Hi,

Denise and I are looking over the list of things to do before closing up here in Las Galeras and returning to the US in a couple of weeks. It’s a long list.

Not surprisingly, we’ve a few things to do that are completely foreign to the counterpart list that we use when we leave DC.

Here, for example, we’ll ask a neighbor to keep an eye out for when the electric company folds up the monthly bill and sticks it in the gate. It just wouldn’t do for their invoice to dissolve in the rain and blow away, unpaid. (Although exactly that might be a desirable event in Samana or in Santo Domingo, where the theft of electrical power is a common and popular pastime.) Here in Las Galeras we love the electric company. We all eagerly keep coming back each month until finally we catch the receipts clerk at his desk and available to receive our payment in exact change.

The physical invoice from the power company is computer-generated and printed with a laser printer. The hand-delivery system is actually quite practical. The electricity itself is generated by a big Caterpillar diesel. Our receipt is hand-written.

That business is a good sort of sample of how things are done here. This is a new town with an emerging infrastructure and that retains rich personal and cultural traditions.

So we can be amused by the invoice-in-the-gate method of billing and wryly observe that it’s best to bring exact change when settling accounts, but we’ve also learned that the electric company is human too and that 10 or 15 pesos one way or another in lieu of exact change is acceptable in a pinch. I don’t expect that will work in Takoma.

Before we go we’ll ask another friend to keep our Dominican cell phones alive in our absence by adding 100 pesos (about 3 bucks) to the phones and making a call once a month. That way we won’t lose the accumulated pesos or the assigned numbers while we’re in the US.

Some things on our list, like the above, have a social component and require assistance from someone here. Another couple of items involve working with institutions like the government or the bank. Those transactions can be as vexing as anything that the Bank of America has to offer.

But mostly our checklist involves things and the cleaning, oiling, preserving, and securing of them.

Since we’re more established here, now we have more things. Accordingly, closing up is more involved than was the case with our previous and shorter visits.

Looking back to November, I’m impressed with the number and variety of things we’ve accomplished here.

We have friends, can make our way around without too much difficulty, and have made huge headway in turning this house into a home. We’ve finally found a good and convenient teacher of Spanish. People sometimes ask our advice. Occasionally we have some to offer. We’re more familiar than before.

Still, the shift from one kind of life and culture to another feels a little odd right now. I imagine that transitioning–in both directions–will only get more familiar and hence easier. My eventual goal, borrowed from a retired IBEW member from NYC, is to be able to get on an airplane carrying only a toothbrush.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how I’ll pack going home…

It’s warming up in DC and has lately begun to rain a bit here in Las Galeras, a preview of the season to come in both locales. We got down to 13″ of water in the cistern at one point last month but are now up over 42″ with more certainly on the way.

Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that we’ll both luxuriate in long showers when we arrive in DC. I imagine that the fully-automatic Maytag will hold a certain attraction and maybe central air conditioning will still have its appeal. The dishwasher is simply inconceivable at this moment.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t tired of the near-constant breeze off the ocean and our semi-automatic General Master Dominican washing machine still seems pretty extravagant by local standards. We wash dishes immediately and they never seem a problem, even with 8 or 10 people up for dinner. I wouldn’t know where to put a dishwasher here, maybe outdoors.

We expect a bit of culture shock upon returning, but have both demonstrated that we’re pretty adaptable, and so we’ll cope.

With everything that we’ve accomplished here (including a boatload of stuff that was never on ANY list) we’re still adhering remarkably well to the plan set out when I left the Painters last Labor Day.

At that time, we left home and traveled for a couple of months–making a clean break of it. And then we’ve spent 5 months here in the Dominican, as planned.

Now we’ll check in with family and friends and I’ll begin to look for projects or contract work, perhaps doing economic or political education or working with an internal organizing initiative; maybe I’ll do a little ghost writing or editing for union publications.

Vamos a ver, “we shall see,” as we say in the RD.

My friend and colleague still imagines developing transformative software to serve an international union. I’ve seen that he can deliver such, and doing so would make a respectable capstone to a very satisfying career. That’s something worth looking into as well.

Vamos a ver.

Bill
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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