Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kathryn Goes Republican, Chapter Seven

I have today off and decided to just stay in the village and sleep, which means that I am both enormously refreshed and severely depressed. Staying here on your day off is a bad idea. I have a buddy this week, though, a funny New Yorker who's here with his daughter – and whom everybody thinks I'm dating, which is so widely impossible that I can't even defend myself – so I'll be able to stomach my GM contact over dinner, as I'll go to our usual table for two and hear the latest in the news and whatever stories about his father's Greek restaurant he feels like telling. (He's leaving tomorrow and has been really fun to hang out with, so I feel generous with my free time for a change.)

I'm looking forward to getting back on track with my Day-Off-Local-Adventure next week, though, as they are so much more fun than anything I can think of to do in the village. Two weeks ago the boys took me to another river – this one with both rapids and giant, calm pools – and I knew it would be a good day when I got off the bus in the morning, turned around and saw the four of them pulling in to meet me on their motorcycles, Swingers-style. (For any of you who don't know what I mean, I won't describe it because you really should have seen Swingers by now.)

We started with a thorough tour of the city, stopping at the houses of various friends and family members so that I could be paraded around, their prize foreign girl – and they all love the Blue Jays, which makes them the only people I've met here who aren't hostile about Toronto – until we finally busted out onto the curvy mountain roads, stopping a few times to pick fruit or say hello to the cows on our way to the river.

Having initially been terrified of anything to do with motorcycles and my being on them, I am pleased to report that I am a bike convert and want nothing more than to spend all my days riding around the mountains, preferably with a long scarf so that I can stream it out behind me, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert-style. (Again, I won't explain further; see "Swingers," above.) That being said, it took me a while to get completely comfortable, as illustrated by how quickly I earned the nickname "Watch-the-Road!", inspired by the boys pulling up beside me to say nice things or make funny faces, which I JUST don't think is appropriate behaviour when you're on a quickly-moving vehicle.

To be fair, though, we were never moving that quickly. I rode up to the river with Emmanuel, who was extra careful to keep his speed down, to the point where the others had to keep pulling over to wait for us – the mango and cow stops, you see, being only because they had nothing better to do. Sometimes he would speed up a little tiny bit – he must have been losing his mind with frustration! – or swerve to avoid a pothole, and once he told me that he was torn between wanting me to feel safe and secure and wanting me to get a little scared so that I'd hold him more tightly. Cheeky!

Then, when I rode back to Higuey with Dujaric, who is shorter than Emmanuel and over whose shoulder I could see the speedometer, I saw that when I felt that we were going unreasonably quickly, we were actually moving slowly towards sixty – which means that Emmanuel must have been driving at approximately twenty-three kilometres an hour and our forty-five-minute drive to the river should have taken eleven minutes, including the mango and cow stops. Sorry, boys.

There was too much rain to go to the river last week – all dirty and super-fast-current – so I went into town a little later and met up with Dujaric, who has the same day off as I do. (The others just come out for the morning and then head back for the 2:30 bus to the hotel for their afternoon/night shift.) He took me out to the country to one of his favourite beaches, only on the way we stopped in at the houses of all his relatives and friends. My favourite thing was how the women always said "oh, a skinny blond!" (which, I'm sorry to say, is just not true!) and then asked me how many Dominicans I'd slept with because they wanted to know if sex really was better with their men than ours. (Awkward silence ensues...)

When I couldn't take being stared at any longer, we drove out to the beach. It was pretty wild, like the Guadeloupan beaches with mountains in the background that I loved so much, and dark packing sand, perfect for being buried alive. I think we literally spent two hours burying and unburying each other. (I also had the stupid idea that we should rub sand into our skin as a natural exfoliant, and five days later I'm still finding the grains in my clothes at the end of the day. And my skin doesn't feel any softer, for the record.)

We spent so much time buried up to our necks that we suddenly realized it was almost 5:00 and I was going to miss the last bus back to Punta Cana, so we booted it back to the city – and I loved it! It turns out I'm a speed demon! I needed to get past the shaky part, where I think maybe I'm scared, to realize that I'm not scared at all and I want to go faster, faster, faster. (No, Katy, says Dujaric, this is plenty fast enough.) And everything is just so green and lush, fertile and natural, which inspired the unlikely song loop of "To Life, To Life, L'chai-im" in my head for the entire ride home. Driving past the green pastures ("to us and our good fortune...") and through towns full of people sitting outside of their houses to watch us go by ("be happy, be healthy – LONG LIFE!"), I came to realize that this was actually the perfect soundtrack for this moment in my life ("and if our good fortune never comes, here's to whatever comes") and frankly, it's a shame that more Russian Jews didn't think to settle in the Dominican Republic in the first place. What a missed opportunity.

I had a couple of moments of significant self-doubt when Dujaric dropped me off at the bus, as I realized my Spanish isn't always so hot after all. First, an old lady was literally yelling and yelling at me – I thought because she was telling me that she really liked my dress, but it turned out that the dress had blown up on the bike and everyone could see my underwear. Ahem. Then I was moved by a man's pity speech on the bus and gave him money for the students he was organizing on some kind of a trip, not realizing that I was actually purchasing about five kilos of smelly chicken wraps that he insisted on my taking and which I had to hold on my lap the whole way home.

As for work, things here are the same.

-Baby Welcome: sucks.

-Circus show: I still look like an ANGEL.

-Yoga: a yoga instructor from California came to thank me for the ideas I gave her for her course – and then asked me about my qualifications and where I had learned those moves and I had to tell her that I came up with them based on my sore calf muscles and the stretching that I was in the mood for and that I have zero qualifications as a yoga instructor but took dance classes a long time ago... And you know what? She was okay with that.

-Health: I had been playing soccer three or four times a week for a while – there's a G.O. vs. G.M. game every day – but it stopped being fun when all these young Italians came and turned it into a France/Italy World Cup rematch; the mood has been spoiled ever since. (That first game, incidentally, ended with three injuries, including a split head that the guy refused to have stitched up. I know this because, as the only girl, I was sent to the infirmary with him even though I don't speak Italian and he was a son-of-a-bitch whom I had no intention of helping in any way. Because girls take care of split heads while boys keep playing soccer – case in point of how it stopped being any fun.) It also stopped being good exercise, as I ended up stuck in the net for forty of the fifty minutes and the whole notion of "fitness challenge" disappeared. So, despite the fun fact that the G.O.s had started calling me "Pele," I abandoned el futbol and started doing the Body Sculpt and Pilates classes a few times a week and I don't know if it's making much difference, but I definitely have a harder time doing the yoga class when my butt muscles are too stiff for me to quite sit down properly. We'll see how it goes.

-Snorkeling: I did it a second time and got sea-sick again, which seems to indicate that it was never a question of having been sick and dehydrated, but rather just a question of my body not handling boats very well. Good thing I discovered motorcycles in time to cancel out my disappointment!

-My identity: first, Katy in French is "Kah-TEE" (and in Spanish "KAH-tee"), so when people say my name in English it becomes "catty" and I'm just not a fan. Second, a significant number of the camareros have this funny speech thing where they add "s" all over the place – even though Dominicans in general cut them all out and it's hard to figure out what's going on. So "como tu estas" (how are you) becomes "como-tu-ta" in Dominican and then this special group says "como stu ta." This means that "catamaran" becomes "castamaran," "toda la vida" becomes "stoda la vida" and "Katy" becomes "Kasty." There is no one called Kasty here, so I always know it's me, but it has morphed into "Castille" for some of the guests who heard the camareros talking to me and misunderstood what they were hearing. Two G.M.s have now sent letters to Hotel Fun to say that Castille at the restaurant was really helpful and made their stay more enjoyable. (They couldn't figure out who the first letter was talking about, but then the second one mentioned babies and it all came together.) So someone posted the letter on our G.O. notice board and now everyone calls me "Castille." Or "Pele," or "Watch the Road!" or "Katy Judiciaire" (Judge Katy, from my anger at their homophobic comments or their sexist talk or their general xenophobia.)

And I guess that's it, since this e-mail is much, much longer than I had planned. It turns out it's a good thing when people are in the office watching me type because I feel guilty and cut it off really quickly; tonight there's no one here and apparently I can't shut up.

I hope things are going well for you all.
See you soon,

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