Monday, April 23, 2007

Kathryn Goes Republican, Chapter Three

Last time I wrote I was in Higuey, the somewhat nearby town where I can do internet for 20 pesos an hour, I can wear whatever I want and I don't have to greet everyone I pass – though I still do; the brainwashing seems to be working.

Local friends of mine had told me how to find a cheap internet place, but of course it was much more confusing when I got there and tried to work my way through all the winding streets, so I asked a young guy to confirm that it was, in fact, ahead on the left. He said "come, I'll show you" and walked with me the thirty steps to the Spider Cyber Cafe, introduced me to his friend who works there and sat down to wait. I thought he was just hanging around with his buddy, or maybe waiting for me to be seduced by this loud, slurpy kissing thing he kept doing while winking suggestively. It turned out he was being my unsolicited tour guide – a guy in a souvenir shop (where Yoel took me after I was done internet) explained to me that this is the system and I'd have to come up with some kind of tip.

Frankly, it was worth it; this Yoel was so much fun to hang around with! I was looking for black clothes so that I wouldn't keep wearing the same outfit every Friday (dress code: black elegant) and it was impossible to find anything that wasn't thick polyester and heavily sequined. (Any entrepreneurs who want to make a fortune should look into selling the BeDazzler in the Caribbean; these folks LOVES a good sparkle.)

But rather than becoming a long and frustrating marketplace search, it turned into an extended fashion show, with me trying things on and Yoel giving me the thumbs up or down. He doesn't like me in yellow, it turns out, but is ready to marry me in anything red. I found a sexy halter-style polka-dot dress for Sunday (dress code: black and white) and knew it was a keeper when Yoel yelled "¡Dios mio!," fell on the floor and convulsed, Dominican voodoo style. I also enjoyed his signature Bollywood move of putting his hands under his shirt and miming a beating heart, as well as his habit of putting his arm around me, hitching his thumb into imaginary suspenders and calling out "how do you like my girlfriend?" whenever we passed someone he knew. I couldn't get enough of it.

Yoel's biggest challenge was finding me a public toilet on Easter week-end (everything closes for Jesus, it would seem), but he eventually led me to the bus station and to the "clean, safe toilets" to be found there. Do I even need to tell you what "clean" and "safe" mean to Yoel? I'm sure you can imagine the stopped-up toilet, the suspicious brown water all over the floor and the complete lack of toilet paper or a sink without my going into detail. But here's the tricky part: there's no door. No curtain, no piece of plastic, no shifty piece of fabric – nothing to hide my squatting self from the men sitting on the bench at the bus station. Nothing, that is, except for Yoel. My brave soldier stood (with his back to me, of course), gallantly shielding me from the men's view and even singing so he wouldn't hear me pee. AND, when he saw that I was using my bottle of water to wash my hands, he mysteriously and gleefully pulled a bar of soap out of his pocket. I'm telling you, this guy should run for president.

Incidentally, next time I attempt a day in town, the plan is to not ingest anything even remotely liquid so that I can save my desperate pee break for my own toilet. What would I have done without Yoel?

Every night there's a children's show at 8:15 and then an everybody show at 9:30. Two of these later ones are circus shows, one in the theatre and one outside on the flying trapeze, and they're fantastic. I'm borderline in love with Mona, the Swiss wonder whose acts I refuse to describe, as no words can do them justice. They have a Cirque du Soleil vibe, if that gives you an idea, and include things like satin curtains (for climbing and wrapping herself around in) and Chinese rugs for juggling with her hands and feet. Then there are juggling numbers and acrobatics – and an exciting three-man trapeze thing where we get to watch three beautiful and perfectly-sculpted bodies in hot red tights using all their muscles to strike and hold impossible three-man-trapeze positions. Everything draws oohs and aahs from the audience – Mona and Kevin together on the trapeze draw gasps – and is professional and beautiful.

And then there are the other shows.

It's obviously a huge disadvantage to be compared with the circus team, but these shows are nothing to write home about. (Though that's exactly what I'm doing, which I guess says more about me than about our series of cabarets...) There's a terrible sound and lighting crew, first of all (which causes problems for the circus show as well), as well as a bizarre insistence on using the fog machine as often as possible, though it smells bad, makes a stupid noise, makes it impossible to see what's happening on stage and has caused several accidents.

The shows are a series of dance numbers, though it's less "dancing" and more "putting on costumes and kind of walking around." For example: one show opens with "It's Raining Men," which I would think should be lots of men doing fun and flirty dance moves for the audience. Instead, it's about ten girls in tight and busty costumes who walk in in two lines, cross the stage so their lines move through each other, then walk back out. They do this again and again, sometimes with a little turn. And about three times, a few men in suits and bowties come and walk with them. Aaaannnnd – scene.

There's a can-can number and a snake-charmer dance that start out well but then they just do the same 40-second sequence on repeat until the end of the song and I don't think they're fooling anyone. As far as actual dance moves, the best number is "Lady Marmalade," in which the girls wear boustiers and garters and dance seductively around chairs. Isn't that weird? To do a borderline strip-tease at a Hotel Fun family show on Saturday night? (It is a French company...) They're always looking for dancers and they keep trying to talk me into coming to rehearsal; they don't seem to understand that even if rehearsals weren't from 12-2:00 a.m. (the only time everyone is free, since sleep doesn't count here), I would never, EVER put on a hooker costume and go spread-eagle on a chair for the pleasure – or not – of our esteemed guests. And I certainly won't do it when they persist in calling the show "Folise," even though we've all told them it's "Follies." Inappropriate sex is one thing, but poor spelling I will not accept.

Then there's my favourite number, the magic trick that is so unmagical it is hilariously funny. Elie and Raymond come out in tuxedos and shake hands, then Raymond goes over to the dirty curtain on the far edge of the stage (dirty enough that we should not be calling attention to it, quite frankly) and slowly wheels out a big, clunky box. It's awkward and takes forever, with the audience just sitting there watching. Why doesn't someone else wheel it out ahead of time? Or maybe Elie could do something to distract us, rather than standing with his hands together, watching Raymond struggle with the box as he tries to manoeuver it past the speakers and the other props on stage.

He finally gets it to the right spot and he turns it around to show us that there are no trap doors – except that there are small squares painted on three sides, and then this giant, person-sized square on the fourth with paint chipping away from it having opened and closed so many times. I haven't yet heard the audience break out in open laughter, but that may be because the music is too loud. (Music not unlike Job's magic show song in "Arrested Development," which makes it that much funnier.)

He turns the box so the door is facing the back of the stage, then puts handcuffs on Elie (another four minutes of waiting, as the cuffs are cheap and never work right away) who gets in a sack and goes in the box. Raymond goes backstage to look for the big flag that they can't figure out should be left in the wings, ready for action, rather than hidden in the prop room somewhere so that we hear crashing and banging while we wait for him to come back to the actionless stage. The flag is waved around, Elie ends up on the box and Raymond comes out from the audience wearing the handcuffs as a pretty girl steps out of the sack: good idea. But so clunky and embarrassing. The first time I saw it I laughed until there were tears streaming down my face. When he proudly showed us the trap-door side of the box I almost fell off the bench. (None of the other GOs could understand what was so funny – I haven't yet found a real friend here.)

Needless to say, I'm hoping to get involved with some of the children's shows so I don't have to be part of any of the cabarets. We'll see what comes up when our new mini-club chief gets here.

The most important news is that I was finally given my own room, after two months of sharing with Anouk. It's tidy, clean, quiet and all mine. I can close my door and no one else has the key – I’m pretty much naked all the time, just because I can be. No drunk roommate showing up in the middle of the night (or trying in her confusion to pee on my bed, which she did twice), no smoking, no dirty underwear on the floor or wet towels on my bed. And no 5:00 a.m. rooster crowing, since they live in the field by the other room.

What I do have is hot water, which is a godsend after so many cold and miserable showers, and the water doesn't cut out during one out of four showers, so I don't have to panic before shampooing that I will be stuck there, soapy and cold, waiting for the water to come back on. (This has happened too many times to count.) Officially, I should also be finished with tarantulas. My grand total in the other room was four, two of which I killed myself – just for your big fat information.
It's only been two days and I already like my job much, much better.

On the other hand, I had a good taste of how little Hotel Fun cares about its employees on Friday: one of my closest friends here, Rivelino, along with eight other Haitians, found out at about 10:00 that evening that they were leaving the next morning at 9:00 because there aren't enough kids this week and their services are no longer needed. Not even 24 hours' notice. Hotel Fun is booked months in advance and I'm sure they knew exactly how many kids there would be – they couldn't let them know ahead of time so they could say goodbye to people and call ahead to whoever's waiting for them at home? I tried to go and meet the bus to say good-bye but they didn't even get to leave from reception like everyone else, so I couldn't find them and I'll probably never see them again.

And, incidentally, we have over 45 kids in my group of 4- and 5-year-olds – same as last week – and are now even more severely understaffed than before. (We claim a 6-to-1 ratio but are currenly at either 15- or 22-to-1 at any time, which is obviously a lot of fun in the pool and at lunch...) Sebe, our current douche-bag boss, is now scrambling to replace the people he fired by weasling GOs from other services – as if anyone would be stupid enough to leave a cushy job teaching sailing on the beach to come run around with a group of rowdy kids all day.

One person whom I'm kind of glad is leaving is my supposed look-alike, Julie. She's Canadian (from Montreal, like everyone else here) and has basically the same colouring as I do, but that's where the similarities end. And yet everyone always tells me how great I was in the show – including once when I had been standing beside her on stage, she in her princess costume and I in my Kathryn clothes, doing the nightly song and dance with the kids after the show. "Katy, you were so good as the princess!" And Julie's still there in the costume, maybe 10 feet away from us. She's a nice girl but I won't miss having her around, you know?

Next week looks like it's going to be a lot slower than usual because there's a private reservation. Specifically, a 950-person group of lesbians who are bringing their own entertainment and seem to want a minimum of G.O. involvement. This is: Fantastic. No mini-club, no crazy signs, NO EATING WITH GMs! They don't want us at their tables, which means we can actually eat with our friends for a change, or even alone.

There was talk of their not wanting any male GOs present but I hope that's not true, first because it's discrimination and I object on principle. Sleep with whomever floats your boat, but don't rent a staff and then lock them out by gender. Second, it's no fun working without half your team. Boys are fun, you know? And third, why should they keep getting paid to NOT work while the girls do all their jobs?

So I am preparing myself to feel highly indignant. But I'm also preparing myself for a week without mini-club: no snot, no wiping bums, no day-long cheers, no one clinging to my neck and sobbing because maman would rather go tan by the pool than actually, oh, I don't know, spend time with her children in this family resort. No kids who speak only Hebrew or German and are traumatized by the amount of noise and their inability to understand any of it.

However, none of my little angels, either, and no kids all excited to go on the trapeze, and of course no kids who will then go home and send me letters and pictures and tell me how great I am – but it's good to miss some of it. That gives me the strength to pick up again next week.

Have a good end of April, everybody.


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