Friday, April 25, 2008

Mystery Man

Andre and I are staying at L'Oase Hotel and Racquetball Club in Costambar, just a few miles from Puerto Plata on the north coast of Dominican Republic. We've stayed here several times before, with hosts Joseph, Vashti and her teenage sons. We always have a good time and play lots of racquetball. I wanted to go to SamanĂ¡ for a few days. It's about 3 hours from here and we've never been, but Andre prefers to stay here until just before I go back to California on May 5. He has a flight reservation for May 6, but we still don't know if he'll have his visa yet.

A couple of days ago we were walking back from Jenny's Market and a light-skinned Latino guy in a nice car pulled up beside us, just outside the hotel entrance. He yelled out, "I hope you guys get your visa. I've been reading your blog," in perfect English. I kind of laughed and thanked him, assuming Andre knew him. Andre stayed at L'Oase for 3 weeks in March prior to his inteview at the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo, but he didn't recognize the man.

Later I asked Joseph and Vashti if they knew who that could be. They had no idea. So I'm hoping the "Mystery Man" is still reading our blog and will identify himself. My email is and Andre's cell phone is 809-767-5605. Andre thinks it's because we're so famous. Ha!

Andre's Birthday at Ocean World

PHOTO CAPTIONS: 1. Dolphin show at Ocean World, 2. Seal show, 3. Shark show, 4-7. Upclose and personal with birds, 8-11. Lunch and a swim at Ocean World's Casino.

I wanted Andre's birthday -- April 23 -- to be a memorable day, so we splurged and went to Ocean World, which is located at the next beach over from where we're staying. If you've ever been to Sea World, you won't be impressed. But if you're from Haiti, it will really wow you.

Ocean World offers four 15-minute shows: Sea Lions, Dolphins, Birds and Sharks. The first three were very similar to many that I've seen before, at Sea World and other aquariums around the world -- cute and corny. But I'd never seen a Shark Show before. Since sharks don't do a whole lot, it was mostly a comedy show with 5 trainers and a group of "volunteers" who paid $45 each to feed the sharks in front of the audience and then swim with them later. Obviously, these sharks are well-fed ahead of time. They show no interest in or fear of the humans at all.

The shark show is conducted in English. At first the trainers try to scare the audience and the volunteers into thinking this is really dangerous. They talk about the sharks' teeth, killer instincts, blood, victims, etc. Then they proceed to pick up the sharks, turn them over, pet them, feed them, and make them snap. I stuck around after the show to ask a few questions. When I teased the trainer, saying it was more of a human show than shark show, he said that sharks are too lazy to do things like the dolphins and sea lions do. Somehow I don't think surfers in California would complain that sharks are too lazy.

The bird encounter was nice. A worker hands out bird seed so they'll fly down to your hands and head to eat. At least it allows for some nice photo opportunities, and a bit of bird poop on your clothes if you're unlucky. I'm always torn about these animal attractions because I have lots of friends who call it exploitation of animals for human entertainment and profit. But I remember what joy it gave Maya to be close to animals and it's hard for me to resist. At least I the tanks were large and the animals looked healthy, so I didn't leave Ocean World feeling sorry for the animals, as I have quite often in the 3rd World.

After we saw all the shows and posed for pictures with the birds, we walked over to Ocean World's Casino to have a pool-side lunch. Andre's fried fish was fresh and tasty. I ordered the shrimp salad with mango and avocado, which sounded delicious...until the grilled shrimp arrived on top of iceberg lettuce with cantaloupe. When I pointed out the difference, the server explained that avocado and mango are out of season. Same for lemon. I had to send back my citric acid "lemonade" and get a fresh pineapple juice. I would have liked to know ahead of time about the substitutions, but our server was so nice, we left a big tip.

The casino's pool is long and curvy. Andre and I enjoyed swimming in it. We had to go around the American tourists at a swim-up bar who were smoking, but other than that, it was really refreshing. We also sprinkled some of Maya's ashes off the end of the pier. When we got back to L'Oase we played an hour or so of racquetball. Definitely a memorable 31st birthday for Andre!

P.S. You can check out Ocean World Puerto Plata on UTube to see the highlights of the shows. Here's the link to the shark show:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Andre turns 31 on April 23 I'm going to the Dominican Republic to celebrate with him! I just decided yesterday when I called the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo and they said they need two more weeks to review his documents. His visa hasn't even been officially approved yet. This is really nerve-wracking.

When I first told Andre the bad news, he was shocked. "Two weeks! I can't wait two more weeks! Why don't you come to L'Oase in Costambar with me?" he suggested. My first reaction was, I'm sorry, but I can't. It's too much money and I'm already in debt. And my calendar is full.

But last night I got to thinking, why not? You only live once. I have to reschedule some appointments, I'll miss a friend's memorial service, but his widow will understand, I have to find a sub for two racquetball classes, I was supposed to start Landmark seminars, but there'll be another series. I'll miss my beloved writers' group, and I'm hosting a sing-along/potluck at my house....and it's all gonna work out. It always does. I have three days to make it work.

Monday I'll be flying on three planes to get there, but Andre will be waiting for me at the airport at 10:15 p.m. and it'll all be worth it. He wants to go to Costambar right away the next day. Then Wednesday is his birthday, so we'll have to think of something special. I want to spend a few days in Santo Domingo visiting friends before I fly back on May 5. Maybe Andre will even have his visa by then. Who knows? All I know is two months' separation is too much and I'm ready to be with Andre in person instead of just phone calls, emails, and Skype. Wouldn't you agree? Look at that smile!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No Visa Yet!

Well, here's the latest update on Andre's K-1 fiance visa. His receipt from the courier service says he will receive it on April 8, which is today. So Andre called the Hotel Atarazana, the same hotel where we met in August 2006, and reminded his former co-worker and her boss that today's the day.

He went to the Colonial Zone where the hotel is located and did some errands, waiting and waiting for Lenni's call to say the courier made the delivery. Then he was going to call me. When I didn't hear anything, I decided to call him. Since tomorrow is a general strike in Santo Domingo, Andre decided to call the courier service. They said they hadn't even received the package from the consulate yet.

I called a toll number for the Santo Domingo consulate and spoke to a customer service rep is in Mexico City. He looked up Andre's case #, but it didn't say much, just that he'd had the interview on March 25. He sent a note to the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo to check up on the visa. He said if we don't get it in ANOTHER WEEK to call him back. I asked if he thought the fact that the Haitian embassy lost Andre's passport last year and replaced it without telling him could be the reason for the delay. He said no, he didn't think so. We're not the only ones in this situation, he said. There are thousands of visa applicants EVERY DAY in Santo Domingo.

I guess I should be thankful we're not still waiting for an interview date in December 2008, as I was originally told. I should be thankful that overall the interview with the consul went well and Andre was instructed to pay for the courier service. But what I don't like is being in limbo still. We don't know 100% that he will be given the visa, and we can only hope that it will arrive in the next week or two. Meanwhile, I have to keep changing Andre's flight reservations and waiting to make mine because we still want to meet in New York for a week.

So nothing can be set in concrete in my calendar. I'm teaching racquetball at UCSC on Thursday nights and have to keep changing the date that I need a sub. I wanted to play in a racquetball tournament in Las Vegas the first weekend of May so Andre could see the Emerald City and then go to San Diego to meet my folks. I wanted to host Passover at my house this year. I wanted to celebrate Andre's 31st birthday on April 23 here in Santa Cruz so my friends could meet him.

Well, I'll let you know how things go. Otherwise, I'm still playing the waiting game here in Limbo Land.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today was my 51st birthday. I wanted to spend it with Andre in New York City at the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Building). But we still don't know for sure when he's going to get his visa. The receipt from the courier says it will be delivered on April 8, but the consul advised him not to make any flight reservations because they have to investigate the problem with his Haitian passport. Hopefully, by now, they realize that he didn't know FedEx lost his passport. Just as soon as he gets the visa, I'll reserve new flights for us to meet in NY. His bags are already packed.

Today started off with a beautiful, romantic email from Andre, followed by a nice long conversation via Skype. Then I swam 51 lengths of the pool (60 feet x 51= 1860 feet, which is only 1/3 of a mile) in about 50 minutes. I meant to do 51 pushups too, but never got around to it and now it's too late. I turned in my tax info to my CPA which made me very happy. And my long-time friend Erica Schafer gave me a birthday chiropractic adjustment and massage. That was fabulous. Tonight, Daniel and I went out to Saturn Cafe for a light dinner, followed by cake and free birthday ice cream. It was someone else's birthday too and the wait staff made a big embarrassing fuss over her. I was glad I made a point of saying I did not want any public acknowledgment.

While I swam my laps I tried to remember something i did from each year of my life.
1= we lived in Newton, NJ in an apartment above a garage
2= we were living in a duplex on Woodlawn St. near the railroad tracks and highway 5 in Chula Vista, California. My best friend's name was Kendra.
3= we bought the house at 432 Vista Way in Chula Vista where my dad still lives.
4= played with Ann Smotherman and Andrea Tarantino who also grew up on Vista Way. Ann called me tonight for my birthday.
5= started kindergarten at Rosebank Elementary School, where I attended through 6th grade.

I even remember my teachers' names: kindergarten-Mrs. McNary, 1st grade- Mrs. Butler, 2nd grade-Miss Hess, 3rd grade-Mrs. Armstrong, 4th grade-Mrs. Nelson, 5th grade-Mrs. Brown, 6th grade-Mr. Smith.

I surprised myself for being able to think of something for nearly every year, especially since I swim the length of the pool in about 1 minute. Often it helped to calculate the year, rather than my age. For example, I couldn't think of anything for 32 years old, until I figured out that was 1989, the year of the Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated downtown Santa Cruz. I was in Italy at the time. Same thing for the big storm of 1982. I couldn't have told you that I was 25 years old at the time. My dog Tipper and I were watching a crane try to break up a log jam on the San Lorenzo River under the Soquel Ave. bridge when the older half of the bridge collapsed. Luckily, no one was on that side and it actually succeeded in letting the trees and branches float down to the ocean instead of damming up and flooding downtown Santa Cruz.

....and so on. I will actually take the time to write it up for myself. A little mini-bio. Something to pass onto my future kids, if Andre and I get that far in our relationship and our dreams. We both love the idea of raising a family together, an adopted boy and girl, mixed black/white just to keep strangers from staring too much. We're already an odd couple, racially, age-wise, culturally, etc. And I'll definitely be old enough to be the grandma to my kids (as well as old enough to be Andre's mom), which is already cause to stare.

I'm still hoping to celebrate my birthday belatedly at the Top of the Rock with Andre in New York. He turns 31 on April 23, which I hope we'll celebrate here in Santa Cruz. I'll invite some of his new friends to join us. Last year we spent my birthday together in Sosua, Dominican Republic with my friend Robin and her family who were vacationing there. For his birthday, I was in Santa Cruz, but sent money to some friends in Santo Domingo who bought a cake and made a dinner and invited some of our friends to surprise him. He said it was the best birthday of his life. Just wait. He hasn't seen anything yet. This is the woman who had mariachis, a pony, and a bounce house at Maya's 3rd birthday, and 40 kids at her 9th and last birthday at the bowling alley with Mickey Magic performing during the cake and ice cream.