Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What I Miss About The Dominican Republic

What can I say? all good things do indeed have to come to an end, I left the Dominican Republic a few days ago and I have been feeling a bit bummed. You know how it is when you go on a vacation and enjoy yourself then have to come back to the humdrum daily routine of normal life? yeah, I am experiencing vacation withdrawals and as I am going through some of the pictures I took during my vacation, I realize there are a lot of things I am missing about the DR.

The People

In the DR I was always surrounded by people, mostly my husband's family whose company I immensely enjoyed. In the late morning we would pass by the sister in law's saloon which was like the centre of all action and seemed to be the meeting point of everyone. We would hang out chatting as both the mother in law and sister in law worked. All the clients were from the same neighborhood so there was a lot of familiarity and gossip which I actually enjoyed, hey! don't judge me, who doesn't enjoy gossip every now and then?

We would then leave to run errands before going to the mother in law's for a good home cooked lunch. That woman can cook and she was always asking me what I wanted to eat for the day. If I hesitated because I didn't want to bother her with cooking for us daily, she would say "it's okay, don't be shy! I love cooking just tell me what you like and I will make it." Le sigh! no words have ever sounded sweeter considering the fact that I hate to cook and wouldn't mind having someone cook for me daily. Let's just say I was well fed!

After lunch I would take a siesta as my husband caught up with his friends then in the evening we would sometimes visit one of his uncles to hang out with the cousins, drink rum and just enjoy good company. His grand father lives across the street from this particular uncle so we would also stop by his house where he would always offer me the really sweet mangoes that grew on his yard. At night we would go hang out at one of his brother's house where I would immensely enjoy playing with the sweetest nephew on the planet. To cut a long story short, I miss the people the most.

Hanging out with the cousins


Brugal - Dominican rum which I actually enjoyed.........only because I used to mix it with a lot of coke or sprite:) rum seems to be part of the culture and all the houses we visited had a bottle of rum ready to be shared.


Hanging out with the brothers in law who were always teaching me the latest slang and introducing me to the latest music.


The grand dad who always had this gentle smile on his face that made you feel always welcome.


My husband's nephew, this kid stole my heart!!!! such a sweetie and full of energy. Every time he saw my husband he would ask where I was and when I showed up he would yell my name and jump on me. He is learning how to talk and it's the cutest thing hearing him pronounce certain words.


When he got tired and sleepy this is the pose he would assume as we all sat outside enjoying the cool breeze at night while chatting. So adorable!!! how can you not fall in love with him??


My goof ball husband at the sister in law's saloon. She was always asking him if he needed a trim or wash and condition and she would hook him up.


The Food

I miss the food in the DR and I can't say I was not well fed! it's actually surprising I didn't gain weight because I ate like a pig, there is just no other way to sugar coat it. Food was always being offered and my husband's family was always thrilled to have me try typical Dominican dishes. One of  his cousins who cooks really well was always inviting us for dinner and when we would show up she would have like three different varieties of meals to try.

The dad was also always inviting us to his farm to eat and hang out. There was always a lot of food and he would encourage us to eat as much as we could, he loved having us over and on my last day he had such a look of disappointed as he realized I was leaving and it was our last visit to his farm. Le sigh! I have the best in laws.

Mangu - Dominican dish of mashed green plantains topped with sautéed onions that I believe are dipped in vinegar and accompanied by some meat. It's pretty good!



Sancocho - I had tasted Sancocho before in Colombia and Panama but the aunt insisted that Dominican Sancocho is the best, it was delicious!! and very rich in flavor. It's basically soup with meat, potatoes, corn/maize and some vegetables. I regret not carrying leftovers at the end of the night when the aunt insisted we carry something because she made so much.



Last dinner in the DR, this was a special farewell dinner especially made for me. How sweet right?



The Music

In Mao Valverde, the typical kind of music you will hear on the streets, in the clubs or in cars are Merengue tipico or Dembow (regeaton from the DR) Bachata and salsa are played but not as much. Dominican Republic is famously known for Bachata but my husband was explaining that Bachata and Salsa are more popular in the capital than in his hometown.

This is how merengue tipico sounds like


This is how Dembow sounds like, this particular song was the big hit when I was there and it was playing on repeat in the nightclubs. The brothers in law went crazy and so did everyone else in the club when this song came on. Some of the songs can be sexually explicit but they use a lot of slang words so if you didn't know the local slang you would have no clue as to how explicit the lyrics actually are.


The Accent

Dominican accent can be hard to understand and I have had many moments where I could not understand what was being said to me but I enjoyed the accent regardless. I was talking to my Colombian friend on Skype and when I told her how clueless I was sometimes when people talked she laughed and said, "don't worry you are not the only one. I am a native spanish speaker and I can hardly understand Dominican accent." Her cousin is married to a Dominican and she was telling me sometimes she has to tell him to slow down and pronounce words fully in order to understand what he is saying. Sometimes my husband would have to clarify things for me when some people talked because they either talked so fast or they cut their words too much.

That's it folks, there are a lot of things I will miss about the DR but I will always have treasured memories and this will certainly not be my last trip there. Until next time........chao Republica Dominicana, voy a regresar pronto!

PS: I admire how Dominican women carry themselves with so much confidence and pride. I can't speak for all Dominican women but the ones I observed in my husband's hometown always carried themselves with so much confidence like they were the best and most attractive women regardless of their looks, shape or size. It was very admirable and I learned a thing or two.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Wedding

Continuing from my previous post here, after getting dressed up we rushed to get to the wedding celebrations since we were about half an hour late due to circumstances beyond our control. We didn't know what to expect and I was really nervous wondering what other surprises lay in store for us.

We got to the designated venue and as soon as we got out of the car these two dudes came charging at us with cameras and started taking pictures, this of course caused a little commotion as people in the streets stopped to stare and some kids who were playing nearby all gathered around us watching with curiosity, it was a bit dramatic and comical at the same time. Turns out the two dudes were the designated camera men for the occasion. The camera flashes were blinding and for a minute we were both frozen in place and didn't even know how to react to all the commotion. We got over it quick as the camera men took charge and led us inside where the celebration was to take place. 

As soon as we walked into the room, loud wedding music started playing and I just froze in place thinking to myself, "OMG! this is actually a full blown wedding!! how did a civil ceremony end up becoming a full blown wedding?!". At this point I don't even know how the photographers managed to get ahead of us but there they were in front of us taking pictures as one of them shoved a bouquet of flowers in my hand and proceeded to direct us to the very front of the room like we were being walked down the aisle, it was actually pretty funny how both of us were so confused and clueless.

To cut a long story short, we went with the flow and had a good time. More people than had been invited showed up and we actually ran out of seats and tables but the owner of the establishment was kind enough to provide extra chairs and tables at no additional cost. Phew! what a night indeed.


My husband, isn't he a cutie??


At the end of the night one of the brother's in law suggested we go to a nearby club for drinks and music so off we went for more partying. Turns out there was a free merengue tipico concert taking place so that was fun.


That's it folks, It was a night full of confusion on both our parts initially but at the end we did enjoy ourselves and we will always look back at our wedding day with a few laughs as we recall the chaos.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

You Can Call Me Mrs...........

Yup! we made it official and got married!!! that's why I have been MIA since the last blog post. I don't even know where to start since these last couple of days have just been crazy chaotic but I will try my best to take you through the series of events.

Our initial plan was to have a civil ceremony for now then much later, maybe in a couple of years have a bigger ceremony with both sides of the family included. Let's just say things didn't quite work out as we planned because my husband (sounds so weird calling him this) comes from a large Latino family that was not about to have us have a quickie wedding without bells and whistles! before we knew it, the very small intimate family dinner we wanted to have after the civil ceremony, became larger as uncles, aunties, nieces, nephews, cousins and a whole bunch of other family members wanted to be included.

We found ourselves dealing with responsibilities and expenses that we hadn't planned for. All over a sudden we needed: invitation cards, space to accommodate everyone, catering to make sure everyone got fed, music for entertainment, photographers to capture the memories........I mean, we were both like two deers caught in the headlight wondering, "how the hell did we end up in this mess??!" to say it was overwhelming is putting it mildly but you know what? one thing worked out greatly in our favor and really cut down the unexpected costs. What really helped us was my husband's good reputation in his town.

You see, my husband grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone else since childhood and as it turns out, he is well loved and respected in his hometown by everyone who knows him because of his integrity, handwork and just being a good guy (I knew I chose well). One of his former employers who owns several bakeries in the city offered to rent us space in one of her bakeries that she uses for parties and weddings, at a very cheap price. Not only were we getting the space but she also included: catering, wedding cake, music, photographers, chairs & tables, decorations and all kinds of perks. She was offering all these for only $300!!! Usually she charges way more for this. Another former employer who owns one of the biggest supermarkets in the city offered us a very good deal on drinks and he had nothing but good things to say about my husband when I met him. Another former employer who owns a hotel in the city offered us a very good deal on a honeymoon suite in his hotel as a wedding gift. I was just overwhelmed by the show of support, it was so touching especially knowing they did all these because they really care for my husband.

Upstairs is where we had the wedding celebration, downstairs is a very pretty quaint bakery.


One of his cousins who was going to act as one of our witnesses also helped us a great deal and she offered to take care of invitations. Turns out her and the sisters are quite crafty and they got to work preparing the invitations and putting cute little details on the envelopes.

The ladies hard at work


The ladies'  brother even chimed in with ideas.


Some of the end results........envelopes sealed and ready for delivery.


With all the above taken care off and with our two witnesses present, all that was left to do was get married. On the wedding day I had on my cute dress which I assumed I would wear at the civil ceremony in the morning and at the party later on at night but I was so wrong! when the cousin saw me she asked me if I had my second wedding dress and I was like, "what do you mean second wedding dress?" she told me that I needed a traditional wedding dress that had to be worn at the party at night and for picture taking sessions. The dress I had on was fine for the civil ceremony but it wasn't considered appropriate for the wedding celebrations at night. Once again, "deer caught in the headlight" moment.

With this new information about the formalities expected, we found ourselves looking for a traditional wedding dress after the civil wedding ceremony that had taken place at 11 am, the wedding party was supposed to be at 7 pm on the same day. His cousin told us that she knew several shops where we could rent dresses at reasonable prices so off we went driving all over town looking for dresses that would be available on such short notice. The first shop we went to had really old dresses that frankly speaking just looked depressing plus the lady who owned it kept complaining and chastising us for wanting a dress on such notice. She would rummage through the closet looking for a dress while murmuring about how she needed to be preparing lunch and cleaning her house and why couldn't we have come a week earlier.......Uuumm?! weird? we couldn't have left that shop any faster. The second shop was closed for lunch so the next resort was a shop that the cousin knew off which was located in another town but since it was lunch time, we had to wait until 2 pm to go over there (shops here close from noon to 2 pm for lunch). I was a bundle of nerves but we kept re-assuring ourselves that at least the most important part had been taken care off, we were finally married and the rest was just fluff.

After lunch we headed out to look for a wedding dress and as soon as we entered the shop that the cousin had recommended, I just knew I would find something in there that I liked. It was such a cute shop and the dresses on display were very pretty plus the ladies there were super friendly and helpful.




As luck would have it, I did find a cute dress in my size. In all honesty though, if circumstances were different I would have chosen a very different style that's more of a reflection of my personality but given the current circumstances I had to go for second best which was actually pretty. Once the dress was chosen and a deposit made, they told us to come back in a couple of hours as they needed time to clean the dress and prepare it for us. With that taken care off, we could all breath and relax and tend to other matters.

At the agreed time we headed back to the shop and the dress was ready for us. It was a bit damp because there wasn't enough time to get it all dried out since it was such short notice and the pick up time was closer to the shop's closing time. My husband had to run a few errands nearby so as he went off, we took advantage of that time to lay out the dress so it would dry and chat with the ladies at the shop as we waited for him to come pick us up.


Chatting it up, notice the hairnets? every lady working in there had one on including my husband's cousin. Remember the observation I made on hairnets in a previous post?


We made it back at around 5 pm and started getting ready for the party. One of the sisters in law who I really like had offered to do my make up, actually she was doing everyone's make up and had to close her salon earlier than usual just so she could tend to us, she is such a sweetie! I really don't like make up and on a day to day basis I make do with only my facial lotion and trusted chap stick but I figured since this was a special occasion I guess I could make a concession. For the first time in my life I even got my eye brows trimmed! actually this was accidental and I had no clue what was happening until I looked in the mirror and was like, "Say what? where the hell did my brows go?" all I remember is something was applied on my eyebrows and rapid back and forth hand movements were made, I didn't feel anything. It doesn't look bad, just different so I can live with it.

Getting my face done.


With make up done and both of us dressed, we were ready to head off to the party where more "deer caught in the headlight" moments were to be had.............


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Life's A Beach

We haven't been to the beach yet since we got here and last night when we were having a family dinner, one of my fiancé's uncles suggested that we all take a trip to a nearby beach to spend the day relaxing and taking it easy since it was going to be a Sunday thus making it the best day for a day trip outside the city. I was told the beach wasn't one of the best one out there but it was one of the nearest and most convenient to get to.

Today being Sunday we got up early to regroup as planned and off we went on some new adventures. Getting to the beach took two hours by car and I blacked out during the drive so by the time I was waking up we were stopping for some lunch before arriving at our final destination. We ended up at one of those hole in the wall restaurants that supposedly serves the best seafood in the area and it was fully packed with customers. Our order took about an hour to arrive. 

Waiting........


and waiting....


When the heat gets so overwhelming that your whole life flashes past making you wonder how the hell you ended up in this inferno, dramatic much? hunger and heat does that to you.


We finally had the long awaited lunch which was worth all the wait, I was busy digging into my meal so no pictures were taken but trust me, the food was really good and the portion was huge!

After lunch we drove for about ten more minutes before arriving at our final destination. Everyone was excited and believe it or not the weather was actually really good and the air super fresh and not hot at all as I had expected. It was super breezy though and sand was blowing all over the place making it uncomfortable but with time all was calm.

We basked in the sun, took a dip in the water, walked along the beach, took photos, talked, laughed, ate some more and just had a really good time. 


Seaweed galore



I think Walmart would have a good laugh about this.



That's it folks, we had a wonderful time and spent the whole day at the beach and headed out back to the city late in the evening. It was a day well spent and until next time, adios!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Observations

There are certain things I have noticed during my stay here in Mao, Dominican Republic so let me go ahead and share my observations:

Mouthy Kids:

All the kids I have been around so far all have one thing in common, they are all mouthy and have some quick come backs that leave you speechless. Sometimes I get so shocked and tongue tied that all I can do is laugh. A few examples: My fiancé and I were hanging out with his little cousins and nephews when he commented that he liked one of the paintings that his mom had in her house, this one kid looks at him seriously and retorts, "so? take it with you then!" my fiancé looked at him in shock and didn't even know what to say so we both just started laughing then later on we tried explaining to the kid that just because you like something doesn't mean it's yours for the taking.

At my father in law's farm we were hanging out with some nephews and nieces and one of the kids who is a bit moody didn't want to play with the other kids. My fiancé's little sister got so frustrated with her and started shouting, "who brought this child here? why is she here? take her back to her mother!" I will guiltily admit I couldn't help but burst out laughing with everyone else, hey! don't judge me but all these come backs said in Spanish sound incredibly hilarious!

Cute innocent looking kids right? until they open their mouths and leave you in shock.


Women & Their Hair:

It seems like most if not all women here love straight hair free of any curls whatsoever and they will go through great lengths to maintain their weekly blow outs that they get at the hair salons. Walking around you will notice women with hairnets on their heads or rollers or both. Under the hairnet they have their hair wrapped up to prevent frizz. One of the sister's in law who is a hair dresser was telling me that because of the heat many women cover their hair to protect it from sun damage plus it's hard to maintain straight hair with the heat which causes frizz so the women wrap up their hair during the day and let it out at night when the weather is a bit cooler, or they let down their hair if there is something special going on. Not all women walk around with hairnets though but you will definitely notice the hairnet thing. Even in the plane on my way here there were several women wearing hairnets and when we landed those hairnets did a fast disappearing act, it was actually funny. Personally I think curly hair is beautiful so I don't understand why some people would think otherwise, but to each their own.

They start them young.......you get the general idea.


Lack of Boundaries:

I swear the lack of boundaries here just amazes me, people can ask you the most personal thing without thinking how inappropriate it may be. I will go ahead and give an example.

My fiancé's family is very mixed and even though they all share the same father and mother, some of the siblings don't look alike. I was hanging out with his mum, one of his sister's in law and some of his brother's friends when one of them asked his mum, "but how come some of your kids look very different from each other? are they all from the same man?" both the sister in law and I were shocked and we told him it was rude to have asked that, he laughed before responding, "it's not a big deal, women here have no shame." Honestly how do you respond to that? we all just burst out laughing, even the mum joined in.

Tell It As It Is:

Let's just say there is nothing like sugar coating words here. If you are fat, people will refer to you as fat, if you are skinny they will refer to you as exactly that, if you are not good looking............well, you get the picture right? people will refer to you according to the most outstanding physically feature you posses and they will have no qualms pointing out something about your physical feature be it good or bad.

Example 1 - The sister in law asked this one girl, "you have become really big! are you pregnant?" she said no, the fiancé's mum chimes in, "you are getting too fat! you better do something about it."

Example 2 - We were driving around with one of my fiancé's brothers when he saw this girl walking around with a crop top exposing her stomach, the brother rolled down the window and shouted at the girl, "have respect for yourself! if you want to show your stomach go to the gym please! meanwhile, hide that thing you have" the girl started laughing and looked so unfazed as she sashayed across the road. By the way women here are not self conscious at all about their bodies. They will dress however they want regardless of their sizes and they will walk very confidently outside without caring what anyone thinks.

Example 3 - We visited one of the uncles for dinner and he went round introducing me to the family, when he got to his youngest daughter who is about 18 yrs old he tells me, "this big one is the youngest one" then he playfully pinches her chubby arms for emphasis. The rest of the family starts laughing and pinching her chubby arms for even more emphasize.

There are many examples but the few I have given you give you an idea of how people tell it like it is whether you like it or not.

Gossip:

People here gossip like its going out of business tomorrow. In the evening when the heat has subsided a bit, people take out their chairs and sit outside their houses or shops to gawk at those passing by and to gossip. The gossip is not even done discreetly, you will clearly know someone is gossiping about you and they have no qualms about being so obvious.

I had to be very stealth taking this photo so that no one would notice what I was up to, this gives you an idea of how the gossips operate.


Spanish Accent:

Every Spanish speaking country has their own distinct accent thats unique to their specific country. I get a kick out of hearing how Dominicans shorten their words and phrases and how they pronounce certain words, by now I am used to their accent but sometimes when someone speaks to me rapidly I get lost and have no clue what they are saying until they slow it down for me. A few examples of how they shorten their words and phrases: Dice que (he/she says that) becomes dique, Como estas (how are you) becomes Como tu ta? the letter R is pronounced as L so verde (green) becomes velde, amor (love) becomes amol. 

That's it folks, there are many more observations to write about but I will stop here as I don't want to go on and on. Besides, I am tired and need to take a long cold shower to cool off from the heat so until later, adios!









Wednesday, September 9, 2015

El Campo

We are currently staying at a small town called Valverde Mao in the Dominican Republic, it's about 4 hours away from the capital city Santo Domingo and since it's in the interior of the country, we are not a stone's throw away from the pristine beaches that the DR is well known for. This doesn't matter to me because with the heat, the last place I want to be is outside let alone the beach where I heard the heat is even worse. I am telling you, if the locals themselves are complaining of the heat and sweating profusely that gives you an idea of how bad it is.

Anyway, enough about the heat as I am sure you get the idea. My fiancé's dad lives in el campo (farm) which is in a remote part of town where all you can see on the drive there are dirt roads and banana plantations. He hates coming out to the city so he invited us to go spend some time with him at his farm.

The drive to the farm wasn't so bad as it's not too far away from the city, you should have heard my fiancé and his brothers talking about the farm like it's so far and its so remote that getting to and from the city would be a huge hustle. Let's just say they exaggerated a whole lot!

These photos give you a general idea of how our drive there looked like.



When we got there the dad was so excited to see us and there was a lot of food fresh from the farm awaiting us, heck! even the meat we ate was directly from the farm, it doesn't get fresher than that does it?

The dad showed me around and I could clearly see how happy he is living on his farm as he proudly showed off how well his crops are doing and how healthy his animals are. He has a lot of chicken, turkey, peacocks and ducks and they all listen to him when he talks, he actually treats them like his babies and they follow him around when he calls out to them. It's the cutest thing ever!

It was cool hanging out with the fiancé's dad and getting to know each other plus the ambience was very chill and relaxing. I guess the glass of rum that was provided played a huge part in it too, can you tell from my expression below?


Looks can be very deceiving, my future father in law may look very serious in photos but he is the warmest and most affectionate person ever plus he loves to laugh a lot so its weird that he never smiles in photos. Meeting him in person is very different from seeing him in pictures.


We actually ended up going back to the farm again because my fiancé's dad had promised to have duck meat prepared especially for me just so I could taste it. All this because I remarked that I had never eaten duck before, what can I say? I am getting spoiled over here.

That's my fiancé's little sister, this kid is very feisty and since she is surrounded by adults most of the time, she says the craziest things that you wouldn't expect coming from a kid. Her dad just looks at her with adoration and laughs thinking it's the cutest thing ever, she has him wrapped around her little fingers. I have to admit that when she talks its just so cute you can't help but get amused.


I had been warned that mosquitoes at the farm are rampant so you best believe I was well prepared with repellant but those suckers somehow managed to get a piece of me.......let's just say where there is a will there is a way and I have several mosquito bites on my butt, don't even ask how those suckers got in there but they did.

That's it folks, hanging out in el campo was all fine and dandy but at the end of the day I am a city girl through and through so it was good coming back to the hustle and bustle. I did enjoy myself though so no complaints from this end.




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dominican Republic

I landed in the DR three days ago and I have been busy winning hearts all the while enduring unbearable heat, this place is HOT!!!!!!! even the fiancé who was born and raised here is complaining about the heat. Despite it all, I am having a good time getting to know his family who have taken quite a liking to me and spending quality time with him.

Ever since I landed here our days have been filled with meeting family members, eating good home cooked Dominican food and visiting various neighborhoods and places where my fiancé grew up or used to hang out at. I don't have too much free time so this is just a quick update on what I have been up to.

Picture time!!!

My fiancé with two of his sisters in law, his mum is busy with one of her grandkids in the background.


Bachata time, this was such a fun night full of: music, dance, laughs and good food!


Some of my fiancé's little cousins and nephews like hanging out at the mum's house especially when grown folks around, they love eavesdropping then copying how the adults talk when amongst themselves. They may look innocent but they are mouthy! you should hear the stuff they say, it's hilarious!!! I was just laughing listening to some of their conversations.


With the heat most people hang out by the river during the weekend swimming, catching up with friends, eating and listening to music.


Got to check out another local hang out where people go to swim and cool off, my fiancé actually used to work there as a lifeguard when he was 16 so it was cool to go back after many years and take a walk down memory lane.

He used to sit in the little shed below on that chair during his lifeguard duties.


That's him doing his thing.


Dominoes


The local neighborhoods have a lot of these Banca shops that I was wondering about because I kept seeing them all over the place. Turns out they are lottery shops where people go to buy lottery tickets. I guess folks love their tickets because each block has a Banca shop.



Local police station.


That's it folks, time to log off. All in all I am having a really good time here and one of these days when I get more time I will post more on my observations and the experiences I am having here.