So the recent return of the rains got me to thinking. Never a good thing! Am I right? It leads to things like blogging!

I was thinking about how rain affects us differently here than where we come from. The different ways it impacts our lives.

The most obvious is, of course, accomplishing laundry. This is on my mind because my roommate’s laundry has now been on the line for three days.

We need, what I call the trifecta, in order to do laundry. This means we need water, power and sunshine. Together. Because the majority of us don’t have a dryer. And water is not always supplied by the water company. And power is not always supplied by the power company. You need to be sure you have all three in sufficient quantity in order to even consider beginning a load of laundry.

So you can begin by checking your cisterna’s water level. If it’s low but clean clothes have become an urgent matter, you check the tinaco and hope there’s sufficient water in there to get you through a load or two.

If the water situation is good you move on to power. Now back in the day when we had scheduled outages you would go on the Edenorte website and look up the schedule for that day, for your sector, and then you added at least an hour to either side of the outage to be safe. Now that we have alleged 24-hour power you just sort of cross your fingers and hope for the best. Because while you might think clothes left in a powerless washer are just getting an extra soak, in this country they will be starting to mildew and get pretty darn funky.

So with faith in an unfaithful power supply, you forge ahead. You check the sky. In all directions. And even if you see abundant sunshine at the moment you know better than to just trust that. This is the tropics and tropical weather is, and this is an understatement, unpredictable. You check a weather forecast. Maybe two. And if you think the odds are in your favour, you pray to whatever god or other being you think has some pull and you start your washer.

You don’t have a dedicated laundry day or time. You are at the whims of so many things. It’s a little bit of luck, a little bit of magic and a whole lot of thankfulness that you bought those extra knickers.

Now on to leaks. Or as we call it here – infiltration.

Our houses are block and cement. Blocks are porous. Cement is porous. Especially in older homes, where who knows what ratio of water to cement they may have used to mix up the batch of cement that covers your blocks. Who am I kidding? Even these days you can’t be sure. Constant rain means constantly wet walls. Walls that eventually wick up and absorb that water like an adult diaper.

And the majority of our roofs are flat and while there are drains and pipes sticking out from the walls to remove the water, we all know, from any floods in our bathrooms, that nothing here is actually ever graded toward the drain. So only once the water reaches a certain depth on your roof does it start to drain. But water will be left in all the low lying areas of your roof. Looking, like a thief, for a place to get in. And all the fixes you try only ever seem temporary in the face of heavy, unending tropical rains.

And then your paint peels inside and outside. And your walls and ceilings start to develop mould. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it until the rains stop. And then you have to have the patience to wait at least a month for everything to truly dry out so you can start all over again with whatever is the latest and greatest new fix – this time hoping it is permanent or at least a lot less temporary than the last.

And finally, there is your social life. Most of our favourite places to eat and drink are outside or open to the air. Very open to the air. This is wonderful on warm tropical nights. We love being under a canopy of stars or trees. We love hearing the ocean as we dine and feeling the sand under our feet as we share cocktails with friends.

Not so much in rainy season. It puts a damper on things, quite literally. But you can’t say you are truly aplatanado until you are willing to sit crammed together under a dripping roof, in rain gear with umbrellas open and a piece of plastic sheeting wall as the only protection between you and the elements, to enjoy your Happy Hour. Or eat your fried fish or plate of the day.

And while this might not paint the romantic image that people want or expect of tropical life, it really, for most of us who choose to live here, is a part of the charm of living here. It unites us. And it means we haven’t got as much time to be too concerned with the things that cause the ‘real world’ such anguish and depression and anger.

Life isn’t always easy here. And as we say ‘Siempre hay algo’ – there’s always something. But those somethings teach us patience. And those somethings bring us back to the important things in life. And those somethings give us a sense of community.

And those somethings mold us into new, and often, more tolerant people.

So let it rain. And if you need me, well, I’ll be mopping up the flood on my floor, and blow-drying my laundry and gathering my rain gear to take to Happy Hour!

 

So today our beautiful, normal, sunny, warm weather came back. And believe me, there is rejoicing everywhere. And even better is the fact that we seem to have a long stretch of it ahead of us. 

Now many who are not here, and are in climates much more frigid than we can even imagine anymore, saw a lot of us complaining about how damn cold it was. And we took some pretty good hits for it.

Don’t get us wrong. We know the conditions all of you, who are not with us here in paradise, are suffering. And our complaints are, for the most part, in jest. We know we are lucky. But the fact of the matter is – we were freezing! 

You see, rainy season started with a vengeance in early November and we haven’t seen a lot of sun since then. And this last stretch came with, literally, a wind chill factor. The winds were practically hurricane force and the seas were fierce and the rain never seemed to end. And we shivered.

Now 19˚C or 67˚F may not seem like anything to complain about, but when you live most of the time with temperatures closer to 30˚C or 86˚F with a crazy humidex factor, well, you can see how it might have been a shock to our systems. And we usually end the fall with temperatures and humidity you don’t even want to know about. 

We aren’t equipped for it. Most of our houses are open and airy. And cement and tile. Wonderful in the heat of summer. Not so great when things turn nippy. We can’t close things up and turn on the heat. In fact, if you are lucky enough to have a car with functioning heat you are sorely tempted to spend the night sleeping in it.

And our wardrobes aren’t exactly built for cold temperatures either. Most of us have a few basic pieces of cold weather gear – well, really, cool weather gear. And we won’t lie. Every year when the heat breaks and the temperatures drop and a normal rainy season starts we love to break out the jeans and long-sleeve shirts. And the sweaters or jackets. And the closed toe shoes and socks. And we all make comments to each other about how nice we look. After endless months in shorts and tank tops and flip flops we feel like we are all dressed up for a formal occasion. It’s a novelty.

But a season like this pushes us to our sartorial limits. When you’ve alternated those two long-sleeved shirts all week for weeks and weeks and worn the same sweater over them and the stains on your jeans are starting to show and that one pair of socks now has a hole in the toe – well, it gets old fast.

Then there’s the fact that it’s almost impossible to do laundry. Oh, you can wash your clothes but good luck getting them to dry. We’ve all put on something to go out that’s a wee bit more than just damp. You can imagine how that adds to the chill factor. And we’ve all had to rewash those clothes because they start to mildew from the dampness before they can dry.

But we know it will get sunny and warm again. And we aren’t trapped by snow and ice storms. We don’t have to dig our way out of our houses only to have to dig our car out of a snowbank.

And we can always still go to Happy Hour on the beach. We’ll throw on those same damp clothes and go out. Because very little keeps us from getting together to enjoy a drink or two with friends. 

 

The other day I posted some pictures of the views during my morning walk with Mia and a dear friend, who is no longer living here, commented ‘MY mountain’. I knew what she meant. We all have something about this place that we call ours.

Another good friend calls the rock poking out of the ocean near the Puerto Plata harbour her rock. It’s what she sees when she’s having her coffee on her patio on her first morning back after a lengthy absence. Her rock welcomes her home.

These things we call ours ground us here. If we are away they are touchstones or talismans that pull us back here or maybe just transport us back to the memory of this place. To this home.

For some people it’s a favourite sea grape tree on the beach where they spend lazy days reading and relaxing. Others claim the whole beach. And others even claim the whole ocean. Or even the whole sky. 

But it can be your favourite stool in your favourite watering hole. Or that little Dominican restaurant that serves your favourite plato del dia. That perfect spot on the wall of the Malecon under the trees watching the ocean all day. Or a bench in Parque Central. 

We all claim something as ours.

But in reality, I think these things claim us. Just like this country did.

It starts claiming you when you first arrive. It’s the air full of so many smells. It’s the feel of the humidity wrapping itself around you. It’s the cacophony of noises. It’s the taste of that first frosty Presidente or Bohemia. Or that first icy Cuba Libre. It’s enjoying that Pina Colada made right in the pineapple on a hot sandy beach. That first cup of Santo Domingo coffee watching the sun rise over the ocean. The first bite of a crunchy hot tostone. It’s sitting listening to the ocean rushing in hour after hour endlessly. It’s all this and more.

It’s all these things that make us say things like – I can’t wait until I see my rock again. It’ll all be alright again when I see my mountain. Or I know I’m home when I see my ocean. Can’t wait to taste an ice cold Presidente at my favourite watering hole.

We all claim and are claimed.

And me. Well I love so much about this country. But if I have to pick – I guess I was claimed by Costambar. Warts and all. From my very first day on this island so very many years ago, this felt like home. It said you belong here. This funky, crazy, weird little piece of paradise. And I still feel that way every time I come through that entrance.

 

 

Admit it. How many of you came here thinking I made a typo? How many even noticed it might be?

Well I didn’t. Remember I said I was going to write about bizarre things I find on my morning dog walks? This is going to be one of those posts.

I have a strange and compelling urge to take pictures of all the lost shoes I see while I’m out and about. 

(How many of you realized I’m Canadian and translated it to ‘oot and aboot’ and laughed to yourselves? And for the record – I don’t say it that way. I also don’t snore!)

But I digress.

See, I understand the shoes that wash up on the beach. They’ve come down the rivers from barrios and the campo. Or have fallen off passing boats. These I can understand. Or you are having a fun afternoon on the beach and leave a shoe behind because, you know – rum! Also, relatable.

But so many are in weird places. On the side of the road. In the middle of the road. Halfway under a gate. In a field. At the base of a tree. In a ditch at the side of the road.

Are people losing a shoe and walking on with one bare foot? Have they mysteriously lost a shoe, like a sock in the dryer, and then abandon the other wherever the whim strikes them?

And some are in pairs. Who ditches a perfectly good pair of shoes? Did it have something to do with rum?

I’ve even found a snorkeling fin. Okay, not technically a shoe, but how does a snorkeling fin end up in a field in Costambar?

Okay, the Crocs I can understand. You’re walking along and look down and suddenly realize ‘Oh my god, I’m wearing Crocs!’ and you toss the offending things as far away as you can – in opposite directions so no other poor fool thinks it’s a good idea to wear them – and you walk away barefoot knowing you have regained at least some of your dignity.

Flip flops. Lots of flip flops. So many flip flops. Really, if you can’t keep your flip flops on your feet you need to consider tie up shoes. Or maybe slip-ons. Or, hell, even Crocs!

Now kids’ shoes, well, kids lose shoes. They blow a bootie like their feet have ejector buttons. It used to break my heart to see them until I remembered how many shoes my brother threw out the car window or hid under the porch. Kid hated wearing shoes.

One day I will do a photo album of all the shoes I have photographed. I’ll title it Lost Soles. You’ll love it.

Till the next time – try to keep your shoes on your feet people! Or don’t – my obsession must be satisfied.

Oh and before you start in on me about the Crocs – I know a lot of people who wear them. I still talk to them. When no one is watching!

 

So when I said I would do a blog, well, it seemed like such a great idea at the time. I’m trying to remember if maybe rum was involved. Because when it came time to produce I was very much like “What the heck was I thinking? What will I write about? Who will read it?”

In a nutshell, I froze. 

But then I thought, I could write about my latest J-C car adventure. Where I ended up on an early morning tour of Javillar because all the cars were full and one car took a few of us down into the barrio to try and find an empty car since they were all in Javillar picking up school kids who didn’t want to take motos to school on a rainy day. And the way that a road made for maybe two cars to pass can seem to make way for at least four cars to get through is the same principal in the Dominican Republic as a car made for five passengers can always take at least eight .

Or I could write about the smell of roasting pigs on Christmas morning and how that’s when I, now, really feel like it’s Christmas.

Or, maybe, I could write about the bizarre and random things I find on the street when I’m walking my dog in the morning. 

Really, when I thought about it, I realized how much material the mere fact of living here will pretty much throw in my face. Daily. Even hourly. The stuff that makes you laugh. The stuff that makes you groan. The stuff that makes you scream. And the stuff that makes you so very glad this is where you live.

And I imagine that is what this blog will be about. Things that strike a note with those who live or visit here and will, probably, astound those who don’t.

So, welcome to my blog. Together we will see where this journey takes us.