Sunday, February 9, 2014


The highlight of the week was our visit to inspect the water system the church is funding in the small communities of Dos Palmas-Tres Bocas.  We passed a portion of the town where a lot of people were gathered.  Daniel Saboe our Peace Corps volunteer working on the water project told us it was sort of like a “wake” to celebrate the passing of an important member of the community.  A lot of people were gathered in the house and under a tarp with food, dominoes and just a lot of people coming and going.

We did a little research when we came back and discovered the Dominican tradition of “Nine-Nights”.  Quoting from Wikipedia:
Nine-Nights also known as "Dead Yard" is a funerary tradition practiced in the Caribbean (primarily Grenada, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic). It is an extended wake that lasts for several days, with roots in African tradition. During this time, friends and family come together to the home of the deceased. They share their condolences and memories while singing hymns and eating food together. In the old days, the nights were calm and reserved for the most part - but that tradition has changed with the times. Today, these gatherings resemble parties much more than they resemble wakes (though this is not true for all “nine-nights”).
Nine-Nights are no longer a time to mourn but a time to celebrate since the loved one is no longer suffering in life. When friends come they do not come with just condolences they come with food, drink and music; this is after all a celebration. True to its name this celebration lasts nine nights and days with the ninth and final night being the night before the church service. On the ninth night the family prepares the food for all who come. As tradition has it, on the ninth night it is believed that the spirit of the deceased passes through the party gathering food and saying goodbye before continuing on to its resting place. Out of all the nights this night is the most revered since it is the end of the celebration. Stories about the deceased and the fondest memories are shared, along with prayers. Games, such as Dominos, are played as well as singing hymns, which is also done on the other nights as well.
In order for the deceased to move on there is a process that must happen. First, there is the "seeing". This is when someone looks at a doorway and sees the spirit. They then tell someone and that person tells someone and so on. The leader of the ceremony greets the spirit and then the night song begins. This is a song played for the spirit while he or she is told stories by the elders. (Daniel said it is not uncommon for someone to fall to the floor overpowered with the spirit).  Traditionally on the ninth night of the deceased's death their bed and mattress are turned up against the wall, in order to encourage the spirit to leave the house and enter the grave. Then the leader of the ceremony uses a piece of white chalk to draw a cross over the exit that the spirit used to leave, allowing the spirit to never return.
The unusual scene is the only excuse Wallace can give for driving the truck into a deep hole.  The front right side of the truck dropped into the hole up to the running boards.  We thought for sure there was no way we would escape it without having broken a brake line or tie rod.  But a bunch of men lifted the front of the truck as we backed out and we were happy to discover we had only suffered dents in the running board and front grill work.
On the way home we felt protected again.  As we were passing a large truck on the highway loaded sky high with junk metal, there was a sudden loud explosion that rocked our truck.  One of their tires blew out.  We felt lucky to get past him without incident.  No-one, cars and trucks alike, change a tire regardless of how bald the tire is.  They get every last wear out of a tire to the bitter end.  A common sight is to see truck with paper thin bald tires supporting a heavy load.  A blowout just means you got your money’s worth!  The truck below is not the truck but one we passed the same day with bald tires.
Piedra Blanca (white stone), is the name of a town we passed through to get to Dos Palmas.
The following are some pictures we took during our visit.  The landscape is absolutely precious.

We continued to work hard this week trying to close out projects and button things up for those who follow us.  Unfortunately, none of you volunteered to take our place so we do not have replacements.  The following picture shows the participants of the Spanish class Wallace teaches each week.  This has been one of Wallace’s favorite activities even though he did it for selfish reasons, because the teacher always learns more than the students.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

140202 Hogar Ancianos

This week we were asked to go to visit an old folks home here in Santo Domingo run by nuns.  Maria Romero, the head nun has been there for 25 years dedicating her life to provide dignity of life for hundreds of people who would otherwise suffer at the end of their life.  The building they are located in was constructed originally by Trujillo and was used as a school for nurses.  Somehow this order of nuns was able to acquire the building, which has capacity for 300 elderly people.  Like most every other non-profit organizations helping the poor we have met with on our mission, they really have no clue how next month’s expenses are going to be covered.  Maria really has no concern about it, being content to depend on what the good Lord sends her.  God has taken care of them for 25 years of selfless service!

They would like us to consider helping them by purchasing mattresses to replace many of the worn ones and to replace or repair two large cookers in their kitchen.
We attended an event put on by the Ministry of Health and MChip/USAID to review progress made last year in their Helping Babies Breath program and other health programs.

We were present for the presentation of the last orthopedics recipient this week to a man named Julio.  Julio was driving his motorcycle without lights when he collided with a car coming at him in reverse also without lights.  Rather than repair his fractured leg, the national medical health system cut his leg off.  They even did that poorly leaving him a very short stump that made it difficult to make a workable prosthetics.  He was so very happy to receive the help the church gave him to receive a new leg.  He even climbed some stairs as demonstration of his new found ability to walk.
This is Andres who has been our faithful guard every night for the last 2 years.  He worked from 7:30 pm to 7:30 am.  He never missed a night except 3 days when he was mourning the loss of his father.  He earns about $250/month.
We had the opportunity to go to a closing ceremony in Constanza for equipment that we purchased for ADR.  They blocked off a public street with an awning, chairs, podium and speakers.  We were asked to sit at the head table and Wallace to give a speech.  He was interviewed by the local TV station after the ceremony concluded.  Many of the people in these pictures are dear friends of ours.

Cruz Rivera and his wife always serve us dinner whenever we are in Constanza.  He is peeling a fruit we had never eaten called “caci”.  It was really good.

The above picture was taken with President Vargas of the Bonao district at the highest point in the road on the way to Constanza.
This is Reid Cornish, Elder Cornish’s son that helps in Spanish Class.
The climax of the week was that we drove to Azua where we reviewed the status of the water project and showed a video Wallace made of all the pictures we had relating to the many visits we had in the community about their project.  Their water project is not a reality yet, but they are definitely much closer to having water than when we first became involved 2 years ago.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


About a year and ½ ago, we purchased a pineapple to eat, twisted the top off and planted it in a pot.  We watered it every once in a while, but basically forgot about it.  It produced a very pretty plant that we have enjoyed.  To our amazement this week we found it is producing a flower---a sign of a future pineapple!  We wonder if we can do this in Mesa, Arizona?

We traveled to Higuey this week to look at two potential humanitarian projects.  One is for an orphanage of Haitian children whose sleeping quarters burned to the ground just last Saturday.  Our hearts went out to the little group of Haitian kids huddled in the corner.  We hope we can do a project for them.

We took advantage of the opportunity while we were in Higuey to visit a famous spot in the Dominican Republic called the “La Basilica de Altagracia”.   January 21 will be the Virgin of Altagracia feast day during which thousands of people pilgrimage to Higuey for the chance to file past the image of the Virgin of Altagracia where they promise to do things in exchange for favors or miraculous intervention by the Virgin.  Many people will crawl long distances to get into the shrine to wait their turn to stand before the image.  Another big day for the Virgin happens during August of each year.  Herds of cattle are driven to the Basilica in honor of the Virgin and again to solicit favors.  The cattle are given to the priests who sell the cattle to pay for basilica upkeep expenses.

The image of the Virgin has been around since the late 1600’s and is said to have miraculously appeared in different locations and performed many miracles.

We took a little break from our mission activities since the whole world seems to be on vacation.  We went with a group of other missionaries to Las Terranes on the North shore of the island.  We spent the night at a little Dominican motel called “Casas de la Mar Neptuna”. The purpose of the trip was to see humpback whales who are supposed to come to the Samana bay as part of their reproductive cycle.  We took a 4 hour trip on a boat out into the bay to keep our end of the bargain, but the whales didn’t get the message we were coming so we didn’t get to see any whales.  We came home and watched some youtube postings of whale sightings instead.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


A street carnival is such a rare sight we thought we would name our weekly blog in honor of it.

The highlight of the week was a tour we organized of the chicken/garden projects in Monte Plata with our supervisors the Crismons and the Area Welfare Manager, Julio Cesar Acosta.  Julio, as part of his duties, has visited numerous chicken projects scattered throughout the Caribbean area.  But he had never visited our project in Monte Plata.  The scope and design of our project is unique among all the Caribbean projects because it incorporates a “kit” idea for 12 hens and a rooster and includes a garden with each family project.  Most people were skeptical of what we were doing, but we are beginning to see results and after this visit we were so pleased to have Julio give his approval and support of what we are doing.  It made us so happy!  We have a sense of great accomplishment and hope the seed of this idea will bear fruit long after we have returned home. The following are pictures taken during the tour.

Video translation:
Haws "What do we have here?"
Julio "This is one of the small coops we are constructing using the excellent design that has been prepared by Elder Haws.  It will be a great blessing to many families!"
Haws "Thank you!"   Julio "Si, Si"

A large iron pot sitting on an open fire is a very common site back yards.  It is used primarily to cook sancocho (Dominican Stew).  (the latrine is in the background—also a common backyard feature.)

We are fortunate to have a patio area that is really nice this time of year where we can study our scriptures or play Dominican Dominoes which we really love to play!

Two Missionary Couples are leaving the DR this month.  Vicki and Chuck Rucker (from Maricopa, Arizona) and Leon and Jane Leavitt had their farewell speeches Monday the 6th of January.  It is hard to say good-bye to those we have associated with for the past twenty-one months.  It was also a birthday celebration for Joy Crismon, our missionary neighbor. (She got to pick out her favorite birthday hat while we sang to her.)  It is hard to believe, but it will be our turn to give our farewell speeches the 1st Monday of February.

Wallace has become quite the chef.  Here is a picture of one of his breakfast creations and a picture of him displaying his favorite Dominican sauce—Ranchero Liquido.