Saturday, April 28, 2012

creepy crawler

has anyone seen this bug before?

it was about the size of my hand and had pincers like a crab coming from it's "head" area. at first we thought it was a flying cockroach, so the ladies tried to kill it with a sandal, but the thing would just.not.die.

reason number #243 why i can't live in the campo full time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

welcome, baby.

this little guy was born last thursday. i missed his birth by one day (live-births, the geeky-parents dream... child-of-the-geeky-parents' nightmare, i 'm sure).

he was all wobbly legged still, but samil and amely were able to "help" him milk, and learned all about milk-production (the breastfeeding mothers guide to milk production... from a cow!)
samil loves to help papa with the animals, but he won't really get too close during the milking process. he helps open the gate and will even run the cows from field to field, but milking freaks him out.

not amely.

my father-in-law will only let her in with this cow because if you'd let her, she'd ride the mama and put the baby on a leash. or take a bath with the milk. or! drink the milk right from the udder.
there are two more calves on the way and we might actually make it to the first birth mid-may.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

color del campo

i spent the weekend in the campo with the kids - we didn't really do much besides visit (and i did a lot of reading/planning). i don't have a great camera - in fact, i usually use my blackberry's built-in, but here are some pictures just of the color. i love the countryside and small villages throughout the country. simple lifestyle, laid-back. i couldn't do it full-time, but it's a great break from my "real life".

Sunday, April 22, 2012

not boobies, sitll outrageous.

i was in the supermarket just the other day, picking up a few things after work. i almost never really shop in this supermarket, and so i never have any real need to enter into the diaper/baby food/toilet paper/tissue aisle. i usually breeze right past and don't even think twice.

except, i needed some baby wipes to take along on our bus trip to the campo this weekend and turned into the aisle.

remember the outrageous boobies on these mannequins in the city? i guess this store decided they couldn't be shown up by hard nipples on a hot day, and stuff the pants of this geriatric diaper model!

i looked once and thought i was mistaken. afterall, there is no good reason for stuffing the crotch of leak-free panties. but, alas, my eyes were not playing a trick on me. so, then i thought, maybe the diapers bunches poorly in the front? and if that is the case, why would i want to use them? i don't want people to know about my incontinence.

so, me being me, i touched it. and then opened and looked inside, and sure enough the pants were stuffed.

maybe if they stuff it just right, more men will be convinced to buy it thinking it will make them look bigger? i'm not sure. to me it's just a little ridiculous!

Friday, April 20, 2012

the rich and the poor.

i teach at the most expensive university in santiago. my students drive mercedes and bmws. or they have private chauffers who drive range rovers. they wear designer clothes and travel to the USA during vacations.
i walk by this "room" everyday - they
have no running water and their "latrine
is situated in an outhouse behind this

i live in a neighborhood that is middle class. it's quiet and houses are comfortable and mostly not too intimidating. most of our neighbors send their kids to middle-of-the-line private schools and drive middle-of-the-line SUVs to work everyday.

and i work in a community where most have to worry about where their food is coming from tomorrow. how they can send their kids to even the public school, when they don't have the money to buy a uniform or pay for notebooks.

much like most other places in the world, there is a wide range of incomes, a diversity in lifestyles. there are people who work, and people who don't.

this house is being built brick by brick
every time the family has money, they
add on.
as i search the web for information on different NGOs on the island, i am both excited and disgusted. excited that there are so many people doing so many good things to improve the life of people around them. i'm finding more and more initiatives started and run by local people. i see the spirit of the dominican republic alive and well, the community helping each other to survive. and i even see foreigners offering their skills and gifts to empower others.

This mansion comes complete with a
helicopter landing pad and a swimming
but i also see pages filled with pictures only of the very poor. of the "success" of projects exhibited in before and after photos, where in the before picture the family or children always look destitute and unhappy. children with the swollen bellies of malnutrition eating bowls of rice gruel in a modern and amazing center. instead of focusing on the positive of the dominican culture, the seedy underside is shown - and painted as the picture of what life is.

there is extreme-poverty here - families living on less than two US dollars a day. families who eat when food appears and when it doesn't, they don't. houses with no electric, no water, no security.

but that is only a small portion of the population.

a house on the hill.
there is poverty here. there are people who work hard, but their salaries just doesn't make ends meet, and desperate times call for desperate measures. delinquency, illiteracy, depression.

and there is an emerging middle class - a broad range of educated workers to retired, dominican-americans or dominican-europeans. who still aren't riding high on the hog, but probably don't worry too much about where their food is coming from.

and there is a social elite. whose children drive beemers and study in the US. who don't realize how bad life can be for their employees that they pay 200 dollars a month and expect to survive and be productive.

 it's hard to not feel bad, feel guilty, be sad when you see those pictures and of course you send the money. but, wouldn't you rather a more accurate picture of life here? success stories that don't assume that a new bathroom will turn frowns upside down, or that rice gruel charity is better than actual love and compassion?

**please forgive the lack of "average" houses in this post, i wanted to illustrate the two extremes that people usually jump to - either dirt poor, or filthy rich. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

shoe fetish.

my shoe closet consists of one pair of blue flats, one pair of black flats, a pair of blue, peep-toe sandals, black work shoes, black pumps, 8 million flip flops and a pair of sneakers.

i am no shoe fashionista. or any kind of fashionista for that manner. i leave that job for amely.

i like shoes. to look at them, admire them. but the thought of stilettos sends me directly to the emergency room with a broken neck. and anything that isn't comfortable to look at is off the list of shoes for me.

i'm even a little judgmental about shoes. mostly because here shoes are a big deal. women wear high-heels all.of.the.time. platform shoes, chunky heels, kitten heels - you name it, it's worn here recently stilettos have become popular - not just any stiletto, but stilettos pair with platforms, also known as stripper shoes.

i think they're great. really. if you're going dancing or on a sexy date. or if you're just getting paid for sex on a date. lovely, these shoes are. but what i can't wrap my mind around is why in the world you'd put on these shoes to go traipsing around the city. to the supermarket, to the park with your kids, to take class in the university.

i just don't get it.

i've been on the look out lately, and luckily (lucky for my judgmental self), i've noticed that they're not really that common in the grand scheme of things. when i go to the fancy supermarkets, there might be one or two ladies in the entire store sporting plastic platforms on her feet, but the supermarkets that cater to a lower socio-economic class have a higher average of spike-heels.

seriously, who goes out in these things? do you? why? let me know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


if you've read this blog for any length of time, you've probably caught glimpses of my ups and downs in the making of friends. i'm not a terribly social person, but i'm not really a loner, either. most of our friends (as a family) are dominicans - we do, afterall, live and work in the community with dominican people.

when i first moved here, i was isolated from other foreigners - i worked a lot and lived in a not-foreign-friendly area. had it not been for that experience, i'm sure i would still be stumbling along in spanish and culturally offending more often than i do now.

Deborah, Stephanie and Ada y Ilvania

then i got married and moved to an apartment complex full of americans. but not the kind anyone wants to be friends with - old men looking for love from 20 something women, paying their pension checks to support three kids who aren't theirs and the sex that comes with it.

i made friends with the people around me and for the most part have been content with that.

dirty martini - that was more like toilet water... complete
with a chunk of ice to keep it cold. nasty.

but in the past year, some of us middle-of-the-line ex-pats have become friends - our kids play together, we hang out and get along really well. i finally feel happy to have met some people i feel okay letting my kids play with, who speak english and are down for anything.

 friday we started my birthday celebration. it was fun. there aren't many pictures. the restaurant service was horrible. the food was good. and we laughed and laughed.
a bunch of us girls are missing. (martine scooted out of every picture!) but don't worry, i've got a whole month left of birthday to celebrate!

Monday, April 16, 2012

wherein i rant about students.

today is my last day of class. in fact, i'm already finished class. today was the last day of class. tomorrow, final exams begin. my students have exams tomorrow, and next monday. (i teach two different courses).

i thought the drama was over last week - all students who needed to drop classes did that weeks ago, and those who didn't were well aware of their status. what i didn't expect was crying over nothing. tears. real, live tears from 20 year old boys and girls.

one student comes late to class everyday. every. single. day. he's 20. and blames everything on his parents. "my mom drives me to school and she won't leave earlier." well, friend, than your mom is getting you an F. he missed a signup for final presentations and was irked when i told him there was no time for him to present on the last day. if he wasn't prepared, so be it. fail. i pointed out every single lateness and absence, all of his missed homework and still. he needs a miracle on his final exam to pass.

then, on thursday, half of my class missed. they had already given their final presentations, and the university-issued attendance policy was no longer in place, so why not just bail on their classmates? i told the class that those who missed would lose points, especially because most who were missing had proven themselves irresponsible throughout the semester. after class, a student calls me, "i just don't want you to think that i missed because i'm irresponsible." shut the front door, lady! i dismissed her and hung up, only to get another call the following morning. "i really need to talk to you." fine. after i pointed out all of her instances of irresponsibility she cried and told me she didn't think english class was "so serious" and "ohmygod i don't want anyone to think i'm a baby."

there are so many up-sides to working at this university. but there are many days i want to pull my hair out - i can't handle that 21 year old kids can't make decisions or take responsibility for themselves. my first semester here, i had a final-year student tell me that she needed "to call mami" because she didn't know how to get home from school that day since the chauffer was sick. and another who wanted to miss two weeks of class to take a vacation with her family in the middle of the semester - and not fail her classes, because "my parents are making me do it." i even had a mom call me this semester to tell me her daughter had a cold and couldn't make it to class, and because i was "so strict" (i'm not) she felt like it was necessary to explain to me that i shouldn't mark her absent because she really is "sick."

after my four week vacation (starting now) i'll be refreshed and ready for another round of crazy. but for today, i'm glad to be out of here!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

thirty, thirty.

on may 12th i will celebrate my 30th birthday.

that's right, 30 years on this beautiful earth. since i've decided to stay 30 for a few years, i also decided to use my total allotment of celebrations.

it's a big year - the year when kids think you're "really" old and when old people think you're still "really" young. i get told all the time what a baby i am. and how old i am. depending on the audience.

the fiesta started friday night- a girl's night out for dinner and it was nice. really nice. i am so blessed to have found friends that are solid and true... and fun! the party continues with some trips to visit friends around the country, then two big barbecues in may.

i have a list of things i want to accomplish in my thirtieth year (that i'll post on my birthday).

here's to birthdays to celebrate, family and friends to celebrate with!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

slow down.

stations of the cross - local catholics have the stations set
up throughout the neighborhood - and rain or shine, celebrate the
real reason for Holy Week.

university students in the dominican republic study all year round - it still takes them four years to graduate and they take an insane amount of credits (i still haven't figured it all out.... but i'm sure it has to do with them studying for careers and not liberal arts...)

unfortunately this means no spring break, no two-month long vacation in the summer and minimal days for christmas. i can't complain too much, though, we get a few weeks in april, a few in august and about three in december.

i've been more tired lately (i blame the ridiculous schedule i had these past three months, but it could be the amount of extra-curriculars i've been part of, too) and so when i realized that for holy week, we'd only get two days, i  was frustrated.

easter breakfast group
i had a list of things to do six-miles long and two vacay days were just not enough. and my mom was visiting us that week, and i'd be stuck in class - meaning no time for the beach.

it worked out. the kids loved having granma around, and i just went to school and did what i had to do. my mom and i visited the hospital and handed out a ton of new baby stuff (donated through the midwives for DR) and i met some important people that i need to know in order to move around the hospital a little more freely. we had breakfast with my students and just hung out.

my house was a mess by thursday and the list was still six miles long (and if you added all of the dishes in the sink, it went to seven-miles long). but i had decided i needed a break.

science experiments with granma
on friday, we slept and on saturday, too. in fact, i took a four hour nap today as well. i'm kind of behind in things that wanted to be done, but they'll get there. the necessities were taken care of - the kids were fed and played with and cared for (and other than amely's split lip this morning, we were injury free).

sometimes it's just more important to take it slow than race through life. spend time with people we love and not worry about that list of things we need to do - because usually it's not urgent.

this week i've got a full schedule, but i'm going into it fully rested and ready to take on the world.

Friday, April 6, 2012

the final word.

i've spent the last 40 days reflecting. it's really the first time that i've taken the lenten season seriously - or at the very least, seriously in that sense that lent is a season of reflection and meditation. so, i gave up coffee (and ohmygod i almost died) and spent more time with my bible.

and let me tell you, the coffee almost killed me. i had slowly formed an intense addiction over the few months, and quitting cold turkey was no easy task. after day 10, though, i was fine - and the first time i succumbed to temptation, i almost spit the coffee out, apparently, i don't even have a taste for java anymore.

but the physical sacrifice was nothing compared to the spiritual reflection.

see, i had a pretty harsh encounter with charity just a few days before lent actually began. you can read about that here. but all said, it changed me. i have always been an advocate of hands up, not hand outs, but sometimes we fall into routines and stop questioning our motives for our actions.

how'd you like to deliver a baby in this room?
i live in a country rife with poverty - we have family members with very little material wealth. i spend time in a hospital that can't supply sheets for patients, or even replace lightbulbs when they burn out. i work with children who are often forced into prostitution or slave-like labor to support their families.


there is hope. and over these past 40 days i have met people - dominican and not - who are working to break cycles of poverty and not just put band-aids on deep wounds. i've visited projects that are teaching skills, educating in values and changing lives. i mean, sure, i've seen the bad ones, too - the "here come take what we have because we have more than you" mentality - but i've chosen to focus on the positive.

there are ways to give and support without knocking down and moving on. and that inspires me.

and while i think it's best to "teach people to fish" than to "give them a fish", i still believe there's a place for the 50 pesos on the street corner to the blind man and his son, or the extra food to the shoe-shine boy in the city. there is no cut and dry, black and white answer to how to end poverty, how to break the cycle and tilt the playing field so that it's a little more level.

lent is supposed to be a time of sacrifice and reflection, a time of introspection and prayer. i never ever imagined it would be as fruitful as it has been. time in the desert can bring the best rewards.  there are some plans in the making to empower that i'll share with you all soon enough (still in the planning stages).


this lenten season, i'm reflecting on how to give without creating dependency; how to give with a faithful and servant's heart and how to let go once i give material things away. i come in contact daily with people who have way less than me, who are hungry and tired and un-bathed. join me as i begin to work through it. check out all of the posts under the label "lenten reflection"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


since my schedule finally lightened up toward the end of this semester, i've been home on tuesday and thursday mornings with amely. mostly we've did hilarious exercise (three year olds doing zumba is hilarious, admit it!) and made lunch - i don't know where the morning goes. but, we do try to get to the corner store most of the time.

lately, amely's been into accesorizing - but, she's three. this is what happens to sunglasses on a twenty minute walk.

Monday, April 2, 2012


i had a woman approach me once about private english classes. she had met her "boyfriend" over the internet and he wanted to "invest" money in her english language progress. i could barely take her seriously though - i'm an internet-love skeptic, especially when it comes to dominicanas and... well, i couldn't look at her because her breasts were so large i thought she might fall over.

no, seriously.
they were fake, and they must have been a size K. or bigger. and on her medium frame, it was just ridiculous.

a lot of women get boob jobs here - and not just the social elite - i've heard stories about how women go into bankruptcy to get the procedure done. and when it comes down to it, they've done it to ensure a better life with a more wealthy partner (read: north american or european).

i could never wrap my head around it. i have big boobs. and they hurt. my back hurts. my bras are not attractive. a college roommate had an even larger chest, and she had some parlor tricks with her boobs that were funny to us - but might have sent more sane ladies running for the hills.

for a long time i wondered just how women even got the idea that the extreme makeover would get them a man. and then, where do they buy shirts to cover those ta-tas?
well, have no fear. this picture should answer both questions for you.

not only are her breasts of non-human barbie-proportion, but it must be a little bit cold in the store front that she's posed in.

and how about this gem of a mannequin? her face is classic party-girl - because, it's not blondes who have more fun, it's big-boobied girls (apparently.)