So what have I been doing with my new-found free time? Well, part of it I spend moving more slowly. I don't mean this literally, I just mean that it takes more time to get things done here. If I want groceries, I need to walk 15 minutes to the nearest grocery store. If I need to get to and from school, its a 20 minute walk one way. If I want to do laundry, its a bit more of a hands-on method here, so I have to stick around for at least a half hour to get everything washed and hung to dry, instead of just pushing a button and walking away. If I want to make lunch, I need to soak my vegetables in a bleach solution for 30 minutes to clean them before I eat them. But even with such things set aside, I still have a considerable amount of time leftover. Mostly I spend it exploring, just walking down different streets to see where they lead, or possibly taking a new concho route. Sometimes I update this blog, and sometimes, I even take a nap! My previous motto (you can sleep when you're dead), doesn't seem to apply here. Truly, sometimes its just too hot to be wandering around outside, and so like the rest of Dominican society, a have myself a little siesta. (I'm really trying not to form this habit though since my nagging American side won't let me stop feeling guilty about it.) I've also been trying to improve my Spanish skills with a little bit of Spanish tv every day and some online practice work.
However, even if I manage to keep my days relatively full, the nights are killer. The sun goes down at 7:30, and if you are alone, that's when you should be back inside (so no late-night grocery runs and I have to make sure I leave the gym before 7 p.m.) Its just not safe enough to walk around alone after dark. Now if you are with a friend or two, no problem! But just meeting up with your friends can be a hassle. If you didn't plan ahead to hang out with them before sundown, then you are going to need to take a taxi to and from their place, which starts to get expensive after a fashion. But even if you are up for dropping a little cash on a taxi, sometimes there is just nowhere to go. Everyone seems to be ok with just staying in on the weekends. What?! That is complete culture shock for me, since I usually reserve my weekends and the occasional week night for getting together with friends, hanging out, and maybe having a couple drinks. But the culture here doesn't revolve around drinking, as is so often the case in America (getting drunk is highly frowned upon, and double that frowning for girls. I've even been told that is looks bad when a girl drinks beer straight from the bottle instead of pouring it into a plastic cup), and going out for dinner or drinks can get expensive as well. This was something I never really worried about too much in the U.S., but my budget is a bit tighter here. My English professor friends and I make a decent living compared to most Dominicans, but over 50% of the population is unemployed! So that's really not saying much. In any case, that leads to sitting inside on a Saturday night and watching tv to be more of the norm here rather than the exception.
So I'm going a little stir-crazy. I need to find a positive way to channel my energy because I just can't settle with being bored half the time.
Maybe master those crazy yoga poses I've always wanted to try? Become a salsa dancing expert (ok let's be honest, that will never happen, but I'd settle for being passable)? Take up painting? Write poetry? I'm open to suggestions here people!
In the meantime....here are a few ways I kept myself busy this week.
(Carnaval, for those who don´t know, is very similar to Mardi Gras. It´s one of the biggest celebrations in the D.R., and the traditional costumes here are quite unique)