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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.

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.

Weekend Musings

With most of the players gone, the camp was unusually quiet this past weekend–no players, office staff or coaches and only a small group of housekeepers and ground crew. Unfortunately, with few people to feed, meals were sparse until Sunday dinner, by which time the players who went home were supposed to return. I looked in on breakfast Saturday morning and, as I suspected, the Blue Plate Special was Mystery-Meat-and-Cheese Sandwiches. I passed on it and didn’t hang around for lunch. Instead, I went to my weekend office and worked on upcoming lessons.

My Weekend Office:

Boca_Beach_6

Yes, I did go into Santo Domingo on Friday, but, no, I wasn’t able to change phone companies. I knew of one place in a supermarket close to where my apartment was, but they don’t sell the actual SIM cards, only the recharge cards. I’ll have to go back to the Capital in a few weeks and try to find a larger shop that has the SIM card I need.

I laid off jogging on Friday because the fields were too wet from a late Thursday afternoon rain shower. So, having rested a day, I was able to break my all-time jogging record on Saturday morning–1 hour, 17 minutes. What a Marathon Man I’m becoming. 😉 Too bad none of the remaining players in camp were up to cheer me on, but with the day off, they were all sleeping. Deadbeats. More later.

No More Big City Living

I arrived back at the baseball camp near Boca Chica on Sunday morning, and it felt great to leave all the noise, pollution and chaos of Santo Domingo behind. I dropped my bags off at my room at the camp and took my taxi, which waited for me, into Boca Chica. I had to get a haircut and buy some REAL coffee for the Mr. Coffee machine in my room. (I’d been drinking Nescafe Instant for the last 6 weeks. 😥 Of course, I could have done these tasks in S.D., but I needed an excuse to go to the beach!

I was happy to find that the multitude of young shoe-shine boys has doubled or tripled. I don’t wear dress shoes, but they can also clean tennis shoes, so they don’t have a reason to bypass me. I’m gonna have to start wearing flip-flops when I go into B.C., since I’m sure they would insist they could clean sandals, too. They’re cute kids, 7-9 years old, but they can be quite the pests when you’re in the town. I hardly ever see them on the beach; thus, another reason to spend time there, soaking up some sun, writing lesson plans and notes for the blog.

So, it’s back to work. Basically, I goofed off while I was in S.D., except for a couple of workshops I conducted earlier, which was not a problem because I get 20 working days off. The embassy didn’t have anything for me to do; it was holiday time and the schools were out, so I looked at the time as a vacation. Some of you have indicated that I’m on perpetual vacation. (And you know who you are.) Not so! //sarcasm on// I miss the foot-deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures of Montana winters. //sarcasm off//

Below are a couple of photos. As you can see, the view from my apartment in S.D. was less than ideal for photographing sunsets.

Sunset-1-10-08

And one from the camp just last evening.

Sunset-1-14-08

Back to Camp

I got a very unexpected phone call this morning from Ani at the Yankee baseball camp in Boca Chica. It seems they’ve decided to reopen this coming Monday, the 14th. That’s about 2-3 weeks early, but I’m not complaining a bit. It’ll be great to get out of noisy, polluted, crowded Santo Domingo and return to the relative calm and beauty of the camp. Even though I had planned to keep busy working almost exclusively on my teachers’ resource manual for the baseball camp until the end of the month, I’m happy to be able to get out of the Big City early. I’ll have a heck of a lot of work to do, but that’s ok. So, I’m getting packed and I’ll be outta here on Sunday morning.

I’ve still got some time to post more photos to the gallery, and I’ve started uploading some of the Laos photos here (and many more to come), if you’re interested. More later.

Dining Out

I did an early jog today to avoid the late afternoon rainstorms. Walking back to my apartment, I passed a man digging through some garbage that had been left for collection. He’d found some grapes that had been thrown out and was diligently eating them. Sad, that people can be reduced to this. I would have given him some money, but I don’t carry any with me when I’m out running. Not a pleasant sight.

I’ve posted more pictures on the Photo Gallery here. These are ones I took in Bangkok, and eventually (a day or two?, a week or two?, later?) I’ll put up ones from Phuket, Nong Khai, and Laos. More later.

A Few Photos

When I woke up this morning, it was raining again, though not much, perhaps a snow factor of 1/2 inch. (I refer to a snow factor so that those of you in less fortunate climates can compare.) It stopped yesterday just in time for me to take my daily jog. :( At least it was breezy and cool, since the sun remained trapped behind the clouds. Plus, no crazies with automobiles intruded into the safe zone.

I notice I haven’t posted many photos lately. That’s mainly because I haven’t taken that many and the ones I have taken aren’t all that exciting or unique. To break the monotony, here are a few I found on my small camera.

I was walking along the Malecon when I spotted these two boats nicely framed by a tree. Sorry, I’m not good with tree names, but this gnarly type is found all along the oceanfront boulevard.

Boats1

Here is one of the large cruise ships which call on Santo Domingo. This is one of the Holland America Line ships. I was sitting in D’Luis Restaurant along the Malecon when this one left port.

Cruise_Ship1

This fisherman is either offering thanks for the daily catch or describing the size of the one that got away.

Fisherman1

Adventure Walking

Santo Domingo has to be one of the most pedestrian-unfriendly cities I’ve ever walked in. You definitely need to use the eyes in back of your head (and on the sides). If you don’t have eyes in back of your head, stay home. The drivers here, for the most part, have absolutely no respect for people on foot. Crosswalks are a joke and crossing streets with the light in your favor always involves risk. After the light changes from red to green, I always wait for about 5 seconds to cross because there always seems to be someone barreling along, not paying attention or else trying to blast across the street before the right-of-way traffic blocks the road entirely. I’ve almost been hit more than once, but, luckily, I was able to avoid the idiots at the last second.

Here’s a case in point from yesterday. The avenue that runs through the Parque Mirador del Sur is shut down to traffic from 4 p.m. to about 7 p.m. That’s when I do my almost-daily jog, as do hordes of others out exercising, roller blading, or bicycle riding. I got an early start yesterday, at 4, and the road was pretty much deserted of any other joggers. I ran for about half an hour then turned around and headed back to where I had started from. All of a sudden, a white car followed by a motorbike came racing down the avenue towards me and passed about 5 feet from me doing around 30-40 mph. I shouted out “estupidos” to them, but I’m sure they didn’t hear me. They weren’t police or security people; they looked like ordinary idiots trying to take a short cut through the restricted zone. If either of us had been a tad bit less aware, I’d have been plastered all over the avenue. You really, really have to pay attention as a pedestrian, no matter where you’re walking or jogging, even in a “safe” zone.

Walking on the sidewalks can be an adventure, too. Because of the intense traffic jams, motorbikers will avoid the delays by using the sidewalks. Also, more often than not, people can’t find a place to park on the street–no problem, just park on the sidewalk. At times, I have to walk into the street to get around the parked car(s). Like I said, it’s one of the most pedestrian-unfriendly cities I’ve seen.

It’s been raining since early this morning, several hours now, but not a very heavy rain, more like a continuous light shower. If this were Montana, we’d have 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground by now. Lucky for me, it’s not.

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.

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.