Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Rat

Before I explain the title, I need to tell you about the design of our house.

It is a most peculiar house which was half built as a billiard hall with an apartment upstairs but we have converted the downstairs into a living/dining room, a study, a kitchen and utility room, downstairs bathroom and a dog room.

Upstairs there is another living room, three bedrooms and a bathroom with a wrap around balcony and another balcony.

The roof is the interesting part. It is made of wood with asphalt material on top of it, and sort of balances on a piece of wood in each corner and has a gap of a few feet between the roof and the wall.

Like this:

Most Dominican houses are built like this as it allows all of the hot air to escape and keeps the house cool. Mind you most have zinc roofs and not plywood.

The roof is actually very attractive from underneath - very rustic, apart from the edge bits where it is sort of coming apart and a few holes in it where the internet man walked on it in hob nail boots to fix the 30 foot aerial on the roof.

Anyway, me being British I thought people should have  a bit of privacy in the bedroom and bathroom so when Danilo was designing and finishing off the house before we moved in, I asked him to make the walls on the inside go up to the roof and the ones on the outside still leave a little gap for the hot air to escape.

Here is the little gap at the side of the guest bedroom

The rest of the upstairs has had the gap filled with wood.

Apart from between our bedroom and the guest room - which means that noises, any noises from one bedroom travel to the other.  It wasn't boarded between the two rooms as we were waiting for wardrobes to be fitted, which they now have been for over 3 years.

Here is what it looks like from our room:

And this is from the guest room the other side of the wardrobes.

So now you get the picture, I can begin.

Last night I went to bed and Danilo came downstairs to watch TV. When I go to bed I go to sleep and if there is someone next to me watching TV at Dominican volume and commenting on the programme, which is usually the History Channel or National Geographic, and asking me questions all the time, jabbing me with his elbow if I don't answer, I get grouchy. Extremely grouchy. So the law is when I go to bed, if he wants to keep watching TV, he comes downstairs to watch it.

I am lying in bed in the dark, writing Chapter 5 (yes have done 1-4) of Book Number Two in my head, and I was listening to the noise outside so that I could describe nights in the campo. The crickets squeaking, the limpkins squawking and the occasional noise from the roof. We have always wondered what the noise on the roof was, as nothing can get onto the roof from the house, so it must be a chicken or a bird.

Then there was a noise of something falling in the bedroom. I assumed it was the cat or the puppy, but they didn't answer when I called, so I got out of bed and turned the light on and there it was. A rat. It was on top of our wardrobe, between us and the guest room, and ran around on top of the wall and looked at me.

Now, Dominican rats are not like British rats. I have lived in houses in London where rats in the garden were common place and I think they say that in London you are never more than 10 feet, or is it yards from a rat. British rats are big with thick tails.

They also have very very big teeth and are really appalling. Think bubonic plague. Think around 12 inches long.

However, Dominican rats are actually cute as rats go. Long whiskers, much smaller, not as dark and like halfway the size of a British mouse and a British rat. I googled for a picture of a Dominican rat but I didn't get a picture of the rat which there was in the bedroom, all that came up were pictures of Dominican men - so called "love rats".

At last I found a picture. See they are quite cute as rats go.

Anyway I ran downstairs and said to Danilo: "Rat in the bedroom"and explained where it was. He went upstairs but it had gone, which isn't surprising as it has the whole upstairs to explore, plus balconies and can run around on the tops of all of the walls and if needed duck inside the gaps in the concrete blocks which the walls are made up. But unless rats jump 30 feet to the ground (do they?) it can't get out.

Danilo was his usual blasé self. "All houses have rats. It is no problem. A rat is a rat." Well call me a wuss but I really don't want a rat in my bedroom and where there is one rat there will be more. I think they must be a new arrival as never seen them before and the cats catch everything that moves but they have never brought in a rat. I am deducing it could be linked to Albert's arrival and his habit of eating all day long either in his bedroom or watching the TV and having zero concept of not throwing food or wrappers or fruit peelings on the floor or under the bed.

The trouble is we have visitors arriving in 12 days time who will be staying in the guest room, and I am not sure people from overseas will be quite as chilled at the idea of having a rat watching them from the top of the wardrobe. Especially as the people coming - an American and her Dominican fiancé  have not seen each other for months. I can just see a whole gathering of rats on top of the wardrobe gawking at the activity in the guest room.

So I have to solve the problem. Solution one is to get rid of rats. Now being a kind soul I don't necessarily want to kill them and won't use poison with dogs, cats and people in the house. I can't stand the noise that rat traps make, nor the mess, so I have bought the famous Dominican product - The End to the Rat - or even, The Rat Meets a Sticky End.

This is a sticky pad, which is apparently super sticky and has some sort of impregnated smell which rats love. So once they stand on it they get stuck. I asked the man in the shop what I should do when the rat stuck to the pad. He said you just kill it. And when I asked how I was supposed to do that he said just use a machete. I will ask Danilo to take rat and pad outside and unstick it and let it go.

In the meantime I will ask the carpenter to put the wood up between the two rooms and hope the rat stays in our room if the sticky pad does not work. Danilo assures me I will get used to him/them running around the top of the wall, and says they are actually quite nice company at night. Right. I am not allowed dogs in the bedroom, but rats and chickens are fine!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Chivirico's birthday - oh Dios mio

It was Chivirico's birthday on Friday so on Saturday Danilo went to pick him up so we could have a special day on Sunday.

The day started with him and Albert getting up early and making empanadas for breakfast which were salami and cheese on the inside, wrapped in pastry and fried. Here is a picture from Aunt Clara's Dominican Cooking.

So once breakfast was over - no photos as I was sleeping as it happened at 6.30 am - it was time to make the dough for pizza, which Chivo made and bread, made by Albert, with a bit of a competition to see whose dough would rise best. Once the dough was made it was put in my jeep to rise - as it is really warm there and today was cool and cloudy.

Then a couple of hours later they came to show me the result and both had risen well.

Then it was time for a special lunch - two enormous chillo (red snapper) from the fish man.

Chivirico was desperate to have his annual photo taken with Danilo holding him up in water. Every year it has been in a pool, or the sea, or a river and this year they have just opened a pool/bar restaurant only a mile from where we live so we decided to go there. He and Albert were beside themselves with excitement, so once lunch was over, off we went. But it was raining, and not just raining it was thunder and lightning and I warned them they couldn't go in the pool until the lightning had stopped.

So we get to this new pool and the entrance was particularly guest friendly.

The down pipes from the roof threw all of the water on top of people entering the pool complex, so even though Danilo had let us off right by the entrance by the time we walked in, we were soaked to the skin, Hey ho, I thought, we should dry off soon, and what designer would shower arriving guests with water, but having paid the entrance fee, we then had another water obstacle to face.

This was the entrance to the actual pool, but there was a massive water butt, with water pouring in and it was overflowing and soaking anyone who walked past it. Danilo went first.

We had a table on the far side of the pool, under a metal roof, but had to wade through 6 inches of water. The lightning was all around and I told the boys to put their feet on the chairs as it seemed somewhat idiotic to be sitting under a metal roof with ones feet in six inches of water. Meanwhile the owner was trying desperately to get rid of all the water on the floor, and the full water butt continued to overflow and balance dangerously on the step.

The people at the tables on the other side of the pool appeared to be oblivious to the impending danger and as it happened the owner then emptied the water butt (!!) and carried on sweeping to get rid of the water but in seconds it seemed it was full again, so he emptied it again. The water around our ankles rose to 9 inches.

Albert was desperate to get into the water and as the lightning stopped the boys were given the green light. He just ran and threw himself in. Danilo went ballistic telling him never to throw himself into water as he had no idea if it was shallow and would smash his head or deep and he can't swim. He kept doing it. Again and again. Each time we yelled at him, and he just kept doing it.

We took the famous birthday photo of Danilo holding Chivirico up in water which we have done every year since his 5th birthday.

This time you can't see his legs! And we continued to shout at Albert not to throw himself in the pool - until..... we saw him running around the pool with blood streaming down his face. Yes he had hit his head on the bottom and his forehead was split open like a ripe plum. People came running from all over telling us to take him to hospital, to call the ambulance, but we said we could sort it at home and that was the end of the pool trip.

Albert pressed serviettes to his wound and we came home and then I had one of the "oh my God" "Oh Dios mio" moments as Danilo put him on a bar stool and approached him with a needle.
"Danilo, what are you doing?"I asked
"Anesthetic"he said
"What for?"
"To stitch it", and I noticed Chivirico licking thread to put in a stitching needle.
"You are bloody loco - I have steri strips, no need for stitches".
"Ingles you know nothing. I stitch roosters, he is like a rooster"
Albert's eyes were like saucers sitting on the bar stool.
"OK, so let's do it the English way first with antiseptic and steri strips and if in three days the wound hasn't closed you can stitch him up".

I cleaned the wound, put steri strips on it (total rubbish according to Danilo) and Albert is now watching TV with a big plaster (elastoplast in American?) on his head.

Now all that is left is to make the pizza and bake the bread.