Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lago Enriquillo

Hotel Entrance
Lago Enriquillo is the largest lake and lowest point in the Caribbean.  Its a heck of a drive from Santo Domingo, so on Saturday night Ana, Carlos, boyfriend, and I spent the night in a closer town to get an early start on Sunday morning.  We stayed at Loro Tuerto (One-Eyed Parrot) which seemed to be half barn house/half bar.

Lago Enriquillo is growing too fast and will soon flood the nearby roads - its one of those places that you have to see before its too late. 

Never got the picture right!
We drove all the way around the lake, and lucky for us passengers my iPod lasted until the very end.  The landscape was beautiful.

Sinking Palm Trees
The place is famous for having alligators, flamingos, and iguanas.  The iguanas we saw were enormous, and when we stepped out of the car they ran toward us!  

Posing for his Close Up

I screamed in fear while the others wanted to pet the things.  They were very photogenic creatures - I think they were posing for our pictures (if not planning an attack).

*To visitors of Lago Enriquillo:  
There are no gas stations!  Fill your tank. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Road Tripping in the DR

This weekend we drove 700 kilometers [435 miles] in 32 hours.  In true form, most of the time was spent passing through small villages and on gravel dirt roads.  In the Dominican Republic,

You Know You're In el campo When: 

There are zero street signs and you're praying for a cell signal so that you can use your trusty smartphone GPS.

You drive through villages whose names have no relation whatsoever, like Little New York and Come to See.

Children are riding donkeys that have 100 plantains hanging off of them.

You spot 6 people riding 1 moped {3 adults and 3 children - a new personal record for me}.

Women are getting their hair put up in rollers outside right on the main boulevard.

Bare bottomed boys roam the streets.

You can see all the stars and planets in the sky. 

A bat flies straight at your windshield.

And lastly, you know that you've been away for too long when arriving in the capital feels like you've just landed in NYC.  Street lights?!  Buildings?!  And you realize why you live in the city. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Drew Turns 21

Drew & Yaya
Today is my brother's 21st birthday.  

I can't believe he's 21 and that we are both now in our 20's.  Weird.  I just realized that with college, graduate school, Barcelona, and Santo Domingo, its been a whole 7 years that we haven't lived in the same house together.  It makes me sad that I've missed so much of his young adult life; we've been oceans apart for so long, but I know that it won't always be like this.  And that one day we'll make up for lost time.

Happy Birthday, Drew.  May all your wishes come true.

Summer 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I'm going to be honest.  

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, I'm not very happy today considering its the 2nd Thanksgiving in a row that I'm not in Chicago eating turkey, sweet potatoes, corn bread, and pumpkin pie at yaya's dining room table.  And instead of today being the start of a 5 day weekend, it was the long day of my 6 day work week.  Tonight we have a dinner with boyfriend's family but I'm just not in the spirit -  I'd rather lay in bed and sulk.  

This year I am grateful for the following: 

My health and the health of my family.  

Mangos, avocados, and coconut - new diet staples. 

And lastly, that moving to the disastrous DR has only strengthened my relationship with boyfriend.  I love him more than ever. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Got My Hair Did

There are a few things I have never understood about Dominican culture, and the booming salons have always been one of them.  What is referred to in the States as a blow out, something you would only have done if you had a big event to attend, is done here weekly or biweekly.  The salons are always packed, and walking in to one is like walking into a cloud of hair spray - they are seriously foggy, and its a miracle if you leave one without feeling lightheaded.  

The place I get my nails done has weekday specials, so its not uncommon for me to see more than 50 women getting their hair done in one small room on a Thursday afternoon.

Yesterday I finally had the blow out experience.  The "shampoo"-ing was the longest hair wash of my life.  They scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, they even washed my forehead.  After the fourth and final rinse, I was content to find that my scalp was still intact.

After the drawn out shampoo, as I sat there with my feet soaking in a pedicure tub, with a woman drying my hair stick straight, while another was working on my manicure, I realized this is nice, and I guess I began to understand.  Who doesn't love to be pampered?  

I'm glad to have found a mini luxury that I can treat myself to just because.  
The perfect mid-week pick-up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Colonial Zone

This Sunday was boyfriend's turn.  

Colonial Zone
We've managed to strike a deal.  One Sunday he goes to play futbol (soccer) for a brutally long 3.5 hours.  The following Sunday he takes me to the beach.  Personally I think I deserve more out of the deal, but that I'll save for another post. 

Balcony View
So Sunday morning, Ana took me to the Colonial Zone to do some touristy things.  We visited Diego Colon's house (Chris Columbus' son).  I had no idea that back in the day they slept in a half sitting position.  Why?!  Don't you wonder why they didn't try our sleep position and realize its 100x more comfortable?  There has to be something I'm missing here. 

We visited an amber shop.  Did you know that if the stone has an insect inside it becomes a lot more expensive? In the same amber shop we sampled Mama Juana (a Dominican alcohol made of rum, wine, honey, and marinated tree twigs and bark).  

Dulce de Leche
We went to the Casa de los Dulces and bought Dominican sweets.  We finished the morning with a trip to the market Mercado Modelo, where every stall is filled with the same souvenirs, and where every stall owner will try to convince you that his is extra special.  I left empty-handed. 

Hope you all had a phenomenal pre-Thanksgiving weekend. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Perks & Peeves

I can't believe its already the 19th!  I feel like November just started.
Just summing up my week..


Holding out to buy produce until Tuesday (its 30% off on Tuesdays), and adding more veggies to our diet.

Free tennis courts, because at my pace, its going to take me 5 years to learn how to play the sport.

Strengthening my friendship with Gary, the Haitian cocero (AKA the man that pushes a coconut cart around to sell coconut water).  Now Gary comes by my work every day to ask if I want agua de coco, and he makes it just how I like it - without sugar and with the "masita" (coconut flesh).


Sleeping on a sheetless bed for 2 nights in a row because rain = wet laundry.

Firing someone for the first time.  Boyfriend had warned me to be ready incase they "threw a punch" [they are feisty in this country], so naturally I was petrified.  But it went much better than expected and I came out bruise free.

My plan to fatten up boyfriend not working at its maximum potential.  The other day his mom looked at his belly and told him that he wasn't eating enough rice.  Great. Time to restock on the Nutella.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Running in the Dunes

When leaving Las Salinas on Sunday, the most adorable toothless old man told us how to get to the sand dunes.  It was just us, the sand, and lots of baby lambs.  

Pictures from last Sunday. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Sage Pasta

I love pumpkin.  

Pumpkin lattes, bread, pie; it is what I miss the most when I'm not home for Thanksgiving.  Last week I came across this recipe and I knew we had to make it.  
It only took 20 minutes!

1)  Boil pasta for two.

2) Sauté 2 diced garlic cloves and 8 chopped sage leaves in 3 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp butter (or I Cant Believe its Not Butter! like us).

3)  Add 1 cup canned pumpkin and 1 cup pasta water to the pan.  Season with salt & pepper.  Season with red pepper flakes if you're fancy (not like us).

4) Whisk together until mixed.

5)  Pour sauce over pasta and top with parmesan cheese.

*Chop your sage leaves better than I did.  I'm impatient.*
Please Note: Our end result tasted much better than it looks in this picture.  
Use your left over sauce as a cold dip for crackers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Windy Las Salinas

Sugar Cane
Yesterday at the last minute, boyfriend and I decided to take a road trip to Las Salinas.  Of course the political ads lining the highway never fail to annoy me [we even saw my friend Danilo in a superman costume], but we were able to ignore them by blasting reggae music and taking pictures of the scenery instead.

When we were close to arriving, a minor car problem forced us to pull into a car shop/car wash.  Now I don't mean to sound stereotypical, but with all the serious men staring at us with long black hair tied back in low ponytails and ghetto baseball hats, in addition to boyfriend saying, "Lock the doors, lock the doors" multiple times, it felt just like a scene from The Fast & The Furious.

Visitors tie their beach towels to palm trees
But we finally made it to super windy Las Salinas.  And it was refreshing.  The sky was almost raining and the weather was cool, but the water was still warm.  I relaxed in the water while boyfriend fed almonds to the crabs in the sand.

I came across this Yin/Yang rock in the water and thought it was so cool.  I kept it, and now I don't know what to do with it.

We ate the fruit from the tree that this leaf comes from.  It tasted like sour cherries.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that boyfriend (the boy that hates the beach) knew so much about the plants and shells we found.

from the Uva de Playa tree
A peaceful afternoon.  A great Sunday. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Make a Wish

Today is 11.11.11.  You're supposed to make a wish or something, right?

These are my December wishes:

1.  I wish to accept the chaos & disorganization that is life in Santo Domingo 
{or at least a little bit}.

2.  I wish to make something extravagant; whether it be a 3-course dinner [unlikely] or a homemade Christmas present.

3.  I wish to try something new, like a Canyoning Round 2.

What do you wish for? 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Attempts in the Kitchen

Those that know me well know that I've been in a funk lately, which is partially why I haven't posted in so long.  Obstacles has been the word of the week for me: life as an expat + my relationship + my other 15,879 thoughts running through my head can sometimes get overwhelming.  

Any who, instead of being productive this week, I've wasted a lot of time on Pinterest.  But not all "wasted time" is really wasted, right?  My addiction to the wonderful site led me to discover this: 

just like Chipotles.  

My new goal is to make one new recipe a week, and so even though this recipe only consists of about 3 ingredients, I'm proud to say that I actually made it the other night.  My grandma would be so proud that I'm cooking.  

It was so yummy that you couldn't even tell that we made it with brown rice instead of white.  And although boyfriend squeezed a 1/2 cup of lime juice, instead of the juice from 1/2 a lime (basically 5x the amount of lime that was needed), it still turned out excellent.  

So.  Use all the lime that you want.  And try it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to Fatten Up Your Boyfriend

I knew this was going to happen.  Since we left A's house and moved in on our own, he's been losing weight as if he were running for Miss America.  I suspected this, but seriously?!  Its as if for every 1/4 pound I lose, boyfriend sheds 3.  Unfair.  He is not underweight by any means, but I can't let his family think I starve the kid.  Therefore, I have resorted to the following efforts:

1.  Spoonfeeding him Nutella, straight out of the jar.  Sometimes I even offer to make him Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches [this is HUGE coming from me].

What Boyfriend Emails to Me..
2.  Allowing him to buy Merengue and Refresco Rojo - popular Domininan soft drinks that taste horrible!  Merengue tastes like a cheap version of cream soda, and Refresco Rojo tastes just like red cough syrup.  

26 grams of sugar per 8 oz.  WooHoo!
3.  Letting him be the 10 year old that he is.  The second I look away at the supermarket, he goes and puts this in our shopping cart.

Reminds me of my Childhood
4.  Always keeping walnuts, avocado, bread, and full fat cheese in the house (I do somewhat care about his health..  Maybe.)

I realize that this list is awfully pathetic, and that I really should just suck it up and start learning how to cook normal meals.  Ba Humbug.  Maybe this month you'll actually see a recipe post coming from me.  


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Day in the Life of Me

A few people have told me that I should write about what happens in my typical day.  I haven't done it yet because I figure it would be a total bore, but perhaps this way you'll understand what I mean when I mention that life here is a plethora of inconveniences.

6 AM: Wake up before the sun.  Rush out the door to open the store by 6:45.

7 - 8 AM: Lecture the employees about how arriving 15-20 minutes late every day IS in fact late in my book, even if it might not be considered late in the DR.  Count inventory, which has to be done 3 times daily since stealing is so big here.

8 AM - 2 PM: Talk the talk with the regulars who call me "Americana".  Answer the nosy questions of the not-so-regulars regarding where I'm from.  Wonder if I should answer honestly when they ask me if I like their country.  Attempt to solve various problems and not get cheated.  
Daily Examples/Annoyances: 
-Call the colmado (delivery) to bring us ice/water.  Call them again 20 minutes later to make sure they're coming, and again another 20 minutes later to make sure they're on their way.
-Slice open cupcakes to see if they truly are filled with dulce de leche [suppliers try to cut costs].
-Recount all packaged products that are produced within the DR [if you order 100 12 oz cups, you will likely have about 96 when they arrive at your door].
-Call repeatedly, leave messages, email, stalk, etc. to receive price quotes and check order statuses.  

2 PM or 5 PM (depending on the day):  Get home.  Eat.  Panic about the food in the fridge if the electricity is out.  Hear boyfriend say "The Soup is not funny" when the show comes on.  Hear boyfriend laugh at some point during the show.  Attempt to exercise before the sun goes down.  Battle the rush hour traffic and try not to look at the limbless people begging for money at the stop lights.

8 PM: Come home.  Kill mosquitos.  Flip a switch for hot water to run in the shower.  Want to kill someone because of the painfully slow Internet speed.  Shower.  Go to bed with the fan on full blast, only to wake up and do it all over again. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Canyoning - A Dangerous Birthday Present

Early Morning Energy
Sunday morning we arrived in Jarabacoa early and ate a big Dominican breakfast, including mangĂș (mashed plantains and onions, similar to mashed potatoes), salchichas (baby hot dogs in a red hot sauce), potatoes, eggs, and more. 

{Starting to Panic}
After breakfast we put on dorky wet suits.  Which were ripped.  All I could think about was where could they be taking us for all these suits to be in such bad shape?

Then we rode up a mountain in an open tractor, trying not to get wiped out by tree branches.  What felt like a 90 degree incline was a bit much for our tractor and my already-pounding-heart, but somehow we managed.  

Then we did this:

Sort of the opposite of upward rock climbing, canyoning is basically making your way down a river, with lots of waterfalls in your way.  The waterfalls are done supporting your own body weight with a rope and harness. And in the DR, canyoning means no life jacket.  

I have never been more scared in my life.  

We tumbled 13 kilometers down the river until reaching the biggest waterfall and scariest part, Salto Baiguate.  For me, those 13 kilometers were spent: 

inhaling lots of water
slamming against rock walls (mostly while hanging mid air over a waterfall)
being dragged uncontrollably by the current
sliding down the river as if it were a Slip 'N Slide but without the slide part
"canyon ball" jumping into the deep parts
smashing my knees and shins against the big rocks in the water
floating, swimming, hiking, and tripping in the water
even zip lining - this is where I screamed the most

Our wet suits came out a little more ripped than they had started, and Elvin's shoes were completely destroyed, but in the end we all came out in one piece.

Still Alive
If you like adventure sports, canyoning is a must try.  But if you're like me and think parasailing and roller coasters are extreme enough, then think twice or pop a tranquilizer before doing this sport, especially if in the DR.