Dec. 5, 2012

Alexei’s apartment in the middle of Santo Domingo, not only has a gate at the entrance to the landing of his fourth floor apartment, it also has a metal “door” that rolls down over the regular front door. Outside the dark apartment traffic roars by almost continually on a wide boulevard as well as on the overpass right under Alexei’s windows. Inside the apartment, we talked loudly just to be heard (on the other hand, Alexei couldn’t hear it when I farted).

Here at Paula’s little home on crowded, friendly Los Buenos Street in Santiago, it’s noisy but in a cozy, amiable way. The houses are close together–two stories high at the most. Several times a day, a confident rooster ambles sedately along the sidewalk. Old men play cards and dominoes on gallerias, laughing and joking loudly with their friends.  Vendors push carts through the street; others stride by, calling out their wares, with basins of fruit or vegetables on their heads. A car bounces down this narrow, little, paved street going one way in the morning and returning the other way in the evening, blaring Dominican music from its heavy-duty speakers.

My dreams last night were of people (mostly women) who were mad at babies who wouldn’t go to sleep (it prevented them from having sex and doing other stuff), and a little boy in a tough school who has no books and can’t learn to read or stop peeing on the floor.

Luna, the puppy Paula and Eligio adopted, pees and poops on the tiled living room floor. Just little messes since she only drinks milk. She never goes outside (unless we carry her with us on errands); there’s no yard, and I haven’t seen grass anywhere in the barrio. When she’s older, Luna will probably wander around the neighborhood like the other dogs.

I’m accepted here on Los Buenos Street because I’m Paula’s guest; otherwise, I’d just be seen as a nosy outsider.

When Israel and I walked over to the supermarket yesterday, I looked down into the shallow riverbed under a bridge and saw children running around the community of small shacks and adults playing cards and sweeping their yards.

One difference between tourists and travellers is that tourists save money for their trips. Gypsy aren’t on vacation, and most of us don’t have extra money for luxuries and self-indulgence. We don’t usually send gifts home. We can’t spend money on even-the-nicest-people whom we meet along the way. Endless travel leaves us poor, homeless, and often vulnerable to the vagaries of life, but we accept it all  because we love travel. How many more ways can I say it? I am happy.

Every month, I spend all my money for onward tickets, food, and border taxes. I don’t usually save money; I currently have $75 saved toward a ticket to Europe. I have $245 USD left for the month; it’s for food and border taxes ($27 to enter and $27 to exit Jamaica; it may also cost $20 US to leave the DR) .

Yesterday, I bought Paula a big bottle of olive oil, vinegar, hair conditioner, and toilet paper, and I made a nice lunch (a salad of lettuce, cilantro, and onions, with tuna fish and french bread, chips, apples, bananas and beer) for Israel, Nashya and me. I spent almost $700 pesos (almost $20 USD) at the supermarket. These occasional parties are necessary.

This evening I met up with Couchsurfers Beth and Shane (Wisconsinites) at the famous El Monumento downtown (see blurb at end of blog). We had a beautiful view overlooking Santiago, then we went to a restaurant for mofongo, a delicious Dominican plantain dish (served with gravy), chicken in a good sauce,  cabbage and carrots, and three big Presidente beers. I totally enjoyed their company (and not just because they treated me to dinner, and not just because I haven’t talked to anyone from the US [or any native English speakers] for five weeks), but because we were on the same wave length. I told them my two jokes and they told a couple; I revealed some deep feelings and cultural questions (about Haiti and the DR). I felt understood and accepted by this really cool young couple. I was afraid of being out in a big, new city after dark. Plus, it’s a city where I don’t speak their language. I almost didn’t go. Paula, unintentionally inspired me to push forward and make it work.

I had an awakening on the way to meet up with the dynamic duo. I realized that the reason I get so confused in noisy places like cities is because I am focusing almost solely on the audio portion of most of my experiences. That’s why I often  literally don’t “see” what’s around me. I have been hearing every single little sound; the visual element has been almost completely overshadowed and obscured by the audial. Now that I realize this, I can correct it. I can replace overstimulating sound with calm peacefulness of sight.

On the way home, I took two conchos (public cars: 20 pesos one way). A young woman helped me find the way. I realized that I can do this, I can travel around the world by myself, and I can have fun doing it. All it takes is the conscious decision to stay positive and make things work. It’s all about making the choice to be happy.

I did get head lice. Went to the Pharmacia and bought lice shampoo . I washed my hair and my whole body with it. I shaved my underarms, legs, and crotch hairs. The sores and bumps that burst out all over my skin in Haiti are healing up, and I feel clean again.

________________________________________________________

from Wikipedia:

The Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración is a monument in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic. It was originally built during the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1944 as “Trujillo’s Monument to Peace.” He ordered its construction in his own honor. Yet, symbolically the monument was built for the centennial of the Dominican War of Independence, which was fought in 1844 to gain sovereignty from Haiti.

After Trujillo’s assassination in 1961, the government changed the name of the monument to, “Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración” (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration). So it is now dedicated to the heroes of the Dominican Restoration War, fought from 1863 to 1865 against Dominican Colonist and Spanish forces. The heroes include, but are not limited to; Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Gregorio Luperón.

The monument is located on a hill in the middle of Santiago, with spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains. It also has a surrounding park and it is an attractive place at night where people go to relax.

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