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

Hope

This is a preview to the chapter Hope from the book What about your saucepans by Lindsay de Feliz.
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The question was, where should we go?

We had a piece of land in Barahona in the Loma where Danilo had been brought up. We had bought it several years earlier and luckily it had not been taken from us. We would be safe there, and I liked the idea of living on top of a mountain, with fantastic views and pottering on a little farm. Of course Danilo had dreams of going back there as it held a very special place in his heart. But it had no electricity and no water, let alone a house, and was a good two hours drive up a tiny, steep and badly maintained track from the town of Barahona. Danilo felt it would be too remote for me.
We needed somewhere off the beaten track. Somewhere where we could live quietly and unobtrusively. I wanted to be no more than an hour or so from an airport where I could pick Mum up, if she came to visit, and an hour from a good supermarket and decent medical facilities in case I was shot again.

Danilo arranged to pick me up in the north, from Grahame’s house, and we planned to travel the country looking for somewhere to live. He said once we had found somewhere we would go back to Juan Dolio until we eventually moved. At last I would be going home. Whilst I was enjoying the peace and quiet I missed my home and my cats and dogs.

He was due to pick me up at half past two, which changed to four o’clock and finally he turned up at nearly eight at night.
“So, Danilo,” I asked brightly, as I clambered into the car, “where are we going?”
“We go look for somewhere to live,” he answered, grinning at me.
“Well, it’s dark now, so I doubt we’ll find anywhere at this time of night. Where will we stay tonight?” I asked.
“In house.”
“What house? Whose house? Where is this house?” I was full of questions.
“You will see,” was the only answer I could get out of him, so I sat back to enjoy the ride. I had no idea where we were going, and dozed off. I was abruptly wakened with the car bumping up and down, and looked out of the window. We appeared to be in the middle of some sort of barrio, or neighbourhood, with lots of little wooden houses with zinc roofs. Every so often there was a bigger concrete house, sometimes one storey and sometimes two.
“Where are we?” I asked, as he drove slowly along the rutted dusty track.
“We are nearly there. You will see,” he replied, smiling.
Suddenly he stopped the car, and beeped the horn in front of a large metal gate. To my surprise Dany came running out and pulled the gate open and Danilo drove into the gravel yard in front of a two storey concrete house. And there, sat on our very own picnic dining table, were Tyson, Fred, Sophie, and Shakira, the new Belgian Malinois puppy who had been given to us a few weeks previously.

“My dogs!” I yelled, as I scrabbled to get out of the car and threw my arms around Sophie and nuzzled her neck. I was trying not to cry, but I was insanely happy to see them. The dogs were barking and jumping up at me, and Danilo pulled me by the arm.

“Come on, come inside. Come and see inside.” I followed him through the front door and gasped.
“Oh my God, look!” I exclaimed. It was perfect. All of my pictures were on the walls, everything was in its place. It was spotless. Danilo and the boys had been moving us for a week. We had left Juan Dolio, never to return. Yet another of his surprises. The house was rented and had a reasonable living area, nice sized kitchen, three bedrooms and one bathroom. It also had a large fenced-in yard.
“But what about my cats?” I asked in consternation. “Where are the cats?”
“I bring them next week,” he replied, grinning. Two minutes later the boys appeared with an enormous cage. The poor cats had been in there for a week. No one dared let them out as they were afraid they would escape. I let them out into one bedroom and you can imagine how pleased they were. Four had not made the journey, as Danilo could not find them to bring them. I was left with seven, but they were all fine.

Danilo took me from room to room showing me everything. It was a nice little house. The landlady lived upstairs but was leaving to go back to New York, and would not be back for a year.
“Lindsay this is where we live now until court case is over. You tell no one we are here. No one. We must be very careful.” For the first time in nearly two years, I slept in my own bed with my husband, knowing no one would be coming to kill us. No waking up at every sound, no heart pounding in my chest.
Life in the barrio was very different. The noise for one thing. It was only quiet from midnight to five in the morning, apart from barking street dogs. The day would begin at five with the roosters crowing. The neighbours would put the radio on full blast, all different stations of course. Later the ducks would wake and the radio noise was exchanged for Dominican music from every house. At four o’clock every afternoon people would sit on plastic chairs in front of their houses and shout at each other across and up and down the street. I had no idea why they did not all sit together and talk in normal voices.

I would sit in front of the house on the little terrace writing and talking to people online. Everyone who passed would stop for a chat. Both Tyson the Great Dane, and I quickly became local celebrities. We often had a large group standing outside hoping Tyson would stand up. He was usually asleep at my feet or on the table.

We lived on my pension – £500 pounds a month. From that we paid £150 rent, plus electricity, gas and Internet, which left us with £250 for food and everything else.

There was no need to ever leave the house. The streets were full of vendors all day long. The milkman would pass by on a donkey with a churn first thing in the morning with jugs full of fresh milk for fifteen pesos (25p). It had to be boiled though, as it was straight from the cow. Little kids came round selling avocados at five pesos each or two for fifteen. Obviously they were not too strong at mathematics. There were the shoe shine boys, the shoe mending man, the dead chicken man, the baby chicks and guinea fowl man, the plastic bucket man, the scrap iron man, medicine man, coconut man, fruit and veg man, DVD man, and ice cream boys. All came on foot or bicycles, and occasionally in beaten up old vans. Everyone shouted out what they were selling. There was the fish man, the pork scratchings man, the man who carried a black plastic dustbin liner full of popcorn. It was like sitting in the middle of a market. Occasionally the washing machine man would drive past – you could rent the washing machine by the hour –which he had balanced precariously on the back of his motorbike.

The streets were dirt tracks, and it obviously had not rained for a while, so there was dust everywhere, and every morning we had to sweep the house out and mop it. Everyone was doing the same thing, all of us women sweeping and mopping, most of them singing out of tune to whatever music they had on the radio. Everyone appeared to start well before me, and I was up at seven as it was impossible to sleep with the noise.

The garden, if you can call it that, was massive. There was the main area around the house, which was mostly dust and mud, big enough to park a dozen cars in. There was a second garden, fenced off with barbed wire, which was also dust and mud. This second garden had orange, lemon, mango and guayaba trees. All had fruit when we arrived. There were several banana trees, and some sugar cane.
The barbed wire fence was perfect as a washing line and saved on pegs, though most of my clothes ended up with holes. The house came with a washing machine, which was just as well as the one in Juan Dolio had died. This one was also a twin tub, and worked perfectly apart from the spin dryer having no brake – you had to stop it by putting a stick in to slow it down. And every house had a gutter in the garden where the dirty washing water went and then flowed into another gutter in the street. I felt like I was living in Elizabethan England.

The electricity was a joke. It was off more than it was on, and was not strong enough to run my lovely double door fridge, so the fridge had to go and be replaced with a tiny one. To solve the electricity problem, Danilo had installed an inverter, a white box connected to twelve car batteries, which charged from the street electricity when it was on, and supplied us with electricity when the street power was off. It worked like a dream. We also had a generator which we could use to charge the batteries if ever they ran out.

The town was one long street, with a bank and a little supermarket and lots of small shops. There were no restaurants except one place selling fried chicken. The supermarket was small but had the basics and everything was much cheaper than Juan Dolio, in some cases half the price. I found a little market with only four stalls, but lovely fresh fruit and vegetables, and a butcher who only sold pork and beef – he had a cow and a pig a week so you needed to know which day he bought them as he often ran out. Chickens were easily available at the local colmado.

Life was good and I revelled in the peacefulness as each day I felt the stress leaving my body. I felt no need to go out, enjoying the calm, smiling at the neighbours and the goings on in the barrio. Danilo left every week to go back and meet with the lawyers, and the court date was set for the 12 November 2010. We heard Custodio was furious and trying desperately to find us. We changed our phones, cancelled our phone contracts and tried to be careful and tell no one where we were.

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"There is a saying that goes: "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone" and for Lindsay de Feliz..."

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