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Eating and Sleeping (and Everything in Between)

Take a look at the time stamp at the bottom of this post. If you add 11 hours to it, you should come up with a time of about 6 a.m. Actually, I was up about 3 a.m. this morning, after finally succumbing to jet lag around 5 yesterday afternoon. I’m feeling pretty good today, so far.

Yesterday, I got checked into the guesthouse ok and after cleaning up, I went next door and had a nice, relaxing Thai massage–NOT! Good Thai massages are not relaxing, since you get pushed and pulled, twisted and turned, kneaded and prodded. I opted for a 1 1/2 hour massage, and checked to make sure that the masseuse, a young lady, could give a strong massage (and no hanky-panky, if you know what I mean). She could and did. Though it wasn’t relaxing, it sure helped relieve some of the muscle tension built up from the long flight over. During the massage, a vicious thunder and rain storm broke out. It sounded like it was directly overhead, the lightning flashing and then followed by almost instantaneous cracklings and boomings of thunder. The rain lashed the city, and the side street the guesthouse is on was ankle deep with water. It was an astonishing display of nature, but not all that unusual this time of year.

After the massage, I went to the Sizzler Restaurant in Mahboonkrong Shopping Plaza to take in the salad bar. I made a couple of trips to the greenery and when I left, I found myself very tired, in a sleepy drowsy way. Still, I had to make my way to the Hualamphong train station to buy my ticket to Nong Khai. Once there, I found that the train was already full until the 29th, so I have to delay my trip until then. I’ll get into Nong Khai on the 30th, instead of the 28th, so that gives me a few extra days to goof around in Bangkok. After purchasing the ticket, I went back to the guesthouse for some much-needed sleep.

Ok, I promised the Thai Air menu in my last post, so here it is:

Dinner:

Thai Salad with Chicken Sausage and Garnitures

Beef Bourguignonne with Steamed Parsley Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables OR Stir fried Seafood with Garlic and Pepper and Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice

Roll, butter, cheese and fresh fruit

Breakfast:

Fresh fruits and yogurt

Creamed Scrambled Eggs, Chicken Sausage, Fried Gem Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes OR Chicken Yakitori with Yakitori Sauce, Japanase Rice, Sauteed Mixed Vegetables Oriental Style

Roll or croissant, Danish Pastry, butter, cheese

Snack:

Mixed green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing

Spaghetti Napolitan with Meat Ball Tomato Sauce and Green Beans OR Thai Fried Rice with Shrimp Paste, Dried Baby Shrimp and Chinese Chicken Sausage

Roll, butter and assorted petite fours

Very delicious and just listing these has started to make me very hungry. Breakfast is on the way. Well, actually I have to go to it. I think I’ll head over to Crepes and Co., which makes a marvelous, huge and expensive breakfast. I’ll need to get stocked up, though, for all the potential activities to do: cruise the river, take in a wat or two, go to Chinatown, get another massage (perhaps at Wat Pho), eat real Thai food instead of Sizzler and Crepes & Co. stuff (like at the Suda restaurant, an outdoor eatery on Suk Soi 14 that has a huge menu of cheap Thai and Chinese goodies), etc. Too much to do and not enough time. Better get to it. More later.

Back in the LOS

After a very long flight (17 hours), I finally arrived in Thailand at 6 o’clock this morning–that would be about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Montana time. (Ignore the date stamp at the bottom of my posts for the next two months–just add eleven hours to it to get the correct time that I’m making the entry.) I can always tell I’m in Thailand by the smells that greet me when I walk outside the airport to catch the bus into Bangkok. Mostly it’s gas, diesel and airplane fumes, mixed in with a bit of a sewer smell, especially in Bangkok. In the Big Mango itself, I’m surrounded by the smells of the various foods being cooked by the street vendors–grilled chicken, beef and seafood, corn on the cob, noodles and other Thai delicacies. There’s also the exhaust from the traffic, but also the sounds–a steady noise from all the automobiles, buses, tuk-tuks and motorbikes, sort of like a background white noise, always there. There are also the human noises from the densely packed sector of the city in which I’m staying, Sukhumvit, as I’m accosted by tuk-tuk and motorbike drivers, vendors trying to sell me shirts and what-not, beggars on the sidewalk, and others. Chaos incarnate. I love it!

I left for all this madness on Monday morning, Missoula time. I made a last minute stop at the bank to buy some travelers checks, and the haze from the past few days had dissipated somewhat. I had a one-hour delay in Salt Lake City, so I “only” had a 6-hour layover in Los Angeles. The Thai Airways flight was about half an hour late getting started, but we arrived in Bangkok right on time, 6:10 a.m. It was exciting to be in a truly international airport (LAX) once again, surrounded by different languages and clothing. The new Thai airport, Suvarnabhumi, is also quite interesting and beautiful, a step up from the older Don Muang Airport. I don’t feel as affected by jet lag as I did last year after flying from Bangkok to Montana. Hopefully, though, I’ll get a good night’s sleep later.

I was going to write down the menu we were offered on the flight over, but I seem to have left my complimentary copy back at the guesthouse. Yes, everyone was given a menu to choose from, with two choices for each of the three meals we had. I’ll post it here later if I can find it. I also had a choice of about 25 movies to view and, between catnaps I watched “The Last King of Scotland,” “Blades of Glory,” “Disturbia,” “The Incredibles,” and a Thai movie. As always, 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.

Mucho Rain

Yeah, it’s been raining off and on, during the night and/or day since Friday. Not just sprinkles, but pretty heavy downpours. Saturday and Monday’s games were called off because of wet and muddy fields, and it looks like today’s games are doubtful, as it appears there is another gullywasher heading our way. It’s nice to have the rain, but it’s not good for playing baseball, obviously.

I’m attempting to try to patch things up with the southern branch of the Andersons. Hopefully, I can work it out, because I don’t feel very good about this whole thing. I just have to be very careful about hitting the “Send” and “Reply” buttons before I email people. That’s one of the unfortunate things about this technology–there’s absolutely no way to recall a sent email. 😳

I’ve been invited to the U.S. Ambassador’s July 4th party in a few weeks. I’ve heard that it’s quite an affair. Should be interesting, but since it doesn’t begin until 7 p.m., I’ll have to book a hotel room overnight. Finding a taxi to go from Santo Domingo to Boca Chica later at night will be tough and probably extremely expensive. More later.

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.

Santiago Visit

It was interesting to get out of the Santo Domingo area and head north to Santiago. The trip takes about two hours as the bus journeys through the green foothills of the Cordillera Central. To the west, the cloud-clogged peaks loomed over orange groves, pastures and croplands–this is the breadbasket of the Dominican Republic.

Santiago itself has about 500,000 people, and it seems much more tranquil than Santo Domingo, which Forbes Magazine named one of the world’s ten densest cities, citing in particular the terrible traffic. The Instituto Superior Agricultura (ISA) lies on a beautiful campus. Since the 700 or so ag students need experience and research opportunities, the institute has many crops, animals and flowering plants. The buildings seem fairly new and are interspaced with luxurious, well-maintained grounds. ISA has ambitious plans to diversify the student population, opening up majors in business, engineering and technology. They hope to expand from 700 to 10,000 students over the next 10 years and want to make the English program an important part of that expansion. I’ll be staying there from Jan. 2 through the 5th, conducting a series of workshops for the few English teachers. It should be a nice relief from SD.

The Forbes article doesn’t lie about the traffic; it’s horrendous. On the return trip the skies opened just outside of the capital, a torrential downpour flooding the streets. On top of that it was during rush hour, and it took the bus 30 minutes to travel about 4 or 5 miles. It kind of reminded me of the huge jams in Seoul, Korea, which was also cited in the article.

Two more days until Christmas. I was going to buy a Butterball turkey breast, but I don’t feel like shelling out $20, so I’ll probably fix up some chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas and dinner rolls (I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners) in my tiny kitchenette; luckily, it includes a fair-sized oven. I won’t be able to post again until after Monday, so once again, Happy Holiday to everyone, whether it be Christmas or Hannukah or Winter Solstice or whatever you might celebrate this time of year. More later.

Early Morning Wake Up

I’m heading into Santo Domingo with some of the players today so that I can learn how to use the bus system, which is much cheaper than the oh-so-expensive taxi rip-off. Most of the players here can be found at Yankee Prospects. Scroll down and look at the Short Season and the Names You May See Later sections–most of the guys listed are at the camp. You can find their photos somewhere on that site. I had the link once, but can’t find it now. That’s your assignment–find their photos.

There is a headed our way. Supposed to get lots of rain tomorrow and Monday. There was a good precursor at 5 a.m. this morning, when I woke up. Lightning lit up the huge thunderheads out over the Caribbean. They were fairly far off, the sound of thunder only reaching us occasionally. What the heck was I doing up at 5 a.m.? Who knows? I went to bed fairly early last night. It’s quite peaceful to sit on the balcony at that time of day, waiting for sunup. More later.

Automobile Alarms

There was quite a large thunderstorm last night. There are also quite a large number of cars parked in the apartment parking space and outside on the street. What do these two things have to do with each other? The theft alarms in the cars go off very frequently, for no apparent reason, and most of them are very loud. About 2 in the morning there was a huge thunderclap. Almost immediately every car alarm, it seemed, went off simultaneously, set off by what? . . . the noise? . . . the air pressure? I don’t know, but it woke me from a fitful sleep. It was somewhat amusing, the chorus of alarms sounding off as if on cue. Pretty weird, too.

D.R. Impressions

Here are some observations of the DR and Santo Domingo so far. First, the traffic is horrendous, not necessarily in numbers (Bangkok holds the record in that category), but in danger. Drivers often ignore traffic lights, and crossing major intersections as a pedestrian can be quite a challenge. Looking both ways is not enough–you have to watch for drivers turning into the pedestrian crossing lanes, which are basically ignored. You frequently have to cross at your own risk. Riding a bicycle here is out of the question, though I’ve seen a few brave souls doing so.

There are very frequent electrical outages, perhaps as many as 5 or 6 each day. They mostly last less than a minute and Dominicans are quite used to them.

Santo Domingo is very expensive. Prices are frequently higher than in the States, and restaurants add on a 10% service charge and a 16% tax. For example, I ate at McDonald’s yesterday, something I am usually loathe to do. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, french fries and a coke, a combo meal that costs 210 pesos, but with the tax and service charge, it came to 264 pesos. There are about 33 pesos to the dollar, so the meal cost about $8. Can’t eat out too much, so I stocked up on a few items at the grocery store. I did eat at a taco place last night, Reyes Tacos. They were fairly cheap at 45 pesos each and not too bad. The waiter told me they were “picante”, hot, but they were actually very mild.

So far, I’m getting around ok with my limited knowledge of Spanish, but I find myself mixing Spanish and French in the same sentence. It was an interesting experience when I bought a cell phone yesterday, but the sales lady and I managed to communicate ok. In case you want to call me, just dial 1-829-905-7998 from the States. 829 is one of the DR cell phone country codes.

Hey, I just discovered yesterday that I can see the Caribbean from my apartment and it doesn’t look like too far of a walk to get there. I think I’ll do that this weekend also. Later today, however, I have to go to the Cultural Affairs section of the embassy, Rex Moser’s office, to meet with someone from the DR Ministry of Education. Should be interesting. More later.

City of Angels–July 2

Ok, I made it to Bangkok in fine shape, more or less, after paying a HUGE overweight baggage fee in Casablanca. I know it has to be some kind of scam. Beware of too much luggage on Qatar airlines flying out of Casa. When I went to pick up my bags off the carousel in Bangkok, I noticed that many travelers were hauling off mammoth bags and there is no way that they were under the weight limit. NO way. Maybe they had to pay for the extra kilograms, but if they did, they went broke because these were some of the biggest suitcases I have ever seen and the people trying to pick them up looked like they were ready to burst blood vessels doing so. Qatar in Casa charged me about $60 per kilogram for being over the limit. $60 PER KILO (about 2.2 pounds per kilo). The lady behind the check-in counter told me that I was 10kg over, but that she would only charge me for 5. Come on now, if these people have that much discretion, they also can decide who to charge and who not to charge. My boss, also, told me he thought it was a big scam. One of my friends here in Bangkok, Eugene, said that he was charged a similar excess baggage fee just 6 months ago when he moved from Korea to Bangkok, but that Korea Airlines charged him only $7 per kg. So, Qatar Airlines is making out like a bandit and their rating, in my eyes, drops way down. Beware if you are flying Qatar Air and you’re at all worried about how many kilos you’re over their low 20kg limit for checked baggage.

Anyway, I got to the guesthouse ok in a typical monsoon deluge. It rained buckets again today for about half an hour, but now it’s down to just a light sprinkling. It’s not too hot, but very humid. I work up a sweat just pigging out on fresh fruits and seafood.

I did get to hang out with Eugene for a while, and we ate a rather large, 7-course breakfast at Crepes and Co. off Sukhumvit Soi 12. I’ve eaten there before and they have a great menu. A bit on the pricey side (over $14 for breakfast, but then again, I had the smoked salmon crepes as one of my courses), but be sure to give them a try if you get over this way. What the heck, here’s my complete breakfast, in case you’re interested:

1st course: choice of beverage–coffee and orange juice
2nd : choice of either fruit plate or fruit salad–fruit plate (mangos, watermelon, and cantaloupe)
3rd : bread basket–choice of 3 types of bread–I had croissants, toast, and English muffin
4th : choice of muesli, yogurt, or something else (I forget)–I had yogurt
5th : choice of eggs with many side portions, like smoked salmon, mushrooms, bacon, ham, etc.
I had fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms
6th : choice of pancake–I had one with smoked salmon
7th : choice of another beverage–I had tea

Excellent place to eat. What a life!! More later.