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: Find her art at: Fine Art America and

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. (

"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 or

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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Top Ten Cat Calls


tst - tst
Hola bella

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


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 America

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,

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain;

Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury;

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 America

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:
Find her art at: Fine Art America

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:

(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: and They both print and ship. And of course anything found on can be added, by request, to one of these galleries.


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:

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 and