Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Technology Breakfast

The early pioneers for the Faith were straight up, hardcore. We ain't got nothin' on them. We have a fabulous home, running water most of the time, electricity (again, most of the time) and each other.
We've been without a home internet connection since we moved into our new place. To see us at home, you'd think we were in solitary confinement, cut off from the rest of the world. Its been both wonderful and painful. Like fasting.
And we're happy to be breaking our techy fast.
The family is now available via the glorious internets. Josh is homeschooling the kids, so if you want to Skype in a lesson or two and help him out, I'm sure they'd all be thrilled.
See y'all manana.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Four-year-old Bean

Little habichuela Zora turned four this week (Happy birthday to you too, Ping!). Max and I put together a slideshow of her extensive, elegantly lived life thus far.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flora

The last time I studied plants was in 9th grade. I carefully collected, identified, pressed and dried one-hundred-and-nine different plants ("No grasses," Mr. B said, "they're too many of 'em."). I compiled them into a 9x11" scrapbook of sorts. If I had to do that here, I'd need a larger book. Big is often the theme (with bugs too) here on the island. Some friends of ours took us to their back patio (no worries, they're not mafia) to show off their collection of the island's flora.



 The avocados are enormous and cheap. Did I mention they were cheap?


I wish Mr. B were around. I'd be able to tell you what all of these beautiful plants are. Perhaps y'all can fill us in.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dominican Thing

Midway through our Jarabacoa adventure, we stopped for lunch at a Chinese-Dominican comedor. The comedores are quite popular here and all offer the same seven dishes: white rice, white rice with a few beans, habichuela, fried chicken, french fries, fried plantains and manguHabichuela is bean soup, but if you ask a Dominican, its just beans. Mangu is mashed potatoes, but with yucca instead of potatoes. Its all reasonably tasty. And the appeal of the comedor is the price. Josh, the kids and I always get three plates of food, three bottles of water and a coke (for Josh) for about 300 pesos (US$7.75).
Now, the Chinese-Dominican comedores seems to be popular here. I've seen many Chinese immigrants in this country and every one of them is standing behind the counter while I'm ordering my lunch. They offer some additions to their buffets of comedor lunch options; usually one or two dishes that you would see at Panda Express in the mall. This means, for me, that I'll get to have a few vegetables since they're cooked and drenched in sauce and MSG.
Josh ordered our lunch while I took the kids in the back to wash our hands. A must. I've been disappointed several times having touched the bathroom door and touched the faucet only to find out there isn't any soap. Great, I think, now my hands are dirtier than when I came in. Today was, again, one of those. But I had to pee so bad, it was happening. The three of us got into the dirty, dilapidated bathroom and Max screamed. My reaction has morphed in the last few weeks since the boy has been screaming a lot. Mid-scream, I covered his mouth, then asked "What is it?" He pointed, shaking.
Dear Lord, I thought. Then I said the mom thing, "Its okay. Just give me a second."

I grabbed the door handle to shut the door on a spider I can only describe as the size of Thing from the Addams Family. It had muscles. The door squeaked and, sure enough, Dominican-Thing ran inside the bathroom, across Max's feet (who screamed again), over my feet and up the wall, where she paused (we all know the big ones are female). Dominican-Thing poised herself to, I assume, jump on Zora, strangle her with its legs, remove her organs and feed them to its clan. In a flash, I whipped off my Chaco and gave one, heavy swing straight at Dominican-Thing, hoping I wouldn't put a hole in the wall, releasing God-knows-what.
My triumph came with, I kid you not, a splatter of guts and lifeless legs sticking out from under my Chaco (you know how big and heavy those sandals are, right?!). I slowly removed my sandal and dead Dominican-Thing fell to the floor with a thump. No exaggeration.
I peed--hovering over the filthy toilet--so fast that Max said, "Woah, Mom! That's like a waterfall!" I was not about to meet any of Dominican-Thing's relatives with my pants down. We "washed" our hands and cautiously headed to lunch, grateful that Zora had not been made an organ donor.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Assaulted at the Bus Stop

Yesterday Josh, the kids and I all headed to Jarabacoa for the day. Our mission: furnish the house in one fell swoop. We'd found an ad in the forums for expats living in the DR. A couple was moving back to the States and wanted to liquidate. Perfect. We had bartered over email and phone for a week, seen pictures, consulted our future housemates, and even found a reasonably priced moving company to get everything to Santiago. Last step: make sure it was what was promised and finalize the deal.
The trip, in a car, takes about 45 minutes. By bus? Two hours. Adventure, here we come again! We arrived at the bus stop--excuse me--the guagua stop and Josh went to buy tickets. In the meantime, vendors were swarming my small children with candy and promises of stomach aches.
The Guagua Station in Santiago
 I caved and gave each of them 25 pesos to get what had made their eyes bulge. I asked the price. "20 pesos," Sleepy-Merchant-Man told me. At that point, Josh came up and indicated he thought me crazy to give the children sticky, refined sugar at 10 am just before a day of travel in tiny buses across the country. Touche. But it was done. I turned back around to find Sneaky-Peddler-Man (A different guy. The vendor pimp, perhaps?) handing my children the objects of their affection. They gave him their 25 peso coins, he plopped them in his fanny pack, zipped it up and gestured with his hands, "That's it. Deal is done." I steamed for a bit, deciding if this would be my battle for the day and now I regret my decision not to say, "You're seriously going to try and rob 10 pesos from my little children?!" Admittedly, its only about 25 cents (USD), but still!



The fire sparked within me for the day, I stood, stewing next to the bus we were to take. Without warning, a man was rubbing his hand and arm across my breasts. That was it. I grabbed his arm without even looking at him and shoved it back at him, pushing him off balance. And he backed away behind me.
The bus driver, standing next to me, giggled and leaned in to me, "Esta ciego. He's blind."
I covered my face in my hands and awkwardly laughed a bit too, feeling awful. Looking behind me, sure enough, there was a man who was clearly blind stumbling around the bus stop, running into people and asking for money.
Once everyone was in the bus, Josh turned to me and pointed at Blind-Assaulted through the window, "Can you imagine trying to cross the street in this country?" I shook my head and told him what I'd just done. When Blind-Assaulted opened the guagua door and held out a water bottle with the top cut off, asking assistance from all the passengers, Josh plopped several coins in there. Hopefully my sweet husband has enough good in him to make up for both of us.

Relegated to the back of the guagua. I felt like a risky journalist taking this picture. Weeny, I know.
Passing homes and businesses along the way.
Some of the country with a side of thunderstorm.

A furniture store. Perhaps we should stop by there later.
The central plaza in Jarabacoa. A group of teenage boys were
break-dancing and jerking at the other end of the park. Some things are just the same.


Did we furnish our house, you ask? No, dear reader. And its a good thing that my fire was entirely extinguished with Blind-Assaulted. The couple decided to stay in the country. They were "still selling a few things though," and so hadn't told us of the major game change. It wouldn't end up being worth it for us to pay a mover for just a few things. We made our way back to Santiago, but not before tucking one last story into our travel belts. See you tomorrow!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Job.

The title is not a biblical reference, though it is a miracle worthy of such. I have myself a job. After turning down the $3 an hour teaching job, I decided if we were going to survive here, I'd need to step it up a notch or two or a few hundred.
I put on my best (also my worst since I only own one pair) slacks, combed my hair and headed down to one of the local universities at around 12:30 in the afternoon. Josh and offspring were in tow, since my directional disability + my first time out in the big city would have surely been my demise. My stomach in knots, we wound our way around the enormous campus asking every third person where on earth the English Department was. Come to discover, we were on the wrong end. And all offices were closed until 2 pm (two hour lunch break ain't bad).
Two pm couldn't have arrived too soon with two hot & hungry children and open sores on my sweaty feet from heels not worn nearly enough (and not meant for two hour walks around campus). I washed my face in the bathroom, put on my confidence and walked straight into the Applied Linguistics department. The directora, it turns out, was on vacation. I left my CV with the secretary and we were on our way. That was before we went on our Midwestern adventure.
A day after returning, that same secretary who I'd dressed up for called me. An interview? Tomorrow? At 9 am? Bring my birth certificate, passport, transcripts, degrees, and immunization records? Is that all? (Turns out, I have no record of my birth. Though I'm certain I wasn't hatched.)
Long story short: the university is desperate for English teachers. English happens to be my native language. Jackpot. I have a part-time job until December when they'll "reevaluate." Until then, I'm as happy as the mosquito sucking life from my thigh as I type.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Hizz-ouse

Josh and I have never rented a house. Ever. We've been quite comfortable with the apartment life; no serious commitment, a culture of closeness and a lack of responsibility on our part have all been major perks. We had a similar deal staying with the 'rents (Thanks, Mom & d!).
Honestly, when it comes to our home, we're total commitment-phobes. We can't seem to decide where to park ourselves for the rest of our lives. We are quite happy, however, to commit to people. Turns out, the promise to stick with people means sticking with other things as well. In this case, only a new country, city and a whole house for at least a year. No biggie.
While we were off gallivanting in the Midwest, our dear friend Ana (who has held our hands through most everything since we arrived here), found us a possible rental. A house. A big house. Gem of a human being, she is.
We went to check the place out this week and took no less than 200 photos and two videos. The owner thought me a bit crazy. I did so, however, knowing that our dear ones yet to arrive would have to make a decision from a distance. That's right, we've decided to live together. You can send all congratulatory "moving in together" gifts to my mother. She'll bring them to the island when she visits next month. You're too sweet.
After hours waiting for pictures to download, upload and then fail, I cut the number down to a couple dozen. Surely they'd get the idea. Here's a taste of what we showed our future housemates:

The front patio and house entrance (It doesn't come with Kelvin in the doorway, though he is single if you're interested in a kind, successful, business-owning Dominican man).
Walking in the front door, the owner begins the tour.
Josh stands, pleased as punch, in the living room.
The windows on the right, back look out onto the back patio and rock garden.
Outside the house is a nice covered area where we'll be able to hang our laundry without it being drenched by the frequent, unpredictable downpours.
The "back yard." Not great for my wild children as I see many scraped knees in our future, however, the owner gave me permission to plant whatever I please.
One of the four bedrooms. Yes, four.
They're all pretty much the same, except one has a bathroom attached to it.
The main throne. There is another included with the "maid's quarters," though quite small and the "quarters" is truly a quarter of a room. That's where you can stay, John. ;)
The front "yard." Lots of mud or a potential garden, methinks.
And, always a popular room in the house, the kitchen. 
Street view.
Notice, dear reader, the lack of appliances. Josh and I will be purchasing those this weekend should the heavens continue to smile on us. We'll also be acquiring places to sit and beds, so when y'all come and visit, we can offer you somewhere to park your rump and lay your head. 
Or maybe we'll just hang hammocks everywhere.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Photolog: Midwestern Journey, Columbus Edition

Road trip in a bright red rental.
Welcome to Oh! Truck.

Let the whirlwind begin.
After the 7-hour journey (+ Indiana radio stations can make a trip extra long),
we headed to dinner with the padres.
 Day two at the zoo.
Josh and Susan always have lively discussions. What, exactly, is that primate doing?
 These make me squirm. On the inside.
 Rollin' through the Columbus zoo in style.
 This is our new income plan back on the island. Wouldn't you tip a child more? Genius.
 Exhausted. (The one in the middle is a sweet cousin, not technically ours.)
 Tex-Mex delicious dinner. Thanks, Sam!
 All the girls went for manis & pedis.
 Foot soak well-deserved. Love you, Susan!
 Massage chairs ain't bad.
 Cait thinks its great.
 Ali got all done up and lookin' fine.
In the midwest, apparently fuel is sold by the gallon both for your vehicle and yourself. Speedy Freeze is a kind of iced sugary beverage from what I could gather. I'm still unsure if you have to pump it straight into your gullet or if they offer you some kind of container to then consume at your leisure.
 Back at the home, Kati does Grandma's makeup for the big event.
 She's making an entrance. Happy 90th!
 Party hats were in abundance. For some reason, the many party-going adults
didn't take to them as much as Max did.

It was a wonderfully successful afternoon! Success = happy Grams.
 Last day BBQ. Thanks, Kenny & Chrissi!
 Goodbye, wonderful Grandma!
 Hamster Zora. Photo credit: Max
 Last stop in Columbus: the house that Ed grew up in to offer some prayers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Photolog: Midwestern Journey, Chicago Edition

Our adventure began in a magical land just north of Chicago.

BoyWonder stealing the show while the rest of the homeschoolers practice
for the play that they wrote that day. (Yes, Max is wearing a cape.)
 On our walk with Harry Potter's BFF, Hermoine to the horse farm nearby.
(Yes, Zora is wearing a ballerina outfit.)
Max manages to only have energy-overload for things like baseball and make-believe.
Walking is below him.
 Last day with Hermoine and her fab-o parents. Love.
 Kiddos first temple visit. (Yes, Max is wielding a sharp object.)

"The real temple is the very Word of God; for to it all humanity must turn
and it is the center of unity of all mankind." -'Abdu'l-Baha
Josh gave the offspring a history lesson: Abdu'l-Baha in the US and the laying of the cornerstone.
What majesty!