Of all the turkey-eating, face-stuffing, football-watching Thanksgiving days of my life, this year was my most thankful. On this day, I ventured into Santo Domingo, a city of two million when I accompanied Ana and her six year old son, Angel Gabriel, which is also the name of their family owned motel. That is actually why I chose it!
And I can tell you that if I had gone alone, I might have gotten lost and wandered around until I died right there in the city. It's very busy, dirty, and chaotic! According to Ana, quite dangerous too! Of course, they only speak Spanish and I only know enough to be dangerous. I can usually ask for what I want but then I have no idea what they say back. Especially in this part of the DR, the accent is very hard to understand because they drop consonants at the ends of words.
The ride into the city was quite a trip. First of all, every single mode of transportation you get into in the DR has some unique features. Loud music (usually salsa or merengue), and no cars or buses leave until they're completely full. For a bus, everyone can have their own seat. In a concho (sort of a run down, cheap taxi), you pack at least seven people into a five-seater. The only conchos I saw were like 1973 Nissan Sentras with at least 300,000 miles, no working windows or inside door handles. Forget seatbelts!
Another interesting thing that my hubby prepared me for was the fact that in these other developing countries, 5 cars, 2 motorcycles and three street salesmen squeeze into three lanes, all at the same time, driving like maniacs—except for the street salesmen, of course (try getting life insurance for that job)! But the other crazy thing is that, even though they are driving fast, cutting in front of each other, you never see wrecks! The middle-of-the-street vendors are selling bottled water, newspapers, snacks, and all kinds of trinkets to the passing traffic. These intense traffic experiences are only made more "fun" by the fact that everyone uses their horn as mass communication. As much as possible over the blaring music, you constantly hear horns beeping. Sensory overload to the max.
And life is so inconvenient. There are no Wal-Marts. When we took Angel Gabriel to the doctor, he needed a shot. So we had to go to the Pharmacy to get the syringe and the medicine and bring it back to the doctor. All shopping is done buffet style—get your bread here, your produce there, etc… We have it so good in the States.
On the way home from the city Ana said, "These city slums are rich compared to Haiti." That was a very sobering thought.
Of the 8 million people in DR, 2 million of them are Haitian. Some legal, probably most not. Haitians in the DR are treated very badly by Dominicans, assigned the worst jobs and then paid next to nothing. Some Haitians were building a condominium in Boca Chica next to Ana's motel and she told me that they work seven days a week, twelve hours a day for about $200 a week. Keep in mind that $200 a week in Boca Chica is like $100 a week in America due to the high cost of living. The Haitians work so hard and receive so little.
I still am baffled by the fact that in every country and culture, there are always the people who are oppressed by others who think they are better. I don't get why people can't see that we are all human beings with the same needs, hopes, feelings, and hurts. I can't wait for the day when God erases prejudice from our world and the oppressed are lifted up to places of rest and greatness!
Enjoy some merengue music on the house!