An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Month: January 2007

Back to Yankeeland

I received a phone call from Ani at the Yankee campus on Monday, and she told me that the campus was opening that day. Unfortunately, I had to conduct a workshop at UNIBE last night, so I couldn’t make the move until today. But, I’m nearly packed and ready to go; Demetrios, the Yankee driver, is coming by around 11 this morning to pick me up. Yeah, I’m excited! I have a lot of new ideas for teaching the players over the upcoming, long 5 1/2 month period, including incorporating multimedia instruction. It should be challenging, but fun.

February marks the month of carnival in the Dominican Republic. Many towns have carnival every Sunday during the month, featuring colorful masks, dancing and other activities. The masks remind me of the Andong Mask Dance festival in South Korea, so I hope I can get away to one of the nearby towns and take in the sights of this celebration. More later.

Holiday Time

Today was my last on the Malecon for a while, I’m sure. There seemed to be a lot more people out enjoying the beautiful weather than there have been recently, especially the rollerbladers, who numbered in the dozens. The rain showers have disappeared, giving way to bright, sunny, fluffy-cloud days. However, you can feel the heat coming on; I’ve been told that summer temperatures are almost unbearable. Thankfully, I won’t have to put up with the heat here–I’ll be in Thailand and/or Laos, putting up with the heat there, hopefully, during July/August/September, however my time off works out.

Tomorrow’s a holiday, as I posted last time, Patriot’s Day, the birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte, the country’s founder. Since Friday, I haven’t heard any fireworks, singing or drum-playing, so perhaps that was a one-time celebration of the official date of the event.

One more workshop to lead on Tuesday, then, on Thursday, it’s back to the beautiful, peaceful “Field of Dreams” at Yankeeland in Boca Chica. Needless to say, I can hardly wait. More later.

Long Time

Whew, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Like I said, I had some very limited connectivity here at the apartment, but, lo and behold, I turned on the computer yesterday and found that a full-blown wireless network had been installed. So, I can’t use the excuse that I don’t have good Internet access. Of course, when I move back to the baseball campus, I’ll be connected all the time.

I’ve also been busy doing research for a few workshops that I’ve had to conduct before going back to Boca Chica, the last of which I’ll do this coming Tuesday. I did a couple of workshops at UASD about alternative methods of assessing students, and the upcoming one is at Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE), a workshop for teacher-trainees which will cover teaching English to young learners.

This Monday is a holiday, Duarte (or Patriot’s) Day, celebrating the birthday of the founder of the country. The actual day is January 26th, so we’ve got a nice, long weekend. Last night quite a few fireworks were set off, and around 11 p.m. I could hear people singing and banging on drums somewhere down the street.

I finally made it to the Colonial Zone and did a bit of walking around this very historic area, which features numerous old buildings. Below is the Catedral Primada de America, the oldest operating church in the western hemisphere, being used as a house of worship for about 450 years. That’s a statue of Columbus in the foreground. Watch out for the large flock of pigeons which hangs out here.


Ok, kid, don’t mess with the pigeons.


Oh, oh. You were warned!


More later.

This ‘n That

The wireless signal that I can sometimes get from my apartment is becoming rather sketchy, so I’ve not been able to post as frequently as I’d like to, and sometimes I’m just too lazy to walk to the Internet cafe down the street. I’m usually able to check my email when it’s on, but it doesn’t stay on for too long. Oh, well. . .

I think I’m finally learning the difference between salsa and merengue music. Salsa is fast and merengue is faster. I really can’t tell the difference and my Dominican friends are surprised at my lack of discernment. As I jotted down notes for this post, I was sitting in La Parada listening to very fast music, so it must have been merengue.

La Parada, an open air bar/restaurant is a great place to while away some time. It sits right on the Malecon with a good view of the Caribbean and is great for people watching. There is also the occasional cargo or cruise ship coming or leaving. A few weeks ago I saw a HUGE cruise ship putting out to sea. I think I counted about 8 decks on this leviathan. Awesome.

The afternoon showers seem to be increasing in frequency and are making walking an adventure. Friday, I had to walk to UASD to meet another teacher. The threat of rain seemed small as I left the apartment, but several blocks away, a large, black cloud that had been hiding somewhere suddenly appeared and I was caught in a downpour. Santo Domingo is blessed with an abundance of leafy trees, so I ducked under a large one (sorry, I don’t know too much about tree names), and stayed somewhat dry. Usually I seek refuge in one of the numerous rain shelters dotting the city–Santo Domingans call them “bus stops,” but their covered benches make for a good place to stay out of the rain. After finishing up at UASD, I started walking to La Parada and, luckily, got there just as another torrent washed over the city.

Saturday, though, I wasn’t quite so lucky–I was caught in the open with only a few smaller trees anywhere nearby and I got drenched as I made my way to their somewhat ineffective shelter. I know what you’re thinking–buy an umbrella, dummy! I should, but I never remember to get one when I go to the market. Usually the warm tropical sun comes back out and dries me off very quickly.

Great, only a few more weeks left until I return to the Yankee campus–I can hardly wait. I’ve been working on lessons and materials to use in class, but I feel that I can never be prepared to my satisfaction. I’ll probably be doing a lot of things “on the fly,” master procrastinator that I am.

Geez, I keep reading about crappy things going on in Thailand. First, the coup, then the New Year’s Eve bombings, then a big train wreck, more beheadings in the southern provinces, and a new law limiting foreign ownership in businesses. Crikey (thanks, Steve Irwin), I hope they don’t ruin my retirement plans. That’s right, folks, many of you probably think I’ll eventually return to the USA to settle down in beautiful Montana, but I’ve got a news flash for you. At the present time, it ain’t a gonna happen. I can’t go into all the reasons why, except to say that’s where my heart lies. Of course, nothing is immutable, so things could change. More later.

Christmas (Still), Police Escorts, Santiago

It looks like most of the Christmas decorations are still up. On Saturday, walking along the Malecon, I noticed that many businesses and the avenue itself are still adorned with the signs of the season. This probably has a lot to do with the extended celebration of Christmas in the Dominican Republic and most of the rest of Latin America. Saturday, the 6th, was El Dia de los Reyes, commemorating the three Magi who brought gifts, according to Christian tradition, to the new-born Jesus. Thus, this is the day of gift-giving, rather than Dec. 25th in the U.S.

On Sunday, the celebration continued, with many families and their children, sporting new bikes, skateboards or rollerblades, out enjoying the temperate weather. Every day recently, however, Santo Domingo has been getting very predictable afternoon showers, some of them heavy enough to tax the drainage system, leading to areas where the streets are somewhat flooded. I’ve learned to walk as far away from the traffic as possible to avoid getting drenched by passing cars scudding through the 2-4 inches of water. (Unlike in Benin, Africa, where I was soaked on my bicycle by a large, heavy truck splashing through brick-red, muddy water–a real laugher, looking back on it.) Sunday afternoon brought another heavy torrent, but I was able to race to D’Luis Restaurant, where I usually have a late lunch, before the clouds opened. I did get a little wet, but the shoeshine boys who hang out there managed to stay dry.


Afterwards, walking back along the avenue, I was caught up in the dancing, chanting and horn playing that you see in the photo below. Some of the guys here were playing what looked like didgeridoos, but the sound was more like that of a foghorn. I assume this had something to do with El Dia de los Reyes, since three of the guys were bedecked in various colorful costumes, representing the three kings maybe. Very interesting.

The sunset was also quite interesting and beautiful.

Also on Sunday, there were several instances of police escorting big black SUVs. The first thing you notice when this happens is the presence of police at all the intersections, blocking and holding up any approaching traffic. You hear the sirens and then the escort comes into view, several motorcycle cops and the speeding SUVs. Probably some kind of government poobahs. I saw four of these escorts on my way to the Malecon; there’s usually only one.

My workshops in Santiago last week proved very productive and I think the teachers enjoyed it, though only three attended–the entire English faculty of the Agriculture Institute. The campus there is very beautiful, with well manicured lawns, dense jungle-like vegetation in places, and very large, old trees–oak and mango, among others, I think. If I were to work in the DR, this would be the place. It’s higher up than SD, so it’s usually a bit cooler and less humid. (Of course, if I could find a campus on a beautiful beach . . .!) More later.

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