Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wait, they keep them in a camp?! Like a Jail?

Yesterday, I tried to go find this place to eat that I had heard about.  Basically, I was looking for a house that looked as if instead of outside walls, it was one long bar.  I decided I didn’t need directions…mistake, big mistake.  I missed my turn and ended up crossing over the Juliana Bridge (the tallest bridge in the Caribbean), kept driving, kept making turns and ended up on this dead end dirt road before I finally just turned the car around.  Luckily, I somehow remembered which turns I had made and just did the exact opposite until I got back to where I started.  I was still wearing a shirt and tie from work, and not that I thought anything was going to happen to me, but I didn’t want to tempt fate by showing up in the bad part of town and having my awkward body language scream, “I’m not supposed to be here!”  I assume this is exactly how Harry Potter felt when he accidentally got out of the Floo Network at Knockturn Alley instead of Diagon Alley.

            I ate something I haven’t had in a while.  Broodje Hagelslag.  To make it you get white bread, butter (good butter) and hagelslag (which are basically these chocolate sprinkles that come in a giant box).  Put enough butter on the bread so that when you add the sprinkles, the butter will hold them in place and they won’t fall out when you’re eating!  I know, butter and chocolate sprinkles on bread, it sounds as if a 5 year old made it up.  But, try it! It’s delicious and if it wasn’t then people all over the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles wouldn’t keep eating it.

            Just found out that the internet in my room at the university won’t work on the majority of websites (like any website that ends with .edu or .com or .org.  They basically backtracked their previous statements after I paid the lease (jerks).  So, I have to be fully moved in there for a 2 month stay starting the first of June and I have to figure out a way to have internet so I can try to not fail the online class I’m taking at VT for Summer I.  Anyways, hopefully I can find an internet cafĂ© or public library that’s open kind of late :/  But on the bright side, the other residents (who by the way somehow manage to live there without an RA and without a community development plan and the entire campus hasn’t descended into chaos) are extremely nice.  One guy, gibreel (that’s his name spelled phonetically), left his mom, who had come to visit him, and tried to come over and help me plug in my ethernet cable.  He even brought over an extra Ethernet cable!  I guess there was a slight language barrier (I haven’t had to speak Dutch fluently since 4th grade) so even though I didn’t need help with the Ethernet, I was touched that someone would walk away from their mom visiting to help a stranger he was just introduced to, very briefly, a few hours earlier.

            At 2 in the morning, I got a phone call.  I want to show you something.  One of the doctors comes and picks me up and takes me to this place called Campo Alegre.  Prostitution is illegal everywhere on the island except for within this camp.  Here they import girls from all over the world on work visas for 6-18 months to work the camp.  The girls are given these houses, and they live and conduct business in their rooms.  They have to stay in the camp between 6p-6a, they have to pay if they want to leave during the day time, they have to pay rent, they have to buy their own food and water, they have to go through daily STD testing the cost of which is tacked on to the rent, and they use pay phones to contact their families back home.  These girls are all under 30 years old, some as young as 17 and 18, and just to cover their costs they have to sleep with 5-10 men a night; it depends since they haggle for a price.  They basically walk around in ridiculous outfits and if you make eye contact with them they try to guess your nationality and ask some version of “¿Vamos Papi?” basically asking you if you want to join them.  These girls all have very sad stories.  Some went to medical school, architecture school, law school, and engineering school.  However, some countries have sexist, good old boy networks set in place that makes it impossible for women to get hired in those professions.  Some are single mothers just trying to feed their kids.  So single mothers and recent graduates are forced to leave their families behind to go work as a prostitute in order to feed their families, by sending money back home, or to pay off school loans.  They all put on a happy front, but...It was all I could do not to just try to give all those girls whatever they needed to get out of that situation.  I mean, my sisters are in high school now, if they were born in a different part of the world, a tiny personal life mistake or the wrong career choice and they could be in the same situation.  I really wanted to try to squeeze making a documentary about this place into my spare time.  However, I realized I can’t take on every single project that tugs at my heartstrings and plus I got kicked out for trying to bring in a camera.

            One last thing before the daily pictures: DSK was set up! http://vhbelvadi.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/dsk-set-up-who-would-profit-from-it-anyway/

My living space for the first couple of days! The bachelor pad, if you will.  I shall miss my creature comforts. Pics of my new room to come (it's about 1/16th the size of this room).

I’ve been rocking my Virginia Tech tumbler all day, every day.  I’m so healthy, all I’ve drank since landing is water during the day and locally made wine at night.  I gave up my addiction to soda (or as some of you call it, pop).  The wine is so delicious, but one glass knocks me on my butt.  Plus I am just not being anywhere near as irresponsible as I should be with this whole 18 year old drinking age thing.

The Office!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Going to miss Peddrew-Yates this summer

Just went to my first day of work.  We basically went over what the weeklong orientation would be like.  I’ll get to see what all aspects of the lab do before, on Monday, I have to make a decision as to the focus of my research.  I also just signed in to my room at the campus on the Island.  Let’s just say, it is no Peddrew-Yates…Heck, it is no Slusher Tower either (I apologize for those references for those who don’t attend Virginia Tech).  I have a desk, a bed and a dresser; if I stood in the middle of the room and stretched my hands out I could probably touch all 4 walls.  And for the first time in my life, I’ll have to use a community shower…I guess I should’ve known this was coming since I somehow managed to avoid it at college. Alas, it was the cheapest option and I HATE spending money.  Anyways its almost 1pm and I haven’t eaten anything all day.  Still have to move into my new place, start the online class I’m taking at Tech and read over the 100 or so pages I got for homework from the hospital.  Hope everyone else is having a little bit more of a relaxed day.

Just a few random pictures of me going near the beach!

From the pier, looking towards the shore.

Curacao has these walls set up for one they were needed to defend itself from attackers during war.  Cannons would be placed in the gaps to attack incoming ships.

Some random steps that lead into the ocean.  I guess in case you don’t want to walk to the actual beach.

There’s no way you could possibly tell from this picture, but this is actually a golf course.

How did they know I was about to eat it?

These were just on the side of the road…I don’t know how I feel about this.
My sweet ride…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Definitely the Frattiest

I’m back in Curacao. I haven’t been here (except for a few random days here and there for vacations) since 4th grade!  Now I face a 2.5 month stretch of living and working here.  I start working at the hospital tomorrow and that’ll be a whole new level of excitement.  It’s going to be a very reflective time period to live on the island where my parents lived for over 20 years and to work directly with a population that concerns my research.  There are many subgroup pockets with a high genetic frequency of HbS, which causes both sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease.  I’m extremely excited to see international health organizations, such as the Red Cross, specializing their regional branches to serve the specific needs of the surrounding population.  I can’t wait to work with their new Immunology Department; I actually feel as if the work we’ll be doing there can have the potential to directly impact lives.

            On a less sober note, I haven’t done anything today!  I woke up at 11, took an hour long shower (with cold water) then sat outside and read a book until 1.  Then I had a super lazy 2 hour lunch and just chatted with people.  A few things I had forgotten about Curacao:

·         The fact that any conversation will contain a mixture of 2-5 different languages (I’m being forced to remember English, Papiamentu, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and French).
·         Tiny speedos are the norm for any guy going to the beach (not sure if I’ll be jumping on that bandwagon).
·         Unless you’re at work, shirts are always optional.
·         How hot 90-100 degrees actually is.
·         And though I may never be considered fratty at any U.S. university, I am definitely the frattiest in Curacao!

I’m in Miami, Trick!

Landed in Miami a little before 1pm.  So far, I have read 2 books, started a third and done a lot of sleeping.  My flight to Curacao doesn’t leave until 4:30, so, needless to say, I have a lot of spare time on my hands…If I had a camera on me (yes, I’m THAT guy that goes on vacation without a camera) this blog post would be accompanied with a montage of the random things I did to keep myself entertained.

PS. Miami airport charges you to use their internet…so this blog post will just have to come after I land (AKA it may never come since the world is supposed to end at 6pm today, haha).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Roanoke to Charlotte

Ahhh, finally a second to sit down.  For some reason, I thought it was good idea not to go to sleep before my day of travelling begins?!  I finished up almost all of my packing by midnight and I decided to take a break before I finished up.  My break consisted of me completely shaving my head; I mean, it’s 90 degrees every day in Curacao I need to have a breeze running on my scalp for the summer.  Next thing I know it’s 1 in the morning and I’ve somehow been roped into a three-way Skype call.  I ended up talking to those girls until a little after 3 when my mom got home from work (she was working an overnight shift at the rescue squad).  She was coming home to drive me to the airport! I immediately said goodbye on Skype and went to finish my packing to leave ASAP.  Checking it went great even though it was my first time using a computer kiosk instead of a human being to do it!  I managed to get all of my boarding passes printed off so no long lines for me for the rest of the day!

            Now I have a decision to make.  I haven’t eaten yet, its 4:40 and my flight boards at 4:50…My cheap side kicks in and I, of course, opt to leave the airport, drive to the nearest McDonald’s and savor the local wares known as the dollar menu.  I didn’t leave the drive through window until 4:53 and I was freaking out.  My mom and I floored it back to the airport and hurriedly said goodbye, took my passport out of my bag and filled the open spaces with the food I had just gotten.  Luckily, the airline was running a little late too and I got there right as the plane was boarding.

            Just my luck! I end up sitting next to the guy arguing with the air marshal as to whether or not he has to turn off his phone! Just turn it off buddy, the world won’t end if you’re disconnected from your text messages for a bit.

            Now, I’m in Charlotte until 10am…trying to decide, is it worth it to go explore the city for an hour or two before my flight or should I just catch up on my reading?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Goodbye till August Blacksburg!

The summer is finally here!  I know I’m not the best writer, so here goes nothing.  I want to be able to look back on this blog and remember what a great summer I had.  My posts probably won’t be too long, but hopefully they’ll at least be entertaining.
I just finished packing my room at Virginia Tech.  I was the last RA to leave and campus was just so empty! But moving out solo does have its advantages; I drove my car up the sidewalk and parked about 5 feet from my bedroom door.  That sped things up considerably, plus it’s just fun to drive around in between the residence halls! Everyone should do it (but do try to avoid getting a ticket). 

Once all my stuff was packed, I had to go say bye to Matt.  Matt’s my boss, whose graduating this year.  He’s the only person on campus who’s always up at 3 or 4 in the morning like I am.  He’s one of the smartest people I’ve met and his Machiavellian nature meant we could have intellectually stimulating conversations on any topic without fear of being judged for entertaining a hyper-rational thought (Think “A Modest Proposal”). I’ll miss him next year, good luck at Vanderbilt Medical!

Finally, I leave Blacksburg and head over to Roanoke.  I’m supposed to call my Dad and one of my friends when I get here.  Instead, due to only sleeping 1.5 hours the night before, I pass out until 2 am.  Anyways I’m up now and looking over the final arrangements I need to do before I leave Roanoke on Saturday: Say hi to everyone in Roanoke, get a physical, order contacts, pack for 2.5 months, cut my hair and, of course, go to the rescue squad!