Friday, July 23, 2010

el fin

On Thursday, Maria told me that I should come to her salon (house) so that she could do my hair so that I would be pretty for the airport. Gotta love Dominican honesty. For some reason, Benjamin wanted to document the whole thing, and since my camera came back to life, he went and got it.

After hair is fixed, Dominicans put their hair in what they call a "tu-be" (I like to think of it as a turban) so that your hair doesn't get messed up. When my hair was all wrapped around my head like a turban, Benjamin yelled out laughing "Camila en tube." I guess its funny seeing non-Dominicans like that or something...

I spent some time with the girls before leaving, sadly they all had to be at work around the time I needed to go to the airport. Never fear- the Dominicans are here! Benjamin and Merlin drove me to the airport along with 2 of their neighbors to see me off.

Beach view from the plane! Until we meet again...

wrapping up

My last few days in the DR were great. I went with Cara and Jeferson and ran the malecon in Puerto Plata Monday morning (about 4.2 miles! yeah baby!) and spent some time in Pancho Mateo that afternoon visiting with Katy, Judy's family, Yoslena and Francesa, and Sili's family.

Tuesday morning I went to the beach and had breakfast at the German bakery, and then laid in the sun for a few hours and got in the water. There was no one else there; oh, how I love Cabarete! Later that afternoon I went to Chichigua to say bye to everyone. We read "The Three Musketeers" in Spanish.

That night we went and had dinner at Edwin and Elianira's house, a couple that the girls have gotten to know while living in Monte Llano. They have one of the nicest houses I have seen in this country. Read about that night here. Thanks Robin!

Wednesday I went out to Caraballo to see Miguel's family and visit with them some. I didn't even recognize their house because a big front porch was added; it looks awesome! I was really bummed about not getting a picture of them. I took my camera out just to see, and believe it or not it came back to life!

Pictured below are: Aunt China, Maria, Ana holding Marcos (Angelina's baby), Mama Morel, Daniel, and Juan Manuel (Ana's husband Manuel's son). Angelina ran away because her hair wasn't fixed. I chased after her, but it was no use.

Daniel gave me (and Ana) a ride to Pancho Mateo. I spent a lot of time visiting with Sili's family. There have been some really great conversations had there. Before I left it started pouring; Sili walked around with me as I said bye to everyone. I whipped the camera out again at the Cheriza house and got a picture of all the kids, and got one of Sili as well.

Pictured below- Sandy, Eduardo, Ricardo, Manuela, Damalia, Nicauri (who was tiny when I left and had the name Estefani, but apparently their dad didn't like that name as much), and Dionel

Thursday, July 22, 2010


That night, Cara, Jeferson, Johan, and I went dancing in Puerto Plata at Rancho Tipico (a local place filled with tons of Dominicans plus me and Cara). Finalmente!!! Merengue! Bachata! Salsa! YES! It was so much fun! Johan is an awesome Dominican dancer, and I was able to brush up on my steps. We had a blast! For most of the night we had to switch off dancing songs so two people could guard the table. Ha! SUCH a fun night!! Johan said that we beat Cara and Jeferson, not that it was a competition or anything, but I'll take that compliment! Thanks for a great night, Face!

motor cross

After my short lived trip to the beach, I went with Cara and Jeferson to a motor cross race. Yeah, who knew they had those here?!

I'll write more when I get Cara's pictures from her phone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

where's waldo?

Sunday morning I went to the beach early to sit and read and hear the waves crash against the shore- well, that was the plan at least. I forgot one thing, Sunday is the designated day that Dominicans travel from all over the island to go to the beach for the day. They bring music and ice chests of food and drinks, and make it a big party. All of this can be great fun, but not when my plan was to be tranquila.

It was so crowded, kids were literally playing ball OVER my beach chair and people were everywhere so there were constantly people yelling RIGHT behind me to their friends across the way.

I immediately thought of Where's Waldo? or which one of these things is not like the other? I stood out like a soar thumb, the gringa with her ipod and book surrounded by Dominicans going every which way. Sadly, I couldn't get my camera to turn on, but the picture I wanted to capture was of my feet in the beach chair with the deep blue ocean in the background filled with Dominicans swimming in the water.

food and beach

I mean, what else is there really?!

So, the last post was from Thursday and today is Wednesday... It is so hard to remember what all has gone on when I don't have pictures! In short, I got back from the capital on Friday and that afternoon Ashley, Kendall, and I went to the beach.

The weather has been acting crazy, and it began to rain an hour or so after we got there. Fortunately we stayed under the covering of Villa Taina (a hotel but also has a bar/restaurant right on the beach) talking and visiting and reading, so there was no need to move. We had a great time, even though we never did get any sun.

Saturday went to the grocery store in Puerto Plata to get some things and use the internet, and when we got back had lunch at the neighbor's house. Gloria lives across the street from the girls and she made rice and beans and chicken and had boiled carrots and broccoli and some other vegetable that I can never remember the name of in Spanish and haven't a clue what it is in English because I never saw it before the DR. Anyway, gotta love Dominican hospitality!

With the groceries that I picked up, we made dinner at Maria's house. Rubia made guandules con coco and bacalao con papas and plantanos fritos (rice and lentils made with coconut milk and some sort of dried fish with potatoes in a tomato sause and fried sweet plantains). So good.

Monday, July 19, 2010

colonial city

Thursday we walked around the colonial city in Santo Domingo; it houses the first cathedral in the Americas built in the early 1500s, along with fortresses and palaces built hundreds of years ago where Columbus' family lived. Really cool stuff.

Find out more about the capital here.

Since we were in a group of about 10, this Dominican guy tried to make us pay 250 pesos a person to see the cathedral even though it should be free. I started arguing with him in Spanish. After about 10 minutes, it was me verses four Dominicans. I stood my ground though and after arguing with them for literally about 20 minutes, they let us in for free. Victory! It was a combination of feeling an complete and total annoyance for all Dominicans who try to take advantage of foreigners and a sense of pride and accomplishment for standing up to a group of Dominicans and arguing my way in Spanish until finally they submitted. Ha!

Despite that minor setback in the morning, the day was really incredible because we were able to see so much history that I thought you could only find in Europe or Asia.

I'm waiting to see if I can track down some pictures elsewhere to share, and am giving my camera one more chance at redemption. We'll see...

Sunday, July 18, 2010


That night (Wednesday) we went to Cristina and Claudio's church. It is housed in their own home. They fill their living area with plastic chairs and the rest stand at the front door, porch, and even go into the street.

Cristina didn't tell her daughter Ruht (I always thought her name was spelled Ruth, but its not) that I was coming, so it was so great to see her smiling face when I got there, along with Manuela and Ashley's.

We arrived late because we were coming from dinner at this really cool restaurant on the malecon (boardwalk), and still had the whole crew with us- including Cristina and Claudio. Their house was already filled with people when we pulled up. (I love that everything is so laid back here, and being on time is used very loosely!)

I'm not going to write the details of the service here, but it was a really special time to see this Haitian church worship and learn together and so great to see how a dear friend does life in a new city.

santo domingo

Tuesday night I hopped on public and headed to the White's house in Santiago. They had planned a trip to the capital with a college group for the next day and since Cristina moved there, I tagged along with them to be able to go and see her!

Wednesday morning I set off with Jim and Teresa and 8 college students from APU in California for Santo Domingo. We met Cristina and Claudio once we got to the city. It was so good to get to see her again! They came with us to drop our things off at the guest house where we were staying that night. At the guest house we met up with a Dominican couple, Antonio and Yulisa, and their two little boys. Antonio used to be the leader of a gang in the capital and now does street ministry on those same streets.

We traveled for about an hour from the guest house (though still in the capital) to a leper colony, and spent a couple of hours there passing time with the people there. I ended up being translator for some of the people in the group so that everyone could communicate with each other. Some of the people there have so much energy and passion for life; it was incredible to see.

Music is one thing that never seems to separate people from being able to communicate. I sang some songs that I knew in Spanish from church and teaching, and they sang others. Many people were missing limbs and others had stubs for fingers or bodies that were slightly distorted, but that was really the only difference between us.

You cannot get leprosy from coming in contact with it, so there was no hesitation to shake hands or give hugs. Overall it was a really great day, and I was humbled by the joy that they have despite the physical handicaps of everyday life.

tuesday afternoon

Tuesday was quite a busy day. After seeing the kids at the school and watching Ronal get bandaged up, I went with Odilcia to buy chicken for lunch. (The kids receive breakfast and lunch at school). There is a little colmado (convenient store-ish) down the street from the school where we went. Odilcia bought the ingredients needed to cook lunch. The woman there was cutting up whole chickens (including cutting off the toenails on the claws of the chickens) and weighing them for us.

We went back to the school and she began cleaning and preparing the chicken to cook. I decided to leave the school and walk over to Pancho Mateo. You can either go the long way and cross the bridge or right by the school is a place where you can cross the river on foot. (Taking a moto is always an option as well, but who wants to pay for that?!) I opted for the quick route. Below is the scenic view as I approached the rio.

As you can see, it is the designated place to dump your trash. Awesome. Fortunately it hadn't rained in a few days, so it wasn't really that muddy getting to the river and it was shallow enough to cross without getting my shorts wet.

I took a book with me to Pancho and read to Elsa and Marta and a handful of other kids that were in the area. I spent some time with Sili and he walked with me back to where I crossed the river. I tried to get a picture, but my camera wouldn't turn on. (Maybe the quick fix of some air and tape didn't cut it...)

Back at the school, I met up with Odilcia to travel back to Los Algodones where she lives. I wanted to see her boys, but also see a family from Chichigua that moved there. It took forever to get there on the moto, and the gravel road we took to get there was horrible. My legs were sorer after that ride than they were when I was on the horse.

When I got there I spent some time with Odilcia and more time with Miquet, Rosland, Alfredo, and Eduardo. They are all doing well and have grown up so much. Most people living there are Haitian so they spoke more Creole than Spanish. I didn't take a picture while I was there, but below is a picture of the family from a couple of years back.

Wow, looking at that picture I can really see how much they have grown! I found out that Miquet's husband died last October; I'm not sure if that is why they moved or not.

I went back and sat with Odilcia for a bit. Sitting on her porch looking at the other identical houses in a row which led to the backdrop of beautiful, lush green mountains glistening in the sun- I don't think a painting could have been more beautiful. It was probably the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in this country. I took my camera out to try and capture it, but it still wouldn't turn on. Dang it.

After saying my goodbyes and making the long trek back on the moto, I got my stuff together to head back to Santiago that night because in the morning we were headed to the capital!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

robin y ronal

That same day, Ronal was up at the school getting his hand fixed from a motorcycle accident. Even though his hand was bandaged, it didn't prevent him from trying to get avocados down from the trees! (Ronal was one of my students in Chichigua).

Ronal and Robin have a really special relationship so I wanted to make sure I got some pictures of the two of them before she leaves. Enjoy Rubi!


The next day I went back to the school for a bit to visit with the kiddos before classes started. I got one picture with a handful of former students, and another with two of my favorites- Eduardo and Manuela. Everyone has gotten so big!

At the start of school, they sing songs. I got some videos of this and will upload them once I get home. Here the kids are in their class lines getting ready to start singing.

the ruben family

After being at the school, eating Dominican food with Cara's fam before they headed back to the states, and recuperating from being in the heat, I headed to Pancho Mateo later that afternoon. I decided to put on my tennis shoes and run through Monte Llano, over the bridge, and into Pancho Mateo. I soon realized why I liked running in the morning- no one is up yet to yell at you as you are running by! Nevertheless, it felt good to run there and back regardless of the stares and cat calls. I stayed at one house the whole time in Pancho Mateo, visiting with Sili's family.

I love spending time with them so much; they are such an amazing family and though they are surrounded by life in the slums (and them being poor themselves), somehow this family is set apart. The two eldest daughters are in their late teens maybe even early 20s by now, Celiana and Elisa, and are still "unmarried" and help out with chores around the house. Sili turns 14 the day after I leave, words can't express how great this kid is! Elsa is around 9 and super sweet, and the youngest Marta (who is actually the daughter of an older brother who lives elsewhere) is such a hoot!

I sat outside of their house with them for a couple of hours until it started to get dark. Their mom is such an incredible woman. Right now they are living in a friend's house because they are reconstructing theirs out of cinder block. There isn't work going on now with the house though because of a shortage of money.

Marta and I started doing hand clapping games and Elsa helped her sing songs to go along with them. Then they started singing songs they learned from school, and I was able to join in.

As the sun started to go down, I headed back to the apartment in Monte Llano. I'm really going to miss this family when I go back to the states.

la bandera

I finally got to eat a typical Dominican plate- some kind of meat (in this case chicken), a huge serving of rice, and beans to pour on top. So good.


There is a family near the school that I enjoyed spending time with. Mercedes' sweet kids were always hanging around the school. She had just had a baby when I left 2 years ago named Jeidi (pronounced Hay-di), and now has another baby girl named Camila! There is actually another girl who is in the younger class at school named Camila, she is Luigi's little sister. It's funny hearing your name being called when it's not you they are referring to. However, I found out that there is a soap opera called Camila (or a soap opera character, not sure), so that's probably where they are getting the name from!

Regardless, it was so great to spend some time with her. She asked about Emily and Hayley, and wanted them to see this picture, so here you go!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Summer classes started again today for the Makarios school. The kids go through four stations, visiting each teacher.

Kim, with help from the kiddos, did a couple of science experiments. The first was using baking soda and vinegar to make a balloon blow up, and the second was making quicksand with water and cornmeal, I believe. They thought it was so cool, and really so did I because I had never seen that before.Robin talked about the letter "o," and played word games with the kids. Later she spoke of different images on the computer and had them identify the colors they saw.

Johan, Benjamin's brother, taught Bible; first showing them a video about Moses as a child, then later reading and discussing what happened with Moses as an adult.

Ashley had the students make a pizza by coloring toppings and cutting and pasting them to a paper plate.

Really so much more took place, I just saw glimpses of each as I walked around. It was really neat to see how hard they are working to teach these kids; they really care for them so much. Everything was so organized, and functioned so well. They even have been hiring more local staff to help out in the classrooms.

perla's birthday

Though it seems that all my friends in the DR are families that I worked with closely, (which for the most part is true), I was able to branch out some. Two friends in Monte Llano that I got close to were Perla and Benjamin, and before I came back for a visit got REALLY excited to see both of them. I got really excited then when I realized that I would be here for Perla's birthday.

The BIG THING is to go to a movie theater and then eat pizza at the American chain pizza joint located right next to it. You can't get that anywhere near where we are though. So it was an evening in Santiago, the second largest city in the country located about an hour and a half inland.

Perla, Benjamin, and I caught a public car to Puerto Plata, and from there took a bus to Santiago. Once in Santiago, we took another public car to the apartment where her college roommate Sori lives. From there we took public to the mall where all things American are located.

Perla wanted to see Toy Story 3, but it wasn't playing anymore that night. We ended up seeing the last Shrek, I forget what it is called in English, or Spanish for that matter. It was dubbed in Spanish, so unfortunately the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz were not heard. I'm pretty confident though that Antonio Banderas still did the voice for the cat.

We split a Hawaiian pizza and a Pepsi from Papa John's, realized how much I am going to miss fresh pineapple in this country.

Afterward, Sori caught a public car back to her apartment and we went to the bus stop. Since there are not as many passengers going, you completely fill up a small van before venturing off to Puerto Plata. Americans would say that the van would have held about 8 people, there were 14 of us. We got the worst seats- a bench right behind the driver facing the first row of seats. Our legs intertwined with the people sitting across from us for an hour and a half. Fun.

I didn't think anything of it, but it was one of those things that if your mom knew what you were doing she think you were crazy because here we were riding back with a van full of strangers through Dominican landscape in the pitch black midnight hour. It honestly made me chuckle thinking about it, my leg cramping up as it was pressing against another.

Again, such another fun night and I was so excited to get to spend time with these two!

Enjoy the pictures below just before and after the movie. me, Benjamin, Perla, and Sori

Benjamin for some reason has fake glasses, which for some reason I sported for a bit out of curiosity.

horses and pigs

Sunday was just another day at the farm! Fairly early that morning I went to Chichigua for my promised horseback ride. Tipiz owns four horses, for now he just using them to get to his work so I'm not sure what the other three are doing. (Tipiz is Marlena's husband). Regardless, there was one for me to ride so I was happy!

We rode all back behind that wall that was put up to block the view of Chichigua from what will eventually be a resort. The view on the other side is so pretty. We rode all around there, but unfortunately couldn't get any pictures.

We also rode down the road that leads back to the main street, and also back behind Chichigua where the pig stalls, large pond for bathing, and lots of mango trees are. The view below is looking at the backside of Chichigua. Everyone thinks that it is hysterical that I know how to ride a horse and that I enjoy doing it. Tipiz's daughters don't ride, but Felipe does. We passed a man on the road and the two began speaking in Creole. The only thing I could understand was when the man asked if I was Tipiz's woman. (He responded "no").After the ride, I sat in on the last part of Haitian church. It was miserably hot, and the only words I understood were "church," "Jesus," and "fornication." Fortunately it ended soon after.

Emilio said his dad wanted to say hi to me because I hadn't seen him since being back. We walked back behind Chichigua to the pig stalls. He owns a large mama pig that had given birth to 12 piglets the night before. These guys were tiny, umbilical cords still attached and all.

We stood there for a while often in silence, but also commenting on the pigs. Why runts were always the last to come out, the mama pig though insanely massive is smaller than her mother, who was sold for 11,000 pesos, how there's no money for food for the mama, etc. It was so interesting, who knew it was possible to talk about pigs for so long? Pigs are pretty sick animals, sick meaning dirty. The mama passed what he referred to as "the sack," and then rolled over on to it. It was hard for me not to gag, but I got over it soon enough. He threw it out using a stick to pick it up, and then we all just went on passing time staring at the pigs.


Friday when I got back from Santiago, I caught up with the girls for a bit and then made my way to Chichigua. Marlena was back from Haiti; her father died there so she had been with family. It was a sudden death, so her mom had been taking it really hard.

Marlena is the mother of Monis, Kikina, Yaina, and Felipe (there's one more too, but these were my students). I have spent a lot of time with them, so it was nice to spend some time with Marlena.

Her husband invited me to ride horses on Sunday (he has them for his job), so I am excited about that. I rode his horse once before when I was living here; everyone in the village got a big kick out of that!

Below are some pictures while in Chichigua with the crazy kiddos.

Rebecca, crazy Franchesca, and her baby sister Estefani

It's a miracle that she is 17 and beautiful and still without kids. Love it!little Wilner
His mom died of AIDS while I was living there. Now his godmother takes care of him.Back to Monte Llano, I needed to go buy some fruit to have something else for dinner besides cereal. (Clearly I need to go back to the market for some groceries…) Kendall offered her bike, and so off I went riding through the town (made me realize what a great thing a bike is to have here!)

I bought a cantaloupe and a mango, and then started to head back on a different route. Rachel was at her house, so I stopped and visited for a while. She really is so great. We had a glass of wine, and soon realized how late it had become.

Robin, Ashley, and Kendall were planning a little neighborhood party that night at the house for Robin as her time finishes here at the end of the month. (Cara's family is still in town, so she was with them at their hotel). Rachel was planning on going, so we put the bike in the back of her truck and headed that way.

The girls made cookies, fruit salad, and banana bread and neighbors brought things too. Most people there I didn’t know, but did see some familiar faces. We had a great time, and it was beautiful seeing Robin spend time with the people she loves in this country.

The hostesses- Kendall, Robin, and Ashley

me and Benjamin

Robin and Maria


I went to Santiago to see Leti off and to spend time with the Whites. Bye Cosa!

Leticia left Thursday morning, and later that day we set off for the land the Whites purchased. It was so great to finally see all the progress they had done and the vision they have for the 12 acres. Below is just a glimpse. Hearing Jim talk about it all made me wish I was an engineer.

That night was Ben's last night so we all went out to dinner in downtown Santiago. I could not tell you the name of the restaurant, but oh my goodness, the name we gave it was very suiting. "The Cowboy Restaurant."

We pull up to this large, open place right off the main road and the first thing I notice is a large stagecoach above the entrance covered in Christmas lights. Two men dressed as cowboys from head to toe are there to greet us. Yes, you heard right, cowboys.

The restaurant was all open air so there was a good breeze in the corner on the balcony level where we were sitting. Everything was so good. A few people got steaks, and maybe I should have too to stick with the theme.

I figure though, why not experience the culture and the food where you are. I opted for a Dominican dish- octopus with a side of smashed yuca. Despite what you might think from the picture, it was actually quite tasty!

Jim (with knife and fork in hand!) and Teresa

I wanted to get a picture of the whole family together, and this was really the only time to do so. I never thought it would be behind ropes and haystacks and holding shotguns.
Ben, Ella, and Carrie

I wanted to get a picture with all the cowboys that were walking around the restaurant (regardless of the fact I felt like a total tourist). I told him I was from Texas, and then he started shouting out all of the phrases he knew that seemed western. By the time we took the picture, I couldn't keep a straight face! Overall, such a fun and entertaining night with good friends.