There is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it! I have been here for one whole day (since most of yesterday was spent at the airport) and I feel like I have learned so much!
First, I have been reminded just how much I DON'T know about Spanish, other countries, cultures, etc. I don't understand most of what is said by the locals. They speak REALLY fast and everything they say in one sentence sounds like one really long word like supercalifragileisticexpealadocious... (I probably didn't even spell that right...)
This morning I had fresh watermelon and mangos for breakfast. Can I just say that fresh mangos are probably my favorite, and any mangos or mango flavored things I have ever had in the states doesn't even come close to how good these things taste here in Dominican Republic! My host "brother" told me that it is mango season, so I'll be eating mangos everyday - fine by me! (don't worry mom, I brought plenty of anti-diarrhea stuff if I eat too much fruit)
After breakfast Carlos, my host brother, left for the university. I rode on what they call a bus - but it was unlike any bus I have ever ridden. When I was in elementary school I rode the bus almost every day. When I hear the word bus, I think of a long, yellow vehicle that fits a lot of people and has brown leather-like seats. Well, that is not even close to what these "buses" are like.
We walked 2 short blocks from our house to Independencia Avenue to catch the bus. We crossed the extremely busy street and waited for the bus. We were only there for a matter of seconds when cars and van-like vehicles started zooming by us and calling out to us. Carlos kept yelling back, "No!" He then said that they were calling out to us to see if we wanted a ride. Yep, those cars and van-like vehicles are their bus/public transportation. There are no "bus schedules" like in Salt Lake, or any major city in the United States. There is no need to make sure you are at a "bus station/stop" to catch the bus. Pretty much, you just have to be on a street corner and stick your hand out, pointing your fingers a specific way to show the driver where you are wanting to go. If they are going in the direction you are needing to go, they will swerve across traffic, almost hitting others and getting about 5 or 6 honks as they do so.
You then hop on the "bus" which can usually hold a dozen people. A bus ride costs 25 Dominican Pesos, which is probably about 55-60 U.S. cents.The bus has a door, but it does not close once you get on. Instead, it stays open and a guy stands on the edge of the doorway calling out to people as the bus driver continues down the street. When the bus stops, they guys gets out of the bus and tries to get other people who may be waiting for another bus to ride his instead.
When you are ready to get of the bus you can just yell to the driver "Aquí" which means "here." As soon as he can, he will pull over and let you out. And when I say as soon as he can, I mean that he will swerve across traffic like before when he picked you up.
We had our orientation this morning at the library of the university and me out instructors. After the orientation we went on a tour of the campus. I took pictures, but now I need to figure out a good way to get them from my digital camera onto my iPad since I only brought that and not my laptop... I forgot to bring my nice camera adapter for my iPad and digital camera... :(
After the tour of campus we had lunch. We walked across the street to La Sirena, which means "mermaid." La Sirena is an equivalent to a Target in the U.S. we had lunch there, and then took a bus tour around the city. This bus however, was a bus owned by the university, so it was an actual bus with air conditioning and everything!
On our tour of the city we drove in the colonial part of the city which comprises some really amazing architecture, military forts and even Christopher Columbus's house! We are actually going to take a Friday in a couple of weeks and see colonial Santo Domingo in more detail.
After the bus tour we had about two hours of free time until we met back at the library for a little fiesta with our host mothers. During this time some guys and I went to a little market and got a Coke, made with real sugar, unlike those made in the U.S. shortly after it started to rain. It is monsoon season, so it didn't just rain - it poured!! It was awesome.
Later in the evening my host family had a bunch of her family over for dinner. She has a really great family! They all are very nice and friendly. I sat there not understanding 90% of the conversations, but it was great practice for me to just listen.
Now, I am extremely tired, so I am going to go to bed!!
(I'll post pictures as soon as I can!)