Posted by: Lydia | October 21, 2011

Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny go East

I know, I know.. it’s been over 3 months since I last wrote… that is just under 1/8th of my entire Peace Corps experience combined. Shameful.

Yesterday, Matt and I loaded all of our worldly belongings (which fits into 2 hiking backpacks and 4 old brugal rum boxes) and our long-suffering cat Queequeg into the Peace Corps landrover and were driven 6 ½ hours to the lovely fishing village of Bayahibe. Queequeg is a notoriously horrendous traveler. The last time she went on a bus (to go get spayed) she sprayed diarrhea all over her cage… so the fact that she only pooped a little this time was lucky in comparison. Our diver was totally unfazed (as were the passengers on the cat-poop filled guagua), which adds credence to my belief that Dominicans are unusually tolerant about being around animal feces.

Anyways, close friends and family already know the gory details behind the reasons for our site change, but due to the highly politicized nature of the reasons for our move, I will leave it at this: The U.S. economy is in the toilet right now, our project funding got cut, so now all of our work is here on the Living Museums in the east. The sudden and unexpected meltdown of the project we busted trasero for the past 6+ months to make happen has been a humbling lesson in dealing with failure and disappointment that I hope I don’t have to repeat for a while. But hey.. that’s one of the reasons I joined Peace Corps… so I can learn to gracefully and sanely persevere without having to pay a shrink to teach me how when I am 45 and my life is in shambles.

Also, we were “promoted” (in the Peace Corps, that means more work with the same amount of pay…. I kid, I kid, I love this job) to national coordinators of the Living Museums of the Sea in the Dominican Republic, so our boss and project partners think it makes more sense for us to be living in the site where our project actually is. I complain a lot about how government bureaucracy (both Dominican and American) is always gettin’ me down, man! fight the power and whatever! but Matt and I are incredibly lucky to have a boss who is a government employee and nevertheless supportive and open-minded. ¡Imaginate!

Obviously I have complicated feelings about the move. I have come to terms with the fact that Living Museums are not going to be happening in Montecristi during my service, and am relieved that at least I get to keep working with the project, even if it is in another site. However, I can’t help feeling that I let my community down even though the funding cut was not our fault. No one there blamed us, and were happy for us that we still had work with the project even if it wasn’t in their city, however I feel terrible that we couldn’t follow through on our plans. Assuming that we continue working with Indiana University after our Peace Corps service, we will keep trying to find funding to bring Living Museums to Montecristi, but it just can’t happen this year.

That being said, life in Bayahibe is going to be pretty fantastic. It is a lovely fishing/tourist village of a more manageable size than Montecristi. Even with all the tourists, there doesn’t seem to be the kind of “gringo fatigue” that you get out on the border, probably because every white person they see here isn’t either an aid worker or a missionary, so not everyone is expecting handouts or bibles from you based on the color of your skin. The town is clean and quiet due to the demands of the tourist industry, and although the central colmado is full of prostitutes (as in any seaside tourist town), it feels very safe. Also, the food, though much more expensive, is fantastic thanks to the large expat community of continentals. I feel like I died and went to Peace Corps Italy… even the Dominicans here say “ciao” and kiss their fingertips when wishing you a “buen provecho.”

Nevertheless, I will always be a liniera, no matter where I find myself. I lived for a year and a half on the border, and the people and culture of Dajabon and Montecristi will always hold a special place in my heart. Life is tough on la frontera, and people have to stick together and rely on each other’s kindness to make it through. Our Dominican family will always be our neighbors in Hipólito Billini and Fondo Grande, and nothing will ever replicate the love and trust you feel in a campo of less than 400 people in the middle of the mountains, walking distance from Haiti. Our Dominican neighbors here seem really sweet, but I know it can never be the same as it was in the campo. Also, we are now on the complete opposite side of the country from our closest friend in Peace Corps. She has never lived more than 20 minutes from us during our time in the DR, and her being over 7 hours away now is the worst part about the move.

So uh… what were we doing for the past 3 months, besides just sweating and sitting in meetings too boring for public consumption? Here are the scintillating highlights:

- In August we got “consolidated” because of hurricane Irene. An ENTIRE SHRUB in our front yard was destroyed.

- LIONFISH PARTY:

Then the ayuntamiento didn’t pick up the trash for a week. If I had known I had all that time to age fish carcasses in the subtropical summer sun, I would have made us some garum (ancient roman fermented fish sauce).

- In September we spent most of the month here in Bayahibe helping Indiana University and East Carolina University run their marine archaeology field school. We had a generally fabulous if not occasionally stressful time re-excavating the Captain Kidd shipwreck. On international beach clean up day we dug a tractor tire out of the beach on Isla Catalina with the help of a team from the U.S. embassy, and the Dominican navy hauled it away on their ship. Matt and I had one of the worst head colds we have ever experienced that day, which made it one of the more miserable trash pick-ups of my service. At least we didn’t find any dirty diapers like we usually do. We also got to visit the Faro de Colon, Balaguer’s monstrous and wasteful homage to the Great Admiral. It looks like somewhere Laibach would film a music video:


That’s the popemobile to the right


Closeup of the Popemobile


Reminds me of the Humanities building at UW Madison.

- Remember how we begged you all for money to build a worm farm, and then the money wallowed for six months in the bowels of Peace Corps bureaucracy? We FINALLY built it. And by we, I mean the extreme badasses of Fondo Grande who whipped up a gazebo and a giant concrete box in 4 ½ days despite not having a whit of formal construction training among them. Warning, the following pictures contain images of child labor, violation of OSHA standards, and consumption of cheap rum on a zinc roof during a lightning storm:


Nothing tastes better than chicken and rice cooked in the field under a banana leaf


Dominican instant roofing service, powered by Brugal!


Matt got stung by a bee and his hand turned into a catcher’s mitt


Digging a trench to level the base. We did it by making a concrete “step.”


“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”


Throwing down extra cement to polish the floor. Anyone for a little silicosis?


All that remains is to finish the central dividing wall.. then ya!! Thanks again for all your financial support, friends and family.

Last but not in any way least, we hosted the Brigada Verde Cibao 2011 conference in Montecristi. It was an awesome conference in every way. We had a particularly solid group of volunteers and youth this year and managed to make it through 3 days of sun, fun and EXTREME ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION without anyone drowning or sneaking off to hook up. The kids got to hike a coastal desert mesa, spend the day on an island learning about coral reefs, mangroves, erosion, and plastic trash, participate in an environmental career fair, learn to make vegetarian snacks, have a sustainable science night (egg drop! Did anyone else do that in middle school?), make carneval masks out of recycled materials, and THROW DOWN on the dancefloor. We had the event at the beachfront hotel of the Madre Theresa Foundation, so all of the proceeds went to pay for free medical care in Montecristi. Everyone involved in the conference, particularly on the Dominican side, was so helpful and patient with the kids. It is so rare in Peace Corps that everything comes together and works out perfectly, so this conference was a great yet bittersweet ending to our time in Montecristi.

Posted by: Lydia | July 1, 2011

Dajabon Market Redux

As some of you long-time readers may remember, back in August 2010 Matt and I took a trip to our (then) regional capital to outfit our pink shack with the finest in housewares that the Dajabon international market has to offer. Despite living only an hour away (both then and now), I hadn’t returned until today. Memories of the dust, heat, and constant terror of being robbed or run over by a gigantic rickshaw/wheelbarrow hybrid laden with produce kept me away for almost a year. However, a few PCV friends came to visit this week, and the Haitian market is a must-see for any intrepid traveler to the northwest… and not nearly as bad as it seemed to me when I only had 5 months in country. No words or even pictures can accurately portray the crush of humanity and desperate commerce that is the Dajabon market, a flat plain of dried mud in view of the bridge spanning the Massacre River, the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Sin embargo, here are the photos of the day:

One of the ubiquitous daihatsu trucking rice from Dajabon to Montecristi and beyond.

Customs

The commercial bridge to Haiti. Merchants bring over their wares on giant homemade wheeled contraptions or more frequently their heads.

I was actually trying to get a picture of a guy laden with live chickens behind this woman… but as you can see not everyone is thrilled to see gringos brandishing cameras.

The other guy was carrying twice as many.

View of one of the two Dajabon/Haiti bridges.

Mass exodus as market day comes to a close.

Creepily keeping the peace.

“The construction of this binational market of Dajabon should be finished in 122 days. A sacrifice from everyone for a dignified market!” – management committee. TODAY GOES 80 DAYS

Outside the produce section of the market

Our friend and long-time fellow compañera de la línea Claire scored four chairs and a coffee table for 1,000 pesos today, so we helped her carry them through the rest of our Dajabon excursion. Here we are taking them to gawk at perhaps the only border crossing in the world between two less-than-friendly countries where carrying chairs on your head is acceptable behavior.

El Rio Masacre, the physical border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. That’s Haiti to the right.

The border gates, and also the closest I will get to Haiti during my service (PCDR volunteers are forbidden to cross into Haiti).

View of the other bridge to the international market.

View into Haiti

An enormous sow eating scraps in an ad-hoc produce market.

A lunch truck reflecting the binational character of Dajabon. “Tout bagay” means “some of everything” in Haitian Kreyol.

Posted by: Lydia | June 25, 2011

Scenes from the Northwest

I haven’t written much about our work or life in the Peace Corps lately for several reasons. Our new job, while fascinating to me as a political science major and former employee at the U.S. Senate, does not translate very well into the narrative format necessary for an interesting blog. What little we discover and experience in our new roles as the most underpaid diplomats and mediators in the world that would make for an exciting read would also get us swiftly blacklisted if posted in a public forum.

That being said, I didn’t get this rocking farmer’s tan sitting inside and writing emails to development agencies and government ministries all day. Matt and I have recently been spending a lot of time out in the field with the Ministry of Environment getting intimately acquainted with the unending vortex of weird that is the far northwest coast of the DR.

Today’s excursion to the port city of Manzanillo was a particularly surreal delight. The purpose of our trip was ostensibly to help clear a plot of land of its trash and shrubbery to make room for a new park near the port. As with any journey planned and led by a Dominican, however, at least half the time was spent having coffee with people and eating lunch, something I’ve particularly come to love especially when it is 100° outside. While enjoying coffee, juice and spongecake in the home of a local and well-respected, wealthy, and educated older woman (who also happens to be an naturalized American citizen), we somehow got onto the topic of how much money the American government spent on the war in Afghanistan. “It was a terrible waste,” she said, “but you know there is a group of people in this world who want war to continue so they can keep making money off of it… you know, rich people, Jews…..” It was at this point that I noticed the disturbing quantity of Scientology books and pamphlets in her beautifully decorated home, definitely a first for me in this country. The rest of the day, though free of anti-Semitism and cult religions, was nonetheless a strange and good time best expressed through photos:

Dominican waste management. Ya tu sabes.

Cargo containers in the port of Manzanillo. United Fruit and Dole once used this port to export to the United States during their stint in the Dominican Republic.

Matt and I have an unhealthy love of cargo ships.

Scenic Manzanillo port.

Goats trimming the baseball field.

The Naval Academy doing a beach cleanup. We chilled with their commanding officers for a while and talked about our projects. One of them had lived in the States and studied at the U.S. Naval Academy… in fact I rarely meet an officer with any significant rank here who hasn’t either studied or worked with the U.S. military on some occasion.

Some beaches have palm trees, others have container ships.

Later that day we got a “tour” of a ship-breaking yard.

Some of the best creative spelling I’ve seen to date. Translates as: Whatever that returns here will be imprisioned we are watching.

Abandoned tropical fish store. Please do not buy tropical fish, they are stolen from reefs and you are contributing to the destruction of fragile ecosystems when you buy them.

Posted by: Lydia | April 27, 2011

Semana Santa 2011

What do you get when you combine 11 pounds of red beans, 11 pounds of sugar, 4 gallons of fresh cow’s milk, 6 cans of condensed milk, 2 pounds of white sweet potato, cinnamon, and nutmeg then boil it for 5 hours in a shack and top it with raisins and milk crackers?

My host dad Ramire adding the sweet potato

Why, barely enough of the preferred Dominican Easter-time dessert; Habichueles con Dulce, to fulfill your Holy Week needs.

If your stomach starts to ache just reading the ingredient list, you are not alone. Many volunteers start to bloat uncontrollably after only a few spoonfulls of this delicious treat, however for some reason, despite my frailty in the face of other Dominican classics such as boiled green bananas, I can eat unlimited quanities of Habichueles con Dulce. Maybe this superpower comes from years of eating similarly-flavored Chinese desserts, but this is the one week of the year that I can delight the neighborhood Doñas with my gastronomic prowess.

Cooking the habichueles is a day-long, family affair, and what most people do to celebrate Good Friday.

You can’t see it very well through the steam, however my host mom Nelis is grating nutmeg into the roiling sea of sweet beans. Whereas most Dominican housewives in the campo live very happily without ever using a sauté pan, they would never consider their kitchen arsenal complete without a tiny grater devoted entirely to nutmeg.

Joining in the fun. Nelis may cook all of the meals in this household, but Ramire is the master of sweets. I am surprised I didn’t get diabetes from the three months I lived with the Santos family, considering that snack time was a constant stream of dulce de leche and tropical fruit milkshakes, all made with my good friend sweetened condensed milk.

It tastes much better than it looks, I swear.

That same morning, our neighbor Maria was gifting milk to the community from her cow that had recently given birth.

She insisted I take some, which naturally I used to make more dessert, since what else is my lactose-intolerant self going to do with a gallon of raw milk?

2 ½ hours later, dulce de leche!

Posted by: Lydia | April 15, 2011

Llego la lluvia

This is the first blog entry to be composed by hand. After receiving an electric shock from my computer, I have foresworn the use of electronics until the end of the storm.

After over two months of drought, the rains have finally returned to our fair hillock on the border. The footpath outside our house has turned into a swift-moving muddy stream.

The house also has a river running through it, although this is less of a disaster than it probably seems to you at home due to our extremely un-level cement floor. Fortunately it is un-level in such a way that it allows water to flow unimpeded in through the back door and out the front into the rapidly growing lake that was once our front yard.

It is also hailing, the ice a welcome yet unexpected reprieve from the heat of the Caribbean spring.

As most of our close friends and family already know, Matthew and I are getting a site change as of May 1st to work full-time in the city of Monte Cristi with the Living Museums of the Sea project. It is difficult if not impossible to sum up in the written word all of feelings about this change that we have worked so hard to make happen. They range from sadness and even guilt over leaving our old campo to the incredible excitement about working with such a large, far-reaching project that has such possibilities of true change for the better. In this entry I will try to give an overview about what exactly this new project entails, as well as a brief discourse on our experience with getting a site change in PCDR.

So… what exactly is a Living Museum of the Sea in the Dominican Republic? According to USAID, who is helping to fund the pilot program in DR in Bayahibe:

A Living Museum is a “no-take, no-anchor zone where cultural discoveries will protect precious corals and other threatened biology in the surrounding reef systems under the supervision and support of the Dominican Republic’s Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático.”

In plainer speech, this means shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources (for example, Taino artifacts) and the biology growing on top of them will be protected from harm by treasure hunters, boat anchors, coral harvesting for souvenirs, and fishing through designating them protected areas. We all know that just calling something a “protected area” doesn’t make it so, therefore one of the goals of this project and a major part of Matt’s and my work in the community will be developing economic alternatives to destructive practices through the museums in conjunction with educational outreach. As with all Peace Corps projects, the actual nature of our work differs day to day (there is no such thing as a predictable 9 to 5 for volunteers), so I will keep updating ya’ll at home about the details of our project as they develop. Personally, I feel that the most important part of our new position will be acting as a liaison between the large institutions involved in the project (Indiana University, USAID, La Oficina Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático, the Ministry of Culture, and the Dominican Tourism Cluster) and the community of Monte Cristi itself to help ensure that the big ideas actually happen in the field (and with the consent of the community).

We have been working alongside the Cluster Túristico y Cultural de Monte Cristi for the past few months to publicize this project in the community. To get the word out about an event in the campo, you go house to house or tell the local colmado or the presidents of the various mother’s clubs… but in the city, you go on TV! Matt and I were (gently forced, then offered scotch which we foolishly declined) to appear with no notice on Monte Cristeñan public access TV at 11pm two nights ago to promote the project, and despite our imperfect spanish the host suggested afterwards that we get our own show. Well, it apparently worked, since the next evening we had over 90 people turn out to sign the official document to solicit the Living Museums project for Monte Cristi:


We had so many people the crowd spilled out onto the veranda.. and given the Dominican lack of concern about personal space, that’s saying a lot.


Signing the nomination form

Despite the indisputable awesomeness of our new project, this transition hasn’t been without it’s share of heartbreak. Matt and I love our campo.. sure, the water may be irregular and undrinkable and the electricity only works half the time, but it is an incredibly beautiful mountain community that produces every imaginable kind of fruit and boasts a culture of neighborliness and hospitality rivaling even that of Turkey. The most difficult thing we’ve had to do thus far in Peace Corps, harder even than facing down cockroach-infested latrines or eating the third plate of boiled green bananas in a day, was tell our beloved landlady Chila that we were leaving in a month. She said that she needed to paint “the good never last” on her doorframe, and at that moment I really felt terrible about leaving early.

So, why are we leaving our Eden on the border? Succinctly, a combination of luck, elbow grease, and inevitability. Our site has hosted Peace Corps Environment volunteers for the past 30 years, we completed our projects earlier than scheduled, and an opportunity appeared to work on a project that better uses our specific skill sets that we would be crazy not to pursue. Future, present and aspiring PCVs: If you want a more detailed explanation of all the factors that went into our and the administration’s decision, I’d be happy to provide more insight in a private forum.

Wait.. wait… what about that worm farm we are raising money for? Never fear, dear generous donors. Our new site is a mere 2 hours from our old one, and we will be commuting to complete the worm farm and support the transition of the water filter project to a local counterpart. This is one of the great advantages of doing Peace Corps in a small country with an excellent inter-regional transportation system; you can undertake a wide array of projects over a relatively (for Peace Corps) large geographical area.

Our official move date isn’t until May 1st, so at that time we will start posting more pictures and details about life in beautiful, historical Monte Cristi.

Posted by: Lydia | March 7, 2011

Photo Update

Map of the DR I painted with the local jovenes

BIOSAND FILTER!!!! This is the project that is currently occupying 110% of Matthew’s and my time. We spent last week installing the filters in the town up the mountain from us, meaning an 8 mile hike (uphill both ways, but not in the driving snow) every day. The cheap way to get buns of steel, people!

Why give priority to a filters project? Well, in case you haven’t heard yet, there is a cholera epidemic going on in Haiti, we live about 5k from the border, and share their waterway system. Also, the local water supply is home to other friends such as amoebas and giardia. In this photo you can see that the dad has built a tight-fitting concrete base for the filter to keep it out of reach of the kids and so it can’t be knocked over. This filter, if properly maintained, will continue to produce clean, safe water for the lifetime of the plastic (i.e., longer than our lifespans).

The old-skool way to shell your rice. This is dry-grown, hill rice. It is incredibly delicious.

Posted by: Lydia | February 25, 2011

Save Service in America

As those of you who follow politics probably already know, Congress is considering a bill which would eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, meaning the end of programs like AmeriCorps, Teach For America, Foster Grandparents, City Year, Senior Companions, Habitat for Humanity, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, YouthBuild and many others. Funding for Peace Corps is also under severe threat from this bill (H.R. 1), yet another victim of the shortsighted and ill-considered doctrine of fiscal austerity.

Today, February 25th, is “Save Service in America” day. I know my Wisconsin friends and family already have their hands full dealing with the heinous attempts by our new governor to squelch what is left of workers’ rights in our fair state, however if any of you readers can take the time today to contact your representatives and ask them to oppose this bill, please take the time to do so.

You can find more information about how to help here: http://www.saveservice.org

Posted by: Lydia | February 25, 2011

(Almost) Midterm Update

Well dear readers it certainly has been a while since we’ve written, and as we approach one year in country I feel like an update on our recent activities is long overdue.

Our long-awaited water filters have finally arrived in site after nearly two months of struggling to find a way to transport them from the warehouse in Santiago all the way to our little corner of the frontera. This particular project has been a textbook example of Dominican patronage politics… and at this point I should remind you, readers, that everything in this blog is solely my and Matthew’s opinion, and does not represent the views of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, nor the Dominican Government… ya tu conoces the fine print.

Y entonces… the local ayuntamiento (major’s office) promised us the use of his office’s truck for 2,000 pesos (about $55) at the very beginning of the project, so we based our budget (i.e. the amount of money we charged people for filters) on this estimate, plus a little extra to fund later projects in the community, bringing the grand total to 300 pesos a filter ($8 for a lifetime of clean water.. not too shabby). The night before we were set to pick up our filters, however, the mayor suddenly decides that his truck can’t make the trip and that we should wait for him to find us another vehicle. Almost a month of Matthew harrassing his office in person and on the phone later (during which time the warehouse gave away our batch of filters, further delaying the process), the mayor finally (sort of) capitulates and admits that promising us the truck and then reneging was a pendejo move and gives Matt a 1,000 peso coupon for gas. Annoyingly persistent and probably kind of scary bearded gringo for the win!

So, why would a mayor promise development workers his help in a project that for FREE (since we cover the gas) helps his constituents in one of the most basic yet important ways possible? Well, turns out our town is the wrong political party. The majority of our town voted PRD (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano.. the white party), and our mayor is PLD (Partido Liberación Dominicano.. the purple party). Fun fact: both parties were founded by the same guy, Juan Bosch, the best and brightest hope for Dominican politics that was ousted by the U.S. govt. during the Cold War because he advocated something just short of Reaganomics.

Well, there you have it. Voted for the wrong party? Kiss your public services goodbye. It is interesting to note that the former mayor was PRD (I know him personally, he is in the farmer’s group we work with), and during this time our community had the mayor’s office at their beck and call… but who knows how he treated majority PLD areas. We ended up having to hire our own truck for over triple the original cost, clearing out most of the funds for future projects we would have gained from the sale of filters, but considering how we are still in the midst of a cholera outbreak the need for water filters obviously outweighs any other kind of development.

The other great pain in my culo at this time is, as any Don or Doña over the age of 35 can tell you, how lazy and generally good-for-nothing those darn kids are these days (also, get off my porch, and no I will not do your English homework for you). My once spectacularly productive Brigada Verde has lost its best members to the campo brain drain (all the best and brightest flee to the cities for work or occasionally study), and despite a hefty grant for a murals project and getting explicit promises from my youth of future participation, I just can’t get these kids to show up to meetings. I did manage to get one of the six planned murals painted just by showing up at the school in the middle of the day and taking over a (very, very grateful) art teacher’s class, but I am currently at a loss as to how I will rebuild our group to match its former glory.

Our farmer’s group is currently tasked with filling 30,000 nursery bags with dirt by March 10th (the day the new batch of cacao seeds are set to arrive… and unlike most fruit tree species the seeds have to be harvested from a pod, germinated, and IMMEDIATELY planted so there is no room for delay) and I don’t even want to start with how difficult it is to convince some people that all of the rows need to have the same number of bags in them for ease of record keeping.

Well, no one ever tried to fool us into thinking this was going to be easy, or even pleasant most of the time.. but not everything in the life of a volunteer is a complete lucha. Matt and I, as co-vice presidents of the Peace Corps Dominican Republic Marine Interest Group (hereafter MIG), are involved in a supremely, face-meltingly awesome project with Indiana University to develop a living underwater museum ON A SUNKEN PIRATE SHIP!!!!!! We spent the last week of January with MIG and Indiana University staff and graduate students in Bayahibe learning to monitor the archaeological and biological health of shipwrecks, more specifically the wreck of Captain Kidd (technically a privateer, but was hung as a pirate) and two other installed wrecks. It’s not every day that an archaeologist in the Peace Corps actually gets to practice his trade, so this is a particularly exciting opportunity for Matthew. We also worked on some coral reef restoration (attaching broken live coral to stands of dead coral so that it will regrow and survive), and si dios quiere Matt and I will be certified Reef Check divers by the end of May. Our class of PCVs is lucky to have a large group of people with intense passion for marine issues, one honest-to-god marine biologist, and a dive master, so we are well equipped to turn MIG into a very serious and very productive organization and maybe one day a sector of its own. Tourism is the biggest money maker in the DR, and the vast majority of that tourism takes place in coastal areas, so the survival of the Dominican economy really depends on the health of its coasts.

On Sunday Matt and I went up to Monte Cristi to check out this joint Dominican/Anglo/Danish marine archaeology project, and in our quest to find their particularly well-hidden artifact storage center, we ended up spending an hour waiting for the project to give us permission to enter their facility at some completely insane italian artist’s studio. The DR seems like a really fantastic place to come if you have enough money and want to be able to do whatever kind of public art project you want without having to concern yourself with things like zoning or taste, since it appears that the local Monte Cristi government just let this guy go wild:

This guy kept berating his long-suffering Dominican employees in his horrendous and nearly unintelligible half-Spanish half-Italian gibberish, and told us only half jokingly that the best way to deal with Dominican women was to threaten them with beatings, at which point his maid rolled her eyes and brought us some excellent coffee. A certain type of vaguely unsavory European is drawn to settle here in the Carribean… I think maybe the country allows them to play colonial overlord without any of the dangers (or unpleasant and more recent memories) inherent in doing it in closer stomping grounds like Africa.. plus the climate is better. Just another day in the life, folks.

Here are some more photos from the marine archaeology center in Monte Cristi:


Melted grapeshot. You can see the imprint of the cloth it was stored on.


A french cannonball (note the fleur de lis).


A pearl-handled colt .45 (we think)


Rollblock rifle

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