Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going to the Place of Your Birth to Vote. Or to bear a child. Or to accept a Christmas gift…





One of many strange details I discovered about the Dominican Republic was that people had to go their hometown to vote! Yet, voter turnout rates tend to be quite high if we look not at the number of registered voters, but the percentage of all people of voting age, registered or not. Since 1974, the lowest turnout during a Presidential election year was 48.78%, highest was 71.63%, the average being about 63.81%. Compare that to the US Presidential races for the same group and period - lowest was 51.28% and highest 62.08% (2004), (interestingly our 2008 "all time high" year for Obama was 58.23% - close to the average of 58.1%).

But we can vote from home! Can you imagine what voter turnout would be if we had to travel to our birthplace to vote?

In DR, this year voting took place on a Sunday, so the fewest number of people would be working - and therefore able to vote. And, what appears to be common but illegal practice, both of the major parties provided buses from Santo Domingo (where 1/3 of the country's population lives) to various locales. Each party hoped that by offering a free trip home - a three-day vacation so to speak - the individual would vote for them.

Seems like instead of being illegal, a bus ticket should be given away to everyone who wants one, if they make you travel anywhere from 1 - 7 hours to cast a vote. How many of us, even if given free bus fare, would go to our birthplace to vote?

Why this system in the Dominican Republic? Who knows: Tradition. Time with family. Buying votes. Hoping fewer people will vote. An arcane governmental computer system. Attempts to keep votes from being bought (an extremely common practice) because in your hometown they will know if you are the person on your Cedula (personal identification card).

Can you imagine having to go to your birthplace to vote or for a census no matter what, even if you were pregnant? I wonder if this would make February, in spite of Valentine's Day, a month of celibacy.

Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, City of David, both Joseph's and Mary's birthplace (good thing they could go together), because they had to. We all know the story - but we look at Jesus' birthplace from where we stand today in history—after the fact. We also look BACK on prophecy. Jesus was the Messiah, Emmanuel (God with us). Where was He born? (Bethlehem - House of Bread is the translation. How appropriate for the Bread of Life to be born there.) Is that where the Messiah was supposed to be born? (Yes)

As I read the December 2nd and 4th devotions in The Coming of Peace, written by Dr. Reverend Timothy Smith (my friend and Pastor) of WaterfromRock.org I began to turn this story around, to look at it from the perspective of those living in that time in history.

Before the birth of Jesus, in fact for 1000 years prior, the Jewish people knew of a prophecy, a promise given to King David, that the Messiah would come from his lineage, as told in I Chronicles 17:10+. And from then on, the lineage of David was followed and closely watched, to see who would be born in the City of David, and to discover who would fulfill that promise. The people of Israel were not the only ones to follow the many Judaic prophecies. The wise men studied the stars and found Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They told Herod where they were going, and when they didn’t report back to the efficacy of the story, Herod assumed the King of the Jews had been born and sent soldiers to try to kill that rival King. All boys under the age of two found in Bethlehem were murdered. These prophesies were not taken lightly, as fantasy or stories for the weak-minded needing a spiritual crutch (as some atheists or secular humanists are fond of repeating). Wise men bowed down in homage, kings and soldiers, and later the religious elite and lawyers, did all they could to destroy his ministry and his life.

If everyone was looking forward, could this not have been one of the reasons Rome forced everyone to go to their homelands for a census - to identify and contain the power of this rogue King before he even had a chance to grow up?

But we stand looking back from this side of history, at risk of being bored by the repeated story of a Virgin birth, visiting angels, God living among us, and the choice to accept the Messiah as our personal King.

If we could travel to the place of our birth to find new life, would we bother to "vote" for eternity, or would it be too inconvenient to bother, even if the ticket to life were offered for free.

Heather

Statistic Sources - IDEA: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
DR - http://www.idea.int/vt/country_view.cfm?CountryCode=DO; US - http://www.idea.int/vt/country_view.cfm?id=231

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hurricane Tomas - Message to US Citizens in Dominican Republic

Because I registered my presence in the Domnican Republic, I receive "Warden Messages" from the US Consulate - this one regarding Tropical Storm/Hurricane Tomas.

On the current forecast track the center will pass near Jamaica or Haiti tonight. At 2:00 p.m. the storm was 270 miles to the southeast of Port-au-Prince. The National Hurricane Center states that the most significant threat from this tropical cyclone is heavy rainfall which could produce flash flooding and life-threatening mud slides over Haiti and the Dominican Republic during the next couple of days.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 to 36 hours and a Hurricane Watch remains in effect for Haiti. Tomas is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over much of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches. These rains could cause life-threatening flash flood and mudslides over mountainous terrain. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 85 miles from the center of Tomas, mostly toward the east.

ONAMET, The Dominican National Meteorological Office, continues to warn boaters that abnormally large waves, between 6 to 8 feet, may occur along the country’s Atlantic coast, and waves of 8-10 feet along the Caribbean coast. ONAMET advises that small to medium size vessels along the Caribbean coast from Pedernales to Barahona remain in port. From Barahona to Saona Island vessels should exercise caution and stay close to shore, as should vessels on the Atlantic coast. All recreational aquatic activities should be suspended.

The Dominican Emergency Operations Center (COE) has declared a Red Alert for the the provinces of Pedernales, Barahona, Bahoruco, Independencia, San Juan de la Maguana and Elías Piña, and a Yellow Alert for Azua, Dajabón, Santiago Rodríguez, Montecristi, La Vega Espaillat Hermanas Mirabal, Duarte (particularly lower Yuna), Maria Trinidad Sanchez, and San Cristobal (particularly Villa Altagracia and los Cacaos).

A Green Alert is in effect for the provinces of Santo Domingo, the National District, Monte Plata, Sanchez Ramirez, San Jose Ocoa, Monsenor Nouel, Santiago, and Puerto Plata. Red Alerts are declared when a weather phenomenon or other event has a high probability of impacting a specific zone which could result in damage to property, transportation infrastructure, the environment, and people. Yellow (medium probability) and Green alerts (low probability) have been issued for other areas of the country. For details see the COE website at HYPERLINK "http://www.coe.gov.do a" www.coe.gov.do

U.S. citizens residing and traveling in coastal areas in this region and floodplains near rivers and creeks descending from mountainous areas of western provinces should be alert to flooding and landslides in rural areas. COE has cautioned those who reside in the mostly rural areas close to rivers, streams, and canals to guard against rising waters and possible overflows. Do not attempt to cross rising rivers, canals, and streams. Rainfall and rising waterways in the provinces of La Vega, Espaillat, Duarte and María Trinidad Sánchez could also cause flash flooding and mudslides.

U.S. citizens are advised that U.S. Embassy personnel have been restricted from traveling to the border area for the remainder of the week.

Residents in Santo Domingo and other areas adjacent to the water should remember that storm surge can flood coastal roads quickly. Take appropriate precautions when driving. In the event of local government ordered evacuations, U.S. citizens are advised to follow instructions of civil emergency personnel. Tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation. Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions in the event of a weather emergency. Travelers should also protect their travel and identity documents against loss or damage, as the need to replace lost documentation could hamper or delay return to the United States.

The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens living in and/or visiting the Dominican Republic take certain basic precautions in preparation of a possible hurricane. Supplies and Preparation: If you are living in the Dominican Republic: Ensure you have adequate supplies of food, water, medications and other essential supplies on hand. It is not unusual for stores and shops to close before, during and after a hurricane. Check your generators and make sure you have an adequate supply of fuel; cut down any dead foliage and remove any debris around your home; secure any items that could become dangerous flying objects (patio furniture, umbrellas, barbeques, etc); have the tools and supplies on hand to secure your house (plywood, nails, shutters, etc).

Upper floors in high-rise buildings are at increased risk of windows being blown out, due to the fact that wind speed increases with height.

If you are a tourist, talk to your hotel front desk to learn about the hotel’s emergency plan for a hurricane. Notify your family and friends of your whereabouts and your plans until the storm passes. Be sure to have an adequate supply of necessary prescriptions and medications on hand.

During the Storm:
-Do not go outside, flying debris is lethal;
-Do not watch the storm from beaches as storm surge, rip tides and rogue waves are hazardous.
-Stay inside in an interior room of your residence (bathroom, large closet or pantry). Choose a room with little or no windows that is located away from the exterior wall of the residence;
-Stay off your home/cell phone and radio. Keep all means of communication available for an emergency;
-If a member of your family sustains an injury during the storm, report the injury and degree of severity to the local authorities as soon as possible. U.S. citizens should monitor local radio, the HYPERLINK "http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/index.shtml" National Weather Service and local media to stay aware of any weather developments in their area.

For official information from the Dominican Government regarding weather conditions, please visit the HYPERLINK "http://www.onamet.gov.do/" ONAMET website and the HYPERLINK "http://www.coe.gov.do/" COE website. The U.S. Embassy will update this warden message if new information becomes available.

American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. American citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to register with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the State Department’s travel registration website at HYPERLINK "https://travelregistration.state.gov/. For any emergencies involving American citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Section of the Embassy is located at the corner of Cesar Nicolas Penson Street and Máximo Gómez Avenue, Santo Domingo, D.R.; telephone 809-731-4294; after hours emergency telephone 809-221-2171; ACS unit fax 809-689-6142; e-mail HYPERLINK "mailto:acssantodom@state.gov" acssantodom@state.gov ; web page HYPERLINK "http://www.usemb.gov.do" www.usemb.gov.do


Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Which is hotter...Dominican Republic or Phoenix?

I was asked in both locations, "Which is hotter?": the Dominican Republic or Phoenix, Arizona? First, the question needs to be asked as if all things were equal, which they are not. In the real world 110 - 118 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer in the desert is WAY cooler than 90 degrees in the DR (does that surprise you?) because you can always go inside where there is air conditioning.

In the Dominican Republic A/C in homes was reserved for the wealthier people and even then typically just in the bedrooms. Windows that open wide and overhead fans provide some cross ventilation that theoretically help, but I sweated inside homes and apartments on a regular basis. When I looked at an apartment without overhead fans, I was told (I think just to get me to rent the place) that Dominicans don't have fans in their homes. While that is true for the poor, I would say it is an exaggeration. Stores and restaurants usually had air conditioning when the electricity was working. Most places I lived in provided only overhead fans. Even the large home I cared for had airconditioning only in the bedroom - and I strove to keep my use of it to a minimum, because electricity was very expensive. The DR was freaking hot. Yet, most Dominicans did not sweat profusely like I did, and wisely carried washclothes to absorb the dampness on thier faces.

That is "real world". But if you go on vacation and stay in a nice hotel or a resort, you can expect A/C and back up generators for electricity all the time, as well as a lovely breeze coming off the ocean. Fantastic!

So to make a true comparison, we'd have to ask if both places were without airconditioning, which is hotter? That's a hard call. My trip back to Arizona in July made it the decision even harder - as it is the hottest time of year for both locations. The answer...both dry and humid heat in these dramatically different locales are experienced such incredibly differentent manners, that there is no comparison - both are pretty much horrible if you are without modern technology. Dry heat wraps itself around your skin like a glove, moist heat drips from every sweat gland in your body into your eyes or plastering hair and clothes to your body. (I must clarify that not even Arizona's July monsoons can count for humid if you've lived long in the DR.)

Normally, Arizona in the fall and spring (desert or mountains) is gorgeous--hands down one of the most gorgeous places on earth. And winter in DR, perfectly lovely, not to be missed. If you don't do it the way I did (low budget, big city),but stay at a resort on the beach, just about any time of year will be a vacation in heaven.

Here's a great example of the heat in Arizona. Okay, just kidding - but very cool what happened here on October 5th, 2010, in spite of damage to cars that were not under cover. Not typical for AZ AT ALL. Don't forget to come back to Blogger after you view the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7EduWIGsB4

Right now in the area of Dominican Republic and Haiti - Hurricane Tomas. Please pray for the island to be spared from not only a hurricane but flooding as well. My heart cries out with the people of Haiti who do not need another tragedy or anything that can spread illnesses, such as TB or cholera. DR does not "need" it either, as some of those illnesses are starting to crop up in the major cities also due to illegal immigration (don't take that politically, just as a public health issue - illnesses cross borders with people) and floods will again add to the spread of disease.

The Dominican Republic has begun measuires to control the spread of "new" old diseases, and I am impressed with how quickly the government responds to such crises - in education and prevention programs, and in treatment.

Your prayers for changed weather patterns that keep the hurricane out to sea, mercy, health and safety for the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and DR combined).

Thank you, Heather

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thanks for your prayers for my new apartment

I thank you, my friends and prayer warriors/protectors, prayers have been answered.

I had a big, long list of things that would be included in my "perfect apartment." Of course that list looked more and more like a Penthouse everyday, and I was frustrating real estate agents with my "list" and my "price requirement." Though I found (and ultimately decided against) a beautiful, new, small apartment with many of those "requirements" at a modest price, it was not a modest price I was looking for. Plus gas, plus internet. Also, since I could not find anyone who actually paid for their electricity, the potential for a huge wildcard electricity bill was looming in my future. Everyone said, "As long as you don't use the air-conditioning." Of course, since there was an air conditioner, I would have used it.

I was looking for, well, cheap! Yet still being a picky American, there were things that were simply unacceptable. I walked for days, following up leads and taking down phone numbers from rental signs. Two different people made numerous phone calls for me because, as we have learned in an early lesson, Dominicans get different prices and different terms than foreigners. Foreigners pay one or two months as a deposit, another month rent as a commission to the agent, and then may also have to pay a month in advance. The place I ultimately decided against wanted another $100 for the lawyer's fee. (A lawyer is always involved, I was told.)

So, when I found a new friend who previously had worked in "Bienes Raices" - or Real Estate rentals and purchases, I received very different terms. But think part of that is because it is a very different place. The owners live on the top floor (the Penthouse), much of which is an open terrace with most rooms opening directly to this terrace - plenty of breeze passing through. I paid one month in advance, negotiated (or my friend negotiated for me) less than a month's commission, and a $100 deposit. Now lawyer’s fee. No contract. No minimum months required. I think this is very rare. I think it is perhaps miraculous.



The room is a studio, yet larger than other studios I saw. It also has a half wall separating the bedroom from the seating and kitchen area. This is a fantastic addition to the studio concept! Guests don't look at my bed. I have a separation between where I sleep and where I work. I have room to walk around (a little). Internet (cable) added for $20. Women, you will notice the closet!! The bathroom is small, but I saw worse - MUCH worse. It has a ceiling fan. Electricity is included - therefore no surprises at the end of the month.

I was told by one person that Dominicans don't have fans in their homes, and I am prone to believe it. Since electricity is rare in many areas, it wouldn't work anyway. And they all love to take a chair out to the street and sit in front to talk, drink or to play dominoes!

What does it not include?

No air-conditioning (and yes, it's awfully hot here.)

No balcony - something I long for desperately. There is one in the owner's building on the second floor, and after asking five times to use it, they finally said I could call up and ask to be let in periodically. But they won't give me a key. A bit uncomfortable. Then one of the chairs was stolen and I am afraid they have become even more insecure about an unknown person having access to thier home.

No hot water - anywhere - even homes, apartments and many hotels that have hot showers don't have hot water in the sinks (not even the kitchen). I felt the lack of hot water in the shower was not a deal breaker. Not because I don't "need" a hot shower, but because I knew a shower head with a heater could be attached to the spout in place of the regular shower head. It costs about thirty dollars at the local hardware store (local meaning on el Conde street where foreigners shop!) It must be battery operated, and my mom and I had one in our aparta-hotel. It created warm water at a low pressure. So I signed rented confidently. Then I tried to buy one on a Saturday night (closed) and a Sunday (when EVERYTHING is closed), and have now learned how to put my hands in the shower first, then slowly my arms, then my face, then my hair. In a short time, I'm in completely and not even shivering.

No guarantee that I won't be killing bugs every day for the rest of my stay, mosquitos included.

And so, I have a new home! Use the Converter Tool on the right side to find out how much I pay per month for rent, internet, electricity, water and gas. Make sure you use the Dominican R. (DOP)(not the Mexican Peso) and US Dollar. I pay RD$ 10,700.



Praises be to God for answered prayers. May God hear all of your prayers and bless you fully! Heather


Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Urgent Prayer Request and Send me your prayer needs

I sit writing from my laptop on the patio of a small private hotel in the city of Gazcue, about 6 blocks from the Zona Colonial where I want to live - though Gazcue would be fine as well. My hotel room has a mini refrigerator and down the hall I have the use of a poorly equipped kitchen. The youth hostel kind of environment provides interesting people to talk to from all over the world. but of course with a hotel room comes a daily bill, and I'm hoping to save my money for an apartment instead.

In June I saw several units that would have worked for me. They have all been leased out. The agent I liked the best this time had only one unit to show me - it had no doors between rooms. That meant to aircondition one room I would have to aircondition the whole place. And that is out of the question for anyone's budget. Even the large, nice house I "cared for" had A/C in the bedrooms only and were turned on only when you were in there, if necessary.

A very small studio with no closet is available on the 9th of August. (no closet ladies, did you read that? God help me!) Today I will see another unit I found advertised on the Internet. I responded to a very specific price. The agent wanted to know what price I could afford...I told her "The price that was advertised."

You can see why I need your prayers. I want something perfect (for me) and I want location and I want very inexpensive. It looks like that is impossible. But with God all things are possible.

I have been selfish in always wanting your prayers - for which I am very grateful. But I want to offer the same back. Please, if you have a need that I can pray for or a praise that I can join you in, let me know privately at HJKirk@juno.com.

Thank you as always and may God's bounteous blessings be upon you!

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Beautiful Family Reunion

Our family trip to Colorado was fantastic. We had three condos plus lock offs - the kids of each family (myself included) slept in those little studios - okay, not that little. Of course with connecting doors open for Scot and Stu's kids. We had three rooms all together in kind of our own wing - no other rooms there and any other rooms down a long hall. No one else even came by and we often left all the doors open and went visiting from room to room. Each family cooked on a different night. I cooked stewed chicken and black beans and rice on my night. Plus a little bit of Dominican rum. I don't drink, but if I did this "columbus Anejo" imported by a company in Mesa, Arizona would be my drink of choice.

Different groups of people did different things, but they included white water rafting (which I did), mountain biking, city biking, gondola rides, alpine slide and general fun park stuff, and a photo contest organized and judged by myself and my neice Bella, a budding photographer.

The whole place, Grand Timber Lodge in Breckenridge, was wonderful. The town has successfully figured out how to turn a winter destination into a successful summer one as well.

Four Little Children Safe in a Big Beautiful World
We celebrated my mom's 70th birthday, but the real celebration was all of my mom's side of the family being together - parents, grandparent's children/grandchildren and aunt - for the first time EVER! A very nice time overall.

Then mom and Larry went on to the McGregor Family Reunion in Kansas, while I went home to pack up the condo a little better and fly back to Santo Domingo. While in Arizona I got to visit with some freinds, but not all regretably, and not for as long as I had hoped. I guess that means people will have to start planning their trips here in the Dominican Republic to visit me in the city, then take me with you to the beaches!



Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Heading Home for July

I spent most of Tuesday flying from Santo Domingo to Phoenix, or waiting in Atlanta for the lightening to settle down so flights could resume. I've decided anything more than one stop makes the route too long, and the result was that I was less tired this trip than I've ever been when travelling. The fact that the flight left at 2:40 pm and I got a full night's sleep didn't hurt either!
I'm looking forward to a family reunion in Breckenridge, Colorado to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday! At first I wasn't sure my mom would want me telling her age to everybody - but she is so beautiful and youthful in mind, body and spirit that I think she should brag about her age! I brag about her all the time.

While home I'll be visiting friends and family, as well as taking care of a lot of odds and ends, including doing a better job of getting my condominium prepared for potential renters. I had a very successful estate sale prior to leaving (meaning a lot sold - but I was robbed by the estate sale company owner, Alvin Wood - beware to all, do not hire him!) But after the sale I still had lots of clothes I did not take to the Dominican Republic, and more office files than anyone should hold onto. I put them in filing cabinets and my office closet and my mom simply had a lock put on it. I'll see how much of it I can wade through this visit and toss...ughh.

Mom on the Malecon (coastal road and park)

I'm hoping to have more time to catch up on blog posts I should have written about while in the DR, but as usual I will not make many promises about that.

While in Santo Domingo, I've wanted to approach gallery owners about showing my art there, but it's hard to do without any actual art to show them! So I plan to take some of the larger canvases off of the stretcher bars, roll them up and take them with me when I go back, so if you have had your eye on something in particular that I have in my current inventory, like 4daisies on stems or white orchid on black, now is your chance to get it (and many other pieces) at 50% off - until the end of July. Of course if you want them later, you can always get them at full price.


Take a look at my prior inventory that is framed and now half off: www.photographicartistry.citymax.com/currentlyavailable.html



Getting back to coming home to Arizona. Now that I have been home a full 24 hours, what are my favorite things about being back?


At the top of my list is being able to drop the toilet paper right into the toilet, instead of putting it in a garbage can next to me, for others to see and smell. God bless the U.S. sewage system!

Next is how my mom had the condominium prepared for my homecoming. While gone, the remodel to my bathroom was completed, and my mom had new matching towels laid out the way they are in magazine spreads. Beautiful!

On a calendar on the counter she had written "Welcome Home Heather!"

In the kitchen, mom stocked the refrigerator with my favorite foods (flour tortillas, colby cheese, hot sauce, tomatoes, avocados, strawberries, lettuce, a mini pizza and Pepsi). On the counter sat a Hershey's chocolate bar and Ghirardelli chocolate mint squares. On the other counter a few bananas hung, along with a plantain. She asked if I knew how to cook it - the answer is yes, but only maduros, the ripe (sweet) way. I suppose I could learn how to make tostones if I really wanted (fried green plantain slices - smashed and fried again - then salted and sometimes served with garlic infused oil for dipping) - but they take too long, I'm afraid of splashing oil, and it's like cooking your own french fries - for some reason they are always much better in a restaurant.

I love my own bed, my own dark room where I don't have to wear an eye mask to keep out the light while I sleep in until 12 noon, that people drive within the lines on the street and stop at red lights. I loved my home and my city and my country when I left, and I still do. But alas, yes, I bought a round trip ticket and will be going back to my second home, the city of Santo Domingo, which in the last two months have learned to love as well.

I am thankful for the prayers and e-mails of so many people who have supported me on this journey. I am closer to knowing one of the reasons why God may have sent me to the Dominican Republic, but that is someone else's story that I do not have permission to tell. Just know that your prayers and positive thoughts have made a difference in my life, and continued prayers for the reason(s) I was meant to go will perhaps make a huge difference in the lives of many some day.

Thank you and with love and blessings, Heather

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Latina" Artist

I made it onto the "Latin Artists" page of Fine Art America, based on my current home. That's a computer for you. But I don't mind. (Especially if you recall I wrote a story for "Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul".)

http://fineartamerica.com/art/artwork/latino/all?page=2

Heather

www.photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books

Monday, May 31, 2010

Just in case I've given the impression of dirt floors and roads, here's an high-tech first-world aspect of Santo Domingo

First, driving east on Avenida 27 de Febrero. There is a very long public park, with lots of public art, statues, greenery, places to sit and walk - all being rehabbed at the moment. Seems like a strange place for parks, but it is very common to have them right in the middle of the roads - like giant medians you can hang out with your friends on. Talk, sit, find some shade. And of course breath some exhaust fumes, but after awhile you stop noticing.





Next, sitting at the corner of 27 and Abraham Lincoln, it's like a miniature Hong Kong or Times Square, with giant video screens towering over the traffic. You can also see a few of the superstores. Casa Cuesta is like a home store - mostly decor, I think. It's connected to Supermercado el Nacional - one of, if not the largest one I've been to. Then inside, surrounding the store at a second level are mini stores or booths - like GNC, pastries, ice cream. (Sorry, no videos of that - all left to your imagination.)





Now continuing through the light, in very light and well-behaved traffic, you see more buildings and stores. Nacional, by the way, is the nicest and most expensive supermarket, similar to one of the high end Safeways that carries all the international fruits. You'll see on the left of the car the express lanes coming up out of a tunnel. The nice thing is that these lanes, even in horrible traffic, do move quite quickly.





Now we'll go back to the corner - only night time. It's quite pretty.



More later - of different parts of town (that was showing off). by the way, the two main thoroughfares going east / west through Santo Domingo are John F Kennedy and 27 de Febrero (named for the Dominican Republic's "Fourth of July" or Independence Day from Haiti). Along with Abraham Lincoln as a beautiful higher end thoroughfares is Winston Churchill. Are you as entertained as I am at some of the street names? Through they sound very American/European - they are also names of freedom, an important statement for any country to make these days!




Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/BooksFind her art at: Fine Art Americaand HeatherJKirk.com

Saturday, May 22, 2010

There are ways around things - first, water

Now that you have experienced vicariously some of the problems I have faced, and perhaps for about as long, I want to explain (as previously promised) there are usually ways around most issues. You just need someone to tell you how: so it is best to keep your eyes wide open to what is going on around you; ask, ask, ask; or sometimes complain alot and soon someone will share some important information. They might seem like "secrets" but to the people here they may be so obvious, they didn't think to tell you (though in some situations the resolution is financially out of reach for the general population).

Water: When looking for a place to live you want to ask if there is a cisterna and a tinaco. The cistern is at ground level and is a large tank of water that fills when the city is providing water. Therefore, if the city's water is off for awhile, there is still some available to your home or apartment during this time. The tank (tinaco) is on top of the roof, pumped up from the cistern as an extra reservoir. This also helps if the power goes off, and therfore the water pump, gravity can still provide you with some water.

For drinking water, my mother and I were constantly buying water bottles, from 12 ounce to 1 liter bottles for 20 to 30 pesos per bottle. Use the money converter tool off to the right to find out what that is in US Dollars. You will change it from Dominican Republic pesos. Because you will be hot and thristy and sweaty, you can go through loads of money very quickly just for drinking water. Until you learn that you can get huge botellons of water for about 45 pesos (the same size of the water bottles we have delivered to homes in the States). Most people have them delivered here also, so add another 20 - 25 pesos for a tip.

There is an initial investment of 100 - 300 pesos for the bottle. Then some people buy the dispenser, some buy or create a wrought iron swinging mechanism to pour it. I set it on the top of my bureau, and tipped it carefully to fill a water pitcher that I chilled in the fridge. If you happen to buy the botellon bottle from one water company, but the local colmado (corner store - that also delivers - a very nice perk by the way in living here) only sells another brand of water, they will open the new water bottle and pour it into your bottle. I was a little worried about they hygiene of doing this over and over, but as long as I kept the bottle capped all the time, I figured it was okay for the short term.

It is quite entertaining to watch them pour the entire bottle of water - there appears to be a distinct technique that makes it successful, along with strength, patience and great focus. I am including here a video of this pouring process. Sorry that it is sideways, but it kind of makes it even more entertaining because it creates the illusion that the water is constantly about to fall out of the lower bottle. At the end of the video I show that there is not a single drop of water on the floor!

The Dominican Republic is a photographer's dream for many reasons, but one of my favorites is that everyone wants to be photographed. They often ask to be photographed if they see a professional camera. And it is very easy and comfortable to ask people if I may take their picture. Find someof those photos on: Fine Art America and HeatherJKirk.com

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Contentment is Hard Work!

Contentment is Hard Work!

You must understand that other than my latest "Venezuela" post (that came out of a conversation with a local just a few hours before writing it), all that I write is not only very personal and subjective, but also "old news," at least to me, if not to you. I am so far behind in writing about my experiences that I feel like I am living a double life. I want you to understand the struggles and culture shock I experienced, yet through persistence and the help of others, many of the technological issues, limited "world view" and terrible loneliness have changed. I just haven't written about the changes yet, because I have not shared with you the full foundation, the first month and a half. But today, I wish to sum up my emotional state after my mother left, if not already clear. I struggled greatly with loneliness, at times depression and often questioning my decision to move. With language issues, transportation constraints, monetary limits, stories of strikes, potential dangers of being here as a single woman, lack of friends, and getting sick when I ate out at the college cafeterias within walking distance - I felt, to put it bluntly, imprisoned.

In future posts I will still share with you some of the stories of "the past," including notes on most of the above, but it is time to start telling you how I dealt with the difficulties, as well as challenging you to consider how you would respond personally.

Last night I attended a presentation by a famous local architect and professor. His son gave a moving tribute in which he said he is following in his father's footsteps to become an architect. But his father did not teach him his own style or technique. His father instead taught him how to think. I could not help but tear up along with the speaker, because if there was only one thing we all need to learn how to do - it is to learn how to think. It’s what I strove to do when I was a counselor in schools, to teach the children critical thinking skills – not just to memorize and spit back out.

So I hope when I write that here in DR there is not always hot water or electricity, perhaps an architect or builder is thinking, "What a fantastic market for solar power!"

When I told my brother about a friend's difficulty in getting windows installed in her home because of repeated delays - he was thinking, "If an installer got a reputation for being on time, he could have a huge competitive edge. But first he'd have to address the problems of having the windows delivered on time, so that he could install them on time"

Maybe you don't think in terms of building or installing. What about getting cash when you can’t open a bank account and all but one bank's ATM will work. How about trying to get cell phone service or an internet connection when you don’t know if you’ll be her longer than three months, but they want you to sign an 18-month contract? It's not just here in the Dominican Republic you may face various difficulties of this kind, but right where you are.

And yet the ability to resolve annoying problems is not the contentment I speak of in the title of this blog, though this too is hard work. It is the contentment that we need even when: the electricity goes out and it is really hot, when torrential rains fill the streets and stall cars, when the internet keeps disconnecting, when it takes five calls to the phone company to resolve a problem. Has anyone in the United States dealt with such things? Of course. Most of the problems I have with the telephone company here is that I run out of minutes while I am on the phone calling to resolve problems with my health insurance (in the US) or with false charges on my credit card (in the US) or arguing with the US-based e-bay on a three hour "chat" in which they keep passing me off to someone else. Then the phone or the internet here gets cuts off. Hmm, where exactly is the problem?

Well, whether it is here or there, I struggle with that Bible verse in which Paul brags, "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11 – 13.

It's so easy to say, "Well that's Paul. He was an Apostle. I’m not like that." Because many of us have heard this verse over and over it becomes so rote that we miss one word - "learned.” "I have learned to be content in everything...I have learned the secrets…" It did not come easily or naturally to Paul either. But we, or should I just speak for myself and say “I”? I want to be content and not have to learn it, not have to work for it. I want contentment to fall down on me and fill me, overtake me, control me... even when I forget to pray for that contentment I want contentment. Even when I’m complaining and don't even try to be content.

Just before beginning this trip, my mother gave me the book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, because her experiences reminded my mom of the adventure I was about to begin. I’ll say up front, the book is not Christian. She uses some Christian terminology and gives credit for her emotional healing to God. Still, the author helped me to finally understand what Paul was saying and what I (all of us) need to do when it comes to lack of contentment.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes, "But I felt a glimmer of happiness when I started studying Italian, and when you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt--this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight."

Therefore, the author helped me to understand what I already knew - happiness (or contentment) is hard work. And that hard work is worth it. This is where the double life comes in: Somewhere between the first six weeks that I still write about, and month four that I currently exist in, I made an important decision. I chose to be happy. Of course that decision is not a one-time decision. I have to remind myself all the time. I have to work at or learn to be content. And when I remember, somehow I am.


Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer "We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books

Saturday, May 8, 2010

PhotoGraphic Artisry Slideshow

Here is a Slideshow of art found on the Fine Art America Site. I am told that since this slideshow is created without Flash it shold work properly on smart phones that cannot run flash (like some of the new Apples).




Art Prints
Heather J. Kirk, Photographer


Find her art at: Fine Art America and HeatherJKirk.com

Friday, May 7, 2010

Poetry Award

I just received notice that I received an Honorable Mention Award for the Spring 2010 Lucidity International Clarity Poetry Competition. No more info at this time, not even which of the three poems I submitted won the honor. Will share more when I know more.

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer "We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books


Thursday, May 6, 2010

In Between the US and Venezuela

Politics in the Dominican Republic are just as complicated as in the US, perhaps even more so as a non-superpower; an island somewhere between major drug producers and major drug consumers; with a history of corruption and bribery as a way of making a political office into a profitable business; and great efforts to change as much of this as possible (except for the "island" part).

Someone recently asked me what the economy of Arizona was based on - what were our resources. I thought about the irony then answered, "It's a dry Dominican Republic: tourism, agriculture and technology." (The DR has been growing as a Caribbean Silicon Valley, attracting techies and companies from US and Europe.) We could probably add major Call Centers to both Arizona and DR as well.

While historically Americans have only been 15% of visitors, in the past month they were 60% (maybe a good sign that our own economy is improving!) DR depends on the US for Aid as well as a good part of its economy in the form of both imports and exports. Money from Dominicans living in the States (mostly New York City and Miami, it seems) provides an infusion of cash into the island (which has decreased greatly in the last few years and dramatically affected the lives of the poor here).

The economy of the Dominican Republic has maintained positive growth, while much of the rest of the world has had losses. But like the recent growth in the US stock market, the DR's economic growth has not yet translated to income for tourist industry workers who lost jobs in the worldwide downturn. Still, the word "depends" on the United States is not correct. The economy is diversified, as well as the regions that tourists come from.
As we have already learned, traffic congestion (specifically here in Santo Domingo, not throughout the island) is comparable to Manila - so fuel consumption is just about the highest in Latin America. Since we are not even providing our own oil for our own needs, then we obviously are not providing oil to the Dominican Republic. SO, they are getting it from our Venezuelan nemesis, Hugo Chavez. It is interesting to see how carefully and successfully President Leonel Fernandez finds that balance - keeping friendships with both countries. And how different the Venezuelan President seems when he visits here - smiling, laughing, friendly, happy.

But of course he is happy. He was here in DR today to sign an agreement to take over 49% of the DR government owned oil refineries here. He then hopes to help DR provide gasoline to the rest of the Caribbean. The US should take note for many reasons.

• His persona makes him appear like a great guy.
• Venezuela is providing something the DR is highly dependent on (like us): oil.
• Venezuela is providing a way for the DR to become a major exporter in gasoline, and therefore income.
• He will one day try to put a wedge between the DR and the US. He will have great power and own 49% of a government company and resource.
• Venezuela has taken what is not theirs before.

Need I say more...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Electricity on a Sliding Fee Scale

Some areas of Santo Domingo (areas where I hope to stay) have only periodic brown outs (very periodic, meaning every day - sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours). Other areas, the most impoverished, have electricity only a few hours per day. Water service is the same. And since power is usually required to pump the water into your tank, it is not uncommon to have neither. (Someday I'll write about ways to addresss these issues.)

So there is a bit of a Catch 22. People who pay for electricity get frustrated because they are paying for very poor service. People who don't pay are blamed for draining the system and not allowing the electric companies to make a profit and provide better service. Because of poor service (meaning lack of service) more and more people don't pay. When I say don't pay, I don't mean what you think. Because in the US, if you don't pay you lose your service. I mean steal.




How do you steal electricity? Just grab a wire and hook into the power line. As easy as that. Of course it is not as easy as that. They have to know how, or pay someone who knows how. And they have to bribe the electric company employees who come disconnect the hijacked wires to hook it back up again or overlook it. So they really are paying for electricity after all - they're just not paying the power company, which (supposedly) if was being paid for all the electricity it provided would no longer have brown (black) outs. Except members of a government committee created to decrease the number of black outs were just arrested for embezzlement.



I want to make clear here that people at many economic levels "borrow" electricity - it is not just in the poorer areas. And since those areas have so little power provided to them anyway, I suppose they steal the least!

There does seem to be a bit of a sliding fee scale. One price per kilowatt if you only use a certain low amount of electricity per month, and a much higher price per kilowatt once you go over that limit. So blackouts are an effective cost saving method. And I suppose a way that the electric company shoots itself in the foot. More consistent electricity certainly would provide more income, even if some people do steal it.


On the flip side - there have been times that too much power comes through the system. I’ve had a ceiling fan go so fast that it whips grimy dustballs from the top of its blades all over the room, and I think the fan might take flight or at the very least fall out of the ceiling. I began to realize this created some risk for my computer equipment. These are not just quick surges that a surge protector might cancel out, but 15 minutes to hours. If the fan is not running, I've learned to identify them by the smell of burning rubber - perhaps the plastic of things plugged into the outlets. When I smell burning, it is a strong suggestion to turn of the computer and start unplugging things. If only the power could be evened out...


"Is it true that you are going to increase the electricity bills of everyone?"
"No! Only for those who pay."

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer "We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books Find her art at: Fine Art America and HeatherJKirk.com

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Rose is a Rose...except that's not my name!

Oops! I didn't mean to post the "Top Ten Cat Calls" quite yet, as I was still working on it.

But so it makes more sense, I guess I'll start explaining the #10 spot now...

#10 (reverse order - meaning the most hated, and the one in most need of 'splainin'): Rosita/Rosa/Rose



Let's start with my real name: Heather. It's an easy name to remember, right. And to pronounce - as long as your native language actually puts the letters 't' and 'h' next to each other. But what if you don't speak English (yes, English appears to be the only language that uses "th" as far as I can tell), then the name Heather comes out as "Heder" or "Heater" or worse by far someone trying really hard to get it right "He - an exaggerated tongue stuck out with some unflattering sound accompanying it and at times spittle -er".

I did a little web search on the issue: Here's a Q&A from one of those man on the street assistance websites. Someone took the word "say" very literally - and in my case it is the whole problem, but I don't think it is what "Q" was asking. (http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/113457/como-traduzca-el-nomhreheather)

"Q: Como se dice "Heather" en Espanol? (How do you say Heather in Spanish?)

A: To spell Héather in Spanish would be almost the same, except for the added accent. However, to pronounce it would be a little different. Since Spanish does not pronounce the "H" sound, and given the accent above the e (creating a stressed dipthong with the "e" sound) it would be "Eh-Tehr". Hope that helps!"

Uhhh, that would be "heater" - not what I want people to call me...

When I lived in Mexico City one summer during college, my name was "mofles.” Mofles is the Spanish word for "header.” I thought it was a very pretty sounding name - it brought to mind a gently floating butterfly. Until I started seeing the word "HEADER" in huge block letters on the sides of car repair shops. This image is common in Mexico and South Phoenix. It turns out people were calling me "muffler.” Which reminds me, just yesterday I was wondering, "How much could a muffler really cost? Why don't Dominicans find this to be a valuable investment?" I think they actually remove mufflers from cars and motorcycles here for fun. Dominicans like all things LOUD.

Back to names. When I visited Puerto Rico with my cousin many years ago, her Puerto Rican friends gave up the 'th' attempt quite quickly and resorted to calling me "Prima": Cousin.



In 7th grade, my first year of Spanish in school, the teacher called everyone by the Spanish versions of their names. James = Jaime. Mary = Maria. etc... Heather = uhh, well, there is no word for Heather (or so my teacher from Argentina said) so we will call you Esperanza. (Hope.) And I believed her until about a year ago when I decided to Google it. There is a direct translation. Heather = Brezo. Uhh, sounds like brazo = arm. And the 'o' on the end makes it sound like a boy's name. I tried it out on a few people here anyway...unmemorable. No one has ever heard of it before.

Back to "Heather." Dominicans, though Spanish speaking, for some odd reason are the only Latinos I know who actually can pronounce my name quite convincingly. But the majority can't remember it. Because kindness seems to be a natural trait in Dominicans, they absolutely try. I should say most try.


Since I wasn't too keen on Mofles or Prima (other than as cute stories to tell) for decades I have gone by "Florecita" with many of my Spanish speaking friends. Why? Heather is a small purple wild flower on the hills of Scotland. Florecita literally means "little flower.”

Three months ago, getting ready to sign the contract for my room here in Santo Domingo, the manager had a hard time remembering my name, and asked if there was a Spanish version. I told her "Florecita.” She liked it and told it to others that worked there - all of whom remembered Florecita...except for the manager, who began to call me Rosita. I tried correcting her a few times, but she said "same thing.” Technically yes and technically no. I asked a girl whose name actually IS Rosita if she would feel that Florecita was "lo mismo" and she said absolutely not.

Ultimately, I decided not to bother correcting her, because it's not my name anyway! Now, the manager says "Rosita" and then apologizes without my intervening, corrects herself and call me "Rosa.”

Most people on the fifth floor of Buen Pastor know me as Florecita, and I even wrote that on business cards for awhile. But I've now decided that if I want to work here professionally, "little flower" is not exactly adult-like or respectable. Anything with -ita on the end is for a child or for teasing or for tenderness. Not for a professional business woman. Additionally,  if they can't remember "Heather" or don't even know that is my name, there is very little hope of getting them to my websites http://www.heatherjkirk.com/ or http://www.heather-kirk.artsitwebsites.com/.

That's enough about Florecita/Rosita.
I promise - the explanations for numbers 9 through 0 will not be anywhere near as long! Heather

Now that I've shown you my own pictures of roses, here is a link to someone else's closeup of a purple Heather flower. http://www.fotosearch.com/bu/CSP102/k1028893/

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Top Ten Cat Calls

Rosita/Rose

tst - tst
mamita
gringa
juerra
rubia
blanca
Americana?
Hola bella
largita

And my favorite (I know, I know - that's eleven):

flaca


Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books
Find her art at: Fine Art America
and HeatherJKirk.com

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sugar in my soda...

Sugar in my soda…

I have always been a Pepsi girl. First, Coke is too fizzy. I remember watching my niece blowing into the top of a Coke can while I was visiting my brother and family. I laughed when I realized she was imitating me! I habitually attempted to blow off some of the excess carbonation in order to tolerate it.

Next, Coca Cola (in the U.S) is too bitter. Yet I noticed that last June, at the all-inclusive resort my friend and I stayed at, that even though all they had was Coke (not Pepsi), I didn't mind it. I thought it was that it was 'on tap' and therefore not as fizzy, and that they always stuffed a few lime wedges in the glass, changing the flavor.


Everyday I carry a tray of cooking supplies (and sometimes a Coke)
from my room to the kitchen.

Though Pepsi is available here in grocery stores, it is rarely found in restaurants and colmados (corner stores). Yet I drink Coke readily - still blowing off the steam before drinking, but not finding the taste bitter. Why? Well, most sodas bottled in the Caribbean (this Coke bottled right here in Dominican Republic) are made with sugar. What's the big deal, you ask? Check your label. It will not say sugar but corn syrup.

Because of more and more negative reports about corn syrup, I had been bothered by my personal addiction to sweet, carbonated, cold caffeine.

Of course the sugar/corn syrup issue doesn't explain why I liked Pepsi. In the States it too is made with corn syrup. So it's a secret recipe issue.

Last year PepsiCo tested a "Pepsi Throwback" in a small test market to great results. The throwback aspect had to do with making it the "old fashioned way." Any guesses? Yep. Sugar! I waited and waited and waited for them to release it nationwide - excited that sugar could somehow be justified in my mind as healthy! (Okay, healthier...)

It showed up in my Walgreens store the day before I moved to the Dominican Republic. No problem, the Pepsi here is made with sugar also.

A few interesting links on the case against corn syrup:

The Death of High Fructose Corn Syrup, http://healthfreedoms.org/2010/04/19/the-death-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain; http://healthfreedoms.org/2010/03/26/a-sweet-problem-princeton-researchers-find-that-high-fructose-corn-syrup-prompts-considerably-more-weight-gain/

Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/26/AR2009012601831.html


Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books
Find her art at: Fine Art America
and HeatherJKirk.com

Monday, April 19, 2010

Finally, the Jardin!

If you followed directions in my last blog, you clicked on the correct link and have already seen some of my Jardin Botanico Nacional de la Republica Dominicana waterlily photos. They look almost like watercolors...almost. But they are pure, un-photoshopped fine art photographs. The Waterlily Wash Series is my new "favorite.” Waterlily Photo Gallery


And for those of you who have already see this and all four images in the "Waterlily Wash" Series, here is a new nymphaeus for you lotus lovers - a preview of a few to come with dragon flies becoming intimate. God did a very interesting thing with that one! (Yes you have to wait...that's how I keep you coming back - and make sure I get at least a little bit of sleep before the brand new city rooster gets going at 4:30 am...)


I will continue to add new flowers periodically here, and more importantly to my on-line gallery. You can find out about new editions by following me on twitter (HJKirkPhotoArt) or ask to be Friends on Facebook (Heather Kirk).


Enjoy! Heather


Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books
Find her art at: Fine Art America
and HeatherJKirk.com

Monday, April 12, 2010

If you haven't already asked, here's the first "Why?" queston: "Why did you move?"

Last summer (June 2009), I vacationed in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, one of the most beautiful, clean, palm-lined stretches of beaches on the southern coast.




On an all-day boat trip that included snorkeling, artisan village visit, lunch and beach visits, I had a spiritual experience. Speeding across the Caribbean Sea, looking at the most amazing color of blue...


alternating sandy and rocky shores, with tiny natural paths
leading deep into protected, lush green, national forests...
- a sudden, joyful fullness came over me, starting at the top of my head and with a whoosh, pushing out my sandy toes. The immediate thought paired with this filling was "I need to be here".
I spent the next six months praying for God to guide me and give me a sign, until it dawned on me I had already had received my sign - very clearly while there on that boat. So, I decided to just start planning and do it.


When asked where I would be living, as if from the same illogical source as "I need to move to the Dominican Republic," I inexplicably answered without a thought, "Santo Domingo." To understand how ironic this is, you must know that this is a two hour drive from Bayahibe (plus a long boat ride if you consider where the experience occurred), there are no beaches, and though it is a coastal city, very little of that particular color of blue water or lush green exists along the coast in this city of three million people (and it feels like nine million cars). In all my complaining, I am also learning wonderful things about Santo Domingo - but it is a strange answer for someone who made a decision looking at protected beaches.

If I had known the following very strange information I might have tried to convince the voice of Providence to change the location He chose to blurt out of my mouth.

"The cities with the highest level of population congestion are: Manila, the Philippines; Cairo, Egypt; Lagos, Nigeria; Macau, off the Chinese coast; Seoul, South Korea; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; and Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. To drive a car in any of them might be the ultimate challenge." Source: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/archive/index.php/t%20122324.html

(Doesn't that list seem like the child's game "One of theses things is not like the other..."?)
Back to the first "Why?" So I have now told you "why" I am here, and I still don't know "why" I am here. I guess it's a personality thing. In spite of appearing reckless in making this move, I still like to have a purpose, an answer, a specific goal to work towards. I have none of that, except to try to figure out 'why?'. Yet I am learning, in the heat and the relaxed culture, sometimes we are supposed to just 'be'. And maybe the why is supposed to come to me. (Will I recognize it? Do I need to recognize it? Now that's a concept to ponder - to fulfill a purpose, and not even know you are doing it. In fact, that must happen all the time!)

Before arriving in the DR, I had suspected it was to get me to rest a little. It turns out that has not been the case, at least not for the first two and a half months. Severe culture shock and difficulties with water, electricity, cell phone and internet reception all make for exhausting attempts to "fix" things!

I also thought perhaps I would be able to save money, and that is happening, though not as much as hoped. Costs in one of the most congested cities in the world, where you have to add crossing an ocean to all the other delivery costs of products, are not exactly competetive. Yet most things cost less than the States.

For example, I broke a crown in half. I was concerned about my first exposure to the dental system here, especially since low salaries tend to lead to dentists having lots of experience in pulling teeth instead of making them pretty. A female  dentista and oral surgeon gave me two choices. A new crown for about $450 fully guaranteed, or glue back on the half that fell out for about $50 - no guarantee whatsoever. I chose the second; the first would still be available later if needed. Two weeks later, all is good.

What about income, you ask? I am working with graphic design clients in the United States willing to work via e-mail (which I already did with most clients anyway, without ever meeting with them in person, and often without even phone calls).

Of course, I'll keep photographing, as I have new and wonderful opportunities here. I figure after 20 years of taking pictures of palm trees in the desert, it’s time to start photographing them on the beach! But also the Botanical Gardens with water lilies! (I know, I know, I've been promising those for weeks. If you use the middle link below, you will see several new photos - including my new favorites, the Water Lily Wash Series. And some day I'll post them here...

I have on-line galleries to help represent me: http://www.qoroart.com/ and http://www.heather-kirk.artistwebsites.com/. They both print and ship. And of course anything found on http://www.heatherjkirk.com/ can be added, by request, to one of these galleries.

Heather

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More outside my "window"

More outside my "window"...discoveries every day.
1) Beyond my little house with the patio garden, is a tower that captures my attention.


It's simplistic I suppose. A white building, with some nice curves, a patio fronting every unit, and gorgeous blue lights. I'll take the Penthouse.



2) Another not so great thing about "windows" without glass...Karaoke Night on Friday Night just down the street. On their first night, very few people had the guts to sing, so it was the pro's that sang, and it was pretty nice. But now...well, people are not shy anymore and they sing really, really badly. I guess that's pretty true most any country in the world...

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
"We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: photographicartistry.citymax.com/Books

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why "windows" was in quotes...

A friend recently reminded me that I had promised to explain why I put "window" in quotes, when I told you that I saw my dream house from my own "window.” First let me say that I did a lot of research before looking for a place to live, and through the experience of others I made a list of questions to ask. I have to say it was a very helpful list - otherwise I would have had many more surprises. One thing that was not on my list was "windows" in the "windows.” I guess by that I mean "glass.” But what do you call a window without glass? Is it still a window? Let me clarify with a picture...



That's it - metal blinds that go up and down - two sets per "window,” one top and one bottom. (While we're at it - forget all you ever knew about lefty loosy and righty tighty. Two and a half months in this room, and even though I made up a new rhyme to help me remember how to open and close my "windows," I rarely remember "left to lower, right to raise.”)


Here are the negative aspects of window blinds without "windows" (I mean glass).

1. Noise - you hear absolutely everything that happens on the street, even if you are on the fifth floor.
2. Dust - it gets everywhere! Even when the blinds and curtains were closed for a week (while I went to the beach on vacation) I came back to very dirty dust everywhere.
3. Pollution - it all gets in as well.

Here are the (sort of) positive aspects of "windows" without glass.

1. You always have a little breeze. And if you want you can have a LOT of breeze.
2. Although they don't keep out dust or pollution very well, the blinds are actually pretty good at keeping out light, as I still sleep until noon (and still go to bed somewhere between 1 and 4 am.)
3. If I were to get caught in a hurricane, there would be no glass that might break and blow into the room.

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
Find her art at: Fine Art America.com and HeatherJKirk.com

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What "was not" is so close by...

It is a strange, and even embarrassing, thing to say that after only two and a half months in a city three-million people large, that a particular vision of a home does not exist... and then an hour later, to find it. This is the most embarrassing, and actually exciting, part. The house I describe as my expectation in my previous post, was outside my window.

I know, I know, how could I possibly not know it was right there all the time? Well, I have walked every street (almost) in every direction (almost) from the front of the Residencia Buen Pastor. I wanted to learn the area, and what was where - restaurants, grocery stores, Internet Cafe's, etc, etc. I did this every afternoon for a week, sweating like crazy! (And thereby learning why most Dominicans don't walk much.)

I saved the quiet, residential side street for last, because it was obvious there was not food in that direction. But after a week of long exploratory walks followed by five flights of stairs to get to my room, followed by shower number two of the day - the stairs got harder and harder, instead of easier. And, well, finding no good restaurants (I later found one) and no grocery stores (though I tried twice) within walking distance, I quit walking about randomly.

So let's get back to my declaring what could not be found in the entire city of Santo Domingo, though I only know two small areas: the Colonial City (Zona Colonial) and University City (Sector UASD). And, let's get back to looking out my "window" (more in another post why that is in quotes).

Look just beyond all the dangerously hijacked electricity lines...



Let's review my non-existent rental house: "trees full of purple blossoms drooping down to shade me as I read a book on my patio," then take a closer look at the trees on the left of this property...


Not sure about the color of those flowers?


Don't think there is enough greenery? Let's look at another home on this street...


But that's behind a big gate, you say? How can I be "waving to friendly neighbors, some of whom drop by for a chat, and offer me a freshly squeezed jugo natural of orange juice, or pineapple juice"? Let's try another house, on the street, outside my "window".



Alright, so you think I am a fool. "It certainly does exist!" you exclaim. Well, not quite. These are most certainly not rental properties, and even if they were, they would be a few thousand instead of a few hundred dollars to rent. But we can still dream, right? Right.

Enough evidence of my foolishness. Now, I still owe you pictures of the Jardín Botánico Nacionál, yet...not tonight.

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
Find her art at: Fine Art America.com and Search Heather Kirk
and HeatherJKirk.com

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where have all the flowers gone?

A few days ago I would have said there are very few flowers here in Santo Domingo - and a person needs to see green and bursts of color. After two months of looking at pot-holed roads full of beat up taxis and buses from the 1980's, it was an absolute requirement for me to find blossoms.



(This must be a Sunday afternoon - the streets are rarely this empty!)

I'd be exaggerating (only slightly) to say there is no color other than gray where I live. The University (UASD) has a beautifully landscaped lawn in front of one (and only one) building near the entrance. Unfortunately, two campus "parks" have every concrete bench and curb filled with resting bodies, and the 160,000 students who attend classes at this campus have worn down what at one time might have been grass to bare dirt.



South of the campus there is one home behind a gated wall that has an overhang of a tree full of purple flowers. Maybe that’s where all the flowers are - behind bars.

Before arriving in the Dominican Republic I had imagined renting a cute house, planting a nice garden I didn't have to even water because it's an island (humid, rainy season - you know), and trees full of purple blossoms drooping down to shade me as I read a book on my patio. Waving to friendly neighbors, some of whom drop by for a chat, and offer me a freshly squeezed jugo natural of orange juice, or pineapple juice.

All fantasy, my dear readers. I chose Santo Domingo! A city packed with 3 million people who don’t walk anywhere, it seems like there are three million cars as well, and no emissions testing. To expect my dream home here (including an amazingly low rent as a part of that dream) is like expecting my fantasy home to be plopped down on the margins of Arizona State University, and it's not happening.

Add to that severe drought. Huge city parks, not irrigated like those in Scottsdale, because it really is supposed to rain here, are covered in dried long grass-like stuff. And in the desert of Phoenix, it's been raining like crazy for weeks!



Scottsdale Arizona after rain - in landscaped areas and in the "wild" - where you thought only gravel existed! (Thank you Rhona for the Arizona photos!)



So what can a girl do? Ah, this is a metropolitan city after all! So I went to the Jardin Botanico Nacional (National Botanical Garden). Trees and lily pads and orchids - all that a photographer could ask for. And good for the soul!

(I'll have to let you know when I've uploaded some Botanical Garden photos - be patient!)

Heather

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer
Find her art at: HeatherJKirk.com