Bidet Blunders

You’ve all done it … you’ve all said to yourself ‘hmmm I wonder what this button / switch does’ and then you’ve tested it … right? (please agree with me even if you won’t say it out loud, at least agree inside your own head). Whether it was a light switch, a button on the oven, a button on your computer … you’ve done it, right?

Well … I did that today … with the bidet …

Very common in a lot of countries, including here in Argentina, but very rare in countries such as Canada. Not that they don’t exist, they just aren’t commonplace. I’ve seen bidets all throughout Europe, occasionally in Asia and almost everywhere in Buenos Aires, including in my current apartment.

Let me clarify the extent of my advanced knowledge of a bidet.
It is used to wash your bum with spraying water. That’s all. I knew nothing else.

I’ve always been a bit curious, but I’ve never pressed that button, flipped that switch or turned that knob.

….. until today.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too graphic as I actually was just inspecting the bidet, not using it for it’s intended purpose.

There are three handles. I turned the left one and water slowly leaked out into the bowl.
I turned it off.

I turned the right one and water slowly leaked out into the bowl.
I turned it off and thought ‘maybe this is more like a urinal than a bidet. Maybe the water just cleans the bowl out.’

But wait … I had one more knob to turn. The left and right handles were both turned off, no water was running. I leaned over and turned the centre knob …

Guess what happened?

I jumped out of the way as water shot straight up with such force that it hit the ceiling. (no joke). I giggled and hurried to turn it off without getting sprayed directly in my face by the firehose-strength stream of water.

And then I thought, I don’t think I could ever let water with that force spray directly at my bum (or other areas)

Um yeah, I just said that! Just keeping it real here!

After surviving the bidet encounter without impaling my eye, I decided that maybe I need more information. How could a bidet actually be so popular? Really, do people use these? I’ve done and seen a lot of things in my travels and somehow using a squatter seems less complicated than navigating a bidet. Maybe I’m just more comfortable in the simplicity of nature than the luxury of a middle class apartment.

Having no actual knowledge of what the bidet is meant for, further than ‘cleaning your bum’, I checked good old Wikipedia after my experimentation. It’s always better to try first and inform yourself later, right?

And then I found this fun video for your viewing pleasure. Don’t worry, it doesn’t show any private bits.

I’m still a little confused on how it saves toilet paper though … do you drip dry? Or do you just pull up your pants and have a wet seat for awhile? Seems the system is still a little flawed.

Latin Dance Night in Cabarete – The Wife – Part 2

Although part 2 of this story didn’t actually take place in Cabarete, it is the continuation of a plot that started at Latin Dance Night in Cabarete. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1 here and get all of the details before you venture into the remainder of this scandal!

I made it home safely from Cabarete, crawled into my bed, ALONE and sent a quick text message to Francis simply saying thank you and that I had made it home safely. Simple and innocent enough.

A couple of days later, I received two or three text messages from him asking when I would be in Cabarete again, to which I avoided answering because I had no intentions of purposely seeing him again. If I ran into him my next time out dancing, fine, but I certainly wasn’t going looking for him. Only a couple of messages were exchanged, completely friendly and normal … no harm, right?

ha HA! That’s where I was wrong …

Monday morning at 5am, my cell phone rang. I looked and it was Francis calling. I ignored it. I didn’t feel like talking at 5am and was pissed for being woken up. Moments later it rang again. I answered and groggily said ‘hola’. I was greeted with silence and then the whimper of a baby in the background. I said ‘hola’ again, but nothing. I hung up. Did a child accidentally call my number? My niece has called me in the middle of the night without mommy and daddy knowing, why couldn’t it happen in another country!

Moments later, the phone rang again. I answered with ‘Hola’ again, and again no communication except for a baby crying. I asked ‘Can I help you?’ in Spanish, and nothing … At this point I knew something weird was going on, but what could I do? It was just a phone call. I hung up.

Moments later, the phone rang again … I ignored it, silenced my phone and went back to sleep.

I awoke at 8:15am to 12 missed calls and a text message. I checked to see who the message was from and sure enough, it was from Francis’ number. I thought to myself, this should be good … and I wasn’t disappointed!

The message (loosely translated from Spanish) said
“My star. I want to make love with my wife and I have a baby.
You are stupid.”

After two or three nice messages the day before, getting a nasty message was particularly odd. Stupid in Spanish is one of the most offensive insults that you use. I knew immediately that this message was not from Francis, but from his wife (or girlfriend).

Even funnier is that she was calling me in the middle of the night and then calling me stupid. I had zero interest in her man. I danced with him for awhile, had a nice little conversation and he was sweet enough to get me home safely. I’ve got to say, I don’t feel particularly stupid about any of that. Unfortunately I feel sorry for her though as I’m positive he had further intentions with me, should I have given the ok … and unfortunately that makes her the one with the problem not me.

I wrote back short and sweet with:
ha ha ha Good Luck.

I haven’t heard from either of them again … nor will I provoke it.

It makes me sad that this is so common here. Men in the Dominican have a really bad reputation for being aggressive and for being unfaithful. Many of them are skillful con artists, masterful liars and incredibly talented at wooing their way into the hearts of young single women from all around the world. Women are warned about it constantly before traveling to the Dominican. They are told by their friends, their family and the locals wherever they stay that men are like this, but time after time, thousands of women each year fall in love with Dominican men who are cheating on their wives, looking for their green card in another country or who need a rich sugar momma.

Although I truly don’t believe that all Dominican men are bad, it is a country where it is particularly difficult to sift through all of the bad ones to find a good one. That is, if you are looking for love. There’s no way to ever really know because the men are so good at making you feel special.

I’ve met a couple of the con artists and luckily haven’t been caught off guard yet. I’ve also met a couple of true gentleman, so I know they are out there! Girls, if you are looking for your Dominican love of a lifetime, search long and hard, don’t fall to fast or you’ll fall flat on your face!

Latin Dance Night in Cabarete – The Men – Part 1

Yes, this post is topic is as scandlous as you might imagine from the title and part 2 will get even better, so stay tuned! Get ready, because this is really what the Dominican Republic is like for a single, young, blonde woman.

On Thursday night I headed out to Cabarete with the other students for a night of drinking and dancing. Thursday nights at a local bar called Ojo Club is Latin Dance night. Upstairs is Salsa music, downstairs has bachata and merengue. Well, if you’ve been following along with my twitter or Facebook posts, you already know that I am crazy about Latin Dance. Thursday nights are very exciting for me because it is my opportunity to go out and get my Latin groove on!

The group of us arrived at Ojo’s at shortly after 10pm and the bar was empty. Having been there the past week, I knew this was normal and that by 11pm, people would begin to arrive and hit the dance floor. We grabbed a couple of drinks (Santa Libre for me – Rum & Sprite) and sat to chat for awhile until people started to arrive.

At 11pm people started to slowly trickle in. At 11:30, the dance floor was packed. My friend Diana had been at a different bar and when she joined us at Ojo’s, she introduced me to a local (in red pants) who liked to dance. Basically she pawned him off on me. HA HA HA No big deal. I love to dance too and was happy to get out on the dance floor with a local who was a really good dancer. We danced two or three songs and then I took a break because I was too warm and needed water. Red-pants-boy stayed nearby though waiting for me to dance with him again. I remember whispering to Diana that I didn’t want to dance with the same guy all night and next thing I knew, another guy on the dance floor made eye contact and asked me to dance. So, I set my water down and headed back out on the dance floor while Red-pants-boy watched from the side lines.

Now I know that makes it sound horrible, but I just wanted to dance. I’m not looking for a Dominican boyfriend, I just want to dance! I had only danced with Red-pants-boy a couple of times … and completely clean! No dirty dancing, nor did I even know his name! So, it wasn’t like I led the boy on. And here, in the Dominican it is quite normal to dance with all kinds of different people, not always the same one. If you dance with the same one that means you are specifically interested in them. I don’t want any of that non-sense!

This new guy and I danced a few times and then he asked for my phone number which I wouldn’t give to him. He then gave me his business card with his number and explained that he works with the police. Now, in Canada, girls go crazy for police officers … the uniform, their salaries, their authority … but Dominican police officers don’t have quite that same reputation. Here, they are well known to be corrupt, and not very well paid. They do, however wear uniforms, if that’s what you like! I took the guy’s card, danced a couple of times and then paused for a drink before being whisked away by Red-pants-boy … and then, continued to dance with a couple of guys who were friends of students at our school. Then someone else and then someone else …. You get the idea. Once a girl is on the dance floor, if she wants to continue, it isn’t really a problem. You just have to look interested in dancing and not be attached to any one guy in particular. Dominican men generally don’t try and take you from another man, if you are together.

The next guy I remember dancing with was a real cutie. We’ll call him red-hat-boy, not to be confused with Red-pants-boy. A couple of dances with him and then the next person who asked me to dance was a skinny little young boy. Seriously, I doubt he was old enough to be at the bar, but no one really cares. Ok, he might have been 19 or 20, but they are well known for looking young here and he looked about 15. I danced with him twice, but the little bugger wanted to dance a little dirtier than I was willing. Especially when I felt like I could be his mother.

And this is where the scandal begins.

This kid continued to hound me to dance, in Spanish, of course. At first I politely said no. Then he had his arm around my waist and was standing there like we were a couple. I quickly changed positions and gently pushed him away. I thought, making it clear that I was not interested. He continued to try to get me to dance and basically, tried to put his hands all over me. I wasn’t really scared of him being so forward, just simply not at all interested. So, after about the fifth time of saying ‘no’ to dancing, stronger each time, I finally went and danced with Red-hat-boy again. Sadly, he wasn’t that interested in dancing with me and clearly had his eye on another girl. Luckily my heart wasn’t broken because I wasn’t interested either, I just wanted to dance!

Not too long after, those of us who were still at Ojo’s headed over to a neighbouring bar called Ono’s where they play more American style dance music. The little kid continued to follow me around, trying to force me to dance with him and wrapping his arm around me if I came within one meter of him.

My frustration was building as this kid would not go away. I’d say he wouldn’t take the the hint, but there was no hint. I had been flat out honest, in Spanish, that I was not interested.

I decided that I was ready to leave as I was not having fun any more with this kid who wouldn’t go away. On my way out of the bar, a new guy asked me to dance. He caught my attention and I actually stopped to talk to him for a moment to explain that I was actually leaving for the night, heading home. He tried to convince me to stay, but I continued on my way.

Not five minutes later, my friend Sophia had convinced me to stay for a little while longer and back into Ono’s I went. Unfortunately, the kid hadn’t taken the hint and was immediately by my side again. I took a quick look around, found the guy who had asked me to dance and walked over to him to explain that I wasn’t leaving after all. And, out on the dance floor we went.

He was a cute little thing. He looked young, but probably in the 25-28 range, not 15! We danced a few times and then he asked for my name and number. At this point, I’ve gotten good at not giving my number out. I had been asked four times already that night. It is like a game for these guys to see how many numbers they can get, or see which one of them gets the girl in the end because quite often all of the guys are friends. Of course when you say no, they always retort with ‘why’, to which I always explain I’m not looking for a Dominican boyfriend! To which, they usually ignore.

For the next hour, I danced with this guy … Let’s call him Francis and hope he never reads this particular blog post! ha ha ha Although all Dominican guys seem to have intentions of hooking up, I made it very clear, once again that I was not interested in anything at all and certainly not looking for a Dominican boyfriend, nor would I be giving out any kisses. We had lots of fun dancing the night away until the bar closed at 3am.

I went looking for my friend Sophia who swore she wouldn’t leave with out me and she was no where to be found. I called her, but her cell phone wasn’t on or had no minutes. So, Francis walked me out to the main road to get transportation home. We stood and talked for quite awhile while he very respectfully encouraged me not to take a moto concho home at night from Cabarete to Sosua as it was not safe. I was really looking for a carro publico, but there didn’t seem to be any. After 15 or 20 minutes, one came along and stopped. Again, he wouldn’t let me go because it was empty. He said it wasn’t safe for me to get in a carro publico alone this late at night. Really, that was pretty nice of him.

Getting a little antsy to get going, I checked on the price of a taxi. Yikes, $500 Pesos! (over $12 US) That’s pretty pricey for here! So, I waited a little longer. Sweet Francis offered to take a carro publico with me to Sosua and then return to Cabarete. Very sweet, but I immediately saw the intentions behind it and clearly advised him that although I appreciated his kindness, he would not be invited to my room when we arrived and that he would have to return to Cabarete.

He said he didn’t mind at all and that was no problem, that he just wanted me to get home safely. In the end though, I took my chances with a taxi driver and paid a discounted rate of $400 Pesos. I finally gave in and agreed to text Francis when I got home so that he would know I was safe. I knew this was just a ploy to get my phone number, but what harm could him having a phone number do?

…. and the scandal continues… Part 2

La cucaracha war

In English, a cucaracha is a cockroach. We’ve all heard of them, seen them on tv but how many of us Canadians have seen the real thing? Yes, I am aware that it is possible to have them in Canada, but generally speaking it is not a prevalent issue. Even when you travel to resorts and hotels in the tropics, you very rarely see them, although they are probably there … lurking in the shadows!

When you travel to a tropical place it is a given that there are cockroaches around. I’ve seen them in Bermuda and in Cuba, but most of the time, somewhere outside.

The first cockroach I saw in Santo Domingo was when I was walking down a street with my friends after dark one evening. I stopped and got out of it’s way. HA HA HA Didn’t even think to try and step on it! I just avoided it all together. The second time I was with another friend and he stepped on it before I saw it. Not so bad when I don’t’ have to see it or do anything about it.

Well, the third time … let’s just say it was not one of my finest moments …

I had showered and gotten ready for bed, but needed some water before going to sleep. I went to the kitchen, turned on the light and reached for the fridge door when all of a sudden something on the counter moved.

I jumped and drew in my breath. I nearly screamed, but somehow stifled it. And then …. I stared at it, just sitting there on the counter with it’s antenna twitching back and forth. This huge bug was about two inches long and it’s antennas were as long as it’s body. EWWWW!

A few seconds later, I got brave and decided I would try to kill it. I went to my bedroom to get a sneaker as the flip flops on my feet definitely weren’t the right weapon for this war! When I came back, he was still sitting in the same place twitching his antenna. I got about two feet away, reached my arm out and slammed the sneaker on the counter, hoping I had connected, but not looking forward to the mess. To my dismay, when I looked, the little bugger darted across the counter and under the toaster oven to its dark safe haven.

Again, I stood there wondering what the hell to do. I knew he was there … I knew he was just waiting for me to leave and turn out the lights, but could I really just leave him there?

And then …

Another one (slightly smaller) scurried across the counter from a different direction, paused and then darted into the cupboards under the sink. Ay ya ay!

At this point I turned off the kitchen light and retreated to my bedroom to quiver in fear!

But, the story doesn’t stop here. I immediately texted two of my friends back home. The following conversation is real, unedited (except for the omission of a few swear words!)

Shari: I’m freaking out! There are cockroaches in my kitchen. Do I wake my mom and tell her or go to sleep?

Michelle (currently in Edmonton, but lived in Bermuda for many years): LMAO! Kill the cockroaches and go to sleep!

Shari: I couldn’t! I’m a whimp. I tried but one ran too fast when I swatted and the other went in the cupboards. I may never go in cupboards again. Mayday! Save me!

Michelle: It’s only a cucaracha! It won’t hurt ya. Was it a flying one?

Shari: Shut up! They fly? I’m dying! This is soooooo not cool!

Michelle: LOL! We had flying ones in Bermuda. Was it big? Like 1.5 – 2 inches? or just a little German roach?

Pause ….

Michelle: Where did you go?! Did it eat you?

Michelle: LOL Just teasing! They can’t eat you.

Shari: Yes, 2+ inches + antenna just as long. 2 of them that I saw. Do they stay in the kitchen? They don’t like blood like the mosquitos here right?

Michelle: No, they don’t want blood, they just want food and sugar. And sorry, yes, they can fly.

Pause ….

Michelle: What are you doing? Are you battling the cockroach? Hunting it down?

Shari: No! I’m hiding in my room, trying not to cry! Sleeping with the light on. And, phone vibrated my bed and I jumped. Thought it was a heard of cockroaches coming for me! lol

Michelle: LMAO – actually LOLing. Sorry. Just picturing it! They won’t hurt you. Trust me, they just want food and that’s not you.

Shari: Well, thank you, but I’m still not going to warm with them! God knows how many. I can’t even go get water to drink! I’m a mess!

Michelle: Ok, well at least we have now discovered that you will not be running off to live in a tropical country. LOL So that counts as self discovery … look how well you are doing already! 🙂 And, you have a new blog topic!

Shari: Not true. I’d just have to have a huge fridge to keep everything in and air conditioning. Oh yeah … and a man to kill cockroaches!

Michelle: LMAO! There ya go … A walk in restaurant fridge and you could even sleep in there when you are too hot!

Michelle: Now, you need to go to sleep. Have sweet dreams!

I slept with the light on … True story.

Angela’s Rules for bringing home a good man

During my first week here, I was part of many interesting conversations at my homestay. My homestay mom was a lot of fun and funny too! One night we were talking about ‘chiberica’s’ or party girls and it led to a conversation about what is expected of a man who comes to her home.

Angela’s Rules for bringing home a good man.

1. No earrings
2. No smoking
3. Dress nice – no tennis shoes unless going to work out
4. No tattoos
5. No long hair
6. Don’t show up at the door with a beer in hand or be drunk
7. Ask before he sits down, or be invited to have a seat in her home
8. No open shirts (buttons undone)
9. No hippies

My favourite is #7! Now, that would be a true gentleman. I can’t imagine this happening in Canada.

Ooops … did I say that?

As you can imagine, when learning a new language, it is extremely easy to say ridiculous things. Sometimes you are aware immediately of your errors, sometimes not so much. Think back to a two year old trying to learn to say ‘truck’ … I’m sure you’ve heard the mistaken version, and if you are a mom, you may have been horrified when your child said ‘*uck’ in public when they really just wanted their little green toy truck … innocent enough!

I’ll be writing a blog post on my first two weeks of school, hopefully today to catch everyone up on what I’ve been learning. All is going well though. I’ve had some really frustrating moments and I’ve said some ridiculously funny things … (warning bad language below)! I don’t learn the bad words in school, but when you say something wrong and someone laughs hysterically at what you’ve said, you learn the bad words quickly so you don’t embarrass yourself again!

For example ….

Near my first home stay was a popular street called Calle Conde … one day I made the mistake of calling it Calle Cono (cono = *uck) OOPS! Good thing I said it to a friend not a stranger!

My second mistake was saying ano instead of ano (with an accent over the n). Ano (with an accent) means year. Ano with no accent means asshole/anus (literally!)

My third mistake was particularly hilarious … I was speaking in Spanish, trying to explain about the singer of a song I liked. I couldn’t think of the word for singer in Spanish, so I thought I’d be smart and make up a word and hope that it was right. A lot of words are similar to French or English, so it was worth a try ….

So, I said El singa bien. This was supposed to mean he sings good. What I actually said to my friend was that he was good at sex! HA HA HA How embarrassing! I actually did recognize immediately what I had said which made the situation worse because I started laughing realizing what I had just said to this guy. I couldn’t even correct myself because I still didn’t know the correct verb for ‘to sing’! Now I know that it is ‘cantar’.

Feel free to laugh at my embarrassment! I’m laughing as I relive this moment right now!

Other words that I have been known to get confused are the following:

casada = married vs canasada = tired
caballo = horse vs cebolla = onion
enojado = angry vs enamorado = in love
camaron = shrimp vs camarero = waiter

Cat calls

Canadian women are warned about traveling to the Dominican Republic because of the aggressive nature of the men here. More so than any other place I have traveled, this is true. However, when people say ‘aggressive’, I think of strong, forceful and dangerous. This may all be true, but at this point I have not encountered that kind of aggression.

Further than this, if you are a woman who has only ever traveled to a Dominican Resort, you haven’t even begun to see what people are talking about and you probably think they are crazy. Or, if you’ve always traveled with your husband, a boyfriend or a male friend … you may also not have seen this phenomenon of cat calling males!

You know when you walk through a local market and vendors are all calling out to you, talking to you, almost demanding you stop to buy from them and then somehow, because we are all so nice, they convince us to buy something from them? A constant barrage of words from a language you don’t understand intertwined with broken English words can be totally overwhelming if you aren’t expecting it or don’t know how to deal with it.

On the streets of Santo Domingo (and throughout the Dominican) if you are a lady walking alone or in a group of women you will encounter a constant barrage of comments in a variety of languages. It is particularly funny when they say it in Spanish, you don’t respond, then they repeat something in English, then German, then whatever other language they may know bits and pieces of. I guess they think somehow that we don’t understand them, when in fact, we are just ignoring them!

I’ve categorized the men here lovingly into five different categories:

Speak no evil
Attention Grabbers
Genuine Gentlemen
Down right dirty

Despite the stereotype that all Dominican men are persistent in their attention grabbing antics, there are actually lots of men here who don’t do that. Sometimes you get overwhelmed with all of the men that are calling out constantly to you, but when you stop to look around, there are men everywhere who could care less that you are a single white female walking down the street. I’m guessing that these are likely the guys that a white woman SHOULD want to meet because they are likely respectful and well educated. Unfortunately, they are the ones that are less prevelant and harder to strike up a conversation with.

Speak no Evil
The next type of Dominican man is the one who only sees you and doesn’t speak to you. Some of them take a quick glance and if you catch their eye, they are shy and look away. Others take a moment to check you out from head to toe. They have no shame in looking you up and down, head to toe AND they want you to know that they are doing it, they don’t for a second try to hide it. These same men often walk past you and then deliberately turn and check you out again over their shoulder, often offering up a quick playful smile, just begging you to smile back or give them the ok to say hello.

Attention Grabbers
The attention grabbers are the ones that you really have to practice ignoring. They are everywhere. They may look you up and down as well as hollering loudly at you. I am genuine in saying that this happens to me no last than 30 times a day. And, it comes from every direction … behind you, beside you, in front of you, across the street, from the buses passing by. If there are men there, you are almost guaranteed to hear something from them.

The most popular calls I’ve heard are:
Rubia – Blondie
Mami – Mommy, but this word is often used affectionately between couples or friends. It is similar to saying ‘dear’ or ‘sweetie’. Men call women Mami and Women call men Papi. Men here particularly love it when you call them Papi, which you have to be careful of!
Bella – beautiful, or beautiful woman

Often these calls are proceeded by a ‘pst’ or almost a hiss to get your attention. So, it is ‘pst pst pst … rubia!’ ‘Rubia! Rubia, rubia!’

After a little while you get used to ignoring these comments because they are thrown at you constantly, but it is really hard to ignore the hiss that some guys use. I don’t think they really understand how horribly demeaning it is to hiss at a North American woman. It feels so ugly, rude and kind of like being scorned like you would discipline a puppy who is chewing on your shoes.

I’ll be the first to say that these cat-calls are not because I’m drop dead gorgeous! All white, north American women will get these calls. It is simply because I am white and blonde. Oh yes and it helps that I’m curvy. It is a huge cultural difference between North America and Latin America. Latin American men love their chubby ladies. They think it is soft, feminine and beautiful where as North American men tend to be more attracted to skinnier or more fit women. Latin American men go wild for a woman with big hips and an ample toushie! Here, I am affectionately called gordita (a beautiful chubby woman). At home, being called chubby would be horribly offensive! Here, because it is tied together with beautiful, it is a wonderful compliment.

Genuine Gentleman
Amongst all of these other types of men, there are also some genuine gentlemen. Every once in awhile someone will stop me on the street and simply call me beautiful, or bella, but in a really nice, kind way … not by hissing or yelling at me. Most of the time, they just say it and continue walking with a smile. They seem to be just offering up a compliment and not looking for any particular kind of attention or return on their investment … just simply an act of kindness.

One day while I was sitting on a bench in one of the parks in Zona Colonial, an old man came up and stood in front of me. He simply wanted to tell me I looked like Marilyn Munroe. He wasn’t looking for money. He didn’t stay around to chat. He didn’t look at me like a piece of meat. He just simply stopped to give me a compliment. Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t look like Marilyn Munroe, but none-the-less, it was a lovely moment! Even funnier is that I was sitting with one of my Dominican friends at the time. Usually if you are with a Dominican guy, the cat-calls are less prevalent.

Speaking of the genuine gentleman, I have gotten to know a couple so far. And, it just seems to be a different way of life, a different outlook on women and an appreciation for beauty. Men here are full of sweetness for their ladies and have a ton of pet names for the special women in their lives, whether that be as a friend or as a girlfriend. Some of my favorites are:

Mi estrella – my star
Mi Corazon – my heart
Preciosa – precious
Dulcura – sweetness
Princesa – princess
Mami – Mommy

These gentlemen also do things such as watch out for you when you are crossing the crazy traffic packed streets. They open doors for you, pay for you when you are out and genuinely make sure that you feel special, 100% of the time. Now, maybe I’m too trusting, but I like to believe that they are truly genuine in their efforts not just to impress and not just trying to get me in bed. (sorry mom!!!)

Down right Dirty (beware of vulgarity below!)
On a lesser scale than all of the types of men above, there are some men on the streets who are just down right dirty both in their appearance and what comes out of their mouths.

One night as I walked with my first two roommates to Sirena (a store kind of equivalent to our Wal-mart), we got the regular attention that has come to be normal. I’m not sure if I get more attention as a single white girl or if we draw more attention when there are three of us. No matter what, there is always attention showered on the white girls here, good or bad.

On the way home from the store, after dark, around 8pm, we passed by a man who was particularly dirty and vocal. Unfortunately he also called out to us in English so it was very clear what he said.

Loudly, as we walked by he exclaimed ‘I want some p***y. Give me some p***y.’

Why any man would choose to exclaim this loudly at three girls walking by is beyond me. I guess he just wanted to get a reaction from us. Mine was simply ‘Good luck with that’, as the three of us continued down the street a little more quickly than normal.

Further, with things I don’t understand … I don’t understand how Dominican women put up with all of the above! The men here often are calling out to white women or checking them out while they walk along the street holding hands with their girlfriend or wife. Are the girls just used to it?

And, when a guy calls out from a bus or a car, is he trying to draw attention to you or to himself? It isn’t like they expect you to chase after the bus / car and declare your love for them just because they called you beautiful …. Do they?

My local friends tell me the best thing to do with all of the compliments is just to ignore them. There’s no way you could respond to them all anyway or you’d be busy with that all day long! So, for the most part I ignore the comments and just keep on walking like I have no idea the I am the only white person on the street amongst 100 locals who are all various shades of black.

Yesterday on my way home from the Super Mercado one of the bus workers hollered out ‘Ayayay Mami’. I usually ignore the calls, but this one caught my attention, probably because of ‘ayayay’ instead of ‘pst’. I looked up and a young guy winked, nodded and smiled as the bus rushed past. I shook my head and laughed. Regardless of their intentions, who can really complain about getting compliments all day long? If nothing else, the comments make me smile … sometimes I try to hide it inside, but every once in awhile a smile creeps across my face as I think about the fact that some random guy just found me attractive enough to holler at me.

My teacher at school explained to me one day that no one can ever really be depressed here because it if a life of compliments. If you think you are having a bad hair day, you just step outside your house and some random stranger is there to tell you that you are beautiful, or that your hair looks nice. If you are having a bad day, you just walk down the street and the men here will remind you with their looks and their words that you are worth looking at. It is an interesting concept for sure … tonnes of regular compliments have a positive effect on mental health. Maybe it’s true that Dominican is just a happier place to be!

The Taxi Chronicles – Part 4 – The Attack

March 1, 2012

Just a short, funny story for you to enjoy (at my expense) …

On our final night in Lima, our G Adventures guide took us out for a lovely anticuchos supper ( similar to kebabs). I hadn’t been feeling well since Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. It seems that traveler’s diarrhea had taken a hold. We were at a restaurant that is very well known for it’s anticuchos and I didn’t want to miss out on the great local food, so I ordered chicken with corn. Yummy! It really was a great meal. I was careful not to over eat because my tummy was upset, but none-the-less, I needed food!

After supper we took a short walk around the area and then Andres (our guide) hailed a group of cabs for us so we could head to our next ‘surprise’ destination. He wouldn’t tell us where we were going, just put us in taxis and off we went.

Lori and I were in the back seat of the taxi having a nice little conversation. I remember very clearly that we were driving down a main highway when the attack came!

My tummy started to grumble at me. I continued my conversation, but it got more laboured to speak.

For anyone who has ever suffered from IBS or traveler’s diarrhea, you understand the panic that comes over you when you have to go to the bathroom immediately. Ok, I can already hear some of you laughing! I know it has happened to you. When I say immediately, I truly mean it. There is no warning. There is no spare time. In fact, if I was sitting comfortably in my living room at home, I might not even make it to the nearest bathroom! It is immediate. It is an attack!

In the middle of my conversation, in the middle of a sentence … I stopped talking.

Then a moment later I told Lori … ‘I’m sorry I can’t talk right now. I think I need a bathroom.’

This, however, was a problem as we barrelled down the huge highway with no idea where we were headed. What was I going to do? How would I ever tell the taxi driver (in my extremely broken spanish) that I needed a bathroom immediately? And, even if he pulled over to the side of the highway, it isn’t like that was going to do me any good!

Bless her heart, I remember very clearly Lori saying ‘It’s ok Shari. Is there anything I can do? Do you need to hold or squeeze my hand?’.

It took everything I had in me to concentrate on breathing through the pain and quite honestly, to hold it in so I didn’t have an accident! I am not exaggerating! I closed my eyes and breathed, just hoping and praying that we got to our destination soon and that there would be a bathroom. Lori understood and sat in silence.

After a few excruciating minutes, the pain subsided, the emergency lessened and I was able to breathe almost normally .. Still very aware that it would likely come again!

We exited from the highway and in to a sketchy area of town. The taxi driver immediately told me to put my phone and camera away, roll up the window and lock the door. Like I needed the shit scared out of me at this point! (ha ha ha)

He didn’t have to tell me twice, that’s for sure! Just looking out the window at the characters on the street made me want to move to the middle of the car and cower!

We arrived safely, and miraculously, the urgency had passed. I didn’t feel the need to rush to a bathroom at all. And good thing, because I think most people were just using the sidewalk as their ‘stall’.

Just another adventure in my travels … traveler’s diarrhea – attacks in taxi.

Travel like a Diva … with a cup … Part 3

This truly is part 3 of a series, so if you haven’t read part 1 and part 2, hunker down in a private place where you can laugh out loud and you don’t have to explain yourself! I’m suggesting that your office cubicle is not sufficient for this! Trust me …. I’m telling you!

Oh yes, and men, well, you should just skip to another post now. This one talks about having your period while traveling. I’m guessing you aren’t interested …

Here we go! Part 3 …

I was both lucky and unlucky enough to have my period the week before I left on my South American Adventure. I was lucky of course because I wasn’t having my period while flying and during my first week of travels. I was UNLUCKY because this moved my schedule so that I would be having my period … dun da da dahhhhhhh … during my homestay in Ccaccaccollo! Not impressed!

On my first day at our homestay, we went back to our houses with our mommies and got dressed up in traditional attire before heading out for a walk around the community. Traditional attire means large colorful skirts, a white blouse, a short black jacket and a hat. All of which we put on over our regular clothes.

When my mommy put my skirt on me and went to tie it up, she put her hand on my belly and asked ‘Bambino?’. I wanted to cry (but I didn’t). I told her ‘No, Bambino.’

Hmmmm … really? Did I look pregnant? Maybe not a good day to ask me that seeing as my period should be arriving at any time!

I was kind of offended, but I tried to keep in mind that in their culture, being pregnant is a huge blessing and it wasn’t meant to be offensive at all. Unfortunately this only changed the pain from a sting to a dull ache.

After our walk around town we removed the layers of traditional clothing and got back to wearing our stretch pants, sweaters and my trusty rain jacket.

One of the things I loved most about my rain jacket was the endless pockets. They weren’t necessarily placed in the best positions for easy access, but wow, could you ever fit a lot in them!

At ALL times, my jacket pockets were stuffed with at least two travel packs of kleenex (or toilet paper), hand sanitizer, often a snack, a bottle of water, some odds and ends of camera gear and my hat and mittens when it got too hot.

This first night in Ccaccaccollo I added to the pocket stuffing list:
two tampons, a pad and my diva cup

Yup, everywhere I went for the next few days my diva cup was with me.

Now, although I was ‘packing’ my diva cup, I really had no idea how I was going to be able to use it. Have you read “It’s a squatter Part 2”?

I really thought that the diva cup was going to be my best friend while I was having my period during this trip in Peru.

My first trip to the outhouse that day was in the dark, flashlight in hand. I didn’t talk about this in my ‘squatter’ blog, but when I went to the bathroom, I was also checking to see if I had started my period. Yup, that means shining the flashlight on my undies and checking the toilet paper. Nothing there. The waiting game continues.

Isn’t it awful that there isn’t a clear sign to tell us to run to the bathroom and put a cork in it before it is too late? You know, before we ruin a pair of underwear or have an embarrassing situation at work, before you decide to have sex with someone and ‘surprise’… there it is! What? No, none of those things have ever happened to me or any of my girl friends!

I mean really, since our bodies are created with all of these intricacies, couldn’t one have been implemented to set an internal alarm off saying ‘Period commencing in 3 … 2 … 1 …’

Men, are you still reading? It really only gets worse from here ….

So, no period on my first night at Ccaccaccollo, but it is due to arrive at any time!

Day 2 at the homestay, I head to the bathroom with all of my personal products to check for my Aunt Flow. Am I hoping she’s come to visit? Well, kind of … just to have it over with. The sooner she arrives, the sooner she leaves, right? No luck. Still no period.

By the afternoon, I’m starting to worry a little and my mind is wandering …

hmmm … Mami in an ancient village asks me if I’m carrying a child …
hmmm … haven’t had any of my regular PMS symptoms and I’m officially late.
I’m Late.
Holy crap I’m LATE!
OMG could I be pregnant?
OMG is this woman telling me something instead of asking me something?
Holy crap, could I be pregnant?

SHARI! Earth to Shari!

Ok. I really can’t be pregnant. Being pregnant requires the act of having sex. Phew! What a relief that is! (ha ha ha I just cracked myself up)

PANIC …. Wait, when did I have sex last?
Think …. think ….
Ok, PHEW! It was before my last period, before I left Canada. (yes, I just published this … WEIRD!)
Phew! I really can’t be pregnant, I must just be late.
It must be the food, the exercise, the change in schedule.
Did I say PHEW! yet?

After this 30 seconds of panic, my heart rate returned to normal and I realized that I could not possibly be pregnant, so I’d just have to wait for it.

Then the conversation in my head continued in a different direction …

So, ‘self’ … how is it that you are going to actually deal with this when it does arrive. Let’s make a plan so we aren’t totally caught off guard.

(do you like how there are two of us in this conversation? Me … and my other self, Me.)

Picture an outhouse … the basic kind, not the porta-potty kind … Tin roof and sides, cement floor, hole in ground. Now, picture yourself squatting over that hole to do your bathroom business. Fine, that’s not so bad .. just like going in the woods, right?

Outhouse in Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Outhouse in Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Outhouse in Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Outhouse in Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Now, picture yourself squatting over the hole trying to get the diva cup out of your jacket pocket and out of it’s pretty little cotton bag. Ok, a bit of a struggle, but doable. But you can’t set anything down. Tuck the pretty little cotton bag back into your jacket pocket and prepare for the challenge. Don’t forget, you are still in full squat-to-the-ground position with your pants around your ankles and a rain jacket on. Not to mention the fact that you are squatting over an open hole with no seat to catch you if you lose your balance! (EWWWW!) Not that you could actually fall in, the hole isn’t that big, but still … EWWWW!

Diva cup in hand, you push the centre of it in and get ready. Now you have to use both hands to actually insert it.

Ok. Here’s where I lose it. Squatting over an open hole … trying not to breathe in too many fumes … holding a little cup in my hand, trying to balance and not fall over while pants are at my ankles. Then needing to use both of my hands to insert the cup?

I can’t do it!

All of this conversation in my head to plan for the moment my period arrives and I’m in the outhouse and I’ve already decided I can’t do it!

Flashback to Part 2:


The cup slips out of my grasp, hits the door with a dull little thud and bounces to the floor. “OMG I’m glad I’m at home, not in a public bathroom right now!” What if I had lost my grip, the cup hit the door, then the floor and rolled right out of the stall? I might just die!

Instead of the Seinfeld episode ‘Can you spare a square?’ it would be ‘Can you roll my alternative menstrual product back under the stall for me please? And then, can you leave the bathroom before I do, so you never see my face?’”

Yup, the flashback pretty much ruined it for me. What if I lost my grip on the Diva cup and it popped right out of my hand? What if it landed on the floor in the outhouse? Worse, what if it fell in the hole? Not only is there no retrieving it, but one of the men who cleans out the outhouse would eventually find it and probably wonder what it was!

Not only are both of these thoughts disgusting, but unfortunately, both are realities of things that could happen. That little cup is springy and you have to have a good grip on it to make sure you don’t lose it.

So, on day 2, it has been decided that if my period arrives while I’m at my homestay, I will be using pads and tampons.

Day 3 we head out to the carnival celebrations in the community of Toray. I’m still carrying feminine products, including my diva cup everywhere I go! Maybe this community will have washrooms with toilets!

The community did indeed have public washrooms with toilets. However, I think I preferred my hole in the ground in the outhouse. Seems crazy, I know, but the public washrooms are not well taken care of. In fact, they aren’t taken care of at all. You fend for yourself.

You would never ever ever dream of sitting on the toilet … there’s no seat on it, but it doesn’t really matter. Seat or no seat, everyone else has already squatted, done their business and can’t be bothered to wipe off the seat. Not a chance in hell that I would ever let any part of me touch that toilet!

And for those of you who have fears of sitting on public toilets in Canada and the US. For those of you who avoid public washrooms all together … Well, simply, you should just never, ever leave those two countries or you will not survive. We are pampered. Our bathrooms are luxurious. If there is a toilet seat you can sit on, you are a Queen!

If you think that washrooms in Canada at a gas station in the middle of nowhere is bad, think again. Public washrooms in developing countries don’t even come close to the cleanliness of a bad washroom in Canada.

So, despite the fact that there were actually toilets in this community, not a chance that if my period had started I was going to try to squat and insert the diva cup over the disgustingness of the public toilets.

By the end of day 3 at our homestays, I was nearly 5 days late. No PMS symptoms, no period and a lovely woman who had asked (more than once now) if I was carrying a ‘Bambino’.

Hmmmm … really … is she trying to tell me something? Is immaculate conception in the Andes Mountains a normal occurrence? Is she predicting my future?

Nah … she just thinks my ‘fat’ is a baby. It sucks, but that’s all it is. More than a little discouraging, especially after already having lost weight on the trip, but what can you do!

We leave the lovely Ccaccaccollo community the next morning, off on our next adventure which is heading to Machu Picchu! Still no period.

Advance a few days … still no period.

Lima, Feb 28 – We have a great final night out with our G Adventures leader, Andres. We head out to a local bar (blog post on all of this coming soon), but I’m not feeling my best. I had come down with traveller’s diarrhea in Aguas Calientes and despite having started on Cipro, it wasn’t in check yet. The local bar was pretty sketchy though and decided to avoid the bathrooms if at all possible.

At around 11pm we got cabs and headed back to the hotel.

11:30pm back in my hotel room … SURPRISE! My period had started.
Someone was watching over me and allowed me to make it all the way back to my hotel room that night without any embarrassing accidents in my khaki colored shorts. Here I was, the last day of my trip, more than fives days late and my period was starting when I could actually sit on a toilet, use both hands and insert my diva cup properly.

For awhile there, I thought that the diva cup was a lost cause … in the end, I enjoyed having it just as much as I thought I would, but only when there are good washrooms!

Best part about it was that somehow my period magically avoided my entire trip except for the last day. And, I got to use the Diva cup while traveling home which is really wonderful when you have to use airplane bathrooms.

This is a whole other story, but trying to spread your knees and insert a tampon while in an airplane bathroom is nearly impossible … right ladies??? I know you feel my pain!

Use a diva cup – you can keep it in for 12 hours. No need to reinsert on the plane.

I {heart} my diva cup!

15 ways to be a bad traveler

I’ve done a whole lot of travel in the last three weeks … something crazy like 10 flights, 3 boat rides, 2 train rides, 1 large tourist bus and umpteen private buses … oh yea and lots of cabs. I’ve seen A LOT! Now, here’s my top 15 annoyances – Ways to be a bad traveler …

1. Ignore carry on luggage rules then move everyone else’s already stowed luggage to try and fit your oversize bag in the overhead compartment. Don’t forget to poke, prode and squish everyone else’s stuff first. I know you’d be very calm if a stranger was man-handling your fragile carry on items!

2. When that same carry on bag doesn’t fit, throw a little tantrum and explain that it is exactly the same size as the blue bag that ‘that lady’ is putting up there … because OBVIOUSLY your isn’t larger than hers.

3. When the airlines call for rows 15-30 to load the plane, be one of the passengers in row 1-14 who just can’t wait to get on that plane and hold everyone up so that no one can get past and actually cause the plane to take longer to load.

4. When the airlines make their announcements in both Spanish and English for rows 15-30 to load, and you speak both languages, make sure that you still go ask at the airline booth if row 5 is loading. They LOVE it when you do that!

5. Play solitare or bejewled on the touch screen on your Continental flight by pounding your fingers into the screen to get it to work, forcing the person in the seat in front of you to bob forward every time … do this for at least an hour in the middle of the night.

6. Complain about everything. It’s too hot, it’s too dirty. The food is bad. The line is too long. Why do I have to sit in the centre. Complaining is my favorite!

7. You should definitely pack your passport away in your carry on luggage after each security person sees it. Then when you go through immigration, customs, recheck your luggage, security you should take at least three minutes to track down the passport that you put away in the same pocket five times in a row in the past 15 minutes.

8. When going through security, please keep all of your jewelry on, your cell phone in your pocket, your ball cap and your shoes on. Then look really annoyed and embarrassed when the scanner beeps.

9. Instead of asking the tourist bus to stop, you should definitely do your smelly number two on the bus. Please make sure that it doesn’t flush and clogs the toilet. That’s always particularly fun for all of the passengers who can breathe and for all those who only have to do a number one and can’t.

10. When the plane or bus stops, rush into the aisle to try to be the first off the bus even though your connection isn’t for five hours. Make sure you stick your elbows out and be rude to anyone who tries to get past you for their connecting flights in less than one hour.

11. Worry about everything and express every single worry that you have out loud … regularly. Definitely try to pull people in to being worried with you rather than staying calm. It is always better to create panic over simple things rather than breathing deep and letting them pass when you can’t control them.

12. Get really annoyed and speak quickly in your native language (English) to someone in another country who doesn’t speak English. It only makes sense when you travel to another country that they should be able to speak every language in the world and cater to your frustration in your one language. You should definitely not even try to communicate in the language of the country you are in. That would be ridiculous. Definitely demand that they cater to you in your native language.

13. While people are still loading the plane or train, try to change your seats so that you can sit with your “bestie” that you only met five minutes ago standing in line. When someone tells you that you are in their seat, play dumb like you couldn’t read the numbers / letters on the rows.

14. On public transit when there are a lot of people lined up to get on a bus, you should always get on, sit in the aisle seat and pile your bags on the inside seat to welcome someone to come sit with you. It’s even better when a stewardess is specifically counting the number of seats left to let passengers on. You’ll definitely get away with sitting on your own. I’m sure the stewardess can’t count to 40.

15. Last, but not least, when you are at any of the tourist hotels in Peru, come in after midnight make sure you bang your suitcases up and down the stairs instead of carrying them … You’re entire tour of 15 people should do this to make the loud banging noise last for 10-15 minutes. It also helps if you start yelling for your friends to see where they are.