Tuesday, November 29, 2011

re: the maternity ward.

i've been to the public hospital tons of times. visiting friends or dropping things off, i even run through the front door and out the back when i'm too lazy to walk around the block. i've been to a meeting or two and use the pharmacy because it's much cheaper than privately owned drugstores.

i don't visit people in the hospital. i feel like if you are sick, you need to rest, not entertain. and i'm not even big on visiting people after they give birth - unless they ask, or need help with lactation stuff. i like to wait until they're at home, comfortable and... more properly cleaned and presentable for visitors.

public health care here is kind of a joke. like many other public services, there are not enough funds, a little to no accountability to the people who manage what there is. doctors show up late, or not at all, spend little time with each patient and run on to their better paying job. nurses are paid minimum wage, and are not given the tools they need to perform their jobs.

even knowing all of this, even having experienced the public hospital, i was not prepared for the maternity ward. and on one hand i wish i had taken photos, and on the other i'm glad i didn't.

a friend of mine is a midwife working with midwives for the dominican republic and she brought onesies and sanitary pads for the new mamas in the hospital, so we headed over and talked our way in. normally, no one is allowed to accompany the women into the labor room, so it was a privilege to get in and see how it works.

picture taken from midwives for the dominican republic

we were thrown some disposable gowns and told we could walk around and talk to the women. good thing, because no one else seemed to be talking to them. the room was large, about 15 beds filled it up, each with a woman in some stage of labor - two beds were occupied by two women, since there was no space for them anywhere else. some of the beds had sheets, if the women brought them from home, most did not. a few of the women were naked from the waste down, with just a rolled up towel to give them privacy. there are no curtains to separate the beds. a doctor and his residents walked around, checking each woman. mostly, they didn't converse with the patient, and in one case the doctor did a tactile without even saying hello the mama-to-be.

one young girl cried and her belly contracted, with no one to hold her hand or give her words of encouragement. she had been admitted eventhough she was not really ready to be in the hospital. she might have lasted a day or two more without giving birth.

alone. in a hospital.

the babies are taken away after delivery and the women are shuttled to post-partum where they wait for... whatever one waits for in the post-partum room. again, these women are alone - not even with their babies for company.

no sheets, no hospital gown. no husband or mom to hold a hand.

the regular rooms were not much better, but here, company is allowed. four beds and a private bath in each room. babies and moms are reunited, but there are no cribs or incubator boxes for the newborns. they share the twin bed with mom and whoever else is with them - there are only seats if you bring them with you.

there are no free diapers, no blanket to wrap the baby in. no sheets on mama's bed or a pillow to use. no chairs for visitors. no sanitary pads or protection for the bed. no pain medication. for the haitian women, there is not even a nurse or doctor who speaks their language.

i spent an hour. it felt like a lifetime. i am thankful for this experience. for the opportunity to remember that not everyone lives like me, and that most are denied what should be basic rights of human beings.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

the mother maria.

i've been so busy with work and work... and some projects i've been working on, that it's been hard to get out with the kids and just spend some time together. i mean, we spend time together, but at home or close to it.
and i really hate running errands with both of them. i know that sounds like bad-mommy-syndrome, but public transportation here is crazy and nothing is really family friendly.

but, i packed these beauties up last weekend and headed to run around. bank, tailors, supermarket, copy-shop. we left a bit too early and were stuck wandering the streets of santiago when we came across this jem - a park dedicated to christopher columbus, complete with iron-worked replicas of the three ships.
we bought some orange slices and an apple and ran around the park for awhile. we talked about columbus and talked to some blind people who were meeting in the park that morning. he proudly told them the names of columbus' ships - the nina, pinta and santa maria. of course they were impressed with these small children who knew the names of columbus' ships, and even more impressed by amely's sharing nature (she gave away most of her candy... mostly because she will not take no for an answer)

i was proud just because they're such good kids. and samil is sucking up information like a sponge.

in fact, just yesterday samil asked me if i remembered going to see the pipa, inta and the mother maria!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


these kids are dancing maniacs.

samil's got the b-boy moves going on - he's not even scared of the ceramic floors, trying out headstands and flip moves (while i yell at him to be careful, that's amely's head!)

amely cannot hear music without wiggling her hips. if there are dancers on tv, she stops, observes and then imitates. out.of.control.

i took this video a few weeks ago, their moves have improved immensely since then, but it'll probably make you smile.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


formal thanksgiving is not typically celebrated in the dominican republic. of course, there is an understanding of the holiday, and there are even people who eat turkey. but, as far as thanksgiving thanksgiving, it's not there. well, here.

for the past few years, i've organized and planned a thanksgiving turkey dinner for friends. it's always got a dominican flare, but it's something that makes me feel warm, to share this beautiful part of the american culture with my friends and family. so often i hear negative things about the northamerican lifestyle, that i want to show peopel that it's not true - we do love our families, and we do share with our grandparents and aunts and uncles. we don't just eat mcdonald's or pizza.

this year, i've got a real job and so thanksgiving on thanksgiving is difficult. so, our small american community - professors from the uni and people i've picked up on the internet - have planned our turkey celebration for saturday, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie! (i hate pumpkin pie, but... tradition is tradition!)

i'm so thankful for so many things this year, and hoping for so many more wonderful things in this year to come. blessings and peace to you all on this holiday! be safe.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

living here.

when people ask me what it is like to live here... it throws me off. like i've been here so long, that i've forgotten how different life is.

taking cold showers during hours-long power outages doesn't faze me. we take our propane tank to the gas station on the back of a motorcycle to fill it up when it's empty. and every morning i shove myself into a 1980 toyota corolla with 7 other public transit riders.

i forget sometimes about real cold, and wrap myself in a sweatshirt because it's only 65 degrees and a little misty. sometimes i avoid leaving the house at noon because the sun is so hot and even, i'm sorry to admit, carry an umbrella to stay cool.

my kids play baseball with the caps of 5-gallon jugs and broom handles and dance to reggaeton. they collect "tazos" from the bags of potato chips and drink coca-cola from glass bottles. when it's time to hang the clothes on the line, they're the first out the door to help, and the firsts to laugh when it starts to rain.

my husband teaches in a dilapidated old factory building, with floors caving in and the occasional ceiling fan that loses its arm. his students have never used a white board, had a computer class or watched a class movie. they do with what they have and the occasional extra - a science fair with cardboard posters and arts and crafts made from recycled boxes.

i teach in a university that has no admission standards. those who can pay, study. despite the high cost, we use chalk boards. the students commute. there are no dorms. and once i had a mom come to complain about her kid's grade and was not at all surprised by it.

so is it different, living here? sure. but it's not something to dwell on.

it's not for comparing or contrasting, for better or for worse. this is life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

coffee IV

i've reached the point where i think i'm going to buy some works and hook myself up permanently to the coffee urn.

it's not that the coffee here is delicious (it is), it's that i'm so sleep deprived that some days i don't think i'll survive without passing out while crossing the street.

super busy? big plans? people to see, parties to plan?

no. no. friends.

i've got a two year old who refuses to sleep in her own bed.
or even in her own room. or a mattress on the floor.
she needs. (yes, needs) to be between mami and papi on the bed. left foot shoved under mami's belly and right foot under papi. spread eagled.

taking up the most precious bed real estate.

i'm at wits end. i don't know what to do. we've tried locking the door, carrying her back every time and even promising her things.


the worst part is that no matter what, we're out sleep. precious, precious sleep. if i have to carry her back and forth, i lose. but if i leave her with us, i lose it.