Snippets of Dominican Life: Seductive Randomness

Above: Variety of products in local supermarket

Dominicans waiting in line to renew their marbetes.

In the Dominican Republic they love their bureaucracy. It was the annual tax on car plates ‘marbetes‘. I  knew I had to do it but I didn’t want to deal with it. Plus…money has been tight so I put it off. My mistake. I found out that the last day was the following day but I could renew online. Much easier (so I thought). so the next morning I went online only to discover that they closed online registration the day before and now the only option was to go to one of the location and do it. Since all Dominicans wait until the last minute, I knew it would be a madhouse. not too appealing. So I decided to wait, and incur a fine of 500 pesos (about $14) and do it later.

Now this is a country where ‘law’ is a relative term. but if their is money to be made, it is enforced. So, since I had missed the deadline, I couldn’t drive my car without risking it getting impounded no less. so it was walking or taxi for a few days.

Then the day came where I could wait no longer. I knew I would need the car soon as I had yet another 4-year old’s birthday party for my son to attend. So, I called ahead, found out when and wear and gathered my stuff to go pay the taxman. It had been a while since i had crammed myself into a ‘carro publico’ (public car) which is a compact car where they seat 4 in the back, no matter your size, and 2 in the front passenger seat. I got my seat and went on my way for about 2 minutes when I realized that I didn’t bring casH and they wouldn’t accept a debit card! So blonde sometimes. I hopped out of the publico and walked home, not too far but not too close either, and sheepishly got my money and deja vú, went back again on my way.

Dominican police writing tickets for expired marbetes.

The second publico ride I was in the back, full, arms and legs scrambling for room, everyone oblivious to the other like they have their own bubble. after getting in and out a few times during stops to let people out, I end up pushed up again next to who I thought was a woman but then I realized from the hands, his hands, that he was in fact a man. A publico does not give you space or time to people watch so I engaged myself in these hands, these well groomed, attractive hands with artsy, hip bracelets on the wrist. I caught a slight angle of the face and a few locks of the slightly longish hair, but that was it. Then my stop came and my brief engagement was over, no time for a full look, a word or even a wink.

The renewing of the plates was relatively painless. I stayed engrossed in my iPod shuffle watching as the numbers were announced and then finally mine arrived. I paid my bill and the person attending too the money without ever acknowledging my presence, never actually speaking to me. When he handed me the marbete I thought I was done. I turned on the tunes and walked out. About 20 feet outside someone stopped me to give me the change, about $9. There are some very decent people here.

Shortly after my iPod battery died so it was 100% interaction, whether I liked it or not. I took a publico down and east, getting off several blocks from home but near the supermarket. I stopped in for a bag of detergent, always trying to maximize my outings.

Outdoor market in Santo Domingo

So now I am in the ’10 items or less’ line, no music, a little grumpy, with my bag of detergent when I notice the woman ahead of me: very beautiful and very pregnant. she looked almost Native American with dark coffee skin. She had on a black dress and flats. She seemed peaceful. she was buying a can of ‘Famosa’ fruit salad and a box of jello. She paid with change. It was almost lunch time so I let my mind wander, wondering if she was going to make a fruit / jello mold for lunch perhaps? Maybe an office event because she looked like she could work in one? No answers were forthcoming from what I could see.

Then I happened to glance at the purchases the women behind me had. I always find it interesting to see what people buy. She had several things, yet still under the 10 items limit, and right in front of the bunch was the same can of ‘Famosa’ fruit salad and a box of jello. I had no time to determine if the two boxes of jello were the same flavor or not but the fruit salad was most definitely the same. How odd i thought… the women didn’t acknowledge each other in any way so they clearly were not making this together. It must be a sale I thought but then I looked around and scanned my memory and…no, no sale on fruit salad. Honestly i had never seen the cans of ‘Famosa’ fruit salad before so it wasn’t like a standard item in the Dominican diet.

I concluded it was just a random coincidence. Someone once commented “it’s randomness seduced me” and I feel that is an accurate statement of life here, the good side that is.

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