Tuesday, December 24, 2013

merry christmas

it is chilly and damp in santiago today. 
we braved the supermarket crush this morning - picked up a turkey for tomorrow and amalio waited 45 minutes in a line to get roasted pork, a dominican christmas tradition, for lunch today. 
we've cleaned the house and taken long naps.
tonight we'll eat more roast pork with friends, dance merengue and celebrate the birth of a savior.

tomorrow, the kids will open presents from friends and family and we'll open our home to those brave enough to eat my cooking. 

it's been a good season, shared with friends and family.
merry christmas. may you all be blessed with the spirit of this season!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

santiago at christmas (part 2)

one of my biggest complaints, besides the warm weather, about getting ready for christmas in the dr was that it seemed contrived. and over the top. the christmas trees that i was seeing were fake pines, decorated in a style i can only describe as "boston." like, victorian masterpiece trees. except, that kind of decoration lends well to hot cocoa, scarves and mittens and light dustings of snow.

not shorts, tee-shirts and palm trees.

when we moved from one side of the city to the other, i discovered a more authentic, caribbean christmas. 
i was stopped on my way through the neighborhood by some kids with a bucket asking for money. i wasn't sure what was up, so i gave them a few pesos. the next day, the skeleton of a "tree" was up. over the coming days, garland adorned the wires, then twinkle lights. a graffiti artist painted santa clause on the street, in the middle of the tree. a huge star adorned the top. 

a few days later, as i arrived from work, i noticed that there was an unlikely group of people on the corner. a recycled 10 gallon tin-can was atop a makeshift fire-pit - a few cinder blocks, filled with charcoal bits with an old fan casing resting on the blocks, the can atop the fan. 

i was too embarrassed to ask what was going on. the group was mixed: older grandparent-types, those pesky teenagers and kids. it seemed like the whole neighborhood was present. 
they were making ginger tea. and sharing crackers. and catching up. 
and it happened almost every night until christmas. 

since that first arbolito experience, i've sought out more. the trees in our neighborhood and close by are simple. a way to bring the community to a central meeting point. but there are neighborhoods completely transformed at christmas into wonderlands (next blog post). 

this year:
 this tree caught me by surprise - the neighborhood it's in has never had such an elaborate display before.
 this little stable is at the other end of the same street - paintings on the wall representing jesus, candy canes, candles, santa and christmas bells. 

 the tree lit at night.

i was also pleasantly surprised this year by the light display at the monument, the one tourist attraction in santiago. there has been a carnival in the parking lot for a few weeks that i've been trying to avoid driving by any time the kids are in the car, so i hadn't been by at night. but last weekend, a friend had an event at the theater across the street. 
 the gardens of the theater were lit up in red and blue lights. with the monument as their backdrop, they were splendid. the monument, which hasn't been lit at night for quite some time, was lit and there were even projections of christmas symbols thrown up in the light show.
i love christmas in santiago. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

santiago at christmas (part 1)

at the end of october, you'll start to see make-shift carts pop up all over the city. at first, they are an eye-sore: put together with rustic poles and blue tarps, covered in cardboard boxes. as the cart is loaded up with christmas goodies, it becomes beautiful. the grapes hang from strings, neatly organized bags of gum-candies hang next to the grapes, twisting and turning in the breeze. nuts in transparent plastic boxes next to mounds of red, juicy apples line the table tops. mandarin oranges are strung together on red-plastic clothesline, and regular oranges, already peeled and ready for consumption are stacked on end-tables. it's really quite a sight.

when i first moved here, apples and grapes were only available from november to january. they're imported from chile and are considered a delicacy. some grapes (and strawberries) are grown in the mountain towns of jarabacoa and constanza, but the rest of the island never chills enough for fall fruits. even today, it is hard to get grapes and apples in smaller towns and villages. but, here is santiago, they line the streets for three precious months.

i love this season here - the decorations catch me off guard sometimes, and i only know one christmas villancico to sing during the aguinaldos but i am forever awed by the sense of community and love that comes out at this time of year. there are entire barrios decorated with recycled materials and donate money (next blog post), and even if they aren't mind blowing, an arbolito adorns many an intersection. around this make-shift tree - usually made from wire or pvc pipes, decorated with plastic bags and twinkle lights - people gather to drink ginger tea and catch up. the nights are cool and the lightness of the season shines through.

last year, a group of teenagers woke us up at 5:30 am with christmas carols played on a drum and guira outside of our window. they left us, and headed to school to drink ginger tea and spend time with their
classmates and teachers outside of the classroom.

i made up christmas baskets for the employees at school, and everything i thought to put in the basket was not "what goes in a basket" - apples for the family, a pound of grapes, marshmallows, gum-candy, lollipops and hard candy. we added a few extras (rice, beans, and oil; hand sanitizer in a cute carry-case; nail polish, a bath towel), but it was the christmas specialties that got the most positive reaction. for me, the simplest things in the basket.

Friday, December 20, 2013

so this is christmas...

2013 marks my second dominican christmas.

i know. right? i've been living here, full time, since 2004. but, see, christmas was our holiday. the whole family got together. and it was my grandmom's holiday, and i loved that woman fiercely. there was no being absent from christmas. 

when my grandmom passed away, things changed, as they tend to do, and it was no longer a whole family get together. both my mom's and dad's sides of the families transitioned into something different for christmas. 

i had never spent a christmas with my husband. my kids had never spent christmas with their dad. he had never experienced the joy on their faces as they opened presents. never got to share roasted pig with them, or the morning choralers in the neighborhood. 

last year, it was time. my parents and my brother came, and we did christmas in santiago. it was nice and calm. it wasn't cold, it didn't smell of pine tree. there are a lot of things it wasn't. but it was nice. we hosted a dinner on the 25th for friends and we spent the evening playing dominoes and cards, drinking wine and rum and eating good food. it was pleasant.

this year, my parents can't come. it's my first christmas without them. but, my brother is coming and we're excited for that. 

because we had never really done christmas, and because i was never here, amalio never really bought into decorating. even last year, he thought it was silly. for him, it was a waste of time to take things out, put them up, re-decorate the house and then put it all away again.

you can imagine my surprise when he came home with a bush and told us that is was for the christmas tree. we would spray paint it, and put it in a bucket (lined with pretty paper) and decorate it with lights and garland. i wasn't sold, but katherine, his cousin, got on board... and then jewel got on board, too. we loaded into the car and headed to the store to buy ornaments. katherine wanted a rainbow on the tree. as she put things in the cart, i put them back on the shelf. we got gold lights and ornaments and green garland. 

i still wasn't completely sold on this thing. i mean, it was a bush. 
when we finally decided on the ornaments and lights, we headed home and tried to figure it out. 
slowly, it grew on me. 

it's not a pine tree*, but it is our christmas tree. made with love. and the kids love it.
i did cave, after seeing the two toned tree. when i hit the store later the same week, i picked up some fuschia colored star ornaments for the tree. katherine was in her glory.

*amalio says that the "bush" is actually the seed "carrier" from a palm tree that is now dried out and no longer carries any of the palm seeds. all things considered, i think it is a perfect plant to use to celebrate the birth of a savior who was welcomed and praised by the waving of palm branches. 
the christmas tree is made from that branch
hanging down off of the palm tree. the seeds have
dropped and the branches were dried out by the sun.

we really got amalio into the christmas spirit this year.
we used some of the cut off branches to make center pieces
for the table (a new table! that seats 6! we can all
finally eat at the same table!) our house is definitely christmas-y
this year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

start 'em young.

a few months ago, i wrote about some crazy moto bike situations that i've seen on the island - i'm not always able to get a picture, but i've seen everything from a two men carrying a pig between them, to a family of six riding along. 
 some of the scenarios are funny. some are down right scary. 

the first time i got on a bike was with my brother in law. he drove me up a pretty steep mountain road, and i held on for dear life. 
it was the first time i met him.
i was scared.

in order to prevent that fear in my children we've decided to start training them for moto-bike craziness already. carlitos, a friend of ours, rides his scooter over a few times a week. he usually takes amely to the corner store for potato chips. 

during our thanksgiving dinner, he loaded up all the kids and pushed them around the yard.
not really dangerous, i know. but check out amely's face in this picture. 
she was super happy to be riding along.
she's either not really good at sharing carlitos' attention, or she is not okay with four children on a scooter.

we'll have to keep working on it, i guess!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

and the food.

i love dominican food: rice, beans, chuleta, sancocho, asopao. nelfy, our nanny-cook-housekeeper extraordinaire, is an excellent cook (and i love that i don't actually have to cook), but i get tired of the same thing over and over again.

we eat rice every.single.day.
case in point. this past weekend, we hung out at a friends house. we ate pizza. and breadsticks. and brownies. samil was full. to the brim. belly-ache full.

that night, i went out, and when i called to see if i needed to pick anything up, katherine (amalio's cousin), tells me "samil says he didn't eat anything today, so i made him dinner."

um, what?

when i got home, i asked him why he lied to katherine. he said he didn't lie. "mom, i didn't eat any rice today at all."

his dad is the same.exact.way.
for more background on this phenomenon, check out this blog post, no food allowed in the fridge, on the peanut-butter and jelly blog.

when i first moved here in 2004, it was hard to get away from dominican food. imported food was cost-prohibitive, and restaurants were few and far between. the market for different flavors has grown, though, and little eateries have sprouted up all over santiago.

to say that i'm happy about this is an understatement.
many of these places are still out of my price range - especially with a 26% restaurant tax - but i've found some real gems: the adventist-run, vegetarian cafeteria in the city, a vegetarian, asian-fusion place close(ish) to the university, an amazing sub shop, casa bader, there is even a lebanese/turkish place right.next.door to a favorite pizzeria. OH! and a pizzeria with real, real pizza.

 this gem of a place was an accidental find. it's called (i think) el castillo de avena or something else healthy sounding. it's in the plaza paseo on the 27 de febrero. i was making a baby shower registry (not for me) at a store in the mall and we came here for yogurt. delicious. their yogurt is made in-house, topped with fresh fruit and honey and cheap. i've been back a few times, and i'm stuck on their babaganous and pita bread, but i tried a lentil fruit salad last time i was there and it was excellent. (also, fresh, natural fruit juice).
 this place. jewel and i had heard about this pizza place on the internets, and i had heard some positive reviews from co-workers. we definitely underestimated the popularity of monchi's pizzeria and planned to just pop in and out. we waited 45 minutes for our pizzas, but it was so worth it. it was real. authentic. pizza. not pizza hut. not dominoes. it was also much cheaper than the american chain stores. *next to JFK Language Institute in the city center.
one of my favorite splurge/comfort food places is TGIFridays. i'm not in love with their food, but they have decent burgers, relatively, and now they have cheap drinks and meal deals. this is the most expensive place with the least quality of food, but it's a little taste of americana. also, it is much better than the hooters that last five minutes in santiago.

i am by no means a foodie. but also on the list: yaway subs - decent sandwiches, good price, nice owners (villa olga). sushi ya (los jardines). la guarnacha - mexican cuisine (los jardines). naturalis te - veggie asian fusion (reparto coquette). the veggie asian place in las colinas mall. and square one for convenience.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

oh, the controversy.

i've been avoiding any serious conversations lately - especially professionally mostly because there are only two real things to talk about. the haitian immigration "situation" and the new, gay ambassador from the usa.

both controversial.
for me, though, only one is worthy of conversation.
i don't really care about wally the ambassador with a husband.

in fact, in the height of such a real problem, i cannot wrap my head around so much time and energy being dedicated to gossip about an ambassador. 

every morning on my drive to work, i flip through the radio stations looking for music. it's hard, because most of the stations are talk radio in the morning. and most want to talk about how dominicans are not racist, how dare anyone accuse us of that? even the united states deports undocumented people! and speaking of the united states, what about this guy with his husband! we don't really have to accept that do we?

the other day, i got unwittingly called into a conversation about the new ambassador. i wasn't witty or snide in my response, and i kind of regret that a little. because, wally brewster has a great vision for the american embassy in the dominican republic and is obviously very worthy of the posting. i couldn't really care any less about some ambassador. the embassy here has never been helpful to me, nor has it been easy to do anything we need to do. i don't think that this ambassador or any other is going to change policies to treat american citizens a little more respectfully. **

it is not, however, lost on me that the church is the number one opposition to his appointment. to me, the whole controversy surrounding a homosexual american is revolting. because while the church shouts, "we hate you! no faggots in our country!" on the news, church leaders are still waiting in line for visas to visit the very country they are protesting. we hate progressive liberals! but let us in your gay-loving country! 

it is a common misconception that the american embassy is available to american citizens for help. there are horror stories (my own included) of the disrespect shown by low-level state department employees toward ex-pats throughout the world. when samil was born, we had an appointment to declare him on the day of a hurricane. the consulate was the only business open on a day of a hurricane. if it wasn't for some help from some congresspeople in pennsylvania, we might have had to wait months to reschedule. after all, it was my fault that we missed our appointment. i also showed up once to pick up paperwork only to find that the staff had decided to take the day off. without notice. 

i did have a very, very helpful encounter this summer with a consul. samil's passport was expired and i needed to get back to the states. he gave me the benefit of the doubt, and stuck around a little later than usual to get the passport to me on time to travel. i wish i knew his name because he was the exception to the rule. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

threat to justice.

in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, the dominican republic was ruled by a tyrant. you may know him if you're familiar with caribbean history, but he was not nearly as famous as his central american counterparts. julia alvarez brought his reign of terror a little more into the light with her book (later made into a movie), "In the Time of the Butterflies."
nearly 250 haitian students study in our
schools. some are documented. some are not.

trujillo was a terrible man - he ran the country with an iron fist: killing those who opposed him, robbing those he deemed too rich and raping women who denied him. but, most accounts leave out his most atrocious deed - the mass killing of haitians living in the dominican republic. 

there is a deep and troubled history on this island - one that goes back to the original colonists raping the island, divvying it up for the kingdom of god (and queen isabella). it is sad and sordid. and the tensions that existed then, exist still. 

there is no easy way to sum up hundreds of years of hatred and fear.
and in order to understand the problems that this island is facing today, it is necessary to understand a little bit of the history. and i don't have that for you. 

what i have, is an incomplete, outsider's understanding of two groups of people who have been taught to fear and hate each other. some of it is systematic and institutionalized. some of it is personal. all of it is frightening.

in the past few months, the dominican government passed a new law deeming any child born to non-dominican parents un-documentable in this country. the law is fair, as all sovereign nations have the right to make and enforce laws that they see fit. immigration is a significant problem and this law seeks to reduce some of the problems associated with immigrants. what is bizarre about the law is that it is retroactive to the year 1929. 

any child born since 1929 to illegal immigrants are no longer considered dominican citizens.
we are now stripping human beings of citizenship to the only country they have ever known, denying them the basic human right of documentation. 

social justice groups around the world have risen up. it's an embarrassment to the world! it's a shame! it's ridiculous! how dare those dominicans? how dare those haitians?

church service in creole.
and while the social justice groups argue amongst themselves and the news reporters wax poetic on a subject they really don't understand - children are being pulled from schools. adults are hiding in their houses. the reverse rush across the border is intense. 

people are scared.
real. live. people. both dominican and haitian. frightened for their futures. wondering what all of this hatred might lead to.

it was not all that long ago that trujillo pulled a similar stunt. except, instead of veiling it in constitutional legalese, he called on the citizens of this great nation to kill their brothers and sisters. the test, to prove that "light skinned haitians" and "darker skinned dominicans" were not lost, was to have them say perejil. it is the spanish word for parsley and difficult for creole speakers to pronounce. if they failed the parsley test, they were most likely slaughtered. conservative estimates for the parsley massacre are 20,000 dead in less than five days. 

as long as we continue to teach our children fear - fear of things that are different, fear of differences that really just don't exist - we will continue to see laws put into action that allow us to continue to live in fear. we will just perpetuate hatred, because, after all, hatred springs from fear. 

violence against haitians, especially in regions close to the haitian/dominican border, has escalated since the court ruling to uphold this law. at least one haitian man was lynched, supposedly while authorities watched on impotently. however, i urge you to be careful of news reports that are over-dramatic representations of what is happening. several articles were published on cnn ireport that were outright fabrications. check facts. 

a beautifully written book about the parsley massacre can be found here (though i am sure there are more. and of course, julia alvarez's in the time of the butterflies is a nice story about the overthrowing of trujillo). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

urban menagerie.

we live in a fairly urban neighborhood. i mean, i don't really know what qualifies for urban anymore - since suburban doesn't really quite exist here - but i'd qualify us as fairly urban, nonetheless. houses are pretty close to each other, we have mostly reliable public services and bad roads. a decent amount of traffic passes through.  we know some of our neighbors and i feel safe with the kids riding their bike in front of the house. public transit is a short walk to the corner.
we definitely do not live in the campo

our backyard is filled with animals that most north americans associate with farming. we have chickens and roosters, quails. there are some morning doves and, now, two cockatoos. we have a dog, and there are cats that come to visit fairly frequently. 

just the other day, on my way to work, i saw two men leading two, humongous hogs down the avenue. i really want to snap a photo, but i was driving and i'm learning how to be better at paying attention to the road and not taking pictures.

these two love birds hung around for awhile. i think amalio caught them at some point and then released them.
this is chicken-chicken who was tragically murdered by a cat not too long ago and some of her many babies.
we had rabbits for a few days, but they were ill and died pretty quickly. i guess that's what you get when you buy a rabbit from the butcher.

what has been most impacting for me is the amount of horses in our immediate area. our yard is large, but definitely not large enough to maintain a horse. there are quite a few horses that walk up and down our street on a regular basis and a donkey that is often "parked" in front of school.

this is a video i took at school of an impromptu horse race. boggles my mind every time.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

we don't have seasons here.

2013 was an incredibly busy year. from january to may, i worked every.single.day at two different and (very) distinct jobs. it was like hell on earth and i'm glad it's over. the remember that awesome semester, i have an extra 30 pounds of empanadas and other fast foods because most days i just didn't have time to sit down and eat a real meal.

that over, we moved into summer, way less busy but far more frustrating. so, i picked up and went to the states with my kids. we spent three glorious weeks doing everything and nothing at all. it wasn't necessarily relaxing, but it was just what my soul needed.

to be fair, the fall of 2013 hasn't been terribly busy. i work a little bit less, and am not running from one job to the next. but it's still hard to find time for everything. you know what i mean?

every year i try to purge the house of unnecessaries. i usually do it in the spring. because, even though there aren't four distinct seasons, the anglo-nuance of "spring cleaning" is ingrained in me. spring is a time for renewal, and what better way to renew than throw away all of your garbage?

we purge for various reasons. one. we have kids and i don't know how, but their crap multiplies. i swear, i don't know the last time i bought something for my children, yet, their toybox is overflowing. two. for what it's worth, it seems unfair to have stuff just sitting around just in case. (don't misunderstand, though, i am a packrat at heart, and have things that i am physically unable to part with).

because spring didn't happen. i've made a list and have been fall cleaning the house. if i don't finish soon, i guess it will be winter cleaning, and then perhaps it wouldn't even be a "2013 purge."

here are some things we'll be doing (and by we, i mean my minions mostly):
donating non-fitting clothes and shoes, and toys that are no longer played with
throwing away old papers (two teachers in a house, y'all)
throwing away old medicines and organizing closets
cleaning "baseboards" and window frames
scrubbing bathrooms and cleaning out drains

and my favorite dominican republic chore (::sarcasm::)

i break the list apart and we do a little at a time over two or three weeks. today the kids scrubbed the tiled walls in the kitchen and the sides of the stove and i did the windows and baseboards in the dining room. we also kind-of decorated for christmas.

super tedious. and i hate it while it's happening, but in the end i feel better. and who doesn't want to feel better at christmas??

Monday, November 18, 2013

how i fill my days

i wish i had a picture of our first year. we only had 23 students, and our building was just that - one little building, 1 floor with 4 classrooms and an office. we now have 115 students, two stories with 9 classrooms and a huge "meeting hall", a kitchen and dining area and 10 people on staff.
i am in love.

but this is seriously the hardest job i've ever had in my life. 

this year i've had to draw some pretty definite boundaries in my life. i've learned to say no. i've learned to be strong and direct. and i've learned more compassion than ever.
i've also learned just how blessed i am.

we now have a government code for our school, and we're working on becoming even more legal (yeah, i don't get that either). we are writing curriculum and training teachers and nurturing these treasures.
i spend a lot of time in the office, and not nearly enough time in the classrooms. but i feel productive. and i feel like the future really is bright because of the work we're doing.
i also spend a lot of time in the street. and visiting people. and i know that sounds like i waste a lot of time. but some of the most improvements we've seen in students come from these relationships - whether i've fomented them or a teacher has. getting parents involved is so important.
this week i spent a bunch of my time in the local public hospital - we had a slew of children in and out of overnight-care with respiratory and digestive issues (residual effects of living next to a landfill) and moms who just needed a little pick me up while they waited to see the pediatricians. i also found out that one of my university students is doing her practical hours in dentistry at our hospital, so i stopped by to see her as well.
these two little guys are "ours" by default - on the left was in the belly when we first met him and his mom took a pre-natal class with us. his cousins come to school. on the right was also still in utero when we met. we are praying hard for this family - baby girl is in the hospital because she's dehydrated, possibly slightly malnourished. a friend mentioned that she didn't even recognize mom the other day because she has lost so much weight. 

if you can, keep our students in your thoughts and prayers. as the weather here gets cooler, and the landfill starts to burn more, we will see many more respiratory infections.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

at the car wash, yeah.

the roads close by school are not paved. when it rains, it's like one giant mudslide ride to get to work in the morning - with my fingers crossed that i don't get stuck. 
my husband likes for me to get the car washed every week, but i don't have time for that. because, see, the car wash is not an easy deal here - it's not a "put your car in neutral and don't brake" kind of country. it's a "get out, go get a beer, sleep with a hooker and maybe we'll be finished when you're done" kind of country.
for $150 pesos, less than five US dollars, i can get my car washed and detailed. 
this is usually okay and i go once or twice a month and get the car washed. i always run out of patience, but i always get a nice, clean car for cheap.
except, it's been raining something fierce here lately, and my tires the other day were caked in mud. even i was embarrassed. unfortunately, i didn't have time to really go to the carwash, so someone sent me to the "automatic place by the high school." 

i was so excited. i thought i was going to slide right in and get on with my day.

i pulled in and these guys - dressed in basketball uniforms of all things - told me to get out so they could vacuum the car. and... while i'm grateful they did that, it wasn't in my plan. it also wasn't my plan to have to get out of my car. i wanted to pull up to a window, pay, and then put my car in neutral. no thinking. no moving. 
not happening. i got out for the boys to vacuum, and of course, i had to pay. 

it is already christmas in the dr. it's been christmas since the end of september.
i paid. a whopping $150 pesos, the same i would have paid for the intense cleaning somewhere else, but this is automatic, right? it should be fast.

once i got back in the car, i watched as some other guys in basketball uniforms scrubbed down the truck in front of me. so far, i'm thinking that this is the same service as the regular service, and i'm getting antsy. now, i can't even get out to get a beer. or a hooker. because this is the automatic carwash 

finally, while the guys scrub down my car, i notice the rails on the floor as that frontier puts his car in neutral and doesn't brake! yes! finally something i understand! unfortunately, when i get my car on to the rails, the electricity goes out and i have to wait for them to kick up the generators. welcome to the dr

finally, at the very end, i get out of my car again as new gentlemen in basketball duds shammy-cloth my car dry and dust the dashboard.

i won't complain too much, i was in and out in about 30 minutes - which is way shorter than the usual wash and detail. i wasn't late for any meetings. and i only had to pay $150 pesos. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

oh, the sun!

i've been taking the kids to this new little playground by our house on our free afternoons. it's great, because before i had to drive all the way across the city to get to a decent playground, but this one - while not perfect - is so close, closed in and 5 minutes away.

this afternoon we went - there wasn't any electricity at our place, and it was like 100 degrees with no air flow. the kids ran straight for the swings. in the sun. at 3 pm.

and in all my american-ness, i didn't think a thing of it.
i spread out my students' most recent essays on a bench, and started to grade. i got a little lost in my highlighting and commenting, i guess, and my kids... wait for it.

were in the sun!

"lady! are those your kids? they're in the sun. they might get sweaty."

please forgive me this... but i pretended to not speak spanish. for real.

and then, about 15 minutes later, a woman walked in with her pre-schooler and an elderly woman, whom i assume was her mother. she looks around hesitantly and reads the signs conveniently located on all of the toys telling the appropriate ages.

"son, the swings for you are over there. but they're in the sun. have a seat on the bench."

that's right.
she sat that kid down and made him watch the rest of the kids play, because the swings were in the sun.
why did you even come to the park at 3pm on a saturday?

the elderly woman then looked at my kids. oh my, look how rubio, white, and blonde! look how delicate! dona, you should be ashamed of yourself, having those children in the sun like that -

they might turn brown.

and i have so much to say about that. but i don't even know how to put it into words. it's a common commentary for us - we are lucky that we have white babies, that amely is blonde. and we should always prevent them from playing too long in the sun - at the park, on the beach, in the campo - because the worst thing in the world is not being dominican, it's being brown skinned.

and i'm done.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

sights around town.

i've been pretty slack on the blog in the past few months --- but i swear! i do always keep it in my mind, and i take pictures a lot, thinking that i should update this thing. 
so. here are some of the things i see around town (some on a regular basis, some... yeah, not so much)
in the spring, it rains. and rains. and rains.
this year, we were getting killer rainbows every other day. 

i'm not sure what to point out in the picture. you'll obviously note the men sitting on top of the sacks. there are four total. what i can also point out, is that the truck is completely lopsided. i see this all of the time, and i'm so scared to drive next to trucks like this. this one is small, but they're often huge trucks, loaded up with paja de arroz, rice hay.

this picture was taken on the corner of my house. that big black cloud is the landfill burning about 1.5 miles back -- and just a few "blocks" from our school. the burning is not usually this visible, but it is always present. our students breathe this crap every. single. day.

a few weeks ago, i took the bus to visit the rousculps in san francisco de macoris. it's not a terribly long ride - about an hour - and it is absolutely beautiful rice country. the kids fell asleep, and i just kept clicking my camera to pass the time. 
i snapped this shot by sheer luck -- from a bus window going 60 mph down the highway. 

on my way to work one afternoon, i was slowed down by this. i'm not completely sure what happened - just that that SUV was pulled over and the driver and passengers were told to get out, while about 6 armed soldiers pointed guns at them.

ambulant-merchants are still very common in the dominican republic - even in the cities. people walk around carrying everything from fruits and vegetables to toilet paper on their heads. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

a much needed respite.

a few weekends ago, the kids and i - along with marcy, futuro lleno de esperanza's intern - headed to baitoa, a campo just outside of santiago where jewel lives. 

i've been meaning to make this trip since jewel arrived back in the country in september, but i'm lazy.
i just couldn't seem to tear myself away from santiago long enough. but since this is my tenth year living in the DR, i made a deal with myself to actually see the country. 

so we went.
and i am so glad that we did.
the weekend that we went followed a pretty atrocious week at school.
i deal with a lot of crazy on a daily basis - and sometimes i forget that i need to get away from that. the month of october was particularly wicked. i'm glad it's over.
 look at that view.
i took this picture standing on jewel's front porch. she has a nice set-up - she lives on a piece of land owned by some north americans who love this place. there are three houses - each owned by a different family - and a ton of land. the houses serve as short-term mission housing for groups, vacation homes for the families and homes for short-(and long) term mission volunteers.

the land is absolutely beautiful.
i had had a pretty intense craving for s'mores. we had bags of marshmallows at school, leftover from a mission group and each time i looked at them, i wanted a s'more. my kids had never eaten s'mores.
baitoa seemed like a good place to introduce them.
we were going to do them for real on a fire, but we're lazy (see this recurring trait?)
so we just roasted the marshmallows on the stove.

they were a hit!

the kids played and played and played. they enjoyed the fresh air of the campo and the were crazy with the freedom to run around. 

there was a dead tarantula outside of the house. samil wanted nothing to do with it, but amely was pretty interested. those things are nasty.

there is beauty in this place.
sometimes i need to step away to remember that.