Saturday, February 7, 2015

Rest in Peace, Panda and Pandora

This last month was very sad as my two beautiful puppies, Panda and Pandora were killed.

They always went walking in the woods every morning, well scampering and running through them. We tried to keep them in by fencing off the front garden, but they would dig holes under the fence, and when we blocked it all off using concrete blocks, Pandora would jump the 6 foot fence and work on one side while Panda worked on the other and between them they would escape.

There was no problem with them running free as they always came back - but the issue was they chased and killed chickens. That is a no no in the campo.

This particular day they left before dawn and never returned. Danilo investigated and found out they had killed a prize cockerel belonging to a General. The General ordered them poisoned, and the worker put down meat laced with la nata, which is a very powerful poison made from caterpillars which the Taino Indians used to put on the tips of their spears and arrows. They ate the meat and died almost instantly.

Danilo spoke to the poisoner, and he apologised, but he had to do what the General said. He buried the dogs where they had died, next to each other, in their favorite woods.

The house has been strangely and horribly quiet since they died, and the other dogs, as well as me, miss them terribly, The only solace is that although their lives were so short, just over a year, they had a fabulous life and were always so full of joy.

Moving on to happier subjects.

It has been a busy month on the book marketing front. I did my first twitter Question and Answer session, which meant a brushing up on my tweeting skills for what was a fast and furious hour of answering questions about "What about your Saucepans?" The book now has nearly 100 five star reviews on Amazon, which is very gratifying. Early next month I am off to speak to the International Women's Club in Santo Domingo which I am looking forward to.

DRSisterhood completed its first divorce last month, and since then we have been flooded with divorce enquiries, completed a second one and now we have another three on the go and more lining up afterwards.

I had a phone call from the Ministry of Interior and Police a couple of days ago. Remember my interview is on April 2nd for my citizenship application? Well that is Easter Thursday which I thought was a tad odd and most annoying as getting home would have been a nightmare as the buses are always full of people leaving the capital. The man who telephoned told me that there had been a mistake as the Ministry was closed on that Thursday, so they have to change the date. Guess what? It is now on the same day as my speech to the IWC. Speech is in the morning and interview in the afternoon. Perfect timing. I now have to learn the answers to 50 questions about the country, its geography, history and politics. Luckily you get the questions in advance, but they are a tad obscure, such as who sewed the first Dominican Flag!

We continue to be busy with visitors, and the last month has seen Anne from Canada here for five days, Catherine from the UK and Canada here overnight together with a delivery of walnut whips, and Gillian from the UK together with her Dominican fiance and a delivery of suet, Bisto, Oxo cubes, custard powder and more chocolate. I have been very spoiled.

And finally, remember Belinda had a visit from a non bonking Great Dane. Well that was seven weeks ago, so if she is pregnant then she will give birth in two weeks. Everyone seems to think she is as she is getting fatter, but I am not convinced one way or the other. Searching on line says such useful things as take her to the vet for a scan, but seeing as there are no vets here that is not going to happen. I suppose I will know for certain if she delivers puppies in a fortnight, so watch this space for news.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Christmas, Texans and the Citizenship Journey continues

Christmas arrived and the first people to start cooking were the neighbours as they celebrate on Christmas Eve and Barbara was cooking a massive feast for all her friends and relations. I have never seen such big pans. In this one was goat, and look, it has four handles to lift it with as it is so heavy.

All of the women were outside cooking, and the men sitting drinking rum.

I actually took a video of the cooking. Spot the wooden paddle for stirring and Barbara is saying to the woman stirring, that if she is lucky I might find her a foreign husband, so if anyone is interested then just let me know!

Christmas in the wasp house was great. I cooked a massive turkey with all the trimmings minus the stuffing and the sprouts.  For the first time in years all of Danilo's sons were together with us for Christmas. Dany, Alberto and Christian, who was over from Spain.

As well as the three boys, we had Chivirico, Albert who is Danilo's nephew, Ana who is Alberto's wife and the grandbaby. Saya, number one dwendy also came and some random chap who was going to a local cock fight - no idea who he was.

Lunch was fab, although I asked Danilo to take the giblets out of the turkey, as last year I thought I had but we discovered the plastic bag still in the turkey after it was cooked. This year he did it, and don't ask me how, but yes, the plastic bag was still in the turkey again.

 Chivirico had a great time, searching for his sack from Santa. I told him I heard a noise at 3 a.m. and Santa yelled "It's in the barbecue," and sure enough there it was.

It had mainly baseball stuff in which he was thrilled with, but he pointed out that many things on his list weren't there and there was only one glove and he needed 5 for the rest of the boys he plays baseball with in the barrio. He then decided that there must be another sack somewhere in the garden so off he went to look. Not finding anything he then thought maybe Santa had dropped it in the neighbours' gardens so went off to search there. Meanwhile, three amazing women from Texas had already planned to come and see me with loads of baseball stuff for him in January, so they messaged him to say that a sack had fallen off Santa's sleigh as it flew over Texas en route to the DR and had landed in their back garden. It had a label saying his name and where he lived so they would bring it here. And they did, earlier this week.

Jessica, Amanda and Rachel were simply amazing. I have never seen so much stuff in my life. It also helps that they know so much about baseball. The stuff was delivered to Chivirico's home, together with a full set of equipment for Albert and mountains of clothes for the grand baby.  I cannot tell you how excited the boys were.

And this was the first time I have ever seen Albert smile.

The girls took them out in the street and practised with them for hours. Both boys have now joined a local kids baseball team and apparently they both have promise. Watch this space in 10 years time when they both get signed for MLB.

The boys were sad to see them go, as was I.

And finally, the continuation of my quest to become Dominican. Mother got copy of first marriage certificate, sent it to be apostilled and it was sent by DHL by the Foreign and Commonwealth office with 2 day delivery - supposedly. The certificate went from London Heathrow to East Midlands airport in the UK. Then to Barbados. Then Venezuela, then Panama, back to Venezuela then Santo Domingo and then took 3 days from Santo Domingo to Santiago (by donkey I assume). Scanned the document to Olga for translation and a week later off again to get it legalized at the Procuraduria and hand my documents in again. It was not to be. There were 1,000 people at the Procuraduria so Olga chatted to her mate there who said we could queue jump, and off to the bank to pay for the stamp. The system was down. Ban Reservas said it was the Procuraduria system down and the Procuraduria said it was the bank system down. Whatever. Outside the bank were hundreds waiting to pay and no one knew how long whoever's system it was would be down for, and whether it would be hours or days. It was obvious there was no way anything would be stamped that day. Off to the Ministry of Interior and Police to check whether Olga could hand in the papers for me - which she could - why didn't I think of that earlier?  Olga went 2 days later, papers handed in and all accepted. The interview is supposed to be 2 weeks after you hand your papers in - my date is early April. Dominican two weeks. But at least I am getting there albeit slowly.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The week from hell

Well last week was horrid. I think my biorythyms must have been up the spout. It started off with Danilo having to go and play politics on Tuesday, leaving me alone, which is normally fine. My jeep wasn't working as the battery was dead, it has no handbrake and no windscreen wipers. I have managed without the last two for around 6 months - no hill starts and don't go out in the rain, but the lack of battery is difficult to overcome. Hence I was pretty much stranded here as there are no taxis and no motoconchos.

In addition, Meg and Belinda are both in heat so we have to keep them apart from the two unneutered males which takes careful planning. I would love to get them all neutered and spayed but there are no vets here and the nearest are hours away by car, which means if there are any post operative problems they could not sort them. One vet we used before has since died and he was appalling. If you took your dog for any sort of operation he would say it had died and sell it. He was also a taxidermist so taking any animal to him was a major risk. Your beloved pet would be sold or stuffed.

Anyway, Danilo returned on Wednesday evening, but not alone. He brought with him a male Great Dane as he thought it would be a good idea to mate him with Belinda. Now this was a beautiful dog and I love Danes and lots of people have asked us for a Dane puppy, so I thought it was a good plan. Until he announced that he had to leave immediately as he had to go back to do more politics involving a lunch with the ex President. I would be left alone with 6 dogs, 2 in heat, one I didn't know and mating to supervise.I was unimpressed.

Belinda and her mate
At first it seemed like all would be smooth. The Danes got on very well, sat snuggling together on the sofa and he was very calm with me. The cats were totally unimpressed, although Danilo assured me the Dane was fine with cats, but they made a runner into the kitchen and took up residence on top of the kitchen cupboards.

It was decided that the Danes would be in the living room at night and the other two females, Meg and Pandora would be upstairs. Meg is in heat as well and the last thing I want is a Great Dane mating with her. So Meg and Pandora came upstairs for the night.

Meg is very well behaved so that was no problem. Pandora is not.

During the night she single handedly demolished the Christmas tree, ate baubles, bit the head off the fairy, ate one of my favourite flip flops and chewed holes in Chivirico's wellington boots. To say I was not amused is an understatement. Oh and shredded 4 full rolls of toilet paper.

In the morning the fun began. Lobo the husky and Panda his son had to be tied out so they would not fight with male Dane nor impregnate Meg. I managed to do that with no real problem.


Then to put the Danes in the dog house for the day and bring Meg and Pandora downstairs, before starting to mop the whole house. Unfortunately Lobo was very unimpressed watching doggy porn in the dog house, or attempted doggy porn as Mr Dane was unable to finish what he kept starting so as to speak. The mind was willing but the flesh was weak and did not seem to be able to achieve a tie as they say in dog language. In other words he couldn't stick it in. Lobo was growling and snarling at him from a distance and Mr Dane decided he had had enough and vaulted out of the dog house and went for him. I went running out and managed somehow to pull the Dane off and had to lift him back into the dog house which was no easy task as he weighs probably almost twice as much as me.Meanwhile the neighbour, Mr Fighting Cock man, was watching me over the fence. I asked him to help and he said he was scared to. So little me managed to get the Dane back into the dog house and disaster was averted. I then had to use a variety of furniture and stack it on top of the wall to stop him jumping out again.

Panda in the meantime just sat quietly crying and moaning all day as Belinda is his girlfriend and he was well miffed. I don't know if you can imagine the noise of barking, attempted bonking, growling and the stress of trying to keep an eye on all of them.

Danilo returned late at night and then left early the next morning for university, leaving me alone with the chaos for yet another day. Matilda my 13 year old cat who rarely goes outside had disappeared and there was no sign even though I called her. Pandora managed to destroy more things - at least this time they were Danilo's - a pair of socks and one shoe and the house was looking as if a bomb had hit it. Once again Lobo started being very aggressive and the Dane was looking ready to jump out of the dog house so I tried to pull Lobo away by his tie out. All I managed to do was get the tie out wrapped around my thumb as Lobo yanked on the other end -I am pretty sure it is broken as it was black and swollen and very painful. I managed to get one of Danilo's weights into the garden and wrapped the tie out around it so that Lobo couldn't get close to the dog house and went to the colmado for a well deserved bottle of rum. Neighbour Barbara said my thumb would soon be better as she smeared Bikbaporoo onto it. Vicks Vapour Rub if you didn't know is the cure for everything, including broken thumbs.

On top of all this chaos, Danilo had casually mentioned as he left that morning, that a tree had got in the way as he was reversing (I am sure you remember he cannot drive backwards at all) and he had destroyed the back of the car, including smashing the back window and lights, and the hard drive on my computer was dying at a rate of knots which meant the computer kept freezing up or wouldn't start at all.

The reason for the whole chaos, the Dane, was still a happy boy although exhausted by his numerous attempts at impregnating Belinda.

And they sat there in the evenings like a happily married couple.

Danilo returned at night and brought a friend with him and together they cleaned the house from top to bottom and in the morning the Dane returned to his owner and peace returned to the Wasp House. The missing cats returned and all was well. Mr Dane's owner says Belinda might still be pregnant - we wait and see.

Have a great Christmas and thanks for reading the blog. I will return in a week with a report on Christmas lunch. Danilo has invited hoards and we have a 22 lb turkey in the freezer which I will put in the shower to defrost on Tuesday. Chivirico will be here on Christmas day as well to see if Santa arrived this year. He said he doesn't want his presents under the tree from Santa, he asked Santa to hide them as he likes hunting for them as he did the first year and found them in the dog crate.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Being invaded by triffids

As the weather is getting much colder and we had a lot of rain I decided it was time to plant yet again. We cleared a space from the myriad of weeds and got it ready for planting. I divided the seed packets - tomatos, beans, peas, carrots,peppers, chilli peppers, beetroot and parsnips - into two lots, half for Danilo and half for me. He says I don't know how to plant. I read my packets, and took careful note of spacing, depth etc and he just bunged his in the ground.

Here we are two weeks later.

His is the top half, where everything is sprouting, and mine is this end where absolutely nothing is going on at all. I could espit.

You may notice on the right side of this picture, there are some large leaves. We are being invaded by triffids, otherwise known as pumpkin or auyama in Spanish. They are taking over the whole garden, and I jest not. There are all sorts of rules apparently. You cannot touch them or point at them with your finger or the pumpkins die - you can use your elbow though. To find out if the pumpkin is good, you knock it with your fist and listen to the sound it makes. I can do that bit but have no idea what is a good sound and what is a bad one, but I make sure I impress the veg man when buying one by knocking it and nodding knowledgeably and saying, "This one is a good one," and he nods and agrees.

They grow like topsy, with lovely orange flowers and the best thing of all is that where there is a flower, later arrives a pumpkin. This one is the first to arrive and is about a foot long. I have no idea when you can tell when they are ready. No doubt Danilo will knock it to find out.

We will have hundreds methinks and luckily I like them mashed or roasted but if anyone has good pumpkin recipes please let me know. In the meantime I will practise my knocking skills as I will have plenty to practise on.

The rest of the garden is also going crazy and the poinsettia have also taken on a life of their own, with some over 10 foot tall now.

And every day more and more are turning red

We still have an abundance of avocados - I think though they will be gone in another month. They seem to have lasted much longer than normal this year.

And this week my best Dominican mate left for Nuevo Yol as they call New York. She and her 18 year old son have gone as it will be better for his education, although she promises me she will be back in April. She comes to stay every couple of weeks for a day or two and, in true Dominican style cleans my house from top to bottom and washes all of my clothes. She also cuts my hair and has been a great friend for the last 4 years. Magdalena I will miss you - and not just for the cleaning and washing!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beginning of Citizenship Journey

So off I went to the capital on Thursday - to meet with a book club and then to hand in the papers for my citizenship. As I predicted, things did not go smoothly. What a surprise.

Danilo and I went to town for me to get the bus, leaving enough time to have my photos taken for the citizenship paperwork. We had plenty of time to spare so we went to the phone company Claro to get a free new phone. You can have a new one every 18 months, free of charge. It was a painless process, if a tad long, and in the end I was the proud owner of a new Nokia. Only one problem, it had very little charge and the SIM in my old phone was cancelled. My old phone had plenty of charge and no SIM and the new one little charge but a SIM. Simple, I thought, just swap the SIMs over. No can do, as they were different sizes. Also all my contacts were on the old card, which didn't work.

I got on the bus and thought I would use my laptop and USB internet stick to get in touch with the book club lady, Laura, who was meeting me off the bus. Stick wouldn't work. Computer didn't recognise it and said the device was faulty. Only option left was to turn off the new phone and hope there was enough charge to call her when I arrived in Santo Domingo.

When I arrived I had to go to Listin Diario, the national newspaper office to prepay for the newspaper advert which will be issued once I become a citizen. I got lost on the way, and with the words of my husband ringing in my ear to be very careful as there were lots of attacks in the capital in December, I was lucky enough to find a nice lady who walked with me to Listin Diario. It was then a simple process to sort the advert and Laura came there and picked me up. So far so good.

We went to a beautiful apartment for the meeting, and around 20 ladies came, all of whom had read the book. I had not realised there were so many bright expat ladies working in the capital. Some worked for NGOs, some for private companies and they had been here for varying amounts of time - from a few months, to decades. A type of expat I had not met before and I really enjoyed talking to all of them.

Food was served, and one of the things I was really looking forward to was different food from that I normally have to eat here. Laura explained to me that they always have food at their meetings and the type of food is based on the location of the book. My little brain whirred around. My book was based in the DR. Yes the food was Dominican! Having said that it was not rice and beans and was really delicious.

One of the ladies I met was Kate Wallace of Tody tours. She is the famous bird watching expert and runs great tours for ornithologists throughout the country. I had written to her two years ago when I was putting together a guide book for the DR. If anyone wants to check out the birds here, she is definitely the person to go with.

Once the meeting was over I went with Laura to spend the night at her place. I cannot tell you how nice it was to speak English and I really did have a great time.

Next morning, bright and early, I was off to meet with the lady who translated my birth certificate for me, Olga, who I met when she contacted me having read the blog. She does a fabulous job and having gone to her apartment, we set off for the Procuraduria to get the translation stamped. She went into the Procuraduria, which was full of people, grabbed a ticket for our turn and then we went round the corner to the bank to pay the RD$330, then back to the office. She found a man she knew working there and within no time at all we had the stamp and then it was off to the Ministry of Interior and Police who are located in a building called the Huacalito - once the biggest building in the country. A Huacal is a plastic crate where bottles are kept. The word for bottle is botella. Botella is also the word for those on the government payroll who don't actually work, and they say there are more people with botellas supposedly working in the Huacalito, or not as the case may be.

 I don't know how to describe Olga. Her English is perfect and she made me howl with laughter. She speaks to everyone, seems to have control of every situation, and just makes things happen. If you need any translations doing, or just someone to help you round the capital with anything legal but not at lawyers' prices, she is your woman. You can contact her here.

So, there we are at the Ministry. I have flip flops on, and Olga says I should have closed shoes. So to disguise our entrance we helped some caterers carry up their food and breezed passed the security people. Me with a tray of pineapple and Olga helping to pull a cold box. Up to the thirteenth floor and into the office. I handed over all my papers: Letter asking for citizenship; copy of our marriage certificate and Danilo's birth certificate; colour copy of my passport and Danilo's cedula; application form; receipt from the newspaper and four photos and my birth certificate, duly apostilled by the UK Foreign Office and translated by Olga then legally stamped. The apostille has to be done on any documents which come from overseas, as long as that country is part of the Hague convention, and has to be done in the country where the document was issued. My mum had to get a copy of my birth certificate and get it apostilled, then send it to me. She did it twice as I didn't realise it had to be handed in within six months of the date on the apostille.

The man was not impressed. My name on my birth certificate was not the same as the name on my marriage certificate to Danilo. I explained I had been married previously and when I married Danilo the Central Electoral Court had seen all the documents and were happy with them. So had the Migration department for my residency. Nope. I had to hand over my original marraige certificate from my first marriage plus my divorce certificate. I had them with me so gave them to him, but they were not apostilled. He would not be persuaded and so we left empty handed, and I had to ask mum to get me a copy of my first marriage certificate duly apostilled and when that arrives I have to return, and do it all over again. Deep joy not.

Off then to get a new Claro stick, which was fast, painless and free and fabulous customer service. I was surprised as by then I expected more problems.

And Olga was amazing as usual and ran around Claro giving everyone her business card. What a sales woman lol.

Finally we went for lunch and I could eat my longed for hamburger at Wendy's and met up with another lady who wants me to speak at the International Women's Club meeting early next year. That I can hopefully combine with the second attempt at becoming a Dominican. Olga had a discussion with Wendy's management on how to improve customer service and stop queue jumping and how to treat elderly customers, handing out her business cards of course.

Then back to Caribe tour for the long journey home. My phone worked, my stick worked and although I didn't manage to hand my citizenship papers in, I made some new friends and have a new stick and a new phone. Life is good.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The mystery solved

Danilo's birthday was on Sunday and as he was at university in town on Saturday he decided to bring the family back with him then - a tad early for Sunday lunch but hey ho.

Chivirico was in charge of looking after the baby but as usual he wanted to use the computer. Luckily she seemed to enjoy watching you tube music videos as well.

In common with most Dominican children I know, she is very well behaved. No screaming or crying, just sleeps, eats and laughs.

Another interesting thing is how, when Ana, her mother and married to my stepson, Alberto, arrived, she brought nothing for the baby. No stroller, no big bag of wipes, nada. Just a bottle and some pampers. The child just gets carried everywhere and manages with what there is in our house.

We had a great lunch on Sunday - Turkish Lamb Stew which I adapt using goat instead of lamb. It is just goat, onions, couple of tins of tomatoes or fresh ones if you have no tins, aubergine (eggplant for Americans),  potatoes, chickpeas, red wine and herbs and cook it slowly for 3 hours. Delicious served with the all important rice, salad and of course avocados.

They left after lunch, but not until they had raided the garden and left with two bags of avocados, one of passion fruit, called chinola here, and one of oranges.

A few weeks ago Danilo at last did what I have been asking for ages, which was to build a gate into the kitchen so the dogs could not get in. The reason is that they terrorise the cats and eat their food, hassle me when I am trying to cook, and get into the rubbish bin, strewing stuff all over the floor. Even when it is obvious who the culprit is, Meg still looks at me and swears it was not her in the bin.

Anyway, the gate is up and no more problems. Apart from the fact that there were. The cats food still disappeared and the rubbish was still over the floor. Some careful spying then revealed what was happening. This time Pandora the puppy - well a year old now.

And this is on the way out.

Next week I am off to Santo Domingo to speak to a book club and, all being well, to hand in my paperwork to become a Dominican citizen. That should be a fun process so watch this space to see if it goes smoothly - which of course it won't. Talking of the book, it now has 86 five star reviews on Amazon and 7 four star reviews. It would be fabulous to get it up to 100 four and five star by Christmas, so if you have read it and not done a review yet then please please do. Thanks.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Here comes winter

At last winter is on its way. Firstly it has stopped raining and the next time it rains should be after Easter. Bad for the garden but it means much less mopping, and for that I am grateful.
The temperature and humidity have both dropped significantly, especially in the early mornings, so it is hooded housecoat, socks and slipper weather when I get out of bed at sunrise. By mid morning it warms up though and stays warm until nightfall. Another reason you know that winter is coming is that the poinsettia are all turning red.

The whole of the outside of the house is surrounded by them and I still find it hard to believe that these are the same flowers I had in a little pot on the dining room table at Christmas. Some of them here are 15 foot tall. I think we need to prune them maybe to make them bushier though.

Everywhere you look at the moment, everything is so green and growing like crazy. It really is beautiful.

Miguel has returned from his heart operation and is fit and well - although not doing a lot at the moment. They cannot use their new bathroom as the plumbers didn't stick the pipes on too well so everything leaks so they are looking for a new plumber to sort it out. Meanwhile, Baybara has a sink now to wash the dishes instead of a simple bowl. No plumbing problems here as they didn't put any pipes in at all so the water just falls out of the sink straight onto the floor!

And the avocados keep right on going. I never thought I would say this but I think I may be pleased this year when they are over. We have a box of hundreds to get through, and there are still loads more on the trees. I think this year must have been a bumper crop, I just wish there was a way to freeze them.

For the useful advice about putting lime in with papaya, thank you so much. Totally takes away the yucky taste so now my daily papaya milkshake is significantly more palatable. Yesterday was my birthday and though I hoped Danilo would forget, to save money being wasted on yet another Dominican hooker style pair of tight trousers and t-shirt. He remembered and instead bought a bottle of wine (first for a year!) and cooked sancocho for lunch - shared by all the neighbours - and a papaya and lime milkshake for dinner. Both with avocado on the side of course. His birthday is on Monday so we are expecting hordes to arrive on Sunday. Time for the famous Lindsay "Goat stew from Istambul" as Danilo calls it.