Midweek Music 7.0

1. Te Me Vas- Prince Royce. I certainly miss DR, and listening to a little bit of Bachata every once in a while is my coping mechanism.
2. Made to Love- John Legend. I love this man's voice, his style, his message. Mr. Legend, you are a class act.

Life Came at Me Like a Speeding Train

I don't know what I was doing before this,
Something to do with school assignments, schedules, structured monotony.
I've suddenly forgotten the location of my brakes, the functions of my GPS,
The simple difference between my left and my right.
And now it's night.

The only lights I see are warning (signals),
For some sort of crossroad is up ahead. 
I'm searching for something familiar in the darkness,
But your leading hands are no where to be found.

There's a whistle in the distance,
The sound burgeons, swells in volume as the seconds pass,
And I slowly come to my senses.
I hear, then feel, then see that it's fast approaching,
And I can't stop this train.
I prepare for the blow, 
For a moment contemplate fate,
And pray one last selfish prayer.

A high-pitched ringing disturbs my stupor,
It is deafening and does not falter.
I am blind (or perhaps I have just moved away from the light?).
And there's numbness,
The kind you get when your body is too shocked to deal with the injury,
The kind you get when the imminent pain is too great to bear.

My mind is left broken, 
Like a heart skipping too many beats,
Like a scratched record on repeat.
It keeps taking me back and forth, back and forth,
Between this convoluted present and that one time...
Before all the chaos, the confusion, the crash.

I want to escape entirely into that elusive peace, my precious past. 
If my future is to be spent in recovery from this collision,
Then I'll spend eternity running away from tomorrow.

© 08.2013 Alexandra Hall


A Busy Few Weeks Ahead

Ahh! I can't believe it's over! Just a few days ago, I was sitting out on a balcony in Santo Domingo, watching the city lights flicker in the early hours of the morning, and reminding myself that it's just a matter of days before I'll be back to enjoy that spectacular nightscape once more. I finished my internship in the Dominican Republic last week, and now I'm finally home with my family before round two (or is it three?). I'll be returning to Santo Domingo on September 8th to begin a fellowship, teaching English for 10 months, working mainly in the capital, but also traveling to other parts of the country. I'm moving on to the next adventure! But not just yet... I still have some things to cross off my to-do list while I'm in the states.
  1. Visit Brigette in Atlanta; We went to the movies this past weekend and saw Lee Daniels' The Butler. We'll be going to a UGA game watch-party in a few weeks. I love hanging out with this girl!
  2. Send a "Thank you" note to all my coworkers from this summer
  3. Visit my best friend in Nashville & go on an adventure
  4. Write a reflection on my summer internship experience
  5. Update the blog for DR Round Three
  6. See my sister & her fiance (see her engagement ring!)
  7. Go to my cousin's wedding & shower in Atlanta
  8. Figure out this camera situation (I'm thinking about upgrading)
  9. Visit grad schools & friends in DC
  10. Sign-up to take the GRE this fall (It's really happening?!)
  11. Manage to pack for 10 months away from home

A Sample of the Next 10 Months

The night before leaving Santo Domingo, I went to a local Bilingual school to teach an English lesson. I had volunteered to do this a while ago, and waited (a little impatiently) for the date to roll around. It finally came, and the whole thing was a success. Everyone was attentive, so eager to participate, and even willing to learn all the crazy new words I threw out at them. We read an article about internships in the United States and then discussed it together. Immediately following the class, as I was waiting outside for my ride, a few students came up to me and started asking questions. What are you doing in Santo Domingo? Where are you from in the United States? Where did you learn Spanish? Do you like this country? Are you Dominican? They went on and on. It was pretty fun for me to get the chance to speak in English with Dominicans my age, a rare opportunity really. We had a great little conversation for about 15 minutes. During that time, they taught me a few new phrases in Dominican Spanish (must make the distinction), all of which I've unfortunately forgotten by now. And I got to share with them some of my favorite English accents. Having grown up in the South with a Mother from England and a Father from Jamaica, accents are something I have had and will continue to have a lot of fun with for the rest of my life. So it was a great moment of cultural exchange, and the perfect end to an incredible summer in Santo Domingo. Perhaps, and I hope, it was just a sample of what's to come in the next 10 months!


Sunday Evening Dinners 1.0: Pad Thai

Food has always been a way for my family to come together and bond. In my household, Sunday morning brunch has been a tradition for as long as I can remember. My family always congregates in the kitchen to prepare a large meal that feeds everyone's tastes. I tend to think that these brunches are the reason for my intense love of breakfast food. Nonetheless, the tradition of preparing this meal every weekend was a really special part of my childhood and teenage years. I may not always be home to cook and partake in the deliciousness on Sunday mornings, but when I'm on my own, I like to organize a variation of our family ritual: "Sunday Evening Dinners." On the menu this weekend: Authentic Pad Thai. Last week, I went over to my Thai coworker's home to learn how to make this  "fast-food" dish. After visiting the farmer's market and grocery store in Santo Domingo yesterday, I had all the ingredients needed to make this yummy Thai street-food. It was only my first try, but I think it came out pretty swell. My roommate and I ate every last bit. Have fun with the recipe below!
8 ounces rice noodles
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
 Juice of two limes
 1 tablespoon canola/vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
 2 eggs, whisked together
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon red vinegar
1/4 cup unsalted crushed peanuts 
+1/4 cup unsalted whole peanuts (for garnish)
1 cup fresh cut cilantro
+1/2 cup fresh cut cilantro (for garnish)
2 limes cut into wedges (for garnish)
Prepare the rice noodles according to the package (usually involves soaking them in cold water, draining, and then adding them to boiling water). Once slightly cooked, drain the noodles and let them cool.
In a large pan, sauté the garlic, yellow peppers, and green onions in the sesame and canola oils on medium heat. Add whisked eggs, and scramble them a bit.  Add your rice noodles, and begin separating the noodles with a utensil while adding your wet ingredients (soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, tamarind paste). Gradually add in the brown sugar and continue stirring. Add your mung bean sprouts, cilantro, and crushed peanuts and toss until they are all mixed in.
Garnish with whole peanuts, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges.
Qué disfrute! Enjoy!

In Search of Lemons

I spent a lovely Saturday morning at an oceanside farmer's market in Santo Domingo. Being the only gringas in the place, my friends and I attracted a little more attention than we wanted. Even still, we were able to get the few things we set out for: lemons (which we hadn't come across in a single supermarket around town), vegetables for the week, and photos (all me, of course). Above are some of the stealthy shots I captured during our visit.


Midweek Music 6.0

1. Liar- Lianne La Havas. I'm sure it's clear by now that Lianne is my favorite artist. I only recently found this song though, and I've had it on repeat for weeks now. Everyday after work, I love coming home to sit out on the balcony and listen to this. It's just what I need to wind down after a long day.


When You Ask for an Adventure on Your Birthday... Part II: Caves & Waterfalls

My 22nd birthday landed on a Saturday this year. Since I was a kid, I've always loved having my birthday over the weekend. It feels like you get an additional day to celebrate. 

This year, I spent two days traveling around the DR in search of an outdoor adventure. A few friends and I drove out early Saturday morning to La Romana. Our original plan was to visit Altos de Chavon, Isla Catalina and the Cueva de las Maravillas all in the same day. Perhaps that was a bit too ambitious. Being the great planners that we are, we hopped in the car with a map and guidebook and decided to make one up along the way. Unfortunately our poor planning combined with misinforming guidebooks prevented us from visiting the first two places. However, the cave was a real treat. During a 45 minute tour, we were guided through the moist dark, stopping sporadically to check out rock formations and Taino art from hundreds of years ago. For lunch we went to a quaint European cafe/bakery in the city, Trigo de Oro. We ordered crepes, a caprese salad, and fresh baguette bread. It was very delicious and so well presented. I definitely recommend a visit to this little restaurant.  

On the drive home, after our somewhat disappointing day (we we're all pretty bummed about not seeing the first two places), my friend Brigette and I decided to go out that night and celebrate my birthday with some dancing. We went to Zambra, a trendy bar nearby in Santo Domingo. The DJ was on point, and played a good variety of music. We had the greatest time dancing there.  

By Sunday, we had recovered a bit from the setbacks of the previous day. This time we decided to put together a plan before leaving the apartment. After packing some PB&J sandwiches, bottles of water, and towels, we set out for Jarabacoa. We intended to visit Salto de Jimenoa, a gorgeous waterfall high up in the mountains of the Cibao region. 

I've been to Jarabacoa a few times, but this weekend was my first trip to see the waterfall. The drive up was so impressive. There were spectacular views all around. Getting to the site was a little bit of a challenge, as we had to walk across three or four (frightening) hanging bridges, and then climb several stairs to reach the falls. It was so well worth the trek though. For a few hours, my friends and I just enjoyed the water around the waterfall, taking in the sounds of the rapids. It was a perfect moment for reflection, and while hanging out by the water, I got inspired to write Did I Ever Tell You?. I live for these moments! 


When You Ask for an Adventure on Your Birthday... Part I: the Zona Colonial

This past weekend I turned 22. It was my second time celebrating my birthday abroad and my first time doing so away from my family. In recent years, I've decided it's best to stop entering into the occasion with lots of expectations. I enjoy the day so much more when I just let myself be surprised with whatever happens. That is to say, it's easy to get frustrated if you pay too much attention to who remembers and who forgets your special day, or even, whether things go as planned, and so I just don't focus on those things anymore. I try to keep a spirit of celebration, regardless of those factors. This year, my birthday was entirely different than I imagined, and I'm quite alright with that.

On Friday afteroon I went out to the Zona Colonial with some friends. We met up with coworkers and ate at a new pizza joint for lunch. Since I've been here this summer, I've had such a craving for pizza. It's inexplicable. I wanted to try this place for a while, but I was quickly disappointed. In short, our dining experience was less than agreeable. Note to self: Letting the waiter know that it's your birthday doesn't always mean you'll get better service. The pizza was almost frozen when they delivered it to the table, and that was after an hour of waiting. Halfway through eating the pizza I thought about telling the manager that it was cold. Funny how that works.  

After lunch we decided to brave the heat for a bit and explore the zone. A few days ago, I made a deal with my coworker, Tanya. In exchange for a free photography lesson, she'll teach me how to make authentic Pad-Thai. I absolutely love Thai food, and so I can't wait to learn how to make this delicious dish. Anyways, we explored some old churches and museums in the area as I guided her through her camera's settings.We definitely blended in with the swarms of tourists, as we brought out our DSLR cameras at every possible landmark. After a few hours though, Tanya left to meet up with her husband.

Suddenly, I was alone in the Colonial Zone. I decided to call some other friends to find out where they were at. My phone died as soon as I typed in the number. I exited the Museo de las Casas Reales and realized that I was stranded in the Plaza de la Hispanidad. The sun was scorching and, of the people nearby, no one seemed to have enough minutes to let me make a call. You can imagine the looks I got from strangers after asking to use their cell phones to call my friends. I ended up wandering over to a nearby street, and looking pretty down-trodden, took a seat on a random stoop. I wasn't there long, maybe 15 minutes, but that was enough time to get some concerned looks and questions from passersby. Thankfully, by some odd coincidence, my friends soon rounded the corner and came walking up the street I was on! Imagine my relief!

That evening, my friends and I brought in my birthday with loads of popcorn and a classic film. I saw Casablanca for the first time. The movie was wonderful, and the script especially left me inspired. "Here's to looking at you kid." 

Words for Today

Let yourself just be