Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

Hey All,

Tonight, after a 3.5 hour credential-related class, I will be flying to Michigan! I am so excited about Thanksgiving I could just throw-up in anticipation. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and as many of you know we couldn't make it back last year because the Spaniards who came to the Dominican Republic didn't sit down with the Native Americans and share their harvest, they just killed them all off with weapons and disease. What I'm trying to say is that we didn't have Thanksgiving break last year. Anyway, not only do I have it this year but I have A WHOLE WEEK OFF! And I accidentally extended this vacation by booking my ticket at 1:10am on Friday morning, thinking that it was Saturday morning. So I will be missing school tomorrow, and watching my sister dive in her State meet in Holland instead. I already have everything packed and ready to go. Just to make things that much better, Monica now lives in Ann Arbor, AND Betsy will be home from Africa the day after I get there! I am bursting with excitement. Considering, however, that my body has been intolerant to the California cold I think I will probably be in for a rude awakening getting of the plane in Michigan. The body is really a traitorous thing. You think that your years of Michigan winters would somehow make you permanently impervious to baby-cold, and then you miss one winter and you are worse off than ever. I mean, come on.

ANYWAY, I will see you all VERY SOON!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Hey all,

So I spent the last week in Yosemite with 143 8th graders chaperoning a field trip. It was amazing! We stayed in tent cabins (with heat) and hiked around each day with an instructor from the Yosemite Institute. They do students tours and teach the kids all about the park. It was ridiculous. I couldn't believe I was at work. The kids were perfectly behaved, and I got to piggyback on their tour and see a lot of the park. We went on a hike up to Glacier Point where we could see the whole valley, we went into some caves where it was completely dark and the person in front of you had to tell you how to get through, we saw some rocks where the American Indians ground up acorns with grinding holes that had been used for 500 years, and we counted macro-invertebrates in the river to calculate the water quality. I think I might have enjoyed the instruction more than the kids. It was awesome. It is a beautiful place. Now I am getting organized for next week, and setting things up until Thanksgiving. Back to the school, BTSA, wedding planning for me!

Love and miss you all!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God

JP and I are going to our first meeting with the priest at the church we go to out here. He's super nice, but still I am a little nervous. I wonder if people of other faiths are a little afraid of their leaders? Somehow I doubt it...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wedding Planning (Part 1 of Probably Many)

Hey all,

So since J.P. and I got engaged last month we have started baby-stepping our wedding planning. So far we are thinking that we will have the wedding ceremony at St. Mary's in Chelsea, with the reception at my mom's house. It should be a pretty fun and low-key affair, hopefully with tacos and music. We have been scheming about how to pay for it and what to do, and so far things have been going reasonably smoothly. I have about 85 (see: 1) excel spreadsheets with a million (see: 3) tabs each of all of the different things to keep track of. Yuck. I am turning into an excel monster. I have my budget on there too and I am literally inputting every dollar I make or spend. It is turning me into a major miser, but I feel very organized.  I feel like there are a lot of decisions to be made right now with the wedding and life in general, and they are all hard to make because we have incomplete information. It drives me crazy. For example, we have no idea what our jobs will have in store for us next year so we can't even plan whether or not we will be living here. If we do stay here we can't plan where to live for the same reasons, and if we don't then there is no plan at all. I don't think this bothers JP, but it drives me crazy. It makes planning the wedding difficult for unexpected reasons as well. Like, if we continue to live in this house should we even register for anything, since we won't need any of it yet? Or, if we both have good jobs should we move into a smaller, crappier place for twice as much money so that we can live alone (probably not, especially considering that Mike and Becky are the best). I feel a little bit like I'm spinning my wheels with all of this, and I just need to be more relaxed and see what happens... easier said than done.

On a non-rampaging note, both JP and I love our jobs. I have great kids in my classes, and they are catching on really quickly. The class has been entirely in Spanish so far, and the kids are doing really well with it in general, although grammar gets tricky that way. I have been listening to Harry Potter on tape (well, CD, do you guys still say on tape? It feels weird to say anything else), and reading Anna Karenina, both of which are excellent. That Harry Potter on tape (there it is again) is excellent is no surprise because I have listened to it at least 3 times already, but I was a little intimidated by Anna Karenina and am pleasantly surprised by how readable it is.

In other news I am chaperoning an 8th grade field trip to Yosemite next week which is 6 days long, and should be awesome! I can't wait! I was told that I am in a "hiking group", and I don't really know what was meant by that but I like the sound of it. Anyway, I miss you guys!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Hey all,

So as you have heard from facebook JP and I are engaged! We are so excited, and have already started trying to plan. I wish we could have our wedding in a month, but I think we have to wait at least 6 for the Catholic church (bummer). We are thinking June, so hopefully the church will be able to do it. We will be getting married in Michigan, most likely in Ann Arbor.

Here is how it happened:

Last Wednesday (September 1st) was JP and my 4 year anniversary of dating. To celebrate we went for a hike on a trail called Backbone Trail. It's in the Santa Monica mountains and is a really beautiful hike. As we were walking along we stopped near the top and JP just got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I was shocked. Honestly, I thought that when he proposed I would see it coming from a mile away, but I had no idea. Monica made the ring, and it is beautiful. The stone is peridot. It is beautiful. I love it.

Here is a picture of JP and I once we remembered that we should take pictures to share:

Here is a picture of JP telling his mom the good news:

Basically, I couldn't be happier. I am really excited about the wedding too. It is still in the most infant of infant stages, but we are thinking of a backyard BBQ type reception. Ah! So exciting!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

California Here We... Are

Hey All,

As most of you probably already know I moved out to California in July. I looked for jobs for a few weeks, and had to go for a quick trip back to the D.R. to get my stuff, and now I am working at a middle school here in Calabasas, and as a tutor. I am starting to get ready for the school year; setting up my classroom and get my lessons in order. JP and I are living with his former roommates Becky and Mike, which is awesome. I was really lucky to get this job at the school, and I am really excited to start teaching again. The school seems great, and I am going to have a bunch of cool technology for my class. Anyway, I just wanted to update you all. I will start posting again regularly soon.

Miss you all!

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Two Birthdays

Hey all,

So I got home on Tuesday night, and every minute since then has been running around and having an inordinate amount of fun. On Wednesday I woke up early to hang out with my mom before she went to work, then hung out with my sister before she went to pole vault camp. When she left it was still only 7:30 or 8, and while I am a very annoying older sister, I figured that this was still too early to wake up my brother. So I toodled around the house for awhile and drank copious amounts of coffee, and then finally I took a shower, woke my brother up and told him I would be back in an hour and that we were going to Ann Arbor, and went out to the car with the wrong keys. I came back into the house 3 more times and came back out with the wrong keys, and all the while my neighbors across the street were sitting on their porch watching this happen. Having all Toyotas can be a little confusing. 

Anyway, I woke my brother up for the second time, got him to tell me where the keys were,  and went to the bank. I decided that my brother and cousin probably weren't interested in getting up, so I went to Ann Arbor for awhile by myself, and came home. All of this was accomplished by about 11:15, so I came home. My mom came back at around 12:00, and was very confused by the productivity of my day so far. She and I went back into Ann Arbor for awhile, and then back to the bank so that I could open a new savings account, and Monica arrived in Chelsea. We went out to dinner with my mom, dad, brother, cousin, and sister at Las Fuentes. Delicious. Monica, Lucy, Natalie and I then proceeded to the Brown Jug in Ann Arbor (3 times in one day) and had a few drinks. 

Yesterday Monica and I woke up, had breakfast, and went shopping in Ann Arbor. I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff for ridiculously little, which was amazing. We came back to Chelsea, ran with my mom, and then went out to the Chelsea bars with Lucy, BETSY (This one from Africa), Natalie, and Jordan Silverman. So much fun. It has been SO good to see everyone, I can hardly stand it. All I wish is that we had about 6 weeks to talk to each other instead of 6 hours. I missed everyone and it was amazing to have them all here for my birthday. Best birthday present ever.

God Bless America (ATL I'm the Mayor)

Say what you will about the United States, ladies and gentleman, but one thing about which there can be no debate is we really have a lot of cool stuff to buy. In the Santo Domingo airport I had a choice between bag after bag of mixed nuts for $5 (when the price is in dollars you know you’re in trouble) or a really bad sandwich for $7. I chose the sandwich. Big mistake. Conversely, in the Atlanta airport there is every kind of food a person could want (sadly I did not get the terminal with Qdoba, but I know it’s here somewhere, calling me). There is a Ben & Jerry’s here. A BEN & JERRY’S! It took every bit of willpower I possess to keep walking past those $7 ice cream sundaes. I had already shoved a week’s worth of Chinese food down my gullet and I felt like the ice cream would be overkill. I think I might be growing up. I doubt it though.  There is also a nearly full sized book store in this terminal. I resisted that one too because if I buy a book I’ll never finish Huckleberry Finn. Speaking of which, has anyone read these Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books? Are they worth all the hype? How about that Edgar Sawtelle book? As sad as the rest in the Oprah Book Club? Fill me in, I’m out of the loop. One more thing, in the bathroom there was not only toilet paper (that you can flush by the way), and not only did the toilets flush on their own, and not only did the sinks turn on by themselves, but the soap dispensers are automatic too! What a country! (They are also filled with soap by the way, an added novelty.) Fellow Americans, we’ve got it good here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Last Night in Santo Domingo

Hey all,

So tonight is officially my last night in Santo Domingo of the 2009-2010 school year. It really has gone by fast. School has been wrapping up for a couple of weeks now, and I just finished my final checklist (and most importantly got my final pay check), so I am ready for summer! I fly home tomorrow, and while I am really excited to come home I am also really going to miss my friends here. We went out to dinner together tonight to say goodbye (although like true travelers no one actually said those words) to this restaurant called El Agave on Lope de Vega. Delicious Mexican food. They have mole enchiladas that are amazing. Anyway (does anyone other than me notice how much I talk about food?), throughout dinner all I could think about was when I would see everyone again. Hopefully at the very least we can videochat. Especially the Hadleys' (I hope you are reading this) so that I can see Baby Hadley when he is born. It has been a really eventful and great year, and I feel really lucky that I have had this experience. I have met some really great people and had some good adventures, and better still, I have a whole second year to enjoy. Thank you to everyone who made this year amazing. Sorry for the clip show, but here are some highlights:

- First day in the old apartment feeling like I was living in a palace
-Las Terrenas the first weekend
- Going to the cave bar with Doug and Stacy before we really knew them
-Moving to our apartment in Zona Colonial
- Constanza with Doug and Stacy for Doug and JP's birthdays
- Meeting Elizabeth and Rebecca and immediately ruining their iron (sorry guys)
- Thanksgiving at the Hadleys'
- Baseball game
- Trip out west with Hadleys' (and subsequently finding out Sarah was/is pregnant)
- JP's race in the city that he WON and Carnival in La Vega on the same day (deciding to stay another year based on that day basically)
- Portuguese classes and going to the Saturday night movies
-Goodbye weekend in Boca Chica for JP
- Nearly living at Doug and Stacy's (with a guest appearance at the Hadleys') for awhile after JP left
-Puerto Plata with everyone
- Ms. De la Cruz's bachelorette party/wedding
- Moving in with Brigitte

These are only a handful of the things I want to remember from this year. I will miss you all very much next year, and I really hope we keep in touch. Thanks for an amazing year!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sarah's Baby Shower

Last night after the wedding Stacy stayed over. In the morning we ate breakfast, did a little decorating, and then she went home to get the cake and get ready for Sarah's baby shower at 3. I ran to the store to get water, prepped the food, and then she came back and finished decorating while I finished the cooking and got ready for people to arrive. She did an amazing job on the decorations (see facebook). Brigitte, Sarah and Becky got here around 3, and Rebecca shortly after. We had guacamole, sushi, and cake, which was an amazing combination for taste and indigestion. We played a couple of games, one where you say whether it means you are having a boy or a girl for old wives tales, and another where you had to name the nursery rhyme. Sarah won the latter which I thought was a good sign. Also, we decorated onesies for the baby, which can also be seen on facebook. It was a really good shower, and I think everyone had a good time. I was just really happy to have everyone over and to do something for Sarah.

In other news, I am coming home in less than one month! I will see all of you so soon!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ms. De la Cruz's Wedding

Well, Ms. Bazzi now. Stacy and I went as dates, can you say that? The wedding was gorgeous, Ms. De la Cruz looked beautiful, and everything was totally over the top. A bunch of my students were at the ceremony to see her dress, and they were so cute (and much better behaved than in class I might add). The wedding was a full mass (which I took to mean that I didn't have to go tomorrow morning), and then Stacy and I came back to my apartment to drop some things off and pick up my camera. We got to the reception, went through the receiving line, and then sat down with some teachers from school. I saw Alex (who I lived with at the beginning of the year) and her boyfriend Poli, which was nice, and we ate a bunch of delicious food. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a little while that was awkward, but after a couple of cocktails everyone was on the dance floor. Stacy and I sat out a few more songs than we would have liked because they were merengue (a.k.a. couples only dancing), but after awhile they brought out some marti gras-esque party favors and played some drumline music and we went out and danced around. We had some champagne and wine and chocolate-fountain-dipped-fruit and mini-muffins. The party favors were these really beautiful silver ring boxes. The problem was that there was only one for every two people. Stacy and I had each secured one anyway when someone took Stacy's. She scoured the room for a spare and eventually one of the other couples left and she commandeered theirs before their seats had cooled. On the way out we also stole some flowers. Actually a lot of flowers. Sorry Ms. De la Cruz/Bazzi/Lourdes. The other kids were doing it! Good time. I also died laughing several times at Stacy blowing into her marti gras noise maker. I have a video of it. It sounds strikingly similar to a duck caller that you use for hunting except for she was wearing a marti gras mask, which hunters do not usually do.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lifestyles Tropical Beach Resort

This weekend we went to a resort called Lifestyles, which sounds like it is some super weird alternative resort, but actually it was a pretty typical one from what I have seen here. There was a little more MTV Spring Break type music and volleyball at the pool, and there was a three-way kiss spotted, but from where we sat it otherwise seemed like a pretty relaxed resort. Because we booked through this travel agency called Cheap Caribbean we got to use the VIP beach, where they brought food and drinks out to you on giant beds on the beach, which was pretty amazing. They also served lobster one night at the buffet which was out of the ordinary. The first night there Rebecca, Doug, Stacy and I were determined to stay out late enough to go to the electronic dance party, which we did, but when we got there it turned out to be a standard club, except the people were much drunker than normal on the free drinks, and there were dancers on little stages wearing outfits that left little to the imagination (i.e. rhinestone thongs). When I relay these scenes they seem much more shocking than they actually were, and I think this may be because I am now seeing this through my Aunt Kris' eyes (thanks for reading Aunt Kris, sorry about the horrifying images). The next day we ate and lounged around on the beach, and went to bed early. In the morning Stacy and I played tennis for roughly 4 minutes, at which time a little boy who was working at the tennis courts said "Finished." to Stacy. It took us a few seconds to figure out what he was saying, and then figure out what he meant, but what he meant was "Get off the court, there are people with reservations." We did as we were told. I went to the pool for awhile and then ate a last minute ice cream, and then we headed back to the city with Sean and Sarah, who graciously let us hitchhike back with them in their rental car.

This week has been pretty busy, the kids have exams so we have been getting ready for that and tutoring has been busy too for the same reasons. I have been going to the gym, which I am going to continue. This Saturday is Ms. De la Cruz's wedding, and this Sunday we are throwing Sarah a baby shower, so things should stay busy. I miss you guys and can't wait to see you all this summer!

Ms. De la Cruz's Bachelorette Party

 I wrote this blog last Sunday night when I got back from this party, pretend you are reading it then.

I just got home from Ms. De la Cruz’s Bachelorette Party. I was really apprehensive about going because I always feel like kind of a weird outsider, and I didn’t know what to wear or what time to show up, but I think I did okay on both fronts. I came roughly an hour and a half late (a safe bet here), and wore my purple wrap dress with the highest heels I own (also a fairly safe bet), I ended up sitting with some teachers from school and possibly making some friends with them. It was really fun. We played a few games which I think Ms. De la Cruz was horrified to play in front of her mother, one was writing 69 on the wall with a marker between your knees, another was asking Ms. De la Cruz questions which she had to answer blindfolded giving a number. The numbers were taped all over her body and she couldn’t see which one was which. It was pretty funny. I think she was reasonably embarrassed about it but I guess that is kind of the point of a bachelorette party. All of the guests had names which were from mildly to incredibly inappropriate, ranging from “Besos” to “Vagina”. I think those of you who don’t speak Spanish can probably figure those two out. Anyway, it was a really good time and I am really glad I went. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Last Day of Moping

JP officially has been gone 2 weeks, and I have been moping around a lot since he left. I haven't really felt like doing much, and have tried to use every opportunity to sit around my apartment by myself. My friends have very graciously taken me in on many occasions for dinner and to hang out, and so kept me from becoming too reclusive. Sarah asked me when a reasonable deadline would be for me to be done moping around, and I told her today, so I guess this is it. I am not taking my Portuguese class anymore, so when my tutoring finished early today I didn't quite know what to do with myself. I came home, read Brave New World, and made dinner. It was a very good last day of moping, but I think tomorrow I am going to very proactively seek out things to do after school (prepare yourselves, friends). I am going to see JP in June though, from the 3rd to the 6th, woot woot! And I will be home in the US on the evening of June 22nd, just in time for my birthday. If anyone is interested in doing something on June 23rd, let me know. Anyway, love you guys, thought I should let you know that I was alive and coming out of hibernation.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Apartment Voyeurism and Xiomara Fortuna

Yesterday Rebecca, Stacy and I wandered around Gasque (a neighborhood near mine which is much more residential) looking for apartments for next year. We saw a wide range, from am ultramodern one that is just being built with a really nice balcony, to a dark one with furniture that your grandma would pick out if your grandma had horrific taste (mine doesn't). The latter apartment was in a really nice new building, but after seeing the furnishings Stacy said, "I think this place is haunted." We also went into one where the maids had a separate elevator, and there was a private elevator that opened right into the apartment. It had a huge ocean view and was enormous. It was possibly the nicest apartment I have ever set foot in, but apparently they knew that because the rent was $3000 a month. Ah, well. A girl can dream.
After we had seen a number of apartments we went back to Rebecca's and Doug joined us. We ordered a pizza, and then attempted to go to a folk dance. We ended up in line at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and it turned out to be a concert of this lady called Xiomara Fortuna. We decided not to go, but then a guy came running after us and "invited us", meaning that we could go in for free. I think they understood our hesitation to enter as that we couldn't afford the tickets. Anyway, it seemed more awkward to refuse than to just go in so we went in.
It was the weirdest concert I have ever seen. I feel like I was missing something because the audience was going wild. Maybe this woman is a really famous Dominican icon or something, but I have to tell you all I didn't get it. She was wearing this extravagant constume and no shoes, and none of her songs were any good. It was all very strange and all 4 of us were counting down the songs to the end (there were 16). We didn't want to leave early and be ungrateful that they had let us come in, so we waited until the very end at which point we escaped into a cab and went home. Today I am going to go to mass if I can get my lazy self out of my apartment, and then to the beach.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


So I have given up the idea of getting an IPhone in favor of getting the inferior and far less expensive Blackberry. I haven't been able to track one down yet, but apparently someone's cousin brings them back from the states and sells them cheap (legit). I just found out this morning though that you can tether them to your computer and they provide internet which is pretty sweet. Has anyone actually done this? Does it work?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight

Not to be a drama queen, but I really miss JP around here already. The hardest part is that our apartment seems half empty (not half full). I'm sure I'll get used to the emptiness soon, but I won't get used to JP not being around. Worst.

Today after school I went grocery shopping, went to the bank, was told by our landlord's assistant that I could move into my new apartment and promptly told her I would rather move in with Brigitte, and then went over to Brigitte and Bastien's for the Swiss version of fondue. I ate roughly 3 times my stomach's normal capacity and drank my body weight in white wine (not necessarily a health night), and had a great time. It turns out the Swiss eat something akin to fondue as campfire food, while we Americans only eat things that come manufactured in factories and that we can put on the end of a stick, so uncivilized we are. The meal was a delicious salad, pickled beets (which I like for the first time in my life), boiled potatoes, and some delicious Swiss cheese that is baked and then eaten with the potatoes. I don't know about you guys, but I have never had anything close to that within a ten-mile radius of a campfire.

Anyway, the day was good, although I am still moping about a little, and I am going to poke around online, read Ender's Game, and then go to sleep. Overall a successful second day living alone in Santo Domingo.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend in Boca Chica and Japer Leaves Tomorrow

We decided to go to a city about 45 minutes outside Santo Domingo called Boca Chica to go to an all-inclusive resort for a day. We wanted to do something all together because JP is leaving tomorrow morning. We booked the hotel through this Canadian travel site called Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use this website. We all got confirmation emails, and then a phone call and another email saying that we had to fill out some form. The form was asking us to send them all of our credit card information as well as two forms of government ID copied front and back over email. We, obviously, did not do this. When we got to the hotel our reservations had been cancelled. After  3 hours they eventually sent a representative and we finally got into the hotel system, except Brigitte had to pay the full hotel price because she did not have her credit card (it was stolen). Nice. Once all of that was worked out we waited an additional 2.5 hours to get our room keys. It was literally the worst service I have ever gotten. The hotel was called Oasis Hamaca, in case you want to put that on your list of places that you should be wary of going. The hotel itself, actually, was great. The food was good, it was huge, there were a bunch of things to do, just the service was a bummer.

Anyway, the good thing was that all 10 of us (Matt, Becky, Sarah, Sean, Doug, Stacy, Brigitte, Bastien, JP, and I) were there together for the night. We had some drinks and dinner at a Mexican restaurant there, hung out on the beach in some strange and probably dangerous beach hammock/swings, looked around for an illusive karaoke and then went to bed. This morning JP and I went out in one of their kayaks to a little mangrove island, swam, tried to play tennis without shoes and got kicked out of the tennis courts, played miniature golf, and over-ate. Basically we had a full-scale all-inclusive resort experience. We are home now and JP is packed and ready to go. Worst. I think I'll try to sabotage his departure somehow. I have to go to dream up a solution to this problem.

Love you guys.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keeping Up With The Jones'

I make it a big priority in life to not buy the newest, coolest thing just because it is the newest, coolest thing. I try to use things until they wear out, and buy things that are good values.

That being said, I want an IPhone.

I don't just want one, I want one bad. Ask J.P, I have been searching the internet for days getting all the specs about IPhones and other ridiculously overpriced electronics. I think the idea of staying here has set into my brain and this is my weird way of nesting. It would be very expensive to have one, but I could call home on Skype from anywhere, and I would always have a little piece of internet in my pocket. Blogging community, what's a girl to do?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cafe da manhã

Morning coffee is how you say "breakfast" in Brazil. Those people have got things really figured out down there. I am going to go to sleep tonight thinking about my very own cafe da manhã for tomorrow.


Happy Easter Everyone!

This morning marks the end of Lent, during which I gave up coffee. As many of you know, I like my coffee. As a teacher coffee is as essential to productivity as books and whiteboard markers. Without it I have to say I was not my best. Substance abuse? I think so. Anyway, this morning I had my first cup and savored it lovingly. I was surprisingly uncaffeinated afterwards (disappointing). JP and I went to mass, which was very brief and delightfully unorganized (ex: "Okay, everyone who wants to take communion come forward"). Are you proud Mom that we went to church? Oh, who am I kidding, you don't read my blog (sigh of self-pity). After mass JP and I went to this diner called La Cafetera where we go often for coffee and juice. I had not yet experienced their cappuccinos, so that was the first order of business. Let me just tell you, Cafetera cappuccinos are a hell of a drug. After I drank it I was shaking and having daydreams about running several miles outside. For those of you who know me this was almost an out of body experience. JP and I did brief grocery shopping and then came home, by which point I was literally high on caffeine. JP went to bike and I danced to my ipod and cleaned our entire apartment without pause in about 45 minutes. I love coffee. I feel a little like a crazy person, but at least this crazy person is living in a clean place. I hope you guys all had a great Easter morning, I miss everyone. Family, take some pictures today when you get together and post them on facebook and tag me in them. If you don't feel motivated to do that you should make yourself a cappuccino and then you will want to do that and then create a new social networking site afterwards. I promise.

Love you guys. Feliz Pasqua.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh sure, Oprah! I'd love to be on your show!

Okay, so maybe that's a bit much. My friend Kerry and I have been doing a project with our students where they write pen pal letters back and forth to each other, and the Monroe News wrote a story about it! Sadly, my name is not mentioned in the story but know that I am the Ashton School of Santo Domingo teacher. Here's the link.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back in Santo Domingo

Hey all,

So we're back in Santo Domingo now, JP ended up feeling worse, not better, today so we decided to head back to the city and at least deal with boredom in our own apartment and not on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. We took a taxi back from the ranch because I thought the guy said that it was $1200 pesos, which is around 35 dollars, but actually he said $2200 which I realized only when we got here, worst. I am now feeling a little ill myself, which I can only hope are sympathy pains and not the onset of whatever JP has. More on that later...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rancho Wendy

JP and I are on a ranch right now in a city called Bonao. It's "rustic" which basically means that all of the buildings are constucted out of poured cement and little else. It's super cheap though which is nice. JP and I got the deluxe room ($20 per night) and it has air-conditioning (sometimes) and a tv and dvd player, which has been nice because there is little to do here after dark. We did play some games of pool last night though, and discovered that we have almost matching talents (or lack-thereof). We came here because we wanted to do some hikes up into the mountains, but JP came down with some mild food poisoning, so we are hoping to get started tomorrow. It is really beautiful up here, but unfortunately much hotter than we thought it would be. There are mountains all around but it isn't high up enough to mediate the temperature. There is a pool in the back yard though, so JP and I got in there this afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to hike up to the waterfall and swim and cool off. We might ride around with the owners a little later and check things out. It's a little awkward because we are the only guests here and it's kind of like staying in someone's house, but it's also nice for that reason. Also, the food has been delicious. Pretty good Semana Santa so far, not including the food poisoning.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Student and JP Trash Talking Each Other

There is a kid at school (6th grade) who JP constantly trash talks. He played basketball with the kids a couple times and beat them, and then tormented them about it. This one kid keeps telling JP that he is friends with Shaq and Kobe Bryant and that they have taught him a few tricks and that as soon as he gets taller he will "win" JP. It's really funny. Yesterday JP was swimming after school in the school pool and the kid left him a note that said,

Mr. Severin,
Im' Better than you much Better twice Better triple Better

with hugs, (kid's name)
ps. Im better than you
ps. again: Happy Holy Weekend

This kid is my student so I guess I need to work a little with him on punctuation, and I guess he didn't get much out of our apostrophe unit, but the note was hilarious. Later when we were all in the library he and JP were showing each other pictures of different animals and saying it was each other's family photo album. He then showed Mr. Severin a picture on the computer in the library of a hideous monster and said he didn't know that Mr. Severin was famous.  It was pretty funny.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Morning

I have been waking up at 7 or 7:30 on the weekends lately. This is sort of annoying because I want to sleep in, but it has also been really nice because I am awake before everyone else in the city (it feels like), and I have some time in the morning to laze around and look things up on my computer. Today I tried to make reservations for JP and I for Spring Break. We are going to try to go to this place called Rancho Wendy up in the mountains. They have super cheap rooms and lots of hikes and stuff. It sounds awesome. Hopefully they aren't full.

JP heard back from Nokia on Friday. His start date is May 3rd, so he is going back to Michigan on April 19th. We bought his ticket yesterday. I am really happy and excited for him and really bummed for me. Brigitte, Bastien, and I looked at other apartments in the building yesterday. We are all thinking about moving in together. We found one but then found out it had been rented. We are also supposed to give 2 months notice before we move out, so I don't know if we are even going to be able to  move out of our apartments without losing the deposit. Everything is very up in the air right now, JP says it's like we're in a pinball machine, and I think he's right. It will all settle down soon though hopefully. At least we have tentative Spring Break plans now, baby steps.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

Or should I say Just A Normal Wednesday In The Dominican Republic. Lame. I wore green to school today and was literally the only one. Bummer. I said happy St. Patrick's Day to the kids and they responded with things like, "Wow, is it St. Patrick's Day?" Clearly they have never visited Michigan State University. I was missing my East Lansing friends today. I remember walking to my car last year at 6:45 a.m. to teach and the bars had lines down the block. Those people knew what St. Patrick's Day was.

Anyway, rant aside things are going well here. We are trying to figure things out for next year which is a pretty slow process, and kind of stressful. The focus at the moment is here, Mexico, Ecuador or Brazil, in order of probability. What do you guys think?

Monday, March 1, 2010

El Cabito- Las Galeras

Hey all,

This week I started tutoring a kid who is trying to take his completivo exam in order to pass 10th grade (he is now in 11th). On Friday after tutoring Stacy, Doug, JP and I got on the road to Las Galeras, a city where we have gone before in Samana. When I say got on the road what I mean is that I went to Stacy and Doug's to wait for them to get back from the rental place, then we went to the grocery store to get snacks and use the ATM, then we realized that our bank was not working, then we went to another store to visit their branch of our bank, then we realized there was a 2 hour line, then we tried calling the bank to no avail, then we took stock of the cash the 4 of us had, then we decided just to go anyway, then we got stuck in traffic, then 2 hours later we were out of the city and on our way.

We got to Las Galeras around 12:15, after having left school at 4:45. Worst. We stopped on the way for dinner in Samana, at a place called Mini Restaurant La Carpa, which was an RV serving burritos very cheaply among other things along the side of the main road. It was actually amazing and was right next to the water. When we got to Las Galeras we had to go down some windy roads and then up some very sharp hills to get to our hotel, El Cabito. The advise we were given by the owners of the hotel was, "Whatever you do, don't stop on the hill." When we got there we realized why they might have said that, it was treacherous. We basically collapsed into bed when we got there. Here is the cabin we stayed in:

We woke up to Doug talking to their cat on the balcony, calling her a baby actually, and Stacy and I went for a run/walk and the boys went on a run together too. We came back and ate a delicious breakfast, and also realized that one of the tires on the car was flat. JP fixed it, almost single-handedly, despite never having repaired a flat before. I must say that he did an amazing job. The people at the hotel were so nice, they took the flat tire into town and dropped it off at a repair place, and hired someone to deliver it to the house, so by the evening we had the original tire back and repaired. All of this cost roughly $8. It was pretty awesome for having a flat tire.

We didn't really do much the rest of the day. We read and hung out, and JP scared me half to death and all the way to rage with his swimming antics, which you can read about in his blog. Mary Lou, imagine triathlon nationals minus the rescue kayaks plus huge surf and cliffs and coral, awful. Luckily he survived. We had a really good dinner together and met a kid who is going to medical school here in Santo Domingo. We went to bed at 9:30, we are becoming old people, and woke up at around 7:30 to the dulcet tones of the cat mewing from her bathroom prison.  Stacy and I went for another run and laid on the beach for a little while, before packing up and coming back to the city.

It was a really relaxing weekend, minus the hour when JP was swimming, and I was actually rested for once when I went back to school today which was nice.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Best Weekend Ever/ J.P's Race

Hey all,

So far I have had an amazing weekend. Some big decisions are coming up for JP and I for next year and where we want to live, but we are narrowing down the options and getting close to making those decisions once we hear what the man behind the emerald curtain (Nokia) has to say. The highlights of the weekend were going to the falafel restaurant on Friday night with Doug, Stacy, JP, Rebecca, and her boyfriend Dante who is visiting from Peru, finding a delicious French bakery, going to IKEA, and going bowling yesterday, and today JP WINNING HIS FIRST RACE!!!

We went to Mirador Sur really early this morning for the race, JP biked and I took a cab, and when I got dropped off they dropped me at the wrong end of the park, so I had to walk the 5k to the race start. At first I was kind of bummed about it because I was afraid that I would miss the start (which I did) but as I was walking I really enjoyed myself. It's a hideously ugly park, but it was really quiet and it was really nice to be outside so early in the morning mostly alone and walk. I saw JP for the first time as he ran past me and yelled "They went off too early!". The whole race was kind of jumbled up, and I couldn't tell what place he was in, but in the end of the bike he rode by me and yelled "I'm winning!". When he started running I went the rest of the way toward the finish, and ran the last stretch as he did. We were both really happy. He always does really well in races but this was his first actual win. I was so proud of him. Now we are getting ready to head to La Vega, this other city, to see what's going on there for Carnaval, apparently it is the main city for it. For some reason they celebrate Carnaval here through February (sacrilege) but I am still planning on partaking in the festivities as long as they don't involve coffee which I gave up.


Okay so I just got back from La Vega where we went to some Carnaval festivities. I am really glad we went, it was crazy. There were a ton of people in ridiculous costumes which included but were not limited to men on stilts, children covered with mud, and a man dressed up as Osama Bin Laden with a fake gun pointed at himself. It was ridiculous. I am going to upload some pictures so you guys can see it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mom and Lauren Come to Visit

Hey all,

Last Wednesday night my mom and sister flew in to Santo Domingo to visit. They came in at 11:35 at night, and JP and I went to the airport with a very nice taxi driver to pick them up. While JP and I waited we played a game where we quietly guessed how much everyone in the airport weighed. My guesses, of course, were incredibly accurate and JP's were all very high. When they got here they were exhausted from a long day of traveling so we went to bed as soon as we got home, but it was really really good to have them here. When we got back to the apartment we didn't have power, (Welcome to Santo Domingo!) but miraculously our generator was actually working so once JP fiddled with it for awhile we were okay. On Thursday during the day JP and I went to school and they wandered around the Colonial Zone, got some catcalls from the men on the streets, had some Yogenfruz, which is delicious frozen yogurt, and had lunch. When I came back from school we went out to dinner at this restaurant on the boardwalk/ocean where they were introduced to some Dominican food, good and bad. My mom had some really good fish, they ate tostones, and my sister and I both had crab that was heavy on the sauce, heavy on the bits of shell, and light on the crab meat. Stacy and Doug met us there which was really nice because they all got to meet each other, and more importantly, sing their praises of JP and I to my mom which I didn't hate.

On Friday morning we took the 4 and a half hour bus ride to Cabarete on the north coast. We stayed in a small all-inclusive resort, the same one where Stacy, Doug, JP and I stayed in October. The first night there it rained, which made me nervous that they were going to have traveled all this way for a rainy weekend, but luckily it was the only bad weather we had. We spent the weekend eating, lying on the beach, jumping around in the waves, getting knocked down and dragged underwater by the waves, (my sister has the bruises to prove it) and eating more. It was great. Super relaxing. By Saturday night my sister was getting a little annoyed with all of us wanting to go to bed early and not do anything at night (if I haven't told you all I'm a old person now, worst), so on Saturday night we went to a bar next to the resort and hung out for awhile. They were having some weird fashion show for one of the stores in town (Miss Jay would have been horrified) and after that was over we just sat in some chairs on the beach and chatted. I was really glad that my sister had convinced us not to be lame.

On Sunday we went to the beach for a bit, and for a minute I was sure we were going to die because this guy who looked like a mad scientist flew over our heads in some kind of contraption that could only be described as a high-powered fan strapped to a lawn chair which were attached to a large kite. made the long trek back to the city, and by that time I had started to feel sick, probably because I hadn't been boring the night before, and ended up having to stay home from school on Monday because I still wasn't feeling well. It was too bad because it is the first time I have gotten sick here and it was while they were visiting. We did end up walking around later in the day, going to eat pizza that evening, and buying the bootleg DVD guy out of all of his current movies before packing everything up and going to bed. It was really good to have them here. I wish they could have stayed longer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Someone's Pregnant!

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! After finally getting clearance to announce this on the World Wide Web, I am excited to tell you all that my friends Sarah and Sean ARE HAVING A BABY!

We went out of town with them 2 weekends ago, and I had a conversation with them at this beach that you see in the picture about when they thought they might have kids, and their answer was basically "anytime now" which surprised me a little, and then I found out 2 days later that they suspected all along that Sarah was already pregnant! Neither of them speak much Spanish, so they asked me to call their doctor and make an appointment, and then to come with them to the Ultrasound/Doctor's visit. I think they felt like I was helping out, but little did they know I was dying to go with them! I think I may have come along even if they had specifically asked me not to, I was so excited to see the baby and hear the heart beat. Sarah is my first friend who has been pregnant, so I am beside myself. Stacy is going to plan a baby shower for them before we all leave. Sarah's tentative due date is September 19th. Ah! I am so excited! (Thank you Sarah and Sean for giving me clearance to put this in my blog!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Artistas Unidos por Haití

 This morning I woke up and decided that I would get everything I needed to get done by 2 o'clock. JP and I went out for breakfast on El Conde, which is the next block over, and we ate at this restaurant, La Cafetera, that makes amazing egg sandwiches. JP and I each got a juice and a coffee and shared a sandwich and our total was around 7 dollars, sometimes I love this country. We went grocery shopping and then came home and I set to work on my Portuguese homework.

The class I am taking has an absolutely ridiculous amount of homework. Between classes we generally have 10-20 pages of a workbook to do, and some other rather large task to accomplish. I am embarrassed to admit that last Wednesday I didn't go to class because I hadn't finished my homework. I should probably be fired as a teacher for doing that, it's like being a police officer and committing felonies. Anyway, this morning I finished writing a 2 page paper in Portuguese as well as around 10 pages of my workbook while JP rode his bike in our living room. By the way I finished at 2:14, pretty close.

I was looking around online and I found that there was a big concert at Estadio Olimpico. It was a benefit concert and the proceeds were going to helping Haiti. There were a bunch of Dominican artists playing there so we decided to go. When we got there we were dropped off at one of the side entrances, and we couldn't seem to find our way to the ticket booth. I asked a nice looking police officer where it was, and after leading us around for about 10 minutes he offered us a ticket out of his pocket. We politely declined because we needed 3 tickets, and then he found us two more from two separate scalpers  and we were on our way. Just to be clear, what I am saying is that I bought scalped tickets from a police officer. It was a little weird. Oddly enough though, I think I got better price from the other scalpers because he was standing there.

The view of the stage from the bleachers. 

Me, Stacy, Doug (pre-tooth chipping pizza)

Haitian/Dominican Flag Party

So we went into the concert and it was a big festival inside a baseball stadium. They had set up food tents and a big stage, and as the day went on the acts got longer and better. There were some questionable outfits that lead the audience to wonder if it would be possible for underwear to be worn underneath them, but the music was really good. We had some pizza that was so delicious that Stacy chipped her tooth on a piece of it (seriously). We ended up leaving before the main act because we realized that we would have to stay until midnight to see them, but overall it was a really good show. It was nice to be outside all day and the music was great. Good day.

UPDATE: I can prove we were there; they posted pictures of us on the event website! Check us out!
Celebrities- Doug, Stacy and I

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reader Poll on Host Family

Hey all,

Today as JP was working out I was working on my mountains of Portuguese homework. I finally finished O Pequeno Principe (The Little Prince) and did a write up of the characters. The class is moving ridiculously fast and after 3 weeks I am already writing papers, I like the teacher's style but it is a whole lot of work.

Anyway, when JP got back Rebecca asked us if we could help her move stuff into her new apartment in Gasque. She and Elizabeth are both moving out this weekend because Elizabeth is moving back to D.C. Worst. This has made me start thinking about how my days in this beautiful apartment with JP are numbered. I think he will probably have to leave in March or April to go to LA, at which time I will have to find a slightly cheaper apartment. Hopefully I can find one in the same building, but I was also thinking of looking for a host family. Any thoughts on this readers? I think it would be really good for my Spanish/ Dominican cultural immersion, but possibly bad for my social life because I would not be able to come and go quite as freely as from my own apartment. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home Cooking

Hey all,

So I had a not-so-good day at school today, followed by a not-so-good cab ride home, and by the time I got  to the apartment I was a mess. I talked to JP for awhile while he rode his bike and then decided to make some food to calm my nerves. I made rice and black beans (which, other than eggs, was all we had in the house) and wished for the millionth time that we had some tortillas so I could have a burrito. Then, a light bulb! I can make my own tortillas! I looked up a recipe online and made some tortillas. They ended up more like small pitas than tortillas, but I think the idea will take us a long way. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Southwest of the DR

This weekend Sarah, Sean, JP and I decided to rent a car and travel west. Before we left we read in my guidebook that there were waterfalls, beaches, places to hike, and other generally cool stuff on that side of the island and that tourists don't often go there. There really aren't many big resorts on that side of the island, mostly small hotels and restaurants, so it doesn't draw in huge crowds like Punta Cana and the other developed cities.

We met up at 12:30 on Thursday afternoon at the rental car place, and rented a white sedan. We drove first through San Cristobal, which is where the famous dictator Trujillo was from, and then a number of small towns along the highway. We stopped in Azua for some Pollo Rey (think KFC Dominican style) and then continued on until we got to a city called Paraiso, which is about 4 hours outside Santo Domingo. We had some trouble finding the hotel, and when we did we weren't entirely sure we wanted to stay. It wasn't a lot to look at and the rooms weren't as cheap as they looked like they should be. We went to another hotel in the neighboring city of Los Patos, which was considerably nicer and only slightly more expensive, but that one was full. After eating dinner in Los Patos in a restaurant called Pula where delicious meats and placemats abounded we headed back to the first hotel, Hotel Paraiso, with our tails between our legs, played Bananagrams and spent the night.

The views on the way to Paraiso were completely ridiculous. Much of the drive was overlooking these enormous cliffs out onto the bluest water I have ever seen. The beaches were not sand but white rocks of varying sizes made smooth by the water. It was extremely beautiful. If you stood on the beach and turned around mountains were right behind you. It was the most beautiful place I have seen on the island so far.

The second day we were there we went to the beach in the morning, but quickly realized that although they were unique and beautiful, the stones were not very comfortable to sit on, and there was no shade to prevent us from getting sunburned. We went down the road a ways to where people have damned up the river into small pools that you can swim in and that lead down to the beach. These too were very beautiful, and there were lots of Dominican kids swimming in the pools. The waves in the ocean there were very big and powerful, and took me down a couple times when I tried to get into the water. We sat at a picnic table and had some food and eventually decided to see what else we could see in the area. We drove down to another hotel which ended up being very expensive, and then continued on to check some hotels in Barahona. We didn't succeed in that either although we did tour a coffee factory. When I say tour what I mean is walk into and when I say coffee factory I mean a relatively dark barn with coffee strewn all over the ground and a man outside seemingly bathing the factory's roosters in a metal tub.

We eventually ended up back at the expensive hotel for lunch, and after lunch we wandered around their grounds. There were huge cliffs here too overlooking the water and we walked down to the beach, and then came back up and sat in rocking chairs on the edge of the cliff and looked out at the water. It was a stunning view.

We ate dinner later that night at the same restaurant as the night before in Los Patos, and then went back to the hotel. Sean and Sarah looked up things to do for the next day and JP and I fell asleep at 9:15.

The next morning we decided to head back east and check out some of the beaches closer to Santo Domingo. We tried to go to a beach called Ocoa, but after a wrong turn that lead us into an Ocoa in the mountains we realized that there were two cities by that name, one in the mountains and one on the coast. We turned around and went towards the other one, stopped for lunch at a big hotel that turned out to also be way out of our price range (are you guys noticing a pattern of poverty here?) and eventually found a place that had some small sand dunes and a dark sand beach. JP and I swam around and looked at the small coral reefs off right off the shore and then we headed further east (and got lost about 7 times on the way) and stayed in a hotel in Playa Najayo, which is about an hour from the city. We had dinner when we got there and I watched some guy with a flashlight swim around underwater while we ate, which I thought was fascinating and Sean and Sarah (who are from Florida) did not think was out of the ordinary (they explained that he was probably fishing for crabs).  This morning we lounged around on the beach for a little while and then drove back to Santo Domingo.

The trip was really relaxing and beautiful, and renting a car made it way more enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Little I Know About Haiti

Hey all,

So my dad suggested that I let you guys know what I know about Haiti. I'm sorry to disappoint, but that is a very short book. Here is what I have experienced here over the last few months and in particular in the last week.

So Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island called Hispañola. Haiti is considerably poorer than the Dominican, so many Haitians come here to find work. There appears to be a lot of animosity towards them, and many of them occupy very low income jobs (readers, these generalizations make me uncomfortable to write, so know that they are not true of all Haitians or Dominicans, and are based solely on my own experiences and perceptions). I know personally 4 Haitian people, two who work in my school, one as a teacher and one on the maintenance crew, and two who are brothers and own a fruit stand nearby. You all may remember Sergio who I buy fruit from and have talked about before.

During the earthquake I didn't feel anything, but many of my friends did, including Brigitte who lives in the same building that I do. I heard accounts of it ranging from 20 seconds and being barely noticeable to it being 1 minute and a little scary. As I didn't feel it I'm not really sure the truth of it, probably a lot depends on the kind of building you were standing in. Anyway, after the earthquake we said a prayer in school for the Haitians (it's a private school) and the administration made up a list of what the people of Haiti needed and assigned each grade an item to bring. The sixth grade brought cans of tuna, but the list also included many other canned foods, bottles of water, medicine, etc. It was suggested that we not bring clothes or money to donate. Clothes because they were not an immediate need, and money because it has a way of getting lost. Trucks came to the school and picked up the items and carried them over to the border, where presumably other trucks took them into the country. From what I have heard the border is closed at this point. The school is continuing to gather supplies and medicine to send.

As for the Haitian people that I know living in the DR they have had a very hard time getting in contact with their family members because of the lack of working cellphone towers, phone lines, and computers due to the earthquake. I heard that the man who works on the maintenance crew went back to Haiti last weekend to find his family, but he was in school on Monday so I am not sure. The fruit vendors told me that some kind of emergency service has been set up to help people locate their families, but I am not sure what it is or how it works. The worst part for people in the Dominican Republic seems to be not knowing.

As for Haitian/Dominican relations it seems that this disaster has brought the two countries together. The DR seems to be offering a lot of aid at least from an individual standpoint, and the Red Cross here is working hard to help as well. I'm not sure what is happening from a governmental standpoint, but the tensions that existed before between Haitians and Dominican seems to at least temporarily have lifted. Again that is just my perspective.

Victory is Ours

Dear Readers,

Just wanted to say thank you for rallying around the cause of crushing JP. He has been getting kind of uppity lately because his blog has been getting more hits, but yesterday I got almost twice as many thanks to you all. Is this  a petty disagreement? Yes. Should we just be happy for each other when our blogs are successful? Probably. Did I win 100 pesos because of you? Yes I did.

Thanks again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Portuguese Classes, Long Weekend, Bayahibe, etc...

Hi all,

JP and I have started getting really competitive about whose blog gets more hits, so I decided to post an update, please refresh the page now to pad my stats (seriously, do it twice).

Okay, quality before quantity (well, I guess in this case quality is literally coming after), last weekend JP and I went back to the beach city of Bayahibe. I hung out on the beach on Saturday reading while JP did laps in front of me like he was swimming in the world's largest endless pool and then I took some cough syrup (not recreationally, I had a cold) and went to bed early. On Sunday we rented a kayak and went down the shore.

 I was good for about 10 minutes of paddling and after that JP bore the brunt of the work, but the coastline was beautiful and we found a small beach all to ourselves to hang out on.

Unfortunately, shortly after a man came up to us and informed us that it was actually a private beach and that we had to leave, so we got back in the kayak and went back the way we came to a smaller beach covered in driftwood.

We made a shelter out of the beach blanket and JP went out to swim again and I read my book.

 The two coolest things we saw that day were a pelican diving for fish right next to us and a school of fish jumping out of the water (soon to be consumed by the pelicans). It might have been the best trip to the beach we have had yet.

I started Portuguese  classes two weeks ago, and am going to my fourth class tonight. They are at the Brazilian cultural center and they are amazing. They go really fast though and I have a ton of homework, but it's keeping me busy.

This weekend we have a 5 day weekend and we are going on a mystery trip with the other foreign hires. It's a mystery because we all want to go somewhere but no one has planned anything yet. We all agree that we want something cheap and are indifferent about what that is. Readers, please send suggestions if you have been here are you have them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

Hey all,

As you know yesterday there was a really major earthquake in Haiti, the worst in 200 years. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am safe. In fact, although the earthquake was felt in Santo Domingo, I am so unobservant that I didn't notice it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Robbery Updates

So today was the kid's first day back to school (yesterday was ours), and I had a grand total of 6 kids in my homeroom. We did normal activities but everyone was tired and it was kind of a slow day.

Apparently no one fed Brigitte's fish over Christmas break, so when she came back to school all but one were dead, and the live one was eating the only remaining dead one in the tank. We all came to the conclusion that the live one had survived by eating the others in the tank, but today we realized that this was not so when some kids started yelling, "Ms. Widmer, Ms. Widmer (that's Brigitte), there is something in the plant!" Some things would have been more accurate. There in the potted plant were the corpses of the dead fish. Apparently someone had forgotten to feed them but had been able to clean their dead bodies out of the tank and place them in their final resting place, the one potted plant in the library.

Anyway, after school JP and I went with Mr. Sanquintin to the Judicial Palace to file a police report about our little robbery. This is the second branch of the police that we have seen, the first just sent us off. After filling out a very vague police report they told me to come back on Monday and to bring the footage of the crime, which I told them they could come to collect at my building. I don't really see these criminals behind bars anytime soon.

If I can get a copy of that tape I will post it on this blog as well. Don't watch it if you think it will make you nervous for our safety because it might.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Robbery- Don't Panic, I'm Fine

Instead of describing what happened late Saturday night I am just going to give you Stacy Hollingsworth's description:

"First of all, I'm fine, Doug is fine, and our friend Caitlin is fine. :) Don't be too alarmed by the story you are about to read - we knew about the dangers when we moved here.  I wanted to send you a personal account of what happened before you read it in a facebook update or something equally impersonal.
Last night, around 1:30 a.m., Doug, Caitlin, and I were robbed at gunpoint. We had stepped outside to wait for our cab, when we saw a white, late-model, white Honda Civic with black windows speed toward us and stop. They paused in that spot, then drove a little further and stopped again. We thought, at first, that it might be our taxi. Doug said something to the effect of, "Oh, look, we have a speeder" (referring to our taxi driver). Before we knew it, two men jumped out of the car with huge guns, one cocked his, and both started yelling at us. They shoved one gun into Doug's stomach and pointed another at his leg while they searched his pockets. He said the barrel felt warm, which means that it was probably just used. Caitlin, thankfully, didn't have anything on her except her apartment key, which they didn't seem to notice; she said, "No tengo nada," and they left her alone. They didn't even really come near me (thank God); I had the presence of mind to hand them my purse and pull out my pockets to show that I didn't have anything (although, now that I think of it, I could have gotten myself shot by reaching into my pockets). I was so afraid that they were going to abduct or rape me - I was just reacting to that fear, I guess. They took our shopping bags, realized one had two ceramic bowls, then dropped it and shattered one of the bowls. As they ran to the car, Doug turned to try to memorize the car make and model, and they started screaming at him. He says that he felt like the guy was considering whether to shoot him; thankfully, he decided against it. Immediately after, a guy started yelling and running towards us. Reflecting upon it, we're pretty sure he was trying to help, but in the moment it just freaked us out. All of us stood there for a second, dumbfounded, until I finally said, "Open the door, Caitlin!" and proceeded to make the process more difficult for her by continually saying "hurry up, hurry up, hurry up" (poor Caitlin). She scrambled to unlock the door to her building and we all hurried inside and shut the door. Whew - what an experience! They got away with 30 newly purchased hangers, some soap, two floormats, a bag of American change, my purse (including my sunglasses, cell phone, and Dominican debit card, my house and classroom key with my new "Idaho" key ring [bummer] and about $30) my opinion, not much! I had my engagement ring on - luckily they didn't think to look at my hand. The funny thing is that I had my hands up and the diamond turned around so that it was facing them (I usually walk with it turned in to deter robbers). Doug had his credit card, Dominican debit card, ID, and about $60 in pesos in a pocket they didn't search. Caitlin had her keys in her hand - they could have forced her to open the door and then robbed their apartment. All in all, we were so so so lucky, it's amazing."

Welcome back to Santo Domingo! Again, Mom, I would just like to repeat that I am fine. Luckily you don't read my blogs that often so we might not find out about this. It was a scary experience but a good lesson for us. I think we have all been feeling so safe here that we have stopped taking some basic precautions that we will be taking from now on.