Wednesday, December 13, 2006

bananas out the wazoo

Alexia and I made banana bread to give out to a few of the women in Pancho Mateo last night. On our way back into Puerto Plata, we bought 21 bananas (and 3 avocados) for a grand total of $1.88 (60 pesos). Pretty good deal if I do say so myself! The women loved the bread too which was great. One even asked when cooking classes were going to start up! It was a humble, but pleasant end before the Christmas break. One more day of class tomorrow and then it will be a mad house to get everything packed and ready to go before the flight out.

Monday, December 11, 2006

a restful weekend picks right back up to a heavy week

Ok, so I know that it has been a while and I apologize. I think that I might spend some time over Christmas while I am in the states typing up a few stories to post when I have a little bit more time. One thing that I would like to write about at the moment though is how wonderful the past few days have been. Matt, Brad, Halim, Ryan King, and Heather came up for a few days from the Austin Stone, and though our time did not overlap all that much while they were here, Alexia and I got to spend the past couple of days of their trip with them at the beach. We went snorkeling and tossed a football around, listened to people playing the guitar, and slept in an amazing hotel room with air conditioning. It was so wonderful to have familiar faces here in the DR, and it gets me excited that I will be back in Texas very soon! Thank you guys for making this last week before Christmas such a breeze to get through!

On a completely different note, I also wanted to pass on some information that I discovered today. Angel, one of Salvador's younger brothers (Salvador was the child that died not too long ago) was injured this past Saturday. He is 4 years old and can often be found running around Pancho Mateo in nothing but his birthday suit. Today though I found him lying on the hard floor in his house with a cast on his entire right leg. He was thrown from a moto and broke his foot and cut up his leg very badly. His cast covers his leg minus the spot that was cut out so that his bloodly wounds are receiving some air. Cristina spoke to the mom for a little while and said some pretty empowering words (she is so great), but I cannot imagine the pain that she is feeling with so many different things happening to her children.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ian :)

We just got an updated picture of Ian with his new family in Haiti. He's huge!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why the DR is like Little House on the Prairie

1. I teach in a 1-room school house
2. I read books at night by candlelight (when our power is out, which happens frequently)
3. My students sometimes bring me guayabas or oranges (apples, oranges, same thing right? I am starting to see why students gave their teachers apples back in the day)
4. We do not have hot water in the house (this has actually recently changed though)
5. Horses are used to cart things around and are a sign of wealth
6. People walk to the river to retrieve water in the villages
7. The kids play with marbles and jacks
8. People are married at a young age and start having babies (and therefore people cannot believe that none of us have kids at our age)
9. Things are bought only by using currency or trade (who ever heard of a debit/credit card or checkbook?)
10. It takes a million years to get anywhere in this country, we might as well be riding in a chuck wagon

Thursday, November 23, 2006

how haitian am i

Yesterday when I was walking back from the main road to the house after my classes were finished, I was having trouble juggling all of my bags and school materials. I then proceeded to put the bag of left over eggs from the food program on my head, so therefore only had my backpack and one thing in each hand. I did this partly because I was struggling to carry everything and partly simply to see if I could do it. Surprisingly, I was able to walk all the way to the house with the eggs perfectly balanced the entire time, I felt very Haitian. The funny thing was, it was the fact that I was white and not the fact that I had something on my head that made me stand out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

why today was a good day

Why today was a good day:

-Two of my kids in Chichigua (Emilio and Jes Marco) were able to write the letter D on their own.

-One of the older kids (Ernesto) was able to read complete sentences from a book.

-Seeing their expressions each time one of these three kids was able to accomplish this 'unatainable' thing.

-Extending grace to a troublemaker in Chichigua (Ornando), and seeing his reaction as well.

-Having both of my classes in Chichigua be calm.

-Seeing Cristina (my teacher's aid) speak and teach the class in Pancho Mateo, and doing it from the heart.

-Being able to talk and connect with the kids in Pancho Mateo about the death of Salvador.

-Having the afternoon class in Pancho Mateo be calm as well.

-Paying a woman in Pancho Mateo to cut my hair, and having her charge me a minimal price because we are friends.

-Having a father of some of my kids in Pancho Mateo make and write a thank you card that also says that we are friends.

-Knowing that tomorrow evening I head to Santiago to celebrate Thanksgiving the following day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

you can't always trust a clown

I think that I have mentioned this before, but a guagua is the name of a bus that provides public transportation. They remind me of a clown car at the circus, playing the game of how many people can we fit in this tiny space. They usually seat 12 people, and the most that I have counted (on the days that I have actually counted) was 30. Guaguas are like 15 passenger vans, but not as long. Take out the last row of seats and diminish the length, width, and amount of space between each row and you have yourself a guagua. Bodies are contorted to always make room for more, and men usually stand on the outside of it by the door (the door is usually never closed) if space is tight. It really is like a clown car. (Keep in mind that I am making this analogy without ever have gone to a circus, so in actuality it is what I would imagine a clown car to be). With this information known, let me tell you a story that happened yesterday.

Alexia and I, along with Sharla (our director) and the twins went to the beach on Saturday to celebrate Alexia's birthday (which is Monday). Sharla took the babies back to Santiago and Alexia and I took a guagua back to Puerto Plata to our house. After waiting a while, a guagua finally arrived a we hopped on. It was pretty crowded so Alexia got in the front seat, that was already occupied by the driver and two other women mind you, and I sat on a bench that is set up behind the driver facing the first row of people.

To my right sat two women and to left (really almost on my lap) sat an old man. The row facing us sat four men, two were older, one was a young Haitian, and the one in front of me was middle-aged. I sat as (un)comfortably as I could, with purse, towel, and water bottle in hand. On a turn I noticed that the man sitting in front of me was grabbing tightly onto my purse. I figured it was to keep his balance in this crowded vehicle, but made sure that I had a good grip on my purse nonetheless.

I was talking with the women sitting next to me about how when people get off we were going to spread out because everyone in the front was going the rest of the route into Puerto Plata. Finally some people left and I was able to move to a seat a few rows back, glad to be in a different row than the man who clung to my purse as well as to have a little more space. That man, as well as the one I was originally sitting next to got off shortly after that.

As soon as they did, the two women starting going off talking about how those men were trying to rob me and how they (the women) were trying to get me to sit somewhere else out of their reach. They talked the whole way (in voices loud enough for everyone on the entire bus to hear) about how they had recognized them and how they do that kind of thing often.

I was grateful for these women looking out after this 'gringa.' Fortunately, the men were not able to take anything. This is not to scare anyone, most everyone is very kind, but you do come across certain types of people like this, just like you would in any place that you live. Y por eso, you can't always trust a clown.

(Circus analogy borrowed from Donald Miller).

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Yesterday was a long and hard day for me. My first class had over 20 kids packed in the little school house. Throughout the class I kept thinking how great it would be to have only the kids that really needed help in learning how to read and write letters because when the class is so large it is hard to give that one on one attention that so many of these kids need. My second class had about 15 kids. They are a little bit older and therefore a little bit more opinionated. After class Cristina and I were a bit discouraged because they were a bit disrespectful. During the break that we have between the second and third class, the two of us were talking about vision for these classes and about the racism established in this country.

While we were talking, one of my students walked up to the school house and told us that a Haitian boy had just died. (He was one of my students). Cristina and I walked over the the Haitian side of the village. There was a huge crowd gathered around the house of the mother of the dead child (Salvador). She was wailing, as were other family members.

A day or two before someone had told us that two brothers were playing, Salvador and Jeffery. I don't know exactly what all happened, but a machete got stuck in Salvador's throat. Proper medical care was not sought out or given, and as a result Salvador died.

The family was wailing and all the people were gathered around. When Cristina and I walked over there, I found Jeffery and began holding him in my arms. I cannot imagine the guilt that must have been going through his mind. After a little time I walked over to the school house and cancelled the last class of the day. I walked back over to the Haitian side and sat on the ground were all the young Haitian boys and girls were sitting observing all that was going on. Jeffery sat in my lap, and some of the other kids (most all who attend my classes) had their heads leaning up against my body. Salvador had just recently started attending class, but I could not keep my tears from flowing down my face.

I sat there for a couple of hours with the kids, removed a little bit from the wailing family members. Jeffery sat in my lap doing a combination of resting, sleeping, and picking out the dirt from underneath my fingernails. I was still crying. (Yay for being given the most emotional genes in the world). I stayed in Pancho Mateo two hours more because I got Jennie to drive me home because I had all the leftover milk and eggs and other school supplies that took a couple trips to load up in the car. I left the village tired after everything had happened. I got home around 6pm, which is about an hour earlier than normal, but exhausted nonetheless. It was a hard day.

The funeral service is going on now. We had planned to go, but then realized that the immediate family usually doesn't attend. There also is (apparently) a strike going on today and tomorrow, so everything is closed down and no one is on the road. We decided then that it would be better not to go into Montellano for the service. I am hoping then that today I can just lay low at the house. Our director Sharla arrived yesterday evening as well, so we will probably spend a lot of the day talking and planning.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


We drove to Santiago yesterday afternoon for a quick trip to drop the car off for Sharla (our director), who will be in the DR for the next month starting tomorrow. However, there was also a suprise wedding shower planned for Jennie at the HUB. She had no idea and we had a good little time doing the fun girly things that you do at wedding showers. It was a very short trip, but still a fun getaway! :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

kids are cute and parties are fun

This past Sunday, Jennie, Alexia, and I went to Chichigua during their church service to make an announcement. I can't really say that we went to church in Chichigua, because the service begins around 8am and lasts until noon and it is in a language that I do not understand. We got their around 10 and did not stay until 11. Two of the little boys that always run up and greet me when I arrive to Chichigua (Abdias and Estiven) did the same on this day. Estiven rushed up and jumped into my arms, I carried him into the church and sat down. Abdias then saw me and came over to sit by me. It is pretty rewarding to know that these kids enjoy my company. While we were there, Estiven fell asleep in my arms. Some of the women noticed and were pointing it out. It was so precious to look at his little face, that was covered with perspiration, as he slept. I before we left, I took him to one of the houses and lied him down on a piece of foam mattress.

The purpose in being in Chichigua this Sunday morning though was to announce that we were going to have a feast in the village in a few weeks. With all of the clothing donations that we have received from groups, we had clothes coming out of our ears here at the house. We put a couple women in Chichigua in charge and gave them all the donated clothes to sell for super cheap to people in nearby villages. (We didn't like the idea of simply giving away all the clothes to everyone). This plan worked out so beautifully. The women brought in literally hundreds of dollars!! (Yeah, we had that many clothes here!) With a good chunk of the money, we are going to give back to the people there and have a big party in Chichigua the day after Thanksgiving.

I'm pretty excited about it. After it happens I can let y'all know all the details. Although Cristina (my teacher's aid) told me that I should wear my hair down for it. So I can tell you that now, the day after Thanksgiving might the only day that my hair is not pulled back because of the heat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

food program

Last week we started a food program in the two villages. We don't have much to offer (so we thought) because it gets expensive trying to feed around 75 kids two times a week. After each class we pass out one hard boiled egg to each student and a glass of milk. We now have the kids bring a cup to each class. Milk is pretty pricey, so kids do not get it that often (if at all I'm guessing). It was pretty funny, whenever we first started doing this, one of the kids asked if we had a cow! Because, of course, how else would we have so much milk?!

It now makes our nights and weekends a little bit more eventful (if our days weren't enough already) by extra grocery shopping and boiling all the eggs. More students have also started coming to class (so we expected), which is good and bad. A lot of kids equals a lot of chaos.

However, things have really improved so much. There is now a new fence that goes around the school house and a lock on the gate, which eliminates SO MANY problems. No more leaving the classroom, no kids right outside the door being noisy and disruptive. However, recently there has been a few kids at random hours during the day standing by the gate once a class is finished with empty cups in hand. It has been great trying to teach the kids responsibility of coming to the right class and on time.

Cristina is also wonderful. She is my teacher's aid in the classroom. We now have enough funds which allows her to come to every class with me. It is so wonderful and she is great! It would be difficult trying to manage the classes on my own, not to mention now trying to do this food program!

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I realize that I have not been posting as regular as I would like to, sorry about that. There actually have been some pretty exciting things going on here. Twins were recently born in Chichigua, it was really exciting. The mother had some complications and was in the hospital for a week after the delivery, she is doing better but is still weak and cannot afford proper care. Her name is Francesse and her husband's name is Wisly. I can really only communicate with Wisly because he can speak both Kreyol and Spanish. He is a very great guy with a big heart. He was sad though and a little concerned about money since all of his earnings from working at a nearby hotel went towards hospital expenses, they didn't even have a picture of their newly born babies.

I quickly told him that I could fix that and take some pictures for them. I ran and got my camera and took some pictures of the babies and of them holding the babies, I even got a little video clip. The next day I went to Chichigua I brought the pictures I had printed, and they were overjoyed. Wisly told me that words could not express his graditude. He went around showing the pictures to other people in the village so proudly. I'd tell you what the twins names are, but honestly I don't remember. I need to get them to write them down because they are pretty different.

Another little baby was born in Chichigua a week or two later. I have not had as much interaction with this one, but hopefully will find out more soon.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


On Thursday Miguel came to the school in Pancho Mateo along with another worker to rebuild the fence that goes around the school. A guy named Fernando who lives in the village also helped out. Whenever I am at the schoolhouse, kids come all the time and hang out in front of the building. They can be really loud, and sometimes will run in and out of the schoolhouse. Very disruptive, I know. I have had to close the front door of the schoolhouse before so that the class won't be interupted. With no air circulation though the heat is nearly unbearable. Here is where the idea of the new fence came in. Now we have a fence around the area with a gate that can lock. Woo-hoo!

On another interesting note about this day, I was offered a marriage proposal by one man and was asked to be in a relationship with another! Oh dear, sometimes the culture here just makes me laugh. The older woman Vilila, that I visit nearly everyday in Pancho Mateo, told me that she had a grandson that she wanted me to date. He came over to her house that afternoon and tried to get my phone number and kept saying that I was hermosa.

Just before this, Vilila's son in law (who is married to her daughter Andrea, the woman who is mute) was hypothetically asking about marriage between me and a dominican. Saying that if I married him (for example) that he could therefore have access to traveling to the United States. I told him yes that would be true. In which he preceeding in saying that we should get married so that he could have a better life and be provided for. (Because you see, he is blind, his wife is mute, and his mother in law is cripple. Janibel is his daughter, who is in my class). I tried explaining to everyone that they are my friends and nothing more, and tried to quickly finish up the conversation so I could be on my way.

The culture here about love and marriage is very different. Everyone cannot believe that neither Alexia nor myself are not married and without children being the ages that we are. Many people here are 'married' by common law, in that, they move in together and start having kids. It is also common for men to have multiple 'wives.' Very few people actually go through the process of having a wedding in the church (like Jennie and Miguel are doing in January and like my friend Katie who owns the colmado and her husband did).

So Thursday was an eventful and interesting day for me to say the least!

Friday, October 13, 2006

a quick rundown

So, I realized that it had been about a week since my last post. Each day, something great or funny or interesting happens and I think, "Oh, I should post this." However, by the time I actually sit down at a computer and have time to go to the blog, my thought escapes me. So, here goes a rundown of a few things that happened this week.

I have befriended a woman named Katie (said with a Spanish accent of course), who is the mother of two little boys I teach. Ismael is 6 and Carlos Alfredo is 3. Carlos Alfredo is really shy and doesn't speak much, everyone in the village calls him Bebe (baby). He's super cute. Whenever we sing songs he doesn't say the words, he simply sways his body from side to side with a huge grin from ear to ear. Whenever I see him at his house (which is connected to the colmado) he either won't stop saying hi and waving or plays a game where he hides his face from me.

Anyway, Katie owns a colmado, which is basically like a convinience store in the middle of the neighborhood. Everyday this past week it seems like, whenever I have walked up to say hello, she offers me some sort of treat from her colmado. Some kids brought her a bag of fruit they had picked from a tree from an abandoned house. She gave them 10 pesos and then uses it to make juice. I don't remember the type of fruit, but it was good.

I always ask her what things are and inevitably, she will hand me a little piece to try. I am always learning new things, and sometimes get laughed at for not knowing them. For example, a common thing here is to take black beans and make them sweet. You cook them with a few other things then add sugar and it becomes almost like a milkshake, (yeah, who would have thought?)

Dona Mercedes (or Vilila to the people that know her) is so generous as well. You remember Vilila, she is the older woman who always has a chair waiting for me on her porch to sit and visit. I continually say to her and her family that I don't need to sit down or have a cafecito (little coffee), but its as if they never hear me say it. She will also sometimes bring me a glass of freshly squeezed juice or a piece of fruit recently bought. She calls me 'mi hija' (my daughter) as do many of the women in both villages (don't worry Mom, this is simply a term of endearment!) And of course, her granddaughter Janebel is still dancing and her daughter Andrea (who is mute) still tries to tell me things all the time and I just smile and nod.

Sidenote- I told Katie this week that with learning all about these new foods of her's that I would need to start going to the gym, which I joined last Tuesday. Which brought about another instant where I found myself grinning and laughing on the inside, as the class started doing pelvic thrusts led by our instructor. (no joke).

There is another group of adults that I am starting to befriend. They all know my name (because of their kids) which is so great, but I have yet to ask for theirs. Every afternoon a game of dominoes is played in front of the house, which is across the street from the school. EVERYONE in this country plays dominoes. I had mentioned that I wanted them to teach me, and then on Thursday watched them play a few rounds and even kept score. I never knew dominoes could be so intense!! They throw their domino down with authority when it is their turn to play, and get so excited when they win they begin to bounce in their chairs like little children.

It is fun getting to see the character come out in the villages. The hospitality continues to overwhelm me, a chair is always offered and conversation is always had.

Tomorrow morning I am headed off to Santiago for the weekend which I am really looking forward to. So, hopefully another update will come soon!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Due to a car malfunction I was not able to go to watch the Texas-OU game (like I did when Texas played Ohio State). It's no fun not being able to join in with the crowds of Texas fans and cheer on McCoy and the rest of the team.

Sometimes you just have to settle for asking the waiter at a small pizza restaurant that has a television set up near the kitchen if he can change the station to a game that he has no interest in watching, and for yesterday that was not even possible.

Oh well, the only time I went to out to watch the game we didn't win, so I guess it's ok.

Just missing Texas (...and all that encompasses).

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Yesterday afternoon we went to Angelina's graduation (Miguel's sister). It was outside though it had been pouring earlier. For whatever reason an 'in case of rain' location was never established. They moved all the chairs under a covering and had the ceremony outside nonetheless. Before the ceremony begins, there is a parade where all the graduates walk around the town. Each graduate is escorted by a padrino or madrino, even during the ceremony when receiving his/her diploma. The attached picture is of Angelina and Miguel parading in before the ceremony began.

christmas in october

So, it has been difficult trying to teach without any Spanish teaching books as a guide. Last week though Jennie bought 3 books for me. It was so wonderful! Hopefully it will be a huge help in the classroom starting this week. On the same day, Jennie also went to a market to try and find a suit for Miguel to wear to his sister's graduation. She brought back a pair of tennis shoes for me. (Mine were stolen off of our front porch a few weeks ago). It was so exciting coming back from teaching and having 3 books and a pair of shoes waiting for me!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the amazing race

Last Saturday was great fun. The 3 of us girls here at the MAK house, plus a peace corp. volunteer, along with 4 other volunteers, Miguel (Jennie's finacee), all of his family and a handful of his friends split up into teams and had a carretera (race) starting in a village called Caraballo and finishing at a river several miles away. Each group left every 15 minutes or so and set out on the trek.

I was in the last group that went, the last 2 groups combined forces because the Dominican in my group didn't know the course very well. We set out running; down paths, over rocks, down streets, we passed a cemetery, several cows, a herd of pigs, men on horseback (the list goes on). We got a lot of looks as our group ran past the people we saw. Towards the end we had to jump into a river and swim across it, run a little more, then walk through another river (that was shallow enough to walk through it). The whole course took over an hour. It was great fun.

I was glad to combine forces with Miguel and Jennie's team because we were all really into it. We ended up finishing in 2nd place. I blame it on the size of our group. It was all in good fun though! :)

Once we got to the end, everyone jumped into the river. We tossed a frisbee and even tried playing baseball with a stick and a rock. Miguel's mom was at the 'finish line' all morning cooking lunch for all of us. (we all chipped in some pesos).

That morning we woke up at 6am to get out to Caraballo early enough for the race because it gets HOT early. We were out there literally all day. It was great to be able to hang out with other Americans, and at the same time Dominicans and Haitians. If the tv show 'The Amazing Race' is as fun as the race we had, then sign me up!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

close proximity

The house that I live in is actually a duplex. A window in my room opens to the wall of our neighbors. Today one of the little girls next door was singing. It's pretty funny how I can hear something so well from inside our house that is actually coming from next door. I actually got the song she was singing stuck in my head. (It was also funny how I can hear her older brother telling her to stop singing). Most days I also hear the mom call for one of her daughters. "JULIA. JUUULIAA." I also hear her sing as she does the laundry, which is actually pretty soothing.

Now, granted we live in a duplex so it makes since that I can hear what all is going on next door, but the houses in general here are built very close together. There is a house under construction right behind ours. From the other window in my room, I can look out and watch the Haitian men build. They often sit on the balcony during the day to rest, and most nights they sit out there talking for hours after the sun goes down. They are close enough that I can hear their conversation clearly. I don't know what they are saying though because it is Kreyol. I often wish that I knew Kreyol.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

un dia loco

Yesterday cannot really be put into words, but I am going to do my best.

During the middle of last week, we had talked about the possibility of traveling to the Haiti/Dominican Republic border to meet a potencial family that was interested in adopting Ian that coming Friday (yesterday). We had not heard a response from them confirming the trip, so Thursday night Jennie called them to confirm. (Their internet had been down for a few days). The trip was on.

The woman that we had been in contact with had spoken greatly of this Haitian couple. Jennie knows a family here that knows this woman, Laurie, and he said that he had great respect for her and would take her at her word. He then preceded to say that you might want to consider leaving Ian with them if it felt right, as opposed to it just being an introduction. This sounded crazy (especially being the night before we were planning to go). The reality of it though was that it made sense. The couple had a bit of troubling figuring out how they would get to the border, as far as transportation goes. It is also a bit difficult for Haitians (or anyone really) to cross the border. We went on a market day though, so there are no fees. So, not only is it a difficult thing to do, but since the people we had talked to had great respect for everyone involved, we had to agree and say that if it felt right we would leave Ian there.

So, Thursday night we packed up all of Ian's things in case this was going to be it. His clothes (plus some that were still a bit too big), his diapers, wipes, towels, wash clothes, bottles, sippy cups, books, toys, blankets, car seat, stroller, and play pen (which we had never used but figured it would be better than the crib he is quickly outgrowing) were all packed up just in case. The border is about 3 hours from us and we had planned to meet them at 8:30am, so Friday was an early day. Jennie, Jennie's finance Miguel, his sister Ana, Alexia, and I, plus Ian all piled into the car with all of Ian's things and were on the road by 5am. Jim's last day here was Friday as well, so he did not make the trip with us. He was nice enough though to get up, say goodbye, and send us off.

We got to the border, parked the car, and walked with Ian to find some breakfast before crossing over. A group of officers stopped us because we literally stood out like a sore thumb. They accused us of stealing this Haitian baby and wanted money from us as a bribe to let us go. After showing his guardianship papers they let us go and were nice about it. All this happened before even getting to the border gate. When it came time to cross, Miguel held Ian because it didn't look quite so obvious (he's Dominican).

The border area was CRAZY. People were everywhere, and everyone was Haitian. Woman were carrying everything from clothes to eggs to shoes to toys on their heads. Men were pushing and pulling huge carts full of sacks and sacks of rice and other things. Miguel's sister grabbed my hand as we walked, and I was not reluctant in the least to hold on to hers as we maneuvered through the crowds of people. As the border became closer and closer, I realized that I had completely forgot to bring any type of identification with me. Jennie said that hopefully it wouldn't be a problem.

As we crossed the border, this woman starting speaking in my face with urgency. We had been told to walk straight and keep going and ignore anyone who tried to stop us. I didn't realize though that this woman was yelling, "Jennie. Jennie." We all pulled over to the side when we realized that we had encountered the Haitian couple.

We were still on the DR side of the border, so we quickly handed Ian to the woman to carry across (because remember, we really did stand out so much, especially with a Haitian baby in hand). The woman got across fine. Jennie, Miguel, and Ana (who were all in front of me) got stopped. Alexia and I kept walking trying our best to blend in with the crowd. Two men in uniform started calling out to me and Alexia as we went with the crowd of people. We tried to keep walking but they stopped us and made us walk back up to the border where the rest of our group was standing. I was nervous because the guy had been yelling out "passport," which I did not have. Apparently Jennie, Miguel, and Ana had run into the same problem and had been talking to the guards saying that they were going to cross and then shortly after come right back over. As Alexia and I reached them, Jennie told all of us to turn and keep going. I didn't hesitate. It's not that crossing the border is bad or dangerous, there are just so many people there and policeman always try and get bribes from the 'blancitos.'

Our plan was to keep walking once we passed the border until there were no more vendors in case the group got separated. Alexia and I did just that. We walked for a while, but didn't see anyone in our group. As we neared the last of the vendors, we didn't think it would be wise to stop and stand there, so I slowly got a rock out of my shoe and then slowly put all of my braids up in a ponytail. When then decided to slowly start walking back the other direction, as we still couldn't see Jennie, Miguel, Ana, Ian, the couple, or the translators. We soon saw Miguel and one of the translators walking towards us. The group had all been pushed off of the main road and were waiting by the car that the couple had rented. We were all united. Our problems were not yet over though.

In total, there were 10 people, and the car they had rented held 5. We couldn't drive anywhere away from the craziness. Not only that, but all of the open space was not shaded at all. It is HOT there, and there are no trees to provide a comfortable place to rest. So, we ended up walking up some and stood in a small space between two different vendors.

The couple spoke no English, no Spanish, only Creole. There were a couple guys there from the university who knew some English and some Spanish, so they translated to the couple. We told them all about Ian and his past and found out a little about them. All the while, the woman was holding Ian and he was not complaining in the least. THIS NEVER HAPPENS. After telling about Ian, I tried saying a few reminder things and wanted to know some more about the couple, but the translator guy was not really translating to them anymore since Jennie had stopped talking. None of us really cared for him much, but did very much as far as the couple was concerned. A crowd began to form in the little area where we were standing. Everyone was trying to listen in to figure out what we were doing. Throughout the whole time standing there I could not stop crying because I knew that this could very well be the last time I would see Ian, or at least least the last time we would see him with having the title of his 'mom.'

We took a picture of the two of them with Ian as they started asking about Ian's things and were talking of the best way to bring it over. Jennie looked over and asked what we thought. I wished that the circumstances had been different, but knew that I couldn't change that. I also saw how fine Ian was doing being held by the woman, and I knew that this would really be the best for Ian. He needs a family that can love and care for him and grow him up. It's hard for a handful of young woman to have that responsibility, and it would not be fair to Ian.

I could not believe how quickly everything seemed to happen. Before I knew it, we were all leaving the spot where we had all been talking. The translators and the husband came with us to cross the border, the woman and Ian stayed in Haiti. I didn't even get to give him a kiss and say goodbye. We had already drawn so much attention getting over the border, we had not planned to do it again. So the men came back over with us to get all of Ian's things. We got stopped once in the DR because the Haitian men did not have any papers or passports with them. One had to wait there for us to come back.

We got to the car and began unloading all of the things. I tried asking the husband what his name was, but he responded 'yes' in Creole. Eventually he figured it out and told me, and then I told him my name. They were able to carry all the suitcases and everything on their own. (The husband carried the largest suitcase and the playpen on his head). And off they went.

I was able to tell that the husband was very gentile and very kind while we unloaded the car, and that while the woman was holding Ian, she was very happy. It was a hard day. After all of this happened, it was only shortly after 10 am (11am DR time). We all thought that we would be able to sit in a park and leisurely sit and talk for hours and get to know the couple, but that sadly was not the case. We all had mixed feelings about how (quickly) the day went, but what it came down to was learning to trust. Learning to trust the people who had talked so greatly towards the American contact (Laurie) we had been in communication with the week before. Learning to trust Laurie who had spoken so greatly of this couple. And most importantly, learning to trust the Lord in that He knows what he is doing and His timing is not the same as our own.

We took a longer (but beautiful) way home. After dropping off Miguel and Ana in Montellano and picking up something for dinner, we walked into an empty, quiet house. All of Ian's things were gone. Ian was gone, and all of his giggling and squeals and laughing. Not only that but Jim and all of his things as well.

Today has been interesting. A day to rest from the day before. A day of quietness and without responsibility. A day very different from every other day since I have been here. The day I arrived in the DR 2 months ago was also the day that Ian was brought to us. So it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold. We know that it will not be the last time that we see Ian because of that contact that we still have with Laurie, and the possibility in a few months to go and visit him once he has settled in and adjusted.

We did what we were called to do when first taking in Ian, we found a good family for him which in turn gives him life, and for that I am overjoyed. It was a lot harder though than I thought (in every sense).

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

27 charcos

Last Saturday a group of us drove out of the city for about half an hour to a place called 27 Waterfalls. We had a guide take us up through all the waterfalls, as we walked through water, climbed up rocks, and walked along paths. It is such a beautiful place. When we reached the final waterfall, there was a small natural pool to jump into. On the way back, we were able to jump off or slide down the rock. At times I felt like I was in a scene for The Goonies right before they find the pirate ship, where they slide down the rock and land in the water. The whole trip up and down the waterfalls took about 4 hours. It was great fun!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

un buen dia

So, for the past couple of days I had been concerned about my role in the villages. I have built some great friendships with so many of the kids, but not really any of the adults. We walked around the bigger of the two villages to spread the word about English classes starting up next week, and I really couldn't say if doing that was purposeful or me simply being intrusive by walking around these people's homes. I knew that it would take a lot more time than being in the villages a few weeks for deep relationships to really be built between the people here and myself, but it stinks still being kind of in a way, an outcast. Today some of those fears were taken away.

While riding on a moto from Chichigua to Pancho Mateo, I was talking to the driver about many different things. He asked if I was a Christian because he could tell in what I was doing that I was. It is not everyday someone sees a person in a poor and small Haitian village teaching the kids and helping the community, let alone an American. We started talking about the hatred built up between the Dominicans and Haitians that is so present in this country. We then continued and talked about other things such as what all I do while I am here, working in poor villages as a teacher and so forth. It was a great conversation. I had him drive me all the way to my final destination (which is more expensive by moto) instead of just out to the main road. When we reached the parada, he said that it would not cost anything. How I wish my life would look more like that, that of humble services to friends.

After teaching that day in the village, again Alexia and I walked around to tell people about the English classes starting up. We went to Dona Mercedes' house to ask if she might want to host one of the classes since I would be with the kids in the schoolhouse at the same time. We ended up sitting outside of her house for about an hour, talking and enjoying the weather. As we first started approaching, her granddaughter started running and screaming that the 'gringas' were coming. When we got to the house I asked her if she remembered my name. She did. 'Camila. Camila.' I smiled. Then Mercedes (who is obviously older because she has grandchildren) stood up cane in hand and offered her chair, as did her daughter, who is mute. Mercedes and her daughter retrieved a couple more chairs for themselves. A neighbor, Mercedes' brother, and a few neighbor kids were there as well.

Her little girl, Janebel, sat in my lap the whole time telling and asking me things, singing songs (sometimes with her little eyes closed), and also playing with my braids. They offered us coffee and cherries, and also showed us a portrait of Janebel when she was a year old. (She also agreed to having a class in her home). I am continually dumb-founded at how hospital the people are here. It was a great time talking with them in their home, and made me feel so much more relaxed and welcomed in the community.

Friday, September 08, 2006

los uniformes

'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' Matthew 25:35-36, 40

This week was the beginning of classes for the villages. We passed out uniforms in Chichigua for each child, which included a shirt and khaki pants, in addition to a pair of underwear and a toothbush with toothpaste. I found great satisfaction in giving these clothes to the children and was reminded of the verses listed above, and was really able to see the joy that it brings in doing 'for the least of these.'

With the 'job' aspect of what I do here (seeing as it is my job and everything..), I have found that it will be easy for me to get caught up in the lesson planning and the tasks of caring after a baby at the house, and so forth. Though I do have a great deal of responsibilty here, I don't want my obligations to consume my thoughts. The first week of classes was a little crazy, as I knew it would be. My thoughts continue to be focused on the need here. If only there were more teachers... If only we could work with the same kids a little every day... If only we had workbooks to give to each child... or simply a curriculm or a teacher's Spanish guidebook to use... and so forth.

I know how great all of those things would be, and how much more could be done here, but then at the same time I am reminded that I have been placed here, that I have been given the opportunity to study and learn and therefore to teach and impact, and that (more importantly) I have the strength of the Lord and therefore, the ability to do anything.

The simplicity of putting clothes on a bare-backed child was so beautiful and so rewarding. I'm relearning the simple truths from the passage above and hope that my thoughts would be geared towards not the negatives but the positives, like continuing to pour out love onto these children.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

will you be my mother?


We took Ian to Chichigua today. He was a big hit, and was not fussy in the least bit which was wonderful. We did have to walk quite a bit though since we coulden't take a motoconcho. (motercycle plus baby equals very bad idea). Needless to say, Alexia and I were a little more pink as well as tired today.

soy americana

It is funny how much Alexia and I stand out in this country. Whenever we go somewhere, we inevitably here the word americanas. Yesterday, a man tried to charge us 100 pesos to go to the village. He went down to 50 as I continued to say no, and we eventually walked away. I'm pretty sure that he was driving a tourbus as opposed to a guagua, and thought he would give some American girls a lift and charge them a little bit for it. When we did finally get on a guagua to head towards the village, an advantage attempt was tried again. I gave the man 100 pesos for the two of us expecting 60 back in change. When our stop came, I had to ask for the change that we had not yet been given. The driver gave me a 50. I stood there and said, "10 mas." With no hesitation he gave me another 10, granted we are talking about a dfference of about 30 cents, but still. We felt pretty good about ourselves as we walked away from the guagua. Yeah we're american, but we know whats up!

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I realized that in a couple of days I will have been here for one month, crazy to believe! The weather here has been beautiful, though there have been quite a few days of rain. It's funny because t will rain some, and then later that day it is back to being gorgeous again. There have been times of thunder and lightning as well. Board member Kate told us that in her 9 years living here, she only saw thunder and lightening twice. I looked at for the first time today and realized that there is a hurricane brewing west of us in the Caribbean. That I guess explains the weather. But no worries, all we ever see here is rain and it never lasts long.


On Thursday, Alexia and I took Ian on an adventure. We took a taxi to the grocery store, and then walked to the Verizon store (yes, you have to go in person to pay bills). From there, we walked to the hospital to get the rest of Ian's immunizations. The two of us stand out quite a bit here, especially when they see us carrying a black baby. It's ok though because they all are drawn to Ian's quirky sounds and gestures and it makes them laugh.

Anyway, once at the hospital (which is not air-conditioned), I realized that I had forgotten his immunization form at the house. Ahh! It's kind of a big deal to go and leave the house, because everything takes so long and Ian takes naps throughout the day. So, my forgetting the one form that we really needed for these errands was no good. I tried talking the woman to letting him get his shot regardless, but she wouldn't budge.

Another woman that was there inquired about Ian; I told her how he had been abandoned and was malnurished and that we were trying to find a family to adopt him. Her eyes lit up because friends of hers wanted to do just that thing.

I tried talking in the best Spanish that I could to tell her that I was not over the responsibilities of finding a family for him and how there has already been interest amoung other families, as she continued to talk about this couple. We ended up talking for a while, and since we had to go back there the next day since we were not able to get the immunizations then, she said she would be there with the couple to see him. This was not really a problem at all, it is just humorous how forward Dominicans can be.

So the next day we ventured out again after Ian's afternoon nap, immunization form in hand, to the hospital. Though we were early, we were greeted by the couple, the wife's mother, and the friend we had spoken with the day before. Ian was anything but friendly to them, which was envoked by his shot in the leg.

They insisted that we go to their house so he (and we) could see the atmosphere there. We agreed. They are a really nice couple and farely well off. The husband in originally from West Africa and now does business in Italy. They have been married for nearly 30 years and have no children. Ian opened up some to them and they were greatful. You could see how excited they were to have a baby in the house. We stayed longer than we had planned or wanted, and eventually left when Ian was fussy.

I don't see this being a family that we would pursue for Ian for certain reasons, but we sure did have a big adventure those past couple of days!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

la casa

here are a few things about the makarios house that ive learned in being here that i feel obligated to inform you of:

you can see the ocean in the distance
the sun wakes you up each morning between 6:30-7am
the houses are so close together that it feels as though the neighbors are having a conversation from inside our house
sugar ants are ready to take charge of the place within 10 seconds of food being on the floor or counter, no joke, they seem to come from thin air
the rooftop is a great place to go at night and sunset, and i am sure the morning as well
the streets are so bad in this neighborhood that you never go above 10 mph to get in or out, seriously it is ridiculous you never get out of 1st gear

all of these make for great stories that are soon to come!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


alexia and i spent the past week in santiago at the White's house. On Saturday, I spent some of the extra spending money I brought and got my hair braided like the women do here. weave and all! It has been great having my hair in braids (trenzas), because I don't have to do anything to it! Although, I must say, it was definitely up there on the things that cause excruciating pain. I sat in a chair for over 5 hours, as a woman pulled my head back and forth. I realize this entry really has no importance in the overall scheme of things, but just wanted to let y'all know. I tried reading a book I borrowed from the HUB called The Farming of Bones (which is set in the 1930's during a time when Trujillo massacred over 20, 000 Haitians), but it was hardly successful. The book has opened my eyes to a lot of things that have happened to Haitians in this country. I would suggest it, just be sure to read it when your head is not being pulled on.

On another note, since we've been back at the house, Alexia and I have done some major cleaning and organizing. We still have a couple weeks before classes start and our third roommate Jennie moves in, so this week is looking like a lot of preparations. Next week each day, we are going to go to the villages to hang out with kids and get to know some of them before school starts up.

Monday, August 14, 2006

the hub

Today is Monday, and I have been in Santiago since Friday. We are staying at the White's house, which is where I stayed the first night I flew into the DR. They are so hospitable.

Kate's younger sister Kimberlee who is my age, flew into Santiago late Friday night. She is going to be a teacher at a Christian school in Santiago. She and Kate have had an intense weekend, tryng to furnish her bare apartment before her orientation starts and before Kate's flight back to New York on Tuesday. We all went to an English church Sunday morning and then Sunday night went to this place called the Hub.

The Hub is actually a house, but is a place where a lot of peace corp workers will stay whenever they come into Santiago. It is a lot like a youth hostel, but really so much more. There is a house church that is held there every Sunday, if we are still in Santiago then I would like to go. It is run by a couple, Dave and Michelle. The walls are covered with quotes, expressions, and comics that are pretty endearing, and they have a large collection of books that make up their library. I checked out a book while we were there, but haven't started it yet. Kim and I are both excited to try and go there on Sunday to check it out.

la transportacion

Last Thursday was my first time to experience public transportation here. Alexia and I walked from our house to the main street and took a guagua (public bus) to the entrance of a city about 10 minutes down the road. When we were dropped off, we took a motoconcho, (a motorcycle taxi yes, I said motorcycle). I could not take the big smile off of my face. Here I am, sitting on the back of some guy's motorcycle, with Alexia sitting behind me, riding along down the road to the village. It was hilarious for me because I kept thinking, yeah, this is the norm here. What was even funnier was on our way back.

After taking a motoconcho back to the main road, we were waiting for a guagua to take us back to the city. I forgot that guaguas are not necessarily buses, they can also be cars. A small compact car pulls over and picks us up, along with another man who was waiting as well. There were however already two guys in the front seat with the dreiver and a woman in back. So, in a car that comfortably seats 4 or 5, there were 7. Two guys in the front two seats and then one sitting in between, an older woman sitting mext to me and a man to my right, and then Alexia on my lap. Again, the smile could not disappear in thinking that this was completely normal.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ruben's farm

Sharla left on Tuesday to head back to the states, so it is just the three of us now. Kate is contnuing to show us the ropes as we find our way around the area. We went to Pancho Mateo and Chichigua today and had registration for classes. Overall, we had 182 kids sign up! It was really exciting, yet I have no idea how we are going to hold classes for that many children.

On a completely different note, the day Sharla left we were in Santiago. That mornign we traveled to Ruben's farm in . Ruben lives out in the campesino, and grows everything from avacados and mangos to beans and coffee. His wife Ana Maria greeted us with a kiss and brought out chairs for all of us to sit in the shade. While we were talking to Ruben, she brought out coffee for all of us. I don't drink coffee because I never have liked it, but I took a cup anyway. I don't know if it was her wonderful hospitality in giving, the kind and genuine words from Ruben, the beautiful scenery around us, or the fact that dominican coffee is supposedly the best- I kid you not, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Nothing was even added to it.

Going to their farm was the highlight of my day. Ruben is such a great man, and that is reflected greatly in his family. His two little girls were so cute, the younger one Naomi let me play with her Elmo doll. I took a picture of everyone in front of their house and also of Ruben cutting a piece of sugarcane.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

la miraba es gratis

So, here goes the first entry of my first blog from my first time in the DR.

This is such a beautiful country. There are huge, lush mountains and beautiful clear blue waters.

Oreintation has been great thus far. Sharla and Kate have been showing me and Alexia all sorts of things about the culture and the people here. We went to the beach yesterday, and believe it or not got a lot of things accomplished.

There are venders everywhere who will come up to you every few minutes the whole time while at the beach. Men selling jewelry continuously said, "la miraba es gratis," meaning there is no cost in looking at what they have for sale. It almost became humorous how much they approached us, almost.

When I figure out how to attach pictures I will. I would love for you to see where we had dinner that night. It was right on the beach, sitting on bamboo furniture with a beautiful sunset background.