Friday, September 27, 2013

Still in the DR!

Want to update you on a few things: Some good, some not so. 

Firstly, we went to visit Jason at the Orphanage in Peurta Plata yesterday. As an aside, the moto concho ride through the middle of the city was such a buzz, weaving in and out of cars, lorries, everyone shouting, tooting, the smell, the heat, the noise, it was total chaos, seat of the pants stuff (no helmet) and I sat there on the back thinking 'this is really living!'

There are certain stereotypes in the DR: The Slimeball from USA or Europe here for the girls, the Haitian who has a hard luck story and just needs ten, a hundred, a thousand pesos, the happy clappy christian missionarioes and the retiree who seems content to come to this country, buy a condo, never go out and drink all day, and moan about how the locals never seem to do anything! 

I despise the first, love the second, guess i am the third and just dont understand the fourth group. This country is alive with experiences to have, from the bustle of the city to the beauty of the countryside which I survey as I am driven down the dirt track from the top of the hill (holding on for dear life!) from Esperanza. But wherever you are, poverty and heartache are never far away.

Back to the orphanage. Its called 'The House of Gods Treasures' and we found Jason there and he was really pleased to see us. We spent the morning with him, and he has friends and his resilience will keep him going. But it is a dump and a little bit of money could go a long way. Esther has no money for gas so is cooking lunch (boiled plantane and egg) for 40 kids over an open fire. Its another form of chaos which somehow seems to work, but if it wasnt for the selfless heart of a few, one does wonder what would happen to those at the lower end of the food chain. But looking after each other is what community does and as there is no dorm for the girls, each night they go to local houses and sleep with a family. 

We don't allow for community with our big houses, our NHS, our demand for our own personal space. there's no such thing out here! For example if you want to get around your option is a moto concho (up close & personal) a taxi which will be a beaten up old Ford and will squash 4 in the back & 3 in the front, or worse, get a 15 seater Gua Gua which yesterday, returning from Puerta Plata had 21 in it! It was very very personal!!!

But its just great and it means you HAVE to think about others. 4x4 cars in England, 'Quiet carriages' on trains, air conditioned buses? Its just not reality for the vast majority of this world. 

Finally, I notice nobodies watching the videos which is a bit of a shame! Please do copy the link into the browser and have a look: Heres two which are something of a contrast. The first is about the school in Esperanza which I moaned about being closed on Monday and Tuesday this week. Well, guess what, on visiting Esperanza again this afternoon it was once again CLOSED !!!

This is really really not on and I am pleased to report that already important people have read my blog and contacted International Needs. I will keep readers updated.

But who wants to end on a low? Of course not, and next is a video of a wonderful school which we raised the funds for last year. This is a Dominican school which is called Nest of Love and it shows what can be achieved. I don't subscribe to this Haitian/Dominican thing. Esperanza CAN work as well as Nest of Love and those of us who love the people of Esperanza have a duty to make sure make sure it happens. 

However, it is great to see Nest of Love in action. They are so proud of it! Hey, if you donated, why not come out and see it for yourself?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another DR Update!

Its been a few days since my last blog. I've been busy, but I've also been blessed with a  bit of DR tummy which doesn't really incline you to do anything which takes you too far away from the comfort of the loo!

Following on from our fruitless trip to P.Plata to the orphanage to see Jason, the following evening around 6 we were sitting on the beach watching the most incredible waves when a group of street kids sauntered on to the beach. Who do you think was with them? ! have to say it was a touching moment as his face lit up and he shuffled over to me and gave me a big hug! (The cynic says he saw a gringo with money! but i'd like to think there is something there) Anyway we had a great time in the sea and these street kids are good fun, but I wouldnt leave my wallet hanging around.

We took him for a bite to eat the next day, and he was a little more surly, but, you know what, so are most teenagers so I wasn't really offended. I saw him this morning and he told me his is going back to the orphanage today. I have promised we will visit him. I do love that kid and I admire his guts.

Another happy lad is Eriason, and Clare suggested that he and a.n.other come back to her house in sosua to swim in the pool. This might seem like nothing, but apart from paddling in a dirty stream, there isnt much opportunity to swim even though you can see the sea from his village. He swims like a man drowning, but the simple pleasures of nachos and dip, soccer on cable tv and then the pool will. I am sure, create a memory which will be lasting.

Back in Esperanza we opened up the school on the Saturday and lead an English class. This is something that 3 of the local boys have set up, and to be fair to them it was pretty chaotic but a lot of fun. However, was there really any benefit in teaching kids such expressions as 'Topsy turvey' Hickledy pickledy" or 'Hunky Dorey!"

But this leads me on to my big gripe which I am going to have to take up when I return. The school in Esperanza is not open enough and the headmaster has little accountability.  I put this responsibility with International Needs and if you are sponsoring a child there, I will be asking you to write as this is not on; For example: The school opened 2 weeks late. It was closed on Monday as TODAY (Tuesday) is a public holiday) The Headmaster needs to be brought to account and if you are paying your sponsorship you have a right to know what is going on.

Please please dont stop sponsoring your child but we have to get International Needs to put some support in place. If he has no accountability he will ne tempted to be lazy. I guess thats human nature. But I'm not happy and it doesn't help that in the International Needs stuff they send me they NEVER mention DR!!!  Sorry but this is where my hearty is, NOT Bakino Faso. Rant over.

Miss all my friends and loved ones. You can reply or comment and it does make a difference. Even do it anonymously if you're embarrassed.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dominican Republic Update(2)

Yesterday we went on the hunt for Jason.

Those of you who know me will know that that little lad is one of my heros: Disabled, Poor, and blessed with a complete cow of a mother. Last year he was begging in Sosua as each day his Mom would throw him out and tell him not to return until he had raised 250RD.

Anyway, recently he was picked up by the police and sent to an orphanage the other side of Puerta Plata. I cant imagine the fear to be taken to a place where you know no-one and no one knows you, and you dont know why and you dont know whats happening to your family. Fortunately there are people who love & care for him and he will get a friendly visit every so often. This was what we were hoping to do. Alas, (or maybe not) he had gone on holiday with his mum for a week! I'll take that as progress and hopefully we shall see him next week.

We had a look round the Orphanage which houses 40 kids. Most were at school so it was pretty quiet. A new boy had arrived that day and he was Haitian & he only spoke Creole. Watch the video and you will see him fight with another kid. You fight to survive! They have 1 computer between 40 kids, & there are fights everyday for it! I cant imagine the lonelines, fear & anger that kid is feeling. Like Jason, he has a story and it wont be a happy one. The writer and the reader of this blog do lead very blessed lives, remember that. (Preach over!)

Have been playing quite a bit of footy recently in both Ascention today and Esperanza yesterday (hope you liked the video of Esperanza) & I have been honoured by being picked to play for Esperanza a week Sunday in a tournament in Peuerto Plata!! It is between 4 Haitian villages and i'm a little worried that they might create a new game called 'Kick the white man!!!'

There's no two ways about it, wherever you are in the world, if you have a football you wont be alone. It transcends language!

The video below shows the change in the weather in the DR. When its hot its burning and the weather has been great but all of a sudden the heavens open and you get these amazing thunderstorms! Have a watch!

And here's a vid of me introducing an old friend Makenson, whilst Clare's mobile goes off in the background!

Speak soon!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back in the Dominican Republic!

As soon as I land, the demons which have harangued me on the flight dissapear. Irrespective of the great poverty this island struggles with, its people, Dominican or Haitian are just so enriching in my life. Take the bus to learn about comfort. Get a stomach bug to learn to appreciate UK sanitation(!) order a delivery of cement to learn about timekeeping and go for a jog to learn about extreme sports (7am & I was still knackered after about 3 miles!)

Anyway, as much as possible I had hoped to Vlog rather than blog, but I just dont get on with technology and I cant get the stupid @#$%^camera to download! I have some great movies but only I can see them. You'll have to come round for a drink sometime!
Do you remember the old days when you were invited round to the neighbors for dinner on the pretense of watching their holiday slides? No one owns a projector screen nowadays, do they?

My host and friend is Claire. she is a buxom bar wench from Berkhampstead (as she calls herself in the lonely hearts ads) and she says that no two days are ever the same. Yesterday we were in Esperanza delivering Birth certificates for Haitian adults, some old enough to be our parents. We ask an elderly gnarled haitian gentleman called Lauirison how old he is. '45' hereplies with a twinke in his eye. Upon questioning the truthfulness of this, he replies 'I dont f@#$%^g know and what do I care!!'
No one celebrates your birthday and the months merge into years. Specific age is of no consequence. Its not as if there's a state pension to look forward to!

I spend time with my best little friend Eriason who befriended me about 4 years ago. He follows me around shouting 'Jon Cobb is gay!!!' he loves to goads me into a grapple, and you sense it may be some of the only boyish attention he will recieve that day. He's fiercely loyal to me and I love him to bits. He's about thirteen, seen more of life than most kids should at that age but has a wonderful innocence at the same time. Clare showed her true loving heart by bringing him to the airport to meet me. I was gobsmacked, & Debbie just cried.

Today we went to Ascention which I first visited in 2005. Its fair to say you learn from your mistakes and its a village beset with challenges, none more so than the inhabitants expect every gringo to give them something. You have to keep reminding yourself that you might well be no different if you had nothing. Anyway, lets focus on the positives: The women of the village had set up a co-operative selling clothes and with the proceeds were communally feeding 200 children. I washed up 200 cups, spoons & plates in cold water with the water never changed....The meal had been a chicken broth and by the end I was foraging through a thick layer of soupy sludge to find the cutlery which had sunk to the bottom. Lovely!!

Like I said, no two days the same.

Highs: Seeing my boys and getting the gua gua which is a little minibus but which actually had 20 people in it at one point (3 hanging on the door!)

Low point: Sharing a taxi with a very pretty & curvy girl & her pimp

At last. In the background whilst writing this blog I have actually been downloading to Youtube.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A fear of flying

I’ve just returned from four idyllic days in Cyprus which is a beautiful country but one that still falls within the category of ‘uncivilised’ in that you still can’t put loo paper down the pan, but have to put it in the little basket at the side. Surely it isn’t that advanced a form of plumbing is it?


Anyway, that’s not my beef. My time away was cracking as they say in Barry! It was the getting to and from my house to my hotel that got me losing my patience.

  •  It wasn’t the engineering works which meant I couldn’t get a direct train to Gatwick but had to lug my case on the underground.
  • It wasn’t the inconvenience that the threat of muslim terrorists put me through at customs (can I really make a bomb out of a 50ml bottle of lacoste aftershave and some toothpaste?)
  • It wasn’t even the incredibly unprofessional trolley dollies that Easyjet now employ who giggle through announcements and in particular the one who actually said ‘It has been your pleasure to have us on board’
Oh how we laughed…

If only!
Nah, the scourge of my life were and are…..children.

Case in point: The little fat kid who sat in front of me on the plane, aged about 8 who played his Nintendo without the use of headphones and who actually made it difficult to concentrate on my John Grisham novel !

Every few minutes he would shriek ‘Alfie slap’ (whatever that is!) and whack his Dad!

fat xbox kidI have to say, I had some sympathy with him here as parents were everything which make you so ashamed of brits abroad: Lobster pink, No 1 haircut, overstated fake Rolex, Gold necklace,heavily tattoed, earing piercing in which you can put your finger right through the hole (that will be such a good look when they make old age)and flip flops. 


And that was just his mum.

The point is, these parents were oblivious to the noise the kid was making. Can our flesh and blood really do no wrong? Flight EZ545 from Paphos was more like a kindergarten with crazed  children  running up and down the aisle pumped full of liquid sugar, treating the flight as if it were an extension to a trip to Disneyland which  is something every parent feels they have to take their kid to nowadays.

No you don’t! Stuff them. The holiday is for YOU because it’s YOU that has worked hard for the other 50 weeks of the year to fund the PS2, bike, designer Nikes et al. But no, you think you have to go somewhere that they will enjoy. I used to have to go to the Lake district and initially I hated it. No telly, no radio, no sea, no rides, just mountains, clean air, streams, valleys, wildlife…I grew to love it.

You choose!
Back to the fat kid.  Why does any 8 year old boy (unless he’s a Romanian gypsy or something) have to have an earring?

Sometimes I quite literally despair.

I watched a ten year old, privileged to be taken out for a meal, screw up her face in disgust  as she was presented with her nugget & chips which she ordered. I think by the time I was 11, and taken for a Chinese meal after spending the morning taking a schools common entrance exam, I had been to a restaurant about 5 times. It was a treat, not a right! With so many in the world starving, I was tempted to force feed her, via her nose, but if her mother pampers her, you have to wonder where the blame lies.

Perhaps I’m being hard on the nippers? On the way out to Cyprus, the two kids behind me were pretty irritating, but  listening to the inanity of the conversation with Dad, you’ve got to wonder what kind of example is being set. As for Mum who sat opposite and who had drunk enough Bacardi in the bar to make us all lashed on her breath, and who announced belligerently that she ‘didn’t care’ as she got up to get something out of the overhead locker as the plane was still at that landing phase where that little smidgen of doubt has crept in to say ‘is he struggling to stop this thing?’ does make you wonder why you shouldn’t have to apply for a licence before you are allowed to procreate. Let’s put it this way, if I was a social worker, I’d never put this woman forward as a foster carer.

Maybe I’m blind. They say Love is blind, and perhaps our kids are our blindspot? Perhaps people who came across me and my children were glad when we had left? (I’m proud of my kids but just wish that not all of them had chosen to be tattoed, I just don’t understand where they got that from!) We spent these few days in Cyprus with a mother & father of two gorgeous boys age 3 & 8. In my eyes they couldn’t put a foot wrong, they were a delight to be around and impeccably behaved. However when we turned up at the hotel pool it did seem like those sun worshippers who were already there were physically bracing themselves. Come to think of it, we were the only ones there after a couple of hours…!