Sunday, October 18, 2009

Long overdue update

It's obviously been some time since I've updated the blog. I've lost a lot of blogging steam in the last few months- most of it due to being very far removed from the field but also due to just having nothing terribly interesting to report.

A few months ago, I got word from my now former employer that the economic crisis had hit the organization hard. My position was funded by private donations which had been reduced drastically. As such, my position was being eliminated. (This was a blow, considering they had instituted salary cuts a few weeks prior!)

This was crushing news, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I had worked very hard to get the organization's program in Jamaica off the ground. After several months of hard work, it was starting to pay off. In fact, just three weeks before my last day of work, we got word that a large proposal of US$200,000 I had submitted to a US government agency had been approved. Sadly, it was too late. My last day of work was September 30.

I attempted to find a new post within the same organization but was unsuccessful. Having left a post-conflict country before coming to the DR, I didn't feel ready to take off to a Sudan or DRC post, which severely limited my employment options. I tried finding a job with another NGO here in the DR but was unwilling to take a 60% salary cut, so I was out of luck.

Along with this, I had personal circumstances to consider. As much as I love living abroad, I've started to crave stability and would like to be closer to my family. And, as luck has it, I met a great guy here in the DR. So great that he is willing to uproot his life for me and follow me to the US. So we have applied for a fiance visa and he will join me in the US in the next few months and we will get married. (Providing the US government doesn't try to stop us!)

I'm sad to be leaving the DR and the life I've set up here. However, these are the cards I've been dealt and they aren't so bad.

I might be inspired to put up a few more posts before I officially leave the country and settle in the US. Otherwise, this is likely the end of my blogging. I'll still leave it up since I still see that my Angola posts are getting hits even 2 years later. Thanks for reading as long as you have.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hold onto your hats...

...TAAG has finally been lifted off the EU Black List and can fly into the EU once again. Only took two years! Don't expect them to adhere to any fancy departure and arrival schedules, though.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Luanda still really expensive

Life in Luanda is not getting any cheaper. According to ECA International, Luanda is the most expensive city in the world for ex-pats. The BBC points out that:
A meal in Luanda can cost over $100 and a "decent" apartment can cost as much as $15,000 a month, despite the fact that most Angolans live in poverty.
And, of course, that's for the ex-pats. Imagine what it's like for Angolans.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Earlier this week I got a phone call from my boss. "You know [your former boss in Angola] wants you to come back to Angola for a temporary assignment. What do you think?"

Good question. 

My inital response, literally, was, "Are you for real?!!!!!"

And, then, I realized that I would have taken the assignment had it not been for a significant personal comittment in May. When I left Angola the toll of living an isolated life had been severe- that, coupled with the trauma (and I don't use that term lightly) with my exit from Angola- left me with a bad feeling. With a little bit of personal healing, I've come to think of Angola in a positive way.  The opportunity to go back for a week or two was very attractive- just enough to remind me what I loved about the place and think that the confusão is quirky and manageable. 

So, fear not. I like Angola. I hope to go back someday- just for a visit. 

In case you were wondering. 

Only in Angola

Here is an article (Portuguese only, sorry) that puts a positive spin on the intense rains and horrible road conditions in Angola. 

The article's title is "Rains Create Employment".  Basically, the rains are so heavy and the roads so terrible that entrepreneurial young people, who normally would sit around and do nothing, are carrying people across the roads on their backs for a fee. 

Fat people- don't worry! They don't care how much you weigh! They charge according to the height of the water.  A ride in water up to your elbows will cost Kz. 50, which is about US$0.66. Bags cost Kz. 10, or US$0.10. 

Conversations I Have Had: 2nd Jamaican Edition

English is the dominant language both in my home country (USA) and Jamaica. Communication shouldn't be a problem right? 

Conversation #1
Setting: Restaurant in Kingston
Background info: Ting is a Jamaican grapefruit soda

Waitress: Do do you want to drink?
Me: Diet Coke, please. 
Waitress: No, sorry. No Diet Coke. You want a Ting?
Me, repeating my earlier order: Uh, yes, I want the grilled chicken sandwich. 
Waitress: No, do you want a TING?! 

(I thought she said, "Do you want anything?" and, for some reason. completely forgotten the order.)

Conversation #2:
Setting: Department store in Kingston mall, browsing in the clothing section

Staff: You t'rough?
Me: No, I'm still looking.  Is the store closing?
Staff: Huh?
Me: Is the store closing? 
Staff, who is clearly smarter than I: No! (laughs) Are you TRUE? Are you alright, need help?

(I thought she asked if I was THROUGH and was telling me I had to leave the store. At 3 pm in the afternoon on a workday.)

Clearly I have a problem with the "th" in Jamaica. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Semana santa, Holy Week, is a big holiday in the DR (and most Catholic countries). It's when Dominicans celebrate the distillation of sugar cane into rum. Ha! I'm being facetious, although the "holy" part of semana santa seems to be an afterthought. 

Dominicans take the two day holiday (Holy Thursday and Good Friday) as an opportunity to travel and, most cases, party hard. I did have the opportunity to travel, but not party.  (I wanted it that way!)

I went to Constanza, in the central part of the country, way up in the mountains. It is truly spectacular up there and reminded me a lot of my Peace Corps site in Honduras, La Esperanza. Constanza is a nice, sleepy town with cool weather, beautiful scenery, and great agriculture.  They even had a green market! Here are a few of the highlights: 


Beautiful jacaranda tree near our hotel.

Aguas Blancas

Some amiguitos selling calla lillies on the road to Aguas Blancas. 

1. Turn in firearms at the entrance building.
2. Risk of hypothermia due to low water temperature.
3. Trash should be placed in the trashcans. 
4. Cooking on the premises is prohibited.
5. No glass bottles on the premises. 
6. No diving from the rocks on the side of the falls. 
7. No swimming in underwear. 
8. No running or playing on the premises. 
9. Immoral public acts are prohibited. 
10. Play music at a low volume. 

#s 1 and 9 are my favorite.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I got on board with progress!

O sea... me subí al progreso! 

Two weekends ago I finally went on Santo Domingo's brand new Metro.  I'm pleased and surprised to say that I am a Metro convert. 

I was skeptical. I wasn't sure that the Metro made sense.  I still don't know that I can justify the millions of US$ being poured into it, but the system itself is quite nice.  

Since there is little negative to say, I'll start with the things I didn't like.  
  1. Perhaps I'm too accustomed to the other subway systems of the world, but I was totally thrown by the little green button you have to press in order to enter and exit the cars.  A. and I stood there for a second until the guard pointed out that we had to push the button to get the door open. 
  2. My main complaint about the system still stands: there are too few postings of street names, neighborhoods, whatever, along with the stations.  You still don't know where the heck you are going! There are a few street maps in the cars, with the stations marked on them, but they are very hard to read. 
For example, this is station near my house, only 2 blocks away. (Too bad there's not a station close to work, otherwise I could forget the horrible traffic in this city. )  Here you can see the flawed logic of the planners: the station is located at the Plaza de la Cultura, where the natioanl theater and some museums are located.  Therefore, they named the station after a famous Dominican actress.  Don't know who Cassandra Damiron is? Well, then you're out of luck if you are wondering where you are, because that's all the description you'll get for the station!

The best things about the Metro:
  1. It's clean! Like every other city in the developing world, Santo Domingo is dirty. Trash is everywhere and  capitaleños don't think twice about throwing trash on the street, at their feet, or wherever they please. Not the case on the Metro. 
  2. It's quiet! "Quiet" is not a word many people use to desrcibe Dominicans, so it's truly amazing that the Metro is so calm and sedate.  Most people just sat there, but those that were talking did so at a soft level, almost whispering! 
  3. It's protected!  There is a Metro guard in every car. S/he walks up and down to make sure that people are respecting the Metro.  The poor guard we saw looked bored out of his mind, amidst the serenity and lack of bachata and mambo. 

There were other Metro Tourists as well.  We got on with a group of about 3 men.  We loved eavesdropping on their conversation. They could not believe how clean and well-run the Metro was. "Bienvenidos a Europa! Welcome to Europe!" they kept saying.  

A. was on the Metro the other day. He saw a fellow rider break out a Halls mint and the Metro cop stationed in the car came over immediately.  "You can't do that. That's not allowed." Yes folks, a breath mint! I only wish the same respect and compliance with the laws were applied outside the Metro as well...

Here you can see the clash of the modern and the traditional.  Right below this Metro station, you can see a horse-drawn carriage. (Upper right, above the white care.) By the way, I was chided by the station cop for dawdling too long after getting off the Metro and shooed out of the station!