So the other day I took a walk with one of the youth of Cambita.  Raisy works carving and painting macaws.  I had asked him to introduce me to the artisan whose worked I first notices at the December Artisan’s Fair in the capital I went to last year.  Tristan even bought a rooster for his mother from the seller.  When I picked up the rooster he was contemplating, I looked at the tag that said Artesanía Puello, Cambita Garabitos, San Cristobal.

I had not previously heard of him, but when I asked Raisy he did say he knew him and had discussed carving with him.  So I let it fall by the wayside with other things to do, but recently I decided that I would like to see the workshop if I could.  Its not in what I consider town proper (and consider that encompasses many street to explore in itself, I’m not surprised I hadn’t stumbled upon it before), but on the road between Pueblocito and Cambita Garabitos.  Also the sign is only a recent addition (less than a month) so that why I had not noticed it on my many car rides in and out of Cambita. 

The building is filled with many different types of carvings, there is majority of types of birds from chicks to flamingos, however, there are also horses, dolphins and fish.  There was also one of the carvers at work and pieces in all stages of the process which was interesting to see.

I find the carvings to be quite well done and reasonably priced .  A small chick or 6″ duck with be around 6 dollars.  Two small parrots on branches would be around 11 dollars.  The larger (but not biggest) or more elaborate pieces will be 25 to 40 dollars.  Those are the notes I made.

The workshop also has a pamphlet on the history of Artesanía Puello.  It was started by Mr. Erasmo Puello who had 15 children to support.  Some of his sons continued the tradition.  The pamphlet says that the wood crafts represent who they are: a Caribbean town full of joy, taste and colors.  The work has been shown and sold in many artisan expositions in countries including the Untied States, Spain, South Korea, France, Italy, Germany, Ecuador, as well as others.

Contact information is:

Tel.: (809)528-8301

Cel.: 829-806-6393


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So I don’t always know what a fabrication of cleaner or soap or menthol is going to cost beforehand, because I sometimes buy the chemicals in groups.  I have fixed the problem now, but at the time of the Tuesday previous to the week of this post’s Tuesday, the fabrication of menthol, they didn’t have the money to cover the full cost.  I still have not received about half the money.  So luckily for the next Tuesday (i.e. the one this post is about) we were going back to floor cleaner and I could say you can choose how many gallons we make but each gallon is 25 pesos.

Knowing I really didn’t want to create more a deficit, I decided to use the Somos Mujeres chapter on fiao for the educational part.  I probably should explain what fiao is.  It is credit.  At the colmado, people will have a cardboard with numbers written for the price of each shopping trip and sometimes the colmado owner will have a notebook with the same information for each customer using fiao.  For fiao, there needs to be a level of trust, because its not like a credit card company that can send you to the bill collectors.  A word for that trust is confianza.  I was told the other day by the youth I was giving first option to buy my bike that I did not have confianza in him to pay.  And the honest answer was no I did not.  I talked to his brother, who is my good friend, and he tells me how he is still waiting on partial payment from him. So my feeling of wanting the money up front was justified and spot on.

So this time I told them I was collecting the money at the beginning, before we started measuring chemicals and wrote done names with quantity.  It worked much better, only disappointing thing was that they didn’t want to make all of it.  So I have to offload some chemicals before a month goes by.


I think I difference between how I look at and approach things and how Dominicans do is the future.  Maybe it is because many of them aren’t planning to move away from the area or the weather doesn’t change so significantly you need to think about being prepared to pay for heat during the winter.

Anyways let me just tell you about today.  Today was the Catholic day of observance for the Lady of Mercedes in the Dominican Republic.  At one time Catholicism was probably the predominant religion, but now with the rise in Evangelical Christianity, it is not the only church in town.  So although I thought it was a possibility when after I was woken at 7 am (which is not unreasonably early, but not when my body wanted to get up and I don’t work a 9 to 5 for a couple more months so stop judging).  And told Ronelka was still sleeping, how could she be, oh no school because Dia de La Senora de las Mercedes. So at that point, I knew I may not be making nail polish remover with the women today.  But I could not be certain, it being an evangelical group.  Also I had said to them next Tuesday we will be making this, and they did not correct me that it would not be next Tuesday but the one after.

I think its very rare I’ve ever been reminded of a Dominican holiday in advance.  Another example is I had a conversation going with a youth I wanted to think on and asked if he would be around the next day.  When he replied he would, without caveat, I say I would come looking for him.  The next morning when I go out of my way to talk to him, he had gone to San Cristobal.  Sounded like a planned trip, so why couldn’t he have told me in the morning he would not be around.

It’s just frustrating to not be advised ahead of time when I could have avoided schlepping 2 gallons of acetone across town.  But on the bright side, I got to talk baseball and have some beer.

You know I never really explained colmados.  Apparently once upon a time they were referred to as bodegas, however, times have changed.  Comados stock everything from the necessities of rice and beans to hair gel (we had Tristan go get some once, it wasn’t long lasting or good in any other discernible way, but it was there and I think it cost 5 pesos so we had realistic hopes).

Depending on the size or population of the community, will affect how many colmados are in it.  And that also with economic level will affect quantity and variety.  There should almost always be available bread (a white bread roll), soda, water, beer, rum, rice, canned food, and other staples.  What is pictured below is my colmado.  Like most, there is a counter and you tell and point to what you want.  What is interesting is you can buy so many things simply in a small amount.  You would go in and say I want 5 pesos of bicarbonate (baking soda) and would get a small bag of it, which would be tied closed with a knot that at times I hate them for doing.  You can do that for flour and sugar when baking, so you don’t have to worry about storing the extra.  Or if you are travelling and need to cook, you only need to buy what you need.  Like say you want to make eggs and there is a kitchen available you can buy a chin (little) of oil and not cook without that or butter in  pan.  It’s very convenient.

I usually go in for a delicious bottled coca-cola for about 25 cents.  It tastes like the gods nectar to me and some days is the only food or drink I am excited to consume (I did once again test myself and go a period without it, of course I already knew I could do that in the states with the free soda machine at work).  Oh I will miss that so much, it doesn’t taste the same from a plastic bottle.

Colmados also often are places that have plastic chairs that you can use to sit around and drink a beer in.  In addition, they are the ones providing music when the electricity is on.  Some like the one in Turner’s community have room to dance.

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So as a treat after the medical trip we went up to Las Galeras, Samana to visit with Robin.  Robin once lived by me, but extending her service she went up to work with a group of crafters who make palm frond baskets.  Some other volunteers were also going to be up in the area at the same time, so Robin arranged for us all to take a boat out to Playa Fronton.  On Saturday morning, we got the supplies (there is not an operational restaurant out there) and went to Playa Grande to meet the others.  We texted them to let them know we were there and Anna, who had texted Ellen gets a response of “where” and “who is this?”.  Seemed like a strange thing for Ellen to send.  Once Ellen arrived, we found out Anna did not have her current number and Ellen did not have her phone cause it was charging.  Quite a typical story a few weeks later my sim card was mistakenly put out of service and I got a new number so when I ran into Ashley later that night and she said she had texted me I said well it wouldn’t have worked even if I had bothered to bring my phone.

Eventually we go in the motorize boat and took a 20 minute ride along the coast and around the bend to see a beach coming out of that dark volcanic rock.  It made me thing of the edge of the world.  Although the setting is incredible and sea gorgeous, there is a flaw to Playa Fronton.  In many parts you have to be careful of sea urchins, however, there is a safe part to go into.  I made it clear to Robin when she was planning, if I could not go into the sea, I did not want to bother paying for a ride.

Robin started preparing moro (rice with peas mixed in) and the fish.  We had an issue getting the fugon (fire) lit, but luckily a Dominican eventually came over and helped us out.  The meal was quite delicious.

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That night we go out for dinner at a French pizza place (sadly pepperoni was not an option, I think any pizza place should offer that, I cannot wait to go back to the east coast.  Although first dinner is a Lenape Burger and a Yuengling.)  Eventually we went to a free bachata concert and just enjoyed ourselves dancing bachata and merenge.  It was one of those nights where we kept saying just one more song, best dancing night of my 2 years.

The next morning our plans feel through to see Playa Rincon, so we went to Playita instead.  Which is quite beautiful in its own way.  And interesting with the pathway to walk through the sea plants.

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This Tuesday (as in a past Tuesday I am talking about, not the most recent Tuesday or next Tuesday) the financial education part of the gathering was a clear failure.  I talked about savings and how with knowing how your money is being spent you can find the things you could live without and save that money for a stated goal or for an unexpected time of emergency.  Talked about how saying just a little each week will add up and such.  What I got back was Ashley you know we don’t have savings.

Okay moving on.  Then we made some menthol, along the lines of vapor rub.  Let me tell you this is a real crowd pleaser.  I got the chemicals at Casa Jarabocoa in Villa Consuelo in Santo Domingo.  And then Anna taught me where the container store was located on San Martin between Duarte and Maximo Gomez.

Now I had participated in making this during Community Based Training, but about 2 years ago it wasn’t anything I recalled with great clarity.  The direction are written in Dominican Spanish and I read over them, but felt that the women would help me with anything I wasn’t clear on.  So I tell them we need a baño de agua.  They ask me how much water to use, I explain I am uncertain what do they think a baño de agua means.  I tried calling Anna who had made menthol with her group multiple times, but no answer.  Never getting an answer from the Dominicans either, I just allowed them to decide how much to add.  We then carefully heat the Vaseline without letting it boil because then it could light on fire.  When it comes time to dish out the menthol I find we have much more than 50 1 ounce containers’ worth.  Luckily some people had brought their own jars, so we used that.  Probably could have filled 100 containers.  I did the filling and because of the menthol my eyes were watering like a flowering pot by the end of the batch.

Later when I am talking to Anna she says it means double boiler.  What the Dominicans more frequently call baño maria.  I tell Anna, well the menthol still seemed strong enough, so I found a way to make more product.  I did tell the group what I found out the next week and a few gave me a oh yeah type of response.  Why couldn’t they have thought of it the week before?  I don’t know.

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Formula de Mentol


– 1 Kg. de vaselina sólida

– 1 cucharón de alcanfor  (moler en trozos antes de añadir)

– ¾ cucharón de salisilato de metilo

– ½ -1 cucharón cristal de mentol (mientras mas cantidades agregues, mas fuerte será y por tanto mas caro)

*(Tu puedas echar hojas de eucalipto o estacas de canela)


En una olla delgada (cacerola) en madera, carbón o en una estufa, poner en un baño maria, la vaselina en la olla reservando unas pocas en una funda  (bolsa).  Combine la vaselina, pero hay que tener cuidado de que no hierva porque pueda crear un fuego grande.  La vaselina deberá estar completamente clara cuando mezcla.  Cuando todo este completamente mezclado, remueva del fuego.  Remueva los palitos y las hojas.  Añada el alcanfor, el salisilato de metilo y los cristales de mentol.  Mover hasta que este completamente disuelto.  Todo el proceso no toma más de 15 minutos.  Debe estar liquida para que pueda ser servida en las latas del filme.  Es bueno que pongas solo ¾ de la mezcla y después espera hasta que este fría, antes de poner la tapa

1 Kg. Sirve para unos 40 latas del filme.  Lavar bien la olla y la cuchara ya que los restos del mentol pueden producir problemas gástricos.

So there are some things I have do for Peace Corps, for my close of service clearance.  One is medical.  We have the have a physical, a dental visit, various labwork (oh the pressure of having to provide multiple samples in a given time frame) and tuberculosis test.  Because of the tb test, which needs to be checked 48 hours later, we are put up for 2 nights in the capital (because some have further to travel).

So Anna and I booked to go in at the same time.  I decided we should make this time in the capital something worth it.  So in our time there we had belgium beer, manicures (a deal found on which is the dominican groupon), went chemical and container shopping*, had gazpacho**, tiny delicious sandwiches***, went paca shopping (imagine good will as a table of used clothing that you dig through)****, ate okay pizza, made white russian milk shakes (so delicious), and ate sushi.  That was in addition to the dentist and doctor stuff.

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* See there was something work related, I didn’t just goof off.

**I made the gazpacho. But we at it in the capital so I included that.

***I spotted this restaurant when I was getting my point and shoot camera repaired over on Lincoln in Plaza Castile.  By the way, if you need camera repair done in Santo Domingo, I would recommend Kemils Camera for their helpfulness, great service, and quickness.

**** We would always pass by the paca stores on our way to Duarte but never have the time or will to go digging.  This time I almost regretted putting it on the schedule, cause I put it after the chemical purchase and we were lugging bags, but it was worth it was the good quality 20 peso (50 cents) black tank I got that I just had to take in the sides.