Weather / visit to University / trip to JUMBO

Trip Start Sep 06, 2008
Trip End Nov 25, 2008

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Monday, September 29, 2008

So this week, the island of Hispaniola was in the track of what they call a "tormenta," which I believe is the equivalent to a tropical storm.  The rain began Monday night and didn't stop until Thursday morning.  As a result, school has been cancelled "until further notice," which usually means until the end of the week.  On Monday afternoon, my Dominican "sister," Sindy, had a big presentation for a class at med school, and she had asked me if I would go and see her present.  The university is the main one for the east of the country, and it is in San Pedro.  It is a really nice campus, with many draping trees and lots of benches, etc.  The buildings are pretty standard, and have all of the technology that you would see in Canada.  However, I soon learned that the classes do not operate the same as in Canada...or even in Cuba, for that matter!  The class was to run from 4-6 in the afternoon, and so we were there at 10 to 4, and Sindy's group set up the computer, etc.  They were having technical difficulties with the projector not picking up that the computer was there - which ended up being an unresolved problem.  The shocking part for me was that at 4:30, the professor still hadn't shown up.  I asked if this was normal, and apparently it is...the professors come and go as they please, and are late more often than not, and the time missed doesn't get made up (e.g. if class is from 4-6 and the prof comes at 5, the class still ends at 6, even though the students are paying for 2 hours of class - they never get the time they are supposed to have had).  One student is from Cuba, and she said that it is not this way in Cuba, and that it is like Canada, where the teachers are there, and you are expected to be there and be on time.  Anyway, the prof finally came at 10 to 5, and then he was angry and irritated that everyone wasn't right ready to go...and that the group was having trouble with the projector.  So, they launched into their presentation without a projection of their presentation.  It was about an hour long, and during the presentation, the professor could not have been more disinterested if he tried...he was reading a book, flipping through a magazine, but my personal favorite was when he took a call in the middle of the presentation, and had a 15 minute long conversation in the classroom as they were presenting!  I am sure the look on my face was priceless, as I was pretty shocked - I couldn't believe what I was seeing!  In any case, Sindy presented very well, and it was a very eye-opening experience for me to have a taste of what university is like here. 
So on Tuesday, since it was still raining and there were no classes, Sister Catherine and I decided to venture into San Pedro to go to the "JUMBO," which is the Dominican equivalent of Wal-Mart.  I was interested to see what this would be like, and it was sort of like Wal-Mart, just very down-scaled.  I wanted to get some picture frames, blank CDs, and print off a few pictures to give to my family.  This was the mission...
I decided to start with the pictures, and I was happy to discover that there was an instant digital print kiosk, but it did not appear to be working.  The guy behind the desk said something incompressible to me, and I just looked at him, puzzled.  He then repeated - slowly - that he didn't have the key to open the part where the computer/printer was to reset it, but that he would ask his friend to bring him the key.  I said ok and stood aside to wait...but then he began to chat with another friend who also works there, and there was no indication of any progress on acquiring the key to the kiosk.  So, I decided to do my other shopping and come back. 
Off I went to the electronics department (quite extensive in terms of equipment, not so much in terms of accessories - such as CDs, jewel cases, etc.)  The CDs were nowhere to be found, so I asked someone, and they led me to the cosmetics counter (of course!  What was I thinking...why wouldn't I assume that the CDs would be kept there??)  Sure enough, there they were locked up in a cabinet by the register.  She asked me how many I wanted, and I said 10.  However, they only have the giant stacks of 100 CDs, so she ripped that apart, counted out 10, wrote down a code for the cash register, put them in a plastic baggy and handed them over.  Needless to say, I found this rather odd.  I then asked for jackets or cases for the CDs, so she showed me the travel wallets, which is not what I wanted.  Back we went to the cosmetics counter, where there was a huge stack of 100 plastic envelopes for CDs.  So she counted out 10, took them out back and left me for about 15 minutes, and then came back with a specially made price tag for these 10 envelopes.  I thanked her profusely and was on my way.  Picture frames were next, which was a bit of a nightmare.  They were all mixed in together - some in boxes, some not, no order to the sizes, etc.  So I dug around for about 30 minutes trying to find what I wanted, and I did come out successful in the end. 
So, now it was time to go back for the pictures.  However, it appeared that the guy with the key to the kiosk never showed up, as the guy behind the counter was on the floor behind it, and there were nuts, bolts, and screws on the counter and on the floor, and there he was with a screwdriver taking the thing apart from the back!  (If there's one thing I can say, is that Dominicans are very resourceful...if something doesn't work the conventional way, they will find an alternative - no matter how convoluted it may be!)  Anyway, he had clearly been working at taking this thing apart for a while, and when he saw me come back, he jumped up and explained what was going on.  Finally, he got the machine out (after a great deal of wobbling the kiosk around, some banging, etc.), and he was able to reset it...and sure enough, it worked!  I was able to print my pictures with little hassle, and he was very nice to me during this whole process. 
By this time Catherine had purchased all of her groceries, had taken them to the car, and was waiting for me.  I felt bad that she was waiting, but I really had no idea that going to the JUMBO was going to be such a process!  I also managed to find some 2 for 1 wine (at 2 bucks a pop, I couldn't go wrong!), which was exciting.  There was a problem at the check-out with those individual plastic CD sleeves...for some reason, the special price tag that was made for me wanted to charge me for the full 100 envelopes instead of 10.  The girl didn't know how to void or change it, so we were holding up what was already pretty slow production at the check-out counter.  In the end, I couldn't take them b/c they didn't know how to sell them to me...and by this point, I really didn't care - I just wanted to get out of there!  On the way back to Consuelo, we could see that a few of the poorly constructed side streets had already begun to flood, which wasn't good.  In the end, there were about 100 people evacuated from San Pedro due to rising water in the streets.  Santo Domingo also has a drainage problem, which always ends up making the pictures in the news.  However, most of the rest of the country does not have this problem in the towns. 
So I have been initiated into the world of shopping Dominican style now, and it was definitely an interesting experience!  More to come later...
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anderwatts on

Ahh, heather, this blog is hilarious! Reminds me of my early days in latin america...nothing makes sense, nobody explains anything, people are regularly (and unashamedly) late, and everything moves at a snail's pace! Don't worry, this is all normal, and soon you'll be right used to it! Keep your chin up...

p.s. I loved the story about the cockroach...especially the part about scotty laughing as you killed it...

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