Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Navidad - Christmas in the Dominican

A very nice lady we met in the neighbourhood. Her tree has been up since the beginning of November

   There an abundance of dogs in San Pedro, some are peoples pets but  most are strays. Some nights the sound of barking dogs keeps us from having a decent sleep.
   Before we left Canada, Rick and I had a meeting with our new Pastor who is originally from Mexico. He was a great help filling us in on the culture of Latin Countries. There are an abundance of insects here so far we have encountered large leggy wasps (long back legs).
black bees the size of cherries, cockroaches from tiny to 3 inches long,
little tiny ants black, brown and red. Mosquito nets are a necessity if you live or stay in the Dominican.
   December is the month that flowers bloom. Every colour of the rainbow seem to in Ildas balcony garden. We even have some of her flowers on our balcony.
  There are tiny black humming birds that visit our flowers everyday, Rick tried to get a picture but they are too small and too fast.
A beautiful palm tree in the commercial district downtown
This flower was in front of the only McDonalds in San Pedro.
There were quite a few of them and they bloom all year
One of Ilda's balcony flowers. They will grow into a small tree if allowed to. This one is on our balcony and is about 15 inches high. It also has thorns about an inch or so long
Margarita came by last night with her little boy, families here are very close. Most evening after work she comes by and spends some time with her Mom and Dad. People here are very respectful of others they never enter a home without acknowledging everyone with a greeting or a hug and a kiss on the cheek. On our street most people great us with hello or "como esta ?" and we reply, "bien gracias." It's been two months and people are used to seeing us go to the corner store and for walks.
  Everyone here seems to have fruit trees growing in their back yard.
Vendors go up and down our street with megaphones announcing what they have to sell and the stores blast out music while cars with four foot speakers let the whole neighbourhood know what the stores are selling.
   Between the thousands of motorcycles, barking dogs and loud street vendors it is easy to understand why it is called the second loudest country in the world.
   Most people here live on very modest incomes. If a family wishes to build a home quite often they will move in before it finished. The wages are very low so it could take years to complete a home.
   Education in the Dominican for their citizens is free and so is the University. They usually cannot find work in their chosen field so they usually take menial jobs.
   Food is quite cheap if you buy it from the locals. One of neighbours next door has a tree that produces passion fruit, she sold me 5 passion fruit for 18 pesos which is under 50 cents Canadian.

Here is a picture of a young mom with her baby who live in our neighbourhood. We had prayed for the baby previously because she was sick.
  Yesterday Ilda said,"We are going for a long walk." Along the way she pointed out some beautiful homes and flower gardens and at on point she said Navidad, I looked and saw the largest poinsettia I had ever seen. It was at least 7 feet tall by 7 feet wide.
   We finally arrived at one of our Church members home. The owner of the house went into one of his rooms and brought out 10 bundles of tracts. Ilda took one bundle and I took another. On the way to Ilda's sisters home we probably handed out close to 500 tracts to people.

   Navidad eve supper (feast) prepared by all of us

   The whole day was spent cleaning. By the time they were done the house was spotless, the rest of the day was taken up by preparing the Navidad eve supper. It was close to midnight by the time we ate.
   Afterwards Margarita asked us to go and see her cousin. She had recently lost her mother. We asked Rick who was outside keeping an eye on the younger siblings to come and pray for her. He did in english but nevertheless it seemed to lift her spirit. We arrived home at 2 am in the morning very tired.

The Hernandez family. The older gentleman in the middle is Ilda's dad. He is a farmer and a Dominican evangelist. He is 84

This is the second Christmas celebration that we attended. This one was in the country. They were the Sanchez family.

   We are usually awake by 6 or 7 am however today we slept until 9 am. We were tired.
   Today was a day to rest and reflect on the meaning of Christmas. How God broke through the night and gave light to a suffering hurting world. He Himself gave us His only Son, born to a young Jewish couple who at that time did not know what it would cost to redeem mankind.
   Later in the day we went into the country to the Sanchez family farm, to a huge celebration for Navidad. Once again we observed Christmas with another Dominican family.
  We met a young couple at the celebration. The young man spoke english and we were able to share the message of salvation with them. all in all Christmas this year for us was unique and educational. Oh yeah one more thing, it was warm, there was no snow.

     The National game/pastime in the Dominican. Dominoes


Thursday, 15 December 2011

How many people can you fit on one motorbike?
How many can you count?

Nov. 25/11 
   Today we walked to a bueno (good) cafeteria which is on the edge of San Pedro, on the La Romana highway.
It is listed as a top 10 place to eat in the Samana Peninsula.
   Rick and I along with Margarita and her husband Andy attended a baseball game at the stadium in San Pedro. Andy loves baseball and wanted us to go. It was a wonderful experience, exciting and the crowd was unbelievable, they were, enthusiastic, loud and some were even dancing in the stands.
   The final score in this crazy game was 11 to 1 for San Pedro. Many of the players are professional baseball players from the United States so these teams in the Dominican play to a very high standard of baseball.
However it was a Dominican player, Felix Pie that played above and beyond everyone else driving in 6 runs including a grand slam home run at the end.
  After the game we went for hamburgers and hot dogs at one of the many small food vendors, they were delicious and Rick said it was the best hot dog he had ever eaten.
  They cook them and load them with peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, cheese, mustard mayonnaise and ketchup.

   No water, no shower, no power, no Internet and no sleep. The stray dogs barked most of the night.
   Ilda went to a neighbour next door to get some water. She came back carrying a huge container (a garbage can) of water on her head.
   Water, power and the Internet was restored this afternoon.

   Today a friend of the family took us on tour of San Pedro de Macoris. It was great. He filled us in on a lot of history and stories of the Dominican Republic.

One of the stops, a cigar manufacturing store.

This old fellow is blind but Doggie our guide says he walks downtown every day. It must be about 5 or 6 miles

The old area are full of colonial type buildings, some in good shape some in poor shape. There are also a number that have been restored. For an artist it is an ideal site to go through and sketch and take photos.

A great old buiding or what is left of it. I took a dozen pictures from different angles.


   Today was quiet and we spent most of the day studying our Spanish. Our friends from Edmonton Skyped us we had a marvelous visit.

   Well, Christmas is just around the corner we are curious to how they will celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
   On the 20th of December the whole family, including us, will be going to Santo Domingo to help celebrate Victors mom's birthday.
   The weather is becoming cooler. This is the Dominican winter, the temperature during the day is about 29 celcius and at night it's about 20 degrees which makes sleeping easier.
  We have two glass windows and three louvered windows which can be opened or closed. They are usually left open to help cool the apartment.

Our tiny home away from. Small but comfortable most days.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dominicans walk to end violence against women

Waiting for the military band to lead the march

The Three Martyred Sisters

   Women activists and the United Nations have marked November 25 as The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The date also commemorates in the Dominican Republic the brutal slaying of three sisters who opposed the rule of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal were murdered in 1960. Most historians agree that Trujillo ordered their murders because the sisters continually opposed corruption and violence Trujillo used to keep himself in power.
   However, it also led to the dictators own death six months later when seven men ambushed  Trujillo  killing him as he was being driven to see one of his many mistresses.
 Of the seven men involved in the killing of the dictator, two of the conspirators were later shot and killed, four were captured and executed.
   There was one sole survivor who managed to escape and is living in the Dominican Republic. He is in his nineties. A fourth sister is also still living in the Dominican.

      Marching for Women in the Dominican

Ilda, Margarita and Gloria  walking through San Pedro de Macoris  

   It was a perfect day for the march. Just a light sprinkle of rain, not too hot and a slight cloud cover.  The turnout was excellent. 
   The march began at 3;30 pm, headed up by the military band followed by policemen and women, the red cross, the firemen, school children in their school uniforms and about 1500 people participating in the march.
It was a perfect day to take photos of downtown San Pedro and some of the historic buildings along the way.

We took a picture of the modern Cancer Clinic baseball player Sammy Sosa built for the people of the Dominican Republic

   All traffic stops for a march. Most of these young men are what they call motorcycle taxis. They had to wait about 15 minutes for the marchers to pass by. By their smiles they didn't seem to mind. The army and police were always posted at the intersections to make sure it was safe.

   Notice the kids on the balcony. This is a Catholic girls school.  I'm sure the teachers taught them the reason for this  demonstration. There was also a large contingent of various school children in the march.

                                Someone we met on the way
Looking back along the parade route


  Finally we can see the end of the march. The beautifully restored Catholic Church San Pedro the Apostle. This was the end of the march, which was not the end. There was another hour and a half of speeches from organizers and politicans. All in all it was quite successful. Although this day was declared official by the United Nations, I think in 1999. It really began much earlier in the Dominican. It began shortley  after the deaths of the three Dominican women more than 50 years ago and has continued ever since.

The camera I used was nothing special. I had planned to use my G11 but because of the rain I used my wifes Kodak video camer which will also take snapshots. At only 5 migapixals I was surprised it did so well and water does not affect it.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Caribbean Swim

  Looking west from San Pedro towards Mexico

   Last weekend Victor decided we should all go to the beach. One we chose was a beach used mostly by locals but there was hardly anyone there. Victor said the weather would be fine, no jubia (rain).
   We rented four beach chairs, a table and an umbrella under a large tree. Rick and Victor sat and watched as Ilda, Angie and I played in the ocean, no sooner had we started enjoying the warm salt water when torrential rains began. We stayed another 15 minutes to collect some correl then we left.
  Iida's daughter Margarita has invited us to be part of the annual march to make people aware of the ongoing problem of violence against women here in the Dominican Republic. This march was started over 30 years ago after three women from one family were murdered.
   A group of ladies from Ilda's church came by to pray for her because they heard she was not feeling well. One of the women, Rosa spoke english and she asked me to read psalm 86. I read it spanish to them and she then asked me to read it in english for us.
Rick was asked to expound upon it. Afterwards they asked if Rick was a pastor. He said no. Then we all stood up and prayed for Ilda..


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Walkin in San Pedro de Macoris

A small sketch 4"x6" pen and ink and watercolour. A small less than perfect palm tree in front of a casa. Just right for a small sketch. The original looks better I had trouble matching the original colours with camera and photo editor. Is no importante. Is still bueno.

   It has been raining a lot. We had planned walking to a hair salon we found on one of walking excursions, but the roads were too wet.
   Today is Angies birthday, she turns 10. We wished her happy birthday - feliz cumpleanos. We also bought our cell phones today, $1780 pesos for two. Our driver Andy took us an a tour of the city of San Pedro after dark.

Nov. 4/11
Victor has been taking Rick out on his bike around San Pedro Macoris. Yesterday they went to an outdoor running track and Rick walked a few laps, although he ran a bit Victor said no no not good, so walking it is.

We went on a long walk today. On the way we passed by an older couple who, when they found out we were going to la tienda -a store they said they were hungry.
We decided to try and buy something for them. Further on our walk we ran into some Dominicans we knew and a young man from Haiti.
When we got to the store we found out it was a cafeteria type restaurant. On the way back we brought the elderly couple some snacks we bought. They thanked us and we went on our way.
Later that evening we went to the home of our new friends and they already had their Christmas tree up and decorated. Christmas celebrations must start early here.

Today we studied Spanish more intensley. Victor warned me to be careful and not be too friendly with strangers as they get too close and pick pocket your wallet. I said I would pass that message on to Rick.
We have had no water all day so the rain we got was welcome. Ilda and I once again filled our containers with rain water which we will use. I will buy another large container so I can fill my washing machine, that is if we have power, which we do not have today.

No water, no power, no internet, but life still goes on here in the Dominican Republic.
Ilda brought us our coffee, thank you Lord for propane stoves. All day long we see motorcycles carrying empty propane bottles to a gas station and then bringing back the full bottles to their homes. The motorcycle is the main mode of transport here, they carry everything. Five gallon water bottles, rebar and pvc pipe is dragged along behind the bike. Three on a motorcycle is common and Rick claims he saw 6 people on one bike heading down street. There is a group of motorcycle taxis at the end of our street waiting for customers.Morning is their busiest time  when people are heading to work.
Ilda is a Health Nurse, today she will be distributing flyers warning of the dangerous dengua mosquitoe. We are very careful not to leave standing uncovered water anywhere as they breed very fast.
The waters back! It's shower time !!!!!

No power all day. I washed our sheets and towels by hand.

Washday with Ilda. There is nothing fresher than a sun dried wash.Victor and Rick took the motorbike downtown to the electric company to complain about the loss of power. A repair truck arrived in the afternoon to fix the transformer. We have power!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Security meets art

security meets art
                                       Highend Casa with heavy security  

Here are some pictures of the area we are living in, in San Pedro. Black and white always add something to a picture. This area is quite safe, it is a mixture of those living well, those which would classified in the Dominican as middle class and those living in various degrees of poverty.
The last picture is a picture of a carpenters wife standing in front of her home. It is very poor lacking in what we would call essentials yet everyone in this family is clean, polite and happy. The husband knows his trade well and is very pleasent. When he was doing some work in our apartment I thought I would  wash and clean up a few dishes, when the oldest girl saw me doing that she said, "no no,"  then gently pushed me away and finished what I had started. Needless to say I was both surprised and impressed.

           Poverty according to anyones standards is a detriment  and a burden  to anyone but this home as poor as it is is clean inside and out and the family is exceptional. Below is their extended family including the grandmother. I must admitt that some friends came by and warned us that it was dangerous where we were, however knowing people in the neighborhood is the best way to stay safe.

Rick. Nov.5/11

Monday, 31 October 2011

Dominican Days

October 19, 2011                At 6 a.am. it was quiet outside except for the crazy rooster that crows all night, it doesn't seem to have an inner clock. At 6:30 a.m. everything comes alive. Motorcycles carrying between one and four people race by in both directions. Then the children in their school uniforms walk to their schools. To my surprise Ilda began sweeping the street in front of their house an area about 50 by 50 feet. Later I saw the large pile of debris she had gathered and swept into a pile the results of the protestors the night before. Further down I could see the road covered in broken glass as it shone in the sun. Soon after more neighbors began cleaning and sweeping in front of their houses. Their is no water today so washing clothes is out of the question. Angela and Victor skyped us from Calgary, I appreciate Skype for the time we spend with our children regardless of were we are.  Gloria
October 20, 2011:
We are still without water. Victor, gave us some of his water reserve and his son Daniel brought us a bottle of drinking water. It is 40 pesos for one five gallon bottle.Angie, Victors granddaughter brought her chalk board over and said she was our proffesor and began to teach us Spanish. I noticed that Victor had someone fixing a rocking chair and I asked him to build closet shelves for us in our bedroom. He is charging us 2000 pesos for them.  Gloria
October 21, 2011:
We have water. Although it is not fit to drink we can flush toilets, shower, wash clothes and dishes and other things. Ildas neighbor repaired her old washing machine which we now have. It works perfectly. I met Ildas friends which includes most of the neighborhood. Some she called out their names loudly because they all live behind tall cement walls and locked iron gates. One of the elderly ladies we met took off her shoes and climbed a large fruit tree in her back yard dropping guava and limes down to us to take home.
October 22, 2011:  Gloria
Today Victor announced that he was going to take Senor Pearson on a tour of San Pedro. They left with my husband riding on the back of Victors motorbike hanging on for dear life. Ilda and I went to her daughter Margarita's casa. Everyone in the DR is locked up tighter than Fort Knox at night, during the day women home alone lock their doors.
  One of Ildas friends daughter brought her tiny baby out of the house and said the baby is sick, some kind of stomach disorder, so we all prayed for the baby.
    Fort Knox.
    A Casa taken from above through our bathroom window

  One of our neighbors, when it gets dark brings out her megaphone and begins to preach the gospel to her neighbors some of whom gather outside  her home to listen.   Gloria
  October 23,2011 
  Sunday and we are off to a Dominican church with Ilda. When they knew we were from Canada they called us to the front to say a few words with an interpreter. We had no idea what he said in Spanish but it was well received with some applause.
   After church the carpenter was supposed come and install the closet shelves but Victor said not today, manana.
We are learning patience in the DR which is a good thing.  Gloria
October 24, 2011 
  Our morning routine is first to shower in unheated water then Ilda brings us strong Dominican coffee-which we dilute
with warm water before drinking then we try to spend some time reading the Bible on our Kindles, extremely effective and handy devices.
  We have a cinder block factory and a sugar factory close by and needless to say we have a dust and ant problem. The ant problem we solved with bug spray, but only dusting and mopping everyday keeps the place free of cinder block dust.
  Our carpenter arrived at 4 p.m. with the shelving that he had prefabricated and stained it was quickly installed and it looks great.
  Still no water. However there was a sudden cloud burst at 7 p.m. Ilda and I ran out with pails and large garbage cans to catch the rain water pouring from the roof spouts.
  Ilda and I are communicating much better now we actually had a few laughs together. We are teaching each other our respective languages.  Gloria
October 25, 2011
  We have decided to go to a supermarket in the middle of downtown San Pedro. Margaritta, Ilda, Angie, Rick and I decided to take the bus. The bus is a van with eight seats with a driver and a man who stands in an open sliding door cramming the people in, helping them off the bus and keeping an eye out for potential customers.
   Our receipt for groceries came to 3,077 pesos about $75.00 Cdn. The grocery stores have many staff in the aisles assisting customers and I presume watching for shop lifters.
  Margarita decided that we should hire a taxi, as it was too far to carry groceries from the bus stop. The cost of the cab was 200 pesos which is about $5 Cdn. Considering the distance we went it seemed like a steal. Needless to say we gave a good tip.  Gloria

Not every house is a fancy Casa. These are our neighbors on the left of our tiny apartment. Some Christians came and prayed for their health, salvation and I assume prosperty. We also went with Ilda to pray for them. The poverty here is real,some worse than others. However it would be wrong to think that it is as poor as Haiti or that everyone one is destitute. They are not. Most are working hard to make their lives better and most seem to be succeeding. For us it is not so much of a shock but a lot of reality that most people do not live as we do in Canada. Rick

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

   Well, we have arrived and the weather is great. Gloria has been writing since we arrived and I asked her to edit her journal so it could be put on the blog. The following are three days of inspiration and observation of our first week in the Dominican Republic.
Saturday Oct.15/11
   After landing in the DR, our trip to San Pedro de Macoris was somewhat exciting. Every town was full of lights, people and music. Although the roads are not the best our daughters mother in law and father in law Victor Hernandez his wife Ilda and their grandchild Angie took us on a tour through many cities and towns on the way to San Pedro.
   The apartment we rented from them is behind their Casa {house}   it was unfurnished - without - fridge, stove and kitchen cupboards but we knew this before we came. We had wired money previously to buy a used fridge and stove. The stove runs on propane and we have a bed so we are off to a good start.        

Sunday,October 16/11
   Today, Angie, their grandaughter is teaching Espanol to us with her black board and chalk. We are also helping her learn English. Later Rick began showing her how to paint watercolors which she really enjoyed. That's all for today. Gloria
Monday, October 17/11
    Today there is a man painting the outside of Victor and Ildas Casa. He also had a capenter cut down a large old kitchen table to about half it's size. We are now the proud owners of that table which is in our small kitchen. Ilda provided a table cloth for the table and extra chairs. Our son Jon and his wife Dana called us through Skype which was good because we could not get it working properly from our end. They have supported us in our decision to spend time in the DR, they thought it would be actually good for us.
Tuesday, October, 18/11
   Today we went to the Jumbo for groceries. It is the DR's answer to Walmart. We spent 4,800 pesos for our groceries, which is about $120 Cdn. On the return trip when were about a block or so from Victors Casa, two men on a motorcycle stopped beside us and said that the road was blocked. The people who regularly protest against the government had built a bonfire in the middle of our street by burning tires, we could not get through. Victor backtracked and tried other streets and alleys only to find every road blocked with debris of fires. Unable to drive home the truck was left at a police station, leaving the 5 of us to carry bags of groceries through narrow dark allies that still held dozens of protestors.
  I had no idea where we were let alone where we were going when suddenley a tall black lady appeared and led us safely through the alleys. The lady disappeared as quickly as she had appeared. We found that we were less than a block from Victors Casa.The bonfires were still burning and the smell of smoke still filled the air. We could still hear the voices of the protestors late into the night.
Dawn how do we keep this on top when we add more Rick.