Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dominican-Swedes and Super Tardiness

In September (yes, last calendar year), I ordered some things from IKEA.do to help furnish our not-so-humble abode. I was tired of stacks of books on the floor and cardboard tables. After hours of consultation which spanned several weeks, putting things in my electronic cart and taking them back out again, I settled and punched in our VISA card numbers. And didn't look back.
Delivery day finally arrived along with most of the things we had ordered and paid for. The burly delivery men were confused. Your whole order isn't here? No, sir. It is not. I ended up having to highlight items on my receipt and tell them to find those for me. They couldn't. Ah-ha! I told you!
At that point, I should have sent back the whole order. But I was desperate to put away our books and get our things out of suitcases where they'd made themselves at home for two months. I believe its called "attachment" and can get you into trouble in a hurry.
BurlyDeliveryMen took some notes, talked amongst themselves, made a few phone calls that sounded full of import and concern and left. Quietly. Into the sunset. And they haven't returned.
I lost count how many complaints I've made. Emails. Kind messages. Angry messages. Weeks of no messages. Online chats through their website. I even got a date for a new delivery once at the end of October. No show. The Dominican-Swedes hate me. Or maybe I just smell that bad. I do eat a lot of beans in my island life.
I mentioned my frustration to a Dominican-Dominican, who was appalled by my sob story. Savvy woman that she is, she informed me that they have a not-so-known hole in the wall of an office here in Santiago. Perhaps I'll be able to muster enough American left in me to march down there and demand the rest of my order. And maybe I'll bring my camera for good measure. Threats of a bad reputation and horrific reviews on the interwebs. Or I'll just continue living without the things I needed back in September; you're welcome for the free money, IKEA.do

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stop Starting a Junior Youth Group

Our dear Leili has officially left us. She found love and higher education far off in the capital. Alas, we can't compete with that. She did, however, leave behind some gems for us, a junior youth group (JYG) among them. Sometime in mid-December, Leili, Martine and I meandered through a lively neighborhood, visiting the JYG's homes. We invited each girl--yup, all females, interestingly--to a junior youth group meeting the next day where we would realize a service project that they had conjured up in weeks prior. Having visited all the participants' homes, talked with parents and made concrete plans for our service project the following day, we headed back home.
The next day? You guessed it. It rained. A lot. Martine and I actually made it part way there, under an umbrella, dedicated. We then realized that the service project, painting oil drums, could not be done indoors. We made a phone call and sure enough, all assumed cancellation.
We went again the next week to talk about another meeting time. Why don't you just Facebook them all? Make a few phone calls? We're not in Kansas, darling. Face-to-face is how its done here in most neighborhoods. We only remembered how to get to two houses. "Yeah, yeah. Tuesday at 5ish. Sounds good." We shared some prayers and were on our way. I was going to be gone at Baha'i Winter School, but Martine would carry on without me. Guess what? That meeting didn't happen either.
Christmas week passed, painfully slowly for myself, flying by for others. And with Gregorian New Year under our belts, we decided to make another round of visits to attempt starting up the group... again? "Is tomorrow good for you? How about you? Great. Tell all the girls."
An emergency blood donation was needed and Jesse was a match. Martine took him to the hospital. My insanely elementary sense of direction forced another cancellation that day, Tuesday. No way I could find any of the homes by myself yet. We went Wednesday instead. I brought my camera along to take pictures of all the turns and streets along the way. A personalized map, if you will. The hostess and her cousin were waiting. Success! We spent a wonderful couple of hours together and vowed to do it again the following week. Tuesday? Yeah. Tuesday.
Martine flew away to the States. I overcame my severe directional handicap (the picture map helped immensely) and successfully arrived at the one and only junior youth's home I knew how to get to: the hostess'. Good house to know. Her mother eyed me as I walked up, "She went to her grandmother's. Said something about if you called, say she couldn't meet today."
"I'll be back next week," I smiled, then just sat down next to the woman. I needed to soak in the glory of arriving at an obscure destination #allbymyself.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecc 3:1) Now, if I could just read the fine print. The American in me would love to have a specific day and time! Perhaps that's the lesson.
"And now I give you a commandment which shall be for a covenant between you and Me--that ye have faith. That your faith be steadfast as a rock that no storms can move, that nothing can disturb, and that it endure through all things even to the end; .... As ye have faith so shall your powers and blessings be." ('Abdu'l-Baha)
Word. I'll let you know what happens next Tuesday. Or maybe I'll just show up there on Monday.

*Junior youth groups are made up of young people between the ages of 12-14 who gather together regularly to learn how to serve their communities, develop their powers of expression and sharpen their capacity to understand the moral implications of their thoughts and actions. (http://www.transformingneighbourhoods.org)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dear Milk Container, Why Do You Torture Me So?

Changing the toilet paper roll is no longer at the top of my list of little chores I abhor. You know the list. Everything on there is something that you do regularly and, without fail, each time you engage in it, you ask (in your head or screaming for all to hear, depending on the day), "Am I the only one who does this in this house?!" This week, my top ten list was shuffled, yet again. A new household task has been in the number one spot week after week: Opening the milk container. I cringe as I type that. The milk container. Grrrrrr.
Before you judge me too harshly (Oh, gimme a break! you're thinking, I know), allow me to explain (though you're probably right about me being a weeny).
This morning my lovely offspring decided they wanted cereal. Easiest breakfast prep ever. Ha! When I realized we had finished off the last of the milk yesterday and I needed to open a new container, the feelings began to creep in. I did not, however, scream aloud. That's progress, right?
I gathered my supplies. Yes, those are pliers.
It is supposed to be a simple pulling of the tab. All the adults in the house,
I'll have you know, have failed at opening this with just their hands.
I swear they use plastic infused with titanium which they then weld on there.
Happens every time. Tab broken off.
Now the cow is laughing at me and my blood pressure is slowly rising.
Next option: a knife. The sharp one. I gave up on butter knives long ago. They're useless.
I then saw open the flap, ever so gently.
Don't you want toast instead? How about dry cereal?
Oooh! Cereal with water or orange juice?
Success. Kind of.
Now that flap won't close and because it was ruggedly cut open, when you pour milk, it inevitably spills everywhere. And you know what that means. Having to open another bleeping container even sooner than we normally would have to otherwise. Its a sick, sick cycle.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Locos for Cocos

Darlin' man o' mine loves himself some coconuts. So when he bought a machete, I knew it was for one thing and for one thing only: break them suckers open.
Josh climbed a tree.
And got himself some cocos. More like a Dominican everyday.
Max just loves to hold large, sharp things.
Zora said the other day: "Yeah, we're Dominicans." Okay.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Born Again Gardners

When Josh and I first married, we were very concerned about our ability to keep living things from dying before their time. We wanted to someday have children, after all. We killed everything. Our record was four months with a cactus. I didn't know you could kill cacti. Perhaps we tried too hard. When little Max arrived, I remember checking for life signs every hour whilst he slept until he was suddenly a toddler. And, some days, the fact that he was still alive at nightfall was enough for us to celebrate. This is likely part first-time-parents, part plant-murderers, but we felt successful nonetheless.
Years later, our luck seems to have turned. Max is now a healthy, robust six-year-old. Take that, cactus. Apparently, our offspring are heartier than plants, thank God. Or at least they're more vocal.
Having kept two living things alive now for quite some time, Josh and I decided to attempt caring for more and more life forms here on the island. The hamster didn't work out so well, as you may have heard. Danger, the cat, is still alive, though he hasn't made it past our trial four-month-period yet. As if that wasn't enough, we have successfully planted, grown and kept most of the plants that started as seeds when we arrived. Most. My-oh-my how our garden is growing. Like the tree we planted on our wedding day (which has survived, as we have, despite it's many hardships), we feel that planting here is symbolic of our intentions to stay. Roots in soil. Live ones, stayin' alive. Each day plunging deeper, weaving intricately through nutrient-rich earth.
Our most recent addition, a jasmine tree, is atop Leonardo's grave.
(Max dressed up for the funeral service which he  arranged and hosted himself.)
Planting a banana tree. Incidentally, I think this one will die for lack of shade. C'est la vie. Or la death, as it were.

Having allowed the plants to sprawl across our backgravelyard, the kiddos went and found some branches to prop them up. Who needs wire plant stands? Just use other plants.

Oh my stars! Food is actually growing. We've planted watermelon, orange trees, cucumber, tomatoes, pineapple, beans, cilantro and some other stuff in a pot which we've forgotten what it is.
Maybe we'll find out, maybe we won't.
Our first cucumber. Hoorah!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sun Still Be Shinin'

I continue to be a flip-flop-wearin'-fool around these parts. My feet are gnarly. Dry. I've never felt the need for a pedicure. 'Til now. Maybe next week. For now, I'm keeping up with fresh mango smoothie drinking and playing outside with my sweet offspring. In January.
A dear friend, Roslend, continues to climb trees and bring us piles of these lovelies on a weekly basis.
A park near our house has a great playground for chitlins size small.

Martine has an official member card: "Best Swing Pushers Club".  
I think she is member #002, but she refuses to show me her card. Doesn't want me to get jealous.
Swing low sweet cherry chariot.
Dems' my babies.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Good Idea #67: Don't Throw Up on Motorcycles (by Josh)

It didn’t seem like such a terrible idea at the outset.  I mean, it didn’t seem like a good idea, but not terrible either.  Max had been running a fever all day, since he woke up complaining of hot and cold all over his body at 6 a.m.  So, given that Zora had suffered the same symptoms a few days before, with nothing but a little coughing and high fever, I figured Max could use some orange juice and a hearty lunch.  Given that my cooking is rarely considered “hearty”, and that the nice Sino-Dominican folks down the street do such a nice job with rice & beans and fried plantains, I decided to lug the kiddos the two blocks down to the comedor (a mini cafeteria of sorts, with the traditional Dominican lunch) and colmado (the ubiquitous corner stores, most prized for their willingness to deliver anything. Alas, I had no phone that day). 
Now, Max had a fever but the Tylenol was starting to kick in, so I slapped some sunglasses and a baseball cap on the poor boy and out we went into the bright, 85 degree day.  With Zora in tow, vociferously protesting her demotion to “walker” (Oh, I’m sorry your majesty, but I’m not going to carry you this one time because your brother is sick!), I lugged my surprisingly heavy 6 year old down Calle 7.  Once we reached our destination, I set my two lovely offspring in the green plastic chairs usually reserved for the dudes perpetually chillin’ out front. 
I went off to order lunch, confident that the fresh air and shady lookout post would do him good.  I got all of our food and as I strolled over to the colmado for drinks, Max stopped me.  “Dad,” he moaned. “I kinda feel like I might throw up.” 
Viewing this as a purely theoretical possibility, I told him, “Well buddy, if you need to, just lean forward and let it out onto the sidewalk there.  Be careful not to hit that guy’s motorcycle.”
“Okay Dad,” he replied, and just as I turned to order the drinks, I heard the tell-tale sound, unmistakable as can be, of my sweet little boy purging himself of any and all stomach contents.  Let’s just say I was glad I’d worn sandals, as Max let it all out, on my feet, on his feet, and most importantly, on the concrete in front of him. 
As I rubbed his back to comfort him while he finished up, I looked around me and saw a small crowd staring straight at me, a self-evident look on their faces.  One of the things I love about this country is how much Dominicans love kids.  We rarely have an outing that does not include a few “God bless your child” and several “Amens”, because people see children as such a vital part of life.  Therefore, the look on people’s faces, and the comments emanating from them, were a combination of two sentiments: 1) Oh, that poor little kiddo!  ¡Dios le bendiga! and 2) What the hell kind of parent are you?!  Get your sick kid home and take care of him!
In the end, Max was just fine, and I learned an important lesson: Listen to my kids.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Transition Springtime

Yes, I’m aware it’s the middle of winter. To be fair, that means the temperature here only drops to a “freezing” (according to my dear Dominicans) 64 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of the night. In this little heart of mine, however, I feel the warmth of spring. I’ve found happiness, contentedness—which is only ever a decision away. With my forced vacation from daily life, I took a figurative step outside. The big picture was there. And it’s beautiful.
This week, Josh and I jumped into this new semester, if you will—me working online and he continuing the homeschool adventures. I’m grateful for the flexibility of my schedule, the ease of each day, spending time with my sweet offspring and dear husband. We’re in the midst of making so many decisions, both big and small, igniting feelings of fear and excitement. I think this is living.
Max and I sat together this morning, still in our pajamas, drinking fresh mango smoothies and feeling contemplative. My little boy turned to me, sincere smile on his face and a calmness in his voice. “It feels so good to be in 1st grade. I’m learning so many things. And I already know how to read a 3rd grade book. And fast!”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Lesson on Death

This morning I walked out to check on the various living creatures we've acquired and found one to be... not quite himself. He'd croaked, keeled over, bit the big one, kicked the bucket, ceased to exist. I saw him minutes before Max did, so was able to run and get Josh--the whole support team at the ready. Leonardo the hamster had met his end.
We circled around Max as he grieved. We questioned the reasons why, retraced all of our missteps, looked for clues. We moved the cage and found urine had somehow leaked outside it. Curious. I wondered if autopsies were done on hamsters. Silly. I pried Leo from the bottom of the cage. Homeboy had been stiff for a while. Blood. On his face. Ah yes. Danger. Cat got 'em.
Well, at least it wasn't because of complete neglect. Our sneaky kitty had somehow slipped into Leo's room and acted swiftly. Circle of life?
We suggested that Max write a story about Leonardo to assist his grieving process.
The Story: "Love Leonardo"
For those of you who either can't see the poor quality photo or can't read, I have taken the liberty of editing the story.
"Love Leonardo One day I found Leonardo lying dead and I cried my eyes out. The End."

Leonardo, looking out of his cage.