Thursday, April 24, 2014

on biting my tongue.

it's been almost ten years on the island - and to be sincere, some days are much better than others. i still struggle with cultural snafus and even lingual misunderstandings. people ask if i like it here, what i like best and what i like least... and what i like better than my own country. it's bizarre to me. i've been here so long - i wouldn't be here if i didn't like it. and frankly, nit-picking all of the things that i like and dislike just make me realize how many things drive me crazy.

so, i try not to do that.

except. like i said. some days are easier than others. and bad days often come in clumps.
i posted on facebook today that sometimes i bite my tongue so hard that i'm surprised i have a tongue left.

it's true.

last week was holy week - a full week of vacation for our kids, but not for us parents. we had sent samil to his grandfather's house solo before - the kid loves to help take care of the cows and pigs and chickens. we had never sent amely. amely doesn't sleep well at night; it's hit or miss with her. and grandpa's house is nearly four hours away and we had to work.

what was the worst that could happen?
she got stung by a wasp on her toe. it had the potential to turn into the wasp emergency of the world until amalio turned his phone off. how many times can you respond to a question about a wasp sting - and a child who is not allergic to wasps? i told the step-mother-in-law to put some mud on it. or a potato. or some meat tenderizer. hell, she could have used the tried-and-true dominican remedy vick's vapor rub. but somehow none of that was good enough for amely - her toe is red. it's a little swollen. she is crying. she doesn't want to put her shoes on.

there are five grandchildren living in that house. i wonder what happens when they get stung by a wasp.
but instead of being snarky and mean, i just bit my tongue.

amalio and i headed to the campo on thursday morning. i was determined to enjoy a little respite from the city and from work. i took a book. (cry, the beloved country) i left all of my school work and grading work at home.

i love  this campo - my father-in-law's house sits on the side of a lush, green, peaceful mountain overlooking the sea. there is no noise or light pollution - the occasional motorcycle or truck driving up the road, or the clip-clop of a horse passing by. the electricity often goes out at night, and you can see all of the stars in the sky.

but. while i absolutely love the tranquility of this place, it is super hard for me to spend more than a day or two - because i have to deal with a lot of what drives me crazy about living here. there is a huge lack of formal education in this campo - and whole lot of not-understanding why going to school might be important for the future. there is a lack of boundaries concerning what gets talked about in front of whom, and no very little tolerance for children and people who are different.

over the years, i've learned to deal with creencias - beliefs that people hold here, many of which are far different from my own beliefs and many of which are disproven by science over and over again. my brain understands that the way we are raised, and the environment in which we are raised and the people who raise us form us in ways we often can't change - even if we understand it not to be true.

for example. my aunt believes it's bad luck to enter the house and leave the house through different doors. once, when i visited, it was raining (or snowing is more likely) pretty fiercely, and i had to leave through a different door. i felt really bad. it doesn't make sense, but hey, that's how it has always been at her house.

i also believe that putting mud on a bee or wasp sting actually helps. i think that maybe it's more comic relief than anything - but i still do it.

the thing is, i don't try to scare people with my beliefs. and it drives me crazy when people try to scare me into not doing "stupid" things. like, how when i was pregnant and went to the beach, i was told i would miscarry and it would be all my own fault. because you know, swimming in the ocean while pregnant will kill your fetus. or, when we refused to "baptize" our children in a household ceremony, and then didn't even get them prayed over to avoid the mal del ojo - the evil eye.

when we go to the campo - which both fortunately and unfortunately is not frequently enough - i have to close my ears to all conversations for fear of slipping and responding to the commentary of the irresponsibility of the gringa. i thought that i was sufficiently prepared last week - but apparently i was not.

"you know, if you keep reading so much, your eyes are going to cross. that can't be healthy."
"it's not healthy for amely to eat raw red peppers. and did you know that samil eats cucumbers?"
"you can't ask your neighbors for salt - that means you're a witch"

i try to ignore.
but, on thursday night, after letting my kids watch the slaughter of a pig (it's life, they'll get over it... but it wasn't really necessary) - they set up a spit and roasted said pig. i don't really like pig roast meat, but the kids do and amalio loves it. amely decided to help spin the spit for a little while. no big deal, right?

until she decided that she wanted a shower. and someone told her that she would die if she got a shower. because she was hot, and the water was cold. so all of her muscles would freeze and then she would die.

my 4 year old who is not particularly interested in taking a shower. and you just gave her the best excuse ever. "mommy, i can't take a shower today because i'm hot and i will die."

**the icing on this cake was when they pulled out examples of people they knew whose muscles had "frozen" because of this hot/cold clash. the main example? our friend who suffered two bouts of bells palsy while living in the DR and was later diagnosed with MS. because you know, MS is caused by having a hot body and then opening the refrigerator. phew.

Friday, April 4, 2014

has it been this long?

in january, i made a conscious decision not to blog. i was running out of things to write about - and i find that writing about the day-to-day is kind of boring. 

life is not boring - 
but it's hard to find new content sometimes.

so, i took a little break. i didn't expect it to last three months. but, here we are.

life was busy and hectic and jam-packed with stuff for the past three months, and now - within the next two weeks - it will slow down and we'll start to get ready for summer. my semester is just about done, school is just about over for the kids and it is starting to get hot.

i'm looking forward to a slower pace - i've been running around a lot, and i'm hoping that i can get a lot of next year's school planning done and out of the way while i'm on semester break. i'm not sure that that is going to happen, but i can try. 

and i have a lot of help. (thank you!)

i've been snapping pictures again of things i see on the island and will hopefully make some time to share them. it's not infrequent to see something new and fun in these parts. 

for now i leave you with pictures from the last few months.
this was my favorite VBS group of the year so far - they did a karate class, outdoor games and crafts and then  decorated cookies with frosting and M&Ms before doing a coreographed dance concert with the kids.

i love this picture so much. hair is a really big deal in this country. women spend hours (and tons of money) on straightening and processing and blowing out their hair. it is almost unheard of to see this pajon - afro - so proudly displayed. but we've now had two african american missionaries with natural hair, and the girls have noticed. not only do they come to school with their "puffs", they show it off! anyi told me this day, "look, my hair is just like tia jewels!"

 we don't "do" carnaval. while i find it to be an enlightening cultural event - i don't like the violence and craziness that comes with it. men and boys carry around dried pig-bladder balloons and smack women on the butt. it hurts. plus, there are tons of drunk people and not a lot of control. so, we usually go to the local cultural museum for their "kids carnaval" - but this year was by far the most organized and fun for the kids. only kid dancers performed, on a stage, with a ton of activities for the family.
 we celebrated independence day on february 27th with an assembly filled with poems, songs and dances. 

 this amazing group came to visit from lansdale, pa. we met some of their young adult members this past summer and let me tell you, that i have not met young adults like these ladies in a long time. passionate, driven, kind. i loved their families just as much. they did eye checks and acupuncture. you might notice tia jewel in this picture. she came to visit for a long weekend!  
 while jewel was here, we HAD to go to the beach for a day. it started out rainy - but by noon it was gorgeous. and a much needed respite. 
 it's getting hot. so we bought a pool for the yard. i imagine i will be filling this thing up in the summer, and just laying in there while i grade papers or something.

most recently, we've had chicken pox. amely got them first - a fairly light case and this past week samil has had them. he got them worse than amely, but dealt very well with is and is finally excited to go back to school on monday!