Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Boca Chica and Santo Domingo are supplied with water for domestic use by a government public service institution that goes by the name of Corporación de Acueductos y Alcantarillados de Santo Domingo (CAASD). In keeping with the general “modernization” trend of this country the concept that “user must pay” is slowly but surely being addressed by CAASD in particular, as they strive to install meters for all users. Earlier in the year a CAASD report indicated that only 50% of clients actually pay for their water, and only 25% had water meters connected to their lines.
We shall move swiftly over one observable kink in this story, in that here at Playa Vista we actually had a meter installed some years ago, but… in April this year the company obviously determined that it should be replaced along with all the others in the neighborhood.
First month everything went swimmingly, but when, in the second month after installation, we received an invoice approximately quadruple the normal level alarm bells started ringing. It jolted memories of our fiasco with EdeEste (the local electricity distributor) last year when, in spite of the usual very steady consumption, to our horror and grief, we received a bill five times higher than normal. (See blog Feb 5th 2006) Our experiences at that time led us to believe that unfortunately EdeEste obviously were taking the motto of ‘user pays’ one step further: “non-user” can also be made to pay if you flex your monopoly muscle the ‘right’(read ‘wrong’) way!
Meanwhile… enquiries at the Boca Chica CAASD office indicated that some kind of technical adjustment had been made to the new meter after installation and that this data was in the “archives”. Well, the archives remained well and truly shut for a couple of months and there was no movement on our account or any explanation until one fine day we called Mr. Steve Lora in the CAASD Santo Domingo office.
For those of you who don’t know the workings in this country too well, you should know that a phone call can be the beginning of a long and enduring journey that may or may not wind its way to a conclusion one day in the distant future. In this case the number we dialed gave us the precise man in question whose details incidentally were given to us quite correctly by the man who reads the meter. Mr. Lora listened attentively to our story, admitted he had no record of any problem on his computer screen, but if we could kindly ring back after 3 pm he would have an answer for us. A little after 3 pm we called -admittedly dubiously so- but again surprisingly got through immediately and directly to Mr. Lora himself. As promised he had the details and explained that we didn’t need to pay the current bill because the company did in fact owe us money; with two of our last unpaid bills taken into account precisely 26 pesos and this would be reflected in next month’s bill. And… surprise surprise it was!
People around the bar were quite staggered by this unheard of hiccupless tale and one of our good friends enlisted our help to talk to the same Mr. Lora recently to see if we could help to resolve his more serious problem with the same organization. As before Mr. Lora was there to field the call. As before he listened attentively… and then promptly shouted across the office to a member of his team to cancel the order to suspend our friend’s water supply! An inspector would be sent to find out why our good friend was being charged an excessive amount of money for a meter with a serial number unrelated to the one immediately outside his house!
The next week we called Mr. Lora again to get some news about the result of the inspection. He clarified that the problem was one of “crossed” meters, “but wait on the line, don’t say anything while I speak to my assistant”, he added. In addition to “user pays” often being a foreign concept here “transparency” is another concept that slides exactly into the same envelope, so we were amazed while we heard him explain to his assistant in customer-favorable tones that he must have the recalculated bill at the latest by the end of the day because he was talking to the customer right now. “Did you hear all that?” asked Mr. Lora. “Yes we sure did, thank you”, we gratefully replied. He then finished with, “Your friend’s next bill should see the matter sorted out”, which we surely now have to be far less dubious about.
So a big ‘thumbs up’ for Mr. Lora and CAASD from Playa Vista and perhaps, next month’s invoice permitting, one of Playa Vista’s good old friends too!
Thursday, November 9, 2006
We live on an island… which by definition means we and everybody else living here is separated from the rest of the world by water, and in our particular case rather a lot of it!
What about travels by sea then? It turns out that the only regular fare-paying route from our Caribbean island is to the neighboring island of Puerto Rico – officially a United States territory with Commonwealth status.
It was one of Playa Vista’s good customers who recently checked out this travel option and alerted us to the possibility. He explained that he boarded the MS Caribbean Express just up the road at the Sans Souci terminal in Santo Domingo ready for the 8 pm departure… and exactly12 hours later docked in the Puerto Rican port of Mayaguez.
He spoke very highly of the trip. The one way fare, including room, in his case was US$85. After that he paid a US$20 bus fare to get to the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. The restaurant provided an all-you-can-eat buffet at a very reasonable US$12.50 with drinks. Prices, in our friend’s opinion also, being moderate. On the boat there is a small casino area, but it was the four hour show of comedy, dancing and music that he was particularly impressed with. If you should need further information the web site address of the ferry company is: www.ferriesdelcaribe.com
There is a sea-going alternative to this pleasant cruiser-like trip, where you don’t even need a passport… but, the method, security, money involved and guarantees are of quite a different order. Here it is known as traveling by ‘yola’ (a small wooden boat) and you would have to know a man who knows a man who runs these slow moving vessels of questionable quality in the dark of night usually from unspecified locations in the east of the country. The intended destination is said to be some remote beach on that same island of Puerto Rico often close to Mayaguez actually and we have heard the fee is something in the much steeper region of 10,000 pesos, and that is if you know the man who knows a man very well. Unfortunately the lack of guarantees includes never knowing if you will arrive or not, and even more decidedly… whether you will even survive or not. So… we at Playa Vista would naturally recommend the MS Caribbean Express if you’re in the lucky position of owning something as luxurious as a passport!
Assuming you have the right passport you can of course buy a plane ticket and fly just about anywhere in the world from Las Americas International Airport tucked conveniently in behind the “MegaPort” on the Caucedo peninsula a kind of a stone’s throw from Playa Vista, but there is somewhat of a touchy passport issue related to the whole travel subject for most of the people who are Dominican nationals. A little research reveals that if you were to possess just a Dominican passport then the number of countries in the world that will accept you without first applying for a none-too-easy to achieve visa are in a very exclusive and quite fancy list, namely: Argentine, Chile, South Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Peru, Lichtenstein and Uruguay!
Our exotic Latin Caribbean island is of course glad of these few connections but surely needs to work at spreading it’s net of international ‘friends’ further… now doesn’t it?
NB: Unfortunately the last service ferry from ferriesdelcaribe.com sailed in 2010. Their twitter page claims the service ended due to problems with management at the Mayaguez Holland Group.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
As many of you will know… from the Playa Vista Terrace we look right out on rather a spectacular view! We much admire and appreciate the natural view of the reef, the Caribbean Ocean surf breaking on that same reef and the multi-hued colors of the tropical sea and sky at all times and especially at sun-down when we can take special advantage of that view directly from the bar. However, over to the west we have witnessed a much debated spectacular change taking place over the years, but in this case a change purely of the man-made type.
As we told you back in Aril 2004: ‘The only evidence of man’s engineering in the direction of the Caucedo peninsula used to be the arrival and departure of airplanes as they headed to and from the runway of Santo Domingo’s principal International Airport located in the middle of the peninsula and by the way no more than a convenient 10 minutes by taxi from Playa Vista’s central location. Over the years the skyline has changed quite dramatically, but it is at night that the developments are particularly notable, as they are all accompanied by quite spectacular lighting arrangements – the kind of unfailing light-show that would be the envy of quite a number of parts of the country that are often subject to complete and extended black-outs’.
The first development was the construction of a large liquid natural gas (LNG) storage tank together with jetty, right on the tip of the peninsula, for the incoming tankers to berth and offload their cargoes. This development was followed by the construction of an electricity generating station immediately adjacent to the gas tank and then last, but most certainly not least, came the deep-water Caucedo ‘MegaPort’ itself.
The first two projects generate little observable movement except for the occasional Trinidadian tanker pulling in and discharging its gas, but the MegaPort facility is quite a different matter and in recent weeks we have noticed a considerable upsurge in movement to and from the facility.
In spite of the super-fast modern turnaround times some of the ship’s crews sometimes do find the time to visit us at Playa Vista, to touch firm ground and swig down a cold beer before they are off again. Recently we were visited by the captain of a Croatian vessel that has a circular agenda taking in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico before returning again 42 days later to Boca Chica. Others in the bar were sufficiently curious to pry other details from the off-duty Captain. As far as he was concerned his company, Hapag-Lloyd, now regard Boca Chica as the key port in this part of the globe and that the turn around times are particularly rapid… in fact just around eight hours! He also told us that as far as his ship was concerned, with a load of 3,500 containers, it was just of average size; some of the ships come in carrying over 5000 containers! On this particular day he said that they would be off-loading about 15% of their cargo, underlining the fact that most of the shipments are not in-bound, but destined to go out again as this port is specifically for trans-shipment.
All this extra activity is no doubt good for the contiguous areas of Andres and La Caleta, but actually has little direct impact on us in Boca Chica because those mariners just don’t get the time to hang around very long due to the modern efficiencies of loading and unloading containers. Right from the start there have been rumors circulating of further port expansion and development including provision for Cruise Liners. Now that would, for better and for worse, help liven up the immediate area in a big way! But, we are after all located in the laid-back sunny Caribbean so as usual – as with so many other rumored and/or planned projects – have to repeat the mantra: ‘time will tell’!
Thursday, October 5, 2006
We visited the local municipal council offices – in the center of town a very short stone’s throw from the Central Park – last month with the simple intention of paying Playa Vista’s regular garbage collection bill… and ended up noticing that even in Boca Chica ‘the times they are a changing’!
Without much thought we went as “usual” to the rear entrance because construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations had been going on for so long it had become normal for us to step over and around building materials and certainly never walk through the main front entrance due to it being constantly blocked and or locked apparently due to the constant program of building works. On reflection it seems to us that the changes are further evidence of the continuing modernization of our little town which, as far as civic administration is concerned, took a significant leap forward exactly four years ago when it was designated as independent from the control of Santo Domingo for the first time and duly elected its own mayor and governing council.
As the seat of operations it is obvious that quite some importance has been attached to this, the principal office, as we looked around with new eyes on this day. At least in the rear bill-paying section each of the small operation rooms seem to be fully fitted with computers, monitors and printers… all in a fully air-conditioned environment and on the day in question, for the first time ever, we received our refuse collection receipt of payment in the form of a computer print-out. We could see down the hallway of the main building that the front entrance was now open and we ambled towards the entrance increasingly taking note of the changes that had taken place and were now on view. We noticed a large conference room on the right furnished with top quality wooden chairs and a very large conference table and then passed towards and through the front entrance which itself had a smart reception desk.
As we spilled out on to the street the impact of the improvements was complete when we stood and took in the fullness of the impressive main entrance area. The large brass lettering of “AYUNTAMIENTO MUNICIPAL DE BOCA CHICA” arcing across the high arch supported on Roman columns leaves you in no doubt as to this is where you will find Boca Chica´s municipal council. The entire frontage, and exterior of the building for that matter, is painted a calming and pleasant cyan color, bordered attractively in white and last, but not least, there are neatly planted garden areas with flowers and palm trees on either side at ground level before you walk up the four tiled-steps to the main entrance.
All this – for better and for worse – an extreme far cry from when we arrived to a Boca Chica that looked a lot like a stage-set for an old wild-west movie almost ten years ago, we reminisced. We trust that the newly elected mayoral government of Joselín Peña, as only Boca Chica´s second, will be able to get down to some serious work in the modern and comfortable environment they now have created and finally give a substantial, objective and positive helping hand in the ongoing renovation of Boca Chica beach and the general modernization of good old Boca Chica… but that, of course, knocks on the door of politics and is a story for a different time.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Does helping children pander to your altruistic conscience? Then how about helping children with cancer? In the Dominican Republic that is precisely the goal of one of our regular visitors at the Playa Vista bar.
Around the Playa Vista premises cancer may not be the favorite subject of conversation, but… to the future benefit of a lot of kids in this part of the world cancer has become a major focus of attention for one of our regulars, Chris Phillips, who is in fact a third year medical student studying far from his Californian origins at the Universidad Iberoamericana – ‘UNIBE’ – Santo Domingo. Together with a good friend of his from the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore they have very recently made solicitation in the USA for full 501-3C charity status with the specific intention of helping children with diagnosed cancer. The name of the charity is ‘The Caribbean Cancer Foundation’ and the Dominican Republic is to be the initial recipient of the Foundation’s help.
Our two medical friends explained to us that there is one very fine established organization in this country committed exclusively to diagnosing and treating children’s cancer: the ‘Instituto Oncológico Doctor Heriberto Pieter’ in Santo Domingo which offers its services to the children with the support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee. Unfortunately, however, even the combined efforts of these two fine institutions only digs partially into the problem of children’s cancer here. At the time of talking, only approximately half of the 300 diagnosed cases of children suffering from cancer were being treated and the remaining 150 or so can only wait. Additionally our friends stressed that an even bigger problem is the unknown numbers of children suffering the grim disease, who, if diagnosed earlier, could be helped in a significant way… and that is precisely where it is hoped their new charity will step in.
The two initiative takers themselves pointed out that it is not just the agents, drugs and medical equipment that the children need, but all kinds of supportive items right down to used toys that, for example, can help enormously in entertaining during the times the children are receiving treatment. In their own words they would dearly love to be able to significantly augment the work already being done, and their aim is to build up significant financial support from around the world to make this possible. They have already made contact with some high profile charities and personalities on the world stage and if their good intentions are any kind of marker, some of the less fortunate children in our corner of the world could soon be welcoming beneficiaries of their efforts.
If you should feel like adding your help, one way or the other, you can get in touch with the foundation via Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Ever had a paint job done in the Dominican Republic?
One of our Playa Vista friends recently agreed to rent an apartment here in Boca Chica for his regular visits to this little corner of paradise in order to relax from work pressures in other parts of the world. He was very pleased with his new found home away from home… all apart from the color that is. He stated very clearly to the landlord that it was only the very decidedly pink nature of his bedroom he didn’t like. The rest of the house was absolutely fine in standard white. If he could just have the bedroom changed. Well… he went ahead; selected and bought a can of paint that he thought would be acceptable and noted it was labeled as “marfil” (ivory). The landlord’s son – very much in on the whole escapade, including the original conversation with the landlord – did the work and our friend was delighted with the outcome both the color and the standard of the workmanship.
Seeing that the workmanship was good and for the sake of uniformity he decided to invest some more and have the rest of the apartment also painted the same ‘marfil’ color. He bought an enormous drum of new paint with “marfil” clearly marked on the lid, for about 100 dollars, brushes, thinner and whatever else the landlord’s son would need to complete the job, while our friend took a flight out and went back to his work. Our friend even called and spoke to the landlord’s son to ask if everything was all right. ‘No problema!’ ‘Everything absolutely fine’. ‘Paint job all finished and ready for your arrival’. “All right then, I’ll be there in about a week to see it for myself.”… Kind of conversation.
He flew into town and hurried to his new found newly painted apartment thinking to start a relaxing hassle-free stay in town. He stood aghast at the entrance to the apartment, as soon as he opened the front door. The paint job had been executed perfectly it seemed. He was merely aghast because everything was the very same awful PINK that the bedroom had been, all mercifully except his bedroom which, at least, was still ivory. Every other room was the same totally unacceptable pink… even the previously acceptable white ceilings had now been touched up with ‘decorative’ pink center-pieces round the light fittings!
He could at least go to sleep that night surrounded by the only four ivory walls still standing in his apartment while he contemplated how he would go about rectifying the situation. Would he invest another 100 dollars in paint? – ‘probably’. Would he get the landlord’s son to do it again? – also ‘probably’. Would he have the job done while he was away again? – “absolutely not”. Would he personally check that the label indicating the color and the actual color of the paint inside the bucket coincided before the work began? – “very definitely!”
Saturday, September 2, 2006
Have you been missing the umbrella stories? Well they are back… in a strange kind of way.
Just to get you in the mood try this one on for size:
A very workmanlike guy of about 45 to 50 came into Playa Vista one Sunday recently because he had spotted a couple of our worst umbrellas sitting in the corner awaiting some kind of repair attention. He offered to fix them for us. We suggested he could look through our stock and then tell us what he could fix and how much he would charge.
He hooked out about five or six and explained his plan of sewing and/or gluing in various needy places, and that he would charge 300 pesos for fixing all. We thought that would be reasonable and immediately agreed. He said he would need 100 pesos to buy some glue. We duly gave him the 100 pesos and he left the premises quirkily pointing out that he had deposited his little black work bag in the corner. We even put it into safe keeping for him in our office. He returned, with some glue, retrieved his bag from the office and took out some green cloth that he started cutting into pieces and stuck on two gaping holes on two of our very oldest Presidente umbrellas. We seemed to be well on course… meanwhile he had opened up all of the umbrellas and with a growing number of people and vehicles arriving and leaving on this busy Sunday morning it turned into quite an obstacle course for the coming and going cars as they tried to negotiate their way round the umbrellas that were waiting for the glue to dry or for further repair. Well, we waited as the sun beat down and the glue dried. The glue dried some more and we removed one umbrella from the entrance way to the bathroom by necessity while the glue continued to dry and dry… but our repair man had vanished into thin air and by this time conclusively no sign of his little black bag either.
He had gone… a kind of a swindle, but not too bad in that we did get two repaired umbrellas out of it. However, in this country with its low labor rates his half hour of work came a bit steep at 100 pesos.
In contrast if you stroll by or through Playa Vista these days, you will notice three new Presidente umbrellas as well as three new rather elegant and appropriately coordinated red umbrellas adorning the terraza presented to us by Ambev in their efforts to further promote the Brahma beer. We have to be honest and mention that sales of Brahma have been disappointingly slow in spite of an attractive price cut vis-à-vis the old stalwart: Presidente. We will be very intrigued to see if these new umbrellas help Brahma matters along. Time will tell!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
How many man hours does it take to send a fax in the Dominican Republic?
A good friend of ours is for personal reasons earnestly trying to sell his property. He had passed a number of the procedural bridges and reached the advanced and important point whereby the buyer’s lawyer’s secretary called him at about 2 pm one afternoon explaining that they needed a copy of the plan of the property by closing time (6pm), in order to urgently push the sale along.
Four hours to go, our friend thought, should be straight forward, time to spare….
His first obstacle, after rummaging through his personal papers, was to discover that the plan was considerably larger than a regular A4 size and would need to be reduced before a fax could be sent. He ambled along to the local Tricom telephone call center where he unfortunately discovered that the copying machine was broken. He didn’t know of another place off hand to visit and decided, with clearly so much time to spare, to take the short journey back home where he thought he would wait for his housekeeper, Nanny, who was supposed to be turning up escorted by her husband, Perrin, on his motorcycle at 3pm, in order to engage their help.
First off he sent them to the Costa Lunga hotel where he had some time in the past used their copying and fax services. The Costa Lunga’s machine was also out of service! Nanny and Perrin persevered and three more establishments later were able to reduce the plan to A4 size and returned to our friend’s home in semi-triumph. At this precise moment the lawyer’s secretary called to ask, “Have you sent the fax?” “No, but it will be with you in the next 10 minutes”, our friend confidently added. This was because Nanny and Perrin were already off again on the motorbike, this time to the Verizon call and fax center. 30 minutes later Nanny and Perrin returned crestfallen to announce that the fax had not gone through even though they had tried four times. Our friend called the secretary assuming they had a problem with the machine at the lawyer’s end. “No problem at all!” the secretary confidently claimed. “I am sitting right beside it, it is switched on and I can confirm that the number you are using is correct”.
For the first time our friend was beginning to feel anxious about meeting the deadline, for time was marching swiftly on and all he had to show for the effort so far was an A4 reduction of the original plan. He now presumed the problem to be at the Verizon center. He was on the point of sending Nanny and Perrin off again when his landlord turned up and suggested the local pharmacy might have a fax machine. Our friend was rapidly learning the art of pragmatism. He sent the landlord off to the nearby pharmacy, Nanny and Perrin again on the motorbike further afield and he himself went to another call center round the corner. The pharmacy used to have a fax machine but no longer… and the local call center does have a fax machine but only for receiving faxes! Father time’s big hand was now pointing to the 5 on the clock as our friend returned home again and as the phone rang, the secretary asked once more, “Have you sent the fax?” “Not quite yet, but soon”, he said with discernibly less authority than before.
Very soon after that Nanny and Perrin came back with triumph written all over their faces. “It went through,” Nanny whooped. So our friend got straight on to the secretary and asked: “Have you got the fax?” “Well,” she nervously exclaimed, “no! We’ve just now figured it out at this end. We’ve noticed that there is no ink cartridge in our fax machine”.
Now our friend was not only nervous but a little something else as well, but controlling himself admirably he asked, “What now then?” “Take a note of our address and send it by regular mail”, she responded. “What! By the Dominican postal service to arrive tomorrow and it is past 5 o’clock now? (see July 22nd blog on the Dominican postal service) For heaven’s sake give me another fax number”. He could hear the secretary asking around her office if anybody had any ideas on this, and a few minutes later she was able to offer another number. The motorbike was gunned into action again and off went Nanny and Perrin and came back with yet more triumphant smiles. “It went through”, they said with their new-found glee. Even though it was now 6.15 pm our friend made his last call hoping against hope that more or less four hours work put in by three people had yielded the result he wanted. Good… the secretary was still there. Again, “Have you got the fax?” “How could I possibly know that,” she said, “the other fax machine isn’t in this office!”
So, the answer to the initial question in this case is about 12 man hours… that is if the fax arrived at all!
Friday, August 11, 2006
In Boca Chica television services can be served up via an aerial antenna picking up the dozen or so Dominican terrestrial channels, via satellite beamed in from the USA or by cable provided by ‘Economitel’.
Economitel has certainly served us well over the last few years and it seems as though they are planning to maintain if not improve their level of service and have even, with us at least, lived up to the economization implied by the company name, though it did happen in a round about kind of way.
The company is very local indeed serving just Boca Chica, Andres and Caleta… and small though they are they do offer a full range of approximately 70 channels with about a dozen in English and one in each of French, Italian and German. We have been paying for three connections since the time the company established itself more than 5 years ago and paying what we thought to be a very reasonable 850 pesos (about US$26) per month for this service. In July we suddenly received a bill for 1200 pesos without any prior notification of increases whatsoever. We naturally enquired of the company what this was all about, when we next time visited their office. They actually had a couple of posters up indicating that prices had been raised because they already had started increasing, and would continue to increase, the number of channels supplied and that new codified digital set-top boxes would be provided in August to further upgrade the quality of their service, although those who had maintained their accounts would not be charged for these boxes.
We noted that the standard price increase was 25%, tax included, and immediately wondered why ours was closer to a whopping 50% hike. It soon became clear that they had re-categorized our usage as fully commercial, but it didn’t take us long to put two and two together and realize that if we presented our factual residential credentials then the price would naturally fall. Those credentials were verified the next day by a couple of technicians who didn’t hesitate to classify our current use as indeed purely residential.
A few days later and the front desk administrator, now with discernible reluctance, –presumably motivated by her boss who she kept on talking to in low murmurs over the phone while we “negotiated” with her – slowly recognized that she really would have to lower the tariff in line with their own very clear regulations. The final result would now be a monthly 650 pesos -a worthwhile economy of 200 pesos- and far removed from the original starting point of 1200 pesos. We couldn’t tell what the boss was muttering to himself behind his glass screen as we bid them all a good day on leaving… but for some reason he didn’t seem quite as pleased as us.
Anyway… the future certainly holds bright for Economitel if they continue to offer the considerate economy options to their long-term customers as presented to us and also introduce an alternative internet service before the end of the year as they claim they will.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Those of you who have been on the Playa Vista terraza of late may have noticed the energetically darting figure of our newest family member namely the largely tabby kitten we talked about in our blog entry earlier this month. No sooner was the ink dry from that story, than she suddenly and sadly disappeared. All the familiar speculations and sentiments went with the loss… perhaps she had been stolen… hope she is being looked after wherever she got to… how sad that after getting so used to her following us so loyally around the place there is now just an empty space where her fragile little body used to appear… etc. etc.
About 48 hours later we found her no further than 5 meters away clinging to the top of the corrugated zinc fence surrounding the vacant lot immediately next door bleating her heart out. It was an easy job to rescue her down, but she definitely had been in the wars out there in the big world. It would seem that all this time she had been entangled in what for a little kitten must have been the vastness of an overgrown jungle… namely the vacant property next door. Our miniature tiger did come back with a couple of nasty scars on her belly as proof of her personal fight for survival in the wild jungle. She seemed to have regressed to the extreme hesitancy of the first day she appeared at Playa Vista, but the good ending to the story is that after we smeared some non-astringent vitamin ointment on her wounded area – not to mention another serving or two of German sausages – she swiftly recovered her familiarity and she is now well and truly back in her self-chosen role as the newest and tiniest member of the international Playa Vista Family.