Saturday, January 31, 2009

a week of ups & downs

“We’re going to see a movie, do you want to come?”
“What movie? Where’s it playing?”
“Twilight… it’s at the White People Mall.”
“The White People Mall?”
“You know… it’s on Avenida Churchill… uh, hey, what’s the actual name of the White People Mall?”
“The Acropolis Center, I think?”

I think I’ve blogged about the White People Mall before, but it’s still a trippy place. But it was the only place in the capital showing Twilight, so a group of us went there last weekend. (You might recall that I already saw Twilight last week, and that I don’t even especially like Twilight, but this second viewing was with a group of more Mystery Science Theatre-esque friends, and thus was extremely enjoyable.) We also went out to TGI Friday’s to celebrate a friend’s birthday. TGI Friday’s in the DR is considered to be much more classy than it is in the US, though the food is just as mediocre as at home.

The rest of the weekend was basically devoted to hanging around the Peace Corps office and partaking in the free Internet and laundry. Glorious.

The rest of the week I:

  1. Suffered from la gripe (aka a cold)
  2. Slept a lot
  3. Read all the Twilight books
  4. Composed text message haikus regarding the Twilight books (sample: Done with this garbage/Twilight is the new Secret/And both should be burned)
  5. Taught my English class how to tell time in English
  6. Realized the kids didn’t really know how to tell time in Spanish either and taught them how to read a clock
  7. Had a committee meeting at the other computer center in town, which was fairly productive and did not end with me in tears (unlike previous committee meetings at the school)
  8. Had the first meeting of my youth computer club with an attendance of 4—even though it was raining!!
  9. Went to visit a nearby town that is potentially getting a Peace Corps volunteer
  10. Explained to a disappointed committee that I was not the town’s new volunteer, I was only there for one night, and they were just going to have to wait a few months to get their actual volunteer
  11. Took too much Sudafed and had some out-of-body experiences but passed it off to the potential host family like I just didn’t speak Spanish that well
  12. Slept some more

Next on the agenda:

  1. Saturday morning English class
  2. A trip back into the capital for a Gringo Grita meeting
  3. Attempting to avoid Super Bowl Sunday festivities
  4. ???
  5. Profit

Saturday, January 24, 2009

day in the life

Day in the life! January 6. 2009. This is a holiday in the DR—the Epiphany. I would offer the holiday as the reason why I didn’t do any work on a Tuesday, but the actual reason is just that Peace Corps isn’t a real job. Without further ado, here is a day in my life.

I wake up and gaze out through my mosquito net at some of the many teen idols that decorate my house.

Then I lay in bed for awhile and play Brick Attack, the game that comes with standard issue Peace Corps cell phones and to which many volunteers are addicted.

Next I head for my bathroom, only to discover that I still don’t have running water. (Water and electricity are sporadic in this country.) No problem, I head out behind my house to fill a bucket from my cistern.

I put cinnamon & nutmeg in my coffee, which is probably the most Dominican thing I do.

It’s done when it steams! Or when it explodes all over my stove.

I start my day with a balanced breakfast and an episode of Arrested Development.

I light a mosquito coil to keep my feet from getting bitten. Also, because I like inhaling toxins.

Why did I take a picture of my clean dishes? WHY NOT.

The Jesus sticker came with the house; the tinsel is just for Christmas.

Here’s my street! My house is the yellow and white one in the middle-left.

Here’s the school/prison I sometimes work at. It’s not really a prison, but that would explain the huge barbed-wire wall, right?

This is the only restaurant in town. It put up that big new sign a couple months ago, except do you see how there’s a picture of a taco under the “Plato del Dia” sign? They didn’t used to have the Plato del Dia sign so I mistakenly (and excitedly) thought they were going to start serving tacos there. But then I finally went to the restaurant and they don’t have tacos :( And then they amended the sign to stop giving people false Taco Hope. They do actually have pizza though.

Here’s a colmado! These are mini-convenience stores where you can get everything from cold drinks to bootleg DVDs to giant cans of ketchup. Or you can just buy a spoonful of ketchup and they’ll put it in a little plastic bag for you. I stopped at this one (which is larger than most colmados) to get a Gatorade on my way to the carro publico stop, since it was a pretty warm day and I was sweating a lot.

Here’s my carro stop. The way public transportation here works is that it’s actually privately run and it’s basically just some dudes with cars and minivans that drive along set routes. Carro publico drivers will fit 7 people in a regular-sized car and at least 10 in a minivan like this. They’ll get you where you need to be, but you’ll be sweatier when you arrive than when you left.

Luckily, I still have my Gatorade to combat the sweatiness. Mmm, limon fria.

Here’s how much it costs for me to get from my town into La Vega, the nearest city (about 25 minutes away). It’s 30 pesos, aka about 90 cents.

Taken out the window of my carro; this is pretty much what my ride into the city looks like.

Welcome to La Vega! It is way less exciting than Las Vegas.

So, from La Vega I got a guagua (small bus) into Santiago, which is the 2nd-largest city in the DR and it has nice restaurants and fancy grocery stores and movie theatres and such.

Look closely! One of the businesses in this complex is called FAG and I always giggle when I go past it on my way into Santiago. I am a 12-year-old boy, basically.

I met up with my friend Karina at La Sirena (The Mermaid), which is basically like Dominican Wal-Mart. LOOK: peanut butter!!

So lifelike!

Next up, we went to the post office. (I don’t have one in my town.) Sandy’s getting some mail!

For lunch, we stopped by this restaurant called Satay that we always used to walk past on our way to the grocery store, and we always assumed it was Thai food because of the name. Turns out: nope! Still pretty delicious, though.

This (a Caprese salad with eggplant) was seriously the best thing I’d eaten in at least a month. Yum.

SKIM ICE PENGUIN!!! Skim Ices are these awesome tube-popsicles that guys sell in the streets for five pesos. (They are way, way better than American tube popsicles.) Usually the dudes just have lunchbox-coolers they wear around their necks, but sometimes they have big penguin-bicycle-coolers, and they are basically my favorite things ever.

This was the fanciest day ever! First swanky stacked-salads, and now a coffee drink that includes its own paper pinwheel? This is really not at all a typical day in my life. But it was a DELICIOUS day in my life. (All Peace Corps volunteers are obsessed with food. It is highly likely that you reading this are currently taking for advantage the wide variety of food available in your community. Please think of me while you are eating it.)

We witnessed this brutal Barbie carnage on the way to Karina’s site, near Santiago.

Bienvenidos a la casa de Karina!

Observant readers will note that this is the second time this day that I drank something out of a Hello Kitty.

When Peace Corps volunteers get together, the first thing we do is exchange movie files on our laptops.

Also, we went to Karina’s Centro Tecnologico Comunitario to check our email.

No porn allowed :(

We started making dinner, and I was given the important task of draining the beans!

Karina busied herself with other tasks, like opening the cans.

I didn’t take any pictures of our completed burritos, which were delicious, thanks for asking. After dinner: Scrabble time!

APEOLEI is totally a word, right?

Then: bedtime, under Karina’s rad stripey sheets!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This is my first blog entry written under Presidente Obama! How exciting! On Tuesday I headed up to Santiago with a bunch of my compañeros to watch the CNN coverage of the inauguration at the Hub, our favorite hostel. The coverage itself wasn’t overly exciting (we did like the CNN “FACTs” at the bottom of the screen and had a good time making up our own. FACT: The guy who writes CNN FACTs gets paid minimum wage. FACT: Newseum. FACT: Joe Biden is the first white vice president. FACT: We were just kidding about Biden.) but it was nice to share the moment with other Americans. I would describe our overall attitude regarding Obama’s presidency as: cautiously optimistic. Obviously we’re all a bunch of crunchy hippies who have more or less swallowed Obama’s message of HOPE and CHANGE, but—from abroad, anyway—it seems like there are nearly-impossibly-high standards being set for President Obama right now. We hope he can meet them. (Also, we’re really counting on him to fix the economy by the time we come back to the country and enter the job market.) Obamanos!!

We also took advantage of some of the other things Santiago has to offer, like a giant American-style grocery store. We bought frozen waffles!! The Hub, unlike any of our campo houses, has a freezer and a toaster, so we could make them! And they were delicious! Plus I bought whole-wheat tortillas and some honey-almond cereal to bring back to my site. So awesome.

The next day, I had a relaxing morning and afternoon at the Hub, then went back to my town in time for my 6pm English class. On Monday, my students asked if there was going to be class on Wednesday. Since it’s a Monday/Wednesday class, I said, “Why wouldn’t there be class on Wednesday?” They told me that Wednesday is a holiday here—Dia de la Altagracia, one of many Catholic holidays that I don’t really know much about. So I said, “Well, if you guys don’t want to have class on Wednesday, that’s fine.” To which they replied, “No, we want to have class!” I was surprised, and somewhat skeptical, but we agreed we’d have class on Wednesday.

So I got back to my site on Wednesday around 4pm, giving me time to unwind a little bit before the 6pm class. As soon as I arrived at my house, it started raining. I wondered how this will impact my class turnout, since Dominicans generally don’t like to go out in the rain. “Well, whatever,” I though, and laid down to read for awhile. It was really raining HARD, and when I got up to go to the bathroom I noticed that a spot in my bedroom ceiling was leaking, so I put a bucket under it and went back to my book. Meanwhile, it was raining so much so fast that my paved-over yard was becoming a moat, which began to seep under my front door (which has a small gap between the bottom of it and the floor). When I left my bedroom, I realized that my entire front room had a good 1/4 inch or so of water over it, and it was also spreading into the kitchen. I tried to put a towel in the door gap, but by this time it was really too late. Since my whole house has tile floor, and what little furniture I do own is plastic, the house flood wasn’t really hurting anything, so I shrugged and headed off for my class, figuring I’d clean up my underwater house later. (Incidentally, I think that my putting a bucket under the leak in my room while remaining completely oblivious to the rest of my house flooding would probably make a good metaphor for something. I’m putting that story up on public domain; you should all feel free to co-opt it for your own personal metaphorical use if the need arises.)

So anyway, when I get to the school, I realized the flaw in my brilliant Have Class on a Holiday plan: the school is locked, and I don’t have a key. Grumpily, I stood in front of the school until about 6:15, figuring if anyone comes I can at least tell them in person that the school is closed but I tried, sorry. (Ordinarily I might have offered to have it at my house, but it’s flooded. And also the power is out and by this point it’s almost dark, given the rain and clouds.) At 6:15 I gave up (normally, given Dominican standards of time, I would wait half an hour or 45 minutes before deciding no one was going to make it, but I wasn’t especially thrilled about standing out in the rain myself) and headed back towards my house. Three of my four students were standing on the corner under umbrellas and called my name. “We were waiting for you,” they said. “I was waiting for you… at the school… where we have class,” I said. “Are we having class?” “The school is locked and I don’t have a key. Sorry. See you Monday.”

Then I grumpily went back to my house and watched a movie on my computer and went to bed without mopping up my house.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

how to eat a guanabana

Step 1:


Find a guanabana tree. Luckily, I have one in my yard.

Step 2:


Pick a guanabana. Do not get confused and accidentally pick a spiked Koopa Troopa.

Step 3:


Split it open. When they're ripe, this is way easier than it looks.

Step 4:


Eat the guanabana! It is super soft and slippery inside its spiky shell. I use a fork so I don't get my hands all slimy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

hello again

Hello again, friends. I’m taking another stab at writing up a blog entry to account for the last week or so. Mainly I’ve been feeling extremely unmotivated to do anything, even write blog entries, which I generally enjoy, being the Internet attention-seeker that I am.

Right now I’m heating up some water to take a warm shower, with the hopes that I will feel clean and warm and will be able to work up the motivation to visit the nuns. I’ve been meaning to deliver a gift to them, and they’re always very nice when I visit, but somehow I’ve been able to talk myself out of going over there (2 blocks away) very successfully. It’s just less appealing than lazing around my house.

I should say I haven’t just been lazing: I swept and mopped one day, and I also washed a lot of clothing today. And I pulled them all off the line when it started drizzling 20 minutes later. (Luckily, I have some clotheslines inside my garage-like area, so they can still hang up to dry, albeit more slowly than if they were exposed to sunlight. You can’t have everything.)

I’m also pretty excited about the fact that my running water came back!! It’s been out for so long that my huge cistern almost ran dry. Okay, probably not almost, but it was like two-thirds empty, which is the lowest it’s ever gotten. Usually I barely make a dent in it before the water comes back. Plus, I’m typing this at 3:30pm and I have electricity in my house! All week it’s been going out for 10+ hours during the day, so it’s exciting to have it back in the afternoon. Things are definitely looking up.

I’ve also been busily planning activities for when my parents come next month. There are definite perks to having a job with no real responsibilities or duties—if I’m not doing anything, no one minds if I take a vacation every month :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

happy new year!

I haven't really written up a long blog entry or anything, but I just thought I'd check in and say hi! It's 2009!

I rang in the new year on the beach in Cabarete, which is a beautiful beach. We had good weather & good people there. All in all, a good way to start a new year. (Also: hola to Pedro's girlfriend Ashley.)

Since then, I've mostly been trying to get used to being in my site again, since I spent almost all of December not being here. I'm working on re-conquering my Dominican Social Anxiety Disorder, which manifests with me not wanting to leave my house ever because I'll have to speak Spanish to someone. I started with baby steps, like going to the colmado and getting a new botellon of water, then worked my way up to paying my electricity bill, going to the Internet center, and going to the school to try to teach English class (but no one came). Today, Dios wiling, I'm going to swing by my host family's house.

Also, I might do some laundry, which doesn't require me to speak Spanish but it is something that I don't really want to do.

In other news: I'm working on uploading photos, but the Internet has been pretty slow.