If you hoped this post would be about some bird species we are going to educate you about, like we did in South Africa, you would be wrong. The nesting of which I speak is our family.
House Hunters International
We are settling in pretty well, a process that we find both familiar and stressful (for
some one of us). We arrived late at night on a Thursday and the next day, Friday, was spent just figuring sh!t out like where is the beach and how do we get communication on our cell phones (#priorities). Saturday then began a bit of a house hunt but of course no one works much on weekends so we had to console ourselves with more beach time. Monday finally rolled around and by Monday afternoon we had viewed 5 apartments. For maximum schedule efficiency, we should have arrived on a Monday so the week was stretched out ahead of us like our own blank canvas. Dan says a few days of acclimatizing at the beach wasn’t a problem. #oppositesattract
Apartment hunting for me is always so stressful because I cannot seem to live only in that moment. It’s a constant roller coaster of “oh this one will work, but it’s kind of far, can we manage that…” to “oh this one is horrible, we’ll never find anything we like, we’re DOOMED!”. We used to do the hunt without the niñas, but we’ve started bringing them along so they can feel more involved in the decision-making process. We also want them to see that when choosing a place to live, there are sometimes sacrifices in one category in order to get what you want in another. That’s life in general. They are getting good about asking things like if electricity is included and scoping out the bedrooms and bathrooms right away. We also have to check water pressure, whether we can flush toilet paper, A/C placement, sun direction, WiFi reach from the router location… the list goes on. I typically check the kitchen and laundry options and Dan checks the overall comfort level and the internet speed. We all have our zones. #teamwork
But we always find somewhere to live, somehow. Dan has to remind me that this is how it goes and not to get too worked up over things. I remind him to be quiet and drive. #truelove
Anyway … the DR delivered just like other countries have (and Dan is right… blah, blah, blah). We settled on a very nice apartment (as in, the nicest place we have lived in since Arizona, circa 2011-2014). It’s more than we want to pay, of course, but still less than we paid to rent a house in Arizona, Netherlands, or Spain.
Finding a place to live is not as easy as it sounds. We are not the easiest clients to please. We have a lot of conflicting wants and needs, including:
- enough space in the apartment so that we don’t kill each other (doesn’t always happen… and we’re all still alive)
- things close by for those of us who cannot or don’t want to drive #me
- things close by to allow for some independence for the teen
- potential social or physical opportunities for the younger child who needs to have energy expelled daily like a Siberian Husky
- a calm and quiet environment for the father, who has had his fill of city noise after living in the heart of the traffic of Medellin #HONK!!!!
- good internet because we have to earn money and can’t miss any new seasons of Below Deck
- “This is our actual home” level of rental prices and not “We saved up all year for this expensive vacation” prices
- and finally, one that will give us good memories
Well, you can’t win them all but we got a lot of them in this place. In the end the final options were 1. an apartment that worked great in terms of price, but not in location or timing of availability, vs 2. an apartment that was not great on price but great on everything else. And so, I guess we’ll try to save money in the next country. Because I hear Europe is nice and cheap….? #not
Our new apartment has three bedrooms, a very large deck, a large and clean kitchen, A/C in each room and every bedroom has a private bathroom. It’s about 75 feet from the beach and 100 feet in the other direction from the main road in town, along which there are stores and restaurants. It’s very short walking distance from the gluten-free waffle place, just like Haley and I wanted. There’s an Indian food restaurant right outside the gate of our particular building. It’s so close, a baseball player could hit it with a rock from our balcony. And the apartment is walking distance to pretty much everything in town. It’s that small of a town. And that good of a location.
Here’s what it doesn’t have: an elevator. It’s three stories up and down, every time we come and go or take the trash out. I swapped out a massive hill in Medellin for stairs in the DR. My butt should be on fleek by the time we leave.
But really, folks. It’s beautiful and we are happy here.
Show Me The Money
Oh DR, you’re killing me with your money. Not prices, but MONEY. For one, it’s pesos, which is the same name as the money in Colombia and in Mexico. For two, the exchange rate could not be any more different than Colombia.
Colombia: drop three zeros and divide by 3. 1000 pesos = 30 cents.
DR: drop two zeros and multiply by 2. 1000 pesos = $20.
Add to this, a 1000-peso increment comes in a coin and a bill. A COIN that is $20 USD? This is crazy. Dan is starting to take them all from my wallet when I get them, for our own financial protection.
Me: Oh, kind dude at the grocery store, you helped bag my groceries? Thanks! Take this little coin for your trouble…..
Also me: Dan, what happened to all the money I got out at the ATM? I only went to the grocery store….
Ignore everything you just read
OMG stop the presses. And completely ignore that entire paragraph about the $20 coin. I am a mess! Literally I was about to publish this blog when I learned that I’ve been wrong this whole time (2 weeks!).
So as I was paying for my Pilates today, the instructor politely corrected me and told me I didn’t pay her enough. What? I counted out the money carefully and I even used up all my 1000-peso coins.
Yeah, turns out those were Colombian pesos.
Yeah, I was confused. But in my defense, Dan was confused too. It was a comedy of errors involving quick Google research in the car where Zoe said indeed there was a 1000 peso coin in DR, followed by her saying “oh, no there’s not” (except I didn’t hear that part) as well as eyesight from two … mature… individuals that can’t see fine print so well.
So I stand corrected. Dominican money is much more normal than I thought and there is no $20 coin. Carry on. Nothing to see here. Definitely not a coin with small print.
Om Nom Nom
We did research on DR food before we came. There is something for everyone when it comes to the typical food here. Beans and rice for Haley and me. Fried plantains for Zoe. Fried chicken for Dan. Thanks, DR, you’ve got it all! Except we haven’t found it. Honestly. Since we’ve been here we’ve had waffles, pizza, burgers, wraps, Indian and a lot of Chinese food. The DR restaurants are here somewhere, I know it. But they are tucked into little areas that we haven’t explored yet. So far, eating has been a means to an end – get full. But soon we’ll have the mental capacity and relaxed schedule to seek out new foods. I did try one local food and declared it my new favorite food. Readers, meet Mofongo.
Our beloved Rappi food delivery is no where to be found. But we did the FSO method by day 4 and had our new favorite Chinese food delivered. The downside is that we have to call them to order and also that it all arrives in this horrible Styrofoam. The good news is that we can order by number and there are 100 items on the menu, so there’s no shortage of variety at the Chinese place. Now that we are in our permanent housing I think Haley and I will be buying some plastic storage containers and giving them to our new Chinese friends as our own personal to-go containers. Totally normal request, right?
We have only just started the cooking-at-home phase. The first place we landed at, booked through Airbnb, was… pretty icky. I told Dan I could not cook there. Haley attempted to grill some chicken one night but the first package of chicken I got from the store smelled really bad. So I took it back, much to my deep embarrassment, and tried to buy a new package, which smelled equally bad. So we gave up on chicken that night and ordered Chinese. It wasn’t the Airbnb’s fault, but we just felt like that place gave out bad karma all around. That and bad smells, not just the chicken.
But since that time we’ve had a few meals in the new apartment. Zoe is getting to know the new machine that looks like a waffle maker but actually is a grilled sandwich maker. We call it the maquina de sammich. It makes great grilled sammiches. I’m a huge fan of the water dispenser that keeps water both cold and hot on demand. Dan is happy to have found Diet Coke in cans again, after a 15 month drought of normal sized cans. Haley is happy with the oven in our apartment, for her future science experiments making gluten free bread.
In Medellin, Jamie called me The Mayor. I would almost always run into people I knew while out and about in our area of town. The small town where we are living in DR is highly conducive for replicating my Mayoral status. It’s such a small town that you run into people you recognize from dinner the day before, or the beach spot you had three days ago, or the tall American trying to speak Spanish at the grocery store (#Dan). I already have my favorite chair, food and drink dudes, Danilo and Miguel, at the beach where I like to park myself for tanning or wave-playing. Yesterday when I left, Danilo said “See you tomorrow”. Little does he know he’s going to see me for a lot of tomorrows!
The guys at our grocery store are getting to know us as well. I think we stand out a wee bit from the other tourists because, 1) the girls and I speak Spanish, and 2) we are a family, and 3) we bring our own bags. We now know the drill of giving them your purse as you walk in the door, for them to hold onto while you shop. Took me awhile to get used to the system of grabbing my phone so I could at least check my list. Now I know the bagger guy, Jorge, who always remembers me as the girl who brings her own bags. He asks about Haley when she’s not with me so perhaps he remembers me for a different reason…?
The apartments where we live also have a bit of a community, with the guards as well as the other residents. We have already met Peter, the German/Italian/New Yorker with the cute little doggie, who may or may not need a doggiesitter at some point (Zoe is praying for a YES on that one).
We are also getting to know the kite surfers, mostly because they are super interesting to watch and the good ones are out there almost every day (practice makes better, Niñas!). I like the small town nature of the area. It’s a huge change from Medellin.
Alrighty, so we’ve got our communication, both cellular and speedy Wifi (at an exorbitant cost of $100 per month for 50 Mbps), we’ve got our sweet housing and next it’s time to start the activities. I have found a Pilates place and I’ll be starting that soon. Zoe and I have settled on a homeschool regimen and will soon be seeking extra classes and volunteer opportunities in town. And Haley will soon dive into diving and fly into kiting.
But first we need to go to the beach. Because #priorities.