Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dead rats and geysers

The good news is that the balcony is still standing! The wood was taken out from under the plato and it didn't fall down. Now it is being plastered (with cement) and the next stage is for the non rottable (is that a word?) wood to be put in for the railings.



Last weekend we had a visitor. Meems, American, and fellow blog writer, came from Sosua where she lives and Danilo had arranged for Chivirico to be here too. We had a fabulous weekend helped by the fact she came laden with wine, chocolate and real American steak. She also bought me a very special gift of a limited edition picture of A Woman of Valor in Hebrew. Here is it in English.


When someone comes to stay there is lots of work to be done. Dogs have to be bathed, house has to be  mopped, beds have to be changed. On the Monday of the week Meems was due to arrive on the Friday, the hot water stopped working. The tank is situated outside at the side of the house and you just flick a switch for 20 minutes and hey presto, hot water.


After three days of nagging Danilo said he had fixed it as some wires were wet but asked Saya (Number one dwendy) to finish the job off on the Wednesday, which he did. Thursday morning I am preparing to mop and noticed there was no water in the cistern. I assumed that the lads had used it all in the plato making but as the street water was due to be piped in that day I wasn't too concerned - although to mop, you need water.

Danilo told me a pipe leading to the water tank had broken itself (Dominican speak, no one ever breaks anything, things break themselves) so off he went to Moncion to buy some new pipe. He came back, fixed the pipe and I went for a shower. My shower lasted all of 30 seconds before the newly fixed pipe fell off and the water stopped. Danilo redid the pipe. This time when he turned the water on it didn't even last 30 seconds before breaking. So all the water had to be turned off - luckily the cistern was filling up by now, but we had no water in the house.

The next day, still with no water, Danilo bought a metal pipe and that seemed to work, until he had a shower, forgot to turn the water heater off and obviously the thermostat isn't working and the release valve on the top of the tank opened sending fountains of hot steam up to the top of the house. At least now we have (boiling) hot water and water in the house for mopping but you have to remember to turn the hot water off after 10 minutes or we have our very own geyser.

Meems arrived to a clean house and I was going to cook pizza for dinner. I opened the oven to switch it on and was faced with the appalling smell of decomp as they say on the crime shows on TV. I slammed the oven shut and yelled at Danilo to start the barbecue. I assume there is a dead rat under the oven but we can't get it out so until we can the oven is unusable.

So we had a useless water heater (fixed), a useless oven (not fixed) and then the fridge packed up (fixed by fridgeman).

A new goat was delivered by Alberto. His name is El Criminal, and apparently he is a young Boer goat, bred for meat. He has no horns and is furrier than the others and seems to be fitting in well. Here is Danilo carrying him to the paddock in the rain.


And here is El Criminal in all his glory


Finally, the book signing tour is sorted. I will bring copies of Life After My Saucepans and some of What About Your Saucepans? and will also sign any you might have.I will be starting it in Sosua on Thursday December 7th and in the afternoon will be at Midtown Bar and Restaurant from 2 pm to 6 pm. I will be having dinner at Taberna El Conde at 7 pm if anyone wants to pop in there.On Friday evening from 7 pm I will be at Dan and Manty's Guesthouse in Las Terrenas and on Saturday at One Love Surfshack in Las Terrenas from 5 pm till 7 pm.. Early next year it will be Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.  Obviously I cannot go on the road without a bodyguard, so Chivirico will be coming with me. Hopefully as many people as possible will turn up for a chat!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

And it's Platoday.

Today it is Platoday. In other words the day the plato - or concrete floor is laid on the balcony. The last time we had a plato done it was on top of the guest house in Juan Dolio and I remember it distinctly as it was the day I was shot - July 21, 2006. Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Laying, pouring whatever you call it, the plato is a major job. First wood is put over the walls they built out of block and underneath the wood there are posts made from tree branches.


Here is Danilo sawing the wood, with a machete and hammer. Yes that is an electric saw behind him but apparently it burned out. It was attached to this... not sure why.


Anyway so now all the wood is laid and Danilo has to have a little snooze, as only Dominicans know how. He can sleep anywhere and anytime.


The next job is to make a sort of web of iron bars - varilla - to give the concrete strength and stop it breaking I am told.


We have tubes which will go in place for electric wiring so we can light the balcony and other tubes (well Gatorade bottles) which will allow the water to drain off it.

You can see the piece of wood at the top of the picture which is leading into the house. Next to my desk. Where I am working.


So what happens it that the guys at the front are mixing cement, gravel, sand and water.


They take their shoes off so as not to dirty their shoes - sort of home made concrete boots.Then they wheel the cement in the wheelbarrow through the living room, past my desk, onto the balcony and tip it out.


Please note my new desk with its signs which say"Be Quiet" in Spanish, callate as I spend all day long saying that, plus a picture of my mum saying"Be Quiet" as she always says that to Danilo (although he did ask me why she was saying Biscuit). The middle sign says La Jefa, the boss, just in case anyone forgets.


The wheelbarrow goes down the ramp and usually it falls over by itself and tips the cement out. Meanwhile, Saya (number one dwendy for those of you who read What about my Saucepans? ) sort of smooths it out, as it will have tiles put on top, and I would rather they are not wonky. It gets smoothed using a piece of wood which you can see at the top left of this picture



So here is hoping it will work. I have a sneaky suspicion that underneath the balcony it is dripping cement out and we have to wait 9 days I think before all the wooden supports underneath and all of the plywood is taken away. Then it is the moment of truth to see if the concrete stays in place - and for how long. Given past experience I cannot say I am feeling 100% confident.

Watch this space as they say.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

And the readers keep coming

Following the visit of Bahama and Harriet, and the birth of their namesake goats, a week or so later came two more lots of book readers.

This time it was Peter and Lisa, from England, who only came for a few hours but were laden with goodies from the UK. Chocolate, oxo cubes, curry spices, and even OMG parsnips. What a treat. They also brought vitamins for distribution to the local families, plasters (as the ones here don't stick), loads of shirts for kids at school and a catapult for Chivirico (which Danilo promptly nicked) as well as a set of toy saucepans for me!

It was lovely to see them and chat, and they enjoyed seeing Wasp House come to life, and of course, loved seeing the baby goats. Here is Lisa with Bahama.


Then this Friday, more readers. Keith and Elaine from the Isle of Man, their taxi driver Speedy Rodriguez and my friend Shirley. Elaine and Keith have an apartment In Cabarete and as Keith explains: "The loose plan behind today was that a friend on the Isle of Man had given Elaine two books to bring with her on this trip, which were an autobiography of life for an English woman, who moved to the Dominican Republic. Elaine was so engrossed, she read the entire first book on the flight over here. Imagine her surprise when she recognised some of the people who were mentioned in the book, including [for those of you a little slow at guessing] Shirley. Yes, the author is Lindsay. The dam (Moncion dam), with it's amazing views is mentioned in book two, so that was the 'excuse' for the trip out. It was a surprise for Elaine, as she didn't know we were going to meet Lindsay, although she guessed en-route when the dogs were mentioned, in particular 'Goofy' the Great Dane. By the time of the trip, Elaine had also polished off book two, which covers the time since Lindsay and Danilo moved in to their current home, so Elaine had the slightly surreal experience of meeting people and being in the house that she'd been reading about, leaving her with a peculiar sense of de-ja-vu."

Having visited the goats, eaten Danilo's Sancocho (what was left of it as the neighbours smelled it cooking and queued up at the gate with an assortment of pots and dishes to get some), Danilo took them off to the dam, and then for icecream, while Shirley and I caught up on the gossip.

Here is Angelo the taxidriver with the goats, you can contact him here


And Danilo at the dam with Elaine and Keith


Before they left everyone bought some books, which was lovely, and we had a little signing session,


It is so nice meeting readers of Saucepans, and lovely listening to them exclaiming as they see things they have read about.

The balcony is making slow progress, the wood is now being laid to be filled in with concrete and Danilo has had the balcony furniture delivered which is made of banana leaves. Apparently it doesn't rot in the rain. It arrived yesterday, together with a proper desk for me, which is enormous, so now I feel like an executive. The banana seats need mending in places so this afternoon Danilo is off to find an old man who apparently is expert in making furniture out of banana leaves.

This morning, the guy who brought the furniture up last night, Vasilio and Danilo and Chivirico took the dogs for a walk. Apart from Meg who won't go without me, and Goofy who refuses to walk on a lead - he just lies down. Having stood crying at the gate waiting for Lobo to return, for 30 minutes, I am hoping he will now see the advantage of walking on a lead.



The next few weeks will be busy as we have visitors planned for the weekend of November 10, then I am hoping to start my book signing tour, in Sosua and Las Terrenas and then later in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Watch this space for details.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Here we go again

So, remember the tale of the balcony?

The house has lovely patio doors all across the back of it


So there is an amazing view and I can have all the doors open which is like being outside even though you are inside. But there is an 8 foot drop outside of the windows.


So we built a balcony out of treated wood so it wouldn't rot or be eaten by termites. Many visitors like to sit outside on the balmy Caribbean evenings and some like to grab a bit of sunshine during the day.


It was on wooden tree trunks so looked a bit like Brighton Pier and even had a little staircase down into the dog house.


It was a lovely balcony, great to sit out on and all the visitors loved it. However, bit by bit it collapsed.


And collapsed a bit more


Until it totally fell down and was recycled as hen houses and goat houses. Now just like the phoenix it is rising again from the ashes - only this time in concrete. The dogs were amazed as bags and bags of cement were unloaded into the house. Here are Rasputin and Canguru watching on.


I am once again surrounded by semi naked men digging and laying blocks


The plan is there will be walls of concrete blocks and then they will build a wooden frame which will be placed on top of the walls and will be filled with concrete, left for 3 weeks then the wood is taken away and it (apparently) won't fall down.


Now Mr.  Always thinking of New Ideas Danilo, had the idea that chickens (or other animals) will live under the balcony so although this looks like a row of public toilets it will actually be a row of animal houses. Not sure what animals he has planned - just hope it isn't pigs. Once the concrete floor/roof is ready there will be treated (haha) wooden railings and a tiled floor. Wonder how long this one will last. It is much bigger than the last one so could work as a dance floor or roller skating rink as well.

On the goat front they are all still adorable and mother Oregano seems to think it is funny that her kids are inside the bran bowl.


I will leave you with what I see every morning when I go out to call them for their breakfast. They are usually right at the end of the second paddock so around 1000 metres away. It is always fun to bet on who will win the race.




Saturday, September 30, 2017

And it's twins!

Another busy few weeks which kicked off with yet another hurricane, this time Maria. It took a similar course to Irma passing north of the DR but was closer to the north and east shores so they took a hammering. Also Maria was  much slower so the rain lasted longer.


Other Caribbean islands were not so lucky and those affected by Irma had no time to gather breath before Maria smashed into them, and some will take years to recover. Our neighbouring island Puerto Rico was particularly badly hit along with the Virgin Isles, Dominica and St. Martin.

Here on the mountain it was windy and rainy but not as bad as Irma.

The weekend after Maria I was expecting a visit from two British/American ladies - mother and daughter - who had read my books and were here in the centre of the country teaching English for a few months. They  wanted to see the books come to life so came up to visit from Saturday to Monday and having gone out to see the Moncion dam on Sunday morning, we got back to the news that Oregano the pregnant white goat had given birth to twins. We charged down the field and there they were - perfect.


They could stand up, they were all furry and to die for. The only problem was they would walk a little way then lie down and sleep and Oregano would go looking for them, but they sleep so soundly they wouldn't hear, so we had to trek all over the fields looking for them.

Here are my visitors, Harriet and then Bahama with one of the goats.



Someone, I think it was Chivirico who was here, said they were both males so we were trying to think of names until we discovered it was a girl and a boy. So the boy is Harry, after Harriet and the girl is Bahama.

Here they are in their house.


It was obvious we would need another house as Oregano wouldn't let Picante or Maggi into the house, so Danilo built one, using wood from the hen house which had previously been the balcony.


And now they are nearly a week old, running and jumping and are so cute. I will leave you with Harry who has taken to sleeping in the bran bowl (I wondered where my washing up bowl had gone) so no one can eat.


Next stage is to learn how to milk a goat so I can make goat's cheese. That should be fun - not!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hurricane Irma by a Dominicana (at last!)

Well this has been a busy time. At last the day arrived for me to be sworn in as a Dominican - August 31. Danilo and I left for the capital on the Caribe Tours bus, and spent the night at Casa Sanchez Boutique Hotel in the Colonial Zone. After a lovely meal in the restaurant there and a good night's rest we set off for the Ministry of Interior and Police in the morning, as we had to be there at 9 am.

The Ministry is in an unattractive grey government building


where we were taken into a large auditorium, signed some papers and had a Dominican flag pinned on us. Danilo had bought me a new outfit, and instead of his normal choice of high shoes and skin tight hooker jeans, I looked like an American gospel singer. Perfect.

The ceremony was lovely, short and emotional and I was sworn in and awarded my certificate, You are not supposed to smile in official pictures as you can see.



We then met Olga, who had helped me throughout the process and off we went to the Junta Central Electoral to hand in my file to be able to obtain a Dominican birth certificate which would enable me to  have a Dominican identity card, or cedula.

We went from total efficiency to total inefficiency. On arrival we were sent back outside to get a photocopy of the file - from a man in a truck. (Apologies I can't get this picture to go the right way up so you will have to tip your head to the side).



Then back inside and wait in a crowded room for your number to be called where they checked the file and sent you to another window to pay the basic fee. Then back in line to go to the first window again with your receipt to be told if you wanted the document quickly, which I did, you could pay VIP and go back to the payment window and pay more, then back in line to go back to window 1. Danilo thought it hilarious that VIPs had to wait longer.

Two hours later it was done and Olga agreed to pick up my birth certificate and put it on the bus to me the next day, so we set off for lunch at Adrian Tropical, a restaurant specialising in Domincan food.




A lovely meal was had by all, but due to the traffic we missed the last bus to Mao, so had to go to Santiago then catch a local bus home.

Next stage was to take the file when it arrived to the local JCE in Moncion, which neighbour Margarita who works there did for me, then I had my birth certificate and a day or so later went for my cedula and Ya, now I am a Dominican. It only took 3 years!!

Between being sworn in and receiving my cedula Hurricane Irma decided to visit. We knew it was coming, but hoped it wouldn't be too bad. As it was we were woken  by the torrential rain at 3am which did not pause for 12 hours. The winds were strong but not hurricane force, and the worse thing was being worried the internet aerial would fall. As it was I had internet all day, which was just as well as I was doing interviews for various tv and radio stations and was feeding information all day long to the Washington Post as their normal person who did it was not in the country and recommended me.




The house flooded constantly so Danilo was mopping while I was typing with my feet underwater. We fared with no serious damage but Mao and Esperanza were both flooded.

There is now another potential hurricane on the way, so fingers crossed she comes nowhere near here!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dogs on the increase and Goats on fire

So, as you know we decided to get Rasputin to replace Rin Tin Tin and in the same way we were sort of semi keeping our eyes out for a Great Dane as we missed Belinda dreadfully. Unfortunately there are not many Great Danes here and they are all very expensive - out of our price range. Then Danilo had a phone call from a Great Dane breeder who said a friend had Dane puppies and would we please take on as they were not being kept in a good condition.

Off we went, and they were actually close to us in Cacique. First we were taken to see the father called Ecooby (Scooby lol) and I have never seen such an enormous Great Dane in my life. He was being kept in a wooden enclosure and was standing up on his hind legs and even towered about Danilo. Then to see the pups - 2 of them, one black, one white and the mother was a Belinda lookalike but bigger.

We found out the price, a third of the normal Dane price, and came home to discuss it and I wanted to research white Danes as they can have hearing and sight problems. I told Danilo to check the white one out for signs of blindness or deafness and probably best to get the black one. They were also being kept in a small wooden cage with a mud floor and the white one was too scared to come out.

Danilo returned with a three month old Great Dane puppy in tow - the white one.


He appeared to see well and hear well so that was nothing to be concerned about but he was scared and made a beeline for Lobo. We had been planning to have him in the house but he only wanted to be with Lobo and the two of them do everything together. Slowly he is becoming more used to people, and he has now stopped peeing where he lies (he had no choice before). He is ecstatic to be able to lie on comfy rugs and has his own sofa as well.

He is already enormous at only 3 months. Here he is with Rasputin and they are the same age.


We were trying to think of a name, and people suggested strong names like Samson, but he isn't a big strong confident dog. He is just Goofy in everything he does - so that is his name. Welcome Goofy.


In the meantime the goats are fine - Oregano and Picante. It appears that Oregano is definitely pregnant as you can see here when I am giving her her evening snack.


Luckily I have been put in touch with a goat lady, who keeps goats in Spain and her Facebook page is Experience Olvera if you like goats. She has told me she can tell when Oregano will give birth by looking at the area under her tail so my job this afternoon is to take a picture of Oregano's bits. Don't worry, I won't post it.

In the meantime I was taking Rasputin for a walk the other evening and noticed that the goats weren't in their hut. I asked Danilo why not, and he said a chicken had laid eggs on the straw in the hut and the goats broke the eggs so now the straw was full of ants and goats don't do ants in their bed. Which is fair enough as nor do I. He said he would fix it.

The next night I was taking Rasputin for his walk and noticed smoke coming out of goat hut. Danilo explained he was fumigating by burning the straw. Fair enough. Until at 10pm neighbour comes running to the door to say the goat house is on fire.

Danilo rushes outside, back and forth with buckets of water, while I sit here chatting on FB to friends and shaking my head. Suddenly the back door opens and in walks Danilo, naked. I asked why he was naked and he said everyone knows you have to take you clothes off when you put out a fire, as they get dirty or may be set on fire too. Wonder if anyone has told firefighters this?

Here is burned out goat hut.


And here it is with new roof and new straw and goats are very happy. As  you can see Danilo is an expert roofer at using the "just chuck it on there" method.


And we have a new goat called Maggi (after the stock cube).


And the big news from a couple of weeks ago is that my books arrived. The truck was too big to get down our track


And when I opened the box - there they were, along with a load of goodies and a 50 pound bag of rice sent by the lovely lady who arranged for them to get to me.


Now I need to start getting ready to do a nationwide tour signing books. The book is selling well, with 25 reviews on Amazon so far, 2 4 star and 23 5 star which is a great relief.

"This book is beautifully written and does an incredible job of drawing you into the culture of the Dominican Republic"

"The author of this book is amazing it is the only book in my life that I could not put down until it was finished !"

"Lindsay took me on this journey with her. I felt like I was watching a movie through her eyes. Her love for the country, for her husband, for her life and living her dream inspired me and touched my heart deeply. What a great book for women not to stop before the miracle told brilliantly by this author."

Please do think about buying it if you want to learn more about me, my life and the Dominican people and the country.

Have to go now  to take a photo of a goats bottom and start preparing for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irma. Hope all of you in the path of this nasty woman can avoid serious loss and damage, and I leave you with happy dogs playing in their sandpit.