Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dominican Republic - The Bad: The Metro

A couple weeks ago, I posted the 'bad' of the Dominican Republic, but I forgot one item that makes me extremely angry and needs to be addressed - the metro here in Santo Domingo.

The metro here in the city is nice. It's clean, well policed and safe and despite there being only one line only going over a small portion of the city, there are problems with it.

First, people here run to get seats. I mean they 'literally' run to get seats.  Men, women, kids, the elderly, it doesn't matter, people sprint to the seats.  The worst part about this is: THEY DON'T WAIT TILL YOU GET OFF THE TRAIN!  You're waiting to get off the train and people push and shove their way past you to get a seat. It's incredibly frustrating and just so rude!  I can't handle it.

Also, when it comes to getting seats, if women don't feel they'll get a seat on a train, they'll actually stay on the platform, in the heat (and forgoing the air conditioned train) and wait for the next train to make sure they're one of the first people to plow through the doors (not letting anyone off first) to get a seat.  Wow.

Second, unlike every other subway in the world I've been in, in most of the stations here you can't go from one side of the platform to the other without having to pay again.  A tourist in the city and you enter through the wrong side to the train going the wrong way, well, you'll have to leave and pay again to get to the correct platform.  I find this very frustrating despite how cheap the metro is.

These two things can severely mar the otherwise pleasant metro here in the city.  Just the lack of respect for people getting off of the train is enough to drive a person insane when riding the metro each day.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Movember - Saving the Balls and Future Children Around the World

So today was day #1 of Movember.  Movember is a global online fund where men sign up and grow moustaches in the hopes that people will donate money to their 'staches for prostate and testicular cancer research.

Last year, Movember raised over $20 million for cancer research and this year I'm hoping to be a part of it.  I'll be posting daily pics up here where you can see my moustache growth and output.  It's going to be fantastic!

Also, and more importantly, click on my Movember profile to donate for the cause.  I (and millions of men and women around the world would appreciate it as cancer affects us all. I hope you'll donate and I hope you'll enjoy seeing me with a giant moustache!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dominican Republic: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Part 2

Time for part two of my three part series about the Dominican Republic.  Last time, I talked about the 'ugly' that pervades this country, whether it's racism, radical Christian judgment handed down by sinners and the holy alike or a general disreputable view of those less fortunate than others.  Today, however, I'm going to be talking about 'the bad'.

'The Bad' doesn't refer to generally awful things, but rather a general lack of common sense and pervasive ignorance that seems to envelop the majority of people here.  I don't mean to be rude, but the lack of common sense is everywhere.  Let's start with cleaning.

People here get paid on the 15th and the 30th of the month and on those days, since people don't make a whole lot of money here, they tend to go to the grocery stores to buy what they need.  So at 5 o'clock on the 15th, just after everyone has been paid and gotten off work and are at the grocery store, that seems to be the best time to take out the giant floor waxing machine and clean the floors.  It's packed in there, you can barely maneuver your shopping cart and there's some moron trying to clean the floor with a machine that's almost too large to fit down the aisles. So now I'm dodging not only people and shopping carts, but a giant machine that's unnecessary.  It's frustrating.

Along with that, we live near the public university where there's quite a few students.  EAch morning as I head to work, hundreds of students use the metro to get to school.  At that time, people working in the metro deem it necessary to close off one whole side of the stairwell to mop, as hundreds of people are going up and down.  Seriously? You can't mop BEFORE the metro opens officially or the night before?

There's a pervasive laziness about the country.  I don't want to, but I'll use where I work to illustrate.  There are two bathrooms for adults, one has two stalls, the other has a stall and a urinal.  That makes 3 toilets and a urinal.  For the past three and a half weeks, 2 of those toilets have been broken with no one even attempting to fix them.  In one case, the toilet had been used (and since it was broken, unable to be flushed) so instead of doing something about it, the crew responsible simply locked the door to the entire bathroom so the smell (which I imagine after 3 weeks would be pretty pungent) won't escape. Embarrassing.

Hmm, let's see.  Driving here has a me first attitude.  You can watch people stopped at a stoplight, and they'll be 30 cars deep (or more) and as soon as the light turns green, they start honking their horns expecting the people right in front of them to move and to be able to move.  It just looks like they don't understand how traffic works, that you can't move until the car in front of you moves and that car can't move until the car in front of them moves and so forth.

The cat calling.  That's fairly annoying, especially for someone like my wife who is Dominican and married a white guy (perhaps THE white guy) because she often gets called, not because of the shorts she's wearing or something similar (though that happens), but because they assume she's with me strictly for a US visa.  That's really infuriating and I can't stand it that just assume that a Dominican girl with a white guy is a) a hooker b) a mistress or c) a visa snatcher.

What else can I say? In truth, there's many other bad things, but that can honestly be said of any country.  Every place has its pros and cons, but often times when you live in a culture that's not your own, the cons tend to hit you harder than the pros and you can find yourself dwelling on all things you despise about a place.  That's why, in next week's post, I've saved 'The Good' part of living in the Dominican Republic's the Caribbean! It sure beats northern Canada!

So, Dear Readers, tune in next week for our continuing story: "Dominican Republic: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dominican Republic: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I've lived in the Dominican Republic longer than I have anywhere else outside the US. I've spent a fair amount of time in Russia, but so far the Dom. Republic wins and I'll be here longer yet.  So here goes my comprehensive thoughts on the country and living here: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let's start with the ugly, to get the worst of the worst out of the way so far.  I'll save the good for last so as to end on a happy note.  Here goes.

The Ugly - There's a fair amount in this country that one could consider "ugly" whether it's racism against the dark skinned from the upper echelon of society; racism against the Haitians from virtually everyone from the Dominican Republic or just the general perception of the poor in general.

I've seen and heard racism towards the lower classes and towards Haitians on many occasions.  One perfect example was, while I was getting my hair cut (side note: I usually go to a slightly more expensive barbershop where they are used to straighter [read: a white person's] hair such as myself) when I overheard a small boy telling the barber how he likes to play baseball.  The barber (this shop caters to the 'higher-ups' of Dominican society) replied that the boy shouldn't play baseball because it is a game for "black people".  Astonishing.

Haitians are often the butt of jokes here (much the way, sadly, Mexicans and gay people are in Eastern Washington) and seriously looked down upon. They're akin to the 'mudbloods' of the Harry Potter universe, being dirty, unworthy of much at all and incurring God's wrath for being heathens.  They are recruited for the worst jobs and often times stiffed on the pay and wages they were promised.  It's disgusting.

Another very 'ugly' part of life here is the complete ignorance in many aspects of life.  A few weeks ago, outside of a club where a heavy metal band had just played, one of the members was stabbed to death (40 some odd times). Why? Because a girl outside the club had thought he was the man who had 'supposedly' raped her, so she had her friends murder him on the spot. Afterwards...she said it wasn't him and her and her friends left, unhindered. To make matters worse, a police station is located right next door to the club and not a thing was done by the police.  Then to make matters EVEN worse, it was spread (and I mean SPREAD) everywhere that this happened to the young murdered man (who didn't even live in the country and had just signed to a US record label) because he played the Devil's music and he deserved it.  He DESERVED to be stabbed multiple times and murdered because of the type of music he chose to play.  Unbelievable, truly. What has happened to the girl and her friends who so brutally murdered this young man? Nothing.  And as if all THAT wasn't enough, during his funeral service here in the country, the press interrupted the entire funeral service to pester the grief-stricken mother about whether her son was a devil-worshipping sodomite who deserved what he got.

All this from the only country in the world to bear the Bible upon it's flag.

So Dear Readers, this concludes the 'ugly' of living in the Dominican Republic, though I'm sure I've not even scratched the surface of this horrible idea....

Monday, August 27, 2012

StuffDominicansLike - Update Aug. 26, 2012

I haven't worked on this as much as I would like, but hopefully this year will be better.  Here goes a few more!

6. Colmados: These should be everywhere and indeed, in many places they are, whether it's a продукты in Russia, a minimart in the US or a bodega in Colombia, they are everywhere. What are not, however, is equal.  I can't vouch for many countries (i.e. Russia & the US), but here not only do colmados have whatever you need, but they'll deliver it to....for no extra cost! Pouring, pouring rain and you need a single egg? Call 'em up and it'll cost you no more than say 25 cents for the whole transaction.  Too hot outside and you need some juice and rum? Call 'em up and they'll be there! These are a modern marvel if you ask me.

7.  Excessively Loud Music: From colmados to public cars to political rallies to clubs, music louder than you could imagine is everywhere. It's awesomely frustrating and frustratingly awesome at the same time.  There are moments when you're out on a Saturday night and the music is just what you need. But then there's the times when you want to talk to people, whether it's Saturday night or a Thursday evening stroll and the bachata from the colmado is so loud you get dizzy.

8.  Cat Calling: This is one of those things that, to many Americans anyways (especially people from the West coast where it seemingly only ever happens in movies) that is not as cool as it sounds.  The men who cat call here are disgusting, seldom funny and sometimes just mean.  Whether it's talking about a woman's legs or chest size, asking about her boyfriend or (in a case that really upset Ana and I both extremely) yelling about having found your visa.  This is one of those things we could do without.  

Tropical Storm Isaac!

This weekend Tropical Storm Isaac went by the Dominican Republic.  It was my first one. I've had my proverbial tropical storm/hurricane cherry popped.  Is that too much? Oh well.  We were lucky as of this time.  The storm skirted south of us and instead passed over Haiti.  All we had here were some above average winds, pouring rain from Friday through sunday and a lot of power outages and hours spent without running water.

In reality, aside from the rain, it was no different than living in that dorm over in Russia, where power outages were a weekly (sometimes even daily) norm and no running water was practically a way of life (my last week there the city turned off all running water to the ENTIRE city for 3 days....that was a blast!).

Sadly I don't have any pictures to show you, but on the positive side you're not missing much.  The biggest disruption this storm has caused me was by having students dismissed early on Thursday and no school on Friday.  That's caused me some disruptions in my lesson planning, but there's nothing I can do or could have done about it as the call was made by the Ministry of Education here.

It's been an interesting weekend and it's interesting to see how these storms function as it is currently up by Florida, but we are still feeling the repercussions here int he DR.  Anyways, Dear Readers, we were lucky, but unfortunately hurricane season is not over and August and September are some of the high months, so as the sailors of old once said, we shall keep a weathered eye on the horizon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

StuffRussiansLike - Update Aug. 19, 2012

I haven't been in Russia for over a year now, nor posted about StuffRussiansLike, but I felt it was time for a little update.  Also, I need some help from those of you still in Russia; help to remember all the glorious, yet confusing things about Russia I can't remember.

69.  A Disgraceful Justice System: This isn't something Russians really like so much, but just something that happens, at least when it's political.  I'm quite sure the Tsars of old randomly judged people by whether they liked them or not. We all know it happened in the Soviet Union and it certainly happens today, especially if you in any way, shape or form are not supporting Putin (e.g. the Pussy Riot  Trial - hooliganism? C'mon).  It seems they operate by the adage: "If you're not with us, you're against us." How unfortunate.

70. Trains: Russians love trains! I, like Sheldon Cooper, also happen to love trains. They're fun, slightly less scary than planes and easier to move around in.  Russians have a love of going everywhere by plane (probably because it's much easier, cheaper and certainly more safe than flying, within Russia).  Whether you're on platzcart on a trip from Moscow to Sochi, a sleeping car on the Trans-Siberian, or using wifi on the new, extremely nice (and extremely expensive) high-speed train between Moscow and St. Petersburg, traveling by train in Russia is the way to go!

71.  Slippery Rocks: Have you ever been to Moscow in the wintertime? Have you ever tried navigating some of their metro systems as you come up from underground.  If you're smart, the answer is no because it's a death trap.  I fully believe the Soviet Union built them that way to get people to fall, thereby spilling any and all contraband they have on them (this is pure conjecture on my part).  These are, however, great people watching spots as Russians and non-Russians, drunks and non-drunks alike attempt to navigate their way through these inconspicuous snow grounds. Someone always falls.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A New School Year!

Okay, so I've meant to do a blog every Sunday, but managed to completely forget this past weekend, so here it is a bit late (and, as it turns out, slightly more appropriate).

I feel more nervous about teaching this year than I did last year. I feel there's more to lose. I have some semblance of what exactly a 4th grade classroom should look like, a stronger idea about how exactly to teach what needs to be taught and assess afterwards and an overall sense of being more organized.  I'm still new, but because it isn't my first year I'm more nervous.  I also have a new principal, which makes me nervous.  Not because she's a bad principal, but because I want to make sure I do my absolute best.  

I suppose you could say I have less illusions about what to expect.  Whether that's in terms of how a school runs (or doesn't as the case may be), how a class should be run (or not run as was my case last year) and how to turn oneself into an actual, real teacher, not some facade who appears in control and all-knowing, but is merely just barely getting by (but, then again, it WAS my first year teaching ever!).

Because of these things, I am more nervous and more stressed.  I want this year to be better than the previous and while I feel more prepared and ready, I also feel less so.  I think that's just because last year is still looming over my head.  Not that anyone said I'd done a bad job, but I knew I could have done so much more, been a better teacher and role model for my students.  

I suppose this all follows goes under the idea of: "the more you know, the more you care".  Worrying doesn't help much though and all I can do is work hard and be the best teacher I can be for my students this year (and the years to come).  Anyways Dear Readers, tune in SUNDAY (for reals this time!) for another post, though probably not about teaching!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Beginning Blog...and Toilets (I need your help)

Here I begin my second year of living in the Dominican Republic and I am going to do a much better job of blogging this year, but submitting AT LEAST one post every Sunday, save for the days I am off chilling on the beach and generally having a better time than most....just kidding.

I returned to the DR yesterday amid storms and storms and sweat-inducing weather.  It's been nice though and not as boiling hot as one would expect, but it's far from cold either.  It's weird having been away because it feels so nice coming back.  At the beginning of this last summer, I couldn't wait to get away and now I can't believe I wanted to leave (my wanting to leave wasn't based on this country, but other factors, or should I say places?).  

It's nice to come home and be greeted by family, whether that's here in the DR or in the US.  It's nice to feel at home again, the way I unfortunately no longer do in the states, at least for now.  

On another note, however, it's also very nice to see my friends Mike & Lauren getting settled into their new home in South Korea.  I wish them and their two boys the best in getting started there, however, having just come from Vietnam, I'm sure they'll do just fine!

It was also nice to see old friends back in the states.  Everyone who came to our little wedding reception at my mother's, all the people we were able to see in Seattle and Spokane, everyone down in Oregon and everyone at all the weddings to which we went.  I'm sorry if we didn't get a chance to see you this summer, our summers are just too short and we have too many wonderful friends.  I'm also sorry we didn't get to see you as much as we would have liked.  One of the pitfalls of living abroad is that you have friends all over the world and you don't get to see them as much or as often as you'd like, and for that I apologize.  

Anyways, I plan on doing one of these every Sunday related to everything from school to life in the DR to toilets.  Yes, you read that correctly...toilets.  In fact, I plan on devoting an entire whole new blog to toilets and I'm hoping you all will help me.  I've done a bit of research and noticed there are a few but not many, blogs dedicated to toilets, but mine however, will be slightly different.  

I've traveled around the world a little bit, and I'm a bit paranoid about the toilets I use (or don't use), so I'd like to dedicate a blog for travelers about the best places to go to the bathroom. The cleanest, safest, easy to access toilets to use or the disgusting, shit everywhere, I might get murdered kind of toilets.  Both of these can be found all over the world, so stay tuned and I'll be asking for your help since I've not traveled everywhere!!

See you all soon!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Finally! A Post! Huzzah! (Thoughts on the DR)

So it's literally been months since I've sat down and done some blogging. I've been living in the DR now for almost 9 months (crazy right?) and there some crazy observations that need to be made, at least in comparison to Russia. As you'll see, this post lends itself to a StuffDominicansLike type of post I did with Russia and I'll most likely be starting that here in the next few weeks, but for the moment, here goes!

So there are some things that Dominicans love that I either just can't wrap my head around, find fascinating, find hilarious, awesome or, as per usual, some combination of all four.
  1. Dominicans love to carry two things, Bibles and lunch boxes. I've never seen so many people carrying lunch boxes and Bibles. Whether it's on the way to work, on the metro, or seemingly for a leisurely stroll, Dominicans are most certainly into their Bibles and lunch boxes. I'd say that this one falls into the fascinating category.

  2. Jesus Dominicans love the Jesus. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, not in the slightest, but they love Jesus. On my way to work each morning, there's a pretty good chance I'll find someone telling the people on the metro about how Jesus is the salvation, you need to come to him, etc. Even more likely, however, is for my public car driver to have gospel (in English or Spanish) songs playing or some guy preaching over the radio. Public cars, busses, doesn't matter all have a 'Te Amo jesus' or 'Ya Cristo Vuelve'. This all definitely falls into the fascinating category.

  3. Clothing TOO SMALL! Man, if I ever thought that Russian men wore their clothes a size or 4 to small, women (and men, though to a lesser extent) here wear there clothes about 15 sizes to small. Be proud of your curves ladies, but wow I don't know you go into those pants and that shirt you're wearing? Well there's a fair bit more of you hanging over your jeans than is being covered by the shirt aimed for 2 year-olds. It's kinda like the pictures you see of women on People of Walmart, only the women here aren't rednecks, they're aiming for sex appeal....but their aim is ass backwards. This falls into the hilarious, weird usually unpleasant category

  4. Dominoes This is pretty cool. Dominoes is a fun game and it's fun to see all the guys sitting around a colmado slamming them down in triumph. This one is straight up awesome. I like me some dominoes.

  5. Blackberrys (Crackberrys, and yes the term applies here) Everyone and their grandmother here has a blackberry. EVERYONE. It's the most ridiculous thing since sliced ham. I mean EVERYONE and they are on them non-stop. BB Messenger or whatever it's called is the place to be. In Russia, everyone is talking on their phones. In the US, it's the iPhone. Here, Dominicans love those tiny-screened, tiny keyboarded, impossible to push one button at once phones. Even when I see people using the new blackberrys that offer a touch screen and a qwerty keyboard, people seem to ignore the touchscreen and go straight for the keyboard. It's fascinating and I just can't wrap my head around it. Maybe that's because I have a strong dislike for RIM products, but who knows.

  6. Presidente This beer is the beer among beers. And it's not bad, truly it's not. It's a pretty good pilsner and I like it. However, there is definitely a lack of variety in beer here. President reigns king, followed by the likes of 'The One', 'Bohemia' (also owned by the Presidente company), 'Ambar', and 'Brahma' (a Brazilian beer). All of them pilsners. These are pretty much the only beers you'll find here in the DR. You can find bottled imports, but expect to pay 2-4 times as much for them. These beers are, however, real cheap and that's good! A jumbo Brahma runs you about 65 pesos (or just under $2) in a nice glass bottle, super cold and about 1.8 litres. In Russia you can get a 2 liter of warm beer in a plastic bottle for about the same price. Which sounds better? I thought as much.

So Dear Readers, finally a little post for you to enjoy. There'll be another one tomorrow!