Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dominican Roulette

I was sitting in the back of a Daihatsu pickup truck with Damian, another Peace Corps volunteer, when I realized the absurdity of my situation.
We were coming back from spending the night in Rio Limpio, a beautiful mountain community with spectacular views. However, there was only one road and it wasn't paved. The recent rains had created more washouts and ravines than road. Even at 15 kmh we were getting tossed around the back of the truck like rag dolls. My wrist was sprained from a failed attempt at trying to hold onto the side of the truck. I had bruises all over my back and arms, and we had another 30 minutes to go before we reached the main road.
But that wasn't the crazy part.

There was another 10 Dominicans jammed into the back of that truck. Shortly before leaving Rio Limpio one of them had bought a couple bottles of claren, Haitian moonshine, and was passing it around. It was 11am and everyone was already drunk.
Two of the Dominicans were from the national guard. If you've never been to the Dominican Republic then you wouldn't know that national guardsmen, and even private security, walk around with shotguns loaded and not holstered. One of of the guardsmen had laid the shotgun on the bed of the truck so that he could text a message on his cell. Amazingly he seemed to be nodding off while he was doing this. Meanwhile the loaded shotgun was bouncing around, periodically pointing at everyone in the truck. Damian called it "Dominican Roulette". No one seemed to care about the shotgun but us.

It was at this point that Damian turned to me and said with a straight face, "I just realised that we aren't wearing seat belts." That's when the absurdity of the situation hit me and I started howling with laughter. Unfortunately I let go of the truck and the next bounce threw me against the side of it, nearly knocking the wind out of me.

The trip to Rio Limpio was part of an Ecoclub trip. There was supposed to be charlas about deforestation, but the moment we got there the Dominicans broke out a set of dominoes and a couple bottles of Brugal. Preventing deforestation would have to wait for another day.
That night the Dominicans broke out some huge, hand drums and played some music that I had not heard in the four months that I have been here. It had unmistakable African roots, and must have been some sort of blending of Haitian and Dominican cultures. Combined with some traditional dancing that wasn't barchata or merengue, it was easily the best night of music I had heard to date.

Later on, I was talking to one of the locals who told me that someone in the village had been arrested for "stopping the rain". I had to ask him to tell that to me several times before I realised that I had heard it right. He also mentioned a woman getting arrested for "flying and eating children."

On the way back we stopped to pick up a couple bolas (i.e. hitchhiker). It was an old man, so old that he had to be physically lifted in and out of the truck, and a young boy carrying a chicken. They didn't appear to be related.
Despite a general atmosphere of intoxication, we stopped the truck at a colmado and bought some food for our hitchhikers and waited for them to eat. I don't think they had eaten in a few days.

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