Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monday - Elias Piña school & pictures of Haiti

Again, if you are looking for the engineering blog, you should begin a few days ago -

Each day we have been here without the group, the difference between having a day crammed with activity vs. a day with an activity planned is apparent.  Each day has had a very rewarding activity / visit / opportunity, but hasn't been exceptionally busy like last week.

The plan for Monday was to head to Elias Piña to meet our newly sponsored girl Aymar.  Jenny remembered her from last year - she can be seen in almost every picture when Jenny was in the 3-4 year old class.  We showed her picture to Laura, and she immediately recognized her as a high priority student. We also grabbed a suitcase of school supplies, since Elias Piña is one of the more impoverished areas.  We also wanted to drive somewhere to say we saw Haiti...  We originally thought it might be cool to cross the border, but earlier we heard that if you cross the border things can go down, so it's really not a safe idea.

LOTS of pics of the Elias Piña kids!

Trying to block the kids in the room - sometimes successful, sometimes not :-)

"Find Laura!"

So first, one little guy busted out of the 3-4 year old room.  I assumed he was running to Jenny for a hug (since that's what everyone does!) but he ran to me instead.

... then this guy followed

Aymar was a little late for school, but we was adorable once we got to meet her -

Awesome visit!

Running out of time this morning, so here's Haiti.  The brown mountains in the distance...

... or just go across this river.

In the evening, we walked to the taco place just over the bridge.  I said we probably didn't need the camera, but it featured

- tons of birds in cages
- DELICIOUS tacos.  Chicken...

There was a menu featuring beef, chicken, pork...  Each thing we asked about, "we don't have any of that".  Eventually, it was clear:  taco pollo.  No problemo!

My favorite:

What would you like to drink?
No juices...  water or pop.
OK, what kind of pop do you have?
What kind would you like?
OK.  I'll go buy some.
(few minutes later)
Sorry, no pepsi.  What else would you like?
What do you have?
Orange, grape, Sprite.
OK, Sprite.

Those tacos were absolutely the best!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunday - world's smallest waterfall

Once more - so much for blogging every day!  I'll try to stick with pics instead of words...

Again - looking for serious discussion, thoughtful insight or engineering content?  Head two entries in the past -

Sunday – We went to church.  This time, it was (as expected) 100% Spanish.  Nef, our interpreter last week, led the music.  The music was terrific – and loud!  The coolest thing was calling people with birthdays to the stage.  There was a young girl turning 15 and two ladies turning 64 and 66.  The congregation counts to their age – Nef said something like “We’ll be here all day – maybe we should count by 10s?” and the ladies said ‘Oh no – we deserve each one of those numbers!”  There was counting and a girl volunteered to sing happy birthday.  My favorite part is still what we call in the U.S. the “greet your niehgbor”.  In the U.S., you shake hands down the line and say “Hi.”  Here, it went a solid 10 minutes with hugs.  After that 10 minutes, there were still people all around hugging, including running to the front to hug Nef and others. 

We decided to go see the fabulous waterfall we heard about last year.  It’s got hiking, rock climbing, and is supposed to be a place you can spend hours.  We drove a long way asking for directions.  Each time, it was “just a little bit further.”  No photoshop here - the pic with Jenny standing by the waterfall is THE waterfall the people on the street directed us to.  Turns out, we were at the wrong one.  We explored the riverbank instead...

Each speed bump usually has a vendor or two selling just about anything -

Sunday night - we headed upstairs and watched the Muppets!  Sorry, no pics from there... I love that movie.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday - wandering around town

Let me start by saying:  if you have stumbled here looking for thoughtful content or content related to engineering, you might skip this one and go straight to yesterday's:


It's Saturday, and the plans were to go to the beach with Juan Ernesto and Eileen and their daughters and Bieveneda, but Jenny's strep throat made that impossible.  I feel terrible for her...  yesterday, I went to the clinic to try to find a thermometer and ran into Bienvaneda, who found one in 10 seconds.

We made the best of the day anyway.  It started with a breakfast quesadilla (yum!) and a little mango.  Jenny decided she could walk into town.  I've been here 4 times now and it's always cool to walk into town.  The traffic goes from nothing to chaos in a few seconds, and sometimes there are nice sidewalks, then nothing.  Walking over the bridge is interesting too.

 Looking across the bridge...  ^
 Lots of color everywhere  ^
 Cows under the bridge  ^
 "Americanos!"  ^
These guys were swimming in the river for hours.  It looked pretty clean, but...  ^

There is a huge cathedral where you can climb to the top of a few spiral staircases and see over the town.  I've never climbed it, so we headed there.  I was impressed - very cool!

There was some kind of appliance store across the street playing some good music.  Chris & I went there; I think the song changed by the time we asked what was playing.  This song was something like chica chica... On our walk, we passed a CD store and they had the equivalent of the Now! CDs (samplers), for 100 pesos (about $3).  Plus, they burned you a copy while you wait!  We got 5 CDs for about $10.  They also had a Funstation 1 video game system that looked remarkably like a Playstation 1.

We then decided to check on a Dominican cellphone and headed deeper into town.  One place wouldn't take charge, but the big Claro dealer with the big dancing Claro mascot will.  We found the store, but no dancing mascot (too bad).  The big one said no passport, no phone, but the place across the street will sell you one without a passport if you pay cash.  No problemo!  "I need your passport" - "I don't have one on me"  "OK".

Jenny had enough by this time, but before she could rest, we walked about 2 or so miles back in the sun in 95 degree heat.

On the way, I decided I also wanted a cellphone.  They are pay as you go, and cost about $16.  Chris and I headed back out...

Back to the "no passport" dealer and I had my phone in 5 minutes.  We headed to the grocery store because, well, why not?  We rounded the corner and there was Bienveneda!  She IS everywhere!  I bought some Dominican cookies (yes, vanilla Dinos are tasty!) and we headed to lunch.

Bienva had fried green bananas.  You fry them, then smash them, then fry them again - but to be healthy, she ordered hers fried once.  And she had the goat.  Not real goat - "If you order goat, you get goat meat.  This is from the inside - the liver, the lungs, the heart - full of iron!"  I got beef, Chris got chicken (with rice & beans).  The chicken was the best.  Good friends, good conversation!  We did try to order Coca Cola light, and had to pay for it so they could go to the store and buy some.  No luck - oh well!  The guy at the next table had brought in his own avocado, cut it up at the table, and offered a chunk to us.  It's a common theme - generosity.

Jenny felt worse, and Kari offered to call Dr. Sandy who was here in 5 minutes.  He said to try this pill too (no idea) and this spray (no idea)...

I spent some time on the roof watching traffic - which is much more fun and interesting than it sounds.  Also spent some time reading a book for pleasure - totally unrelated to work.  (I did sneak in a budget revision and send a few work related emails...  :-)  )

Dinner is mac & cheese and peas.  Well, not peas - guandules.  They look like peas on the can, except in real life, they're brown.  Tomorrow - church, then... no idea!  Monday we visit Elias Piña again, and Tuesday we're back to the schools around San Juan to deliver teacher supplies...