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.