up the "archive office" (anothing little hole in the wall) and makes a big show of how safe the records are. This hole leads right to that "office"