Tag Archives: republica dominicana

La Vereda Children’s Mural (Mucho Mejor!)

19 Feb


Today we held our fourth mural painting session with the children of La Vereda.  Our new system was mucho mejor!  I am so happy we figured this out.  Like most organizational concepts, it was pretty simple.  As the children arrived we had them sign their name on a list.  The first 5 students would paint for 30 minutes, then the next 5 and so on.

Painting sign-up sheet.

We told each child what time their painting slot was and asked them to come back at their scheduled time.  Almost all of them were happy to comply with the new system though there were several very persistent little cuties who just could not contain their excitement enough to leave and come back, but instead insisted on hanging around until it was their turn.  Lol.  We tried our best to keep them in the shade since it was so hot!  In any case the new system was delightful, allowing for so much more organization and the small group made working more pleasant for the children, as well as us.  There were beautiful moments of little voices chattering about their painting, and even moments of silence as the children found that wonderful space inside the creative process where one is in the so-called “zone” or engaged in what we can also call “flow”, a theory proposed by physchologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  You can read more about the concept of “flow” here.

One of the great parts of the day was the interest of passerby, neighbors, and family.  We had quite a few people stop to watch and admire the children working.  Some were surprised the children had done all of the painting on their own.  We also had a few children we’d never met before pass by and ask if they could participate and because our new system was so efficient it was much more easy to include anyone who expressed interest.  It was really super to feel enthusiasm for the project from the community.

Children painting. Notice the three passerby who stopped to watch us work.

The children did such fantastic work with the mural!  They started out by fixing up some spots from our last session.  Then they added casitas, matas de coco (coconut palms), and a mata de mango (mango tree).  The wee little ones did a great job adding fruits and veggies to the “tierra” layer of the mural.  They painted zanahorias (carrots), cebollas (onions), yucca (cassava), tomate (tomatoes), and calabaza (squash).

Here’s what the mural looks like now:

Lookin' good!

Phew!  After 2 1/2 hours working in the hot sun Renzo and I were quite sweaty, hungry, and thirsty.  As usual Luz & Robert had a delicious Dominican lunch waiting for us.  Before we headed home, Renzo wanted to stop by the back of his Grandfather’s house to see if we could grab some guava off the tree.  We saw some ripe ones but they were pretty high up.  After a few minutes of throwing rocks at the hanging guava, Renzo’s Tio Victor came out of the house to show us how it’s done:

Tio Victor climbing the guayaba tree

Climbing trees is no big deal around here, lol

One of my favorite things about Dominican culture (and Carribean culture in general) is how ready and willing people are to climb just about any tree to procure fruit!  No one around here ever seems too tired or busy to hoist themselves up a tree to grab you something tasty.  There’s something so free-spirited and generous about this characteristic of the culture that I think is very special.  Think about that the next time you feel too tired to get off the couch to get your sweetheart a tasty treat from the kitchen! Jaja.

As we were about to leave with our guayaba (guava) I told Renzo I was craving agua de coco (coconut water) and I asked if he could find out from Victor where we could get some.  Earlier in the day we had seen some vendors passing by but we were too busy painting with the children to bother with buying any.  Of course Victor’s response was something along the lines of “Why buy coconuts, just go out back and get some off the tree.”  So another tree-climbing venture ensued, though this time help was enlisted from Renzo’s very-skilled-at-tree-climbing cousin.  He must have knocked down about a dozen coconuts for us to take home.  (Did I mention Samba LOVES coconuts?  Playing with them, eating them, drinking from them…they are his favorite tropical doggie toys!)  The one they opened for me was soooooooo sweet and delicious!  I am really savoring these special moments with such little time left here.

Ask & you shall receive... agua de coco. YUM

All in all it was a beautiful day.

Here is a slideshow with some pics:

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More updates on the mural (& our plants) in the next few days…

xo A

More work on the La Vereda Mural

15 Feb

I never knew this before but working on a public community mural (with kids no less) can be really tricky!  I’ve only ever facilitated mural-making teaching inside the classroom where you’ve got a certain degree of control over the environment, and can kind of manage the pace of the work and assist kids with thinking about composition and details.

This is a whooooollllle different ball game.

First, we are working on a fairly trafficked and often noisy street.  It’s not like the constant type of background traffic type noise you find in NYC.  It’s like short clips of relative quiet pierced with the REALLY LOUD BUZZ of the frequent motoconchos (motorbikes) and trucks grinding by.  So loud that you really can’t hear what the person next to you is saying.  On top of that, all of the kids in our class plus practically every kid that walks by wants a chance to paint, and it’s really had explaining to a 6 year old whose language you don’t speak very well that there’s “Just no more space at the moment but if you come back Saturday I promise you can have a chance then.”  I am beyond thrilled that the children in the neighborhood are so excited about the project- in fact I hoped exactly that would happen, but managing so many kids painting all at the same time has it’s challenges.  We don’t really have much set-up time because as soon as the children see us pull up in the car they get so excited, they immediately round up all their friends and before you know it we’re practically swarmed with kids eager to look, see, touch, grab, do, etc, etc.  Getting the children involved in the set-up is something we are trying to get better at, but the seasoned teacher (me) is still learning the language, and though the laid-back musician does the best he can things easily get lost in translation, and as all teachers (and plenty of parents) know- timing is everything when organizing large groups of kids.

Did I mention that Renzo is related to almost everyone on the block in some way?  Well, it’s pretty easy to recognize the guy with the funny hair, and despite the fact that we can have a mob of impatient children waiting for paint, or needing a paintbrush, or we finally have them all listening to instructions, every so often someone passes by and decides that it’s the absolute PERFECT time to catch up and have a conversation with him about his studies, the weather, the meaning of life, & what have you.  I kid you not but he’s actually been handed a beer while we were teaching our class!


So when we met up with the children yesterday evening, it was just kind of par for the course that there was a dark gray rain cloud kind of hanging over our heads the whole time.  We assessed the cloud situation (being the rain experts we are now having lived in Santiago for a few months) and just said let’s go for it and hope for the best.  We got lucky and the weather held out enough for us to work for a good 40 minutes or so before we had to do a mad rush to pack everything up before the rain came down.

It was pretty chaotic with about 12-14 kids working at the same time.  It definitely wasn’t the way I would have preferred to structure the activity (laughing at the word structure here) but the kids who showed up had been waiting since Saturday to paint, and with the impending rain there wasn’t time to rotate small groups so we had to wing it.  We focused on painting trees (matas) and flowers (flores) and a sun (sol).  Despite the craziness I’m happy that the kids enjoyed themselves and love the work they did.  I know this is how murals grow..in little layers and spurts.

It’s just a start, but here are some pics:

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Our next session is this weekend and we are almost definitely going to have an even larger group show up. (When we were painting on Tuesday lots of new kids passed by and expressed interest so we just told them to show up on Saturday).  Don’t laugh- but I have a plan to have kids sign in then give them give them a number.  Numbers 1-6 will paint for the first 30 minutes, 7-13 the next half hour, and so on.  The great thing is that they all live so close by that if they’re scheduled for a later painting group they can easily go home and come back when it’s their turn, and we don’t mind being there all day if need be.  I have no idea if this is going to work…but it’s the only way I can think of to accommodate all the children without having total chaos.  I know for sure the smaller groups will make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Can’t wait to see what happens at our next class!

xo A

You Win Some, You Lose Some

17 Dec


Well I don’t know what the rest of you were up to last weekend, but Renzo and I spent some time babysitting his younger brothers Ray & Rene.  With no TV, and no working dvd player, my impulse purchase from La Sirena (DR’s answer to Walmart) came in quite handy.  Enter: DOMINICANOPOLY.  Dominicanopoly is a kind of low budge, unauthorized version of the classic game Monopoly, but with a Dominican theme.  I thought it would be a fun way to learn more Spanish, as well as more history and trivia about the country.  Plus, I used to be a monopoly champ in my youth.   I remember epic games with my friend Gerard in elementary school and I had a lot of fun kicking his butt with all my hotels on Boardwalk & Park Place.  (Btw, my player piece of choice is always the top hat!)   Anyway, I was kind of wondering if I still had the magic touch.

With nothing better to do, we opened the box.


Rene (aka "sticky fingers" with his stash o' cash and his best friend Samba.

We started the game around 8 or 9 pm.  After playing ensued it became clear that our banker was *ahem* a bit crooked.  After lots of trash talking, and plenty of scheming, we were knee deep into our game.  Ray (the banker) was out.  He didn’t buy property fast enough.  Renzo was holding steady.  Rene had some good properties and a nice stash of dinero (even though I think he stole most of it from the bank, lol), and I was quickly emerging as a Donald Trumpess, amassing lots of property and benefiting from some really lucky rolls of the dice.  Finally at 1 AM we agreed to retire to bed and reconvene in the morning.  It was pretty clear to most however, that I was going to emerge victorious.

Wheeling & dealing the Dominican way.

After we woke up, of course the first thing the kids wanted to do was get back to our game.  Things went downhill fast for Renzo which left Rene (aka “sticky fingers”) and me.  As the game went on and things continued in my favor I was getting a little giddy and started thinking of myself as some kind of unstoppable international ‘opoly queen.  The fact that I was also knitting while playing and only marginally paying attention annoyed my fellow players but delighted me, as I rode my tidal wave of good luck.

You don't have to be Dominican to Dominate this game.

After some necessary gloating about being the only non-Dominican and beating this band of brothers at their own game, we made nice, gave each other a round of high fives like a bunch of good sports, and went off to eat some mangu and aguacate.

And here’s where my good luck for the week ends…which brings us to…

BAD LUCK (Mala Suerte)

It was Wednesday morning and Renzo had gone back to the land to work with Nelson’s friend Cecile to clear more of the weeds & vines from the ground.  I decided to sit this one out since we had just gone the day before and instead opted to stay home and work on writing a blog post and some chores like laundry and making a big pot of soup with the massive amount of root vegetables taking up valuable real estate in the fridge.

About 3 minutes after Renzo left (around 9am), the power went out.  Since that meant no blog post and no laundry I decided to start making the soup.  After gathering and washing all the vegetables, I began to peel the calabaza with a cerrated vegetable peeler (dumb idea) and WHOOPS, vegetable peeler right into the thumb.  (AND I COULDN’T GET IT OUT, YIKES!!!!)

Yeah, so I couldn’t exactly get the peeler to dislodge from my finger right away which was just a little bit scary…after “unhooking” it from my finger it was bleeding quite a lot but a few minutes after some compression and elevation I realized it wasn’t going to need stitches and would heal well, so I could relax.

A little later I remembered  was time to bring Samba outside to “do his thing” so to speak, but he tends to prefer “doing his thing” in private here if he’s not being walked.  Soooo, I went outside and zipped up the greenhouse to avoid him getting into it while he was out there alone, and then I went inside to relax for a bit.  After 20 minutes I went out to get Samba and brought him inside.  A few hours later Renzo arrived home and immediately went out to check on the plants (they’re like his babies).  He came in after about 10 minutes looking pretty bummed.  Turns out I forgot to open the greenhouse back up and our poor little seedlings were smothered by the heat & humidity all day. 😦



Luckily not everything was affected, but we did lose some of our  lavender, milk thistle, ashwaganda, and comfrey (plus a few others).  This unfortunate turn of events led to us putting our energy into a mass planting session the next day.  Here is our newest crop of seedlings:

new seedlings

So, even though it’s a bit depressing to have lost so much of our hard work, I have to take it as a lesson and move on.  I’m not the first person to make a mistake since we started this process, but my mistake did cause us the greatest loss thus far.  Luckily we have kicked things into high gear and hopefully over the next 8 weeks we will see a lot of progress and new growth.

A bit of good luck couldn’t hurt either.  We’ll keep you posted.