January 12, 2014: Arriving in Santiago

I love flying over ocean. From that height, it looks unmoving and endless, like a crinkled blue-green sheet of paper. After a red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York and a very full flight from New York to Santiago (the entire plane burst into enthusiastic applause the moment we landed safely), I arrived at Santiago’s Aeropuerto Internacional del Cibao.

I got through customs fairly quickly, and went to look for Elana, who was to be meeting me there. After doing a few loops around the Arrivals area without spotting her, I found a Centro de Llamadas and gave her cell a call. She answered from her home in Dajabón… a three-hour bus ride away. She’d had the dates wrong and had thought I was arriving tomorrow—whoops! Within 20 minutes, however, in a whirlwind of organization, she had arranged for a reputable taxi driver (her boyfriend’s cousin) to collect me and drop me at a hostel in Santiago.

A few notes from the taxi ride in:

  • Even though I’m not a tree expert, the unfamiliarity of the local trees is often the thing that sticks out to me the most, when I arrive in a new place. Here, the trees seem lush and jungle-y, with a plurality of banana trees and palm trees. (I know bananas technically aren’t trees, but “banana plants” sounds awkward to me, so I am going to continue calling them “banana trees”—and just you try and stop me.)
  • Throughout the city, there were numerous small groups of people sitting around sidewalk tables, all of them enthusiastically watching two people play dominoes.
  • On the way through Santiago, we  drove by the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration), a very unusual-looking, erect structure with an arms-outstretched statue partying atop it.

When I arrived at Hotel Colonial, I galloped headlong into Spanish, discussing and booking a private room (for only about $20 USD). I always enjoy the Spanish for “Are you traveling alone?”: “Andas sola?” — literally, in one meaning of andar, “Do you walk alone?” Then, settled in my wee room, I splatted gratefully down on the bed for a few minutes, enjoying my first moments of solitude since before beginning the trip.

My hostel room was a little dingy and spare, but it seemed clean and had its own bathroom, and I need little more in life. It opened onto a hallway that ended in a pleasant balcony overlooking the street.

With bonus metal rocking chairs.

After my moment of relaxation, I decided I must make one more foray into the world before allowing myself to hermit in my room. I asked at the hostel desk about where to find a colmado (a small grocery kiosk or store, which can sell everything from fresh vegetables to snacky foods), then determinedly set off into the streets. Navigating these streets was a bit of an adventure, partly due to the prevalence of low-grade street harassment, and partly due to the breakneck, constant-recreational-horn-honking nature of the traffic (and crosswalks seem like mere suggestions, so one must wait for a gap and then dash). I successfully found a small colmado, purchased a mildly suspicious-looking plátano (plantain), and found my way back to the hostel.

Streets of Santiago.

Especially coming from a California winter, the temperature here is bask-worthy. It’s mid-80s all day, and only slightly cooler at night. Hey look, I’m in the tropics! The night temperature is balmy and perfect, and I stood quietly on the balcony for a while, watching the street, at peace.

I spent the rest of the evening placidly reading and writing in my room, listening to the Santiago street sounds that wafted in through my noise-permeable wooden blinds: honking horns, sirens, dogs barking, and the laughter and cheers of a group of people seated around a television cart on a nearby street corner.

3 thoughts on “January 12, 2014: Arriving in Santiago

  1. Stop. Stop. STOP. Sttttooooopppppp!

    (I’m trying to stop you from calling them banana trees, with little apparent success.)

    At first I read that monument as being in honor of heroes of the restaurant.

    Do you walk alone at night through the Boulevard of Broken Dreams?

    Who was harassing you on the street and why? Yuck.

    > and crosswalks seem like mere suggestions: I like that.

    That must’ve been rather a shock, to have to spend that first night unexpectedly alone. I’m glad you found a safe and clean place on short notice. I’m also glad they didn’t lose your bags.

    Hurry up and write the next chapter.

    I just LOVE my Dominican earrings.


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