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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Last night Ariel took three women on a date. He got tickets to a show called Bravissimo. It was traditional Dominican music and dances, with a Las Vegas flair...the costumes were so good.

I think the funniest thing that happens here is almost every time that I am introduced here, the first thing that everyone says is that Jessi and I look so alike. To us there is nothing the same...different hair, different eyes, different smile, different age...just what do people think is the same?

Friday, September 26, 2008

This is Jessi's apartment. There are two apartments up there, she and Candace live on the side with the tree in front, which is nice to have there in the afternoon to have shade from the hot sun. She lives above a little grocery store, which is pretty convenient to have when you run out of something.
This is their water tank. All the homes here have one like this. It is on the roof, they have steps up to the roof and can actually sit up there. I was up there taking a picture of the sunset one night when I decided to take the picture of the water tank too. The twilight makes it look like something from outer space. It is filled by the water department. They don't have hot water, which really is not that bad since it is air temperature and so far I have not seen the thermometer go below 80 degrees. Funny though how we have such habits. Each morning as I have gone to take my shower, I turn on the water, nothing comes from the hot side, I should know that by now...but still when I turn on the cold, I put my hand under it to test the temperature before I step in. I don't know what I expect to change.
Something that always bugs me when I travel is how all of the countries use such low watt light bulbs. It is almost impossible to put make-up on with no more light than what a candle would give off. But when I got to Jessi's place, I was so HAPPY when I turned on the light and I could really see...I thought "Wow! I can really see to do my hair and make-up here!" Then I noticed the size of her mirror...oh well, you can't have everything.
This is her washing machine. She and Candace saved and saved in order to buy it. Normally it sits in the hall way. When it is time to do the laundry, they put it in the bath tub. It is quite the process, pretty much like the old wringer washing machines my Mom used in the 50's. They put their clothes in one side, fill it up with water from a bucket and let it wash and rinse, then they put them in the other side and it wrings them out. The next picture is her dryer...a fan in front of a rack. With all the humidity in the air it took three days to fully dry them!

Here is her bed. Each night I get to sleep under a mosquito net. Alongside the bed is the 'air conditioner'. It has been cooler here this week compared to last week (not below 80 degrees though) when we were at the condo with the real air conditioning, so I have been just fine with the fan instead. It seems that the heat comes in waves, short ones that last a few minutes. You go from being hot to dripping sweat hot. I normally don't sweat. I keep asking if I am the only one experiencing it, not sure if it is the weather or a hot flash. I've not had a hot flash before so I really don't know what to expect, but that is how I imagine it will be like. So far everyone else is feeling the same thing.

The power has gone off every day. It never happens at the same time of day, so you can't plan ahead for it. It has stayed off no less than 4 hours and longer than that a couple of times. When that fan. I am surprised how much the fan helps keep you cool. They are still able to cook because they have propane. The other night we were about to use the toaster oven to toast some french bread, power went off, they lit candles, and instead of toasting in the toaster oven, she used a skillet and did it over the stove. Last night I made dinner myself. Jessi has a cold and was not feeling good at all and I was doing my 'mom' thing to make her one of her favorite dinners. First I had to go downstairs to the grocery store to find what I was able to in order to cook. I was halfway through cooking it when the power went off again. I finished up by candle light. Last time I did that, I was camping.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

OH WOW! I’ve had two full days of being the assistant nurse to Nurse Jessi and I just LOVE IT!!! It has been so much fun. I know it does not sound all that much exciting when I say that for the past two days I have helped weigh and measure about 150 kids so far, but it is WAYYYYYY more than just weighing and measuring. It is so hard to describe all I have experienced. First off, on the orders of the head (and only) nurse, I go to the classrooms and get 5 kids at a time and bring them back to the sick room. We have them all sit on a bench and remove their shoes and they have to take a pill for worms (this just got us to laughing so hard yesterday when we started thinking what they must think…like “so in the USA they sit down and take off their shoes to take a pill?”) They get the worming pill every 6 months. They don’t know that it is a worming pill, Jessi learned the hard way last time that they can’t be told that. The older girls heard what the pill would do to them and how they would ‘rid’ themselves of the worms and were afraid and refused to take the pills. So instead this time around she informed them it was an anti parasite pill. It was quite the process to get some of the little kids to get the pill down. Since it was a pretty large pill most of the little ones had to chew it up first and it was so yucky, by the time they had some water mixed with it which made it taste even worse, then they could not swallow it…anyway, they managed to get them all down. From there they came over to scales and were weighed and had to stand up against the wall for their height, put their shoes back on and then the ones who had a sponsor sat down to do their letter to their sponsor. So many of the kids would thank me for the sticker we gave them before they went back to class, and some were even saying it is English and so proud they could say it.

Putting their shoes on is a whole story in itself, the little ones needed help and it was so hard on some of them to get their feet into their shoes because they were way too small for them. Taking them off should have been no big deal, but it was to them, at least it was to the older kids. Some of the kids had the cleanest socks with little bows, some had socks with Spiderman and other super heroes, others had mis-matched socks, some had one inside out and one right side out, some had heals up, and some had huge socks on that had been folded under at the toes to make them look like they fit when they had their shoes on, some had filthy smelly socks, some had socks so holey that they may as well not had socks on and then there were the ones who had no socks on, and they were embarrassed and hid their feet under the bench. I didn’t know socks could make such a difference.

Hopefully when Jessi goes to get them all charted out, it won’t be too confusing to her. I’m not so sure I got it right on some of those girls with their fancy hair. They have so many hair things in and all that they could not get their heads against the wall or it was so high that I had to press the ruler down hard. And of course there were the normal joker boys who would raise up on their toes a bit as I measured and be about 3 inches taller than they really were. Along with that I tried to say all the numbers in Spanish as Jessi wrote them down so the kids could hear how much they weighed. Hopefully Jessi was able to decipher what I was saying. One group of kids I brought in, maybe 7th or 8th grade, the first girl to get measured, I asked her to stand against the wall, and instead of just putting her back and heels against the wall to be measured, instead she took the police pat down position…two hands pressed against the wall with her back to me! It was so hard not to laugh out loud!

The sponsorship letters have also been fun to do. That is what Candace is in charge of at the school. The kids are asked their favorite color, who their best friend is, their favorite thing about school, what they are learning this year a favorite Bible verse and what they like about Christmas. The color one is easy, their best friend is usually easy…funny too how so many of them either say Jessi or Candace as their best friend. It gets more interesting when you get to what they remember as their best thing in school, etc. Like ‘that my teacher expects me to work hard” as what he learned in school. Or things like respecting other people, sharing things, along with the typical reading, and math answers. The best answers to their favorite thing about Christmas were “that the disciples ate a special meal with Jesus” (umm, wasn’t that part of the Easter story?) and top answer…”SNOW”…now how often do you think he has ever seen snow here? Oh well. I wish I could really show them what snow is! I was surprised how so many of them really knew a verse for their favorite verse question. Not only did they know the place to find it in the Bible, some of them would even recite the whole verse to you. Along with the questions they answered, they had a picture they colored. While they colored, some of them would sing or hum to the music that was playing on the speakers. Doing this project with them was so good for me to see, how the kids who were newer to the school had such a hard time writing or reading or even understanding Spanish (ok, so maybe everyone has a problem understanding my Spanish), but you could see how much the school is helping the kids who are there by seeing the difference in the ones who are new.

Maybe I need to describe the school. It is in a barrio outside of the town Jessi lives. There are about 200 kids there now. Most of them have families, but a few are orphans. If they are orphans, they are living with another family. The kids here go to either morning or afternoon classes. They are required, but not enforced to go to school. It is free to go to school here, but in order to go to school, they are required to have a uniform. Some kids can not afford to buy a uniform, so they don’t go to school. The Kids Alive school is a before or after school school for kids kindergarten through 8th grade. They have to qualify to go to it. They have to keep up on attendance, grades and behavior or they are kicked out. One of the things that they get when they get into the Kids Alive school is a uniform that they also wear to public school. They also get breakfast if they are in the morning session and lunch for the afternoon kids. They have classes to reinforce what they are learning in public school and Bible class. There are so many kids in that area that need it and there is a waiting list of kids who want in, but there is no room. Kids who don’t make it in are sometimes waiting out by the gate watching in. Parents of the kids who don’t get in come asking if they can get their kids in. Parents whose kids are in try hard to keep their kids in.

I have loved most of all the last two days watching Jessi in action. At first I was going to take pictures of her with her patients, but there ended up being so many of them, her day was so full! On top of the weights and measures and anti worm medication which is her project for the week, she took care of flu, colds, headaches, sore throats, mouth sores, foot sores, scrapes, scabies, tooth aches, lice, she put Band-Aids on cuts that were there weeks ago and were healed already. So many of them were only there for their moment alone with her…and that is what she would give them, she would ask them the routine questions, look them over just in case there was more that she should see, then give them a hug and a vitamin if nothing else . I don’t really know how it got started but two little ones come in each day after their lunch just to sit on Jessi and Candace’s laps for a while. Not only does she take care of the kids health, there are also staff who stop in for something for themselves or for kids they live by that need something. They love to play with her hair. I think LOVE was the most important medicine I saw her pass out. One little girl that got her medicine said to Jessi on her way out, “thank you for taking such good care of us”, isn’t that so sweet? They love her and she loves them back.

It was good for me to see the faces to the kids that she has talked about and then the personalities of the ones that she has sent pictures of. As little ones would come in she would add in other little stories that would come to mind. Some sad, some just funny. Things that I know happen all over the world, things that probably go on in all schools and that I would hear and see, but since it is my first time behind the scenes at a school, some pretty tragic things. A little girl, in the second grade who had been raped, when it was discovered what the man had done he was forced out of the barrio, a boy whose mother just died of AIDS, the kids who come to school hungry and the meal they get there is the only one they will get all day, you can see scars on them from burns or cuts, probably gotten innocently, maybe not, but had they gotten proper care, maybe they would not have the scars. It makes me sad, but what can be done more than what is being done?

Jessi is working on the weights and measures to chart their growth in order to start a nutrition program for those who need extra help. She has already noticed a couple of obvious ones who did not grow enough in the past year.

Because we are around so many Spanish speaking people, I have tried really hard to speak to her in Spanish when they are around. It is really odd for me to communicate with her like that. We have tried it in the past around the house in Oregon, but it never lasted for more than a sentence or two and now here we are having full conversations like this.

Just after lunch at the school today, before the afternoon session began, we had to take a trip back in to town to pick up extra med for the kids. They have zero restrictions on how meds are given out here. She just walked in and requested what she wanted and out she came. Can you imagine that happening in the US? While we were in town, we stopped in at a little shop and picked up a doughnut and coke and the three of us ate it in the van by the park. Then she said “Can we do this everyday, even next week?” I wish I could, but next week I will be home…she knew that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday we took a bus 4 hours back to Santo Domingo. We spent the day on Saturday walking around old town and along the boardwalk. We saw an old fort, the lighthouse, and cathedral and plaza and the home that Columbus had built but never lived in. His son Diego lived there with his own family after Columbus died. Then this morning, John got up and went to the airport at 5am. Jessi and I slept a little while longer, had breakfast and then met up with Ariel, who had spent the night with a friend of his, and hopped back on the bus for the ride back to Puerto Plata. Now the vacation is over. No more condo, no more air conditioning, no hot water, no more 24 hours of electricity, back to cooking our own food, no swimming pool and laying and watching the ocean endlessly. Tomorrow Jessi has to head back to work and I will go along with her. She said that this week we will be doing weights and measures on all the kids in the school. If we get that done, then I will help Candace with the Christmas letters to the kid's sponsors.

OK, so just as I was listing off the things I will be giving up...the power went out!!! That was at is 10pm now...good thing her laptop has a backup battery...I saved it and now it is time to post it before we lose power again.

After the power went off, we just sat around talking for a while, then Jessi and I got ready for the evening service at church. I've never put makeup on by candle light before. A lot of the places here had lights even though we didn't. Jessi told me that they have inverters. The church has one too. Maybe you know what that is, I didn't, I thought maybe it was like a generator. I was wrong. It is a battery-like thing that takes over when the power goes out. It is not noisy at all like a generator is and does not use fuel. It sits there charged and ready to go automatically when needed. After church, we picked up some dinner (dinner at 9pm?) at a place on the way home and came back here to her apartment to eat it by candle light. Eating dinner by candle light has a whole different meaning to everyone down here! So then Jessi and I decided it was time to get in bed under her mosquito net because the bugs were beginning to strike. We had just gotten all comfy and situated and started reading our books by flashlight when, wouldn't you know it, they power came back on! So she told me to get out here and finish this up before it was lost. So now it is time to get back under that net and get to sleep! Buenas Noches!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yesterday we went for a drive. We stopped at a place where we took a little boat out. We rode through a little river with the roots of trees up out of the water and birds were everywhere, vultures were sitting in the trees above us...I don't think I have ever seen a sitting vulture before. Then we got out to the ocean and out past deserted beaches to a cave.
From there we went to a place called the Blue Lagoon. It was a spring and cave of stalagmites.

After that, we went to a beach and swam in the ocean.

When we got back to the condo, Ariel cooked us dinner.

Have you ever watched lightning over the ocean? Wow! it is amazing! Last night we watched it and it was as good as a firework show. A couple of days ago it was thunder and lightning in the afternoon, later it poured rain, then minutes later, a beautiful double rainbow in one direction and on the other direction a gorgeous sunset.

P.S. I wanted to add that not only does Jessi get the 'locals' menu, when we went to the dive shop, the owner now is giving her the 'locals' price for diving. She is going to be able to dive now, two for the price of one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yesterday, John and Jessi went diving and I walked around the souvenir shops and then waited on the beach for them to get back. They had a really good dive and are all set up to dive again tomorrow.

Last night Ariel's mother cooked us dinner and his whole family was there to meet us. John was so relieved that his three brothers and best friend all speak English. We had a traditional stew called SANCOCHO. It is made with different kinds of root vegetables, chicken and pork. Some of them added rice to it and others ate it alone. I thought it was so good. Good thing for John that he also liked it, because twice when he had finished his bowl and was turned talking with somebody, his bowl was refilled! He was so full when he got out of there.

Monday Jessi took us to Sosua to walk around. She and John set up some diving and we had lunch then came back to our condo and laid around by the pool and walked on the beach. It was pretty funny to me that at the place we went to for lunch there is a 'locals' menu and a 'tourist' menu, Jessi has been there enough times that they just gave us the 'locals' menu. I took a look at the menu for the tourists and it was a whole lot higher in price than the locals have to pay for the same exact food.
Ariel arrived with flowers for me and we all drove to Puerto Plata for dinner with the family of the director of the school where she works. We had a traditional dinner called MANGU...fried cheese, fried salami, fried plantains, mashed platanos, avocado and fresh fruit, finishing off with bread pudding.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Today we first went to Jessi's church and met more and more of her friends. Then we went to a place called Sea Horse Ranch. You can only get in if you own a place there or are renting, but Ariel used to work there as an accountant so he is still allowed in. It was so beautiful...a huge pool with water falls with caves and then there are also places you can sit and overlook the ocean. That is where I spent most of my time...looking out at the turquoise water watching the waves. I could even see fish from my vantage point. We had food and drinks delivered out to us and later on, an afternoon coffee. Just before sunset, we headed to the restaurant and had dinner as the sun set. Another GREAT day!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today began with a beautiful sunrise, coffee on the patio and then into the van we went for a ride out to Jarabacoa where Jessi first began with Kids Alive. It was a fun drive with so many things along the way that we just don't see on the roads at home. Donkeys with loads to deliver, a little lost calf, then miles down the road was a whole herd of cattle headed someplace. Then we stopped at a roadside flower stand and bought flowers to take to the family she used to live with. Another place we had to stop and buy a pound of this huge bread that is made from cornmeal. It was the biggest loaf of bread I have ever seen, it is baked over an open fire in a huge round pan, the lady just cut of a hunk of it and off we went. It is only made and sold in that area along the way and Jessi always looks forward to it on her drive to Jarabacoa. (2 1/2 hours away from our hotel) She made sure and stopped at the local Red Cross for me also. It was closed, so we just got a picture.

We ended the day with a hike up to a water falls. I could not believe how we had to get there. I am even more amazed that they were out there with Emily and Joshua a year ago! We had to go most of the way on these wooden bridges, we were so high up and there was only this one little wire to hold on to! There was nothing on the sides and the whole thing just bounced as we walked along. Oh well, I made it out there and back and it was a beautiful falls.

Yesterday we spent the day at Ocean World. Ariel has a neighbor that is an animal trainer there and he gave us passes in. It is the equivalent of our Sea World. We saw a dolphin show, sea lion show, bird show, shark show, and walked all around in the park seeing other birds and fish. After lunch, his friend came up to us and asked if one of us wanted to be in the afternoon show. I decided Jessi was the perfect one for that. He gave her a quick lesson on what to do and then he let her know when and she got in the water with him during the show and played ball with the dolphin, then two came up beside her and gave her a kiss, then she waited and one came around and she grabbed on to it and it pulled her to the other side. What an awesome thing for her to get to do. I know the sign is backwards, I liked how it looked from where we ate lunch.

In the avery with the love birds, we just walked in the door and they were already jumping onto our heads and waiting for some food. I loved it!