Hi,

The end of the year and approaching dry season find us both healthy and happy here in Las Galeras, this year more relaxed than last. This is most certainly because of the number of projects completed around the immediate vicinity of the house last year.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of worthy work around here, it’s just that I have to make some small effort to see it. Accordingly, I’ve actually read several novels, in addition to a 6-month backlog of scores of periodicals and yet another slew of Dominican histories.

Based on my recent reading, it looks like the presidential election is Barack Obama’s to lose. Best wishes to him, and here’s hoping that the apparatchiks don’t manage to fritter away the substantial and terrible advantages gifted him by the Bush Administration. Or co-opt his administration in any of a thousand little attractive and detrimental ways…

Actually, we do keep pretty current with events in the world. Our friends and neighbors have shared their wireless network with us and in consequence we’re able to access the Internet from one corner of the house this year. That’s hugely more convenient than traveling to the Internet Cafe in the village or writing lengthy missives with the thumbs on the BlackBerry. Actually, the BBerry connection itself is a pretty recent development in town and represented a significant improvement over the hike to the dial-up Cafe. Technological progress here by leaps and bounds!

Those of you who may recognize the more compulsive aspect in my character will understand the single-mindedness that I’ve brought to trying to develop and extend the wireless signal throughout this part of the neighborhood. So far with some progress, but without the success that ultimately either is, or is not achieved.

Anyway, I open up the laptop and feel the lure of Linux hacking and Router and Access Point configuration drawing me into a technical vortex in which I do find a measure of poesy but, alas, no missives. In any event, that’s my excuse for not writing, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Our first visitors of the year will join us for a week or so in a few days and they will no doubt appreciate it if I wander through the guest bungalow and tighten up a few loose ends before they arrive. You will appreciate the plumbing parts they are delivering and which I will surely install sometime before your visit. That the “walk-through” remains to be done is part of the seduction of that “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” mentality I mentioned a moment ago. I’m sure that the bungalow is lovely, but if you’d asked me 2 months ago, I’d have said that it would have fresh paint by now. “C’est la vie,” as we French say here in Las Galeras.

The garden still requires an inordinate amount of “work” but at the same time it’s a lot more manageable than in previous years. I’m continuing the process begun last year of removing some of the less-attractive trees and shrubs, those that crowd other seemingly more attractive plants. I imagine that this simplification will eventually make it pretty painless to keep up the garden. “Vamos a ver,” as we Dominicans say. As far as that goes, the gardening isn’t difficult; and there’s always ibuprofen and the hammock overlooking the sea and bay with the gentle lulling sounds of the reef and the beach in the background. That’s me talking, too.

The fauna are ceaselessly amusing around here. There’s a pretty large and quite graceful cuckoo bird that is swift, silent and quite deadly as it slips through the trees and shrubs looking for big bugs, small geckos and, I presume, love. A pair of yellow-winged blackbirds has spent weeks in determined and endless battle with the rear-view mirrors on the car; and the dragon has decamped from the kitchen and taken up temporary residence in the wall-mounted gas hot water heater in the bathroom. Bees, livestock and other domesticated animals all provide anecdotes worthy of mention in detail, if not in this missive. Our neighbors’ old dog, Vanille, could fill a couple of good-sized and interesting chapters all by herself, I suppose.

Some of you (Heather, Oscar) will be particularly pleased to know that the vagabond dog has surfaced a survivor and nearly completely mended to join the ranks of the homeless-but-cared-for pack downtown. He’s still a bit aloof from his canine fellows and appears to have forgiven humankind for what agonies we inflicted on him. There was no flicker of recognition that I could detect when we met on the beach a few days before Christmas. However, he did pull up in the lee of a piece of driftwood, curl up, turn his back and hang with us for a game or two of Petanque that took maybe a half-hour or so. I’m predicting that I’ll see him frolic with another of the younger dogs before too long.

Others of you (some, no doubt, for obscure and perverse reasons) will be interested to know that the advent of the dry season has brought the youthful offspring of the frog to visit in the damp shower during the night. I’m pleased to report that lifting the toilet lid does not seem to be a hereditary skill in the amphibian class.

We’re fitting into the community in Las Galeras, which is multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-class, composed of Europeans and Americans who share the common attraction presented by the fishing village cum new town on the beach at the end of the road. It’s an interesting mix, and I think that the Dominicans who hold the whole thing together in a host of ways are sometimes quietly amused. At least I hope they are.

There’s one guy here, a friend and neighbor, who is a retired Boston cop and full-time character. A cursory Google search of the term “Las Galeras” will reveal a few references to him and his activities, including his self-assumed role as Santa Clause to the children in Las Galeras and surrounding environs.

Beginning in June, Paul starts to grow what becomes a formidable head of white hair and a flowing white beard. As the holiday approaches he dons his “less-formal” Santa attire and it’s not unusual to see a bronze-colored round and impish guy zipping along the roads astride his red 4-wheeled ATV which is all polished for the season.

A few years ago, at his instigation, some of the foreign ex-pats began to contribute a little time and money to put together a hundred or so bags of commodities and several hundred small bags of candy for distribution to families in the more remote campo and in a church and school in Las Galeras. We enjoy the camaraderie of assembling the packages, but avoid the distribution which was administered this year by Paul in his formal Santa Suit and a German neighbor with transportation assistance from an Italian foundation operating in Las Galeras.

A good time was reportedly had by all, and Santa shaved on the 25th. I’ve got a pre-shave picture of him and his wife on the quad when they stopped by to deliver a birthday visit.

Now you’ve got something to look for at www.elotrowa.com

Happy New Year.

Bill

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