Monday, July 27, 2009

Adjusting to tropical life

Notes on the science of Peace

or why tropical countries are not more developed

or why is that the repair man cannot get here by 2 30

or why it does no good to scream

I have been back to store Three times since the new fridge stopped working last Thursday. They have assured me that the manufacturer will send a representative to certify it for repair since their technician has already certified that is a gas leak and the fridge is only three months old.

And I have certified to them. In my sweetest Dominican way. With no anger at all, because I am learning, always learning. That if there is not a new fridge in my apartment by Wed, they will be talking with the American Express Company rather than me.

It is assumed that I will sit here and wait for them to arrive.

We joke here about getting things do. Once I made a list with three things on it, and got all three of them done. A friend bragged that she once had a list with 6 things on it and got all six things done in one day. No one believes her.

So this is what happens. One learns to have no expectations of accomplishment.

One learns that they will arrive when they arrive.

As it will happen, it will happen........

But it is not an easy adjustment.

Friday, July 17, 2009


"Estoy aqui para apprender paciencia" I explained to the para leagal who was my companion through the process of getting my residency here in the Dominican Republic. I am here to learn patience. "the ability to supress restlessness when faced with a delay"

We had inched to the front of the line to be told that no, the photocopy of the passport would not do, the original was needed. He worked for the attorney. He should have known. They should have told me. I should have known. It was the government. Of course, they would need the original.But I have already had five years of learning not to get angry. Since Dominicans are very very slow to anger. What would be solved by anger?

These people are good for my soul.

Later at lunch, I was explaining a bit about my religion, the Quaqueros, which sounds like a gathering of ducks in Spanish..... about the peace testimony.

And he came back to my statement.

I am here to learn patience.

Paciencia in Spanish is, he said "la science de la paz"

The science of peace

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Santo Domingo

There is no need for Blue Laws banning commerce here on Sundays. The city is shut down tight every Sabbath. Only the occasional small stores, called "colmados", selling the bare essentials of life such as water and beer and fruit and salted codfish are open. The colmados are a great luxury of life here. With only a phone call, they will deliver to your home the very thing you are missing, the five gallon bottle of purified water, the onion, the liter of milk. The birds are louder than the traffic.

It is a pleasure to be in the city on Sundays. It is also a joy to make the space ready for the arrival for the other Friend in anticipation of Meeting.

Christopher Columbus actually landed what is now Haiti in 1492. Then the Christians started their tradition of behaving like savages in this hemisphere. After only a few years, they figured out that the native Indians here would simply not make suitable slaves and started importing Africans.

This nation is officially Catholic, having signed a deal with the Vatican under Trujillo. The Vatican also signed a deal with Duvalier. Somehow in Haiti, Christianity never quite completely took over. Voudo was always practiced. or at least respected by a large portion of the population. The Catholics tolerated it/ Aristide legalized it. The Protestants, at least a great many of the Evangelicals, consider it to be the work of Satan.

The Evangelicals make regular mission trips here, bringing gifts for the poor, repairing buildings, teaching the Gospel. I don't know quite what to make of them. Most of the Evangelical churches here are very patriarchal, very fire and brimstone, preaching the Word with a sword. Yet I have heard Dominicans say that if someone says that they are "Christian" it means that they are "Evangelical" and that they "really believe".

We have a large quantity of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and 7th Day Adventist, and all types of free lance missionaries sent by their congregations. There is a large Baptist Church which even has an English service. There is an Episcopal Church with a small seminary which has a service in English and twice monthly shares with Union Chucrh services which uses the Armed Forces Book of Prayer. I attended for a year but it was a stretch for a Quaker.

In the end, I had to acknowledge that I am not a Christian. I do not believe in the scapegoat theory of the life of Jesus. I believe that my sins are my own and I alone will answer for them. I am not washed in the blood of the Lamb, nor do I wish to be. But I do love the story and read the book with interest, along with poetry of Rumi, Bagadavita,and the Course in Miracles.

I then went over to meditate with the Yoganada group but found that I could not indeed, bow to and follow the guru. Nor did I wish to travel cross town to sit with the Buddhist.

So it was with great delight that I was contacted by the searching Friend in January. Every Monday we receive any messages that may have been delivered back in my home Meeting in Asheville, NC. Since we are, in fact, only 300 miles further away from Asheville than Philadelphia is.

And Light knows no distance.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Model Prisons in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic appears to be leading the world in designing an entire prison system based on the model of restorative justice. Read my article here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leaving Haiti

I have decided to Leave Haiti on this blog. Or rather as we Quakers would say, my concern has been lifted. In the future,I will focus more on the Dominican Republic.

When I came here almost five years ago, I was carrying the concern, as I have done all my life, for unraveling the roots of slavery, perhaps healing the wounds a bit.

The events of the past year have been a Balm in Gilead. I was in fact in Haiti the night that Barack got the nomination. I was weeping on the porch of the Grand Hotel Olaffson, the place where I would probably live if I had enough money.

In the morning, at breakfast, I asked everyone I met if they ever thought it would have been possible, did it change the way they thought about America? "No, I would never have believed it." A prominent visiting journalist said,"It tells me something about Americans, it tells me that they are willing to look inside a person, to see their insides and not the color of their skins."

Haiti was not safe when I came here, and perhaps still is not too safe for a single white woman. It is also a lot more expensive and difficult to live. Despite my love for it, I decided two years ago that I was not going to live here. But I was still not sure that I was staying here.

In January, I had a long talk with God. After all, my own country was in trouble, there was work to be done there, I could help there. We had Obama. There was no risk that I would end up in prison for civil disobedience, which had been a distinct possibility under Bush.

"You are going to have to make it very clear to me that You want me here or else I am going back. My lease is over in March. I do not have a spiritual community here. I do not have a sense of belonging. I do not have a sense of being needed. You are going to have to make Your intentions known."

That week I received:

1. A formal invitation to dine at the British Ambassador's house on the eve of President Obama's Inauguration

2. An e-mail from a Dominican who had been studying Quakerism for ten years and who identified himself as a liberal un-programmed Friend, saying he found this blog and that I was the answer to his prayers.

3. A letter from my editor in NY, requesting more stories from the Dominican Republic and saying that she thought I "was a great writer."

Enough with the burning bush, already!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It is hot. I am allergic to probably everything. Feeling sorry for myself Missing My Quakers who are gathering now in Virgina, Missing my home country on this fourth of july, a holiday I usually avoid celebrating since I so mourn the wars and the deaths we have caused. But I do so love my country, despite her flaws. I fear I am becoming the worst of immigrants, imagining that everything was perfect back home.

There was a Quaker killed this week at Gathering. There were posts of her, finally I read one from her home meeting in Oregon, testifying to the fact that she was, indeed a Weighty Friend (the term we use for someone who we feel speaks from a spiritual depth)I knew that she had to be one because of the mannar of her death. She was hit while riding her bicycle at Yearly Meeting, in the Gathering of about 2000 Friends. Who would then, of course, hold a worship service for her passage.

Being the same age as Friend Bonnie Tinker and having been told by my sister that she will hold my memorial on the Internet since my f/Friends are so scattered, I admitted to being a bit jealous.

Safe Passage, Friend Bonnie

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Haiti Relieved of Debt Burden

Victory for Haiti as Nation Secures $1.2 Billion in Debt Cancellation

Extended Campaign to Win Relief for Haiti Finally Pays Off

WASHINGTON – Jubilee USA Network today welcomed the news that Haiti reached âœcompletion point in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program yesterday.

This step means that $1.2 billion in external debt owed by the impoverished island nation to bilateral and multilateral lenders including the IMF, World Bank, and US government has been cancelled. The Boards of the World Bank and IMF met yesterday to formally approve Haitis debt stock cancellation under HIPC and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

Today's action to free Haiti of its unjust and unpayable external debt is a welcome and long overdue step. Debt cancellation will provide desperately needed relief for the people of Haiti ,� said Neil Watkins, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of religious groups, development agencies, and human rights groups that has campaigned for Haiti ’s debt cancellation for more than five years.

Haiti suffered through a serious of humanitarian crises in 2008 and endured the devastating impact of four hurricanes. Sharp increases in food and energy prices have also led to an escalation of hunger among the poorest sectors of the population. And Haiti now faces the severe and negative effects of the recent downtown in the global economy.

Through this time of crisis for the island nation, a coalition of political leaders and organizations has pressed for the immediate cancellation of Haiti ’s debt. US organizations including Jubilee USA Network, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, the Quixote Center, Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Episcopal Church, and Partners in Health worked together to build the political will in the US for Haiti’s debt cancellation, in partnership with colleagues in Haiti, throughout the Americas, across Europe and around the world.

In the US , a bi-partisan coalition of 72 Members of Congress signed a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick in February 2009 urging immediate debt cancellation for Haiti . In April 2009, the Obama Administration announced it would cover up to $20 million in debt service payments from Haiti until Haiti reached completion point.

Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Hemisphere faced a long struggle to achieve debt cancellation, facing repeated delays under the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Haiti completion point date was repeatedly pushed back by the World Bank. Jubilee USA and its partners have long argued that much of Haiti"s debt should be considered odious, dating back to loans contracted and often stolen by the brutal Duvalier dictatorships.

For more information, see:

World Bank press release on Haiti ’s completion point:

http://web.worldban EXTERNAL/ COUNTRIES/ LACEXT/0, ,contentMDK: 22232346~ pagePK:146736~ piPK:226340~ theSitePK: 258554,00. html