Friday, May 31, 2013

Teatro Luna

i'm not a super feminist. i'm pretty sure i've put that out there on the blog before. but, i am a woman, and i have experienced discrimination because of it. i'm sure we all have. and, living in this macho society does not make it easier.

just the other day i went to the hardware store for a little carpentry project that i have started. i walked out to the stacks of wood, picked the dimensions i needed and walked inside. i also needed some nails and some wood glue. but, while i was there, i was taking advantage and buying some steel masonry nails to drive into the walls at school.

"ma'am, if someone is doing a wood project, they probably don't need these types of nails. perhaps this one would be better?" he shows me a penny nail.
"yeah, i understand that these here big suckers aren't for wood projects - much less with the type of wood i've purchased, however. i need these for something completely different and unrelated. and i need 10. please."
"well, maybe you should call your husband and make sure."

i won't even tell you how that ended.
when i was at north park, i had an awesome professor. well, i had numerous awesome professors - and while some of them were guys, most were really spectacular women. a spanish prof who believed in me even though i barely showed up for her class; an african history teacher who blew my mind in every.single.class. and an english teacher who embraced me, dealt with my crazy and introduced us to new and great things. we went to coffee, to ethnic food restaurants, to pow-wows and to teatro luna.

i love theater. but, even with my crazy memory-skills, i don't often remember much about things i've seen on stage. it's something i enjoy in the moment and then let go. - i do after all need room for more relevant things like jeopardy factoids. but, the show of one-acts that i saw at teatro luna with professor acosta was moving. i learned some things about latina culture that i had never even thought about before. one of the one-acts was about good hair and bad hair.

and thank god.

because one of the first issues i had on this beautiful island paradise was with my hair.
i can't tell you the last time i went to a salon. oops. my beautiful, "good" hair is being wasted on that silly foreigner who just doesn't understand how valuable those locks are.

i've kept in touch with liza ann acosta. and she continues to be amazing. and, somehow in the past ten years has planted herself in the midst of these powerful latinas and bloomed. she's a little quirky, and nerdy. and has a cat (or more?).  and is super intelligent. and she said to me, "Where else would someone like me find a space on a stage? Nowhere! Teatro Luna always provided me with the confidence that my art mattered, that my writing was good and worthy of sharing, that my life stories were part of the fabric of a community that gave me strength. So, here I am. I am the "eldest" in the company and these women love me, care for what I have to give, and with their talent have given me the best gift I have ever received in the last few years: to have my very first play workshopped in front of a real live audience in a real theater. Amazing. It was an amazing experience."

and while i'm neither latina nor super-feminist, i believe in projects like this. and i wish wish wish that i could see a female cooperative like teatro luna blossom in santiago. because, man, theater and art are so powerful. it heals people. makes them whole. to tell a story, to tell YOUR story. that's power. but, i'm told that there aren't really a ton of women-theater-coops like teatro luna. maybe one in jamaica, if they're still at it. and a few, underground groups around? who knows.

teatro luna is looking to take their stories on the road. to the southwest. to do workshops and plays and change lives. they've got an indiegogo campaign with some pretty cute videos that explain what their vision is. check them out, help them out. if nothing else, click on their indiegogo page to up their "gogo factor" and help them get their name out there.


"You have problems with how Latinos are represented in the media? In plays? Anywhere? Have an issue with how women are viewed and how negative the term feminist is thought of in many circles? Then be the change you demand online! Give to this campaign- or at least spread the word about it-- because THIS IS WHAT TEATRO LUNA FIGHTS AGAINST DAILY with with our stories, our work, and especially this tour.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


sometimes, when i was
little my mom would put my hair in rollers for special events. it was annoying and if it was anything like having my hair brushed, i'm sure it wasn't pleasant, but i had nice, compliant hair that did whatever it was told.

sometimes we used a hot roller, or a curling iron, but i remember the big rollers best. my grandmom used them on her hair, too.

i now have avoided rollers - even when the women in the salon insist that my hair will not withhold the heat of a blow-dryer and that i must, must, must sit under the dryer-cap with rollers in. (think about that one. a dryer-chair. in the dominican republic. in june. no air conditioning. i don't think so).

luckily my mama only subjected me to rollers for special days - dance recitals, first communion and such - but here the culture is to straighten hair from a very young age, and on a fairly regular basis. putting the culture of good hair/ bad hair aside (because that's a story for a different day), it's easier to maintain a straight pony-tail on those hectic mornings on the way out for school. i don't really know how it works - a lot of little girls get blown out, but most get rollers. sometimes it's because the electricity went out while they were getting their hair washed, sometimes it's because mom (and more likely, dad) doesn't want the baby growing up too fast (and a blow out is definitely mature, right?)

it still surprises me to see women walking in the street with their rollers in, covered by a hair net or a scarf. it seems so counter-cultural in this place where image is everything and you would never consider leaving your house less than perfect. (unless you're me... and then people stare at the hot-mess that just walked in the store. oops)

jewel was at a medical operative the other day and snapped this picture - three little girls with their rollers in. the littlest girl still being carried by mom cannot be more than three!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

ex-pat life.

i've been on the island for eight years now. EIGHT years. it's not always easy, it's not always fun - but i always live in a place so physically beautiful it hurts. and mostly, i love this little piece of planet earth.

it's been an up and down journey - and just when i think i've finally settled into something, i get smacked in the face with something new. sometimes that something new is great - a new job, a new friend, a visit to somewhere amazing. but mostly, it's not. 

and though i genuinely love our dominican community, i need to be connected somehow to my own culture, my own community - to be with people who speak our same heart language. (don't get me wrong, it's great to chatter away in english, but it's different to think in english with someone - if you're bilingual you'll get it). 

i've reached out numerous times to the ex-pat community and have made a few very lasting friendships. there is a dear friend i met on an online forum and now work with, another who has two precious girls around samil and amely's ages and we share motherhood trials,  another incredible woman who i met at the uni and just had lunch with today. 

but it doesn't always work out.

if you're looking to become an ex-pat, to pick up life and move somewhere new, people will advise you to "meet all the (insert your nationality here), they are the ones to keep you sane." and there is even the idea that you can't live without compatriots, because the locals just don't hack it. you can't, obviously, choose the country-mates who live in your newfound home, so you'll have to accept them for who and what they are. like it or not - they're who you've got.

all of that was part of my training when i first moved down here. and i blatantly ignored it and lived for seven months without real contact with other americans. i learned spanish, i learned to dance, and i learned to love the people around me. no, i didn't need other yankees to get me through. but at times it was lonely. 

i reached out, found people, made a huge social effort - and if you know me, i'm no social butterfly - to be with other americans. it was disastrous. first, i met up with a bunch of super rich factory manager wives who drove super-sized suvs and ate in posh cafes where a sandwich costs more than my rent. obviously that one wasn't going to work out. i chalked it up to experience and let it roll. 

then i met a group of missionaries who wanted a moms group. it was weird that children weren't really welcome at the moms group, but we made it work for awhile until amely did a little biting and i was chewed out in an email about how i just didn't react "correctly." how dare i let my child bite and not cry about it? 

and when i met some short-term teachers, i realized i am just too old and too family to fit in with 23 year olds anymore. 

 you know what? i stressed about it for a long time, and i beat myself up over "losing" those potential compatriots that most ex-pat philosophy insisted i need. who would my kids speak english with? where would i go to complain about my dominican community? who else could i hate everything and everyone with?

when i stopped searching for a "group" to belong to i realized i didn't need one. i'm not rich and maintained - and i don't want to pretend that i am. i don't want my kids around the superior mindset, that us north americans are right and these damn natives are wrong. and i don't really need to relive my all-night drinking binges. 

once i stopped searching for those "heart language" friends - i realized that i have plenty. yesterday, we played with a baby and while amely didn't bite her, the baby's brother hit amely every chance he got - because that's what kids do. and we corrected him and talked to him and at the end we gave everyone kisses and hugs. no snarky comments or threats to no longer remain friends. and this weekend, we'll have visitors who will probably sit around drinking coffee and doing crafts and enjoying each other.

i've recently gotten a lot of emails asking for advice about moving to the dr. i don't have a lot. but there it is: make friends with quality people, who you like to be around - not because you share the same homeland, but because you share the same values, interests. make friends with your dominican community. you'll be surprised. 

Monday, May 6, 2013


we have this really awesome teacher here this year - her name is jewel and she is an amazing blessing from above. we met through this blog when she was looking for a way to return to the island to do some mission work. i gave her a list of other ngos and people she might be able to help better than she could help us - the woman is a nurse practitioner, afterall. but, in the end, she felt called here and picked up her life and moved to the dominican republic. amazing, right?
the school year is almost over and jewel will be moving on - she's got a few options, some of them even have her staying closeby! but, she's leaving futuro lleno de esperanza and while that's really sad for me, i'm excited to see where her journey goes from here.
to be completely honest, i've been dreading this. it means i have to find someone to replace her, and that's not going to be easy, at all.
and i'm funny about spending too much time with foreigners (i know, i know!)
so, in march, i put out some ads looking for volunteer teachers, i even put one here on the blog. i got a generous response and this summer we'll have one definite volunteer coming to spend a few weeks with us, another who is waiting for a visa and a few short-term visitors (and FIVE mission teams!) for the next school year, we have three interns coming. i'm excited.
i'm turning to you all, faithful blog-readers, to help our volunteers out. i know, i've been asking you all to do all sorts of things lately - pay for a library, pick up some jewelry, buy me some pizza (no seriously, i love pizza. see the side bar where you can make a donation to get me pizza?)
de'jonnae (who we have taken to referring to as "petit dejeuner" - french for breakfast) is coming this summer and she is raising some funds to help get her here. if you have a few bucks you wanted to give away, give them to her. she's awesome. and we are so ready to have her getting her hands dirty!!!

where to give the moneys??? HERE

Saturday, May 4, 2013

this kid.

when it rains, it pours.
we've been having some issues with the transmission in our car - we got it fixed awhile back, but it seems like we'll need to replace it. and of course, because when something important breaks, something else even more important goes. what is that, like murphy's law?
whatever can go wrong, will.
so, yesterday (or two days ago... i can't count) i came home for lunch to find that the refrigerator was turned off. i asked nelfy and she said she thought i had turned it off to defrost. so, we unplugged it and plugged it back in. nothing. turned the knobs. nothing.
luckily i hadn't food shopped this week and there wasn't much perishable food in there.
but, we did need to go to the store, and i wasn't really sure what to do. i was kind of hoping for a miracle refrigerator-repair. it didn't happen.
but, when we left the house, there was a flier for some appliance store stuck in the gate. samil was delighted as he loves mail. jewel quick grabbed the flier and wrote samil's name on it. you cannot even begin to imagine the happiness. he looked at it, talked about it, looked at it some more. and then showed it to people.
first, he showed it to our neighbor and told her that because our fridge is broken, he was going to save his money and buy a new one. i didn't really pay attention to his commentary until he told us that he was going to clean the backyard and the house and help papi and mami so he could get money. and once he has the money, he's going to buy a new nevera (which he pronounce NAH-vare-Ah instead of NAY-VARE-AH) because he really likes to drink cold water.
and if the fridge is broken, he can't drink cold water!
it isn't even so much that he wants to buy the fridge that tugs at my heart strings. it's that somewhere along the line, he's picked up that he needs to work pretty hard to get things. and that money doesn't just show up. of course, he has no concept of who does the paying, and that us giving him money for working isn't really helping to pay for a new fridge. but, he's told us a few times that he needs to work really hard so that he can earn money to buy the fridge.
this morning, he helped me to wash down the back sidewalk and to collect all of the dirty clothes. he filled up the dominican-style washing machine (the one in the picture) and was even really nice to his sister. and he'll say "i've got a lot more to do if i'm going to get enough for the nevera."
he was even a little disappointed when i told him that the repair guys were coming this morning. until i told him that the "repair guys" are his "friends" amaury and danny (who were amalio's students the very first year he was a teacher at his current school EIGHT YEARS AGO!) and now he's really excited to "help the guys."