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This ‘n That

The wireless signal that I can sometimes get from my apartment is becoming rather sketchy, so I’ve not been able to post as frequently as I’d like to, and sometimes I’m just too lazy to walk to the Internet cafe down the street. I’m usually able to check my email when it’s on, but it doesn’t stay on for too long. Oh, well. . .

I think I’m finally learning the difference between salsa and merengue music. Salsa is fast and merengue is faster. I really can’t tell the difference and my Dominican friends are surprised at my lack of discernment. As I jotted down notes for this post, I was sitting in La Parada listening to very fast music, so it must have been merengue.

La Parada, an open air bar/restaurant is a great place to while away some time. It sits right on the Malecon with a good view of the Caribbean and is great for people watching. There is also the occasional cargo or cruise ship coming or leaving. A few weeks ago I saw a HUGE cruise ship putting out to sea. I think I counted about 8 decks on this leviathan. Awesome.

The afternoon showers seem to be increasing in frequency and are making walking an adventure. Friday, I had to walk to UASD to meet another teacher. The threat of rain seemed small as I left the apartment, but several blocks away, a large, black cloud that had been hiding somewhere suddenly appeared and I was caught in a downpour. Santo Domingo is blessed with an abundance of leafy trees, so I ducked under a large one (sorry, I don’t know too much about tree names), and stayed somewhat dry. Usually I seek refuge in one of the numerous rain shelters dotting the city–Santo Domingans call them “bus stops,” but their covered benches make for a good place to stay out of the rain. After finishing up at UASD, I started walking to La Parada and, luckily, got there just as another torrent washed over the city.

Saturday, though, I wasn’t quite so lucky–I was caught in the open with only a few smaller trees anywhere nearby and I got drenched as I made my way to their somewhat ineffective shelter. I know what you’re thinking–buy an umbrella, dummy! I should, but I never remember to get one when I go to the market. Usually the warm tropical sun comes back out and dries me off very quickly.

Great, only a few more weeks left until I return to the Yankee campus–I can hardly wait. I’ve been working on lessons and materials to use in class, but I feel that I can never be prepared to my satisfaction. I’ll probably be doing a lot of things “on the fly,” master procrastinator that I am.

Geez, I keep reading about crappy things going on in Thailand. First, the coup, then the New Year’s Eve bombings, then a big train wreck, more beheadings in the southern provinces, and a new law limiting foreign ownership in businesses. Crikey (thanks, Steve Irwin), I hope they don’t ruin my retirement plans. That’s right, folks, many of you probably think I’ll eventually return to the USA to settle down in beautiful Montana, but I’ve got a news flash for you. At the present time, it ain’t a gonna happen. I can’t go into all the reasons why, except to say that’s where my heart lies. Of course, nothing is immutable, so things could change. More later.

Photos

Added more photos to the Gallery, which is now showing that there are 126 photos in 9 albums. Check it out. There are many more to come; I would guess that I have close to 500 photos to look at. Of course, not all of them are worth posting online. But I’ll be busy for a while trying to pick and choose.

What I’m listening to recently. I found and downloaded from Calabash Music [Note: looks like Calabash is out of business] two albums that have my legs moving and feet tapping. One is Ba Cissoko’s debut album, Sabolan. This is a group of young musicians from Guinea, Africa who are based in Marseilles, France. A great premier. [Note: Watch a video clip of a song from one of their recent albums on YouTube] The other album is from the legendary Zimbabwean musician/revolutionary/voice of the people, Thomas Mapfumo. The album is entitled Chimerenga Rebel, and, where the white rulers of the former Rhodesia threw him in prison without trial for his support of their overthrow, this album skewers the man he once thought could lead Zimbabwe to a bright future, the dictator and tyrant Robert Mugabe. One of the sources I read states that Mapfumo lives at least part of the time on the west coast of Oregon–Randy, check that out for me, would you? Both are great albums and I play them often, as I’m sure my nearest apartment neighbors can attest. Also, if you are interested in downloading African music for a cheap price, try Calabash–it seems to be a very righteous source.

I’m also reading V.S. Naipaul’s “The Writer and the World”, a book of essays by the Nobel-winning author. Kind of dry reading, but still interesting to read his take on the world back in the ’60s and ’70s.

Opening Day and Buddhist Drums

Great surprise, the local Korean ESPN station is showing the NY-Tampa Bay game in Tokyo. Giambi got things going with a 2-run homerun in the first. Since I’ve seen how much weight he’s shed, my thoughts have been that he will have a monster year. I can hardly wait for this season to get going. Just wish I could watch every game between the Yanks and the Red Sox. Despite what my brother Randy thinks, this will be a season of torment for the Sox, again.

This past Saturday I had a great opportunity to catch some Korean culture. A Korean friend of mine, Beaker, so named because some say he resembles the Muppet character, though I don’t see it, invited me to join him that evening to watch and hear some Korean music. We went to the City Hall auditorium and were treated to a world-class performance by a Buddhist group called Yadan. They were awesome. If you’ve ever seen the famous Japanese drum group playing those huge drums, then you have some idea of what these men and women were like. Great performance, with a variety of large, medium, and small Korean Drums. I suppose some of them may be particular to this group or to Buddhist performers, but I have no information to that effect. If someone knows, email me and tell me. There were also a couple of guys playing pots and pans! There were five pans of various sizes attached to a metal frame that they wore. The clacking sound they produced contrasted uniquely with the deep throbbing of the drums, which boomed throughout my body when they were into their heavy beats. Truly a unique performance, which, my friend told me, symbolized the Buddhist concepts of karma, enlightenment, and Nirvana.

I didn’t bring my camera because people are usually discouraged from taking pictures at events like these. I only noticed a few flashes during the performance. However, cameras were also not allowed at the performance of the opera Aida that I saw in Seoul’s large Jamsil Stadium back in September. There, hundreds, if not thousands, of cameras were flashing throughout the performance, despite the admonitions of the ushers.