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.

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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

Woke Up This Mornin’

Got yourself a bug, got yourself a bug. Ye ye yea

Cute until it goos on the shoes

At first I thought it was a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and I was thinking I’d leave it to turn all pretty. Then I was like, I really want to wear these shoes and Wikipedia doesn’t tell me how long metamorphosis lasts. Continue reading


No, I don't feel trapped or anything. I just like the picture.

While it’s been a relatively normal (and better than expected) adjustment period in life outside the United States, there has been a deluge of new ideas, actions, and people that I’ve encountered, causing me already to rethink the way I perceive normalcy. Continue reading

Montaña Adventure: Parte III

Why do you do such things?

Parte I

Parte II

I’m leaving for the weekend today, so I’ll finish up this story before I endanger myself again and want to write about something else.

After 2 hours of sitting by the side of the road throwing rocks at walls and children, watching the same motoconchos shuttle people to the towns that we were in between, the host came back to take us to the ranch. By this time, my snack bag of almonds and pistachios had dwindled to nothing and I was starving. Getting back to the ranch, a very rich smell of some braised meat greeted me. I had found out in the morning that depending on how many people came to stay that night, we were either going to have one of their rabbits for dinner or cow leg. Possibly due to unfavorable weather conditions, nobody showed up. I showered up hosed off and within fifteen minutes had a huge plate of steaming hot rice with two side bowls. One was the typical red kidney beans, and the other was pulled and spiced beef. Needless to say, I housed it. There was still something on the stove and my hosts told me to come back ‘ahorita’ (see below for what that means) to try it out. I went back to my quiet room, read more of the Gatsby (thoughts on that here), and came back in an hour and a half. The second dinner was a stew called ‘cocido’ with the main ingredient being the marrow of the cow bone. It kind of had the same color and consistency as fat from a steak or chicken, but was much more flavorful. Also, there was a surprising spicy (finally) kick to the whole dish, and had a side of boiled green bananas. Muy rica.

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June 15

First off, congratulations to the Bruins and all of their fans for winning the Stanley Cup kicking the teeth out of the Canucks through the back of their collective skull. Wish I was there. I’ve been experiencing the rabid fanbase from up close all season, and I’m glad it didn’t end in futility like said rabid fanbase saw with my beloved Seahawks this year (I’m still ‘In’). I don’t really follow hockey, but through osmosis the Bruins seemed to be a team I’d root for. They have an unconventional old goalie who is funny, doesn’t worry about contract situations or anything like that, and puts up beastly numbers alongside ghastly ones. I’m pretty sure he’s getting MVP. They also have a pretty ugly (Marchand, Chara), old (Recchi), and tall (Chara) squad, and beat the best, dirtiest, and favored team in honor of their compadre who was unfairly taken out of the series and endangered bears worldwide. I guess you can compare them to the Packers this year (#6 seeds). Oh also, I hate two Boston teams (Celtics and Patriots), mainly because of the way some of their fans are, but the only Bruins fans I’ve met have always f…reaking loved them more than anything, which makes them better, although sometimes not less obnoxious. I actually think in 6-10 years I’ll know about 5 little babies with the names “Tim Thomas ___”, gender unseen. Did I just write that much about hockey?

Anyways, this week:

– Today I left the house with about 330 pesos (~$9) on my way to following another set of meetings in a new barrio different from last week. That’s not that much, but it wasn’t hard at all to make it last. This is how it broke down:

  • 7:45 – 25 pesos for carro público to meet up with my ride to Los Alcarrizos
  • 12:30 – 94 pesos for lunch; a serving of arroz somethingsomething and a serving of cerdo (pork)
  • 4:15 – 200 pesos for the taxi back to Santo Domingo proper, which dropped me off where a carro publico route starts
  • 4:30 – 48 pesos for the carro publico. I started from the very beginning and apparently halfway through you have to pay again if you’re taking the whole route. I only had 23 pesos left at Avenida Abraham Lincoln (they love naming streets after foreign dignitaries)
  • HOLY #$(% the biggest cockroach I have ever seen just flew by my head in my room
  • Anyways, the guy let me get away with 2 pesos, and I got home safely.

– Seriously, about that cockroach. I had no idea they flew, no wonder they have survived for so long (and will outlive us when the second coming happens in May October) and have a song just for them. I wish I did. I towel-whipped that thing as hard as I could against my door, and it just landed and crawled to the corner. I hunted that mudder down and hit it again, and it had the balls (seriously, bigger than mine) to crawl through me to get to the door outside. I even had a 2-month old vicious beast guarding the doorway…Fine, the pup didn’t even notice.

– I went to the local gym with a buddy for the first time after running along the Malecon yesterday. It’s on the sixth floor in Zona Colonial, with an awesome view all the way around. As for the inside, the thing is a true sweat-box. It’s pretty awesome though, there are three floors of pure working out, just steel and rubber and club music and reggaeton and Dominican music and Dominican women and power lifting and sweat and all that. The windows are open and a few ceiling fans are on for ventilation, but this place isn’t about comfort. It was twice as hard doing my normal routine, but I like it. I don’t know how anyone could work out in Marino (NU gym) anymore, it’s so comfortable compared to this I’d feel like taking a nap. “Oooh, can I please have the latest Home & Garden, I’m going to grab my favorite Stairmaster near the air conditioning, then move to the treadmill with the television in time for the re-run of Real World.” They had a couple stairmasters with televisions on them in this place, but they were either off or had a very blurry man in a beater yelling at the person telling them they’re demasiada gorda, gorda gorda gorda!!! Also, this place is only going to set me back $17 a month.

– I’m leaving for Cabarete tomorrow night for 3 days of surfing and partying and staying in a “Tarzan’s Treehouse” on the North side of the Republica. I’m not going to brag too much yet, but this is going to be a great kickstart to seeing the whole island (I know…Haiti).

– My Kindle developed a case of epilepsy and is not cooperating with anything I want to do. It shows multiple screens at once and won’t get fixed through reseting. This is a real pain in the azucar. I’m 80% through the book I’m reading (another pain is the lack of page numbers and not knowing how fast your pace is), and now I can’t finish it. Hey Amazon, if you’re going to advertise that you have something just like a book but better because it’s all of them, make sure it works everywhere a real book can work. Especially the g-darn beach. Really? Did you do any field testing? I was even super careful not to get it wet or get it near any sand, but apparently I should put some sunscreen on that little turd next time. My 5 year old (ancient) computer is acting like a Tim Thomas right now through the heat and humidity and ants, and this brand new book has folded like a piece of used book paper (oh how I miss that). Alright, luddite rant over. There’s a reason a book hasn’t been improved in millenia.

Stay classy, hombres. See you Sunday night.

Reading: I don’t want to talk about it

Listening: In Through the Out Door, Led Zeppelin

Dominicanismo: I’m starting to run out of these, so I’ll just point them out when a funny one comes along.

June 11

First week of work is over, now for the first weekend. Today marks a week I’ve been here, and it already feels like I’ve been here for a month. I’m sure after next week and the week after, my feeling of permanency will exponentially increase, as it always does. Noticias:

– Going to Duarte today to get some sneakers, then playing some Ultimate Frisbee tomorrow. There’s a tournament somewhere, and one of my building-mates knows a coach or something.

– Next week all of the interns are taking Friday off and going to Cabarete to surf for the weekend. On the North end of the island, It has a nightlife, off-shore reef, perfect conditions for surfing and kite-surfing, and….I don’t really need much more than that. We get 2 days a month off for vacation, so I’m excited to see where that takes me over the next six months. Also, the following week there’s a foundation-wide retreat that is taking us to Punta Cana for wicked cheap. Thursday and Friday are off, and we don’t have to use vacation days. Nice.

– Haven’t been able to catch either of the Finals series going on, but go ‘Los Mavs’ and….whatever I’ll roll with it….go B’s.

– It’s really hot here, and not conducive to sleeping. There’s a disconnected A/C unit in my room which they can connect if they charge more per month, but I’m going to stick it out and just adjust. The weather has improved, however. After raining every day until Wednesday, we’ve had 3 days without any serious showers.

Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land

Listening: Magic Potion, The Black Keys

Dominicanismo: Corn Flakes – Any kind of cereal

June 8

My oh my how infants grow fast. My blog has changed so much I wouldn’t believe it was the same one if I haven’t been the one modifying it for the past hour in between researching stray dogs. Besides the obvious style changes, here are a couple points. All pictures on this site are going to be my pictures, and there are a couple new pages to the site.

Anyways, today I was sent to mentor with a loan officer (asesora) in our Santo Domingo Norte office. I woke up at 6, ate my ‘corn flakes’ (all cereal is referred to as corn flakes here, even though I was eating Raisin Bran), and jumped on the T…Metro to the other side of the river (think of it as the American “tracks”). Bleary-eyed but pumped both with adrenaline from being in a true barrio and a leftover 5-Hour Energy, I exited the brand-spanking new train station and entered into an alien world from a time far long ago. Stray dogs were everywhere, expertly dodging traffic on the eternal quest for potable water and non-maggoted food; cars looked and sounded about 10 years older than in the main part of the city, with twice as many people on and in them; motoconchos (cycles) were weaving in and out of food-carrying buses; smog was pouring out of every orifice; I was taking in two new sensations per sense, just dumbstruck. It would take me two years to explain what I saw in the first 2 minutes of waiting if I had Total Recall*. It’s amazing that among the apparent lawlessness I still saw children walking to school in their uniforms smiling and waving to the police officer on patrol at the entrance to the Metro. Humans really do adjust to their circumstances better than anything else….maybe except a cockroach.

I was picked up by the leader of a borrower group and taken to my first reunión. These are bi-weekly meetings that consist of first prayer songs, then a reading of the bible, then repayment. This was my first foray into a zone where I was the sole English speaker. With the side-tracks of stress, the church being a smallish cement room with an open garage door serving as the useless divide to the chaos outside, and Dominican Spanish speed and informality, I guess I caught about 10% of what was going on. Afterwards, I met my mentor/guide and we started moving to the next meeting, deeper into the barrio. I really wish I took video of what happened next.

We jumped in a guagua (ruta 28) and I sat in to the middle bench on the open doorside, with a fruit crate serving as the seat even closer to the edge. Bracing myself against the doorframe, the driver pulled out into traffic and started aggressively driving. If you’re reading this from Boston, I’m now calling you a panzy driver. If you’re from the West coast or South, you probably already were. This guy was insane, he did things to this old van that would haunt your dreams. I had a first hand view of it through the center of the windshield (which I expected fully to go through at many points on this ride) and I can only say it handles like a boat. It handles like a speedboat, but still braking on it is like slowing down in water, not even a screeching of the tires which had Indy treads at this point in their lifetimes. Same goes with steering, yet he would try to go 40mph through a closing lane of a corolla and chicken bus before braking and turning into a motorconcho, to turn away from that at the last second and accelerate somewhere else. At the same time, he would yell at said near-death motoconcho drivers – to see if they could make change for a 100 peso bill for one of the other passengers. One actually pulled over and obliged. I don’t get it either. At the end of the day, it was so much more fun than any roller coaster I’ve been on. Anyways, onto the highlights of the rest of the day:

– The next meeting was much of the same, but a smaller group of about 10 and at this lady’s place, a one room apartment with a small patio and what you’d expect being off a dirt road. They had a couple turtles, and I tried to scare one before hearing “CUIDADO!”…They were snapping turtles and I was about to poke one in the snout. The ladies had a good laugh at that.

– Through the day my mentor and I got to understanding our lack of understanding and actually had some fun. During lunch, I tried to use one of my Dominicanismos to explain that I’d like to be assimilated by the end of six months, but apparently ‘Aplatanado’ means ‘like a banana’ to them. I still want to be empapado, though. By the end of the day, I think her and I were at 70% understanding.

– Saw a lady dual-wielding a baby and an umbrella against two security guards. The umbrella was not hers. Not sure about the baby either.

– Went to an introduction meeting where they see if a group of ladies have the desire and ability to join in the microfinance effort, which is really difficult to maintain. I learned a boatload in this experience: (1) It’s a really alien concept to the poorest of the poor that someone wants to give them money and expect it back in anticipation that they become productive with it and take control of their lives; (2) Dominican women are strong, social, passionate human beings. That goes double my guide for the day, who in making the closing remarks at the meeting really changed my perspective; (3) They are welcoming people. I was the only guy and gringo in a group of 12 señoras and not only did I not get any weird looks but when I introduced myself I was treated as if I was expected to be there.

– About a block and a half from my apartment there is a coconut man who has a rolling stand daily. He has a machete and for 30 pesos (~$.70) he expertly chops a coconut to get a small hole at the top, then pours the juice into a cup with ice and/or sugar for you. I would pay just to watch that. In fact, tomorrow I might just try and get a video of that too. This is going to be an adventure blog, people. I won’t stop until I make you fly down and tie me up in a straight jacket.

Alright, tomorrow and Friday I’m going back, so I’ll try to take a video of a guagua experience if I can. I have to be there at 7am so I’m going to go relax, read, and get reacquainted with my long-ignored guitar. I’ve done today on 3 hours of sleep. I know it’s only four nights, but I’m alternating between being too uncomfortable to sleep or too tired to be uncomfortable. Hopefully pictures will be up tomorrow.

*Not a reference to the Arnie movie, but the book I’m reading –Stranger in a Strange Land- where some people learn perfect photographic memory to be hired as Witnesses of important events, where their description of such can be used as concrete evidence and perfectly impartial observers.

Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land

Listening: London Sessions, LCD Soundsystem

Dominicanismo: A po’ ta’ bien – “Ah, it’s okay”, “Oh, okay”