Sunday, July 28, 2013

passport anxiety

tomorrow at 4am we head to the capital to attempt the impossible:

an emergency passport for samil.

see, i forgot, completely, that little kiddy passports are only valid for five years, and well... samil turns six in august. his passport has been up for about 9 months now. i booked travel for the 31st - and well, the only appointment they had open is tomorrow.

so, now, we have to go to the consulate and pray really hard that they grant us an emergency visa. which is usually reserved for tourists who have lost theirs. or people with some life of death emergency.

please keep us in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow morning - that we find grace with the consul agent and that things go smoothly so that we can travel as planned.


Monday, July 15, 2013

wherein i feel supported.

when i first moved to the dominican republic, i was a young adult service corps volunteer. that's a fancy term for a young missionary - and it's a program that i imagine the national episcopal church still runs. (just checked, program still running). i worked in a school and church teaching english and french and math and... really just a plethora of things that nobody was grateful for.

the story is long, a bit painful and every time that i think i'm over it, something happens that just brings to the surface a lot of that hurt.

i grew up in the episcopal church. it was nice. i like to think that many of the people who watched me grow up are proud of what i've done so far in my life. after that year of service i was ready to move on - i had experienced enough crap at the hands of organized religion that i was done. i needed a break.

there was no support system in place - and once i no longer identified myself as neither "episcopalian" nor "missionary," i was just another girl living in the dr. for awhile we went to a baptist church - that was fun until the church turned into a haven for young bucks looking for a cute american visa girlfriend. and then we visited a pentecostal church for a long time. amalio grew up in a church where women cover their heads and don't wear earrings. my heart was still with the anglicans.

i can see now the beautiful work being forged to lead me to where i am today. i wasn't ready as a 23 year old girl to serve in the community i serve in, to work with the people i work with or to deal with the problems that arise. these past seven years have prepared me for what i deal with on a daily basis. i got married and had two beautiful babies. i earned myself a job as a college professor. and i learned about the culture, the people, the heart of this nation.

somehow, i thought that jumping back into ministry would be easy. it's not. and that i would be supported by a specific (in my head) group of people. they don't.

miraculously, though, people i would never have imagined have come out of the woodwork to help me. women i haven't heard from in years have emailed me to tell me that they are praying for us. school and church friends are organizing school supply drives and others are interested in poderosa mujer. and this work has re-ignited friendships with people i never should have lost touch with - people who supported me the first time around, who have watched me and seen me grow and who love and nourish me (even when i don't deserve it).

it's amazing. and filling.
and this is how it's done. with love and compassion - and without caring that we haven't seen or really talked in ten years. thank you all for your outpouring recently. we really do appreciate it all. thank you.

we are still collecting school supplies for the coming school year. between our 5 preschools and 1 elementary school, we have 250 students that are in need of pencils and crayons and more. you can check out our wish list here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

my little cock-fighters

we live in the city.
but that doesn't matter. you, apparently, can take a man out of the campo, but you can't take the campo out of the man. 

amalio had been itching to live in a house with a yard since i've known him. city living is okay, but did he really have to do it in an apartment? 
as soon as we got a comfortable balcony, he got birds. clipped their wings and let them wander around. he got the backyard lust pretty bad near the end of our apartment living-time and he showed me quite a few dumps - let me rephrase that: he expected me to cede to really bad houses so that he could have a backyard. 
desperation looks like a clapboard shack with a rusted tin roof, completely cemented backyard and a deteriorated cistern door. as in, my kids would fall through it and die if they even looked at that trap door covering up 2500 gallons of water. but hey, the house has a backyard.

we got lucky with the house we live in. it's in a nice area, close to both of our jobs and sits on a double lot. (and it is cheap. not just by american standards either. i really believe this house was sent to us. because it's nicer and bigger than others in the area for a fraction of the rental cost. i'm not a fan of divorce, but the owner's divorce did us good). 

the first thing amalio did when we got the boxes off the truck was to re plant all of our plants. no lie, it took me 3 weeks to unpack the house, but amalio had every.single.plant in the ground in 2 hours. and we have a lot of plants. 

after the plants were in the ground, he set out to find some chickens. yep, chickens. 
and here i was thinking the kids would hate chickens.  
 not so much. this is henry. the (very fertile) rooster. he (and the other chickens) are a small breed of fowl, "perfect" for our backyard. we also have a rooster named janet (jackson) and two hens named chicken-chicken  and michael (also jackson). between them, there are too many little chickens. but they're too small to eat. (and i wouldn't eat them anyway). we'll see what happens with them. 

Friday, July 12, 2013


have you ever seen a movie where the characters are somehow awakened by a blast? taken to some other realm or abducted by aliens? and you wonder, how in the world did they get up so fast?

i never thought it was truthful that people could move that fast because of a flash of light, or a boom. seriously, whose brain works like that? i just figured that if i was to get abducted by aliens, i'd sleep through the whole thing.

i sleep like a rock.
i've slept through parties. wild, crazy parties.
and i've slept in houses with colmados attached to them. (colmados are corner stores. they frequently double as the local night club)

a few weeks ago, my life changed.
i know now that i will not sleep through alien abduction.

we were awoken at 4:30am by a loud explosion, accompanied by a blinding flash of light. (amely woke up, samil, however, inherited my rock sleeping skills). amalio and i were up in milliseconds, checking on the kids and trying to figure out what in the world was going on.

the answer?

just outside of our back wall, a transformer exploded. EXPLODED. at 4:30 am.
the pole was on fire - blazing away - and had been severed.
we didn't know what to do. call the fire station? we don't have the number. call the electric company? yes!

at 5:15, i found the number for the electric company and called the 24 hour help line. the conversation went a little like this:

"i'd like to make a report."
"go ahead."
"a transformer exploded outside of our house, and the pole is on fire."
"oh, yes, we've gotten that report already."
"oh, well, our technicians don't begin work until 6am."

logically, the firemen (because, yes, they are all men) couldn't put out the fire unless the electric company turned off the electricity. that didn't happen because even though there is a 24 hour help line, there isn't 24 hour help. the pole continued to burn and started to tilt toward our backyard. luckily, when it finally snapped it slid backwards and ended up resting on the rest of the wires (with the flames safely away from homes and wires).

the fire company arrived at 6:05, just minutes before those technicians who don't start until 6. they promptly put off the fire and by the time i got home from work at noon, a new pole had been erected (at least 15 feet higher than the last - presumably to aid in the efforts to prevent electricity theft).

there is never a dull moment in these parts.

these firemen (kids? boys?) continue to amaze me - they make
less than $200 USD a month and put their lives at risk to save others.
they make LESS than DR minimum wage. insane, right?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

our wish list.

i feel like i know most of the people who read this blog. if i don't, i'd like to, but that's besides the point. this place has been a great connector - and i've met a number of very quality people because they've read this thing. excellent.

i posted on facebook last week a wish list for school - and wow! people i haven't spoken to in ages spoke up and offered to help us. blessed beyond belief. 

our philosophy is that we can't give handouts. in order to break the cycle of that exists in "supported" communities, we have to hold people responsible for their own kids. if we swoop in and take over, we take away that responsibility and the relationship between parent and child is damaged. even worse, we create a culture of "give me gringo!" and perpetuate a cycle of poverty. so, all of our families pay for education - whether they pay in money or in service, they are responsible for their children's education. however, the fee is so minimal that we still need help.

this year, we started a women-to-work initiative, where local women make jewelry that we then sell and split the profit (50/50) with them. and we, of course, have donors and sponsors. we are proactive. and trying to find ways to be sustainable in the midst of un-sustainability. 

besides the big tickets (salary and food), our biggest expense is school supplies. because even though we believe that parents should be responsible for their children's education, we also understand that it is almost impossible to ask for more than we already do. the average family (of 5) income is less than $300 USD a month. that's about $2 a day per person. despite this, our families have been faithful. their children come to school every day, they pay every month and are responsive when there are problems. 

we all want the same thing. hope for their children's future.

being poor should not rob a child of quality education. a safe place to be creative and learn and grow. 
and we hope that we can offer that. 

if you're interested in helping us stock our supply closet, please let me know. we will receive your gifts with full and blessed hearts and promise to put it all to good use. 


Quality #2 Pencils 
Crayons (12 or 24 pack boxes)
Pink or White Pencil Erasers
Student Pencil Sharpeners
Pre-School Craft Scissors
Teacher Scissors
Glue Sticks (but not liquid glue)
Tempera (poster) paint
Markers (the fat kind)
Pens (black, blue and red)

Children's Multivitamins (preferably the gummy kind)

Bingo Markers
Modeling Clay (not play-dough -it melts in the heat!)
Dry Erase Markers
Stamps (and Stamp Pads): numbers, letters, animals, etc... like this one
Magnetic Numbers and Letters
Felt Board Accessories (especially Bible stories)

Laminating Sheets
Sheet Protectors
Staplers (for teachers)
Hole Punch
Dress up clothes (old doctor, nurse, dentist gear? yes, please! - old dance costumes or scout uniforms, badges, etc... POR FAVOR!)
Story books in Spanish or French (no English books please!)

we are used things. i know some of your are awesome thrifters, consignment shoppers, trash-pickers. please. please. please. 

mail to: melanie, 266 roxborough avenue
philadelphia pa 19128
after an early morning explosion outside of our house, combined with the fire that took the life of a precious baby this year - we are working with the Cienfuegos Fire Department to see what we can do to help them. this is another post (long post) for another day, but if you or someone you know is in fire, rescue or police work and think you might be interested in learning more about Dominican Republic public services and how you can help, please drop me a line! 

for all contact: melanie512 {@} gmail . com

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

getting it done.

sometimes we just don't have the tools that are "needed" to get a job done. sometimes it's just easier to throw something.

 and if you happen to sell things in the street, why carry it on your head like everyone else, when you can find these converted bike carts? i see this guy all of the time. 
i don't think i've ever seen him actually riding the bike, though.

sometimes the conventional way to do things, isn't the easiest or best way to do it.
i need that reminder sometimes. (okay, i need that reminder like

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

and at the end of the school year...

i have a personal rule - i don't even try to form relationships with people who are here short term. short-term is relative, i guess, but it's usually that if you're here for less than three months, i probably won't go out of my way.

(i have been know to break this rule when supremely awesome people come around, but it's hard to be that awesome. Hi Steph!)

this school year has been exciting. there have been "foreigners" around all of the time. all.of.the.time. i mean, jewel lived in our house. and there were some nice "short-termers" around and people who were helping us at school. the kids were immersed in english, which was just what samil needed to lose his timidity with language and now is jabbering away in hilarious english. (amely not so much - she's stubborn and only speaks english when she wants something).

but, one of the reasons that i even made the rule for short-termers was because i hate being at the end of a term and having to say goodbye.

i said a virtual goodbye to a new friend who was dedicated to bringing his students to our school every month - we are at least 30 minutes away from their school, but every month, zaxxson loaded those students on a bus and they spent time with our little guys - playing, singing, planting trees and doing crafts. and while it started as a professional relationship, i'm glad that i broke my personal short term rule to get to know him outside of "school stuff." what an amazing guy.

and then, we said goodbye to jewel. i don't even know where to begin on this one. jewel and i met through this blog - and without even knowing us, she got on an airplane prepared to spend a year living and working in as a teacher. she's made my life easier, our family life fuller. at samil's graduation we stumbled into a photo booth where they were doing family photos - amalio said "wait! where's jewel?"

and in a few weeks - we'll say good-bye to anne and pierre. my friend maddy (who also left this year) sung their praises for months before we actually met - and now i can't even imagine life without them. these two came for a year to teach french and ended up teaching art and gym and computers with us three days a week.

the hardest part, and i've said it here before, of living here is that so many people come and leave. and while we have our permanent community, it is definitely enhanced by the diversity of visitors and guests that come through. i'm sure that now that people are coming to volunteer with us, the number of people coming and going will increase. i just don't know that it'll get any easier to say farewell.!