MontanaRon

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

Category: Santo Domingo (page 2 of 5)

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.

Nagua

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.

Back to La Capital

Saturday, I go back to Santo Domingo for a couple of months, returning to the Yankee camp when it reopens around Feb. 1. Naturally, all the players are anxious to return to their homes and for the past few weeks have been daydreaming about the journeys there. Some left a few days ago (the Panamanians), but all the rest are leaving tomorrow, either very early (5 a.m.–the Mexican, Nicaraguan and Brazilian players) or in the afternoon (the Venezuelans and Dominicans). I have mixed feelings about moving back to S.D. Negatives–Big city, the noise and pollution, it’s expensive, I’ll miss the players and coaches, the baseball atmosphere, the beautiful night skies and the overall peace and quiet here at the camp. Positives–Big city, cultural opportunities, opportunities to travel around the country because of my job, excitement and uhhmmmm . . . Ah, well, it’s only for a little while.

I weighed myself this morning for the first time in awhile, and all those hour-long jogs are paying off. I’ve lost around 8 pounds and feel that I’m well on my way to losing at least 25 before July, hopefully closer to 30 or 35.

We’ve been plagued by hornets the last few weeks; they seem to be everywhere, sometimes disrupting English classes, weaving and swerving, threatening mayhem. At least the mosquitoes have died down, with all the dry weather we’ve been enjoying lately. It’s been very nice, not too hot, (even a little chilly at night), and clear skies. Running around the outfield warning tracks at 6:30 a.m. is very enjoyable, but that, too, is coming to an end. I’ll be enjoying afternoon jogs at the Parque Mirador del Sur in S.D., which is closed to motor vehicles from about 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. At least I don’t have to worry about the infamous S.D. traffic, but wish me luck anyway. More later.

Big Doings

It’s been a very busy week at the camp–many, if not all, of the Yankee scouts from around the region, including Venezuela, have been staying here, and, as well, many American Yankee coaches and about 8 American minor leaguers have been attending the camp.

Wednesday was a very interesting day. Many of the visiting U.S. players and a few of the Dominican guys, as well as yours truly, went into Santo Domingo to put on a clinic at an orphanage there. It was attended by a couple hundred or so happy, energetic kids. Also on hand from the Big Team were 1st base coach Tony Pena, outfielder Melky Cabrera, 2nd baseman Robby Cano, and up-and-coming pitcher Edwar Ramirez. All of them are from the D.R. The Yankees also donated $25,000 to a group called “Food For the Poor” as part of the relief effort in the wake of Tropical Storm Noel.

In a press release, the Yankees stated that the club is also going to San Juan de la Managua, Ramirez’ home town, in the southwest part of the country this Sunday to assist in relief efforts. I’ll be making that trip also, a journey that we’ll be starting at 6 a.m. Not just a handful of the players at the camp are going–the whole team, some 65 or so players, along with coaches, scouts and others, will be making the trip. It should be a great time during a very worthwhile effort. Scroll down to see some photos from the Santo Domingo orphanage clinic. I’ll definitely post some from San Juan later, and I’ll also be posting more than what’s below to the Photo Gallery eventually.

Yesterday, Thursday, proved to be a big day, also. On hand were new Yankees manager Joe Girardi, his new bench coach, Rob Thomson, and future Hall of Famer, relief pitcher extraordinaire, Mariano Rivera. Alas (sigh), I failed to get any pictures of the three. Girardi gave a pep talk to the team in the morning and Rivera talked to them later in the afternoon after their game against the Florida Marlins team.

I got to meet, shake hands and talk a bit with Girardi, Thomson, and Pena, and they all had kind and encouraging words about what I’m doing with the club. Very motivating for me.

Still no sign of Brian Cashman or Felix Lopez, though I dare say they are busy with the efforts to re-sign Alex Rodriguez. It’s been reported (just one source of hundreds) that he’s going to sign a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yanks, a fairly stunning development. I’m all for it. He’s a great player, one who will probably go down as one of the all-time greats in baseball history. I think it’s a good thing that he’ll be spending the large majority of his career with the Yankees. Besides, who else can afford that kind of money, though rumors also reported that the Mets and the Angels were interested in signing him, too.

Ok, here are the orphanage photos. Some of them are pretty large files, but if you read all of the above post, they should have loaded by now. As always, click on the photo to see a larger image.

Six future major leaguers, perhaps?

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Part of the large crowd that was on hand.

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Tony Pena, flanked by Melky Cabrera (left) and Edwar Ramirez, speaks to the crowd.

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The presentation of the check for $25,000 to Food For the Poor.

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This is one of the Yankee camp players, pitcher Ivan Nova. Yeah, the kids are short, but Nova stands about 6 feet, 4 inches. For some reason, the kids were flocking to him for his autograph. He’s a good guy who speaks decent English, and I hope he makes it to the Bigs some day. He played for the Class A Charleston, SC RiverDogs last year. I told him his nickname, if and when he gets to the Majors, will probably be Ivan the Terrible, but he said it’s going to be Super Nova.

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One of the coaches gives a clinic to future Yankee pitchers.

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A little fielding instruction. There were different clinics going on all over the fairly large complex–instructions on pitching, fielding, throwing, running and more.

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One of the visiting American minor leaguers signs autographs.

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One of the American players poses with a group of youngsters.

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And, finally, Jairo Heredia, another great guy from the camp, poses with a group of kids. Last year Jairo played for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, based in Tampa.

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I also forgot to mention that on Tuesday, I was interviewed by George Gedda, a former writer for the Associated Press (Google his name, and you’ll come up with a ton of articles he’s written). He’s in the process of writing a book about Dominican baseball culture and wanted to learn more about the English language teaching aspect in which I’m involved. George is staying in the D.R. until February, so the book will come out sometime after that. Look for it in bookstores everywhere.

I’m up to an hour and ten minutes in my daily jogging sessions. My ankle’s been bothering me a bit, but once I start running, the pain goes away. It seems to be stiff more than anything else. I just hope it doesn’t get more serious. It could ruin my future chances to play with the Yanks. 😎

More later.

Fiesta, Letting Off Steam

I’m back from the July 4th party at the embassy, and it was quite an affair. There were probably at least 200 guests, most of them Dominicans who have done or are doing business with the embassy, including staff members. There were also many Americans–the embassy Marines in full-dress uniforms, the visiting navy guys (who came to play softball at the camp last weekend, as I mentioned in an earlier post), embassy personnel, and yours truly. There was a receiving line of dignitaries to greet each guest when we arrived, the lineup consisting of the Charge d’Affairs and his wife, the Marine commandant, and other embassy people and, I think, a few Dominican VIPs.

There was a lot of food, all of it from local fast food vendors, such as Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Tony Roma’s and others, including some Dominican food. Also lots of alcohol and other beverages, but only American brands were being served (Budweiser, for one).

Providing musical entertainment were a blue grass band from the States, Big Hillbilly Bluegrass Band, who are touring the D.R., and an a capella quartet of Dominicans, TES-A-T, who were quite good. To top it off, there was a great fireworks display, set off to the accompaniment of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Very stirring, and a fitting end to a fine evening. The party broke up about 10 p.m., and Rex, from the embassy, gave me a ride back to the Atalaya Apartment building, where I stayed for the evening.

While I was gone, the Bombers lost two games and the Yankees won two. Today, though, was very interesting. A week ago I was talking to Brendan, a college senior from Ithaca, New York, who is completing his degree in Sports Management and is interning here for a few months. We were discussing the fact that we had never seen an argument involving the umpires, like the kind you see in the U.S., where the manager or players come storming out of the dugout to argue calls, sometimes getting tossed from the game. We hadn’t seen it until today, that is.

One of the Bombers was trying to score from second on a long single to rightfield, and he would have easily made it, except that the thirdbaseman from the Dodgers obstructed him (basically, crashed into him) from getting to home. He walked toward the umpire to argue, but no one had called time out, so he was tagged out. The Bomber manager, the third base coach, and the bench coach were all over the umps, giving them hell. Eventually, the umps held a conference and ruled that the guy on third wasn’t out, but he had to go back to third base, refusing to allow him to score. This really set off our manager, and he was finally given the heave-ho. At any rate, that left the bases loaded, with only one out, and the guys on the bench and in the stands, who weren’t playing today, got very fired up, lots of shouting, cheering, clapping and whistling (me too), urging the upcoming batters on. There was still a good chance to score a bunch of runs. The next guy up, with a 3-2 count, slammed a pitch that headed for the left field fence–it had Grand Slam written all over it! Alas, the wind pushed it foul. Then, he struck out, as did the next batter. The team ended up losing the game, 7-3. But, we got to see a huge argument, at least, and had a bit more excitement than usual. More later.

In the Slot

Yup, today’s game was postponed here, due to a muddy field, though the rain passed us by. The away team, the Bombers, I think, got their game in at the Dodger field. The away teams have been having luck with their games, so it seems like were in a narrow “rain slot,” getting drenched these past few days. Unfortunately, it didn’t rain enough today to wash out my jogging schedule (yet, but I can still hope). 🙂

I still have some more photos I want to upload concerning opening day and a few I took in Boca Chica. I finally got smart and brought the camera to the beach and took some shots, including those of a Harley-Davidson festival that was held a few weekends ago.

I forgot to mention something about the trip to the capital yesterday. It’s only the second Monday that I’ve made the trip from the campus into Santo Domingo, but both times I’ve been caught up in huge traffic jams. A half-hour trip takes 1 1/2 hours and both treks took place around 10 a.m. I’ve made the trip on other days around the same time and it was a breeze getting into and around town. I wonder if people are still making their way back into the capital after taking long weekends, though there was no holiday yesterday. Hmmmmm . . .

I’ve decided to try to devote more attention to the blog, as evidenced by all the recent postings, and quit wasting time by being a troublemaker writing fractious emails that alienate friends and relatives. My good intentions might fade in a couple of days, because I also have a lot of “stuff” to do before leaving here in July–paperwork to fill out for the job renewal, room reservations to make in Thailand, forms to fill out, reports to file, etc. I think I’m going to be very busy the next few weeks, so if the postings dry up, you know the reason why. But I am going to make the effort. More later.

Success!

Yeah, I was able to retrieve my notebook from the Internet Cafe. Lucky me! There isn’t a whole lot of personal information in there, but I did have some of my bank account passwords or login names, but they were written in a shorthand code that only I know. Perhaps an astute hacker would be able to find them out, but I doubt it. Still, I’m going to go to all my accounts and change passwords and login names, just to be on the safe side.

I forgot how hot Santo Domingo can be, what with all the concrete trapping the heat. Add to that the normally high humidity and the extra moisture from the rain last night and walking around for even 5 or 10 minutes left me dripping wet. It was great to get back to the apartment at the camp and turn on the air conditioner.

I did get a few more emails from other relatives of the forwarder of the false email story that put me on my rant. They all accused me of attacking this person, despite my stating at the start of my email that I wasn’t singling this person out, that I was ranting against all emails that are forwarded without first being verified as to the validity of the contents. I’m sorry that they felt I was in a personal attack mode–I certainly wasn’t, because I love this relative too.

Everyone felt that I was being childish to complain about an innocuous little email, but I’ve been the recipient of many more important ones, many from this person, containing completely false information. The point I was trying to make, ineffectively, I now realize, is that if we accept these little lies, falsehoods and misinformation as truth because they come from someone we know, respect and love, is it a far stretch to see that we’ll fall for the bigger lies, lies told by the government, for example. Or Big Corporations. Or the military. Because, after all, our government wouldn’t lie to us, would it? Would it? Of course, some of the more rabid comments were directed at the “political agenda” I was trying to push. Heck, I’m about as apolitical as they come, being neither Democrat or Republican.

Ah, well, at any rate, I opened a can of worms and made some enemies–guess I’ll just have to live with it now.

Some more Laos links:

The Wikipedia entry

The Lonely Planet entry

The Lao Embassy site and, of course, there are all the photos posted in the Photo Gallery. More later.

Andy Jackson

I was in Santo Domingo this past Saturday, buying some supplies for my classes. I went with one of the coaches (Raoul, from Panama), one of the trainers (JJ, from Venezuela) and one of the players (Ronny, also from Venezuela). All three speak fairly decent English, and Ronny is engaged to a German gal from Berlin. He was also in the market for a new computer, so I took them to a couple of shops that I know of near where I live when the Yankee campus is shut down. JJ took a wrong turn after we left the last shop, so we ended up on some side roads that were unfamiliar to me. Along one of these roads is a steak house with the unlikely name of “The Andrew Jackson Steakhouse” with a portrait of the president on its wooden facade. I’ve never seen anything of the sort named after Jackson; I suppose the steaks are aged and cooked over a wood fire, so you could say they are “Old Hickory” steaks. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, but if my contract is renewed for next year, I’ll be sure to find the place and take a photo. More later.

Dentist, Traffic and Rain

I had to go into the capital Monday for a dentist’s appointment to check on a filling. I was a bit nervous about the professional quality, but Rex Moser (the Cultural Affairs officer and my supervisor) told me that he had seen a guy who spoke very good English and seemed like a very good doctor; he was. He works in a very modern office, with all the equipment, aides, etc. He did a couple of fillings and found a cavity, which I have to go back in for this coming Tuesday. The price is right–less than $100 for the two fillings and about the same price for Tuesday’s appointment.

Getting to his office was a nightmare. The appointment was for 10 a.m., but I didn’t arrive until 10:30 due to the unbelievable amount of traffic pouring into the city at that time of day. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to travel a distance that normally takes 20 minutes. The taxi driver decided to get off the main road and went to Washington Ave. (the Malecon), because normally the traffic is lighter there. Unfortunately, it was just as clogged. I would have expected traffic jams earlier in the day, with people trying to get to work, but what’s up with the snarl at 9:45 or 10 in the morning? Really incredible.

The doc told me that the next appointment date is considered an “unlucky” day in the DR, where Tuesday the 13th corresponds to Friday the 13th in the States. Interesting. I jokingly told him that I might change the day, but he laughed and said don’t worry, it wouldn’t affect his expertise. Check out this site for many more DR superstitions and beliefs.

I spent a pleasant afternoon at the beach in Boca Chica this past Saturday. My first impression of the place, back in October, was that it wasn’t the nicest of areas, but I’ve changed my mind. It’s ok, though compared to the world-class beaches on the east coast, the Boca beach leaves a lot to be desired, I’m sure. Still, it’s a nice enough place to while away the time, though it’s very crowded on the weekends.

We had a driving downpour last night, the first rain to speak of since I posted about the frequent afternoon showers in Santo Domingo several weeks ago. The centerfield areas of the fields have a lot of standing water this morning, so that gives me a reason not to go jogging today. 🙂
More later.

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