Voyage of Traveler / Blog

March 8, 2010

Traveler Postcard From Santo Domingo

Filed under: Year 3: July09 - July10 Greece to Newport Beach, CA, Caribbean — mrlawlerjr @ 9:18 am

March 8, 2010
Santo Domingo
The Dominican Republic


After a most unpleasant experience with the officialdom in San Pedro de Macoris, our first port of entry in the Dominican Republic, we sailed 35 nm west to the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo, the oldest colonial city in the New World. What a contrast. Here the customs and immigration went very well, one of the easiest and most pleasant I’ve experienced on the voyage.  We took a berth at the Marina Bartolome Colon (only $26 per night).

The marina has both private armed security guards (pistols and shotguns) and armed military guards (AK 47s).  I asked if the heavy security was “necesario,” and was told “si.”  When I told the guards that we (Kellie, Brian, Yansen and me) wanted to walk from the marina to old town to sight see (it was about 7:30 pm), they said it was unsafe for tourists to walk around at night, especially through the area between the marina and old town, and strongly advised against it. But one of the guards, dressed in plain clothes and packing a visible pistol holstered in his belt, volunteered to escort us.  Yansen was a bit shocked and joked with me about the VIP treatment.  Just then (emphasizing Yansen’s point) a uniformed police officer stopped heavy, fast-moving traffic on the city’s main boulevard using his flashlight and whistle so we could safely cross the street.  It felt a little weird having a bodyguard for our two-hour stroll through the city, especially with all the locals staring at us.  We did not see any other tourists.  I got the impression that it is rare for Americans to visit Santo Domingo.

The next night Brian and Kellie ventured out alone.  I was a little concerned when I got up the next morning and I found they had not returned to Traveler.  They finally returned at 10 am with stories of a really fun night out on the town, and begged me to stay a few more days.  One of the locals they met with, Andres, is the 22-year old son of one of the wealthiest men in the country, and he showed Brian and Kellie a good time.  In the wee hours, Andres took Brian and Kellie to his home.  Brian said it was the biggest and nicest home he has ever been seen, rivaling anything in Newport Beach or Beverly Hills.

Last night was Carnival.  The DR celebrates it on the first Sunday of March, regardless of the start of Lent. The parade had nearly 200 amazing entries in colorful, fantastic costumes, and took five hours to pass.  It was an incredible sight and rich display of their culture, music and wild dancing.  They say Dominicans learn to dance before they learn to walk.

Unfortunately, the festivities were marred by some violence that I witnessed (and perhaps more that I missed.) Two rival gangs were mixing it up, and a couple of police stepped in to take control. One of the gang leaders, with all of his buddies watching, started mouthing off to the police and resisting.  Big mistake.  The police pounded him with their night sticks.  Standing just a few feet away, I caught it all on my video camera.  It was ugly. (Think LAPD and Rodney King.)

Then, about an hour later and near the end of the parade, I sensed the beer-drinking crowd was getting rowdy. Yansen got lost in the crowd hours earlier, and Kellie and Brian wanted to cruise around on their own and try to find their local friends, so I was by myself.  I decided it was time to head back to the boat when I heard Bang! Bang!–two gun shots fired in the crowd about a boat length away from me.  The crowd panicked and ran, but I remained standing next to a tree, watching and wondering what had happened, if anyone was shot.  I saw three police quickly disarm the shooter, rough him up a bit, and haul him off to jail.  Fortunately, no one was shot.  Strangely, within a minute, everything was back to normal, as if nothing had happened. Could violence be that common here, I wondered as I walked quickly back to Traveler?

We went shopping yesterday for food to donate to families in Haiti, our next stop.  I bought four each of the following, so each of us could adopt a family for the day:  a large Italian salami, a bag of rice, a sack of potatoes, Frosted Flakes cereal, a small bag of Chips Ahoy cookies, toothpaste and toothbrush, a pack of four rolls of toilet paper, a bar of soap and a disposable razor.  We also plan to do some volunteer work at a school.  I’ll let you know how it goes in my next Postcard From Haiti.  We set sail in just a few hours.

Living the Dream,
Michael and Team Traveler

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