Shoshana in Asia


This is a travel blog for my work-related trips. You're welcome to comment. My students, colleagues, friends, and family will see what you write.

North America » United States » Oregon » Portland March 27th 2014

I'm actually writing this in early May, but I didn't want TravelBlog to extend the length of the trip. I've been thinking a lot about what this trip has been for me, both pedagogically and personally. As a person who hopes to take more students and others on educational trips, I've been thinking about how to make the experience as meaningful as possible. I feel pretty confident about basic trip preparation and follow-through, both generic and specific. I'm continuing to think about what can be prepared for, and where the preparation might better be open-ended. This is the distinction between "You should pack some sealed snacks because otherwise ants will get into them" and "You'll probably find some parts of the trip uncomfortable or unexpected. How do you usually respond to this, and will that work ... read more

I couldn't sleep last night. The power was out, there was no breeze, and in addition to smoke from burning the fields, it seemed that trash was being burned as well. I got up at dawn with allergic black eyes; by an hour or so later I was just swollen. We drove to Juan Dolio, with a stop at a Parador for fried chicken. The hostel, Fior di Loto, is decorated in an Indian motif and the proprietor supports education for girls in India. My room was notable for its continuous electricity and a flush toilet--heaven! I'll write my last entry soon, but want to reflect on the trip more (and look up some birds) before writing.... read more
Fior di Loto

I took a morning walk around the edges of the cane fields, with binoculars and bird book. There were some pretty lizards with blue throats and red vents. I was pleased to see a couple of broad-billed todies, which are very attractive little birds, a green heron, and perhaps smooth-billed anis, as well as others. Men here and there with burros and cows. Nobody else. It was nice to have a short break. Today the workers (but not our volunteer group) spread cement on the raised cinder block perimeter of the court. A guided afternoon walk through the cane itself. Eating half a mango and spotting an Antillean mango, which is a bird. Later, we dedicated the court with only a little speechifying, some cake, and a few games. There was a talent show, but I ... read more
Free-range goats
In the cane
Part of the group

My typical day: Midnight: Power may or may not come on, or go off, so there may or may not be lights or fans. 12:00-4:00 AM: intermittent awakenings from heat, noise, smoke, animal sounds. 4:00-6:00 AM: Increased multiple rooster crowing, goat bleating, dog fighting, cat yowling, and soft pig grunting. Various shouts, clanks, engines. 6:00-6:30 AM: Greater rooster/goat/pig sounds; more human noise. 6:30 AM: Get up, pour bucket of water over head. Return to bed and sit reflectively, or go for a walk. 6:30-7:00 AM: Wake-up call and brush teeth, spitting outside. Dress, collapse mosquito netting. 7:00-7:30 AM: Breakfast: Plantains +? Apply copious sunblock. 7:30 AM-12:30 PM: Work on site. 12:30-1:30 PM: Lunch. 1:30-5:30 PM: Work on site. 5:30-5:45 PM: Bucket shower and change clothes. 5:45 PM-6:30 PM: Dinner. 6:30-~8:30 PM: Free. ~8:30-10:00 PM: De... read more
Getting good with the filth
Even before the court is dry

Courtney (another PCV): "Find the sweet spot between what you love to do, what you're good at, and what the world needs." Because there was no gravel, we couldn't work today. Therefore, we got a guagua (okay, a minibus rental isn't precisely a guagua, but, hey) and spent most of the day at the beach. The water was a beautiful mix of dark blues, turquoises, and teals; pebble shingle; brown pelicans; a river turned into waterfalls and pools before pouring down to meet the surf. Some men set up a table to sell larimar jewelry, a very local and indigenous stone in lovely light blues. A lunch of fried chicken or fish plus tostones (plantain chips) and salad (which I dared to eat a tiny bit of because I was jonesing for a vegetable). Tigres (machos) ... read more
Looking at larimar
The beach
Dancing with children

A cement mixer has been rented. We've laid down a chunk of the court with hand-mixed concrete; this will be faster but more rote. Today I've mostly been dipping water buckets from a big plastic cistern, carrying buckets of concrete, and shoveling sand and gravel. Breakfast was sweet potato, a yucca/plantain mash, and spicy pasta. I added a can of tuna salad later. While I sat on the porch eating, an old man came over and began to talk to me in French. We conversed briefly, then he gestured, took my tuna, and ate it. I gave him the crackers from the packet. He handed back the can and two girls took it and fought for it. Local lunch: Rice cooked with bits of salty fish, maybe sardines, salad, and frijoles negros. I ate a little ... read more
Plenty of gravel to shovel
View across the court

A pretty warm and noisy night, with roosters, goats, and periodic shouting. At about midnight, the power came on, and therefore the fans, but also the bright-enough-to-read-by bathroom fixture. The walls don't reach the ceiling, so the bulb shone directly in my eyes. There doesn't appear to be a switch for this one. One corner of my mosquito net fell down, but I have two corners tied to window louvers and was able to get it taut enough by tucking the edge firmly under the foam mat I'm sleeping on. No mosquitoes in my net; didn't have to step around/on/over sleeping people to use the bathroom. This probably means I'm dehydrated. I moved some supplies into my netting, making it easier to get to them during the day. I couldn't find my watch, so I couldn't ... read more
Los niños at the door
Our escort
A house in the batey

I can't mark quite where Batey Isabela is on this map, because it's hard to locate on the somewhat contradictory online maps. It's about where I've placed the route marker. Bateys are sugar cane plantations, and as a quick look at the DR/Haiti border reveals, many of the people in this region were brought over/came over to harvest. New legislation in the DR has disenfranchised multiple generations of people of Haitian descent, effectively rendering them stateless: Now, intensifying a long and furious debate over their place in this society, the nation’s top court has declared that the children of undocumented Haitian migrants — even those born on Dominican soil decades ago — are no longer entitled to citizenship, throwing into doubt the status of tens of thousands of people here who have never known any other ... read more
Beginning construction
The court on Day 1
Shoveling gravel

The assistant leaders and I had dinner the night before travel with Derek from Courts for Kids, after I had coffee with my former student and returned Peace Corps volunteer Sarita, who had worked in the DR, participated in a Courts for Kids project, and is planning to take part in another this summer in Nicaragua. Derek brought us up to date--for example, we'll be staying in a house, not a community center. We will carry several very large duffel bags of a fiber that replaces metal mesh in the court surface, portable showers, and a first aid kit. Everyone showed up at the airport on time, which is always something with an early morning group departure. There are 17 of us. This trip has taken some doing to stay viable, and I was very happy ... read more
Santo Domingo hostel

North America » United States » Oregon » Portland March 14th 2014

"The function of ritual is not to control this baffling universe but to render homage to it, to bow to the mystery" (Alvarez). The students and their graduate student instructor have just wrapped up several intense and successful weeks of fundraising. It’s a relief for me, and I’m sure even more of a relief for them, that they’ve hit their fundraising goal. Through many fundraisers and the generosity of a matching donor, they've raised the not-inconsiderable amount needed to pay for the court and their participation fees. We’re at the point where you just keep turning in assignments (or if you're me, grading assignments), knowing that soon you'll be able to sleep on a nice, long plane ride. I've also been busy trying new gear and packing rather differently from my usual, since I expect to ... read more

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