Sunday, August 19, 2018

Trip to the river and animal update

Apologies for the delay in posting. I blame the weather. It has been appallingly hot which stifles my creativity and even worse we had no water for 8 weeks.

The water is usually delivered every second Thursday by pipeline into the cistern from where we pump it into the house on demand. Recently the odd Thursday has been missed which has meant we had to buy it from a water truck. This is a little old man and an even older truck with a tank on the back and he fills his tank with water from wherever he can find it and delivers it to us at a cost of RD$600 which is around US$12. But then the water stopped coming completely - the water people said a pump was broken but word on the street was that battery chicken farmers paid to get extra water so they diverted our water to them.

Water delivery truck
It would be a pain to have to buy water, but at least it was an option - until it wasn't when old water man's pump to pump water into his truck broke and he wasn't delivering water. After 6 weeks he fixed his truck and we were on the long list for water delivery. After 7 weeks he delivered a truck load to us and the following week the street water arrived again. Let's see if we get it again this week.

Meanwhile no rain and the high temperatures continue. Said water man mentioned to Danilo that one of the places he went to get water was just outside Moncion, the mountain town 11 kilometres from us,  and was called La Meseta. He said it was no distance at all, so Danilo said we should go so that I could have a relaxing day. Ha! Chivirco was with us for the weekend and we haven't seen him much as he had his tonsils and adenoids out during the school holidays, and he loved the idea of the trip.  So, as the only car we now have is my faithful old jeep, we checked water and oil, and prepared to leave. The jeep wouldn't start so Danilo hit the battery terminals with a rock and hey presto it started.

We put some petrol in at the local gas station which is a colmado with beer bottles full of gasoline so we put in a couple of Presidente bottles to get us to Moncion where we put two gallons in and then set off for La Meseta. I knew where it was as I had looked at the map but Danilo had to ask every person he saw to check we were on the right road. The road was appalling - a single carriageway dirt track with big rocks, and every time we had to stop, which was a lot, the jeep stalled and would not start. We have no aircon so the car was full of hot air and dust and I was trying to drive with one foot on the brake and the accelerator so it would not stall. Each time it stalled it was, out of car, lift bonnet up, hit battery with rock, go again. Also when it stalls, the steering doesn't work so we blocked the way for several cars as we were stuck in the middle of the road. Then I couldn't change gear and we discovered we had no clutch fluid, so that was yet another struggle to try and get the car in gear. On the way there we passed water man, who I could happily have strangled by then. Every person we asked how much further they said "alli mismo" which means just there. They all lied.

Eventually we reached the river after 2.5 hours, so much for being very close. Yes it was very pretty.



Chivirico and Danilo stripped down to their underpants and went for a swim, and loved it as the water was freezing cold and the river had a sandy bottom. I don't tend to join in these river dips as they just put their clothes on top of their soggy knickers for the drive home, and I don't do soggy knickers.

Eat your heart out Mark Spitz


We were not sure if the jeep would make the trip home so we didn't stay long, and we were hungry. It seemed to take less time coming back but that didn't stop the jeep conking out again several times. I was never so pleased to be back - I could see us breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

The other news is that 6 weeks ago today, Canguru, who for some reason is now called the Barracuda, gave birth to five puppies, one tailless female and four males. All doing well.

The first born about 5 minutess old

4 weeks old

5 weeks old


Waiting for their tea

The other news is that Danilo decided that the nasty horrid geese were now manso which means docile. And given that the word for goose is ganso we supposedly have gansos mansos. They had been waking us up every morning as their pen is under our bedroom window and these geese make an appalling noise. So, unbeknown to me he let them out in the back garden. They seem pretty calm and he can go out into the back with no problem. They don't like me though which means I rarely venture into the back garden and when Zelda does her flying off the balcony stunt they head for her too. They also escape often at around 5 am and wander around the campo - although I don't think have attacked anyone yet - I wouldn't trust them an inch.

Two of our goats sadly died, Maggi and Picante - no idea why, and Harry, one of the twins did his duty and we have two pregnant goats, Oregano and Chilli Pepper. Both have a couple of months to go.

Oh, and finally, which I nearly forgot, Danilo has finished his law degree and the graduation ceremony is at the end of September, so that is something to look forward to. Once he starts work I will start on book number 3! Promise the next episode of the blog will not be as long coming. We also have Christmas to look forward to and this year, for the first time in 12 years, I am planning to go to England and assuming he gets a visa I will be taking Chivirico with me, which will be great fun. Danilo will stay home to look after the animals.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The flying dog

Apologies for the delay - I can't use the excuse I have been very busy, but have just been pottering and the time seems to disappear.

I was invited to speak at a conference by Live and Invest Overseas which meant going to Santo Domingo, and I also wanted to do a book signing there and I wanted to see friends of mine, Grace and Nany who were to the west of Santo Domingo for a couple of months. I really don't like going to the capital but needs must and I could kill three birds with one stone. So off I went on the bus as normal. The book signing was not very well attended but it was great to see a couple whose wedding I sorted out years before in Juan Dolio, plus my Dominican friend Olga and I did sell a few books.

The following day it was off to the conference, then the bus to Grace and Nany's and the following day they brought me home in their car laden down with goodies for us and baseball gear for the team Chivirico and Albert play for in Esperanza. They had collected loads of gear and shipped it to the DR and had been donating it to teams of kids around the country.


They made hundreds of children around the DR very happy.

While I was away I had been asking Danilo how Zelda, the new dog, was, as although she was fine with me she was not quite as comfortable with Danilo. I had been told she needed socializing - whatever that meant, and every time we had a visitor, she would shake nervously and not leave my side.


We messaged on Whatsapp daily, and I would ask how is Baby Girl, which is what I called her, and never had a reply, so I had a horrid sinking feeling. But when we drove into the front yard, Nany, Grace and I, there she was running around ..... and she saw the car, ran towards the 8 foot wall around the yard, and sailed over it. I have never seen anything like it.

Danilo then explained that every time someone arrived - and when I am away he is never alone, as the family always visits - Baby Girl had left for the land next door. He had then left the front gate open and waited for her to return, which she always did when everyone had left or was asleep. She refused to come in the house, so he fed her outside and went to bed, and when he got up in the morning she was asleep on the couch and would then leave again for her little spot in the next door field.

He tried closing the front door so she couldn't jump over the wall, so she jumped 10 foot down off the balcony. He closed the balcony doors and she jumped over the breakfast bar and 10 foot down out of the kitchen window. This dog could be an Olympic champion.

Once I returned we were back to normal and she sat near me in my office.


But last week, I told Danilo to close the front door of the house as the dustbin men (garbage men) come early on a Friday morning and they open the gate, drive in, collected the rubbish and drive out, so I don't want the dogs outside when they arrive.

I woke up early, around 6.30 to hear a commotion outside and the dustbin men yelling about a flying dog. Danilo had closed the front door but Baby Girl was outside and refused to come in, so he closed the door but opened a window, which was only five feet above the ground, so easy for her to jump through!  However, she spent the night outside but when the dustbin cart drove in - off she went and flew over the wall. I got up and as soon as they left she was sitting at the front gate waiting to come in. Now the whole village is talking about the flying dog. Nothing can keep her in. If I go to feed the goats she flies off the balcony to come with me - and comes straight back with me with no problem. If I am not around and she leaves, she never goes far, just to her little spot in the next door field and as soon as I return then so does she.

Meanwhile we have a new member of the family in the shape of a carrao or limpkin.


Mr and Mrs Limpkin have moved in which is fine apart from the noise they make at dusk and half the night, and we also have a pair of todies nesting in a little tunnel under a tree trunk next to the geese.


Can you see one of them on the left of the picture, sitting on a branch a bit more than half way down?

How about if I enlarge it?


And even larger....



And this is a professional picture (not mine!).


They are so cute but hard to see as very tiny - around the size of a wren if not smaller. I can't wait to see the babies. I spend ages waiting with camera poised but so far haven't managed a really good shot. I am definitely becoming a twitcher!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Competitions

I don't win competitions. Never. I don't win raffles either. I don't know that feeling of "OMG I have won!"

But I am good at coming second. This is my certificate for coming second in the Girls High Jump at my junior school in Singapore when I was nine. Given I was only 4 foot nothing at that stage you may think it was a miracle - mind you I think there were only three entries.


Amazing that I have so little from my past - no degree certificates, few photos, no saucepans (which I now miss terribly seeing them on Masterchef every week - they are using MY saucepans), but I still have this certificate.

At senior school I came second in the public speaking competition, and I won the David Renton prize for being good in all subjects but not good enough in any single one to win the subject prize.

You see the pattern here?

When I started writing, I entered writing competitions and would rarely get even an acknowledgment that they had received my sweated over prose. Most didn't answer, I was never told that the results were out, never told "Never mind, better luck next time".  So I gave up  on competitions.

Until the We Love Memoirs Facebook page  published information about a competition for travel writers, and undeterred by previous failure I decided to check it out. It is on Fred's Blog and the competition entry requirements are here  They didn't seem too difficult and each month a winner is picked for five months and wins US$50 and at the end, the overall winner gets US$300 which is a Lot of Money.

The last line for my entry came to me as I was feeding the goats and then all I had to do was to fill in the 900 word blank page before it, which I did over a few days, and nervously I submitted my entry together with the requested photo and short bio.

Well you could have knocked me over with a feather when within minutes I had an email reply thanking me for my entry, Saying "I love your story"and promising me the link when it was published in a week or so.

The link duly arrived as promised and if you want to read my entry it is here.

And then, out of nowhere, the announcement of the winner arrived in my inbox. I realised I could now start another one for April and scanned through the message:


"Find out who won the March competition

Many thanks to the 22 authors and writers who entered their travel stories in the first part of our 4th Annual Travel Stories Competition.

Each and every entry was brilliant and they covered such a wide spectrum of travel writing. Thank you all so much for getting involved.

As you can imagine, the selection of a winning story was extremely difficult, but ……..

MANY CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR MARCH WINNER"


and then it said

Lindsay de Feliz and her story Consequences.


You have no idea how I felt - amazing, fantastic, emotional, running around the living room announcing my success to the goats, geese, chickens and dogs. At last I had actually won something.

So any of you who love travel writing give it a go. I have already submitted my entry for this month, The overall competition runs until July 31st, 2018, so there are still another 4 opportunities to enter your 500-1000 word travel stories in the April, May, June, and July competitions.

Take the plunge and good luck!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Visitors galore

Since the beginning of the year, Wasp House has had many visitors.

First ones of the new year were Rosa and Catherine, American who lives in Sosua and Virginia and Canadian Brit who lives in Canada, with frequent trips to Sosua to visit her Dominican husband. Both always come laden with goodies and this time was no exception. I should point out that Danilo calls Rosa "Awesome" as she taught him the word, but surprise surprise he can't say it properly so he calls her Orso, which means Bear in English. Hence she is known as Bear.

They didn't stay for long, but we had a great time, even though they made me walk all the way to the village centre in the sun (crazy gringas).


The next visitor was a Danish orthopedic surgeon and his Dominican wife who came for the afternoon so that he could learn about the house buying process here from Danilo, and hot on their heels was Sandra from Canada, who I had come to know via Facebook and she was a fan of my books.

Sandra also came laden with amazing gifts for her four day stay and I was a little concerned as I knew she didn't like spiders so I was hoping that the tarantulas kept away. I was also concerned as Wasp House is not five star luxury, or even one star really. It is more like glamping - I did warn her!

Unfortunately it rained solidly for four days and Wasp House is not good in the rain, as it floods and feels damp. Plus there is little to do here in the rain. Poor Sandra did not have to put up with tarantulas, but she did get a nightly visit from our resident rat, and when a bat flew through the living room - that was it.  She had to cover herself up from top to toe!


Just after Sandra left I went to Santiago to talk to a group of communications students studying at PUCMM - the top university in the country. The talk was to be in English as it was as part of their English course and their professor, Melanie, was a friend of mine. Different expats had been invited to talk to them.


The students then had to make a television programme and a radio programme about their favourite speaker  - which was yours truly and so a few weeks later the students and Melanie with a few kids and the odd boyfriend and husband all descended on Wasp House.

Danilo took charge of Melanie's delightful children and kept them busy.


Following all the videoing, photographs and chatting we all headed up to eat goat in the local goat restaurant. Here are some of the students with Danilo and I sitting outside the restaurant.


And the final visitor was just a week ago.

Here she is en route with her chauffeur.


Zelda is a one year old Great Dane/German Shepherd cross whose owner had to  leave to return to the United States, so the delightful Easton, another friend, offered to drive her here to come and live with us. She has settled in beautifully and is adored by one and all.


Including the 17 year old cat, Zebedee.


And apart from all of these visitors I have been crazy busy with two major writing assignments which have now been submitted.

In addition I was a guest on a pod cast by Billy Atwell about facing your fears. If you want to listen to it and hear my voice it is here.

And last but by no means least, I met a lady called Madeline Sharples via a Facebook page called We Love Memoirs which is for people who love memoirs and who write them, and it is a fabulous group of people. I read Madeline's memoir, called Leaving the Hall Light On and was totally blown away by the story and her writing. She then was kind enough to read What About Your Saucepans? and asked me to write a guest post for her blog which you can read here.

If you would like to read Madeline's book you can buy it from Amazon in Kindle and paperback - I highly recommend it. This was my review on Amazon:

"This is a very hard book for me to write a review on. It is about a subject which I have no knowledge of – a bipolar son who commits suicide. I don’t know anyone well who suffers from bipolar or anyone close whose children have committed suicide so I could not identify with the author or the book. But OMG this was a brilliant book, one which I could not put down. Leaving the subject matter aside, which is heartbreaking, touching, tear jerking and emotional, it is the raw honestly of the writing which takes your breath away. I had no idea a memoir could be so honest, so stripped to the bones, so completely revealing without any glossing over the subject matter in order to just keep that little bit of privacy and secrecy. And that honesty makes this an amazing piece of writing, which I loved. It is peppered with photos which really help the reader to understand and then there are the poems. Personally, I have read many poems in memoirs, most of which I just skim over. But there is no skimming over these, and I have never read or appreciated such powerful poetry. Congratulations Madeline Sharples for a fabulous work of writing both prose and poetry."








Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Esneaky esnake

Yet another animal story.

A couple of weeks ago, Danilo comes into the house holding some weird thing in his hand and explains to me that it is a snake skin. Where there is a snake skin - there is a snake, so off he goes on a snake hunt. Or a neesk hunt as snake is neesk in Danilo English. He is naturally wearing special neesk hunting gear - pyjama bottoms and tennis shoes.


The snake skin was found next to the wall, which in true Dominican fashion, although it has been built has not be plastered nor finished on the top. And the snake was living in the wall as you can see when I was looking down from the top of the wall.


So Danilo's plan is to get the snake out of the wall and keep it in a snake house. These are Boa Constrictors who live in the woods next to the house and they kill the chickens. But we don't want to have to kill them, so it made sense to just keep it in captivity.

Next stage is to get it out of the wall, so armed with essential snake hunting tools consisting of an  oven glove and barbecue tongs the work begun.


The neesk did not appear to want to come out so a bigger hole had to be made.


He looked all warm and snuggly in there but eventually the barbecue tongs were put to use.


By this stage Danilo also had a T-shirt wrapped around his mouth and nose as (and I never knew  this) snakes estink to high heaven.


And there is snake. around six foot long Boa. He/she was then placed in a large metal drum with wood and blocks on the top so that it couldn't escape.


Two hours later snake had gone. Houdini snake. Now here we are a couple of weeks later and another snake is living in the wall. Apparently not the same one. This time it is staying there undisturbed!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Goosey goosey gander

Goodness over two months since I last blogged, where does the time go to.

Here is a swift update on campo life in the Feliz household since Christmas.

The new year got off to a bad start as I came downstairs on the morning of January 1 to find Meg, our oldest dog, dead on the floor. No idea what happened as she was fine when I went to bed - I assume a heart attack. RIP Meg who was a very faithful dog and well loved.


The rest of the dogs are all fine and doing well as are the goats.

However, Danilo decided he wanted geese. I said no, and as usual he took no notice of me and I should have realised something was up when he arrived home one day with Dwendy Saya. They each had a goose in a sack.


I must admit they did look pretty so he filled a big washing bowl with water and set them and the bowl down in the back garden below the balcony.


They seemed quite happy, didn't make too much noise but the peace was not to last long. The next morning they were not there so it was all hands to the pump to go on a goose chase. I should mention at this point that he did not pay for these geese. He was given them as the man had to get rid of them as they were so vicious. This was not mentioned until they disappeared and he was concerned about the whole neighbourhood being beaten up by geese.

Danilo and Saya went out hunting and luckily a neighbour caught them just before they made it onto the main road. Geese were duly returned and locked up under the balcony until we came up with a plan.  Danilo was going to build them a pen but in the end we decided to put them in the overgrown vegetable garden as that was already enclosed, so in there they went.

However it was obvious the washing bowl was no substitute for a pond, so we got them a paddling pool instead. Which they adored.


It took a whole 24 hours for them to puncture the paddling pool, so there was no choice but to build them a proper pond.


So now we have very happy geese. They are still very nasty geese, attack anyone who goes near them, not only by biting them (and their beaks have serrated edges) but also by smacking them hard with their wings. They are also very noisy and if anything moves, such as when the chickens and roosters fly down from the trees in the morning, they make one hell of a racket. No idea what the plan is for these geese - Danilo talks about getting them a female or two to breed more nasty geese.

Personally I am googling roast goose recipes for Christmas.



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Continuing story of the balcony and goats

Remember where we were with the balcony? It was yellow and green, but we ran out of yellow, so clever me used turmeric as that is yellow - but it turned red! So Danilo had a cunning plan. He painted it green with white stripes.


So now the balcony looked like a tennis court, or a ping pong table. By this stage I had given up caring what it looked like, and then we became aware of the nuclear missile launch by North Korea. "What on earth has that to do with our balcony?" you ask. Well here is the nuclear missile being wheeled out.


Spot the similarity?

So we had to change the floor as according to Danilo we might be mistaken for a Korean nuclear missile site. I did try explaining that geographically there was a slight difference between us and North Korea but the change had to be done. So back to red we went, and so far, red it has stayed.


Of course, the painting was done in what were brown flip flops.


Anyway balcony is now more or less finished and I love it. We just need some more furniture and plants and solar lights and it will be  perfect - until it falls down.

We do have some furniture - bar stools so that you can sit up, drink and look over the garden,


And this very interesting Dominican seat made out of the fibres in the leaves of the banana plant - so apparently it can be out in the rain. There are four depressions for people to sit in - and surprisingly it is comfortable, but you all have your backs to each other. So I assume it is for people who don't like each other, who don't want to talk to each other, or maybe it is a Whatsapp chair where people sit and chat away on their phones?



We have had a problem with El Criminal, the male goat who arrived a couple of months ago.


He would escape constantly, but would come to the back door, so I would go back to the paddock with him and prepare to open the gate, and then he would jump over the 4 foot tall barbed wire fence. When I went off on book tour, he would still escape but would make the rounds of the neighbours, eating all of their planted yuca and anything else he could find. So to save paying thousands of pesos in damages we bought more wire and increased the height of the fencing in the paddock to 6 feet tall. Did it work?


Yes, for 24 hours and then he would still escape. He would jump from a standing start - as if he had springs on his hooves. So, he had to go. Stepson number 2, Alberto came and collected him, and exchanged him for a pregnant lady goat called Chilli Pepper.


She is very cute, very tame and doesn't jump. Not sure when the baby or babies are due but it shouldn't be too long I don't think.

I hope you all had a good Christmas - here it was the traditional Dominican family Christmas with me cooking the supposedly traditional British Christmas dinner on 25th. However due to the oven not working (rats ate the insulation) we decided to have paella instead which you can cook on the top part of the stove rather than in the oven. Then a day before Christmas my  mum bought us a new stove which is fabulous but we stuck to the paella plan. Here we are all eating Christmas lunch, stepsons, dwendy, foster kids, granddaughter and of course Danilo.



Wishing you all the best for the New Year - who knows what delights (and disasters) it will have in store!!