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North America » United States » Oregon » Portland
March 14th 2014
Published: March 15th 2014
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"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 become filthy and not to bring back most of my clothing. How will these sneakers do for trudging around with a wheelbarrow? Will these sheets show dirt? How many mints will it take to manage the pit latrine after a certain number of days? Will I really have the energy to read?

It's been a fun couple of weeks reading about the DR--Julia Alvarez's Something to Declare and Steven Gregory's The Devil Behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the Dominican Republic, as well as some articles and customs/etiquette books. I also picked up Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying for a Haitian memoir.

Remember Ricky Ricardo’s signature song, “Babalu”? You can hear it here:
I've just learned that Babalú-Ayé is a West African Orisha. There he was associated with smallpox, and in the DR and other Caribbean areas where Santería is practiced, he is associated with (or covertly and syncretically represented by) St. Lazarus, and is the patron saint of, among other things, AIDS.

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