Thursday, December 31, 2009

Complete Savings

...is a COMPLETE SCAM. 

>fumes<

Prologue:

I ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut online March 2009.

Chapter 1 (only chapter):

Yesterday morning, on a whim, I logged onto my bank account online to see if my rent check had been cashed yet (it hadn't).  I found a charge on my account from the day before.  That isn't exactly possible right now.  Here, if you want your money that's in your bank account to stay that way, you can only use your credit/debit cards in the ATM.  Otherwise, your card information will be stolen from just about anyone and your money might be gone in a few days.  My parents are taking care of a problem with that right now....

So, naturally, I looked at the charge more closely.  The only charge that might be possible was Amazon, since I just ordered a bunch of textbooks for next semester.  However, it wasn't Amazon, it was Complete Savings.  Attached was a phone number.  I called my mom over to the computer and asked if she knew what that company was...nope.  She grabbed the U.S. phone immediately and dialed the phone number attached to the company's name.  Once she got a hold of a person, she passed the phone to me.

I was informed I had signed up for a membership with their company (a supposed coupon/savings website) during a transaction I had with Pizza Hut.  I was informed that I had taken advantage of a "Check out our website for a coupon for 10 dollars back on your next Pizza Hut purchase" deal.  I remember getting an e-mail about the $10 coupon, but I also remember that I didn't take advantage of it because I read through it and found out that I had to have a membership (12 dollars a month) with their company. 

I was told that I could go and manually cancel my membership, or the woman on the phone with me could cancel it.  I asked her to cancel it immediately, and asked why I was not informed that I would be charged?  She told me that I had been sent an e-mail informing me of this charge; while on the phone with her, I opened up my e-mail account and told her that no, I had not received any e-mail, and it was not possible that their e-mail would have gone through my junk mail, because during the phone call an email from them came through to my inbox.

What makes me really angry is that I was charged 9 MONTHS after I made the transaction online, so as to assure that I would have forgotten about the whole thing and probably not even notice it!

After speaking with their representative, I'm still not sure if I'm getting a refund or not (probably not), but at least I caught it the first time, and it's now cancelled.  I also sent an e-mail to Pizza Hut about it, telling them what happened and that I would not be purchasing anything else from them. 

And here I am to warn YOU not to order from Pizza Hut online!...or Pizza Hut in general, since they're allowing this to happen to others!  Many other companies also have this Complete Savings company attached to their name, so be careful!  You don't even have to give them your credit card information, or even necessarily check yes, that you want their service, to be charged!!!!!  The company you purchased from online is the supplier of your credit card information.

Fun Christmas week activity for me, no?  :) 

We're off to the pool area for a New Year's Eve party for a few hours, can't believe the year is over!

Hope your New Year's Eve is more pleasant than mine!

And good luck in this new year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Arise and Shine Forth

I thought this song was appropriate, seeing as we've just been through Christmas and are now looking to a new year.  Song is by Michael McLean.  Enjoy!

What's Next?

I've only been to church here 5 times, altogether, and you never know what's going to happen! 

The first week here this trip, I went to sharing time for the second hour, and there were 3 children all together; no one else had come.  My mom is Kambrielle's age group teacher in English, and so when it came time for class, I went to Relief Society and Kami and my mom went into another room to have a lesson, by themselves.

The second week, Kari, Kaitlin, my dad, and I were recruited to the ward choir 10 minutes before the Christmas 'program' (we sang a medley of 3 Christmas hymns, one right after the other), as the only strong singer was gone that week, and everyone else was too nervous to sing unless there were some other people standing up there with them.  Then after I went to the English Sunday school (comprised of most of the senior missionaries, the temple president, and a handful of other people), as I was walking to Relief Society, my mom grabbed me into Primary to play the piano for singing time, as the pianist hadn't shown up.  A temple group from Guyana was also there, and a boy and woman from Haiti as well, so we had more English speakers, and the boy spoke French and a couple words in English.  Luckily, one of the ward Elders was from Haiti, spoke Spanish, French, and English, and came to translate for the boy in Primary.  However, mid-sharing time, the bishop came and took him out of the room.  No one could communicate to the boy, but he still tried to listen.  We found out after the meeting that the other woman from Haiti (who spoke only French as well), had had a mini stroke in the middle of Relief Society, and they needed the Elder to be able to talk with her.

This week, today, I found out 5 minutes before we left, from Sister Andersen, that the ward 'organist' (it's just a digital piano) would probably not be at church today, and would I please be the backup for prelude and all the hymns.  Kathy Jackman then asked if I would play for the Primary kids singing in Sacrament meeting as well.  When we got to church, about 5 minutes before it starting, the prelude music was playing itself.  I went up and stopped it and started playing, and after what seemed to be a long while, I looked around and realized that the bishop didn't look like he was planning on starting the meeting any time soon.  I kept playing, continuing to look around, wondering what the heck was going on.  When the bishop finally got up to start the meeting, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 9:25, 25 minutes after we were supposed to start.

I later found out that there had been no bread for the Sacrament, so my dad had to run out to find a store and buy some, and that none of the speakers had shown up, so the bishop was going to have me play prelude for most of the meeting to teach a lesson about responsibility.  Not sure what that lesson was, but I sure wish someone would have let me know that they were going to be starting so late!  Half an hour of prelude music was not what I was planning on!  There ended up being 3 speakers, the bishop and 2 others, who created talks on the spot.  The primary kids never got to sing.

When I got to Primary, there was no pianist again, so I came in and played.  The French speaking boy was there again, but he was on his own this time for a translator.  Sister Rappleye was doing sharing time, but knows hardly any Spanish, so her son who was visiting came up and translated.  It was chaos.  At the end of singing time we all got up and walked down the hall to the Relief Society room to sing the song they were supposed to perform earlier to the Relief Society sisters instead.  At the end of the meetings we found that someone had stolen the keyboard cords, and people who weren't supposed to were taking all the manuals out of the boxes for the next year.

So at the end of each Sunday block, everyone is frazzled, and all you can say is, "Well that was fun.  What's next week?!"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The First Week

These are a couple views from my fam's apartment here.  The first is just a general view of the city out the family room/everything room windows, and the second is zoomed in to the temple, which you can see easily from here, just not easily on a camera. 



Driving around, here's what some corner markets look like.  This guy just grabs maybe 4 avacadoes in his hands and walks up to your window, knocks and tries to convince you to buy his items.




Here's a Christmas decorations corner store.  Note the Burger King ad, and the beer ad right behind.  Everything revolves around alcohol here, especially Presidente beer.  On the 23rd, I was out grocery shopping with my mom.  In La Sirena (regular grocery store), about 5 aisles were devoted to alcohol, and one entire aisle was for Presidente (the beer this country is famous for).  At PriceSmart (equivalent to Costco), I saw one lady walking around with 4 large bottles of vodka in her cart, just of vodka!  Then she had several other types of alcohol in her cart as well.



After grocery shopping, here are a few of our groceries in the little carts we have to use to get them up to our apartment.  Yes, that is a box labeled Corona.  PriceSmart boxes all your groceries for you.  :)  I used the same box to wrap some other gifts in...



Making cookies to take to all the ex-pats here for Christmas.



On Tuesday the 15th, I went with my mom, Kathy and Sami Jackman, and Nancy Rappleye to a beach called Boca Chica.  I'm sure Nancy would not appreciate this picture at all, but I really love it.  That's really the only time she has ever seen me, so I don't think she will see this picture.....  :)



Boca Chica



This picture was taken while getting a mini pedicure on the beach!  We were swarmed by peddlers the second we walked onto the sand, and we literally had a peddler coming to us at least once every 2 minutes.  That was the only downside of going to the beach.  This lady came by and asked me if I would like a massage, went through a million other things she was selling, and then tried to get me to buy a pedicure.  She was very persistent, but not in a creepy or annoying way; she genuinely needed to work.  I kept telling her no, and when she was finally about to walk away, my mom asked again how much she wanted for a pedicure; she answered 150 pesos (about 4.60).  My mom looked at me, and said it would probably be fun to get a pedicure on the beach, so she took out her wallet.  She told the woman she hadn't brought any money with her, which was the truth (it makes it easier to get out of buying stuff if you tell them you live there and don't have cash with you), so she searched her wallet and was able to find 116 pesos in coins.  She told the woman that was all she had, and the woman said it was ok, that she needed the work.  116 pesos is just over 3 bucks.  I got a pedicure for 3 bucks.  Can't complain.  In the picture you can also see my lovely bruise I got after slipping on some water on our tile floor.  I've still got that baby.  :)




More Boca Chica




These are the lovely yellow steps in front of the shopping area we go to for souvenir-ish stuff.




You know when I want to go shopping for underclothing, the colonial zone outdoor market is where I go....



The sign says "No Estacione" or "No Parking."  They're everywhere, and this particular picture could be taken anywhere in this city and look the same.  No one cares about traffic laws here...



How do YOU get to Funky Town?



Walking down into the caves called "Tres Ojos", or "Three Eyes".  Went there with my mom, and Kathy and Sami Jackman.  It has 3 underground mini lakes, and you pay 50 pesos to get in. 



Sami and I exploring part of the cave.



After taking a small boat ride across one of the lakes, and walking through the darkness with bats above us, we came to this opening.



We were on the other side of the caves all by ourselves, and this little boat was just chilling there.  We could've taken it and gone out on the water if we had wanted to.  Sami and I wanted to go out and do paddle wars or something on the water, but our mothers said no.



On the boat ride back to the other side of the caves.



Found this iguana-something inside the caves.



On a motorbike here, we see this kid carrying a propane tank between himself and the driver.  So safe!!  Seriously, people don't seem to think about consequences here.




I can't imagine the sort of neck strength it requires to carry such a large load on the top of your head.



Waiting for our food at an ocean-side restaurant, called Adrian Tropical.



Kaitlin wants to be a model...




Here she is again, not liking her sancocho soup.  I thought it was good.  You can also see her drink - we each got a chinola-naranja-limon frozen.  Passionfruit-orange-lime slush, basically.  Chinola juice is soooo good!



Here is mine and my mom's mofongo.  It is a bread-y mixture made of plantains and pork rinds.  It was ok.  To moisten it we dipped it in chicken broth that they bring out for you.  I ate a good portion of it. The food here just wasn't good.  Not bad like you might puke or anything, just not tasty at all.




Looking out from our table at the restaurant.



That was the first week here on vacation in the Dominican Republic!

Christmas

Hope everyone had a great Christmas!  On Christmas Eve, we took a chance and went to a restaurant called "La Suerte" (The Luck) for some Chinese.  It was the only one open after 3 PM.  Kind of ironic, when you think about the name.  It  was pretty good food, all things considered.  Not something we would have considered good in the US, but good for here.  My mom, Kami, and I went to the mall so that Kambrielle could do her last minute Christmas shopping (she informed us the night before that she needed to do some shopping....lovely).  She got a pack of gum or candy bar for everyone, and then a pair of earrings for every girl from one of the accessory stores in the mall (most things in the store cost 55 pesos...about 1.50, and they're better looking than most of the stuff in Claire's in the US).  After Chinese food, we came home and watched the movie The Testaments.  Great movie, and talked about it a little afterward, though none of the girls could seem to keep their attention focused very long. 

The family got Rock Band for Christmas, and a few different Rock Band games with it, so all my sisters and my dad have been playing it nonstop since about noon yesterday, taking breaks only to eat dinner and argue over why they shouldn't have to clean anything. 

I've been spending some time trying to figure out how to play the guitar, spent about an hour today, and will use the CDs my dad has to learn how to play tomorrow.  Pretty excited!  As soon as I have some money, I want to try to find a guitar in a pawn shop or off of classified ads and learn how to play fairly decently. 

My mom and I are going to try to go to the beach a couple more times before I leave; we went to the beach as a family (minus Kayli) last Tuesday, to Juan Dolio beach, and found a bunch of seashells, the whole ones you buy at a store.  I tried out snorkeling for the first time (at least, the first time since Guam, I think), which was really scary to me at first, but wasn't so bad once you got used to sounding like Darth Vader whenever you breathed.  We found all the good shells out in the ocean, about 5-6 feet deep.  Got some good sun too, trying to get a good tan before I go back to Logan.  I layed out by the pool on Christmas Eve with my mom, and with my dad and Kambrielle yesterday.  Laying out at the pool in 85-90 degree weather on Christmas day?  I am NOT going to complain about that!

Tonight we're going to a neighbor's birthday party down at the pool.  Gotta go help cook some food!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Scary Vegetable




It looks so icky!  It's gross!  It looks like some form of seafood!






Who in the world would eat this crud?!  It makes me want to hurl just looking at it!

It's gross!!  So gross!!!

It's called a cacao plant which means....

It's...






Chocolate.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Things to Do on Christmas Eve

Kari, my 13-year-old sister, wrote this up a little before I got here.

This is the list of things our family is supposed to do this Christmas Eve:

1.  Wake up, clean the house.
2.  Make COOKIES!
3.  Sing Christmas carols by the fire.
4.  Roast chestnuts.
5.  Dress up like eskimos.
6.  Hang mistletoe.
7.  Watch a Christmas movie.
8.  Make snowflakes.
9.  Read Christmas books.
10.  Watch a Christmas movie.
11.  Eat Chinese food.
12.  See bank lights (since they can't see the Temple Square lights, and one of the banks here has the most lights up that they've seen so far).
13.  Go home, do nativity skit.
14.  Hang stockings, set out cookies.
15.  Set up beds in Kaitlin's (and Kari's) room.
16.  Find it hard to sleep tonight.
17.  Wait for Santa in his guagua (what the bus-taxis that people ride around in here are called).
18.  Eventually fall asleep.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Street Vendors

For the majority of my readers (that feels so fancy to say), you rarely see street vendors. I don't think I ever see any in Salt Lake, and I'll occasionally see some taco stands in Ogden or something. However, every single intersection here has a minimum of 10 people trying to sell you something or beg something off of you. And that is no exaggeration.

My mom hates being the first car in line at a stoplight, because she will be one of the first cars hit up. There are also certain intersections she hates having to stop at, because she recognizes certain beggars. Some of the kids will not listen when you tell them no when they come to wash your windshield. It doesn't matter how many times she turns on the wipers or shakes her head at them or verbally says, "No!", they will still try to wash your windshield, then freak out when you won't pay them.


Some people really do have some interesting things to sell, though. There are the usual: the avocadoes, the bananas, the coconuts, the nut packets. The Claro people sell their phone minutes (Most phones are different here in that you don't have a monthly plan; you pay as you go for almost everything), the SkimIce guy comes around selling popsicles. Some people sell phone covers, some sell TV antennas. Two days ago, there was a guy selling light-up Santa hats. No big deal, sort of like something you might buy from "Christmas on Ice" or something, except that these Santa hats had braids coming down the sides of them. Why? I have no idea, but the guy selling them was wearing one, and let me tell you, nothing makes me want to buy a product more than a creepy old guy missing some teeth wearing a Santa hat with white braids coming down the sides.

There are also the beggars - generally my mom turns away all beggars except the kids - but she won't give the kids money, she just keeps packages of crackers in the car to hand out. The only problem is if they get her right after the light turns red, he'll make some signal to the other kids on the block and soon enough a whole bunch of kids will be coming up to the window to ask for something. Most of the people begging and not selling are missing limbs. Since there are no real safety guidelines at work, and no such thing as workers' comp, people get hurt in accidents at work all the time, cutting off a hand here, an arm there, a leg here. Also, there are so many motorcycles here, weaving in and out of traffic wherever they want, and it wouldn't be hard to get in a major accident on one of those. One man today was hopping over to our car - my mom rolled down the window and handed out 50 pesos to this guy who was missing both a full arm and a full leg on the same side of his body. No crutches, just hopping over to us. One guy, a few days ago, was trying to do tricks in the road in his wheelchair. My mom just shook her head when he came up to the window, and I jokingly said in my Nacho Libre accent, "Sorry, your tricks are just not cool enough. Are you kidding?! At the last intersection, the guy was breakdancing! You were just spinning around! We cannot waste our pesos on you!" Sounds pretty harsh, but when you are accosted by 10-15 people at every intersection....it's easier when you make a joke out of the whole thing. My dad is especially good at making jokes when people try to come beg money off of you.


People also sell other stuff here as well. Yesterday I went to "Tres Ojos" cave with my mom, Kathy Jackman and her daughter Sami Jackman. No one would leave us alone, even after we already had paid and gone down into the cave. "Here is a wonderful memory for your visit at the Dominican Republic! Only 100 pesos! So good deal!" One man offered to take a group picture for us in front of one of the lakes in the cave, with my camera, for the great deal of only 100 pesos. We're talking just over 3 bucks for him to take a picture of me and my mom with my own camera. I think we told him no about 15 different times in separate parts of the cave.


When we went to the Boca Chica beach on Tuesday with Sami, Kathy and Nancy Rappleye, we couldn't get away from the peddlers the whole time we were sitting on the sand. We had people selling sunglasses, jewelry, tattoos, massages, pedicures, paintings, hats, towels, and anything else you might think of. Walking down the beach, the way a Dominican girl wasn't dressed made it clear she was selling something as well. Boca Chica is famous for prostitution.

I actually ended up getting a pedicure from a lady who wouldn't leave me alone, in a non-creepy way. She wanted 150 pesos to give me a pedicure, and my mom wanted to get one, so she pulled out her wallet, and told the lady "I only have exactly 116 pesos on me." The woman said, "That's fine, I need the work!" So she sat down, took her bowl out and got it full of sea water, and gave me a mini pedicure. So nice. :) While she was there, a man missing a leg from the knee down came to us to beg for some money, saying he was trying to save up to fix his leg. My mom told him, "I don't have any money, but if you give me a phone number where we can find you, I know some people who can help you." We then told him how our church gives out wheelchairs to people who need them (I've seen some people on the streets with them), and how the service missionaries could talk to him if he needed one. We ended up giving him their phone number, and he went off. After he left, the pedicure lady said how he did cocaine and had been going up and down the beach for years. My mom said, "Ok, but it is true what our church does with the wheelchairs." The woman said she knew, that she had seen them, then got a little interested, saying that there was a little girl where she lived who had been in an accident and needed one, and we were able to give her the information to talk to the service missionaries here. So I got a 3 1/2 dollar pedicure and we hopefully helped someone out with a wheelchair. Fun stuff. :)


It's a relief when I go home and don't have to worry about most of this stuff when I go out!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soaring

Can't sleep (3 hour time difference plus a 4 hour nap after church), so I thought I'd come and post a story for you all.

Imagine boarding a plane, ahead of everyone, and sitting next to an old Asian man.  You notice your seat is quite comfortable, next to two windows, and has plenty of leg and elbow room.  As you prepare for takeoff, a flight attendant comes around, taking coats and hanging them up, and offering everyone orange juice and water.  Everyone you can see, that is; you are, after all, sitting in the second row of the plane.  You start falling asleep before takeoff, but don't fully fall asleep until right after the wheels leave the ground.  Soon enough you wake up, finding the plane engulfed in natural light.  You look out the window; it is bright and clear; you can see the Rocky Mountains beneath you, covered in snow, with a few clouds here and there.  As you turn, the same flight attendant comes by, heartily says "Good morning!" and then asks you if you would like some breakfast.  You automatically start to decline, then think "Why am I declining?!"

A few moments later, he asks, "Biscuit or bagel?  Is an omelette all right?  That's all I have left right now."  Of course, you request a biscuit, and suppose that an omelette will just have to do this time.  Soon he places a tray down in front of you.  You can feel the heat emanating off of it; you see a fancy cloth napkin with your silverware rolled up inside as well.  You observe everything on your tray:  a cream-cheese-filled omelette with steaming potatoes on the side, strawberries, honeydew melon, canteloupe, a biscuit with jam and butter, and orange juice served up in a small goblet normally reserved at your house for Christmas dinner or other 'fancy' occasions.

You turn to see what your fellow passenger has been eating, and see that he chose corn flakes.  Really?  Corn flakes, when he could have had an omelette.  Whatever.  Soon enough, the flight attendant comes by again and takes your tray.  The plane touches down probably 45 minutes later in the Dallas airport, and life goes on.  You think, "Wow, don't think that could get any better."  You quickly hurry to your next flight, as it begins boarding momentarily.

Again, you board first.  Predictably, you get the second row, window seat again.  Before the plane takes off, a flight attendant comes by to get you something to drink.  Diet Coke, please.  This flight, the man sitting next to you is a talker.  Not necessarily bad, you just have to keep a conversation going now.  He also knows you are from Utah, and knows and has been to the area several times, so he already has some preconceived notions about you.  He also finds out why your family is in the Dominican Republic, and confirms those notions about you.

Right after takeoff, another flight attendant comes by to say, "Miss Whiting, today for our meal we will be serving a tortellini (emphasizing every syllable carefully) in a red sauce, or a steak with a >insert interesting name here< sauce.  Which would you prefer? (tortellini) All right, and we only have caesar dressing today; will that be all right? (uh, sure)  What would you like to drink with your meal? (just water will be fine, thank you)"  She moves on to the man sitting next to you, who of course wants steak, is fine with the caesar, and would like the red wine with his meal.  When another attendant comes around for more drinks, he requests rum with his Diet Coke.  Because that's always the first thing you think of when you want a Diet Coke.  "Man, Diet Coke.  Doesn't that sound like it would be good spiked with some rum?"

You continue polite conversation with the man sitting next to you.  Someone brings around cups of warm nuts for everyone.  A movie is turned on for everyone to watch.

When the meal comes around, about 1 1/2 hours into the flight, you are expecting something looking similar to what you received in the morning.  An attendant brings around hot washcloths to freshen up with before your meal.  When handed your tray, you see: a steaming bowl of tortellini with a red sauce with mushrooms and other yummy goodness, a side of shrimp with cocktail sauce and lemon, a caesar salad, another goblet (which they will forget to fill, because everyone but you ordered white or red wine with their meal), and a hot roll with butter.

After the movie and lunch are over, you start to smell something delicious from the flight attendants' secret lair area.  Soon enough, a hot, wonderful, chocolate chip cookie is brought out to you.  Then seconds and however-many-more-you-wants are brought out.  You stick with one (good choice).  To finish off the long, 5 1/2 hour flight, they bring little mints out to everyone, telling you, "Thank you for joining us today," as if you had just blessed them with your presence.  The plane is a little late getting into San Juan, so you have to rush off to your next flight again.

When it is time to board your next and final flight, the airport workers announce "Rows 1-7 may now board."  A mass of people rushes to the gate, and oddly enough, even after checking their bags, everyone seems to have 1 or 2 regular sized pieces of luggage that they are holding on to.  You quickly observe how many people just lined up to get on the airplane:  around 50.  You look down at your own ticket.  Row 15.  Doing the math in your head, remembering that this is a prop airplane, if there are only around 60 seats on the airplane, and 50 people just lined up for the first 7 rows, there must be 2 people per seat.  Because everyone is definitely following instructions...right?  RIGHT.  You just shrug your shoulders, say to yourself, "Es la vida," because that's the only way anyone around you would understand, and wait until most everyone has boarded the plane before you go on. 

You hand over your passport, get through, then start proceeding down that thing that you just forgot the name of.  Then you remember, that since this is a tiny airplane, you have to go outside to board the plane.  You are bummed that you can't find where your camera is to take a picture, because you feel so fancy.  After walking quite a ways out on the tarmac, you get to the area where you should deposit your carryon bags to be stowed on the plane.  The woman in front of you is in an argument with airport employees over her huge luggage that she has with her, and the guy across from you just waves you by, telling you to take your bag with you.  You walk up the rickety stairs into the back of the plane, and realize you are on the last full row, so it is good you got on last anyway.  The guy behind you tries to help you put your bag up above your head for you, but he can't make it fit.  You frantically try to pull stuff out of the bag and stuff it in your purse you brought with you.  Thankfully it fits then, because if it hadn't, it would've been tough cookies for you. 

You get adjusted into your seat, thankful that it was still there when you got on the plane.  It is a full flight, and the lady sitting across the row from you is not sitting in her assigned seat.  More people get on the plane and she eventually has to move and sit right next to you.  You fill out your immigration and aduana (customs) forms before takeoff.  The lady next to you is a native Dominican, and she does not.  In fact, she waits until just after takeoff when all the lights have been turned off and she discovers that the lights above you both don't actually work.  Then she frantically begins mumbling in Spanish to you, saying that she can't see very well and asking you questions.  You try to repeat what she is saying to you to verify what she is asking, and then she gets really frustrated at you; you say "Lo siento..." (I'm sorry...).  The lights start to work and she finally finds her glasses.  She borrows your pen to fill out the forms, and thankfully, you fall asleep until 5 minutes before landing.  How do you know it is landing time?  Well, other than the fact that your rickety plane is shaking really badly, the entire plane erupts in applause the second the wheels touch the ground again.  Superstition.  She returns your pen, and you get off the airplane.  As you step off the airplane, you notice a girl on the plane who was on your flight out of Salt Lake.  She notices you too, and even though it is clear she knows the language and you do not, she chooses to ignore you.  You also notice a few boys your age who go to your University.  Basically, everyone knows you are a white girl who can't speak Spanish very well, and no one chooses to help you.  You stand out on the tarmac, not really sure what to do, and then eventually follow the mass of people from the tarmac to the immigration area.  You pass through with flying colors, and get out to the baggage claim quickly.

While waiting for your bags, the girl from Salt Lake approaches you.  "Were you in Salt Lake this morning?" 

"Um, yep, actually, I was sitting right next to you at the departure gate." 

"Oh, ok, why are you here?  Are you visiting...?"

"Yeah, I'm visiting my family; they live here."

"Your family?  They live here?  Why?"

"Um, my dad is here for work.  I'm assuming you go to Utah State?" (Utah State has an exchange program up with Dominican Republic.  There are a TON of Dominican students at your school.)
"Oh, no, I don't go to Utah State."

"Oh, ok."

>awkward pause<

"I go to BYU, actually."

"Oh, ok!  Well, actually, my dad works for the LDS church." (some recognition comes to her eyes) "Well....I'm Mormon.  I'm assuming you're Mormon also?"

"Yes, I am."

"What stake are you in?  What was your name again?"

And without an answer, she just walks away.  Quite bizarre.  You go through customs without any hitches at all (quite odd as well, no one even glances at your bags or anything).  As you walk towards the exit, it becomes clear that some sort of celebrity must be arriving in the Dominican or something, because the whole country and all their dogs are waiting out there.  People are yelling and screaming and cheering, and you start to panic, because this mass crowd goes out the door, into the street outside.  Luckily for you, though, you just have to look for the tall white people.  You see someone's hand shot up in the air, holding a video camera, and relief shoots through you.  Then these tall white girls shoot through the barrier of people, screaming, "Kierstin!  Kierstin!  WOO WOO!  YEAH!  WOOHOO!"  Your dad makes you stop and take a picture, even though other people are trying to run you over with their carts and policemen are telling you to keep moving and your mom is also yelling at your dad to keep moving.  Some lady also laughs at you and screams at you something about "mucha gente" (many people).

At the van, you ask if some sports team or something was coming home tonight.  Nope, just a lot of people coming home for Christmas.  That was quite normal.  And any time anyone came out of the security area, to find their family, the whole airport would erupt in shouting and cheering and clapping.  Not for you, since you are stinky tall white girl, but that's ok; that's why your sisters thought it would be fun to scream at you like you were some celebrity when you came out.  Everyone else in the airport thought it was normal; only you and your family thought it was funny.

You make it home in one piece, collapse into bed, remembering you have to be ready for church at 9 (6 AM Utah time).  Your dad is soon gone, leaving for his own flight at 4:30 in the morning.  He went to Suriname for the week. Actually, right now he's stuck in Trinidad because no one told him he had to get a visa before being able to enter Suriname.  Fun stuff.

And that is my story.  Well, thank you for joining me this evening.  When you travel, remember to fly Whiting Airlines, where it's always free and sometimes worth as much.  :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Poll

My pinky and ring finger on my left hand went numb about 30 minutes ago or more and it's not going away. Raise your hand if you think I should go to the doctor. Raise your hand if you think I should see how long it takes until my fingers fall off. K thanks! :)