When I lived in the barrio we had very few visitors coming to stay. Now we have moved to the mountains the invasions I had forgotten about have started again. Dominicans love being in the mountains as it is cooler, and many of those who can afford it have their country homes which they go to at weekends and in the summer for an extended vacation. Those that don’t have a summer home are happy to make friends with someone who does. We now appear to have a lot of friends.
We were on our way back from the book launch in Sosua, and called in to see a man whose sister had died the day before in order to pay our respects. My husband invited the man and his wife here for Easter weekend. Fine, I thought, I can cope with two people and I do like having visitors.
Friday I cleaned the whole house,mopped the floors, changed sheets and bought the food.
Saturday morning arrived and so did said gentleman, together with his wife of 6 months, her daughter and a friend of hers. Two had become four. Later on in the morning appeared my two step sons, the girlfriend of one of them, who is Chivirico’s aunt, and a friend. They had called husband and said they were coming and he said fine. Hmm. Two had now become eight. Plus husband and me and Chivirico, there were eleven people in the house.
The cats were the first to lose it. They all disappeared into the mahogany woods next to the house and did not return until everyone left on Sunday, apart from the latest addition, a little grey kitten known as Mariposa, meaning butterfly, who desperately tried to find somewhere to hide. Firstly the wine rack.
And eventually decided to stay in bed under the covers where there was at least some peace and quiet. Wise move.
The dogs were also unimpressed, and managed to escape under the fence into the wood. It was then decided that we had to strengthen the fence so husband climbed a few trees and chopped off branches to stick in the ground in the fence to fill the gaps. These were laurel trees and another one called the copper wood tree. Apparently you just stick branches in the ground and they root and grow quickly. Great idea, but not sure I would have worn my dad's cream cashmere sweater to do it.
When Dominicans come to your home they do not sit and wait for you to offer them a cup of tea, and to cook a meal. They do it themselves. And they don’t just cook. They clean the house which you have just spent a day cleaning and thought was spotless, they wash your clothes even thought they are clean and stacked neatly in drawers and in the wardrobe, they garden, they mend things, they totally take over. Now on the one hand this is very nice, and I know I should appreciate it, but I think I must suffer from some sort of "Leave My House Alone Syndrome" as it does my head in. I watch my coloured clothes being washed with bleach and have to shove a fist in my mouth; my new knives disappearing one by one to dig the garden, or to gouge holes in the wall to put up pictures. And when I saw a man in the garden fast approaching where my parsnips are planted with a pick axe in hand, I had no alternative but to retire to my bedroom with a small bottle of rum and do some deep breathing exercises.
I must be honest that the man whose sister had died, Cesar, was amazing. He re dug the new vegetable patch as apparently it was facing the wrong way and planted onions and peppers.
He transplanted watermelons and cauliflower, and dug another 4 vegetable patches ready for seeds.
The kids and the women took over cooking the evening meal, which was just as well as I had bought enough stuff for 4 and now we were 11, so I left them to sort that one out.
At last they all left on the Sunday and the silence was blissful. Then the trauma began of trying to find all the things that had been put in different places from where they belonged. It was lovely of them to wash the dishes, but now I had to find them. The machete had disappeared but was eventually found.
I unhooked all my clothes from the barbed wire fence and had them ready to take upstairs when I went to bed, when the peace was broken by the arrival of some of the neighbourhood women. They saw the basket of clothes that I had already neatly folded and couldn't stop themselves taking everything out, and folding them all up again while I just looked on in amazement.
Then they took the clothes upstairs and put them away. No idea where.