Monday, January 19, 2009

urban vs. rural

there are no real suburbs in the dr. there are big cities and little towns. but nothing like the middle-upper class suburbia in the states. and life in the city is not really much different than life in the towns - more factory work, more restaurants, but basically the same day-to-day.

i think there is always a class of people - jetsetters, i suppose - who party and do the club scene. there are bars and nightclubs here a la nueva york but it really is a distinct set of people who can go there. rich kids, american students on study abroad trips, prostitutes. no i'm not even kidding. most of the average dominicans head to what are called tipicos - bars where they play typical merengue and bachata music - or carwashes which are not really carwashes at all, but open air dance club, usually with live local music.

the difference - and a big one it is - comes between these little towns and big cities and the campos. most people in the cities have running water (not all, but most) and electricity for at least a few hours a day. at the very least, there is the option of electricity. there's public transportation and factory work, office work, supermarkets... you name it. the dominican republic is far more comfortable than a lot of other latin american countries.

the countryside is different though. some communities have light - but there are still plenty of people living without electricity. and those who have it, have it infrequently at best. running water is a crapshoot and work is usually in agriculture. the transportation? mostly little motorbikes and scooters.

my in-laws are campesinos. my father-in-law has some land and spends his days moving cows from one pasture to the next. he also works as a gardener for some foreigners who live on "their mountain." their house has a water pump that brings water from the nearby stream to a holding tank on their roof. when there is electricity, they fill the tank and live on that water until it's empty. many evenings are spent playing dominoes or cards - though the last time we visited the guys had to go kill some humongous snakes that were killing the chickens.

it's a hard life - wake up with the roosters: milk the cows: feed the pigs: feed the chickens: look for eggs: move the cows: go to work: eat lunch: move the cows... and all of the animals are free-range, there are no cute little cages filled with little chickies. the animals roam free and somehow always make their way back. i've woken up a few times to piglets in the kitchen begging for food like little dogs.

i like to visit. we might build a casa de campo someday. but i would never live in the campo. even with the conveniences that can be bought, i just don't think it's for me. i need movement, i need things to do. samil loves the campo because he loves the animals - he's kind of afraid of the piglets, though, because i think they're too brazen for him.

samil knows how to climb onto the motorcycle. when we're around the bike has to be parked in the shed or in the neighbor's house because samil does everything he can to get up. he especially likes to eat his cereal sitting on the moto in the mornings.
that man is amalio's dad, francisco.
samil is given run of the house when he's around and he's lucky to have a grandpop who 1) loves his grandkids - all of them and 2) is patient and willing to have a little kid tag along while he works in the morning. here, we gave samil the corn to feed the chickens. he was scared at first but then was throwing the feed and chasing the roosters around like a pro.

i think it's important for samil to learn what hard work it is to run a farm and take care of animals. i don't think it's an undignified life, but i want him to know it's difficult. amalio and isaias (my brother in law who lives with us) are the only two of 8 kids who graduated from highschool. the grandkids seem to be on the same track. we want samil to know that education is important, because without one there is no choice but often back-breaking physical labor. now, if he makes the choice to be a farmer from a list of options open to him, that's different.
here he is watching our newest calf (i mentioned before that we own some cows) learning to feed before the cow is milked. samil helped with the milking, too, but we didn't get any good pictures.


Carina said...

Lovely reading Melanie and beautyful pictures. This is how I would like to live some day. Hopefully with water and electricity though:) It´s so nice of you to share thoose every day happenings, good and less good, from DR. It gives us, me, a little glimps of reality. I also loved your text about "am I a rich american" and how you put the finger on the fact that however "poor" we expats might live in our new country we allways have the benefit of having the choise to move back home again.

slayer7875 said...

My Wish is for Samil not to be a farmer, but a folk singer singing old Woody and Arlo Guthrie songs with me outside the resorts or on the beach in Sosua whooing the money from the rich american's and french people. Then we can pay someone to do all the hard work on the farm so his Dominican GrandFather would not have to work no more.

Melissa said...

I love the perspective you share on your blog. These pictures are so neat. They remind me of pictures my dad has from when he was growing up.