Thursday, December 30, 2010

headed home.

it's been a good, long five weeks here in the chilly north and i'm pretty ready to get back to normal life. it has actually been a blessing to be able to spend so much time at home - one of the benefits of self-employment, i suppose.

in our time here, we've visited with friends, been to museums, shopped til i dropped, ran and ran. i am never, ever so busy. but the busy-ness is welcome on occasion, especially when it comes to galavanting!

samil's speech skills have increased dramatically. he is speaking in sentences and not mixing his languages as much. such a relief, since there is no real, qualified speech therapy in the dominican republic.

amely has grown by leaps and bounds and is getting brighter by the day. she does the stairs now (but it makes me nervous) and is so playful and fun. (and mischevious).

i'm now excited for the new year, for all that 2011 holds for us.
we leave january 1 at 6am, so we'll spend the first day of the new year as a family in santiago. i'm looking forward to it.

i'm going to try to post some pictures before we leave, but tomorrow will be hectic (like today) so no promises.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


it might be obvious, but just in case it's not.
we don't get snow.
none. ever.
so, it's a big deal when the kids get a blizzard in december.
last year, samil hated it. every last second was torture. but this year, he embraced the white stuff and played, shovelled and cleaned off the cars.

amely, however, was not so impressed.
who can blame her, though? she could barely move.

samil even got to sit in a 'scooper' truck and pretend to be a plowman.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

school in the home.

people sometimes ask me if i like living in the dominican republic. it's a weird question because, obviously, i don't hate it. and if i didn't like living there, i probably wouldn't.

now, there are things that i do absolutely hate. i hate that it is always 100% humidity. i hate the racism towards haitians. i hate that there is always a political campaign happening.

and, there are things i just dislike. but there are so many things that i do like. even love. but there is only one thing that absolutely disgusts me. and it's the state of education. the public school system doesn't get enough money and the private schools are there to suck money.*

we decided before we even thought of getting married that our kids would go to public school. amalio works in the public system and we feel strongly that if he doesn't believe that the system is good enough for his own kids, then it shouldn't be good enough for other people's kids. poor or not. and i've worked in and with enough top of the line private schools to know that they tend to be money machines before educational institutions.

but, even having made that decision so many years ago and being okay with it, i have a hard time trying to figure out how the babies are going to get what they need. i grew up in public schools. and kids i know who went private are in the same situations as i am. with the lucky few who have made it big, we're all pretty much the same. but, school in the dominican republic is different.

i started surfing through the blog world. i wasn't against homeschooling, just didn't know too much about it. and, most homeschool kids i met in college were super weird. unsocialized. but, as i searched more and more into the options of educational enhancement, i grew a new respect for these parents who devote themselves to making sure their children are properly educated.

our kids will go to public school, but since school is only 3 hours daily, we'll supplement with homeschooling. i'm starting now with some pre-school activities and we'll see how it goes. i don't think i could ever do it full-time, but i'm thankful for those who do and post their ideas (and printouts) on the web for me to steal (use?).

i've spent a ton of time over this holiday, surfing the web and finding activities for samil and amely, it's been a great time learning what is out there and how to use it. i feel blessed to have found such a wealth of knowledge that makes me feel better, more secure, about living in a third world country and still raising kids who can make the cut throughout the world. as i get time, i'll blog about what we're doing and how we're doing it. (since i'm such a great blogger, right?)

do you have any crazy education stories?

i know that there are many very good private schools that cost a lot of money. they provide good education, but nobody but the elite can afford them. to me, they don't count.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

it's cold out there.

i'm not really in the holiday mood. i've got most of the shopping done, the tree is up and lights are hung. and it's really cold.

really, really cold.

today i'm heading to rice's market (an outdoor flea market) with a friend and the kids. in santiago, we go to outdoor fruit markets and even the "pulga" with the kids. the only security precaution is to put on sneakers instead of sandals because the floors are nasty.

i got the kids ready here - samil has on fleece lined overalls, socks to his knees, and two shirts. amely is wearing tights, jeans and leg warmers, a long sleeved onsie and a sweater. i'll bundle them in their winter coats with hats and gloves.

in all, it'll take a good twenty minutes just to dres in winter clothes.
i don't think i was made for this kind of parenting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dear Santa.

Samil does not like Santa Claus. I mean, we don't really do the Santa thing - I have their picture taken every year, and we ask Samil what he wants Santa comes to bring - but when push comes to shove, I don't think he gets it (what three year old does?) and he probably won't. It's not part of Dominican culture (Baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men bring gifts) and so he's not immersed in that santa, santa, santa custom.

Every year since Samil was a baby, we've taken him to get his picture done. we go to the mall, do some shopping, ride the carousel and see the old man. when he was three months old, samil was fine. 15 months old - he screamed. last year, screamed. this year, we talked about it before we went and he told me he wasn't going to cry.

he didn't cry, but look at the miserable face! amely did the crying for him and tried to squirm out of santa's arms before they snapped the picture. on her defense, though, she was fine for the first few minutes, but waiting for samil made her antsy. this is the best shot they got.

i think we're going to have a book of hilarious santa pictures when they grow up if we keep going this way!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

easy bake oven.

we don't get to bake very often because i have a ridiculous oven that burns everything in the back and undercooks in the front. it's a mess of turning pans around every 12 minutes... and that's not even mentioning that there is no real temperature setting. it's hot, or it's not.

but i love to bake.

and by bake, i mean rip open a box of betty crocker and let samil whip something tasty up.

i digress.

since we've been in philadelphia, samil has branched out from his betty crockers and made from-scratch brownies. and he even included amely. you know, allowing her to pour in the eggs (from a cup) and then promptly taking everything away from her. i mixed up some frosting and the result was delish.

my mom had one of those cookie-in-a-jar things that we made yesterday. they were okay but more work than the promised "it's so easy" on the jar.

i've got some more things up my sleeve before i head home - and hopefully this year i'll be able to invest in a new oven (though it is not at the top of that priority list since it works well enough to throw down rice and beans

Sunday, December 5, 2010

work hard for the money.

samil gets kind of upset when someone leaves for work. it's not inconsolable emotion, but he gets worried, i think.

so, we've started telling him we have to go to work to make money. because, really, what 3 year old doesn't understand money?

yesterday morning he called me at work.

"mami, donde estas?" (where you at, momma)
"at work"
"trabajando for money?" (working for money?)
"traime chicle, mami" (bring me some gum).

then my dad called the house and samil asked him, too, where he was. he was at work, so samil wanted to know how much money he was making.

guess he's looking for how many christmas presents he'll be getting.

Friday, December 3, 2010

alligator skin.

there are so many downsides to the humidity in santiago: frizzy hair, mildew everywhere, suffocation...

but, i never have skin problems. and i have always had skin problems. like, elbows that you could use as a pumice stone on the nastiest feet and dandruff like you've never seen. and now poor amely has my dry skin disgusting-ness.

how do i know she has dry skin if it is always humid in santiago?

because in philadelphia its too dry. it's causing an itchiness that is incurable. no lotion is good enough. no shampoo saves the dandruff. (okay, admittedly i haven't developed any dandruff yet this visit, but still...)

anyone have any suggestions on lotion that cures alligator skin?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

on cholera.

it's amazing how little i've seen on the tv about haiti lately. i guess considering the dominican news spends about half it's broadcast on haiti nowadays, i've grown accustomed to that. however. it's sad to me how little people real know about what's going on.

i get questions. tons of questions. irrelevant questions, mostly. all from good-hearted people wanting to know.

but it gets old. i do not live in haiti. and the dominican republic, although still healthy and un-earthquake affected, has its own problems that need resolution. while haiti is right next door, it doesn't consume me.

i have a heart for haitian people. i can defend myself in creole. i have haitian friends. i have travelled to haiti. but it is not my life.

most of these questions revolve around the cholera epidemic. so here's the deal, people.

1. it is unsure whether cholera has made its way into the dominican republic. some reports say yes, some say no. there are, however, no deaths from cholera in the DR at this time.

2. there is a cholera vaccine. many dominicans have it. most haitians do not.

3. the reason, i believe, that cholera has been so deadly in Haiti, is that the healthcare opportunities are few and far between. some haitians walk for days to get to a clinic. by the time they get there, the dehydration has already killed them. this is not the case in the DR. there are more places to get treated, and therefore less likelihood of death from cholera.

4. just because there are more opportunities, doesn't mean that people wouldn't die. there is an innate sense of distrust of the medical establishment and people try home remedies before anything else. this could cause problems. but.

5. the government is doing a full out prevention campaign - you know, wash your hands; keep flies off your food; bleach the dirt away; drink lots of water if you get the poops. go right to the hospital.

6. and three cheers for the government who is also posting the posters and campaigning in creole to the immigrant population.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

support haiti.

it's christmastime and i know that everyone's money is tied up in presents and charities.

consider this year sending money to a charity that supports haiti. there are plenty of christian organizations and NGOs that work in the country and are making change and doing amazing things.

i could list a bunch of charities - but after reading a blogpost about a young girl traveling to haiti this month, i decided to ask my readers to support her. in a time of disease and destruction, young people are still feeling called to share gods love on the island of hispaniola - and for me, that's powerful. young people who could be spending their time and money doing so many other things but instead are selflessly getting on planes to a country desperately in need of Jesus this Christmas season.

So, if you're feeling inclined - check out and read about samara's "advent conspiracy" and consider donating financially to Rachel's trip to Haiti.

Monday, November 29, 2010

run run run

so, in 2010 i was supposed to be getting healthy. remember that?

well. i did okay, but lost track of the exercise somewhere between amely deciding not to sleep through the night and the humidity trying to suffocate me while i ran. excuses, i know, but sleep deprivation is brutal and you've never experienced humidity until you've lived in the DR. (unless you've been to a rainforest, and then i'll exempt you from my generalization).

we did okay with eating choices, but i'll be honest, it's hard for me to passby chocolate. so when all is said and done i'm nowhere near where i need to be.

so. on my vacation, i've gotta get back in the saddle. partly because here in philadelphia the heat isn't going to suffocate me (however, the cold might freeze me!). no promises on the healthy eating, but the exercising is definite because i definitely don't want to gain back whatever weight i did lose this year.

here's to getting back in shape BEFORE the new year!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

we have arrived.

i know in my last post i promised continuing posts starting thursday. alas, things got busy and, well, here i am. sunday night.

travelling with two babies and a three hour layover was... not un-fun, but not something i'd describe as fun. it was thanksgiving. people wanted to go whereever they were going and a three year old in the middle of the walkway with his little suitcase was holding them up.

three cheers for samil who walked the entire way from the plane to customs, then to baggage claim and then out and around and through security again in miami airport. three cheers for amely who jumped out of her stroller three times. guess i ought to start using that straps.

we did get home in one piece, and not utterly exhausted, so i'd say the trip was a success.

we celebrated thanksgiving on friday - turkey and cranberry sauce, yes please. and on saturday we celebrated my neice's first birthday. today i headed out sola to the church of a good friend. that brings us to now.

and regular, more interesting than this i promise, blog updates.

happy thanksgiving (belatedly, of course, because that's my style).

Friday, November 19, 2010


blogher so gratefully reminded me about my blog via email this week.

the blog i apparently have neglected for the past month!

don't worry folks, i'll soon have five weeks of unlimited internet access to fill you heads with mindless babble on thursday.

see you then!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

craziness that it is.

with all internet excuses aside, i´ve not blogged in a long time. i´ve slacked on a lot of things recently and life is just moving f.a.s.t.

i started back to work ¨full time¨in september. it´s not full.time. please. it doesn´t even count as part time in the states. but for me, it´s consistent but still takes a chunk out of my day. i´ve got a fair amount of students but luckily there´s not a lot of running around and the pay is way better than i´d actually make in a ¨real¨job.

i had decided that i wasn´t going to work more than 15 hours a week, including my SAT prep class early on. but, the opportunity has arisen for some college counseling and i´ve taken it. stupid? maybe. but the extra money is going away for a rainy day.

the kids are getting bigger and samil, especially, is like a little sponge. his language that was worrying just a few weeks ago is taking off (albeit in spanish more than english) and we´re happy not to have to take some (costly) measures to fix a speech problem. i think the reason that he is spitting out more spanish than english is that i´ve been seriously slacking on the educational front.

shame on me. here i am ranting about how horrible it is to stick your kid in dominican preschool because they learn more at home... except, i´m not offering it. so. i went on the cleaning spree of a lifetime to organize and and then create a plan of action. both kids really get a lot out of the more-guided activities and play we do (and behave so much better afterwards). sadly i made it through every room in the house except the kids room.

i´ll blame that one on the plumbing disaster we had yesterday morning when the pipes under our kitchen sink literally exploded.

this week the plan is to get back on the exercise bandwagon, plan out the meals again and finish the kids room. and then create the plan and stick with it.

i´ll let you know if it actually happens.

help with a technical question

so, since i don't have internet at home, i've been trying to write some blogs and then post them - but when i copy and paste blogger won't accept the format.

any suggestions how to fix this?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

not so fun.

we've been covered in poop and vomit for the past week.

and only at night.
because when we're at work and the nanny is here, the kids are f.i.n.e.

it's bliss, i tell you, to wake up to change poop filled underwear three times in a night.

though it was pretty funny when the baby threw up all over my brother-in-law :)

Friday, September 24, 2010


Life without internet is relieving. Un alivio grande.
Not perfect. And definitely not easy. I’ll explain.
When you have a constant connection to the internet superhighway, sometimes it can distract you from the little streets and roads that make up your life. That highway is so sleek and fast and has so few potholes, that it’s just more interesting to connect there than to, I don’t know, cook arroz y habichuelas everyday in your boring, provincial life.
Yes, provincial. Because, even though we live in the second largest city in the Dominican Republic, our little apartment is surrounded by little pieces of land used for fincas. I’m not talking about little, urban, community gardens filled with ochre and tomatoes. I’m talking about corn and yucca and banana and platano trees. And those little plots of earth that aren’t filled with the Dominican staple foods are filled with cows. And we’re still woken up every morning with the kee-kee-kiree of the rooster.
Diversion. When you’re life is slow, the internet is appealing. More than appealing. We used to have a broadband in our old house. And we even set forth the paperwork to get internet here when we moved, but one problem after another, al estilo dominicano and we gave up trying for now. And do you know what? I never noticed how much time I (we) wasted on the internet before we didn’t have it.
I check my email almost every day at my students’ house and if I can swing checking the facebook for pictures of all those babies being born in the states right now, I will. But, when I actually make time to sit down and use the internet I find myself, more often than not, doing nada. It’s true, I read my blogs – it’s like the poor man’s celebrity gossip (I’ll be honest, I secretly relish in knowing that other people are having the same (or worse) difficulties – it makes me feel better about not being superwoman). And I try to maintain some semblance of email relationships with my tutoring kids’ school teachers and I really do try to maintain contact with my amigos. But all that can be done in like 10 minutes. Maybe 20.
Everything else is fluff.
Don’t get me wrong. There are days that I need to research something, or need a clipart for a project or would like to just skype with my family – but the amount of time I waste on the internet is incredible. And since we don’t have it anymore, I find I’m more dedicated to coming up with the kids’ “school” activities (and when I do search for their info, I download everything at once and read it at home) instead of stealing things from other people and just wasting ink printing out things that might not suit our little bilingual pre-school homeschool. I go to bed earlier. And this summer I packed away a record ten books in two months! And 1 was even in francais. When was the last time I read in French? And enjoyed it? And when I get the internet, I actually use it for a purpose instead of reading about how so-and-so is potty training her four year old twins and cries everyday that she’s doing a bad job while her husband tells her what a bad mom she is. (because not only should that not be public information on the internet, but nobody should be feeling good about those types of bad situations).
I miss it sometimes, but mostly I’m just enjoying the little side-streets and callejones of life while that super-pista is, and always, will be there waiting for when there’s time for it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

amely's first painting .

this summer has been lax on the educational/crafty/creative activities around these parts. it's either been raining something fierce (and chilly) or disgustingly hot. two types of days that warrant playing inside (either cuddlin' up or sittin' under a fan). besides, we've been from here to there and there to here more than normal and mostly just soaking up our "vacation" time.

it's time, though, to get back into routine - and now that the house is in order (thanks to some cheapy purchases to organize the kids' closet and babysitter dan to keep the kids out of my hair) and things are organized enough to get to, we're trying to get back in the swing of things.

i pulled out some paints the other day, made a pallet out of a floppy plastic cutting board, covered the little table and threw down some paint brushes. after taking off the kids shirts (i hate laundry), i let them go.

amely had never painted before (that's why there's more pictures of her than samil, sorry kid). she preferred to use her hands instead of the brush and to paint her belly rather than the paper. oh well. samil used some letter stamps to make his name which he used like twice before switching back to the brushes.

the stamps are made out of cardboard and yarn. i made a chain with the yarn and hot glued it to the cardboard in the shape of letters. make sure you make your letters in reverse, though, because they are mirror images.

amely prefers finger painting.

and painting herself.

yay! paint!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

tio ya-ya

my brother in law lives with us. sometimes, especially at the beginning, it was a nuisance and an inconvenience. he is young and lives with us mostly because no one else wanted him. he graduated high school the summer before we got married and no one ever foresaw him going anywhere else with his life. he'd be driving a motocycle taxi forever, trying to get by on a few hundred pesos a day.

fast-forward five years and the kid is almost out of college, has held down a decent job in a professional environment (with almost constant "promotions") for the past four and has proven to be a spectacular uncle.

the kids love him.

(samil pre-haircut)

(amely giving kisses)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

dirty face.

this little girl is such a love. she's cuddly and sweet, and has a little aggressive streak coming out (just like mami i suppose). she loves her brother with a passion, giving him hugs and kisses (and beating him on the head with his own toys!) whenever she gets the chance.

Monday, August 9, 2010

trouble with a capital T

we've spent a fair bit of time up in the campo this summer with my in-laws. it's not something i love to do, but samil does. of course his obsession with cows and other farm animals makes it the most desirable place for him to be but he also loves spending time with his cousins.

sujeidys lives with my father-in-law, and is the only cousin to spend any prolonged period of time with us in santiago (a week in january, but hopefully longer soon). these two are sweet now, but we smell trouble in the future.

sweet suje (soo-hay) is such a darling girl.

samil played with this palm branch for h.o.u.r.s.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

finger-lickin' good.

that's a pig-roast style roasted pig, y'all.
my kids a champ.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


i bought some seeds for samil a long time ago and never got around to finding some top soil to plant them in. in a moment of inspiration, i bought a bag of potting soil at the store (apartments are great, but not when you need dirt!) and amalio rearranged some plants so we could have this long planter.

samil planted cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers - the cucs and tomatoes are doing great, but we haven't seen a pepper yet! he goes out and waters them every morning and shows his plants to people who come over. it's almost time to thin them out and re-plant in their own jars.

Friday, August 6, 2010

exercise with kids.

i've been trying to make some new habits this year. eat healthier, exercise more. be more active.
it's hard, though, to exercise with the kids around. i can't go to a gym because there's not one close enough to me. i usually strap the kids in the double stroller and head out... but, i like yoga. it relaxes me.

but. it's hard to relax with children climbing on you. so. we're training samil. that's one less child climbing on me, and one whole more really cute something beside me.

downward facing dog.

pretend medicine ball.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

another beiber fan?

confession: i love justin bieber. love.
apparently my love is rubbing off on the kids.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

wooden chair.

awhile back we looked around for plastic kids' chairs. samil was pretty young and we needed a place for him to sit. amalio found these plain wooden chairs with goat skin seats for super cheap. only 100 pesos (about 3USD) for a perfect, sturdy little chair. we only had samil, so he only got one. fast forward two years. amely was fast approaching her chair-sitting days, so amalio set out to find new chairs. only 20 pesos more than they were two years ago, he brought home two.

they are just plain chairs - made out of crude (though splinter-less) wood and an animal skin seat.

the first one i painted with some acrylic paints i had lying around. it's pretty beaten up now, but i think it's withheld some abuse in its lifetime.

this is amely's chair. it's amely's because it's got more pink than anything else. i only have a few acrylics lying around and pink was most abundant. i did get some blue after i finished this, so i'll make samil a predominantly blue one as soon as i have some time to sit down and finish it (after they go to bed, of course!)

it's things like these that i LOVE about the dominican republic. good quality, handmade goods for good prices. and these chairs were made out of scrapwoods that couldn't be used for other projects and the seat cover is made from animals that were killed for food. less waste. perfect.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

a visit to santo domingo


after a long two weeks of beach, pool, campo, cows, summer camp and driving... this is what happened when we got home.

that's her pack-and-play all folded up. i sat her on it for a minute and when i came back... out cold.

samil slept on the couch for 2 hours.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


it's been raining something awful for about two weeks now.

the last i heard the reservoirs are overfull and might need to be opened. which in any other situation might be okay, but last time they were force-opened a lot of people lost their homes. and lives.

we spent a week in cabrera, where my in-laws live. it rained i did get to go to camp esperanza three out of the five days which made staying that long just about bearable.

my dad will be here tomorrow night. i'm excited.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rainbow Tot School

It's been a long time since i posted a tot-school. We've been running around a lot since it's summer, but we do throw some "school" in when we get the chance.

We've been working on the letter "R". Here's Samil using his letter blocks to trace an R.
I made this file folder from materials I got from Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homegrown Hearts
There are rainbow patterning, a puzzle and a size sorter. I also printed out this dot-page, which we used with magnetic bingo dots.

We also did some painting and coloring, but mostly we're just un-planned over here for awhile. The next theme, as soon as I get the printer to work right, is Noah's Ark.

Check out Carissa's blog to see more tot-school posts.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A while back they started to fix the roads where we live. Apparently it had been a problem for some time and there was a lot of fighting and politics involved. A lot of things happen here during election years, and because this was a huge election year, the national government (as opposed to the city government who is supposed to fix their own streets) allotted a boat load of money to fix the roads in Santiago.
Like all well planned government actions, they started fixing the roads in every single neighborhood with bad roads at once. No problem if you’ve got the materials and equipment to do it. But this project was short on everything from the start.
When we moved in, I had a little bit of hope that they’d finish the roads – or at least my road, because we live on the principal street. It was, after all, an election year, and there were still 6 weeks until election day. After two weeks living here, though, I gave up. They had come to work on the roads every day for an hour. And mostly what they were doing was fixing the work they had done the day before.
A few days before election there was a protest – complete with news coverage and angry neighbors association members. What had happened was that the heavy equipment was taken to another neighborhood because that neighborhood had burned tires and threw stones in protest of the lack of work. But guess what? That’s what our neighborhood was prepared to do if they didn’t get those trucks back here a.s.a.p.
And miracle of miracle, the very next working day, those trucks were rolling up and down the street doing a whole lot of looking pretty and very little work.
The neighbors were happy that work was being done – but deep down I think everyone knew they wouldn’t finish in time for elections. They had just “inaugurated” streets in the barrio next door even though half of the streets weren’t finished! It’s amazing what poor, illiterate, uneducated people fall for during elections.
After elections they worked for a week. We haven’t seen them since. Supposedly there is a deficit of 25 million Dominican pesos because of the project to fix Santiago’s streets (and win votes on the correct side of the ballot). I’ve heard everything from there is no asphalt to finish to the disaster in the gulf has left us without petroleum to mix the asphalt. Nobody really knows what happens because the government just pretends the situation never happened.
There’s another election – a presidential – in 2012. I’m thinking that by the time that rolls around, we’ll get a paved street. And because it’s that important to win a vote, they might even paint the lines down the middle.

Monday, June 28, 2010


A long time ago I met this guy – an older guy – who was friends with Amalio. Deported from the states for god only knows what, he would come over to reminisce about his days causing havoc in New York.
Super nice guy. With a lovely wife. There was just one thing. His wife couldn’t have babies. So, he had another wife. Not a lover. A wife. The mother of his children.
Weird, right?
So, we haven’t seen him in ages and we ran into him in the supermarket the other day. Him, his wife-with-no-babies and his brand-new son. A two month old baby. I, of course, assume that something happened and his wife (no babies) was able to have a baby. Yay! So, I say something to that affect but was quickly corrected.
This was not her baby, it was the other woman’s baby. But, wife number 1 got tired of not having any babies around, so she’s going to raise this one. Which I guess isn’t so weird, but then taxi drivers son comes over with HIS brand-new two month old baby. And because the son works too much and the mom (apparently) is a “good for nothing” the wife (no babies) is going to raise this baby, too.
This is no social commentary. I really don’t know what my opinion is about it, I just had to get it out there, because it was just too weird an experience to not share.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

it's a small world, afterall

Santiago is a small place. Shoot, the whole country is small. Yesterday, I was in a public car (think of a Nissan Maxima cerca 1985. Now, take out the sideboards on the door, shove 4 people in the back seat and two in the passenger seat. Pay 15 pesos a ride and you’ve got a public car. Not nearly as hilarious as converted micro-minis with wooden seats filled with 21 people seated, 3 hanging from the back bumper and two standing in the door well… but just as efficient and cheap in getting me where I need to go) when this woman gets in kind of frantic (read: crazy). She doesn’t have any money save a 1,000 peso note. They’re going to operate on her brother, she says, and she left the house in a hurry. The three of us in the car each give her 5 pesos to pay, even though the driver was going to let her ride for free. (see, there still are good people in the universe).
She goes on to tell the tale of a wicked car accident including a dominican-york (a dominican living in the states is called that because, as you might know, the USA isn’t really the name, it’s REALLY new York. What part of New York do you live in? Boston? Oh, wonderful. Oh, your sister is in the states? no, she’s in New York? What borough? Oh, she lives in Miami. Go figure). Said Dom-york had rented a luxury SUV and felt the need to show off his wealth after drinking 10 bottles of Brugal rum and a case of Presidente beer. I don’t know who is worse – the idiot who decided to drive drunk, or the idiots who decided to go with him, but the point is, he crashed (surprised? Me neither).
So, now this poor lady’s brother is getting operated on for a broken leg (or something, I wasn’t really paying too much attention). Where did this happen? In the campo. Yah, but which campo? You know, the one near that place. I tune out in these discussions, usually, because I know very little about the outskirts of Santiago. However, people start talking about these little towns and Dominicans’ radars turn on. Because everyone here is related to everyone else. No lie.
These people in the car start talking about the town the accident took place in, and BAM! The guy in the front seat says, “No way, YOUR brother is Jose?” I’m your long lost 17th cousin three-times removed! Your dad is so-and-so, right?
People sometimes stop me and ask me if I’m Amalio’s wife. Then they tell me their bizarre family lineage and how they’re related not only to Amalio but also his adopted family (Amalio moved to Santiago after his mom died and lived with another family from the same town. He claims both). As if that proves that we’re doubly connected.
Living in a place with such strong family connections is weird, especially since the US is so “immediate” family oriented. I can’t imagine ever having conversations with a random stranger about how we’re related or even knowing who my 14th cousin is. I’m lucky to even know my first cousins (and luckier that I do, in fact, know both my mom’s and dad’s cousins and their kids).
When you first move to a different country and consider the differences it’s always the simple things, and they often seem like hardships. Can I eat the food? Do I speak the language well enough? Can I handle that my 32 year old boyfriend lives with his parents (and grandparents)? Is it possible to flush the toilet paper? Where will I wash my clothes? But there are so many hidden beauties that you never know until you’re immersed – living in a country, doing the day-to-day. And sometimes the differences aren’t hardships, but things you wish you had in your own life and culture. Knowing your family – even if it’s just by stories told by others – is such a gift. And always a surprise to run into your long lost 17th cousin three-times removed on public transportation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

gracias, gracias

The baby does not sleep. This is new for us because Samil is a champion sleeper. We tell Samil to lay down and in five minutes he’s out cold. Not Amely. She will scream and cry and carry on for hours to avoid sleeping, and then once we get her out, she wakes up 3-4 times!
Last night she somehow made her way into our bed. I think that she fell asleep with me and Amalio just didn’t put her in the crib before he lay down. So she was there all night. Tossing and turning and wanting to nurse. But not really wanting to nurse. Just kind of.
So, at 3:30 when Samil knocked on our door because he wanted water I hadn’t slept at all. I got him some water and let him sleep with Amalio, I went and threw Amely in the crib and lay down in his bed. I think she lasted 20 minutes in the crib. She doesn’t sleep well, but she also doesn’t like to sleep with us. So I should have known something wasn’t right. But I didn’t. I was tired and cranky. I put her in bed with me and went to sleep.
I was awoken by a stream of warm liquid streaming down the bed. Pee? No, friends. Amely had diarrhea and a broken diaper. How it broke is beyond me, but there it was. I got up hopped in the shower and came back for her. Cleaned her up and put her – diaper-less, stupid I know – on the floor waiting for the boys to get out of the bathroom where she proceeded to poop 3 more times in 3 seconds. In 3 different spots. Lovely.
Today is my first day back to work after a little vacation. Well, I’m going to meet a new student today and back to work for real tomorrow, but still. All vacation we did all right with the sleep and now, NOW, today we have the no-sleep, diarrhea issues.
Thank you, universe!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

heat wave

It’s still cold at night. And by cold I mean like 70 degrees. It’s chilly and with the windows open and a fan on, one might even be confused into thinking they don’t live in the tropics. Until they wake up and the heat, the heat that starts at 6 am, smacks them in the face. Just a friendly reminder. You live on a Caribbean island. And welcome friends! It’s summer.
The water in the faucet is lukewarm, but even still, it’s so hot that that tepid water feels like ice cubes falling on your head. No lie. And the second you turn off the flow, the sweat comes and the hope of getting completely dry is gone.
Dominican women – pelo bueno or not – wash their hair minimally. And it gets done in the salon. All washed and conditioned and put in rollers to sit beneath that stand-up dryer. Or blown out. It’s a little much for me, but I won’t deny my trips to the salon when I’m too lazy to blow-out my own hair. Except in the summer.
Because not only is the heat enough to fry and egg on the sidewalk, it’s quite possible that there’s enough stagnant humidity in the air to boil an egg there as well. So, even if the salon is air-conditioned and the heat from the blower isn’t able to melt what’s left of you, as soon as you step a foot outside the hair goes right back into that nasty bad-perm curly after you spent an hour and 15 bucks getting your hair did.
The good thing about Dominican summer is that it happens to coincide with hurricane season. And while I’m the last one wishing any more natural disasters on this island (or nearby), hurricane force winds and rain are the only thing that truly cool this place off for more than an hour at a time. Of course it’s a horrid catch-22 because rains here tend to debilitate people here the way snow does in, say, Philadelphia. So, rain brings sweet relief only to be enjoyed from your own private balcony. And, of course, a bad hair day.
Tonight might be the last cool night I get for another three months. If that’s the case, don’t go looking for me in the salon down the street, I’ll be sitting under a fan with my feet in a cool bucket of water. And with no place to go, who cares if my hair looks like I just came in from a torrential downpour and then stuck my finger in the socket.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It sounds ridiculous, maybe, to talk about seasons in a tropical climate. But. There is a very distinct difference between the normal, good-natured warm of February-May and September-November and the ungodly, stifling, disgusting-ness that can be summer here.

It’s not heat so much as humidity in the summer – so staying out of the sun and under a fan only helps minimally. Most of our activity happens in the early morning and the evening to avoid over-exertion and swimming in pools of our own sweat. Alas. This post is about school, not the weather.

We don’t have a swimming pool – even though it’s on my “want” list for the roof I’m slowly grooming. I don’t want to buy one because my mom has one at her house for us; we just need to figure out how it’s getting here. Until then, though, we need water play. So, we take the old baby tubs up to the roof, fill them with water and a ton of toys and hide under the shade of some sheets hung over the clothes-lines (creativity is key in this heat!) I don’t have any pictures this week, but it is fun, I promise.

Samil has been working diligently on learning his shapes – especially triangles and squares. I traced some mini popsicle sticks (in an ABAB pattern) on a piece of paper and then let Samil match up the sticks with the shapes. After he did that, I pulled out the glue and let him stick them down.

I’ve been working on the kids’ bedroom since we moved in. I don’t have the luxury of kicking them out to paint it and we didn’t really want just a plain color anyway, so I’ve been stenciling some bright colored stars all over. Samil is in love with the stencils, so I pulled some out and let him have a go with water colors. I forgot that he uses way too much water and so the stencils only turned out half like the shapes they are. Once I get to the store to get some new poster paints, we’ll try again.

Samil is learning his letters, so we’ve been playing with all types of letters lately. His (and Amely’s) favorites are the letter magnets. We have metallic doors, so the magnets have moved from the fridge to the bedroom doors.

We had some visitors last Friday that we hope will be coming by weekly in the summer. They’re a little older than Samil, but they all play together well. We spent the afternoon chalking on the roof and “racing” different races (one-legged hop, elephant walk, rabbit jump, baby-crawl, etc…) and then we learned about Jonas and why we should obey God when he asks us to do something for him. We made a whale craft and called it a day. This week they came and we read Chicken Licken (in my hilarious last-minute translation into Spanish, ooops) and then we made construction paper chickens. You can definitely see the difference in level between the three!

What I learned this week: (I saw this on someone else’s tot-school and like the concept, but I completely don’t remember whose it was. If it’s yours, let me know so I can link to you!)
our new morning “schedule” has definitely improved my quality of life
I’m not a big fan of letting samil use glue by himself (the mess!)
Ceramic floors are great at keeping this cool, but horrible if you have kids because they get dirty so fast!