Thursday, September 29, 2011


I've always known that people generally don't like change, but it wasn't until I started working on the managerial side of a business that I realized just how hard it is for people to want change to actually happen.  It was like someone died today when I told the employees that we needed to start using a milk thermometer to not scald the milk.  And I wish I could've recorded their resistance when I explained that a Cafe Americano needs to be made with one extra step - someone even told me that I "work like an animal." Riight.

I, on the other hand, love the rush of change.  Big changes that is, like moving to a new country.  We learn through change, and without learning, how can we ever be inspired?  

One of my favorite blogs brought me to the video below, which highlights Rick Mereki's 44 day journey through 11 different countries.  The video makes me smile because I realize that living in this oftentimes very difficult, dysfunctional country is bringing me so many experiences that I don't even consciously realize; experiences like the ones in this video that I otherwise would never imagine having (mine are just missing the uplifting background music).  

Rick Mereki has my dream job: getting paid to travel the world.  
What is yours? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Akon Plays the Bongos

A & I
Akon also loves to shower himself with bottles of water and let female fans pull/tug on a certain male body part.

These are just a few of the many things I learned about Akon after attending his rather comical concert on Saturday night.  Well, Sunday morning.  The concert start time was 9 pm.  What time did Akon begin? 1:30 am.  1:30.  IN THE MORNING.  I'm sure that wouldn't fly in America.

Anna & Carlos
Never have I seen so much thrusting within a 3 hour time span.  I especially liked when he changed up his moves a bit to begin a repetitive air smacking gesture while belting out Smack That.

Concert highlights included Akon's crowd surfing, and his stripping which eventually revealed his bright red boxer briefs.  He also spent a few songs rolling around the crowd in a bubble and had a look of terror on his face the whole time.

Before rolling in his bubble
My favorite part was when he surprised the audience with a guest duet performance with a Dominican version of himself.  The little Latino man looked about 5 feet tall and was wearing a fur vest and jacket, despite it being about 85 degrees outside.  Even so, the crowd went crazy while I just wanted to die laughing the whole time.

Akon and his Dominican version

Overall, I enjoyed the concert.  Surely not because Akon is the greatest artist, but because he's entertaining in a way that he doesn't even mean to be.  Two thumbs up.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Strongest Sangria

After living and traveling throughout Spain, boyfriend and I have had our fair share of sangria.  Sangria made with red wine, white wine, rose wine, cava; we pretty much know them all.  However, I'm sure he would agree when I say that we had the strongest sangria we've ever tasted on Friday night at Mix.

I don't know what they put inside their sangria, but I realized it was extra fuerte when I caught myself stabbing my dinner knife into the deep jar to [unsuccessfully] pull the cherries out.  Great table manners, I know. 

Mix is a trendy restaurant with the ambience of an upscale lounge bar.  It has a large outdoor terrace making it an attractive locale to meet friends for drinks or spend the evening on a date.  The spanglish menu offers international cuisine while highlighting Dominican ingredients, like passionfruit and plantains. 

Boyfriend had the Risotto de Aguacate y Camarones; a heavenly risotto with black tiger shrimps topped with avocado.  I had the Goat Cheese a la Chinola; a zesty salad with walnuts and parmesan cheese, tossed in a passionfruit sauce and truffle oil.  It was topped with melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese sticks (think mozzarella sticks) - I wish these came as their own appetizer.  

I can't wait to go back.  Next on my list to try: the Ceviche Cocoloco (ceviche marinated in coconut and lime, served with green plantain chips) and the Great Balls of Rice (risotto balls stuffed with Italian pork).

Mix is definitely a must-try for anyone in Santo Domingo.  
Just keep in mind that their sangria is meant for 4, not 2.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Not Always Paradise

I've now been in the Dominican Republic for nearly 6 weeks, and I can't say that I've "adjusted" or that I'm even coming close.  Living in the Caribbean is not all palm trees and sunshine..  Its hard.  Up until 6 weeks ago I had thought culture shock was for the weak.  Sure, living in Spain took a little bit of adjusting - I had to get used to eating dinner at 10:30 and I couldn't shop (not even for groceries) on Sundays because everything was closed.  However, besides the lack of reduced fat peanut butter, there weren't any major daily inconveniences.

Here on the other hand, I feel like I'm constantly in a state of culture shock; my draw drops and I shake my head probably more than I should.  Lets take today for example:  I waited for our ice delivery for over an hour, and when I called to ask what happened to our ice, the woman told me, "Mi amor, I'm so sorry, we have ice, but the ice is really ugly today, I'm sorry we didn't send it."  Alrighty then, thanks for calling?  This little incident might not sound like its drastically nerve racking, but when 10 similar incidents happen within an 8 hour span, I go crazy.

I don't think I'll ever be fully adjusted here, but I can work on my patience with the many inefficiencies "differences" that I encounter.  

Anyway, moral of the story is that poor boyfriend has had to put up with my daily frustration, anger, sadness and general negativity for nearly 6 weeks.  Once, after blabbing to my parents about the high crime rate in the city, he told me that if they ever came to pick me up and send me home, he wouldn't stop them {true love}.  Although he obviously has become frustrated with my attitude at times (who can blame him?), I'm so grateful for his amazing level of patience and understanding.  If the roles were reversed, I'd probably be telling him to go back to where he came from.  

So, to my calm, kind hearted melón - thank you for your patience, understanding, and for not sending me on the next flight home. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

We officially moved in this weekend!  

Monday:  Our first day of a new routine in our new apartment.  We got home around 2:30, lunchtime, and didn't know what to do with ourselves.  Surprise, surprise, by 8 PM we were back at boyfriend's parents' house to eat dinner go on a run in the neighborhood.  Oh boy, do I miss Juana's hot meals waiting for us when we get home.  I'm worried that A is going to lose half his body weight now that we've moved out.  I will be judged. 

Tuesday:  The first time our power went out.  Any roommate I've ever had will tell you that I have an irrational fear about food spoiling in the fridge, so you can imagine my mental panic when it took about 40 minutes to come back on.  Boyfriend had to explain to me in 8 year old terms why it was that we had no working refrigerator but functioning Internet; an inversor - whatever that is.  He told me that it could take minutes, hours, even days to come back on, with a grin on his face that said muahaha, welcome to my country. 

This will surely be an adventure.  


Monday, September 19, 2011


On Saturday night we pull up to Tumi and think its closed.  There is no one inside the restaurant besides some people staring at us through the clear glass window with a look that says, 'What are you doing doing here?'  It turned out it was open, and I'm so glad it was.

The Peruana
Carlos first introduced me to Inca Kola in Chicago, Peru's popular soft drink that tastes like cream soda.  We gulped down some of this while listening to traditional music that sounded just like my grandma's Greek music.

I had fish with a coconut sauce (ok, maybe this was more Caribbean than Peruvian).  Boyfriend had Ají de Gallina, a chicken slew with a very creamy, rich sauce.

Erick had octopus, and Anahi had Anticucho - translation: cow heart.

 Just like Shish Kabob        Source
Now I am not one to eat animal insides; I prefer white meat and will go for the occasional fillet mignon, but Anticucho wasn't so bad after all.  If Anahi didn't mention how its important to clean out the arteries, I think I could've ordered it.

Peru is becoming increasingly popular for its food tourism, and I'm not the slightest bit surprised as to why; the meal left me even more intrigued.

Peru:  Stop #1 when I visit South America. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Afternoon in Pictures

After a long week at work (which still isn't over), I need to focus my energy on things outside of the place where I spend 7-9 hour shifts 6 days of my week!

So this was the rest of today after 2:

Boyfriend kept poking me in the side while driving, sometimes I think he's 5 inside.  I attempted to take some scenic pics so that he would stop being 5.
It worked!

66 cent watermelons
Chit chat on the street
We ventured out to Carrefour to hit the hanger sale and admire the flat screens.  A thinks we're going to buy one that is bigger than our living room.

Dropped off things at our apartment.
Still don't know if it being furnished is a good or bad thing.

Room that reminds me of the Flintstones
Went on a hunt.  Peeved that Swiffer Sweepers haven't made their debut here.

Didn't buy any of these yellow beauties.  Looks like we'll be using a towel, bucket, and our hands like Ildiko suggested.

May no one ever call me high maintenance again!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Running in the Rain

We've been so busy lately that exercise has moved down the priority list.  Its only been a few weeks, but I've already noticed the tremendous impact exercise makes on my mood and general wellbeing.  I'm feeling more and more sluggish every day that goes by where I'd rather hit the hay then jump around and get sweaty.

Today was a typical morning at work: no running water, insufficient change for the register, non-functioning Internet, and food missing from my order.  After work, we received unfortunate news regarding my immigration status..  Now it turns out I have to get a document stamped by the Dominican Embassy in Chicago; how does that make sense?

I came home feeling drained, but something came across me.  I forced my lethargic self to snap out of it and go for a run. In the rain.  Something I would normally never do.  But the light drizzle made the weather feel almost refreshing - something that just doesn't happen in the nearly unbareable humidity!  It wasn't a very long run, not even a medium one, but it definitely turned my evening around.

The hardest part is always getting dressed and out the door.  As hurricane season is now approaching, I'm glad I discovered that running in the rain isn't so bad after all; it actually feels kinda good.  

Try it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Madness

Run Down of Today: 

1.  Worked alone all morning because the new girl working with me quit after two days.  "Its too much work." - Translation: "Working with an American requires me actually doing work."

2.  Rushed out at 2:15.  Prepared my legal docs to be turned in on Wednesday.  Dear Lord, please don't let us have a repeat of this

3.  Exchanged money at the currency exchange since my bank does not except Euros (whaat?).  Left feeling like a billionaire.

Had over 100 of these bad boys
4.  Picked up a 10lb box of clothes from America.  The AeroPaq/JetPack business is the greatest invention in this country - you send your package to an address in Miami, they bring it over on the next boat (usually the same or next day), and the cost is minimal.  Online shopping will now commence. 

5.  Went to our realtor's house to sign our apartment contract.  Finally.  She is a crazy cat lady type and judging from her home decor and personal style, I believe she thinks she's a movie star.  I didn't know where to look while I was there. 

6.  Retook the awful passport pictures I took my first week here.  I was chatty with the employee and he photoshopped the oily skin off my face.  Score. 

7.  Spent a good two hours at IKEA.  Although neither of us enjoy cooking & cleaning, we left with only some tupperware and a toilet bowl cleaner.  And of course, we had these for dinner.  

Time to watch the very end of Entourage and snooze.  
Apartment pictures coming soon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

For Those Who Can't Cook

Platano Maduro. 

One of my favorites.  Yesterday Juana taught me how its done.  Its so easy.
This might be the start of something very bad for my waistline.

1) Buy ripe plantains; the riper the better.

2) Peel & slice into strips.

3) Fry in a pan with olive oil over medium-high heat until light brown.

Waa-laa.  Deliciousness in 10 minutes.  
Perfect as a dinner side and sweet enough to eat for dessert.

{First batch that went straight to my gut}

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Best Country in the World

Within the last two weeks, not one, not two, not three, but maybe 6 or 7 customers have told me "this is the best country in the world" when talking about the Dominican Republic.

Some reasons why I usually say crazy person in my head:

-I am told that it isn't safe to walk a couple of blocks away.

-There are no traffic laws and drive-through liquor bars exist so that you may literally drink & drive.

-A few days ago there was no running water at work due to Hurricane Irene which never even arrived.

-The inequality between social classes is amazing, as life in the capital is similar to the cost of living in the US, while many salaries are only about $150/month.

Ok yes, the people are friendly.  Ok yes, the country is beautiful.  Ok yes, the fruit is delicious.  But as for me, I'm a tough crowd.  To be perfectly honest, its going to take some more winning over than the sunshine and pristine beaches.

All the strangers I meet tell me that I'll soon understand what they mean about their love for the DR; they tell me that I will grow to love this country.

But what defines a great country?  
If its happy people, then the DR certainly wins in my book. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

We Have a Home

Me contemplating.  Apartment Hunting.
It's ours!  I don't know how long contract-signing takes in island time, but I hope we can move in this weekend.

The apartment is furnished, which is great because the unfurnished ones here don't come with stoves, refrigerators, or washing machines.  Ours has 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, high ceilings, and access to the whole rooftop [mega perk for my sun obsession].

AND its only 4 minutes away from work, which means I can feel less guilty about the chauffer boyfriend dropping me off at 6:40 AM everyday.

Boyfriend's complaints:  
There isn't a walk-in closet and the stove looks old.
I didn't know I was dating a woman?  He also isn't pleased that we don't have a TV, so I guess he can reclaim some of his manhood.

Some ideas from Pinterest, my greatest source of procrastination: 

For the technologically obsessed boyfriend
I love monograms.  Time to start collecting our corks.
I'll be the girl stealing paint chips at the hardware shop.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Almost Have a Home

Apartment, really.  As everything runs here at the pace of a snail, we are hoping that by Monday the dueña [owner] will know that yes, we want it! and that no one steals it from us first.  Getting excited too soon, I started browsing through my For the home Pinterest board and I realized how obsessed I am with maps.

Ever since I can remember, my uncle had (and still has) a huge world map hanging in his room at my grandparents' house - every place he's traveled to has a small dot sticker to mark the spot.  Even when I was probably too young to be fascinated by travel, I always thought that one day I'll have a map like that, too, and I always hoped to travel to as many places as he had pegged.

Today I found this scratch-off map on Pinterest, and boy do I want it!  

Am I a total nerd?  Other than a tacky collection of shot glasses, how do you incorporate your travel memories into your home? 


Friday, September 2, 2011

Keep Calm, Brew On

"To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest."  - Pema Chodron
I've, somehow, survived 5 days of the new job.  Two words to sum up my week:

cultural. differences.  

Here, you don't need to wear a hat [part of your uniform] if you've visited the salon within the last week.  Here, its ok to chit chat on the phone with your amor while ringing up a customer.  Here, its ok to gossip about the new girl [me] and stare her up and down while she is standing a mere 5 feet away from you.

Part of me thinks I bit off more than I can chew - starting Monday I'll be implementing new standards and revolutionizing the way that all CARMEL stores function.  I'm determined to balance CARMEL, respecting Dominican culture while adding my Americana customer service and efficiency.  

I know that some days will be more stressful than others, but I'm up for the challenge.  As for the difficult days, I'll try to keep in mind this quote: 
"Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." - Unknown