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!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

From the campo to the big city

I have just spent a busy week in Santo Domingo, the capital, and had a fabulous time. I don't get out much, and although at first the idea of a six hour journey and being away from home is a tad daunting, I always love my trips back to civilisation.

I left on Tuesday and took Caribe Tours bus to Santo Domingo. The bus was even more freezing than normal but arrived on time and I was met by Kay from the Santo Domingo International Women's Club. I had been asked to speak to them on the Wednesday and ever since the first contact I was impressed by not only how professional they were but how the people I was dealing with were responsive and seemed to go that extra mile to make things easier for me - something I am not really used to here.

Kay took me directly to a restaurant for dinner. I cannot explain what a joy it is to eat in a restaurant, as there are none where we live, and to eat something different than plantains and rice and chicken, but this was not just any old restaurant. She knew that I loved Asian food and that I try my best to cook Indian curries and Thai food so she took me to the Asian Market where we met up with more members of the IWC Board including the President, Marcela from Peru, Dominique from France, Marie-Ange from Haiti, Batricia from Canada and Tere from the United States. Such an international group of bright sparky interesting ladies, it was lovely.

Back to the important matter at hand. The food. It was absolutely delicious. We had so many different courses I lost count but I was in my element.

The conversation flowed, as did the wine and I could not have asked for a better start to my little adventure in Santo Domingo.

I spent the night with Dominique, who had just got off a flight from Montreal which made it even more gratifying that she had both the time and the energy to put me up for the night. The next morning bright and early we set of for the Santo Domingo Country Club where the meeting was to be held. I had no idea the place existed - beautifully sculptured grounds, golf course and impressive buildings right in the centre of the bustling city.

There were I would say around 60 women at the meeting, maybe more, from all over the world and I was amazed to discover more than half had read "What about your saucepans?" Not only had they read it, they all seemed to have enjoyed it and those who had not read it were about to. I had noticed that over the last two weeks had sold 22 copies - which was a tad more than the usual one or two a week - now I knew why.

I had dragged my 20 year old designer clothes out of the the wardrobe, which hadn't seen the light of day for years so I hoped I looked like a professional author and although I was nervous as to whether my voice would last, with the aid of a microphone I need not have worried. This was the first time I had spoken to such a large group since being shot and I loved every minute of it.

Every seemed to enjoy me talking about how different it was living in a Dominican barrio and the Dominican campo as opposed to a high rise apartment, which is where most of the ladies lived.

When my talk was over, and questions answered, I was presented with a bag of goodies including Asian cooking sauces, spices, chocolate and fresh pesto. What more could a girl ask for.

I was also amazed at how much work the organisation carries out, with a whole range of fund raising activities for various charities in the country. These ladies were all intelligent, informed, international with most speaking several languages. I really was blown away by their professionalism, commitment and attention to detail and I feel privileged to have been a part of them, albeit for one day.

Once the meeting was over, I went for lunch with one of the members who was a friend of mine, plus another three ladies who were at the meeting - and stuffed myself silly with a fabulous steak. I then was picked up at the restaurant by another friend, Grace, and her husband Leo, and they took me back to their home to the west of the capital where I spent the night and then they drove me back home to the mountains the next day where they spent the night before heading off to visit someone else the following day.

Grace always spoils me each time she comes back to the DR from the United States and this time was no exception. Along with a range of goodies she brought me a pasta machine. There could not have been better timing as now I can make fresh pasta to go along with my fabulous sauces given to me by the IWC. I cannot wait to start cooking.

You maybe wondering what happened in my citizenship interview. Well, absolutely nothing as, surprise suprise they cancelled it again, the day before. It is now on Monday so I have to make the trip back to the capital yet again, although this time I will go there and back in a day. The good news is that I will meet up with some of the IWC ladies who are going to give me spare medicines which I can give to those who need them in the campo and I will hand over my vintage designer clothes which I used to wear in England  (they must be vintage by now), so that they can sell them at the bazaar they are holding.

All in all I had a fabulous time, met some lovely people and ate fantastic food. What more can a girl ask for?