Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photolog: Baha'i Children's Class

Darling, talkative Juanita is my co-conspirator on Friday afternoons and I'm hers. She is a child at heart, immensely passionate about making the world a better place, so forgetful its endearing and a talented painter. Juanita can round up a hundred people in an hour's time if you need her to. Doesn't even need a reason.
This morning, like many, I saw Juanita at the neighborhood Zumba class where nobody actually exercised, but that is for another post. When it was time to go, I said, as I always do on Friday mornings, "See you this afternoon, Juanita!"
She waved and called to the air, "If God wishes it."
With some people that means "probably not." For Juanita, it means, "if I'm not stuck under a beam, fallen in a deep hole or just plain forget, I'll be there." 
Today was not like other Fridays, though. We had a key to the community room at the local park. For reals, yo. No more class in Juanita's carport. Having a copy of that key has been months in the making. We first had to prove to the neighborhood association that Baha'is were real, live people. Then that Baha'is lived in the neighborhood. Then Juanita just had to nag a lot--errr, gently remind people. 

'Lil Z waits for class to begin.
Crayons are rarely used in this particular children's class. Juanita believes in paint and giving children access to it. She just holds up the Ruhi book's particular coloring page to inspire them, then they go at it. In lesson three, we studied the quote,“Tread ye the path of justice, for this, verily is the straight path.” We saw a variety of pathways in the wee ones' art.
Mauricio thought the path of justice to look more like a highway.
Mabel got the "straight path" part.
Zoey is four. Justice is a lot of work.
Yes, we have a wide age range.
Zora, ever my abstract artist/thinker/human in general. She dressed herself too. 
Um, yeah, that's outside in the background there. In February.  I don't wear socks.
We played follow the leader. Carlos led.  As did every participant at one point. That's just.
I told the story of 'Abdu'l-Baha where He takes the public coach instead of a private one, comparing the two to a concho and a taxi. Then we ate popcorn (because I can make a vat of it for US$0.30 and its awesome). Like we do every Friday. Practiced speaking politely, tried very hard not to throw trash on the ground and played nicely--mostly. Come on down!

Friday, February 24, 2012

7-Game Series Are For Weenies (by Josh)

In an age of doubts and cynicism about the nature of playoff series, when some contend that seven, or even five-game playoff series are drawn out, it's nice to know that somewhere, someone is bucking the trend.  Or at the very least, they just don't give a damn.
A few weeks ago, Santiago was firmly in the grips of baseball fever, lunacy even.  The Aguilas had miraculously come back from the basement of the Dominican League standings, winning six games in a row against all the right teams and placing themselves firmly in the running for the championship series.  It was at this point that Jesse and I decided we should jump on the bandwagon.  Actually, we were so oblivious that we had no idea the magnitude of the age in which we were living, we just wanted to see a ball game before the season was over.  So, we headed off to Estadio del Cibao with Max and our friend Kelvin, ready for some excitement.  Once we got there, Kelvin excitedly informed us of the importance of the game we'd gone to see, which got Max fired up, and in the meantime we noted that Dominicans had grown tired of letting other sports have all the fun objectifying women.
"Daddy, why don't those ladies have clothes?"
(Photo Credit: sabanaiglesia.net)
Yes, that's supposed to be an assault rifle in
his hand.  This is the only mascot I've
ever seen Max get weirded out by, given
that he ran away like a startled crackhead
when Max tried to hug him.
(Photo Credit: 7dias7noches.net)
One of his tamer outfits.  Jesse's
favorite was the Grim Reaper.
(Photo Credit: eljacaguero.com)
We quickly noticed another stark difference from American ballparks: we bought a mini Domino's pizza from a vendor and realized that the food was actually cheaper than it was outside the stadium!  This was apparently something the owner coordinated a few years back to help out the fans. Kelvin also promptly bought Max a noise maker (euphemistically named a trumpet) and it was on.  The Aguilas truly put on a show for us, coming back from behind to set up a tie-breaker with their arch-rivals for a chance to play for the championship.  The crowd went absolutely insane as the two teams battled into the ninth inning, spurred on by the mentally deranged cheering, complete with disturbing outfits, of the Aguilas mascot.  As the last out was clinched in the mitt, we danced around with our neighbors until I noticed the beer bottles flying down from the stands above.
"It's okay!" yelled Kelvin above the din.  "They make them out of plastic now!"
We also managed to make a trip to the gift shop (also cheaper), and with new hats on our heads we all walked out of the stadium, officially "Aguiluchos". 
I don't think Max's Great Grandpa would have approved of the
decibel level, but it sure was fun!
(Photo Credit: caobadigital.com)
In the days to come, every kid in town was on the corner playing ball, and wearing my new hat around the city. I was suddenly part of a new fraternity.
"Oye!  You think we'll win tomorrow?!" (Oh, I hadn't realized I'd been signed by the team.  How much is my paycheck?)
"Hey! Aguilucho!"
"Go Aguilas!" 
I'd hear all this just walking down the street or strolling through the supermarket, and realized that just by wearing that hat (poser that I am), I could meet tons of new people.  It also reminded me of just how dang friendly folks here are.

So, the Aguilas managed to beat their arch-rivals (Licey) in the tie-breaker, evoking mass-insanity in the local populace and all night parties all over the city.  We could hear people everywhere screaming and honking and otherwise going nuts for their beloved ball club.
Thus it was that the Aguilas were thrust into the championship series with the overall favorite, Escogido (the Chosen Ones).  When I asked Kelvin to explain about the playoffs, he told me that it was now down to the two teams to fight it out in a 9-GAME SERIES.  NINE GAMES.  Not only that, there would be only one day of rest during the entire series as the teams bounced back and forth between Santo Domingo and Santiago (a 2 1/2 hour drive), playing not just for their own glory, but for the hopes and aspirations of their fans.  Escogido, as I understand, had not won in decades, though they'd had a great run at the time of the dictator, who stacked that team with the best players (gives "free-agent" a whole new meaning, eh?).  The Aguilas, on the other hand, had won more recently, but it had been a while, and their fans are beyond loyal, giving their team their entire heart and soul.
Each and every night we could tell exactly how the games were going, whether our internet connection allowed us to watch the game or not, just by listening to the moans or the screams of our neighbors.  The Aguilas were nearly swept, but suddenly came back, as before, and pushed the series all the way to the ninth game.  
People were ready to party, and although the game was in Santo Domingo, the stadium here in Santiago filled beyond capacity for thousands of fans to watch together on the jumbo-tron.  The Aguilas went up fast, making it a 4-0 game early on, but Escogido fought back. 
In the meantime, I had to leave my house to go and pick up my father-in-law, who was arriving that evening from the U.S. for a long awaited visit with the grandkids.  I was told that I should leave early, in case the Aguilas won and the streets filled with partiers, so I decided I'd walk out and find a concho to the airport, slightly disappointed to miss the end of such an exciting game. After I'd walked about a block, it started to rain, so, figuring it made no sense to get soaking wet, I stopped at a local open-air diner to call a cab and watch the game as I waited.  
Now, since I'd left the house, the game had changed significantly.  With the help of a few heart-breaking Aguila errors, Escogido managed to pull ahead 5-4 in the eighth inning and the mood of the crowd sank.  The top of the ninth began dramatically, with a close call at first base going to Escogido.  With only one out between them and victory, the masterful closer from Escogido just couldn't quite get out the next Aguila batter, and soon it was a full count, 3 balls and 2 strikes, when a breaking ball floated right over the plate and POW!! A shot up, up and over the left field wall and the folks in the diner went nuts.  Hand slaps and hugs all around, and people ecstatically dancing with strangers to the celebratory music.  
Unfortunately, as marvelous as it was, it was a solo shot and only tied the game. The taxi picked me up and we listened as Escogido managed to pull off a last minute victory, sending the Aguilas home.
 Santiago stayed quiet that night under the drizzling rain, disheartened but already looking to the next season.  I'm reminded of this every time I wear my Aguilas hat when I'm out and about.  "Aguilucho?" they ask.  "Si, Aguilucho," I answer.  "We'll get 'em next time," they say, and I have no doubt they will with fans like this, or at the very least everyone will have a really, really good time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Home Depot Wannabe

There is something endearing about wannabes. Albeit a smidge patronizing, wannabe-hood is cute, really... until it's laughable or irritating. Living in a house for six months, we'd collected our share of small home improvement projects (mostly broken things needing fixing) and decided to head down to the newly opened, talk-of-the-town, big box hardware store, Bellon.
We're so green, we even walk to the hardware store.
Because we don't have a car or, well, taxi money.
It is adventurous maneuvering on the sidewalks here. Trees, cables and power poles are all placed about dead center.
Look familiar? Notice the colors, the set up. Even the employees wear orange aprons.
And there are about three employees per aisle.
How can a store modeled (down to the color scheme) after Home Depot afford to have three employees per aisle, at the ready? Well, they're saving on bar code stickers, you see. Each employee carries around a small, blank notepad where they write numbers. Yes, just lots of numbers. Whenever you decide to pull something off the shelf--even if its just a couple of screws from a bulk bin--you need to get one of those little slips with lots of numbers written for you. Then, when you go to check out, pull all the little slips out of your pocket and three people will work through them, matching up your items with the slips, sometimes going back into the aisles to check prices a second time and, of course, scanning the one item in 20 that does have a precious bar code. You still with me? If, in fact, this process doesn't sound long enough for you, there is another step that you can add, should you so wish:
Josh tries out the optional extra check out step along with other patient, bargain shoppers.
There are two or three of these rooms full of desks, computers and friendly Home Dep---oh, I mean, Bellon employees. What are they for? What are they doing? Oh! If you want to get a discount on your items, come here first. Sit down, schmooze and bargain with apron-wearing-computer guy. Offer. Counter-offer. Agree. He also has white pieces of paper. And a printer. Then you can take your printed paper with lots of numbers on it to the cashier and go through the process described above.

"But, Rebecca, what if I know what I want, go in, grab my desired product and walk to the cashier?" you may ask. No, no, no, my friend. I made this mistake on my first trip there. I wanted two handles to put on a dresser I'm sprucing up. Two little metal handles, costing 11 pesos each (about US$0.30). One of them actually had a bar code sticker on it, so obviously I still don't entirely understand this complex process, but here goes.
I was second in line behind an older guy buying four cans of paint. OldPaintGuy gave the cashier his little slips with lots of numbers. CashierLady rang him up, then stopped, said something to one of the two other employee-minions standing next to her and FirstMinion walked away. CashierLady asked OldPaintMan to step aside. He waited awkwardly while she motioned for me to put my things on the counter, pushing the paint aside. Curiously, she went through the same process with me. SecondMinion walked away. I then waited with OldPaintMan and my two children as IncompetentCashierLady waved the next customer in line to come forward. She's out of minions, I thought. What will become of this third customer?
Side note: Sometimes I experience things here that are either so maddening or so confusing that I need to distance myself from them with time before I can tell you about them. You still, for example, have no idea the tragic saga of our cell phones. Its still too soon for me. This particular incident I describe above happened a month ago and all the details are slightly blurred.
Miraculously, ThirdCustomer was able to pay and leave. FourthCustomer? IncompetentCashierLady stole someone else's minion! And there we were, becoming a club of the leftovers of incompetence. My children can be patient. Moreso than me, actually. But at minute 28, they were buggin' to go. Finally, FirstMinion returned and OldPaintGuy was on his way, the initial holdup still unclear. CashierLady then sent FirstMinion out to find SecondMinion. At that point, I held up the handles for all to see and said, "I've been waiting for 30 minutes to buy 22 pesos worth of product. Twenty-two pesos."
Somehow, in the minutes following that, CashierLady took a break from her growing line of customers yet to be served and tied up the loose ends (me and FourthCustomer). I paid and was permitted to leave, but only once my receipt and purchases were checked by yet another employee--MinionOverseer. Seriously? If CashierLady requires that many minions to be able to do her job and then be kept in check by a MinionOverseer, why does she still have a job?
I trust this initial experience is not the common experience, though time will tell. Until then, bar code stickers are still in short supply. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Speed Blind Dating

Josh and I have no problem committing to people. We like people. Seriously. We like you. Relationships seem to offer far more joy, flexibility and overall opportunities for growth than other kinds of commitments. People don't require rent. We don't have to sign a contract to be considered friends. Usually. You don't pay taxes on friendships. You can be dead broke and still be a good friend. If you decide to go on a trip or move to a different time zone, you don't have to leave your friend behind if you don't want to. Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge. See how wonderful it is?!
Committing to a place, for us, seems tougher. We're reticent. And yet, as we discovered living in LastHomeTown, USA (our current record for place commitment), relationships are deepened, far richer, when you stick near people you're committing to. Maintaining friendships we cherish becomes a seamless part of life and survival. We lived next to strangers who became some of our closest friends. We saw them every day. Meals between families were shared at least three times a week. #IMissMexicanFood! Our children played, fought and grew together. 'Twas lovely. Sticking to one place allows you to find steady, well-paid work (as a general rule, with noted exceptions), find a comfortable rhythm in your day-to-day, establish foundations from which to spring and build. Establish yourselves. I can't figure out if those are cultural desires or human desires. Should I want those things? Am I going to screw up my kids if I never manage to have those things? A foundation. A home. What is, really, ultimately important?
I can't remember now what I was Googling this morning, but as I looked through my tabs, this quote from 'Abdu'l-Baha was at the top of one. I began to read:

"O ye homeless and wanderers in the Path of God! Prosperity, contentment, and freedom, however much desired and conducive to the gladness of the human heart, can in no wise compare with the trials of homelessness and adversity in the pathway of God; for such exile and banishment are blessed by the divine favour, and are surely followed by the mercy of Providence. The joy of tranquillity in one's home, and the sweetness of freedom from all cares shall pass away, whilst the blessings of homelessness shall endure forever, and its far-reaching results shall be made manifest."
Man, I thought, those first things--prosperity, contentment and freedom--sound really, really nice. And who doesn't want oodles of gladness in their heart or the joy of tranquility? Sign me up. Let's find a home to commit to. But those can't compare to being a homeless wanderer? What?! Sounds like the difference between eating chocolate souffle on a beautiful plate with those decorative syrup swirls as live music plays--delicious, temporarily happy inducing--and lima beans from a broken pot cooked over a fire while bugs bite your backside--difficult to swallow, but supposedly good for your health and character, eventually. Okay, a horrible comparison, I admit. But my mind is small and feeble. 'Abdu'l-Baha continues:
"Abraham's migration from His native land caused bountiful gifts of the All-Glorious to be made manifest, and the setting of Canaan's brightest star unfolded to the eyes the radiance of Joseph. The flight of Moses, the Prophet of Sinai, revealed the Flame of the Lord's burning Fire, and the rise of Jesus breathed the breaths of the Holy Spirit into the world. The departure of Muhammad, the Beloved of God, from the city of His birth was the cause of the exaltation of God's Holy Word, and the banishment of the Sacred Beauty led to the diffusion of the light of His divine Revelation throughout all regions.
Take ye good heed, O people of insight!"*

Surely, I am lower than nothing in contrast to the Prophets of God. It's probably arrogant of me to even write that sentence. I don't pretend to know "what Jesus would do." And I don't consider myself terribly insightful. Perhaps, then, we should attempt committing to a place. I want to go on blind dates with possible places. See how we feel within a few hours time. Blind speed dating. Sounds slightly dangerous. Or exciting (depending on your willingness to fall on your face). People keep telling us it doesn't work that way. You don't know if you'll like a place until you've been there a while. A year, at least. Is it important to "like" a place? Or are we supposed to go where there is a need we can fill (translation: sane people don't want to live there anyway)?
And here we are. As I continue to struggle with this, knowing ultimately that its not as simple as either being a homeless wanderer or establishing ourselves somewhere, the following is our current working list of possible home addresses, in no particular order (to be added to or subtracted from at any moment):
Nagua
San Francisco de Macoris
San Juan de la Maguana
La Vega
Santiago

What say you?

*‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 280-281

Monday, February 20, 2012

Honey, Moving Truck Wants to Know Where We're Going!

As our initial year of island living experimentation hits midway point, Josh and I are looking to make a plan for the coming year. Only ever able to plan a year out, 'tis 'bout the time we make a new plan. Naw Ruz, the Baha'i New Year, is just around the corner, after-all.
We have another move ahead of us this summer. Thank goodness it won't be an international one. Somehow the stakes seem ever-higher now. We're ready to settle in. Let our kids make friends they can grow up with. Be good neighbors. That whole bit. #officiallyadoptedislandlife
Doors are opening. Granted, some of them are dutch doors; only half-way open and partially cracked at that. And to be honest, most are really just windows. But we can see them, all five of them. We've been collecting place names like we collected baby names for our unborn offspring. I'm hoping against hope that we'll arrive and just know. Because the alternative is lots and lots of consultation, weighing all the options. I guess that's what adults who settle down do. Hmmmm. We each already have a favorite. It was like that with baby names too.
Pregnant with Zora, we had three possible names. I wanted Khadijeh. Josh wanted Nadezhda. When she finally fought her way out, we immediately named her with the third on the list: Zora. It was the only name either of us could remember in that moment of OhMyGodIThoughtSheWasABoy. No consultation. We just knew.
We've already explored two options. I want one of them. Josh wants the other. No point consulting yet, there are still three others on the list. And they aren't just going to fight their way to us, snuggle up in our arms and beg for us to come home to them. That would be creepy.
Since this is technically my blog, then, I'm going to make you fall in love with the place that is currently at the top of my list. Wouldn't you visit us if we lived here?
You guessed it. Beach town.
Sweet little side streets.
A kids' park in the middle of town.
Mostly paved roads. Mostly.
I didn't manage any pictures of downtown, which boasts two small grocery stores, banks, a dental clinic, some medical offices, a variety of clothing stores, hardware stores and even an agricultural feed store should we ever decide to get some goats.
And people. Lots of people out & about. Love that.
We went into the one grocery store we could find. It didn't look too good. And no peanut butter to be found. No chocolate chips. No butter. Living in the big city here in Santiago we already notice what we've given up. I'm not even talking about all the lovely packaged, processed foods we miss. Or really nice things like public libraries or great kids parks. I think you either forget over time or find alternatives, though. Josh bought a special treat for the kids the other day: an apple. Expensive and relatively flavorless. But exciting nonetheless. Only the seeds and stem were left.
Perhaps what lost Josh on this place was the electricity. Or lack thereof. On day two, Zora ran up to us excitedly, beckoning us to follow her. She led us to a light switch which she flipped on.
"See?!", she said, excitedly pointing at the shining bulb.
"What?", we gave her quizzical looks.
"The light turned on!" she was amazed and grateful (my favorite part).
The grocery store we ventured into smelled awful. All the refrigeration had gone bad. The house we stayed in while there connected to the grid for maybe 12 hours, over a course of three full days.
Pre-dinner conversation. Perhaps a bit dark.
Maybe I'm hopelessly romantic. Candlelight. Crashing waves. Slow conversations. Salty, sea air. Village life. I do <3 these things. But in day-to-day life? Josh might be right. And there is no clear economic way to survive. That, in itself, is a mouthful of sea water.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Photolog: Island Road Trip!

Let's just say that when we returned from our mid-week trip, showing my visiting papa some of the countryside, our conversations went something like this:
AnyDominicanFriend: Where'd you go?
MeOrJosh: Nagua and Monte Plata, mostly
AnyDominicanFriend: Wow. I've never been there before.
But it wasn't an exciting sort of response like: And I've always wanted to! It was more like: And there is good reason for that.
Nagua is mentioned in Lonely Planet. It says something like, this is really only a good place to catch a bus. If you need to get money, you could probably go to a bank in town, I guess. #glowingreview
Monte Plata, on the other hand, does not exist at all. And to be fair, it was a side trip on a whim.
So, this here's our photographic evidence of the trip no one but us seemed interested in taking. You can decide for yourself whether the destinations merit your time. We'd be happy to go again.
I'll take two. Thanks.
With my own eyes.
Rice fields glow a gorgeous green.
What's for dinner when you don't have fuel to cook with, plates or utensils? Sandwiches. On notebook paper. #homemadepaperplates
We made a swimming pool and a castle in ruins with Baba!
Goatee on a bust. That's art.
Mandatory.
Z-Bean is affected by that same gravitational pull of the moon.

Old man and his grandkids.
Flo? That sounds nice. I'll have that.

The only part of Monte Plata I saw. Josh went into the village without the camera, unfortunately. My bad.

Roadside mangoes. Yes, please.

Welcome back to Santiago.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trafficking with the Moon (by David House, first impressions)

I must say I’ve had worse international trips. Three legs, middle seats on two—I am in the seats, after all, to serve the airline, and not the other way ‘round— but short waits between. Then (as you know if you’ve parachuted into a new country) the mild background fog of unreality, until the senses accept one’s new circumstance. O. I really am here.

I arrived late, by taxi, with Josh, who met me at the airport. The kids were still up, to come and exclaim “Baba!,”and cling, “dripping off me” as my beloved says. And to bed.

The next day the fog lifted, to save my life. That is to say, Josh, the kids and I went for a walk along the sidewalks. Growing out of the middle of one, about a mile along, was a thin wire, stretched up to guy a power pole. Fiendish, and as it turned out, only one example among several of an urban obstacle course which, if the purpose was to totally defeat the blind and maim the daydreamers, could not have been designed any better. Just a bit further along, for example, we were welcomed by a gaping hole, half the size of the path. I grabbed Zora, who wanted to be carried anyway.

Traffic is similar: casually lethal. The people in the DR don’t drive angry, as is the case in so many countries, but the range of styles is definitely there, and one can never tell whether the approaching vehicle is driven by someone who likes to play “Frogger”, or someone nurtured on the milk of human kindness: a mensch.

Because the disappearing lines in the roads are universally regarded as a mere suggestion, only some of the traffic signals work, and many of the streets are narrow and the intersections are… call it “intimate”… there is a lot of subtle negotiation going on to replace the administrivia of mere traffic laws. Down the street you go, in a four-wheel amble. You approach an intersection, slowing. That one, there, waiting to go left, appraises you with a bland look which nevertheless has penetration. Have you slowed enough? Is your pause too long? Languid milliseconds make the difference. He will go, and several behind him will be pulled along into the vacuum of your apparent indecision.

“Right of way” is also determined by the vehicle: newer, more expensive, and above all very large? You go first. The proletariat, huddled masses, are left to negotiate, and those who habitually hesitate may die of hunger or thirst, waiting for a break in traffic. [Darwin in the DR.]

It’s campaign season here as well, so no kilometer of road is without its gallery of posters and promises. Dannilo: “Correct what’s bad; continue what’s good.” Inspiring, eh? “Do what’s never been done”. Like… democracy? Then a sign with a familiar swirl, seen mostly on computers, except: “Hippolito Inside

The only relief from the constant posters comes on our trip to the beach, to Nagua in the northeast, when we finally get out of the towns and into the poor country. The roads have been packed, cheek by jowl with houses, dogs, chickens, bancas (where lottery tickets are for sale), colmados (tiny markets), men who appear to have an endless capacity to sit doing nothing much, and women walking. One has been passed on either side—and going either way—by an endless kaleidoscope of motorcycles, with an average of 3.3 people on each. Did I say the intersections are intimate? Stop one direction, and the passenger can put down her window and nearly touch people on the sidewalk. But in the next moment, a motorcycle passing between will take it off at the elbow.

But as we progress further into the up-country, the field opens—literally in the case of the emerald rice paddies from horizon to smoky horizon, figuratively in the case of jungle, claiming everything to the verge of the road.

Then Nagua, which at the end of a hot day of driving and getting lost and driving, is something of a revelation, simple, windy, almost primal: sand, palms, clouds, sunset; beauty.
The house is older, and shows the scars of its losing battle against mere nature: rust on the bars, termite damage there on the table leg, the shelf, the roof beams. But the open porch, second story, tiled ghostly white, is like a breath of prayer. Darkness has finally come and the moon calls the congregation of clouds and shadows to worship, filling the heart with throbbing silence.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ten Feet of Beach

Ten feet. Only shoes.

 



How much trash do you create? And where does it go? The most difficult step in the process, methinks, is not buying it in the first place. Consumption, consumption. Must find the gumption. To slow. Stop. Whenever possible.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Strike Two (by Josh)

     I have often heard about the predilection for strikes and protests in Latin America, my favorite being the story of two of my former co-workers, married, who first met in the haze of tear gas on a university campus in Ecuador.  Nevertheless, since we've been here in the D.R. there's been only one strike.  On the advice of some friends, we stayed inside for the day, but when we poked our heads out the door life seemed to be rolling along as usual in our part of the city.
     Fast-forward several months and we're driving back to Santiago from the beach near Nagua.  As we approached San Francisco de Macoris (home of the Gigantes), I asked Rebecca if she'd like to check out the city center, since we'd only been through the ugly outskirts that the highway intersects.  "I just want to get home," she groaned.  I managed to convince her to at least stop for coffee, then pulled back on the avenue, rather excited to dig into my gourmet ice cream bar (with almonds!).
     A bit pre-occupied with getting the wrapper open, I took only marginal notice of the two concho drivers who seemed, annoyed, to be turning off their routes onto a side street. Seconds away from almondy goodness, I also noted that the highway up ahead was completely deserted, and just as I was going to bite into heavenly delight I finally saw the large tree limbs lying in the road a quarter mile up, burning.
     At that point, my cat-like instincts sprung into action and I screeched to a halt in the middle of the road.  Ice cream bar still in hand, I rolled down the window to ask some motorcyclists on the side of the road what was up.
     "Go on ahead!" I thought they said. Glancing back to the flames on the horizon, I decided I should confirm with them before pulling forward, just in case. "We can go on?"
     "No! No!  We said there's a strike up ahead! Don't go down there! (crazy gringos)."
     "Oh, yeah, that's not cool," I muttered, reluctantly handing my ice cream to Rebecca so I could back up and turn around.  I considered going up to the next split in the divided avenue to pull a u-turn by the TV cameraman (hint #7 of trouble), but re-considered and just reversed a block or so, a decision supported by the gunshot that rang out as we drove away through the giant crowd of motoconchista onlookers (hint #8).
     There was, of course, a silver-lining, other than the excellent home-school lesson on social justice (What's a strike daddy?) and other such Leftist propaganda.  We finally got to take a proper tour of the city and see what a nice place it is, complete with extremely helpful and friendly people ("The park's two blocks over, to the right;" "Don't go down that road, they're shooting at each other;"  "That's the best ice cream shop in town;" etc.).
     Not only that, but there is a lovely plaza downtown and the place was bustling, particularly with all the carnaval preparations.  Overall, a great side-trip, proving that even with two strikes, you can still hit a home run.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Photolog: Park Play

Believe it or not, I have a couple of friends. I'm impressed myself, actually. It could have something to do with the incredible warmth people have for one another here. And if you're a transplant, the humidity will eventually get you too. 
If you can't believe it, I present the following evidence. Though, technically, the photos are of my friends' offspring. You'll just have to trust me on this one.
Zora, ever the botanist & collector, gathered "gifts" for her friends.
Yeah, homegirl is a thrill-seeker.
Lovely Mel.
Lovely Mel's lovely offspring.
Adilani, surprised by her wee playmates attempting to share a swing.

Will you push us, please?

No, ya crazies.

C'mon, Mama!

Time to go, 'lil Z. That's her protest face.