In this Dominican whirlwind of daily ups and downs I look forward to a new favorite Saturday morning sound. It is that of the mango man. He cycles by with a whistle prelude, waits and begins calling out in a rhythmic voice: "plantana, mango, pina aguacate". There is little traffic on a Saturday morning so the sound is clear and because of him I can now ask for these items anywhere I go. https://youtu;.be/LVD7BOIZNNw
Another positive comes from the nightly homework I give myself. I slowly and painstakingly writing a note to M, the woman who takes care of us and our new home. M makes a killer eggplant guisada that, depending on our hunger, we drizzle or dump, over the rice and beans.
Meat is very expensive so I'm discovering that locals eat tons of fruit and veggies and are mostly vegetarian. By building a relationship with M through many miscommunications, we seem to understand that life is easiest when we let go of control. She makes most of the cooking decisions. We happily run out to hunt for oddities and grocery store abundances that transpire into fragrant smells of la cocina. Comfort food helps this place begin to feel like home.
Libertad- a scorching trip to the Colonial Zone after Marc did his homework on finding la bicicleta. A website, emails, & foot searches in the city secured the name of a man who sold bikes out of his apartment. For cash. Questionable or not it was an experience. Inspiration added to Marc's fluency in Spanish. So, we tested several on the streets and on the roof of his home before settling on single speeds.
We rode home along the Malecón. It did little
We rode home along the Malecón. It did little
to separate us from short sea cliffs, rolling seas and the heavy traffic of Santo Domingo. The sea spray periodically splashed up, seemingly beautiful until we looked down at the swirling refuse of glass, plastic and all that is wrong with humanity. I rode fast keeping my eyes on a spray that might carry a broken bottle in its force. My gringo responsibility- recycle and do more to help this country save itself from this.
Bikes bring freedom- We can outride the humidity en route to school. Kata is no longer trapped in the apartment or the small park of Mirador Sur. We have yet to find a friend her age who rides and it is somewhat disarming to have her rolling along in traffic right behind me. But the freedom to get to a grocery store or a mall or anywhere overrules entrapment. We are somewhat self reliant now.
Downs- We took an uber at the wrong time of day only to sit in the notorious traffic of Santo Domingo. Our “Uber hombre” zipped wrong down one ways, and over medians to deliver us to a less than important destination. When we left the stores to head home. We discovered how much of a battle takes place in the city between taxi drivers and Uber. Taxi drivers intimidates me w/ shouts, "no Uber!" I complied but then none would or could give me a ride. Thinking it was my poor communication skills I showed them maps, called mi esposo and made them talk to Marc for directions to no avail. Maybe they couldn’t read a map? Now its 7:45pm it was dark, Kata was scared and I'd had it. A Haitian coconut seller assisted me in French but the taxi hombres still sat without providing a ride. Women jumped in and out of rapid conversations on my behalf and still nothing. A few full taxis that lacked doors rattled by with offers for us to hold on to the fenders. Finally a man who spoke English helped me cross to the other side of a street to another mall where the right taxi there took us home in 5 minutes. 8:30 on a school night. He too couldn’t understand my map but followed my directions of izquerda & derecho. In addition, the word " cerca" is now in my daily speech.
Ups & Downs. Humidity is a constant. We’ve adjusted from 3-4 showers daily to 2. Everything changed with the onset of the tropical storm season. The winds hit briefly sending some relief from humidity. At 2 in the morning I was dragging in laundry from the deck with furtive glances at the sea, the electric sky. Downpours followed and both excitement and fear surged thru me. Would we have a storm day off from school? Nope, just another day in the DR. Transport to school meant options, Walk knee deep in water, wait for the bus or bike? We chose bike. Taking higher streets and bike fenders kept us dry. Classrooms have AC but the covered walkways between buildings are open to the elements. It was my first experience seeing walls sweat with condensation as AC met humidity. The journey home was a soaking experience as rain pelted from all directions. Two day of steady rain followed. Cars near the Malacon flooded, our Mango man stayed away. People continue to ride or wade to work but still stop and to say, “Hola how are you? And it's important to always always say hello back.I met a colleague whom I now count as a friend. Jen Legra's advice on living here is met with great fanfare http://theplanetd.com/what-my-kids-learned-from-living-in-the-dominican-republic/ - and it has helped the city open up to me. I now get supplies at our colmada, I wait to let people smile and speak slowly for me. And I shower appreciation on M’s cooking now that I can tell her it is more than just bueno. It’s tan saboroso.