Just another ordinary English teacher eclectic expat blog about nothing in particular.

Category: Dominican Republic (page 1 of 15)

Baseball Thoughts

After posting yesterday about the great weather we’ve been having lately, of course it’s been raining all day. According to the KMA (see South Korea links on the sidebar to the right), we’ve been blessed (!?) with almost 3 inches of rain, so far, with a bit more predicted to fall from now through tomorrow. I gave a tour of parts of Yeosu today to one of the new teachers, who has a car, but, tonight, with the rain still coming down, my thoughts have turned to the upcoming baseball season.

Yesterday, spring training games bloomed in Florida and Arizona, harbingers of the baseball season to come. The Yanks seem to have been shut out in the free agent market this past winter, but they picked up a few bargains. The starting rotation appears fragile, but youngsters, such as Ivan Nova (one of my former students at the Yankee baseball academy in the Dominican Republic), and aged veterans, like former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, may yet salvage the starting five. The bullpen, however, is deep, and Mo (Mariano Rivera), the best closer in history, is back to nail down the late inning wins.

The offense is still one of the best in baseball, led by Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and, hopefully, a resurgent Derek Jeter returning to form. Many baseball pundits predict that the Yanks won’t make it to the World Series, but I have high hopes.

Here’s a shot of young Mr. Super Nova that I took when some of the players gave a workshop on a visit to a Santo Domingo, D.R., orphanage. You can read my comments about that visit in November of 2007 in this post that I wrote at the time.

I usually subscribe to MLB TV to watch the Yanks play either live or at my leisure. It’s a pretty good deal if you live outside the country and can’t watch the games on local TV.

Another big baseball event, for me and other fans of computer text simulation baseball games, is the impending release, sometime in April, of version 12 of Out of the Park Baseball (OOTPB), an incredible simulation that lets you become the manager or general manager of a fictional or real baseball team. It’s very engrossing and realistic, and, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan, you’ll find yourself playing (wasting?) hours on the game. Until its release date, you can get it for $29.99 ($39.99 after it’s released). I already reserved my copy. You can download a free version, OOTPB8, to try it out. Click on the link in the side bar for more information about this great game.

See ya at the (virtual) ballpark.

Super Nova. Si. Super Teacher? Nah.

Wow, I was watching the Yankee game this morning (Sunday, in the States) when the broadcasters announced the starting pitchers for the August 23rd game, Yanks at Toronto. One of my students at the Dominican Republic Yankee baseball academy is going for New York. Ivan Nova is a charismatic, 6-foot 4-inch, 23-year old from the D.R., and I’m really going to enjoy watching him pitch his first major league start, though he pitched a few games in relief earlier this year. It’s quite a huge deal for him. Here are his stats on Baseball Refrence.

I joked with Ivan about what his nickname might be in the Majors; I said it could be “Ivan the Terrible,” but he told me that “Super Nova” was going to be his moniker. I think I have his email address, so I’m going to send him congratulations after he wins tomorrow. Good luck, Ivan! Here’s a photo of him that I posted back on Nov. 16, 2007, when part of the team visited an orphanage in Santo Domingo. The kids loved him, (like I said–charismatic), and he was swamped by young autograph seekers.

The university conducts student surveys after every semester to ascertain how we teachers are viewed by our classes. Well, the results from last semester came out last week and I had the highest rating by far, at 93%, with the faculty average being 85% or so. The students “grade” us in categories such as “The teacher arrived in class on time,” “The teacher was well-prepared,” “The teacher used outside materials appropriately,” etc. However, I look on this stuff as mere popularity ratings, not proficiency, and your score is dependent on the kind of students you have for that particular semester (age, hometown, interests, major, etc.). I won this before, in my first semester here (Fall, 2008), and I received a 100,00 won prize and a nice certificate. I also finished near the bottom in the semester right after that, while not drastically changing my methods or presentation, though I’m always striving to learn from my mistakes and get better. Like I said–a popularity contest, though it’s not bad for an old guy, I guess. 🙂 More later.

Beach Dreams

I’ve been preparing a packing list today and looking around for items on that list to include in my bags for the upcoming vacation I mentioned in the previous post. While doing this, I’ve been listening to free internet radio site Live365, where you can find all kinds of music. I’ve had the Dominicana Digital station from the Dominican Republic grooving me all afternoon with merengue, salsa, bachata, reggaethon and other hot Latin music. With the cold, blustery weather in Yeosu right now, I sure have a yearning to be sitting in my former Weekend Office, but, alas, it’s too far away and too expensive to get there. No, unfortunately, that’s not where I’m going on winter vacation. Here’s a shot looking toward the Boca Chica lagoon from my old Weekend Office.


And, looking further down the beach . . .


Someday I hope to return for a visit to the Dominican Republic and Boca Chica, but it’ll be in the summer, when the Yankee baseball camp is in full swing. Until then, I’ll have to settle for the warmer climes of . . . Laos and Thailand, next weekend. I won’t be going to any Thai beach areas, but at least it’ll be nice and warm there and in Vientiane. Can’t wait. More later.

Final Dominican Post

Yes, that’s it for the lovely Dominican Republic. I’m leaving the land of perpetual summer tomorrow around noon. I’ve got a long flight ahead of me, stopping first in Newark, NJ, then over to Minneapolis-St.Paul, and finally into Great Falls at 10:45 p.m. I’ve said more than a few goodbyes already, but still have to say adios to many of the players, staff and coaches. It’s really been a wonderful experience here, but I guess all good things have to come to an end. However, I’m sure Korea will also be good, and, of course, there’s a month in Thailand and Laos to look forward to before then.

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, and I probably won’t be posting too much until I finally arrive in Korea on the 25th of August, if everything goes according to plan. If you’ve tried to post a comment on the blog lately, I’ve had to turn off the comment feature for now–I was getting mercilessly spammed by porn sites! I’ll try to find a workaround for this or maybe I’ll go to different blogging software or to one of the online sites, like More later.


There are some very nice personal advantages to working here, among them, these. First, the camp is tranquil, despite all the baseball, and beautiful–quite isolated, surrounded by scrubland and forest, with lots of birds, woodpeckers and yellow thrushes especially, making their homes in the trees. Next, we’re only a 5-minute ride from a beautiful beach–swaying palms, turquoise waters, and gentle, cooling breezes. Finally, living at the camp 24/7 naturally leads to good friendships with many of the players. That’s also a downside. A number of players have been released lately, dropped from the academy and sent home, mainly due to lingering injuries that just never fully healed and negatively affected their performance. Some of these guys had become good friends, and when I found out they were leaving, I shed a tear or two. Three in particular, who were released in the past month, stand out.

First is Jean Paul Conde, a handsome and friendly 19-year old Venezuelan pitcher with a confident attitude. With his dashing good looks, he would have been a major celebrity if he had made the big leagues with the Yankees. Here’s a shot of a rental car with Jean Paul on the left, Richard Martinez in the middle and Nixton Perez outside the car (all from Venezuela), along with a few chicas that Jean Paul had attracted.


Then we lost Andres Varilla, an outspoken and high-strung Venezuelan. He is a good English speaker and we had more than a few discussions about Venezuelan and American politics. He plans on going to university and he’ll do well in whatever he decides to do. Here’s a photo of him (on the right) and Jean Paul with Reggie Jackson from November, 2006.


Finally, my favorite player was also released a short while ago. Juan Lopez, from Nicaragua, is such an easy-going, friendly 19-year old that no one could help but like him. He speaks decent English and helped me out in a few of my beginner classes. I was taken by surprise and stunned when I found out that his smile and optimism would no longer grace the camp. Here’s a photo of him (on the left) with Gabriel Tatis, a Dominican player.


Of course, I wished these guys well when they left, and I’m going to try to keep in contact with them vie email. Unfortunately, there are many more players who have become friends and whom I must leave in a few weeks. I never thought that would happen when I first took the job. It’s going to be a bittersweet departure from the D.R. More later.


Here’s another news article about UXOs (Unexploded Ordinance), particularly cluster bombs, in Laos. Though the U.S. is one of the countries helping to clear Laos of these things, it’s still shameful that the U.S. dropped all these devices on Laos in the first place. What’s even more disgusting is that the U.S. government refused to sign a treaty Friday banning these horrors. Granted, China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan and Brazil also refused to sign, (WARNING–going on the soapbox) but it seems that the U.S. USED TO, at some distant time in the past, try to set a shining example of adhering to humanitarian ideals. I could be mistaken about that since recent history seems to show otherwise. Sometimes, I don’t recognize the USA anymore. It has become, in many ways, a totalitarian, war-mongering state, one that seems to be completely at odds with the beacon of light it could and should be. (OK, I’m off the soapbox.)

The weather has really been oppressive lately, enough so that it almost–almost–reminds me of Missoula in the winter–always cloudy, very little sunshine. We had enough rain a few days ago to render the warning tracks a bit muddy, but not unplayable. Still, what boring conditions for a tropical location, not to mention how clammy it’s been, with no breeze to speak of. Geez, I’m so tired of the weather that I’m thinking of leaving in several weeks. 🙂

It’s a bit tough (tongue firmly in cheek) sitting on the beach in Boca Chica under this unwanted cloud cover when you’ve got ants in your pants to go somewhere else. Being not that far from the airport, you can see all the larger international jets soaring into the sky, leaving for South America, Mexico, Europe, and other destinations. You wish you were on one of them and going to somewhere sunny, somewhere like, oh, . . . Thailand, for example.

Or Laos.
Or Korea.
Or Somewhere.

More later. Especially if the sun comes out today. (And then I won’t want to go anywhere.) 😎

The Faster I Go, The Behinder I Get

Well, it seems that way; at the least, I’m always a week late in my posts here. Anyway, last Sunday was a great day, as far as sports go, at the Weekend Office. I watched the Yanks score 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to win their 5th straight game, 6-5 over Seattle. Then, I remembered that the Indy 500 was running. I asked one of the waiters to switch the TV and I was lucky enough to catch the last 24 laps of that event, won by Scott Dixon. I think that’s the first Indy I’ve seen live since I left the U.S. back in 2003.

The week before, once again, the Canadian National Junior All-Star team visited the camp to play an exhibition game against the Yankee squad, and, once again, like last year, they kicked rear end, beating the Yanks 13-2 or some such ridiculous score. They’re a very good team, obviously. Sporting flags and banners, lots of Canadian embassy people turned out to watch. Here are a few of them making their way onto the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.


Here’s a shot of the game in progress.


I bought my ticket to Thailand this past week. I fly out of Missoula on July 25th, arriving in Bangkok on July 27th. I’ll probably work on getting my Korean visa there, then head on up to Laos around the 30th or 31st. After spending some laid-back time in the Land of a Million Elephants (not that many left, I’m afraid), I’ll leave on Aug. 24th for Korea, Land of the Morning Calm (but frenetic at any other time of day). Koreans, according to this survey, put in more hours per year on the job than any other people. I can definitely vouch for that. Andong University students put in just as much time, staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning, grabbing a couple of hours of shuteye and then going to 9 o’clock classes (so they told me). It’s like a never-ending urge, on the part of the entire country, to succeed at ALL costs. Lose one hour here or half an hour there, and your prospects and your life, become a shambles. It’s utterly ridiculous, in my opinion, but to each their own. It will be quite a cultural warp going from languid Laos to intense Korea, but, having worked there before, I’ll manage just fine because, well, just read the title of this post again. 😛

Today is Opening Day of the Dominican Summer League, but both Yankee squads are traveling to other camps to play, so there will be no opening ceremonies here, like there were last year. Perhaps I’ll tag along with one of the teams. More later.


Since I’m writing this, I obviously wasn’t injured by celebratory gunfire in the aftermath of last week’s elections. In fact, Boca Chica was fairly normal last Saturday–the taxi driver told me that the BIG and crazy celebrations were going on in Santo Domingo and other large cities. There was, in fact, a fairly long line of cars and pickup trucks loaded with people waving the purple banners of the victorious incumbent, Leonel Fernandez, heading out toward the main highway leading to the capital.


All the candidates here had an identifying campaign color–purple, white and red. This probably made sense in the past when many Dominicans were illiterate (there are still some) but could associate with a color. I confirmed with a Dominican friend that colored ballots with photos of the candidates are used in the voting booth. Anyway, the election craziness is over and things are back to normal in the Dominican Republic. (Hah!)

Here are a couple of Leonel supporters having a few cervezas before joining the parade.


I FedEx’ed my signed contract and other documents to Korea a few days ago. The process is moving along very nicely, and I hope to receive my visa in a timely manner. I think the documents are all in order, but whenever you’re dealing with a government–well, you just don’t know what other hoops you might have to jump through.

Political Violence

Lest anyone think I’m exaggerating about the dangers of the election in the D.R., here’s an article about violence that resulted in 3 deaths yesterday. I’m going into Boca Chica later, but I really don’t expect to run into anything of this nature.


There was a LOT of confusion among the players and coaches about when everyone would be allowed to go home to vote. The voting age here is 18, so most of the Dominican players are eligible to participate in the elections, but they have to vote in their home districts. The main scuttlebutt was that they had an intra-squad game today (they did) and would be allowed to leave when that was completed, but they would have to be back for Saturday morning practice. That would have been a completely illogical restriction, but the final word was that they were allowed to go home after the game today, and Saturday practice was called off. Good news for all, except the foreign players, who, of course, can’t participate in the election. But, I called off English classes today, so the Venezuelans and others were happy about that.

I went into Boca Chica to see if anything interesting was going on, but the place was completely shut down. Almost all the small, neighborhood grocery stores, bars and restaurants on the main strip were closed, but the beach establishments were open for business as usual. As if it mattered, the beach was pretty empty, too. I’m told that tomorrow will be interesting, to say the least, with celebrations, marches, occasional gunfire (!!!), and general mayhem to commemorate the victory of the winning party. I have been warned to use a bit of caution (and I will) if I planned to leave the camp, but I have to go into Boca Chica to see what happens. Going to Santo Domingo would be much more interesting, but since I have to go there on Monday, I’ll just use some of that caution and stay out of the city tomorrow. Hopefully, Boca Chica will be interesting enough–if so, I’ll try to get some photos while avoiding any gunshots aimed in my direction. (Just kidding). 😮

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