Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reggae Superstar for Obama

Folks, let's face it. The world has Obama fever. The other day on the news here they were interviewing Domincans, asking who they would vote for if they could vote in the US election. "Obama! Porque parece a nosotros y nos entiende mejor!" (Obama! Because he looks like us and can understand us better!) It doesn't help that McCain's father led the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. (Just read the comments on that second link to see how people feel about it.)

I haven't been to Jamaica since August, but even then everyone had Obama fever. I was cruising the Jamaican on-line papers and found this article about Cocoa Tea recording a reggae song in honor of Obama. I dare you to listen to it and not like it.

Why I've been absent

One of the more exciting reasons I haven't posted in a while- in other words, the only reason other than work- is that I've finally settled into life in Santo Domingo and have a things to do other than sit and home bored. Hooray for my fledgling social life! My friend and former coworker from Angola also came to visit from the other side of Hispanola (she was working in Haiti), giving me the motivation to finally get out of the house and start seeing this beautiful place where I live. Most importantly, after almost 6 months in the DR, I can finally say that I've been to the beach. Here are a few pictures:

From the malecón, which runs along the edge of Santo Domingo.

The beach at Juan Dolio

Dominican beauty at Juan Dolio

At the start of El Conde in the Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo

Wrong place, wrong time

As we were making our way to Dajabón, we happened upon a strange scene. About an hour outside of Santiago, we saw a military helicopter coming towards our direction. Strange, but not so odd. Five minutes later we realized why: there were about 4 completely armed, masked police surrounding several SUVs. As we approached, one of the ninja-masked men started waving his hand at me- I had no idea what he wanted me to do, so I slowed. We saw about 20 handcuffed individuals, men and women, sitting on the ground. At that point, even if the ninja wanted me to stop I wouldn't have! We got the hell out of Dodge.

About 1/2 hour later we heard on the radio that a raid had taken place and several arrests had been made in connection to the infamous Paya, Baní case. The helicopter was brought in to take the suspects into holding. I don't know enough about the case to go into detail, but it involves drugs, mass murder and corruption. Quite the brush with danger!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


About two weeks ago I went with a colleague to Dajabón, a small city that sits on the Dominican/Haitian border. When I'm not off to Jamaica, I'm stuck in Santo Domingo, so I was really pleased to get out of the city and go so close to Haiti. Our office's only driver had a job to do for another project and the colleague I went with doesn't drive standard, so I had to do all the driving. All 5 hours of it.

Dajabón is a matter of minutes away from Haiti. The border is porous, making for a great mix of cutlures in the town of 20,000. Dajabón is famous for its twice-a-week market: people make the trek from Santo Domingo to buy everything under the sun: clothes, food, electronics. On market days the border opens and Haitians can cross without papers and bring back as much as they can carry. Supposedly they can only carry what they buy, not use wheelbarrows or carts, so on the Haitian side there are hordes of men with carts, trucks and motorcycles waiting to take people home comfortably.

We arrive the day before the market (on a Thursday) and already the town was bustling. We tried to drive to the hospital for out meeting but couldn't get past all the trucks so we parked the car and walked. As we walked around, I really enjoyed hearing Creole being spoken and kompa, Haitian music that could easily be mistaken for Angolan kizomba.

Our trip was a short one and we were on our way out the next day. As we were driving, I noticed a high number of military checkpoints along the way. I assumed that it was for migration purposes, since the migration of Haitians to the DR is a hot-button issue. My colleague said that migration was likely the official cause, but that really there were so many checkpoints so the military men could get their bribes.

She said that one time when she was in Dajabón for project monitoring she stayed for the market and took the bus back with all the Santo Domingo buyers who bought things in bulk to sell back home. As the trip began all the women took up a collection and at every military checkpoint the informal group leader would pay the bribe. I asked what would happen if they banded together to protest the bribe and she just cackled and said, "Muchacha!"