Saturday, September 29, 2012

call u-haul

this summer we moved. it's the second large move i've had here in the dominican republic - and hopefully the last for a long time. when we moved into our first apartment, we relocated in a mini-pick-up - all we had was a bed, a couch, some plastic bookshelves and our clothes. while i cleaned the new place, amalio and his brother ran around town buying a dining room table (hideous - but we still have it), a stove (since replaced), a refrigerator (in need of replacement), a dominican style washer (sitting outside collecting dust) and an iron (since replaced at least 4 times). 

by the time we moved into our second place, we had two babies and three years of life under our belts and needed something bigger than a pickup to move. luckily amalio's students and some other strapping young men were willing to move us for the promise of lunch. it's not easy to move from one third floor to the next.

this move, however, was easier. we were moving from a third floor to a house. on ground level. and i had purged a ton of unnecessaries from our lives not too long before - so we had less boxes of junk (still, the boys will point out, the same number or more of heavy, heavy books).

luckily we were able to practice the patience needed for a move in this country when my dear friends rebecca and josh moved to san francisco de macoris just days before our big move. somehow, i avoided their packing chaos and made it just in time to witness the most incompetent truck packing i've ever experienced. 
You can read more about this moving hilarity here
see that big piece of furniture going on the roof of that truck? well, the basic consensus amongst the movers was that the big, bulky furniture needed to go in the truck last - despite the fact that it isn't a big space taker - tons of things could have been nested into its open spaces. alas, it took a 1.5 hour drive to san fran and didn't kill anyone.
once it got there however... it didn't fit up the stairs to the new place - so it was cut apart, carried up the stairs and then put back together.

since all of that moving nonsense wasn't enough for us we decided to move into our house without our water connected and without the permission of the owner. i know this sounds sneaky, but we had signed our contract one month prior and were still waiting for this fool to get his act together. ridiculously, he gave amalio the keys to let the alarm guy in one day - we took advantage and called the strapping young men and amalio's students to help us move in the next day. we would have moved in that very very day except i had just helped rebecca move out and was pretty tired. besides, our cistern was empty and i refused to move in to a house with no water at all.
i paid this kid 1,000 pesos (about 25 dollars) to fill up our 2500 gallon water tank so we could survive until the water company resolved their problem.

the following day we were ready. all the boxes were packed (mostly) and the boys were ready to carry heavy things. one of amalio's ex-students had access to a flatbed, and since that would be cheaper than hiring a truck, we loaded things up
of course, it made perfect sense to start loading from the back to the front, right? hence the logical packing in the back and haphazard packing in the little bit of space left to them near the front. it took two trips, and each time 10 boys rode around on the back like kings.

we've acquired furniture over the years - we have way more than a bed and some shelves nowadays. not too long ago we got this beautiful tv cabinet from a coworker for a really great price. it took a lot of work to get it into the apartment. i even promised the guys who carried it that i wouldn't move for a long time. alas, two months later, we were trying to get the thing out again!

we've been settled in for about two months now - the house still feels like a wreck and the backyard is finally starting to take shape. it's a beautiful place, and a complete blessing that just fell into our laps unexpectedly. i'll be taking some pictures soon of the yard and the house - but of course, friends are always welcome to come see it for themselves!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


my daughter is a carnivore. she loves meat. seriously, ask her what she wants for lunch. CARNE. or dog food, but that's another post for another day.

meat prices are, i assume, comparable on most levels to meat in the united states. except, that most people in the dominican republic don't make that much money. so. when chicken skyrocketed to about 45 pesos (about 1 dollar) a pound, the country was up in arms. in fact, there was a moratorium on buying chicken. for a day. because realistically, chicken was (and is) still the cheapest meat besides salami.

and dominicans just found out what salami is made out of. 
(really, how did you not know?) sales have plummeted. 
we buy our meat at the supermarket. mostly for convenience. believe me, the supermarket is no cleaner than the butcher. i can pick up the meat that looks nicest and doesn't smell and just take it home. nice. but, we really do prefer to buy fresh meat at the butcher shop. and while we're there, in the market, buy some fresh and cheap vegetables.

it doesn't happen often but it's a dream. i look at the slabs of meat hanging from hooks and say.... give me one that i can put on the grill. or chop some up to make like dominicans do. i'm no good in the kitchen, friends, and even worse at identifying cuts of meat. i know when it's fresh and when it's not. which for me, is about good enough.
the meat is cheaper by a few pesos, and fresher by days. usually, if we plan our trips right, we can get there a few hours after the slaughter and get super-fresh meat. and if i smile nicely, the guy will pasar la por la maquina - so that i don't have to use a hammer at home to soften it up. meat here is, afterall, mostly free range and can be kind of tough.

i'm sure one day one of us will get botulism or some other meat related illness, but to date i've heard more problems from the supermarket meat from the not-so-hygienic butcher meat, so i'm not too worried.

what's your favorite place to get food?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

re-building of a house.

i'm super far behind and crazy backed up on my blog. i know. i'm sorry. but last week i sat down and emptied my little memory chip onto a computer and proceeded to break down the pictures into groups. we're talking photos from july. but, better late than never, right?

right before we moved out of our old place, it was raining. a lot. like every single day. and when it rains like that, streets flood. especially the street we needed to cross to get into our neighborhood. there were many days i was stuck on a kind lady's porch waiting for  the water to subside. mostly because the water wasn't rain water, but overflow from the sewers. gross. i know.

a friend of ours lives on this street. and every single time it rains, her house would flood. this past rainy season was intense, and a few times the house flooded up to the beds. can you imagine your house being inundated with aguas negras?
this summer, she was accepted into a new government program that was supposed to rebuild the house in three days. like many governmental programs however, three days turned into 6 weeks. and, like many other not-very-well-planned-out "do-good" projects, the government planned to rebuild the home without actually raising it up out of the danger zone. 

so, three truckloads of debris was ordered in, money was found (somewhere, who knows?) and a bunch of neighbors chipped in to help fill the foundation of the house.

a few days later we stopped by and the floor was laid (simple cement) but the family was still waiting for windows and doors to be installed. (see? larry allen was here this summer! he's there in that picture!)
i'm sure that in the end all of the house-guarding, not being able to leave and living with two grown children and a baby in a small room for six weeks was worth it. the new house is gorgeous, and even more importantly, out of flood danger.
i had pictures of the finished product - doors and windows installed and painted. but i'm following the lead of the government and doing this in installations. look for more pictures of this house at a later date!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


both jewel and i have been making lists of all the things that we need to blog about. for her, it's a completely new environment, new job, new language. and for me, it's just the good stuff that never really gets old - like the boys trying to install jewel's new ceiling fan with a machete yesterday.

thing is, most of these posts require pictures, and i'd love to have the skills to enrapture you with words - prose so vivid you imagine you're here - i'm not there. at that level.

so for now, a quick wrap-up.

this past weekend i spent sick. really sick.
then i went to work and felt better, but had to call out of the uni because i was so sick again.
tuesday i felt better, but slept a lot. (and then watched the boys hack the ceiling apart)
and today, i'm feeling alive.

pictures soon. promise!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


i've grown used to many many things on the island - from the requisite 1 hour lateness to any social event, to the lack of any kind of formal lines in the corner store. i've even gotten used to the lack of water and come-as-you-please electricity.

but seriously, if one more person comes into my life to disorganize, i might scream.
or punch someone in the face.

i've learned to build up my tolerance walls when it's necessary - to bite my tongue and hold my fingers away from others' eyes.... but often, when i build up my tolerance wall in one area, it crashes down in another.

recently, it's been the mess.
don't get me wrong. i'm not a not-messy person. i work at the dining room table and leave my papers and books there until i get a chance to put them away. it could be days later that my stuff finds its home., but it finds its home eventually. the laundry sits in baskets until there's time, but it does get put away.

and anyway, if you come to my house, please understand i have two children at home, 94 at school and a bunch in the university. add that to all 500 of amalio's teenage BOYS and our house gets a little left behind.

but samil and amely takes showers and brush their teeth everyday. we've got the basics taken care of.

last week i implemented an organization system in the kindergarten classroom - notebooks in piles according to purpose, toys together, blocks in the corner. pretty well labeled and taught to the kids. and then the cleaning woman comes in and decides to clump everything together. in a big huge messy pile. i bit my tongue and re-organized.

and then the next day it happened again.
so i asked. wth. she says "oh i don't know what it is so i just put it away." really? when i don't know what something is, i don't mess with it. but whatever. i let it go.

until i organized the first grade classroom and the teacher, THE TEACHER, disorganized it in three seconds. and then complains about how long it takes her kids to get their notebooks. YES, friend, because they were all separated in piles and then you mixed them all together.

i might be able to handle it. except it happens in our house sometimes, too. our lovely babysitter/cook/cleaner extra-ordinaire moves things, but she knows better than to put away or shuffle... and even better, she knows that if she doesn't know, she doesn't touch.

except. there is a bizarre cultural practice of women who visit wanting to clean. for a long time i took it as an insult. as if my house wasn't clean enough for their presence to bless it, but i realized it's just how it goes. it doesn't get to me as much if i'm at home - but i don't help. if i don't ask you to clean up, don't expect me to stop what i'm doing and pick up a broom, ya know? but.

on sunday i went to church. house completely disheveled but with a plan to knock out all the laundry and put away school papers in the afternoon. imagine my surprise when i get home and the house is spotless. and my SIL sitting on the couch. bite my tongue. go about my business.

i spent the whole day doing what i do, without saying anything to SIL. when i looked for the school uniforms, couldn't find them. some of amely's skirts were in samil's pants drawer, some of samil's pants in amely's shirt drawer. the underwear in every.single.drawer they own - as if their undies drawers were not empty (i'm bad at laundry, folks). i scavenged out what they needed, shoved my fists in my pockets so as not to punch with them and went into my room.

SIL tells me, "I didn't do anything in here because i knew you'd be mad when you couldn't find anything in the morning" WHAT? really? because i just spent 30 minutes looking for my kids' uniforms but thank you for not touching my closet really.

i know i'll get over it. but it's hard when every day since amalio has had to tear the house apart looking for his papers - papers that had been neatly stacked together on the table and have somehow mysteriously been distributed through the house. and perhaps focusing on this is way easier than focusing on some of the sad stuff that happens and we deal with on a daily basis.

one day at a time people. see you soon with pictures!

Friday, September 7, 2012

the thigns that have happened.

on august 20th, we opened our doors to 85 bright and eager students in cienfuegos. a few days later, our "love" school opened for the first time - offering education to 85 haitian children who had never ever studied before. big things have been happening in our neck of the woods.

i knew we'd have some run-ins but i never thought it would be these. 

- a five year old who is well down the road to being expelled. his dad has already been called in twice, and his mother was called to pick him up early today. he's thrown stones and kicked and punched. on tuesday he used a pretty big rock to hit another kid and today dragged a kid through the gravel. sadly, the parents don't seem interested at all in fixing the situation - and when i called his school from last year, the principal told me that they had all kinds of problems, too.

- a three year old who is so aggressive the other kids automatically put up their fists when he comes around.

- parents who are extremely concerned that we're not allowing their kids to take notebooks home. but when we sent them, at least four of those concerned parents didn't bother to make sure they came back. exactly why they aren't allowed to take them home!

- a four year old who was mistaken for a girl for 4 days - his parents have his hair in a ponytail and send him with a pink backpack. it wasn't until the teacher walked in on him in the boys bathroom that we knew for sure he was a boy! when i told his mom she needed to cut his hair, she says she can't, because the father "made a promise" on the boys hair. (more on this ridiculousness in another post).

- a second grade girl slapped across the face by her mother and scratched with her nails. poor girl was then bullied because of it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

back to the grind.

i've got a ton of pictures on my memory stick that i need to upload on here, but this past week has been a juggle just to get out of the door. and mostly missing more important things than my memory-reader. you know, like my cell phone or my wallet or class lists and teacher contracts.

it's been that kind of week.

school started on august 20th and we've  been full steam ahead since then. the summer, which was unkindly short and way too hot, seems so long ago - like a mirage in the rearview mirror. we've since filled out life with visitors, birthday parties, new animals, and school.

oh, school. and everything that implies.

i've ventured into the city far too many times for my liking to pick up undershirts and socks, gym pants and ridiculous class-list items (seriously, a six pack of toilet paper? are my kids equipping the bathrooms of the national police?). i've gone in stores i never knew existed and stores that i love. spent way too much money and still feel like i haven't finished.

and then i go to school and get slapped with families who can't afford one notebook for their kids. who can't go to regular school because they are not documented. who sometimes don't eat on the weekends. and i feel like a brat for complaining about how much my kids need.

because we can get them all they need.

it's been a funny transitional time for me. that leap from richy-richy university professor to director of a school on the side of a landfill. and knowing what is reality for some people is not reality for others.

i plan to keep up with the blog starting next week. i've missed writing here, but i've got so much swimming around in my head that it might be pretty shallow around here for awhile. sorry. hopefully i'll get some sort of equilibrium soon and we'll make the best out of this place!