Sunday, October 18, 2009

Conference and Las Galeras

Hey all,

So Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I went to a work conference here in Santo Domingo instead of going to school. It was perfect timing because I really needed a break from the kids and I think they needed one from me too, and I got some really good ideas for how to make my class a lot more engaging. I have been having some problems with classroom management lately and I have been getting really angry at the kids about it but when I started thinking about it I realized that I have been a pretty boring teacher lately, so I think that we are both to blame. Anyway, I hope that this week is better. Speaking of which, are any of my teacher friends interested in having our kids be penpals or epals? The letters would have to be in English but they could be about Dominican culture. Webconferencing between classes would also be an option if I can figure out how to get around the school's security.

So after the conference on Friday afternoon JP, Bridgitte, and I headed for the bus station and we met Doug and Stacy there. We were running a little behind and JP was feeling like a bad athlete because he has had Dengue and I was feeling like a bad teacher so we were both in pretty stressed moods. To be honest I was a little nervous that the trip was going to be really bad because I had such a storm cloud over my head, but 2 hours and a bus nap later I was a new person. JP ran the next morning so he felt better then. We got off the bus in a city called Samamá and had to transfer to a very small bus/conversion van called a guagua. Guaguas are a very cheap way of getting around but the drivers pack as many people as possible into them to maximize their profits and they generally do not have air conditioning. This was no exception. In a bus that is supposed to seat 11 there were 20 of us and very loud bachata music. Stacy was recovering from a bout of food poisoning so she was very uncomfortable but I had a great time. The view from the guagua (pronounced wa wa, like the sound a baby makes) was amazing and I happened to really like the bachata band that they were playing full blast (Aventura).

When we arrived they dropped us off at the hotel where Stacy and Doug had made reservations. They had read about it in the Lonely Planet (hollachagurl and give her a job) and had talked to the lady on the phone, but Bridgitte, JP and I hadn't decided where we wanted to stay yet because we were going to try to find a cheaper option. We got to this hotel and the lady showed Doug and Stacy the room while we all waited. We were sitting and chatting when Stacy and Doug came and had just enough time to say "The room is really small and we don't want to stay but she's saying we have to pay her." (This place was called Villa Casa Lotus if you're wondering where not to stay in Las Galeras.) Sure enough, the woman came storming in behind them and started saying that because they had called ahead whether they stayed or not they had to give her the full amount in cash. She was being very aggressive about it and they told her that they would not give her the money, and that the room was much smaller and worse than the one she described to them. At one point during this discussion either Brigitte or JP asked her how we could get back to town and she shouted at us, "That's not my problem, that's your problem." It was all very weird and we ended up sneaking around her out the door. She had her main henchman, some Dominican guy, follow us into town to try to get the money, which he could not. We went into the hotel where we wanted to stay and sat down at a table to get a drink and he continued to sit at the bar for around an hour before he finally went back to the hotel. It was an adventure for the first hour in Las Galeras.

The hotel we did end up staying in was called Gri Gri, and it was the most backpacker place I have seen so far. It was a hotel/bar with really good food and drinks and really cheap rooms. Perfect. The next day we went to this little beach next door to the hotel swam around a reef (which, unfortunately, was dead) and had lunch in a glorified tent. Lunch was fish that we had seen being brought up the beach an hour or so before with tostones, (fried plantains, what were those called in Ecuador again?) fried eggplant, rice and beans. It was so delicious. The lady that served us had curlers in her hair and opened our beer bottle (I swear I am not drinking all that much here) with a strategically placed nail in the side of a tree. I wished so badly that it would be socially appropriate to take a picture of that to show you guys.

That night we went back into town and ate (actually for the second time) at this place owned by an Italian lady that had homemade everything; pasta, jam, butter, bread. Yum. I think this was the best food weekend of this trip so far. We ended up eating at this place a total of 3 times. It was so good. We sat around and chatted for awhile and went to bed early. The town was really peaceful and didn't have a lot of people, so it was a really nice relaxing weekend.

This morning we had breakfast at that same place and then wandered down the beach. The water here wasn't as clear as in Sosua, but the beach itself was the most beautiful I have seen so far. There are a bunch of little islands with palm trees on them just off the shore that I am going to swim out to next time, and you can see the mountains from pretty much anywhere on the beach. I will post my pictures so you guys can see. We came back on a bus that was pretty much the same situation as the guagua on the way, except for it was supposed to be a regular bus, and it took us 4 hours instead of the 3 it should have to get back because we kept stopping to cram in more passengers.

When we got back we went to eat delicious and ridiculously cheap chinese food and then came back to the apartment. I got some work done and now here I am. I am starting to really love it here, it is so beautiful. As you can tell from my blog though, I am going to need to start going to the gym way more often. Yikes. I love you all and miss you!

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