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!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pope is in Angola

From NYT

Here is the NYT report of Pope Benedict's visit to Angola. Pope Urges Angolans to Help the Poor and Embrace Democracy.

Sitting next to nosso presidente, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Pope Benedict said the following:

In a second address, this one delivered hours later at the residence of
President José Eduardo dos Santos, he challenged Angola and other African
countries to free their people “from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest”
through “modern civic democracy.”

Oh, the irony! I'm not clear on something. Olha Senhor Papa, just who is the one that needs to be freed from this greed and bring democracy?

(Looking around, sitting next to him he sees the president who has served for 29 years but only held one presidential election and has somehow managed to acquire insane wealth at the same time...)


According to reports, Zedu handled it well and agreed with everything the Pope said. Smart tactic.

Zedu later said that "a igreja nao pode fazer muito para mudar as regras establecidas, mas tem forca moral para influenciar os coracoes e as mentalidades dos que decidem. The Church cannot do much to change the established rules but it does have moral authority to influence the hearts and minds of those who decide." In other words, don't go thinking you have more influence than you do, Catholic Church.

I must say, I really wish I had been in Angola to see this.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Papa, Amigo, Angola está contigo!"

Photo from BBC. A vender qualquer coisa!

The BBC has a good summary of the Pope's upcoming visit to Angola.

The article brings up the restrictions the government has placed on Radio Ecclesia, the Church's Luanda-based radio station that is currently only broadcast in Luanda. I'm quite interested to see what the Pope says about corruption (if he says anything at all). Actually, I'm more interested to see what the government says/does if he does...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pope to Africa

On Tuesday Pope Benedict will travel to Africa, including Angola!

In Angola, which emerged in 2002 from 25 years of civil war, Benedict is expected to meet with politicians and diplomats to speak out against corruption and assert the renewed role that the church hopes to play in fostering democracy and civil society in Africa.

He will also mark 500 years since Catholic missionaries began converting people in the former Portuguese colony and meet with groups promoting the role of women in Africa.

It'll be interesting to see what the Angolan government thinks about the Pope preaching against corruption. I wonder if they will also celebrate the 500 year anniversary since they converted slaves before shipping them off to the New World...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Whoa: China extends US$1 billion line of credit to Angola

According to AngoNoticias (link in Portuguese), José Eduardo dos Santos, president of Angola, met with Chen Yuan, the governor of the Chinese Development Bank, to discuss a US$1 billion line of credit to be offered by China to Angola. . The purpose of the credit would be to fund agricultural development projects. And, I presume, a few personal interest projects of some people in the government.

If nothing else, click on the link to see the weird cartoonish font used in the accompanying graphic.


Just so you don't go thinking Jamaica is all Caribbean shoreline.... Pictures from Sligoville, in St. Catherine parish. The founder of a foundation we support lives here.
Named for Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquis of Sligo, then Governor of Jamaica. The first free village in Jamaica.

We got there around 4:30 pm. By the time dark came, the temperature dropped to 55 deg. F and a strong wind was blowing. This, of course, was my favorite part of the visit:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

For shame...

I'm currently in Jamaica and out of the Dominican baseball loop, so I am a little late to this:
Dominican Republic’s powerfully offensive team lost for the second time to the Netherlands, and is eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.

Oh man, I wish I were in the office to hear my coworkers talk about this! Bad enough for the DR to lose, but to lose to the Netherlands?!?!?! Ouch.

In good sports news, the West Indies beat England in the five-test series cricket match. I know absolutely nothing about cricket. Zip. But the only radio station I get in my Japanese car is KLAS, Jamaica's sports radio station. Test Cricket takes forever (5 days) and is very British, complete with breaks for tea. So while I've been driving around Kingston, I've listened to the series. I wish I actually undestood what was happening, because apparently it was quite a dramatic series.