Monday, November 25, 2013

The Dominican garden

This weekend was gardening weekend. All sorts of flowers are beginning to bloom so it feels like Spring which is most odd as Christmas is only around the corner. I have no idea where any of these flowers have come from. As well as all the tropical flowers such as bougainvillea and hibiscus and loads I don't know the name of, we have English country garden spring flowers such as tulips.

Please note that the hanging baskets are still there aka half plastic coke bottles.
We also have something masquerading as a daffodil – no idea what it is but is very pretty.

I am redoing all the vegetables hoping for more success this time around as it is cooler. Here are peas, broccoli, carrots, parsley, courgettes and si Dios quiere, parsnips.

 I was feeling quite impressed with the peas, until I realized that the trees we have all over the place are Dominican pea trees.

They are all flowering in red and orange so look very pretty and they are now covered in peas.

Interestingly the pea pods are much thinner than English pea pods which might account for the fact that Dominican peas are harder, dryer and much less sweet than English peas.

According to the neighbours the peas will all be ready just in time for the Christmas dinner, which Dominicans have on Christmas Eve. Rice and peas to go with the pork.
We also have plenty of pumpkins all over the place.

And even one odd shaped cucumber.

The weeding is never ending – you need a man, a machete and his Marigolds.

Luckily Chivirico was here for the weekend to help. Unfortunately he will only plant what he likes to eat and in common with most Dominican 7 year olds that does not include salad vegetable or any type of green vegetable. So having given him a whole range of things to plant like cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, he announced that he had planted corn as it is the only thing he likes. Now waiting for 8 packets of corn to sprout.

The cushions are still on the sofa, but as suspected Belinda has now left her sofa with her blanket on it and moved onto the other sofas. I put a pink pillow case on to try and stop them getting too dirty, and the clever little madam carries it around with her and just puts in on each sofa she wants to lie on.

She has worked out it should be on the sofa but is hopeless at spreading it out on top of the cushions.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Birthday girl

So it was my birthday yesterday and the day started as every Tuesday does, getting up at 5am to start putting together the DR news in English for I said Happy Birthday to myself, and read all of my online cards and congratulations on Facebook. So far so good.

Danilo then got up later – as usual I was asleep when he got home from University, and he begun to mop the floors (luckily he does it as apparently I don’t do it properly, I don’t use enough water) and agreed to put the cushions back on the sofas for the day as a birthday treat.

I looked at him and nearly fell over. His hair and parts of his beard, usually black, were bright orange.

As I howled with laughter he explained that he had noticed he was going grey, so when he went to the barbers the previous evening the barber said he could get rid of the grey with a tint. Danilo asked what colour the tint would be and the barber showed him that it was dark brown in the tube so would come out that colour – almost black. He put the tint on his beard and hair, waited, washed it off, but there was no electricity in the shop – only candles and what with a lack of light and the fact his hair was wet Danilo had not seen the colour – until the morning. Thank goodness he went back to the barber that night, threatened him with instant death, and now has normal black hair again.

Some Dominican friends came to visit and cook me lunch. They brought presents including the all important cake – for Danilo as well as me as it is his birthday on Sunday.

Plus apples, grapes, 2 Snickers bars, a bottle of rum and two packets of cigarettes. What more can a girl ask for.

We tried out the new barbecue – interesting you have to climb in it to light it with the help of turps sold in a whisky bottle. And the hair glowed like a beacon in the dark!

The chicken was delicious.

And although they were big chickens they looked a tad small given the size of the barbecue!

So all in all a great birthday. Let's see what this next year brings!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What happened to the sofa?

Danilo and I agree on most things, but one thing we disagree on is the dogs. Dominicans believe dogs are animals and live outside. I believe they are pets and live inside. In previous houses we have had a large covered area outside the house where they lived, but we don’t have that here and so two out of the three dogs are allowed inside.

This would normally not be a major issue as one of them, Meg sleeps on the floor usually close to me, but Belinda the Great Dane insists on lying on a sofa. The solution I thought was to buy her a dog bed or to cover the sofa with a throw so that she wouldn't mess up the sofa. Apparently not.

The Dominican solution is to take all of the cushions off the sofa so that she can’t lie on them. So we have nowhere to sit and nor do visitors when they arrive.

I then negotiated that I could put a throw on one of the sofas on top of its base – that was agreed and so Belinda is a happy bunny – but we are still not allowed to put the other cushions out in case she decides to move.

Sticking with animals, when I woke up the other morning one of the cats was playing with what I thought was a mouldy carrot. I left him to play. Later in the day, Danilo picked up the mouldy carrot and brought it over to me.

Apologies for the bad photo, but I was shaking! It was no mouldy carrot, it was a snakes head. The only concern now, is where is the rest of the snake?

The barbecue is more or less there, and the spit is now in place too. It is to be inaugurated on Tuesday which is my birthday. Should be fun.

We are also working hard in the garden, weeding and replanting. Everything is growing much better now it is cooler. It would be easier, however, if I had the proper tools. I haven’t been able to find a garden spade, fork, hoe anything like that, so all work is done with a machete, pick axe, and planting done with the ever useful kitchen knife and a tablespoon.

One of the lovely things which has just happened though is Danilo planted lots of what I thought were just sticks, he called them Easter trees - flor de Pascua -  which I thought was a bit odd. They just looked like sticks with green leaves on to me. Now I understand, they are poinsettia trees.

They are all slowly turning red and are absolutely lovely.

And saving the best till last.

Fellow blogger, Aisha has reviewed my book, and not content with a one liner on Amazon, she has featured it in her award winning blog. You can read it here. Fabulous review and I recommend that you carry on following her blog as she is a brilliant writer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Communication with a Dominican Man

I receive lots of emails and have lots of chats with ladies who have a Dominican boyfriend or husband. There is one common denominator in that there tends to be communication problems and the woman often does not understand their man’s behaviour. This is usually the case when they are not physically together and when communication is made from a distance – phone, texts, skype whatever. However, as I receive so many emails I can see there is a common thread in all of them – both appear to want or need something different from the relationship. The women want love, affection, reassurance and the men usually want ‘things’ and to talk about their problems. I know this is not true of all Dominican men - but obviously the only people who write to me are the ones who are having issues with their relationship.

So when mulling this over and trying to understand this, I remembered studying this chap Maslow.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist and he wrote a paper in 1943 called ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ and then a book, which suggests that people have to fill certain needs and wants before they can move on to the next stage of needs and wants. He described it in terms of a pyramid.

The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid.

There are five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Physiological Needs
These are the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow says that all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met. Given the level of poverty in the DR, which is around 80%,  many Dominican try hard to satisfy this level with many not knowing where the next meal is coming from.Those that work in hotels do not have this problem with food, but often their families do and they will be under pressure to help the family out. Sleep, however, does not appear to be an issue – I have never known a Dominican unable to sleep anywhere or anytime. Maslow's premise is that people cannot worry about emotional needs until these physiological needs are a given. How many people from first world countries worry about where the food will come from?

Danilo asleep on a river outing

Security Needs
These include needs for safety and security. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health care, safe neighbourhoods, and shelter. Official unemployment figures in the DR are around 16% but higher among younger people. Many work in the unofficial labour market. Health care is sporadic, although the social security system is improving, but if you or a member of your family are sick it can put a tremendous strain on resources.

Social Needs
These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow says that until the two basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid are met, then people cannot start worrying about social needs and for many Dominicans these are met by their own family as most families are very close. The foreign ladies who come here, however, and have relationships with Dominican men don’t have to worry about food or shelter or jobs or healthcare as they usually are a given. They come looking for love and affection and whilst the Dominican man can talk the talk and give that for a week or two, once the lady goes home then they are back to the bottom of the pyramid and meeting their physiological and security needs are more important.

Esteem Needs
After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment. Again these are all wanted by the females from abroad. Dominican men are superb in boosting your self esteem but their need for social recognition tends to be met by having the latest iPhone or the latest brand of sneakers.

Self-actualizing Needs
This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential.

Many people say that Maslow’s triangle and his hierarchy of needs cannot be proved, especially the top one, self actualization.

However, I thought it was an interesting way to look at how the cultural differences play out in long distance relationships. I would be interested to know what anyone thinks – especially those of you who are involved in a relationship with a Dominican man. To be honest I think this might be true for all relationships or friendships between first and third world cultures - that the lack of comprehension of each other's way of thinking or doing is due to where you are in Maslow's triangle.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Goodbye to Hector

This week I received my second set of royalties for my book – “What about your saucepans?”. They come quarterly in arrears and the first amount I had was for the first quarter of the year, which was actually only March as the book was launched on February 27. Imagine my delight to find out I had sold 226 books in March. I knew they would drop a little after the first month but unfortunately for the second quarter I only sold 122 books over 3 months – only 40 a month. As the royalties are needed to supplement our income, this meant that we knew we had to make some savings.

It is not easy here to try and save money as most things are on an 18 month contract – such as television, phone and internet. If you decide to cut back or get rid, you have to pay off the contract so at a time when you want to save money, you end up having to spend a large lump sum. It is the same with people. Knowing that we had to make savings, although I am sorry for those of you who enjoyed looking at pictures of him , we decided that Hector had to go. We had to pay him what is known as liquidation – redundancy money, which is so much for pay in lieu of notice, an amount depending on the time he has worked and a percentage of his Christmas bonus (one months salary). Hector was very happy to receive a nice payment before Christmas and it will save us money going forwards.

In the meantime, (here comes the cheeky advertisement) I hope to sell more books as the royalties really do make a difference, so any of you who have not bought it, please do (!) and those that have, please consider buying some for Christmas presents. It is available through Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions and on Apple iBooks and Kobo.

Work on the barbecue has continued apace. The cement was poured in the top and the two bleach bottles were to make the holes for metal grills so that we can control the amount of air coming through.

Chivirico also came for the weekend and helped with the barbecue.

He and Danilo started to build the side pieces to balance the grill on and stop the charcoal or wood falling off.

And Chivirico mixed up the cement.

We ran out of cement and apparently we need to build a table next to it – out of concrete too, so that is the next step.

With no Hector, Chivirico decided to weed the garden and get it ready for the next, hopefully more successful, lot of planting. He decided that the carrots which have been in the ground for 9 months were unlikely to get any bigger so checked in his Winnie the Pooh recipe book and found a recipe for carrot cake. It needed 250 grams of carrots and despite him finding 11 or 12 I was not sure they would be big enough as the average size was half an inch long.

He then became fascinated by the basic kitchen scale and turned the calibrating knob around on the back – until the scale broke. No scale, no carrot cake. Danilo was called in and the pair of them dismantled the scale using the all important kitchen knife and tried to fix it.

No joy. There was a spring which had become detached but luckily  Dominican brains prevailed and the scale was sawed in half to be able to get at the spring.

I was sent to fetch the taypee and hey presto a kitchen scale that works again. The only problem is I have no idea how accurate it is, but we bought some shop carrots to supplement the garden ones and an hour later had a beautiful and edible carrot cake.

And here is Guerrero the handsome chap posing with new designer taypeed scale!