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 and Search Heather Kirk

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Mirror of our Inner Worlds

In writing about my experiences in the Dominican Republic I can’t help but write about the people I meet. Some are willing participants in my life, others play roles they have no choice over (like neighbors) or I have no choice about (like “tst-tst-ers” calling for my attention as I walk or sit anywhere at all). But none chose to be a part of an open diary or blog.

And I have decided not to tell them either, because it would change the way they interact with me; and they may check the blog and either be very happy or not so very happy regarding my interpretations.

Anyway, since this is really about me encountering a culture and a place, names are not used. I hope to provide clarity and continuity by creating “titles” for them (like Mom, which is not very anonymous) or by using 1st initials only, followed by ‘m’ or ‘f’ indicating male or female. For example, Heather would be H(f). If there were another Heather in the story, she would be H(f)2.

A blog, journal or personal narrative contains my thoughts, feelings and experiences, one person’s interpretation of what is going on in each situation or context; perhaps even more accurately, the experiences and therefore these writings, provide a mirror of what is going on inside of me. My goal is to, in return, be a mirror for your own inner worlds.

Let’s learn and grow together!

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:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quake in the North of Dominican Republic Did No Harm

Because I know that many of you worry about me and the Dominican Republic, I wanted to let you know that I was awake at 2:20 am last night (no surprise to many of you)and felt nothing - and I should not have. The earthquake was "small" and was felt i the north only. Here's a short report from

"4.2 earthquake in Northwest
A 4.2 magnitude earthquake shook Montecristi and other northwestern provinces at around 2:20am today. Given the hour and the medium intensity, the earthquake did not disturb most activities in the region. The Seismological Institute at the UASD was felt in Santiago, Mao, Dajabon, and Santiago Rodriguez provinces. He said the epicenter was 15 kms away from Montecristi and 225 kms away from Santo Domingo.
No material or human damages have been reported."

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:
Find her art at: Fine Art and Search Heather Kirk

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

January 28th, 2010

Many people asked me for a confirmation that I arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic safely (which I have), how things are going (which I'm about to do), and to write a blog (which I'm working on much more slowly than at first hoped).

I did not write at first because at the initial hotel the cost would have been $12.95 per day! Then, though I've had a connection now for a few days (included) at our aparta-hotel in the Colonial Zone, I've felt like there is not much to say. Mom and I have spent most of our time in taxis going to various potential places for me to rent for the next three months.

The success of those endeavors have been hampered by many factors:

1) Two major holidays plus two weekends during which little business is done.
2) Not knowing the city at all, especially what is safe.
3) Prices are much higher than I had expected.
4) It is not common to rent for a) short term, b) one person only, c) furnished.
5) Blue eyes = highly inflated prices.
6) The friend who initially agreed to help me has been driving humanitarian aid groups into Haiti every day since I've been here.
7) Finding other Dominicans to help is easy, but again, blue eyes =..... you get the picture.

EVERYONE is incredibly kind and helpful here, but tourists tend to be wealthy, and Dominicans tend to need money, and the game played here (as well as in most developing countries), is a grey zone somewhere between highway robbery and haggling.

About the fourth day we decided to request the assistance of a very energetic, driven, business-minded waiter, K(m), at our hotel who has a business on the side of assisting tourists for fair prices (he said he trusted us to pay him fairly and has never argued or tried to take advantage). He works as an intermediary to see that we don't get taken advantage of. The day before we also found a taxi driver, E(m), who charges by the hour at very fair rate, and who helped us when we tried to go out looking for apartments on our own. The two of them together make a fantastic team. Yet the process was still time consuming, expensive, educational and exhausting.

As much as I like to believe I am not a snobby, ugly American, I am still American and have very particular standards regarding space, cleanliness, noise, and so on... I kept saying, "I'll know the place when I see it."

Well, all four of us knew it when we saw it (me, my mom, our assistant K(m) and our taxi driver E(m). It's called Residencia el Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd Residence). Sounds to me like either a clear sign from God or an answer to prayer. But I have reminded God that he'll have to come up with the price difference of what I expected to pay and what I will actually be paying. Anyone who wants to join in those prayers is welcome to do so!

The manager, C(f), said she was very glad I had enlisted help, as she also was afraid others would have tried to "abuse" me in rental prices. She is insisting that I have K(m) present when I sign the contract, because it is in Spanish, and she believes it is important that I have a non-biased Dominican review it with me. I have the feeling C(f) and I will become close friends. At the very least she has promised to take me out dancing. Yipee!

I sign the contract tomorrow. More later for those who are interested, but it is time for me to get some sleep. Don't laugh if it says on your computer that I am going to bed at 7 or 8 pm! It's 11 pm here. (I know, still early for me ; )

Buenas! 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:
Find her art at: Fine Art and Search Heather Kirk

As Citizens of the Human Race We Must find Ways to Help Haiti: An Open Letter to My Nieces

I am so proud of you girls, the Kirk Family and John Hay Elementary School for not only wanting to help out victims of the earthquake in Haiti, but actually finding a way to help. Millions watch the news, feel so badly about it hundreds of thousands of dead, injured, and homeless Haitians, but don't know what they can do to help. But it is part of being a citizen of this world and the human race to make an effort and find a way to make a difference!

Your willingness to give out of your own piggy banks and to participate in a Read-a thon at your school that will support Project Hope is a kindness that will save lives and heal hearts.

Though I cannot help with money right now, I can help with encouragement, and I also can tell my own story.

When I decided threemonths ago, and bought my airplane ticket, to move to the Dominican Republic, I would never have guessed the timing of it. That I would be in the air with Haitians returning to their homeland in a desperate search for their missing family members; or with medical personel and rescue workers willing to risk their own lives and health to help others thery probably could not even communicate with;, and with journalists jsut as crucial to the rescue, by turning the world's eye and heart to the bottomless human pain and need - and thereby the conduits of releif.

But a week prior to my departure I knew the lieklihood was great . Even that I might be asked to give up my seat to one of them (but I was not).

Someone from the the Dominican Republic whom I met through Linked In - an on-line business networking site - told me he was buying a round trip bus ticket for a Haitian woman who he buys fruit from every day. He wanted to send some medical supplies with her and asked me if I would like to contribute, but it turned out she would not be able to take very much.

Still, it gave me the idea to go through my closet and collect any extra supplies I may have. I found two bottles of Colloidal Silver, which is a natural antibiotic, as well as aspirin and Neosporyn, etc. I also bought lots of gauze and two huge boxes of gloves (that almost put my suitcases over the weight limit!). Mom brought some things also, and we decided to just "look for people" to give them to, as random as that sounds.

My good friend from the Dominican Republic who is a taxi driver/tour guide has been running groups to and from Haiti every day, working so much that I have only seen him once for an hour. It is clear how what he sees day after day (the destruction, illness and the many bodies) weighs heavily on his spirit. And yet without him and many others like him, the arrival of workers and supplies would be even less than currently reaches the field. Still, I was not able to send supplies with him as I had hoped.

The second day in the Jaragua Hotel in Santo Domingo a man, seeing the seldom American face, walked up to mom and introduced himself, saying he was a part of a group of Vietnam Vets going into Haiti to provide medical help. After mom told me, it became my mission to find them again and pass on our supplies. A day and half later, we decided to gather it all up (a few bags and boxes) and walk through the hotel until we found them (again, a bit random). We found them in one of the restaurants, finishing dinner and ready to go to bed, as they would be leaving at 3 am.

They turned out to be a part of a larger group called HEART 9/11, various people who came together as a part of the World Trade Center Search and Rescue Team (as well as 9 months of follow up assistance there). The members have worked together since, with different volunteer teams going all over the nation and the world, wherever disaster assistance is needed. We were quickly introduced to the organization's founder and the team-leader of the Haiti Mission - William Keegan.
A bit about him that I just now found on their website
"A highly decorated Lieutenant in the Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) and a 20-year veteran of the Port Authority Police Department, Bill Keegan was Night Operations Commander of the WTC Rescue/Recovery Teams, and awarded the highest medal for the WTC 9/11 assault. His other awards include the 1993 WTC Bombing Medal of Valor for his rescue of school children trapped in a stalled elevator; the Hanratty Medal of Valor, over fifty police duty medals and is certified at the 400 level of the Incident Command System. Mr. Keegan is also a member of the NYPD and New Jersey Honor Legions."

I thought his name sounded familiar. He was so humble and kind. Expressing gratitude for every little thing. I wanted to make sure they had medical personnel as a part of the team, to properly administer the colloidal silver - which they did. The website says they just received $7.5 million from the Jeffries Group, yet he patiently and and graciously accepted my little bags and boxes, along with my suggestions on how to use three bottles of colloidal silver both topically and internally.

Oh, yes, the third bottle came as a personal donation by from the receptionist at a natural health practitioner's office across from my chiropractor's office. She was happy and releived to have some way to help!

I just want to tell you again how proud I am of you. Read lots and keep your minds and hearts open to others in need.

Love, Aunt 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:
Find her art at: Fine Art and Search Heather Kirk