Residency, Thanksgiving, Christmas

Well, it is official! We are residents of the Dominican Republic. We had done all the initial paperwork when we first arrived here in May and received word, a few weeks ago, that the process was complete. A couple of weeks ago, I hopped on the Metro bus to Santo Domingo and David took the work van to the capital from the project. The following day, we were met by Julia, a lovely Dominican lady who works in the Santo Domingo Barrick office. In less than a couple of hours, we had our “cedulas” (residency cards).

in a big city was certainly a huge change from our quiet beach existence! We enjoyed going to the three malls and 2 large “Wal-Mart” like department stores. It was fun to window shop and see the Christmas decorations. I must be honest, though, that I have never liked celebrating Christmas in the tropics. However, I am not wishing for cold weather like I did when we were in Argentina! That Christmas, the temperature was 100 degrees and I looked at David and said “I don’t care where we are in the world next year, but at Christmas I want to be in cold!!” Now, when I put that out to the universe, I was envisioning a quaint Swiss village with cobblestone streets, hot chocolate, cheese fondue and roaring fires in the fireplace. The following year, we did have cold for Christmas. It was in Saskatoon, SK, Canada and the temperature was -50 degrees for six weeks straight. It was too cold to snow! This year, I have resigned myself that Christmas is going to be spent with palm trees swaying in the breeze and have not mentioned cold at all!!!

We did get to go to the movies and out to dinner afterwards. Seeing a movie in the cinema was definitely a treat! We saw Social Network, which we enjoyed.

The next day, Saturday, the taxi picked us up and took us back to the project so David could get his truck and we could head back to Cabarete. It was my first time seeing the project. I didn’t get to see all of it but what I saw amazed me. That place is huge! It was mind boggling! I just kept thinking about the small power plant that David built in the middle of a corn field in Nebraska…you have come a long way, baby!

On our way home, we stopped at the Barrick Christmas party in the town of La Vega. It was at a lovely resort and much planning went into it. The dress on the invitation said “casual”. I don’t think Dominican women understand “casual dress”. They had on beautiful dresses, gorgeous make-up and perfectly coiffed hair. I felt very under dressed in my skirt, top and flip-flops! There must have been about 400 people there! Dominicans like their music loud and the bass even louder! After it was well documented by photos taken by the company photographer that David had indeed been there and 20 minutes of screaming in another person’s ear to have a conversation, we left. We must be getting old because it just isn’t fun anymore with the loud music!

When we discovered that we were only 15 minutes from Jarabacoa, where I lived and worked 27 years ago, we decided to go there and have an early dinner. I enjoyed being back there. Although the downtown is much busier that it was 27 years ago, the town has remained basically the same. I was so surprised to see the butcher shop, where I used to by my dog bones, was still located in the farmer’s market. We had a nice lunch of rice and beans and fried plantains.

While in Jarabacoa, we bought our 3 night guards hooded sweatshirts as the nights are getting cooler and being on the beach, a little damp and chilly. We looked all over this country for them! We looked in Sosua, Puerto Plata, Santiago, Santo Domingo and finally found them in Jarabacoa. Throughout this search, David said that this was the one time that he wished we could go to Wal-Mart….I almost fell over! We did find some in our searching but they were either the wrong size, not thick enough or too expensive…the mall in Santo Domingo had them for $100….I love my guards, but I don’t think that I would spend $100 on a sweatshirt…not even for me!

The guards were so appreciative, which always makes the giving fun. However, the next night Samuel explained to me that when he took his off, it started to fall apart! He showed us the big holes in it. I think that the store must have had the sweatshirt for awhile (they brought it out of storage) and due to the heat or whatever, the material rotted. Oh the pain! Fortunately, we were able to find a replacement for him.

Thanksgiving was very different. We really didn’t have one. The weekend before, David had stayed at the project and worked all weekend. Since he had worked, he was going to come home on Thursday instead of the usual Friday. I was pleased as he would have been home at least for Thanksgiving night. I got up Thursday morning and went for a shuffle on the beach. When I got back, my cleaning lady, Josie was cleaning my condo. I had just heard the song “Itʼs raining men” by the Weather Girls on my Ipod. That song just makes me smile….“Weʼre the weather girls and have we got news for you. Get ready all you lonely girls and leave those umbrellas home. Temperatures rising, barometer is getting low. According to all sources, the streets the place to go. Because tonight for the first time, just about half past 10, for the first time in history itʼs going to start raining men. Itʼs raining men, hallelujah. Itʼs raining men, amen. I am going to go out and let myself get absolutely soaking wet. Itʼs raining men, hallelujah!!” It is a catchy tune that came out in the 80s. Anyway, I played it for Josie and I translated it the best I could while we danced around to it. The Macy Day parade was on television…thanks to satellite, we can get some US channels. So, I made cheese omelets and coffee. While we ate breakfast, I tried to explain the parade to her. That was the fun part of the day.

After that, it went downhill fast! David called and said that just as he was leaving the VP asked him for help on a project. Of course, David couldn’t say “no” to the VP and wasn’t able to come home until Friday. My Spanish teacher was a “no-show” that day. She is usually very good about contacting me if she canʼt make it. I waited an hour and figured she wasnʼt coming. Finally, that night, I had made plans to walk in a candlelight vigil against domestic violence. As I was getting ready, I learned that the walk had happened the night before. By the end of the day, I was laughing thinking that whatever message I had sent the universe that morning, it read it wrong! It will certainly be one Thanksgiving I wonʼt forget. I did spend much time reflecting on all that I had to be grateful for…which is, after all, what Thanksgiving is all about.

David’s project for the VP was helping to evict about 250 Dominican trouble-makers who had been initiating strikes and riots on the project. There had been a few problems with strikes but the last one was rather scary and Barrick decided to take some serious action to prevent them from happening again. The last strike happened because one phase of the project had been completed and workers were getting laid off….there was no more work for them to do on that phase. All they had to do was go to the next contractor and see if there was work available for the next part. However, a few of them got upset and started throwing rocks and creating chaos.

It got nasty with trucks being smashed and set on fire. Tires were put across the road and set on fire. The military police had to be called in. All expats were put in lock-down in a secure place and when it was safe enough, sent home. The fever of it all spread and honestly, I don’t know if 90% of the people even knew what they were rioting about. Anyway, the project was shut down for a week so Barrick could address the situation. 250 people were evicted from the project, which is very sad. These workers had a place to live, uniforms for work, 3 meals a day and a steady paycheck.

Friday arrived, David had each individual’s belongings at the front gate, word had been put out to come and get them. They gave them severance checks as well. For David’s protection, he had about 12 SWAT members in full gear nearby. If anyone started to give him trouble, David raised his hand and the SWAT team would march toward him. The person giving him problems got the message fast and would take his check, belongings and walk away. I must say, David was in his glory all weekend. As for me, ignorance is bliss….I was relieved that I knew about it after the fact and not before. Not many wives have their husbands go to work with a SWAT team escort! I am pleased to report that things are once again running smoothly at the mine.

Christmas is a week from today! David and I will be spending two weeks in Costa Rica. We leave early Wed, Dec 22 and arrive in San Jose, the capital, where we will spend a day and night. The rest of our trip will be spent visiting three national parks. We will visit the active volcano in Arenal and enjoy the hot springs in that area. After a boat trip across Arenal Lake, we will spend time in Monteverde Park enjoying hikes, zip lines, the suspension bridges above Cloud Forest and repelling down waterfalls (cayoning). Our final destination will be Manual Antonio Park where we will enjoy snorkeling and a dolphin/whale watching trip. I think we will need a vacation from our vacation!

We will arrive back in the Dominican Republic late on Jan 6 and make our way back to Cabarete on Friday, Jan 7th. On Jan 13, I have purchased a one-way ticket to Maine and will be going home for an indefinite period of time. My stepmother was diagnosed a year ago with kidney failure and for the past 3 weeks been in the hospital with complications. I offered to come home and help but my dad has insisted that we go on our trip.

It is a very sad situation and difficult, too. My stepmother is not very fond of me and my presence tends to agitate her. I honestly don’t know how much help she will allow me to give her. For now, my father has admitted her to a nursing home for one month. This will give him time to sort through the maze of paperwork and health care options to see what is available and the best for their situation. Through all of this, Kelsie (my brother Mike’s partner) has been a blessing. She is helping Dad navigate his way through the system and attending all the meetings with the social workers. If she hadn’t been doing this, I would have been home a week ago. Thank you, Kelsie from the bottom of my heart!

Well, that is for the most part, the latest happenings down here. I hope you have joyous holidays and are blessed with an amazing year 2011. I am off to pack for my trip……

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