Michigan Trip

A few weeks ago now I was able to visit Michigan. It was a great trip. Well worth all the hassle in the airports.

I accompanied one of my students, Luisa, to her orientation at Norte Dame. We ate at Chick-fil-a and I had my first Diet Coke of the trip.

Lunch with the family. Betsy and I in our coordinating outfits.  Later in the week- Lunch at Olive Garden (soup, salad, and breadsticks please)



Ice-cream when it was basically freezing out… notice the Northfaces.

034 A stop at the Hoogen-hopper household 

A real great sisters’ outing to Becca’s new salon and Wincherstonfieldville… some new GR restaurant.

A visit over to the Geysbeek household. Subway, Wii, and lots of great girl talk

A stop at the VandenToorn household to check out their newest edition, Zay! We also had a great time chatting, trying to get Averie to talk, and going for walks! We are trying to get them to visit next year so if you see them suggest that they come.


A day in Flint- Walk with Grams in the morning, shopping all day in Birch Run with Grams and Mom, dinner at night with the Baker family. It wouldn’t be complete without Uncle Dave and his photos :)

Back to GR for one last night. Shin-dig at 1036! In attendance, Geysbeeks, Hoogs, Verwys fam, Dotsons & Adam, and the newest member Ben.


I had such a wonderful time in Michigan! I am truly blessed by friends and family who welcomed me all week long!  It was too bad Marvin couldn’t join but you all had a great laugh at the blog postings he made during his week of solitude!

Marvin is expected to be home in GR around June 14th.


Samana Santa

I am very behind on blog posting. Marvin did a great job posting while I was away- he is a very funny character. I will encourage him to continue blogging and you can too.

Well way back in March we had our spring break.

  • Week long vacation visit from the Baker’s. Click on over to see the photos.
  • Trip to the North- Puerta Plata
  • Trip to the East- Las Terrenas
  • Trip to the Waterfalls- so fun
  • Out to eat daily, some times dinner in the evening with Pedro.
  • Shopping with the locals
  • Riding 6 in a 5 passenger


This is one of the weird photos I took. They have a special drive for motos.



Day 5 of Isolation

I saw Fran walking through my room today. She was walking really gingerly like she wanted to walk without setting her paws down. She scanned the ground like she was trying to avoid stepping on something. She finally gave up and walked out of the room with a really disgusted look on her face. I was really interested to see what she had seen so, a few hours later I pealed myself off my perch on the bed to go get some more Swiss Cake Rolls and potato chips. After I settled back onto my perch and found it exactly how I left it, (really, my form had molded into the mattress) I realized that Lindsay asked me to change the sheets last Saturday when she left. So I set myself upon the monumental task of changing the sheets. Over the course of my duties it became more and more evident that my surroundings had become less and less sanitary. My pillowcase looked like I had used it for a gunnysack race. The sheets were all matted and nappy. My half of the bed (I’ve been occupying half and using the other half as kind of an office. Our bed is huge so it allows for a nice sized office) was decidedly more beige in color than the side Lindsay occupies when she is home. After a few trips to the washing machine, I began to realize that aside from having become a Hazardous Material sight, my room had taken on something of an odor. Earthy but unpleasant. Finally, I placed it. Remember going to the zoo as a child? I always hated the reptile exhibit, partly because snakes are untrustworthy but mostly because of the smell. The unmistakable smell of molting and shedding. That was the smell in my room. It has just been the two of us (Fran and I) but together we have worked up quite a stink. I swept and cleaned up a little and the smell improved a bit. I will have to ask Lindsay when she comes home if 45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to spend sheathing a pillow. I was going to do both pillows but 45 minutes is too long to in my opinion, she can do hers when she gets here.


Also, Fran has proven to be quite the provider. In the absence of meals of any kind she has taken it upon herself to hunt for fresh meat.  After alternating between pouncing on and then letting escape a gecko, she graciously presented me with its dead corpse which she laid on the threshold of the bedroom. I politely declined because truth be told, it was really small. It was almost a baby, but she was quite proud.

Tonight I made myself the first dinner I have had since Lindsay has been gone. I made baked potato on the cob. It is very much just a baked potato. It was kind of hard but I figured it out. First, I had to wrap the potato in aluminum foil. That part was pretty easy, it was like wrapping a Christmas present (which I am told is fairly straightforward). Next I had to turn the oven on. After I did that and placed the potato in the oven I waited for a few minutes and then checked out the progress. There wasn’t much but I didn’t feel like waiting 7 minutes just for a warmed up potato so I indulged. I’ve had better, but I felt good about it because I made it all by myself.


Marvin Post Part 2

I remember now why I never post. It is because I am almost incapable of writing anything readable that isn’t sarcastic, rude, snarky, or uninformed. That is probably a character issue.

As Lindsay mentioned in an earlier post, we will be returning here next year. The only reason we are coming back is to give those of you who didn’t visit but would like to a chance. Dominican Republic is a very poor country with a quite a few rich people living in it. Parts of it are absolutely 3rd world while mere blocks away folks are living in the lap of luxury. So, in preparation for your visit I will cover some of the things that may shock you upon arrival.

1. Driving: It has been well chronicled here but the driving is crazy. I was appalled at first, entertained next, intrigued after that, and then finally sucked in. I may be the worst of anybody in the country now. We don’t drive much because we don’t own a car but when we do drive, we drive fast. When I say we, I of course mean I. Mrs. V hasn’t driven at all here. There are two reasons for this. A). She doesn’t need to because we don’t go places without each other. B). She would have to pry my hands off of the steering wheel and physically restrain me from the drivers seat. I would have to be dead or dying for her to be driving because I am slightly addicted to it (but always relieved when I don’t have to do it anymore). So when you visit, be prepared for the crazy drivers and try to remember these three things: put your seatbelt on, turn off all your awareness receptors, and try to ignore the maniacal laughter coming from the cockpit.

2. Omnipresent noise: For any of you who have attempted to talk to us on Skype, you kind of already know. It is loud all the time. There are several reasons for this. Here are some. 1. Cars and motorcycles here don’t have traditional exhaust systems. 2. Advertisers pay specially designed cars to drive around and blast their message to the masses from their hood mounted, concert volume megaphones. 3. Impromptu parades are the norm, not the exception. 4. Nobody cares that it is loud all the time.

Number 4 is the one that really bothered us when we first came here. If someone’s music is too loud in the US you ask them to turn it down. If they don’t comply they will end up with a citation and fine. Here, nobody cares. They don’t have the same rules about private space or disturbing the peace. We have had many a nights sleep disturbed by riotous parties next door.

Which leads me to a side note. The traditional Dominican music is how shall we say????? Ahcky? Roody Poo? Not good at all? Far be it from me to tell someone their opinion is wrong, but when it comes to music, Dominican’s opinions are wrong. I am sure you have heard it before though. There are three main types here. Meringue, Bachata, and Salsa. They all kind of sound the same to us and the real distinguishing characteristic is the beat. This music is popular here because it is very easy to dance to and dancing is done a lot here. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, the colmados (think 7-11 just way more numerous and all locally owned) are jam packed with people all dancing to this music. Not just the older crowd loves it though. Students in the High School all know how to dance to it. The closest thing I can think of in the US to it is maybe Polka, possibly Swing. Maybe you are thinking “hey, I like swing.” Actually, you only kind of like Swing. The dresses, the dance moves, the hair. Those are the things you like, not the actual music. Plus, imagine all swing, all the time for the rest of you life. I confronted asked some of the students about this unusual music and most of them defended it, kind of. They defended it with all the enthusiasm of a father defending the career choice of an Ice Dancing son. “It’s not that bad” was the typical response. I will be the first to admit though that I am a little jealous.

Which leads me to another side note. Whenever I see people dancing a particular dance, my first reaction is “I am going to learn that.” I envision myself walking confidently out onto the dance floor with my chin held high to snickers and finger pointing from the crowd. A hush falls over the crowd as the music starts. The dance is a waltz and I have been practicing. I float around the dance floor for 5 memorizing minutes after which the crowd (completely enraptured) breaks into thunderous applause. I bow slightly, nod to the piano player (he was in on it all along) and exit nonchalantly while the young men clap me on the back and all the women swoon (it turns out that a waltz is a couples dance which is what makes my solo waltz all the more amazing).

That is my vision but the reality is that after about 8 seconds of sheepishly shuffling around in front of the mirror in my underpants before school I abandon the idea and write it off as something I never wanted to do in the first place. Lindsay is numb to this I think.

Anyway, it is loud here.

I don’t have a third point that you could read in less than 45 minutes so I will conclude my post here. You know your post is too long when you don’t have the will to go over it again to proofread. I plan on maybe a final installment of my series but I will probably sit down at the computer with all the best intentions and end up reading a Detroit Tigers blog or watching videos of bears catching salmon in their mouths.


Marvin Post Part 1

Lindsay has been asking me to contribute to this blog for a long time now and I keep putting it off. This seems like an appropriate time since she is out of town and I am here with just my imagination and Fran the Cat.  I know most of the readers are female so these couple posts will be kind of a departure from the regular Rainbow Bright, Barbie discussions but bear with me. I might manage to fit in an American Girl reference.

As you know, I work at the same school as Lindsay except that I work with a couple of the elementary classes. 4th and 5th grade. I don’t have many interesting stories about 5th grade though, they are kind of getting into the stage where they think girls are cute. I just don’t go in for that kind of thing so I mostly let them be. The 4th graders on the other hand hate girls! I find this attitude more to my liking. The class is made up of 11 students and 9 of them are boys. If I had been in this class I would have been right at home. I like them because they are very real and disgusting and sweaty. One of them speaks only in “explosion” which is to say that everything he talks about ends up exploding. They love guns, getting sweaty, and pretending to blow each other up.


They are really sweet and childlike at the same time though which is mostly why I like them.

Anyway, about a month ago I was on a coffee kick. The coffee here is very, very strong and it is only drunk in small doses by the natives. I am American though and the only size for beverages I know of or want to know of is Large. So. I drink this super strong coffee by the mug full. At least 2 per morning, sometimes 9. One morning after hitting the mug especially hard, I decided to help the students individually with their Math class work. I began to explain the finer points of long division to The Exploder when he turned to me and said “Your breath smells.” He delivered the statement with all the emotion of the evening news but he was right. I have a pretty good idea of what he was going through though because I was once a 4th grader too. I remember leaning farther and farther away from my teacher but ultimately being unable to escape the inescapable fog being laid down over me like a blanket. Holding your breath doesn’t seem to work because teachers need feedback and if you don’t say anything, they keep talking and you end up gasping in a lung full of nuclear waste.  There really isn’t anything like it though and I do actually try to be conscientious about where I breathe my noxious fumes.

I momentarily considered drawing attention to the fact that The Exploder’s breath doesn’t exactly smell like strawberries either. I decided against it though because I know that would be like comparing apples to rotten apples or whippersnappers to nuclear bombs.


GBU Vol 2

Thanks for tuning in... This is volume 2 of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" coming to you LIVE from Santo Domingo!

The Good

I’m leaving on a jet plane… Saturday!

See full size image

Lindsay will be back in GR for about a week, starting Saturday ‘til the following Saturday!

The Bad

Poor Marvin will not be coming :(

But he gets to come home earlier in June for our friend Lee’s wedding… so I guess it all works out in the end.

The Ugly

Those are people swarming the beach that we went to over Samana Santa “Holy Week” with my parents. It was a sad sad picture! Luckily we had a private pool with the house so we spent most of our day there.

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I have to do WHAT?




Check it out…. 27 Charcos!

We went to the 7th level of this enormous water fall today.  It was a super cheep excursion and completely well worth it. No cameras so I have to rely on online photos. You can watch a youtube video at the above website.

We spent about 45 minutes hiking back to the waterfalls and then all of a sudden we were there.

  • We jumped into a pool- natural lake
  • Climbed up a water fall, then kept climbing up that ladder you see and headed back to more falls.
  • swam a little
  • climbed another
  • swam a little more
  • climbed another
  • swam a little more- thought this amazing cavern.

  • almost fell down a fall but stayed the course and climbed one more
  • We congregated in this little lagoon at the 7th level of a super large water fall.
  • Then we began our descent! DOWN, DOWN, DOWN.
    • We dove
    • jumped
    • SLIDE
    • and swooshed
    • down the falls, through cavers, into lagoons and natural pools.

On this fall, when you come back down you SLIDE down it and make a huge splash. Mom bit her tongue on this one, the rest of us escaped unharmed.

It was the coolest thing we have ever done! I can’t believe we never heard of anyone else doing this. We kept saying, “they would never let you do this in the US, you’d have to sign like 27 forms, there would be caution signs and NO DIVING signs everywhere.” Not in the DR though! :)

We had to jump into the fall at the end- it was about a 15 foot jump. Definitely the BIGGEST jump I’ve ever done!

More family adventures to come later!