Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ola Brasil!

I have a lot to report this time. First of all, it looks pretty optimistic that Andre will be able to get a Brasilian visa for 90 days. We'll probably go from September to December when the flight prices come down. We could spend Christmas in Haiti, then maybe go to Jamaica in January. That leaves just a month or two to wait to pick-up his fiance visa at the U.S. Consulate here. At least it wouldn't be so hot in winter.

Since Andre quit his job in anticipation of traveling together, we had to go to a notary public to get an affadavit of support from me. The funny part was they had no proof of the income I stated. It took one lawyer to dictate the letter to the secretary, another to make photo copies of our documents and then we had to wait an hour for the notary to show up from some other office. I was relieved they only charged 1000 pesos (about $30) after the big production.

A few days ago we stopped by Hotel Atarazana where we first met on August 6, 2006, the day after my cousin's son's wedding in Puerto Rico. It was sad to remember how alive Maya was there, running up and down the stairs, posing for pictures on the rooftop, hanging out with Andre in the courtyard at breakfast time. Andre and I took some pictures there together for the first time. When we first met, I had assumed he was even younger than he is and tried to ignore my attraction for him.

On Monday we go for three days to a fancy all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana (about 3 hours from here in bus) to join our friends Antonia and Hubert. I introduced them in Cabarete in August. Hubert's been back and forth to DR more often than I have, but he can never stay very long. This will be Andre's first time in a fancy resort. He'll probably go crazy at the buffets. I hope I don't.
We've been playing racquetball every evening. I love it and Andre's getting better every time. There are a lot of good Dominican players. I also went to the gym with Andre and his cousin Patricio on Wednesday and we'll go again tomorrow. I don't usually like working out with weights and machines, but since I don't have my bike to ride around town, it was good to get more of a work-out than just racquetball.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Adios Mexico!

I couldn't sleep on the red-eye flight to NY or on the morning flight to Santo Domingo. I arrived around noon and Andre was waiting with a big smile. I love that he's so responsible -- and good looking too.

It's great to be back with Andre after nearly 3 months' separation. I hope we never have to go through that again. Other than in military families, most couples don't separate for that long. The plan (although plans keep changing daily) is to be here for a month. We'll also go to Haiti to meet his family and travel to a few touristic locations. Then I go back to Santa Cruz alone. After 3 or 4 weeks, we'll meet again in another country that will give him a visa.

We already got rejected from Mexico. The consulate wouldn't listen to us. Because we're not married, he sent me behind the line, then threw away Andre's application in the trash. Needless to say, we're not planning to travel in Mexico anymore, even though it would be a lot easier and cheaper if we could meet in Tijuana for our next reunion.

As a Haitian, it is not easy for Andre to get a tourist visa anywhere.Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, so nobody wants them to come visit. They always suspect -- and probably rightly so -- that the majority just want to stay and work illegally. Rich Haitians can travel freely anywhere in the world, but average Haitians like Andre generally can't.

After our wonderful reception at the Mexican embassy, we went to the Haitian embassy to see if they could tell us which countries give tourist visas to Haitians. The consulate couldn't think of any, but another worker suggested we try Brazil. I'll look it up on the internet first, then maybe tomorrow we'll go to the Brasilian embassy and see if we have any luck. I'll let you know soon how it goes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Countdown Continues

Today is Thursday already. In two and half days, on Saturday evening, I'll be boarding a red-eye flight to NY, switching planes in the morning, and arriving in Santo Domingo around noon. Andre normally takes computer classes on the weekends, but he says he'll skip class this Sunday to pick me up at the airport. I didn't protest very much, even though it might have been nice to have time for a shower and nap before seeing him.

I had to give some tenants 60-days notice, so I'm only going for a month this time. When I come back I will finally do my 2006 taxes, take care of the change in tenancy at the four-plex, and finish the DVD project of Maya's memorial party. We have the disks ready of the Celebration of her Life that I-Ju created ( If you haven't gotten one and would like a copy, please email me at

One of my first priorities upon arriving in Dominican Republic -- besides giving Andre a big hug and kiss -- is to go to the Mexican Consulate and try to convince them to give him a tourist visa. I'd like to meet him in Tijuana in mid-August, but he can't get a flight without a Mexican visa. The requirements for Haitians are quite strict: a statement from his bank with his average daily balance for the past year, a note from his employer stating that he's going back to some fabulous job, an international credit card, I forget what else. I'm hoping that if we go in together with the paperwork for his U.S. fiance visa application they'll understand that he's not planning to stay and work illegally in Mexico. It's just an easy place for us to start our travels together while awaiting his U.S. visa which we have to pick up in Santo Domingo, hopefully in the spring of 2008.

We're not sure exactly when, but we're planning to spend about two weeks in Haiti, visiting his family and traveling around. I'm pretty nervous about meeting his family, especially his mother who is only 3 years older than me, but at least he was just there a month ago, paving the path for me. He says they're all anxious to meet me.

I know it sounds complicated, so here's the Cliff Notes: I fly on June 25 to Santo Domingo, come back July 26. I take care of loose ends here in Santa Cruz, then hopefully meet Andre in Tijuana in mid-August and we travel through Latin America until his fiance visa is ready to be picked up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, maybe by March 2008. Then we come to California together. We would have three months to either marry or send him back. But that's a year from now. Right now I have to get packed and get on that plane so I can see him again. We've known each other almost a year and only had a few weeks together so far.

The next time I write in this blog, hopefully I'll be in D.R. and I'll have some new photos of me and Andre together.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Two weeks from today -- God willing, si Dios quiere, inshallah -- I will be in Santo Domingo with Andre. I'm thinking back to our time together in mid-March to early April. So I wrote this long stream of consciousness, which I will be brave (or foolish) enough to share with you:

Andre, I can never forget all our great memories together and I look forward to a whole month this time... Remember the little fruit juice place where that crazy guy said you don't look like a Haitian because Haitians are so ordinario. I still can’t believe they leave up graffiti that says "Haitians go home" and no one paints over it... And walking along the tide pools at the beach near Cabarete where Maya pranced and played and rode horses the week we met Khadija and her daughters and Hubert... The guy who acted like you must have hit me or something after we saw Maya's puppies and I couldn't stop crying and you had to explain the whole story to him... Cramming into guaguas (vans) and laughing every time we stopped and more people miraculously crammed in too... And that crazy ride in the back of the truck up the curvy mountain road with 20 others, including the cute little girl, her very young dad and her very fat grandmother and everyone's baggage. You were the nervous one, but at least I didn't sit up on the edge of the truck... Getting ripped off by taxi drivers whenever we forgot to ask the price first, because foreigners get special rates -- and you were guilty by association... Getting rude service at the panaderia (bakery) -- they're rude to everyone, not just foreigners -- and leaving empty-handed on principle and worrying you would be mad at me for preventing you from enjoying the best bread in Santo Domingo, but instead you told me I did the right thing... Making you sleep in the noisiest hotel on the whole island, right beside the cantina, with the stinky bathroom and the radio that came on with a switch... Riding horses to the waterfall with Don Manuel and little Antony and you being too chicken to get under the waterfall, but making me do it over and over again until you figured out how to use the video camera... Agreeing that the fish soup, mofongo (mashed plantains) and that creamy weird tropical fruit smoothie called zapote (mamey) were the best things on the menu at Gran Jimenoa, even though you normally prefer the meat and fries which I don't... Teaching you ping pong for the first time and watching you get better and better. You claiming you already knew how to shoot pool (which I find hard to believe since you didn't know how to hold the cue stick or rack the balls), but watching you get better and better at that too... Watching you do your 100 push-ups every morning, 10 or 20 at a time, while I did my stretches... Keeping you at the racquetball courts in Santo Domingo for hours after you were already exhausted, because I still wanted to play everybody. Then running through the pouring rain at night to the crowded bus stop where the guaguas were too full to stop for more passengers, so we waited forever, drenched and tired, and still you loved me... Climbing the crazy abandoned house on the hilltop above Constanza where we had a bird's eye view of the whole valley... You picking up a basketball game on the street with the biggest boy and me getting to watch you move and sweat and impress me... Me losing it in the apartment on the Conde when you proudly presented me with a brand new skin-tight hootchie mama outfit. And how I actually learned to wear it and feel good about myself after all. How smart you were and how insecure I was... My weight is up again and I'm feeling like crap again. It's amazing how dependent my mood is on my weight. Or maybe my weight fluctuates depending on my mood. Which came first: the chicken or the egg?... And driving around the streets of Santo Domingo at night in Hubert's rental car and we're all going crazy with Nena's chu (left) chi (straight) cha (right) directions and Hubert's wild stories and Antonia laughing hysterically and me videotaping the whole thing and you just being you, sweet and mellow and happy... And that most memorable 50th birthday which began running hand-in-hand through the empty early morning streets of Sosua, then jogging on the deserted beach, accompanied by a friendly dog, and ending the day with a Passover seder with 200 Jews including my good friends Robin and Joe and all those kids... And me having to pass out Maya's memorial programs to everyone who she met in August. And you not sure how to console a grieving mother, but letting me do what I had to do... And taking pictures of ourselves everywhere we went so the U.S. Immigration Services will believe that we really are a couple and not just another desperate Haitian trying to get a ticket out of poverty... Climbing around the old fort along the river in the Colonial Zone and you asking me to photograph you with the tanks and jeeps and telling me how you'd always dreamed of being in the U.S. military and me telling you how I'm a total pacifist, but if that's your dream you should do it and you saying that you couldn't do it now because you wouldn't want to be separated from me... And that amazing Sancocho soup, tostones (fried plantain) and chinola (passion fruit) juice that Doña Edi prepared for us. And Margarita's son the doctor wishing he could wake up speaking perfect English and you wondering what kind of doctor he is... And using public internet cafes and still writing each other even though we were side by side... And inviting 14 friends to Pizza Hut my last night so I could say goodbye to everyone at once... And running around the Botanic Gardens with Antonia and Nena, the wild and crazy police officers that Maya and I met at the caves back in August, and acting all silly and taking my favorite photographs of us... And that first moment when I came down from room #7 at El Beaterio, fearing that the Haitian desk clerk had not understood me and told you to go away instead of come up, wondering if it were my lack of Spanish or his, and then seeing you there in the lobby and knowing it was right and perfect and I was so glad I'd traveled so far and done something so crazy and risky. That first hug eliminated all my doubts... Taking turns washing our clothes in the hotel room sink and hanging them out to dry on the windy rooftop with a view into the neighboring courtyard... Meeting Junior for the first time and liking him so much, which made me love you even more for having such good taste in friends. Meeting your cousin Patricio for the first time at the buffet breakfast and hanging out with him for an hour or two while you went to the Haitian embassy, hoping your passport was ready, but getting another disappointment instead. Patricio told me that he's noticed a change in you and knows you're in love and he seemed to feel good about my intentions and my sincerity. Because no one who loves you wants some older, white American woman to come down for a good time and then leave you. And I loved how everyone who knows you cares so much about you and they all assured me that I had found a good man. Your neighbors Miguelina and Leiny especially. Because women know. We've all suffered with men we shouldn't have given ourselves and our hearts to. So they know how lucky I am to have found you, how lucky we are to have found each other... And jogging around the Plaza de España with other joggers in the early morning before the sun has a chance to get going full force, and stretching and doing cartwheels afterwards, just to be sure I could still do them... And sitting at the corner table of that nearly empty romantic restaurant and listening to that Dominican guy sing gospel music in English because he thought we were both Americans... And you making friends with all the children in the streets and with little Ernesto on the bus ride to Salcedo and me thinking what a great father you'll be someday... And going to the Maribal Museum and having the great luck of meeting 82-year-old and still stunningly beautiful Dede, the only Maribal sister to survive Trujillo's assassins. I'd already read In the Time of the Butterflies, the most famous book on the subject, so I bought two others, which Dede autographed... And playing volleyball near the surfing school on Cabarete beach, also on my memorable 50th birthday. I didn't feel old that day at all. You made me feel young and happy and alive and optimistic about my next 50 years with you... And me and my sunburn and silly sandals that made me trip and heat rash and reading glasses and you still loved me... And walking hand in hand through the streets and stopping to kiss and nobody even caring that we are the oddest couple ever: first world-third world, black-white, old-young. And me worrying that you would be shorter than me, and you letting me worry that you'd be shorter than me, but instead we look each other eye-to-eye. I know how high you can reach because I can reach the same height. Even our feet are the same size...

And then I wrote some mushy, romantic stuff that I won't repeat in a public blog. And this isn't even half our memories. I'm wondering how long the list will be after three months... or three years... or three decades! Wouldn't that be something, if we were still together (and still alive) when I'm 80 and Andre's a dashing 60?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Yet again, our plans change...

Just yesterday, I found out that I need to deal with some stuff with my rentals. But I should be able to slip away to Dominican Republic and Haiti for a month to be with Andre, visit all our friends (left) and meet his family. Then I could fly back and take care of business. When that's all done he could fly to Tijuana, Mexico. That's just a 9-hour drive for me and my dad lives right at the border in Chula Vista. My nieces Corrie and Tiese could cross with me and say hello to the man they've heard so much about. Then Andre and I could travel throughout Latin America while we're waiting for his U.S. visa.

There are many advantages to this new plan: we both speak Spanish so it'd put us on equal footing and would be easier for him as a novice world traveler; as a Haitian he'd be more welcome in Latin American countries than in Europe; it would be cheaper and closer in case I had to run back temporarily; and best of all, we could play racquetball everywhere. I introduced Andre to the game in Santo Domingo and he fell in love. He's going to be Haitian national champion with my coaching.

The last time I was farther south than Guatemala was in 1983 when former racquetball pro Steve Keeley and I traveled for six months throughout Central and South America teaching racquetball clinics to the extremely rich. I've often thought about going back and trying to look up my former students: owners of banks, mines, hotel chains, factories, Miss Costa Rica, Gabriela Pozuelo, and Irene and Carlos Schenstrum, owners of the largest cattle ranch in Bolivia, to name a few. Many of my students had private courts in their homes. In Cochabamba, we stayed at the consulate's house and had our own servant. In Quito, Ecuador the club owner told us that his members had asked him to raise membership fees so that the middle class couldn't afford to join. I could even write up our adventures for the racquetball magazine again, just like I did 24 years ago.

So, as of today, these are our plans. Stay tuned to see what else changes.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

My Travel Plans Change

June 3, 2007

A year ago, if someone had told me my daughter would die of a brain tumor, and then I'd leave the country to be with a Haitian man 20 years my junior, I would have called them crazy. Usually I enjoy life's surprises, and I look for the silver lining on even the darkest clouds, but losing Maya was the hardest thing I've ever had to endure.

Last week, I canceled the trips to Canada and Chihuahua, and moved up my flight reservations to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. God willing, and assuming I get everything done in time, I leave June 19 and stop off in Texas to visit my niece Stephanie, her mother Lisa, and son Alex. Steph just went through an ugly divorce, but the good news is a family friend offered her a great opportunity to buy a home. I gave her the down payment and she wants me to see the place. We also need to give each other a big hug.

On June 22, I fly onto Santo Domingo where Andre will be waiting. This time I hope we won't have to separate again. Our plan is to introduce me to his family in Haiti, travel to whichever countries will give him a tourist visa, and come back to the U.S. once he gets his fiance visa, hopefully in spring 2008.

I'm so tired of being separated from Andre. We met on August 6, 2006, the day Maya and I arrived in Santo Domingo from a wedding in Puerto Rico. Maya rejected the divey hotel I'd seen on the internet (hey, it looked fine in the pictures), so we set out in search of something better. Just around the corner we found a beautifully renovated colonial hotel called Atarazana. We rang the bell and Andre let us in. I know it sounds cliché, but the moment our eyes met electricity raced through my body. I hadn’t felt anything like that in years.

I tried to ignore my attraction for Andre because of our obvious age difference. I was 49 and he looked no more than 22. Originally, I'd planned to stay a day or two in the capitol, and then head out to explore the countryside. But Maya fell in love with the hotel, the staff, and Santo Domingo, so we ended up staying a week. She and Andre became great friends, but I kept my distance. I chatted briefly with him while he served us breakfast each morning and sometimes he caught me staring at him, but I always looked away.

Finally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a photograph. Don’t move, I told him. I love the way you look in the beautiful red kitchen. That is still my favorite photo of him. He looks gorgeous with his warm, friendly smile, but most importantly, this photo, which I emailed to him at his request, got us started writing to each other.

Little by little our emails became more flirtatious, but still I couldn’t believe that such a young man would be interested in me. I assumed he saw me as a mentor, someone older and wiser he could open up to. He asked me how you know you’re in love, and what’s my opinion of long distance relationships. For a second, my heart would skip a beat, hoping he was referring to us, but then I’d quickly return to reality.

Finally, in November I decided to try my luck on craigslist. I even dated a guy a few times: a white American, 55 years old, who lives here in Santa Cruz, not bad looking, in decent shape. He even liked me.

When I wrote Andre about this guy, he said he was feeling jealous. “If you want a man, here I am.” That stopped me short. I wrote back and admitted I’d been attracted to him from the start, but because of his age I hadn’t thought much more. When he told me he'd be 30 in April, I opened my mind and my heart.

Andre and I were planning a rendezvous when Maya got diagnosed with a brain tumor. After she died on January 16, 2007, my whole life changed. I wish I could have sent Andre a plane ticket, just to come hold me, but only rich Haitians get tourist visas to the U.S. Finally, in March I was able to be with him in Dominican Republic. After three glorious weeks together, it was so hard to leave.

Now I'm counting the days until I can be with him again. Besides getting everything ready to leave, the only things I'm doing are exercise and therapy. So, if I don’t have time to say goodbye, please know that I will be in touch via email, Skype (I can call you for free), and this blog. Don’t be shy about contacting me. I love all of you and am happy to respond individually as time permits.