Monday, March 30, 2009


the past few weeks have been b.u.s.y. i'm not used to being so busy or so crazy about it. i've got a to-do list as long as i am tall but no real desire to do anything on it.

but, everything on the list is necessary... not like, say, clean the bathroom or dust the living room (which i did on saturday night, by the way).

yesterday we decided it was time to get on with it, so we had a group of electricians here fixing all of our broken outlets and light switches, water heater and fans. because if the outlets don't work, neither do the fans and summer in the dominican republic with no fans would be disastrous. on top of the kids fixing things, we finally moved samil's bedframe into his room - he's been on a matress on the floor for about three months now and rearranged the furniture. we painted the "black board" wall in the dining room because no matter how hard i try to scrub the nasty film left from the dry-erase markers, it's never really clean. i also worked on samil's scrapbook since i'm, oh, about 8 months behind, and donated two big boxes of used clothes, toys and randomness to the jucum ministry's flea market.

today the house was a mess. the list is still long and i am t.i.r.e.d.

next week we're going to an all-inclusive resort for four days. it's my motivation to get some more work chipped away off the list this week before it really starts getting too hot for physical labor.

i'll probably be m.i.a on the blog for awhile until things start to come together... and then we'll see. things are looking to get even more crazy around here in a few months.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


i had to get an injection in my butt today.

ask me what for... go ahead, do it.

really, i'm not a blind medicine taker, but i trust my doctor and he really did explain to me what it was for and it made complete sense to me.

until i went to the emergency room with samil, waited in line for the nurse and watched samil scream bloody murder until that mean, mean nurse was finished hurting his mommy.

have you, this is the child who doesn't even wince when they give him an injection. vaccines? no problem. needle for mommy?

i left the clinic probably more traumatized than him, so we went to mcdonalds for french fries and spent the afternoon napping.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

god's design.

i get a little frustrated when i read arguments about new technology, innovations and such that are the best thing for us. mostly when they have to do with pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing.

right now there is this article floating around about how breastfeeding is not the best thing for babies. well, for mommies.

and despite my c-section, i am very much a supporter of natural birth. you know, pushing a baby out. i know i've never done it, but samil lived in my belly for nearly 42 weeks waiting for his chance. luckily, c-sections existed or we might not have him - but the point is, i didn't make an appointment to avoid the inconvenience of birth.

and so, i wonder a lot about this onslaught of anti-breastfeeding and pro-c-sections and implanting 12 babies into a woman's uterus. what happened to believing that we were made in god's image? the belief that his design is perfect? how can anything we make be better than what He made?

and i don't say that to mean that women should only exclusively breastfeed, that c-sections are unnecessary or that AI is bad. i just think that when the things that are natural are replaced by our inventions, we can't possibly be doing something better.

cleaning lady. **updated**

i just hired a lady to come clean my house one day a week.

i know to some people it's a luxury, but at this point in our life, it's kind of a necessity. keeping house here is a lot different than keeping house in, say, philadelphia. we live on a dirt road next to a farm. we don't have screens on any window and i swear, every piece of dirt on earth enters here. and don't forget all those students who track in the dirt from said dirt road.

i just don't have time.

but this lady just got here and already is driving me crazy. i don't think she'll last very long. i just can't handle stupidity. i'd rather a dirty house.

she's been here an hour and already has told me three times that i should put shoes on samil's feet. walked away from me when i was explaining where we keep the cleaning products and how we use them and threw water against my wall in an attempt to clean crayon from them. even after i told her that we don't throw water (most dominicans do).

i had plans to leave and let her do her thing, but it's pouring rain.
and samil just went to sleep.

all of this while the crazy nanny from upstairs has knocked on the door three times to ask if i would call the bodega and get her some bleach. because, well, they hate her and won't send her a delivery in the rain.


i would go take a nap, too, but she's in there trying to figure out how to dust with pledge...

after all that, i had to tell her not to come back next week. she didn't dust anything, the windows on the balcony doors still have fingerprints all over them and there are cobwebs in the corners... the worst part though is that she did nothing in the kitchen. absolutely NOTHING. well, she mopped the floor, but nothing else.

gotta start the search again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

do not disturb.

i like to screen my calls.


not so much. i have a lot of students who call for really ridiculous things. like: "teacher, it's raining, do i have to come to class?"

it's frustrating to say the least. but there's also this little phenomenon. i've not noticed it from my dominican students, but my asian students really just don't understand that if i don't answer the phone it means either a) i'm not home or b) i don't care how many times in a row you call, i'm not going to answer.

and if i do answer, after you've called 100 times, i'm not going to be really happy.

it's why i don't have a cell phone. i don't want that responsibility of having to answer wherever i am. and really, if it's important - leave a message!

Friday, March 20, 2009


for some reason a lot of people here are surprised that samil is with me all.the.time. i take him to the doctor's, i take him to the store... he even goes to school with me (though, there, he has a babysitter) and he's with me when i teach in the house. it's not so much that i want or need to take him everywhere - and believe me, there are times i'd rather leave him - but for various reasons, we can't just leave him anywhere. neither of us have family in santiago - so no quick trips to grandma or aunty for the day. and our neighbors all work and leave their kids with nannies. and, well, the nannies around here would take him, but they're nuts and i wouldn't risk my child's safety or well-being by leaving him. there are a few people we can count on but i don't like to take advantage and only leave him when it's absolutely necessary. and in emergencies, he just goes to school with amalio and the kids have a free-for-all spoiling him.

anyway. when samil is with me and im teaching, he has his own little "classes" to do - coloring, playing with blocks, puzzles... special toys meant only for "school-time" . Sometimes he sits in his chair at the table but mostly he has his little chair and table next to us.
we got this chair for $100 pesos (about 3 dollars) a few weeks ago. it was unfinished so i painted it and samil l.o.v.e.s. it.

he takes his work very seriously.

Monday, March 16, 2009

more ethnocentricities...

i like dominican food.

when i first moved here, i l.o.v.e.d. dominican food. maybe, though, it was because i hated cooking and the food i was getting required no cooking of my own.

and there are dishes i still love. adore. crave. fried cheese (who knew? you can deep fry anything). sancocho, pastelon de platano maduro. asopao.

but they are all dishes that are delicacies. foods for special occasions. not something you whip up every monday night, a la mom's meatloaf (i hate meatloaf).

and dominicans l.o.v.e. dominican food. rightly, so, i suppose. but try being married to a dominican who is dying of hunger if he doesn't have rice everyday. or at least every other day. rice. rice. beans. rice and beans together. rice and boiled beans. meat. all.with.the.same.damn.seasonings.

it cracks me up, too, because most dominican men don't know that they're wives really aren't that talented - they've just mastered the art of using pepper, onion, tomato paste and chicken boullion in the right proportions for everything.

that makes it sound bad, but dominican cuisine really is quite tasty. but the same thing every day is boring. repetitive. and frankly, i need some diversity.

the other thing about food is that, of course, everyone loves it. and americans are dumb because we only eat pizza and french fries. in fact, all of the american children that dominicans meet only ever ask for pizza. mcdonalds. hamburgers and soda. i don't think the thought ever crossed their minds that the kids are asking for what's familiar - because the dominican food?

i had to turn my dad onto the deliciousness of dominican coffee after being rightly disgusted when passed a 4 oz. shot of coffee, loaded with at least 3 teaspoons of sugar. the coffee bean is delicious. a little sugar, a little milk and i dare say it's a wonder of the world. but, alas, the sweetness overload turns us off.

and once, i had to argue with a priest about his desert of choice for a group of figure conscious short term missionaries. cake here is expensive. far out of the normal budget, and definitely not something people have on a regular basis. and if you like sweet, it's for you. but for most americans, it's too sweet. too... saccharine-y. so, for this priest argued with me for no less than an hour an hour when i told him he should buy fruit because "dominican cake is the best in the world" - he proceeded to buy the cake - all $50 american dollars worth of it, only to have more than 3/4 left after the party.


it may seem my last two posts have been negative. but there are people reading this blog who are wondering what it's like to live here. and on a daily basis i'm overwhelmed by the ethnocentricity i encounter. it's not to say it doesn't exist in the states - it does, and in far greater terms. why else would there be a mcdonalds in every country? not because those people love mcdonalds, but because we love mcdonalds. (when we go to mcd's there are almost always at least three other american families there, and there aren't so many americans in santiago) but what happens in the states is not my life, what happens here and how it affects me as a foreigner is my life. i know i'm ethnocentric. horribly so. but these are my observations of life. (so there)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

don't fix what's not broken.

just so you all know, i hate the new facebook.

and am seriously considering quitting.

because if they change that mess one more time, i might go crazy.
and, i probably should quit any way, it's getting to be an addiction.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

culturally egocentric.

i've gotten pretty good at ignoring those random, nagging, old ladies in the supermarket who assure me samil is going to die a slow and torturous death any day now because, well, it's only 60 degrees out and, oh no!, he's wearing shorts. and sandals.

in the carribean. in 60 degree heat in january. but i digress.

i've also gotten pretty good at sorting through the ridiculousness - choosing what i really should know... like walking barefoot on cold ceramic. it hasn't yet killed me or my son, nor worsened or changed the frequency of nasty coldbugs like the naggy ladies say, but it has given me some nasty varicose veins. something about the ceramic having no give, no forgiveness for my poor legs. and though i still don't frequent a salon to get my hair washed and blown out the one time a week you're supposed to wash your hair, i have noticed a significant change in the amount of hair i lose daily (um, let's just say i had a receding hairline for awhile) since i stopped washing my hair every day.

see, there's some sense to some of the weird, bitchy comments.

but really, i can't handle the cultural egocentrism that has abounded ever since samil was born. you see, all americans are greedy, selfish, fat pigs who only have kids because they have to. and don't forget, we only eat hamburgers, pizza and french fries.

recently the onslaught has gotten worse. i don't know what it is - that i break every single cultural stereotype that they have? we only eat hamburgers when i'm feeling really lazy or we're having a bbq, pizza is a rare treat to share with american friends and french fries? samil sees them occassionally, but they're definitely not a staple. beyond that. i cook for my husband every day. and most often dominican food. i stay at home, sacrificing what could be a very large (dominican) salary to make sure that my family has what it needs. we discipline our kid, and the same rules go for other people's kids that are in our house. samil is in bed at 9. naps and has his "classes" that go right along with my students. i don't have a maid. or a nanny. and i'm not looking to pawn my kid off on anyone so i can get my nails done.

i've had to cancel a few students - a hard decision because they were high-payers - because i don't want my kids growing up with that in their faces. especially when it comes to the idea that we live comfortably because my american family must send us money. afterall, they do spoil samil. and how could they possibly be living the good life in that land of milk and honey where money magically falls from the sky and nobody really has to work and not send money to their poor, desperate daughter in the wasteland of the western hemisphere?

i think that's what really bothers me about it all. is the contradiction in the idea. and the idea of entitlement that underlies it all. in one breath, it's that i'm the "anti-american" because i'm not greedy, selfish work 20 hours a day to have more and more money and then tell me that it's nothing for my parents to send us a paycheck (yes, that has been suggested... and not in jest by numerous people) because making money in the states is so easy! it's the good life - sit back, relax and earn!

who should be getting the money that i earn? my family, and sure if i have some left over to help someone who is having a hard time, okay. but the idea that someone is entitled to money just because they are in the states and one is not... that's a little ridiculous. and the idea that i should work my butt off to pay for the luxuries i want to have while you receive money for sitting on your butt? well.

that's where i am today.
i've got a lot more brewing around in my head, but mostly it's this. don't judge a culture by what you see in the movies. and don't expect life to be better or easier just because you're earning in another currency. i don't want my kids growing up with those ideas. i want them to respect and embrace others instead of throwing their misconstrued ideas at others.

thank you.
have a nice day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

independence school parade.

edited: apparently this is the most popular blog post of all times! who knew what such an ambiguous title could do for my little blog. please stay and look around - we love visitors!

last friday, the 27th of february, the dominican republic celebrated their independence day. independence from what, you ask?

i have no clue
the dominican people have experienced so much oppression and subsequent independence in their history that it's hard for me to differentiate between independence from the spanish, from the haitians, from dictators...
now, i'm from philly. a huge city with a tradition for parades - huge, costly parades and, you can probably imagine, being the cradle of liberty and independence and immense independence day celebration. and while i appreciate the overpriced fireworks and performers of the city-wide festivities, my favorite part of the 4th of july is the church parade in my neighborhood. all of the organizations get together - churches, girl/boy scouts, masons, you name it, they're there. my absolute favorite was my surrogate grandpop at the end in a vintage pick-up throwing out candy to the kids. there's something wholesome about the neighborhood parades, something old-timey and familiar.
i'm not a huge fan of carnaval - in fact, i've never been to a "real" carnaval celebration, only the family-friendly version at the local cultural center (and the school carnaval. but i've been wanting to go to school district sponsored parade for awhile, but i always have something else to do - you know, the beach, sleep... but we took samil this year and i was impressed.
tons of students came - some with really original acts depicting the fights for independence: everything from the "Trinitarian Society" who were the three original father's of independence to the Mirabal Sisters, known by most americans through the movie (and much better Julia Alvarez book) In the Time of the Butterflies, who were silenced by Trujillo - murdered - sparking the assasination and subsequent democracy in the country only 50 years ago. there were baton twirlers, cheerleaders, percussion bands and color guards. "our" kids, from amalio's school, showed but were pretty boring since they had no act but what can ya do?
these are some of the freedom fighters who helped overturn trujillo in the 1960s. i was very impressed with this school's performance as it really criticized a part of history that, although often discussed, never really intelligently analyzed in the schools. even more excited that it was a public school.
student artwork depicting two of the three founding fathers: Sanchez, Mella and Duarte
i'm really bad at actually getting the pictures to load together, but this is a series of kids whose theme was trujillo's silence. the renegade soldiers here silenced anyone who spoke against the military regime in the country from 1930s-1960s.

i'm always impressed by colorguards.

these little kids (see the fruits on the left side?) are representing the traditional dominican culture - traditional dress in the flag's colors with the fruits of the land marching behind them.

these kids are carring huge copies of the declaration of independence.

baton twirlers. did you know this sport even still existed? there had to have been at least 15 baton twirling groups. some were better than others, but since i can't even hold a baton without dropping it, i think they're all great.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

school woes.

i've been pretty m.i.a. lately on the internet. well, that's a lie. i've been on facebook and check my email fairly regularly, but as far as actually communicating with people... well, i've been crappy.

it's been a busy season for us - i was working on what could have become a huge, interesting project for me and our family - a sort of homeschool co-op for some ex-pat americans living in santiago. it was a lot of time-consuming work that unfortunately won't see fruition, but i don't regret doing it. the families backed out, opting for the american school for their kids, eventhough they know it's not doing the best for their kids education or formation.

which is what led to some evaluation of what's going to happen with our kids in the future. samil gets to play with his friends one day a week, but we really want him to enter something more formal in the fall. it's a complicated situation because we don't really believe that "school" is necessary for a two year old, and on top of that, we'd like to have samil "alphabetized" in english (or at least well on the way to reading) before he enters school in first grade.

pre-school is kind of a joke here. there is little philosophy of early childhood development, so pre-school, even for two year olds, is run much like elementary school. you won't see a lot of imagination centers, small or large motor development (maybe gym class once a week) activities or even the freedom of choice. the schools that are actually designed with small children in mind are way out of our budget.
so, homeschool co-op project was dropped and pre-school for samil was adopted. we've been to a hundred schools to see if they'll take our son for just two mornings a week. the resounding answer? no. i've been insulted in every way possible as these pseudo-psychologists try to tell me how horrible a mother i am for not enrolling him fulltime so that he "can learn". and when they don't get us with the educational opportunities they're very obviously superior in giving, they tell us they can't take him because the board of ed. won't allow it. good thing amalio works for the board of ed. and there is no rule that says part-time preschool is out of the question. of course, then, there is their offense when they realize our kid is smarter than the ones they teach and that, therefore, nullifies their "we are the best educators in the world" defense and finding out what amalio does for a living (and me, too) kills their "it's the boards fault" defense.
there are some daycares that will take him part-time. and we like a few of them. i'd prefer fake school to a daycare, but the real goal is to have him socialize with other kids his age, so it'll do for now. but this whole thing has re-ignited a little fire i had to start a rotating pre-school co-op.
i don't even know where to begin. because eventhough i complain about the lack of early childhood philosophy in the schools here, i'm not at all prepared to do it, either. i'm researching, researching and researching some more.
it's exciting to see how absolutely random opportunities that are given to us - even if they're then taken away - can show us how we can serve our families and children better. i sometimes get caught up in my work... or am so tired from teaching other people's kids that samil's education takes a backseat. so, we're re-evaluating. planning. and still working on that other huge project i've got going on that i mentioned before.
here's to a season of taking opportunities for what they are and putting our all into them - whether they come to fruition or not, we are learning from the journey!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

the kid.

playing with scissors and riding a dangerously unstable water bottle "horse" - bad parenting 101

nap avoidance

get your kids to help with the chores

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samil likes chicken.
especially chicken legs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

a day off from being mom?

even though it was completely my idea to not return to a formal job so i could raise my own kids, and completely my decision not to put samil into "school" there are days that i just want to shoot myself in the foot.

you know, the nights where the neighbor's newborn keeps us all awake with her incessant screaming? (seriously, crying-it-out is not meant for people who live thisclose to their neighbors, and especially not when it's taking longer than two weeks to get her to stop crying, but i digress). and the days when samil won't nap and i have a to-do list as long as i am tall?

my brother-in-law lives with us and helps as much as he can, and recently his boss decided to change his day off to wednesday instead of saturday. great for me, because he wants to learn to cook so he takes over lunch duty and he's usually pretty good about helping with samil.

amalio helps, too, dont' get me wrong. but he works 6 full days a week and by the time he gets home sometimes, samil is already asleep.

last night was one of those nights. i think we're on day 13 of neighbor baby's crying-it-out experiment and our fan, that usually covers most of the screaming, is in the shop. not even earplugs helped. and this morning i had a surprise student show up at 8am. i tried to sleep after i kicked her out but someone decided it'd be fun to give their kid a really obnoxious musical toy that only plays jingle bells over and over and over again.

so, when amalio called and invited his brother to the zoo and pool with his kids (i wasn't invited because i have class this afternoon at school) i was pretty pissed. take my only help on the most tired day of my life? no way.

what a great surprise to find out that they planned to take samil, too. came home and packed up his stuff. a pretty hilarious pool bag that i had to fix before they left (no swimming diapers, but three cloth diapers and the smallest and largest bathing suits samil owns, i don't even know where they found them). i blew up samil's float and sent them on their way.

i'm about to head to my bed for a nice two hour nap before my classes, i'm forgetting about the to-do list and taking care of me!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

birthday list.

if anyone happens to be wondering what i'd like for my birthday...

i'm running down the mango salsa yankee candle you got me for christmas last year.

just a though.