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

 

Recipe for Disaster

Yeah, it’s been a while. I’ll come back with a real post tomorrow, sorry folks.

I made this dish the other day, and actually got complimented on the leftovers (the leftovers!) the next day by my host, a five-star master chef. He has only one tip for me, I’ll reveal that later. Anyways, here’s how to make what I make, to the best of my memory.

You’ll require:

  • 1 onion, diced and sliced (I used a smallish red one, but really don’t care what kind you use)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 whole peppers; orange, red, yellow to make it look purty.
  • Some olive oil….1/8 of a cup sounds nice…how about 5.6 tbsps? Just follow along.
  • Maybe some butter, I like cooking with butter. From a stick, I’d say I used about 1/2 inch thickness-worth.
  • 1.25 lbs of beef, cut fajita strips style.
  • 2 cans of black beans. Black beans are the best beans, no one denies this (-Tommy from Quinzee, look it up if you’re so inclined).
  •  Cayenne pepper…I don’t know how much, a bunch of shakes’ worth? I like it, you may not. If you don’t, don’t bother going on because I will wreck you with it.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste. Because every recipe on the internet has them as ingredients, even if it’s talking about making cake.

Directions, because you don’t just throw this in a bowl and eat, you scoop it in kindly.

  1. Liberally (not conservatively) season the beef with cayenne pepper and salt. Salting helps prepare the meat to be tenderized.
  2. Chop-a-da garlic and onion, glare at it for a couple seconds then apologize.
  3. Heat up a large skillet on medium heat, pour olive oil in until coating the bottom.
  4. Once the olive oil is hot (check by dipping your fingers), slide in the garlic and onions. Pour some more olive oil out into the skillet for your fallen homies. You can also put the butter in here.
  5. Cook those until the onions are glassy and the fragrance calls out to you like a mermaid. Should only be about 5 minutes. Definitely do not overcook it at this point.
  6. Grind up some fresh fresh peppercorn onto the top.
  7. Slide the meat in, lower the heat, and disperse so it’s cooking evenly. At this point you’re probably looking at your skillet and realizing you should have gone for the bigger one. Sorry, I told you. So I’m not sorry, because I told you. Sorry I’m not sorry.
  8. Let that meat cook until it’s brown on that side, then flip the pieces. That should be about 6-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of said meat. Don’t cook it too fast, we’ve got a ways to go. Also, stir it within the garlic and onions, let the juices get to know eachother a bit. Sidenote: If the recipe direction number starts with a number, you should be adding a couple shakes of cayenne pepper. That includes the number 8.
  9. Okay, now that the meat looks brown, get those cans of beans open with your teeth. I like to pour out about half the juices, but it’s all your preference. Dump it in there. Yeah, just like that. Ooh be careful, don’t spill. Get some good stirring utensils, and swirl everything around. Add cayenne.
  10. Lower the heat to low, cover that skillet. Gut and dice up the peppers (about 1 inch squares I prefer), let them be. Now you wait. Just go do something else, like write a blog post or read or anything. Just don’t check on the food, it will take longer. After waiting is filled (I heart Stranger in a Strange Land) – about 20 minutes but you really can’t go over the time limit – go back to the food and smell it. It should be lightly boiling and really hot. Also it should smell infuriatingly tantalizing.
  11. Add the peppers to the top, cover it back up, and wait about 5-10 more minutes.
  12. Open it up, and stir it around. Try to scrape the sides of the skillet, don’t be shy. That’s where the best flavors come in. Let it sit for a couple minutes – oh who am I kidding? Spoon that stew into a bowl and serve with a nice glass of rum and ice. You’ll need that because you were impatient and it’s way too hot to eat so soon.

Serves 4, unless you’re feeding a hungry small person. Then don’t expect any.

As I said, this got compliments from a trusted source, and it’s therefore now fact. His one tip is something to do with corn starch and the meat, but he’s requested I make it again this week so he can see and help out specifically. Also, my friend came over and ate some when I made it. She ate about 3/4 of the food I had, surprising because she’s only like 4’2, a buck flat. If she didn’t devour everything in sight, this makes enough for 3 meals.

If you are a lonely soul like me, then you should take use of tupperware and store it, just put it back on the stove on super low to heat it back up. It stores very well because it’s just a stew and presentation doesn’t matter.

Again, sorry I haven’t been writing this week, I think it’s good I took a break though. I didn’t even want to write tonight, but needed something to get me back in the flow. Good night, kids.

Waterfall Adventure – Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Quicker turnaround than usual for the second part, as we resume our story in the seat right behind the pilot on a vinyl-wrapped seat in Santiago, about to head to the 27 Charcos. Nos vamos.

Usually when you’re on a local guagua at a main stop, men with boxes or bags come on to sell their food products or sunglasses; generally fruit, coconut or sesame candy bars, chips, etc. This time there was a guy at the window selling rolls. They looked like wheat rolls and only cost 10 pesos, so I bought 5. Great purchase, as they were pretty filling (breakfast), tasted a bit like coffee cake, and held well as a post-game snack. ‘No’ isn’t always the answer for street vendors. On our way to the charcos, absolutely nothing notable that I can remember happened, which brought my “consecutive bus rides without an issue” streak to a record-shattering three.

Our guide intern directed us to get off at a rocky path off the side of the road, then laughed at us and drove off. Really cool, Caitlin. Continue reading

Waterfall Adventure – Chapter 1

I’m going to try and get this done in two parts, because we all have things to do. By the way, thanks for reading – whoever you are. I have almost 1,900 page visits over the course of a month and a half, averaging about 52 a day they tell me by cool picture graphs. For only really marketing it to my friends and family, I am humbled by some of the big numbers that are showing up from time to time. If you’re a random person stopping by on the Internets, I don’t know how you found me but thanks. As long as you keep reading, I’m going to take it as a call to write further.

In what will probably go down as my last trip of the first half of July, the summer interns decided to head to Santiago for the weekend, and from there participate in one of the more popular adventure destinations in the country, the 27 Waterfalls of Damajuagua. Us guys left from the central office at around 5, getting in smoothly to the second-largest city at around 7:30, ready for dinner. Continue reading

Life Lessons

I know you all are eagerly anticipating the release of my next thriller, Climb, Repeat; Jump, Repeat, but I have to get a few Monday things out of the way first. I have learned a lot today, and wanted to share with my loyal readers tips to help in everyday life.

From Chef Mr. Eat-Garlic:

– If the chicken smells funny, it probably isn’t good anymore.

– When ordering cheese at the supermarket, ‘cuarta libra’ means four pounds of cheese, while ‘un cuarta’ means one quarter-pound of cheese. If anyone has tips on eating a pound and a half of cheese, please feel free to leave that in the comments or mail it to:

Shane Shake
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

– Two onions and two monster cloves of garlic is enough for a can of beans and a pound of pork cutlets. Barely.

– When peeling a carrot, once you are going to peel the the second half and grab the first half, it becomes slippery. For when you’re peeling over a trashcan (zafacón), please don’t let that affect your grip or it shall affect your chances of eating that carrot.

– Do not fry food shirtless, oil gets a little jumpy when it’s hot. Do everything else shirtless.

– Too much olive oil? Never heard of it.

– Black beans beat beets, by far. The question is, do bears beet black beans Battlestar Galactica?

Moving on, tips from Mr. Shake on how to cope with life’s little battles: Continue reading

July -1st

Is it July negative first or is it July zeroth? It certainly isn’t June 30th. Either way, tomorrow is supposed to be the start of the two hottest months down here (weird, I thought it was going to be winter in this hemisphere), which is turning out to be complete mularky. I’m looking at the forecast right now, and it’s 90 today, going down to highs of 87-87-87-86-87 over the next five. Either global warming is a myth like non-assless chaps or seasons don’t act like clockwork just because a human-made calendar decides to change the name of a timeframe. I’m leaning towards the former, and buying a goose-down jacket. Off to things:

Continue reading

Comida

Dear Diary,

Food is underrated and needs more attention. I know we eat it every day and America kind of has an obsession with letting it control emotions, destroy lives, and permeate our very being, but let me have my bold sweeping statements when I want them. I’m going to tell you about all of the food I’ve been eating, oh dear private diary. Continue reading

Punta Cana

Eight days will mark one month that I’ve been here, and ten days is two months after my graduation ceremony. The events of my arrival here and departure from scholasticity seem like a distant memory, and this already feels like the new ‘normal’, which happens every time I change locations. A trend a co-worker tends to experience in his writing is the eventual lack of surprise or wonderment at the daily life, even living in far away places. That causes him to assume nothing ‘new’ or ‘interesting’ is happening and therefore stop writing ever so slowly. I’m going to try to stay alert for some things that you wouldn’t see elsewhere, and keep it interesting. Continue reading