July 15: Felipe and Rosa at the farm

Hubby took the girls to Bonao (the closest real town) for more supplies so I am on the farm for the first time, alone. I did a quick Power Clean up of the casa, and I have a little time left to myself as far as I can calculate.

I’m hoping to fill in the pieces of our present experience a bit more. We have arrived at the farm during a two month break that Jose’s DR group takes in the summer. Jose and his wife Katiuska travel in Europe to host other seminars during this time. They’ll be back here at the farm sometime in the beginning of August. Most of the DR group members live full time in the city of Santo Domingo, which is about 75-90 minutes from here, depending on everything from traffic to the current conditions of the local road. During the year, the group meets at the farm for a gathering approximately once a month, in addition to a meeting every week in the city. Otherwise at the farm, friends and family come and go informally most weekends.

Felipe is the local farmer who takes care of this farm in general, and especially when Jose and Katiuska are away. He sleeps here every night that they are not here. His wife Rosa helped me with babysitting when I attended my first seminar here in January. She was phenomenal: Nothing unsettled her. Felipe and Rosa speak no English and currently, I speak about 15 words of Spanish.

I think Felipe and Rosa view us as a new, unusual pack of animals on the farm that need a little bit of food and watering, but otherwise are going to be okay. Felipe reminds me a little bit of Peter Pan – a bit of innocent mischief, yet his true wish is for everyone to live happily ever after. He could be anywhere between 50 and 75 years old. His face is young and old like the land, with sparkling eyes surrounded by terracotta woven lined cheeks and forehead.

The first day, Felipe dug up several roots and put them on a counter, explaining to Hubby that we could eat them. Fortunately, the two friends that had guided us up in the night were still here. One friend prepared the roots for us. I need to learn how to do this soon. I think one of them is plantain, one is yucca and the third a mystery. They’re all somewhat starchy like a potato, and I remember in the seminar in January, they were used in some delicious stews. Must get those recipes.

On our second evening here, I prepared our first dinner in our kitchen – some chicken (from the store, not a coop!), with some cauliflower, carrots, onion – also purchased. I was getting into my paranoia anxious mode because it was starting to get dark as I was cooking and I wanted to get all the food finished before the bugs started smelling it. Not the best state to be in. It got darker and the chicken wasn’t finished. I vowed that I will learn to cook earlier in the day. Now it was dark. I was finally getting the food onto plates and suddenly at the kitchen window there was a booming “HOLAAACOMMENTSTAAAAAHHHHHHH DAH DAH DAH DAH!!” Embarrassingly enough, I friggin jumped out of my skin, screeching “WHAT THE???” I had really forgotten anyone could be coming to the farm, and it was Felipe arriving out of nowhere for his evening here.

I actually have no idea how they get here. Someone said they walk up through the river. Hubby thinks he might have seen a donkey that he rides on. Rosa comes up from the river, I’ve seen her open the gate and there she is. So when they arrive, there’s no car engine to announce them or anything. They just appear. And Felipe likes to come up close to shout his salutations. I need to get used to this.

We drove up to their house as a group the other day, and it is not a short walk. We went because they told Hubby that they can get fresh milk for us from a very healthy cow. Hubby immediately wanted some so the six of us (Felipe, Rosa, Hubby and us girls) had piled in our truck and bumped and bounced along the potted roads for ? – I don’t know – several minutes, up, it seems, until we came to a small cluster of cottages. All along one road, Felipe explained to Hubby who later translated to me, that this house is Rosa’s mother; this house is someone’s sister; this house is someone’s daughter, this house is their house.

It turned out the milk was gone for the day, so the next morning, Rosa appeared up from the river, hauling this huge container of fresh cow milk that she had to boil quickly on our stove. She is one helluva woman. She wants to know how often she should come to help me with the girls, or cleaning or teaching me how to cook in their style. I am planning on seeing her pretty often, at least for now.

Speaking of my interaction with Rosa, we say a lot of this to each other, “Hola, Rosa, Hola!” She says, “Hola, dah dah dah dah dah…” I say, “Umm…I don’t understand?” She says, “dah dah dah dah dah” and then we point at things. She brought us a large squash type of food and taught me how to cut it open, hack it into small pieces and boil it. I stood there and watched as carefully as possible because she has quite a knack for this and I don’t. While she was cooking the squash, I tried to ask if she wanted some tea to drink. “Rosa…tea?..drink?…(get box of tea bags and show her…)” She’s looking at the tea bags as if she has never seen one, and most likely hasn’t. She sniffed them. I said, “Tea? Caffeinated?..Is that okay? Muy bien or no muy bien?”

She seemed unsure. So I said, “OH, esperra (I think that means, “wait.”) and I ran into the other room and came back with the “Mastering Spanish Vocabulary” book that I’d grabbed and packed before we left the USA. I came back excitedly, (this book sucks, by the way – don’t buy it. It’s in categories but not any kind of English to Spanish dictionary. So you find general categories like “food and drink” but then a bunch of random sentences that include a word) and showed Rosa the book. “Mira, Rosa! (look, Rosa). This book can help us…look…I’ll look up tea…hang on…(she keeps stirring the squash, eye-ing me a bit warily)..here, look: El te, see? That’s easy, ‘Te’ is “tea”…” She puts down her spoon and takes the book from me, in a placating kind of way. Dutifully, she starts to read from a line above, “Mi abuela solo debe tomar cafe descafeinado.” (My grandmother is supposed to drink only decaffeinated coffee.).

I realize she thinks I want to do a Spanish lesson with her right now as she is teaching me how to make squash. Her eyes are squinted back at me, a little bit like if you pick up a cat that doesn’t want to be picked up. Also a little bit like she must be thinking, “What kind of cray cray is this white chick?”

She nods her head, like, “It’s okayyyy, it’s okayyyy..we’ll figure it out….nice strange American person…there you go…” but again, in a totally accepting kind of way. I’m starting to get the giggles that I can get when something is a bit ridiculous, like this moment. I’m trying to explain to her, still, “Oh, no Rosa, I’m not trying to do a lesson now, I just want to know if you want tea…with caffeine?..ha ha ha, you know, just tea?” She read another line from the book to appease me, “Vamos de copas?” (Shall we go bar-hopping?).

High point with Rosa: The next morning when she came over to help with the girls, I was hacking away at the leftover squash to make for breakfast. She observed my hacking and I have to say, we both managed to agree, in “Ahhhh”’s and “Ohhhh!!! Si si si” that I had learned well. I was hacking that squash exactly as Rosa had taught me.

We’ll be fine. I can’t wait until I can speak enough Spanish for her to know that I’m not completely crazy:)

6 thoughts on “July 15: Felipe and Rosa at the farm

  1. Oh, boy… entry sounds challenging… but you will acclimate! I remember giant flying cockroaches and annual termite raids in Guam — my poor mother was traumatized. I was, too!

    Cheryl, I am reading your entries as I can, but just know I’m thinking of you and your family as you make your adjustments. I hope you’ll find some kindred spirits to talk and share with soon. Am wishing you happiness (and courage!) in your new home! Much love…

  2. I LOVE reading your blog! You make me smile, and laugh, and wonder… Much love to you & your family. Now don’t you wish you took Spanish at Punahou??

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