Posted on March 24, 2011
We came back from Higuey Monday afternoon and there really wasn’t much we could get done that day so we just made some food and relaxed. Tuesday I had a list of things to do: a client meeting and visit three banks. One of the challenges we face is how to manage money between the US and the Dominican Republic. I have accounts in both countries but Karan can’t have any until he gets his residency. One issue is that with Karan’s business, when he orders hair he needs to send money via Western Union. The fees from the US to India are only $20 but from the Dominican Republic to India they are closer to $140. Don’t get me started on the abuses of Western Union, how they take advantage of the poor and impoverished…
Anyways, to make a long story short, I am trying to figure out the easiest way to get money from the Dominican Republic to the US, whether via wire transfer or PayPal, hence the visits to three banks.
The last item on the list was to drop off my computer at the repair place to see if they could figure out why it won’t connect to the high-speed internet service that we had purchased even though Karan’s computer, which is five years older, connects just fine.
So Tuesday ended with a long day, a home cooked meal by me (chili chicken with potatoes, white rice) and a movie.
Wednesday was our last full day together. My computer was still in the shop, Karan had things to do; it looked like the day was going to be spent on errands, an anti-climatic end to a great trip. Meanwhile, I really wanted to make it to the beach and go in the water at least once. Even though we went to Boca Chica right after I arrived, we didn’t go to swim so it wasn’t really a beach day. Wednesday was filling up but I thought maybe we would have a chance for a couple of hours.
So I proposed to Karan that we just take a backpack, keep it simple, and go get a little bit of sun before I had to leave. Luckily he agreed.
The bus took an extraordinary amount of time, nearly two hours, so our little bit of time at the beach was just that. Every little stop the bus could take it did and crammed more and more people in like a fat lady in tight jeans, the bus was ready to burst.
We went to the same place as before, the restaurant at Boca Chica. We had wanted to go to Juan Dolio which is less touristy but it was farther away and we didn’t have time. Unlike the last trip, the beach was practically empty, no parties or gatherings, just a few tourists sleeping on lounge chairs.
We shared a couple of beers and one serving of fish. We each took one dip and got wet then sandy. Karan bought me a larimar ring; we took pictures.
I’m glad we went because for me it was a bit of a milestone. The two trips previous we had not made it to the beach. In the Dominican Republic, going to the beach is an expensive and time-consuming event. Previous trips we just didn’t have the money and I really wanted to go for symbolic reasons — the bad times are behind up.
We rinsed off at the outdoor shower, caught the bus back to the capital and made it back to the computer store before it closed. Typical of here, they fixed one part of the problem but not the whole problem and also screwed something else up. Oh well, I knew I needed a break from the computer, I just didn’t expect to be completely disconnected this trip. However, in the Dominican Republic, you soon realize that a lot is beyond your control.
So this trip we got a half beach day, two halves actually. Perhaps next time we’ll have a whole one or even two…
Posted on March 23, 2011
Above: The dressing room at Sol India
There is a great store tucked away in the Zona Universitaria called Sol India and they sell Indian clothes, accessories and decorations. Tucked away in the little street that runs off of Maximo Gomez by the Supermercado Nacional, you wouldn’t know it’s there unless you were looking for it. I discovered it one day, long before I knew Karan, when I was shopping at the supermarket. Someone told me there was a great vegetarian restaurant across the street. I went there with friends and it turns out to be run by Hare Krisnas. It was when I was in the restaurant that I saw the sign for the Sol India shop.
The shop is set back from the road and the long walkway is beautifully decorated with plants and stylized brickwork. As you walk the 40 feet or so to get to the front door, you are led deeper and deeper into a new environment, one that is serene yet ornate, rich yet simple and very beautiful.
I remember when I discovered the shop years ago I treated myself to a decadent necklace and earring set. At the time it was a big expense, about $30, more money than I had spent on myself in a while. Yet, when I saw this particular set, I knew I had to have it.
Interestingly enough, I only wore the set once. I can’t remember where but Karan remembers seeing it on me and recognizing it as from India. This was before we had ever spoken to each other and for him, it was a sign that his feelings for me were right, that he was on the right path.
This trip Karan and I went to the shop together for the first time. How wonderful to look at all the sumptuous clothes and things with a real Indian man. It was interesting to see what colors and styles he liked as well.
I love red and so I tried on a couple of items in red. I settled on a tunic that is dark red with a golden yellow design and a little elephant keychain. I had also tried on a sleeveless dress all in red but Karan just shook his head and said, no, that is not Indian, “who wears a dress without sleeves?” he said.
The dressing room was beautifully decorated as well with an altar and pictures of Hindu gods. Seeing the shop gave me so many ideas as to how I want to decorate our future home.
Posted on March 22, 2011
Above: [Translation] Father has arrived! A better country, but for everyone.
Next year is election year and one of the candidates is former president Hipolyto Mejia. He was president when I first came to the Dominican Republic in 2003. When I got to Santo Domingo the peso was trading at 25 to 1 dollar. Within 6 months it was trading at 50 to 1. What that means is that it was great for tourists because the dollar was worth more but it crippled the Dominican economy. I had quoted a job in pesos that was supposed to be worth $1000 dollars but what I earned was $500. Prices skyrocketed, projects were cancelled or delayed indefinitely. It was very bad and I had just moved there.
Rafael Hipólito Mejía Domínguez (born February 22, 1941, in Gurabo, Santiago Province) is a Dominican politician and former President of the Dominican Republic. He served from August 16, 2000 to August 16, 2004.
During his government the country was affected by one of the worst economic crisis in his history, generated by the bankruptcy of three major commercial banks in the country, which resulted in high inflation, high country risk rating, currency devaluation and increasing local poverty. [source]
This is all recent history; it’s been less than 8 years since he left office.
Former president Hipólito Mejía left office a millionaire even as most of his countrymen saw deepening poverty. While earning a presidential salary equivalent to $2,400 a month, Mr. Mejía, a former agronomist, raised his assets to 46.5 million pesos, or $1.26 million at the current exchange rate, from 19.7 million pesos in 2000, a declaration of wealth made public on Thursday said. Defeated for re-election in May, he left office last month. Many in his Caribbean nation of nine million fell into poverty or lost jobs after a major bank collapsed in 2003. [source]
Its economy, which until recently was the Caribbean’s most robust, has been thrown into upheaval in the last year after a banking crisis depleted resources needed to keep the nation’s lights on.
President Hipólito Mejía, who lost a re-election bid in May, has shown little inclination to confront the issue, attributing much of the blame for the power failures to Leonel Fernández, who returns to the presidency on Aug. 16 after a four-year hiatus. Much of the nation’s generating system is owned by foreign investors, who bought their stakes during Mr. Fernández’s previous term in the late 1990′s. [source]
Having lived in the country during Mejia’s fall, it is beyond ironic to me that now, just a short time later, he is running for president and being lauded as the ‘forgotten father’ who has come back to take care of his country. How quickly we forget.
Of course, his successor, Leonel Fernández, is not much better. He also served one term, too a break and returned triumphant. He has also been linked to corruption and scandal. I don’t think there is anyone honest in Dominican politics or any politics for that matter. But, Leonel has at least stabilized the peso and the country, which although is struggling, is not in crisis as with Mejia. It’s just shocking to me considering how he left that Mejia would be returning with such fanfare.
Posted on March 22, 2011
Posted on March 21, 2011
The best way to describe the show is in pictures but I will say this. From my friends’ house, the equipment, including a portable trapeze, gets loaded onto a long truck. Two trucks are loaded for different shows at two locations. The performers, mostly barrio boys, climb on the back of the trucks. It’s a 45 minute drive to the show we are going to. We ride in our friends’ minivan which is packed with the remaining performers.
At the hotel, the boys unload with flourishes and swagger, switching between regueton moves they learned in the barrio and acrobatics they do at the show. As if it is part of the performance, the trapeze gets unloaded and assembled with very little direction or discussion, just bits of dancing in between.
Once the trapeze and stands are in place they performers load on to the truck to go eat. The hotel provides the food. How they can perform on a full stomach is beyond me but a barrio boy never turns down a free meal. 40 minutes later they return, swarm into the bathrooms to put on makeup and costumes.
When they emerge to perform the show, they are literally transformed, not only in costume but in manner. From barrio boys to professional performers. It’s an impressive transformation.
For me, the show was amazing but I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the portability of the show, how it was assembled off of a truck, and the transformation of these street kids into circus pros. The experience so impressed me that I told my friends they should campaign to the Ministry of Tourism for the Dominican Republic to promote their circus as an example of native talent, a national treasure.
Although there is a lot of talent in this country, Dominicans tend to lose focus, give up and generally abandon ideas that could, with a little momentum and time, blossom into great venture. So, that being said, The Circus of Dreams is even more of a spectacular.