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

Month: May 2007

Prospect, TV and O’ Canada

I forgot to mention in the previous post that a few Sundays ago I woke up at 8 a.m., checked my email, called Nai and then looked out my bathroom window about 9 o’clock to see if the taxi was there. Felix is the unofficial Yankee taxi driver and I wanted to go into Boca Chica for a hearty western style breakfast, something I usually do on Sundays. He wasn’t there, but three vehicles pulled into camp, waved through by the security guards. Unusual, I thought, because Sunday mornings are very quiet here. I wonder what’s going on. So, for the first time that day, I poked my head out the front door and was fairly stunned to see 30 or 40 people congregating near one of the far fields, unprecedented activity for a Sunday morning.

I wandered down to the field and talked to some of the Yankee coaches who were there. It seems that a very hot prospect from Panama, flown in from that country just for this occasion, I presume, was showing his skills to the many scouts from the various major league clubs in attendance. The kid must have something to attract this many scouts, I thought. Indeed, he did. He was a lanky 16-year-old pitcher with a natural, fluid motion and a 92 mph fast ball, pretty impressive speed for his age. I watched him throw for a while, then grabbed a taxi for Boca Chica. From what I saw, he is, indeed, a hot prospect.

Don’t turn that dial. If you have the Direct TV satellite system, you might be able to view yours truly in about a month on channel 366, the Current Network. Their reporter and a cameraman were here recently filming a report on baseball in the Dominican Republic. I was interviewed about the English program and they filmed a large portion of one of my classes that afternoon. I’ll post more about this as soon as I hear (or see) when it’s going to be aired.

Finally, Canada. One of the nicest, most polite countries in the world. Can we talk about a country being polite, nice and agreeable. I think so. It’s Canada, The Great White North. Well, their national junior team (18 and under) is touring the D.R. and one of the Yankee squads played them last week. I talked a bit with their coach as they were arriving at the camp. A nice guy, but all the time I was thinking about how humiliated they were going to be after the upcoming slaughter. There was a slaughter all right, but they weren’t on the receiving end. They mopped the floor with the Yankee team, beating us 10-3 or some such nonsense (EDIT: looking at their website above, it was actually 11-4.) At the same time, the Arizona Diamondbacks team played the other Yankee squad on one of the other fields. We lost that one, too, 6-0 or so. Not a memorable doubleheader. O’, Baseball. More later.

A view of the Canadian Junior National Team before the game.


Canadian players gathered around the cage during batting practice


A confident Yankee squad . . . before the game


Campus Doings

A few things of interest lately . . .

This past Monday I got to meet the CEO, Kevin McClatchy, and the General Manager, Dave Littlefield, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are looking at building their own camp and were touring the campus to see what the Yankees had done here. The CEO could be equated as the George Steinbrenner of the Pirates, more or less.

Lots of new palm trees are being planted around the fields, along with many new flower beds. When all this new landscaping is completed, I’ll get some photos posted.

The two teams, Bombers and Yankees, started playing some exhibition games yesterday, against the Dodgers and the Devil Rays. Today, both teams go on the road to take on the Devil Rays again and the Diamondbacks. The Dominican Summer League begins on June 2nd, I hear.

The big league club isn’t performing very well right now. Hopefully, they’ll get their woes out of the way soon and pick up the pace.

I bought my ticket for Thailand online the other day. I’ll be leaving Missoula on the 23rd of July and returning on the 24th of September. I’m leaving from Missoula, rather than Great Falls, because I want to retrieve some items from storage there that I want to take to Thailand; then, I’ll drop them off in Missoula when I come back. No sense renting a car and driving back and forth between the two cities. Seven weeks and counting until I return to the States. More later.

Cave Trip, Players

We had a nice trip to Las Cueva de las Maravillas last Saturday. There were about 30 people on board the bus, including Rex, my supervisor from the embassy. I was right in my tongue-in-cheek guess about picture-taking within the cave–the photosynthesis from all the flash bulbs going off would eventually lead to the degradation of all the old Taino pictoglyphs on the cave walls. So, I can’t show you any photos of the interior of this beautiful cave system.

The upgrading of the cave is brand new–the folks who are responsible have added motion sensor lighting, so that only one area of the system is lit at a time. When the group progresses to another area, the new area gets lit up and the previous one goes dark again. Their are stainless steel handrails, subdued foot lighting that never goes out, and, in places that are appropriate for it, marble flooring. The visitors center is all new and they are constructing a new entryway on the main road. It was very impressive. The tour guides all spoke excellent English and were very knowledgeable about the cave’s history and about the state-of-the-art upgrade.

After the cave tour, our group had lunch and relaxed for several hours at Cumayasa Ranch, where you can go horseback riding, take a river trek, or relax under the covered patios surrounded by peacocks. All in all, it was a good trip.

One of the peacocks–I was able to creep up on it before it got miffed and walked away.


I hung out a lot with these guys. Here we are just before grabbing a lunch buffet of Chicken Cumayasa, Macaroni Tuna Salad, Roast Eggplant, Red Beans and Rice, bread and dessert. From the left front, clockwise are Alex, Spencer (both members of embassy families), Roberto (I think), Rex (my supervisor), and Ken (who works with USAID at the embassy).


We’ve had a bit of turnover in players, with new ones arriving and others leaving. A few players have been released, and one fellow, quite fluent in English, very bright and a pleasure to have in the class, called it quits in order to continue his education. He wants to go to university and major in Linguistics. Many people were sad to see him go, including me.

I’ve become pretty good at knowing most of the players’ names, so my memory must be getting better. . . it’s either that or the fact that half of the players seem to be named Jose or Juan. 😆

And, by the way, Nai seems to be doing very well lately. Many thanks for any thoughts and prayers you may have sent his way. More later.

PB and J

Yesterday wasn’t all that gloomy, as the previous post probably sounded. I had a nice lesson plan prepared for the classes that afternoon. I usually try to do something fun on Fridays, something out of the ordinary. Yesterday, I did a lesson on making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Ostensibly, it was a lesson showing how to use the imperative form of verbs to give commands and instructions. I went to one of the markets in Boca Chica and bought a couple loaves of bread, a jar of jelly and a jar of peanut butter, and some plastic knives and napkins. We didn’t make TOO much of a mess, so there wasn’t much cleaning up to do. The students loved it and wolfed down all the sandwiches we made. I hope they learned some English in the process. One of the highlights was an introductory video I used. If you can watch and listen to this 9 times in three hours without going nuts, maybe you, too, can be an English teacher.

I called Nai a few minutes ago, but he was off riding his motorbike to the market and he asked me to call him back a little later. He didn’t sound bad, so I think he’s feeling better.

I’m off to the Cave of Wonders in a few hours. Although they don’t allow photography in the cave, perhaps I can get a few good photos of the area to post. More later.

Laos, Nai

I’ve had people ask me why I like Laos so much. The landscape, the music, the culture in general, the beautiful out-of-the-way temples and the people–especially the people–appeal to me in so many ways. This entry from the Grantham Journal (England) pretty much hits the nail on the head. I can hardly wait to get back there later this summer. [EDIT Jan. 23, 2010–The article is no longer available, guess I should have saved a copy.]

But, I’m in more than a gloomy state of mind today. I just talked to my friend Nai in Laos (using Skype–it’s actually cheap to do), and he is in a pretty poor state of health right now. He has been, in fact, for the last few months, it seems. He complains that his “heart” hurts, but I assume he means his chest. I don’t think he’s having heart problems, but he has been having coughing spells on and off for quite awhile. In addition, he’s seems to have migraine and back problems. It’s hard to tell, what with his broken English (“my memory hurt a lot, I cannot see sometimes” = migraine headache?), from this far away. It’s extremely frustrating because I’m so far away and can’t help him. I send him and his family money for medicine and food and whatnot, but the medical care in Laos is terrible. He goes across the border into Nong Khai, Thailand, to see a doctor, but I think the system there is suspect, also. I told him that when I return in July I’d take him to see a good doctor in Bangkok. I just hope he’s ok until then. He’s taking pain relievers, maybe too many, to help, but to hear the suffering and pain in his voice and the occasional tears over the phone because of his pain and frustration is agonizing and almost unbearable.

I’m looking forward to my trip to the cave tomorrow, but my enthusiasm is considerably dampened by my friend’s woes. Though he is Buddhist, any prayers for him will be considerably appreciated by both him and me. More later.

[Edit] Addition: Sorry to continue the “doom and gloom” nature of this post, but I forgot to mention that one of the players has been out sick for a number of days. One of the coaches finally told me that he has Dengue Fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitos, similar to the way malaria is spread. The disease can be very serious if left untreated. I’m making sure to avoid any after dark outdoor activities.

Rain, Cave Tour

I’ve been told that May through October or so is the rainy season here, but we hadn’t had much of it at all, until yesterday, that is. There was quite a heavy drenching yesterday morning–enough, in fact, to leave standing water on the infield and warning track areas; thus, most of practice was called off. Today, though, the sun is rising on mostly clear skies.

Rex, at the embassy in Santo Domingo, sent me an email inviting me to join a tour to La Cueva de las Maravillas (The Cave of Wonders) this Saturday put on by the Fulbright Scholars Association in the capital. According to the website linked to above, no photography is allowed. Why? No idea. It seems rather ludicrous. Maybe all the flashbulbs going off would degrade the Taino cave paintings. 😥

At any rate, it should be a fun trip. Lunch is included in the price. The bus is going to pick me up on the highway at Boca Chica and drop me off there on the way back.

It appears that the new contract will begin on Oct. 6th and run through August 5th, next year. The baseball camp reopens about Oct. 15th, but I have to be here a week early in order to conduct some workshops about teaching English to Dominican school teachers in Samana, the whale-watching capital in the northern part of the country. More later.

Big Doings

There’ve been quite a few of the top guns in the Yankee organization and Major League Baseball visiting the last few days. One story I read on Yahoo Sports mentioned that Bryan Cashman, the Yanks General Manager, was supposed to make a scouting trip to the Dominican Republic, but he decided to accompany the team to Texas instead. But, Mark Newman, Senior Vice-President of Baseball Operations was here, as was Felix Lopez, another Senior V.P. (See Yank front office personnel here.) Lopez is being touted as one of the people in line to succeed George Steinbrenner as head of the Yankees when The Boss finally calls it quits due to failing health. I had a short talk with Mr. Lopez about the English program here at the campus, and I also spoke to some of the visitors from Major League Baseball, who also expressed an interest in the program. Jonathan Mariner, Chief Financial Officer, is the highest MLB official to ever to visit the Dominican Republic. He was here inspecting the academies, but was especially interested in the Yankee campus, it seems. Lou Melendez, V. P. for International Baseball Operations and Administration was also here. He’s mentioned in this article about MLB’s push to get into the Cuban market. I also talked to Jon Saibol (spelling?), who is a regional consultant to MLB. Jon was a Peace Corps volunteer in the D.R. back in the early 70s, and he liked the country so much that he married a Dominican lady and has been here ever since.

Abel Guerra was here also, and he told me that he would try to get a copy of the Yankee yearbook for me, since one of my photos made it into the annual. Wow, I don’t know which one it was, but I sure want to see it. More later.

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