Dominican Republic Week 7

Day 1 – Wednesday 27 April 2011

So time is running out and I have to make sure that I finish everything I came here to do. I feel rather satisfied with what I’ve learnt and the people I’ve met. Sure some of the info was a bit disappointing to discover but then again if certain things hadn’t happened then certain people wouldn’t be here.
I spent the morning in the Cemetery, a bit morbid I know but I was on a mission to find my grandfather’s grave. No one seems to know much about him (or they pretend not to) so I need too request his death and birth certificates but I can’t without the dates. His tombstone would be the only source I can rely on.

Ambiorix and I scoured every tombstone, every cross, every family tomb. We found a few false leads but we didn’t let the blazing sun stop us. I swear it looked like I just swam in a dirty lake I was sweating so bad. Ambiorix rode his moto through the cemetery for quicker access but I stayed on foot, dodging graves and pardoning my way through the maze of endless stones. A good number of the graves were right up on each other with no path between them, I would have to do a hurdle jump across three graves at a time in order not to step on one. I was like superman.

The clouds rolled in and Ambiorix begged for us to leave. I ignored him and kept on looking. As I reached what I thought would the pinnacle of all finds (I recognised names that were not only related to my grandfather but also my grandmother) an arm reached out and I was pulled out onto the central path. Ambiorix asked, no he told me: We’re leaving now.


The moto was already in place and as we rode off the rains let down their spiky drops of pain. I forgot that when it monsoons here it hurts. I crouched behind Ambiorix trying to keep my face hidden beneath his helmet. We knew there was no way we could make it all the way to either of our homes so we found an old abandoned night club that had a covered area for parking. We waited for the rains to stop.

Three hours later we were still there, waiting.

Just as it started to calm down and we knew we could venture out again a moto drove past. Ambiorix asked if I knew who that was, I said no and he mentioned it was Little Boy Albert’s father. Apparently he has returned to Bonao, has reclaimed his son and is looking for a job. It looks like Albert’s future just got a little bit brighter.

We knew it was too late to return to the cemetery, it was still raining and it would be closed rather soon. So instead we went to a nearby bakery as I thought I should not only treat Ambiorix for all he’s done for me here but also treat myself. Ambiorix had Tres Leches Cake while I opted for a custard filled sponge. Three hungry kids watched us from the window. They came in to beg for some cake before the bakery owner came over and threw them out. When we walked outside we handed them whatever change we had left.

Once I returned home I knew I had to stay productive, I only have a week left here before I would have to return to New York. My mother begged me to come home for Mother’s Day (US Observed) and so time is of an essence. The rains hadn’t stopped and actually picked up again in force so I sat in my house and worked on my Grandmother’s Mother’s Day present. I’ve actually been working on it the whole time I’ve been out here but I have to make sure I finish it in time.

That night I would discover that my grandfather’s tombstone (a cross) was stolen back in the 60’s and that a tree was the only marker. That tree has since been cut down.

Someone stole his moniker, so I stole someone else's of the same name. (It was a figurative stealing not a literal one)

The cemetery refuge 
Day 2 – Thursday 28 April 2011

The rains are still in effect today. Ambiorix made it clear we couldn’t go to the cemetery again and so I took a taxi to my Tía Olympia’s house for lunch. While there I asked my Tío Joel if he could take me to see Tío Dario.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Dario, his wife Nidia, and a couple of their sons. They helped me with my grandmother’s present and blessed me and my travels as I bid them farewell.

Food
Day 3 – Friday 29 April 2011
Knowing that time is short I need to re-visit those I haven’t seen too much of while here. I headed over to Tía Flor’s house and spent the afternoon with her, she also helping me with my grandmother’s present. I wonder if I would have spent as much time there (and at Tío Dario’s) if it wasn’t for the present but it didn’t matter, it was pleasant and they too were appreciative of the visit.

Day 4 – Saturday 30 April 2011

The sun was finally out and so Ambiorix and I headed back to the cemetery. We knew that it was going to be impossible to find the unmarked grave of my grandfather but we could at least see all the ones I had just seen when we left the other day. That and also find the empty plot that has been reserved for my grandmother – not a nice thing to look for but I had to go make sure it was there.
I was right the other day, the names I had recognised were of my great grandmother, many great aunts and some of their husbands. They were split between two family tombs, little houses were they could all rest together. In the upper portion of one of the tombs were two empty spots. One for my grandmother, and the other for her only living brother, Tío Dario.

In the afternoon I headed over to the country club, it was my little cousin’s (Gabriella) birthday and it was being celebrated there. It was really nice to just sit, eat cake and watch all the kids run around without a care in the world. My Tía Purita’s dog was there and she amused all the children with her cute little self. Her name is Coco.

Princess Princessplay

Day 5 – Sunday 1 May 2011

I had a final lunch at Tía Flor’s house. Her husband Tío Chago cooked up some chickens and told me of his time in the military. It appears that my grandfather was not the only one involved in the military here. In fact another great uncle of mine also worked for Trujillo at the same time my grandfather did. Chago on the other hand served after Trujillo was assassinated and is probably the only military serving member of the family worth honouring. He fought in the war against the Americans who invaded on 24 April 1965. On 24 April 2007 he was honoured by the current government and showed me his certificate of appreciation. He was very proud and I was very disappointed to discover there were no photos of him in uniform, but yet very thrilled to have learnt this fact about him.

I headed back to my house and spent some time with my neighbours Anita & Cundo. They have been living there long before my grandmother ever moved into our house. Cundo has suffered quite a few strokes and spends most of the day sitting in his chair. Anita gave me some bananas to eat and we just sat and laughed.

In the evening I went to find Amanda (who has returned from the States) and begged her to take me to Tío Franklin’s house. I haven’t heard from him since I saw him last and considering I spent some time away (Cotuí, Santo Domingo & Puerto Plata) he probably assumed I was gone.
She took me and on arriving I saw Franklin sitting outside his grocery store with a mess of people. I walked over and greeted him and again he did not introduce me to anyone. Amanda was the one that was like wait a minute – and introduced me to his wife and other son I hadn’t met yet. I then gave Franklin a public bollocking for being so indecent – his wife was not surprised. Since I had come unannounced his wife felt bad that she didn’t have anything for me. We made plans to return tomorrow night where she would make me dinner and sit me down with the family to enjoy some time together.

Later in the evening I took Amanda’s daughter, Naomi, and Sylvia’s son, Abraham, out for some empanada’s and ice cream. It was so nice to spend time with them and getting to know them while they’re still children and so full of hope. Abraham wants to be president one day and considering all the ideas he has to make the country better I hope he meets that goal.

Tio ChagoIce Cream

Day 6 – Monday  2 May 2011
In the morning I discovered that one of Ambiorix’s neighbourhood friends was killed last night. He was riding his moto late at night and was accosted by a thief who tried to steal his moto. When he refused the thief shot him and took the moto anyway. Ambiorix seemed to be ok but he always hides his feelings.

Later on Tía Ingrid came over (from Cotuí) with her daughter Angela. We headed over to have lunch with Tía Olympia, Tía Dulce, Tío Joel & Tío Gaspar. It was nice.

In the evening I headed over to Tío Franklin’s house as planned and met up with him and some of his extended family. His niece Tahiana (my cousin I guess) told me she added me on facebook a couple of years back. I had no idea who she was but apparently I accepted her friend request. She was so happy to have found me online that she showed my picture to our grandmother (my paternal grandmother) Dominga.

Dominga was so happy to have been able to see  her long lost grandchild that everyone who came to visit her had to see my facebook page and all my pictures. I had no idea who Tahiana was before today and had no idea the grandmother I never met was so proud of me.

Dominga passed away in August of 2010. I never knew her then again I never looked for her.
I am an awful person.

I tried to keep my composure but it wasn’t easy. What followed was a parade of phone calls to other members of the family I did not know (but of course they knew me). It was weird and interesting at the same time but I could not shake the feeling of my own failure. My father was someone I had written off years ago, but did it mean I had to write off all those connected to him as well? No I should not have, and now I learnt my lesson. I lost a grandmother who loved me regardless of the fact that I was a bastard child that could have destroyed the family. If it wasn’t for the fact that my Sister Adriana looked for me and persisted on keeping in touch with me (even when I ignored her) I could have lost all of this forever. I have it now, in pieces, but I have it now and I have to remind myself that that’s what matters.

Before heading home Franklin’s wife (I can not remember her name – remember when I said I was an awful person?) insisted I go find my grandfather, Papa German.

We rode around looking for him (he wasn’t home) but did find him at the grocery store he owns. We walked in and from behind the  counter this older man with beady little eyes looked back at me. I didn’t need an introduction.
“You look just like your father.”
German Abreu came around and hugged me profusely. We stepped outside and spoke of the general things. How are you? That sort of thing, then came what I knew I could not avoid and what I had been dreading all night.
“I know you and Tony don’t speak.”
I did not know what to say. It is true, I hadn’t spoken to my father in over 6 years, by my own choice. What could I say to this man? My excuse for the cut-off (my father denied me when I told him I was gay) would not be a conversation I would want to have on this occasion. But it didn’t matter, German started crying.

I am an awful person.

He told me I could not let Tony’s stubbornness dominate me, even though I obviously inherited the trait, and begged that I would go and find my father. It wasn’t fair on me, on him, and on all of them. He is right.

He demonstrated to me his grocery store, which he reminded was 1/20th mine. He has 20 grandchildren and we are all apart of that store, I have always been a part of it, and always will be. Then I started to cry.

Back at Tío Franklin’s house I had a final chat with his children, Anthony and Francis (who I called Francisco in a previous post) and spoke about their dreams. They both want to study engineering (Anthony – Electrical & Francis – Civil) and on speaking with their mother it seemed the dream would be far fetched. They can barely keep up with expenses as is (the grocery store was only half stocked) and the tuition and travel expenses (they would have to travel to either Santo Domingo or La Vega to study but not live) would be too much to handle. I asked how much it would cost and averaged it out to US$100 a month. That’s all it would cost for these kids to go to school… such a ridiculous loss if it was not so. Anthony has one year left of secondary school and Francis has 3. Which gives me 1 year to get financially stable enough so that I can pay for it. You can not deny people who WANT to study the opportunity to do so.

Look-A-Like Papa Family

Day 7 – Tuesday 3 May 2011

At 6AM the car was waiting for me outside. I rolled out my suitcase and got in. About 20 minutes into the ride the car broke down and I said to Ambiorix:
“Well I guess that means I’m not going anywhere”
To my disapproval the car was fixed in about 15 minutes and we were back on our way to the Airport in Santo Domingo.

The flight was simple and uneventful. People clapped when we landed (typical Dominicans) and I found myself in New York.

My Grandmother Isabel (whom I call Mama) was surprised to see me. She had no idea I was coming.
***
I will miss you DR
Your rolling hills, blue skies and crystal clear rivers
Your antiquated lifestyle, handmade everything, and laid back mentality
I grieve for you DR
Your delinquency, drug abuse and failing economy
Your inability to act and gather in a unified manner
I Thank you DR
Reminding me of where I came from, those who made me and shaped me
Reminding me of those I have lost and forgotten and who I could never forget again
On to the Next Chapter where I need to repair and mend
New York, you're a tough bitch but I tamed you before,
I can tame you again

Cow
**All pictures taken on a Galaxy S Android Phone**
Dominican Republic Week 7 Dominican Republic Week 7 Reviewed by Unknown on 15:03 Rating: 5

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