Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sleepless in barrioland

My favourite place in the whole world is bed. When I was working in the City in London I used to have to drag myself out of bed at 5.30 in the morning, with a 2 hour walk, train, 2 tube trains then another walk commute. I used to hate getting up, out of a warm snugly bed into a cold house with that journey ahead of me.

Getting up in the DR is much easier.  It is warm, the sun is shining and I don’t have to get up at 5.30 am. The only problem is that I can’t sleep. Last night I went to bed early and I was alone in the house as husband was at university and step kids were out on the town. Snuggled up in bed, watching the TV in its specially hacked out hole in the wardrobe, couple of cats purring on the bed and dogs under the bed, I was a happy bunny.

I had just dropped off to sleep when husband came in. Dogs go mad, husband sits on bed chomping on chicken and rice, chatting about what has gone on at college, puts on television for Dominican news, and eventually I go back to sleep.
2.38 am the cockerel in the garden behind starts. He always starts then. There are precisely 19 seconds between each crow. I know as I count them every night. He only crows for 20 minutes then he must go to sleep again and at least he allows me to as well.

3.30 electricity goes off. I know that as the fan stops. It is not that hot at the minute and were it not for the mosquitoes it would be easy to sleep without the fan. Within 2 minutes of the fan stopping it is like an orchestra of high pitched buzzing around my head. They are simply everywhere. Husband gets up to go into the garden to the little inverter hut and turn it on. It should happen automatically but it doesn't sometimes.

Back to sleep for a while. 5.00 am terrible screaming. The cat who doesn't live here, but just comes in for food, is bonking one of my cats who does not appear to be enjoying it very much. Or enjoying it a lot, I am not sure which. I am surprised no one has called the police thinking someone is being murdered. Eventually they finish.

husband and Chivirico one rainy afternoon

Then fan stops again. Electricity must have come on and gone off again. It is my turn to get up and push the inverter button. As by now it is nearly 6 am I decide to call it a night and get up for good. The noise by now in the barrio is intense. Motorbikes are buzzing around, there must be a thousand cocks crowing, people are yelling at each other, kids screaming. No wonder most Dominicans can sleep anytime and anywhere. They obviously never do during the night.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Piggy Party

This month it was my birthday and also my husband's. Chivirico decided we should throw a surprise party for the husband, and determined we should eat a spit roasted pig, which would be cooked in his house so that it would be a surprise. Spit roasted barbecued pigs are the standard fare for celebrations here.  I went to his house and spoke to his grandparents who said they would be delighted to help and assured me they knew exactly what to do. They told me we would need a 20 kilo pig.
Personally I much prefer buying my meat in plastic trays from the supermarket, without thinking too much about what happened to them before, but in this country, especially in barrio land it just isn't possible.
Stepson was dispatched to get the pig on Thursday from around 10 miles away. On the scooter. He returned with pig, which had somehow grown from 20 kilos to 50, and a letter of permission from the local mayor to confirm he had bought the pig and hadn't stolen it. Costs were already increasing as the pig was twice as big so cost twice as much, and the letter cost 100 pesos. Then we had to buy a sack of charcoal, the seasoning, and various other bits and pieces. All afternoon I had people at the gate asking me what they should do, and it appeared that although I had been told they knew what to do, no one had a clue. I was beginning to think that his birthday present would be a live pig and not a party.
Anyway, I checked on line and it said the pig had to be cooked for 24 hours so I gave strict instructions, the pit was dug, charcoal lit and the cooking began at 6 pm Friday night.
All appeared to be under control as the barrio filled with smoke that night.
The next morning I went over to check on progress. The pig was in the kitchen. Grandmother assured me it was cooked but I was pretty sure it wasn't. It later appeared that they had run out of charcoal and she was fed up with all the smoke in her house so they just took it off the fire. More charcoal was bought and the cooking started again.

The party began at 6, with the invited Dominicans turning up slowly, but by 9 pm the party was in full swing.

Chivirico was barman, which he was a bit too efficient at, as the gallon of rum disappeared in no time. He borrowed my belt to stop his trousers falling down, but unfortunately it didn't work too well.

The pig was delicious, far too much of it,so we are having pork every day, and Chivirico had a great time, even though his trousers kept falling down.
As for me, I have decided that the next party will be cheese and pineapple on sticks.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chivirico goes to the mountains

Everything was ready to go to Barahona for the weekend and at the last minute we had a phone call to say the trip was off. I can't say I was surprised as I have got used to the fact that until something is actually happening here, you can never be sure it will happen.

So instead we decided to go the mountains to look for a house to move to, and as we were leaving who should come along but Chivirico who announced he was coming too, and seeing as he would be coming to stay every weekend he should be involved in the decision as to where to live.

He fell in love with the first house we saw. Here he is on the balcony.

In the room he decided would be his bedroom.

And one of the bathrooms has been built under the stairs so only someone of Chivirico's size can fit under the shower. He naturally announced that this was his bathroom and was delighted to have his very own shower which no one else will be able to use. Well not standing up anyway.

We walked around checking out the house and Chivirico disappeared to do what only boys do. Collecting snails. By the time I discovered him his T shirt was totally filthy, but he was one happy bunny with around 25 snails which then had to be transported back to barrio land. I have no idea what has happened to them.

The next stop was to buy a new T shirt and then we had to go to a furniture shop so that Chivirico could pick out the bed he wanted. We then went off to explore the area ending up at a local dam, part of which seemed a tad low on water, and I thought it had been raining a lot.

We did find some water and husband threatened to throw Chivirico in.

Final stop was for lunch. Goat for us and chicken, rice, beans and pop for Chvirico. I think we could do with lessons in table manners as the main objective seems to be to shovel as much into mouth as possible at any one time.

With the occasional break for a drink.

And with all of us full of food and the car full of snails it was time for a return to barrio land.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Barrio Blues

Most of the time I love living in the barrio but the last couple of weeks have not been so good.
There is a woman who lives a couple of doors down, looks to be aged around 60 but could be only 40, with a very annoying high pitched voice. She has a grandson called Pedrito and she screams for him constantly as never seems to know where he is and can’t be bothered going to look for him. This starts at 5 in the morning usually. She is the one who broke into the water supply so that she could get water to her house, put the tap in front of our gate, and now the street constantly floods as the taypee she used to stick the pipes together keeps falling off.

Our landlady, on seeing the state of the street told her to fix it or she would take the pipes away. Not my fault at all, as I didn't say a word, but it seemed to send this woman into some sort of evil revenge mode.
She decided that our house was a public health hazard because the dog poo smelled. Well there's a surprise. I have three dogs, and one, Silly Boy, a blind old rescued English Mastiff does do some pretty impressive poos.

Silly Boy

However, they are all scooped up at least twice a day, sealed in plastic bags and disposed off, and the concrete patio washed down with bleach. The fact that there are around 20 to 30 street dogs pooing and peeing in the street with kids running up and down barefoot does not appear to concern her. Nor does the face her grandson, Pedrito is always in our supposedly unsanitary house and garden eating and using the internet.
She has taken to calling the Public Health department to complain about Silly Boys poo. They have done nothing, not surprisingly really.


A couple of weeks ago, one of my dogs, Belinda the Great Dane puppy became very sick. I won’t go into details in case you are eating, but it was very messy for 5 days. The vet diagnosed probable poisoning but luckily we managed to save her with intense nursing, expensive medicines and sleepless nights. She is now fine thank goodness.
A few days later, a man came to video the house on the instructions of the owner as the house is for sale and he wants a video made to show to potential buyers in Nuevo Yol (New York) and she thought he was from the Public Health department. On finding out he wasn't she went into a total banshee screaming rage and the next day 3 of my cats were poisoned and died.

R.I.P. Squeak, Bubblita and Rabo Blanco

No proof it was her of course.
I really do not understand what her problem is, but other neighbours have said she is jealous and I must admit I have seen this type of behaviour before where a few Dominicans have been jealous and do the most nasty things to the people they are jealous of.
Hopefully we will move shortly before I run out of animals for her to poison, and in the meantime the next time she passes me in the street and calls me “Mi amoy” (should be mi amor but she has a strong accent) I will punch her in the face. Well, I probably won’t but I will feel like it.

The washing machine also died this week and had to be taken off to hospital.

Luckily I had a replacement - my husband and Chivirico and they did all the washing by hand! The washing machine returned supposedly all fixed but minus the drain hose so now when you empty the water it goes all over the floor. Hey Ho.

On a brighter note I am off camping in my favourite part of the country, the south west this weekend so I should have some interesting tales for the next post. Also the blog is on a new site where you can vote for your favourite blog and leave a comment. The site is called expatsblog and you can find it here. If you have a chance do check out the other Dominican Republic blogs as there are some great ones there, and if you want to vote for this one and leave a comment, that would be very nice too!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Whoohoo Blog of the Year!

I love blogging and love reading all the comments and feedback, and in addition I am lucky in that several readers write to me and tell me how much they enjoy the blog.
The icing on the cake is when I receive an award from other bloggers and so I am really pleased to be able to tell you that Alyson, writer of the Algarve blog has awarded me along with a few other blogs the award of Blog of the Year 2012.You can see her blog here.
However, it is not enough simply to make my thank you speech, it appears I have to work for the award by posting the rules and by handing out my own Blog of the Year Awards, and being somewhat technically challenged it has taken me a while to get my head around it. Anyway I have summoned the Awards committee which consists of me, myself and I and here we go.

The ‘rules’ for the award are simple:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

The blogs I have chosen are (drum roll)

Amor y Sabor:  A blog by Eliza about inter cultural relationships, the Dominican Republic and her fight to be able to live in the same country with her Indian husband.
Blog in France LLama Lady and her adventures on a farm in France. Always makes me smile and very informative
Dominican Cooking Fabulous recipes from Aunt Clara with interesting stories behind the recipes from Aunt Ilana. If I have to cook Dominican food for my family this is the blog to look at.
Expatlogue by Aisha. One day I will be able to write like her - well probably never! The posts never fail to move me,
Girl in the DR One girl trying to make a difference to the poor in the DR
JoParfitt. Great blog on life and writing which makes me stop and think.
Piglet in Portugal. Piglet's vegetable garden is wonderful, although appears to attract a lot of pests. Really interesting blog about growing things and Portugal.
Sami colourful world All about Australia, especially Perth. Always interesting and great photos.
Travels with Vera A friend of mine travelling through the USA with her partner and her cat. Beautifully written and has taught me so much about the US

3 Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – /  and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them

5 You can now also join our Facebook page – click the link here ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook page and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience

6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

With one very shiny star!
Because unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different!
You begin with the ‘1 star’ award – and every time you are given the award by another blog – you can add another star!
There are a total of 6 stars to collect.

Which means that you can check out your favourite blogs – and even if they have already been given the award by someone else – you can still bestow it on them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!

You can find out more about the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award by clicking here:

And that just leaves me time to congratulate everyone that has been given the award – and to encourage you all to join in – you don’t even have to wait to be nominated to give the award to others.
And to Thank you again for your wonderful blogs and friendship.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dominican Roads

The roads in the Dominican Republic vary from fabulous to appalling, with most somewhere in the middle.

 There are major motorways across the country, with two or three lanes as good as any you would find in Europe. Most of them have tolls, varying from around 80 cents up to US$10.

Some have the most spectacular views such as the Atlantic highway in the north east

Atlantic Highway

And the coast road from Barahona westwards to Haiti which is said to be the most spectacular drive in the Caribbean

Coast road from Barahona westwards

In between there are standard single lane asphalt roads with potholes in several areas and you have to watch out for cows, chickens, dogs and goats which often appear out of nowhere.
Once you leave the main routes then the roads become compacted dirt tracks, some of which are very badly rutted with enormous holes.

In the barrios in the towns most of the roads are dirt. Very dusty when there has been no rain and very muddy after the rain. They usually have gutters down the side, as all waste water from the showers and washing machines flows out into the street.

This morning they decided to improve my street. I am not sure whether they are going to put gravel down or what, but they started a week ago on the street one down from us, dumped a big pile of dirt so that no one can get past and then disappeared.

This massive yellow bulldozer came at 7 am and made a few passes. It has now disappeared leaving in its wake broken pipes and floods of water.

 It has not returned. Where the water is really deep, intelligent people have put palm leaves in so that you don’t fall in. Given that half of the time there is no power so the streets are pitch black at night, I am not convinced that the palm leaves will glow in the dark, so now if you go out at night there is a good chance you will end up swimming.

At a time when we are being told not to leave standing water because of dengue and there are cholera outbreaks this seems totally crazy. On the one hand we have local council inspectors coming round to make sure we have no containers with standing water outside, and then the same local council comes and breaks all the pipes leaving the roads full of standing water, and what is more there is no water coming into the house as they have broken the pipes. This means we have to go and get water in containers.
Dominican logic!