Friday, July 31, 2015

Experiencing limited resources while living in the Dominican Republic

Power Outages:

If you are going to spend any extended amount of time in the Dominican Republic “living like the locals”, then you will soon discover the amount of power outages that occur on a weekly basis. At some point you won’t be able to avoid this, so don’t take these resources for granted…someone else out there is wishing they had it!!

In the area that I live in (Munoz, Puerto Plata), the power goes out on a SET SCHEDULE.  I am without electricity on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Usually it will go out around 9am and come back on around 2pm.  Other times, it may go out around 2pm and come back on around 4:30.  Overall, you can expect 2-4 hours.  I tremendously hate it when it goes out around 2pm because this is the time when I have just arrived home from working in the school/community and I’m very tired. Upon arriving home I usually cook lunch and I’m trying to settle down for a siesta…then the power goes out...UGH!  Even with the warm breeze bustling through my window as I lay across the bed nearly naked, I still wake up from my nap drenched in sweat.  Honesty, I’d prefer the morning outages…at least the apartment is still a bit cool.  Although the schedule is set, don’t be surprise when it ALSO goes out on a Wednesday (sometimes). 

I’ve been told that in certain neighborhoods the electricity will go out due to the fact that a large percentage of the residents are not paying their bill.  In this case, this leaves the few GOOD Paying residents to suffer.  Other explanations I’ve been given is that a community (such as a Haitian batey) may elect one individual to pay the bill (NOTE: This is done because several house can be located on ONE piece of property and everyone divides the bill) and the bill may not get paid, leaving the residents that did pay to suffer the consequences.


Quite honestly the outages are not too bad. It happens when most people should be at work or school. Besides, everyone cooks with gas…not to mention that it’s also very sunny here…so it’s not like you REALLY NEED to turn your lights on anyways during the day!!  Also since I’ve been here, there were about 2 power outages that occurred at NIGHT, but everyone pretty much has an Inverter (generator) to keep things running (especially at apartments, resorts, grocery stores etc..).  Prior to arriving I pack several LED lanterns and candles which have come in handy during the night. 
Solar panel are being used in the DR more than ever too. Several homeowners, business and resorts utilize the power of the sun. Excellent!

**Remember the best rule of thumb is to ALWAYS have your laptop and other important electronics plugged into a surge protector...NEVER EVER plug anything straight into the wall outlet.  They use the American standard wall outlets here, so if you're American there's no need to buy outlet converters. Also remember that the power outages cause major electrical surges that will harm or completely fry your laptop.  So if you're not using those items...shut it down and unplug everything. 


Water Supply:

Yes it’s true…DON’T DRINK THE WATER here! HOWEVER, it is recommended to slowly introduce bacteria from the water into your system by means such as brushing your teeth or gargling with it.  Using this technique will minimalize your risk of becoming very ill from food borne bacteria and drinks containing ice (like the local sno-cones).  I know plenty of people that have done this and they’ve lived to tell the story. So brushing your teeth with the water obviously won’t kill ya.  I don’t brush my teeth with the water, but I do rinse off my toothbrush with the tap water then squirt hand sanitizer on the bristles and let it sit in purified water (primarily because I’m such a huge germ-a-phobic) before drying it off with a paper towel.

One Peace Corps worker even advised me that the Peace Corps informs their employees that if they boil the water for about 3-5 minutes, it will be fine to drink.  I’m still not trying that theory yet….


A Dominican Professor told me that her mom NEVER washes her hair in the tap water.  She only uses purified bottled water. 
This I can understand, because the minerals and bacteria in the tap water can make your hair dry and unmanageable and actually grimier over time…especially if you have a perm. Her mother’s hair is like most African American women hair textures (with a perm).  My hair is 100% natural. As such the tap water may be fine, but although I don’t use chemicals or perms I didn’t want to take a chance. Since I’ve been here, I currently wash my hair in a huge bowl with purified bottled water.  I swish my head around in the bowl, scrub my scalp a few times and then empty the bowl.  I place more bottled water into the bowl, then rinse. Since arriving, I only use a Co-Wash…it makes more sense considering I use less water and it takes less steps to complete.


As for food, you quickly learn NOT TO WASH YOUR VEGTABLES in the tap water as well.  This can be a tricky lesson to learn.  Albeit when you go out to eat at places, they use the tap water to clean the head of lettuce for your salad.  Then unbeknownst to you, you’re not sure why you have this 72 hour stomach bug that never seems to go away.  I’m sure this doesn’t occur as much in those fancy resorts. But if you’re reading the blog then you’re obviously not seeking advice from a Resort stand-piont.  This applies to scenarios of eating local food in the local restaurants etc… The good thing about getting a stomach virus here is that once you’ve had it and it’s been cured…YOU’RE GOOD FROM THAT POINT ON!  YOU HAVE NOW BEEN INITIATED!! You’ve now introduced your digestive system to their strain of bacteria and you shouldn’t have that problem anymore.  YES…I’ve been initiated already and I’m glad that I passed the initiation point!  Think of it as getting the Chicken Pox…once you’ve had it, you don’t have to worry about again.  The key to staying this way is to Hydrate, Hydrate Hydrate!

Water supply in the DR can be very limited.  This isn’t new news. It’s common. It is delivered on a weekly basis to some places. However, other places NEVER get clean bottled water.  Additionally, there has been SEVERAL times that my apartment here in Puerto Plato and the other apartment I lived in (in Santiago) RAN OUT OF WATER.  I couldn’t flush the toilet or take a shower.   I quickly found a work-around…I started hoarding 5 gallon water jugs and filling them up with TAP water when the water finally came on. I then would pour a few tablespoons of bleach in it.  Now on the days we have NO WATER, I am able to at least take a sponge bath and wash my dirty dishes and white clothes.  Luckily the shortage never lasted more than 2 days at most.  I’m also lucky that I didn’t run out of my Purified Jugs of water that I use for DRINKING & COOKING. The 5 gallon water jugs are pretty inexpensive. It’s good to have a couple of those around to. It takes me almost 2 weeks to go through one jug, so I’m always good in the area.  Other tenants in my apartment were wondering how I managed through those times, while they were taking morning baths down by the river.  I went ahead and let them in on my secret.  
I do miss having washers and dryers:
When I first arrived to the DR, I was under the impression that I could simply take my clothes down to a Washateria/Laudry mat on a Saturday and just chill as they dried.   NOPE!!!! They don't have Laundry mats here.  I quickly found this out after hopping into a taxi with all my clothes and I asked the taxi drive to please take me to the nearest lavenderia (laundry mat).  We pulled up to a large building that had the Lavenderia sign.  He assisted me with bring all my clothes in and waited for me outside.  I quickly found out from the lady at the counter that this place was like a dry cleaners.  They can wash all my clothes themselves for a price.  I got back in the car and talked to the taxi driver and explained to him what type of Laundry mat facility I was looking for. I informed him that this was a dry cleaners we are at.  I explained to him what a Laundry mat looks like on the inside. He thought that my perception of a laundry mat was very funny.  He started laughing and said that there is no place in the DR that has a room filled with washing machines and dryer for you to wash your clothes.  He pointed back to the building we were at and said that this is where everyone takes their clothes to be cleaned. He couldn't imagine such a place that I had previous described.  We both laughed because I was SHOCKED that laundrymats don't exist (ESPECIALLY HERE) and he was shocked to know that something like that actually existed. We both laughed about it all the way back to my apartment.
So with that being said...I hand wash my clothes EVERY WEEK in a bucket. It can take me
several hours to do so.  This is the 1 weekly task I don't look forward to. Yes, it’s a grueling task, but on the positive side it's a good work out.
However, one thing I immediately noticed is that the water strips away the color from my clothes. Dark clothes that I’ve washed and placed in a dryer One Million times back home in America, have now dramatically been stripped of its color when washed here in the DR…JUST BY USING THE COLD TAP WATER here.  Keep in mind…I don’t have a drying machine, so they air dry in my apartment…not in direct sunlight either.  This is how I knew that there is something in the water. Something strong…LOL! 

Yes, some Dominicans have washing machines, but they're not like you would imagine. They're fairly smaller and made from plastic.
A very sweet neighbor once let me wash some items at their house. But no dryers.  Besides, it's so freaking hot outside, why would you need a dryer in a house that's already hot?  As I mentioned, the washing machine are not like the typical washing machines you would find back home.  They're nothing more than a huge plastic bucket that has 2 sections. One section is for Washing and the other section is for spinning. The machines are usually outside or near a place where your outside water hose can reach it or a shower area. The water hose is screwed into the machine from the top to fill it with water during its cycles. The manual part is that YOU STILL HAVE TO RINSE your clothes after it's ran through the wash cycle.  You must pull the clothes out and then place them in another water filled bucket (sitting on the floor nearby) to get excess soap out.  Afterwards, you place the clothes back into the machine and let it run through the final rinse cycle.   Because it's made of plastic, it doesn't agitate the clothes as hard as you would imagine. 
I can pass along the street on any given day and see many locals drying their clothes on a fence line across the street from their home or maybe from the balcony of their apartments.  The clothes of course dry extremely fast here on sunny days.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What an amazing 2 months...

I'm still volunteering in Puerto Plata Dominican Republic as an English teacher and I'm STILL loving it! Presently, I'm back in Texas, but I'm flying back to the DR tomorrow. I had to fly back home for a month to assist my hubby in getting relocated to another State for a job. Unfortunately for me, the new job is in a VERY COLD STATE. If you know me, then you should know that I don't handle cold climates very well. Needless to say, I'm sure I won't be there during those wintery months too long...I'll more than likely be back in the DR (LOL)...or Texas. 
Since my last post, several GREAT things have occurred:
The month of May was really fun for me, but EXTREMELY BUSY  with a lot of volunteer activities and personal heart warming surprises. Initially, there was supposed to be a full-time volunteer coordinator starting with Project Esperanza, but she ended up quitting on her 2nd day. A volunteer coordinator is a person that lives at the volunteer house and assists the new volunteers with getting their activities started. Additionally, that person is assigned to primarily the volunteers feel comfortable, assisting them with translation...along with working on various other administrative assignments as needed.

Well, when the new-hire quit, the founder of the organization immediately reached out to me. She wanted to see if I was interested in the position. Initially, I was, but I had to decline the full-time opportunity considering that I would NOT be able to LIVE in the house right away because I have already paid my rent at my current apartment through the 1st of September. I didn’t want my rent money to go to waste. So she had found someone else to fill in as the coordinator during the day and asked me if I could at least stay at the apartment during the UPCOMING nights and weekends…due to the fact that a few volunteers (primarily teenagers) would need to be supervised that weekend. I agreed, under the condition that I would not be available the 2 weeks that followed (my husband was arriving then...and I hadn't seem him in 2 1/2 Months).

The next day, I met Ashley & Kayla.
This is me, along with Ashley and Kayla. My partners in crime.

Spending an afternoon at the public beach

 These 2 women stayed at the volunteer house and we IMMEDIATELY became inseparable. They’re both from Canada and are volunteering for 3 months as part of an assignment to complete their Master Degrees. The day I met them, I was expected to spend the night at the volunteer house…which was unbeknownst to me and wasn't part of our initial conversation. I was under the impression that I was going to start staying at the volunteer house the night the teenagers arrived (later that weekend).

After the day-shift coordinator showed them around the town of Munoz, the 3 of us walked back to my apartment gather my belongings for my stay in the volunteer house. My apartment is about a 12 minute walk from the volunteer house. The walk seems MUCH MORE LONGER when the sun is beating down on you! I TAKE AN UMBRELLA with me at all times to shade from the sun. I live down a steep hill which also makes the walk MUCH MORE strenuous when you’re carrying anything. It’s a great daily exercise though!! Upon arriving back to the volunteer house, we discovered that the housekeeper had accidently locked us out. The girls HAD NONE OF THEIR BELONGINGS with them since it was now locked inside the house. We had to tote ALL my things back down the hill to my apartment which is where the 3 of us ended up spending the night.
 My apartment has an on-site restaurant with a pool table down by the river. Since the girls had NO cash or personal belongings on them,  I bought them dinner and drinks and we sat down by the river chatting and meeting the other tenants at my Apartment. One of the tenants in my Apartment is David, he’s from America. He would soon be an inseparable part of our little clan.

The volunteer house has 3 bedrooms and a 1 bathroom. In my bedroom there is 1 twin bed and a bunk bed. Two bunk beds are located in the other bedrooms. The house is on the main street in Munoz. It’s at an intersection…a great place to people watch and socialize. It has a Colmada (small store) across the street and next door. On the other side of the house is a family that sells sno-cones and other small snacks. I like the location. Living in the house has a lot of challenges. The primary challenge is the lack of privacy and the 1 bathroom that everyone shares…especially when it’s co-ed. My 1st weekend in the house was chaotic and frustrating to say the least. Several men from Morehouse College in Atlanta moved into the house the 1st weekend. Sharing a bathroom with 5-6 men was just down-right excruciating painful! Nonetheless, our 1st night WE HAD SO MUCH FUN!

 Up on the rooftop of the house just dancing and having fun!

Ashley and I with the fellows from Morehouse

  That following week, I was expecting my husband to arrive into the country and was very excited. It had been 2 months since I had seen him last. He flew into Santo Domingo. That morning,  I rode the local charter bus (Metro) down to Santo Domingo, then took a cab to the airport to pick him up. We spent a couple of days in the capitol. We stayed at Hotel Conde which is on a very touristy street (Calle Conde). I'm not fond of touristy areas, but wanted to show my husband around. This is a VERY nice hotel. The staff was extremely accommodating and the location of this hotel in the CENTER of EVERYTHING.

The Living Room of our suite. Came with Fridge, utensils, sink ...just everything

 Afterwards,  we rode another local bus (Bavarro Express) over to Punta Cana to stay there a couple of nights. NOTE: THERE IS ONLY ONE BUS COMPANY that drives to Punta Cana and it's Bavarro Express.  It's the only bus that offers transportation TO/ FROM Punta Cana. So if you ever need transportation to/from Punta Cana from ANYWHERE on the island, then you'll need to find a way to Santo Domingo to catch this bus ride.The bus ride on the Bavarro Express was quite impressive and extremely inexpensive ($2 one way).  In Punta Cana I met up with my old ex-coworker, Mike Hewitt who was visiting the country during that time with his lady.
We walked over to his resort, then walked down to a local bar for drinks and to catch up. It was a pleasure seeing my old friend again. He has a very crazy/fun personality and loves to drink!  He caught me up to speed on what's happening at my old job...I'm not missing a damn thing.

My husband and I departed Punta Cana and headed up north to my apartment in Munoz, Puerto Plata. I couldn’t wait for my husband to see my place and meet my new friends. He spent the next 5 nights with me there. We ran into my friends; Kayla, Ashley and David. That evening David took us all out to an area in Puerto Plata... where mostly expats live, called Cafemba. We had dinner and later ended our evening in a fun-filled bar where there were plenty of available (wink) women. for the men.

My husband ended his stay with me in Santiago, where I showed him the school I attended, then took him to my favorite restaurant (Square One). Square One reminds me of the Cheese Cake factory back home. The only difference is that they have several great Dominican items on the menu.  The menu is massive with options to choose the Cheese Cake factory. This place has amazing desserts!


All-in-All the month of May/June was action pack and fun-filled.
The week after my husband’s visit, he received the job offer (and accepted it).  With that news, I had to interrupt my stay in the DR during the month of June (for about 6 weeks) to head back to Texas and prepare for the move.
Prior to leaving my DR apartment in June, I wanted to hang out with the kids from my class and show them a FUN TIME.  For several weeks, they had been asking me to hold the class at my apartment (Sun Camp). Sun Camp is located right near the river and has an amazing view and restaurant.  I asked the owner of Sund Camp (Diane) andshe said SURE! She didn't mind me bringing the kids down.  So Ashley, Kayla and I walked up towards the school the next day and the kids started running towards us.  I told them that we're going to have class down by the river at our apartment complex.  NOTE: Kayla and Ashley moved out of the volunteer house after a month and moved into Sun Camp. We all walked through the batey gathering all the kiddos and we all walked back down towards our apartment. THE KIDS WERE OVERLY EXCITED!.   They had so much fun, swimming in the river, playing pool and other games.  At the end I gave them all a present, then the ladies and I walked them back home.  I would do this everyday with them, if I could.
That's Joseph in the background, One of my favorite students.  He's very fluent in English and HELPS translate Haitian Creole or Spanish to the kids when I need it! Awesome Kid!

Kayla is helping the kids swim in the river

My other angel!



The little girl that I have my hand on is another one of my amazing kids.  Her name is Alicia. She so determined to learn English and loves the games I come up with.

Me, Ashley and Kayla with the kiddos.

FUN TIME IS OVER...We're walking the kiddos back home.

That night, my 3 favorite folks( David, Kayla and Ashley) took me out on the town as a "farewell...not good-bye" get-together.  We partied on the beaches of Sosua and Cabarete. An Amazing night! Man, I can't wait to see them again tomorrow! We've been keeping in touch while I'm here in the States, but it's not the same.
Me and Kayla at Cabarete Beach

Ashley and David, in Cabarate with us.