Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Rat

Before I explain the title, I need to tell you about the design of our house.

It is a most peculiar house which was half built as a billiard hall with an apartment upstairs but we have converted the downstairs into a living/dining room, a study, a kitchen and utility room, downstairs bathroom and a dog room.

Upstairs there is another living room, three bedrooms and a bathroom with a wrap around balcony and another balcony.

The roof is the interesting part. It is made of wood with asphalt material on top of it, and sort of balances on a piece of wood in each corner and has a gap of a few feet between the roof and the wall.

Like this:

Most Dominican houses are built like this as it allows all of the hot air to escape and keeps the house cool. Mind you most have zinc roofs and not plywood.

The roof is actually very attractive from underneath - very rustic, apart from the edge bits where it is sort of coming apart and a few holes in it where the internet man walked on it in hob nail boots to fix the 30 foot aerial on the roof.

Anyway, me being British I thought people should have  a bit of privacy in the bedroom and bathroom so when Danilo was designing and finishing off the house before we moved in, I asked him to make the walls on the inside go up to the roof and the ones on the outside still leave a little gap for the hot air to escape.

Here is the little gap at the side of the guest bedroom

The rest of the upstairs has had the gap filled with wood.

Apart from between our bedroom and the guest room - which means that noises, any noises from one bedroom travel to the other.  It wasn't boarded between the two rooms as we were waiting for wardrobes to be fitted, which they now have been for over 3 years.

Here is what it looks like from our room:

And this is from the guest room the other side of the wardrobes.

So now you get the picture, I can begin.

Last night I went to bed and Danilo came downstairs to watch TV. When I go to bed I go to sleep and if there is someone next to me watching TV at Dominican volume and commenting on the programme, which is usually the History Channel or National Geographic, and asking me questions all the time, jabbing me with his elbow if I don't answer, I get grouchy. Extremely grouchy. So the law is when I go to bed, if he wants to keep watching TV, he comes downstairs to watch it.

I am lying in bed in the dark, writing Chapter 5 (yes have done 1-4) of Book Number Two in my head, and I was listening to the noise outside so that I could describe nights in the campo. The crickets squeaking, the limpkins squawking and the occasional noise from the roof. We have always wondered what the noise on the roof was, as nothing can get onto the roof from the house, so it must be a chicken or a bird.

Then there was a noise of something falling in the bedroom. I assumed it was the cat or the puppy, but they didn't answer when I called, so I got out of bed and turned the light on and there it was. A rat. It was on top of our wardrobe, between us and the guest room, and ran around on top of the wall and looked at me.

Now, Dominican rats are not like British rats. I have lived in houses in London where rats in the garden were common place and I think they say that in London you are never more than 10 feet, or is it yards from a rat. British rats are big with thick tails.

They also have very very big teeth and are really appalling. Think bubonic plague. Think around 12 inches long.

However, Dominican rats are actually cute as rats go. Long whiskers, much smaller, not as dark and like halfway the size of a British mouse and a British rat. I googled for a picture of a Dominican rat but I didn't get a picture of the rat which there was in the bedroom, all that came up were pictures of Dominican men - so called "love rats".

At last I found a picture. See they are quite cute as rats go.

Anyway I ran downstairs and said to Danilo: "Rat in the bedroom"and explained where it was. He went upstairs but it had gone, which isn't surprising as it has the whole upstairs to explore, plus balconies and can run around on the tops of all of the walls and if needed duck inside the gaps in the concrete blocks which the walls are made up. But unless rats jump 30 feet to the ground (do they?) it can't get out.

Danilo was his usual blasé self. "All houses have rats. It is no problem. A rat is a rat." Well call me a wuss but I really don't want a rat in my bedroom and where there is one rat there will be more. I think they must be a new arrival as never seen them before and the cats catch everything that moves but they have never brought in a rat. I am deducing it could be linked to Albert's arrival and his habit of eating all day long either in his bedroom or watching the TV and having zero concept of not throwing food or wrappers or fruit peelings on the floor or under the bed.

The trouble is we have visitors arriving in 12 days time who will be staying in the guest room, and I am not sure people from overseas will be quite as chilled at the idea of having a rat watching them from the top of the wardrobe. Especially as the people coming - an American and her Dominican fiancé  have not seen each other for months. I can just see a whole gathering of rats on top of the wardrobe gawking at the activity in the guest room.

So I have to solve the problem. Solution one is to get rid of rats. Now being a kind soul I don't necessarily want to kill them and won't use poison with dogs, cats and people in the house. I can't stand the noise that rat traps make, nor the mess, so I have bought the famous Dominican product - The End to the Rat - or even, The Rat Meets a Sticky End.

This is a sticky pad, which is apparently super sticky and has some sort of impregnated smell which rats love. So once they stand on it they get stuck. I asked the man in the shop what I should do when the rat stuck to the pad. He said you just kill it. And when I asked how I was supposed to do that he said just use a machete. I will ask Danilo to take rat and pad outside and unstick it and let it go.

In the meantime I will ask the carpenter to put the wood up between the two rooms and hope the rat stays in our room if the sticky pad does not work. Danilo assures me I will get used to him/them running around the top of the wall, and says they are actually quite nice company at night. Right. I am not allowed dogs in the bedroom, but rats and chickens are fine!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Chivirico's birthday - oh Dios mio

It was Chivirico's birthday on Friday so on Saturday Danilo went to pick him up so we could have a special day on Sunday.

The day started with him and Albert getting up early and making empanadas for breakfast which were salami and cheese on the inside, wrapped in pastry and fried. Here is a picture from Aunt Clara's Dominican Cooking.

So once breakfast was over - no photos as I was sleeping as it happened at 6.30 am - it was time to make the dough for pizza, which Chivo made and bread, made by Albert, with a bit of a competition to see whose dough would rise best. Once the dough was made it was put in my jeep to rise - as it is really warm there and today was cool and cloudy.

Then a couple of hours later they came to show me the result and both had risen well.

Then it was time for a special lunch - two enormous chillo (red snapper) from the fish man.

Chivirico was desperate to have his annual photo taken with Danilo holding him up in water. Every year it has been in a pool, or the sea, or a river and this year they have just opened a pool/bar restaurant only a mile from where we live so we decided to go there. He and Albert were beside themselves with excitement, so once lunch was over, off we went. But it was raining, and not just raining it was thunder and lightning and I warned them they couldn't go in the pool until the lightning had stopped.

So we get to this new pool and the entrance was particularly guest friendly.

The down pipes from the roof threw all of the water on top of people entering the pool complex, so even though Danilo had let us off right by the entrance by the time we walked in, we were soaked to the skin, Hey ho, I thought, we should dry off soon, and what designer would shower arriving guests with water, but having paid the entrance fee, we then had another water obstacle to face.

This was the entrance to the actual pool, but there was a massive water butt, with water pouring in and it was overflowing and soaking anyone who walked past it. Danilo went first.

We had a table on the far side of the pool, under a metal roof, but had to wade through 6 inches of water. The lightning was all around and I told the boys to put their feet on the chairs as it seemed somewhat idiotic to be sitting under a metal roof with ones feet in six inches of water. Meanwhile the owner was trying desperately to get rid of all the water on the floor, and the full water butt continued to overflow and balance dangerously on the step.

The people at the tables on the other side of the pool appeared to be oblivious to the impending danger and as it happened the owner then emptied the water butt (!!) and carried on sweeping to get rid of the water but in seconds it seemed it was full again, so he emptied it again. The water around our ankles rose to 9 inches.

Albert was desperate to get into the water and as the lightning stopped the boys were given the green light. He just ran and threw himself in. Danilo went ballistic telling him never to throw himself into water as he had no idea if it was shallow and would smash his head or deep and he can't swim. He kept doing it. Again and again. Each time we yelled at him, and he just kept doing it.

We took the famous birthday photo of Danilo holding Chivirico up in water which we have done every year since his 5th birthday.

This time you can't see his legs! And we continued to shout at Albert not to throw himself in the pool - until..... we saw him running around the pool with blood streaming down his face. Yes he had hit his head on the bottom and his forehead was split open like a ripe plum. People came running from all over telling us to take him to hospital, to call the ambulance, but we said we could sort it at home and that was the end of the pool trip.

Albert pressed serviettes to his wound and we came home and then I had one of the "oh my God" "Oh Dios mio" moments as Danilo put him on a bar stool and approached him with a needle.
"Danilo, what are you doing?"I asked
"Anesthetic"he said
"What for?"
"To stitch it", and I noticed Chivirico licking thread to put in a stitching needle.
"You are bloody loco - I have steri strips, no need for stitches".
"Ingles you know nothing. I stitch roosters, he is like a rooster"
Albert's eyes were like saucers sitting on the bar stool.
"OK, so let's do it the English way first with antiseptic and steri strips and if in three days the wound hasn't closed you can stitch him up".

I cleaned the wound, put steri strips on it (total rubbish according to Danilo) and Albert is now watching TV with a big plaster (elastoplast in American?) on his head.

Now all that is left is to make the pizza and bake the bread.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Fish Man Cometh

A fairly quiet few weeks (for a change).

Danilo was told by the head of his new party that as the results came in they were at party HQ. After the first two bulletins, accounting for around 20% of the votes it was obvious Danilo was in for a landslide victory and then they had a call from the ruling party – PLD – to say “terribly sorry but we can’t let this happen as it is too embarrassing so we will need to change the outcome”.  Which, as we know they did. They have promised him a “good” job but nothing so far and he has enrolled in University for the next semester as he only has a couple of semesters to go until he is qualified.

In the meantime he is sorting and planting the finca and we have yuca and batata (sweet potatoes) growing well, helped by the rain we have had recently as it looks like hurricane season is ramping up as the end of the season approaches.

Albert continues to be ‘interesting’. He has started school here and also goes to baseball practice. There are only eight children in his fifth grade class so I am hoping he will make major progress this year. A new school has been built much closer to us - he walks a couple of miles to school each day at the moment - and should be open maybe next week. Then he will be at school from 8 am to 4 pm.

He called me the other day to tell me there was something wrong with the cat which was making a funny noise. I went to check and the cat looked fine, but he explained if you touched it, the cat ‘buzzed’. I realize he meant it was purring and he had never heard a cat purr lol. The training program, as to how to eat, to pull the toilet chain, not to leave the fridge door open, to clean the bath if you shower in muddy flip flops and a whole list of other things goes on.

The puppy has been called Canguru as she is the colour of a Kangaroo and jumps everywhere. She is a pain in the arse but great fun at the same time with the most beautiful blue/green eyes.

She goes out into the back garden with her mum and is being trained by her to chase chickens and cats - neither of which are good and there is nothing she enjoys more than stopping the cats coming in by blocking their Dominican cat flap aka the hole.

The really good news is that we now have a fish man in the next village so once a fortnight we go and get fish. If we don’t, he appears at the gate to tell me what he has and to make an appointment for me to go and get it. Last week we went to the mountain town and on the way back Danilo had to get to the toilet quickly (too much street food) so he dropped me off at fish man’s place. I bought two lovely snapper (chillo) and then was about to walk home expecting to meet Danilo on the way to pick me up, as it was around 5 miles. Mr Fish Man said he would take me on his motorbike. He must be 70 or 80 years old and on the ride back he drove like a maniac! I made it back before Danilo had even left the house.

The fish were prepared and laid on the last bit of the balcony in the sun – apparently it stops them spitting when they are fried.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Motherless in the Mountains

Doesn't quite have the same ring as Sleepless in Seattle but hey ho.

It is amazing how many children here are brought up without their mothers. I cannot imagine life without my mother, and we talk every day on Skype.

Danilo was brought up without his mother, she found another man and his father took Danilo and his older brother Biembo to live in the mountains above Barahona. Danilo was aged 4. It is tradition in this country that if parents split up, the boys usually go with the father and the girls with the mother. However, if the father has the boys and he finds another woman, she often does not want another woman's child so they go to the father's parents - as in the case of Chivirico being brought up by his grandparents since his mother left when he was a few weeks old.

Chivirico and his grandmother

And Danilo's first two sons were also left by their mother when the youngest was 3 weeks old, as she found another man. Danilo's mother brought them up until she died a couple of years later, and then it was down to him. Even his third child, with another woman, was left by his mum with Danilo for a couple of years until she came back to collect him and take him to Spain.

Danilo and the three boys 2002

Mind you they have changed a bit now

We now have Albert living with us. Yet again, his mother does not want him, and his father isn't able to look after him, although he lived with him until he was 7. Often if the father cannot pay child support, the mother simply hands over the child, which is what happened in this case, and the father is Danilo's half brother but since he had a stroke he cannot manage Albert.

All of those boys without mothers looking after them. And when I see what a delight these boys are and what they have done and will do with their lives, I feel sorry for their mothers who do not know what pleasure and pride they have missed out on. And I really do not understand how they could do what they did.

It even happens to chickens. One of our hens died, leaving a load of chicks, and others look after the first few which hatch, but then if the more eggs hatch  a couple of days later they don't want to know them, so we have to take them away before the mother kills them. So we now have loads of motherless chicks - but at least they all keep each other warm at night in a plastic container.

I felt like I was looking at a picture of four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie last night.

The pups have all gone apart from one so the house is relatively free of poo and pee. We ended up keeping one - as she hid when the others left so she obviously wants to stay. She spends all day long finding things to take and hide - so methinks she could be trouble - Miss Brown Nose.

And finally, I sometimes come across other blogs which I enjoy and this is one I recommend you look at. It is written by an American lady who lives in Sosúa on the north coast, who describes herself as a nice Jewish girl. I think she is a lot more than that, and she too documents her experiences in the country - some of which bear remarkable resemblance to mine - including exploding Dominican Pyrex in the oven. Enjoy 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hello Zika

The whole election shenanigans are coming to an end. The court sort of went to sleep even though the delegates signed a paper to say they were not present at the count, so the local electoral court had forged their signatures. So no result to all our work. But we are now suing for fraud in the civil courts and looking for compensation. I don't hold out much hope but we will keep on fighting.Unfortunately the people of Guayacanes, most of whom voted for Danilo are stuck with a mayor who did nothing and who will do nothing. It really is a travesty of justice and they are the ones who will suffer.  In the meantime, word is on the street that to "apologise" for cheating and fraud,  the government will give Danilo and some of his team a job - on August 16 the new government takes power and all of the jobs change. I will believe it when it happens.

While waiting for University to start again, Danilo has been clearing the land. We have like four or five acres which became overgrown as he was off campaigning and given the drought last year most of it was dead. Anyway as he cleared it he found four grapefruit trees, an orange tree, two mango trees, and avocado tree and a guanabana (soursop) tree. They all look pretty healthy so hopefully they will deliver fruit in a year or two.

I was feeling pretty tired last week, which isn't usual for me, and pains in my hands were waking me up in the night. I was a little concerned I had arthritis or rheumatism and hands are essential when you are typing all day long. Then, a week or so ago I got up and felt worse. Eyes were bright red and sticky, hands and feet hurt and I was covered with a rash from head to toe. Well hello Zika! I have escaped dengue since I have been here, which is just as well as I have had it twice - once in Singapore aged 8, and once in St. Lucia when it was hemorrhagic dengue. The third time will be even worse. I also escaped Chikunguya so I can't moan just getting Zika. It was gone within five days and I was all back to normal, but loads of people seem to have it at the moment.

We were having problems with our Sky satellite TV as the signal kept going in and out, so Danilo decided it was because the trees in the mahogany wood next door were too high. Easy to fix, just take shoes off, put machete between teeth and climb 60 feet up a thin swaying tree with no safety gear and lop top off

He is there in the middle of the picture

At the top of the tree some 60 - 70 feet above the ground

When he reached the top, he lopped the top off (hoping that the Ministry of the Environment would not appear as you can't cut trees down without permission - especially mahogany trees) and then I noticed the satellite wasn't pointing anywhere near that tree! A day later the Sky satellite stopped working all together, called Sky in Mexico where I didn't understand a word as Mexican Spanish might as well be Chinese, but Sky man turned up today and fixed it all. No need to cut down any more trees.

The pups are growing - looking super cute but should go to new homes soon. Maybe apart from Lobita

Friday, July 8, 2016

Life goes on

I promised to update you on the building projects.

The first is the new hen house - well, the hen apartment building really. We had to move the hens around to the back of the house to stop the dogs getting to them and to try and prevent the neighbour's chickens coming in to visit. I had no problem with them visiting, but the dogs didn't appreciate it, and the chickens usually did not make it home after their trip.

I have to say that recycling took on a totally new level. Adios balcony.

Hello chicken apartment building

It is in the back garden just behind the barbecue, which will be useful if we want fresh roast chicken, but he ran out of wood so used one of his campaign posters. Now call me Mrs. Sensitive, but do I really want to see a campaign poster every single time I look out of the window - I think not. At least it blends in as it is green.

There are four chicken apartments.

Each one has a food and water bowl, a stick to perch on and a nesting area, as each one has a cockerel and a hen. Once the hens are sitting on eggs, the cockerel gets moved to another apartment - he had to build another four! We also now have a nursery apartment where the mum and chicks can go once they are born. Impressive or what?

As I mentioned the election I will update you. The fat lady hasn't sung yet, but I think she is in the dressing room putting on her make  up. We have had weeks of backwards and forwards to court, providing proof that Danilo's and others' delegates were not allowed in for the count. The latest is that, without going into detail at this stage, it appears that the delegates signatures were forged and today, supposedly, all of those involved will be interrogated. Hopefully we should know if there will be a recount by early next week - although to be honest it is getting a little late in the day. The fight goes on. We also have a case going through the Constitutional court, but given that all the judges change on August 16 when the new administration comes in, no one seems to be doing much work.

Life is not particularly easy at the moment, it has to be said. Danilo's car broke - yet again and it seems it needs yet another transmission - a mere US$1,000. How a car needs a new transmission every 12 months is beyond me, but mechanics here are a law unto themselves. Most don't have a clue, and they are experts in saying that they have bought a new piece and they haven't. I always say let them give you the receipt for the new piece, but apparently things aren't done that way. Anyway the car is fixed but we can only have it back when we have paid for it - which may take a little while.

In the meantime the gas for cooking ran out as I was making pizza the other night. No car, no taking gas tank to be filled around five miles away and here there are no motoconchos. Danilo leapt into action, collected wood and said we now cook outside on the barbecue. I was extremely suspicious. it is one thing using a wood fired oven to cook a pizza and another to put it on a barbecue. My concerns were justified as I looked out of the window and saw the pizza on fire. (It was very dark).

In the event it was delicious and had a lovely smokey flavour.

And the following day, it was back out to the fogon to make fish soup, and by now I was getting the hang of controlling the temperature by pushing the logs in (they are set up in a star formation) to increase the heat and pulling them out to decrease the heat. Not sure we will go back to a proper stove now!

The house has also been full, as we have Danilo's nephew living with us, 10 year old Albert who used to live with stepson Alberto, but as Alberto has lost his job in the Free Zone as the factory has closed they couldn't afford to feed him, so he is now here. The days of kids eating everything in the fridge have returned unfortunately, but this time I am older and wiser so he has his own shelf in the fridge and everything else is off limits. Chivirico was also here for a couple of weeks, which made Danilo very happy to have two little dwenditos to follow him everywhere.

And the kids managed to amuse themselves by making catapults and traps to  catch whatever with long strings on them. They sit in the garden for ages, waiting for something to come in the trap so they can pull the string. Luckily they have caught nothing so far.

And to end on a mixed note. Matilda, my 15 year old cat, who never went outside, disappeared a couple of months ago, never to be seen again. She was not ill, but did have Alzheimer's. I looked for weeks but no sign.

But as one life ends, another begins, and Grita Mucho had 4 pups. Four more little huskitas, just over a week old. Mother and pups doing well.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Fight goes On

Once again I have been waiting to update you until I had definite news, but having had emails from irate and impatient readers who are desperate for news, I apologise but not much has happened on the election front.

Danilo came home, exhausted and depressed but threw himself into a long list of jobs I had for him which I will post about later, including building new hen houses, fixing fences, fixing the leaking roof, mopping Dominican style and a whole range more.

In the meantime the fight goes on and he has been gathering all of the proof of the fraud including witness depositions and video evidence and this has all been submitted to the court asking for a recount of the votes under strict scrutiny. The people of Guayacanes continue to be outraged but he has asked them to stay calm while he tries to resolve everything by legal means. If that does not work I have no idea what will happen next, but in a country which is trying to improve the education of children and teach them right from wrong - not to steal, lie, threaten, bribe, carry out fraud and cheat - one would hope that the government would believe in the same values. Maybe too much to hope.

The hearing should have been Wednesday, then Thursday and now tomorrow - but who knows. As soon as I know anything I will let you know.

Meanwhile he is here most of the time which is nice for me, and to be honest just as well as I got in the shower the other day, and while turning the water on, this is what I saw

The tiles are 8 inches square just to give you an idea. I leapt out of the shower and luckily although Danilo happened to be in Guayacanes at the time, submitting all of the court documents he arrived home as my knight in shining armour  a few hours later and rescued me.

Now if you can't see very well you can see the little darling here on the brush and a million thanks to a very nice lady who sent me a fandabbydozy camera which takes great pics - and will be better when I learn how to use it properly.

Anyway it grabbed onto the broom and he put it outside in the woods. Today it is like four days later and the little sod returned and was waiting for me, swimming in the toilet when I went for a pee.

It was very much alive and swimming away so hopefully Danilo has put it back in the woods again and told it to stay there.

I will try and update in a few days with his building projects as well as the latest on the election front.