Sunday, November 29, 2009


On the 22nd of November, Penelope and her un-named chick friend (the queens of the barnyards) died. These queens of the barnyard grew up together.

Penelope and her hen friend desired to create a barnyard that was safer for their chicks. Therefore, Penelope had begun to petition the humans for better living conditions. She was active in this cause by continually picketing the kitchens of the human.

These girls were part of the Cockle Doodle fan club and they could often be found swooning after one of these famous roosters’s sang. Right before their untimely deaths, Penelope had just become a backup singer for this famous crowing group. The un-named chick was happy just with the idea of a free ticket.

Although their family mourns their deaths, they are determined to continue enjoying the feed given to them by the humans. The roosters have lost two more of their wives. Yet, the roosters continue in their polygamy ways. The sister hens have determined in Penelope’s cause by continuing to petition the humans for better living conditions.

Penelope and her friend gave up their bodies for science and sustenance.

For more information on this untimely death:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The aged man sat on a park bench. All around him, there were families frolicking in the warm summer sunshine. Children were racing up the jungle gym and then screaming down the sliding boards. Mothers hollered at their children to behave. Fathers argued over different sports teams. Teenagers lounged in the shade of the large oak that was the center point of the entire park. Everywhere, there was movement and color; yet on the wooden bench, sat the grayed man with his shoulders bowed and in complete stillness.

All seemed to avoid this singular man on his singular bench. He seemed to stare at nothing, but then again, everything. The man’s hair was white and sparse. The wrinkles adorning his skin whispered of the story of his life and his loved but old fashion clothing spoke volumes to those around him. None of this spoke as loudly as his total loneliness did. He sat alone at the park. No one went to the park alone especially during the afternoon hours. After all, old people ruled the morning. As soon as school let out, old people were tucked safely away in their houses. This man was strange. It was afternoon, and he was defying the norms.

The old man stared at nothing, but then again, everything. His tired eyes took in the children joyously sprinting around, through, and on the jungle gym. He saw the mothers, the fathers, and the teenagers. He saw a world that he had been a part of it. He saw every stage of life that he, too, had walked through. He saw them for what they really were. In the mothers’ hollers for their children’s safety, he could see their tiredness. In the fathers, he saw himself years ago when he had been content with a life of a nine to five job. The old man knew he had defied the norms of the culture. The mothers and fathers probably assumed that he had wandered away from some nursing home. Meanwhile, the teenagers as the children were completely oblivious to his presence. He was okay with this. Long ago, he had learned to except that as an old person he was forgotten.

The man had lived his life with the word “forgotten” stamped boldly across it. Of course, with time, that word had become faded and forgotten. Yet, although faint, it was in control of his life. As a young man, he had married and had children. His wife left him. He never heard from her again. He never forgot her, but she had forgotten him. His children had married off and moved across the world. His grandchildren barely knew of his existence. He was forgotten.

Although lonely, being forgotten did not particularly bother him. Long ago, he had become accustom to the silence that seemed to encompass him. Silence was his friend. They had an understanding. After all, silence was his most loyal friend and not likely to leave any time soon. With the companionship of silence, the old man had learned much about himself. In some aspects, it would have been good if he had learned to value his friend, silence, earlier in life. If he had, perhaps silence would not be his constant companion now. Yet, this was the case. Therefore, the aged man sat on the park bench encompassed in silence and forgotten.

Not far off from the aged man, a little girl about three years of age completely clothed in pink with her hair in pigtails was contentedly drawing with a piece of chalk. Her older siblings ran about her and one of them scuffed her picture. Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled over her childish cheeks. The sibling scurried away hoping to escape his mother’s tirade. The little girl cried into her tummy for a bit because her mother was busy talking with a friend oblivious to what had just occurred. Slowly, she lifted her eyes to see if anyone saw her anguish. Only the old man saw her tears glistening like crystal on her cheeks in the sunshine. Compassion for the child filled his gray heart. As the child looked for someone who cared about her pain, she found the eyes of the aged man on the park bench. Looking at the old man with imploring eyes, the girl lifted her small soft hand with the piece of chalk offering it to him. It was a childish invitation.

Slowly, the old man pulled his body off the park bench. With slow, cautious steps, the old man tested his legs. He seemed to have been born into the world again. When he reached the child’s picture, he took the offered chalk and brought a smile back to the child’s lips as he tried to fix the scuff across her childish drawings. The mothers were temporarily struck silent as they at first watched distrusting this stranger who had approached the little girl. Then, they returned back to their conversation. The old man sat next to the little girl on the pavement and drew pictures for her. He did not notice the hard cement or think about the fact that he might have to try to stand in a couple of moments. He was intent upon bringing laughter to the little girl. In the same moment, the child’s laughter brought ridiculous joy tumbling through his entire body.

The world might as well freeze on this very moment for it seemed as though colors of rainbow streamed and exploded from the old man and little child as they played. Silence had to become friends with someone else and forgotten had to totally erase itself from the old man’s life because the aged man returned to the park every day in the afternoon. The aged man never sat on the park bench again unless it was to comfort one of the children who had taken a tumble. Children taking a tumble were a daily occurrence so he did sit on the bench, but never again alone.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Painting the Town Red

La Donna and I were adamant. We wanted to get to town. For the past couple of weeks, we had been cooped up in the suburbs of Jarabocoa. Sitting on the porch in front of my Dominican home surrounded by chickens calls and Dominican Spanish, we analyzed our problem of getting a ride into town. Finally, La Donna went over to talk to my mom. In a few moments, my mom was on the phone telling a taxi to come pick us up. Finally, we were going.

When the taxi van (also called a ‘gua gua’) pulled up, La Donna and I jumped it. The ride was to be only $130 pesos. That was a pretty good price because when converted to dollars it was less than four dollars for the ride. I have to wonder what the taxi driver was thinking as he drove along with his two English speaking white females. We were chatting back and forth. I always find it so weird that people cannot understand English. Of course, there are always those times when I’m listening to a Spanish conversation and feel really out of the loop. It’s just a strange concept.

In the midst of a bustling street of motorcycles, people, and vehicles, La Donna and I leapt from the gua gua into the street. We scurried to the sidewalk where we promptly ducked into a tiny boutique. It’s amazing to me at how many stores sell clothing from the United States. Wouldn’t you know that La Donna would be more attracted to those stores than any other store? Through our many miles of walking around in circles of the city, we continued to visit clothing stores that had clothes imported from the states. Of course, we did stop at a jewelry store that I liked a lot with good prices, too. During our shopping, we both settled on buying some Havaianas flip flops for our roommates that we had so kindly ditched before our trip into the city.

In America, the concept of roommates is one hundred percent different. In the States, I never bothered to worry about going off somewhere without my roommate. We sometimes hung out, but more or less, we saw each other in the room that we shared. Well, in another country, your roommate becomes your twin that is attached to you on your hip. We are almost never a part. When we are, we cannot help but feel as though we are missing some essential part of us. The people here are not even used to seeing us a part. It is a blessing that I love my roommate, Adrienne.

For dinner, La Donna and I ended up at Pica Pollo. This is definitely a part of the culture. It is the equivalent of a Dominican McDonald’s. This is the fast food place that one goes to. There are no choices except in what type of drink you would prefer and how much food you desire. The food is fried chicken and tostones. It is good. The best part is that we ran into two different sets of groups of Americans. The first group was a mother and daughter. They have been living in the Dominican Republic for about fourteen years. The second group was a group all from a boarding school called New Horizons. Of course, we talked to both groups because when you meet other English speakers, you are connected by language and skin color. It is fun to pick out the other Americans.

After our exciting dinner, La Donna and I headed over to Splash (an ice cream place). I needed my ice cream fix. We never get enough sweets for my taste here. Anyways, after paying only about a dollar fifty for two scoops of ice cream and a cone, we wandered over to an art gallery. The entire time, I thought the Dominican police were going to show up and haul me off to ice cream jail for eating ice cream in an art gallery. It was a pretty sweet place, but the icing on top of the confection was the fact that sitting in a prime spot of the art gallery was a naked woman. Okay, well, she did have nice piece of clothe over her hips and she was just reclining in some water. Yeah, it was interesting picture. The gist of it was that La Donna and I sat down and started creating stories about why she was chilling in some stream naked. It was an odd picture.

We returned in a taxi where La Donna told him that we would only pay him one hundred and thirty pesos. It was a lovely afternoon and evening. It was topped off by walking La Donna back to her house in the rain. What could be better than some delicious rain?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Dominican Teaching Experience

Everyday that I am in the classroom, I find that I enjoy it more and more. The first week was rough. I felt in the way all the time and very inadequate. I did not know the rhythm of the school and felt so very lost especially in the midst of all the Spanish. Then near the end of the first week, I found out that I would be teaching a classroom of four and five year olds in Spanish. Basically, I quaked in fear to the very center of my being. I had never taught a class in English before. Exactly how could I be expected to teach a class and in Spanish, too?

I got the lesson plans in Spanish (of course). After reading through the lesson plans, I realized that I understood about half of the lesson plan and summarized the rest in my head. When the teacher called upon me to teach the class, I taught the class about the color red and the rules of the playground. Of course, my Spanish vocabulary was vastly lacking and so in which case I found that the students were teaching the class. That was a new thought to me – that the students could teach the class. Instead of me telling them the rules of the playground, they told me the rules of the playground. To be honest, I am not sure how many were actually the rules of the playground because the children were talking at me so fast in their childish Spanish. Yet, it was good to know that the teaching environment was very laid back. My first teaching in Spanish was not a complete fail at all. I definitely have room to improve.

After the teacher, Angelie, watched me teach the first day, she has not been in the classroom for my teach time since. Of course, that does take some of the pressure off of me. Yet, it feels strange that she would trust me to teach her class. Of course, I am never completely alone because Angelie’s Dominican helper, Caralina, is there. Another time, I taught the class about hot and cold. On the chalkboard, I drew a coffee pot, ice, fire, and ice cream. Together we went through and figured out what was hot and what was cold. Suddenly, one boy in the classroom must have gotten bored or tired of listening to me struggle through my Spanish. He jumped up, ran to me, and enveloped me in a hug. A moment later, the entire class followed and I found myself to be hug tackled. Laughingly, I tried to call out, “Sientense! Sientense!” (Sit all of you!) It was a bit difficult to restore order to the entire class but with the help of Caralina the children eventually sat down. Of course, I don’t think that I will forget that moment of hugs for a long time.

As I said, every day I enjoy working at the school more and more. It is incredibly awesome to be walking down the dirt road of El Callejon and hearing little child voices call, “Bi-bera! Bi-bera!” (That is how they pronounce my name) Generally, I turn and I can respond likewise calling, “Hola, Victor Manuel” or “Hola, Suilainy.” There is something wonderful about connecting like this within another culture where children in the roads call out your name excitedly because you teach in their classroom. It has taken a while to adjust to a different culture and feel like I have a place where I belong. I can say that I have found my place.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's in a Name?

What's in a name? Truly, what is in a name? Shakespeare’s well known pair of ‘star-crossed lovers,’ Juliet proclaims to Romeo, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This statement makes sense. Yet, this flower would then not be a rose because the identity of the rose has been stripped away with the taking of its name. Now, it is only a sweet smelling flower. There are many sweet smelling flowers in the world and none have the same consequence of the flower entitled rose. The rose is unique in the fact that it is the favorite flower used by lovers. To receive a dozen roses is a big deal. Yet, if one were only to receive a dozen flowers that would not be quite as exciting. Roses mean money and a serious love interest. Therefore, Juliet might want to relook into her hastily made statement that a name’s significance amounts to nothing.

In the continent of South America, there was a very poor community of Latins that were known for an extremely low self esteem. By their culture, they were considered trash. They believed this as well. One man, Paulo Freire, decided to study this community. He discovered that although the community had their own language, they had no names for any object that was brought to them by another culture. For example, a necklace brought to them by the Portuguese was forever the word ‘necklace’ in Portuguese. When asked what the object was in their own language, they would answer with the name of the object in Portuguese. To name something is to proclaim a type of ownership over the object. The community could not see themselves worthy to create names for objects of other cultures. Once there is a name for the object, there is suddenly a subtle ownership.

As a baby sitter and a student teacher, I have had the opportunity to observe and monitor children often. In each of these different situations, I have been called upon by nature itself to keep children in line and out of trouble. Without err, it has come to my notice that the best way to stop a child’s bad behavior is to get that child’s attention with the calling of his or her name. Children have the ability to tune out all other voices except those that he or she desires to hear. Yet, when the child’s name is called, his or her reaction is immediate. Adults everywhere have surely noticed that if you just command, “Sit still and keep your hands to yourself,” absolutely nothing occurs. The child continues to poke his or her neighbor and squirm in his or her seat. Yet, if that same adult calls out the same statement with the addition of the child’s name, the child is one hundred percent more likely to listen to the adult. To know a person’s name is to have some sort of relationship and authority in that person’s life. One’s name is intimately connected to the person that carries that name.

Since the Biblical times, names have held a particular significance. The names chosen for children were often a parent’s wish for a child’s life. A name also could be a prophecy of a person’s life. Not only were names believed to carry the fate of the bearer, names were so important that if one were to severe a person from their name it was as if one had killed them. Throughout the Bible, it has become apparent that names could sometimes be used as a quick one-word biography of a person’s life. For example, Solomon means ‘peace.’ He was the first king of Israel to have no wars within his reign. In the book of Ruth, Naomi had two sons named Mahlon and Chilion. Mahlon means “puny” and Chilion means “pining.” Both men died early in life. Clearly, a person’s name holds some weight. From these couple of examples, it is obvious that the meanings of names can influence the lives of their name bearers. Names are critically important.

Throughout the years, the importance of names has greatly diminished. Often children are named something simply because their parents greatly like the name. Yet, names have carried such significance for so long that even though people fail to acknowledge the importance in a person’s name, this does not make the name’s significance any less. Regardless of the name given by a parent, God also promises a new name and says in the book of Isaiah 62:2-4, “The Nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (translation: My delight is in her), and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.” Names can easily become mundane things that are overused daily; yet, names carry a significance that people fail to acknowledge.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Definition of One Word

I hate being defined. Of course, when I do the defining, all the rules change and I find that being defined is not so horrible. I'm a girl who does not like to be defined by what people say. Yet, today, I'm going to expound briefly on the word that I think describes me reasonably well.


I like this word. It rolls on the tongue nicely and is not overused. At least, I don't use it very often. In my mind's eye, I see myself as a very strange person indeed. All right, here's the definition of Peculiar taken from

Peculiar –adjective

1. strange; queer; odd: peculiar happenings.
2. uncommon; unusual: the peculiar hobby of stuffing and mounting bats.
3. distinctive in nature or character from others.
4. belonging characteristically (usually fol. by to): an expression peculiar to Canadians.
5. belonging exclusively to some person, group, or thing: the peculiar properties of a drug.
6. Astronomy. designating a star or galaxy with special properties that deviates from others of its spectral type or galaxy class.

I think I'm an oddball. I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Oozing Goodness

It's truly a spectacular thing that my roommate motivates me to run about 2.5 miles every day of the week. That's why today at the base...I allowed myself to eat 4. Yes, four scrum-diddle-E-umptious oatmeal chocolate creations. Hey! I need the oatmeal anyways why shouldn't I get it in the form of something sweet.

My main complaint against the Dominican culture is that there is not enough "sweetness" to go around. I thrive on sugary goodness. No dessert after lunch or dinner. Of course, you might have an afternoon snack of fruit. Overall, this is probably healthier for a person.

I find that, in fact, it is anything but healthier for me because when I find myself being offered a tray full of cookies, I'm all the more likely to stuff my face. And what more! I've actually been slowly training my stomach to have this ability to eat more because the Dominicans forever encourage you to eat more. Therefore, stuffing my face and stomach with sweets is easy. Way too easy.

I expect that I've gained a couple starch pounds here and when I return to the United States, I'll probably gain a couple of sweet pounds. On the bright side, they are sweet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Conversations With November

Welcome, November.

Yesterday, I walked to one of my friend’s house. It took me about fifteen minutes and by the time I arrived at her house. I was sweating. On the way, I could not help but marvel at how intense the heat of the sun was and how glorious the cool of the shade was. I never thought that there could be such a difference between the two.

When I got to Ali’s house, her Dominican family greeted me and bade me to sit down. I sat briefly. Then, I joined Ali in her room while she prepared for our outing of Ultimate Frisbee. At one point, she asked me what day it was. When I responded, “November 1st,” Ali exclaimed, “It’s November and I’m hot.”

Adjusting to living in a different culture was difficult. Living daily in another culture and not pining away for my own home culture was difficult as well. Yet, I have fallen in love with this place. A lot of people in my group believe that they will return to the Dominican Republic someday. Meanwhile, I only know that I have enjoyed my stay here and that I look forward to more traveling adventures. It’s been a rocky road, but challenge is good.

But back to the fact that it is November. The fact that the weather does not fit in with my script of what the weather should be like for the month of November is very confusing indeed. My head knows that it is November, but I live in denial and scream somewhere deep within me, “Mentiroso!” (liar!) You cannot tell me that it is November because it is eighty degrees Fahrenheit or hotter all the time.

November. This will be my last full month in the Dominican Republic because I will be leaving in December. What a bittersweet thought. My roommate claims that she will bawl her eyes out when it is time for us to leave. I don’t believe that I will because I know that I cry about stupid things like math homework or something extremely frustrating. Yet, when I have reason to shed tears, I cannot seem to do it.

November, I’m confused. You’re supposed to be cold and explosion of color. Well, here in the DR, you don’t do any of that. Perhaps, it is a little bit cooler, but is definitely still very green everywhere I look.

November, the people here are already decorating for Christmas. I think they are confused. Don’t they know that Christmas decorating comes after Thanksgiving? But wait a second, they don’t have Thanksgiving. The Christmas season starts whenever they want it to.

November, I think it’s going to be a good month because it’s your month.