Friday, May 15, 2015

Sad week in the campo

Last week was a sad week, as Leida, my neighbour, passed away.

I blogged about her and her husband and their diabetes a couple of months ago. She had a stroke about three weeks ago and was taken into hospital. As is usual here, when they realised they could do nothing they sent her home so that, as I was told, "God could decide". She never regained consciousness and family and friends looked after her and fed her through a feeding tube in her nose. Her children arrived from New York and a few days later she died.

Funerals are arranged so quickly. She died at three in the afternoon and by four o'clock she was washed, dressed, made up and in her coffin, As is usual here, the coffin is left open on the dining room table and placed on large blocks of ice. The house filled up and everyone stayed up all night. There must have been around 100 people in the house and garden with cups of coffee to keep everyone awake. In the morning the hearse arrived and we drove very slowly to the church, some cars, motorcycles and many people walking.

The church was the local catholic church and it was full to bursting. For some reason whenever I am in church here I always remember that I am in the Caribbean. The fans were all on overhead, under the corrugated zinc roof, and they make that squeaking sound that overhead fans often do. The windows had wooden slats in them so there are stripes of sunlight throughout. Her coffin was in the middle of the church and the breeze from the fans was blowing the white silk frill, as well as her hair. The service was about an hour long and the priest invited everyone to go and visit the coffin to say their last goodbyes, and, again as is the custom, all the smart phones came out as people took their last photo of her. Many non Dominicans say to me how awful it is that people see the dead and take photographs, but if you explain to a Dominican how we deal with death, they are appalled at the fact that the family do not usually wash the body and even more appalled that the dead are kept in a deep freeze for a while before burial. If you mention cremation, hands get thrown up in the air in horror.

We then had to have another slow journey to the cemetery which was around a mile away down a dusty narrow steep track, surrounded by sugar cane fields. By now it was noon, and very very hot. The coffin was unloaded and she was viewed for the last time. I was surprised that no one was smashing the coffin to bits with axes and machetes, which is what usually happens to nice coffins so that no one steals it. The reason soon became clear as the coffin was placed in a breeze block box which had been built above ground, plywood was placed on the top and then two men mixed up cement on the ground next to the coffin and shovelled it in on top. No way could anyone steal that coffin.

We had to wait in the boiling heat with no shade until the job was completed, which took around an hour then home for a late lunch. Tomorrow is the ninth day when once again her house will be full as everyone says their last goodbye. The television will go back into the living room, and the shrine to her will be taken down. Then life gets back to normal.

Onto more cheerful matters. Monster. The latest is that he has a new job. He is the watchyman for the turkeys.

They all sleep together under the balcony at night, and he spends all day with them in the garden.

Mr Rapist stays on the other side of the garden with his harem, and if the neighbours' chickens want to come in, Mr Monster lets them in, but only if he can have a quickie first.

It is really cute and he seems to have got over the loss of Mrs Monster.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The latest money making wheeze

Danilo went to pick Chivirico up to spend the weekend and he was late coming home. The reason was that Chivirico's grandfather had a present for us. According to Danilo this will make us very rich when it gets to Christmas time. Yes, we are now in the turkey breeding businesses.

Let me introduce you to Stuffing (male) and the two females, Sprout and Parsnip or as Danilo calls them Etuffin, Esprow and Parnees.

They are most peculiar birds. Stuffing keeps puffing himself up and doing a funny little walk and sticking his tail in the air and he keeps changing his face. One minute it is blue and white and then this thing on his nose, which is usually a white stub about an inch long, turns red and dangles down about six inches.

Apparently it is called a snood and serves no useful purpose but is there to attract the female as is his red wrinkly neck which is called the wattle. In Spanish the word for the snood is moco which also means snot! They both fill with blood and turn red when he is aroused which in Stuffing's case is every five minutes it seems. He was obviously only slightly attracted to me when I took this picture as his snood didn't get very big and he only turned pink and not red.

They were loose in the garden but we had only had them a couple of days when night began to fall and Parsnip decided to roost on the fence round the dog house. It took Lobo seconds to knock her off her perch and set on her. I managed to get him off and although she had a hole either side of her chest she made a miraculous recovery so they now are living under the balcony until such time as Danilo fences off part of the dog house so that Lobo can't get to them.

If they were intelligent, which I understand turkeys are not, they would be able to take themselves off to bed but when they were loose Danilo had to pick them up and put them on their perches in the cellar and given that I won't do that they will have to be put back under the balcony when he isn't here.

There is no sign of any eggs yet, so the breeding hasn't started but apparently they are not sexually mature until 7 months old and these are only three months old. Goodness only knows how big they will get.

On the Monster front there is sad news. Mrs Monster passed away yesterday. When chickens have sex the male stands on top of the female (bet you didn't know that) and with Mr Monster having such big feet he had actually made holes in her and we couldn't see them under the feathers. They became infected and she died. Mr Monster is inconsolable and stands looking at the wall on the top step and crying.

I have no idea what we will do about finding him another mate as all the other chickens we have are small and could not cope with him. She did leave her eggs behind and so another chicken is sitting on them. Some memento of her will remain.

On a brighter note when Chivirico was here we made pizza. We have to do it all from scratch so first it was making the dough which rose beautifully.

 Then we made the tomato sauce

Following that Chivirico rolls out the dough (and just noticed Danilo raiding the fridge in the background).

Finally to put the toppings on and each person has their own selection with no peppers or onions for Chivirico.

The finished article and it was delicious.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The doctors come to the campo

As I mentioned in my last post, Diane, her husband and their team of a nurse, doctors, and a physical therapist came last Sunday to hold a clinic on the Monday. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what would happen, in that they would just dole out pills for parasites and vitamins to the local folk. I could not have been more wrong.

The first inkling I had about the incredible commitment of the group was their arrival time. Diane had told me they would leave their last clinic after lunch. As it was around four hours from here, I expected them by six o'clock. Chivirico was beside himself with excitement and set the oven timer for six so that he could see how much time was left. I baked bread and made up the beds, and Danilo mopped the house and cooked a massive san cocho.

Six came and went as did seven, eight, nine and ten. They had left later than expected and eventually arrived past midnight in a mini van loaded to the gunnels with equipment and medicines and a car packed with people. I just stood there with my mouth open looking at all the stuff. We ate the san cocho, getting to bed shortly before 2 a.m. They must have been exhausted.

The next day it was up by seven, then breakfast and the group went to see my neighbours first before we all left and went to the local village hall to set up for the morning. One of the neighbours is very ill and as well as talking to her they said a prayer with her and she came up to me as they moved onto the next house and said what a beautiful prayer it was and explained how she was now covered with goose bumps.

Diane had said that they would leave just after lunch to get back to the capital but when we arrived at the hall it was already filling up.

All of the medicines and equipment was unloaded, I had never expected so much stuff. Diane was in charge of the pharmacy.

Which was in a room obviously used for storing a different type of medicine.

I had simply never seen so much medicine and it was all amazingly organised with pills put into packets for each patient with the name of the medicine, what it should be taken for and how many to take a day.

The system was explained that each person would firstly go and see the nurse where their blood pressure was taken, blood sugar was tested for the diabetics as well, their current meds listed and then they went to see one of the three doctors, who carried out a full examination.

The doctors would prescribe any additional meds, and then they went to the pharmacy to pick up everything they needed, saving themselves thousands of pesos for the next month or so. Everyone was also given vitamins and anti parasite meds.Those who needed to, were also seen by a physical therapist. One person had her ears syringed to get rid of the wax, so she could hear again.

You may have spotted Chivirico, who accompanied one of the doctors. He was also working hard.

By noon when it was supposed to be all over, the hall was still full as people were arriving all of the time. The team agreed to go for lunch and return at two. I left after lunch to do some work, writing the DR1 news, and they carried on until four. And then carried on even more, going on home visits to those too sick to attend the clinic. They arrived back here at seven at night, packed up, and set off on the long drive back to Santo Domingo.

What can I say? I have never seen such a professional, committed and hard working group of people in my life. They have made a tremendous difference to this small campo and I am sure they do the same to all of the areas they go to throughout the country. All of their work is entirely funded by donations to the website here and Diane said in some areas the local folk will give them food to take home with them.

Drs. Francisco and Diane came to the DR to study medicine in 1995 and according to the website, "As their studies came to an end, their hearts were softened by the Lord’s call to stay and serve the least of these with their lives".  All I can say is that He chose very very wisely.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Sanky goes to jail

I was really upset with Mrs Monster so I had a word with Danilo and he agreed to send the sanky to jail for wife stealing.  El Violador is now jailed under the balcony. He has plenty of space and has two of his women for company. One has a couple of chicks and the other sitting on eggs so they aren't that interested in him and he spends the day looking longingly out at the rest of his flock and Mrs Monster.

Meanwhile the rest of his women are in the garden together with Monster and Mrs Monster. I thought maybe Mrs Monster would not be interested in him. Not a chance. Once the sanky was in jail she was straight back to canoodling with him and they are romping around together in the bougainvillea.

And when night fell I wondered what would happen. Would she go back to the cellar where she was with El Violador, even though he was in jail, or would she return to her husband in the dog crate?

So all is well again in chicken land, and, as the Dominicans say, Monster is as happy as a worm (as they live in earth and eat earth so are always happy as never hungry).

Moving on to matters even more important.

When I was in the capital recently, speaking at the Santo Domingo International Women's Club I met several really interesting ladies. One of these was Diane, who is a doctor and I was talking about the health issues here in the campo where I live. Now I consider myself reasonably informed when it comes to medical matters. I was a Queen's Guide and can tie a triangular bandage with a reef knot at the back for a broken arm. I was a diving instructor so I know that you pee on jellyfish stings and I can do CPR. And of course I have watched ER. But that is about it, so when all of these campo people are asking me for help with their diabetes and other illnesses I am stumped. Diane and her husband have a foundation called Corazon del Siervo:  Serving with the heart in English. She chatted to me about how to help with diabetes with some amazing ideas which are simple and which the local people can do. She also promised to come and do a medical mission here.

She contacted me last week and this Sunday, she and her husband plus four more medical professionals will come here to carry out the mission on Monday. Chivirico will be on hand to help of course as being a doctor is on his list of preferred occupations when he grows up along with fireman and President of the country.

There is only one tiny snag.

I thought there would be around 20 people interested, but word got around and we now have well over 100 coming to see them, and they have all put in requests for the medicines they need. I don't think there is one person in the whole campo who is not taking pills for something. It is going to end up being very expensive so if anyone would like to donate by clicking on their website here  it would be much appreciated.

I will report back as to how the day goes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A sad tale of infidelity in the Dominican Republic

You remember Mr and Mrs Monster, the chickens who now live free in the back garden?

Well, things were becoming a little difficult. Firstly the two of them took up residence on the steps leading down from the house. If the door was open they just walked in, much to the annoyance of the dogs. They also blocked the Dominican cat flap (hole in wall) so the cats couldn't get in or out. They asked for food constantly - celery or lettuce or bread, and if you didn't give it to them and shut the door so they could not get in, they just pecked at the door, which is glass and I was sure they would break it.

Secondly the neighbour's beautiful and big cockerel together with his tribe of seven hens were constantly in the back garden, and Monster was terrified of him and kept running off into the woods.

Plus there was another issue. Chivirico was here for Easter week, and we couldn't find Mrs Monster anywhere. Eventually he found here sitting down in the land next door, and look what she was sitting on.

There were 13 eggs. Not quite the chocolate ones for Easter Sunday but it was lovely to see them there.

So we were concerned about the eggs and it was decided to put Mr and Mrs Monster under the balcony which is all fenced in, and very large. We moved the eggs and their nest in there too. They were not happy at all to be in there. In the meantime, Danilo moved another cockerel and his harem of three hens into the back garden so that they could be free and also apparently this cockerel would stand up to the neighbour's cockerel to stop him coming into the garden.

His name is El Violador, the rapist, as he bonks anything with feathers.

There was no sign of the neighbour's cockerel again and Danilo was congratulating himself, until I discovered that on the day that El Violador had been set free, the neighbours had cooked their cockerel for lunch.

As Monster and Mrs Monster were obviously not happy under the balcony, we let them out again. El Violador was not impressed and Monster did a runner every time he saw him too close. He was terrified of him. At night, Monster and his wife went off to bed in a very large dog crate and the Rapist and his harem went to sleep in the cellar.

All was calm. In the day Mrs Monster was within a foot of her husband or sitting on her eggs while he kept watch. As the sun went down everyone went to their respective beds. Until last night. Mrs Monster left Monster and has moved in with El Violador in the cellar.  Monster slept alone in his crate and she slept with her new man just a few yards away. Danilo says that she has gone with the stronger rooster even though she is pregnant with Monsters chicks - well she has the eggs.

I feel heartbroken for Monster. He stands alone at one side of the garden, watching her strutting around with her new man.

He has taken up his position behind the barbecue which is around 60 yards away from his now ex wife.

And watches over his children waiting for them to hatch.

I cannot believe she has done this. They have been together for two years, spent all day every day together, slept together every night,  13 babies on the way, and she has run off with another rooster right under his nose.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Danilo in trouble - three times in two weeks

Danilo's car, as I mentioned in the last blog, needs a new transmission and it is patiently waiting in the garage to be fixed. In the meantime he is driving my jeep, badly.

He needed to go away at the weekend to play at politics and I pointed out that no way was he driving the jeep all of that distance. Not only because he couldn't drive it properly but also because the exhaust is falling off and it has no windscreen wipers. He promised me he wouldn't and that he would just take it to the bus station. I knew he was lying - well just not telling the truth which is different in Dominican logic.

He called me when he arrived at his destination and said the car was safely parked at the bus station. He called the next day and I tried to catch him out by asking how he was managing driving the jeep and again he said it was parked at the bus station. He even called me the next day to ask what time the last bus back was.

On his return he handed over to me a video he had taken while away. The video was good, but the silly idiot had forgotten that he took the video from the car - yes, my jeep! I congratulated him for carrying out an investigation on my behalf and dropping himself right in it. I also pointed out I knew he was lying about the bus. He said that it was extremely annoying that I now knew when he wasn't being totally honest! Victory for the gringa.

He explained that when driving through Santo Domingo it was raining and he had to lean out of the window and use the brush as windscreen wipers. I am sure you remember that.

He went on to say that everyone was laughing at him and then they stopped at the traffic lights where there were traffic police. Now I would have been terrified - but the policeman came over, took the brush from Danilo and helped him to wipe the windscreen down, laughing all the time, then gave him the brush back. Only in the DR.

He arrives late at night from University and I am usually in bed and asleep. I got up this morning and went outside to let Lobo the husky out and there was my jeep - with the most shredded tyre I have ever seen.

Even Belinda the Great Dane was impressed.

I am waiting for him to get up to explain a. what happened, b. where it happened c. how far he drove home with the tyre in that condition and d. how and when is he going to fix it.

He also nearly got into serious trouble a couple of weeks ago when he delivered me an egg. As you know we have chickens, supposedly to deliver a constant supply of fresh eggs. Monster and Mrs Monster are now free in the garden but they appear to have gone on strike as far as eggs are concerned.

However, a couple of weeks ago he came inside and put an egg down next to my computer saying that it appeared at last we were getting eggs again.  I told him to leave it there and in a couple of minutes I would boil it for breakfast. I was concentrating on writing and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the egg moving. Odd, but I assumed maybe it was the wind. Then it rolled, and then it squeaked. Then it broke open and a beak stuck out.

Just as well I didn't boil it. And a little later on this happened.

And the final episode, was I asked him to buy two tins of tomatoes to make chilli con carne. This is what I got.

Beetroot con carne. I think not. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Journey to become a Dominican Citizen is nearly over

They cancelled my citizenship interview yet again and rearranged it for Monday 9 March. I needed Danilo here to take me to town to catch the bus at 8 in the morning to get to the capital for the 2 p.m. appointment but he was playing politics in Guayacanes. He knew he had to get back, ready to leave here at 7 on Monday morning and called me on Sunday to tell me he would be home after midnight and that the car was playing up - there appeared to be a problem with the transmission. Well, I thought, if the worst comes to the worst I can drive my jeep to town, although I don't tend to drive it long distances as I still don't have a jack in case I get a puncture - which I often seem to.

I went to bed early and Danilo phoned at 11 pm to say he was leaving the capital but the problem was getting worse so they, he and dwendy number one Saya, would have to drive slowly. If it were me and I knew the car had a transmission problem I would get it fixed before more damage was done - but not him, he just keeps going till it is impossible to go any further. His car gave up 20 miles from home and he managed to get here with Saya on his motorbike, at around 5 am, giving him 2 hours sleep.

We got up at 7 to get in my jeep to drive to the bus station and it was raining. It was raining hard. That is not usually a big issue, but it is when the jeep has no windscreen wipers. In true Dominican style Saya drove with Danilo hanging out of the passenger window wiping the windscreen with a brush.

A good start to the day not. I travelled down to Santo Domingo with no further problems, met with some ladies from the International Women's Club to hand over my old designer clothes for them to sell at a bazaar to raise money for charity and rushed off to the interview with no time to eat the sandwich I had bought. I was absolutely starving.

I arrived for my interview at 1.45 and was already the last of the five interviewees for the day. The others were a Russian girl, a Venezuelan man and a Colombian couple. They took all my fingerprints and we waited .... and waited. Shortly before 3 we were taken out of reception to another waiting room down a long corridor, and after a short fight between the Colombians and the Venezuelan and Russian as to who was first, the interviews started.

The interviewer was a very very ample chested Dominican lawyer who had a t-shirt on which showed off her cleavage. The Venezuelan gentlemen, in his late 60's I would say, was in and out in five minutes, as were the Colombians who were proudly showing off their paper which had the answers to the questions on the country. The list of questions was published on the website so all you had to do was to Google the answers and they were both revising up to the last minute.

The Russian girl went in and then within a minute came rushing out in tears - it appeared she didn't speak Spanish and did not know the interview was in Spanish and not Russian, and then it was my turn.

The large bosomed lawyer was pleasant enough and she asked how long I had been married, asked to see my passport and then announced the interview would start. She asked me eight out of the 48 questions and the only problem was when she asked for the date of the restoration. I said 16th August 1863 and she said no, the date. That was the bloody date. She then explained she had not asked for the year just the date and she didn't say day. So now I understand. When people ask for the date they mean the day and not the year which means that when I am Dominican I can just give the day of my birthday and no longer any need to give the year, which is a relief.

She announced that I had passed the interview and now apparently I have to go back every three months to see if the checks with the National Investigation Department, Drug Squad and Interpol have been done and when they are, which takes 10 months on average, then I will be sworn in as a Dominican. She pointed out that it was a solemn occasion and I had to be dressed formally. It appears you cannot telephone to ask if the checks are done as people are too busy to answer the phone.

I rushed out to get the bus but had missed the last one which went directly home so I had to go to Santiago first and the little old Venezuelan man was catching the same bus so I sat with him. He was so happy to have passed the exam and I was so happy to think at last I could eat my sandwich. However, in true Dominican sharing style I gave half to him as he was starving too.

Once in Santiago I got the bus to our local town where Danilo picked me up, in my jeep. His car was sick in the garage with the transmission now totally knackered.  He had not driven a manual car for years and had forgotten anything he ever learned. I cannot drive at night as I suffer from night blindness so I had to put up with crunching gears as we kangarooed along the road. I explained that you change gear at 2,000 revs as he had no idea about listening to the engine, but abandoned that plan as he stared intently at the rev counter rather than the road. In the end I would shout first, second, third but he couldn't get further than first or second so we came home at a crawl.

At last we arrived home where I was desperate to relax. It was not to be as SOMEONE had left the door to the dog house and the door to the kitchen open and it was not me. Danilo swore it wasn't him so the dogs must have opened the doors themselves. They had had a massive party. The bin was tipped up and half eaten, my bread bin was in the middle of the floor and empty, the fridge had been opened and was a disaster - well basically the whole house was a total mess with bits of food everywhere.

The perfect end to a perfect day - but hey, I am nearly a Dominican now!