Friday, April 24, 2009


and it's not samil.

this is where i am in my life right now. writing about my body odor. and how there was absolutely no water pressure in my house today. so when i neglected to hop in the shower early this a.m, i didn't realize that it was my last chance.

so, i swept and mopped and then took samil outside in the hot, hot 12 o'clock caribbean sun to ride his bike. during which time i sweated profusely and then tried to take a shower.

to no avail.

i'm just hoping that my students didn't really notice, and that the school principal i just met with understands (he lives in our complex, so HE didn't have water either). because to make this situation even worse. samil stole my deoderant and i have yet to find it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

entrenamiento de los esfincteres.

that's how you say potty training in spanish.

sphincter training.

it sounds gross. and unnatural.

though it is a little more acurate than "potty training."

yesterday we officially began. the seat was purchased last week and once i realized that he knew what it was for - as evidenced by him finding a roll of toilet paper under the sink and tearing off little pieces to put inside; pulling down his diaper to sit down on it; closing it and carrying it to the bathroom to use as a stool to wash his hands - we decided to put the chair in the bathroom and get to work.

i'm not expecting him to get it too quickly, but if i can get him at least mostly out of those hot diapers before the summer heat gets here (tomorrow) i'll be good to go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


the dominican news is distinctly different from news in the states. it's not really sensational, and very little is censored. people die in the middle of the street and the dead body, blood, gore and open wounds are blasted across the tv, corpses in the coffin are thrown up so everyone can see, make sure that the person really is dead.

a bigger difference though is that any victim of a horrid crime is often put on tv. kidnapping? doesn't matter how much money the parents have. murder? not just drug dealers and politicians.

while petty crime is rampant, these graver crimes still grab attention. they still get the attention necessary for people to know about them.

i talked to my friend yesterday who told me the most disturbing story i've heard. ever. a mutual friend from childhood - they're related somehow - had gotten into some problems. serious alcohol problems. and his girlfriend was a pill-popper. and together they had a 4-year old girl. the parents were fighting for custody of said girl, accusing the parents of neglect.

well. in a show of parental ego, mom crushed up some xanex and gave it to her daughter. then killed herself. two wasted lives.

what's worse? i've been looking for something. anything. about what happened. no news story. not even in the local, sensationalistic newspaper. not even an obit. for the baby. for mom, yes, for baby? nothing!

what happened to the press that this baby doesnt' deserve something? some recognition for her tragic little life? her innocence outweighs, i think, her parents' downfalls. and since i think her story should be told, there you are. these things happen more than you'd think. rest in peace precious girl.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

winding down.

the school year, for me at least, is almost over and i can't be more thankful.

as problems as the school where i rent space increased (hiring a 15 year old to teach first-second grade, firing a teacher and multi-grading 3-5th grade...) students started dropping, like flies, from the english program.

i thought it would have bothered me more, but it doesn't. it was an experience and i'm glad i had it. english is important, but i'm not sure that it's beneficial to teach children a foreign language if they can't manipulate, use and dominate in their own language. when i spent more of my time teaching 4th and 5th graders the alphabet and how to sound out words in their own language... well, that's a problem i'm not equipped to handle.

at least not in the situation.

i've got the summer to re-evaluate and decide what's going to happen next school year. will i stay in the same space despite the problems? will i look for something new? or will i change my focus from ESL to bilingual students... i'm not sure.

right now, though, i'm just winding down -we've got 4 classes left and then i'm taking a break before i even start to think about it.

Friday, April 17, 2009


i'm pretty bad at mornings. it's a good thing samil is not overly-active too early in the morning and still (knock on wood) likes to take an early morning nap. recently though i've been trying to get us into more of a solid routine - you know, one that includes changing our clothes, brushing teeth and eating something more than dry fruit loops for breakfast.

i like french toast, amalio likes hard boiled eggs and samil likes to watch Hi-5. really, the kid could care less what he's eating as long as he's eating. so for the past few days we get up, put the coffee on, change into something that's not pajamas and... i lay in bed hitting the snooze for 20 minutes.

eventually i get up for real. this week we've eaten pancakes everyday because that's what there is... and i'm too lazy to go to the supermarket for other breakfast foods. so, i give samil a little cereal to tide him over and flip the pancakes, thinking he'll eat two. because, really, i just gave him cereal and juice.

today he ate his two pancakes and got on with life. took out his bike, rode around the house and then settled in to watch little einsteins on disney.

until. until his uncle woke up (my brother-in-law lives with us and he's on vacation this week). samil jumps off the couch, runs to the kitchen and snatches the last plate of pancakes off the counter. for a second i thought he was going to give them to his beloved uncle like, "here, look what i got for you, tio!"

except, no. he opened the silverware drawer, took out a fork, plopped down at the table and forced as much pancake in his mouth as humanly possible. and normally the kid is good at sharing. "can i have a piece?" and he'll stick something in your mouth.

well, not today. uncle asks for some to which samil responded by trying to get even more pancake in his mouth.

with some stealth, i stole the plate of pancakes and let samil finish what he had already stuffed in his mouth. washed it down with some water and put him down for that glorious morning nap. because i couldn't really decided whether i should be mad at him for stealing, laugh at him for the hilarity or be embarassed that my kid is a piggy.

he woke up a few minutes ago and is dancing on uncle's bed, sharing everything in sight. repetance? perhaps.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

i'm that mom.

i have a great aunt who is a little... well, loopy. she's great and when we were growing up, she was tons of fun (not that she isn't now, but we're older and so is she). but...

she's the woman you see in the supermarket talking to the cuts of meat before deciding which one to take home and having conversations with cute little baby clothes in cute little baby voices.

and we, and by we i mean the whole family, would joke about how silly it was that she still calls baked beans "baked beany-bums" and things like that.

and swore, at least i swore, that i would not be that crazy mom who calls everything in its diminutive form.

but since we're raising a bi-lingual baby and since diminutive is sooo easy in spanish...
i caught myself three times this week asking samil if he wanted some juicy, some pancakeys and where in the world was his yellow cuppy? not to mention i asked him if he'd like some lechita (leche=milk), aguita (agua=water) or why didn't he take a little siestecita (siesta=nap).

i'm just a step away, i think, from heading to the supermarket and telling that fryer chicken how beautiful it is before i buy it or talking to the little pink shoes in the baby department...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

easter eggs.

samil had the chance to dye eggs a few times, but was not at all interested until there was only one egg left on friday night - the last time he'd get the chance. he liked dunking the egg in the color and moving the spoon around on top of it. and, of course, he didn't want to give the egg up when he was finished.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

bath time.

my in-laws only have a pretty rustic shower in their bathroom, and since samil has a bizarre, unexplainable phobia of showers, he has to take his bath in this huge washing bowl when we visit the campo.

we gave him a bath when we arrived on saturday afternoon with a tin cup to play with and on sunday morning he found himself a towel and passed it to his uncle, toddled into the kitchen and pointed to the wall where the cups are hung and shouted until someone got the point that he wanted to take a bath.

he stayed in the "bath" for an hour, only distracted by some chickens that kept trying to drink the water he was pouring out for them.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

back to life.

we're finally in santiago.

back to a regular routine, nap times and beds that are comfortable.
we had a fairly non-eventful trip to my in-laws place - samil played with pigs and chickens and i did some reading.

the pictures are in the camera that i supposedly had left in the campo but miraculously found in our suitcase this morning. apparently a camera and camera charger/cable are the same thing to my semi-literate step-mother in law who called two hours after we left her house in a panic because i had left the camera on the table. i'm not sure what camera she was looking at, but thankfully it wasn't mine. however, i'm now without the cable to charge my camera and we won't see them for another month. hopefully we won't miss too many photo-ops.

it was an uncomfortable trip in that while i try really hard to adapt to some cultural... barriers, that i have, i am completely floored by the ability of someone to put "party" expenses before their children's needs. there's a lot that comes with that statement - the idea that just because your daughter has sex with someone means that she is "married", early teen pregnancy is "just what happens" and then it is expected for the couple to partake in tons of customs that cost a lot of money in order to appease the community of their "sin."

i have an 18year old step-brother-in-law who "married" a 13 year old last december. and by married i mean slept with her and then was forced to take her away and live with her. since her mom told her that birth-control pills are a myth, she didn't take them and now they are the proud parents of a two month old boy whose name is so strange i never remember it. she's not working. he doesn't have a real job. yet, somehow, they are supposed to take care of this boy. oh, and wait, she "can't" breastfeed because her mom told her it was bad for her boobs. as in, her boobs would no longer be young and supple in she let a kid suck milk from them. so, the added expense of being married, not working, paying for diapers and ... well, formula all adds up.

my anger, i think, was justified, when i found out that the baby was "baptized" this weekend. another bizarre stretch of the catholic church's ancient doctrine that says unbaptized babies don't go to heaven and therefore need to "have water thrown on them" asap. and that's what it is. throwing water on a baby's head while some people watch and someone says a prayer.


then, they have a party. with rum and beer and dancing and sancocho. lots of sancocho. everybody loves a party, right? so why was i angry?

well, see, the baby hasn't had any milk for three days because they needed that money to have the party. and you can't baptize without a party. and if you don't baptize your baby will go to purgatory forever and in the long run you just have to pay more money to get the soul to heaven. follow the logic?

and you're wrong if you think that that thought process doesn't still exist in the minds of un(der)educated third world catholics. because it does.

and to make matters worse, they've been giving this kid sugar water and strawberry juice that has left him with a delicious mess of bleeding diaper rash. and red diarrhea.

i've learned not to interfere in family "affairs" and much less in those of the "stepbrothers" who amalio doesn't even really count as family since his step-mother (who he only refers to as his dad's woman or girlfriend) is only three years older than him and the boys were grown when she "married" his dad. i said what i could, offered some desitin to the ailing hiney and was uncomfortable for the rest of the visit.

because i know that everything i think about them in the negative they think about us in the negative. their kids have nothing, mine have too much. school has no importance for them, while it has too much for us. and everything is phrased in ways so that we know they think we're wrong without actually saying it - and art of subtlety that i've yet to master. "babies are prettier when they don't have long hair," "it's better to give him three bottles of milk and less food so he gets all his vitamins," "babies are more well behaved when you punish them with spankings."

and while everything they think we're doing wrong seems so right to us, i know that it doesn't make sense to them. much like letting their baby starve to have a party or suffer diaper rash because cleaning some poop from a blanket is too much work doesn't make sense to me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

and we're off...

samil caught the bug on saturday - a not so nice day filled with vomit and diarrhea, but luckily he was better on sunday when my parents arrived. unfortunately, i was not.

after me, it hit amalio and then, while at the resort, my mom and then my dad - apparently whose internal organs were shutting down and he would soon die. this morning his stomach was better but he, uh, caught a head cold and was still dying when he left. and as soon as we returned from 4 days of sun and fun samil re-caught the bug and woke up yesterday and today covered in poop.

despite the bug, though, the beach was great. i read two books, swam in the ocean and the pool, saw some really bad resort-shows and ate and drank and didn't even have to think about cooking it or clean it up. heaven.

we dyed easter eggs and had a hunt last night with our neighbors which was fun and then we played uno.

today my parents are leaving and we're headed straight from the airport to the campo to visit amalio's parents until tomorrow.

i've got some pictures i'll post when we get back and some anecdotes from the beach (and surely from the farm today). have a happy easter everyone.

Friday, April 3, 2009

bring on the spring.

i hear all about the bad weather up north and... it's days like the recent hailstorm, late snowstorm, freezing temperatures that make me really glad to be here.

in the sun.
and 90 degree weather.

i can handle winter when it's supposed to be winter. but not the beginning of april.

we have our own share of crap weather here - mostly really bad rain storms and crazy weather differences. today it might be 90 and sunny, tomorrow it could be 55 and raining. 55 is not cold, i know, i know, but compare it to a 100 and it is.

all that said. for the past few years we've gone to the beach for spring break and every.single.time it's been almost impossible to swim in the beach because of some bizarre tropical depression in the ocean. what's that mean? beautiful, warm beach weather. nice, cool ocean temperature. with killer waves.

we stay at resorts with pools, but it's just not the same. so far, though, the beaches are still open, just hoping they stay open through next week. samil's never really been in the ocean here because of it. beach, yes. swimming, not so much.

my parents get here on sunday and we head to puerta plata on monday for 4 days of no dishes, no cooking, no cleaning... aren't you jealous?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

cleaning lady part two.

after hearing about my cleaning lady experience last week, one of my student's aunts offered me her cleaning lady for a day. it was such a great offer on so many levels - i already knew she was a decent cleaner and knows how to clean in a "not-dominican" way (the family is korean, the cleaner is haitian) and she was offered as a gift. a free day of cleaning!

still, i was a little skeptical. her spanish is limited and my creole is crap when it comes to household things (i have no clue how to say bleach in creole. french, yes, creole, no). i was worried she wasn't going to get my instructions. they seem simple to me, but you never know.

she's been here 2 hours. i took samil to play with the neighbor for awhile and when i came down, she had torn the whole kitchen apart, scrubbed the stove AND the greasy mess on the cabinets next to the over. she organized the one closet samil plays in, did the dishes and was "just wondering" about if i needed the inside of the fridge cleaned.

needless to say, i'm impressed. and happy. i'm going to take a little nap since samil is sleeping and i'm exhausted (hacking away at that to-do list kept us up late last night fixing a computer, defrosting the freezer and organizing old tax papers and receipts). and when i get up i'll cook in a shiny, clean kitchen for the first time in weeks! i'm so excited.