Archive | May, 2012

eeek, over a week

27 May

Wow, turns out I haven’t blogged in more than a week – 10 days I think.

Sorry, to the wee wee fan base! No excuses really, just blah blah blah.

So I started teaching last week in the ‘Explore’ program at UBC.  To re-cap and for any new wee wee fanbasers, Explore is a federal government bursary program where university students can come to various cities in Canada for five weeks to improve their English or French.  Their time is jam packed with classes, assignments, tests,  and activities after school into the wee hours of the night.  Most of the students at UBC are from Quebec or immigrants to Quebec.  UBC also teaches French to anglophones from Quebec but only for one five week session.  French students can pick from two five week sessions.

Phew, explained it.  Anyway, ELI provides teachers for Explore, which is part of the Languages, Culture and Travel program at UBC.  Seniority teachers get offered first, then folks like me. I had an interview and got hired on the spot, which was great! Explore at UBC (at Langara and Capilano University it is different) has no curriculum and the teachers make it up from scratch and without any texts, so a challenge indeed.  We are able to pick our own them and I decided on, “Media and Current Events.” 

The first week (last week) we taught full days but now it is to be half days Monday, Wed. and Friday and full days Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Tuesdays we are to take the students on field trips in the afternoons.

Phew, finished explaining part 2.  Anyway, it is busy, busy busy, similar to a rollercoaster ride they say and indeed it is true.  I haven’t taught the Quebecois before and they are extremely fluent but have some errors.  They are on the ball, young and demanding.  A great change in some ways and rather scary in others.  My homeroom class is good, albeit a little quiet and not enjoying my humour as much as the other class.  Uh well.  Friday I learned how to connect my laptop to the laptop projector, which was a huge thing for me!  The classrooms are generally nice (Buchanan building for those of you who know UBC) and I love the campus, which is especially lovely this time of year.   So much construction though, clear through to at least 2016. Craziness.

So, I’m doing the five week session, then have an (unpaid) 9 days off and then another 5 week session.  After that, it is 3 weeks back at ELI.  13 weeks of work over 14 weeks, until August 24.  I’m thrilled about it all.  Curriculum writing experience, etc.  It is so good for me to be working, it really is.  There are 5 other English teachers – 3 of whom I know from ELI, one I used to work with at the corporation (ooops, almost typed the name of the school), and one who is new to me.  The coordinator is a nice young fellow.  There are also about 20 bilingual monitors who are responsible for afternoon workshops and evening activities so they are super super busy.  And young so they can cope with it!

I’m feeling pleased about being back at UBC but also somehow heavy.  I don’t know, I guess it’s the realization that soon and again I will be unemployed again.  Yes, yes, negative thinking, yes, yes.  Just how I’m feeling.  I’m wanting some permanence I think, some security.  I mean I’ll probably be able to work these 13 weeks at UBC every year (depending on student numbers of course and depending how I do teaching Explore, so far so good, I think) but 13 weeks is about 39 fewer weeks than I need.  Hmmm.  The corporation is growing again, with lots of students.  So I still torture myself about whether or not I should have put in a whole lot of money (and would have gotten most of it back) as I could still be there. I know, I know, same old same old.  At the same time, I’ve had a chance to have these great new experiences.  Tricky, tricky.  I am an emotional gal, tis true.  Anyway, 3 months work is nice that is for sure and not bad pay either, enough that I may be able to save a wee wee bit or at the very least not spend more of my savings.

I’m tired so that does make me more emotional, also true.

What else?  Oooh, Sister Wives reality show is back!  Two new episodes tonight.  The reality of their lives is becoming more prominent on the show and it is not a happy four wives, one husband situation.  I admit it, I read their book too (ghost written so no grammatical mistakes) and wowza dysfunctional. Exciting.

Kitsilano Pool is once again open for the summer. Got a three month pass.  This, I like.  See you there.

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Conquered those there hills

17 May

‘Achoo!” I say today, over and over.  Hmmm.

Sheesh, do you ever have those just before waking up kinda nightmares where you can’t quite wake up but think you are awake but can’t quite get there and such?  I get this once in awhile and I HATE IT.  I had this this morning and I kept going back into a dream where I was in Saudi Arabia with a couple who were forever forced to not leave their home, even for water.  I think I am often thirsty in the night.

These people just walked under my window and the woman said, ‘I didn’t say anything when she said it but I was SO shocked.  It was like this massive . . .”  That’s all I heard.  So interesting.

So yeah, weird nightmarey thing and then when I do wake up (which I am grateful for) it’s all surreally all day.  Yuck.  I’d almost rather stay up all night then deal with that.

So in that state (er, province) I prepped a bit for next week and then decided to go for an epic bike ride.  I’ll give that to anxiety and feeling surreal – it fuels my ability to bike a long way.  I did the (I think) 20 mile (are we not in Canada?  Kilometres, come on) or 25 mile UBC-NW Marine Drive-41st Avenue and back lo0p with many many up hill hills.  Many there were many.  And finally, there were many.  And honestly, I barely broke a sweat but I did huff and puff.  Not because I am in epic shape but because of the anxiety in my body.  So that’s a postive side of it all.  Yup.  I will tone down on cycling once the Kits. pool swimming begins.

So my brain is exhausted and I’m not looking forward to going to sleep tonight for fear of the yucky nightmare-ish thing.  They tend to happen in the morning though so I will set my alarm so that will at least stop it if it is going on.

Oh, the sub-conscious mind can be a dangerous thing.

Hmmm. If you have a friend who is totally blowing you off, do you say, hey, why is it that you are blowing me off or do you leave it.  Me thinks I better leave it.

Another beautiful and sunny day here in Vancouver.  Just checked the forecast and Sat. will be up to 17C.  A bit chilly for the first day of Kits pool but not too bad.  The low is 7 though so must get in before nightfall.

I’m so ready to start this job.  Enough of me, myself and I already.

Oh and rumour was (per a long term tenant) that the other of my wee building is thinking of selling.  Makes sense – I mean she had the roof repaired, just had some interior painting.  So I saw her today and said, “Hi, lots of repairs.  Are you thinking of selling?” She looked stunned, hesitated, looked stunned, said, ‘oh no.’  Hmmm.

Steak frites and there is too such thing as a free lunch.

15 May

The last time I had steak frites was when I was in Paris in 2006.  Oh how place name droppy I know.  My preferred name droppy place that I’ve been to is Istanbul, but Paris also serves well in that regard.

 The person I was staying with (she was great – we’d met when I was finding myself in Europe in 2003.  We stayed at the same hostel in Rome.  She’s English and she moved to Paris, lived secretly with her boyfriend – traditional parents – and worked on the Champs D’Elysee.  My staying with her for a week ultimately ended our friendship,  Oh, the drama. Eeek, may that be a lesson to you who want me to stay at your house) but before that, she and her beau took me to a great steak frites – and only steak frites – restaurant at a completely non-touristy place.  Wow, the gravy was amazing.

Anyway, yesterday was the BIG LUNCH MEETING with the coordinators and the other teachers of the English Explore (the French teachers met today).  Somehow this is paid but in an unpaid kind of a way.  But the lunch was paid!!!!!!  And wowza a snazzy bistro – business people et al.  Lots of seafood which I don’t eat but there was steak frites!  I think it was the most expensive thing on the menu!    I was the first one to order so I also ordered a Sprite – eeek, no one else ordered a beverage.  I realize that people with real jobs probably have these kind of free lunch meetings all the time but for me I WAS EXCITED BEYOND ALL PROPORTION TO THE ACTUAL EVENT.  And I think there is another lunch next session but now now, one thing at a time.  I must first survive this 5 week session that starts next week.  Until then, I can prep at home.  Seems there is only one photocopier for all the French and English teachers and it won’t be set up for a week.  I must breathe about that.

Speaking of having emotions that are beyond all proportion to the actual situation, that seemed to have happened this past Sunday.  I won’t go into any details lest I get sued (ha) and to spare the mortification of well, me really.  Suffice to say that I freaked out at a situation that no one else seems to have freaked out about.

“Don’t freak out about this situation with the person,” advised Tracy on the phone. 

“But I have big feelings,” I replied.

Later, in an e-mail to the person involved, I wrote, along with an apology, “I have big feelings.”

“Seems so,” she said.

I then phoned someone else who was one of the 99.9% of folks that were not upset with the situation.  She explained things to me slowly and gently, which was nice because I was up on the mountain with my big feelings that were out of proportion to the situation.

I respect this person immensely and that is not out of proportion because she deserves that respect.

Phew, indeed.

Oh, books.  I found, “Good in a Crisis,” a memoir of sorts by Margaret Overton, who is a doctor and thus I respect her almost automatically.  An anesthesiologist from the U.S. of well, A, she wrote about her brain aneuryism (seriously why are there so many difficult words to spell in this sentence), her divorce and a lot about her miserable internet dating experiences. Ha!!!!!  I LOVED it.  Her writing is very tight and very deadpan.  If you like my blog style o writing, you will like her writing.  She writes like I do but better and more, well, publishable.  Deadpan is hard to write and she nails it.  I hope she writes more, maybe about her experiences as a doctor.  I love those doctor writes a book about what they do doctoring books.  I’ve read several.  I like reading about people working at their work.   And also books people write about being paralyzed or almost being eaten by a bear, that kind of thing.  But they must be written well.  That’s the problem, publishers see a unique story – like say someone cutting out their own eye on a mountain – and they rush to get it published but the person and/or the ghost writer simply can’t write.  And you often have to read all about the childhood of the person before they got on the mountain and cut out her eye and really I don’t care, I just want to get to the eye cutting part.  Celebrity written books also often suffer from poor writing.  Valerie Bertinelli’s are rather badly written and she once admitted in some interview that it was completely ghost written, that just writing the acknowledgements nearly did her in.  Some publicist must have sat down and talked with her because she never admitted that again.

Now, I was disappointed in Anne Lamott’s latest,  “Some Assembly Required: A Journal of my Son’s First Son.”  I’ve always liked Lamott’s writing, particularly her non-fiction.  A liberal-o-rama Christian (yes, that is not an oxymoron.  Okay, settle down, Karen) I’ve always liked her take on things.  Funny, self-deprecating and liberally spiritual.  Her 20-year-old son, Sam, who she wrote about in “Operating Instructions” about his first year of life, helped write the book.  Seems Sam’s girlfriend, Amy, got pregnant and popped when they were both 19.  What I really didn’t like about the book is that Sam sounds way way way too together in  his sections of the book.  Way too evolved, as it were.  Now I get that Anne instilled in him her own spiritual evolution but it still rang untrue.  She does make clear that he and Amy were constantly fighting and that the thrill of having a baby was nearly equal to the stress of it for him.  But really?  I just found him pretentious.  And worse than that, I found Anne Lamott pretentious as well.  She seems to have a myriad of spiritual pals that she calls on constantly and they are always ready with some enlightenment expressed in hip and humouress ways.  And she is quite repetitive – over and over she talks about how controlling she is and etc. And then she has a whole section when she is in India that doesn”t seem to fit in and just seems like it was thrown in to fill up the book.  Sam’s bio says that he is, “an inventor, designer, entrepreneur and artist,” which to me means he doesn’t enjoy so much the regular job thing and fair enough, he”s only like 23 years old.  Hopefully the sales of the book will help keep his wee one in diapers, although by now the child may be toilet trained.

Tonight I’m starting to read, “Eight Months on Ghazzah Street,” an early novel by HilaryMantel (who in 2009 wrote the critically acclaimed, Wolf Hall).  Eight months is about an English woman who moves to Saudi Arabia with her husband for his job.  I just started it and it is very, very good.  Thank you, Janis, for that recommendation.  Or rather she mentioned something about the book and I thought it sounded interesting.

Wow, this is a long blog entry.  Anyway, it’s been fairly nice out, so I’m cycling this week a lot and trying to enjoy my last week of freedom before the 13 week job starts (well 14 weeks of time but there is a week off in between programs in late June).  Kitsilano pool opens on Saturday and that is great.  Too bad it couldn’t have been open during my massive amounts of unemployed weeks but alas, it would have been too cold.

Overbiked me thinks

13 May

Hello, wee wee fan base (also known as:  small fan base). Well, the sunny and warm days are rolling out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Twas hot yesterday (20C) and even hotter today.  I am going to sit on Kits beach in a minute, perhaps in the shade this time.  I think I got a little heat exhaustion from yesterday.  I had a lovely afternoon sitting at the beach with C. and her dog and then had coffee with Karen Moe (two names given so you know that I am not talking about myself).  I worked with her for many years at the corporation and now she is running her own dog photography/people portraits business and doing quite well too.  She took the self-employment program through EI after she left the corporation. She is already an artist and such so it’s an excellent fit.  She puts in mega hours and I’m quite proud of her, sniffle.  Now mind you, I hadn’t really eaten that much yesterday when I saw her – something about overbiking and heat makes me not so hungry.  But wowza was I ever dizzy/zoned out with her.  So after a little while I headed home and stopped at a Japanese place to buy some overpriced takeout.  This I should not do when I’m not reallly so much employed.  The expensive part is the vegetable tempura – which I love love love.  Or raher, let’s be honest, I love the breading.  And some beef teriyaki = a lot o money.  Twas needed though in my tummy.  I need to stop messing with the not eating right as it well, messes me up.  Why am I so dizzy/lightheaded/fainty?  I wonder.  Oh yes, I haven’t eaten in three days, that might be it.  Then I have to eat stuff like veggie dogs from the Trout Lake canteen.  Lord have mercy.

Speaking of eating, tomorrow is my first meeting for my job that officially starts May 22, after the long weekend.  It is at, and I know I’ve mentioned this but bear with me as I’ve never evver had a lunch meeting before, the Sage Bistro at UBC’s University Centre. Wowza – I looked up their menu online and it is posh and expensive.  I wonder if they have a set lunch for these types of meetings – no fish!  no fish! people and there is a whole lot of fish up there at that bistro.  I’m even going to dress up all businessy – well, out of my shorts anyway.  (Phew, says the wee wee fan base).  I have some great skirts actually accumulated from WHEN I HAD A JOB but not really shoes or tops to go with them.  Alas, I’m not going to be buying a lot of clothes since my jobs is temporary. So I hope that I learn more about the job and get a good idea on how to start prepping.  I’m a tiche nervous about that – as I say, there is no curriculum whatsoever,  just some very general guidelines.  I want a key or something to a photocopier so I can come up this week and like photocopy and such.  Mind you, you never really know what you know till you see the whites of the students’ eyes.

Oh!  And Kits. pool, which should be open today since it is so nice out, is opening on Saturday.  I’m hoping the weather holds.

Speaking of changes (well, I was originally but then I deleted some of it)- NBC cancelled the brand new series,”Awake.” Now I’ve seen a whole lot o tv shows in my time, starting with Sesame Street (which thankfully has not been cancelled yet.  Knock wood!!!!  Wood knock!!!!!) to the Waltons (like manna from heaven) to thirtysomething (Maggie May loves this show more than I do, as does Gail) to Greys Anatomy (really?  A plane crash?  My theory is that Arizona will be a paraplegic and have a super hard time dealing with that which will be shown when she is caring for her and Callie’s baby and drops something and can’t pick it up.  This will take up all of next season.  Lexie is the one who will die I think (some major character does but not the original six we are told).  Alex will stick around Seattle Grace to help out Arizona and the rest of the gang will stay too in order to properly process Lexie’s death and help to push Arizona’s wheelchair. (wow, that was insensitive) and Iknow for crappy TV and have watched it to soothe my soul.  But Awake was really, really good. It had a kind of science fictiony concept which I don’t usually like but it also was a procedural detective drama, a drama about a family and a drama about a man living in two worlds and not knowing which one was real.  A great cast, even the actress who played his wife who of course was too young for that role was excellent.  It had me riveted, partly because you never knew what was real and what wasn’t and there were clues everywhere.  So, of course, because it was intelligent and different, it was cancelled. Sigh.  Two more episodes I think.

Back in the day – TV had a chance to build an audience – heck, thirtysomething wasn’t that popular its first season.

Anyway, you can find Awake online and you might want to watch all 13 of its episodes, in order.

Uh well, life goes on.

I’m going to go sit on the beach.

Teeth, and a fan in the wee fan base I am thrilled about. Giggle.

9 May

T. always trumps me, usually when she is not trying to.

We spoke on the phone this afternoon.

“I have an upset stomach,” I told her, “And feel kinda icky yuckyish.”

T. responded with, “I have an abscess in my tooth that without antibiotics will travel to my brain and kill me.”

Trump!

Because T. is a single mother and thus can’t work hours and hours and hours and because, let’s face it, single mothers often have it really, really tough, she can’t afford to go to the dentist.  Neither can I really, but I do make sure to get in there for a cleaning/checkup once a year.  T. is also terrified of needles and has compromised breathing (bad asthma) so dental work is not an easy thing for her.  But mainly it is the cost.  Yes, there is the Portland Hotel Society’s free dental clinic but that can’t replace regular checkups and such, it just can”t.  So many people are walking around the Downtown Eastside missing teeth.  A national shame really.  So finally, she got some dental x-rays. She’ll probably have to have another tooth pulled and a whole bunch of dental work which she is hoping to get done at VGH, which will be covered.  Her abscess is considered a dental emergency so she is waiting to hear.  Until then, she is on antibiotics.  Once again, I ask naively and bitterly why some people get to have so much money and others don’t.  Crazy.

Turns out Maggie May’s mother, M., likes my blog!!!!!!!!!!  She really likes my blog!!!!!!!!!!!  Dig it.  DIG IT.  Now, wee wee fan base, don’t be offended as I am thrilled when anyone likes my blog.  We are all equal in my socialistic blog world but M. likes my blog!!!!!!!!!!  Aloha, I say.  M. is in Maui right now. And no, I am not sucking up so M. will invite me to Hawaii.  I have a 3 month job coming up after all.

What else?  As I say, I’m not feeling great today so lay around even more than usual.  Uh well.  I hate being nauseous, it makes eating less enjoyable.

I started reading, “Elizabeth and Hazel,” a non-fiction book I got out of the library.  It’s about two 15-year-olds in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.  One, Elizabeth, was a girl trying to desegregate Little Rock Central High School and in a famous photograph, Hazel is seen behind her, her face twisted in rage and disgust, shouting.  A few years later, Hazel would apologize to Elizabeth and become heavily involved in activism.  Wow.

And then I am surrounded by lots of other books and magazines, as per usual.  Soothing really.

I went to mindfulness meditation again this morning.  It was more difficult today.  The rather edgy sometime leader (I like the other one better, she isn’t edgy) always mentions afterwards that we should try and meditate with both feet on the floor. I tend to sit cross-legged.  What I wanted to say was, ‘I’m amazed that I can sit for 40 minutes without moving and banging my head against the wall so really, how I sit, let’s not obsess.”  Hmmm.

I think her heart is in the right place though.

Lots of folks were coughing and sniffling and sneezing in the room today too.  Sniffle, cough, sniffle.  There was discussion of an upcoming celebration of Buddha’s birthday.  “Of his birth and death,” said edgy leader.  And, so trained am I, I always wait for the ‘and resurrected.’  Ha.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the meditation and those who kindly run it.

Now I’m off to a non-churchy thing at the church.  Rev. Beth says we’re starting with a little meditation or a little labryinth walking.

Make sure you know your bib number

8 May

Well, tiny fan base (also sometimes known as wee), I actually did a bit of volunteering over the weekend.  It was just three hours but volunteers did not build Rome in a day after all, or something like that.  And I got a t-shirt!  The BMO sponsored Vancouver marathon was this past weekend.  I’d wanted to volunteer on the actual day, but they had me up for Saturday at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where runners signed up and where there was also the ‘health’  fair or some such buy stuff from us thing.

My role was to stand in front of boards with bib numbers, which runners needed before they could register farther down the line.  “Make sure you have your bib number!” I said as they walked past, over and over and over.  I did not mind this, although my back got soreish.  It was kinda fun.  Although I kept saying ‘bin’ instead of ‘bib’.  I think bin is easier to say when you have to say it repeatedly.   Hmmm, interesting.  A few people asked me questions about where to eat, where the skytrain was, etc.  Many many international folks  were running in the marathon.  And people of all shapes, sizes and ages too.  42 kilometres!!!!!!!!  I quiver at the thought.  There was the half-marathon too.

I used to run (er jog) and got quite serious about it too – at one point ran up to 90 minutes.  It was the best way to lose weight, I found and the best natural anti-anxiety.  But, alas, my knees complained but more importantly, my ankles.  My joints are naturally loose and my ankles, one long ago badly sprained, started to give out at random times and I’d tumble to the ground. This still happens sometimes but usually only after I’ve been wearing bad shoes or some such but still.  Even after I do the elliptical I find this.  Yikes.  So now I fair weather cycle and swim (Kits pool opens on May 19th!!!!!!).  It’s going to be chilly but I shall be there, I think with Glenda unless she is still in Italy.  So really, during the winter months, I don’t so much exercise. On Friday, I rode 20 miles or so, up to UBC and then around NW Marine Drive to 41st and back to Kitsilano.  And yesterday to Queen Elizabeth Park and back.  A lot for an old gal, I’m telling you.  I’d texted my epic ride to my former UBC boss.  She texted back, saying she had just done the Grouse Grind.  And this woman is older than I am by a bit and a half.  “Uh yes, I texted back, but did you ride your bike up the grind?”

Anyway, on Sunday morning the full length marathoners were running by a block from my place at around 10 am.  I stood out there for about half an hour cheering them on.  One woman, a volunteer, was shouting out their names (which are on their bibs) and you could see that it was so encouraging for them.  I teared up actually.  People were running in this incredibly long race and others were cheering them on.  Sniffle, sniffle and outright crying on my part.  The fellow who won the marathon is from Ethiopia I believe and came in at around 2 hours and 21 minutes, which means he ran faster than a four minute mile the whole way.  Whoa, whoa and whoa. 

And so that was my volunteering.  I’m sure I could have volunteered more but I didn’t know when I signed up if I would be working or not.  Tricky.

Hmmm, so I’m still free until the first teacher/coordinator/head of dept. meeting on May 14, up at a bistro at UBC. I believe it is a free lunch!!!!!  Yee haw, I say.  It’s kinda unpaid but I don’t mind so much.  At that point we will meet our team teachers (morning classes are shared by two teachers) and hopefully get more of an idea on how to prep.  Then aa week to prep and boom, May 22, although we don’t meet the students until May 23 when we test them in the morning, teach in the afternoon and go on a 3 hour welcome cruise with them around Burrard Inlet.  I believe there will be alcohol on board (all students must be at least 19 to attend Explore) so should be . . . interesting indeed. 

Three months of work with a week off at the end of the first session – unpaid but what can you do.  Of course I’m already thinking ahead to August 24 when I will be unemployed again!  UBC”s student numbers have been very low and all sorts and the next short programs don’t begin until Feb and they often only use the teachers they already have and etc.  Sigh.  Yes, I know, I know, thinking too much ahead!  Aw . . . . just being realistic.  ESL peaks in the summer and dies in the fall/winter.  However, the three months of work will be a great chance to be at UBC and to be like a normal (well) person again and etc. and not just spending money.  I really do have to start to try and wake up early again and etc.

What else?  I thought there was something else?  La la la la la la.  Oh, I did watch a documentary about a woman who loves objects and married the Eiffel Tower but really, that is just disturbing and sensationalistic and thus great to watch.

Kits pool, wee wee fan base.  Be there.

 

 

Another story, this one creative non-fiction

4 May

Well, not sure how the story sharing is going over but I’ll continue because, well, you just never know the fame and glory that awaits.

This is a creative non-fiction piece and much different in tone than the Georgia pieces.  I originally wrote it in 2007, immediately after returning from a rather disastrous trip to the Dominican Republic.  So funny really, because I knew that some folks were picturing me relaxing at an All Inclusive, soaking up the sun.  Ha!  Quite the opposite.  I had travelled through Europe on my own a few years before and had decided, why not do the same in the DR. Oh, me. Oh, my.  What I hope the piece shows – and I spent a lot of time recently re-working it – is not that the DR was the problem, but that rather my naivete was.  And then I spend the last bit on the sex tourism. Yikes. Again, copying and pasting is not always my friend so it may not be perfect.  Forgive me, wee fan base, forgive me.

The middle-aged scuba diving instructor tells you that he’s an old hand at living in the Dominican Republic. He’s been here for five years, he says, looking bored, like your questions are tedious for him. He went back to Germany for awhile but loves it so much here that he’s chosen to come back for good.

“I can rent a house for 6,000 pesos a month,” he says, “My friend is going to show me some.”

You calculate quickly and loosely and figure out that that’s about $150. He goes on to say that he’s just returned to the DR, which explains why he is staying in the $18/night set of cabins in Las Terrenas. You are staying here because these cabins are the cheapest thing going on the island for a lone traveller and because they are the closest thing to a hostel. You want to meet fellow travellers. You’ve travelled some before – 8 weeks in Europe 4 years earlier netted a whole lot of dodgy accommodations but also a whole set of interesting people. You didn’t mind travelling alone but it isn’t your favourite thing because sometimes it feels, well, lonely. But on the whole it means you can go where you want. And the people you have encountered from around the world intrigue you.

This German man isn’t intriguing though. Rather, he is grossing you out.

“You like it here, eh?” you ask him, probing for a bit more information.

You, you basically hate it here. You know that is a shameful way to feel, typical of a first worlder loping into the developing world. Your left-wing armchair idealism hasn’t prepared you for the chaos, the pollution, the chronic holes in the red dirt roads and the screaming of the motoconchos (motorcycle taxis, many unlicensed) as they whiz past every two seconds, the drivers insisting that they can take you wherever you want to go. You started in a town known for kitesurfing and built around one road. The action on the road never stopped, people honking and screaming in Spanish, a language you don’t know half a word of but because you’d gotten along fine in Prague without knowing a syllable of Czech you figured this would be the same. You were wrong.

You came for the beaches at the suggestion of a co-worker whose friends loved it. What she didn’t tell you until later and really what you should have guessed (uh, duh) was that these friends were well-off and had stayed in one of the all-inclusive resorts you’d seen on the way from the airport. The A.I.’s were well off the beaten track, hidden away from pretty much everything. You’d thought yourself too adventurous, too independent, to go to a resort. Again, you were wrong.

You don’t want to be wimpy. You despise the wimpy, those who go to a different country and do nothing but compare it to their own. But the oppressive heat, the fear of being robbed, the unrelenting chaos and the crappy hotel room that flooded to your knees, is freaking you out. You are alone and you are not coping, simple as that.

Feeling trapped, you leave a day early from the kite town and take a local bus to Las Terrenas, a town only slightly less touristy but with better beaches and this near- hostel. You figure that god might still exist since you meet and cling to two travellers in their twenties – a Czech guy and a Welsh girl. (You are freshly forty, single and have vague notions of finding yourself by wandering around. You are wrong.) The Welsh girl works on oil rigs doing mapping and has been all over the world, including Angola during their Civil War. The pair are calm and unflappable and you thank them profusely for their kindness. The cabins are a half-hour walk out of town on red dirt roads with no signage. You’ve never had a sense of direction and if it weren’t for them, you would never leave the near-hostel. When you do go out with them, the three of you traipse across the roads, watching the motoconchos and cars zoom so close to you that for the first couple of days you are all sure you are going to get slammed to the ground.

These roads are undergoing constant excavation, something a sign warns of in interesting English – “danger of excavation”. A woman old enough to be the Czech guy’s grandmother follows you, looking unfazed. The workers graciously let you pass. Your sense of balance has always been awful and you are more than a little surprised when you don’t fall into the excavating. You figure if you did fall that the men would shout at you in Spanish for awhile and then leave you to yourself, possibly covering you over in dirt the next day. You know that that is primarily a silly and bigoted thought but the heat has gotten to you. The Czech guy is wonderful but he has the stamina of his age and chooses to walk for miles in the heat-stroking heat

The search for food is almost constant. You know better than to drink the water of course, the Dominicans don’t drink it, something proved out by the ubiquutous empty blue jugs outside of supermercados. Supermarket you think, is generally a misnomer here, although in the more touristy areas close to the beach, they are better stocked. Again, you abhor the first-world arrogance that demands the type of food you are used to. You don’t actually, you’d settle for almost anything that would settle and fill your stomach. There is only a tiny store close to the near-hostel which contains mainly some rotting fruit, cereal, the odd diaper, some candy and pizza-flavoured Pringles. Your hunger adds to your self-absorption and you don’t even think about what the locals are able to find to eat. It’s all about how you will fill your stomach.

You choose a few bananas and a pineapple for breakfast each day. Because you are a typically overfed first-worlder, that combination only keeps you in energy for about an hour. Your travelling mates do well without food for most of the day and you don’t want to bother them by requesting an out of the way stop to a grocery store. It’s as if you are losing coherent thought or concern for anyone else but yourself. Why you don’t just leave or at least pony up the money for an all-inclusive or at least a hotel that would be near restaurants are questions you don’t ask yourself. Only later will you marvel at your idiocy.

Now, you think that your body will adjust to eating only once a day, in the evening. Even then it is spaghetti with whatever flavour of Ragu sauce is on offer.

Such a diet leaves you nauseous and weaker than usual, fuelling your anxiety. If you had read of someone else behaving in such a manner, you’d think they were crazy. And your mind, in a way, has trapped you into near craziness. To be clear, it’s not the country’s fault but simply the dysfunctional workings of your own brain.

Somehow on one of these no food days you find yourself on the back of a horse for the first time in your life. The horses are accompanied by some DR gentlemen who guide them on foot up a mountain. The mountain is rocky terrain and even the calm Czech man is a bit concerned about horses falling over and broken heads. Because you are an expressive sort, you scream fuck fuck fuckin fuck a whole lot. The guides, who speak both Spanish and some French, laugh and laugh. You learn your other Spanish word – despacio! – slow down – even though you are not going at all fast. Finally, you get up the mountain and shaky, dirty and hot clamber off of the horse. Even the Welsh girl, who so far has seemed inured to the heat,- is finding it warm for the next activity, –climbing down over more rocks to the waterfall. You offer to stay where you are but the guides seemingly cannot go down without you. Johnny, the 17-year-old guide who has not laughed at you quite as much, gallantly holds your hand all the way down. Carlos, a truly wild and crazy guy, chivalrously carries the women over the water to get to the falls. The El Limon waterfalls are beautiful and once you stop shaking you snap many photos. This is the only day you have forgotten to wear your bathing suit under your clothes and you choose to be shy and not dive in naked like some of the others. Your feet though, enjoy the dipping. After about an hour it is time to go back down the mountain and before you go you buy the two types of sustenance on offer – Lays potato chips and water. Going down a mountain on a horse proves more perilous than going up but you live.

The next day, The Czech man suggests a walk to the stunning Playa Bonita and you wade in its waters for a number of hours, looking at the palm trees and realizing that yes, you are now in a postcard.

“It is fucking hot,” the Czech man says to you and you know then that yes, it is fucking hot because the Czech guy has not complained before. He makes the smart decision to stay on the beach until 4:00, when the sun will back off a millimetre or so. He notes the lack of washrooms or drinking water for miles and goes off to take a leak behind a palm tree. Yup, you think, noticing your bladder for the first time in awhile. You walk a few hundred metres because the trees are narrow and there are a few people milling about. The more heavily treed areas are surrounded by a barbed wire fence so you settle behind a tree that’s fallen and pull down your bathing suit, bum cheeks facing the fence and away from the ocean. It’s only after you’ve pulled yourself back up that you see the workmen about a ¼ of a mile behind the wire. You are tired, thirsty, mildly heat-stroked and punchy so are rather pleased you have given someone a bit of a thrill.

You don’t want to be gotten wrong, the beach is the most beautiful you have ever seen, the Atlantic Ocean’s temperature perfect for a little relief from the sweat, sand and red dirt that has lodged itself everywhere, even somehow into your butt crack. But it is not enough to bring you down from your anxiety.

On your last day, The Welsh woman is with you as the German scuba diving instructor tells you a bit more about his way of adapting to the DR.

“My friend told me when I first came here that to really understand the Dominicans, to really get it and to learn to speak Spanish that I should go and live in the slums for a year.” So off he went, he continued, to live with the poorest people on Hispaniola, except of course, for Haiti. He lost 35 pounds in that year and bathed in the river and ate only a little chicken and rice. “The first three weeks were really hard,” he notes. After that, he had no problems. He learned Spanish, he said, oh and also managed to make a son. This son is now five, he goes on, and is still living in the slums with his mother. “That damn woman, she won’t let me see him. And I have to pay 160 pesos a month to keep him in school. That woman. But my lawyer says he’s going to get me custody of him.”

The Welsh girl and you look at each other.

 “Well, I must go do paperwork,” he says.

Later that evening, another German fellow comes out of his cabin and locks it behind him, yelling out something to someone inside. The man nods to you and goes to make some spaghetti in the shared outdoor kitchen that has ants crawling everywhere. A few minutes later he puts his plate down to join you and takes the other full plate back to the cabin.

Early the next morning you are looking for the donkey that lives on the property. It is in front of the man’s cabin and so are the man, Dominican woman and her baby. Ugh, his baby too, you note from the child’s face. The man is trying to put his baby on the animal while the woman screams in Spanish. Because the heat isn’t yet fully up in the morning, you are still able to form semi-coherent thoughts. He’s going to put that poor baby on that fucking donkey even though his girlfriend/paid companion/mother of the child is insisting that he doesn’t.

Sure enough, the child is soon atop it.

You have seen more Germans on in two weeks than saw in 8 weeks in Europe. Fair enough, this is the part of the world where they like to spend their money. For North American men , it’s more often Thailand. But here in the Dominican, some of have found their piece of paradise. Another man at this near-hostel is on a long-term vacation and by his side is a Dominican girl who looks all of 15.

“Dominican girls look far younger than they are,” some ex-pats assure you on an online Dominican traveller’s forum you go into after you’ve returned to Canada. “There are no child prostitutes here,” they continue, “that is a lie.” “I’ve lived here for 15 years,” writes one man, “I’ve never seen any underage prostitutes here.”

You think that is one of the most fascinating forms of denial you’ve heard of, since your research has uncovered the number of 25,000 child prostitutes there.

“The whole feminist movement has wrecked Western women,” another expat informs you, “Dominican women are still traditional and we like that.”

“My wife,” a former American military man writes of his Dominican partner, “still bathes me after 10 years. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.”