Posted by: Matthew | April 13, 2010

Rain & Food


We’re having a great time here in la Cumbre.  The weather has been much more reasonable lately and we even get sporadic rain showers every few days (LOTS of rain today).  We spend 4-8 hours a day in class with much of our off time consumed by other projects and socializing with our families; though we do find time for R&R with the other PCTs.  This week we worked on a mini-diagnostic where we assess the needs and resources of our community to better inform future projects and build relationships with our hosts.  When we reach our site, the first 3 months will be focused on the diagnostic; so this training project is relatively condensed, rushed, and less comprehensive.

Our Dominican host family is really great with our doña Margalis, don Francisco, and hermanos Francis, Freilin, y Ada.  Francisco is a guagua driver, so he spends very little time at home.  Margalis is a giggly 30-something ama de casa who really puts a ton of effort and sacrifice into making us as comfortable as possible.  I’m pretty sure I can’t say anything without her cracking up, which I’ve simply come to expect.  I think I’ll be playing the well-intentioned bumbling gringo card for much of my time here.

For breakfast, Margalis always serves us piña (pineapple), lechosa (papaya), galletas (crackers), mantequilla de maní (peanut butter), and café.  The pineapple here is sort of a staple and is much sweeter and juicier than I’ve ever had in the states.  Needless to say breakfast is a pleasure (though some eggs once in a while would be nice)

Lunch is generally la Bandera which consists of habichuelas (beans) or guandules (pigeon peas), arroz (rice), and vegetales like tayota (sort of like summer squash; very bland) and zanahoria (carrot) with either some pollo or bacalao (salted cod; my favorite).  This is the basic meal that everybody – who can afford to eat – eats.  I really like the bandera actually, especially when I can pile high the beans and bacalau atop a mound of rice.  Today she mixed it up and served us Sancocho, which is one of the national soups.  Basically, it consists of pollo, cerdo (pork), vegetales, and papas or some other vivere in its own broth.  Other common dishes include moro (rice with guandules), locrio (rice with meat), and asopau (sancocho sin viveres + rice and tomatoes).

Dinner is yet more variable, but often not-so-great because it is considered the least important meal of the day.  Nevertheless, it can be delicious with fried platanos (called tostones, sort of like banana-french fries), cheese, harina (polenta), and maybe some veggies.  Most Dominicans just eat a variety of viveres for dinner.

Viveres are any starcy, non-cereal vegetable and are very popular here.  I’ve made numerous inquiries as to why, for their benefit isn’t immediately obvious to me, and the response I’ve received is that it’s tradition.  Dominicans simply like viveres; even though there are less expensive and (in my opinion) more flavorful & healthy alternatives.  Some examples of viveres are: yucca (not half bad IMO), ñame, batata (sweet potato), auyama (yam), guineo verde (unripe, green banana), and plátano (verde y maduro) among others.  I don’t understand the appeal of eating boiled unripe bananas, but many people don’t seem to understand why we gringos would request mature bananas either; so I guess the feeling is mutual.


The rainy season has begun.  We have received rain every day since Saturday and at times surging channels form on the hillsides and in the streets, visibly stripping the topsoil from the denuded pastures in a roiling brown current.

It is raining right now.  On the zinc roofs this produces a loud drumming during even a light rain, let alone the constant thunder of a deluge.

I am writing this by candlelight.  The lights have been out since midday, but I had enough time to charge my laptop.  I must admit to finding this situation romantic at times.


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