Monday, May 25, 2009

a stranger in a foreign land...

at the beginning of this calendar year i had decided to blog about my experiences as an american living in the dominican republic. honestly, though, i've been so overwhelmed with work and family and keeping house and projects that need to be finished that i haven't really been living in the dominican republic so much as living in my house.

i don't feel that i can describe life in a foreign country if i've limited myself to the safe, secure "non-culture" of our house.

people ask me how we raise samil - american or dominican? are we going to "allow" him to be friends with the "natives"? don't we worry about all of the things he's missing in the states?

we don't raise him dominican and we don't raise him american. we're raising him to be a good person, with good values and morals and to respect and accept others as they are. what is this about raising someone to "be" a certain nationality? and of course, he will be friends with whoever shows up to be friends with. am i planning to keep him away from dominicans because they're different than us? no. do i plan to keep him from americans because they're different than us? nope.

i do worry about what he's missing. his family. people who care about him who he might only know on holidays and phone calls. am i worried about the toys he doesnt' have? or the television programs in english? no. and i've learned not to worry about the parks and museums and landmarks either, because who really visits those places all the time? he'll do well enough on vacations.

i do worry about his education. and not because we can't afford the fanciest, english speaking, american school. because, honestly, i don't think those schools are that much better. i worry because the overall picture of education here is dismal. but from what i'm seeing, it's not much better at home.

that all said, we do what we can to acclimate our children to the environments in which they live. i hope that, white and blonde as he is, samil will not be the "american" student, or the "white boy" or the boy with the "gringa mama". and that. five years later and while i blend quite well, i'm still a foreigner. my beliefs are different, my upbringing, my education, my habits and routines and even what i eat for breakfast.

work is less overwhelming right now, we're winding down the school year and getting ready for the culmination of the biggest thing to happen to us ever. i've got a project set up for july, working with my brother and some big ideas for the fall that will give me more time for my family and still allow me to contribute financially. hopefully i'll get out more. break out the stroller and take advantage of living in the caribbean where it's never too cold to take a walk. make new friends, try new things.

i'll be back soon. i've got some posts about ex-patriating myself in the works that i'll schedule to pop up when they're finished. have a great memorial day!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


last saturday night we celebrated amalio's birthday.
sunday we went to the river.
monday morning, amalio spent in emergency getting injected with anti-allergy medication and pricked and prodded trying to figure out why his face had swelled to the size of a watermelon.

for the first time ever, amalio took medical leave. his ears resemble that of dumbo - except red, and, he claims, really uncomfortable. his face has returned to normal size, but the rash just keeps showing up everywhere else.

scabies is pretty common here. the lack of clean water, even in the cities where water is "purified," unclean holding tanks (we don't have one) and cold water used for cleaning clothes cause some pretty nasty skin diseases. mostly, though, you find them in the poorer neighborhoods and... public schools. i had scabies when i worked in the church - it's really not as gross as its reputation: a skin rash that spreads. and comes back for more. it's the process of getting rid of it that's a pain.

wash everything in your house, hang dry in the sun, iron. anything that can't be washed needs to be packed in black plastic bags and tied shut. it's good to put these bags in the sun, too, but no matter what they need to be left closed for 5 days or so.

eventhough we know amalio doesn't have scabies (it hasn't affected any of the other 4 people in our apartment and none of our collective students of coworkers), we did most of the routine. wash, dry, iron, steam clean.

but it just keeps going.

i think it's stress. and i think that once final exams are over and everything is in place - grades in books, records sent to district, my students back in korea for the summer, samil potty-trained... - he'll be good and rash-free. if you've got any home-made cures for funky rashes, let me know. we're looking for anything.

(we've tried corn-starch, milk of magnesia, some leaves from some tree in a tea, and oatmeal bath)

Friday, May 22, 2009

in case you were wondering...

what happened to potty training?

i mentioned it awhile back. that we finally bought samil a potty-chair and were going to half-heartedly begin training. really?

who does that?

i thought it was going to be difficult. complicated. boys learn later. samil is still so young and he doesn't talk, so who knows what's going on in that mind of his. and frankly, i'm just busy and tired and figured it would take a lot of effort on my part.

but then... well, samil learned to take off his own diaper. and open the bathroom door. he doesn't necessarily do what's he supposed to do in the bathroom, but he gets it. he wakes up, takes of his diaper and sits on the potty. gets up, washes his hands, dries them and goes on with his day. naked. well, sometimes he wears a shirt. or jumper. but mostly, he's naked.

if i'm diligent about getting him to the potty on a regular basis he'll pee on it. today he pooped. he loves it. and now he wants to stand up to pee. already. which would be okay, except that he wants to pee in the big boy toilet. which is a little difficult since he is only two feet tall. (i really have no clue how tall he is, i just know it's not tall enough to pee standing up).

so now that he's all about this bathroom thing, i'm hoping that the case of diapers my mom sent (and 1/3 of was devoured during the recent hospital stay) is the last real purchase of diapers for samil we'll be making.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

knockin' it down.

i've got a to-do list as long as i am tall... and frankly, i've not got the motivation to get anything done.

i did call the plumber today and have our cloggedforthepasttwoweeks toilet fixed. after pulling the toilet from the floor, the water pump for the whole complex was turned off making the cleaning up incredibly difficult (good thing the cleaning lady was here!). he fished out a matchbox car, some pieces of construction paper and a little box of floss.

i'm glad it's over.

tomorrow i hope to do something equally productive... and equally non-dependent on my participation.

perhaps the difficult tasks will take care of themselves? like organizing samil's closet, cleaning my desk and purging my dresser and closet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

birthday extravaganza

amalio's not really a big birthday celebrator. he's gotten better since samil was born considering it's now not just neglecting a birthday but rather neglecting his fatherly duties to take the kid to buy a present and make mom feel loved. on wednesday i got ice cream and a beautiful orchid. neither of which samil wanted to give up.

i decided though, to do something a bit bigger for amalio's birthday and planned a little secret dinner for him. we had lasagna, mashed potatoes and pasta salad, vanilla cake AND chocolate cake. (but let's be honest, that chocolate cake was for me). i secretly invited some of his friends (and three of mine) and we had a delightful time. my cooking didn't make anyone sick and the guys played cards and drank beer.

today we went to the river. it was a little tricky getting there since we decided to cook lunch at the river, so we had to carry the big pots, five pounds of rice, three pounds of chicken, five gallon bottle of water.... cooler, you get it. but we got there. samil was so tired he couldn't stand up, but didn't want to sleep and the place was filled with fearless teenage boys throwing themselves off of cliffs. eventually we got samil to nap and watched the show of jungle book boys jumping off the rocks. it was like the perfect sunday afternoon with family and friends, relaxing at the river, swimming, cooking and sharing and hanging out.

amalio told me he had never celebrated his birthday so intentionally and that he loved it. i'm glad. because i hate entertaining and i'm really in no position to be balancing on rocks in the middle of crazy rivers. but it was wonderful. and i feel like samil is going to grow up knowing that birthdays are special because we are special. and each year we get it worth celebrating.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

spot cleaning...

in case you're new to the blog - my life has recently spun out of control. well, not really, but it's gotten complicated enough that i can justify having a cleaning person come in once a week and do the real work of scrubbing my kitchen and bathrooms and doing a good job of sweeping and mopping our all white, ceramic floors (aka: the bane of my existence).

throughout the week, i keep it up: dusting (dirt road, no screens on windows, dusting happens like every day), wiping down the bathroom and kitchen counters. you know, enough to hold us over until thursday when the cleaner comes back.

and seeing that i h.a.t.e. mopping our floors i tend to spot clean. you know, a damp mop to the dirty spots? spilled juice? wet mop, some disinfectant, voila, good as new. i do sweep a lot (dirt road, remember?) but spot cleaning is the way to go with the mopping.

it, apparently, baffles my brother-in-law that i don't mop the entire floor everyday since it can get kind of gross. and i promise, when it's really bad, i do break out the bucket. but. doing that ten times a day could break my back. or something.

so he says to me yesterday, "what do you call this kind of cleaning?" i try to teach him english words if they're easier than explaining something in spanish. so i tell him, in english, "spot cleaning." and i explain what that means. and that i'm lazy. and that he shouldn't judge. so he tries a few times to spit the words out. gets confused, looks at me really seriously.

and says.

"is that what you call what you do to samil instead of giving him a bath?"

Friday, May 15, 2009

this so called swine killer...

so i had written this long post, and i thought it was saved as a draft. but along came a little finger, a really little finger that likes to press the off button on any computer it sees. i guess the finger got to the button before the post had saved.

point was, i had taken that little finger and the little boy who posseses said finger to the clinic yesterday to get the clean bill of health. i mean, the diarrhea has finally stopped - and besides a inexplicable late night crying jag (complete with cold sweats, uncontrollable wailing and flailing of arms and legs) two nights ago, the kid is 120% better. it's like a week in the clinic boosted his development and he's now gone from kind of liking matchbox cars to spending hours putting them in lines, organizing by colors and shapes, pushing them around (beep beep!) and, when finished, guarding them safely in his bicycle seat.

i haven't been paying too much attention to the news lately but the little bit of blog browsing i've been able to do tells me that swine flu is still whoring itself to the media. schools are closed, gas mask sales are up... disgusting mess. imagine, then, my surprise when the only thing i saw in the clinic was a half of a page of paper explaining how the virus works. in the emergency room. kind of a side note to all of the people suffering from something real and gross. a very small, insignificant note.

supposedly this virus is the warped and perverted cousin of the aviar bird flu. you know, the flu that just a year ago was going to kill us all, though not as horribly as the pork flu. maybe it has to do with the fact that we like chickens and pigs are dirty and gross. i have to tell you, though, i didn't understand the hysteria with the bird flu and i'm not really getting the pork bug either.

i think it's because i saw the nastiness that was the bird flu. as it affected the birds. and how on my father-in-laws farm, we lost about 75 chickens when their heads turned blue and they dropped dead but not one person in the entire campo got sick even though the poultry loss was immense.

so. i think the flu is just a scam. i don't doubt people in mexico have died. but remember that medical care there isn't the same and the media is not nearly as sensational. in fact, it wasn't until the cdc got involved that things exploded. so, i'm not worried.

this little cold i've got? if i die next week, you'll know what happened. i guess that's what happens to skeptics.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


twenty-seven is not such a milestone birthday, but birthday it is.
a new year, new dreams, new opportunities.
i'm excited for what twenty-seven brings. more time to spend with family, friends. more love for my son. more goals, more experiences.
i cancelled a class today and had another cancel on me so i've been helping samil clean his room and wipe his toys down. mostly, he dumps boxes and i put them away. but organization is key with all.of.the.stuff. he's got in his room and after our trip to the hospital, we could keep clorox wipes in circulation f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and after our work this morning, we're that much closer to having a livable room.

now, i'm going to eat my birthday icecream and head for a nap!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

happy mother's day.

today is mother's day.

but not here. here mother's day is may 31st.

either way, mom, i hope you have a good day.
i wish i could be there to celebrate with you. but mostly because mother's day usually involves a trip to a good restaurant, haha.

i love you.

Friday, May 8, 2009

daily grind.

i haven't posted recently because, frankly, nothing has been going on. after a week in the hospital, we've been taking it easy, getting the house back in order and trying to get back in the swing of things.

and it's been raining. that nasty, drizzly grossness that means you can't do anything because it.never.stops. i got some laundry done yesterday before it started to pour and i hoped the downpour meant the end of the grossness, but it's gross again today.

i've scrubbed the house down. bleach and scrub brushes, the whole nine yards. i've only got one room left - samil's. i know it should have been the first room to be done, but i went in and cleaned up the toys and put things away, but there's some painting that needs to be done which requires scraping walls and i haven't really had the energy for that.

samil is running around like crazy. just now he came crawling, yes, crawling out of the bedroom chasing a car. and then he hopped on the bike and rode around the whole apartment and now is handing post cards to my student who just showed up. and since she just showed up, i'm going to cut this boring, boring post short.

have a great weekend and a good mother's day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

back home.

while everyone everywhere else in the world is worried about swine flu, we're scrubbing our house to get rid of the smell of vomit. nasty? not as nasty as the diarrhea that is luckily still contained in diapers and therefore not nearly as stinky as vomit. we've been battling this bug since my parents got really sick during holy week, and we thought we were in the clear. apparently rotovirus sticks around f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

samil spent sunday night dry heaving in his playpen, desperate to puke but unable. by monday morning, with no sleep at all for amalio or i, we decided to take him to the emergency room. emergency? for a little vomiting? yah. it's a good thing, too. the poor guy was so dehydrated they could barely find a vein for the IV. i did think, though, that we'd get one bag of saline into him and they'd send us home.


by 5 o'clock, the first IV still dripping, the kid was still puking. anything.we.gave.him. so they decided to admit him. i went home, took a shower and got ready for one night in the hospital.

we got home thursday afternoon after being diagnosed with rotovirus. a super common bug that affects most kids under three. there's a vaccine in the states, but not here. well, there is one. but it's super expensive. and most doctors say not to take it. i'm with them. i think all these vaccines for fairly benign childhood illnesses just might be what's causing the increase in more serious, warped versions of the bugs. i'm not expert. and that's just me. and don't worry. samil's vaccinated for anything that doesn't exist in the US like measles, mumps and rubella. hepatitis and yellow fever. we won't be passing on anything to unsuspecting gringoes.

samil's doing much better, as he showed us all in the video i posted in my last post. we had planned a trip to the beach this weekend since it's labor day here and everything's closed on monday, but we'll be scrubbing the house down and getting ready for summer. better late than never, right?

Friday, May 1, 2009

dance, baby, dance

samil spent the last four days in the pediatric unit of our clinic. not fun for anyone.

now he's home, doing a lot better. as evidenced in this video.