We’re here. It’s hotter than I imagined, and the symptoms of heat exhaustion are rearing their ugly heads. I need to slow down and get used to the heat before I come back up to normal speed.
Santo Domingo is different than I thought it would be. All the anecdotal evidence I got painted a different picture than what it’s like here. It’s dirty, loud, and a little overwhelming, but I’ll definitely like it here.
Our current apartment (temporary quarters until our house is ready) is REALLY nice.
This is the view from the balcony:
We’re right on el Malecon, or the southern-most boulevard on the island. El Malecon runs east-west along the Caribbean, and is very busy and loud. Walking the dogs three times a day there is a little unnerving for them, but I’m getting used to it. We have a “mall” and a casino in our building, and there’s activity 24 hours a day. There are also armed guards (and people) all over the place. From what we’ve heard from our sponsors, the only unarmed people on the island are diplomats.
We got a quick tour of the old city from our sponsor yesterday, and we took a cab ride up Calle Abraham Lincoln to try to find an Orange office to unlock my phone on Friday. From what we’ve seen, the city is busy everywhere you go. Our future neighborhood is a little calmer, but 2 blocks in any direction, and you’re back to the craziness. Our sponsor tells us that there are places in the city where Americans have no business being, and I believe him.
As for getting used to everything, I think it will be a lot easier once we get some help around the house. I have one interview scheduled for tomorrow with a potential empleada (I’ll call her M.), and am really trying to get in touch with another woman who worked for the USAID Medical Chief (I’ll call her D.). I’m leaning towards D. since she’s supposedly great with dogs (everyone else is scared to death of dogs, it seems) and has been working with Embassy families for over 20 years. Our house will be a lot bigger than I’m used to, and just sweeping and mopping the floors yesterday took me 2 hours of hard, hot work. I almost feel guilty hiring help, as it’s something I would never dream of doing in the States; but here it’s not only accepted, but expected. Hiring from the local economy is a little way of doing our part here. We give someone a good, steady job with a decent wage ($500 pesos/$16 USD a day), and a place to stay during the week (if live-in), and they keep our house in order, do the shopping, do the laundry, etc. Regardless, it will make my life easier, as I’ll have more opportunity to spend time with my son and not have to worry about the chores/errands. It’ll also be nice to be able to get Dominican prices when she does the shopping, as there are two tiers of pricing: Dominican and Gringo. Guess which one’s higher.
I’m still on the fence about working… there doesn’t seem to be much with the Embassy right now (I missed an opportunity to vie for the CLO position because I couldn’t get my act together to submit my credentials by the deadline), and I’m not sure I want to work for the Embassy directly anyways. I’ve heard some rumblings about some nice work USAID is doing down here, and there’s always the Peace Corps to do some work with. If I can get my Spanish up-to-snuff, there’s some work on the local economy, but I don’t know what the pay is like. Many positions pay ridiculously low wages on our economy, but a king’s wage on the Dominican economy. $500,000 RD is a lot of money for Dominicans, but only like $14,000 USD a year. If I’m going to be working 30-40 hours a week, I’d like to feel like I’m getting paid something for it. $7 an hour was fine when I was a teenager, but not so much these days.
A lot to think about, a lot to do… and we’re not even in our permanent house yet and still don’t have any of our stuff. I can’t wait for our new house, our UAB, car, and eventually our HHE. Once we get everything, set up house, and settle in, then I can relax a bit and enjoy it here. Until then, I feel bad for my son (who’s life [and most of his toys] has been in limbo). It must be hard for a two-year-old to figure this all out, and harder still to do it without all of his stuff.