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

Month: December 2007

Near the End

. . . of the year, that is. Although, with worldwide events lately, one might think something else.

I’ve been under the weather lately, and this is the first day I’ve felt more like my normal self. Christmas day I felt quite ill with a bug of one kind or another, and since then I’ve just felt very lethargic and tired. I took a short walk yesterday and was almost exhausted when I finished. But, I feel back up to par now.

Christmas was pretty raucous around here, compared to the more peaceful traditions of small-town Montana. Fireworks, loudly-played merengue music and laughter from the neighborhood bar across the street punctuated Christmas Eve and the night after until the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t hear too many people stirring in the hotel until late morning.

Of course, there’s no snow to decorate the holiday landscape, but we’ve been getting the usual 2 or 3 daily afternoon rainstorms, usually heavy downpours, but usually brief. When I go walking later, I’ll be sure to take an umbrella. More later.

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

There’s not too much happening right now. All the schools are out of session, so I’ve not been able to conduct any more workshops, but I’m not idle. I’m working on a teachers’ resource book for the baseball camp, something that can be used by other instructors (and, perhaps, students). It’s an ongoing process, tying in with my lesson plans, so it will occupy a good part of my attention until July.

The leaky sink in my current apartment has been fixed, and now everything appears to be working fine. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though. More later.

Room Changes

The rain has settled down and it looks like tomorrow will see more typical Caribbean weather for this time of year (and almost any other time)–sunny and warm. Thankfully, this disturbance resulted in minimal loss of life, though any loss is too much for the families involved. The latest report I read stated that 7 people have died so far due to Olga. Let’s hope it doesn’t rise. [Update: Some reports are placing the number of dead at 11, most of them in Santiago, where my supervisor, Rex Moser, is currently working.]

Now, onto my apartment travails. When I first checked into Aparta-Hotel Atalaya I requested a standard room with a balcony facing the ocean. Ok, no problem; I got it. The place advertises that they have wireless internet, but, unfortunately, if you’re more than 5 feet away from the transmitter, you can’t access it. They put me up on the fourth floor in a decent apartment, but I couldn’t pick up the wireless signal. Apparently, I was too far away, though they say that all their rooms have wireless access.

So, I requested a room change. They moved me to the second floor, closer to the transmitter, but access was very spotty, more often absent than not. I decided, however, to put up with it . . . until the bathroom started flooding. Raw sewage (it smelled like it, anyway) started to come out of the drain in the bathroom floor when other people were taking a shower or flushing their toilets. As well, when I took a shower, the same crappy thing happened and the toilet wasn’t emptying. The bathroom floor flooded and then the water made itself into the main living area. Smelly, unhealthy, really a horrible, nightmare situation. It would require a major effort on the part of a plumber, I was told, so they moved me into another apartment.

It took me about 45 minutes to move all my belongings to the new apartment on the 3rd floor. Very important to me is having internet access. I turned on the computer, and, lo and behold, I had a great connection, finally. Now, I wondered, what could possibly be wrong with this room. It didn’t take me long to find out–the kitchen sink leaks, not incredibly badly, but enough that water seeps onto the floor. Right now, I’ve got a bucket under the offending pipes to staunch the drips. It doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker, and I’ll have to get the maintenance guy up here to see if he can put a stop to the problem. Still, this place SUCKS. If you’re coming to Santo Domingo and looking for a place to stay for awhile, avoid Aparta-Hotel Atalaya. I’m going to check around for other apartments offering the same ballpark price for January. Luckily, the Yanks are paying for my accommodations this month and next. Seriously, though, avoid this place. The people who work here are nice enough, but that doesn’t do much to alleviate the numerous maintenance problems. More later.

Here We Go Again

The internet service at the hotel here is spotty at best, so this is a quick post, something I actually wrote out in advance yesterday.

Unbelievably, a tropical storm has formed just off the northern coast of Puerto Rico and is heading our way. The center of the system is supposed to pass through Santo Domingo tonight and tomorrow, and we’re supposed to get around 4 to 6 inches of rain, with a possibility of 10 inches locally. “Olga,” apparently, is not abiding by protocol, since the hurricane season officially ended on November 30th. Thus, her visit is spur-of-the-moment and off-the-cuff, but she’s still packing a bit of a wallop. A tropical storm warning has been posted for the northern coast of Hispaniola and a watch has been posted for our southern locale. In fact, computer models are predicting that the center of the system will pass through Santo Domingo, more or less, tonight and tomorrow. So far today, we’ve had about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of rain this afternoon, and it is coming down heavily again now (10 p.m.) The wind is picking up, too, perhaps around 30 mph.

I took a stroll along the Malecon earlier this afternoon to see what the sea was up to, and it was very calm, flat like a full bathtub before the kids climb in. It didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with Olga, spurning her after-season advances. I suppose tomorrow will be more interesting, but I hope that the predicted amount of rain doesn’t result in more hardship for Dominicans and Haitians still recovering from the effects of Noel.

Now back to present time, it’s raining cats and dogs and we had a LOT of rain last night, too. I’d guess we’re going to reach the 6 inch mark rather easily. I just hope the people in other areas of the country aren’t getting severely impacted by this. More later.


I returned to Santo Domingo from Nagua this past Saturday after conducting 12 hours of workshops to about 20 teachers. My focus was Communicative Language Teaching (don’t worry, I won’t go into details here–click on the link if you’re interested.), a methodology meant to be yet another tool in a teacher’s instructional toolbox. About 15 teachers and teachers-in-training attended, and everyone thought the time was well spent, including me. I always seem to learn as much from teachers (and students) as they learn from me. It’s pretty much a two-way street.

Nagua is a small beach town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic situated at the neck of the Samana Peninsula. It’s still untouched by tourism and the concomitant all-inclusive resorts that dominate the beautiful beaches here. The day is fast approaching when the sun-seekers and hotels will arrive, and the small town will be altered, for both good and ill.

Christmas lights and Santas and nativity scenes are up all over Santo Domingo, which is a far cry from other countries I’ve spent this time of year–Thailand, South Korea and Morocco. Korea has a sizeable Christian population, but in smallish Andong there just weren’t that many decorations or other signs of the holiday. Of course, in predominantly Buddhist Thailand and Muslim Morocco, Christmas is barely a blip on Santa’s radar screen, except in tourist areas, where the consumer aspect is emphasized over the religious. Anyway, Santo Domingo is aglow with the spirit of the season; all that’s lacking is a foot or so of snow.

Finally, I’ve learned the difference between merengue and bachata music. Bachata features a guitar, whereas merengue has no stringed instruments–only horns, drums, and accordians. I’m sure there are other more subtle differences, but the difference in instruments helps to distinguish the difference in musical styles. Now, if I can only discriminate the sounds of rumba, salsa, reggaeton, mambo, etc.

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