Tuesday, June 30, 2009

well then pay him for 2 chickens. . .

So today went well. I was able to call at a good time and got the Fical de Bohechio on the phone. He said I wasn't to be involved because I wasn't accused of killing the chickens, Antonio was. I said, "I'm responsible for that land and farm." He said it was simple and not to worry, we are still doing our investigation and looking for proof. To which I said, "yes you need proof: witnesses, lab results from poisoned chickens and 54 dead chickens". I went back to Antonio's defense and started to express my frustration in the situation. As I continued, Antonio's soft humble voice greeted me - the phone was pass from the Fical to Antonio. I said when you are done please call me.

He did.

Turns out they don't have proof. Then they said that the damages must be paid and Antonio should pay for at least 2 chickens. Antonio said, "I'm not paying you one peso". Said Neighbor was apparently pretty irritated. The Local Mayor didn't show so they plan to have another meeting. . .

Monday, June 29, 2009

3 + what = 54

There are many things I'm not good at, math is one of them, but I can solve the above equation.

The chicken saga continues. Last I understood, The Chicken Incident of 2009 was on hold until I could physically defend Antonio and myself in "court". So I told Antonio that he should, per direct instructions to me, go down to Bohechio and put out an order on the remaining chickens. Said Neighbor bought a new rooster and has placed it with his remaining chickens. With a legal order in place, Said Neighbor would have to do something about his chickens (funny, so many survived the poisoning).

Antonio was greeted with a simple but hostile statement from the Regional Mayor, "if you weren't traveling alone you would spend the night here for killing all those chickens". Here is a holding cell in Bohechio. Antonio stood his ground and defended us. There are, to my knowledge, 3 dead chickens as evidence that showed up in the hands of the Said Neighbor, however they insist there are 54.

Tomorrow there is a meeting with Antonio, Said Neighbor, Local Mayor and Regional Mayor. Yes, that is 3 against 1. I will be there in spirit. From my legal council, no laws have been upheld in this process and no real evidence exists. The 3 people against us are all family.

I talked to Antonio tonight. He is sick as a dog with a cold, fever, chills, and congested. He gave his word in the prior meeting and will up hold that. Please note the trip from Los Frios to Bohechio is an exhausting 2 hour trip in the back of a truck that doesn't cover 10 feet of asphalt, but only rutted and rocky trail.

3 + family ties = 54

Monday, June 22, 2009

what friends are for


Abbot Placid the is one of the most virtuous and wonderful men I have ever met. Hence, when he gives me advice I pay close attention. He is a humble, brilliant monk at the Belmont Abbey Monastery. One time during my Peace Corps service he accompanied an alternative spring break trip from Belmont Abbey College. The students funded and built a bank for the savings co-op: COMPASEMUCE in Los Frios.

I expressed my worry about this one Dominican guy who always gave me dirty looks and wouldn't shake my hand or look me in the eye. In Dominican culture, this is beyond passive aggression, this is out right aggressive hateful behavior. He simply said, "Byron, if everyone is your friend what do you stand for? Some people will not like you because of some of the things you do, regardless if they are good things."

As the "Chicken Incident" continues, I have lost "friends"; Antonio has made enemies*. The neighbor who I've been dealing with for the last 2 years has strong family ties with people who have political power. Those people still say hi to me. They don't even greet Antonio any more, and haven't for almost a year, since the last chicken poisoning. I have no intention to slander said neighbor, but only to relate the current events on the farm.

I have a pretty good network in that region of the DR. So I called some one who might know the Fical - Regional Mayor because the Local Mayor is family of the said neighbor and is not upholding the law. Bingo, one phone call later, I have ear with the Fical now. He has put the situation on hold till I go down there. At least they won't touch Antonio, at least they are being reasonable. I still have a lawyer on call, I will still cross my fingers that nothing happens to my farm in retaliation.

As some of my bridges are tested and strengthened, others are marked for destruction. My solace comes from Abbot's words. It is natural to want to be everyone's friend, but it isn't natural to be everyone's friend.

*If I haven't made it clear, Antonio is one of the best friends I could ever have. He is willing to draw lines in the dirt and stand up for us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

who done it?

So I get a panicked phone call from Antonio a few weeks ago. "Byron, the chickens showed up dead I'm being accused of poisoning them!" Last year about the same time, as the black beans were flowering, Antonio had enough of the a neighbors chickens roaming my farm and eating everything in sight, so he poisoned them after countless warnings. I told the said neighbor a couple times directly, still he did nothing to control his chickens. Last year I paid for the chickens: 5,000DR pesos ($140).

On my last trip I saw the said neighbor in the road as I walked out of town because of rains kept the trucks from running. I told him, control the chickens or I will.

He did. I get mad about once a year. My fuse is really really long, but if it goes clear the room. The lieutenant that had me on the phone didn't think this gringo would be quite so aggressive. It was simple. Mr. Lieutenant says, "the owner of the chickens needs you to pay him they are dead, I have them here". I responded, "The owner has every right to be paid for the chickens from the person that killed them." I ask, "who killed the chickens?" Ummm I have 3 chickens and 1 rooster poisoned here. At this point I'm at 6000 RPM. "Who KILLED the CHICKENS?!" OK, deep breath. "DID YOU GO DOWN TO MY FARM AND SEE THE DEAD CHICKENS WITHIN MY BARBWIRE?" "No, they showed up on said neighbors hand". Approaching 9000 RPM. "OK WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR INVESTIGATION AND CAN ACCUSE ME OF POISONING THOSE CHICKENS, THEN YOU CONTACT ME." He realized he would make no progress and handed the phone back to Antonio.

Now I have a lawyer involved, several community members and it is not over yet. Had I killed the chickens, I would pay con gusto. Antonio and I discussed in mid May that we would use a shot-gun to take care of the chickens if they continued to do damage to the beans, bananas, and lettuce. This is obviously more than a couple dead chickens. This is about my family and about precedent.

1) Don't fuck with my Dominican family
2) I will not pay said neighbor a single peso because that sets the stage for him to take advantage of me later

Now you know one example of what its like to own a farm abroad.