Monday, May 30, 2011

Wash Day

Wash day here is not one of my favourite days. In England I didn't really have a wash day. When there was a pile of clothes to be washed you just threw them into the automatic washing machine, switched it on and left it. Then later in the day into the tumble dryer and there you go.
It is not quite like that here.

Many people, especially in the campos - the villages - wash by hand and lots of them will go down to the river. The key components are fa (washing powder) which is sold loose in the colmados and bleach known as chloro. Everything is bleached. In addition a block of yellow fatty soap is used.

It will take all day, and obviously with the heat here there always seem to be a lot of clothes to wash.

Luckily I have a washing machine. Well a twin tub to be accurate. They are all made of plastic so that they can be kept outside, and appear to work with clockwork although actually they need electricity to function. They are very simple. You fill the wash side with water and fa and bleach. Turn knob and it washes for around 20 minutes. You then turn another knob and it drains. Then I fill it back up with water again and repeat to rinse. I am not sure that Dominicans do the rinsing bit.

Then you empty it again and then put the clothes into the spinner and spin. Simple. The water usually drains into a gutter in the garden and then disappears into a bigger gutter outside the house which goes into the street.

I decided to wash the other day and was moving the washing machine to outside the back door when the whole top came off.

It appeared that all of the screws had disappeared which held it in place. Further investigation took place and it became apparent that number two son needed some screws but rather than going to the ironmongers to get them he just took them out of the washing machine - as you do
So the washing machine would not work, but not to worry I just had to call the mobile washing machine delivery man and he rents you one for the morning or afternoon.

Luckily, once we had new screws then mine works again however the spinner appears to have no brake so the only way to stop it is to stick a stick in it - I am convinced I will
break my arm one day.

One each load is done, then all that remains is to jam it onto the barbed wire fence in the garden - no need for pegs here at all, and everyone does the same. All of the clothes are usually turned inside out to save bleaching by the sun. Every item of clothing I own now has holes in it - I obviously still dont have the hang of doing it properly!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dominican Espany

When I first arrived in the Dominican Republic, I could not speak a word of Spanish. However, I could speak French and German, and having learnt languages before I assumed it would not be that difficult. What I did not realise was that Dominican Spanish is different. To start with they do not pronounce any of the letter 's'. It does not matter where it is in the word - it disappears. Plus they tend to leave off the endings of the words.

This sign, belonging to a funeral parlour, should say "Por favor, no traes muertos despues de la 6" which means please do not bring dead people after 6 o' clock. As you can see, spelling is obviously not a strong point - and remember to die in the day time.

As well as not pronouncing the letter 's'. there are many words which Dominican Spanish has taken from English, although at first they are not really recognisable. In sport for example there is Bakebo, Gol and Beybol. Food and drink such as wiki, sanwee and hamberge.

Here they managed to spell Gas Station correctly - gas being petrol - but struggled a bit with wash!

There are many other words too which can take a while to decipher: pantis, swiche (switch), aypo - this is hard - an Ipod, tapee (tape), teni (tennis
shoes), poloshe (t shirt), chelon (chaise longue) and emay (e-mail).

In addition, Dominican Spanish will we use the brand name such as Hoover for all similar appliances. So a razor blade is a Gilay (Gillette), washing powder is Fa (fab), porridge oats are Quacker.

The missing out of the 's' can make it very hard to understand at first. Como tu ta should be como tu estas or how are you. I remember asking my husband if the cats needed food. "No, tan full" he replied, which should have been "no, ellos estan full". Another English word creeping in there.

Driving around is always fun as everywhere you go there are signs to decipher. This one here says "It is prohibited to wash pigs". Then it states law 64-00 - I had no idea there was a law against washing pigs.

So if you are learning Dominican Spanish - good luck to you. On paper it seems easy enough, it is just when you are listening to people or trying to read what they have written that things get difficult.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dominicans and noise

When I first arrived here I loved the fact that there was music on the buses, in the supermarket, in the street, in the corner shops (colmados). There was dancing or singing everywhere, which made me feel as if everyone was happy. But the music is not played quietly in the background - Dominicans appear to have to have their music turned up very very loud. The most important

thing in the colmado is the sound system. It is turned on first thing in the morning when they open and then plays all day until closing time - around midnight. It is usually so loud that you can't hear yourself think let alone try and buy anything.

Houses all have stereo systems - the louder you can play your music the richer you are seen to be as you can afford a good system. The music is turned on first thing in the morningl to accompany the daily sweeping and mopping and is played most of the day. But what I don't understand is how people can talk to each other and hear each other when the music is so loud. I have become convinced
that the Dominican race has different voices and hearing to the English one. An English car will have a normal stereo in it. Look at this picture of a Dominican car! If you look inside the boot of any Dominican car you will find it full of speakers - no space at all for your shopping.

And it is not just the music that is loud. They speak loudly - especially on the mobile phone. My mother is always telling my husband to "Be quiet" as he talks so loudly. Maybe because the music is so loud that people learn to speak louder from an early age to make themselves heard.

In the afternoons people sit on plastic chairs in front of their houses and shout at each other across the street - they wouldn't dream of sitting next to each other. And if you want to talk to someone you shout out their name and they have to come to you. You would never dream of going to look for them. So living in a Dominican barrio it is a constant cacophony of sound, with the different music, with people shouting at each other, shouting for their kids!

I thought it was just me, being English, who found all this noise a little bit much sometimes. But yesterday the barrio fought back.

One of the houses here is owned or rented by a man who lives in Nuevo Yol (New York), and every month he sends money back for the family who live there. When the money arrives it is party time - day and night until 4am. The music has not stopped from Friday to Wednesday this week. The neighbours have had enough and yesterday told the family that if there is any more loud music they would call the police to take the speakers away - which is how loud music is dealt with here.

Since then total silence. It is the first time I can remember that Dominicans have turned down the music.

I went to the colmado this morning and even they do not have their music on. The only sound around is the geese, the occasional donkey, the dogs barking and the hens clucking - mind you this one in the colmado will probably spend the afternoon asleep.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Living with a Dominican Man

I have been living with a Dominican man for 10 years, married for the last 6 nearly. Here you can see what a handsome couple we make when he was presented with an award for being the biggest contributor towards helping youth sport in the area.

When you are married to someone from a different culture, background,and country, with a different language, education, and upbringing, it certainly brings with it a whole variety of challenges.

1. Generosity

I love this about Dominicans. They share everything. If someone is hungry they will give them food, give them a bed if they have nowhere to sleep. Help pay for medicines and the doctor if they are sick. They will lend their car or motorbike to anyone who asks. It is a lovely part of their nature and I find it very humbling as it makes me realise how careful we are with our possessions in the developed world. However it can be frustrating when the Christmas presents you bought him, like the new denim jacket, the camera, the new pair of jeans, mysteriously disappear even before the end of January. Sometimes given away, sometimes 'borrowed' by the children or family, never to be returned.

2. Family

Family are incredibly important. There is no system of social security and very few people have pensions, so when you are old and decrepit your children look after you. No Granny dumping here. What is more, as soon as the children start working they give part of their wages to their parents. It is just the way it is. My husband's third son lives in Spain with his mother and every month he sends us half of his pocket money. When you are sick and in hospital the whole family moves into your hospital room and looks after you and brings you food - nurses just come and change drips or give injections. If you are unlucky enough to go to jail the family brings you food every day.

But when the family come to visit they take over. I don't spend time in the kitchen, preparing for their visit. Once they arrive they just walk in, take everything out of the freezer, and start cooking. They take my clothes out of the closet and wash and iron them. At first it would do my head in, now I just let them get on with it and try not to cry when I see the nice piece of beef I was saving for next Sunday lunch being chopped up and thrown in a pot of rice. And remember, your Dominican man will of course send money to his parents, and they will always come first in his life - no point in fighting it. Both of my husband's parents are dead, but we send money to his brothers and sisters if they really need it.

3. Optimistic

Dominican men are very optimistic and generally live for the day. It is wise not to let them have total control of the finances or you are unlikely to last the week let alone the month. My husband has an amazing ability not to dwell on the past at all, it is not worth it, he says, it is past. If you have food for the day then everything is right with the world, and if you don't, then someone is sure to give it to you. Life here is all about laughter and appreciating the good, however small it is, rather than dwelling on the problems, or what might happen.

4. The truth

This is a tad difficult for your typical Dominican man. He will always tell you what he thinks you want to hear, and will never tell you anything he knows will make you cross. If you are a tourist on holiday and you ask any Dominican if it will be sunny tomorrow they will always say yes, as that is what you want to hear. I would realise the car was missing and ask where it was. The answer is always the same: "Nearby," or "It will be here soon" or "What's for tea?" Anything rather than tell me it had been lent to someone who had no driving licence and who had taken it to a town 4 hours away.

The great thing though about being with someone so different to yourself is that you both find wonderment in each other's country and culture. I will laugh in amazement when I see the kids going to school on the bus, and he cannot see what I am laughing about as it is normal for him. And when we are in England he is like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and ET as he sees so many things that are different, such as trains - there are none here - horses wearing coats in the cold weather, white smoke coming out of your mouth when you breath in the cold air.

Life is one long journey of adapting to each other's ways. The washing line is used to hang fish on to dry in the sun covered in salt and oregano (one of his specialties) and the laundry is hung on a barbed wire fence to save on pegs.

He cannot read a map and when we travel anywhere I say use the map and he says ask people en route. So as I usually drive, every journey takes a long time as we have to stop for me to read the map, and stop for him to ask people. We laugh about whose system worked best but we always get to where we are going in the end though - and that is what it is all about isn't it?