Last Thursday Vanesa, Chami (Vanesa’s sister) and I drove Lowell’s red pickup truck down the mountain to Santiago for the evening. As I was the only one with a driver’s license, I was doing the driving. Jarabacoa, where we are living, is in the mountains, so we had to take the rather windy, narrow road down to Santiago, amidst all the crazy Dominican drivers.
A little ways into our drive Chami said, quidado (be careful) there are policia coming up. I wondered how she knew that there would be police coming up, but slowed down—I have no desire to see a Dominican jail! I never saw the police, so sped up again. She said, be careful, there is another one up ahead. At this point I was confused, so I asked her, really, I don’t see any police. She said, see, there they are, in the road, pointing to a speed bump. Apparently the word for speed bump means “police laying down!”
Another fun moment driving was when we got to Santiago, which is the second largest city in the DR, next to the capital, Santo Domingo. I had no idea how to get to the mall where we were going to dinner in the food court (Pizza Hut, a favorite here, and which I have had more in the past three weeks than the previous three years I think!) and a movie (Daddy Daycare, which was in English with Spanish subtitles), so they were giving me directions, in Spanish. One thing I learned…the words for “to the right” and “go straight” are very similar in Spanish! After a few wrong turns, we did make it to the mall.
Over the weekend I went with Anyely to La Romana, which is where she is from. We took a bus to Santo Domingo (a two hour ride) and then another one from there to La Romana (another two hour ride). The second bus driver was talking to us before the bus left, asking us if we were sisters. The funny thing about that is that Anyely is black. She said to him, yes, we are sisters, just with different fathers.
On Sunday night we went to her church, which is Assemblies of God. The service started at 5PM and we did not get out until 8:30PM! To top it off, it was of course very hot, with no air conditioning, and the church was packed out—about five hundred people. We had three of Anyely’s young nieces and cousins sitting on our laps the entire time.
The sermon was preached by a visiting evangelist. After she was done preaching she had an altar call for people to come forward to become Christians. She looked at Anyely, motioned toward me, wondering if I wanted to come forward. Anyeyly said, no, she is a Christian. I hadn’t noticed that none of the other women were wearing earrings and apparently this was a sign that I was not a Christian—oops. I have had a number of opportunities to observe different churches, and the expectations—it is fascinating to me.
The craziest part of the whole weekend had to have been on the trip from La Romana back to the capital, where we were staying the night so that we could go to Pizza Hut and a movie (do you see a common theme? Really, I am doing some work here!) We had to take a ‘moto concho’ from Anyely’s house to the bus station. This is a motorcycle taxi. The catch was that Anyely was bringing back with her a printer (in a plastic grocery bag that I was carrying), a mixer (in her backpack), a bag of puppy chow (also in her backpack, and much cheaper than in Jarabacoa), and I had a full backpack with all my stuff for the weekend. A guy drove up on a motorcycle and said he would give us a ride, to which Anyely answered, no we need two. He said, no, you can both fit. So, he took the printer, set it in front of him on the motorcycle, took my backpack, set it on top of the printer, I got on behind him, smashed up against him, and Anyely behind me, with her backpack on, and me holding another purse full of her clothes—it was crazy!
One other slightly crazy part, was that night after the movies (by the way, the printer, mixing bowl, puppy chow and backpacks full of clothes went with us to the movies!) we took a concho, which is a typically beat up compact car which acts as a cross between a bus and a taxi. The conchos are only 6 pesos (right now about 25 cents) and pick up people along the road as they go. So, here we were, with the printer, puppy chow, mixer and backpacks, getting into a concho that already had three people in the back and one shotgun—Anyely got in the front, and the printer and I got in the back, with the three other people. After a few blocks one of the people in the back had to get out, and you only get out on the curbside, so the printer, the backpack and I had to get out, let them out, then get back in. I was praying that we would not see anyone else to pick up before it was our place to get dropped off. But there, ahead, was someone standing by a bus stop. Now, it was 11:30 at night. As we got closer I couldn’t see the person’s face, but saw that she appeared to be quite scantily clad and probably not looking to get picked up by someone like us.
To continue my week of fun adventures across the DR, on Thursday I went with Daniel and his church group to Samana for the day. Samana is on the north eastern edge of the island—a five hour bus ride each way! We met at the park at 4AM, and typical church group and Dominican style, did not leave until 5AM. We arrived at the beach around 10AM and were there until 3PM, at which time we left for our 5 hour bus ride home. I do have to say that I would never do that in the states, but somehow here everything is a new adventure, so it was fun—once! The beach was beautiful, and there were even some waves (olas—which makes a fun pun to say hi to the waves… “hola, ola!”) so I taught Daniel and his friends how to body surf and we had a blast. Being with a group of Dominicans on an excursion was also a fun new experience, seeing how much was the same about a “church trip”—arguing about what music to play (merengue or salsa), singing on the bus ride, everyone having a different opinion about where we should go, stopping to go to the bathroom, although this was a rather sketchy baño behind a colmado (a DR version of a mini mart), and stopping for dinner on the way home—although this was ‘pica pollo’ which is a type of roadside rotisserie chicken with boiled plantains. It was a long day, but very fun!
Finally, today we took the group to the beach in Sousua (yes, I have been to the beach three times this week—in La Romana, on the south east side, the Caribbean ocean, in Samana, the Atlantic, and today in Sousua, the north central side of the island, also the Atlantic) which was also a blast. A group of us bargained to get pulled behind a boat on a banana—only 50 pesos!