Sunday, March 23, 2014

The return of the Canadians

The last of the latest crop of visitors turned up this week for the weekend. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while may remember the crazy Canadians who climbed Pico Duarte and who dragged me to the market in Dajabon. It was the same couple, Heather and Ian. This time they had brought a group of students from Dartmouth in Nova Scotia to learn about Dominican life and to help out in the poor bateys near Consuelo, which is near San Pedro de Macoris to the east of Santo Domingo.

Here they are leaving Canada.

And working in the sugar cane fields.

Helping to rebuild a house which had burned down.

There are several NGOs operating here, but it is truly heart warming when a group of young people come and really make a difference within a week and I am sure it is also a humbling and learning experience for them.

Having said goodbye to the students and sent them back to Canada, Heather and Ian made the long trek up from the capital to come and spend the weekend with us. Chivirico wanted to see Ian and Heather again, so he came up to the house for the weekend as well where, as usual, he charmed them to bits. He and Heather made cupcakes.

And he iced them using all these posh squirty icing things which Tracy had brought.

And off he and Heather went to sell the ones he iced with the Dominican flag. They sold them all - 5 pesos each so Chvirico was 50 pesos better off - just over US$1. He came to see me and said now he had to go and give Heather a tip for helping him. I said I wouldn't bother but he insisted and tried to give her the whole 50 pesos! Luckily for him she refused.

Chivirico adores boxing and everytime he is here is desperate for Danilo to box with him. Ian announced that he used to box and so spent quite a while teaching Chivirico and declared that he might have talent. We are now looking for a boxing club for 7 year olds.

Luckily Heather and Ian are dog people too and not only did we have a fabulous weekend, even the puppies had fun.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cultural difference when dealing with animals

It has been a bit of an animal week again.
Tracy left on Sunday but took some great pictures of the puppies before she left. They are 3 months old now.
Pandora looks a lot like her mother just with longer hair.

And Panda just looks like an dork with a funny haircut as his ears haven’t stuck up yet.

Unfortunately just before she left they both became sick with some sort of stomach infection and as there are no vets anywhere near us, I spent a few days feeding them medicine and syringing water down their throats. Luckily they both recovered and are now fit and well again.
Cojo my three pawed cat was not quite as lucky. He had been ill for a while and died on Monday. Another off to the barrio of the sleeping people.

I am also trying to get my head around the cultural differences relating to animals.
Dominicans do not as a rule allow dogs in the house – apart from chihuahuas. Dogs are to be kept outside, often chained up and are there to warn of visitors or burglars. I allow our dogs inside, and the Great Dane, Belinda, even has her own couch to sleep on.

Cats are to be fed sparingly as their job is to catch rats and again should live outside. My cats live inside and outside and are well fed. A couple also sleep on the bed with us – at the bottom of the bed, which is now accepted by Danilo.
I have managed to get my own way as far as the cats and dogs are concerned, so I suppose it is now his turn when it comes to the chickens.
The eggs hatched and we now have 10 cute little baby chicks, and Danilo found another chick in the road with a broken leg so brought him home .

However, apparently he will get bullied by the other chicks as he has this broken leg, so Danilo is hand rearing him and the most important thing is to keep him warm.

Given the lack of hot water bottles or incubators, he is keeping him ….wait for it….in his trousers, next to his “bits”. It is most peculiar watching all sorts of movement in Danilo's trousers.  Not only that, he wants to take him to bed with us, inside the bed to keep him warm. I don’t think it is a very good idea with puppies under the bed, cats on top and chickens inside. I can just imagine World War III breaking out at 2 a.m.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Trip to Barahona

So this weekend was our long awaited trip to Barahona. It was special for all sorts of reasons. We were going to accompany an American friend, Tracy, who had always wanted to visit that area, together with another couple, Grace an American and her Dominican husband, Nany. The original plan was to stay in cheap hotels, but unbeknown to us a plan was hatched to stay in the best hotel in the area, Casa Bonita, and to pay for a room for Danilo and I. A superb Christmas present especially as Barahona is where Danilo was born. Chivirico managed to get time off school so he came along as well.
The trip started with a longish (5 hour) drive to just west of San Cristobal in the South, where Grace and Nany live for part of the year, Tracy joined us there once her flight landed and we spent the night, ready for the trip further west in the morning.
Off we set in convoy through amazing scenery on the way.

At last, after around 3 hours driving we arrived in Barahona. The coast road is apparently one of the most scenic drives in the Caribbean.

We went to Los Patos for lunch, home to the shortest river in the world, some 400 yards, and it flows straight into the ocean.

We sat by the side of the river eating fresh fish and drinking cold Presidente beer – bliss.

Then on to the hotel and what a beautiful place. The bed was the best I have ever slept in.

The infinity pool overlooks the Caribbean sea.

The restaurant was superb and the seating area perfect for sitting drinking mojitos.

The staff were great with Chivirico and when he looked at the dinner menu and announced he never ate steak or fish for dinner, his Grandmother made spaghetti, he went into the kitchen to discuss this with the chef, and they made him a plate of spaghetti - with prawns! He was one happy camper.

The next morning we decided to go and visit some land we have on the top of a mountain overlooking Barahona.  The road used to be pretty rough and you needed a four wheel drive, but we had been told it had been improved. They lied. Danilo was driving, and says he is a brilliant driver – a chauffeuraso – going forwards. He can’t drive backwards. So when we got stuck going forwards, he drove backwards, into the side of the mountain, with the back wheel high up on a rock, the other back wheel in a hole and one of the front wheels up in the air. The car would not budge. And it was in danger of rolling over onto its side.

Luckily help arrived in the shape of a thin man on a motorcycle. Then another little man on his motorbike. This road is in the middle of nowhere so we were lucky anyone came past.

Then more little men arrived and all told us that the front wheel was in the air, and all had their different plans for getting us out. None of which worked.

Then even more little men came and I started telling them what to do.

And after 2 hours they managed to move the car.

We decided not to try and make it up the hill and called it a day and headed off to the Malecon in Barahona. They have built a new Malecon - promenade in English, with a kids' playground, exercise equipment, skateboard ring, basket ball court, and an old sugar train.

The next day we set off back on the coast road for Bahia de las Aguilas – Eagle Bay, supposedly the most beautiful and unspoiled beach in the Caribbean. On the way we passed an amazing wind farm just outside Enriquillo.

We then turned off the main road to head the 5 kilometres to the Bahia de las Aguilas, which is part of a massive nature reserve. Obviously the reserve does not extend to the road there as you pass a enormous bauxite mining operation, with amazing red bauxite soil, trucks full of it rushing up and down throwing up clouds of red dust and boats lying off shore waiting to take the bauxite.

 You have to take a boat to the beach and it is absolutely stunning.

 I have never seen such a place here. Well worth it. Chivirico adored it too.

On the way back we stopped at Lago Oveido , a salt water lake which looks green due to the algae and is home to flamingos, iguanas and several different types of bird.

 I was very impressed with the environmental attention and care both at the beach and the lake.
All in all a fantastic trip – I had forgotten how truly beautiful the south west of the Dominican Republic is. And thanks to Tracy for most of the fabulous photos here!