photo c/o guardian.co.uk
My host sister and I rode bicycles to Maejo University past backyard boarding houses (one-room bungalows with thatched roofs), fields of all kinds of vegetables, grazing water buffalo and bony cows, little shops, homes– a mish-mosh of land uses. The whole way we dodged manholes that lead to a ditch. After a bit of sleuthing I figured out that this ditch is where we toss our dirty water, full of detergent and fabric softener, after washing clothes by hand in these big basins. I assume everyone else in the neighborhood does the same, plus some people probably have their sewage piped there. This ditch follows the road until the road starts to curve, then empties into a big rice paddy. So the water full of chemicals, raw sewage, and oily runoff is being used to grow the rice. If only plants had some sort of biological mechanism for filtering that stuff out before sucking it up via transpiration.
In the two months I’ve been in the Dominican Republic, I’ve heard a surprising amount of English. Not just from the American tourists who pop down for a quick tan, but from the people who live here year round. Haitian students, who are required to learn English in their schools, are always eager to practice their English with Americans. What strikes me most, though, are the words that Dominicans don’t bother to translate, or the ones that take on a different meaning when used in “Dominican”. A few of my favorites:
Chicken nugget: since there’s no direct translation for this delightful snack, Dominicans just say chicken nuggets. However, it comes out sounding more like “cheeckehn-noggit”.
Lighter: the Spanish word for lighter is encendedor, but people in their teens and twenties find it easier to just say lighter.
Baby: “Baby” seems to be the first English word Dominican men learn. As in, when a woman is walking down the street, she hears from some random man, “I love you, baby.” Baby is spelled “beivi”.
Flow: “Flow” describes what we might call swagger. This one I think we can chalk up to the strong presence of hip-hop culture in the Dominican Republic. I hear my share of throwback Snoop Dogg songs in clubs.
Heavy: One of my favorites. Outdated in the States but perfectly current here, “heavy”, spelled jevi, describes something cool. When I asked my host sister if she liked a particular club, she replied in all seriousness, “Sí, es muy jevi.” It’s hard not to smile when I hear it because if I used “heavy” at home to say something was cool, no one would take me seriously.
More Dominicanisms on the way.
I joined some American friends in playing hip and chic, wandering around the curry-smelling alleys, vibrant markets and business offices of London’s East End. Along the way, we stumbled upon these gems: the first a unique take on the traditional English meal, bangers and mash, and the second a testament to the commercialization of British culture symbolized in the conglomerate Tesco’s—the supermarket, textile retailer and insurance company all wrapped into one brand.
Every Tuesday and Friday afternoon Maybachufer, a street that runs along the banks of the Landwehrkanal in eastern Kreuzberg, hosts the Türkenmarkt, or Turkish Market. The Turkish represent the largest ethnic minority in Berlin, primarily due to a sharp increase in immigration in the 1970s
, and nowhere in the city is their religious, cultural and culinary impact felt greater than in the southern district of Kreuzberg. Twice a week, Turkish and German vendors alike set up their stalls on the sidewalks of the narrow Maybachufer. Shouting, laughing and constantly hawking their goods, the vendors are loud, amiable and know at least three languages: German, Turkish and English. The market is close and chaotic, more in the fashion of a bazaar than a farmers’ market. The vendors sell meat, cheese, bread, vegetables, fruit, olives, clothing, bicycles, textiles, etc…The Türkenmarkt is not only a prime example of Berlin’s multicultural composition, but also speaks to the entire city’s penchant for loud, fast and chaotic social interaction.
For the next four months, I will be studying sustainable development in Thailand. The ISDSI program involves language study, cultural exchange elements like homestays, and expedition-based courses in which we will immerse ourselves in the culture and ecology of the forested mountains of the Thai-Burmese border, the mangrove swamps and islands of the coastal region, and the Mun and Yom Rivers.
It is easy to get around Chiang Mai without a map. The city is bounded to the east by the Mae Ping River and to the west by imposing mountains dotted with ancient wats (Buddhist temples), one of which requires visitors to climb more than 300 steps. Although I’ve gazed at these hillside wats from the roof garden of my hotel, I have not yet gathered the courage to climb to them. Instead, I have spent the past couple of days exlploring the sois (back streets) of the central part of town. Old Town, the historic district of CM, is a perfect square surrounded by a moat and the crumbling remains of the ancient city wall. Beyond Old Town, CM ripples outward in surburban rings towards the mountains. Even the highways that circle the city are named “First Ring Road” and “Second Ring Road.”
On the banks of the Mae Ping River, the flower weavers and arrangers have set up shop. Walking by this part of the river is particularly blissful, as the scent of so many gorgeous flowers permeates the air and drives away the ubiquitous motorcycle fumes. The area between Old Town and the river is also home to the largest markets and bazaars in town– block upon sprawling block of dry goods and food vendors. My school nurse warned against eating uncooked foods, including fruit, but the piles of strange and attractive fruits at the market are too tantalizing to pass up!