It's been a looong time...


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Published: November 16th 2010
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Sooo…It’s been quiiiite a while since I’ve updated my blog, so, unless you have a pretty good chunk of time, I would not start reading this! That is, of course, assuming that everyone who reads this will be so interested in my life that not reading the whole thing in one sitting is unthinkable. Just to warn you, I am now on to page 6 of a Word document, single spaced, TNR font, and size 12. So, really, only if you have time! Or if you're a fast reader.

SO! I will begin with a trip that my program took about…over a month ago! October 1 is when we went to a city called Jarabacoa. We had our “base” at a hotel even though we weren’t staying overnight. First, we went to a coffee factory! It was pretty cool! We got to see coffee beans on the plant! CRAZY! If you didn’t know, cuz I didn’t, coffee beans are not originally brown/black, but actually green or red or yellow! So, I took some pictures there, but, of course, my battery died. HUGE bummer!!!!! II had checked to see if it was charged the night before, thinking that if it wasn’t my camera would give me some sort of warning. It didn’t, so I didn’t think I needed to bring an extra battery. Ugh. But luckily Drew was kind enough to loan me his camera card to put onto my computer, and he got some good pictures from the rest of the day. There weren’t really any people making coffee while we were there…It was pretty desert that day, I guess. After that, we went back to the hotel where we had lunch (rice and beans…what’s new!) and then we had a little bit of free time before going horseback riding! Horseback riding in the D.R. is different than riding in the states if you aren’t someone who rides horses frequently and only ride a horse at…I don’t know, a place where they let you ride horses. I’ve ridden on a horse maaaaybe 3 times in my life, but I think just twice, maybe even just once. There were some people in the group who had never ridden a horse. So, first of all, the saddles weren’t that sturdy which was a little nerve-wracking. They had these guides, called just “niños” (which means boys, if you didn’t know) who would, if you wanted, sit with you on the horse and help you. Welllll, there were boys who looked like they were not even 10 years old yet! At first, I was inclined to not use one of the niños, because a) I was over twice as old as some of them, and b) I just wasn’t terribly excited about having a stranger sit behind me on a horse…Well, once I got on the horse, I changed my mind VERY quickly. Those are tall animals! And since the saddle wasn’t super sturdy, I just thought, better safe than sorry. Because, besides having close to no experience riding horses, these horses don’t speak ENGLISH, so, saying, like, heel (I don’t know if you say that to a horse), is not going to have much of an effect. So, the boy is riding bareback behind me on the horse, and we take off GALLOPING! WOAH. That was fun for a little while. Exhilarating. But, after riding a while, it starts to hurt, and I just was becoming more and more aware of the saddle’s “unsturdiness” (I didn’t fall off, DON’T YOU WORRY!), but, I had pretty much no choice but to just trust my guide. After about…20 minutes, maybe? we got to the place where we “parked” our horses and started hiking/walking for 7 minutes, I guess. Then, we go to the waterfall! It was pretty cool, but, it was cloudy and there wasn’t a lot of flowers there, which I had imagined in my head. And, we weren’t allowed to swim in it. The guides went to the other side of the river and were jumping off of the cliff! I was terrified, but, of course, they’ve done it so many times it’s no big deal, I guess. Even the little 7 year old jumped! We stayed there for a good amount of time and then we went back walking to our horses. This time, I guess the niños got bored and decided to race. Maybe not actually, but, it was definitely a competition. This is not a joke: I literally almost ran into another person’s horse (on my horse) going at close to full speed, and then coming to a complete stop instantly. If I wasn’t gripping tight before, you better believe I was now! I felt like I was going to shoot right off the front of the horse! And, that wasn’t the last time I was going to feel like that, either. After the second time that happened, my foot came out of the stirrup, which was really scary because I felt like that was one of the things keeping me on the horse. I have no idea what stirrups are like in the states, but, to change the length of these, they just twisted them until they were short enough for me. It was a terrifying ride back, I must say! Because, not only were we screeching to a halt every once in a while, but, also, I don’t ride super gracefully, and I was bouncing a good foot off the horse while we galloped. I might be exaggerating. But I’m probably not. 😉 Then, we got to go home, but, sitting was not as comfortable as it once was, unfortunately. And then we went home. It was a fun trip, but, I don’t want to gallop on a horse really again.

(Now, I am starting a new story, so if you must break up this post, now would be an opportune time).
The next trip we took was to a place called 27 Charcos on October 15. Their website is www.27charcos.com and I think they probably have a section in English, because the pamphlet has Spanish, English, French and German. (Anyone here with me can appreciate this…I just almost misspelled English. How would I have spelled it? With an “I” of course) What is it? It is “27 awe-inspiring pools, etched out of limestone rock” that “Mother Nature has crafted.” I think we climbed all the way to the 27th. But, we didn’t climb up all of the pools/waterfalls to get there. We did, however, go down all 27!!!!! It was SUCH a crazy experience. And a little scary, but, I jumped for every time we could, even though I was terrified. So, you can all be impressed. And, I DO have a picture. Well, someone else has a picture of me, but, regardless, I have proof. To get down through each level you can swim, jump, or slide. Some have 2/3 options, some have only one. Sliding was fun, too. I was surprised that the guides told us to lean FORWARD sliding down, and not to lay back. It is pretty indescribable, and as far as I know, there is nothing else like it!
Later that day, PATRICK would be arriving in the D.R. I was SOOOOOOO excited, as you may or may not know. 😉 His flight was supposed to get in around 8 PM, but of course, it got delayed 2 hours in Miami, because I guess we hadn’t been apart quite long enough yet. I was so anxious all night! I was lucky that my friend Jacque’s dad and brother were coming the same day, also from Omaha, so they were all on the same flight out of Miami and I was able to ride with Jacque and her brother’s girlfriend, who is Dominican, to the airport. The trip to 27 Charcos was a true blessing, because, even in the 6 hours between when we got home from the excursion and when Pat got here, I was so antsy for him to arrive. He texted me when he landed, and we were just getting to the airport, so it was perfect timing. I told Pat not to bring any money because it is a better deal if you exchange money here than in the states. Well. Silly me. I remembered that he would have to get a tourist card and that it costs money. It did not, however, occur to me that he would NEED money to pay. I just really failed hard with that. I did not connect the dots that time. Not even close. So the next text I get from my loving boyfriend says, “Why didn’t you tell me I needed 10 U.S. dollars??? This is a huge mess.” Well, then I got really worried and I felt SUPER bad. And there was nothing I could do from outside! I asked people if they had any money, but to no avail. FINALLY, I saw my beautiful, loving, sweet boyfriend walk out. And, although his face was NOT that of a “happy camper” as he walked out, when I kissed him big on the lips, he was ok. But, not home free. No, no. They had his MN license hostage until he could get money. He had no clue where the guy had said to get money, and of course at 10 o’clock at night, the place to exchange money wasn’t open, and of course, the ATMs only give out pesos, which just was not an option. So, I asked some girls who were friends of Jacque’s who we’d run into at the airport picking up another group of people, if they knew what I could do. They didn’t, but, they did point me to a guy in a uniform who “looks official.” So, I went and told him the problem, the short story of it, and he didn’t really have anything to give me, but, then, miraculously, a man in a blue uniform with a zipped up black pleather pouch appears at the other side of the…area that we were in (not that far away), and the official-looking man said, “There, him, hurry!” So, we ran over to him and I gave him 1000 pesos for a $US10 + $DR500. I got a little short-changed, but, really, I did not care the least bit! I just wanted to be with Pat! So, Pat went back inside, to pay and figure everything out, and then, finally, we could be together! But, then, we had to find a taxi. You’d think that at an airport that’d be easy. I thought so, at least. But, there was only one that I saw, so, even though we didn’t have much choice, I asked him how much it would be to get to Pat’s hotel. He said $DR600. I had asked my host dad ahead of time how much it should cost because he used to do business and travel a little bit. He said $400 or $500. I was just fine with $600. I tried to barter, and impress Pat, but, no luck. Pat wouldn’t have understood what I had done anyway, until I bragged about it in English.  Side note: in the Dominican, taxis don’t run on a meter. They just have a set price. That’s why before you go anywhere you have to ask how much it will cost, so that everyone agrees, and so that you don’t get ripped off, obviously. We got to Pat’s hotel and I checked him in and then fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally we were able to just be alone together talkin’ and kissin’ and huggin’! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy. We were apart for 59 days, which is the longest we have ever been apart, and, the longest I ever plan to be away from him ever for the rest of my life! I just always am missin’ ‘im!

So, some of the things Pat and I did together while he was here include, not taking any pictures. I made a packing list for Pat, just in case. I had been asking him a million times if he had started packing yet, starting 4 days ahead of time. He was getting a little exasperated? Not annoyed or anything, but, he just said, “Don’t worry, Meg! I will get it done!” But, I just get nervous that with last minute packing, you are bound to forget something. So, I made a packing list, which included everything he might need in the D.R. But, I left out camera. So, did he bring his camera? Of course not! Ohhhh, goodness. So, that is a huge bummer. On Monday, we went to the beach, which was fun for me. Pat had fun, too, once we got to the beach. But, SOMEONE has a little bit of a hard time trusting his girlfriend’s Spanish speaking skills (I mean, I’ve only been doing it since I was 5), and, (and this part is not without reason), with her directions/orientation skills. I should also mention, to be fair to Pat, that on the way to the bus company, we took a concho and I got out one block early and then realized that I might have made a mistake, but I wasn’t sure, so we had to go into a mall and ask. I did know where it was, after all, but, Pat just always feels better asking, so, that is fine with me. We would have found it eventually, cuz I was already headed in the right direction. I was sure we were on the right bus (which we were) because after I bought the tickets, the lady said, “Hurry, that one leaves in a sec, but you can still get it!” So, we did, and I double checked with the man taking the tickets to get onto the bus that it was the right one, and he said it was. Once we were at the beach, we wanted to find a disposable camera somewhere, but, we didn’t see any so I asked a guy who was working there. He said, “Oh! I have a friend who sells those. I will be right back.” 20 minutes or half an hour later, he gets back with a camera. How much? Oh, just $US12. Yes, $12 and yes US. I didn’t care about that, either, because you can’t come on a trip like this and not have pictures! So, we took 3 pictures at the beach, one in a gas station, and I think that was it. At least there is some proof he was here. We also went to meet my family which was fun for me! And, we sort of toured the University campus. We had Dominican ice cream (bon) (I think it is Dominican…). And, we tried to go to the cigar factory, but, it turned out that it closed at 5, not 7 like the Centro Leon cultural center it is part of. But, that was ok, because we were still able to find cigars. Phewfda! The morning he left wasn’t as tearful as I expected it to be, but, that’s because we were both just a little worried about making sure everything went smoothly on the way out with the language barrier. That night was sad, though, and that day. No big deal that I had to go observe and ESL class with students I had never met before, of course all Dominican, and I was crying on the walk to class. I wasn’t embarrassed one bit…. 😉 Oh, well.

And, last but not least, Tomas and cholera. I am no longer allowed to eat any raw vegetables. And, we have to wash the fruit with something that sort of sounded like she said “chlorine” (cloro?). I ate an apple though and it didn’t taste like chlorine, so, I don’t know! The Dominican-Haitian border is being guarded so that no Haitians can come into the country, they can only leave, but, Dominicans are not allowed to go over there, either. I am not sure if they are allowed to come back for the time being… We were supposed to take a little excursion tomorrow to the Mirabal Sisters museum and a hike, but, after we had the meeting for it in the ISA office and the majority of students had left the building, one of the leaders came out and said, “We’re not going tomorrow because a more recent warning came out, so, we will have to go another time.” I think it said that in the eye of the storm, the wind can be blowing at up to 105mph. Woah! It has been windier here, lately, and raining more frequently, but, I wouldn’t say the amount of rain is significantly different each time it rains than before. I could be wrong, because I misjudge those things all the time. But the flooding in the South is predicted to be between 10 and 15 inches, and up to 20”. But, besides our excursion being canceled for tomorrow, we won’t really be affected by the storm beyond more wind and rain, as far as I understand. I know I am not in danger, so you can all sleep soundly at night.

One other thing I forgot about. The day Pat left, I had an exam. And one the next morning, too. There were both oral exams that the prof said should be between 2 and 3 minutes, so I wasn’t super nervous. Plus, we were given the possible questions the week before, so, we had ample time to prepare. If our boyfriends weren’t visiting. But, it was nooooo problem for this girl. I got 23/25 on one of them, I think, and probably the same on the other one, but, we don’t really get feedback for that. The exams were for the same prof, but two different classes. My other two classes are contemporary Dominican literature and teaching English as a second language. Neither of those have exams. The lit class has weekly or biweekly summaries of whatever we read for the next class, and then we are reading 3 different novels throughout the semester (just starting number three) for which we have to write a 3 page analysis. And it can be handwritten. We also have to write a two page summary of very two units we do. We just finished the second unit. Then, for the ESL class, the exam is just the practice part of the class, aka, teaching a class of Dominican university students. THAT is unnerving. I have done two so far and have two to go. The first one did NOT go as well as I would have liked, but, I don’t think it was my fault. When I observed the class, the teacher talked the first half hour and then gave them 30-35 minutes to work on their workbook stuff. So, I just sat there. Sooo, when no one wanted to be brainstorming with me at the beginning of the day I was supposed to teach, I just followed suit and had them work. I was not too proud of that, but, oh well. I taught my second class just on Wednesday. I observed on Monday and this teacher had me take part in the class activities, and then the last ten minutes of class he asked if I would be comfortable answering any questions the students had for me, about me, my country, etc. So, I felt 100x more comfortable teaching in that class because the students already were comfortable with me, too. And, this teacher was way better, too. He had the students involved instead of just the Peanuts style teacher “wah wah wah wah wah,” or whatever the sound is. He told me at the end of the class that I did a really good job and that he was glad that they would still be on track with their plans for the unit and that he gave me 5/5 on everything! And, he said he does not give out 5 very often. Normally, I would be skeptical and think he was just saying that, but, I believe him because his students said he was “strict” and also very punctual. I know punctual isn’t really related, but, it makes a person more reliable, in my opinion. And also I believe him cuz I did really do a good job, duhhh. I was more nervous going in to teach this class than the first class, but, I did better on this one, in my opinion. And, at the end of the class I had the students play heads up 7 up and then tell me one thing they learned, and, they all learned something! WIN! This is kind of more like a report now about my ESL experience, so, maybe I will copy and paste, cuz we have to write a little paper about our experience teaching. And then our teacher will also give us a take home exam. Funny story. When she told us that we were having a take home exam, one girl asked how they would be graded, meaning of course, like, on what type of scale and with what objectives in mind. Our teacher responded, very seriously and a little bit concerned, “Oh! Well you will mail me your answers!” thinking that the girl had meant, “if it’s take home, how will you know what our answer is?” I thought it was really funny. She is not a native English speaker. Cute.

Ok! I hope you all have enjoyed this novel. I will try to be doing a better job now at staying up to date with my blog. I think I said that last time, but, that really failed. The last day of classes is December 3. I don’t have any tests except for the ESL one. Then I will have 2 “final works” for the same prof who gave the oral exams, and the analysis of the last lit book and the summary of the last two units. Sooo, yep! That’s my life these days!

Love! I am missing you all. And Chipotle and other food from home. But mostly you guys…
Meg


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