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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

5 Straight, Boca Chica Photos

Again, we had some heavy showers over night and again, for the 5th straight game, the team won’t be playing here today. It looks like the bus is fired up, so perhaps the away game might be played. Now, though, the skies are clear and sunny, so let’s hope good weather is here to stay.

As promised, I finally took some photos of Boca Chica, most of which I’ll post to the Photo Gallery. But, here are some for your perusal.

Here’s a scene along the main road in the town, Avenida Duarte. There’s lots of these places where you can buy a large variety of paintings. I don’t know how much of them are mass produced. I saw a guy painting one once and the canvas had all the outlines of the various elements already drawn in, much like a Paint-by-Number kit. Still, they’re pretty. The canvas rolls up easily for traveling, so if I have enough room in my baggage, I might bring a few back.

Boca_Chica_Paintings

Here’s a shot along the beach. It’s unusual in that there are very few people here, even though it’s a Saturday.

Boca_Beach_1

Maybe everyone was at the Harley-Davidson festival that day. Here’s one of the bikes–lots of nice looking ones.

Boca_Harley_1

Here’s a view from my usual hangout, under the palm trees. This is the best part of the beach, in my opinion. Everything here, food and drink, is a bit expensive, but you’re really paying for the ambience.

Boca_Beach_5

Finally, we haven’t had too many good sunrises or sunsets lately, but this one was kind of nice. The white dot in the upper middle of the photo is Venus.

Sunset-6-7-1

Also, I forgot to mention (and I hope I don’t jinx them) that the Big Club has now won 8 in a row and cut the Red Sox lead to 8 1/2 games.

Breaking News!

Ok, it’s not that breathtaking, but since I started writing this, the Diamondbacks bus came to the camp. At first I thought that they were going to try to play a game here, but, looking out my bathroom window, I see that the Yankee team is boarding the bus. Obviously, the Arizona club, which was supposed to play here today, sent their bus to pick up the Yanks and take them to the Diamondback field, which must have missed all the rain. Our bus, in the meantime, is transporting the Bombers to the regularly scheduled away field (haven’t looked to see who they are playing). Obviously, our camp lay right under the path of the bands of rain clouds that have been passing through the area, but some of the other camps were spared.

Juan Dolio, More Sunsets

I’ve been a bit under the weather the last few days with some kind of virus, but I’m starting to feel much better. Just in time for a return trip to Juan Dolio and the Decameron Resort. Rumor has it that we’re leaving tomorrow (Wednesday) and returning on Monday, the 9th. However, the last official word I got was that we’re leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday. Who knows. At any rate, it’ll be nice to relax on the beach for a few days. This morning, about 20 players left for the training complex in Tampa, from where they’ll be assigned to the various minor league teams–I wish all of them good luck.

We’ve had a few beautiful sunsets lately, so I’ve posted a couple of photos below. I’ve also added a few more to the main Photo Gallery.

This one was incredibly red, and capturing some of the subtle details was very difficult.

Sunset_Mar_30_07a

This one features the moon and Venus right above it near the center-right of the photo. If you squint, you might be able to see them.

Sunset_Mar_20_07

Opening day of baseball season was yesterday. The Yanks won–woo hoo! More later.

Christmas (Still), Police Escorts, Santiago

It looks like most of the Christmas decorations are still up. On Saturday, walking along the Malecon, I noticed that many businesses and the avenue itself are still adorned with the signs of the season. This probably has a lot to do with the extended celebration of Christmas in the Dominican Republic and most of the rest of Latin America. Saturday, the 6th, was El Dia de los Reyes, commemorating the three Magi who brought gifts, according to Christian tradition, to the new-born Jesus. Thus, this is the day of gift-giving, rather than Dec. 25th in the U.S.

On Sunday, the celebration continued, with many families and their children, sporting new bikes, skateboards or rollerblades, out enjoying the temperate weather. Every day recently, however, Santo Domingo has been getting very predictable afternoon showers, some of them heavy enough to tax the drainage system, leading to areas where the streets are somewhat flooded. I’ve learned to walk as far away from the traffic as possible to avoid getting drenched by passing cars scudding through the 2-4 inches of water. (Unlike in Benin, Africa, where I was soaked on my bicycle by a large, heavy truck splashing through brick-red, muddy water–a real laugher, looking back on it.) Sunday afternoon brought another heavy torrent, but I was able to race to D’Luis Restaurant, where I usually have a late lunch, before the clouds opened. I did get a little wet, but the shoeshine boys who hang out there managed to stay dry.

Shoeshine_Boys

Afterwards, walking back along the avenue, I was caught up in the dancing, chanting and horn playing that you see in the photo below. Some of the guys here were playing what looked like didgeridoos, but the sound was more like that of a foghorn. I assume this had something to do with El Dia de los Reyes, since three of the guys were bedecked in various colorful costumes, representing the three kings maybe. Very interesting.

Celebration_3
The sunset was also quite interesting and beautiful.
Malecon_Tree

Also on Sunday, there were several instances of police escorting big black SUVs. The first thing you notice when this happens is the presence of police at all the intersections, blocking and holding up any approaching traffic. You hear the sirens and then the escort comes into view, several motorcycle cops and the speeding SUVs. Probably some kind of government poobahs. I saw four of these escorts on my way to the Malecon; there’s usually only one.

My workshops in Santiago last week proved very productive and I think the teachers enjoyed it, though only three attended–the entire English faculty of the Agriculture Institute. The campus there is very beautiful, with well manicured lawns, dense jungle-like vegetation in places, and very large, old trees–oak and mango, among others, I think. If I were to work in the DR, this would be the place. It’s higher up than SD, so it’s usually a bit cooler and less humid. (Of course, if I could find a campus on a beautiful beach . . .!) More later.

Happy New Year

Still living in my apartment in Santo Domingo, I’ve discovered that if I set up my laptop in an exact position by my one, lone window, I can access the Internet through an open wireless connection from somewhere. I don’t know where it originates from, but it is somewhat reliable, somewhat strong. Nice. I picked up a few viruses from going to the local internet cafe, where I was downloading files to my memory stick. I would then come back to the apartment and plug the stick into my laptop, thereby transferring the virus. It seems, though, that my anti-virus programs picked up on the infections before they took root. However, if anyone gets any weird emails from me, delete them and accept my apologies. I think that everything is ok, though.

Well, it’ll be another month until I return to my dream. In the meantime, though, I’ll be going north to Santiago on January 2nd to conduct a four-day workshop for the English teachers at the Agriculture Institute. I met the friendly folks there a few weeks ago and look forward to returning to impart what knowledge and resources I have. That’s the reason I haven’t posted in a while; I’ve been working on what I want to present to them.

I’m not used to it, at least from my experiences in wintry Montana, but fireworks are a feature of Christmas and New Year celebrations here. My mom tells me that the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area, where my brother lives, is also heavy on the aerial show. It must be a warm-weather thing, I think, but if anyone knows of fireworks shows at the end of the year in cold-weather locations, please let me know.

It’s about time I posted a few photos, so below is a shot taken on Christmas Eve, sunset along the Malecon. Enjoy, and a Happy and Healthy New Year to all. More later.

Malecon_Sunset_2

Birthday Greetings

Yup, today finds another number added to my “official” age, but it’s only a number (what number?–nunayer business). I’m not doing any celebrating; I haven’t partied it up for my birthday in many years. I did receive birthday greetings from Nai in Laos as he was sipping on a cold Beer Lao in my honor. I also heard from my brother and others. Thanks to all who remembered.

Well, the campus is starting to clear out. There is only one team now, instead of two. 12-15 very excited Venezuelans and the two Mexicans left for their homes this past Saturday, along with the one Cuban fellow, who went to Florida. This Friday everyone will leave. There are a few Panamanians who will be flying back to Central America and the rest are Dominicans from around the country. I’ll be moving back to Santo Domingo, working there with UASD until Feb. 1, when the campus reopens and the players, some old, some new, return.

Well, for the next couple of months, then, I probably won’t have any more new sunrise/sunset pics, so I’ll leave you with this impressionistic view of a recent sunrise. More later.

sunrise6

Reggie, Rain and Rosters

Yes, Reggie was here and has gone. I got to meet him, shake hands, talk a little. He seems like a nice guy, and he spent a lot of time with the players. We had a barbecue Monday, but heavy rains washed out the games on that day and Tuesday. Reggie was supposed to be here on Tuesday, the day I promised myself that I would get an autographed ball and a photo with him, but the rain seemed to have kept him away and he never showed up. Oh, well, perhaps someday . . . Anyway, here’s a photo of Reggie with a couple of the Venezuelan guys, Jean Paul Conde on the left and Andres Varilla.

CRW_5468

Like I stated, we had some pretty heavy rains the beginning of the week and the fields are just now drying out. The teams should be playing today, vs. the Rockies and the Dodgers. However, the roster sizes are going to be reduced this weekend. All the Venezuelan coaches and players, about 15 total, are being sent home on Saturday. Abel wants to get them safely to Venezuela before their national elections on Dec. 2 or 3. A lot of people, Venezuelans included, are worried about civil unrest, violence, airport closures, etc. in the aftermath of election day there, so having the players and coaches safely in their homes before then seems to be the best policy. Most of the guys I’ve talked to here are firmly against Chavez and they say he is ruining the country. They don’t think he will “legally” win a new term, but they do think that he won’t give up power. Let’s hope there’s no violence.

Since I’ve been getting up earlier than usual to go jogging, I’ve also been able to get some nice sunrise photos. Here’s another. It’s Thanksgiving Day in the States, so happy holiday to everyone!

Sunrise_1

More Yankees Visit

So, what’s new in Yankeeland, you ask? Robinson Cano, another Yankee superstar, is here. (See photo below) In fact, he and Melky Cabrera are working out with the team and DHing in games, tuning up to play in the high-caliber Dominican Winter League. I watched Cano yesterday, and you can tell by the sound of the crack of the bat against the ball that this guy is a world-class player. He went 1-3 with a very hard line-drive single yesterday, and the day before he smashed a homerun, though I missed seeing it. Many Dominican major leaguers play in the winter league, and The Lonely Planet guide book describes watching games in Santo Domingo:

“Steaming barbecue chicken, free-flowing rum, marimba breaks and bets shouted out at breakneck speed; watching a baseball game in Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium is more than just a day at the park, it’s an event reminiscent of a raging party, an off-track betting office and the World Series combined. It is one of the best places in the world to watch a baseball game.”

I definitely plan to take in a game or two after I move back into SD in a few weeks. I’ll be there until the camp reopens near the end of January. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing some teacher training at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo
(UASD), the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere.

On Wednesday, during the coaches vs. scouts game, I had a visit from the Public Affairs Officer, Bill Millman, at the U.S. Embassy in SD, who was showing around two ladies from the State Dept. in Washington, D.C. Both Liz and Mary Dean were instrumental in getting this pilot program of teaching with the Yankees off the ground and were very interested in what I was doing so far. They offered suggestions and support and toured the facilities here. They had been interested in observing one of my classes, but we gave the players the day off so that they could watch the coach/scout game.

One more ex-Yankee superstar is supposed to be in camp today. Reggie Jackson will be here over the weekend to give the players a pep talk. I’ll certainly try to meet him and to get a photo or two. More later.

Robbie Cano steps in to take a few swings
Cano_1

Here are some richly-colored clouds lit by the setting sun.

Clouds_1

Boca, Player Contracts

I finally made it into Boca Chica with a couple of the coaches this past Sunday. It’s not all that impressive, pretty run down, and the beach was extremely crowded and a bit trashy from all the weekend activities–nothing like Thailand, but it wasn’t beach hell, either. Again, the beaches on the east coast of the DR are supposed to be truly spectacular. First, though, we visited a resort just a few miles down the road from Boca at Playa Guayacanes, a hotel that the coaches and players stayed in last summer, courtesy of the Yankees, just before moving onto the new campus. I guess there’s still a fairly close relationship between the hotel and the Yanks, since they gave us some free snacks and drinks. Aniuska, in charge of the day-to-day running of the campus, was also there with her husband, enjoying the swimming pool. It wasn’t too bad, although a bit small, with a nice little beach. I didn’t have my camera, so there are no pictures.

Our tropical wave turned out to be more of a ripple, but there was another spectacular, early-morning light show.

Lightning1
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Yankees couldn’t legally sign the players that are here. Wrong. They can’t sign them until they’re 16 and they can’t let unsigned players stay at the facility for more than 30 days, so most of these guys have contracts. In fact, a couple of them have signed for sums of $2.5 and $3 million, I’m told. Again, no names.

Classes continue to go well, though I’m very busy designing my own materials. I’ve ordered a bunch of books which, hopefully, will help reduce the workload. I managed to make some time yesterday, however, to watch the first intra-squad game. Thursday sees the start of the action between the different teams based in the area. The players on the Yanks have been split into two teams, with one team going on the road to the other teams’ ballparks and one staying here to play each day. Should be fun. I’m going to work late at night to get my lesson plans done so that I can watch all the games, which run from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I also found out that my apartment is exclusively mine, meaning no roommate. With all the books, clothes, printer, etc. crammed in here, there certainly isn’t much space left for someone else.

Time to go out to the balcony and watch the dew glitter under another golden tropical sunrise before breakfast. However, I’ll leave you with another beautiful sunset below. More later.

DR_Sunset_2

Sunsets

I was jogging around the warning tracks of the 4 outfields the other night; they almost touch each other, so that you can easily go from one field to the other. I can get around all 4 in about 6 minutes. Then I noticed something that I hadn’t given any thought to before–what a fantastic area to watch sunsets. From the far practice field, there is little to block the view almost to the horizon. That night the sunset was beautiful, but I was too late to photograph it. If you follow this blog or look in the photo gallery, you know how much I like sunsets. Thus, the first one tonight from the DR is below.

I kind of feel like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in the movie “Field of Dreams” when he asks Kevin Costner’s character: “Is this heaven?”

DR_Sunset_1