Tag Archives: Dominican Republic

Crepes

Our group was walking through the streets of Tunis. Hungry as usual. It was one of those cobblestone streets lined with trees, along a courtyard which was almost like a Spanish square, a city center. A place where people wander slowly, meandering from shop to shop on the wide boulevards, sitting at small tables drinking tea, shopping or simply passing the time.

I remember seeing a large woman sitting at the edge of an open shop, pouring liquid on to  a hot, round caste iron griddle and using this long t-shaped stick to smooth, spread and work the batter. The long end of the device was filed into a flat edge almost like a screwdriver. She would work this under the edge of the newly formed crepe andflip it over effortlessly.

I must try that, I said to myself.

We ordered crepes and sat in the shade. Taking a bite of the rich, velvety pancake-like pocket of heaven, I asked myself why I’d never had this before.

Then I thought to myself…swedish pancakes. I grew up on them.

Smaller in size, a bit thinner. We would line them with butter, sugar, lingonberries, then (for good measure) syrup.

Roll it up like a cigar then drizzle syrup and lingonberries on the top…and, because I was six, sprinkle more sugar. Do two or three in  an assembly line. Each of us had a certain way to prepare ours. I remember my grandma and my mom making big batches of them. Somethings in the morning, other times the night before and reheating for a party. Always with lingonberries. Some breakfast sausage links. Always ate one too many…never any regrets.

But today, in Tunis, crepes.

Several years later my love for crepes was consummated in the Dominican Republic. New neighbors with French and Haitian backgrounds, but in this case mainly the French side rekindles the love for crepes.

Rachelle would make a huge batch. Mixing the eggs, flour, milk…always by sight. I remember watching her take the ladle and scoop some of the batter up, pouring it back into the bowl to check consistency. She would artfully watch and mutter something in French and usually add more milk.

Colby and I would watch her make them. And, as if we were six again, try to flip or grab them before they were ready.

Sometimes we’d get away with it.

Most times Rachelle would catch us, mutter something else in French and flick our hands away. This didn’t stop us from trying again.

I make crepes at home now for my girls. In fact I just made a batch this morning.

I measure the ingredients but add more milk than the recipe calls for. I use a Calphalon crepe pan that’s been with us since we lived in the Dominican Republic.

I don’t have a fancy crepe T (not sure what it’s called, maybe a crepe spreader?) but I use a ladle to pour/spread the batter, then usually flip them with my hands.

Sometimes I fill them with eggs and bacon and/or chorizo. Other times lingonberries and the Swedish pancake routine. Sometimes just syrup.

When I lived in the Dominican Republic there was a restaurant, La Creperie. My girlfriend and I would go there often on dates. It was nestled near the river, below the main level of the plaza. Out of sight from a distance. When you walked down the steps it was like walking into someone’s garden for a party.

One time we went there for a date but before we went I insisted Julie dress up. She wasn’t having it, tired from a long week.

I insisted. She was a good sport and got dressed up.

We enjoyed a lovely meal of crepes, walked through the old city of Santo Domingo.

We stopped in a Spanish town square, Parque Colón, one of our favorite spots.

I read a poem.

I got down on one knee.

In spanish, I asked her to marry me.

She said yes.

A year later we were married.

Thirteen years and three girls later, still making crepes.

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A bus ride

I paid my fare, collected my ticket, and sat down on the bus. Something I had done hundreds of times before to make the trip from Jarabacoa to Santo Domingo, but today was different.

It would be my last time making this trip while living in the Dominican Republic.

It was my last full day on the island.

The bus started down the winding road, passing familiar sights. My mind didn’t give them much notice, nor the Steven Seagal movie that was playing on the bus’s entertainment system. I had a book in hand, a collection of short stories by Phillip K. Dick to pass the time. I remember reading one story (I believe it was called The Golden Man) that day about a man who always saw infinite possibilities in front of him. Considering all the possibilities and unknowns that were before us, it put me deep in thought.

We were set to fly out early the next day. My wife Julia, our 9 month old daughter Lara, and our dog Nina were going to embark on a new chapter of life.

Julia and Lara’s first time in the USA. Their first time experiencing winter. In fact, I remember what Julia first said when we stepped of the plane in Minneapolis a few days later, “It feels like sticking your face in the freezer” when, in fact, the freezer is warmer than what we were experiencing in Minneapolis that day.

I had membranous glomerulonephritis. I was to be part of a trial at Mayo Clinic for treatment.

We had no health insurance. With a few thousand dollars to our name (most of which I was carrying with me in cash) and some faith (I’ll get to that later), we were taking things one day or one moment at a time.


Over the coming days/weeks/months/years I will be writing out bits and pieces of my story. I haven’t said much about it but it has been bubbling up more over the past several months through questions, conversations, and thoughts.

It’s time to write it out.

There won’t be a rhyme or reason to the order I write, it will be bits as they come up. I will try to link them together, and answer questions like:

  • How did you find out you had a kidney disease?
  • How did you meet your wife? How did she get her residency so she could travel to the USA?  You mean she couldn’t travel here without a visa?
  • What were you doing in the Dominican Republic?
  • What happened with your kidneys?
  • Why were you on a bus your last day in the country?

I’m looking forward to the journey, and honored to have you join me on it!

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