MontanaRon

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

Category: Dominican Republic (page 2 of 15)

Yeosu

Strange title for a new post, but that’s the city where I’ll be working starting in September. It’s the Yeosu campus of Chonnam National University, a highly-rated Korean educational institute. Yeosu (also spelled Yosu) is, by all the accounts I’ve read, a very beautiful ocean city, and it will be the host of Expo 2012. You can read more about Yeosu at its Wikipedia entry. As I said in an earlier post, it’s a fairly isolated locale. Here’s a map showing its location on the south coast (underlined). It’s a little difficult to see on the blog, but click on the caption underneath (in orange–Map of Korea [EDIT 11/18/09-click on the map itself]) for a larger version. Of course, you’re never all that far from a big Korean city, but the university offers a nice bonus for working there, due to it’s isolation, I presume.

yeosu

I got the contracts and other documents last week from DHL in Santo Domingo. Of course, they couldn’t find the baseball camp (nobody can, it seems), so I had to go into town to pick up the package. I was going to go back today to drop off the necessary documents to send back to Yeosu, but I read in an online English-language newspaper that the government here has declared a national holiday from yesterday at noon until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. The reason? Today is election day, when Dominicans vote for their president and other candidates. I asked some of the players about traveling on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and they all told me not to do it–too much traffic, too dangerous because of people shooting off firearms in celebration, etc. I asked Victor Mata, but he said there’s really no danger. Well, I decided not to go mainly because I’m afraid once I got to the city, I’d find the shipping companies closed because of the holiday declaration; I’ll take a trip in on Monday to mail the documents.

The two teams here, Yankees and Bombers, have started playing practice games against each other in preparation for the opening of the Dominican Summer League on the 31st of this month. One of the teams traveled to the Red Sox camp yesterday to play a game, which ended in a 2-2 tie. Hopefully, the two teams can do better than the big club is doing at the moment. Looks like a long season ahead for the Yanks.

Interestingly, I weighed myself last week on Friday morning, a day I took off from jogging. I was very surprised when the scale showed I was at 192.5–too much Burger King, I thought. I checked again on Saturday after jogging. I was at 188. I know I sweat out a lot of water when I run, but I don’t think it’s that much. My weight can vary a lot from day to day, and I don’t know why. It’s probably due to the scales here being off, which might lead me to believe that my actual weight is in the mid-170s. 😆 (I weighed myself this morning–I’m down to 186.5). More later.

Weather, Wreck and a Few Photos

The weather has certainly changed. Gone are the cool, low-humidity mornings and the moderate afternoons. The sweat that pours out of me on my sunrise jogs has me feeling like I’ve just run through a rain shower. I’ve been wearing long pants to my classes in the afternoon, but I’ll be switching to shorts soon. And my room air-con, which I’ve not had on a whole lot, will now be put to ever more increasing use.

We hadn’t had much rain until last weekend. We had some gentle showers on Friday and Saturday, but Boca Chica had much more, so they told me at the Weekend Office. I think I knew that before I got there. As the Yankee bus to Santo Domingo slowed to let me off in Boca Chica, we noticed a logjam of traffic ahead of us. Skid marks in the watery mud led to a concrete power pole. Here’s what was at the end of those marks:

Boca_Chica_Wreck

This had to have happened not much more than 30 minutes before, since an ambulance arrived as I took the photo. Unbelievably, someone survived the single-vehicle wreck. I glimpsed a guy laid out on the ground, bloody arm and hand outstretched, propped on his elbow. I wasn’t about to get closer to take a photo–very inappropriate, and he was surrounded by a few dozen people as he was loaded into the ambulance. Not a pretty scene.

As promised, here are some photos of the April 24th visit to the camp by the U.S. Military baseball team. I thought it was the Army team, but the guys represent all branches of the military. They practiced with the Yankee players about 4 hours, then returned with some of the Yankee coaches to Santo Domingo, where they gave a baseball clinic to some youngsters. It was an interesting visit, something to break up the daily routine.

Infield practice at first base. The Yankee kid on the left is Reymond Nunez, from the D.R. He’s a top prospect who can crush the ball a mile. He’s got a great attitude and he’s an all-round good guy. Let’s hope he can hit a curve. If so, he could be a big star at the major league level. I wrote about him in an earlier post.

Army_Team1

Here, Coach Mota (in the shorts) gives baserunning instructions. Mota, coincidentally, coached with the Missoula minor league team for a few years in the early ’90s. I kid him that the cops are still looking for him.

Army_Team2

Military team members get ready for practice.

Army_Team3

Stretching before the practice session.

Army_Team4

Here’s one more photo: me with two of the smaller guys on the team. 🙂

Guillen_Ron_Manuel

If you can’t figure it out, that’s me in the middle. To the left is Luis Guillen, a pitcher, and the other fellow is Manual, the new strength coach. Both are from Venezuela. More later.

More About the Job

Here’s a little more info about the prospective Korean job this fall: My apartment is either on campus or near it because it’s only a few minutes’ walk to classes. It’s about a 5-hour bus ride to Seoul, 3 hours to Busan (or Pusan), (Korea’s 2nd largest city), and 2 hours to Gwangju. Thus, I’m well out of range of North Korean artillery. 😉 (Since I still haven’t given the name of the university or the city, you could probably triangulate between the above 3 cities and bus ride times to get a fair approximation of where I hope to be. Sorry, I won’t tell until I get the contract and sign it–don’t wanna jinx things.)

Like I posted before, I’ll have free internet in the apartment, and Korea has a top-notch broadband system, meaning the connection will be very fast. Here, from about 1 p.m. to midnight, the internet is virtually unusable because all of the players and coaches (and me) have their computers fired up, sucking up the limited bandwidth that we have, so that everyone’s internet experience is quite a bit less than optimal–a LOT less. It’s a good thing I’m an early riser, up before most other people in camp. The early morning is about the only time I can accomplish any major Internet activities.

What else about the job? Free cable TV, a large-screen TV (whatever size that might be), university English classes, of course, but also some kids and adult classes on occasion, similar to what I taught in Andong. Hiking in the hills behind campus. The area is famous throughout Korea for its seafood, especially sushi. Vacation time is split up thusly: 7 weeks work, 1 week off, 7 on, 1 off, 7 on, 3 off, 7 on, 1 off, 7 on, 1 off, 7 on, 3 off. Not optimal, but not bad; I can at least go to Thailand and Laos twice a year, instead of once, though for shorter stays. The airfare will be less, even going 2 times, and the travel time will be shorter. If I recall, it’s about a 5-6 hour flight from Seoul to Bangkok.

All in all, it seems like it will be a good gig. If it’s a typical university, there will be plenty of restaurants, bars, karaoke clubs and such in the immediate area. I don’t know how close it is to the main part of the city, but I’m going to buy a bicycle as soon as I get settled in. Oh, I forgot to mention that the job begins on Sept. 1, so I’ll probably have to be there around the 24th or 25th of August. My plans right now are to fly out of Montana on the 22nd of July, bound for Bangkok and Laos. So, that gives me about a month in the Land of Smiles and in the Land of a Million Elephants.

Meanwhile, though, I’m going to enjoy my remaining time working with the Yanks. I’m looking forward to the arrival of more players on May 4th, some of whom I haven’t seen since last July. This life’s short–enjoy it. As my friend Nai (who’s doing very well, finally) tells me in his fractured English, “Don’t worry about everything. Don’t thinking. Don’t serious.” Well said. More later.

Surprises and VIPs

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s see . . . what’s been going on? The Yanks are not in first place, the Dominican Republic is still a very nice place to live and work in, and, oh, yes, there’s a bit more.

First, I’m going to whine and seek your sympathy (or admonishment), but only for this one post. I screwed up BIG TIME on past tax returns. I’m not going to go into details, but the resulting effect on my wallet and my mental state has been nightmarish. I’ve had to pay a ton of money so far, and I’m sure there will be more to cough up. It’s my own fault, something I omitted out of sheer ignorance and naivete. Be careful when assuming things when tax time rolls around! Ok, end of whine. I’m not going to cry about this burden again on this blog.

This past week was interesting, other than the IRS snafu. I went into Santo Domingo on Monday to send some documents to Mr. Taxman and was invited to a press conference by my boss, Rex Moser, at the Cultural Affairs office of the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Army baseball team is touring the Dominican Republic over the course of the next few weeks, so, of course, the government has to call attention to all affairs of this kind. There were quite a few important D.R. military people at the conference–a general from the Army and others from various branches of the armed forces, and the Dominican press. It was interesting, but short. There was a very tasty assortment of snacks afterwards, which I took full advantage of. 🙂 The Army team is coming to the Yankee camp next Thursday, possibly to work out with our guys, but not to play against them. They will be playing against other Dominican teams while they’re here, though. I’ll definitely get some photos.

More important, however, was the visit of high-ranking Yankee officials this past week. Brian Cashman, the General Manager of the team, was here on Monday and Tuesday, along with V.P. Felix Lopez and Senior V.P. of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman. They were here to look at the players who are trying out for the team, players who haven’t yet signed a contract. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Cashman. As I wrote earlier, I was in Santo Domingo on Monday, and Tuesday I was busy with lesson planning. He was, of course, busy looking over the players. Mr. Cashman is, basically, the architect, so to speak, of the Yanks, an important but extremely difficult job. He probably ranks about #3 in the organization and he’s done a superb job so far. This year is going to be more difficult for the team, in my opinion, so I wish him good luck.

Despite the tax situation, there has been some good news. First, I’ve finally broken through the 190-pounds level–I was at 188.5 after jogging yesterday! So, that’s about 12 pounds I’ve lost since the middle of January. Hopefully, I’ll be in the mid 170s by July 15th, when my contract is finished.

What? Contract finished? Yikes, where will I work then? Korea is my first choice, so I sent out a few applications to various universities in the country. One of the problems about working there is that many institutions are focused on age and looks. The younger and better looking you are, the better chance you have of getting a job, as long as minimum educational requirements are met. You need a 4-year degree (B.A.) in anything, including dance majors or history or whatever. You’ll get hired to teach if you’re young and photogenic, no experience required.

I feared the long spring and summer ahead of me, sending out dozens and dozens of applications and getting no responses. Surprise!!!! Virtually the first university I applied to asked for an interview. We did that on Wednesday at 12:30 a.m., my time, and the next morning I had an email offering me the job. Wow!

It’s a decent position in a very isolated part of the Korean peninsula in a “small” town (300,000) about the size of Andong, my former workplace in the Land of the Morning Calm. That remoteness is probably the biggest reason I’ve been hired (ok, my credentials aren’t too shabby, either). Youngsters, for the most part, seem to enjoy working in the larger, more accessible cities, where night life opportunities are more prevalent. Old-timer me doesn’t care about that, and I think the folks at my new university realize that. (Yes, I accepted the position).

The city is remote enough that the uni offers a 300,000 won ($300) per month “incentive” to work there. The job pays decently and offers $25/hour overtime pay, free internet in the free housing, 300 kilowatt hours free electricity every month, 8-10 months vacation every year, and numerous other benefits. I really consider myself fortunate to get this position right off the bat. Oh, yeah, it’s a 10-minute walk to a beach and it’s located in the extreme southern end of South Korea. It’s not Thailand or the D.R., but from what I’ve read, it has a moderate climate (except it’s also in the “Typhoon Belt”). I won’t say more about it until I’ve actually got the contract, but it sounds like a perfect fit for me. Hopefully, I can make enough money to pay off the credit card bills I’ve racked up to pay off the IRS. :crazy:

Ok, I’m off to Boca Chica to treat myself to a Triple-Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake! 😯 No, not really.

More later.

Odds ‘n Ends

After having ark loads of rain last week, making the fields too muddy to jog on, we’ve been experiencing marvelous, sunny, tropical weather this week, the kind that is featured in travel brochures. Because I hadn’t been jogging all that much the few weeks prior to last, I thought I must have put on a bit more weight. But I weighed myself just before resuming my daily running program, and, wow, I’d actually lost a few pounds. It must be the power of positive thinking. Sit back, think “lose weight, lose weight, fat off,” and eat all the Dominican food and Burger King junk you want and “POOF”–pounds away. The Montanaron Diet, one to rival Atkins and others. 🙄

The expected April 1st arrival of the new players didn’t happen. Instead, most of them will be coming around the first part of May, I’ve been told. My classes, though not as large as before, are still of a decent size, and a few new/old players seem to trickle in every week. Some are returning from Tampa, others from their home countries, and there are a few new ones at the camp. It helps keep me on my teacher toes.

Here’s an interesting video from Reuters about an all-woman team clearing unexploded bombs in Laos, bombs left over from America’s secret assault on the country during the Vietnam War. I hope to journey into that part of the country when I go to Laos in July and August.

The Yanks knocked off the Red Sox last night in their first meeting of the year. Let’s hope they can keep it up. (Hey Tiger fans–what seems to be the problem?) More later.

Tropical Storm?

No, not really, but we’ve had some very heavy downpours the last few days that have made the fields virtually unusable, at least out on the warning tracks. Jogging around them is out of the question, so I’ll have to make use of the access road into camp, thus going back and forth rather than in circles–breaks up the monotony, I suppose.

I had to go into Boca Chica for some supplies yesterday, so I phoned my usual motorbike driver to come pick me up and bring me back. I could see the clouds starting to move in, but thought I could get there and back before the rain started. I got there ok, but the sky opened as we were coming back to camp. Luckily, we were near a small shop that let us stand inside to wait for an opening in the clouds.

Right now, about 7 in the morning, we have overcast skies and it feels quite chilly. The forecast is calling for more rain today and tomorrow. This is the first significant rain in quite a long while, so I suppose we need it; some of the fields were looking a bit parched. Now, if I can only time my jogging to coincide with the expected rain, allowing me to skip another session . . . 😛

As expected, about 10 of the players have left for Tampa, but the new guys haven’t come to camp yet. A couple of my classes have been somewhat depleted, but that gives me more opportunity to work with them individually, if necessary.

The Yanks won their opener yesterday, topping Toronto 3-2. Sweeeeeet! We’re in 1st place! More later.

Short Update

Semana Santa has come and gone, so now we’re in the long stretch leading up to the start of the Dominican Summer League in June and beyond. Some of the players have left for Tampa and more will be leaving next week, and new players will be arriving around April 1st. Not that many have left, so my class sizes are still fairly large. Most of the guys that are here now will stay here throughout the summer.

Opening Day of the 2008 baseball season is just a few days away and the excitement is picking up. In recent days, some of the players have been watching the final Yankee exhibition games on TV in the afternoon, and I’ve had to play the bad guy, asking them to turn the set off and leave the rec room because English class was beginning.

I’m curious to see whether or not the high school players will be here this Saturday. They didn’t play last week because of the holiday, but there are still some Gatorade signs pinned to the center field fence of one of the fields, signs that were put up when they first started playing a few weekends ago. I’ll try to get some more photos of the games if the teams are here.

There’s really not too much going on right now, but I’ll have more later.

Baseball Tournament, Holy Week

The last couple of Saturdays the camp has hosted a high-school age baseball tournament, consisting of 8 teams, which means all four fields have been in use. Each team plays two games, beginning about 11 a.m. and finishing around five, I’m told. (Because I’m usually in Boca Chica on Saturday afternoons, I’m not around for the finish of the games.) There are quite a large number of supporters, family and friends, I assume, who have been turning out for the games, and, with the 20 or so members of each team, the complex has been quite crowded. One of the best parts of the tournament has been the enthusiasm of the players. Cheering, chanting and hand clapping punctuate the play, and with the green, yellow, red and blue uniforms dotting the fields, the complexion of the campus is drastically changed. Very interesting and exciting. I don’t know if the tournament will be played this Saturday, since this is one of the big holiday seasons in Latin America, Semana Santa–Holy Week.

RBI_Baseball

Speaking of which, we get a few days off, beginning today. The Dominican players are going home after practice today, but the rest of us, from other countries, are staying at the campus. Last year the Yanks put us up in one of the Juan Dolio resorts, just down the road about 30 kilometers, for a few days, but not this time, for various reasons. There’s quite a large contingent of foreign players here right now, probably in the neighborhood of 15 or so. Last year, too, the holiday coincided with the player turnover which takes place near the beginning of April. We’ll get a lot of new players in then and lose some, who will be moving on to Tampa. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy the days off, probably spending a lot of time in Boca Chica.

My jogging times are back up to over an hour, so I’m 100% recovered from my recent illness. With all the physical fitness attempts, I figure I should at least be allowed to take a few batting practice sessions to keep up with recent Yankee signee, Billy Crystal. I ain’t askin’ for a contract–just a chance to strike out against one of our young guns. 🙂

There haven’t been too many nice sunsets or sunrises lately that I’ve been able to photograph. There was a gorgeous sunrise the other morning, but I was out jogging. The one below is about the only one I’ve been able to “bag” recently. More later.

Palm_Sunset

P.S. For anyone who is wondering how Nai is doing, well . . . he was doing pretty good, but now the doctor tells him that he has malaria! Go figure. He’s also been complaining about one of his eyes hurting him. This is one of the results of the motorbike accident that is still lingering and it’s something I’m worried about. He says he can barely see out of it, and I can’t figure out whether it’s bruised, or a scratched cornea or a detached retina, which is serious. I warned him to see a doctor right away, which he did. The doc seemed to feel that it might be ok. Nai said he would send me an email, written by his friend, explaining what the doc told him. He’s pretty despondent right now and weak, but I hope he’ll get through it all ok.

Something’s Burning

I mentioned in a previous post about the fires that are set in order to burn off the dead undergrowth this time of year. Here’s a couple of photos of the smoke from a few fires that were started just outside the camp. The first image was taken through my bathroom window, and, with the large cloud of smoke, it’s a good thing the wind was blowing away from us.

Camp_Smoke2

The second photo is from my balcony. Though the smoke is not as bad, the wind is blowing toward us, so the field was beginning to get a bit hazy.

Camp_Smoke1

You can see how dense the smoke can get, but in reality, the size and the intensity of the flames are quite small. I walked outside the fence and took a look at the area of one of the burns the day after, and most of the larger, living stalks (1-2 feet tall) of whatever kind of plant they are, were barely singed.

There’s sometimes so much smoke coming off these burns that you’d think the blazes must be huge. They’re not. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire–but not much.

Apparently, there was a small oil spill near Boca Chica last week, causing the closure of the beach for a short period. It wasn’t too serious, and the Weekend Office beach was open this past weekend. I read today that the shipper was fined 7 million pesos (about $210,000) for the cost of cleaning up the spill.

Also last week, the Dominican Republic was host to a summit of Latin American nations. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as well as his counterparts from Ecuador and Colombia were present, and they shook hands and made up over the recent spat about Colombia’s incursion into Ecuador. A couple of the Venezuelan players told me that Chavez and some of the other leaders were staying at Hamaca Resort in Boca Chica. I looked around for some sign of them on Saturday to try to get some photos, but I saw nothing, so I assume they had already returned to their home countries.

Nai seems to be doing better, but he’s still weak. When I called him this morning (early evening in Laos), he was out walking around, albeit with the aid of Pui, his brother. I, however, am just now getting over a bug of some kind that I picked up last Monday or so. I even cancelled last Wednesday’s classes because I felt so badly, and I’m still not 100%. Thus, my running program has sure gone to heck, though I did manage to survive a 45-minute jog this morning. More later.

Fan? (atic)

I was sitting in the Weekend Office yesterday when a large, heavy-set, florid man, about my age, plodded over to me. He sported a shaved head, wore a couple of gold chains around his thick neck, barely clearing his jowly chin, and had a rather large beer-belly that flopped over his swimming trunks. He stood about two feet away from me and started to practically yell in my face that Toronto was the team to beat this year. I asked him why he thought so, but his response was he’d bet me $1000 right now that the Blue Jays would beat the Yanks by at least 5 games this coming season. (I was wearing my Yankee hat at the time.) I declined. Then he proceeded to rant about how A-Rod came crawling back to the team, about how the pitching would be non-existent, and about what a chicken s**t organization the Yanks are.

I really, really wanted to jump on this guy, but I just smiled and nodded my head. It seemed the best thing to do, then. While I’m not technically a member of the Yanks nor an employee of the State Department, I suppose I do, in a way, represent them. So, in a situation like that, it’s best to keep my cool. The guy bloviated some more, but finally gave up, probably sensing that I wasn’t going to rise to his bait. As he walked away, I wished him good luck this season. I forgot to ask him where he was from (not that I could really get a word in edge-wise), but I’ve never met a Canadian who was such a blow-hard, red-neck type of person, so I assume he was from the U.S., but I could be wrong.

Working with such a class organization as the Yankees, perhaps some of that class has rubbed off on me. Their class is evident, so no response from me was really necessary. I should have taken up the bet, though. This guy was way over the top, coming up to a total stranger and sounding off like that. Why, I could have had a black belt in taek-wan-do (blue belt is fairly close)–I could know a little bit about Muay Thai boxing (ok, I’ve watched it before)–I could have been a psychotically obsessive Yankee fan. I guess it was his lucky day. 🙂

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