Monday, August 31, 2009

A Bad Case of the Mondays (Beware of Too Much Information)

By the Mondays I mean food poisoning. I decided that it would be a good idea to make oatmeal in the microwave with tap water. As many of you probably know, when you heat water in the microwave for three minutes it gets very hot, but it does not boil. As many of you also may be aware in order to kill bacteria you need to actually boil water. I did not do this, and in about 12 hours I made three bowls of oatmeal. Melissa yesterday said, “Are you sure you should be using tap water for that?” and I responded that I thought it was probably fine. Unfortunately, I was wrong about that. I went to school today but spent a very long 50 minutes with one of my classes waiting for a window where I could sprint to the bathroom (too personal?) and then left as soon as my last class left for the day. I came home and took a long nap which really helped, but since eating dinner my stomach has started to hurt again so hopefully it settles down. What a lovely post this was. Sorry.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Japer's Race, Zona Colonial, Being Chased by Wild Dogs

We woke up really early this morning to go to J.P's Triathlon. Somehow he managed to find one within the first month of coming here, another in three weeks, the national federation of triathlon, and a team to train with. I think he was a bloodhound in another life. Anyway it was shockingly well organized and setup and it was on this really pretty beach inside the city. The beach inside the city normally is quite dirty and the waves are really rough, but this was inside a little harbor with blue water and no waves. It was really nice. For those of you who are interested in the details you should read J.P's blog, which is The name is because he gets honey all over things, not because we call each other by disgusting pet names. 

Anyway, after the triathlon we came back to the apartment, showered, I scoped out my redneck sunburn, and we went to wander in Zona Colonial. I know you guys probably think we never go anywhere else in the city, and the truth is, you're right. We still haven't really figured out where everything is. You know how when there is a flood or a storm or something you are supposed to follow the rats or the little animals to higher ground? Well, in Santo Domingo we are basically doing the same thing only the rats and little animals are other gringos and higher ground is pretty buildings and places to buy souvenirs. We tried today to wander a little bit off the beaten path though, and we ended up in a residential neighborhood where we were followed down the street by a snarling female dog (those of you who have been to Ecuador may be able to guess how we knew she was female, hint to the rest of you, unspayed dogs eventually develop something akin to udders) and J.P. picked up a rock to throw at her if she got too close to us. Unfortunately, he kept the rock in his hand after we went around the corner and a Dominican guy who was sitting on his steps ducked and covered his head, thinking that J.P. was going to knock him out. J.P. surrendered the rock after that. I showed J.P. that cool restaurant where we went the other night, and we found our way back to the gift shop part of the city. The gift shops are kind of cute, but there is a really good restaurant near there where we had dinner, and then wandered around some old monuments. It was a really cool trip because we saw some parts of the Zona Colonial which were less touristy and a lot cooler, and also got delicious food. 

After that we came back, I did some grading and lesson plan writing, and our power went out 5 times during that time. I am quickly learning to charge my computer whenever I can, and preferably at school where we don't pay for electricity. I have also been trying to satisfy my craving for airconditioning at school, hoping that if I use enough there I won't need it when I get home, but so far that hasn't been working out so well. Overall, except for the sunburn, it was a really good day in the city. I told J.P. that instead of teaching here I would just like to go to the beach and have weekends. I wonder if I could get paid for that? If you hear of anything let me know. 

Oh yeah, he also wanted me to blog about a story I told him today. So a couple of weeks ago Melissa and I went over to the botanical gardens in the city to wander around. We were right outside the gardens about to cross the street when a funeral procession drove by. As many of you probably know catcalling is incredibly common in Latin America, and women are constantly accosted by a deluge of calls by nearly every man they pass. If they are not actually called to they are at least stared at. Well, as Melissa and I waited (respectfully I thought) for the funeral procession to pass none other than the hearse driver rolled down his window and called "Hola rubias" (which here means any white person) or something to that effect in a creepy voice. Now the catcalling is normally annoying and at times very uncomfortable, but never would I have thought that I would get it from a man driving a hearse leading a funeral procession. It was amazing. 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pussycat Dolls and Juan Dolio

Friday I had a really good day at school. The kids are getting better and better as they figure out how to behave. One of my students did try to turn in the lyrics to a Pussycat Dolls song (“When I Grow Up”) for an essay about dream jobs and I had to explain to her, twice, why that wasn’t acceptable, but other than that things have been going really well at school. When I came home (we have to leave at three on Fridays because they fumigate the school) I tried to make myself a fruit smoothie with J.P’s blender (and when I say fruit smoothie I mean smashed up mango and rum) and it wouldn’t turn on. Any of you who know JP well know that his blender is his most prized possession. For those of you who do not know J.P. very well it should be obvious because he brought it with him to the Dominican Republic in his one suitcase. Anyway, there was some serious mourning to be done so we walked up to the grocery store to console him. He went to look at new blenders but he thought it was too soon. He set it outside on the balcony when we got home to see if the inside would dry out (the problem was that it got wet) and now it’s working! Mango and rum for all!


After we grocery shopped Sean and Sarah came over, and then Doug and Stacy and we went to the Zona Colonial for a drink. We found a different area there where I have never been and it overlooks the river and there are some restaurants and really old buildings. It was amazingly beautiful there. We went to this restaurant called “Angelo’s” and sat on the roof. We each only ordered one drink because it was ridiculously expensive but it was really nice up there. It was especially nice because all of the people I was with work at the school, but we didn’t talk about work. We sat and talked for a long time and then decided to plan on going to the beach on Saturday.


This morning I woke up early, had breakfast, and Stacy and Doug came over and Stacy, Doug, Bridgitte, and I went to this beach called Juan Dolio. It is about an hour outside of the city. We called a cab to take us to the bus station and he offered to take us all the way there, wait, and then bring us back for about $15 each, so we decided to do that instead of taking the bus. We got there and wandered down the beach for awhile, and then we sat down at some restaurant and tried to order food. They brought us menus and then asked for our membership numbers. We didn’t even know the name of where we were and obviously did not have a membership so we were politely told that we could stay at the table but could not be served food. Awkward. So we kept walking down the beach and then realized that there was no way out and Bridgitte was really thirsty. We walked back a little ways and then found a hotel that we could walk through to get to the road and the guy there offered to drive us to get water on the back of his motorcycle with Bridgitte and I for 50 pesos (divide by 35). We hopped on the back (sorry Mom) and went down to a place where we sat at a little bar and got waters and then beers (maybe a bit counterproductive). Stacy and Doug decided to walk instead of riding on the motorbikes, which was probably a smart idea but it took them awhile to catch up to us. We ate at this really nice restaurant and then laid in the sand and read while Doug played with some Haitian kids with boogie boards in the water. You guys should check out my photosite soon. I will put the pictures of the beach up there. If Las Terrenas was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen this was definitely in the top 4. It was so pretty, bright blue water, bright blue sky, white sand, palm trees, the whole bit. Come visit! Anyway, so far it has been a great weekend and best of all I have barely talked about work at all, which is a difficult feat when everyone you hang out with is a coworker. It’s been great. I think we’re all tired of talking about it. Love you guys!



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Second Day

Today was day two at school. I am trying to lay down the law but I think that I will have to keep fighting the good fight for a few weeks until they get the idea. Today I made a class walk back into the hallway, greet me, and come back in quietly 3 times before they came in the way I wanted them to. It's all a process though and I am working on it. After school I came back, ate, and thought about going in the pool, which I think I will do immediately after I finish this blog. I forgot how crazy school is and how exhausting it is for the first few weeks. I come home wiped out, but hopefully that is only temporary. I also forgot how at the end of the day you can barely remember anything that happened because everything goes by so fast. I only have about 45 minutes with the kids each period, which seems like enough time to greet them, get them to do their warm-ups, and then say goodbye to them. Hopefully once they get into a routine it will be better. Anyway, how are you all? Please send emails and tell me what you are all up to. If any of the teachers read this, what are you guys doing this year? Miss everyone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of School

Hello All,

Today was my first day of school, and it went by so fast. I had 4 classes, 3 Language Arts classes and 1 Social Studies. I have two great classes and one great class that is a little squirrley, but we'll work on that. I think it is going to be a really good year and the sixth graders are going to be fun to work with, and more interested in learning than the high-schoolers that I worked with last year. Tomorrow I am giving a talk on how to pick a good book, which I am so much more excited about than they will be (typical). 

I ate lunch with some of the other teachers after my first three classes (I have been speaking a lot more Spanish with them lately, which could either mean I passed their test or they are tired of putting in the extra effort to talk to me in English because I am such a bore), and then I did "lunch supervision" which means that I patrol the staircase and make sure no one goes up until they are allowed, and when they are allowed that no one brings food or drink upstairs. I was fairly successful in this today, but I think in the future when the kids get bolder I will have a hard time turning them down when they have a good excuse to go upstairs. I had my social studies class in the afternoon and then I was finished for the day. I planned things out and came home. I think that my weeks here are going to be really busy, filled with eleven year olds and eleven year old problems, but it was nice to start actually teaching again. 

I keep meaning to take some pictures of my class to show you all, would you want to see it? I can't decide if that would be nice or like your dad's friend showing you home videos of family vacations.  Speaking of which, I found a "reaction poll" that I could attach to my blog that said whether you thought it was "interesting" "fun" or "cool". That's it. Those were the only options. Even though they had such an ample word-choice bank I decided not to add it.  

After school I came home and ate my weight in mango and olives, and then Bridgitte opened a bottle of wine and we had a few glasses and talked about libraries. Overall, today was a great success. 

Last night (8/25)

So tomorrow is the first day of school, and today I had a very busy day at work, but I think that at long last I am ready for the kids to start coming in tomorrow. I have been here almost a month now, and I have spent the whole time at school without kids getting ready, so even though I am nervous for tomorrow it should at least be more interesting with them around. They read a book over the summer called “No Talking” have any of you guys ever read it? It’s kind of cute, obviously a book written by a teacher. I just finished it today but it’s about this fifth grade class who has a contest boys versus girls of who can talk less. Good for the kids to read I think, it’s also about how disruptive talking is in school. I guess we are trying to trap them over the summer into behaving better in school, hopefully it worked. Anyway, starting tomorrow I have to pretend to be an adult again and be stricter than I feel like being, but so it goes. I’ll write tomorrow all about it and let you guys know how it went. Miss you all! Love you! Let’s schedule skype dates soon!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Day

So I had a really good day today, and I am going to explain that briefly for keeping-tabs purposes, and then I am going to tell you about the analogy I came up with today for Latin America as a locked front door, and probably bore you, but bear with me. 

-I went to school where I was very productive, and I think, miracle of all miracles, I may actually be ready when the kids come on Wednesday
-My principal wrote me a really nice note saying that the hard work I've been doing has not gone unnoticed, which was totally unexpected and made my day
-I went to lunch with Stacy and Melissa at the same place we went yesterday, I might start going there more often, there aren't a lot of people but it's delicious
-I came back to school and went to a meeting with the owner, and then finished up some other work
-I left, came home to pick up JP, and we went out for drinks with some other teachers
-JP and I went to the store to get some bread to give to the cute Haitian kids (we like to think of ourselves as really giving but mostly it's just fun to give them food, it's very selfishly driven)

Okay, so those are the events of the day. Here's my analogy.

So when I left school today I had stayed later to work and so as I tried to get out I found that the front door was locked. I'm not talking about a key lock, I'm talking about a huge metal grate pulled down over the door like the ones they use in the city or the mall at night. Because it was locked I had to go out the back door and walk two more block around the school so that I could get to where I would have started to walk home. On the way I saw a maid walking a pug which obviously wasn't hers and we said hello to each other, I passed a twenty-something girl and her way home from work and we also said hello, and then I went by Sergio's fruit stand and we waved to each other enthusiastically. By the time I got to the front door I had 3 interactions that I would not have had if the door had not been locked. This situation, to me, describes everything I think, love and hate about Latin America, and it struck me as the perfect way to communicate it to everyone else. Now for the explanation.

Okay, so in Latin America it sometimes seems that social relationships, and not hard work, are what get people what they want. I stayed late to work and so was locked in. Had I been friends with the door guy I would have found him (even if this took longer than walking) and he would have let me out. If I had been related to the door guy I would have a secret key to the front door of my own. Because this door was locked I had to go very far out of my way to get to where I should have started, which seems to be how everything works in Latin America. There are roadblocks, and even though no one can explain why they are there no one seems willing or able to do something about them, unless you have a connection through a friend or a relative. So as a foreigner I usually have to go around the block instead of through the front gate, because I don't generally have the connections I need. The front gate represents what I don't like about Latin America. The rest represents what I love. 

As an American, I tend to get very frustrated by these roadblocks, especially those with no explanation or reason for being, because I have been raised being used to efficiency. However, on my walk around the block I had three short interactions with people who I would not have seen if I had gotten out the quick way, and here those mean a lot more than efficiency. Stronger networks exist here than in the U.S. because it is necessary to have a large number of people around you who can help you get the gate unlocked if you need them too. Sure I had to walk around some garbage in the street, and walk in the road in the places where the sidewalk is patchy, and hop over the parts that were still wet from the flash flood earlier in the afternoon, but at least I got to see some people and talk to them instead of just getting to my apartment more quickly, which sometimes I have to fight against being annoyed about.

I hope this makes sense to everyone. These things are why I'm here. Even when things are frustrating I just love the value of relationships that I have observed here. I know that I'm being stereotypical but it's my blog and I'll stereotype if I want to (you would stereotype too if it happened to you... BA BA BA BA BA)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Taxi prices, mosquito bites, haitianitos

So JP and I tried to go to mass this morning because we were told that there were masses at the cathedral at 9 and 10 (aren't you proud, Severins?). Naturally, that information was wrong, and mass was at 12. We made it to another church though, La Iglesia de Altagracia, which was also beautiful. We were two of abut 30 people though, which was a little weird, and we were unsure if we were allowed to take communion or not because we hadn't been to confession (the practice in Latin America) but we went up anyway because most people did. Either they were really good Catholics  or the confession thing isn't as big a deal here as it was in Ecuador. There was a really bad echo in the cathedral though so I would say I understood about 10% of the mass, and that 10% I understood because I know the words to mass in English. Not a huge success but it was nice to get out into Zona Colonial and have a non-touristy reason to be there. We had a lot of trouble getting a cab to come home because they were all trying to overcharge us. My favorite though was when we asked a guy to take us home for $150 pesos, which is the normal price, and he said it cost $200. We said, "We normally pay $150" and he said "Well sometimes the prices vary, gasoline gets more expensive". We told him that we had paid $150 that morning, and he still didn't budge, which I was pretty impressed by. Anyway we finally found a person to take us home for the real price, and then Doug and Stacy came over. Melissa, Stacy and I were going to go to this pool at a hotel called Dominican Fiesta. That's right, the name of the hotel is actually Dominican Fiesta. We got a cab against our better judgement because it looked like it was about to rain, and when we go there we found out it cost $625 pesos (remember, divide by 35, and you'll realize that is almost $20 USD) to get in. We turned right back around and got another cab towards home. One cool thing about the hotel though was that there was a little fish pond in the front filled with fish and turtles. We stopped on the way home at this place called Sonoma, which is a really good coffee and sandwich place, and got lunch. Melissa went home because she was getting eaten alive by bugs, and Stacy and I went to this cake shop and then I walked back to her apartment to see it.

Funny side note:
Melissa attracts so many mosquitos that no one else around her gets bit. This is not an exaggeration. When she was sitting there getting eaten alive we were fine, and shortly after she left we started getting bites. We don't know why this is. She doesn't like to use deet all the time, so she has been rubbing herself down with limes (apparently this is a natural remedy) before she goes to bed. I think this is hilarious. She thinks it is a burden. 

Anyway, when I came home I talked to Melissa for awhile about how we were going to get ourselves into this community for awhile, and then JP came home and we went grocery shopping. There are tons of haitian kids on the streets here begging, and it is really hard because if you give them money they just have to hand it over to their boss, plus it encourages their bosses to get more kids on the street begging, but you don't always have food to give, which makes you feel like a monster if you refuse them. Today was great though because the two times I saw them I was leaving the restaurant with leftovers, and leaving the supermarket with tons of food. I have them my leftover sandwich and JP and I broke up a baguette and distributed it. It's so nice when you have something to give them. I think I might get a bigger purse just so I can carry granola bars or something for them. They are seriously the cutest kids I have ever seen in my life too. Anyway, overall good day. Also, I guess Stacy knows one person who knows others, so we are going to meet them and this should hugely improve my small network problem. Little by little my Santo Domingo world is expanding. Thanks for all the suggestions! I love you guys, keep the emails coming, I love hearing from you. Also, did anyone get the cave bar title of my last post? To understand better youtube "Gay Bar Homemade Video". 

Early Riser

Yesterday was a really good day. Melissa, JP and I went to this swimming pool where JP swims. It is about a half an hour walk from the house and it was 88 degrees, and with the humidity it "felt like" 99 degrees. When we got there we didn't even need to swim because we were already soaked in sweat (what a lovely image).  So we walked up to the gates and following JPs lead climbed over the fence and pretended not to understand the protests of the guards (they said, "You can't do that! You can't go down that way. Don't go down that way next time... as we got further and further away from them). We started swimming but pretty soon Melissa and I got kicked out because she was wearing a two piece bathing suit and neither of us were wearing swim caps. Apparently at some places in Latin America there actually are real rules that must be followed. We left JP there to finish his swim and walked back, stopping at a grocery store to feel the air conditioning for awhile, and again at a Lebanese restaurant I like and eating some delicious food. When we got home I read my book for awhile, and fell asleep on the couch, accidentally, for over two hours. When I woke up I got in the shower and got dressed up (because you pretty much don't leave the house here unless you are wearing a dress) and JP and I went down to Zona Colonial to get dinner and walk around. We ate at this place called Papa's or something, which was really cheap and delicious, probably the best meal I've had since I got here, but my stomach has hurt a little ever since, so in order to keep eating there I am going to pretend that it's because of something else. Anyway, after that we walked around for awhile, the Zona Colonial is really beautiful even at night, and when my stomach got too bad we came home and went to bed. Anyway, now we are going back to go to mass (what a fake good catholic) at the oldest cathedral in the "New World". It's the first time in my life I have been excited about going to church. 

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I want to take you to a cave bar

Yesterday I was incredibly productive at school and when I came home Melissa and I decided to try out the pool attached to our apartment complex for the first time. It was the most glorious after-school activity ever. Here in Santo Domingo you sweat while you brush your teeth, while you're just sitting, when you get up to get a drink, while you blog, so after school while I was sitting in the kitchen eating a snack and sweating we decided to go dunk ourselves in the pool. It was the best thing ever. Instead of sitting in our apartment sweating we just chatted in the water. I am going back down there as soon as I finish this blog. After that we came back upstairs, took showers, and after awhile we went to the Zona Colonial to have dinner with 10 of our closest gringo friends (by closest I mean only). Melissa started to feel sick right before we left so she didn't come along, but J.P. and I went. We had some 2-4-1 drinks (that's what the sign said) and dinner, and then when it got late enough so that we felt as though we wouldn't be the Americans who always arrive too early, we went to this place called Guacara Taina, which is a bar that is in an underground cave. We got there too early despite our efforts (I suspect it is impossible for Americans to arrive late enough. I am always 45 minutes too early) I had heard that it was pretty touristy, but actually I think that we were the only tourists there and everyone else was Dominican (They all showed up around 12). It was AWESOME. Dance party in a cave. Could not have been better. I want to go back there every day. It was like as dancey as the bars I used to go to in Ecuador, but it was in a cave! Like there were stalactites hanging from the ceiling! We danced for a long time until the two boys, J.P. and Doug started to overheat, but by that time it was almost 2, so we decided to call it a night and came home. It was the most fun night that I have had since I got there. I knew there was a Bungaloo 6 somewhere around here, and I have found at least one place now to go. 

By the way, I can see that a good number of people viewed my blog the last few days, but only a couple commented on my post. I'm all for voyeurism but I need some suggestions people! You may still turn in your assignment for a deduction of 20%.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Read this and pretend you're in my class

Okay, so today I went to school where I did a little bit of work, had a meeting about Love and Logic (a really popular teaching philosophy), did a little more work, came home, ate, went shopping to the walmarty store with Melissa and Alex, and read (Paulo Coehlo, Eleven Minutes, read it it’s good). It was a pretty uneventful day in which I did not do all the things I wanted to do, but overall it was pretty chill and good. I was hoping that JP and I would start those dance classes this week, but it looks like it will be next week because I haven’t mustered up the willpower to drag myself through the heat to sign up. By chance today he ran into some people at the pool who turned out to be the Junior Triathlon Team from Santo Domingo, so he is going to train with them, which is awesome, and ridiculously coincidental. I have been having a great time here so far, but honestly, I feel a little as though my life and routine is all contained in a very small pocket of places and people, and I need to branch out from that. I am going to try to use this weekend to do so. Here are my goals:


-Find a way to speak way more Spanish.

- Make some friends outside of my school and neighborhood

-Get out and about more.


And you, readers, are going to help me achieve my goals! In teaching, this is what we call an interactive activity. Actually it could be an information gap activity because you have ideas and you need to tell me them so that I can learn from your wise ways (get it? Like you’re filling in the gaps of my information?). Anyway, comment on my blog and let me know what your ideas are. Here is the assignment:


If you were a 23 year old girl living in Santo Domingo, what would you do to feel like you were not cooped up and you were using and improving your Spanish skills? How would you go about making friends in a new city?


Please double space responses. Readers will receive extra points for useful or amusing suggestions. Readers will also receive extra points for remembering that my family reads this blog (that means keep it appropriate). Standard English must be used in anything turned in in this class. This assignment is due by 8p.m. Eastern Standard Time Friday August 21st. (Too far with the teacher thing?)


Thanks for your help guys, the more ideas the better. 

Yesterday's Post

Today was the kids’ orientation day at school. Whew. The first class I had were a little wild, but the next two bunches were very quiet and well behaved. I found out that sixth graders are very small, and look very much like sixth graders, without yet having the awkward look of seventh and eighth graders. My plan didn’t go as it was supposed to, as per usual, but overall the day went pretty well, especially after the first period (read between the lines, the first one was a trainwreck). I forgot how tiring teaching is though. I only had the kids half the day and I was exhausted by the end. But as promised yesterday, I was not going to laze around the apartment all afternoon. I came home, had some coffee, ate lunch, and then went for a 2 hour walk with Melissa through the botanical gardens which are north of our apartment. It took some convincing for them to let us in, apparently we were supposed to pay but we didn’t bring any money, but we got in eventually after Melissa demonstrated, through a combination of Spanglish and hand gestures. that she did not, in fact, have a purse or any pockets. It was so beautiful in there. It felt like you were in the jungle but there was a magically paved road in it. I will definitely be going back there. After we came home and took showers (even a walk leaves you drenched in sweat here) we decided to go to an Indian restaurant that Bridget found out about in her old edition of Lonely Planet.


This is where the adventures of the day began.


We went took a taxi across town to the neighborhood where we thought the restaurant was, and in its place was an Indian looking vegetarian place. This sounded good enough so we went inside and were greeted by two walls of buffet tables. Vegetarian Indian Buffet sounded nice, except that all the buffet tables seemed to be empty. In one corner there were four little trays of unidentifiable foods, and that was all the restaurant had. We decided to try another Indian place from the guidebook. We hailed a cab and stood on the corner consulting the guidebook to find the directions to the restaurant (a sure-fire way to get overcharged) and then were taken there. Or at least, were taken to the place on the map. There was nothing even close to an Indian restaurant in a 4 block radius. In fact, there were really no restaurants at all except for a chicken place and a fancy French restaurant. We circled around a few times before decided to get Japanese at a place close to our house (which was delicious, by the way, I had the best Miso soup I have ever had). It is very interesting trying to figure out what sushi is in Spanish/Japanese. We got it basically right, even though Bridget’s food didn’t come for a long time and the “Chicken Wonton Soups” turned out to be a plate of wontons. Apparently it was just a clever name.  Anyway, after that Japer and I walked home (at night you get less, but still considerably, sweaty) and here I am, blogging to you all. Miss you! Can’t wait to read the piles of emails you are all composing to send to me!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Debbie Downer

So tomorrow is the orientation for the middle schoolers, so they are all coming to school and coming to class for the first time. I will finally get to see how big my students are going to be. I wish I were joking but I really don't know. They are staying from 8-12 and going to all of their classes and then leaving and coming back next Wednesday for the start of school. Needless to say today was kind of a hectic day. I felt like I was running in a million directions with a million small tasks and several larger ones that I could not possibly finish today. Luckily, between this Wednesday and next I will have some time to prepare those. This was compounded by the fact that I left an organized classroom yesterday with numbers on all of my desks and the desks in order, and came back today to a classroom without desks. That was resolved later in the day though when they were discovered to have been moved to another classroom for the purposes of high school orientation. 

Anyway, so I left school in a very crabby mood, not because of the desks, but because of the whirlwind day, and came home and moped around the house, carrying my storm cloud with me above my head. I read for awhile and then J.P. and I went for a really long walk around a part of the city where I haven't been before, which was exactly what I needed. I feel way less crabby now. Also, I found some things to do around the city, and decided that this would be the last day that I came home and just sat around after school, even if I'm tired. The good Lord wouldn't have created coffee if he wanted us to laze around our apartments' all afternoon. Tomorrow I think Melissa and I are going to go for a run and then I am going to go down to the Zona Colonial where apparently there are Happy Hours abound. Also I am going to sign up for dance classes. So, in summary, today I indulged Debbie Downer for hours and then killed her (hopefully). 

Monday, August 17, 2009

Right Now

Today I went to school, set up my classroom some more, skipped lunch because I was being productive, came home just in time for the tropical storm which looked pretty much like every day here (it storms every afternoon, it's the rainy season), went shopping with J.P. for food for him and odds and ends to make my room feel homier for me, came back to the apartment and looked for classes online, and worked out in our living room again with Melissa (this time J.P. coached us). 

The good, the bad, and the ugly:

The Good
-Someone I knew from school yelled at me from their car as I was walking down the street which made me feel like I actually know people in this city, which was nice

-My room smells not like an assortment of scented candles, also nice

-J.P. and I each got a polo shirt for $5, and for $9 I got a great dress. I suspect the store where I bought it was kind of walmarty, but since I don't have the association I would in the U.S. I'll pretend I didn't notice

- I think we found a Merengue class to take, and I might take some other class on my own. There are cooking, art, language, and dance classes that I'm interested. I think classes will help me branch out and meet people and do something where I am not completely surrounded by people from school (who I like very much). 

The Bad:
- In glancing over this post I realized I had used the wrong "to". Yuck. Don't worry I changed it.

The Ugly:
-My new polo shirt but not my new dress.

-Me doing balancing exercises with Melissa in our living room. 

On another note, I guess Annie tried to call me and it didn't work and she ended up talking to some random man several times. I hope this hasn't happened to anyone else. Don't be deterred from calling, let's just meet on Skype instead of talking on my phone. I also, for some reason, can't receive international texts, so if you are thinking how rude I am for not responding, I am not getting them. Love you all. Thanks for the emails, let's take the next step and skype. 

Earlier Today

I am in my apartment watching my very first tropical storm out the window. I just got home from school an hour ago, luckily. Alex said that if there is a full-blown hurricane we just stay in our apartment and feel sorry for people who live in less-sturdy buildings, so I hope that’s the case. It’s pretty cool though. It just looks like a really bad thunderstorm. Apparently they have days off school for hurricanes like we have for snowstorms in Michigan.


It was over in 5 minutes. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

All Weekend

Sorry that I didn't post this weekend. I was busy doing things other than typing on my computer so I didn't get a chance to blog, World (that's mostly a lie). Here's what I did:

Friday the meetings at school got cancelled so I had all day to do some work and set up my classroom which was nice. When I came home I read for awhile, and then J.P. and I went to the mall to get a few drinks with some of the teachers from work at TGI Fridays. Not only was it weird to go to TGI Fridays in Latin America, but also it was weird to go with teachers to a place called TGI Fridays on Friday. I felt like we should all be decked out in seasonal sweaters. I don't know if I told you guys, but J.P. is applying for a position there (The Ashton School not TGI Fridays), so hopefully we find out this week if he gets it or not. He'll either be a permanent substitute or an elementary art teacher, more likely the former even though the latter sounds way better. Anyway, we went out and spoke in Spanglish for a few hours and then came back with Doug and Stacey to our apartment. We had a few more drinks here, I posted my Friday blog, I tried to show Girl Talk to an unwilling audience, and then we went out to a few bars in the city. 

I thought that we were going dancing, and we went to these bars where I think the people there thought they were dancy, but really they were just yuppy hipster bars. The first one reminded me of a bar I went to in Silver Lake in L.A. where everyone looked like they were in Where's Waldo the flannel shirt and fedora hat edition. We got ID'd there too which was weird, (but none of us had IDs and we still got in, I showed them my health insurance card) and Doug couldn't get into one of the bars because he was wearing shorts. We did find one bar that was kind of cool and a little dancier, but the music was ridiculously loud and by then we were really tired. We snuck into the VIP section, but when J.P. sprawled out on the couch we were ushered out. It wasn't the best night out ever, but these things take time. I have some other bars in mind for next weekend or whenever we go out again. It's all a weeding-out process. The bad clubs are to Santo Domingo as students like me were to Chem 141 at MSU. (Does that make sense?)

On Saturday I was the laziest I have ever been in my life. I read almost the entire book The Kite Runner and laid around. If you haven't read it you should. The one productive thing I did was go for a run with Melissa and J.P. We ran to these botanical gardens in the city, and I think I will be going there more often. Unfortunately, we ran the wrong way around and didn't find the entrance until it was getting dark and the park was closing, but I think we'll go back tomorrow. It seems that running here is something only very strange foreigners do, so we got a lot of catcalls and yells and a lot more weird looks. Oh well. We came home and planned on going out, but ended up all going to bed before 12 instead. 

Today I was much more productive. We got up early and went back to the Zona Colonial. We sat down at this restaurant which is across a small plaza from the oldest cathedral in the Americas. I guess there was some big event there, I think it was one of the Dominican Independence Days today (they have 4 I think) and there were a bunch of camera crews and people watching. I think the president of the Dominican Republic was there and we saw a procession of people exiting, but I didn't know which one he was. Can you guys imagine sitting at a cafe in D.C. and watching Obama come out of some ceremony and just walk down the street? It is hard to picture. Anyway, I bought a really cool painting from some Haitian artists on the street and came home and hung it in my room. I cleaned a bunch and did some laundry, and Melissa and I did kick-boxing without music for a half an hour in the living room. I can only imagine what a spectacle that was. Now I am blogging, cooking dinner, and thinking about how I should be doing work for tomorrow.  

Back to school tomorrow, and things are about to get crazy because this week the orientations start. I will meet my students for the first time on Wednesday, which I am looking forward too. I don't even really know what size sixth graders are, let alone their mental capacity, so it should be very informative. Miss you all, write me if you can!

Friday, August 14, 2009


I am going out drinking and dancing in Latin America this evening. This is what I was born to do. I am one happy camper.

p.s. I went out for a drink at TGI Fridays earlier. Weird. It was in the mall and it was hoppin' (I don't know how else to write that. Hopping?).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Picking Up

This morning our power went out again while we were all getting ready. There is something wrong with our generator so lately if someone starts blow-drying their hair the whole house's power stops working. We have a reset button that we press and then it comes right back on again. This has happened the last 3 mornings in a row. I am still adjusting to the whole power thing here, but it goes off and on every day at last once, even at school. Luckily everywhere I am seems to have generators, but the weirdest thing about it is how Dominicans don't react at all. No one says anything, or even looks up from their work or shopping or whatever. Occasionally someone says in an offhand way, "Se fue la luz", which means the lights went out, but that's it. It's bizarre. I can only compare it to Michigander's reaction to rain or snow versus Californians. I guess eventually I won't even notice, but for now it seems kind of crazy. We also have hot water in the apartment now, a new addition, but you have to flip a switch and then wait a long time for the tank to heat up, so I am still taking cold showers because I am not patient enough to go through the process. 

Anyway, we had a lecture on The First Days of School which was really great at school and I got some really good ideas. Then I went for a coffee with Alejandra and Melissa, and I mentioned that I majored in Spanish in school, which apparently I did not tell Alejandra before. We've been speaking much more Spanish since. I worked for awhile at school, came home, took a nap, and went shopping with Melissa and Bridget. Bridget came home shortly after, but I found a tiny black dress to wear out ("You Ain't Nothin but a Hoochie Mama" has been stuck in my head ever since). I was having serious Ecuador flashbacks to Quicentro, Moni. Especially when we thought about getting mall sushi and I thought about that time you had mall chinese food and then mall food poisoning. 

I am starting to get more settled in here and get closer to the people around me. I am starting to figure out places to go and things to do that aren't work or reading at my apartment. We are going out tomorrow which will be the first time so I am looking forward to that. Plus I can wear my tiny dress. Hopefully that's culturally appropriate. Sorry Family. Anyway, I love all of you guys! Keep the emails coming and follow and comment on my blog! I like to rub it in Japer's face that my blog is more popular than his. If you would like to humor him you can read his blog as well, it's triathlon related though. His address is Miss you guys!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zona Colonial

So today at school the first three hours were spent in a conference about differentiated instuction (Holla MSU TE classes) and I was looing forward to it because I think that it is really interesting and something that I am always working to do better in my class. Differentiated Instruction is where you vary the curriculum for each student so that they can learn better However, I think Melissa summed up the conference best when she said, “I was having storytime in my head”. There were some really good ideas but it was very long.

Anyway, after that I worked for awhile, got more delicious fruit from Sergio. Sergio is a skilled fruit cutter, and he can cut fruit six ways from Sunday and he barely has to look at it. I watch closely to see if I can do it myself, but I think if it were  on tv there would be a “Do Not Try This At Home” disclaimer flashing along the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, Sergio is not always there. Sometimes his inept assistant is the one doing the cutting. Let me tell you, this is a lot less impressive and often involves standing really far back. So today I didn’t stand back far enough. He was chopping up bananas clumsily at breakneck speed and a large gob of banana mush flew from his knife and landed between my toes. Amongst other failings, Sergio’s assistant also does not speak Spanish very well, and so did not understand my request for something to wipe it up with. Consequently, I had to walk all the way back to school and to the second floor bathroom with banana squishing between the toes of my right foot. 

 After that incident I got a coffee with Bridget, and came back to the apartment. There we dissected the lecture we were given today, and decided to go to a jazz concert in the Zona Colonial. For those of you who don’t feel like breaking down that brain teaser the Zona Colonial is the colonial zone of the city. We all got dressed up nicely and went down there (everyone dresses up for everything here) and had a cocktail and some food and listened to some Jazz. This was the first time I had been to the Zona Colonial, and I will be going there way more often. It is the only part of the city I have seen so far that has a neighborhood kind of feel. It is very quaint. I really want to go back during the day and check it out. It was a really good day with my roommates, and I was glad to get out of the apartment. I am liking them more and more all the time. They all say the most hilarious things. After the jazz place we tried to hail a cab unsuccessfully, and some guy told us he would get one for us if he could just set the avocados he was holding at our feet and we would watch them for him. We agreed, and he set them down and ran off. He came back a few minutes later bringing with him a cab willing to charge us double the normal price and scanning our feet for his fruit (vegetables?). We politely declined and called a cab. On the way home we ran over a manhole missing it’s cover and experienced quite a loud noise and large bump and the driver did not react at all. Overall, great day. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion

Everyone that was in Ecuador with me, remember the stomach issues that we all had for months? Well, I think that those have begun for me now. WOOT! Too personal for the worldwide web? I think not. 

Indigestion aside, I am starting to have a lot more work at school, so I am hoping to get it all done before classes start. I am making to-do lists that are getting longer and longer, but I am glad for all the time I have to prepare before the kids get there. Next Wednesday we are going to have an orientation with the students and they come for the first day the following Wednesday. I also have made friends with the Haitian guy who runs the fruit stand outside the school, his name is Sergio, and I bought a huge to-go box of cut up fruit for lunch today for a little over $2, which is awesome. Unfortunately, it may be doing not-so-pleasant things to my stomach. I came home and decided to take a break from work and read, and I read Drown by Junot Diaz. You guys should read it if you don't mind reading a lot of stories that are a little vulgar, kind of downers, but well written. He's the guy that wrote The Brief and Wondrous of Oscar Wao. Both of them take place in the Dominican Republic so they are fun to read right now. 

While I was reading I started to wonder how much longer J.P. could possibly run he burst in the front door, bleeding and wet (I don't know how much longer I can continue to be surprised by these things). He had been for a long run in the rain and had tripped and fallen in a puddle/lake in the street. He cut his palm and bruised his knee, but is okay overall. His exact words were, "You have no idea what it is like to be completely submerged in third-world sewer water." I am glad for that, but I did feel sorry for him. 

After that I went back to work and made a syllabus and looked over my curriculum again. Right now I am sitting with J.P. and Melissa discussing the pros and cons of Zombie movies so I have to go. Love you all!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back to School

Today I woke up, had breakfast with my roommates, and went to school. There I worked on mapping out the curriculum for the year, which I will have to finish tomorrow. I also unpacked a few boxes full of things for my classroom which I will also finish tomorrow. I will try to remember to take pictures to show you all when it is all set up so you can see where I'm working. It is nice to go to work on days as hot as today because I have air-conditioning there that I don't have to pay for. I try to sit as close to it as possible and if at any point during the day I am cold I feel that the entire day has been an success. After school I waited around school to chat with the realtor who has been handling finding JP and apartment, but she got there and before I knew it I had been roped into being the translator for the afternoon. I spent the next two and a half hours debating about what changes to make to which apartments in order for the others to rent them. My apartment renting vocabulary is improving though. I have learned words like "set" as in "a set of dishes like these will come with this apartment". When I came home I lay down on my bed and stared at the ceiling for awhile in an effort to regain my strength and thought about how maybe drying some of my laundry on hangers in my closet was not the best idea after all as my room now smells distinctly of mildew. As for the clothes, I think I will have to rewash all of them, or burn them. JP came in and we decided to go buy some books because I have run out. We walked down Lincoln (that's right, I live on a street called Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the cross street in John F. Kennedy) to a store which is like part IKEA, part Borders Books, part Meijer, part Home Depot. Amazing, they literally have everything I could ever want. Anyway, I got some new books, two in English and one in Spanish (I was feeling ambitious), and we wandered back home. I fought the urge to buy ice cream because I had already eaten it twice today, and now here I am at home. It was somehow very tiring for such an uneventful day and I am going to go read my new books and stop writing to you all. Miss you!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Now this one actually is Sunday

I am exhausted from blogging so much. Actually, today was kind of tiring anyway. We got up early to catch the bus, made our way past the cows and mud puddles once again, and caught a public car (carro publico, isn't Spanish great?) back into the city. We found out that the bus we wanted didn't leave until 2 (this was 9:30 a.m.) so we decided to catch a different bus in another city. We got into a different carro publico and we driven to the other station. We paid a little more so that he would drive just us and we could make the bus. We would not have made it anyway, but the bus came a 1/2 hour later than we thought so we were there in plenty of time. This was a much nicer bus than the one we rode into the city on Friday, it was very big and air-conditioned. The one on Friday was very small and we were 5 in a 4 person seat. When we got off the bus in Santo Domingo we were assaulted by taxi drivers clamoring to overcharge us for our taxi fare, so we left the building and found someone outside who wanted to overcharge us, but had chosen not to enter the bus station. We didn't have the right change when we got to our apartment, so we played a little game where he pretended that he also didn't have change so we were going to have to pay more. This is my favorite taxi game. Eventually we went to the little corner store (colmado) and got change from them. 

When we got back I did some laundry, and it was the first time I had really felt like things were very different here from the U.S. We are lucky enough to have a small washer and dryer, but the dryer is so loud that if anyone if trying to sleep, work, or think in our apartments or any of those around it I don't think we can use it. It sounds kind of like if you filled your dryer in the U.S. with tennis balls and then let it run. After the wash I wrung the clothes out over the sink and then hung them on the clothes lines on the balcony. While I was doing this I was very careful to drench the floor with water dripping from them so that I could slip on it later and then fall. Eventually, the moment had arrived and I reached up to hang something and my feet went out from under my and I came crashing down on the balcony. No one that I know saw it, but I can only hope that someone in another apartment caught a glimpse of it and is right now telling their friends about the gringa they saw take a digger this afternoon. 

When all the falling and washing was done J.P. and I walked through the rain to the grocery store. It was my idea to buy groceries and his to do it during a hurricane. We got a lot of strange looks in the grocery store when we came in soaking wet. Anyway, we got a bunch of groceries and took a cab home. Since then I have eaten much more than I needed to and am already thinking about my next move in that area. Anyway, I love you all. Hope you were ready for these long-winded entries. Miss you guys! Check out my pictures when they are posted!

Pretend this one is Saturday

I slept in the most ridiculous room at this house. You can see it on my photosite. It was this enormous bed with mosquito netting dyed to be nice looking instead of clinical like it usually is. On Saturday morning I woke up a happy camper from sleeping in that room. When we were all awake and well caffeinated we made our way back through the mud puddles and cows down to the road we had come in on. We climbed into the back of a pick-up truck (taxi) which was the second time we had done this in two days. Sorry Mom. No helmet either. Once we started going though some towns a guy climbed into the back too. He sat uncomfortably close to me and insisted on reaching over my lap to hold onto the bar on the back of the truck. Silly me, I thought that he was just a regular creeper. It turns out he was a thief posing as a creeper. I was trying to avoid eye contact (I know the ladies in the audience know what I'm talking about) and I head Melissa saying "Caitlin your purse your purse!" I turned to see that he had opened my purse about halfway and had slipped his fingers inside it. Now normally when I think of these types of things happening to me I imagine becoming violent or abnormally sharp-tongued and saying just the right clever thing, but all I could do was stare at this guy. Luckily he hadn't had time to take anything (Thank you Melissa), but he just looked right back into my eyes, smiled, and got off the truck. It was shocking. 

Shortly after that we arrived at the most beautiful beach I have ever seen, and it was hard to even remember that fake creep robber. We went to a restaurant called El Cayuco in a city called Las Terrenas (give me a job Lonely Planet). It was about 10 feet from the water and we sat in the shade and had breakfast. All of this will be documented on my photosite, don't worry. After breakfast we wandered down the beach and found some palm trees to lie under. J.P. made his first friends in Spanish who were two guys from Limon, and were hilarious, and he also hunted coconuts the rest of the afternoon by himself. I think I personally saw him smashing three separate coconuts, and I'm sure he ate more I did not see. It was all very impressive. We had dinner late at a restaurant called La Casa Azul, and I had delicious pizza. We stayed to long and had to figure out how we were going to get back to the house where we were staying. We thought about taking a taxi but decided it was too expensive, so we settled on taking mototaxis. Mom, if you are reading this I suggest you just skip this part, because you will throw up in your mouth. Mototaxis (they also call them motoconchos) are these little tiny motorcycles that people use as taxis. After we decided on a price two of us got on the back of each motorcycle (making it three people) and held on tight. So far in the week that I have been here I have not seen a single person wearing a helmet on these. We were no exception. We went flying through the night on the back of this little thing with just the sound of the engine, the wind, our cries of "Con cuidado!" (Be careful!), and the drivers wicked laughter. We finally saw the cow sign and told the driver to stop. We all made it in one piece. It was a really thrilling way to travel, and I can see why so many people do it here. 

When we got back our hosts were awake and the power was out, so they asked us if we wanted to swim in their two-layer pool. We, of course, did. We swam and listened to the crazy jungle noises going on around the house, and watched bats swoop down and touch the pool water. I thought it was really cool, I don't think Melissa liked it as much. Anyway, it was an amazing trip to the beach and a very eventful day. 

Now pretend this one is Friday

Dear Readers,

I went out of town this weekend and even though I didn't post I did not forget about you. Here is what I did on Friday:

In the morning I went to school and got a packet of information about the year. I got my schedule of classes (which is very good, all of my classes are in the morning) and a schedule of things to do over the coming weeks. I worked for awhile in my classroom and I think I have some pretty good ideas about how I want to organize things this year. I left school when I had finished the things I had to do and come home with my roommates and a member of the staff to do an inventory checklist. After we were finished Bridget went back to school for a bit to finish up and once she came home again we all piled in a taxi (Bridget, Japer, Melissa and I) and went to the bus station. We were going to a beach near Las Terrenas. We thought that was near Cabarete but apparently it isn't. We figured that out by looking at the map when we were already on the bus. Cabarete is about 2 hours from where we were going, which says a lot because it is only 4 hours to get there from Santo Domingo. We were going to stay with this guy who was a friend of Bridget's friend and had a guest house that he rented out. 

So we got to this town, following the directions of "Get off the bus when you see the sign with the picture of the cow on it. It's after the airport." So for some reason those seemed like totally normal directions to us. Well we are going through all of these one road towns on this little "public car" which is basically a minivan that 15 people sit in almost on top of each other and we see a cow sign, so we get off. We make our way up this side street which has cows on either side (real ones, not pictures) and kids playing soccer (also real). It also had a large number of Dominican people staring at us as we walked past. Literally standing there staring. We were starting to get the feeling that not many tourists came this way. We jumped several mud puddles and finally came up to this huge gate which said "Beware of Dog" in Spanish. 

We opened the gate and four gigantic dogs came running up to us and one jumped on me. I am not afraid of dogs but this one was huge and I was still thinking about the sign. The dog jumped down and starting sniffing all of our crotches docilely. I guess it was just trying to get to know us, and not kill us. The man who was a friend of a friend came out to greet us, and started telling us how one of the dogs had just bitten it's fourteenth person. I don't know what he meant for us to feel when he said this, but I settled on nervousness and wariness of the dogs. 

After my pulse had slowed to a relatively normal speed I got a chance to look around me. The house was nestled in mountains covered in jungle plants, had a two-layer pool and a distant view of the ocean. The guest house was enormous and beautiful, and also had a deck that overlooked the mountains. It was ridiculous. We paid just over $15 dollars a night to stay there, and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever slept in my life. 

We set our things down and he drove us into town for dinner. We tried going into Las Terrenas, but the restaurant he wanted to take us to had already run out of food. This was at around 6 p.m. (?) He took us to another town close by and we got whole chickens to go. These were served with patacones (fried plantaines, which here they call tostones) and boiled plantains which Japer loved. It might have been the best chicken I have had in my life. We took it back to the house to eat and sat around and talked all night. It was a really good first day at the beach, and we hadn't even seen the beach yet.

(To be continued in Pretend this one is Saturday)

Pretend that I posted this on Thursday when I wrote it

Today (Thursday) I had another orientation day at school. After school I came home and knocked on the door for 25 minutes while J.P. lounged around in the apartment, deaf, with my keys. Once he realized I was breaking a sweat pounding on the door he kindly let me in and we went to look at a room in an apartment for him in another part of town.

The room turned out to be part of an apartment complex and did not have a kitchen. It was basically a really dirty, dingy hotel room really far away from me. Also, when we got out of the cab the cab driver turned around and looked me in the eye and said, “Be careful in this part of town, okay?”. Surprisingly, we decided against taking the room.

            Even though we did not find an apartment we did find a great grocery store, and bought a lot of delicious fruit. When we came home I chopped it and pureed it and consumed it. We had delicious juice and papaya and mango. I hadn’t used J.P’s blender before, but now that I have I may hide it in one of my drawers like that one pair of running shorts that he wore as casual wear two summers ago. (I just read that aloud to him and he said, “Jokes at other people’s expense aren’t funny.”) After consuming an enormous amount of produce we went out to a restaurant for one of the other teacher’s birthday. It was good to do something all together. This weekend a few of us are going to that beach town that I mentioned, and apparently Bridget has some connection where we can stay in some mountaintop guesthouse overlooking the sea. I literally cannot wait. Actually, I have to go so I can pack. Love you all!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009



I hope you guys are not getting tired of these play-by-play posts. I am using you as a live audience for my journal writing. I'm trying to keep you in mind but sometimes I forget and just blog about random crap that I did during the day. I will try to do better. That said, today I...

-Went to school (boring orientation, for the next two days we are going over the handbook). The good thing about this was that I got to meet some of the teachers who have been there for a few years, and I think there are some of them that I am really going to like. 

-Went to lunch and bought some delicious fruit from a vendor on the street. There are Haitian fruit vendors on almost every street and they sell pretty cheap, delicious fruit. The papaya is better than Ecuador, the bananas are worse. I ate both today. Not to hate on the bananas though, they are good too.

-Went back to school for more orientation

-Came home and waited for hours for the handy-man to come fix various major appliances around our house. He says that he fixed them but I suspect they are still broken.

-Went to the grocery store with J.P. and Melissa, my roommate. Got delicious food and fruit. Came home and made juice out of passionfruit. Here it is called Chinola, in Ecuador it was Maracuya. It is sour and delicious. 

It wasn't a very eventful day but I am starting to feel more and more comfortable here. We are getting a cleaning lady so I feel like my roommates and I should get along really well. What is there to fight about with that taken care of? (Famous last words) Seriously though, they seem amazing. I really like each of them in very different ways, and I think that I could really be friends with all of them which is really lucky. We'll see how I feel in a while, hopefully the same. I am beginning to plot my weekend, and I think we might go to a beach on the north coast called Cabarete. (Google map it) It is supposed to be a surfer town with kite boarding and things like that, so that will be a good place to start our travels I think. I think it might be a little like Montanita, but I'll have to get back to you all on that after I go. I really like the city but it is a lot like most cities, so I am looking forward to seeing the parts of the country that people talk about as being so beautiful. I can't wait to hear from you guys! Let me know when you want to come to visit, we have plenty of room for crashing!

Love you!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I got a cell phone!

Hey all,

Today was my second day of school. We are still pretty unfamiliar with the school and the city so we are constantly being led around like a group of baby tourists. Which we kind of are. Today we were all led in a big white group to where our orientation was held (the library, Bridget's domain), and then lead through another discussion of Dominican culture. This one focused on families and children. It was really interesting. Afterwards we were supposed to meet with an insurance company but they never arrived. Then we waited for an hour or two for a cab (are you getting an idea of how things work here?) and crammed in to go to the store to get cell phones, picking J.P. up on the way and somehow fitting him into the clown car also. In total there were 11 people in the minivan. Once we got to the store only two of us spoke Spanish, so it took a very long time to get phones. We all got the same one, which cost us about $8 (awesome), and some prepaid cards. You guys can call me now! Or text! My phone number (which I am not sure if I should post online but here it is) is: (829) 322-7889. I don't think there is a country code but I really don't know. You can skype it or something, or text. Anyway after the phone thing we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant where I had a delicious margarita and was brought a second one for free. I didn't realize I was going to get too so I talked a little too loudly and stumbled more than I should have on the way home, but I covered by saying it was my shoes. I think they bought it. When we came back Alex was here, my other roommate, so we talked for awhile about the pitfalls of the school where we will be working. I am going to try to see for myself what it is like though. I miss you guys, but I am having a great time so far, I feel like already my Spanish is improving and I am getting my bearings a little bit. I know the three major streets around my and a little bit about the area where I live, which is a start. It has rained on and off since we got here but it is the craziest rain ever. Not like in Michigan. It will be sunny and you can see one storm cloud in the sky but it is hot and humid and nice, and then the cloud passes and it pours like it's a hurricane, and then ten minutes later it's sunny again. It is very weird but nicer than raining all day like in Michigan. I guess it is going to get worse before it's better because we are entering the rainy season. Don't look Mom!!! (By rainy season I mean hurricane season). 

Love you guys!


Monday, August 3, 2009

First Day of School/Apartment Hunt for Japer

Today was my first day at the Ashton School. Bridget, my roommate, and I went at 8 but we didn’t see any of the other teachers until nine. Bridget and I went up to my classroom and organized some of the furniture until the other teachers came. We went on a tour of the school, which is under construction but looks very nice. We ended up in the library where Bridget will be working as the librarian. They gave us some presentations about the school and Dominican culture. 

Then after school J.P, Sarah and her husband Sean (the ones from the plane), a girl named Stacy and her fiancĂ© Doug and I went to look for apartments with a realtor.  We went in two shifts because we could not all fit in the car. J.P, Sarah, Sean and I went first and I translated between them and the realtor. Sarah and Sean liked the first place they saw so that was easy. They just got married and it is a really cute little apartment near the school. We went back to drop them off and pick up Stacy and Doug. We looked at three apartments with them and I think they decided to take a place farther away from the school but with an ocean view, which is really beautiful. We looked at an apartment for J.P. as well, and even though by our standards it wasn’t that bad, the realtor thought it was so bad that we left rather abruptly. She said on the way out, “How are they going to rent something in that condition?”.  I think J.P. and I may need to reevaluate our standards of living. Anyway, we will be looking at some more apartments for him in the next few days. We went out to dinner at a delicious Lebanese restaurant and I met my other roommate, Alejandra, who is Spanish and seems super nice. Another girl, Melissa, is staying with us for a bit too. I am really happy to have started school because I feel like I have a few instafriends who I can hang out with now. Tomorrow I will get a cell phone to call you all. Love you all.


Un beso

Day 2 in Santo Domingo

This morning after I woke up J.P. and I went grocery shopping at this store called La Cadena. We saw a dead dog lying on the sidewalk on the way, which was pretty crazy and shocking to see. Japer, always the gentleman, pointed it out for my viewing pleasure. At the grocery store we came to the unhappy realization that this is not as cheap as we were hoping. The exchange rate is 1 dollar to about 35 Dominican pesos, and a box of corn flakes was about 250 Dominican desos. That is some ugly math. We realized that we are probably going to leave this place very skinny and very good at dividing things by 35. We are living in a very nice neighborhood with lots of malls and nice restaurants though, so I think that is a big part of the problem. Dead dogs aside it is a pretty place to live, and my apartment has really beautiful views. 

I met one of my roommates, Bridget, today. She is from Quebec and seems really nice. She has lived for the last 3 years in Cairo, Egypt, and in Bolivia before that. I think we are going to get along just fine. The other roommate is Spanish, and I have not met her yet, but I found out that she has been here for a year already, which will be nice because she will know a lot about the area. J.P. and I basically just spent the day poking around and figuring things out. We found out that our stove doesn't work yet, that we have a balcony, and that strange things like hangers are exorbitantly expensive. Japer has been so good about speaking Spanish. He has been doing most of the talking. Dominican Spanish is tough too and he has been doing great. Much to my dismay, I think he will be better than I am by the time we leave. 

I start school tomorrow. The kids don't come until August 26th, but we start our orientation in the morning and then I guess we will be there until they come. Well, they are going to let us out at night. I am looking forward to meeting everyone but am a little nervous too.  Also, we don't have an alarm clock in the apartment so hopefully we'll make it there on time. 

Love you guys! Send me emails!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Totally Unreal

This is ridiculous. I am going to take some pictures tomorrow and post them because you won't believe this if you don't see it. Okay, so we were on our last leg of the trip when we realized that the two people sitting in front of us on the plane were also going to be teaching at the Ashton School, so that was cool because we got to meet them in advance. We got to the airport and got our bags and went through customs and all of that, and then we were met by these two guys from the school. Within five minutes we are standing with all of our bags at the airport holding cold beers in styrofoam cups. We then take these beers outside while our luggage is being loaded and hop into two separate cars with them. Everyone else, Japer and the couple, went in one car with the two guys, and I went in another car with just one lady.

Eventually we go back to the apartment where I will be staying (temporarily Japer is staying in the SERVANTS QUARTERS, who has servants quarters?) and it is SO ridiculous. It is ENORMOUS and really nicely furnished. I had heard that I may not have a refrigerator or stove, but instead I am in this crazy apartment with both of those things plus a washer and dryer plus air-conditioning and wireless internet. I feel like this is too good to be true. Hopefully it's not. 

After seeing the apartment the two guys who picked us up, Juan Carlos and Luis, the couple, Japer and I went to this restaurant on the boardwalk that juts out over the caribbean. Also ridiculous. We had this delicious dinner and didn't come back to the apartment until around 1:30. I am so happy I could puke all over this fancy apartment. So we got back and I sent Japer to his servant lair and now I am blogging in air-conditioning happy as a clam. Life is good. 


Japer and I are getting ready to get on our first plane to leave Detroit. We both had to take things out of our luggage because we were trying to take everything we owned with us. Unsurprisingly, I had to take out picture frames, shoes, and books, and Japer had to take out an extra wetsuit and running shoes. Very telling. We went out last night for our last night and ended up staying out until 4 a.m, so we are both trying to hold it together in the airport and not fall asleep on the people sitting next to us. We have another 11 hours ahead of us before we get there, but we are on our way.