12 March 2011 (Day #2)

Hola! This is Gracen Carroll reporting for day #2 of our adventure in Santo Domingo!

After our long day of travel yesterday, it was nice to take it relatively slow pace today. While we didn’t meet any Deaf Dominicans today, we were able to soak in some more of the general local culture. The last time I was here in the Dominican Republic in 2009, I wasn’t exposed to any of the culture, so today was a great opportunity to see some of the history of the area.

I started off today by waking up around 10:30am. I thoroughly enjoyed the extra time to sleep in compared to waking up after only 4 hours of sleep the previous night. I felt rested and ready to go. When I woke up, Dr. Rust had already gone to get his haircut from the Deaf barber we met last night, so I went down to the hotel pool for a little bit of leisure. The hotel pool is OK, nothing special. The water was not heated, so I just stuck my legs in to get a little bit wet.

The weather here has not been too bad; it is not as scorching hot as we originally thought it was going to be. In fact it feels pretty breezy and tropical.

After about an hour at the pool I came back up to the room and while I was taking a shower the power went out which was a scary moment for me, but it quickly returned. The power went in and out one more time after that. I guess that is just due to the fact that the Dominican Republic being a third world country, power goes out quite often.

Also, this morning some of the girls on the trip (Dr. Rust and I are the only guys) went out to the local food store and bought some food to bring back since the food here at the hotel is so expensive. 4 US Dollars (150 pesos) for a litre of water!!! The store charges 23 pesos ($0.62) for 1.5 litres. Go figure!

This afternoon we all met to head out by taxi to the old Colonial area of Santo Domingo. (Click here to see a map of the Colonial Zone.) Columbus arrived in the New World here! First stop in the Colonial district was the old fort that protected the area hundreds of years ago when the settlers arrived. In front of the fort there were guards standing in front.

Puerta Del Conde

The purpose of the guards standing there seemed more symbolic and ritual than practical. It was kind of like the guards at Buckingham Palace in London.

Smile!

The girls enjoyed taking turns standing up there with the guards and having their pictures taken.

One interesting little cultural fact about life down here is that the drivers in Santo Domingo are CRAZY! They’re zig-zagging all over the place. The sounds of the horns, sirens and alarms around the city are ceaseless. OY! With all the crazy drivers, it feels like a suicide mission to try to cross the street as there aren’t many pedestrian pathways. Dr. Rust says we have to act like we own the place when we cross the street, but that is pretty hard to do when you look like an obvious tourist. Yesterday, I wore a bright red t-shirt with a picture of a beach on it… I stood out like a sore thumb, so today I tried my best not to look too touristy by wearing less touristy looking clothes.

Eastern outer wall of the colonial zone ... we were inside taking in the sites.

Anyway, after looking at the old fort, we headed across the street to the Calle El Conde Peatonal

This is the beginning of the El Conde .. luckily we do not have to fight traffic on this walkway

Street where no vehicles are allowed. It is a pedestrian street lined with stores, gift shops, artist vendors and restaurants. Parts of it with restaurants that had tables outside struck me as being very European and Parisian. I quickly found a sunglasses vendor since I could not find any before I left Westminster, so I bought a pair. I was able to barter with the sales man to reduce the price of the glasses from 380 pesos to 300 pesos, about $9. Thanks Mom and Dad for teaching me street smarts! ☺ While Dr. Rust and I were enjoying just looking around at the art work and architecture,

Casa Porcelain ... exterior blue-designed tiles

the other 6 girls on the trip were busy shopping for various knickknacks. I walked around with Dr. Rust for awhile and he showed me some amber jewelry that he explained as being valuable commodity back in medieval times in Europe. He also explained that in the process of making the amber jewelry if bugs or other insects were “mummified” inside the amber, then the value of the amber increases. (Click to read a brief history on amber.)

Later, while walking on the El Conde, I went and grabbed a cheese burger and fries which I was thrilled to have after trying a little bit of the local cuisine last night. The pasta I had last night was slimy and cold, so it was nice have something a little bit more American. I ordered a coke to drink, but they didn’t understand me and ended up giving me some kind fruit drink … yuck! But, it was good, nonetheless, and the French fries were pretty sweet. I always enjoy comparing other countries ideas of American food to what I know real American food taste like.

The El Conde was very festive. There was plenty of activity around us. A group of men were out playing very aggressive and animated games of chess.

Playing chess on the El Conde

While I was sitting on a bench just enjoying the view, 3 young boys came up to me and started poking at my shoes. When I realized that they wanted to give me a shoe shine, even though I was wearing sneakers, I couldn’t tell them no due to the language barrier. I made it clear that I didn’t want their service with body language. Yet, still they persisted and demanded that I give them money. Oy! So, I gave one boy $1. This caused the others to pester me, so I just walked away.

Santo Domingo definitely has a very strong Christian and religious cultural history. While Dr. Rust and I were walking, there was a woman shouting through a microphone in very loud Spanish. Dr. Rust explained that she was shouting about being a Born Again Christian because there was another woman behind her speaking passages from the Bible.

Up at the town square, Parque Colon,

Statue of Christopher Columbus in the Parque Colon

there sits a 500 year old church and dozens and dozens of people sprawled out mingling all over the square.

Mass was being held as we walked by

Lots of pigeons were flying in front of the church; it was quite a neat scene. I was reminded of St. Peters Square in Rome. Also, in the square was what looked like an American Christian group or school (based on their t-shirts) singing and playing Christian music. The crowd around the performance was a mixture of both, the religious group and locals. It was a very festive atmosphere which I enjoyed.

Locals gather to play dominoes in the Parque Colon

Dr. Rust and I walked around the area and looked at a couple other old churches, one of which is named Queen of the Angels.

Queen of the Angels church down a narrow street

This church looked like it was ancient, but was architecturally very interesting. The bells of the church were still hanging.

At 6pm we all went to dinner at one of the restaurants along the pedestrian street.

Matha, Becky, and Emma

We dined outside and chatted about the day’s events.

Jillian and Gracen

I had my second hamburger of the day and a Coke Cola Light (of course!).

Emma, Katie, and Kelly

Late tonight, Dr. Rust finally received the address to a church where the pastor is deaf. We will head there in the morning to meet more DR Deaf individuals. Yes, I am looking forward to this.

On a side note, there is apparently quite a night life down here in Santo Domingo too!

That’s it for now, folks! Hasta la vista!
Gracen

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