Current Location: Cabarete!
Trip Start Unknown
5Trip End Ongoing
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The drive was pleasant, clean, cheap and efficient and getting to Cabarete was not as difficult as I thought. I did have to admit that I had started to feel comfortable in Santo Domingo. I knew a great local place to grab cheap Dominican meals, a tiny bakery around the corner that served some delicious dulce de leche type desserts and a mean tres leches cake. And I has also had the chance to make several new friends and become familiar with people in Zona Colonial.
So it wasn't such a surprise that my trip up north brought up so much dread and angst, especially considering I had no idea what to expect
The walls were peeling and had mildew, the floors were dirty and there were bugs everywhere. Ants were crawling across the floor and spiders were nesting in the bathroom. I even spotted a lizard that jumped out of my bed when I sat down. I'm all for nature, but expect it when camping not necessarily in my own bed I'm paying for. I went to the front desk and asked the new front desk guy if I could change rooms [he could not since he had no access] or give me something to get rid of them. He comes out with a can of Fresh Cotton air freshner spray. Hahaha I tried in my best Spanish to describe what the situation was and that air freshner would not work, but in the end he didn't have an alternative and I was stuck. I didn't want to fork over more money to sleep in an expense hotel I hadn't vetted and I would scope out new hotels in the morning. In the end, I slept in a silk pouch liner (so lucky to have!) on top of the bed while constantly turning on and off the A/C during the night as the temperature went from very cold to extremely hot. In morning I explored Cabarete looking for alternative lodging and I ultimately ended up in a hostel outside of the town which was cheaper and cleaner, despite the lack of AC and hot water (I find myself getting used to cold showers..)! Overall, the experience was an interesting one and definitely makes me a bit more savvy when it comes to booking the next place to sleep.
As I explore Cabarete, I still find myself missing Santo Domingo
As one of my new friends from Dominican Republic, Yeury, told me, "The Dominican Republic has many issues and problems (as do all countries), but I love my country. I'm proud to be Dominican. No matter how long you stay here, there are things you will never really understand when it comes to being Dominican."
One of those things that I didn't fully grasp and that I brought to my teacher's attention during class was initial conversations with some of the locals. I would initiate conversations with local Dominicans and at first be met with amiable body language. Then as soon as I spoke in broken Spanish, I was met with distance and and more of a cold behavior. In the end the people were still nice, just not as pleasant as before. I often felt it was more of an odd curiosity than contempt or fear
There have been other issues that have come up during class and general conversations that include: government corruption and ineffectiveness, public money being wasted on a new Metro system, obstacles to Dominican social empowerment, middle class struggles and Haitian immigration. The last, Haitian immigration, has struck more of a chord because I have had the opportunity to hear comments from a few people both Dominicans and Haitians
One day, while walking down a street, Yeury and I noticed a group of Haitians talking and involved in a serious conversation as they were yelling.
I asked Yeury how he was able to tell if they were Haitian due to the fact that DR was so diverse when it came to looks you'd be hard pressed to just assume alone based on appearances. He told me that it was their French accent when they spoke Spanish. What about if you saw them on the street and they didn't speak? He would assume they were Dominican...
I've noticed that there are far more Haitians in the North Coast than in Santo Domingo and while eating a snack I had the opportunity to talk to one, Remy. Without provocation, Remy told me in English that this country was racist and it made it very difficult for Haitians to work in. He had gone into business for himself as a tour guide and thought life was better that way. "You know...this used to be our country." I couldn't tell if Remy said it with disdain or sorrow, but I didn't want to push the issue...
Thus far, my experiences have been rewarding and fulfilling here in the DR
Right now I'm at a crossroads for my next few days. I don't know if I should explore the North Coast more, head to the East coast or return to Santo Domingo. I'm starting to get comfortable in Cabarete, but with the constant influx of rain and hurricanes I know it can't last for long. Until next time...Hasta Luego!