Friday, February 21, 2014

My new house

Okay. I finally decided to write the post about my new house. Be aware, it is picture heavy. In theory this will be a nice comparison of my old house to my new house.

Edited from here to * I should first mention how I came about living in this house. My old house took me walking down the street on a super hot day looking at every house that looked empty and asking every random person in the street if they knew of any openings. Eventually, after a 3 mile walk, I found my house. The decision to move into this house was much easier. The house is rented by the organization that requested me, Project Esperanza. The house will sometimes have volunteers staying in it and I thought it would be nice to live with people who are working for the same organization and I thought it would be a nice way to get to know some new people from around the world America. There are other options similar to this in Muñoz, but for now I like living with other people when they are here. The Doñ of the house is also really helpful, so that is exactly like my old house. Dudes here really do like being helpful with house stuff. 

I’ll start with the structure. My old house was originally a motorcycle repair shop and my new house was originally a house. My old house had giant metal doors and windows and my new house has wooden doors and a lot of bars. My old house was a big cube that was frequently dark. My new house has multiple rooms and wonderful windows surrounded by gallerias with a roof I can get to easily and sit on comfortably. I loved my old house. I love my new house. 

As you can tell from the photos below I have a lot of space in the front. I was also gifted with an awesome room mate seen in the picture to the side. She is reading there, but if you look closely you will see her computer there. She and I both have Internet bandwidth sticks and the garage is where we hideout for a good signal when the sun is just too hot to go onto the roof. 

Next we have the roof access point. It looks like a lot of metal, and that is probably because there is a lot of metal. We have to go through two gates to get to the roof, but I am not complaining. We have a roof. A safe roof. A roof that has an actual staircase up to it. I love the roof. I cherish the roof. I don't like it when cat's poop on my roof.
The roof. It's hot in the middle of the day, which is why I've started hanging my clothes here instead of on the back patio. If you look toward the back that is the water tank. It's called a tinaqua and I don't know how to spell tinaka... It holds 300 gallons I believe. It runs out sometimes which sucks. They work because the pressure in the line forces the water up and into the tank. That way we don't need electricity to have water. It's pretty great having this roof and all the perks that come with it.
When you enter the house from the front you enter into the living space. Michelle and I typically have the two tables facing the window as if they were our two work desks, but this week we have volunteers staying with us so we set the tables up so they could eat and we would all have more room to play spades. You know how I work!

When you walk into the front door and into the living space there will be a hallway on the right. That hallway contains the two bedrooms on either end and the bathroom in the middle. This is the view in my room. Notice the mass of mosquito nets. Safety first! Also notice my gym shoes on the bed. That was a bit of post P90X mess. I tend to pile things on the end of my bed sometimes. Only sometimes.
My closet in my new house is so much better. Some of you may remember that I had a armoire full of termites holding all of my things in my last house. This house has an actual closet with actual door and an actual bar to hang things. I bought so many hangers, because I wanted to get my crap up. I also hung two shoe racks on the inside of the closet to have more space. I left 1/2 of the closet empty just in case volunteers wanted to use it. Judging by experience though, they tend to live out of their suitcases and I may wind up shifting some of my things over.

You can also see my helmets above. I do use mine if you were curious and I have an extra that my room mate and other visitors can use if they want to. I actually use my helmet mostly when I visit a friend in the capital though, so for the most part it is sitting right next to my suitcase.

This is where I should have a picture of the bathroom, but apparently it didn't upload. I'll forget to do it later, so it will likely remain a mystery. It's really nice though. Tile everywhere. I gave Michelle the 2 liter bottle I was using to store my cutlery in my old house and it now houses her teeth cleaning supplies. I should make one for myself, because my stuff is sitting in a cup all exposed to the elements. Picture this though, an actual sink in the bathroom. My old house didn't have a sink anywhere, so to have a sink in the bathroom it luxurious. We also have a hot water heater which I will show you later. As of this writing though, it isn't really working and that is something that I can't be bothered to mind. I still bucket shower and I like that just fine. I think for the sake of the volunteers though we are going to look into getting it fixed.

The last room in the hall is Michelle's room and the other room for volunteers. This is usually all I see of it. I don't spend any time here. I could hang out with Michelle in there maybe, but really, we'd rather be on the roof or in the garage, or at the beach.

The kitchen. I love the kitchen. I took this awkward photo so it would house all the elements I wanted to talk about. First, cabinets. Actual cabinets. What is this world I am living in? Cabinets are so exciting. I don't think I ever would have this much excitement over cabinets, but yeah, I love them. If you look on the very top shelf where that pink thing is, that is one place where I store my food. The pink container is an airtight container where I store my dry goods. I keep soy milk powder, oat flour, and oatmeal in there at all times. The popcorn, lentils, and saltines are housed in my cabinet along with all of my spices and other pantry type food items.

A little lower we can see my stove. It is the one to the right and it is the same one I had at my last house. I bought it for that house and it has served Michelle and I well here. I heat up water for my bath here and don't worry one bit about wasting gas. I also cook here. This is where I made a recipe for banana pancakes and learned how to make fried chicken. The other stove is the one my Project Partner bought for the house. It's bigger, but mine serves me just fine.

To the far left you can see an actual sink. What a luxury. Also a window. The fridge in the picture is mine. The volunteers and the cook use it too, but it's mine and it has also served me well since living on my own in this country. It has a little freezer in it and the almost constant electricity at my site means I can use it to make ice. Drawers... did you see that I have drawers. This is the life. Really.

Moving on through the house this is the view out to the back patio. It is really nice and also iron barred in. You were able to see some of this when I showed you how I am doing laundry in my new home. I like the back porch, and I think we would spend more time out here if it weren't for the mosquitos. I think there is just more room for standing water in this area, so they are worse out here. This is also where I tend to exercise. The neighbor kids watch me do that from their windows, but whatever. Everybody needs something to entertain them right?

This is my typical exercise area. I use the yoga mat a lot, and the box is where I will set my computer if I am following some type or exercise video.

The beds are also where we have room for more volunteers if were were to have a full house.

Some of us know that I don't particularly love cats, but I acquired these when Courtney was here. It is nice to have something living around the house, so we feed them. The one on the right is named "Primary Cat", because it was the first cat we procured. The second is named "Secondary Cat", because he showed up after we started feeding primary cat every now and then. I believe they may belong to the neighbors, but we like them around enough to let them be on the porch and give them a little something every now and then.

Secondary cat likes to run into the house and be mischievous. That is just his style, while primary cat pretty much just lounges around. We kind of live the same life.

There is a water spicket out back. I used to come out here to do laundry, but I found a better spout in the front that allowed me to attach the hose. Now I sit on the porch, sip tea, watch shows and plunge away at my laundry.

The rumored water heater. There is a switch in the bathroom that turns it on. The landlord Papito has been fixing it almost every other day this past week, because it will work for one hot shower and then stop heating. Judging by the rust and the need to fix it after one shower, I'd say it is probably time for another one, but I'm fine heating my water on the stove.

 My thing is hot showers. I told myself I wouldn't live in a place that didn't allow for some kind of hot shower in some way, be it heating water in the sun, on a stove, or with an actual water heater. Since I have access to boil hot water here I am happy.

The space in the back where we sometimes dry things. The sun doesn't hit this place as much as it hits the roof though, so I left this mess behind and went upstairs.

The other side. That is an area where I sometimes get to watch old dudes shower. I should probably remember this as the highlight of my Peace Corps service.

So there you have it my new house. As you can see it is way better than my old house. In ways it is also better that the studio apartment I had before  I left for Peace Corps. I have more than one room, which is a plus. I have a room mate, which is a big plus. I have roof access, which is a plus. I have a neighbor that sings "Happy Birthday" to a baby every day, and how can that not be a plus! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

You're in the Peace Corps

I just want to point out that my room mate and I have spent more time than I care to admit discussing the length of a particular dog's nipples. Why is the one nipple so much longer than all of the rest? Why is this a topic we've brought up more than once? How does living the Peace Corps life bring me too this point? How do I choose between discussing the nipples on the dog or the emotions of the passing cows?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


One thing most Peace Corps Volunteers do, but often choose not to share, is watch entire seasons of shows in one sitting. Now, before you go getting all judgmental, I’ll let you know that it takes less than 24 hours to watch one season of most shows. You could wake up one morning, realize it’s raining and rather than let your community members leave you waiting for a meeting that will never happen you could choose that you will lay in bed all day and watch television while never taking a bucket bath or even a sponge bath.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve spent an entire day watching a single season of a show, but the following will be a list of shows I have seen in the DR and am choosing to comment on.

Everybody who knows me knows that this is my favorite television show. I have the entire series on DVD back in America and acquired digital copies of most episodes since I’ve been in country. I still love this show. I watched it everyday when I lived in Gualete. It was a saving grace when I was going through the reason for my site change. My favorite episode is “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.”

Sex and The City
I hadn’t ever seen all of the episodes of this show. I hadn’t really seen anything other than the movies. I do like the show. It was funny. It was nice to know what the common references were referring to.  I liked it, but I don’t know if I will go back to it often.

Modern Family
This show is so cute. I watched it before I was here, but I never really saw the first few seasons. The show is funny in obvious ways, but I still like to watch it. I use this show when I wake up from a bad dream and want to forget it before I fall back to sleep.

I watched the first few seasons, but since it all just feels kind of the same I just looked at Wikipedia for the answers to what happened on the show. Clue… nothing.

Orange is the New Black- WATCH THIS
The same person suggested this to me many times. I thought it was some kind of guns and hip hop show for the longest time, based on the title. Now that I know it is about some white chick in prison and that it is in fact a comedy I love it. I am waiting “paitiently” for the second season to make its rounds onto Peace Corps hard drives. I want to know. Apparently it is also a book, but since I started this mission with the show I think I want to finish with the show before I move on to the book.

The Big Bang Theory
I had seen this show in the states, but never in order. I saw the first four seasons here. They are funny. It was whatever. Not an obsession, but fun.

Homeland- WATCH THIS
I am currently on season three on Homeland. I will not state when the seasons made it onto my hard drive, but I will say it wasn’t that long ago. I am obsessed with knowing where this POW is going next. What is this fake CIA going to do next? They just keep throwing cliff hangers at me left and right. Seriously, when the dead guy wasn’t dead… I’m not going to say anything else, but WHOA. Also, I go back and forth on hwo I feel about two of the main characters. What is this world? 

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I am often confused about what people on this island consider a “short cut”. Consider my old host house. As I walked out of the door there was a dirt path that lead to the mail road. Before arriving at the main road I had the option of turning left onto another dirt path that would lead to another left that went to the main road. In my opinion this distance was the same. Thing about a box. You could go up and then over, or over and then up and end up in the same spot. I accepted this though, because everybody was convinced this was the better path. The road better traveled or something. I admit though, when I was alone, I rebelled… I went the way I wanted.

The listening to locals about their short cuts thing took a turn for the worse the other day when Michelle and I made our way to the beach across the street. As you walk along the paved road you have the option of turning right and then turning left to stay on paved road, or going straight and then turning right on a dirt path. I was told that following the paved road was a “bad idea” and that we needed to go straight more often, because it was a short cut.

This is a picture of our short cut.

If you think the “mud” is mud, you would be wrong. If you think the “mud” is cow poop, you would be right.
My beautiful room mate was wearing sandals. It had recently rained. We could see the hoof prints from where the cows had walked this path with the farmers this morning. The poop squishing through her toes and the smells drifting through my nose. It was a glorious day to take a walk! 

This is a picture of my super sexy leg muscles  leg covered in little stickies. They didn't particularly hurt, but they did itch. No me gusta. 

When we reached the end of the path, realized the short cut wasn’t any shorter, and took note of the fact that we could have been on an actual sidewalk the entire time, we both decided to ignore the idea of a local “shortcut” from now until the foreseeable future. 

Caribe Tours: The ice age

Caribe Tours is kind of like the GreyHound bus of the Dominican Republic. I take these buses at least once a month, usually to the capital, but they go to and from most major cities.

One thing I want to remind everyone to do though is to bring a winter coat.

No lie, all of the air conditioners in this country must be located on those busses.

On our recent trip to the capital I told Michelle the night before to be sure to pack a coat. In the morning I reminded her to bring a coat. When we walked outside and she was wearing a long sleeve shirt I asked her “Is that your coat?” She said it was. I said she may want a better on. She thought she was fine.

I don’t think I was clear on just how cold these busses get. I forgot my coat once… only once.

On the way back from the capital I had my giant comforter blanket. Right before we boarded I decided to grab that blanket. It was the most comfortable 5 hour trip I’ve ever taken on those buses, and Michelle was sure thankful her feet weren’t freezing for the entire trip.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fried Chicken!

“Take your time, and don’t crowd the chicken.”

That was the sum total off all the advice the internet gives on making fried chicken.

“Slow and steady is best. Oh, season the flour.”
That was some of the advice my Mom gave me on the subject.

When I was standing in La Sirena (Dominican Wal-Mart) in front of the chicken with Michelle, I had to decide the kind of chicken I was going to use. According to my mom, “Boneless cooks faster, but bone in is more "authentic" and usually it costs less.” It was decided, if I was going to tackle making fried chicken for the first time, I was going to go cheap and authentic. I decided to purchase one whole chicken. Bones in.

Michelle and I brought home our new bird “friend” and set him on the counter. “Okay Amanda.” I repeated to myself. “Take your time, and DON”T crowd the chicken” He was looking pretty crowded in that package, so I jumped right into Googleing how to cut a whole chicken chopping up that bird.

It didn’t take long for me to decide I knew what I was doing. I’ve seen southern women fry chicken before, and I had been reading up on the process all morning. I was stacked full of advice from my mother, and I had a roommate who believed in me.

As I was cutting up this joker I repeated lines from websites I had read all day so as to appear to know what I was talking about. “The breast should pull away from the rib cage pretty easily.” Also, “The joints are easier to cut than the bone, so you should feel for the sweet spot.” I’m sure I sounded like I’d done this a time or two. Maybe that was the point. I had to psyche myself into knowing how to do this.

When the little guy was cut up I set Michelle to making a liquid sauce while I made the batter mixture. It was a simple flour, salt, pepper, and a little bit o’ chicken seasoning, but I was pretty proud to have done it. Michelle whipped up an egg, milk, and hot sauce mix for the liquid part.

Michelle didn’t know how to make fried chicken, and I was only 86% sure I knew how, so the cooking process was a little scary.

Steps to chicken: 
    1.     Coat in dry batter
    2.     Let the chicken sit   
    3.     Heat oil. Don’t heat it too hot. Try the bread crumb thing.
    4.     Place a few pieces of chicken in the liquid

    5.     Remember not to crowd the chicken
    6.     Coat the liquid guy in the dry batter again

    7.     Remember to take your time

         8.     Drop the chicken slowly into the pan 
    9.     Remember not to crowd the chicken  
    10.  Let the guy cook
    11.  Remember to take your time 

    12.  Consider turning on the show FRIENDS
    13.  Turn on FRIENDS

    14.  Wait a few more minutes 
    15.  Flip the chicken 

    16.  Wait again 
    17.  Find a paper towel

   18.  When the chicken in golden, not burned, and cooked through put in on the towel

Now is about the time we realized the chicken might take a while. I think I knew. I was “taking my time” and I didn’t ever “crowd the chicken”.

We finished the meal off with rice and broccoli, neither of which I cooked. Michelle was a great partner in the cooking experience. We both took on foods we hadn’t ever cooked and it turns out we are pretty skilled. The meal was worth the wait, and for me it was nice to spend way less money on this meal than we typically do going down to the local pica pollo joint.

Now, I was thinking about watching FoodInc tonight, but maybe I hold off on that one until a day when I am not cutting up the breast of a bird.