Written Sunday, March 13, 2011
On Friday, we got our cell phones! Nice. When I got home I discovered some good news and some bad news. The bad news: the water went out again. The good news: I’m now able to bath myself with just two pitchers of water (yes, pitchers, as in what you used to make Kool-Aid in when you were 12). I was going to go hang out with some other volunteers, but when I left the house to start walking there, it was starting to drizzle. I went back to the house for my umbrella, and started walking again. About 50 pases down, it started to rain harder. I was now outside of the little church on my street, which was having service, so I just stepped inside and took a seat. By the time it stopped raining, I was too tired to walk to the other volunteers house, so I just went home. I’m not sure what all the exchange was, but later that night, I heard my doña say to my youngest sister, “You think you’re grown, so I’m not going to blow dry your hair straight. When you learn that I am the mother, and not you is when I’ll blow your hair straight.” I think this really speaks to how big of a deal straight hair is to Dominicans, and frankly to many women of color (including Black Americans).
On Saturday, we went to the beach at Boca Chica. It wasn’t as beautiful as many of the other beaches that the DR boasts, but still very nice. There were a ton of people there, and there were a bunch of folks who would come up to to try to get you to buy whatever they had for sell as soon as you step off the guagua (bus). “Oye, morena! Ven pa’ comprar este plato de mariscos!” for example, and they would walk with you for several feet trying to convince you of why you needed what they had. (Everybody’s got their hustle, but you know, they’re just trying to make living. It certainly beats idle hands.) Among those types of salesmen were representatives from restaurants that let beach-goers rent tables starting at 250 pesos (almost $7.00USD). This table rental also meant we had access to the bathroom of the restaurant that we were renting from, and while I wasn’t particularly interested in paying 50 pesos per person ($1.35USD) or any amount just to sit at a table, because three of us had to use the bathroom (including yours truly), my doña insisted.
The guy who was walking with us, lead us to the bathroom and told us to go straight. We went as far as we could see, and then came to pitch blackness. One of the others I was with went back to the two women we passed by a few pases back, and asked them, “Is there a bathroom?” “Sí, derecho [straight ahead],” she assured. So we went back, but could see about 4% of what was in front of us. “Where is this bathroom?” We asked. The three of us waited for our eyes to try to adjust to the dense darkness, until we were finally able to make the figure of a wall that separated two doors. We opened the first stall door and could just faintly make out the charcoal-grayish looking toilet at 2% contrast with the black fog that surrounded it. The girl went back to ask if there was light, and the women said (of course) no. She then tried to use the whispering light of her cell phone. No luck. I blinked my eyes quickly and hopelessly. “This is impossible,” we decided. I went to the women we had passed in the kitchen. “Do you have a candle or a match or some type of fire, cause we cannot see a thing?” Frustrated with our incessant petitions, the woman handling the raw chicken finally handed me her cell phone that had a flash light on it (and of course now, raw chicken juices). This increased our visibility to 7%. We did what we had to do, flushed the toilet with the bucket of water they eventually gave us for water, and gave the woman her chicken phone back. I will never look at using the bathroom in the same way again.
When we got back to the beach, I was eager to get in the salt water to purify my body from anything it had just touched, handled, or slightly brushed up against, so the other two volunteers and I quickly got into the water. Before we got out, there were these guys that were driving a speed boat with a large four-seater float behind it. They sang to me in Spanish as they passed by, and then asked if I wanted to ride. “Gratis??” I asked with the most beautiful, concept-selling smile. “Para ti, sí.” “Y mis amigos [and for my friends]?” I asked, trying to look out for the other two volunteers. “No, solamente tú.” But the others encouraged me to take the ride, so I got my first Dominican “bola” (free ride) in the Caribbean Sea on an oversized floatie. The guy of course asked me my name, and offered to teach me how to swim, but safely returned me to my American companions after a few minutes. When I got back to them, they said, “We figured we’d either never see you again, or you’d come back married.” Hopefully I agreed just to the free ride, and not to marrying either of those two guys. I’m still learning the culture, so I’ll update you on that as necessary.