Friday, December 5, 2014

Pain and the Process of Healing

My research in the D.R. is on how discrimination impacts mental health. I’ve been doing interviews for a few months now and, although it feels like an obvious statement, many things impact mental health. Respondents do talk about discrimination, but they also talk about poverty, job loss, family tensions, marital conflict, and the death of loved ones – things that connect people across the globe as fellow human beings.

In the wake of highly publicized police brutality, the past month has been an emotional one for many of us.  People are deeply wounded and many feel betrayed by a system – a country – that is supposed to protect everyone’s right to life.  There are so many necessary conversations, and I think a conversation about healing is one of them. 

I shared a previous post on the tragic loss of our dear brother. I wrote that I wanted to bring my family back to this place “in search of healing”.  And I’m realizing that maybe healing is not a destination.  Maybe it is a continuum, a constant process.  When I reflect on how far I’ve come, I no longer have nightmares and flashbacks about the day.  I no longer feel broken, like my world was ripped from under my feet.  I no longer feel bitter when someone refers to ocean sounds as “soothing”.  But sometimes, I imagine the most tragic outcome possible when I’m away from loved ones.  And I still have to swallow negative thoughts when I find myself anticipating the worst. And I still have to reign in my fears that joy is only temporary.

A fellow blogger and friend recently wrote about how motherhood changes your body and mind in a way that makes it impossible to be the person you were before.  Not only that, it's an unrealistic expectation to think that you can go back to that person.  That’s how I imagine healing to be.  I will never be who I was before.  Nor should I try to be.  But I’m still healing.  

The point is, it's a process.  We may never know what it looks like to be "healed", and I imagine that there's variation in what people/communities need for their own healing.  I needed to stare my tragedy in the face in order to begin my healing process.  Maybe not everyone needs that.  But I did.

I asked one of my respondents how she copes with sadness when it comes up for her.  She told me that sad feelings are “passengers”, they come and go but they are always there.  My heart broke for her.  Some of us live in a continuous state of sadness, anger, worry, and fear – and have been for years…decades…centuries.  I’m still hurt, sad, angry, and afraid as black lives continue to be lost because of injustice.  But maybe we have to stare the pain in the face before the process can begin. It’s scary, uncomfortable, and difficult.  But maybe it’s one way for healing to begin...and maybe we can begin to see ourselves as fellow human beings sharing this world.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The New Normal – Finding Order in the Chaos Part II

Things are feeling really good here.  The preschooler loves going to school.  The toddler loves daycare. My husband found a part-time job he enjoys. My research couldn’t be going better.  Sometimes, with major life changes, I work myself up over what is to come, then when things are ok, I work myself up in anticipation of difficulties ahead.  So, I thought I’d take a moment to bask in this happy place and share our “new normal” with you.  I wrote about creating a work schedule in a previous post.  It was about our life juggling work and family in the U.S.  Now that we’re in the D.R., we’ve carved out a new routine that works for our family.

Here is our weekday schedule:

6:15-7:15am wake up and get dressed, get the kids dressed, give the kids breakfast, pack school lunches/snacks

7:15am – My partner drives the 4 year old to school on his way to work.  I put the toddler in his stroller and we walk to daycare. It’s a nice, cool, leisurely 5 minute walk where we imitate the sounds we hear (birds, dogs, roosters, and motorcycles)

7:30am – I am back at home. I tidy up from breakfast and check emails.

*I start my work day at 8am and there are two potential work days for me:

Work Day A – at home
8am – 12:30pm  Work from home: writing, reading, organizing the data I’ve collected.
12:30-2pm Go pick up the toddler from daycare, make lunch, lay him down for nap, make lunch for the 4 year old. My partner picks up the 4 year old at 1:15pm on his way in from work.

2-6pm  Continue working. Sometimes I work from home in our bedroom with the door closed to deter noisy children. Other times, I work in the eating area at a nearby grocery store.  The kids nap from 2-4pm. My partner is on duty when they wake up.

Work Day B – at my field site
8am-10am  Work from home: writing, emails, organizing

10am-1pm  Head to my field site. Do 1-2 interviews with people.

1-2pm Have  lunch. Maybe a cup of coffee. Leisurely conversations with people. Check in with my research assistant.  She does interviews in Haitian Creole so we use this time to talk about how things are going. My partner picks up both kids from daycare/preschool, makes them lunch, puts them down for naps.

2:30ish – 5pm  Do 1-2 more interviews. Sit and talk with people.

5-6pm Head home.

6-7pm– Make dinner.  Feed the kids.

7:30-8pm Bedtime routine for the kids: bath, pajamas, story, prayers, song, bed.

8pm-11pm  My partner and shower, eat, watch Hulu or Netflix, check in about our days, go to bed!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Post About Poop

We talk about poop so often in this house that I would be remiss not to write a blog post about it. Once I decided it was necessary, I thought “how can I tastefully write about poop so that I can still get a job in the future?” Then I thought, “people on hiring committees poop too, so…I’m just gonna go for it.”  We have been in the country for three months now and things seem to have stabilized for the moment. Here’s our poop story.

Month 1: Diarrhea
We were all adjusting to the food here, but the toddler and I dealt with frequent bouts of diarrhea.  I would venture to say I had diarrhea about 5 out of 7 mornings each week.  The general treatment is to hydrate and get acquainted with the BRAT diet – Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.  I got a prescription for Azithromycin from my doctor before I left the U.S., but I never felt bad enough to take retrospect, maybe I should have...ha!

Month 2: Constipation
The pre-schooler has dealt with constipation for about 2 out of 4 years of his life. We brought a vat of Miralax with us and we have definitely needed to use it for our sweet boy.  If we need a re-fill, we can find an equivalent medicine here, or we can have it refilled in the US and ask grandparents to pick it up and mail it to us.

Month 3: Stomach Virus
This month was the worst! The stomach virus that hit our household was ugly.

Bout #1) I woke up in the middle of the night vomiting, then I was out of commission for the entire next day with fatigue and a low fever.  I was convinced I was dying of some rare Caribbean disease, but by day 2 or 3, I was alive again.

Bout #2) First the preschooler fought off diarrhea and vomiting, then it attacked the toddler, then jumped back to the preschooler again!  I was in tears the morning I saw my 4 year old standing at the toilet, vomiting while poop ran down his leg.  We consulted the pediatrician we’ve gotten to know here and she recommended a stool culture to rule out amoebas/parasites/worms if things didn’t get better in a couple of days. But luckily, rest, Pedialyte, and the BRAT diet prevailed, and we all survived.

Friday, October 17, 2014

XYP! Examining Your Privilege

When you were somewhere between 8 and 10 years old, did you ever hear someone shout, “XYZ!!” while pointing at a classmate’s crotch and giggling?  Maybe you were doing the shouting, or maybe you were wearing the offending pants, but the point is that you needed to “examine your zipper” because it was unzipped and your underwear were probably showing.

Well, today, I’m shouting “XYP!”  My time doing research in the Dominican Republic has forced me to examine my privilege.  The thing about the zipper is that you don’t realize you’re unzipped until someone else points it out to you.  I think the same is true for privilege.  You don’t realize your privilege is showing until someone else makes it plain to you.

As a sociologist, I am very familiar with the concept of privilege, and I have not considered myself a “privileged person” in the past.  Many instructors use Peggy McIntosh’s work “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to illustrate the benefits of whiteness that go unnoticed. There are assumed and taken-for-granted beliefs and practices that are associated with privilege of all kinds including race, class, gender, nationality, sexuality, physical ability.

I am a black woman who grew up in a working class family that struggled to make ends meet.  I am very proud of my background, but I have never considered myself a person with privilege…until now.  Being in a developing country and connecting with people here has made me realize that my privilege is showing.  Here’s my list of privileges:

  • “American in the DR” – I have connections through the US Embassy and other organizations that validate my work because I am here as an American scholar at a prestigious American university.  
  • “American woman of a certain social class” – I was sitting at someone’s house in my field site chatting with a woman who was about my age, married, two kids.  She asked me “your husband is not mad that you’re here?”
  • “Not dark-skinned” – There are benefits and drawbacks to being a brown American and not a white American here.  However, being “lightish brown” also matters.  Research has shown that for people of color, there is a penalty for having darker skin (education, wages in the labor market, etc).  This happens in many countries in the world (U.S., India, Latin America). It’s called colorism.
  • Highly educated – On one level, I am literate. Reading and writing comes with its own privilege, but being a scholar is a different level.
  • Money – We still worry about debt and covering bills, but the money we have here has provided a car, an apartment with hot running water and electricity, and the luxury to not worry about how I will feed my kids each day.
  • Able-bodied – I don’t have to think about and plan for whether or not my body will do what I want it to do.
  • Sexuality – I introduced my husband and family to everyone at a couple of churches.  We fit into their schema of what a family looks like: husband, wife, kids. This helped with my community integration.
We move about in pretty homogenous spaces. This means that invisible privilege is likely to remain invisible.  Go somewhere different! Start small: neighborhood, grocery store, mall.  Call each other’s privilege out! Would you let someone walk around with their fly open?? Tell your loved ones when their privilege is showing.  It’s the right thing to do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Drive and Survive in the Dominican Republic

We bought a used car to get around during our 10 months in the DR.  The car-buying process deserves its own post, but for this entry, I will attempt to explain to you the rules of the road – or as I like to call it: “How to Drive and Survive in the Dominican Republic”. (Disclaimer: We live in La Romana. Driving in the capital, Santo Domingo, is another beast.)  Data from this post come from my own driving experience and from an interview with my perceptive husband who was brave enough to learn the rules, recite them on every outing, then teach them to me.

Sociologists find that in places and situations that seem random and disorganized, there is often a system of order and mutually understood social norms that are not readily apparent to outsiders.  I have tried to apply this concept as I make sense of driving in the DR.  Here are the things we’ve observed thus far divided into “rules of the road” and “words of wisdom”.

Rules of the Road
1)      Green lights mean go. Unless the electricity is out. Then you just go whenever, easing out until someone has no choice but let you go. When in doubt, just go.  Unless you might cut someone off – then, don’t go.
2)      Red lights mean stop. Unless there are no cars coming in the other direction…and unless you’re on a motorcycle.  Motos create their own rules.
3)      Double yellow lines mean no passing.  Unless the person in front of you is slowing around.
4)      Blow your horn to let people know you’re there.  Unlike in the US where we beep when we’re angry or frustrated, in the DR, a beep means “hey, I’m passing on your left” or “don’t cross this intersection because I’m coming through” or “I see the light’s red, but there’s no one else coming, so GO!”  (Notably, some car horns sound like sirens or alarms and you might not recognize “wee-oo…pause…wee-oo wee-oo” as a car blowing at you, but it could be. Especially when it’s accompanied by flailing arms in your rear-view mirror.)
5)      At intersections, one street always has the right of way.  It’s usually the street without the speed dip. Figure this out quickly.
6)      One way streets are sometimes marked. Don’t try to use motos or parked cars to gauge whether the street is one way.  If someone is flailing their hands and shaking their head pointing in the other direction, you’re probably going down a one-way street.

Words of Wisdom
1)      Don’t daydream or get lost in thought.  Focus on driving and only driving – even if you see two clowns go by on a scooter.
2)      Be aware of all moving things: motorcycles, scooters, people, cars, dogs. They typically don’t move in predictable patterns.
3)      Look for speed bumps and speed dips – which are more like canyons. They will scrape your car…and make a really awful loud noise…causing onlookers to turn and cringe.
4)      Know where a couple of big streets go in case you get lost.
5)      Have car insurance. 
*Image credit:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Confronting the Myth of the “Superwoman”: Hiring Housework Help

In my head, I know that Superwoman is not real.  But if I’m honest, I still felt pretty close to her.  I’m a mom, a wife, a writer, and a full-time graduate student…and I really enjoy all of these roles and (most of) the responsibilities that come along with each of them. I’m ok with not doing all things at 100% capacity at all times, as priorities shift depending on the day.  But whatever life threw at us, my partner and I could handle…until we got acquainted with laundry and cleaning, DR-style.

Here’s the deal. In the U.S., I could throw a load of clothes in the washer, read/write/email, throw them in the dryer and start the next load, read/write/email, repeat.  This could happen once per week or randomly as needed.  That system is not possible here.  Laundry is its own beast which requires focused attention…and sweat.

First, *you* fill the washer with a hose. Add detergent and clothes. They wash for a while, then *you* drain the water out.  Fill the washer with a hose again for the rinse cycle. Drain. Repeat until clothes are not soapy anymore. (Alternative rinse: put clothes in a giant bucket of rinse water.) Put clothes in the “dryer” attached to the washer. (“Dryer” is a misnomer. This is not a dryer. It is a spinner – like the thing at the YMCA that spins your swimsuit.)  Take clothes out and hang them outside on a clothesline where they can dry in the sun.  (If it rains, get your clothes down quickly and hang them all over the house, in front of fans.)

So, I hired someone to clean and do laundry for our family so that my partner and I could focus on the kids and work.  This was a very difficult decision for me and I was (and still am) uncomfortable with it. I am uncomfortable because of both the class and gender implications of this choice.  Because of my own working-class background, I feel some kinda way about having "help". The woman who comes needs the work, she has 6 children. But I am also aware that I am participating in an informal labor system which is unregulated and renders millions of people vulnerable to unfair treatment. 

With regards to gender, I have had to come to terms with the fact that we could not do everything here…more importantly, *I* could not do everything.  I could not keep up with the housework and also focus on my research and spending time with my family.  Now, I’m not hung up on gendered responsibilities, but I still felt like cleaning was my realm, and I still felt like this was a “mom/wife fail”.  In the end, we do what we have to do to make things work for our families.

Superwoman can handle all things, all the time, with grace and a smile.  She can work outside the home, kiss and tickle her clean children with loving patience, and make a healthy dinner while wearing a cute negligĂ©e so that her partner finds her attractive.  If you meet her, please send her the freshly baked, organic, whole grain, gluten-free muffins I’ve baked. They’re delicious.   

Image credit:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When Homesickness Sneaks Up on You

I have tried 4 different kinds of milk and none of them taste right.  And it’s not just me.  The toddler won’t drink it either, so I know something’s different about it.  It’s not in my head.

I didn’t expect to be homesick.  I’ve lived here before and I know people…but there’s still a nagging voice that says “Ugh! If I were at home (fill in the blank)”. Last week was a struggle.  What’s interesting is that my schedule is really falling into place. I am in the groove with work. My partner and I have a good pick-up/drop-off system going with the kids. Things look a little more settled at our apartment…well…we bought a rug and some curtains.

Now that the frantic “get settled” frenzy is over, I guess I’ve had time to miss the U.S. I miss how easy it was to phone-a-friend just to check in about their day or my day.  I miss not wondering whether I’m culturally incompetent (“Did I miss something?” is a recurring question). I miss my church. I miss family gatherings.  I’m sure it doesn’t help that the big kid is turning 4 this week and we won’t be with everyone to celebrate.

Anyway, the good thing is that I could name it for what it is and know that it will pass.  So, to get out of this funk, I have decided I need something else to ruminate over.  Before I left, I posted about trying a 30-day meditation challenge (Aligning Mind and Body).  I have to report that I did not stick with it.  BUT, the good thing is, you can always start again!  So, I’ve decided to re-commit to meditation, incorporate exercise into my weekly routine, and I will also start reading “Oprah-like” articles and quotes about gratitude, perseverance, and life challenges.  

What strategies have worked for you?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

House Hunters International: DR Edition

We have been in the Dominican Republic for two and a half weeks now.  In that time, we have lived in 3 different places (4 if you count the fact that we had to change rooms in our hotel).  We rented a temporary, furnished place to stay in for a week while we looked for a permanent apartment.  Truth time: it is impossible to find a place here and move in with a one-week timeline. I was unrealistic.  Here is what it really looked like over the span of 18 days:

Days 1-7: Find abogados (lawyers/real estate people) who can show you a few places.  You find them by telling friends, co-workers, daycare providers, (whoever!) that you’re looking for a place.  Or you can ride around neighborhoods and look for signs that say “se alquila” (for rent).  There is often an abogado’s phone number posted.  They charge one month’s rent for their services. You can ask multiple abogados to show you places, and there’s no negative consequence for working with multiple people. Here are some tips:
  • Have a neighborhood in mind – recommendations from Dominicans and American ex-pats are helpful.
  • Pick a place where you will have neighbors.  A house for rent that is isolated might be a target for petty theft.
  • Electricity and running water are sporadic throughout the country, so ask about these.
  • Location – not too close to a colmado if you prefer quiet (colmados are small corner stores that can be party spots after hours). Not too close to a church if you prefer quiet (evening services may have loud worship services).
  • Furnished or unfurnished - decide what you want or look at both. (We looked at both.)
  • Don’t make a decision under pressure.  We were on a time crunch, but there were a few “nos” and a couple of “maybes”. For all the maybes, we said we’d get back to our abogado the next day.  This gave us time to think – we ended up saying “no” to both the “maybes” for various reasons.
  • Safety is stressed often. We were advised to look for places with metal bars on doors and windows (I think all houses/apartments have bars), and a closed-in place to park the car.
Day 8: Saturday. Congratulations! You’ve found your dream home. Meet with the abogado. Take your passport. Sign the paperwork. Pay 3 months rent (1 month fee for the abogado, 2 months rent as a deposit that you get back when you move out). The abogado then gets the paperwork legalizado (notarized, I think…I’m still not sure). Your next task is to get the electricity turned on. Go to the electricity place and request a solicitud. No idea what this is but it somehow verifies that your apartment is able to be hooked up with electricity. They say come back on Wednesday.

Day 9: Sunday. You negotiate a lower rate to stay until Thursday morning at the temporary place (was $100/night, negotiate to $55/night). You and the owner both know that $100/night was ridiculous.

Day 10-12: Monday-Wednesday. You wait. Shop for furniture to have it delivered Thursday. Apartments do not come with refrigerators or stoves, so you have to buy these things in addition to furniture if your place is unfurnished.

Day 13: Wednesday. Go back to the electricity place. They tell you it’s not ready to be hooked up. Come back Friday.

Day 13-15: Wednesday-Friday. Furniture is delivered. Move out of your temporary place and into a cheap hotel ($43/night). Plead with every person you see in your future neighborhood wearing an “electricity” uniform to hook you up…to no avail.

Day 15: Friday. Go back to the electricity office. Your solicitud was approved. Now you have un contracto (a contract). Your electricity will be hooked up on Monday. Hopes dashed. Notify the cheap hotel that you will be staying until Monday morning.

Day 15-17: Friday-Sunday. Wait. Switch hotel rooms Saturday because of an electricity shortage. Go to the beach because your family needs a fun day.

Day 18: Monday. Move out of your hotel and into your apartment. Hope against all hopes that someone will turn on your electricity. Eureeka! They do! Jump for joy…and buy fans.

Furniture costs (not including dishes, fans, mosquito nets, odds and ends)
Refrigerator – 15,000 pesos, $350
Bed (queen sized) – 14,000 pesos, $325
Kid bed – 5500 pesos, $130
Stove/oven – 9000 pesos, $210
Washing machine – 8000 pesos, $190
Couch – 12,000 pesos, $280
Dining room table and chairs – 7000 pesos, $165
TV – 14,000 pesos, $325
Desk – 3000 pesos, $70

Total = 87,500 pesos, about $2035

Friday, August 1, 2014

Facing Tragedy In Search of Healing

For me, the Dominican Republic is a place of great joy and even greater pain.  Most people think of palm trees, beautiful beaches, and wonderful people when they think of the D.R.  While I do think of all those things, I also have painful flashbacks to the most tragic day of my life.  My brother-in-law drowned while he was visiting my husband and me during our Peace Corps service in the D.R. four years ago. 

I remember the feeling of sheer terror when I heard my husband shouting for help from the ocean.  I could hear the fear in his voice over the sounds of the waves crashing the shore.  I remember seeing him and his brother frantically waving their arms. 

I remember running barefoot through a stretch of palm trees in search of help…and praying. 
I remember praying. 

I remember the burning heartbreak and nauseating grief I felt when I returned to the beach and could not find either of them.  I thought we had lost them both. 

I remember the dizzy combination of relief and guilt I felt when I realized my husband was still alive…but his brother was gone. 

I remember anger.  I remember feeling the most intense anger I’ve ever felt. 
Anger at myself. At the island.  At God. 

These memories swirl around my very being and they can engulf me if I let them. So I bury them.  The more gruesome memories are buried deeper still. 

But I’m going back tomorrow.  We are going back tomorrow…and I wonder what it will feel like.  The anger and guilt have subsided, but the sadness of loss remains.  We are going back for my dissertation research, but we are also going back in search of healing.  Going back means returning to a beautiful island that feels like a second home.  It also means staring a nightmare in the face.  There is so much hurt that it often overshadows the beautiful times we shared in the Dominican Republic.  I don’t want that.  I want there to be more beautiful memories.  Deeper friendships.  More good.  So we’re going back in search of healing and happiness.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Meditation (Day 6/30): Aligning Mind and Body

My mind is completely at odds with my body.  A few days ago, someone asked how the transition period was going and I said it was going well.  She told me I seemed relaxed and I agreed that I was pretty chill about the whole thing.  Later that day, I reassessed to discover that I had headaches, a stiff neck, a sore back and my face was breaking out.  So I decided to commit to 30 days of meditation to even things out.

Disclaimer: I have a hard time with the concept of meditation. I’m an obsessive planner.  I live in the future.  The concept of thinking only of the present is not intuitive for me.  BUT, people who find healthy ways to cope with stress are much happier.  AND, sociological research suggests that men take time for themselves when they are caregivers while women don’t.  I usually like a good Zumba class or a pedicure, but since things are so all over the place, I’ll try meditating for 10 minutes a day.

Here’s why I’m skeptical of meditation:
  •          I don’t have time to sit and do nothing.
  •          It’s impossible for me to think about nothing.
  •          I don’t have a place that is calm and quiet.
  •          It seems like a bunch of hooey.

 Here’s what makes me want to try it anyway:
  •  I need to practice being focused.
  •   My partner gave me a good visual for meditation: imagine you’re on the dock of a river watching your thoughts float by.  You can have thoughts, but don’t engage them. Put your thought in the river, watch it float by, then re-focus on your breathing.
  • I pick the most quiet of the “not quiet” times/places and set an alarm on my phone for 10 minutes. I listen to the sounds (cars driving by, birds, etc), then try to re-focus on my breathing.
  • It could be hooey, but I feel a little better after 5 days.

I’ve tried mornings, afternoons, and evenings. I’ve fallen asleep. I’ve been unable to float my thoughts down the river without engaging them. I’ve been motivated only by the decision to write this post.  Some days go well and some don’t…but I’ve got 24 days left in my 30 day challenge.  Who’s with me?

*photo credit:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strategies for Smoothing Big Transitions: "Life with Kids" Edition

Life in the D.R. will be a big adjustment for all of us, and I would like to be intentional about making that transition smooth – especially for my little ones. My partner and I have lived there before, but I can remember how jarring it was to be in a place where everything was so different: sights, sounds, traffic, weather, language…you name it.  In order to buffer some of the culture shock, there are some things I’m trying with my 3 year old before we leave. I’ve spoken with others who have moved to a different country with young children and here is what they suggest: establish a routine early, front load with information, commiserate on bad days, and do fun things together.  I guess I’ll have to report back later to determine how well they worked, but perhaps they can help with big transitions for your kids…or yourselves!

Establish a Routine Early: When things are changing, kids may not feel like they know what’s coming next.  I created a calendar for the month before we leave so my 3 year old could see what to expect each day.  (See the picture in this post.) Some things are weekly (ie. church on Sundays, story time at the library on Tuesdays, the visit to the train museum on Fridays).  Other activities are special days (blueberry picking or birthday celebrations).  Daily routines are also the same: breakfast, morning activity, lunch, nap, afternoon activity, dinner, bedtime.

“Front load” with information:  The first thing adults do when we have to deal with something new is research it: we consult the internet, friends, and colleagues to create a mental picture of what’s ahead.  To give my preschooler a mental picture, we have “DR School” in the afternoons on Monday through Friday.  DR School is a 30-minute lesson on the Dominican Republic mostly in Spanish.  Week 1 is “Geography, Climate, Community, and Creatures”. This includes YouTube videos of Dominican kids and a heads up about rain and bugs.  Week 2 is “Food, Culture, and Sports” so we’ll eat Dominican food, learn about music, dance merengue and play baseball.  Week 3 is on transportation, money, and housing so we’ll look at guaguas and learn about different types of houses.  Here’s a sample lesson:

Tuesday: Climate, Weather, Beach
·         Read: “Cuando Voy a La Playa” (poem); color a picture of the beach
·         Watch video about rain
o   what do you see? do the trees look the same as the trees here? what does the rain sound like? what do buildings look like?
o   Song: “Una gotita sobre mi casa”
o   Activity (math): addition - Cuantos gotitas hay?
Vocab: playa, arena, merienda, lluvia, gota

Commiserate on bad days: Parents probably already do this but my tendency with this move is to make the D.R. a great place for everyone all the time.  Realistically, though, there will be bad days there - just like we have bad days in the U.S.  So, I will have to resist the urge to say, “Baby, those bugs are not that scary” and instead say, “yikes! let’s fight them off together!”

Do fun things together: Other parents are clear on this one – remember to make the memories that will go in the scrapbook! Do something fun as early as possible.  This will give kids a positive experience in the country early on.

What has worked for you during big transitions?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Itchy Discomfort of Transition

"Those who put on itchy 
sweaters start every day 
from scratch." -unknown

This week marks the beginning of seemingly perpetual transition for our family…and I don’t love it.  We move out of our apartment in 2 days.  We live in limbo with family for 3 weeks.  We live in limbo in the DR for 1 week while we try to find a more permanent apartment.  We settle in for 10 months, then try to transition back to the U.S. (look for preschools, neighborhoods, employment for my partner).  We live somewhere for 1-2 years while I write up my dissertation…then we may move again when I graduate and look for faculty positions.

It makes me exhausted to think about.  Really, I’m tired.

Granted, I’m probably tired because the only time we have to pack boxes is when the kids are sleeping.  So that means late nights trying to decide how much I really need two staplers.  But transition is uncomfortable…like an itchy sweater.  Nothing too serious, but just enough to bug the crap out of you. 

I’ve also had to come to terms with my personal frustrations during this phase. I’m sad to leave Durham.  We’ve lived here for 4 years – the longest time I have lived anywhere in my adult life.  I’m anxious about what lies ahead.  Even though I have faith that amazing things are ahead, uncertainty makes me uncomfortable (see This Kaleidoscope Life entry).  And I don’t like living out of boxes and suitcases.  

But you know what? I am so lucky to have this opportunity for our family.

So, we are visiting our favorite places in Durham for the last time, making lists on dry erase boards to quell my anxieties, and labeling each box with details so I can find things if I need to.

Let the (itchy) fun begin!