Sunday, June 21, 2009

hitting the road

Well, we've rearranged our travel plans slightly. Today my family and I are heading over to Iowa to attend my friend Megan's funeral service. Then we are heading up to Wisconsin for a few days, including a waterpark trip.

I am still trying to enjoy this trip home as much as possible, but I can't pretend it isn't colored by the tint of grief. Here's a link to Megan's obituary. Those of you who have heard any of my stories about my Rent days have probably heard about Megan, although we stayed in contact even after we stopped traveling around watching musicals together. She was a smart, fun, funny, kind person and I am going to miss the shit out of her. That is pretty much all I have to say right now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

back in amurica

Hi gang!

Guess what country I am in! OK I gave it away in the subject line: it is the United States of Amurica. I arrived safely and on time, which is a small miracle considering I had four connecting flights. Gloria al Señor!

And in the Miami airport I got a bagel sandwich and jalapeño chips for lunch!!! And in Atlanta I got a soy latte and a Danish!! And when I got home my family took me out for Thai food!

Yesterday I went up to Chicago and visited my friend Trina. We ate some food and tried to go see a Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry, but we failed to plan ahead and it was sold out all day so, uh, we didn't.

This blog entry is probably not that interested for Americans to read! Sorry!

As a postscript I will say that my last day in the DR before vacation was super terrible and I had to go to a committee meeting dedicated to denouncing me for stupid reasons and anyway when I go back to the DR I'm moving to a different town. But I don't have details about where I'm going and I don't really want to go into details about how effed-up my old town really was. Suffice to say that although moving will be a pain, I am looking forward to a fresh start.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

homeward bound

What’s up, guys? Here is what is up with me: I’m going home the day after tomorrow!! Hopefully I will be able to hang out with [you] while I am there. This will be my first time in the States since February 2008! I imagine things are pretty similar there, although from the La Sirena checkout lines I have noticed that Tic Tacs have gotten bigger here. Have they gotten bigger in the States? I suspect that they have. Other than that, though, you guys are still using the dollar, right? Have you gotten rid of pennies? Is Obama on any money yet? Do we still have fifty states? Which group would you say is more hated, gays or Arab-Americans? Do they still make that gross cherry-chocolate flavor Dr Pepper? Does anyone know if my credit union is still in business? I have like three hundred dollars in checking, that shit better still be there.

Well! I suppose I will find the answers to these questions and more as of 5:17pm on Thursday, unless my flight gets delayed.

In case you are curious, here is my “To do” list for while I’m home. It is composed entirely of food (and a few beverages). Please contact me if you would like to eat some of these foods with me.
  • Thai restaurant
  • Masala
  • Steak & Shake*
  • Panera
  • Coffeehouse
  • Burger Barge*
  • Sonic slushie
  • Greek Islands
  • Big pretzel
  • Waffles
  • Jalapeño chips
  • Diet Diet Pepper

* For those of you sassafrasses who would like to know what a vegetarian is doing at Steak & Shake and Burger Barge, the answer is: French fries. Also shakes. And they have portabella mushroom sandwiches at Burger Barge. (I don’t get it, but whenever I express a desire to visit Steak n Shake to non-Midwestern Peace Corps friends, they are always like, “But you’re vegetarian! Why would you want to go to a place called Steak n Shake.” And I’m all, “Hello, it’s called “Steak n Shake,” the shakes are vegetarian!” They just don’t even know, you guys.)

Aside from food, I am also looking forward to:
  • Air conditioning
  • Hot showers (I know, I know, if it weren’t for the air conditioning, the hot showers wouldn’t be necessary)
  • Uninterrupted electricity
  • Traveling with my sweet State Department passport (which, there appears to be no real reason why Peace Corps volunteers get these, and we're definitely not State Department employees, but the passports are rad)
  • Not being stared at all the damn time
  • Target
  • Some pretense of customer service
  • Basic respect for line-waiting
  • Driving around in cars with fewer than six people in them
  • Seeing family & friends or whatever

Mainly my planning for my trip home has reverted to me having the same conversations with my mom that I would have had circa age ten. “MOM! For my birthday, can we get an ICE CREAM CAKE?!”


“CAN WE GO TO SHAKESPEARE FEST AND HAVE A PICNIC ON THE LAWN!!” (OK, at ten I might not have wanted the Shakespeare, but definitely the picnic.)





Basically this is probably going to be the BEST THREE WEEKS I’VE EVER SPENT IN AMERICA.

more tales from this dominican life

  • I’ve been corresponding back and forth with a 6th grade Spanish class in the States through the Peace Corps program World Wise Schools. (Briefly, my English class was also corresponding, but that kind of stopped when all my students stopped attending English class.) Last month, one of the students wrote to me that he liked cooking and baking. I wrote back asking what kinds of things he cooked, and last week I got a reply saying he just made a “pie de arándano.” “Pie” is Spanish for “foot,” and I didn’t recognize the word “arándano,” so I was a little grossed out as I went for the dictionary, like, what animal is this kid cooking the foot of?! And then it turned out that “arándano” means “blueberry,” which threw me for another loop. Blueberry foot? Is that like some kind of British pastry? Or, wait… he just meant “pie.” Blueberry pie.
  • This story actually probably could have happened in the States, but I’ll share it anyway. It is for your amusement, reader, that I do this! I’ve recently had a few sets of visitors to my house, which made me realize that my mug and bowl supply has been somewhat depleted by my tendency to drop things. So I went down to my town’s 10 y 20 (like a five and dime store, but the devaluation of Dominican currency has led to 10 & 20s instead) and perused the somewhat limited housewares section. I debated between some large solid-color mugs, some smaller flowered mugs, and some Garfield and Friends mugs that were shipped directly from 1988. I left the store with two plain mugs and two neon plastic bowls (probably from the same shipment as the Garfield mugs). Since the stuff was dusty from the store, I washed it before putting it away. Unfortunately, I dropped the red mug on its way to the drying rack and broke it. “Oh well,” I thought, “at least I still have this green mug.” Unfortunately, the green mug had some sort of dirty speck that was really stuck on the bottom, so I left it to soak over night. The next day I went back to continue my attack on the green mug. The mystery fleck was stubborn, and I kept scrubbing at it. And scrubbing. Until I somehow scrubbed through the side of the mug, knocking out a nickel-sized hole on one side, severely reducing the liquid capacity of the mug. Oh well, I guess I’ll go back and try the Garfield mugs.
  • In the DR, ambulances and fire trucks are sort of rare and unreliable, so if someone drives by and sees an accident, they will almost always stop and assist and drive people to the hospital if necessary. Accidents are also often the most exciting thing to happen all day, so they draw huge rubbernecking crowds. Yesterday, I was taking a guagua back to my town from La Vega and talking to my friend Justin on the phone. We had gone about 2 blocks from the stop when we passed a big accident, which actually had an ambulance there, in addition to a large mob of onlookers (La Vega is a pretty good-sized town.) Suddenly, my guagua whipped around and did a U-turn, which I grumbled about to Justin. “I think we’re turning around to go back to that accident, but there was an ambulance there! What are we even going to do? Are we just going back to stare? ” As it turned out, we were just heading back to the guagua stop because the driver had forgotten his lunch.
  • Last week, my friends Justin, Arianna and I met up for lunch with a Dominican doctor, who had been some kind of liaison with the military med mission Justin and I did last month. (Which I don’t think I ever posted very much about, but it was really great! Speaking as someone who has personally criticized the size of the US military budget, these Reservist medical missions seem like a very well-done program, and one that military PR guys maybe should spend a little more time promoting to the general public.) So when this doctor told us we should meet up because she wanted to help us plan medical missions in our own sites, we were excited about the possibilities. Unfortunately, it turned out that 1) this woman has a crush on Justin that she is apparently prepared to be pretty relentless about pursuing, 2) she has no actual authority with the military med missions and is offering to travel with a couple doctor friends to sites to do one-day mini-missions (which is still a nice project, but not quite what we were hoping for), 3) she is some kind of quack who encouraged Arianna and I to wear vibrating bands around our waists to lose weight, noting that it has worked for all of her patients, many of whom are much fatter than we are, 4) she is interested in acquiring a Peace Corps volunteer to serve as her personal assistant, 5) she is also interested in acquiring a Peace Corps volunteer to serve as her private English tutor, and 6) she is some kind of crazy. Oh, and when I tried to bow out of her crazy meeting by saying I was going to the States for three weeks (true), she asked if I could bring her back “una cosita” (one little thing). I said “Maybe… what?” And she said, “Oh, just a little laptop computer.” Ay, Dios. Anyway, so the three of us engineered our escape (but not before she got Justin to pay for her lunch by claiming her wallet was stolen—which maybe it actually was. Maybe.) by claiming (semi-truthfully) to be subject to the whims of Dominican public transportation, and scurrying to a colmado a block away to sit on plastic chairs and talk about how crazy this woman was. Then, an hourish later, when we actually did need to start leaving to make sure to catch public transportation in time, she passes by the colmado and sees us standing up to leave. “Justin! Justin! You abandoned me!” she yells (Arianna and I are pretty much off the hook). “Oh,” Justin says, awkwardly. “It’s just that after we left, it started raining, so we sat in here to wait a little bit for it to stop…but now we really have to go or we’ll miss the very last carros.” (This is kind of true, in that it had been raining on and off all afternoon, and we really did need to leave then. It’s also an excellent excuse, because Dominicans hate to do anything in the rain, so avoiding rain is always an acceptable motive .) STILL THOUGH, IT WAS SUPER AWKWARD.

Friday, June 5, 2009

counting down

Hi everyone! I haven't updated much lately for the simple reason that I haven't been doing much lately! After my hectic month of May, I've been playing it pretty tranquilo here in my site, doing a lot of reading and DVD watching in my house and doing some light work (virus deletion and Photoshop installation) at my center.

I've also been counting the number of mosquito bites received! Not really, but if I were, the number would be very high. Eek. Hope all is well with all of you, and if you're in the Midwest I'll see you soon!