What about your saucepans
Ten years in the life of a British woman
living in the Dominican Republic

Family life

This is a preview to the chapter Family life from the book What about your saucepans by Lindsay de Feliz.
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After about six months we moved out of the apartment, as it was not big enough for all of us. Not far away was a two-storey house with its own garden and an aged, gay Italian called Oscar living upstairs. He lived in Florida but used the house for holidays. Downstairs was a two bedroomed flat, much bigger than the apartment, and a large garden for Can Can. In the garden was a small house occupied by Chi Chi the security man or watchyman as it is called. Chi Chi was a nice man, short with enormous ears. He was a good handyman and knew everything about everything, from plumbing to electrics, to world politics, geography and even medicine. He would speak convincingly and you would believe him, as most Dominicans did. He and I would have long conversations.
“Lindsay, you have eight kidneys,” he told me once.
“Really?” I replied, smiling. “And where is your liver?”
“Right here,” he said pointing to under his left armpit. He was full of little gems like this. Like most Dominicans he was always known by his nickname, Chi Chi, ‘little boy’. He had been brought up in the campo, ‘village’, usually very remote. His mother had died shortly after he was born; he was her fourth child and she was only fourteen years old. Whilst I often found it hard to comprehend the behaviour of the Dominicans I met, those from campos, known as campesinos, were even more removed from everything I was used to. Chi Chi's first sexual experience was when he was nine years old, he said – when he had sex with a donkey.

I continued to be amazed at how much Danilo would care for me. On Valentine’s Day I came home from work, tired as usual, and Danilo grabbed me by the hand and dragged me into the house.
“Happy day of St. Valentin,” he cried. “Now you go into bedroom.” I dutifully walked down the corridor and gingerly opened the bedroom door.
“Wow!” I exclaimed. Everything was decorated in red. A red quilt cover, red lava lamp, red lampshade. And on the bed was a teddy bear with, ‘I love you’ on the front, and a mug with ‘I love you’ too. He came in behind me and put his arms round my waist.
“You like?”
“Yes, I love it,” I said smiling, trying to take it all in.

Around this time Danilo joined the Dominican Air Force as a karate expert, because he had a black belt. Being military personnel meant he could not be arrested. Since we had been together he had been arrested three times for no reason; before we met he had never been arrested. The police knew he had a gringa (meaning foreign, usually American, but used for all foreign girlfriends) who they assumed had money, so they would arrest him and I would have to pay vastly inflated prices to get him out of jail. The last time he was arrested, in Guayacanes, the fishing village next to Juan Dolio, the police came to let me know and offered to give me a lift to the jail on their motorbikes to release him. They were hoping for a cut of the money I would have to hand over. Three bikes set off along the motorway and, as word got out, eleven motorbikes, each with two policemen, accompanied us to Guayacanes. I duly handed over the cash and Danilo was released, while the policemen jostled with each other to get their cut.
The police were very poorly paid and always asking for handouts or food, or money for petrol for their motorbikes. For some reason I didn't think of this as corruption, but accepted it as a way of life.

I had arrived in the Dominican Republic in November 2002 and had a return ticket to Madrid for the beginning of November 2003. We decided to try and obtain a visa for Danilo for a holiday in the UK and go back for a couple of weeks before my ticket expired. The visa process is not easy, and we had to fill in lots of forms and provide a range of information. Danilo had to prove he would not stay in the UK and had to have money in bank accounts in the DR and to own a business or have a good job. All the forms were submitted to the British Embassy and after a couple of weeks he was called for an interview. We hoped the fact I worked in the DR and had a letter from Klaus to say I was leaving for two weeks holiday would also help, and we had a letter of invitation from my father, Squadron Leader Peter Firth (El Coronel Peter) as Danilo called him.

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