Wednesday, July 18, 2012


something horrible is happening in the dominican republic. in the first six months of 2012, 98 women were killed. not in accidents, not of old age. killed by the men who "love" them. fathers, boyfriends, husbands, exes.

there are so many things that i could say about this tragedy. but it's all been said. it's all been talked about too much.

and once it had been talked about until one would think there was nothing left to be said - someone, somewhere decided that instead of spending money on prevention programs, education and support, they'd plan a day of remembrance to the "fallen women."

unaffected women all over the country donned a black ribbon for the day and talked about how progressive they were for acknowledging a problem, for one day, that affects far too many of their latina sisters. meanwhile, all the women who really are affected by family violence, stayed at home with their jealous, machista husbands and got beat.


the country did, however, implement a hotline for abused women. i believe it's free and that it operates 24 hours a day. and it's a step in the right direction. it's more than the lip-service given so frequently that nobody hears it anymore.

no more blood.
now, we just need to work together to teach women that they are worth more than they think. to teach women that it's not their fault when someone hits them, that the man hitting them is guilty, not them.

one of my pregnant students broke down and told me that her boyfriend has been beating her since they moved in together, and when i cried with her and told her she didn't deserve that, that she's worth more than a punching bag, she told me that nobody had ever told her "it's not your fault." that everyone had always asked "what did you do to provoke him?"

as long as women continue to be told that they are not valuable, and men are taught to believe that they are the rulers of everything, we'll have the same problem. more women will be beaten, bruised, mistreated and killed.

Feminicide: woman murdered by a man who considered her
personally, i've been convicted over and over again to raise samil to be a man. a real man. with values. who cherishes and adores women - who treats them well - and never believes a woman deserves violence. a man who loves god and wants to be like jesus. a man who knows that what makes us different than animals is our consciousness and ability to make decisions and that saying "i'm a man, i can't control myself" is not an excuse for anything.
and the more women who commit to raising little men to be men and not animals, the better the future will look. actions, friends, speak way louder than words. take your future back, and give it to your kids.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pregnancy Education Success

it seems like so long ago that i started this crazy journey into cienfuegos, santiago - one of the most rumored neighborhoods of the city - to work in futuro lleno de esperanza's educational center. it's really only been a few short months -but my heart has been changed, softened and opened to this community, the people in it and its future. the doors started to open in so many ways, and in ways that already spoke to me. i've taken classes and read books and been supported in a way i had never imagined possible. me, the internet skeptic, has made friends online that encourage me and lift up this ministry in prayer. 

 six weeks ago i began, timidly, a class for pregnant women in the community. i walked and walked - knocking on doors and following paths, not sure what i would find. we had 7 women for our first class. i was sure they wouldn't come back. but they did. and we grew from 7 women to 12 women, all eager and ready to learn about their bodies, how to protect themselves and how to care for the babies growing inside of them. 

we had new mommies and experienced mommies. together we formed a community of support - sharing our fears and desires and hopes - not just for the babies, but for the neighborhood, for our lives and the futures of those around us.

it was a rocky class - i wasn't exactly sure what i was doing, trying to compensate for cultural beliefs and bizarre pre-natal practices here while informing and empowering these women to take care of themselves and their babies throughout pregnancy and childbirth. 

but, i'm counting it a success.
these women want to continue! they want more information. they want more power. 
we'll be continuing our "group" in september, along with a new 6-week preparation class for more pregnant mamas.
as soon as i convince my friend katie to help me (hi, katie!) we'll be offering class in Futuro Lleno De Esperanza's other centers that serve haitian communities.

during our last class we learned what will happen in the hospital and how to swaddle newborns.
we also re-touched the subject of lactation.
aurisleyda will have her baby girl at the end of august. 

diana is having her third baby - via c-section. she's been a blessing to the group with her knowledge of local herbs that increase milk supply.

as a present to the women in our class, i printed out a belly-picture. photos are not common here, nor is the celebration of pregnancy in lower-income communities. i wanted these women to have a reminder of their beautiful, power bodies!
i dug into my stash of craft supplies, and with help from my friend rebecca (thanks, rebecca) each woman made a picture frame for their photo. thanks aunt lisa for supplying with so much great paper and supplies!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


a few days ago, our apartment filled with smoke. it smelled rank and nasty and, well, smoky. 
it's not abnormal for people to burn their trash, but this was a little bit extreme. we closed all of the windows and doors and had to open them right back up again - dying of smoke inhalation and foul smell was preferible to roasting to death in a closed apartment in the middle of june. in the carribbean.

after a while, i guess the wind changed, and while the smoke hazed over the street, it wasn't nearly as unbearable as it had been earlier. i looked to the west for the usual culprits - an empty lot, about 200 meters big, routinely burned to get rid of trash and weeds. nothing.

so i went up on the roof and looked around. an entire field was on fire. 
burning is common here - it rids empty fields of un-wanted undergrowth and allows growth to the plants we want (tubers, vegetables, etc...).it is also not unusual for people to use empty lots as trash dumps because of the scarcity of public services. burning gets rid of the garbage quickly without having to do much work. it also produces nasty smelling smoke for the neighbors, but, hey! you win some, you lose some.

apparently, the fire got out of the control of the burn-ers and took over the entire field, instead of just the square patch they were supposed to burn.

they were able to cut open a water pipe in the street (welcome to the DR!) and redirect the water to cool the fire down. it was smoky for awhile, but everyrthing worked out in the end~!

Monday, July 9, 2012

4th of July - Uni-Style

the 4th of july is my favorite holiday. 
i like the parades and picnics and fireworks and general overall feeling of the day. and i'm from philly, the birthplace of liberty. who doesn't love the philadelphia celebrations?

one of my best memories was waiting on the jam-packed independence mall to catch a glimpse of nelson mandela when he received the philadelphia freedom award. we strained our ears and our eyes. i'm sure i didn't really know who he was, but the fact that all of those people were there and that we were too was amazing. now, i cherish that memory of a brief glimpse and forgotten words more than any other "political" memory i've got.

it's been awhile since i was state-side for independence day, and so i always try to celebrate here. we've done barbecues and beach trips, but it's not really the same. 
last summer, i wanted to prepare something with my students - but it was my first semester and i was more than overwhelmed.

forget about it. this semester my students went all out.
 they researched different foods that we eat in the summer - the origen, famous restaurants (Nathans Hotdogs) and even made hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad and iced-tea for everyone to share
 they learned about some of the founding fathers, some of the history of independence and the different freedoms that americans enjoy today.
 we invited another, lower level class to join our celebrations. their teacher, nubia, was not to be left out. 
 the students even dressed in red, white and blue - down to the details - american flag earrings
 and of course, we had lady liberty present (with american flag toms on her feet)

this was my favorite. projected on the screen a giant picture of woody guthrie and his "fascist killing" guitar. i was most impressed that they bothered to learn the history of "this land is your land"  and actually understand a little more the power of music... and the power of freedom of speech.

it wasn't fireworks and church picnics, but it was nice. it was educational and fit right in.
these are the days i love being a teacher.

Monday, July 2, 2012


i teach advanced english at the local, catholic university here in santiago. it's a nice gig - flexible hours, good pay, air conditioning in the summer.

most of the time i like my students. sometimes i don't.
last semester i had a really excellent group of students and i was surprised by their compassion and thoughtfulness. i never, however, really gave them the chance to go further with some of the themes we'd been talkign about.

so this semester, when i got another amazing group, i wanted them to really use their english in deeper ways. i wanted them to take what we had talked about in class and create something from it.

it's the best thing about being an ESL teacher at this level. i don't teach a "subject" class, but english is just as important in that we have the opportunity to present a new point of view, to deepen conversations in an academic setting that maybe they are having in social settings.

one of the "topics" for this particular level is bullying. honestly, i never really paid too much attention to it, and focused on other parts of the unit that i felt were "more important." and then, i saw bullying really affect the family of a close friend of mine and wanted to get these students into a more meaningful conversation on how to stop it.

we talked. watched videos. read articles. more discussion.
and then i sent them home to "do something with this". really. that's what i told them.
be creative. make something. take this class and use it to send a message.
i received posters and essays and even powerpoint presentations.
and this.

this amazing video from jonathan vila, jesenia moya and dalma nunez.
such talent and insight.


Dinosaurs have arrived in Santiago. 

The Jurassic Park (Bosque Jurasico) exhibit that drew crowds in Santo Domingo, in very Dominican fashion, headed north to see if they could continue their success. It happens a lot here - whenever an exhibit/park/circus does well in the capitol, it gets moved to Santiago (and usually just a bit cheaper). 

we weren't too sure what to expect, but we piled into a taxi and took off. tickets were 100 pesos cheaper than expected (yay!) and we got there just at the right time - no lines and no crowds.

 there were tons of animatronic dinosaurs throughout the park - they moved and roared and all over entertained. of course, there were some extra "pay" attractions: bounce houses and dino-rides. and the food was super over-priced. but the exhibit was nice, amely really liked it. so did max and zora.

samil was still in the campo, so amely got to have fun by herself
this time around.

she weasled her way into a dino-ride (without
a ticket) but by the end was freaking out.
(it didn't stop from wiling another ride out of the
poor teenage boy running the thing...)

look at zora ride!

the kids got free "dino" brand cookies. and their picture taken,