Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mission Incomplete

A few years ago, I stopped making resolutions. I never actually followed through with them, and it seemed really silly to keep at something that I wasn't going to take seriously at all. We also stopped celebrating New Year's Eve more than just spending the night as a family and doing something special together.

Call me cynical, but the idea that only one day could signify the beginning seems... off. I mean, the earth goes around the sun in a circle, so the New Year could really be any day. January 1 seems arbitrary.

It's actually not as negative as it sounds. It's just that I was tired of pretending (to myself) that on January 1, I could start all of this new stuff and be a new and better person - solely because it was January 1.

I've spent the past few years making goals and renewing them throughout the year. Sometimes the making of those goals coincides with the New Year, but most of the time they don't. A lot of times the new goals match up with the beginning of the school year, or the start of a new semester.

In August, I spent a bunch of money on this really awesome new study Bible. I made a goal to read it every day. I haven't.

In December, I wrote out a long list of mini projects and household chores I needed to get done. I only made it through about half. The list is still hanging in my kitchen waiting for me to get things done.

I've felt like I'm lacking. I've felt like I haven't gotten things done and possibly have disappointed people who are waiting for me to produce and present. I didn't feel any joy about my tasks.

This past week, I've been really sick. Not the flu, but all of its nasty symptoms. I was literally knocked down and was out for four days. It was the first time in my adult life that I felt like the adult-thing to do was rest. To not think of my to-do lists, to not worry about that list of projects or the goals I had for the month.

I am still feeling congestion, my ears hurt, and I'm coughing like a smoker - but I feel rested. I feel refreshed, even. I feel like by leaving my lists and goals on hold for the past few days, I'm actually ready to tackle some of those tasks that have been waiting for me to get around to them for weeks.

Tomorrow can be a new year, a new start. Set goals, work on them throughout the year - but by no means only make goals at one point during the year.... and if things are overwhelming and weighing you down - take a break.  I waited until an illness knocked me down, but I'll have to take my rest more seriously in the future. What's that saying, don't sweat the small stuff? Yeah. That.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Cabrera, Northwestern Paradise - Dominican Republic

When I first got married, we spent a lot of time in Cabrera. Amalio's dad and sisters still live in the campo they grew up in, and despite the four hour trip in public transportation, it was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We now have cars, and the drive is easier than public transportation. But we also have three kids and, between us, I think four thousand jobs. It makes getting to the campo a little harder.

I do love the beach. LOVE the beach. So, the fact that Cabrera has some of the most beautiful - and kid friendly - beaches on the island, we often head up on our free days. 

When we do make the trip, we always go to the beach and hop around the small ocean-front town. Playa Diamante is our favorite - it's a lagoon with no waves and waist high, crystalline waters. The sand is soft and the kids can play without fear of the waves. We also love Playa El Caleton - a fun beach with modern art sculptures representative of the local indigenous tribe (long extinct) adorning the coastal cliffs. The water is deeper than at Diamante, but the waves aren't strong and the beach is shady and relaxing.  Our last go-to beach is La Entrada, a bit further out of town. A river meets the ocean and the beach goes on for days. People swim in the river and in the ocean. The food shacks along the beach have fresh fried fish and other delicious local food. 

When we leave the beach, head into town and get ice cream from the local Bon Heladeria, and head to the malecon, a walk-way overlooking the cliffs of Cabrera, to eat our treats. We drive through town - sometimes visiting family and friends before heading back up the mountain to where we'll stay. 
 My sister in law has a cute garden where we pick cherry tomatoes and starfruit, and my father-in-law has a conuco - a piece of land used for cultivating root vegetables like yucca, sweet potatoes, and taro root. The kids can spend time running free and breathing fresh air, helping their grandpop with moving the cows and feeding chickens. They play with their cousins and eat fruit from the trees. 

The trips to the campo are often too short, but sweet. Filled with laughter and fun. There is no better place to visit family than in Cabrera - we're lucky to have a reason to return so frequently!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Investment in the Future

When I was a kid, my grandmom played the lottery. A dollar here and a dollar there, some scratch off tickets that she let us scratch. I never learned all the ins and outs of the different ways to play the lottery, just that the line was often long in the deli because there was only one machine to process the numbers.

I also learned that it is really exciting to scratch the paint off the scratch off cards - carefully deciding which spaces to reveal first. Sometimes I'd scratch them fast and furious, but sometimes it was really hard to pick.

There is no control in a scratch off - there is no skill, no strategy that will actually help you win. It is a game of pure luck.

 I've been scouring the internet ads looking for leads and today my husband, neighbor and I went to a car dealership to see some of the options. We didn't have any luck at all finding a car, but Amalio found a 100 peso coin* on the ground and decided it was lucky. So lucky, in fact, that he and Joel needed to play the lottery because of it.

There is a banca on seemingly every corner of every poor neighborhood and campo in the Dominican Republic. There is no need to wait in line in the deli anymore, the lottery has their own set up - little "houses" with permanent electricity and a computer to sell "the numbers." The banqueras - bankers - are usually young women, often attractive, and always poor. Their sole purpose is to get you to play your numbers, preferably in their banca each time you play.

I still haven't learned the ins and outs of the lottery system, but it seems similar to the numbers my grandmom played when I was a kid. There are straights and doubles and triples, scratch off cards, mega loto with a huge jack pot and more.

Undoubtedly, the major commonality is hope.

Every single time I scratched a ticket as a kid, I hoped that I'd win something - even just a dollar! And today, when the guys stopped at the banca to play a number on the coin they found, they hoped to get me more money for my future car.

Looking at all the bancas around me sometimes makes me sad: poor people pouring money into false hope. I've had people tell me that you have to invest in the future, and that playing the lottery is a type of investment. I usually want to roll my eyes. I want to scream that education and training and healthy meals and exercise are investments in the future, not a game of luck. But, I get it.

When there is little opportunity for investment in your future, you invest in the ways that are possible. You buy into the idea, the hope that you'll make it big and that your little investment will turn into something big. 20 pesos here, 20 pesos there. It's not much different than the dollars my grandmom spent on the state lotto.

There are so many things to be hopeful for. But, it's never as easy as scratching off a box on a piece of paper - and it's never as easy as a simple financial investment of 20 pesos here or a dollar over there. Maybe I've become more optimistic in my years here, but I do believe there is a light at the end of every tunnel, but we won't get there if we don't work towards it. Sure, it'll cost some pesos or some dollars, but it'll also cost hard work and determination and faith.

How are you investing in your future?

Saturday, December 22, 2018

back in the saddle again.

It has been more than four years since I've opened the "new post" tab on this blog. Four years full of life and struggle, of work and love, of travel and adventure and more...

I stopped writing here for a few reasons - number one being that I had recently had my third child and was overwhelmed. Whoever says that the switch from two to three is easy is lying. It's not. Or at least it wasn't easy for me.

Writing didn't flow. It seemed more like a chore than an outlet, and it was one of the things I had to say no to in order to survive every day. Recently, however, the itch has come back to share about my life here on this island through words.

To be fair, I'm not sure what direction this will take. When I started writing, I was a new mom, living the expat life and still finding so much novelty on the island. I've been here 14 years, and while life is adventurous, I have a hard time finding it novel. My oldest son is eleven - I'm no expert mom, but the kids are not excited to have all of their life events published for public consumption. So, what do I have to offer?

In the past four year, Futuro Lleno de Esperanza has grown. Working in faith based development has given me insight into the heart and soul of this island, and while I try not to share other people's stories, I do share my own.

I've been involved in the craziness that is the educational system in the DR, diving deeper in my own formation so that I can share with others - I guess I feel the most invested in this country that I ever have, and three kids (plus 60 at the school who feel like they're "mine") in the system makes me want to make it better.

I don't know how many of my old readers will be interested in what I have to offer nowadays, but I'll be writing anyway. As a release. As a comfort for myself. As a way to stretch my fingers on the keyboard again.

Look forward to seeing you around the blog!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

social media.

my maternity leave came and went in a glance - i head back to work tomorrow.

i was mainly in my house, taking care of my family and haven't really had anything very interesting to share on the blog. i hope that will change once i am back en la calle (in the streets) every day with fun things to see.

despite not having blog worthy content, i am pretty active on the instagram under @girlinthedr, or just click on the little camera box there.


you can find me there, and under the hashtags #adayinmydominicanlife and #islandliving. If you're interested in pictures from Futuro Lleno de Esperanza, you can find those under the hashtag #futurollenodeesperanza.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

dude, where's the driver?

I have been a terrible photographer lately - I used to travel with a smart phone in hand to snap pictures of the random things I'd see around town. I've caught overloaded motorcycles, car accidents and funny clothes worth of "what not to wear." I've gotten plenty of funny house-moving trucks, overloaded with furniture and often with someone sitting in a lazy chair on the top.

Of course, whenever I don't have my camera ready, I see the best things - once, there was a truck transporting corn-grains (not on the cob) and the trap door open, emptying the corn onto the highway. There were people with bags, buckets, cans all collecting their free corn.

Sometimes, though, things are so common place that I don't even think to take a picture to share with you, readers. I'm sorry. I've been here so long that I just forget that somethings are novel to the rest of the world.

Last week, I was sick. My fever, at one point, hit 103.9 and I knew I needed to go to the doctor's office. I couldn't go by myself - for two reasons: 1) I had to take the baby since he doesn't drink from a bottle yet, and I didn't know how long I'd be gone and 2) I was kind of delirious. The fever had me loopy and I didn't want to do anything ridiculous in the street. So, my dear, sweet friend Andrea offered to come with me. Added bonus? She's just about to graduate from medical school. If anyone can handle my hypochondria, it's her.

After me dawdling around and trying to avoid the doctor, we finally got out of the house and into a public car. We thought it would be smooth sailing since it was 10 am, but in front of the free zone, the traffic stopped. It was like a parking lot - which is not normal at any hour. We notice a large group of people in front of the police headquarters - police and civilians alike, in some sort of altercation.

Finally, the traffic started to crawl past.

We're not sure if the jam was caused by the rubber-necking to see conflict with the police or if it was caused by this public car.

Abandoned by it's driver, completely filled with paying customers. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.

It's the little things, folks. I thought i was hallucinating, but no. This car was chauffer-less.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baby-brain eating witches.

Right now, Adiel is outside with his two uncles and a cousin. Amely is running in and out, and Samil went to the corner store, colmado,  to buy some yucca for dinner. I'm trying to get some work done (obviously. That's why I'm writing a blog post).

It's dusk. So, that's dangerous, and I shouldn't even allow the baby to be outside. In fact, the cousin was concerned when she picked up the baby and said she was going outside.

"Eh, this is okay, right? He's not going to get sick, right? I can take him with me, right?"

It's very important not to take your children outside after dark - and I've come to realize that the witching hour is the worst. The northern wind blowing from the sea can really do a number on the baby's digestive system - everything from the pujo to the green poop. And, since we're such bad parents and have neither put  azavaches -charms- nor bracelets to protect our kids from such things, I have to be really careful about green poop.

You may remember our community witch, Luisa. I hadn't seen her in awhile, but the other day I took the baby to school with me. I had a bunch of things to do (like hand out Student of the Month certificates and eat candy), and the students were bugging to meet Adiel.

Luisa showed up.

She looked at the baby carefully, but never asked to carry him. "Oh, he's so big, God bless him." "Oh, he's so handsome, God bless him." "Oh, look at that hair, God bless him." I think she could tell I was getting frustrated with her accolades for things that we really have no control over, so she decided to explain to me. "If I don't say God bless him, you will think I'm jealous and trying to give him the mal de ojo - evil eye. And I know what people say about me around here."

She finally reached out her hand to touch the baby. She grabbed his ankle, and then his wrist and wanted to know why he had no protection. I thought she meant socks. Silly me. She meant protection from curses - protection from the people who do not follow every compliment with "God bless him," because they are, obviously, trying to give the baby mal de ojo. "You need to get this baby santiguado right away, he has no protection! You need to go to someone who knows about this and have the prayers said over him!"

Luisa then asked me if we had "thrown water" on the baby - a home baptism of sorts, an added layer of protection. We haven't. And we didn't "throw water" on our other babies either, so I think we're okay. But, Luisa is sure we need to do something because we haven't done anything. Do we know the danger we're putting our children in by not protecting them from brain-eating witches? Surely I didn't know, you know as a foreigner, the absolute terror of having the local witch swoop down and suck the brains right out of my baby's head during the night.

There are a lot of things to worry about with a baby. Is he clean? Is he healthy? Is he sleeping too much? Not enough? What's that lump on his head? Is it too hot to go out? Is it too cold to go out? Is the crazy northern wind going to give my baby the bad poops?

I'm not sure that Luisa got the irony of her, the renowned community witch who tap-dances on roof tops, giving me advice to protect the baby from... well, from the community witch. But I like her, she's an eccentric old woman who seems to want to protect people around her. God bless her heart.