Wednesday, February 27, 2013

makin' money!

this semester i took four classes at the university. to be honest, it's been stressful. and long. and i'm really tired. but, i get a paycheck that is excellent, and we have some plans that we'd need some extra money to execute.

the exhaustion is... well, it's exhausting. i crawl into bed at 9pm and pull myself out of bed in the morning. i'm counting down the days until the end, and a much needed break.

but, i'm reminded every single day that i've got it easy. i go to work, sit in an office, walk around, play with kids, do some paperwork, deal with not-always-so-nice people, then go to my next job and teach semi-adults - in air conditioning! and every single day i get to see the fruits of this labor - from kids writing their own names for the first time ever, to my university students preparing amazing, deep and grammatically correct stories.

when i get in a concho and complain that it's hot and uncomfortable i see a man walking down the street, pushing a coconut cart - uphill. or an icecream salesman trying to control a rickshaw - downhill.


construction is pretty antiquated here. i don't know why. i don't really care, because it's pretty cool to watch buildings going up - with twigs and tree branches as support. today, we were playing at the park and i caught this guy - working on a holiday! - using a pulley to lift buckets of cement to his partner on the fifth floor of this new apartment building.
i saw him disappear a few times to refill - on the other side of the building - then connect the bucket and pull. teaching in air conditioning doesn't seem so hard.
toilet paper is a necessity for everyone, yes? luckily, if you happen to run out, chances are someone will walk down the street selling rolls. no lie. and if that isn't a crappy enough job, there is little to no return on toilet paper sales. a tp salesperson might, maybe, quizas make 3 dollars a day. but every morning, they grab the mega packs and start walking. taking a concho to work isnt' so bad anymore.

there are so many things to complain about, but really, i've got it good. i love my job(s). while it's stressful and frustrating at times, it's not backbreaking or low-paying. here's to focusing on the positive!

Friday, February 22, 2013

back to giving.

last year i wrote some reflections on giving during lent. i had, and still do, struggled with what was the "right way" to give. money, food, clothes.


and, to be honest, my reflection stopped just about when lent was over. and even though begging and pleading and money-jars are thrust at me, i pushed my conflict to the back of my mind and stopped trying to figure it out.

until a few weeks ago a windshield washer, who i explicity told not to wash my windows, tried to wash my car windows. when i told him to stop, he took it personally.

"when we beg, you all hate us. when we steal, we're wrong. when we try to work for a living, you still won't help us."

the kid couldn't have been older than 16. he went on and on about how hard his life is and how difficult people make it for him.

and, it killed me. eventhough he was working to make a living, he couldn't force me to support him. my windows were clean and you can't mandate that people accept your services if they don't need them. and yes, i felt bad for him. he was out, late at night, washing windows trying to make money. no kid should have to put their life in danger to get a few bucks.

and that's what it is. no kid should have to do that.
i didn't feel bad for that particulary boy - his obstinance made me want to get out of the car and punch him in the face - but for all of the boys washing windows late at night. or shining shoes . or selling toilet paper door-to-door.

because kids should be in classrooms, not on street corners. they should be supported and loved by their families.

and sometimes. a lot of times, that's just not reality.
i could give every kid some pesos each time i see them working, but it's not going to fix their problem. it's not going to take them off of the street and into homes filled with people who have time and energy to spend with them. it's not going to make their lives any different than it already is.

the past few weeks have been packed. i'm busy, i'm tired, i'm bothered. i even landed myself in the emergency room on monday morning with shortness of breath and a good scare. and over and over again i've been faced with and reminded of the need that others around us has; pressed with how little that i, one lonely individual, can do to make it all better.

but, i've been reminded in all of this, that we are not alone. and that if we work together we can spark the motivation in others to do something as well. and just because 5 pesos seems like nothing, or my windows don't really need to be cleaned and i can't fix it all, 5 pesos might buy a snack to fill a belly, or pay for a pill that a family member needs. and my 20 minutes devoted to helping someone in need multiplied by all of the 20 minutes of everyone around us add up to a lot of time helping others.

this lenten season i've refocused and decided to meditate this all again. it's important to me. to settle my mind and look for direction with how to help, how to serve and how to share.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

pollito pio

we've got some new additions to our home - eight new additions to be exact.

see, when we moved into the house this past summer, we divided the chores (amalio takes care of the yard, i take care of the house) and with it came the argument of animals. since amalio got the backyard, he decided he could have chickens. but i couldn't have a dog. he'd be stuck cleaning up the dog poop, and apparently chicken poop's not a big deal.

michael and maikito
i did get the dog, who was stolen from our yard only four months in. i'm still really sad about it. but almost ready to get a new dog. and amalio got some chickens.

for some reason i failed to calculate the baby-making possibilities here, so when i approved 3 chickens, i figured we'd have three chickens.

three have multiplied.. they're like bebe's kids.

mickey (recently eaten by a cat) had three babies that the kids and jewel named henny penny, bambi and brownie. they're now huge, and ready to be eaten. not by cats. by people. and just not in my house. seriously? we gave them names.

michael (named after michael jackson before i knew she was a hen) hatched an egg about three weeks ago. samil christened her baby maikito. he's not that original. it's like calling the baby mikey, but in spanish.

chicken-chicken and her chickies
and just three days ago, chicken-chicken got herself eight babies. soon after the chickies were dry, amely informed us that chicken-chicken talked to her and told her all those babies were for amely to name. she hasn't thought of one single name yet.

chicken-chicken and henry (the rooster and proud pop to all those babies) are a super small breed of chickens, so the chick-a-dees are seriously the size of ping pong balls.

any suggestions for the baby names? leave some comments and help amely out!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

celebrate love.

i have now been camera-less since september. i'm pretty good at stealing pictures from other people's phones, cameras, ipads, whatever. but i've been negligent lately. i'm sorry. in order to make up for some text-heavy posts, i'm going to throw some valentine's day lovin' at you - in just a minute.

this school year has been a crazy journey - we want to change the way things work in education in this country. and, we knew that there were going to be struggles and tension and pressure and hard times. it's true. and i prepared myself mentally for that. except, i prepared myself for some crazy problems that have never emerged, and failed to imagine the problems i've encountered.

on more than one occasion i made the decision that this year would be the last.

and then god intervened, like he frequently does, and showed me, ever so subtly, that no. this is a long-term project and though the fruits be slow in ripening, he's assured me that they will in fact ripen. and since he is an amazing god, he gave hope - just enough signs to remind me who is in control.

yesterday, jewel, our missionary teacher, posted this blogpost. we want these kids to love reading, to love learning and to love god. (not necessarily in that order). and after starting the year with kids who couldn't sit still long enough to listen to a story, the kindergarten class begs for books!

williams learned to write his name.

our cook has shown such a heart of service and ministry - offering of herself and her pockets, eventhough she is in no economic situation to do so. i am blessed by her aris can't read or write, had 10 kids before the age of 30 and still finds time to bless others. amazing.

as we ran out of kids' vitamins, i kind of freaked out. we didn't have money in the budget to buy more, and we have a number of kids who need vites. i applied for some through our mail service, and despite never, ever getting a "high-desire" product from the donation list, we received enough vitamins for the entire school for about 2 months!

and! we received enough pencils and crayons to provide for our school and our other centers. we also got some white shower curtains - which, to be honest, we had no idea what to do with. jewel hunkered down with pinterest and google and found some awesome kinesthetic learning games that were a big hit at our party today!
and during our valentine's party today, two of the teachers finally saw centering in action and were inspired. hopefully we can transform that inspiration into action to enhance learning.

and, some of this "new-fangled" education is catching on with our teachers, and one finally, i think, understood today what centering looks like! finally! and differentiated learning. i am more than excited.

and now... the pictures of the cutest kids ever: (besides mine... because i'm their mom, afterall)

Monday, February 11, 2013

one point five million

i'm so amazed by so many of the misconceptions of what life is like in the usa. money falls from the sky and the streets are paved in gold, and, for many, life is always easy street. being from the grand ole yu-es-of-eh means that i know it's not true. and having wandered enough with immigrants, i know it's even less true for so many latinos.

when i teach my university students, i try to find tricky ways to open their eyes to things they might not have the chance to see in their other courses. things like poverty that exists in their own backyards, women's issues, and yes, sometimes i need to break it to them that money is mostly hard to earn and easy to lose.

today, we did a salary comparison activity. the students get a list of ten fairly common professions and they have to put them in order from highest paid to lowest paid. and then, the fun part, they have to guess what these professions earn in the u.s.

overwhelmingly their lists look like this:

basketball player - $10,000,000
CEO - 3,000,000
pilot - 1,500,000
doctor - 1,000,000
lawyer - 900,000
police officer - 150,000
farmer - 100,000
nurse- 95,000
teacher - 75,000
supermarket cashier - 10,000

i don't know what this illuminates more - the sheer ignorance of what professionals are worth (in any country!) or the depressing contrast of rich and poor that exists in their own lives and culture.

when i ask students why they chose their major, i'm saddened that almost none are studying because they are passionate or interested in their studies. either, "my dad has a company and he wants me to work with him." or "my mom told me this is a good way to make money" or "this is the best way to get rich." and when i bump into people after graduation, many are disillusioned with their jobs - believing mostly that they deserve more money even though they have no experience. and, of course, the aim is to reach the states eventually.

and now i know why.

seriously, one point five million for a pilot? the reality looks more like fifty thousand. unless you're flying beyonce's plane. and while i sincerely believe that teachers deserve 75,000 and more, it's not even close to reality for new teachers. and the poor supermarket cashier who makes pennies? that's because, they tell me, she didn't study and doesn't deserve a better salary.

i don't think this attitude is going anywhere - but until then, i'll keep slippin' in the truth, knockin' down the un-true dream and hoping they get it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

friday night.

it's been awhile since we've gotten out for real. and last week i had made some tentative plans to go bowling with my (i don't know what to call them... bosses? coworkers? friends? all of the above?) and to be completely honest when friday rolled around i was so tired and not really feeling dragging the kids to a bowling alley without amalio. luck would have it that the university he has been subbing at didn't need him this week! so we decided to meet at the alley at 7:30.

the kids loved it. i bowled a 12 or some other terrible score that would embarrass my dad (hi dad!). even amalio who has bowled twice in his life did better than me. i think jewel and "la pastora" won.

this year i adopted the word "share" as my word - and part of that for me, means actually, you know sharing. so we're hoping to get out more to share some fun times with each other, as a family and with friends.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


i've been working really hard to find ways to really engage my university students this semester. mostly it's to allow them the opportunity to take initiative with their language learning, but it's also just way more interesting for me as a teacher to facilitate their conversations, than "teach" them what they need to know. (don't get me wrong, we spend a lot of time doing really guided and structured activities... but we're working on branching out).

we had a debate in class this week, where the men had to convince the women that their gender would obviously be much better at traditionally female jobs. and vice versa. they argued that men could be better housekeepers because they can lift and move furniture with ease and that women would be better architects because they have a better eye for style. the nurse should be a man because he could lift heavy patients, and if a woman had to see vomit or poop or blood, she'd pass out.

and one of the girls responded so well that even the boys gave her the point. (use your imagination)


amely has decided that her name is santa. or princess. and sometimes princess santa. she got a princess tutu for christmas and loves to wear it with leg warmers and and tap shoes and dance to gangnam style on amalio's phone. she also loves dembow - a degraded form of spanish rap. horrid stuff. she wiggles her butt and shakes her head.

samil on the other hand has adopted the pelvic thrust dancing combined with fits of giggling.


yesterday and today i was able to help translate for a medical mission group that is here in santiago. i remembered how much i dislike translating for medical operatives, but at the same time was renewed in service. so many times we lose focus, or get discouraged, or feel isolated. this group is so dedicated and has served so many people so far and all with smiles on their faces and a spirit of serving. it was and is what i needed this week and this semester. a little reminder that we're not alone in our heart for this community. but seriously, if one more person begs me for a condom they're never going to use just because their pink, green and blue, i'll poke my own eyes out.


i keep trying to plan an impossible trip to the states. sola. the justice conference in philly is the most attractive to me (because it's the justice conference. with shane claiborne, brenda salter-mcneil and john perkins). and the first weekend in may looks nice because it's a long one here. and there are a few other conferences or events that i just need to be at. unfortunately it's probably not going to happen.

however, we have some pretty high hopes (and solid statistics that back up our hope) that amalio will be granted a tourist visa to visit the states with us this summer. (if you're a pray-er, please pray for this!) and i guess that would be better than travelling by myself.

here's wishing you a less hectic week than the one i'm having!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

books galore.

i have these friends, and if you've read the blog at all and click on links, you've probably made their way to their blog at some point. they're pretty amazing. and my kids think their kids are awesome.

rebecca and i met shortly after she and her husband, josh, arrived in santiago. we worked together for one semester at the university. and now it's like, friends forever.

we like people who come to the island to do things. and who are invested in changing the face of the world. because, really, who doesn't love people like that? we and the rousculps have tons in common, josh and i love chocolate chip cookies and rebecca makes the best (even amalio who doesn't do cookies loves them... but pretend like i didn't tell you  that, because he denies eating them when they're in the house). i like to do crafty things and rebecca supports my addiction (and is the co-founder of poderosa mujer).

this summer, josh and rebecca (along with their offspring, max and zora) moved to san francisco de macoris. it was sad for us. but, santiago is inundated with human resources and... san francisco? not so much. now, after a few months of checking the place out, the rousculps are ready to launch a program that is near to my and amalio's hearts' as well.

in the dominican republic, libraries are basically non-existent. those that exist are geared toward college students, for research purposes. if you ask a child what is their favorite thing to read, they'll likely respond with some sort of school subject - history, civics - because they have been so infrequently exposed to books that they haven't discovered the joy of reading for fun. quality learning toys are scarce as well. education, in general, is dismal. the act of reading to enhance your life is unknown.

it's cultural. it's economic. it's social.
my home-city has been losing public libraries left and right. because somehow, even though there are resources and knowledge that books are important, some big important people have decided that books are no longer that important. and most people don't even care.

meanwhile. people are fighting for libraries. begging for libraries throughout the world.
and because books are really important. and reading can change lives. and those words printed on a page can open up a world that we never knew existed, the rousculps are opening a library. in a community that wouldn't otherwise be exposed to the joys of imagination.

check out their indiegogo campaign, follow them on facebook. the biblioteca comunitario doctor william house is going to do amazing things!

Friday, February 1, 2013

no longer an illegal.

on morning i began the final phase of my long journey to dominican citizenship.
it's been a road, let me tell you, of ups and downs and waiting. lots of waiting. and frustration and happiness and hope.
i've dragged (drug?) my feet on this final step (no pun intended) for many reasons. mostly, i was scared that, because this process had been so (relatively) cheap so far, it was going to cost me an arm and a leg. there are always hidden fees. or a bribe. or some ridiculous trick at the end.
when i was informed that all government service fees would be increased beginning on february first, i jumped in the car and flew to the junta. because if it was an arm and a leg before, it would cost my first born child after friday. of course, in true dominican fashion, the one employee capable of doing my process doesn't work on mondays. could i please return on tuesday at two?
tuesdays in the pm don't work for me. but i'll be by on wednesday morning, k?
Wednesday rolls around, and, yes!, man-child is available. even better? he's got my paper already finished. except it's got a mistake and now we need to wait for his boss to authorize the change. no sweat, he and his cubicle mate were super nice and i got the low down on all the crazies that visit: mothers who are "looking for" their kids' birth certificates but don't know when they were born; a man wanting to know if his wife divorced him without his knowledge; the grandmother who came in to declare her 12 year old grandchild because the mother just never bothered to do it.
once the boss-man signed off on the letter change, i was sent to the printer to collect my new birth certificate and then i was sent outside to wait in a line. when i got to the counter, i was told i was missing our original marriage certificate. please wait in that line over there. nine people later i was given a fake certificate and sent to another line where i'd get the real thing and pay (more money).
i then re-waited the original line, was given permission to proceed and sent to the final step: cedulacion. i waited awhile, then was sent to the data entry point where a very nice lady took my information even though it was already on her screen and written on a piece of paper on her desk, but, whatever. i then fingerprinted and electronically signed. she sent me to the printer to pick up my own piece of paper, gave me a pen to sign and sent me to her boss.
who then proceeded to argue that this poor lady did the wrong process. that i wasn't possibly a new dominican citizen, and how dare she have entered all of that information without permission. and, no! you cannot vote in our country, that is reserved for people who pay taxes! how dare you, american girl!, assume that you get a real id card.
she was obviously having a bad day. so i headed back to my new friend at the front of the building who so graciously told me stories just a few hours before. crossing my fingers for grace, he was free! and he marched himself back to crazy-boss-lady to explain, after telling his mommy that he loves her and blowing her kisses no lie, that i was in fact a new citizen. and no, my parents aren't dominican. and yes, sometimes it's not a horrible thing to live here.
and just when i thought we were finished, she printed out this gem complete with seventeen last names and told me i'd be ready to go.... in a month. the government doesn't have any plastic to actually print the id cards, so i'll head back on february 28 and finally, finally be eligible for direct deposit (most important!) and medical insurance.
i am planning to write a blog post summarizing the whole process, so if you're interested, stay tuned!