January 18, 2014: I Want You to Music

Adiós a Las Galeras. I awoke extra-early to take one final hot shower, since we will have nothing but cool-water bucket bathing for the next few days. After breakfast, Elana and I hugged Sarah (the Chalet proprietress) goodbye—we’d had a lot of fun talking to her during our time here. Then, loaded up with all our bags, we walked down the red dirt road once more.

There was a Rottweiler who lived on a gated property along this path. Previously, he had leaped at the gate and snarled aggressively whenever we passed, consistently startling the heck out of us. But today, he just barked halfheartedly, then gazed at us as we departed.

We had excellent bus timing all day. We were able to catch a guagua (bus) to Samaná within minutes of arriving at the main road in Las Galeras. In Samaná, we had to walk a mere ten feet to get on a bus for Santiago, which left moments after. In Santiago, we had to take a carro (cheap, taxi-esque vehicle) to the terminal for the expreso guagua—but when we arrived, there was, once again, a guagua about to leave, and Elana and I had nice comfy seats next to each other.

We were on buses or between buses from about 9AM to about 5PM, when we arrived in Dajabón. Thus, the scenery blurs together a little bit, so here are a few snapshots and observations from the whole Grand Day of Guaguas:

  • We’ve seen a lot of Dominicans wearing incongruous T-shirts (like a shirt from a specific tiny U.S. college). Today, we drove by a man wearing a shirt that said “I Want You to Music,” which I rather liked.
  • At one point, we saw three boys crammed onto one moto. This in itself is not uncommon, but they were carefully carrying a bunch of 10-foot-long planks alongside them, by hand.
  • Throughout the pueblos, there were often religious declarations painted on walls and the sides of houses. One that was common: “Cristo Viene / Búscalo” (“Christ Is Coming / Look for Him”). Given that I’m more accustomed to using buscar with lost items and misplaced friends, I was entertained by this usage.
  • Have I mentioned how colorful many of the houses are? They’re lovely: lots of bright, vivid colors and striking patterns.
  • Another bizarre painted sign: “Veterinario Armagedón” (“Armageddon Veterinarian”). Well, then.
  • There are many tiendas (shops) that are called “Variedades [Name]” and “Novedades [Name].” These mean “Variety Shop” and “Novelty Shop,” respectively, but every time I saw one, I automatically translated it, in my head, as a “Random Crap Store.”

Almost every single time I’ve seen Elana tell a Dominican that she lives in Dajabón, they have reacted with a grimace. Elana had told me that its reputation was partly due to how remote it is, how close to the Haitian border it is, and also because the scenery is less picturesque than, say, the tropical beaches. I was curious to see exactly why it had this reputation, in person.

It was very interesting watching the scenery change as we left Santiago and sped toward Dajabón. At first, the tropical palms and bananas were still omnipresent, but the earth seemed more brown-grey, and the other plant life seemed dingier. Farther on still, most of the tropical trees were replaced by dry thickets and rough, tangled scrub brush, with the occasional towering cactus thrown in.

Noble bull.
Noble bull.

When we arrived in Dajabón, we settled into a café to eat dinner as we waited for Elana’s boyfriend Rubén to meet us. Here, too, it was quite different from where we had been so far: dusty and urban, with a handful of young boys hanging around asking for money and trying to sell shoe-shines.

Once Rubén arrived, we jumped into his family’s car and headed out of Dajabón and down a rural, bumpy gravel road, toward Clavellina, where he and Elana both live. The scenery here was still very grey-brown and brambly, but the just-pre-sunset sky was stunning.

You see?
You see?

After our many hours’ travel, we arrived at Elana’s house! I had thought that we had been rural when we were at Nouelle’s in Higüerito, but Clavellina is real campo (countryside): far out of the city, its small houses separated by huge fields and clumps of trees. We went in through the front gate (made of barbed wire and sticks, which collapsed to the ground if left unlatched). Her house consists of 3-4 little adjacent rooms that open onto a tiled porch, a separate kitchen that opens onto the same porch, and another front porch that faces the road. There is a dirt yard with a view of the neighbor’s house and his assorted animals (a dog on a long wire run, chickens, a few cats). Elana has her walls covered with letters, drawings from her students, useful organizational charts, and a row of red hearts (that her mother painted on when she visited). It is very basic, of course—there is no running water, and only electricity some of the time—but it’s staggeringly pleasant.

As always, click on any photo to open the gallery slideshow, then use the arrow keys to navigate.

After Elana did a quick sweep of the cement floors and zapped some mosquitos with her trusty mosquito-zapper-racket, the three of us sat down on the side porch: drinking hot coffee, gazing out at the yard and the inquisitive neighbor-dog, and talking, until the sun had entirely set and it had become dark.

We then headed over to la casa de Rubén’s parents. When we arrived, his parents, his sister, and her kids were all sitting on their patio, talking and eating some dinner, while the television played a Dominican comedy program. They offered us some of their meal (a salty dish with fish and peppers, plus steamed yucas), and we sat and ate a bit with them. Two of their neighbors stopped by to socialize, and my Spanish was given an extra challenge as I tried to follow nine different people speaking rapid Dominican Spanish, all often overlapping with and interrupting each other.

Tangent: the Dominican Spanish dialect is very different from Castilian Spanish, but luckily, because of the time I lived in Chile, some of the dialect quirks are familiar to me. For example, both dialects have the habit of dropping final consonants (mostly /s/), so “muchas gracias” might become “mucha gracia.” Entertainingly, Dominican Spanish also does a lot of word contraction, which can affect both the beginnings and ends of words, e.g. “cómo estás?” becomes “cómo ta?” And then Caribbean Spanish sometimes likes to go a step further and swap the order of the pronoun tú, so it becomes “cómo tú ta?”

On the way back to Elana’s, we spotted Elana’s host parents Luisa and Bartolo (with whom she had lived for her first three months, and from whom she rents now). They were sitting outside Luisa’s sister’s house in plastic chairs, chatting with the sister and a neighbor under a porch light. We stopped by to say hello, exchanged the normal cheek-kisses and/or handshakes, and then sat and talked for a while, recounting a few of our travel adventures and discussing the motocross event in Dajabón the next day.

Finally, we returned home. We passed some time looking through Elana’s old photo albums, then, secure under the mosquito net (the Dajabón area is much worse for mosquitos), we fell asleep, while a rainstorm thundered handsomely on the zinc roof.

2 thoughts on “January 18, 2014: I Want You to Music

  1. I don’t want this to ever end! So erudite tu es! Pero je ne parle que l’un comprend, n’est pas? Love your keen observations and witty phrase turns. Making me wonder of there’s a t-shirt (or bumper sticker) slogan venture in your future?

  2. In particular, I’m envious of the thunderstorm on a zinc roof.

    Your dialect diatribe makes me hopeless that I’ll ever learn Spanish even a little better than I speak it now; why can’t languages behave obediently? Yes, I know I’m being prescriptive, but I’m desperate.

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