Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Next steps...

I can confirm that finding out one's second post is no less exciting than the first time. Jeremy called me from work today to tell me that we will be heading to (drum rolllllll) Madagascar in May 2012!! It seems a million years away and then still so soon. We will be here until October 2011 - we are about to begin our second year - I can't believe it!. Then, six short months in DC and then off to one of those places I think I never even really believed existed! Evidently, they eat a lot of rice there. And, it's a consumables post. But, there will be time to consider the food in the future I'm sure. For now, back to good ol' Dominican habichuelas. (happy dance, happy dance, happy dance...for now and for the future)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We have donuts!


Today the Embassy sponsored a 5K to raise environmental awareness (a seriously hefty task in this country). I ran it, so I was more than prepared to enjoy our brand new Krispy Kreme for an afternoon snack. That’s right, Krispy Kreme has come to Santo Domingo! Let’s get dressed up and go out and wait in line because there is nothing like a donut! And, a real American style latte…in an 8 oz. cup…not one of those little ones like dentists’ offices use which is how coffee is usually served here.

Our only snag (waiting in line for 30 minutes doesn’t count because there are big windows where you can see the donut machines and anything with gears will keep my boys entertained for hours) was when I attempted to order milk for the boys (because, while I will gladly treat them to a donut I cannot and will not serve it with a soda or a Minute Maid). The conversation went like this (translated from Spanish):

Cashier: Anything else?
Me: Yes, a café latte and two milks.
Cashier: We don’t have milk.
Me: What?
Cashier: We have juice.
Me: Well, no thank you, I don’t really want juice. I would like to order milk for the kids.
Cashier: We don’t serve milk (uneasy smile).
Me: But, you do have milk. It’s right there. Just the same milk you use for the coffee, but in a cup for the kids.
Cashier: Do you want a cappuccino?
Me: Um, no. Can’t you just give me milk and charge me for a soda or plain coffee or something?
Cashier: (Looking helplessly at the cash register). Uh, uh, uh…no.
Me: Well, I mean, a coffee is 30 pesos and a soda is 20, I would happily pay 20 or 30 pesos for a milk. Can’t you just charge me that?
Cashier: Uh, uh, uh…(goes to get manager).
Me: (to manager) I would like to order milk. Can you just charge me for a soda or something?
Manager: (laughing) Hmmm..(turns to coffee guy) asks him to just give me some milk. (coffee guy, manager, cashier look at each other and shrug).

I leave with free milk.

This is a very typical type of conversation here. Everything is very top-down. Cashiers, secretaries, store staff, etc can never, ever make decisions on their own and rarely are things done outside the box. There is not a lot of critical thinking…or even problem solving that goes into these sorts of transactions. If you go to the store and your item doesn’t have the bar code, they cannot just enter the price, they have to send someone back to find one with a bar code. This doesn’t seem too crazy I guess, but if none of the products are bar-coded, you are out of luck! You cannot buy your item because they cannot ring it up. This happens! It doesn’t even matter if the price is clearly displayed in the shelf.

Just more for the files of ever-expanding patience I guess. And, anyway, anything's manageable with a donut...right?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leonel

The Dominican Republic has quite the sordid political past. Invasion, war, dictatorship, corruption, coup, stir, repeat and add those famous Caribbean waters. Serious history. And it just keeps on happening.

Right now the President is Leonel Fernandez. He is serving his third term (second consecutive). The Constitution says he’s done come May 2012. That’s why these billboards get me a little weirded out. And I keep missing my chance to get a photo of the ones encouraging us to consider the fabulous personal characteristics of Margarita…the first lady. Because, you know, presumably, she could serve that fourth term...or something. Wow.

This one doesn't make sense to me, but translated it means something like, "Because he doesn't belong, but the country deserves him."
"Always forward, never back."
"The country is asking for him."
"Listen to my voice."
"Destiny."
"I'm with Leonel" - this is a Dominican/English play on words - they often use "toy" for "estoy" - clearly appealing to the younger generation here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Perception

I’m busy. Really busy. Back when I started this blog my life was…not busy. It was full, but definitely not busy. I love, love, love my job – it increasingly is becoming one of the things I will miss most when we leave here (which is still a long way away, but I tend to be a future thinker). Anyway, back to busy. The result is that I am not writing as much as I want to. But, something else has also come to my attention. Part of the reason I’m writing less is because I keep trying to tie everything back to food. The problem? The longer I’m here, the less the food matters. Food is still interesting. I love food and I love to eat, but I see things now through the metaphorical taco-lens, not the real one (hee hee, I am imagining myself with Groucho-glasses shaped like tacos).

So, this is where “The Culinary Adventures of a Foreign Service Spouse” becomes, simply “The Adventures of a Foreign Service Spouse.” The difference might be subtle, or perhaps in the end, non-existent, but for me it matters. It gives me permission to keep writing, but to not be confined (except by my own rules – no photos of family and no gory details about them). Truth be told, I will probably still write a lot about food…like right now.

Here’s an update on lechoza (what Dominicans call papaya). Something has happened – I love it! The mangoes right now are fabulous and I cut one up with some lechoza, squeeze on a little lime and perhaps a scoop of chinola and viola – ensalada de fruta! I am not sure if I have become accustomed by some bizarre osmosis of culture or if I just found the right combination or if I am in a phase like I once was with portabella mushrooms (in which case, I will soon swear it off for the next 13 years or so).

Here’s just a little random DR tidbit. It’s going to sound strange, but one of the things I really love about here is seeing the people in the morning, on their way to work with their lunch boxes. They tend to use those small, soft-sided coolers, like people often do at home (and like I do here, as well). But, I don’t know, for some reason it stands out to me here. Public transportation here is incredibly chaotic and pretty dirty and takes a level of persistence and patience far exceeding that of the average American commuter (I’m positive). So, for some reason seeing women dressed in their pant suits, their heels, their matching jewelry, hair still in a tube (pronounced too-bay) dodging motos and cars…or riding noxious gas spewing motos with the ubiquitous soft-sided cooler strapped over their shoulders makes me feel a bit like we’re all in this together. Me, them and the guy with his cooler and dress shoes and shirt perfectly pressed and tucked-in waiting… waiting.... waiting for the guagua as I sit in my car and wait for the light…and then the next one…and then the traffic police…and then the person trying to beat the traffic and then the power goes out. Yep, all in this together.