Things have become increasingly intense in my household over the past few weeks. I was unable to put my finger on it at first but eventually was able to notice my host mother’s increasing silence towards me, within the past few days our conversations have dwindled to nearly nothing, not even a mention that there is dinner on the stove, yet alone a dinner conversation. Eating my third meal alone today, I was forced to ask myself, what I had done to anger this woman to the point of being almost completely ignored. There where several possibilities, I did not eat all of the food she gave me the first day, and I bought water from a bottle because I didn’t trust the water I was getting (with good cause). Both these gestures where likely seen as insulting to her, but I can’t quite believe that her growing silence is because I bought water or didn’t eat enough. To make things stranger, I read an article in our quarterly magazine yesterday that included an interview with the volunteer who had lived with her two years prior (and left for the states in November), in the article he listed some of his fondest memories of his time in the Dominican Republic and several of them revolved around my host mother and his time living with her. I doubt that he was particularly fond of silence and so I called him for some consultation in regards to the situation. It only took about 45 seconds and a few details to pinpoint the problem; and it turned out it wasn’t me.
As it turns out the entire globe is suffering from an increase in food prices across the board. In the Newsweek I picked up from the capital this weekend it mentioned that there were food related riots in 22 countries within the past few months. As far as I know there has not been any food riots in this country, this is most likely because Dominicans are able to produce almost all of the food locally that is in their diets. There are only a few food commodities that a farming town in this country needs to import, the two biggest are wheat and flour. The problem with my host mother lies in the latter, as a baker the tripled cost of flour crippled her once thriving bakery. Over the past three months she was forced to lay off all six of her employees and shut down her bakery completely until last Monday, when a repairman was able to fix the smaller oven. Last week she mentioned briefly that she no longer had a bakery, but that she was just an old woman making bread. I should have known then that she was not angry at me, she was angry at everything.
After the returned volunteer gave me the last few pieces to complete the puzzle I realized how self centered and foolish I had been. I was upset with this woman for making my experience here more challenging by treating me so strangely, I was thinking only about me and my comfort in the house. I know now that I should be thinking about the people who are down here, which is why I came in the first place. The new problem is that when thinking about her situation I am still left without an answer. I suppose the first step is to start talking.