Adjusting: Keeping up With the Ahmadinejads

Previously, on Adjusting: No Boston, Public Transportation, Unpacked

In Boston, it was easy to keep up with the news. With knowledgeable and politically-aware friends, taking breaks from laughing at farts on Tosh.0 and criticizing each others’ fan-hoods to talk about politics and economics was normal (over a bottle of 2007 Southern Napa Cabernet in cardigans of course). The curriculum of a business student involved dialogue about current events and how it affects the world, all very nice things to have.

While it’s nice to live in one of the most educated cities in the world – albeit a bit liberal – it’s nicer to have a break. Many of the problems in the United States (obesity, the occasional police beating video, a deficit, the adjustment in becoming a declining world power) just do not exist elsewhere. The paper recently started showing up at my apartment, and took a look today. Here are a couple headlines, paraphrased:

  • “10% of drug addicts in the Dominican Republic are under 18”
  • Twelve Latin American Journalists are Threatened with Death
  • Lead Investigator Insists Motive for Murder of Colonel was Theft
  • Hipólito is Prepared to Prevent Election Fraud in 2012 (a former president who was ousted after overseeing a collapse of the Dominican peso from a value of 33/USD$1 to above 60 – and is somehow a co-leader in the race this year)
  • Continuing demonstrations urging the government to commit putting 4% of their annual budget into education (currently stands at 2.5% I think)

Now, that doesn’t say a bunch about the state of things here, but the essence is that problems affecting the way people live are more closely related to Maslow’s Hierarchy. Hurricanes here don’t cause people to drive somewhere else and get to safety – there’s nowhere to go, and mountain communities just pray that their land will hold and the rain isn’t as bad as they say. Coming from my position, there’s no way I could approach someone at 9:00PM complaining about Herr Obama raising taxes on people who make more than $200,000 by about 5% – because it’s not safe for me to be walking around 3 blocks from my house that late (and it would be weird). I live in a relatively middle-upper class area of the city, too. A poorer neighborhood of the city that I visited near the beginning of my trip was in a state of emergency because the trash workers were on strike and the garbage was spilling into the streets causing a health hazard. And I used to think Boston’s a terrible place because they don’t separate their recycling (thanks a lot for making me granola, Seattle). When there’s a general strike (happens about monthly), public cars and guaguas stop running – and if some organizers see a driver breaking rank and taking people, they’ll throw tires at their cars – tires. So, a presidential candidate’s husband thinks he can cure gays (keep telling yourself that you aren’t, Marcus) – here, homosexuals are almost completely ostracized from church and are a second-class citizen the whole way. Apologies if I’m being intolerant against anyone’s beliefs, nobody likes a bigot, right?

Now, I’m not discounting what’s going on through the rest of the world – enormous shifts are happening socially, politically, and economically. Of course it’s a big deal that the United States government is selling guns to Mexican cartels, that political activism (or something) and protests are occurring, that the Middle East is getting close to all-out war, that we’re taking pictures of deep deep space.  I’m also sure many of the local headlines here are repeated throughout the United States as well, behind the scenes or on a relatively smaller scale. My point is that living here has given me the perspective of detachment, and also connection to what’s going on around me. I feel that living in the States is almost too easy, to the point where people get irritated if the barista forgot to steam the milk or a hockey team loses a game (oh sorry, that’s Canada). The people here have enough to worry about and also to sustain themselves in their own lives, the troubles of the first world just don’t exist. My thoughts are that if I come back here in ten years, the grand majority of things will be essentially unchanged – down to the unfinished and abandoned hotel skeletons on the Malecón. Yes, a second subway line is slated to go in early 2012, with four more planned for the city, and it should help improve the traffic situation immensely. However, that’s Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city. 7 out of 10 million more live elsewhere, a large portion of whom have received electricity to their towns just within the last 10 years (almost everywhere experiences frequent blackouts), most without running water, and many with little to no access to decent public schooling.

As I enter back into the World of the Gringo in about two months (Fidel willing), I’m going to be confronted with the reverse culture-shock. While the subject matter of the news won’t be the toughest part to transition to, an awareness of how easy it is will hamper my ability to sympathize with the afternoon traffic report or get drawn into a debate about whether a .5% sales tax increase on spicy foods to fund a patch in the road five miles outside city center is considered socialism and class warfare. It will be fun to discuss challenging national and global times again, but with the lens that what I’m talking about probably won’t matter to me as much as the decisions I make myself and with the people in my direct life.

Cheers

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August… It’s almost September?!

Coming up on three months down, three months to go here. I think time moves faster when you see the end coming up, as the weeks start becoming planned out, places start needing to be gone to, opportunities start shutting down. But let’s look on the bright side, I’ve done far more new things in the last three months than I had in the last year.

I underestimated (maybe) the ability to keep in touch with friends and family, as a different country is no further nor closer than New York City to Boston would practically be. The Internet has dominated the overall communication landscape, and there’s nothing I can do or say about it. A disclaimer is that it helps that I’m still in the Eastern time zone and many of my friends are in cubicles talking to me all the time because I’m so popular. wonder what the case would be if I was in New Zealand or Southeast Asia like original plans…

I’m not in SE Asia or Oceania, I’m in Santo Domingo and damn happy ’bout it! It’s not every day that you get to live with your landlord who’s more than happy to take a tequila shot with you on a Wednesday evening. In context, I was cooking up another experiment (read: food from a recipe) called Tequila Lime Roasted Chicken. It turned out well, and actually was the reason I came to write. Okay, half of it was the alcohol and guilty feelings that come along with it and the other half was the sobriety and the guilty feelings that come with it. Anyways, that’s been a hobby of mine recently. It’s much like my guitar practice: the more you do it the more you’re able to think in it. I have a few things in my ‘arsenal’ now, and it helps save costs like no other habit can. Social norms be damned, my familly is going to eat my cooking – most of the time.

Still no dance lessons, no recent exciting trips. Shoot, I did start that adventure story that I was really excited to write but ended up not finishing. I should finish that. That was now about a month ago, before all the interns left, before life started being ‘life’ here. I’ll try, but no longer promise to finish it. A week or so ago I went to Cabarete to surf again, and had a good couple days, even if the waves were small. I met Aussie, Swiss, and German characters, all there for different reasons. Hopefully I’ll stay in touch with them, they were cool. Next Friday, I’m leaving the first-world (Santo Domingo) for a week to work for a program called Smiles for Life, which is going to be extremely difficult but rewarding at the same time. It’ll be 7-5 for 6 straight days, each in a different rural community at least an hour from where we’re staying. I’ll be mainly helping with translating between kids/patients and the dentists, and helping with set-up/break-down. My restaurant days are already paying off, score. But really, it’s interesting how at any point in life, some ‘meaningless’ job will help you down the road with some unrelated task. Kind of like with babysitting and how I work with gringo girl children that I have to take care of all the time.

About my other hobby: guitar. I’ve been dedicating a month starting a couple weeks ago focusing purely on technical exercises, ignoring learning songs. Hopefully this will pay dividends, but the road to actually being able to play the blues is so long that it’s sometimes daunting. Oh well, I’ve got a long way to live – maybe (“Si Dios quiere” as they say here) – so I guess I have nothing to lose but time. I think I’m mature enough to see the dividends long term, but then again my friend said that she “roasted nuts” for her dinner and I giggled.

Finally finished the book American Theocracy, which was a relief. It was a fantastic book, but it started getting depressing and angering. I’m better for finishing it, though. More well versed and also not guilty about starting the book and stopping. There have been three attempts at reading that really stuck out to me, where I started but didn’t finish the books: Atlas Shrugged in 8th grade (looking back, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?), The Power of One in 6th grade, and the two sequels to Ender’s Game wayyyyy earlier (maybe 4th grade). In all three cases I came back and read every page. One situation where I won’t go back is this book The Reason for God. Now, I’m not religious, and like to keep an open mind to contrary opinions. However, I don’t feel guilty about dropping this book after a few chapters. It’s not an indictment of Christianity, just of the author, a condescending egoist. He actually thinks that the only dissenting views of religion are based around questions that 18-22 year-olds ask in classes (literally how he starts every “I’m going to systematically prove why not believing in God requires just as much faith as believing” segment). I am dropping that book like my adolescent acne problem and not feeling bad about it. Moving on to better ones, I got around to reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven and am in the middle of Tuesdays With Morrie, both instantly in my upper echelon of reads. I can’t say enough about how much everyone should read these books, especially young adults (I’d say first-week sophomore year of high school literature class). Even if they’re just cool stories, they cause one to think so far outside of the box. I also powered through The Kindness of Strangers, another good read about a guy who leaves his job and hitch-hikes penniless through America. Recommended. I just started The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo yesterday, and 100 pages in I think I’m going to like it a ton. I’m not much of a blockbuster reader, but this is very compelling. Keep you posted.

Listening: The Black Keys. All the time. Everything. They kick so much ass. Get Rubber Factory and Thickfreakness if you’re into the blues, these guys are so raw.

Learning: How to move my fingers on the guitar

 

August 10

Keeping in touch with people is tough. The urgency lasts for a few weeks or months, you want to make sure everyone’s abreast of your activities and stay involved in theirs. Eventually, normal life starts taking over. People continue to go on trips, interact with others on a daily basis, get busy, get tired, get off the computer – and you do the same. Social networking and instant communication have alleviated the disconnect to a point, if you’re available at the same time as an acquaintance, it’s easy to converse. However, there’s only a certain amount of answers to “what’s new?” before you start blending your own days together and losing the novelty of sharing with someone who will never know.

I knew this day would come – when writing in the blog seems like more work than interesting insight I can bring. I have made excuses – I’m too tired, someone’s leaving tomorrow, have to work out, have to practice, have to read, traveling. Just like my excuses for not going to the gym – I’m eating well enough, I feel fine, Aaron’s not here so nobody will know, have to write in the blog – I am ending them tonight. This really is my last string to stateside, and I don’t manually keep in touch well, because that forces me to be tethered to the computer. Also, it’s enjoyable and allows me to reflect on what’s going on. Continue reading

Adjusting: 6 Months, 1 Suitcase

Previously, on Adjusting

Sans Boston

Getting Around in Santo Domingo

For size reference, that's a ukelele.

Leaving for six months without the benefit nor desire of a full closet of clothes, I set off to sift, pillage, toss, burn, and pack everything I own into one small duffel and a backpack or put it in storage. What I found as I was packing up my share of 111 Gains #301 (R.I.P.) was that most of what I owned was clothing. I discovered that I’m a bit of a sneakerhead, I have a bunch of business casual and professional clothing from the co-ops in finance functions, and you can never have enough underwear.

In honor of the O-So-Glorious-Sport of Football returning to normalcy unbridled insanity, I’m going to tell you about how I’ve coped with a reduced number of options, roster-style. We’ll break down what has been needed and ignored so far by position groups – HOOAH.

Continue reading

Footballfootballfootballfootballfootball

That is how I feel right now. This is going to be my first season abroad since the fever took hold of me, but for those who know me well, I’m just happy the lockout’s over and it’s going to happen. I’m not going to cry, but I could. Most of you do not care, so I’ll keep this short but sweet, my Seahawks Opening Day/Christmas wishlist: Continue reading

Adjusting: Getting Around in Santo Domingo

Previously, on Adjusting

Sans Boston

You don't look a day over 25, honest.

This one is pretty easy to write, as this country is pretty good on transportation considering the infrastructure issues it has. The adventure of getting one place to another in La República Dominicana is quirky, takes some art, a bit of skill, and more than a few dashes of luck. One key piece of getting somewhere is to act like I know what I’m doing, but I won’t ruin the fun. I’ll work the short distance for now, and then long distance later, in accordance with prophecy. Continue reading