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.