Goodbyes- No more blogs until January

I had a little goodbye party for myself tonight…….  I know that sounds pretty pitiful, but I had a bunch of cake mixes in my cupboards and thought a little party would be a good excuse to use them up before I leave the country for four months. As is common at most of the parties I host, people played Farkle (a dice game), dominos, listened to music, and ate lots of food.
DSC_0207 DSC_0213I’m going to miss this country and all my friends a lot. I never thought it would happen those first years I was here, but now after nine years this place has really become my home. It feels a bit scary and unsettling to leave this place of comfort, yet I’m excited for all that awaits me. DSC_0217
DSC_0210Not only am I saying goodbye to my Dominican friends, but I’m also saying goodbye to this blog… at least until the new year. Thank you to all you who check it out from time to time. May God bless each of you with many spiritual blessings.


Taking a Cat to the Vet in the D.R.

I laughed at the idea of taking my cat to the vet in a pillow case, but after my cat broke the only cardboard box I had I was left with no other option. Nube (my cat) almost managed to get out of the pillowcase halfway there, but luckily the motorcycle taxi driver stopped just in time to help me get him back in.
I don’t know what it’s like taking a cat to the vet in the states but it took four of us to hold my cat down as the vet inspected his ears and face (he had ear mites and scratched all around his ears and face). And after the vet put a cone on his head he acted like the Tasmanian Devil and scared the little girls in the waiting room, luckily Nube was on a leash. DSC_0840I think Nube is the only cat in the Barrio that’s ever had a cone on his head, so he gets stared at a lot, but at least he’s getting better. Unfortunately I’m supposed to take him back to the vet this week, so another motorcycle trip for Nube inside a pillow case. I’m not sure what you guys are thinking as you read this, but even the posh vet I took Nube to said a pillowcase is the best way to take him to the vet.


A short jaunt up the mountain

With a very heavy backpack, a motorcycle, and butterflies in my stomach, a friend and I headed up to the Travesia. The trip up was a bit scary, as Dani had never gone up such a rough terrain before on his motorbike, but beauty of the mountain village instantly relaxed me. It was great to see everyone as well as hearing about all they’ve been up to these past few months. They’ve been busy experimenting with new ways of growing vegetables which have been successful, building new types of “stoves”, and building a concrete pit that will be used for making some kind of natural gas (which is presently being used as a pool).  

fDSC_0598This is the first year anyone in the Travesia has tried growing anything in a greenhouse, and they’re all excited about how well the tomatoes have grown.  
fDSC_0579 The original stove (or fog√≥n) in the Travesia.fDSC_0521The new type of stove…… with this style the smoke now goes up and out the chimney instead of all throughout the kitchen and house.fDSC_0405Just hanging out with friends by the village store, telling stories and talking about the weather.


A good reason to cry

I held back my tears at the El Camino Church women’s gathering as the ladies shared all the different things they’re struggling with right now. A few are struggling to feed their families for $3 or less each day as their husbands are out of work. About two are dealing with the pain of being cheated on and accepting their husbands new babies in their homes. Another just found out her husband was doing a lot of illegal things and is wondering how she’s going to provide for their baby now that he’s in prison. The list goes on and on. It’s kind of overwhelming, and though I didn’t cry in front of all my friends, I’ve shed a lot tears for them. It’s heartbreaking to see them going through such difficult things. Please be praying for these beautiful, godly women …. and feel free to cry. fDSC_0260


Big store, small town

With a large grocery section, clothing area, home decorations, pharmacy, restaurant, frozen yogurt shop and more; La Sirena (the Mermaid), is now the largest store in town. Thousands of people, including two friends and myself, headed over to the new store this past weekend to take advantage of all their sales and their large selection. Though it was hard to see everything through the masses of people crowding the isles I was happy to find that I can now purchase frozen green peas, cottage cheese, couscous, nice wheat bread and jasmine rice here in La Vega!DSC_0225

Lessons in Running

At the beginning of 2009 I started jogging in the mornings thanks to Nicole Davis.  She got me going on a Learn to Run schedule in which we did each of the following 3 times per week.
1. run 1min walk 2min * 7 times
2. run 1min walk 1min *10 times
3. run 2min walk 1min *6 times
4. run 3min walk 1min *5 times
5. run 4min walk 1min*4 times
6. run 5min walk 1min *4 times
7. run 6min walk 1min *3 times
8. run 8min walk 1min *3 times
9. run 10min walk 1min *2 times
10. run 5km with 10min run and 1min walk

I’m still working on #10 though, as I often give up sooner than I really need to, and settle for #9 or sometimes even #7. It’s hard to endure, especially when I focus on myself too much (my aches and pains, etc.). My spiritual life is like this too. When I focus on myself too much; my sacrifices, my successes, my loneliness, my needs, my wants, etc; I get so discouraged and ultimately settle for less. The following verse has been a good reminder when I’m struggling to keep going joyfully…. 
….. And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1b-2)


Everybody wants to sell Jewelry

About two months ago I started experimenting with some new Fimo Jewelry designs but they didn’t exactly turn out like I wanted. Instead of just storing them away like I’ve done in the past I decided to make earrings and necklaces out of them using imitation silver.

When my buddy Ydekel (he’s so grown up now isn’t he!) asked if he could sell them for me I wasn’t sure how he’d do but to my surprise he’s a natural! He’s really good at convincing people they should buy twice as much as they originally picked out. He’s also really good at making sure people pay. (Almost everyone here buys things on credit, I don’t mean using a credit card, but taking the item and paying later. Often when people don’t come through on their payments the seller ends up loosing money instead of making money). But Idekel always asks the person what day they can pay on, he writes it down, and shows up at their door on that very day. It makes me laugh.


After seeing how well Ydekel did at selling jewelry one of my friends approached me to see if she could sell some stuff too. She and her husband are saving up to buy a small plot of land to build a house on so they’re willing to do just about anything to make a little extra money. She came over yesterday, picked out 100 bracelets, talked her twin nieces into selling them for her, and sold a bunch that very same day. She also talked me into helping her make and sell her own jewelry. I’m not really much of a business person, but it is fun trying and seeing other people make a profit too.



Everybody loves making earrings

During the past few months I’ve been able to teach a number of people how to make earrings; some of the school teachers, teenage girls, women from the church, and just recently the 5th graders that visit me every Saturday morning. And seriously, every single person reacted the same way after they made their first pair. They would look at their new earrings for a few seconds, gasp, and then excitedly exclaim how beautiful they were in a sort of high pitched tone. So fun!
Here’s a few pictures of my Saturday morning visitors and the earrings they made for their moms for Mothers Day.



Dominicans and Witches

This little girl Jennifer scared all the other 5th graders as she told us about the witch that tried to attack her. She explained that the witch came by at night, jumping on her tin roof and sneaking into the house in the shape of a small animal (that’s what witches do in this country). Her father reassured her that the witch couldn’t hurt her being that she had already been baptized in the Catholic Church. (Lots of people here believe that witches try to suck blood from babies and small children, but if the child has been baptized or dedicated in the Christian church then they’ll be safe). Then she continued to tell us how one night her dad got tired of the witch scaring her so he played a trick on the witch. He put a broom by the door with the bristles up and sprinkled salt on it, this made it so the witch couldn’t leave the house. Then he turned the broom around so the witch could leave, but before she left he put the broom up again. He did this over and over again but finally let her leave the house and she never came back again.

I found this story quite humorous, but all the other listeners reassured me that it was true and how they’d all seen witches as well. It surprises me how many of their parents believe in these blood sucking witches as well. I found an interesting website that shares more on witches and others folktales in the Dominican Republic. Check it out!



Even after eight years here it still takes a bit of mental effort for me to be hospitable in a Dominican way. In her book, Foreign to Familiar, Sarah a. Lanier shows some major differences between hot- and cold-climate cultures (Most North Americans would be put in the box of cold-climate culture while Dominicans would generally be in the hot-climate culture box). When sharing about the differences in hospitality she shares that for hot-climate culture “There is little concept of it being a formal occasion that requires a special menu or cleaning the house first. Spontaneity is part of hospitality.” She also goes on to explain that in a place like the Dominican Republic visiting someone unexpectedly will never be taken as an interruption nor would people ever forfeit hospitality for time alone.

This is still hard for me at times. For example, three nights ago some friends were over and I suggested that we make dinner together…. It was about 7pm and I was really hungry and a little tired, we ended up eating rice & eggs with onions on top by 9pm and then everyone wanted to watch a movie. By then I really wanted to go to bed but I ate a little bit of chocolate and enjoyed a fun Dominican movie.
The next day I had young girls in and out of my all day, some practicing a dance for Sunday School, others wanting to draw, and others just wanting to say hi. And then in the evening the same group of friends that I made dinner with the previous night came over wanting to make dinner again. I really didn’t want to as time alone seemed really appealing, yet at the same time hanging out with friends is really appealing as well. So we made a nice pasta dish and had a lot of fun. Last night it rained really hard so I had an excuse to close my door and stay hidden in my house for a little bit of alone time. All that to say that I’m still learning and growing in hospitality.



There's this one little girl on tenth street who if she sees me will call my name and then run up to me and give me a really big hug. I don't even know her name or her family very well, but I feel quite a bond with her now, being that I've gotten hugs from her at least once a day for the past 2 or 3 months. Well yesterday she came up to me and told me she wants to make a dessert with me, and today she showed up at my door as I was taking a nap wondering if we could make something. I agreed and together we decided to make suspiro. What is suspiro? Well, it's the most popular Dominican cake frosting made from egg whites and sugar. I used to think it seemed a bit strange to eat raw eggs so I used to scrape it off before enjoying a piece of cake. But I've now learned that the egg whites actually get cooked through the process of making it. It's really quite nice and not as sweet as other frostings. If you look it up on line you'll find a whole bunch of recipes both in English and Spanish.

As we were making our little dessert another little helper showed up too, none of us had ever made it on our own before but it turned out quite good. We colored it pink and got it all over ourselves as we ate it. I'll try to perfect my suspiro skills so I can make it for you all next time I'm home.


The Past Few Days…..

Last Friday I had a chance to visit some friends in Los Pomos. I don't get over there often anymore yet I have a great time whenever I do. We played Farkle together (a game that involves 6 dice and a lot of luck), drank coffee and chatted a bit. As always it was fun to see them and catch up a bit.
On Saturday morning I made some chocolate crinkle cookies with my little fifth grade friends. It was a little crazier than normal as little arguments, put downs and disagreements about where each girl could sit led to a few girls crying and others wanting to leave. Yet, all ended well as we came to the agreement that it was best if we all sat on the floor without cushions and enjoyed our warm chocolate cookies together.
After a fun church service/ photo show on Sunday night I had a fairly traditional American meal (chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, and cranberry sauce) with Darin and a few of his neighbor friends. Two of the boys wouldn’t try the cranberry sauce but the other was very excited when he tasted it and realized it was sweet. All around it a fun last meal to have with Darin before he returned Canada (He's been down here for just over a year taking care of T.E.A.R.S. communications, teaching photo classes, working with the drama team, and a lot more).

Yesterday my neighbor’s dog and five puppies almost died from some kind of poison. (People often put poison on food in the garbage cans so the rats die, but sometimes dogs find the food instead). Luckily Claritza looked on-line and found a recipe that saved their lives; a milkshake made with charcoal, milk, olive oil and salt.

Well that’s about all for now. Here’s a picture of my cat. He’s as crazy and violent as ever. He attacks people’s feet who come over when he wants peace and quiet, he attacks my legs when we wants attention, and has just figured out how to get on my book shelf (a shelf about 7 ft off the ground) and push the books off.


I've been trying to take more pictures lately for a photo show we're going to have this Sunday at an evening church service........... so I thought I'd share some pictures I've taken of a few cute barrio kids .


The Blue Tarp

Here in the barrio a blue tarp is hung up immediately after someone dies..... this way people who come to pay their respects can take cover from the rain and from the hot sun. It also serves as a way of letting everyone around the victims house know that someone passed away.

The photo below is of a "vela" (more details below) of a man named Ciba on 11th street, the owner of a small store that I buy stuff from often and one of my favorite a motorcycle taxi drivers. He died from a heart condition he was unaware of until the day before he passed away.

Funeral Traditions

The wake continues until 12 noon the next day, followed by burial at the cemetery. It is the family’s choice to retire at midnight and return the next day around 7 am.

Many families follow on with a series of memorial masses held for nine (9) consecutive days. This is known as los nueves dias, novenario, or la vela. When and where they will be held will be announced. It is not necessary to go to these masses unless you were a close friend of the person or family, especially if you attended the funeral. One is never expected to attend all the masses unless you want to do so. If you were not able to attend the funeral you should go to one of the masses. You might choose to go to the last one that usually will be announced in the press. This marks the end of the mourning period ceremonies.

The nine days of mourning usually consist of three days of grieving (crying and reminiscing). 3 days of silence (thinking and reverence). The last 3 days are for release (accepting and separating).

To "cumplir" is to act in accordance with the standard social procedures. A person will go to a funeral whether or not it is his desire; it is his duty. To "cumplir" is important in this society. It signifies respect and caring.

Many of the poorer people are only laid out for 1 day in the home. This is because of the heat and fast decomposition of the body. Also, the caskets usually have a window for viewing. Maybe this is to keep the smell in and bugs out.

Flowers are not expected.

Only good friends and family are expected at the burial.

Dominicans show much respect for their dead. A funeral is an event that will gather people together, including family members, who may not have seen each other for a number of years. Inside the chapel it is sedated but outside, there will be a lot more liveliness almost reminiscent of a normal social occasion.


Beauty all around me!

Here are a few pictures I’ve taken lately. Sometimes I forget how much life and beauty there is all around me…… yet when I take time to appreciate it I feel so refreshed!

My little neighbor Emiley...... she still doesn't have teeth but is already saying a few words!

My friends told me that there's a superstition that when the clouds look like this it means that an old person is going to pass away. (I find out new superstitions practically every day).

This is my friend Maria's mom, she loves her grand kids!

Even at 7:30 am it feels quite hot and humid, so the cool afternoons once the sun starts setting are much appreciated.

A little bit of finger paint?

Just chillin out wathcing the girls jump rope.

Jumping rope..... kids here are so much better at it than I ever was.


Razor Blades and Clay

My ceramic teacher back in High School taught me how to make a basic Fimo clay cane design on the last day of school, and now many years later I get to teach it to others! During the past few weeks I’ve taught about 5 different groups of girls how to make fimo clay beads. Most of the girls I’ve been teaching are part of a young girl’s ministry called Mujercitas, they’re going to sell the earrings they’ve made in order to raise funds for upcoming activities and retreats. I haven’t heard how many they’ve sold yet but I’m sure they’re not having a problem selling them…. The earrings they made look awesome!

(If you have no idea what Fimo or polymer clay is then check out the following website http://www.leeleeko.com/millefiore.htm).


Where you wouldn’t want to spend the night

Around 11pm the lady to the far left starting singing to Mother Mary, the lady to our right was coughing and making ferocious sounds, and minutes later another lady started cussing out the air around her. Luckily the two of were small enough to fit into the single bed side by side unlike many others, yet we couldn’t even attempt to sleep because the doctors still hadn’t come by to do their evening checkups. They did finally come and go by nearly 1am. The random noises from all the other 18 ladies in the room continued through the night which everyone seemed to enjoy joking about after the nurses forced us to wake up at 6am. (I still don’t know why they insisted on waking us up so early being that they didn’t actually do their morning check-ups until nearly 8am).

(Just a little picture of the hospital to give you an idea of the size of bed the two of slept in. Each hospital room has 10 beds for the patients, while their caretakers either try to fit on the bed with them or they find a chair somewhere to sleep in).

You might wonder why I spent the night at the public hospital. Well, my friend Maria was sick with gallbladder stones. And in this country someone always spends the night with the patient to tend to their needs, bring them good food to eat, and bring them fresh sheets. That particular night her family was busy and couldn’t tend to her needs, so I got to.

I stayed with her just one night during her second stay at the hospital. She was checked into the hospital four times during two months before they actually operated on her. Fortunately they operated on her just over a week ago, and she’s doing very well now.