Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On a lighter note...

This past weekend was Haitian Mother's Day.  We decided to bring 11 out of 12 of our kids to English church with us in the afternoon since our little Mother's Day party was out at the land in Raymond before that.
That probably wasn't the best idea I've ever had.  Believe it or not, trying to supervise 11 kids at the beach and keep them quiet while attending church with 47 other ex-pats and visitors wasn't that fun for me.

This lead me to comment to Nick, "We are totally not adding anymore children to our family.  Twelve is enough.  And DEFINITELY no more babies."

Our friend Stephen overheard us and said, "Um, I think you guys probably took care of that baby thing when Nick had his vasectomy years ago."

Nick just rolled his eyes at Stephen and sort of laughed-sighed, "Friend, that was NINE kids ago..."

****

He has a point.

Orphan tourism



So, Nick and I have had this ongoing dialog for the past several weeks (months? years?) about what I call "orphan tourism." We would define "orphan tourism" as the  using of "orphans" as an asset to obtain visitors and, in doing so, obtain funding, (or other assets) for an orphanage.  These thoughts have been brewing in my soul for a while now, but it's a hard thing to talk about, because, well, as the now-mother to 10 orphaned/abandoned children (fully believing that God placed these specific kids in our specific family), it's hard to make judgments about how others are called to help orphans.

HOWEVER, last week I read THIS ARTICLE about Cambodia's Orphan Business.  (Pause now to read the article...) And I started to really feel some marked discomfort about the idea of short-term teams coming to serve at orphanages.  I know this will rub some of my friends and readers wrong, but yeah, I do think it fuels the cycle of abandonment.  I also have big concerns about the impacts (related to attachment) that come from children (who already have abandonment issues) forming relationships with short-term visitors who leave over and over and over again.  I don't think it's healthy and I believe it could hinder the ability of these children to form significant attachments later in life.

These are not new thoughts-- they are thoughts that lead us years ago to develop a child protection policy for our home (even before we started accepting children into our home) that includes very limited, controlled access to our children for visiting teams.  Also specified in this policy are the parameters for what we believe to be appropriate and non-appropriate touching for our children.  This includes team members not being permitted to pick up or hug our children, etc.  Seems harsh to some who feel like they want to show love to orphans, but yeah, we believe that it is in the best interest of our children to not have to go through relationship forming/separation over and over and over again because of our decisions to host visitors.

In the past three years, Nick and I have learned more about attachment, RAD, bonding, poverty, the business of orphans, the funding (or lack of funding) for orphanages, the ease with which someone can abandon a child in Haiti, the lack of after-care/counseling for all members of the adoption triad, cultural implications of transracial adoption, international adoption, cross-cultural adoption, the lack of orphan/abandonment prevention, poverty-orphans, short-term teams and orphan tourism, etc, etc, etc...  All of these factors (plus a zillion more) make us NOT SURE of where we stand on orphan care as a whole-- I mean sure, we believe there is a spiritual directive for us to care for orphans.   We can probably all agree on that part.

How to accomplish it?  Well, that's more complicated.

Just last night Nick and I spent some more time talking about this issue, and then this morning there was THIS POST on the Livesay blog.  I would encourage you to read it, because it explains (a lot more eloquently than I can) some of the ethical issues with orphan care around here.

Not sure how to wrap this up, as this is certainly not the end of the discussion... just the beginning really.  Would love to hear feedback-- I know that my thoughts on this topic are not fully formed and that I'd benefit from further exploring others' ideas.   While at this moment, I support the ideas I shared above, I reserve the right to change my mind as I learn and experience more.

Finally, I don't want this to seem like a condemnation on the individuals/groups that chose to serve orphanages in a manner different than we do.  I love this quote from Maya Angelou-- "When you know better you do better."

May we all be on the path to and in the process of "knowing better" so that we can all "do better."
####

PS-- Tons of references on this idea can be found by simply googling the term: "orphan tourism."

Monday, May 28, 2012

iPhone pics + commentary

Downloaded some pics from my iPhone to my computer.  I do that every now and then.  It's always funny to see what I took pictures of.  Thought I'd share a few...


One day last week at the jobsite on our land one of the Haitian workers had this book and was using it to "learn English."  Check out the title and subtitle.  Also interesting to note that it had some of the regular stuff like "Hello" and "My name is_______."  But then it also had a section about how to tell Haitians that hell is filled with eternal burning fire.  Because, you know, if you're learning "beginning, BEGINNING Creole," that seems like an important phrase to know. *sigh*  Come ON! (I was channeling my inner Gob for that last sentence.)

 I might have found my solution to not really enjoying schooling my kids.  If we instruct Nia, and then making her "homework" teaching the boys... And she really likes to be in charge.   Hmmmm.  Might be onto something here. ;)

Speaking of Nia, I came out of my room this morning and she had veiled herself for eating her share of the donated soy protein-enriched rice.  Not sure what that was all about.

Josiah proves that hair ribbons are not just for girls.  They can make you look like a really fierce Karate Kid too.

My friend Sarah (who is Canadian) introduced us to poutine.  According to her, it's the ONLY Canadian dish.  Here's a link to a recipe, but it's basically french fries smothered with mozzarella cheese and brown gravy.   Given the fat and calorie content of this dish and the American propensity towards obesity, I am ASTOUNDED that the Canadians thought of this before the Americans did.  It is DELISH.  Perfect with a Prestige, or 4.

We have this little Karaoke microphone that you plug into your TV.  It has like 25 songs on it (and no way to download more) but it is a riot.  The quality is terrible, we known almost none of the songs, and they have really weird background images while you are singing (like, for example, a photo of "Big Ben" for the background of the song New York, New York.)  But man, that doesn't stop us from playing with it nearly daily.  Nick can do a rousing "Stand By Your Man" and, I don't mean to boast, but I think I give the late Whitney Houston  a run for her money when I perform "The Greatest Love of All."  We totally need to download some Karaoke software and have PPK party (Poutine, Prestige and Karaoke.)

That's all for now.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The wedding.

Kameta (Edwinson's mom) is getting married next Saturday and I am the wedding godmother and Nick is the wedding godfather.  Now.  Let me first say that when you are white in Haiti, you often find yourself as the godmother/father.  And I don't usually agree to be the godmother unless it's someone I have an actual relationship with.

We've had quite the journey with Kameta and her son, Edwinson.  It has not always gone well.  In fact, a lot of times it went really bad.  I will not get into details, but believe me when I tell you, she was making some REALLY destructive choices. More than once I have thrown up my hands in defeat.

However, few months ago she came to me and told me that she had accepted Christ into her life and was convicted that she should get married to her boyfriend, Jephte, with whom she was living.  Jephte is the father of Kameta's second child and while not biologically related to Edwinson, has taken him in and loved him as a son.  Jephte had also made the decision to trust Christ with his life.  Nick and I were ecstatic for them because, unlike all the other times in the past, we could see a genuine change in Kameta's life.  Christ in her continues to be evident.

So when she came to us and asked us to be the marenn/parenn of the wedding, we agreed.

Just so you know (and as we are finding out), that kind of obligates you to do a lot of stuff with the wedding.  I *sort of* had an idea about what I was getting myself into, but yeah, not really.

It's been a busy time of preparation, like it always is for a wedding.  But it also included us pushing a bit to get the shelter on the land finished by this-coming weekend, because that's where the wedding will be.  Kameta lives in a camp and goes to church in a camp.  She wanted to get married, well, not in a camp.  And so Nick and I put a rush on the Church on the Beach pavilion. 

Mostly because, well... if you lived in this muddy tent camp for a year--
and then moved up the road to this camp of semi-permanent houses, that's now turning into a slum--
Wouldn't you want a change of scenery for your wedding day?

Don't you think that this backdrop would do very nicely?


It's always been our prayer that the land in Raymond would be able to be used by the community and that it would be a blessing to "the least of these."

Pushing to get this shelter finished and make this wedding nice has taken a lot of our time/energy lately.  And, to be quite frank, Kameta has kind of turned into a Bridezilla at times. It hasn't always been enjoyable to work on this wedding.

But come Saturday, this man and woman will take each other by the hand and make a life-long commitment-- for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health...

And we want to support her in every way we possibly can because, (Bridezilla moments notwithstanding), I think that Kameta and Jephte probably already have a better idea of what those vows really mean than many people I know.  For this couple's life experiences have shown them  that they will often live in the worse, in the poorer, in sickness.


Keep them in your prayers as they make and strive to keep these vows.

I can't wait to share pictures!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I am probably about to get a lot of hate mail, but...

Ok-- this is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but I am feeling stirred up by this and I feel like someone needs to say it.

For months now there's been news coverage about a para-military army in Haiti that is not sanctioned by the Haitian government.  Here are some of the cliff notes from articles I've read about this group.

  • They could have up to 3,500 members.
  • They are made up of former military members (the Haitian military was disbanded in 1995) as well as new recruits.
  • They have guns.
  • They have vehicles.
  • They do regular training.
  • They surrounded the Parliament building with gunmen in mid-April to demand the return of the Haitian military.
  • They have been repeatedly ordered by (government officials) to disband and clear out of old army bases.
  • They made a deadline of May 18 (yesterday) for President Martelly to officially reinstate them as the military, "or else."
  • They formed a protest near the National Palace yesterday that started peacefully but ended in violence and the detainment of about 50 people, including 2 Americans who were allegedly driving members of the rouge army for the protest, as well as wearing clothing like the members of the "army."  
  • One of the Americans detained admits that he is "friends" with people in the group and that "they are working for the betterment of the country."
  • A group of North American people came to the police station to bring insulin to one of the Americans detained, and themselves became detained (not arrested) overnight in the lobby of the police station, as police wanted to question them about connections to the original American detainees.
There are dozens of unfortunate things about this situation.  And I feel badly especially for the people who were coming to visit to provide medicine and found themselves detained.

HOWEVER.

Haiti is a real country.  It has real laws.  It has a real government.  A lot of people don't like these laws.  A lot of people don't like this government.  But it is a real government.

As I understand Haitian law, anyone can be held (ie. detained) in Haiti for up to 90 days for questioning without being charged so that an investigation can happen.  A couple of months ago I had an American friend (who is also a Haitian resident) held overnight (not arrested, but held) on the suspicion that she had kidnapped her daughter.  (She has been in the adoption process for a long time.)  Court happened.  The situation got worked out.  She was released.  She ended up with big legal bills.  It was really unfortunate, especially because she hadn't done anything "wrong."

But just because we are American and we have due process in America, doesn't mean that we are entitled to due process elsewhere.  When we live in (or travel to) Haiti, we are then under Haitian authority and we need to follow the laws there.  That means that innocent people are sometimes going to be held.  

Haiti does not have a system like we do in America for being let out on bail.  If you need to question someone, you need to HOLD them, or you will likely LOSE them.  Fair?  Well, not in our American minds.  But in this case, these people were not in America.  

So in this case- American people were (allegedly) driving around and offering support to a group that has been ordered by the government to disband.  This group (as we discussed earlier) has weapons and vehicles and no one knows how they are being funded.  These Americans allegedly took part in a violent protest in which dozens of people were arrested.  From what has been reported, these two people were almost certainly breaking the law here in Haiti.  The word "terrorism" has even come up in articles.

Now.  Bear with me for a minute here.

If I was in America and was known to be supporting a terrorist organization, I'd totally be arrested.  And anyone that came to visit me in prison would likely be tracked by the FBI, the CIA, as well as other local/state/federal government agencies.  They would begin an investigation.

Haitians do not have access to the same kind of resources that we do in most of North America. They just don't.  For example, I was recently told by a Haitian police officer that most PNH (Haitian National Police) only work with one or two bullets in their guns because THAT IS ALL THEY HAVE.  How can we possibly expect an investigation to take just a few minutes when here in Haiti, there is not the ability to track that person and bring them in for more questions later?
I understand that the people coming in to bring medication to their friend who happened to be detained have probably done nothing wrong.  But given the circumstances, I don't think it's wrong for the police to investigate.  And unfortunately, that means detaining people who are probably innocent of wrong doing. And that might take a while. That's just the way things go here. Time is valued differently.  Waiting is a part of the game in Haiti.  (For Pete's sake, I had to bring Nia to the eye doctor last week and I waited in line for SEVEN hours to see the doctor.)

I know that this "soapbox rant" will likely come back to bite me in the butt someday.  I know that it's not a matter of if I will ever be detained here, but when.  And I hope I have the same kind of logical attitude about it then, because, like it or not, that's the law under which I have chosen to live.  I do not have rights that supersede the rights of Haitian people.  No one in the government begged me to come here. And no one is saying I can't leave whenever I want.  (Unless I get detained... then I can't leave whenever I want. ;)

Just my 2 cents.  (Or like 222 cents...)



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

outdoor fresh and other misnomers


I love my new washing machine.  I mean, yeah, it's kind of still a ton of work as we (read: Nick) need to  lug about 50 gallons of water per load.  (I, at least, fill the buckets.) 

But still.  It's great.  Like SO great.

I brought in some Tide PODS from the states as well as some Bounce fabric sheets, and I actually kind of roll around in my sheets/towels/laundry when they come out of the dryer because it smells SO good.  Nia does this too.   She loves the smell as much as me, or possibly more.  I stick the used fabric sheets inside her pillow case to keep the scent longer. 

The other day I was looking at the boxes of detergent/fabric softener and I thought-- wow, those are RIDICULOUS names for fragrances.

The fragrance of the Tide is "Ocean Mist."

Dude.  Ocean mist is not what I want my clothes smelling like.  Especially not low-tide ocean mist.  Fishy clothes anyone?



And the Bounce-- Outdoor Fresh.

Clothes dried outside don't feel fresh to me.  They feel stiff and hard and scratchy and stretched out.  If it starts raining while clothes are on the line they stink, even after they dry.   

I have had the real outdoor fresh for the past three years.  I am more than ready to embrace my "Indoor Fresh (Not Ocean Misty)" clothes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Linking you

What if we used our mommy energy for kids that need mommies instead of hating on other mommies?

If there was ever a blog post I think moms should read, it's this one.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The great schooling challenge

One of the struggles we face here is schooling our kids.  We've tried pretty much every option-- from homeschooling, to a private Haitian tutor(s), to Haitian school, back to homeschool...

Nothing has really clicked.

I wish I loved homeschooling my kids.  But the truth, I do not.  I like it on certain days.  But I don't like it on most days and the littlest thing can throw us off our groove.

Then there's the topic of curriculum.  We had found one we liked for Nia (Switched on Schoolhouse) but when her computer crashed, we lost all her work for the semester, plus there was no quick way to fix it-- waiting weeks on the part we needed.  I am leery of using their internet option, because, well, our internet is very unreliable and slow on it's best days.  So it seems like a book-based curriculum might be better?  I just don't know.  Curriculum is so dang expensive that it seems that picking one is a daunting task.  But doing the "mix and match" option seems more daunting here, where we do not have the option to easily try/borrow/buy other materials.

We have an appointment to see a French school in Jacmel next week.  It better addresses some of the security concerns we had with their last Haitian school and our kids could graduate with an actual French diploma (as if they had gone to school in France), which seems a better option than a Haitian diploma. ???

We have entertained the thought of having an intern come down who would want to school our kids, but honestly, I have heard of very few stories of good interns in Haiti.  I have heard a lot of stories of bad interns who: fall in love here and are only interested in their Haitian boyfriend, find something (ie another ministry) they are more passionate about and aren't interested in doing their job, poorly represent the organization/family in their conduct, or just are not a good fit for the organization/family and really don't want to do the job they were brought down to do.  Over. And over. And over again.  Not to mention we don't have a place to house an intern and living with us is JUST NOT AN OPTION.  Our house is busting at the seams with 18 people (in 6 bedrooms) as it is.

But I am just not sure.  I really don't want to send them out to school if I don't feel comfortable with their security/substance of their education just because I hate homeschooling.  I really don't want the drama/work of an intern just because I hate homeschooling.  Could I grow to love homeschooling?  I love my kids and their education is important to me, but I just don't know what to do.  Could the very fluid demands of our job/life ever adjust so I could get on a regular schedule that would provide us with good life rythyms?

Would love to hear feedback from people who were initially skeptical about homeschooling and grew to love it or grew to hate it more.  Also interested in feedback from people who are in Haiti who have found good success with a specific curriculum here.

Thanks friends.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Isn't that the point?

I have been thinking about how sometimes when people are going through a hard time, others (theoretically, well-meaning others) will say, "God will never give/allow more than you can take."

Holy smokes. 

That is crap.

There have been at least 4 times in my life (just off the top of my head) where I was given more than I could bear.  And I am sure I am not the only one.

Just ask someone who has been through a major scare with a child,  has lost a child, been raped, been robbed, been kidnapped, been through a natural disaster, been through a divorce, been severely depressed, been cheated on by their spouse, been a slave to addiction, done something destructive that they WISH they could take back but they just can't.  And on, and on, and on.

There have been times where life is more that we can bear.

But isn't that the point?

The truth is, whether we get to our human breaking point on this earth or not (and I would argue we all will get there at some point) we have ALL reached our the spiritual breaking point before we even knew we were in a relationship severed from God.   Romans 3:10 tells us that there is NO one who is righteous (read: right before God), NO NOT ONE.  None of us, on our own strength or of our own will/drive/stubbornness can be right before the Lord. 

That is, aside from the love of Christ.

May we all embrace the fact that being on this earth means that we are experiencing more than we can bear.  And may we fall fully on the only one who can bear our burdens, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nick's "freestyle" photos


Since Nick adapted to his model role so well, he decided to go out on his own a bit and try a few unscripted poses.

Don't worry, this is the last of them.

 Please shower before using the pool...


Untitled.

All gritty with sand...


 On the edge of infinity.  (The infinity pool, that is.)


Friday, May 4, 2012

Homemade Dominican Fantasy Photos

I will be brief for my introduction as the photos speak for themselves.  We were staying in Boca Chica this past several days at a resort there.  One of the options was to buy their fantasy photos.... you'd hire them to take pics of your family or you or whatever and then you buy them.  They were PERSISTENT to say the least-- and their display photos were really, really redonk.


So we thought we'd spend the last morning of our vakay, recreating (on our own) some of these special scenes.  We snuck photos of THEIR display photos and set off to work.  We spent $8 on sunglasses and $7 on a hat (which we left for the maid.)  It took about 30-45 minutes of shooting, and then a couple of hours of editing, but here they are.

Each set of two is first the ACTUAL Dominican fantasy photo.  The second in each set is OUR version of the fantasy photos.  
Standing casually in front of a boat.




Tile sunglass refections...




Sensual beach layout.... (WHO LAYS OUT LIKE THAT???)



Young spirited beach modeling



Pouty teenager beach modeling
                                   


    
Tourist gak beach modeling.
 

Beach Yoga.




Napping on a comfortable palm tree.
                                    

                                    

Smokey Eyes



 Throwing caution to the wind!!!!
                             

The sultry silhouette 
  



Hope you enjoyed our photos as much as we enjoyed taking them.  Nick is a rockstar with incredible self-confidence to do this in front of a beach full of people.  Stay tuned tomorrow for some of our "free style modeling" that we'd like to suggest to the Domincan Fantasy Photo Shop.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sign FAIL


It's okay to suspend your family trapped in a box.

It's not okay to suspend your family in a box and light them on fire.

And it's not okay to smoke.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

White whine- Vacation drama.

If you've been reading for a while, you know that my husband, the dashing and talented Nick Mangine, is pretty much the most patient guy God ever created.  He has an amazing capacity to roll with crap day in and day out.  So you can know that yesterday was really bad, and not just my usual griping, with this statement (made towards the end of the day) yesterday-- "Experiences like this really put the fear of hell in me.  Because it is possible that hell is something like staying on this bus for eternity."

It started at 2:30 AM.  We woke up (well, enough to hit snooze once or twice) and were out the door by 3AM.  The trip over the mountain into Port went well.  We figured we be in Port at the bus station to head to the DR for our vacation by 6:30 or 7.  We didn't need to be there until 8, but given the recent 6 hour trip to the airport from Jacmel due to protests/roadblocks in Carrefour, we didn't want to take any chances.

We got to Carrefour by about 5:30AM, headed onto the bypass and hit a roadblock.  There was a big truck blocking the road and some burning tires.  Nick said he thought he could get around it, but Edit was pretty convinced that wasn't going to be a good idea.  I told him that I had driven through some roadblocks the other day with little problem and he told me that he went to Port on Friday for a funeral and passed a location where they had just burned and killed two people who tried to cross the roadblock.  That seemed far-fetched to me, but since he knew his way around Carrefour, Nick just switched with him and we dozed while he looped around side streets, getting us to the bus station at around 7AM.

As we waited for the bus, we got eaten alive by mosquitoes-- so much so that I grabbed the fleece blanket out of my suitcase that I brought in case the bus was cold.  I wrapped up to protect myself from the malaria-carrying bloodsuckers and couldn't keep it around me for more than a minute or so because it had a noticeable wet dog stench to it.  I had pulled it from the linen closet that morning, so I was mildly surprised, but not entirely surprised because my kids are often borrowing blankets and sheets from the clean clothes to make forts.  Sometimes they end up on the ground.  Either that or our helper hasn't washed it in a while and just folded in and put it back in the cabinet... as she's been known to do with our sheets.  But I digress.

We loaded the bus without much drama.  It was FREEZING cold and there was this suspicious dead animal smell coming from somewhere around me, but I figured that was better than too hot with a dead animal smell, right? We took off and within  two hours we were already at the Dominican border. 

During that time, I finally looked at the website on my phone for the resort we're staying at (I don't allow myself to get excited too far in advance because of our history of failed vacation attempts.)  I was a bit put off to learn that the town we're staying in (and possibly this specific resort as well) were the center for sex tourism/trafficking in the Domincan.  But according to the websites, as long as you didn't go out at night, you were probably okay.  (Phew.)

I don't exactly know what the trouble was, but it took us over four hours to cross the border.  At one point I asked the bus attendant what the holdup was.  She said, "Genyen blokis." (There's a traffic jam.) 

Um, duh. 

I was feeling grumpy because according to the bus website, we should have arrived at the bus station in Santo Domingo at 3PM and it was already past 2:30 by the time we crossed the border.  Still, it was a mere 70 miles (ish) to the bus stop from there.  Why it took another 5 hours, that I cannot say.  Maybe it's because there are speed bumps every 10 seconds.  Maybe it's because we had to stop to check the tires.  Maybe it's because the bus didn't go very fast.  But whatever the reason, it was cold and bumpy.  I found myself wishing for the wet-dog-smelling blanket that was packed in my luggage underneath the bus (I didn't carry it with me because of my concerns over the smell.)  The bathroom started making the bus smell worse and worse as the hours ticked by.  Carsickness set in.  Believe me, the dead animal smell and the bathroom door opening and closing wafting the urine scent our way didn't help.  They guy across the aisle from us blasted music from his computer the WHOLE ride-- a compilation of Haitian karnaval music and Celine Dion. Celine Dion is REALLY popular in Haiti.  (I mean, according to her, she IS the best singer in the world, so that's understandable.) The music was so loud that we couldn't watch the movies on the bus movie system, but that didn't matter anyway, since it was 4 movies-- three of which were in French, including a kung fu movie and Big Mama's House-- made us more carsick.  That took up about 6.5 hours.  Then, instead of starting the films again, they let us pass the next 5 hours watching the intro to charter buses on loop over and over and over.  I know how to adjust my seat really well right now though, so I am not saying it was entirely useless. (Snark alert.)

We arrived in Santo Domingo a bit green from carsickness at about 7:30pm (a mere 11.5 hours after we'd boarded the bus).  We got off to a pool of taxi drivers and we told the first one in line that we wanted to go to our resort in Boca Chica.  He said okay and walked us over to the pool of taxis waiting at the curb.  It was immediately obvious why he wasn't waiting near his taxi.  It was one of those "mini buses" and by mini I mean really, really mini.  Still, there was plenty of room for Nick and I and our bags.  We loaded up, agreed on a price and were on our way.  The seatbelts and AC didn't work, but that wasn't a problem because it was already dark and not too hot and I am somewhat used to seatbelts not working.  I opened the window and watched the city pass me by for the next few minutes.  Every time I tried to make a comment to Nick, the driver thought I was talking to him.  Which wasn't a problem except that I don't speak any Spanish, and he didn't speak any English.  (Side note: I understand that I am the visitor and therefore hold the responsibility, as a guest in this culture, to make myself understood, not the other way around.)  The car didn't go very fast and the driver had a tendency to straddle the lanes-- but the car was so small that it really didn't matter.  People could be in cars on both of the lanes we were straddling and we'd have enough room.

Then it started raining.  And by raining I mean monsooning.  Rain was falling in big giant juicy drops, soaking us inside. The driver closed his window (after getting soaked by the spray of a passing car), and so I went to close my window.  Except that my window didn't close.  So, I just stayed there with it open getting wet.  It was about a 40 minute ride to our hotel-- there were times that I wasn't sure we'd make it.  The windshield got all fogged up and he kept wiping it with the back of his hand, but heck, we made it there.

We paid the driver, walked into the resort and as we were checking in (no lie) the power went out.  It came on within 3 minutes, but we were sitting there (in the dark) wondering about our luck... convinced that, given our luck, we should (at no point on this trip) visit the casino on property.  The lights came on and we got checked in.  The bellboy walked us to our room...  It was nice enough.  We dropped our bags on the floor at about 8:30pm.  (A mere 17.5 hours after we'd left on our excursion. We'd traveled (as the crow flies) about 120 miles.)  We walked down to the buffet for dinner and I came back up to soak in our hot jacuzzi tub (one of the main reasons we had upgraded our room to a suite when we booked.)  The hot water was slow in coming... to the point where I was afraid that we might actually not have hot water.  But you just needed to be patient.  Not the case with the jacuzzi jets, however.  They actually didn't work.  Neither did the internet or the safe.  And there was another power outage. (No lie.)  But we were too tired to deal with it.  We called Megan (who is staying with our kids)-- it only cost $9 for the 3 minutes we talked. We got snuggled into our really comfortable bed (thank goodness) and slept well.

This morning things look brighter.  They sent someone up to the room to fix the tub, we learned that you actually have to pay extra for internet and to use the room safe (all inclusive my a$$.)  I had been on the fence about whether we'd do a spa treatment together or an excursion with the spending money we'd planned.  Turned out Nick and I made a unanimous decision to use that money to FLY back home on Friday rather than risking a repeat of the trip here.

So there it is.  The story of our bus ride to the DR.  We're hoping that vacation goes better than the trip here did.  And I just wanted to encourage you all to get right with God. Because if Nick's right, hell is not going to be a good place.