Saturday, December 31, 2011

Photolog: Diamond Beach

 Beautiful beach. Beautiful day.

taking it in.
dress: casual.

he's making serious considerations.

Sand soft. Scene serene.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Danger is His First Name

Disclaimer: If you are a Humane Society activist, celebrate your pets' birthdays, own clothing for your pets or believe that animals need therapy (I was once told my turtle was depressed), stop reading now and I'll see you back here tomorrow, mmm-kay?

Not exactly a pet shop trip, several weeks ago we went to visit our friends at A Mother's Wish Foundation with a pet carrier in hand. They wanted to give us a kitten. And most of us (read: Rebecca dislikes cats) wanted one. We arrived, spent a lovely time helping out at the preschool and then headed to lunch. A tall, young man in muddy rubber boots and a rain slicker showed up holding an empty, old potato sack. I suddenly felt a little silly to have brought a pet carrier. Alongside him, at 4'11" and 98 pounds stood an aged gentleman with a few teeth and the same muddy rubber boots. To combat the cold weather, however, he wore an over-sized sweatshirt, bold letters across his chest read: HOOTERS. Awesome. Diego, the CatGifter, had a hushed conversation with them and they dispersed.
As we finished up our lunch, PotatoSackMan and OldHooters came walking up the path, grinning wildly to the theme song of a potato sack that was part growl-meowing, part begging for mercy. Then, they took it a step further. Since we had brought a pet carrier, the logical next step to completion of their task was to get a sufficiently pissed off kitten from the potato sack into the carrier. To be fair, we must consider where PotatoSackMan and OldHooters were coming from. A pet carrier costs the same amount that they likely make in two or three weeks. And they don't have desk jobs. Cruelty to animals like this one is a #firstworldproblem.
Once they figured out how to open the carrier, they put it on its end, with the door facing the sky. Potato sack was turned upside down and shaken vigorously over the carrier. Turns out, kitten didn't want any more trauma. He dug his claws into that bag, screaming and holding on for dear life. Which made PotatoSackMan shake all the more. As I stood, mouth ajar, watching the spectacle, all I could think was Samantha and Kelsey* would not approve of this. It only took 12 minutes. PissedOffKitten dropped into the carrier with a thump, door shut and carrier was flipped to its upright position. He was officially ours.
Just keep shoving and shaking. He'll come out sooner or later.

Max downs a cup of coffee while we wait for a guagua. Bringing PissedOffCat home.
PissedOffKitten remained so right up through us dropping him off at the vet on the way home. He needed his shots before he was allowed in our house. It was a Friday. We boarded him for the weekend. The professionals could take this one. On Monday, we forgot we had a cat. A great start.
When he finally came home to us Tuesday, we gave him a few days cool down time in John's room (read: the tiny room next to the kitchen built for a live in maid). One or two of us at a time would visit him, slowly introducing him to the fam.
Max & Zora duked it out over a name for PissedOffKitten, who by this point was more just WaryOfHumansKitten. Max wanted to call him "Alex or Danger" and Zora was set on "Lili". I have no idea how their conversation went, but I imagine bribes were involved and our cat is now called Danger.
Turns out, he's a pretty great family cat. No, I'm not converting to the dark side of cat-lovers, but I can see that the kids love him and he doesn't attack them. That's all I ask. Even little Ami picks him up without a problem. He's playful, purrs often and kills cockroaches. Did I mention he sleeps spread eagle on his back? Keeper.
Zora is obsessed. Or, she really loves him A LOT.

*Samantha and Kelsey are two of my dear sisters-in-law who both happen to work with cats. Cat lovers, one might say. Hopefully, they stopped reading after the disclaimer.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wounds. Warning! Graphic Content

You don't really think I'm going to post photos of gnarly groin wounds on the internet do you? You've got the wrong blogger. While you're here, this is a video of the reactions of three people who did take a gander at my injuries on or about day three, post incident. Check out little Z's face. She's hilarious.

And, yes, although still wary of pants, I'm on the up & up. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Photolog: "No, no. That's His Name"

The in-laws came for a visit a couple weeks ago and we decided to show them the country. Not the one you see when you type "Dominican Republic" into Google images, though that is a lovely part--that's the thing, its just part of it. My sweet friend, Melanie, offered us a place to stay up in the mountains. On her father-in-laws' farm. 'Twas great. We hung at the local hot-spot: village colmado. Witnessed true outdoor cooking. At daybreak, watched all the cows milked (and made, surprisingly, a great many connections to my personal milk-producing & extracting experience). We ate yucca that was harvested that day from the farm. Drank fresh coffee. Laughed. Talked. And overall, enjoyed the hospitality and hilarity of Francisco, our host.
No street lights in the campo. We made our way to the colmado for dinner (lovingly prepared by Mel's sister-in-law).
We made it!
Max entertains us while we rest from the walk up the hill.
Porky, ready to be roasted.
Dinner was cooked here.
The whole outdoor kitchen. Can you see Porky?
Wash up for dinner!

Kids made friends with this little darlin'
Francisco told us that "Jeepeta" (a Jeep) would pick up the fresh cow milk which he sold each morning. Melanie was impressed that a motor vehicle was now coming around to the dairy farmers to retrieve milk. This was progress! When Jeepeta arrived, Francisco had the biggest laugh of all. A donkey with two large milk canisters strapped to his back made his way to Francisco's front patio where we had hauled the milk not an hour earlier.
"Did the jeep break down?"
"No, no," Francisco reassured us all, "That's the donkey's name. Jeepeta." And he doubled over in a fit of giggles.

La cocina where Melanie cooked us lunch on day #2.
If I ever have my own kitchen, its gettin' the bright paint treatment too. l.o.v.e. it.
Where my lovely in-laws slept.
Sweet Samil after a warm swim at the beach.
The wee ones on the front porch.
The in-laws (mine & Melanie's) enjoying the warm morning.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stuck in Stage Two: The Waiting Game

I enjoy the slower pace here, though no matter how much I acclimate, some of that will always be frustrating, I imagine. Slower pace usually means paying attention to people more, taking more time for family and friends, but also often translates to inefficiency in a variety of interactions. Whether a pre-arranged gathering or meeting will actually happen is always in question right up through the first hour after its been scheduled to occur.

Much like in Nicaragua, I've learned that rain is a completely valid excuse to cancel. No phone call needed or verbal confirmation. If it is raining at the time that something starts, it is automatically assumed that no one will go. Its cancelled. As if everything were a baseball game. I'm still learning the intricacies of this norm. I don't know what the protocol is, for example, if it is just sprinkling throughout the day or if it downpours, but only for 15 minutes before the start time, etc. I believe that most of these answers are dependent on one's mode of transport, (on foot vs public transport or personal vehicle) the specific occasion (work meeting vs party), the time of day (evening vs. morning or afternoon), and your relationship to the host (friend vs. boss vs. acquaintance).

This pace, however, can have me pulling my hair out in some situations. Take, my follow-up appointment with MustacheSurgeon (it was actually with one of his colleagues), for example. Note: It wasn't raining. Our appointment, made that morning, was for 3 pm. Josh and I arrived, handed over my passport as is customary and took a seat. Gently (I had opted out of pain meds that day). The room was probably 20 square feet, no windows with a 40 inch flat screen above the reception desk. The receptionist cranked her neck to watch the novela* on screen. A woman was dramatically attempting to convince a man that she was his mother and therefore they couldn't be lovers. He wouldn't have any of it.
NovelaReceptionist wrote down all the information from my passport, then asked my age. Isn't my birthday on my passport? They love to hear me say it at that hospital: 31. I'm 31. Anyone else want to ask me? She went back to her novela.
Then we waited.
At 3:34 pm, we asked, "Do you know how much longer the doctor will be?"
"He's in sugery. Let me call down there," she picked up the phone and mumbled into it, "Just a bit longer."
"Okay. Thank you."
Then we waited. Josh went to get coffee.
We waited. Two more people came in to wait for their appointment. I had been reading a book I brought, but had to stop since the lighting went berserk all of a sudden. I looked up to see a night club scene on the screen, strobe lights and all, scantily-clad actors rubbing up against one another. It flashed then to women in thongs shaking their behinds too close to the camera. And back to the strobe lights. Wow.
Josh leaned over, “This would be a lawsuit.” I smiled, grateful we weren’t epileptic and that everyone else in the room didn’t seem bothered in the least.
We waited some more. Another patient came in to be seen. I turned the page of my book, which I had started when we arrived, and saw that I was on page 47. I’m a slow reader.
“Josh,” I turned to him. He’d been reading the only available reading material, the Holy Bible. “What time is it?”
“I want to go home now,” I looked him straight in the eye, “I feel like I’m a social outcast at a bad/awkward high school party.” At that point, NovelaReceptionist was cooing into the phone at someone as she continued to gawk at the screen. "And my bandages are fully congealed to my wounds."
“Give it ten more minutes.”
We waited. At 4:49, we stood up. Man is true to his word.
“You’re leaving?” NovelaReceptionist asked, surprised, “But you’ve waited so long already! Just wait a moment and let me call again.”
We waited. She mumbled into the phone again, this time with some more persistence. I could make out that she was asking for a specific timeline, not just a “sooner or later.” An hour. It would be at least an hour more. Give us a call another day, thanks.

I still have to learn more patience. A lot more.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Stupidity and the Consequential ER Visit: Part Two

I refused to take public transport. I wasn't that delirious. We called in a favor that wasn't really owed and used a friend's car to get us to the hospital. We smeared aloe all over my burns, soaked my softest t-shirt to lay over them and ever-so-carefully pulled my stretchy house skirt over everything. Jesse & Martine watched the kids. Saturday night date, aahhhh yeah. Josh & I totally bonded.

I hobbled up to the reception desk, handed over my passport and a security guard (odd, I thought) escorted me to a triage "room". He kept looking back and giggling at me, I assume because of my absolute pathetic-ness (I'm currently drugged and allowed to invent words) while I staggered down the corridor after him. I ended up hunched over a sandwich bed, my head in my hands, praying while I waited. The longer I went without cool water pouring over my burns, the hotter it got. I was on fire. And I couldn't stop thinking how fortunate we are to have all the things we have: clean, running water, aloe vera, transportation, a hospital nearby. I could have been so much worse off. I wavered between focusing on my own pain and the pain of all those I'd imagined had been through this before without all the same luxuries. As I whispered my prayers, Josh walked up. He was in and out for I don't know how long, advocating for me, I assume.

A young doctor arrived. She asked the standard questions, then wanted to see the damage.
"Take off your clothes," she said. Then she stood there, waiting. 
"Ummm... Can we close the curtain?" I asked, not wanting to further add to the list of those that have seen my HooHa (giving birth was traumatizing enough).
She yanked on the curtain unsuccessfully and then waved us across the hall to another corner. The curtain closed there.

"Okay," she said matter-o-factly, "We're going to drain the blisters, scrub down the skin, clean it and bandage it. Mmmmm-kay?"
Good Lord, I thought. Why did I agree to come here? Did she just use the word scrub?
I went straight into weeny-mode. My body trembled and I kept imagining what the pain would be like when they scrubbed my skin. That same skin that Josh had gently applied aloe to, which made my breath catch in my throat from the agony. I don't even get a baby out of this in the end.
At that point, the comic relief came in. A sheet jockey (the water boy of the hospital) attempted opening the curtain. The doctor shooed him away. Six seconds later, he boldly opened the current--Hello HooHa!--and threw a clean sheet at me. Yes, at me. It landed at my knees. I laughed and Josh, a bit peeved, muttered, "Trying to get another peek, eh?"

Young doctor left. In came a student nurse, even younger. My favorite. He was wearing a bit too much cologne, but it was Saturday night to be fair. He took my blood pressure, my temperature and asked how old I was. Twice. Then he asked why I was there.
"They haven't told you?" I asked, slightly surprised.
He shook his head no.
So I gave up and showed TooMuchCologne my HooHa too. Why not? He looked and left, saying the surgeon would be in soon. I laughed again. A surgeon? That seems like a bit much, does it not?
We waited.

TooMuchCologne came back in and started my IV. Apparently I was being prepped for surgery, still in my date night ensemble we'd carefully chosen earlier. Sweet. Surgeon with awesome mustache popped in, checked out my burns and asked my age. Kids? Yes. Two. Okay.
We waited again. My wet shirt was not so wet anymore, but the fire was more like embers by that point anyway. No biggie.

TooMuchCologne returned with a sweet syringe of liquid relief and pumped it into my IV. I assume it did what it was meant to as my hands and feet tingled slightly. My groin, however, was still uber-sensitive. Note: I should really plan my accidents to injure less tender areas. MustacheSurgeon entered with HotPinkLipStickNurse and his toolkit. Here we go. My thought at that moment: I wish I had my camera. No one is going to believe this. I truly expected them to all start singing and dancing at any moment, Bollywood-style.

MustacheSurgeon flipped the bright lights on, gloved himself and grabbed his scalpel. I told Josh he could leave if he wanted as this probably wouldn't be pretty. He opted to stay, as he always does. I laid my head back, shut my eyes, and began slowly and purposefully breathing. In. Out. In. Out. I felt each slice of each blister. In. Out. In. Out. Subsequent liquid drip down my leg. In. Out. Pat dry. In. Out. PeelScrubScrape it off. In. Out. In. Out.

I opened my eyes and lifted my head when he set his scalpel down.
"This is going to sting, un chin*, a little bit," MustacheSurgeon took some alcohol pads. You can fill in the blanks on this one.

Then, HotPinkLipStickNurse did the one thing she had apparently been brought in to do. Her bright lips pursed, she poured cool, refreshing water all over me. That is nice. Then MustacheSurgeon put magic cream on the open wounds he'd created and carefully laid gauze on my inner thigh, HooHa and waist. Tape. Tape. Tape. You're welcome. Go get antibiotics and pain killers from the pharmacy. My pleasure.

We put it all on the credit card. No insurance. All my American friends are now gasping in horror, I imagine. I must tell you the total bill for spending several hours in a hospital, getting an IV, liquid relief, magic cream and being the recipient of madskill from MustacheSurgeon, TooMuchCologne and HotPinkLipStickNurse: US$60. Sixty. Six-zero. Can you believe it?! We spent slightly more at the pharmacy, but still. We're getting royally screwed in the States. My last ER visit, which was just this last May, I waited in the triage room for two hours and wasn't ever even touched by a doctor, had a $1000 price tag. With our insurance, we paid $150. No drugs. Maybe it was because I was given a gown and got to undress in private.

*Chin is a Dominican word meaning "a little". If you want to say "very little", just say chin chin.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Stupidity and the Consequential ER Visit: Part One

Last night, I found myself hooked up to an IV drip, lying under bright lights while a surgeon took a scalpel to my upper thigh and waist.
A neighboring Bahá'í family is on their way to pilgrimage today, so we had them over for a bon voyage dinner. As the veggie kabobs, ribs, fresh rolls, hummus and salad disappeared from everyone's plates, I offered to make some tea. Yes, please!
I set the "I <3 <3 Jesus" pot to boil and went about socializing. When all was ready, I prepared the cups, tea bags and a side plate of fudge (of course!). I poured the first cup of tea straight from the pot, as I usually do and it spilled a bit out of the cup. This isn't going to work, I thought. I looked for my large glass measuring cup as all other pitcher-type containers in this household are plastic. I bumped the pot and boiling water spilled a bit on my jeans, bare toes and the floor. Geez. I went to get a towel for the floor (we've found that wet floors around here inevitably lead to a slip and a fall). I cleaned up the floor, stood up and knocked the pot just enough. Yup. That whole pot of boiling water poured on my waist and down my legs. My jeans were cooking my skin. Who thought a cute pair of jeans could be so dangerous?
MarvelousMartine, having witnessed the whole charade began commanding StupifiedMe, "Take your pants off! Take them off!"
I do as I'm told. I wandered, half-naked, outside to the laundry line to look for dry clothes when I realized that my skin was bubbling and melting. Shaking, I went to our outdoor sink and began splashing cool water on myself. When Josh arrived on the scene, I asked him to connect the hose. We have one of those lovely hose nozzles with all different options: mist, soaker, shower, etc. I sprayed myself continually, waiting for my brain to snap back to reality and some kind of clear, conscious thought. Josh cut some aloe, which grows in wonderful abundance in the back yard and attempted rubbing it on my legs. "No," was all I could summon at first. Then, "I just want to keep spraying water. I can't stop. Can you get our friends their tea, please?"

My first clear thought was this: My God, what happens to people in this situation who don't have running water? I asked Josh this aloud, tears suddenly streaming down my face. From the pain? From the realization of all the suffering in the world? I don't know.
My second clear thought: My underwear need to come off. But if I slide them off, my skin might go with them. "Josh, get scissors." That dear man was clearly confused by my request, but went nonetheless. As I write this, I realize the pieces of my undergarments may still be on the back patio.

During my half-nude escapade on the back patio, everyone in the household was trying to help. One went to the pharmacy down the street. Closed. Someone else filled a cool bath. Another looked up what to do if you pour a large pot of boiling water on yourself. Very helpful information at the time. Yet another called a doctor. That darling woman, who helped Max when he was quite ill, told us: Go to the hospital.

Still not thinking entirely clearly, I put Josh in a very tough spot.
"I don't want to go," I looked right in his eyes.
"Rebecca, as soon as Dr. Holly heard there were blisters, she said you must go to the hospital." That's Josh trying to convince me.
"Please don't make me go." I shook my head and tears sprang up in my eyes. That's me trying to convince Josh. "I don't want to stop spraying water on myself."
Max had been standing behind us, unnoticed until he started to whimper. That was not the kind of conversation my little boy wanted to hear. Josh lovingly escorted him back inside to calm him, leaving me alone, yet again, naked in the back yard with the hose. I keep waiting for the rumors to reach our ears:  
The white lady next door? 
She came here to escape forced institutionalization in the States. 
Oh! I heard she was a witch.
In my reflective, solitary moment, naked in the moonlight, I realized that I was being a weeny about this whole thing. Get to the hospital, Rebecca. You'll be fine. Albeit still scared of the inevitable pain when that cool water ceased, I agreed and we set about discussing the logistics of a nude gringa on public transportation.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Las Hermanas Mirabal

Update: If you're a teacher and would like to Skype with someone in the Dominican Republic to connect your students to their reading, please send me a message! I'd be happy to help.

Ever read In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez? I went there. Twice. First when I read the book a couple years ago and again a couple weeks ago. Wild. The in-laws came along.
The museum which hosts a library, reception and a snack bar.
Surrounding gardens were beautiful.
Minerva had quite a collection.

Coming into town, we noticed a pronounced focus on art in general. The museum also had many different works. 

Some of the sisters' personal things. No photographs were allowed inside the actual house.

The backside of the house. Those two doors lead to two different kitchens.
Pond behind the house.
The "outdoor" kitchen.

Busts of the sisters seen from their resting place.

A house, about three feet tall, used for drying cacao beans. 

Susan found one!
The bus Susan had hoped we would travel in. Alas, a picture with her standing next to it had to suffice.