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

 

Adventure: Viernes

As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry much better than expected.

On Friday morning, the plan was originally to meet in Las Terrenas, me via bus from Santo Domingo and Robin by moto from Cabarete, where he was staying and surfing at the time. It didn’t work out that way, at all. 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

Adjusting: Sans Boston

Adjusting

This may be called sentimentalism, but a certain sense of loneliness engendered by traveling leads one to reflect upon the meaning of life, for life is after all a travelling from one unknown to another unknown. – D.T. Suzuki

What is this odd feeling of unease? It’s not intense, a little melancholy, something’s just off. Since I don’t and have never experienced ‘homesickness’, it can’t be that. Since going to camps hundreds of miles from home and pitying the fools who needed to have a reminder of their old life every day or cried the first night, I developed an immunity to the allergies of being “somewhere else”. I enjoy the strangeness of traveling and displacing myself in far-away places, ironic considering you can’t really travel that far around the plane of a small sphere. That’s what led me to Boston from Seattle, backpacking through Europe, and now eschewing the straight path out into a nice flourescent job and shifting to the Dominican Republic. I chose it in part because I was going a little stir-crazy. Not out of boredom, but the fear of becoming complacent and following a LIFE board game path letting the dice roll and cards drawn as they may. With the mirage of choice to take a left turn comes sacrifices, all of which leave a feeling of emptiness at some point.

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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

Adjusting

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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July 7

I just realized that I haven’t watched television since I’ve gotten here. I literally have not sat in front of a television for a month, and I don’t miss it at all. That would be impressive if I also cut out my internet usage, but I’m very much in a connected work and living environment. I’ll take the small battles where I can get them, and maybe this will save me a lot of money back in the states in not getting a cable package. It’s such a waste of money anyways, back in Boston we spent $100/month on cable and called our TV the “Bruins and Seahawks machine”, because we never watched anything else. Here’s what’s happening this week:

– Happy Independence Day, Americans. I haven’t been able to celebrate in the States for the last 3 years, having been on a plane to London, plane from Mexico, and now in the Dominican Republic. I celebrated here in the stormy and rainy conditions, sad I couldn’t be with my group of dwindling Boston-homed friends. However, the daily chef for our office made us gringos a special cake, which was red, white and blue, had a cheesecake middle layer surrounded by chocolate and vanilla regular cake layers. We reciprocated by butchering the national anthem, luckily not fu–orgetting any words or quitting, and nobody laughed.

– I had the opportunity to try a few more of my hosts’ foods. First up was this rice mixture with cod, cilantro, and some yellow seasoning. Next they made some wheat pilaf/tabbouleh salad with mint, minced meat, and other spices served cold, which is one of my favorite things I’ve had here. Also, homemade flan for dessert one night was another all-natural, healthy option I was able to partake in. I’m not even going to waste my time giving reviews anymore, I’m convinced anything made naturally or at home just comes out tasting excellent.

– In terms of cooking my own foods, I’m going to try to cut down on the rice intake. In addition to not holding its own taste load (is that dirty?), it’s probably a good idea healthwise. Cue the sad face: colon open parentheses. It doesn’t seem to have any ill effects as of yet, as my latest cooking experiment was a great success. Last night, I bought two pounds of chicken breast (~$5), and with a nice sharp knife, cut myself

Continue reading

Montaña Adventure – Parte II

To grandmother's house we go

Parte I

“Day Two”, I say to myself with conviction before realizing I was convinced of nothing. Where am I? What have they done with my horse? Is Denzel still alive? I have to alert the others – Huh? Back to the story.

I woke up at seven well rested on account of the silence and despite the mattress springs prodding me through the night in very uncomfortable places. They were so prominent I could probably tell you the diameter, metal composition, and layout pattern of the coils. Breakfast was served at 8:30 so I had some time to read and get myself prepared for the day. All I planned on bringing to the ‘Killer Hike’ was a bottle of water, bag of almonds/pistachios, my D60 – a.k.a. ‘Beast’ –, rain jacket, Five Finger shoes, and a bandana. It did look like it was going to rain a bit, but I felt prepared.

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