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Monday, March 29, 2010

in like a lion? lamb? CHEETAH!
i think my passport saw more of march than i did. have i mentioned a new little nugget in my life?

say hello to my new lil' nephew, Griffin Thomas, born march 16th at 9:50pm - 6 lbs, 13 ozs, and 19 inches. long live the embarrassing photos!
current mood: smooch!

Friday, March 19, 2010

bumpily back to reality
our transition back in to life in our other paradise was (practically) seamless, save for that little instance of lost luggage in newark. getting to the small airport in punta cana about 90 minutes before our flight, we were met curbside by a porter escorting our luggage to the US agricultural check. under my breath, i debated with wow whether the banana twins i had in my backpack should be extracted before this process, but before we knew it, our stuff was taken from us and thrown on the scanner's belt. while our bags were coming out the other end, the officials were increasingly interested in our stuff, and stopped the conveyor. imagining a stint in the local jail for trying to import illegal fruits, i actually volunteered the info about the forbidden fruit in my backpack. my voiced concern was totally disregarded as they attacked wow's bag and pulled out... a bath pouf. confused, they threw it back in and we were on our way to the long check-in line where we approached by an airline representative collecting passports, as their system was down. not surprising, considering how many times the power had gone out at various points on our trip. so he hand-checked us in to our flight, and we watched our bags conveyor belt themselves away from us. by the time we got through with that process and airport security, we were about a half hour from flight time. i had to change my DR pesos back to US dollars, so i found the cambio/exchange while wow hunted for some food. 25 minutes later, i was finally done exchanging (oh island time, what a blessing and a curse. there was only one person ahead of me in line, and yet, it still took a long time to complete. the lady at the counter was... well, we'll call her "methodical" about her job.), and we started to amble about the small terminal. after deciding to pop in to the small duty-free shop, we both stopped suddenly, having heard a strange but somewhat familiar sound... "harpow" was the one that grabbed my ear, followed by some garbled version of "breetro" and the very clear "THIS IS YOUR FINAL CALL." we looked at each other, then bolted across the room to the gate to be met with the icy stares of the airport staff. as one snatched away our boarding passes and passports, 2 others sifted through our bags for contraband? stowaways? clearly not illegal bananas, as those were passed right on by. we were finally given clearance and walked to our plane on the tarmac, when i got in trouble again (this time for crossing over a painted red line while walking... the way to get one's attention in the DR is to shout an emphatic "HOLA!" at someone, and then gesture wildly. it took me a second to realize this guy wasn't introducing himself).

at the bottom of the stairs, our passports and boarding passes were checked again, and we asked to be able to board the steps at the back of the plane. we were given clearance, but yelled at again, as we walked a little to close to the underside of the plane. those steps checked our passports and boarding passes for the 5th time that day, and we were finally able to get on the plane (where our boarding checks were examined AGAIN). the plane ride home was mostly uneventful; surrounded by brash new jersey/yorkers was irritating but tolerable. we were told to collect our luggage for customs and recheck once we got to newark, and i started to get nervous about making the flight on time. after going through the motions, we hauled our bags to recheck where a dreadlocked man stuck barcode EWR stickers all over our bags. we brought up the fact that we were actually headed to SAN, but he shut us up quickly by letting us know that these were our "don't lose my luggage" stickers.


it's always a sad thing to be left at the baggage carousel, watching the people around you reunite with their precious cargo and you looking desperately at that magical opening where bags usually appear. eventually, you resign yourself to the fact that it's not coming, and you head to the counter to inquire. "oh yes, your luggage is still in newark" she said matter-of-factly. necessary info exchanged, she promised our luggage a ride over on the first flight, arriving about noon. "expect it to be delivered between 1 and 4:30 pm"... wow closed the door on the delivery man at 10:40pm.
so back to reality, with our "stuff" back in hand. we're both still recovering from the fact that we left our new padres friends a week ago... so long ago. but we have the pictures and the memories to keep us company until we can see them again.

current mood: recflecting on an indescribable experience

Monday, March 15, 2010

i'm of two minds about america these days, having spent last week balancing the wealth of major league sports dropped in amongst the poverty of a community that most americans will never even consider when they are arguing about player trades and salary caps. now, i'm sitting in a literal paradise, a ta resort on a different side of the coast of this tiny island, and i can't help but reel. while the palm trees seem to sway on cue and the weather, the beach, the room, the service is the definition of "perfect", i find myself cringing at and hiding from my fellow paradise-seekers. this resort has been built for americans, or wealthy latin americans (and germans, it seems, as a lot of the signs have german translations for some reason); it's apparent in the fact that everything is in US dollars, that the staff will pretty much only speak in english, and that the endless food buffets of hamburgers and sushi are a far cry from the humble chicken and rice of najayo. to be honest, most of that i can handle. it's the others who are sharing this space that are an extreme embarrassment: disrespectful of the language, the people, and the land that is the dominican republic. overweight, loud, drunk, flashy and demanding, i hate that i am automatically lumped in to the same category just because i am american.
as r and i boarded the bus to punta cana from santo domingo, i looked at our fellow riders. for the most part, locals, humble in their transportation, plus a few frat boys from syracuse who had spent the last 10 days helping to rebuild in haiti, and were on their way to meet 50+ of their bros to party out their senior spring break. while r got their story and shared ours, i watched out the window at the extreme poverty we were leaving behind. the land here is the dominican's garbage pail, unfortunately, and burning is the disposal method of choice. to say the place is littered is an understatement. through the smoke, you see people living in tiny lean-tos, with 6 people to a "house", scrawny dogs picking up the chicken bones thrown on the street. across the country, it was the same scene, except the lean-tos were now surrounded by gaunt cows and sugar cane fields. as we got closer to punta cana, we started to pass the landscaped yards and high stucco walls of the many resorts in the area, and i watched the frat boys transform from valiant volunteers to just another crazy-supid kid on spring break. i'm hoping they get to brag about their service as much as they may brag about their partying once they get back to new york.
we arrived at the resort, greeted with a drink and smiles and opulence surrounding us in every direction. it's funny, that to me, r and i stand out since we didn't plan for the level of glamor that penetrates this resort. we packed for a week of dusty shoes and mosquito bites, not elegant dinners and discotheques. even a day into it, i'm still having a hard time finding peace in the where i am versus the where i was, because i know what goes on outside these pristine walls. don't get me wrong, we're taking advantage of the all-inclusive package we bought (though, alcoholic-ally speaking, not nearly at the level of our new neighbors), and tomorrow we will go snorkeling with the sharks and maybe even hit the nightclub or (if i can) drag r to karaoke :) but in the meantime, i may find myself with a knotted stomach with every leathery tanned giant belly that waddles by... but i can think of our kids and our players back at our real dominican republic home in najayo, and i can let go in to paradise for just a little while more.
current mood: thoughtfully confused

Sunday, March 14, 2010

which is worse?
i find myself in a bit of a conundrum: knowing that i am usually a tasty treat to any sort of bug that likes human blood, we brought along some seriously powerful DEET-laden products to protect me. it seems now that i have developed an allergic reaction to the stuff after practically bathing in it for a week, and my arms and legs are covered not in bites, but in hives.
so which would you choose? a bumpy future awaits me either way, but for now, i'm trying to cleanse myself of the DEET, and am taking my chances on the bugs. besides, it just so happens that i brought along a FABULOUS mosquito hunter who the locals like to call "wow". (the kids in najayo, for some reason, couldn't get their mouths to form r's name, and sounds of "wow! wow!" would float across the street or be heard from inside a classroom long before he showed up).
current mood: itchy!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

internet has been spotty at best, so i'm only able to update the day before we leave najayo. our mornings have been spent at the local school that the padres have adopted, and we have been buzzing through the classes, teaching them (easy) english, proper hand-washing and toothbrushing techniques, and passing out hygenic products to go alonog with the lessons. r has been the prize man, so there are a grip of kids down here who consider him the santa from america. the afternoons have been spent either at the complex, assisting the players with their english (a harder job than anticipated, in some cases), and at an afterschool program for troubled kids. there is where we really get to make our connections with the community, especially knowing that some of these kids are there due to rape and/or domestic violence at home. we eat all our meals at the padres facility, which is staffed with some of the nicest people i have ever met. they just seem happy we're there. the days are long, the heat makes them feel even longer, and the nights are full of mosquitoes waiting for us to get back. we have been able to steal away for a little fun, including watching the padres boys warm up yesterday, trying to teach some of them some dodgeball, and hanging out at the beach last night while sharing some beers with the padres administrators down here. tomorrow we head to santo domingo for a day, to have a tourist-y send-off, then tomorrow we drop the 2 other girls on the trip off at the airport while we head to punta cana for a little r&r.
since the internet is so unreliable (as is the power, and the water supply, for that matter), i'll post pics when i get home. only a few hundred to get through so far :)
hasta luego.
current mood: packing time

Sunday, March 07, 2010

hemos llegado! (aka we have arrived!)
hola from the tropics of the republica dominicana. we have arrived and are settling in to the digs at the padres' facility down in najayo, dominican republic. thankfully, the trip has been without a flaw so far, unless you count r's seat reclining about an inch less than mine. but, i did give him my window seat, so really, that cancels it out, in my book. not to mention that by the power of mr. power's charms, we had a couple of glasses of wine head our way after receiving word that the plane was dry. and free wine is never a bad thing.
we headed out saturday night, catching my first-ever red-eye out to the east, and got through with enough time to watch the sunrise over the new york skyline while sipping on some dunkin' donuts brew. once on the ground in santo domingo, we met our driver, grabbed some lunch (methinks we will quickly get tired of plantains, chicken, and rice, but for then, it was DELISH), and took the bumpy 90 minute ride out to the san diego padres' latin-league training center in najayo. the facility is exactly what you'd picture for an $8 million investment in the DR: clean, well-manicured, and simple. in addition to the training fields and batting cages, there's a gorgeous clubhouse (complete with a decent workout facility... r's sold), cafeteria, coaches' quarters and players' dorms. that's where we are, and despite the simple but comfortable setting, it is lacking one thing: CARPET. in all practicality, probably not the best plan since no one wants to be cleaning baseball field out of the threads, but the austere walls and tiled floors carry noise for miles, and these young players are boisterous communicators. i think yelling might be the nation's OTHER past-time. ... aaaaand of course i don't have earplugs (wicked awesome).
tomorrow our small foursome (r's the only boy in our ranks) will introduce ourselves to the town in various capacities, including at schools, to the players, and who knows what else. i've deemed myself official historian, so hoping the wi-fi stays connected, i should be able to share some pics soon. until then, bueno noche, and think happy-spanish-comprehension thoughts for me... gracia (dropping the -s is the first step in making me local).
current mood: cansada!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

nom nom nom nom
wouldn't it be awesome to eat your way through italy? and wouldn't it be awesome-r if someone else paid for it?? (click here to vote for me!)
current mood: mmmmmmmm

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